Words from a Self-Conscious Stay-at-Home Mom

It’s been YEARS since I have written. Literally. Years. Yeah, sorry about that. Not that I have some sort of following,  but it would have been useful to document the good, bad, and ugly of the past three years. I pray that between the written journal entries I have managed to scribble and the mercy of God in heaven, that I will be able to somehow remedy that and have a perfect memory to take with me when I die. At least a perfect memory of all the good, cute things and lessons learned.

I see that my most recent post is the birth story of my first daughter Eleanor. Fast forward 3 years and I am nursing my 3rd daughter who is six weeks old. Here we all are. Oh how I love them!

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Apparently I don’t care about my second daughter (poor middle child), since I have written nothing about her (her name is Wendy, by the way and she is hilarious), but I like to give myself a break and think that it’s because  I care that I have not given the time nor the energy to write, at least in a blogging platform, about her? I mean, we’re barely living day to day, let alone writing about it. But it felt right to put some words on the screen – a sort of therapy if you will – so here I am.

So what even is this title all about? A “self-conscious stay-at-home mom?” We’ve all read the Facebook articles that circulate about how hard life is for all moms. And I agree that it is. We hear the working mom’s plea. We hear the SAHM’s woes (that’s the correct acronym, right? Took me forever to figure out what all those comment boards were talking about). I don’t pretend that my concerns are unique. I don’t think they’re controversial either. They’re just REAL and I wanted to write them down since I have a second to sit down and breathe. So here are my reasons, in no particular order, for why I feel like I am often (not always) a “self-conscious stay-at-home mom.”:

1.) Day to day, I don’t always love being a mother. I love the idea of it. I love the principles behind it. I believe in it. I truly think that being a mother is, for me, the most important thing that I could be doing, but I can’t tell you how many times I have heard myself sigh and say “I hate this” (“this” being breaking up another fight/tantrum, changing another nasty diaper, waking all night, folding mountains of laundry, disciplining, pressure to teach, getting them dressed, grocery shopping (!) – normal stuff). I’m a perfectionist, a “checklist” lover, which means that I think I chose a job that is a checklist lover’s nightmare. At least in my experience with motherhood, everything is cyclical and never really “checked off my list.” I should be loving this though, right? I can’t tell you the tears I have shed over children that have been abused or lost, amazing couples that struggle with fertility, friends that long for marriage and family but it hasn’t worked out – and here I am over here dreading the majority of the tasks that I do all day long in the job that many people would kill for. And I even get to be dedicated to this whole thing full time without having to support my family financially. On top of all of it, I live in a wealthy country in a little family that is making it by just great, who has all the modern conveniences imaginable (I had to hand wash all my clothes as a missionary in South America and I now bow down to those Paraguayan women and mothers!). So yes, even though these feelings are true, they happen, and I am self-conscious about that.

2.) I have FOMO. I get FOMO (fear of missing out) all. the. time. Not necessarily in the “I wish I could be in Thailand right now too” FOMO, though man, I wouldn’t mind. I think a time will come for more trips like that. It’s the kind of FOMO (which may or may not be the right term for this) that happens when I see a need that I want to fill and literally cannot help because my arms are full of my children. Children that I LOVE and know are my first priority. But oftentimes I feel worthless when I can’t help others. I sometimes question why God gave me desires to help, interests, and talents if I am not able to do anything about it. Helping makes me feel good. It just does. And I think it’s important. I really do. So situations like “Let me help you set up for the wedding” or “I’ll come pick up your kids so you can rest” or “I’ll work extra hours” or “Let me run to the store for you” or “I would love to teach that class” or “Let me clean up the huge mess we just made in your house” or “I can help you with moving this weekend” really get to me when I can’t fulfill a need the way that I want to. A lot of times, it’s just impossible. Times and seasons, of course. And when I really do want to help, I can, I just have to pay a babysitter $8-$10/hour or beg a family member. But even though this may seem ridiculous, I can’t help but feeling self-conscious about that.

3.) The neighbors sometimes hear me yell. I’m sure of it. Even though they are gracious enough never to admit it. “Sorry our screaming baby probably kept you awake all night!” “Two year olds, ya know?” “It feels like we are moving in slow motion!” They respond, “Oh I’ve never heard a thing from your house!” Bless them all. Really, I feel self-conscious because my actions speak louder than words and no one wants to feel fake. With all my heart, I believe in patience, kindness, and long-suffering, but my temper, sleep deprivation, or just a lack of self-control often gets the better of me. And I feel self-conscious about that.

4.) I don’t contribute directly to our family’s “bottom line.” Any remnant of paychecks ended  last Friday when my boss at my work-from-home part time job asked how many hours/week I could dedicate this coming spring (our busy season). I told her 5-10 (though 10 felt like a stretch…) and she very kindly and with a great deal of understanding told me to let them know when I could dedicate more time since they were going to need more help than that (obviously). So that’s where the paychecks stop. And since I am a control freak who also manages the day-to-day purchases of our family, I now feel like a mooch who is draining the bank – more like a parasite than a contributor. These are all self-imposed feelings of course. Aaron has never once made me feel like I need to work to earn money. In fact, he has been doing both of our jobs lately since the new baby (she’s beautiful and her name is Ida) came. But “I am woman, hear me roar” right? I can do it all, right? No, I can’t.  At least not me, not right now. And though I don’t think my hands could possibly be more full, I still feel self-conscious about that.

I gotta wrap this up because there is a mutiny upstairs where nap time has just ended, but writing this today has been good for me. I can already feel my tone, my tune, changing. Because deep down I know that my day-to-day is right for me. Boy does it need improvement! But we have our moments and we’re doing okay. And the last quality I want to teach my daughters is to doubt themselves or live feeling self-conscious about their lives (unless they make stupid decisions or something…then I hope they at least think twice), so I’d better knock it off.

Everyone has a different reality and I believe that God loves us and knows what he is doing which will not change whether I feel guilty about it or not. I can only help those in my sphere of influence, a sphere which right now is very full of an amazing husband and three beautiful daughters. I am grateful, but I am most self-conscious that I am not be grateful enough. Here’s to working towards replacing insecurity with gratitude!

Eleanor Ann’s Birthday

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Let’s flash back for a second to about four months ago, all the way back to July 14th, 2013.  Yes, I am writing little Ellie’s birth story about four months after it happened; however in my defense, I did write out the entire thing only to have my computer freeze and delete my draft.  It’s taken me this long to have the motivation to write it out all over again. So here goes.  Here are the circumstances surrounding the little one’s debut.  Reader discretion advised (meaning if words like”uterus” make you cringe, you may want to stop reading).

Three reasons for documenting such a personal experience and posting it on the Internet: 1. Documentation/journal keeping. I always want to remember this experience. 2. It’s important to me to do everything I can do to promote the family. I hope this post in some way captures how beautiful the whole experience is and has been. 3. Reading the birth experiences of others helped give me courage to do the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Maybe my story can help someone else.

Preparing to give birth is like training for a marathon without knowing at what moment you are going to start running. It’s waiting to do the hardest thing physically that you have ever done without knowing when you will start.  And by the way, the start will in no way be on your own terms. Talk about being anxiety! And just as a marathon requires intense preparation, birth does too. Exercising, trying to eat well, doing prenatal yoga, reading about birth “technique,” etc. Aaron even went to a childbirth class with me! Despite all my preparation, Eleanor’s birthday did not go the way I had planned. I think that’s what made the experience so perfect and humbling.

I was terrified to give birth when I first found out I was pregnant.  I knew absolutely nothing and was squeamish about the whole thing. Aaron was even worse.  I had to force myself to watch videos of live births on BabyCenter.com to get used to the idea.  I was clueless about all the “birthing techniques.” Until then, I thought that all women had either a C-section or an epidural (unless they lived in a third world country).  Early in my pregnancy, my sister-in-law recommended that I read about natural (unmedicated) childbirth just in case things progressed too quickly for an epidural as they had with one of her children.  I started reading Natural Childbirth the Bradley Way “just in case” and ended up loving the whole philosophy (minus the criticism of doctors and nurses, etc.).  It increased my faith in God as I read about the whole natural process and gave me the confidence to plan on a natural birth for my little girl so long as there were no complications.

On July 13th, I was working from home when I felt a small gush of water.  I know enough about my body to know that I didn’t wet myself; however when no more liquid came, I wasn’t sure that it was my water breaking.  I tried to stay calm, especially since Aaron was out of town and not supposed to return home until midnight that night. I didn’t want to alarm him unnecessarily, so I called the doctor first.  The told me to call if it happened again in the next hour.  No more water came, so I tried to keep myself busy.  I went swimming and shopping with my friend Kristi who later invited me to a work dinner with her and her husband.  They kept me company (for which I am forever grateful) until I picked Aaron up from the airport.  I figured the whole thing was a false alarm since I still felt great.

The next morning we were assigned to clean the church. We came home, took a nap, and cleaned the house.  Another gush of water came.  I called the doctor again who said they would have the on-call doctor get in touch with me. Aaron and I thought we would take our hospital bag “just in case” and grab some lunch at my favorite pizza place, Cane Rosso.  Just as we pulled up to the restaurant, the on-call doctor called and told us to come in immediately as it sounded like my water had broken.  I had to settle for a Subway sandwich instead, and we headed to the hospital.

I still thought they would send me home at this point. I was feeling great and not having any contractions.  The doctor met with us, tested the amniotic fluid, and determined that my bag of waters had been ruptured or leaking for 24 hours.  He informed us that I would need to be induced since the baby was at a risk of infection.  That meant an IV (less mobility for my practiced labor positions), the dreaded Pitocin (which natural childbirth books will tell you is basically a gateway drug and the nemesis of natural childbirth), continuous fetal monitoring, and increased likelihood of an epidural. Basically the exact opposite of my labor-at-home-bonding-time-with-my-husband-eating-drinking-relaxing “birth plan.” I knew that it was very likely that things would go differently than I planned; however I was still very disappointed that despite my determination, my chances of having the natural birth experience I had hoped for were less likely. I asked the doctor to give us a minute, cried, said a prayer, received a priesthood blessing from Aaron, wiped my tears, and got the show on the road.

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Aaron held my hand and turned on Spanish television to distract me while they put the IV in my wrist.  He was an amazing coach through the whole thing.  We played a game of Phase 10 and he snuck me some pistachios to keep my energy up.  After about an hour of the Pitocin things really started picking up with contractions progressing quickly from 30 seconds to about a minute long and 1 1/2-2 minutes apart.  It was very intense the whole way through.  The fetal monitor strapped to my belly was hard to work around, but I was still able to work through the contractions with Aaron’s help.

Every nurse that helped us was perfect for our situation. All had strengths and advice that was perfect for Aaron and me.  One of nurses in particular had given birth at home and loved natural childbirth.  She was so sensitive to my needs.  She tied a scarf over my IV so I wouldn’t have to look at it and taught us different labor positions that worked despite the cumbersome IV and fetal monitor (the positions we had practiced were done without the extra attachments in mind).

At one point I was so tired that I laid on the hospital bed.  I breathed through a few intense contractions and Aaron kept encouraging me. At one point, after about 8 hours, I told Aaron to hurry and call the nurse to help me go to the bathroom.  The nurse came in and said that that urge to go to the bathroom was really common in the early stages of labor.  Early stages?!!! If these were still the “early stages” then there was no way I was going to make it. The nurse decided to check me first and announced that I was dilated 10 cm and that the baby was coming. That urge was the urge to push!

That was the most exciting news I had had up until that point. The whole night had been an emotional roller coaster, but our baby girl was finally almost here and I was going to be able to give birth to her naturally! Although I was technically going to have the birth method that I had wanted, I realized, especially in that moment, that all that mattered was that our sweet little girl was almost here, no matter how she came.

Pushing was a relief, although because of the Pitocin, my body wasn’t quite as prepared for the baby and I paid heavily for her perfect little round head.  Those stitches (with hardly any anesthetic) were the most traumatic of my life.  But the best part was that I got to hold my little girl.  She looked just as confused as I felt when she came out.  She had huge, alert eyes and nursed right away. The “motherly instinct” that I had always heard about really did kick in, and I somehow knew exactly what to do with her. She was (and still is) absolutely perfect. It wasn’t until everyone left the room and Aaron and I were alone with our little Eleanor Ann that I truly felt the peace and sacredness of birth.  It is indescribable.

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Motherhood is incredibly challenging and rewarding. It is so much work! Breastfeeding, sleep deprivation, and all the little things in between are some of the best and hardest experiences of my life.  Seeing Aaron as a father and watching little Ellie grow and develop are beyond beautiful memories. Through these experiences I am learning again that God is in charge, and that he teaches us to rely on Him.  When we do humble ourselves enough to put things in perspective (aka not worrying so much about “our way”), He teaches and comforts us in ways that no other can.  I’m so excited for all that’s in store for our little family!

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Mom Stuff

Before I had Ellie, I remember asking a couple of new moms to describe what a typical day is like.  I was sincerely curious about what moms do.  I won’t lie, I was nervous that being a stay-at-home mom would not be completely fulfilling for me.  I knew I would love my child but also worried that I would “need” something else to feel fulfilled.  I tried very hard to make my work situation continue by trying to work part time from home; however no matter what I did, it was just not working out.  The company needed a full-time person which I was just not ready to do after 6 weeks of having Ellie. I took it as a sign that this is not the season for me to work anymore, accepted it, and have done my best to embrace being a mom.  That season may come again later, but this is a great one too.  I am trying to soak it all in.

So here are a few pictures of what my days look like.  Intermixed between 7-8 feedings, 6-7 diaper changes, hours of holding, calming, and playing with this little one, I have learned so much and found joy in tasks that used to be dreadful for me.  It may sound utterly boring and maybe even demeaning to some, but I find satisfaction and feel fulfilled when I can exercise, have a clean house, stock my fridge, try a new recipe, visit with friends, write a note, have some time for contemplation and reflection, and enjoy a good documentary/movie once in a while.  Most days, only about half of these things take place and although they may seem small, I am not ashamed to say how much I love being a mom.  I still enjoy a good book, a compelling news article, and yes, even a few lame TV shows (for some reason I like Once Upon a Time right now despite the awful acting/storyline/etc).  I love to explore Dallas and find new things to see and food to try. But really the best things for me are seeing Ellie smile, learn, and progress.

Mom stuff is not very glamorous, but besides Aaron, it’s the best thing that has ever happened to me.20131111-163151.jpg

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A San Diego Wedding

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I don’t think I could ever say no to a trip to San Diego.  It is flawless all year round.  Aaron and I went to San Diego on our honeymoon about 1 1/2 years ago (in Jan) and it was absolutely lovely.

This time, we had another very happy occasion that brought us to San Diego – Aaron’s former roommate Sampo was married! We are so happy for him and his new wife Jillian.  They had a beautiful ceremony at the San Diego LDS Temple and an awesome reception at the San Diego Zoo (so cool, right?!).  We had a blast visiting with friends and catching some family beach time in between.  You can tell that Ellie got some quality “Moby wrap time” during the trip.  She is the best accessory a girl could ask for.  She steals the show every time.20131111-162659.jpg

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Baby’s First Photo Shoot – 2 Months Old!

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I cannot resist these pictures of little Eleanor taken in early September (about 2 months old) by my good friend Melanie Zelnick! Mel has a gift for capturing the little details in a very natural way. Eleanor was a pretty stellar model too if you  ask me :). She played, smiled, and slept right on cue.  She even gave me a few crying pictures which I know makes me a bad mom, but she is just so adorable when she cries (good thing too!).  I want to remember it all. Eat your heart out.20131105-222632.jpg

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President Baby Goes to DC

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A couple of months before Eleanor was born, Aaron made plans to go to the BYU vs. UVA game in Charlottesville, VA (we won’t talk about the outcome of said game…poor Cougars).  He had tried to convince me to go, but I felt like it would be too soon to take Ellie, then 6-weeks old, on another trip. When my brother-in-law Wilfried called and told me that my sisters-in-law Laura (with her new baby James) and Katherine (with her two adorable girls) would be hanging out in D.C. while the boys went to the game, I was 100% sold.  We put our Southwest companion pass to use once again and added me to the trip. It was a blast!

I had never been anywhere East Coast-ish before (pretty sure Florida doesn’t count), and I fell in love with it all. D.C. seems like such a vibrant city with so much American history and culture and  did I mention all the beautiful TREES?!  I may have worn my red pants on purpose, just to be extra patriotic. Can all my friends and family please just move to N. Potomac, N. Virginia, or anywhere near D.C.? It is dreamy.

It was such a fun trip.  I definitely plan to go back one day and soak up the city some more.  Thanks a MILLION to Katherine for hosting us and shuttling us around! We had 4 car seats in that van and it is no small feat to be at the helm of such a vehicle. Katherine is a rock star.

We love America!

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Lewis Family Reunion

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I am so glad I married into the Lewis family. I am proud to claim them as relatives. All of them are outstanding, kind, wonderful people. And since Aaron is one of fourteen kids, there is a lot of love to go around. Eleanor is the 39th grandchild on Aaron’s side (the first on mine), so we were excited to introduce her to all of her cousins. The Lewis family reunion this August was the perfect chance to do so. We all headed down to St.George for a weekend filled with laughter, song, play, and spirituality.

One of the less fortunate things that happened on the trip was the fever I woke up with on the morning that we were all supposed to go to Zion’s National Park. Aaron, Eleanor, and I spent most of the morning at InstaCare, but since my acetaminophen had kicked in by the time we left, we had some delicious Cafe Rio for lunch and stopped by the famous ‘Swig’ on the way back to try a “Dirty Diet Coke” and pink sugar cookie.  I’d say it actually turned out to be a really great day, and we were able to meet back up with everyone that night.  I had an awesome experience!

The best part was getting to see Eleanor and James receive their baby blessings from their wonderful dads. Ellie cried through the entire thing like a champ. She looked beautiful :).

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A Surprise for my Dad

Anyone that knows me well knows that I am horrible at surprises. I fumble my speech and act weird, making me all the more suspicious. Luckily, Aaron and I were able to pull off an awesome surprise, but only because no one thought we would be irresponsible enough to do what we did – we took little Ellie to meet everyone in Utah three weeks after she was born.

The whole idea escalated quickly. I was anticipating my mom leaving after two glorious weeks of having her there with the baby and us. On top of her being gone, Aaron was going to have to travel for work the same day my mom left. I was nervous about having to do all of the sleepless days and nights on my own after only two weeks.

Out of the blue, Aaron had a meeting come up in Utah for the next Monday. Since he has a Southwest companion pass, Ellie and I would fly for free. The only catch? Two layovers (3 flights!) with a 3-week-old. I resisted until I read my fortune cookie at dinner that revealed my destiny to “travel across desert sands for a fun vacation” to Utah and decided it was fate: I was going to Utah for 2 weeks.

My dad never gets surprised. He is a human vault and the bearer of many secrets (after being a bishop, stake president, and father….you get the idea), so I was determined to surprise him. We told my whole family to meet at my parents’ house so we could FaceTime with them to share a surprise with them that “had something to do with Ellie.” We let my dad think he was in on the surprise to throw him off.

The travel day was chaotic. Ellie did great and slept in the Moby wrap or ate the whole plane ride. She was great. We were a wreck from helping her be “great.” By the time we got to the rental car, we were already about ten minutes late for our FaceTime surprise. The family was getting anxious. My poor mom was pulling out all the stops, baking cookies just to keep everyone at bay. As we were pulling up to the house, we started to FaceTime my family. They all had obligations early in the morning, so it was definitely a sacrifice for them to stay longer. We pretended like we were pulling up to our apartment in Texas when we rang the doorbell and watched everyone come running. Tears ensued and i soaked it all in as my family members met little Eleanor for the first time. It was pure joy.

One of the best parts of all? My dad was genuinely surprised! He graduated from best dad to best grandpa and it was the best thing ever to witness.

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July 4th Holiday(s)

We started celebrating July 4th this year on June 29th. Maybe it’s because we spent Independence Day in Paraguay last year and missed the festivities of one of our favorite holidays, but we didn’t to want to miss any if the fun this year in Dallas for the 4th. Besides, in Texas everything is bigger, so it was fun to see how that translated to firework shows and activities.

One of the things that I love about the 4th of July is the great reminder that it is of religious freedom. Being LDS (Mormon), and very dedicated to my faith. I feel so grateful to live in a country where I can worship God and Jesus Christ openly. I can talk about them with friends and other associates without my life being in danger. I know that LDS people come from a heritage of persecution and that some of that persecution continues for many religions today, but because of the sacrifices that others before me have made, I am free to worship as I please. The 4th always reminds me of that :).

Here are some of the fun July 4th activities this year:

Allen Celebration Fireworks (June 29th) – Honestly some of the best fireworks I have seen for July 4th. They were perfectly choreographed to all different kinds of music and were definitely Texas-sized.

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Bain Boating Event – not really July 4th related, but we spent the day of the Allen fireworks on the boat, so I thought it was a very appropriate summer activity.

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We had so much fun getting together with the Davises & Dastrups for some delicious food. I am in love with their adorable cat Gus who had a rough week with some fleas, but still looks awesome with his lion haircut.

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July 3rd – Kaboomtown Addison Fireworks – We had a great time with our friends the Hursts at the “award-winning Dallas fireworks show” in Addison. There was an awesome airplane show beforehand and some great fireworks, although we missed out on the corresponding music. We had a great time and luckily found some great back roads to get out of the crazy traffic. Good thing Phil is a Dallasite :).

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July 4th – I forgot to take some pictures, but the 4th was an awesome holiday! Aaron had quite a bit of work to finish up, but since I still wanted to play, I went boating with my good friend Mel Gassin and some friends on their family boat. It was so nice to be out on the water and enjoy great company! Her parents are so kind and let me join them for their traditional July 4th breakfast. It was such a treat.

In the afternoon, the Hursts had a delicious BBQ and pool party! The food was amazing and we had a great time hanging out with friends and playing with the cute babies that came. Not to mention the “fancy” burgers that Taylor brought from Central Market, Diann’s baked beans, and and the delicious mango,strawberry, and apple pies Briana made. It was quite the feast.

Since we just hadn’t had enough Texas fireworks, we went over to the state fair grounds with the Zelnicks to catch another awesome firework show. There may have been a malfunction or two, but the overall experience of being at the fairgrounds with fireworks shooting over the Cotton Bowl was so Texas that it made the whole experience great. We were glad to have made it out of South Dallas alive after braving the traffic and fireworks going off in the streets. It really just topped off the night :).

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We definitely played way too much, but it was such a fun holiday. So grateful for wonderful friends here in Dallas and especially for the blessing of living in such a great country. God bless America!

Austin Weekend

I had been day-dreaming about going to Austin a few weeks ago. Must have been a slow work day. But Aaron and I had so much fun there a couple of summers ago that I had been wanting to go back during summer time ever since.

Luckily, we are only three hours away and Aaron has a pretty nice collection of hotel points, so we thought we’d put them to use :). What was even more fun was that we were talking about going to Austin this weekend and our friends the Zelnicks had the same idea in mind! We ended up carpooling together and having a great time. We are mostly just relieved that baby girl Lewis decided to wait until we got home to make her big debut.

Here are some of the fun things Austin has to offer:

Barton Springs – I LOVE this place! For some reason it feels like something from the 50’s and makes me feel like I’m in the movie the Sandlot.

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Food – half of the trip revolved around the delicious food Austin has to offer. Some of the faves were Clay Pit, Verts Kebap, Rudy’s BBQ (a tradition of ours), and Amy’s ice cream.

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Bats Under Congress Bridge – 1.5 million bats fly out every night in the summer months. Kind of gross, but definitely worth seeing.

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Texas State Capitol

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South Congress Shops – I had so much fun exploring South Congress a couple of summers ago, so it was great to go back and see all the vintage/thrift shops. Since I’m not really into buying clothes these days with this baby belly, it was nice to explore and see the little treasures. Here’s a really cute old candy shop we stumbled upon. The overall atmosphere is great.

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Overall it was such a great weekend! Although life and vacations will undoubtedly be a lot slower paced pretty soon, I’m excited to take baby on these adventures with us.