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August-A Month of Firsts

I keep seeing the phrase the days are long but the years are short--seems like this is a popular saying for people who have toddlers. As the mom of a 3 week old, the nights are long but the days are short seems like a better fit. The days are flying by, and I can't get them to slow down
Right now, there is nothing that Jack could do to make me angry. He can wake up as many times as he wants to in the middle of the night and I will happily (sleepily) feed him. If you read yesterday's post, you know that I've already been spit up on, pooped on, and peed on...many times in these short 3 weeks. Did I get frustrated, angry, or lose my patience? Of course not! When I have those beautiful big eyes staring back at me, happy and grateful are the only feelings that I know.
I do realize that those long days are ahead-those days when I am counting down the minutes to nap time and having to correct Jack for the same things over and over again.
There are a few things that I hope I can remember on those days, moments that I want to be able to look back on to keep things in perspective:
  • The first time I laid eyes on my precious boy and my heart melted out of my chest
  • Waking up the next morning and realizing that the cute little boy sleeping in his bassinet was mine
  • The first time I saw him smile
  • The first time he gripped my finger
  • The way I felt when Jack locked eyes with mine for the first time and I knew he could actually see me
  • Jack's first bath

Ariel Holcomb Photography

I am holding on tight to all of these sweet moments.
*Linking up with Darci and Ashley.


When Being Prepared Isn't Enough

  • Burp cloth over the shoulder while burping cute boy: check
  • Extra wipe covering the loaded weapon during diaper change: check
  • New diaper ready to go to catch anything extra: check
Somehow, Jack still managed to spit-up down my back, poop on my hand, and pee on my arm, the changing pad, and floor. All before 7am.

Happy Thursday!!


Weekend Recap

My mom is visiting for a week to play with Jack. We went on our first walk with him over the weekend and he slept through the entire adventure!

Those lips!!!!!

Jack won't remember living in this beautiful southern town where cars stop for horse carriages, trees are covered in moss, and marshes line the horizon. Even so, it will always represent the first place I lived with Ben, my first duty station as a wife and mom, and Jack's first home.

Sami's Shenanigans


Jack's Birth Story

Ben wore this same outfit home from the hospital.

[Aug 06th, 5am]
I finally started feeling something different. I felt a shooting pain in my lower back and then what felt like a mild cramp in my stomach that lasted for about a minute. The pain came back just about every 10 minutes. I called Ben and told him that I thought contractions were starting and that I was going to try to get some rest. I slept for a few hours and the contractions had stopped when I woke up.

I started feeling contractions again as Ben and I were going to sleep. I thought I would be able to sleep through them, but they felt a lot stronger than the ones in the morning. Ben woke up around 2am to go to the bathroom and I told him I hadn't been able to fall asleep. He started timing the contractions and they were coming about every 7-8 minutes. Ben rubbed my lower back and I was able to fall asleep in between each contraction, waking every time one hit.

[Aug 07th, 2pm]
We had eaten breakfast and started slowly getting things ready earlier that morning. Contractions started hitting about every 5-6 minutes, lasting 1- 1 1/2 minutes long. I had been rocking back and forth on my yoga ball to try and ease the lower back pain. One hit that brought tears to my eyes and I realized it was only going to get more difficult. We decided to call the birth center and they told us to come in since we live an hour away. We waited a little while longer, had lunch, and got on the road.

We arrived at the birth center and I was only 2 1/2 cm dilated, 90% thinned. Great. They told us we could probably go back home--but there was no way I was going to sit in a car for another hour and then have to drive back when labor would only be more intense. We opted for plan b--get a hotel room 10 minutes away. We walked around outside for about an hour, stopping every 5 minutes or so to work through a contraction. I would squeeze Ben's arm, bury my face in his shoulder, and breathe--a few people stopped us to see if I was okay, and Ben would respond, "This is good! She's in labor!" We were both very hot so we decided to do more walking back at the hotel. We walked the hallways for another hour and contractions were finally hitting every 3-4 minutes and lasting about 90 seconds.

We decided to go back to the birth center so I could get checked again. 3 cm dilated. I think the midwife saw the panic in my face so she said that we could stay. She encouraged me to try to rest (with the help of an ambien) because she was worried that my body was going to shut down soon from exhaustion. I felt three hard contractions right on top of each other right after I took the ambien. I remember thinking that there was no way I would be able to fall asleep--and then I passed out for 4.5 hours.

[Aug 08th, 2am]
Ben and I walked the halls of the birth center until I felt like I couldn't walk anymore. The nurse recommended that I try using the water pressure from the shower on my lower back. It helped a lot, but I started feeling really weak and asked if they could check my progress.
"Are you ready to hear the good news??"
I was 6 cm and I could get in the jacuzzi as long as I would let them break my water, which I didn't even feel. The jacuzzi jets and the heat felt amazing on my back, and Ben was going back and forth from the sink with ice chips and cold rags for my forehead. I tried hard to focus on relaxing and breathing through the contractions-and about an hour in I felt the urge to push.

Ben sat on the ledge behind me in the jacuzzi and held my hands while I pushed. I tried to push 3 times with each contraction. Every push brought me closer to meeting Jack, but it also brought me more intense pain. Ben, the nurse, and the midwife encouraged me and told me to just continue working with my body.

Ben helped pull Jack out of the water and put him on my chest. I remember looking at Jack, realizing that he was my son, he was the boy I had waited 10 months to meet, the boy whose ultrasound pictures I looked at, whose hiccups I felt, who I prayed for every night...and feeling like everything was right in the world.


2 years

first look--Mark Romine Photography

If you read Ben's post for our anniversary, you know that I am a very blessed girl. Leave it to God to give me someone even better than I could have dreamt up to spend my life with. 
I really can't believe it's been two years--part of me feels like I have been with him forever, but then another part feels like this special day was just yesterday: (our wedding highlight video)

I am not sure how it keeps happening, but it seems like I find myself loving Ben more and more at every turn we make.
As if I didn't have enough reasons to love Ben with every ounce of my being, just this last week of parenthood has given me countless more:
  • he was the best labor chips on demand, back rubs almost constantly, cold rags without asking for them, words of encouragement at the exact moments I needed them, he caught me when I passed out, he did not rest at all through the entire 32 hours of labor (I actually slept a few hours here and there)
  • he has fed me breakfast every morning during the sunrise nurse session with Jack
  • he has made 50+ trips up and down the stairs a day to do laundry, cook, clean, and bring me things as I have been living upstairs
  • he has changed 90% of the diapers
  • the love he has for our son radiates through him
  • he's already teaching Jack lessons about putting women first and the importance of being a gentleman
  • I came out of the shower and found him passed out like this:

And it's only week 1!!!
Happy Anniversary, I love you Ben.


Grace, 2 Year Anniversary, Movement to Contact and the Peepee Teepee

My beautiful bride is upstairs either konked out or feeding our brand new baby boy, Jack...I know this because those are the two things she does now!  If she were doing anything else she'd be in big trouble with her doctor (me).  She does not know I’m writing/posting this so I hope she’ll still have me after she reads it ;)

This is my first ever post on  I thought it fitting that my first ever post commemorate Nicole and I’s two year anniversary (08.13.2011) and the birth of our first son (08.08.2013).  Describing this first two years of marriage is simple yet difficult.  How do I put into words such an experience?  How can I not put it into words?  I thought I’d share with you two lessons I’ve learned; one on Husbandhood and one on Fatherhood. 

HUSBANDHOOD (though I was not yet a husband) – The place was Filomena’s Restaurant in Georgetown near Washington D.C.  Nicole was visiting me from Chicago while I was training in Quantico, VA.  Nicole will tell you that I absolutely cannot keep thoughts or secrets to myself.  Well, this night was no different.  I knew, without a doubt, that I loved this girl and I HAD to tell her!  We walked into the restaurant, past the ladies making pasta in the window, and waited in the bar area for our name to be called.  Why wait I thought!  I had rehearsed my 9 minute speech a hundred times…At this point Nicole stepped in and proposed a toast.  She said, “Here’s to a fun night.”  A fun night I thought?!  ”Nicole, I have a better toast.  Here’s to me falling in love with you.  I love you Nicole.”  So that wasn’t exactly how I planned it but you have to adapt and overcome right?!  I still nailed the punch line and surely she would reciprocate a mutual feeling.  (insert awkward pause).  (insert Nicole laughing).  (insert rejected boyfriend).  NOTHING!  Just a laugh.  The rest of the night consisted of awkward conversation, lots of trips to the bathroom and Nicole’s sea bass that unknowingly came with the head still on.  Not even THAT could break the ice! 

While her lack of response to my outflow of emotion landed a momentary blow to my confidence, I was not deterred.  With persistence, she would be mine.  And it turns out that would not be the only time she laughed in response to a VERY important moment…but that is another post for another time. 

Lesson 1: Marriage takes honest, open communication and persistence in the face of challenges.

At Filomena's


I’ll let Nicole tell you about the first time she told me she loved me!

FATHERHOOD – God blessed my wife and I with a beautiful handsome young man on August 8th at 0602 in the morning.  Fatherhood is here, ready or not!  My first 5 days of Fatherhood have been quite a show ;)  I'm reminded of my first ever night live fire exercise at The Basic School.  Each 2nd Lieutenant shooter is paired up with a Sergeant Instructor.  The Instructor is glued to the shooter, ensuring that they stay in their lane and stay on line with the group.  The shooters begin moving forward, engaging their targets on command.  It was during this evolution that I learned that sometimes you need work on certain areas of your life.  We had just completed our movement to contact drill when the Sergeant turns to me and with pristine bearing and tact says, "Sir, with all due respect, you are the most ungraceful Lieutenant I've ever seen."

Grace or Un-Grace?

Well, Fatherhood feels a bit like that.  Exhibit first ever diaper change (really my first ever!)...It began like any normal diaper change but normal, for a Dad who has never changed a diaper, is still undefined.  Like any good planner, I had all my gear strategically placed near the victim (my son).  Diaper - check, reusable wipes - check, spray bottle - check, pee-pee teepee - check!  I even had my overwatch established 5 feet away (wife in bed) with clear line of sight to provide supporting fires if necessary.  It's go time!  So I unstrap his diaper and immediately the fog of war kicks in.  All I see is black, literally only black.  I can already tell this is going to test my determination.  I regain my composure. "C'mon Ben, you've been waiting for this moment your entire life!"  With a fearless swoop, I dive in...Not only is it black but it has the consistency of NADs body wax!  I had only encountered a substance like this once before in my life and it involved 15 4th grade boys, a sleepover and 1 double dog dare...And it did NOT end well...Still, I'm a Marine.  I can handle this.  I do the only thing I know to on.  All the while, my overwatch is providing praise, encouragement and progress reports.  And all the while, my son is losing his precious mind.  Now I reach for the pee-pee teepee and secure it over the victim's penis.  After about 10 minutes, I've managed to remove the black from the victim. Surely the end is near...then I hear the overwatch, "Ben, he's peeing, Ben he's peeing, Ben he's peeing in his mouth!"  Dad's beware, this pee-pee teepee thing is bogus.  To the manufacturer, may I suggest an elastic strap to wrap around his butt to hold the teepee in place!  Jack shot that teepee straight into the air and his pee made a perfect arch right into his mouth.  I didn't stand a chance. 

It did end.  I cleaned the pee out of my son's mouth, secured the diaper, swaddled him tight and then crawled in bed next to my overwatch for a little much needed rest and recovery.

Lesson 2: Sometimes Fatherhood is ungraceful...who cares!




On August 08th, at 6:02 am, God blessed us with Jack Benjamin Shea.

And he's perfect.


How Jack's story began

2011 engagement pictures Okinawa, Japan-Ally Wiseman Photography

Hedo Misaki (Cape Hedo) Okinawa, Japan 2010
My mode of transportation while I lived there

This whole waiting period that I'm stuck in patiently enjoying has offered a lot of opportunities for reflection. I've been re-reading entries from my journal, and I stumbled across the one below from my move to Okinawa. I packed my bags just a few days after my college graduation party and hopped on a plane to move across the globe. May and June of 2009 held so many big moments: finishing student teaching, graduating from college, moving to Japan. I was extremely busy in those last few weeks before I left, I remember everything really hitting me while I was sitting on the plane. By myself. Moving to a country where I didn't know the language. Starting a job where I had only skyped with my new boss just the month before. Leaving behind my family, friends, Chicago pizza, comfort zone, and so much more. Yet if it wasn't for this decision, there is a chance that I wouldn't be in the situation I am in now--married to my best friend and waiting to meet our little boy. 
I found myself on a beautiful island filled with some of the kindest, humblest, most gracious people I have ever met. It was also an island filled with military bases, and I had no access to them (without Ben). It was filled with military spouses, and I was not one of them. Ben spent more time in the Philippines, Thailand, and Iraq than he did in Okinawa during those two years. Even when he was on the island, we lived an hour apart and had opposite work schedules. This gave me the opportunity to really get the experience I was searching for, one that holds the place as the beginning of our love story; thus, the beginning of Jack's story.

June 18th, 2009

I move to Okinawa today. I left behind my family, friends and dog. It is finally starting to sink in...I might not step back onto U.S. soil for at least a year...that thought is scary, exciting, uncomfortable, and REALLY hard to imagine. Why am I leaving everything I've ever known behind and moving to Japan? There are so many factors that seemed to align perfectly that pointed me in this direction--the first being God. I have grown closer to Him this past year than I ever have before. I have learned so much about Him and yet so little at the same time. I have prayed long and hard about this decision and God has somehow managed to give me the means I need to make this experience seem almost practical. He made it possible for me to move there providing me with not only a job, but also a place to live, and this job just happens to be something that is capable of changing/sculpting my career choice.

The other factors that have fallen into place and as a result have made me consider this path are the series of events that took place after last New Years. I met the most amazing man, fell in love, he moved to Okinawa, and I graduated college. At this point in my life, I am ready for a drastic change. I cannot imagine starting a teaching job right after I graduated and being content in some suburban school--I need something else. I want to travel first, I want to experience life outside of my comfort zone, I am ready to really learn about myself.

Ben could not have come at a more perfect time. I had no idea what I was getting myself into that one New Year's, but I immediately understood that guys like Ben do not come around often. I wasn't sure if Ben and I were really compatible--we seemed so different. However, the more time I spent with him the more I craved for more time with him. We had a few short months to get to know each other before he left for Japan. Those months really challenged my misconception that we may be too different and I began falling in love with someone who was moving across the world for 2 years. As it turns out, Ben is someone I can see spending the rest of my life with--I would be lucky to. He trusts in God, is kind, handsome, generous, loving, faithful, and so much more..

So there you have it, I am currently departing Tokyo to head to Fukuoka and finally to land in Okinawa. This has been quite the trip already--Chicago>Toronto>Tokyo>Fukuoka>Okinawa-and I can hardly wait to start my new life as an English Language Instructor who is also dating the man of her dreams. Wish me luck!

To read some of my posts during that time, click here.


What 40 weeks really looks like...and what our kids will *never* do....

Sure, sometimes I get dressed and do my hair. Sometimes I even put on make-up. But let's get serious...this usually only happens on Sundays.
Since Jack's due date has come and gone, I thought I'd share how I usually look...
Let's just say that Ben's boxers and skivvies have become my best friends. Oh, and it's really hard to find shirts that cover the whole belly. 

As if that wasn't enough belly exposure...I have something really exciting for ya'll to see.
So I know that this whole *parenthood* thing is going to be filled with all of my "I will never" or "Our kids will never" mantras getting thrown back in my's a few I've already said that I know I probably won't be able to maintain:
-Our kids will never eat in the car.
-I will never yell at my kids in public.
-Our kids will never eat anything with hfcs, artificial dyes, preservatives, hormones, antibiotics....they will only eat kale. All day every day. Kale smoothies, kale juice, kale-pops, kale chips. You really can do a lot with kale!!! 
-I will never let my house turn into a Toy's-R-Us. Christmas will not be about who got the most toys. We will be serving meals to homeless people at a food shelter. Or handing out clean drinking water and hugs to kids in third world countries. Jack won't even know what a toy is unless he is at his grandparents house. 

Haha ok, so you get the point. I'm a little crazy. And most of those are slight exaggerations, but really I'm just crazy. 
I already know what you're thinking, "Her poor kids, they will never be able to just be 'kids'..." Welp, let me tell you--America's definition of letting 'kids be kids' has me perfectly fine with that. 

As soon as I got pregnant, I told Ben "If I start posting bare pregnant belly shots on the internet, please deactivate my facebook and don't let me anywhere near the computer." So I thought it would be fitting to start off this whole parenthood thing doing the thing I said I would *never* do...because I know as well as you do that one day I am going to find myself in Walmart, yelling at Jack while bribing him with toys and simultaneously bribing his sister with pop and M&M's. And then we are going to drive home in a car that has goldfish and french fries buried in the seats. *cringe*

40 week belly
What were some of your "I will never's" that went flying out the window??


Friday's Loves

I seriously need to read this every hour. Maybe every half hour. The promise of peace is such an amazing one during any time in our lives...but especially during a time of waiting.
When you live in a small town in the South and a boba milk tea craving hits, you are in serious trouble. Luckily for me, I have amazing friends and one of them found a milk tea mix and tapioca pearls at a nearby Asian grocery store.  I added chocolate sauce (pure maple syrup + cocoa powder=heaven) to mine and let's just say Jack was one active boy afterwards!

This blog. Kayla is such a ray of sunshine and is a blogger that I have truly enjoyed getting to know--making 'blog friends' is such an added bonus to being in the blog world. Check her out if you get a chance!

Happy Friday! I hope you have a great weekend!!

The Magnolia Pair