26 weeks

Wow, that's a baby belly.

Today I am 26 weeks along, and Miss Lucy is becoming quite the little mover and shaker. Sometimes she kicks me so hard I can't help but say, "Oh!" It never hurts (at least not yet) and, truly, I love every minute of it.

I want to bottle up all these moments and keep them forever. That's why I blog about her so much. I don't want to miss something and then go back and have to fumble through my post-pregnancy brain to try and remember the details. 

Only...sometimes I just want to remain pregnant. Sometimes...I don't want to be a mother.

I'm not afraid of the responsibility. My life has been about me for a long, long time. I can't imagine a greater service than raising my daughter. My fear comes from being terrified of messing up so badly that there'll be no coming back from it.

I want my little girl. I love her so much that it shocks me sometimes. How many mothers in the world have said that? We all think there's no way these tiny little humans who we haven't even met yet will consume our hearts...and then they do. 

But what if it stops here? What if, when I meet her, I don't feel the same way?

A significant reason why I chose natural birth is because of the intense biological attachment that occurs as the mother's body releases ridiculous amounts of oxytocin, a process which can be inhibited by certain medical interventions. I wrote before that I long to be present for every single moment of my daughter's birth, the pain and the joy and everything in between. I don't want to miss a second. Not one. And I have to admit that my longing for this attachment, my desperate need to love her the way she deserves to be loved, motivated my choice to do things the natural way.

I guess what I'm saying is some mothers choose not to give birth naturally because they're afraid of the pain. I'm choosing it because I'm afraid of the exact opposite: feeling nothing.

When I let myself simmer on these moments of fear, they are quickly drowned out by the image I have in my head of what she'll look like. Of seeing Pierce hold her tight against his chest. Of her soft little voice saying "I love you, mama." Of tip-toeing into her room and finding her little nose pressed against a book. Tears stream as I write these words. If I feel this way right now how can I possibly be afraid of not loving her? It doesn't make much sense and, yet, it's still there. Fear is such an asshole.

Lord Jesus, give me the courage to love her fiercely and with great abandon. Just like You love me. Just like You love her. Let it be as instinctual for me to protect her as it has been for my body these last few months. I ask that You show my mind how to catch up with what the rest of me has already been doing. And, most of all, Lord, I ask that You remind me of who has already saved me from this fear. It's not Lucy. It's You. And it will be You who saves her, as well. So please help me show her what You've done, every day, in every moment. For the rest of her life.

the land of oz

Tomorrow my friend Sara's daughter, Mackenzie, turns two! And to celebrate this sweet little girl, I drove up close to Athens yesterday for her Wizard of Oz themed birthday party. It was pretty much the cutest thing I've ever seen, and I'm convinced that Sara needs to become a party planner STAT. Here are some pictures from the soiree. Hope everyone is having a lovely Sunday! 

Sara is also an amazing photographer. She did a photo shoot with Mackenzie dressed as Dorothy a few weeks ago. So adorable!

In other words, the kitchen is off limits! :)

happy friday and all that jazz.

This has been such a great week! The rain has finally slowed down (not that I really minded...I love a good thunderstorm) and the sun is shining today. But there's also a good breeze so it's pretty much the perfect run-errands-buy-birthday-presents-drink-tea kind of day. 

As I'm finally making serious headway on my manuscript edits (that first half was complete and total drudgery), I'm just going to toss a few updates on here today and call it a go so I can get back to 'em.

- I'm almost 26 weeks along and feeling great! (The picture above is from a visit last week with some old friends from my Kenya team) There are a few little frustrations these days, though. Lying on my stomach is pretty uncomfortable. Maybe it's because it presses all that extra baby goodness up against my rib cage? I don't know. Sleeping on my left side really is the way to go. Also, I look hilarious trying to get up from our bed in the morning. But I can still bend over and touch my toes! Hooray for all those years of gymnastics.

-Lucy is super active and feeling her move is, hands-down, the very best part of being pregnant. She likes to dance whenever I play Imagine Dragons, Mumford, and the like. And, for that, I praise the Lord.

-I've got a couple showers coming up in August (plus my best friend's wedding shower and my birthday!) and I'm stoked! Not only to receive presents, but to see my family and friends. I've always been pretty good about staying in touch with loved ones, but there are a few people coming who I haven't seen in years. Can't wait to hug on them!

-I'll have my glucose test in two weeks and we're praying all goes well. Lucy has been measuring big in recent weeks, and gestational diabetes could be a cause, although I don't have any other indicators, such as a family history of diabetes, obesity, etc. So let's hope she's big just because her parents are giants.

-I've been looking for a job for months now and although I've had multiple interviews nothing has changed, thus far. I'm spending a lot of quiet time just waiting on the Lord. I don't know what His plans are for us, but I'm doing my best to trust in His timing. It's not easy. Not at all. But I feel much better about the future these days than I did back when I found out I was pregnant, so that's a very welcome blessing.

That's it for now! Happy Friday to each of you.

Oh, you know. Just another baby.

I am definitely that girl. 

The girl who, funnily enough, isn't British and practically swoons over the royal family? 

Yeah, that's me.

Congrats to the lovely couple! That kid's got some great genes.

Strawberry Banana Bread

The other day I tried a lavender chocolate-chip scone from this vegan bakery near our house. It was absolutely delightful, to say the least. So I hoped to make some of my own lavender goodies at home but, alas, I can't seem to find lavender anywhere!

In the meantime, I stumbled upon this amazing strawberry banana bread recipe today, and both my kitchen and my tummy are much happier for it.

Happy weekend!

My Maternity Must Haves

One of my more recent hobbies has been finding other mommies-to-be on Instagram and checking out their photos. It's a fun, easy way to get ideas on maternity style, thoughts on pregnancy and birthing, and go gaga over the cuteness of their little babies (I can't WAIT to see what our sweet Lucy looks like...will she be blonde? Brunette? Will she have my nose? Pierce's lips? I'm so impatient...). Some of my favorite bloggers are expecting and, at night, when Lucy is kicking and I'm not even remotely tired, I'll scroll through IG and take a peek at what everyone else is "liking". It's easy to spend hours wasting time there, which is why I try to do it only at night, but it's definitely a fun time-waster.

So I thought it would also be fun for me to share some of my maternity must-haves here, in case you guys find yourselves stumbling upon my blog at one o'clock in the morning. 

1. Up first, She Reads Truth. It's pretty well documented at this point that I struggle with anxiety and, back in January when it was really bad, I had a very difficult time doing what I knew needed to be done: spending time in the Word. It just felt like work, ya know? I couldn't see how it would immediately benefit me, which just goes to show how forgetful I can be in terms of my relationship with Christ. Of course it's work! But it's so worth it. And when I start my day with Him, I find that my anxiety decreases tremendously and, suddenly, I'm not only functioning better...I'm seeing myself the way He sees me. She Reads Truth is a fantastic website with daily devotionals written for women by women, and I cannot recommend it enough!

2. The Belly Band! I mentioned last week that our friend's wife lent me hers when I was just about nine weeks along. Basically, it allows me to turn all my regular jeans and pants into maternity pants, simply by keeping them unbuttoned (and often unzipped, as well) and slipping the band on top. It helps to wear a long shirt over it since it's black and doesn't always match what I've got on, but it looks like a cami and it's been a life-saver financially.

3. My "Gorgeous" fragrance by Victoria's Secret. This was a Christmas gift to me from the hubs, and it's lasted forever. I have the lotion pictured here, as well as the perfume, and it just makes me feel sexy. Being pregnant is so much fun, and I love watching my body change. But there are certainly times when "beached whale" comes to mind and putting on a little Victoria's Secret goes a long way towards making me feel beautiful again.

4. Oh, iced coffee. Where do I begin? I've been really good in the last two weeks about drinking only decaf. I just never felt good when I would drink caffeinated and even though limited amounts are okay for us preggo ladies, there are no benefits for baby Lucy. Dunkin Donuts has, hands-down, the very best decaf iced coffee and, even better, it's so affordable! Try it. You'll thank me.

5. I love a good camisole. They're great for layering over the Belly Band, as well as over each other, and they're the perfect compliment for cardigans, cropped tees, and just about everything else you can think of. Plus, I have a long torso and I hate having to pull my shirts down over and over again. Long camisoles keep me from getting too fidgety...which is great because having a growing belly tends to make one fidget quite a lot.

Thanks for reading!

What are your maternity must-haves?

Why I'm Choosing Natural Childbirth

In the last few weeks, I've had a few women ask me if I know what kind of birth I want to have. And while I most certainly do, it was not a decision I came to lightly. Nor do I think it should be. 

It goes without saying at this point (read: post title) that I am choosing natural childbirth. It all started, as I've noticed it has for many of my peers lately, when I sat down one December night in 2011 to watch The Business of Being Born, a documentary on the negative effects of unnecessary medical interventions during labor. At the time, I was simply curious about babies as Pierce and I were just beginning to talk about when we would start a family. And, as I watched, I became transfixed by what I was seeing. I won't go into all the details here because this is a not a critical review of The Business of Being Born, but I do suggest that every woman interested in becoming a mother take a few hours to watch it.

I had never really considered my birthing options before I saw that movie. I suppose I always assumed I'd have an epidural and give birth vaginally, if all went well, and that would be that. So I started to look into what would be available to me if I ever got pregnant. I couldn't get enough information and, eventually, I decided I wanted to make my birthing experience as natural as possible. I had never realized that often times epidurals are given because labor is either induced or "helped along" by the drug Pitocin, which is a synthetic version of the body's natural hormone oxytocin. Oxytocin causes the mother to go into labor naturally, but Pitocin speeds up the process...thus making contractions become so intense that the mother has no other choice but to receive an epidural. Unfortunately, the distress Pitocin-induced contractions causes the baby often, in turn, means the mother will undergo a Cesarean. This is not always the case, so please understand I am not trying to put every mother into an "unnecessary medical intervention" box; I am fully aware, as I have witnessed for many women close to me, that C-sections are sometimes not only necessary but life-saving; however, more often than not, they can be avoided.

This is why I chose to see a midwife for my prenatal, birthing, and postnatal care. Obstetricians are trained surgeons, and they are incredibly valuable resources for high-risk births. We are blessed to have them available to us! But what they do best is surgery, not natural birth.

Having said all of this, I personally believe that women are capable of far more than we realize. We have been told by many in our culture and in the medical profession that pregnancy and childbirth are things we should fear. I can't tell you how many women have said to me, "Oh, I could never do that!" And, as both a woman who loves the Lord and a feminist (two things I don't believe are mutually exclusive), this makes me so sad! Our bodies were designed specifically for this process should the opportunity arise and we are able to conceive and bear children. Pregnancy is not an illness. Nor is it something to be approached lightly. Is it serious? Absolutely. But something to be afraid of? Not in my opinion.

The wonderful thing about being a woman in this century is that I have the option to choose whatever I want (in most cases) in terms of birth. I can have a vaginal birth with an epidural. I can schedule a C-section. I can have a home birth with a midwife. Birth is different for every child and every woman. But we have the responsibility (and the ability) to educate ourselves about these options and choose what is best for ourselves. I have chosen to deliver at a local hospital where natural birth is supported and encouraged with the help of my midwife (more specifically, I have chosen to do natural water birth). Thankfully, there is a well-renowned OB here in Atlanta who partners with local midwives and always makes himself available should something go wrong and surgery become necessary. I met him once, during my first visit to his office in downtown and after a short, sweet meeting he said to me, "Well, hopefully we won't see each other again." I feel better knowing he is on my side, and I know Pierce does, too. We had considered home birth, since the local hospital is only about two miles away, but after talking about it we decided that delivering naturally at the hospital will save us a bit of stress in case of emergency (plus, we don't really want to have to worry about prepping our home for delivery or cleaning up afterwards, either).

My experience, so far, has been incredible. After I had my pregnancy confirmed with my former OB, I knew I wanted to transfer to Intown Midwifery. It doesn't feel much different than a regular OB's office, but the distinctions that do exist have made me very confident in my choice. They know me by name. They ask me what I want. They give me guidelines and encourage me to educate myself. They make me feel like this is in my hands and, ultimately, it should be. Ultimately, it is. Lucy is our baby and her home is in my body. Our responsibility for her does not begin after she's born. It began the moment she was conceived.

Despite all my hopes for her birth, I know things might not go the way we plan. That's life. But I pray it will. I pray we will be continually reminded of God's love for us as I work to bring our daughter into the world. I want her birth to glorify Him as much as I hope her life will. I want to be fully present for every moment of this incredible experience...the pain and the relief...the struggle and the joy...

I'm under no impression that it will be easy. But most things in life worth having never are.

"Damn the Writers", a little prayer for those of us who love words, by a man who writes them.

After I finished some work tonight (after I watched the second season premiere of The Newsroom), I stumbled out of the highly political, frustrating, and sometimes heartbreaking haze of the "real" news and onto this little beauty.

As I am nearing the end of my book edits, I find that this prayer - written by a writer as an appeal to God from all of us writers - says it all. I just wanted to share. You can find the original post here.

Dear God,
Spare a blessing for the writers.
We have traded in the bars and bullfights for university jobs and Netflix. We sink into credit card debt awaiting publication, then find the advance won't cover the monthly interest. Oh Lord, the books that took us years and blood have the shelf life of warm goat milk. In desperation, we write zombie erotica ebooks under false names, outselling our life's work 10 to 1. Our friends and family flip through our drafts, shake their heads, and return to their game of Candy Crush Saga.
In the midst of all this, may we be writers.
May we grieve and sin and celebrate all in the same swallow.
May we seize morning light and squeeze it into ink and toner.
Grant us coffee and honesty and laptops that do not connect to the internet.
Teach us to be chefs, plucking herbs from sidewalk cracks and mushrooms from basement floors. And if we fail to provide nourishment for the hungry, may we at least offer the aroma of cooking.
We are starving, God. Every last one of us.
May we persevere remembering Emily Dickinson, John Kennedy Toole, and Henry David Thoreau. That said, God, we'd like the timing to be a little kinder in our case.
Deliver us, oh Lord, from the temptation to once again check our Amazon ranking or Google our own name.
May we write books worthy of being banned, outrageous enough to be burned.
May we offend.
May we be open to the wisdom of our colleagues and not a give a fuck if the workshop likes it.
May we visit the hearts of pedophiles and tour bus conductors and volunteers working suicide hotlines.
May we sneak into the funerals of strangers.
May we run mad so we may write for the mad. May we face brokenness so we can give voice to the broken.
A little happiness would be nice as well.
May we remember that how we live is essential to how we write. And refuse to live small.
Stoned or sober, may we piss in the pools of wealthy neighbors, eat in bars with health code violations, and steal bibles from homeless shelters.
May we make love loudly, even when alone.
May we embarrass, embarrass, embarrass ourselves.
May we be lost. May we pen maps so others might become lost as well.
May our greatest risk not be our words but our lives. And may our lives spill words like molten rock.
Damn the writers, God. Then bless us with the words to describe it.
If I sound ridiculous it is because I am ridiculous. This is my religion. This is my faith.
God, cast your gaze upon us. See us in the kitchens, closets, coffee houses. Sitting and scribbling, typing, staring off between words. We raise our souls like a sloshing glass of grain alcohol. We toast one another. We smash the glass and light a match.
Forgive our clich├ęs. Heal our poor grammar. And thank you, dear God, for Spell Check.
Oh Lord, hear our prayer.

23 Weeks

Happy Monday y'all!

I won't technically be 23 weeks until Wednesday, but I was anxious to show off the cute Goodwill skirt I found so I took some very basic pictures with my iPhone and voila! Here we are. I don't know what has gone wrong with my camera. It's on the fritz lately.

I was telling Hubby the other day that it's been eighteen weeks since we found out we are expecting...and there are just eighteen weeks until Lucy is here! I'm still feeling a lot of that "Whoa, hold on, slow down a second!" stuff, but also a whole lot more excitement as I feel her stretch and kick and play around in there each day.

I'm going to make it short and sweet today and just give you guys a quick peek into how much things have changed over the last few weeks. Then it's back to work for me! I've got a script due at 5:00 (priorities, people).

Weight Gain: Still a bit less than normal, although I haven't been weighed in a few weeks and baby is growing fast! I was 148 when I got pregnant and I think I'm about 158 now. And Lucy weighs a whopping one pound this week!

Cravings: Eh. Just food in general. Like always. Pregnancy hasn't changed me much in that regard.

Clothing: I've made the best use of my regular wardrobe, and the Belly Band our friend's lovely wife lent me has allowed me to wear my regular bottoms unbuttoned and unzipped. It works just like maternity jeans, except the band is removable. And I love it! I have a few dresses and skirts I love, but mostly I stick to long tanks with cardigans and/or light scarves to give me some diversity. Oh, and more jewelry, too. I really want to look back on these days and see that I embraced my changing body and celebrated it with style!

What I'm Feeling Physically: No stretch marks! Yay! Also, getting up and out of bed is becoming more of a challenge these days. I don't feel that much different when I'm just walking around (except for occasionally getting out of breath), but when I'm lying down I kind of feel like a beached whale. Also, I've started to get heart palpitations, which are no fun when you're trying to sleep. I also get really hot at night and we got to bed with our fan on all the time.. 

[I have a terrible earache, too, which has kept me from getting rest the last few evenings, most mostly I sleep very well.]

What I'm Feeling Emotionally/Mentally: I find that I am still dealing with a bit of depression, but it comes and goes. I've gotten much better at staying alone these days, although at times I start to feel anxious about it again, but finding ways to keep my mind occupied (prayer, Bible study, writing, work...sometimes even Pinterest)  help keep me from spending too much time thinking about things that don't matter. My greatest fear is that our little girl will be born into an anxious environment, so I am doing my best to alleviate these issues before she gets here. I have an appointment to meet with one of the counselors my midwife recommended next month so I'm looking forward to that! I also get choked up really easily and cry at the drop of a hat, but it's usually because of something sweet or sappy (like the little pink Bible my friend Jillian's mom bought for Lucy...I totally lost it just trying to write the inscription on the front cover). Gah, hormones!

Preparing for Lucy: One concern we have is how our dog, Bella, will react to a newcomer in the family, although huskies are well-known for being gentle and sweet with people, especially babies. This has been our experience so far, but she is also testing our limits lately when it comes to obedience. We've pretty much decided to make her an outside dog and, along with preparing the nursery (I Love Lucy themed, of course!), we will be setting up a home for her in the backyard in the next few months. I have to admit, as much as I love our sweet puppy, I am looking forward to a fur-free house.

food and love and farmers markets

Soooo...I am not the best eater in the world.

In terms of how much food I can pack away, I am a virtual champion. I love food. But I don't always eat good food. And by "good" I mean "healthy".

This is something I've made a concentrated effort to change since discovering Lucy will be here in a few short months. Before I found out I was pregnant, I was drinking lots of coffee every day. Now I've minimized it to a few drinks per week (sometimes more than others), usually tea or iced coffee but sometimes, yes, a good old fashioned Coke. When I go places like Starbucks and Dunkin' Donuts, I know I can get decaf, so I try to avoid frequenting McDonald's (which is hard because there are so many of them and their iced coffee is cheaper). I hear stories everywhere about how "coffee is fine!" and "I drink it all the time", along with receiving the occasional stare-down from that really fit woman who obviously never put any caffeinated poison in her body while she was pregnant. I think I've found a balance but, so far, I haven't felt fully confident about anything I eat, even the "good stuff". I am a pro at second guessing myself.

This insecurity about my diet is made even more pronounced when I eat at a fast food restaurant. I'll admit, I love some french fries. Chick-Fil-A is my kryptonite. And I've probably had fast food a couple times a week the whole time I've been pregnant (but before you scream at me, let's think about the math here: that's an average of three meals a week, give or take a few, in terms of the typical twenty-one meals consumed over the course of seven days...that only accounts for about seven percent of what goes into my body). Sometimes I feel okay about it, especially when I rationalize it out by reading what pregnant women used to do decades ago...but then I think about how many more artificial ingredients and preservatives go into our foods these days, and my good feeling goes away fast. I fear I will wind up with a pickled baby.

So let me be honest here: I have been selfish. I want a cheeseburger? Dang it! I'm going to eat a cheeseburger. I didn't sleep because baby is starting to kick so much? I'm going to get some coffee! (Although perhaps baby is kicking so much because I drank coffee?)
But I've also eaten more vegetables and organic foods and paid more attention to what goes into my body than ever before. I've started adding flaxseed meal to my flour or cake batter or cornbread mix. I eat avocados for a snack and use only olive oil or butter with those good Omega 3 fatty acids. I've mostly cut out red meat (when I'm not eating a cheeseburger, mind you) and stocked up on black beans and kidney beans instead. I take my prenatal vitamin like it's going out of style (and by that I just mean everyday). I even started growing my own carrots! Hopefully in a few more weeks they will be edible. 

But let's be straight here, okay? Our culture makes eating badly very, very easy. Bad food is cheap and convenient, and I used to think people who said the same thing about organic, healthy food were full of it. "Have you been to Whole Foods?" I wanted to ask. We tried making that place our grocery of choice, but damn. We just couldn't fit it into our budget for very long.

Since we moved back into the city, we've heard a ton of fabulous things about the Dekalb Farmers Market. Apparently it's massive, filled to the brim with international and domestic fruits, vegetables, spices, nuts, artisan breads, and more, AND...drumroll please...it's CHEAP.

Today, I found out for myself that the rumors are true. And I couldn't be happier. I got fresh corn on the cob, bananas, roma tomatoes, dragon fruit, avocados, baby bella mushrooms, chocolate soy milk (any reviews on that before I take the plunge?), and a loaf of homemade olive focaccia bread for just fifteen dollars. It was easy on our budget and it made me feel excited about eating well, about eating to satisfy my hunger and give my baby the nutrients she needs. People talk about eating well like it's easy, but it's a habit that must be carefully cultivated. At least that's what it's been for me. I certainly didn't grow up in a house full of junk food. We ate plenty of veggies and fruits, but there was also never a shortage of macaroni and cheese or Hamburger Helper. It was just kind of...typical...and that's exactly how my adult diet has been.

I really want to enjoy my food. Some nutritionists advise against turning meals into events, but I disagree. I love beautiful food. I love to cook it and eat it. I love to arrange my fruit on a painted plate and eat it slice by slice. I love to savor each bite and laugh with my husband and friends. Meals are lovely things, and I think a good one is just another form of fellowship. Shauna Niequist talks about this in her (amazing) book Cold Tangerines

I'm almost twenty-two weeks along, and save Farm Burger burgers which are organic, grass-fed, and out of this world GOOD, I have decided to leave the burgers alone. No more junk for this baby mama. If I can't make more of a commitment to what I eat now, how will I ever build good eating habits for my little girl? I don't want to have to try and change what she's already learned...I want to get a good head start from the beginning. It's way too important for her development, and for my health as a mama.

Although, I will admit that if she's ever screaming and refuses to nap and I've got puke all down my shirt and a good ol' fashioned car ride won't do the trick...I will have no problem resorting to a McDonald's Happy Meal every once in awhile. 

What do you do to stay committed to healthy eating? Tips and suggestions are very welcome!

The Nunnerys Go To Europe, Part IV: Rome, The Eternal City

Wow, I am so behind on this, I know! I kept hoping to get around to it sooner, but all the excitement about little Lucy just took over and swept Europe completely under the rug. I have a feeling she'll be doing that for awhile ;).

Rome was, hands down, the absolute most exhausting, exhilarating day of the trip. Since we'd ended up having to spend more money on transportation than we either wanted or planned for up to that point, we decided to set aside everything extra we had to enjoy our day in Rome. Amsterdam, after all, had been "my" place. Rome was "Pierce's". And I really wanted him to get the whole experience.

As I mentioned before, the cruise excursions were outrageously priced, and while we were in Pisa we were approached by a woman who worked for a regional tourist company who basically keeps track of all the cruise ships coming in and out of port and where they're going. She offered us a sightseeing package for Rome, and of course we were skeptical of the price, but it wasn't so much cheaper that we knew for sure it would be a scam. So we went for it! After a night of looking up reviews online and talking to Guest Services on the ship (who had never even heard of them...we figured that was a good enough sign that they weren't total rip-offs), we decided to take the risk. It was simply too good to pass up.

We were SO glad we did! The regional company picked us up at the train station, had our tickets ready, guided us everywhere we needed to go, showed us all around the city of Rome, and didn't even ask for payment until lunchtime when we stopped halfway through the tour. It was a ton of walking, but we were able to see the major attractions whereas if we'd gone with the ship excursion (which only covered transportation to and from Rome), we would have had to navigate the city all alone. And even though I was almost fourteen weeks pregnant and thoroughly tired of walking, I was having the time of my life exploring the Eternal City with my favorite person.

After stops at the Colosseum, the Parliament building, the Fountain of the Four Rivers, and the Pantheon, we were given an hour for lunch. Honestly, it was the moment we'd been waiting for since our trip began. Pierce and I are huge pasta lovers, and we couldn't wait to have authentic Italian food in the most Italian city in Europe. So we took a leisurely stroll down a path close to the Pantheon, alongside dozens of little cafes, and finally found our way to a restaurant called The Dark Duke. We didn't know that's what it was called until it showed up on our bank statement, but it was exactly what we had hoped to find. It was quaint and quiet, with the perfect people-watching table right outside on the cobblestones. We got there before it was crowded and were treated like royalty. We ordered homemade bruschetta with their hand-tossed pita bread, and for our entrees we fairly Hoovered our plates of seafood spaghetti (oh, heaven...) and ricotta and mozarella ravioli. Pierce ordered a glass of wine, and apparently in Italy when you order a glass you get a whole sixteen ounce decanter along with it! That, along with the two limoncello shots they gave Pierce after our lunch to apologize for making us wait so long, gave my husband the perfect buzz. 

In Rome, we saw all the tourist spots and did all the lovely tourist things. We tossed coins into the Trevi Fountain, ate gelato, and stood in line to see the Vatican. We took tons of pictures and walked around behind a guy with an umbrella, and we wouldn't have changed any of it. It was the one day we gave ourselves permission to just be like everyone else...because everyone in Rome is a tourist ;).