24 Week Pregnancy Check In (Baby # 6)

So, I’m not super-great about updating you guys on any kind of regular basis on how this pregnancy is going.

I know bloggers who do it weekly (a bit much for me) or monthly. And I always enjoy seeing what’s going on in such a special capsule of time in their lives. But from me, I’m afraid pregnancy updates are not so much going to be on a weekly or monthly basis but instead a randomly one.

So, here I am at 24 weeks with baby #6 deciding randomly that it’s time to give you guys the skinny (errr…questionable choice of words) on what’s going on with this here pregnancy.

P.S. I am wearing a maternity shirt  that I found on clearance at Ross for $5 and loved without actually realizing it was a maternity shirt until I got it to the checkout line. AND I’m wearing my fave maternity shorts. All you maternity-wear lovers should be proud. I plan to do any update pics in these clothes because I’ve never done that “one outfit to the end” thing before, and I’m interested to see just how bursting-at-the-seams these poor threads are by week 42 (yes, I’m telling myself I’ll go over by 2 full weeks so that if I do, eh! It’s what I expected. And if I don’t, BONUS!)

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{Hello in there! Hope you’re nice and comfy. I’m wondering if you’ll have Simon’s dimples or Ezra’s crazy-thick curly eyelashes. Or both. Watch out!}

Oooookay, so the most commonly asked questions I get are:

1. When did you find out? Eeeeeearly. When you’re as fertile and have had as much practice at this being pregnant thing as I have, you kind of just know. If you know what I mean.

2. When did you let the cat out of the bag? We didn’t tell a soul for 11 weeks. Although I enjoy the celebration and anticipation, there is at least a small part of me that would be completely happy to not tell anyone until the baby is out and I can just pass him around for inspection. That’s just my weird personality talking, but that preference has increased exponentially with each pregnancy. Honestly, the less time I have to spend nodding my head and smiling at comments like, “At it again, huh?” and “You DO know what causes this, right?” the better. Although, honestly, as I’ve mentioned before, I think people are so used to our version of crazy by this point that they’re kind of tired of making the comments. So, pretty much all we got was a lot of, “Congratulations!” and smiles. I’ll take it!

3. So, how has this pregnancy treated you, especially after having twins? You may hate me for this, but this may very well be my easiest pregnancy yet, especially after having twins. The twins were definitely the hardest on my body so far, but I have easy pregnancies in general, with limited nausea or other symptoms. And this one has been unusually symptom-free overall, at least in the first half. I even managed to avoid a good portion of the soul-crushing fatigue that sucks the life out of you in the first trimester.

4. Any major differences from your other pregnancies? Actually, yes. After just saying how great this one has been, I do have to admit that, in the past 3 weeks or so, I’ve been noticing that I feel a lot more “pregnant” than at this stage with other pregnancies. I just get so TIRED, physically (not to mention mentally and emotionally). There are days when I feel like if I don’t get a nap, I may literally physically shut down in about 30 minutes (Sorry, kids! Mama’s closed for business for the next 23 minutes), and that’s totally not normal for my 2nd trimester. I think it’s a sign that I’m getting older. And that I have five small children who need my attention constantly a lot.

Also, my Braxton Hicks contractions kicked in at 19 weeks, which has been a bit cray-cray. Saaaaaay whaaaat? I’m contracting with half of it to go?? So, yeah. I’ll be happy if those decide to back on up a bit.

ALSO, I have pretty bad varicose veins in one leg only. They are, by far, the biggest thorn in my side (the right one, to be exact) so far (which, I realize, doesn’t even begin to compare to some of the hard things y’all have to go through) and are the worst they’ve ever been (I had them with the twins and Della, but not like this). They are ugly and humbling, but more than that, they really hurt. My midwife, Diane, recommended Collinsonia Root to treat them, and I did get some, but haven’t taken it yet (oops).

5. Any guesses about the personality of this kid? Not really. I mean he’s a pretty active little dude. I started feeling him move at week 17, which is the same week that I feel all my babies move, and it’s always funny how it goes from my lying there at night imagining that maaaaaaybe that little flutter was a wee babe’s kick to: OH! there it was, to: OH! helloooooo, baby! Pretty much from week 17 on, I feel them move like crazy, and this guy is no exception, except that he miiiiight be on the slightly more active-than-usual side. Hard to pin that down, though. One funny thing is that he has a definite preference for my left side. As he grows, it’s kind of forcing him to branch out a little, but if he had his druthers, it would appear that he would hang out in my left hemisphere exclusively.

6. Do you have a name yet? Yup, we sure do!

: )

7. Are you still exercising/teaching classes? Boy howdy, yes! (Sorry, I don’t know where that came from). I still teach all my regular classes and generally clock about 5 1/2-7 hours a week at the gym. That’s less than I’ve done in the past, but it’s enough to keep me sane these days without driving me crazy…if that makes any sense. I can do pretty much everything that I could pre-pregnancy, but toe-pushups and planks are getting a bit too scary for these separating abs of mine, so I don’t see too many more of those in my near future.

8. Are the kids excited? YES! The boys are thrilled to have an addition to the Blue Team, and Della is constantly asking me what her “baby brudder” thinks about this or that (usually whether he liked whatever it is I just ate). The twins are still blissfully ignorant, but they’ll get there (or get a rather rude awakening in about 3 1/2 months).

9. Any particular cravings? My number one consistent pregnancy craving in each one is Coke Icees. I love them. (I know, I know…terrible). I go through shifts, though. Sometimes, I’ll have two weeks in a row where I have two each week. And then, I’ll go another 3-4 weeks without any. Other than that, it’s pretty random. I might wake up one day and feel like I MUST have an apple fritter or a Chick-fil-a sandwich or…whatever. But, because of where we live (read: the boonies), most of those cravings go unindulged, which is a good thing. I will say, though, that a recent positive kick has been kale smoothies. I really felt the need to detox from all the junk we ate on our little vacation a few weeks ago, so I’ve been chugging these bad boys practically every day, and they are sooooooo good and help a lot with my energy levels.

10. Aaaaaw, you’ve got nice even numbers now. You’re “done,” right? (Does this even count as a question?) Nope. Not unless God says we are.

And that wraps up, “How this pregnancy is going,” the 24 week edition. I’ll try to do another round before another 24 weeks has gone by (seeing as how I won’t be pregnant anymore by the point…Oh, Lord, please).

Any of you guys had any luck treating varicose veins during pregnancy? I’d be happy to consider any and all ideas.

Any funny things that stand out as unique to a particular pregnancy? This whole lefty thing is cracking me up. I’m starting to wonder if I’m going to show lopsided pretty soon.

Are you pregnant right now? If so, please share your due date and gender (if you’re telling). I’d love to know who all is in this together with me right now.

Any questions you have about this pregnancy (or anything else for that matter) that I didn’t address? I’m all ears!

Chartreuse Chanteuse

Okay, so the title of this post is not strictly accurate. Yes, I’m wearing chartreuse, but I’m no chanteuse. I mean, I am female, and I like to sing, but the last time I frequented a nightclub was…never. Still, how often do you get a chance to throw such a fun and funky word around? Yes, I agree. I had to. 

So, let’s talk about this skirt.

It’s originally from LOFT, but I, of course, scored it at Goodwill for $4 as part of this round of the 30 Minute GW Challenge.

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When I showed it to my husband, his brow crinkled, and he said, “Wait. Don’t you have that skirt already?”

To which I replied (with a generous eye roll), “No, baby, that other skirt is a maxi. This one’s totally different.” (Although, if we’re being honest, I immediately knew which skirt he meant–see it here–so maybe that “totally” before the “different” wasn’t completely necessary).    IMG_4309

I almost missed my chance to wear this skirt during this pregnancy, but managed to squeeeeze everything (AKA my growing girth) in there without feeling too constricted.

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Oh, and now let’s talk about this shirt. Remember how I styled it 3 ways way back when? Well, I don’t know that I’ve worn it since. Apparently, I had such great ideas of all the ways that I could wear it that, in my brain, I had worn it all those ways, numerous times, and was done! But seriously, the main reason I do not wear it often is because a) my husband does not care for it at. all. and b) it is a bit on the loud side.

But, I don’t know–that limey-green skirt just seemed like it was begging for something that matched its level of cheerful obnoxiousness.

And, finally, since we’re on this whole talking about my clothes bit (okay, okay, I am), we can’t forget the shoes.

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I was standing in Target with my girls one afternoon staring at–no lie–at least 50 pairs of size 7 1/2 Mossimo gold shimmer flats (I took a picture for Instagram because…how could I not??) when I saw a girl wobbling around in these fabulous red wedges, trying to convince herself that her ankles weren’t swimming in the gaping openings.

I eavesdropped discreetly on her conversation with her friends and discovered that the shoes were size 9 1/2 and were only $9. And she wanted them to work sooooo badly, but they seemed a “little loose.” (Yes, and Mt. Everest is “kind of tall”).

At which point, I chimed in with just the right amount of sympathy and wise agreement, “Man, they are reeeeeally cute on you, but they definitely look too big around the ankle. That seems like it would get old.”

At which point, she pulled a disappointed face, took them off, put them back, and then walked away.

At WHICH point, I–resisting the urge to muahahaha and rub my hands together like a super-villain–snatched them up and plunked them in my cart.

Here’s the deal, I knew that my ankles would be long lost in those cavernous openings too. But my almost-32-year-old DIY obsessed mind knew something that her young, undeveloped must-buy-everything-perfect 18-year-old consciousness had never dared to think: you can hot glue shoes!!!

I got those suckers home, and they languished in my garage for a week and 1/2, but then in a frenzy of “must wear loud shoes with the loud skirt and the LOUD shirt to church,” I snipped the straps on those beautiful, wobbly red shoes, reapplied them more tightly with generous globs of glue, and–VOILA!–they fit like a dream. (Except that I have a small blister on the back of my right heel from a dried bit of hot glue I didn’t get off).

So…moral of the story? Never be afraid to feign concern while manipulating someone out of buying a perfectly repairable pair of fabulous shoes. Because this is the kind of life lesson that applies in so many scenarios.

So, what about you guys? Have you ever talked someone out of buying something only to swoop in and take it home for yourself? I miiiiiiight be a repeat offender on this one.

‘Fess up: did you know what a “chanteuse” was before you read this post? I had to look it up to make sure I was right (I was) and wasn’t going to accidentally end up calling myself a “lady of the night.”

I went on a date with myself, and I LIKED it!

Until I actually read about what defines the terms “extrovert” and “introvert,” I always assumed that I was an extrovert because I am talkative, expressive, and downright goofy sometimes. I’m not the least bit afraid to speak in public. And I like people. (Mostly : )).

In other words, I’m not shy.

But I don’t love crowds. I don’t naturally go out of my way to introduce myself to new people, and that part in church where they make you stand up, turn around, and greet everybody always makes me feel a bit twitchy.

Also? I really like being by myself (which is hilarious since I am almost never fully alone). Shopping, watching a movie in the theater, doing chores–it’s all good. I remember a vacation with my family when I was 20 or so where I spent a good chunk of it by the pool, completely alone, reading my book, and it was heavenly.

As much as I love a good party, I wouldn’t say that just being around people recharges me, which seems to be one of the banner qualities of a true extrovert.

All of which means that I don’t really know what I am. But regardless of labels, I do know this: when I tried to organize a trip to Dallas with some friends, and it kept not working, and I finally decided to just go ahead and go all by my lonesome, it was not a daunting prospect but rather an exhilarating one.

So, a few weeks back, I dropped off my kids at my awesome Mama’s house and set off for the Big D, armed with a list of specific places I wanted to visit and things I hoped to find (mostly for the house).

And you know what? I loved every second of it. I loved the drive in silence. I loved browsing the clearance racks at my own, pokey pace (seriously, don’t ever come shopping with me if you’re in a hurry; I’m a dawdler). I loved eating exactly what I wanted when I wanted. Some friends of ours let me stay at their house for the night, even though they weren’t there, and I even loved sleeping in someone else’s house all by myself. The better to raid their underwear drawers, right? (LISA! I’m kidding!!!! I did not open any closed doors except the refrigerator and pantry…thanks for the cereal + milk, by the way!).

Although, I did take a peak inside her kids’ adorable rooms and even snapped a few pics to share with you guys (with her permission, of course).

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Isn’t that teal dresser divine? But wait, it gets better.

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See that ah-mazing bedding? Lisa made that, triple-layered ruffle bed-skirt and all!

Before I even left for Dallas, I stopped at my favorite nail salon (that I hadn’t been to in at least 6 months), and this happened. dallas10

The guy doing my toes was hilarious because he overheard my neighbor asking me about kids, and once he heard how many I have and that I had one on the way, he proceeded to inform me about all of the lucky numbers that I should strive for and the sketchy ones I should avoid (apparently, 7 and 9 are good, but I should by no means stop at 6 or 8…oooooookey dokey).

We have a small outlet mall between us and Dallas, so my first shopping stop was the GAP, where I discovered this:

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An additional 50% off clearance? Um, yes. I ended up buying two things for myself (one of which was a pair of white, stretchy, majorly vanity-sized capri jeans that should fit throughout my pregnancy all while “telling” me that I am a very skinny girl, indeed. I don’t usually like being lied to, but I’m pretty okay with it if I’ve paid a whopping $13 for it) and managed to find something for everyone else in the family, except Little Bit.

Even though I spent a long time gazing lovingly at this rack, I just couldn’t seem to find something I quite loved.

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Oh, and before I went to GAP, I ate half of this (and then inhaled the rest afterward; thanks to that whole pregnancy phenomenon of filling up really fast and then being hungry again 30 minutes later):

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I got a late start on the trip, so by the time I finished with GAP and made it all the way to Dallas, I only had time left for one other store.

So, naturally I chose… anthro collage

Yup, that would be Anthro. I don’t think there’s a single other store I’m as content to browse in without buying.

I ended up only getting two tiny jars for $8 (total), but I strongly considered these:

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…and this top

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Which, coincidentally, matched each other perfectly.

Ultimately, though, I couldn’t stomach the (deeply clearanced) price tags, so I passed.

After a wonderfully uninterrupted night’s sleep, I set off for World Market, whose wares I’ve long admired online but which I’d never actually visited in person.

I wasn’t as impressed as I’d hoped to be, but a few things did catch my eye.

Like this table + tufted chairs set.

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And this quirky lion plate. dallas7

Not to mention this colorful pillow.

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But, ultimately, the only thing I couldn’t live without was this:

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Why, yes, those are two large jars of Nutella. From World Market. They were 50% off, y’all–a total steal!

After World Market, I headed to Ikea, which was a madhouse. I’ve only ever been to Ikea a grand total of maybe 6 or 7 times, but it’s been a madhouse every single time. So, apparently, I should stop calling it “madhouse” and just say, “I went to Ikea. It was normal.”

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In keeping with my theme of sparse, rather unconventional purchases, I ended up at the checkout with only these items, all of which are conspicuously neutral and classic for a lover of funky color like myself. What can I say? I like classic too. (And Ikea’s fake plants = pure awesomeness).

I didn’t end up finding much of anything on my list, but I did make one surprise discovery on Craigslist that wasn’t even on that list.

Here’s a sneak peek.

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Intrigued? Hope so because I’ll be showing you more next week (I know better than to think I’ll actually get it done this week).

I finished off the trip with my favorite burrito bowl from Chipotle:

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(Goodness! I’m getting hungry!)

And then, just for the heck of it, as I was eating, I searched my GPS for other Anthros and discovered another one on the same street as Chipotle, 5 minutes away (totally unexpected considering there are only 3 in all of Dallas). I ducked in for a few minutes and walked out with yet another little $4 jar and this guy:

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See my cow? No? Well, do you see my pig? Yup. I have to admit that I bought that butter dish from Anthro fully convinced I was bringing home a ceramic bovine, but my entire family informed me that it was actually a pig. (Moink!)

So, the big question is: does a solo trip to the city sound like fun or torture or somewhere in between to you? Don’t worry. I don’t think it means anything too terribly much about your character either way. But it’s an interesting question to ponder, right?

Do you know how to define your personality? In simplest terms, I would say that I’m an introverted extrovert…or an extroverted introvert…depending on the day. It’s complicated.

Using Photoshop.com to fix not-so-great pictures (AKA: Y’all are nice!)

First up, THANK YOU for your sweet, encouraging comments on yesterday’s photos. I am grateful we got to take them at all, and I’m glad so many of you were happy to chalk the haze up to an artsy effect.

However, I knew that if I wanted to actually print those photos to any kind of decent size (especially the one with all of us looking), the haze was going to be noticeable to the point of distracting (because here on the blog, my pictures are obviously much smaller and lower resolution than, say, a nice big 11X14 wall framer).

So, I was absolutely thrilled when several of y’all did some post-processing and sent me mock-ups of what that family photo could look like. Problem is, I don’t have Photoshop. I know, I know. I should. And my husband does have Photoshop Elements (which I only remembered this morning), but I am really unfamiliar with it and have a bad habit of shying away from technology that I don’t already know how to use and which takes a dedicated amount of time to figure out.

Several of you even offered to edit the raw file for me, which just makes my heart happy. Y’all are so nice!

But then one reader clued me in to photoshop.com, a free online, scaled down version of Photoshop, the real deal (AKA: perfect for a technophobe like me).

And so, I uploaded the original hazy family photo. Which looked like this, if you recall:

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…and used the “burn” tool on our faces and bodies only (I left the sky and deck hazy for the most part) and upped the fill light a scotch.

Which gave me this:

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It’s not the most elegant job ever, and I need more practice with the tool, but it’s an improvement!

Oh! And here was another contender that I didn’t post yesterday, which fared even better with a little bit of tweaking.

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Again, I left the haze in the sky and on the deck to maintain the dreamy, seaside effect (I even left a tiny bit of it on Shaun’s right foot, so you can see what a difference it makes; Ha! No, I didn’t…that was a total accident that I need to go back and fix, but you have to admit it sounded good! :) ).

I love being able to more clearly see the happy expressions on my kiddos’ faces.

Want a side-by-side comparison?

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It’s not a drastic contrast, and I will probably keep playing around with it until I get it just right, but I’m much happier with it already.

So, all that to say, if you end up with a less-than-stellar photo and don’t have full-blown Photoshop, head on over to Photoshop.com and play around a little. You may just love your results.

And, again, thank you to all of you who gave me suggestions for the fix. Y’all are too kind and are the best readers a girl could ask for!

A valiant attempt at family photos…

Last year, when we went to Lake Livingston, Donna, our wonderful, thoughtful, super-energetic hostess, also doubled as our photographer to take some family pictures for us down on the pier one evening. I had thrown some somewhat coordinating outfits in our bags at the last second, and we managed to get some cute shots.

This year, I was determined to at least try to replicate that lake pier shoot, even though we didn’t have anyone to take the pictures. A camera with a self-timer is a wonderful thing, no?

Problem was, the weather kept being uncooperative. As I mentioned yesterday, watching a storm is cool and all, but it’s not exactly conducive to picture-taking.

In fact, every evening during the “golden hour,” either something would come up (aka: we were too busy watching something fascinating about sharks) or the sky was dull and very un-golden.

Finally, the morning we were leaving, the sun was just right for pictures, so I hustled everybody into cute clothes, slapped some makeup on my puffy morning face, and we all headed down to the pier to pose.

Sadly, I completely forgot to account for the outside humidity and how drastic the change in temps would be between the indoor, air-conditioned space and the muggy, warm outdoors.

So, yep, my camera lenses fogged up. We didn’t have just tons of time before we had to skedaddle back home (Shaun had a flight to catch for a work trip), and even if we had, having your kids hang out on a pier in their clean, cute clothes while you wait for a camera lens to unfog and try to keep twin toddlers from tripping off the edge is pretty much a fool’s errand.

So, we snapped away anyway in hopes the cloudiness would wear off quickly. It didn’t really, and several of these shots are hazy as all get-out. But we took them, darn it. And I’m showing them to you! So there.

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I’m pretty bummed that this one didn’t come out clearer. Every single last one of us is looking and looking pleasant, and that is a miracle of such epic proportions that I don’t expect a repeat until…well, maybe ever.

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Same here with the bummed-ness. Definitely would have been a framer (darn you, humidity!!!)

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We’re going with this b+w shot of the boys being “artsy,” but we all know it would have been loads better if it weren’t foggy. IMG_4233-001

Things finally started clearing up a bit right about the time the twins lost all patience for photos (of course), but I still managed to get a few okay shots before the weeping and gnashing of teeth commenced.

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Evy wasn’t in this shot because she was busy doing this.

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Poor thing had a major flare-up of allergies and had puffy eyes and a runny nose for half the day.

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I am happy I got this one of Ez. Such a fun, cool kid. (Side note: he insists that he lost three top teeth, but only two replaced them, which totally freaks me out about where the third is lurking. Anybody else had this happen?)

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Another almost framer, if Evy weren’t so puffy and miserable-looking, sweet baby.

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This one, though. This one is definitely going on a wall somewhere. Oh, how I love my girlies!

And there you have it, folks.

A fundamentally flawed, fairly unsuccessful, but-still-worth-a-try attempt at family lake photos.

I suppose we’ll just have to keep going back to try again. What a hardship that’ll be!

 

 

Lake Livingston 2.0

Last year, our cousins, David and Donna, were gracious enough to host our family out at their house on Lake Livingston. We had such a good time relaxing, swimming, digging for mussels, eating junk food, and just generally recovering from a very busy summer that we decided we needed a repeat.

Donna and David couldn’t be there this time, but we still managed to have some fun doing, well, a lot of the same things as last time.

We crammed our van to the gills…

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{It makes me laugh because this pic doesn’t even begin to do justice to the sheer amount of stuff we took with us–all of which pretty much got used at some time or another}

…and set off for the lake house last Friday evening after Shaun finished work. One of the absolute best parts about this vacation is that is takes less than 2 hours to get from our house to the lake house.

We indulged in several things that we never do–like binge-watching HGTV and National Geographic (we don’t watch TV at home, so multiple episodes of Property Brothers and Creatures of the Deep is our idea of a treat) and eating Pop Tarts for breakfast.

Oh, and we can’t forget the Honey Nut Cheerios! evy cereal

It is so interesting  to see the differences in the twins’ personalities (there are many), but they are never more pronounced that when Miss Evangeline (aka Evy) is in one of her crazy moods. She can make an event out of anything, including eating cereal…especially when she has an audience who is egging her on.

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From left to right: sleepily munching on Pop Tarts first thing in the morning, Nola’s fashion statements with goggles, our first family attempt at UNO (eh, it wasn’t a huge hit), watching a storm blow in from the back porch, trampoline time, “hanging out” on the swing, and enjoying the gorgeous views.

Of course, we also ate tons of yummy food.

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Which is great since this little guy is growing!

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This shot is 22 weeks, and at 23 weeks now, I think I’m already noticeably bigger. Watch out!

I didn’t set toe in the lake even once, which is awesome since bathing suits and I are not on speaking terms at the moment. Also? I swam competitively for years and loved the water, but the older I get, the less interest I have in immersing myself in liquid on any kind of regular basis (unless we’re talking jacuzzi baths, of course).

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I was a BIG fan of the swing on the back porch, though, and especially loved the night we watched a storm brew, complete with 20 degree temperature drops and enough wind to whip Della’s Rapunzelesque locks wildly about (they extend several inches past this shot, and I’m wondering if I shouldn’t at least consider a trim…nah).

She was fine with the wind, but this was her reaction after her brother told her to get off the trampoline or she was sure to be zapped by lightning and DIE!

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Can we say, terrified? Side note: that girl can run.

Another favorite was a family walk (ahem, there might have been episodes of sprint races in there–complete with shots of me running with the twins in the stroller and Della perched on the handlebars–but they were documented too fuzzily to subject your eyes to them).

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{The twins were chilling in the stroller}

Another beautiful sight my eyes beheld on this trip?

This one:

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I love: 1) that my kids are old enough to participate in cleaning up and 2) that they think it’s fun.

Especially vacuuming.

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Of course, my absolute favorite thing of all is that we can do something like this as a family of 7 (soon to be 8!!!), and it’s enjoyable for everyone. Seriously. Pretty much nothing makes me happier than seeing my kids love and serve one another. Sometimes, I get so focused on training them and trying to correct selfishness or whininess or entitled behavior that it takes an elderly gentleman walking up to me at Sam’s and telling me how fortunate I am to have such sweet kids and how he noticed that they help each other and thinks that’s grand to make me step back and really drink in the wonder of the amazing blessings God has given me–hearing Ezra compliment Della with an enthusiastic, “Good JOB, Della! You put that pan in the dishwasher exactly right!” (No, I did not make that up) or seeing Simon reading to the twins or watching Della and the twins hug each other good morning every day.

Sure, they bicker. Yes, they hit and kick (or, in the case of this morning, throw sticks at each others’ faces…yikes!). They tattle-tale and shift blame and pout. They are very human little creatures (not too surprising considering their very human Mama). But they are also capable of great kindness, great mercy, and great love. And they never hold grudges. It teaches me so much about Jesus every day.

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Sure, they’re lots of work, even on vacation, but they are so much more than worth it.

Any last minute end-of-summer vacations on your radar? Or are you already back to school? We’re not starting til after Labor Day (good thing too since I haven’t gotten all of my books in yet!), but this was definitely our last hurrah for summer.

 

 

CUTE, comfy maternity clothes for under $50??? Oh yeah, I’ve got you covered!

Well, you guys are a convincing bunch. After so many of you responded to Wednesday’s anti-maternity wear post by extolling the virtues of maternity clothes (although, I think we all agreed that jeans are pretty problematic), I decided that I had been too hasty in my judgments and set out on an online quest to discover preggo-wear that would change my mind.

My first stops? GAP and Old Navy, which both boast an impressive selection of…BLAH.

Seriously, this is what first met my eye when I clicked on the “maternity” tab.

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That’s what Old Navy thinks you should wear if you’re pregnant, apparently.

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And it would seem that GAP heartily concurs.

I, however, do not want to spend my entire pregnancy boring my baby to death (because he so cares what’s on the fabric above his head).

So, I dug a little deeper. I checked out Target, LOFT (had no idea they had maternity; am now convinced I didn’t need to know), Motherhood, Pea in a Pod, Pink Blush, H&M, and anybody else I could come up with. I found some decent options, but I think paying $45 for a shirt that claims to be maternity but is really just a baby-doll top is ridiculous.

But then, I finally hit the jackpot of all affordable maternity adorableness: Asos. But more on that in a second.

As I scrolled through picture after picture of models with fake bumps posing in rather awkward and lackluster get-ups, a few pieces popped out at me. So, being the nice preggo lady I am (and hearing from so many of you ladies who are in the same boat or know someone who is), I decided to compile a collection of my faves.

Be impressed that I steadfastly refused to include any “regular items that could totally work just as well as the ones labeled ‘maternity.’” Every single piece of clothing below is classified as maternity and presumably has something about its makeup that gives it this distinction.

Oh, and there’s nothing over $50 (and almost everything is well below that).

First up, tops.

shirt collage

{From left to right} 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 67 / 8

A couple of notes of interest about the tops: #1 is less than $9. I’m very tempted to order it. #4 is actually a 2-fer, with the cardigan and the top combined into one. It’s only $14. And #5, while seemingly uber-plain has a low ballet neckline in the back, which adds a special touch (plus, you know I love that color). It’s only $14 at GAP online.

Next up, let’s take a gander at some dresses, shall we?

dress collage

{From left to right} 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8

You might have noticed that Asos features rather prominently in this roundup. That’s because they were practically the only place I found that carried a large selection of maternity dresses with any kind of interesting details at all (stripes or color-blocking was about an adventurous as anybody else got). Also, while I hesitated to include some of these styles because they seemed a little on the short side, I looked at the actual measurements and tried them out on me and discovered that most should come at least to my knee, if not longer (in other words, their model’s a giraffe…and I say that with envy. I always wanted to be at least 5’10″).

Of note, I’m in love with the floral wrap dress (top right). I zoomed in, and the print is much prettier up close. It’s $23 (no tax, free shipping), and I’m oh-so-tempted to get it if I order the lace-back tank from above. Also, do yourself a favor and check out the textured lace on #’s 2 and 7 (top and bottom middle). Soooooo pretty. Oh, and even though it kind of looks this way in the pics, the upper portion of #6 (bottom left) is not sheer. It’s just a lighter shade of blue.

Also of note: I just realized that two of these are a smidge over $30. But I was too lazy to change my graphic.

And finally, we have maternity bottoms (the 5-year-old in me is giggling as I type that).

bottoms collage

{From left to right} 1 / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 / 6 / 7 / 8

Both the cropped and long pair of destructed denim are from Motherhood, which is having a BOGO 50% off sale on denim right now, in case you want to take advantage of that. Also, that bootcut pair in the top right is only $30, has the under-belly adjustable waist (so, no annoying slidey full panel business), has at least some stretch, and–at least on the model in the pic–has the cutest preggo jeans butt style I’ve seen in a while (I always find it funny when I look at the rear view on a perfect, not-even-pregnant model and think, “PANCAAAAAAAKE!” That did not happen here, so this is another one I’m tempted by). Also, those coral scalloped shorts are featured on a 5’11″ model and would probably still be too short on me, but a girl I follow on Instagram who is pregnant wears them all the time, and they are all kinds of adorable on her (she looks pretty petite, though). ALSO, it’s hard to tell, but the dark blue shorts have a subtle polka dot pattern which I love and are only $17. OH! And you do like how I snuck that crazy print pajama pant looking thing in there on the bottom left? I am SO drawn to that style right now for some reason, and my husband just shakes his head and purses his lips. I haven’t actually gone for it yet, but I’m not saying I won’t (hear that, babe?).

AAAAAAAND there you have it.

My picks for fun, comfy-looking, not-too-terribly expensive maternity-wear that might actually be worth splurging on. (And maybe even wearing after you’re done being pregnant, depending on the fit).

Had y’all already heard of Asos? I was so pleasantly surprised by their selection that I ordered this bow-front preggo one-piece (on sale for $30) before I really even realized what I was doing. I’ve looked and looked for the past 5 years or so for a maternity one-piece that I loved that wasn’t too low-cut and was a style/color I liked without being bank-breakingly expensive. But I’d never found one I loved until now (it ties in a bow in the back too).

bow swimsuit

I don’t have a clue what their quality is like, but I will let you know how this works out for me (just don’t expect me to model it for you). The best part? Free return shipping if it doesn’t work out.

Any cute, non-blah maternity sources I missed? Obviously, Old Navy and GAP are great for staples, but if you’re looking for something with a little more zing, just keep moving.

When knocked up, size up…

I can remember being SO anxious to wear maternity clothes when I was pregnant with Ezra, my first. I coached my belly daily with exhortations like, “SHOW, darn it!” and, “C’mon now, little fella. Grow, grooooooooowwwww!”

Of course, a half a dozen-ish babies later, and I sing a slightly different tune. Mostly because of the discovery that maternity clothes are no friend to women. At least in the self-esteem department. Or the wallet department (seriously? $80 for an ugly pair of jeans just because they have a lovely flesh-colored stretchy thingy attached to them??). And while they’re definitely kind to the comfort of your front side (belly), their entire goal in life seems to be to make a mockery of your backside (hello, pancake rear).

Plus, I have yet to find a pair of truly great maternity jeans that doesn’t do the sliiiiiiiiiiiide, all while giving me pancake rear. I don’t know about you, but if I’m going to spend half my time hitching up my pants with one hand, I’d really rather do it knowing that I’m not giving anyone a sudden craving for breakfast food just because they’re standing behind me.

So, what’s the solution?

(MuuMuus for life!)

(Just kidding)

(Sort of)

No, but really, my solution is to size up.

stripes

See that ridiculously pregnant woman up there? That would be me, 36-weeks-pregnant. With twins, no less. But you know what? I’m not wearing a stitch of maternity wear. Instead, I’m wearing “regular” clothes in a couple sizes up from what I would normally need.

And the best part of all? My hindquarters, while considerably wider and more substantial than pre-pregnancy status are still reasonable facsimiles of their normal selves.

Which brings us to this pregnancy. As a rule, I tend to measure small (in the belly-department). I’m long-waisted and can “hide” my babies down in the lower part of my torso. My belly doesn’t “pop” so much as “slope” (pretty sure some of my BODYPUMP participants are still just scratching their heads wondering why I won’t slow down on the cookies because, depending on what I wear, I look less pregnant and more, um, thick).

IMG_3968

(This was taken last week at 21 weeks pregnant)

I had my husband take this picture because I haven’t weighed myself once this pregnancy (or before that for a good six months) and being in a room full of mirrors (the gym) messes with my head, and sometimes I just need the camera’s eye to give me a dose of reality (be it good or bad). Anyway, I had no intention of showing it to anyone (what with my schlumpy posture and messy living room, which are both oh-so-NOT-blog-worthy), but I thought it illustrated the “belly slope” thing I was talking about fairly accurately (and, well, this is me and my living room after we get home from the gym and my kids haven’t picked up yet before bed. Tada!)

ANYHOO, I haven’t been wearing much other than exercise clothes and old painting clothes all summer, but I do like to get a little gussied up on Sunday mornings. And, while I’m still wearing most of my pre-preggo clothes so far, I have been using either the size-up rule or a little creative adjustments to avoid entering the world of maternity wear for as long as possible.

IMG_3881

I bought that bird shirt on sale for $9 at a local boutique in my normal size because it ran big and had a blousy fit. (I will say that this whole “size-up” business would have been a moot point in the 90′s when every shirt seemed designed to make you look like a cardboard box. Which makes me very grateful that we live in an era where long, loose-fitting tops are in style).

IMG_3875

(Of course, it could be argued that I should worry less about the fit of my clothes and more about ironing them every now and then).

That Old Navy skirt certainly doesn’t seem like it would be pregnancy-friendly, what with it’s fitted waist that zips up to my belly button, but because of my long shirt, I was able to wear it partially unzipped. It still “fit,” my belly wasn’t squished, and no one was the wiser (you know, until I wrote all about it on my blog).

And this next dress was a $10 Clothes Mentor find. It’s made of stretchy jersey material, and is technically 2 sizes bigger (although I would say it runs small, if that’s confusing enough for you) than I would normally wear–which translates to a fair bit more roominess in the chest than I need (right now, anyway) but overall a comfy, flowy fit. IMG_4019 IMG_4021

I’ve done the same with most of my other clothes, scoring cute elastic-waisted skirts (not to mention those fabulous green size-or-two-bigger-than-usual shorts) at Goodwill for next to nothing so that I can still have a reasonably current, comfortable look without having to pay maternity clothes prices (because while, yes, I do re-wear clothes from past pregnancies, I also find that they get a lot of wear and need to be replaced, or I’ve loaned them out to a friend, or I just have a grudge against something and never want to see/wear it again).

Of course, there are exceptions.

I splurged on these Pea in a Pod denim shorts (I think they were $40 on major sale?) during the twins’ pregnancy and wore the mess out of them, loaned them to a friend who also wore them like crazy, then got them back and have been wearing them for a few weeks during this pregnancy and loving them just as much as last time.  cheri

They’re a good length, they’re crazy comfy/stretchy without losing their shape, they have the belly panel without sliding down. And, and, AND! NO pancake butt!

If I could clone these shorts into multiple washes and lengths, I would totally splurge on a few more pair.

SO! Now, you know my thoughts on maternity clothes.

But I’d love to hear yours!

Have you found THE maternity jeans? If so, please share! I’m not above spending a little more on something like those shorts if it really is worth the money.

Do you size up too? I still have jeans from past pregnancies that, fingers crossed, I should be able to wear til the end. We’ll see how it goes. And I will say that, while the rise in vanity sizing usually annoys me (if a normal-sized, 5’7″ish girl is wearing an x-small in shirts sometimes, what are the truly tiny people wearing???), it definitely works in my favor with pregnancy since it’s easy to find shirts that fit.

Easy Vegetarian (or not) Enchiladas

A few weeks back, when I was at the pool with my friend, Lindsay, and our 8 children, I mentioned how hungry I was. The morning had been hectic. I had just taught two fitness classes, and in all of the packing of the goggles and the sunscreen and the swim diapers plus the rush to get me and 5 kids out the door on time, I had forgotten to eat.

As you can imagine, between the forgetting to eat + the two hours of exercise + the whole pregnant thing, I was fast transitioning from hungry to ravenous.

As I sat poolside, I was shoveling in grapes and pretzel thins by the double fistful, but here’s the thing: when I get to a certain level of hunger, nothing but an honest-to-goodness meal will do. Snacks help, but they’re more of a band-aid than a full-on cure.

Maybe I was sounding hangrier than I thought or mentioning how hungry I was every two seconds, but whatever the reason, Lindsay pulled out a tupperware container of homemade vegetarian enchiladas and proceeded to insist that I eat them.

After some very weak resistance, I gave in and inhaled half of her lunch.

And I’m so glad I did! The enchiladas were delicious and healthy, and I knew I wanted to replicate them at home.

I gave it my best shot last week, and while my version turned a little different and quite likely a lot inferior to their inspiration, they were still a huge hit with my family, so I thought I’d share.

INGREDIENTS (the following will make two panfuls):

1-2 tbs olive oil

1 medium onion

2 cloves of garlic

1 1/2 cups uncooked rice (I used Basmati)

2 cans of black beans, undrained

4 oz. of cream cheese

12-16 corn tortillas

3 cans chicken broth

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp chili powder

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp seasoned salt

1/4 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup salsa (your choice of heat)

1 can of diced tomatoes

1 1/2 – 2 cups of sharp cheddar cheese

1 lb taco meat (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Roughly chop the onion and saute in 1 tbsp of olive oil until translucent. Remove from pan and set aside in a bowl. If you want, add the rest of the olive oil, then briefly saute diced garlic cloves, making sure not to be brown them (they get bitter). Add 1 1/2 cups of rice and continuing sauteing 3-4 minutes on low-medium heat, makings sure not to burn the rice or garlic. Add two cans of chicken broth + 1/2 tsp cumin, chili powder, and seasoned salt and 1/4 tsp of garlic powder (granulated garlic). Simmer on low heat until the liquid has cooked off, and your rice is soft but not mushy. Remove rice from pan to a bowl and stir in most of your 1/4 cup chopped cilantro (reserve a little for sprinkling on top the finished enchiladas).

Set rice aside and add two cans of undrained black beans to the pan. Add the chopped, cooked onion back in, and the rest of the spices and remaining can of chicken broth. Add in 4 oz of cream cheese. Cook 5-10 minutes on low-medium heat until flavors have melded, cheese has melted, and some of the liquid has cooked off (the beans should still be a soupy consistency).

Note: I didn’t write down exact amounts of seasonings as I went, so these are approximations and should be considered baseline amounts. I would encourage you to taste your beans and rice as you go to see if they need more flavor.

At this point, you’ll have this…

IMG_3976

And you’ll be ready to start rolling your enchiladas.

Inside each tortilla, layer a heaping spoonful of rice, beans, and grated cheddar cheese. Roll up and place seam down inside a greased baking dish.

IMG_3971

You should have rice and beans leftover after making 12-16 enchiladas. Mix the two together and spoon the remaining rice/bean mixture over the top of your rolled up tortillas. Sprinkle with remaining cheese + cilantro.

IMG_3987

Mix together the can of diced tomatoes + 1/2 cup of salsa (I used medium heat), then spoon this mixture over the top of the enchiladas.

IMG_3986

At which point, you’ll have this:

IMG_3996

{MMmmmm…mouth. watering. yum}

Cover pans with aluminum foil and cook at 375°F for 25 minutes or until the cheese has melted and everything is completely cooked through.

Serve with fresh sliced avocado, sour cream, or any other yummy garnish you’d like to try (I wouldn’t necessarily recommend gummy bears).       IMG_4003

P.S. I had some leftover taco meat that I needed to use, so I added that to the filling in the second pan of enchiladas, which made the hubby and the boys happy (I liked the veggie version better).

enchiladas

And there you have it–an easy, quick, filling, healthy, and cheap family meal (that tastes even better as leftovers!).

Happy Monday! I’m off to make meatloaf (recipe coming soon :) ).

Do you get hangry too? I am continually amazed at how much my hunger affects my ability to cope with little annoyances. Seriously, if I am super-hungry, do. not. talk. to. me. I might eat you.

Any fast, yummy recipes you’ve discovered latelyThis one will definitely be making an appearance in the regular monthly rotation (especially considering that my firstborn who dislikes beans and rice, scarfed them down) 

 

 

 

Joyous sadness…

Before I say anything else, I wanted to show you a picture that would have required more explanation than I was ready to give before now.

But first, the after (yes, I wrote that right):

dinner party

You might remember this group shot from our dinner party this last spring. Don’t we look all cute and normal?

But what came first was this: IMG_1568

(Just know that I really love you to show you this picture; I look like a fluffy-haired braying donkey)

This would be right after my husband said, “Say, ‘ABBIE’S PREGNANT!’” instead of, “CHEESE!” to get everybody to smile for the picture.

I absolutely love the fact that my friend Jolinda’s response was to jump for joy. I also love that most everybody else’s response was just to smile knowingly like, “Abbie’s at it again.”

That was a joyful moment.

As have been most moments of this pregnancy, which has been easy and complication free.  Not to mention universally celebrated by family and friends who are pretty clued in by now to the fact that popping out a baby or two every couple of years is just what we do.

Another person who wasn’t surprised? My midwife, Thalia.

But then, she falls squarely into the “friend” category, rather than simply “healthcare professional” and knew me pretty darn well.

I loved her. She was kind and funny and just a little bit gritty, which is my favorite kind of person. She loved Jesus and showed it by her love for people. She helped me through a really hard time on a really inconvenient day to have a hard time. She shepherded me through a bout with Shingles when the twins were only one month old. She always made time to talk to me at my appointments and always answered my calls or called right back if she was with a client. And, most importantly of all, she helped bring Simon, Della, and the twins safely into the world.

She would have delivered this little boy too if she hadn’t suddenly gone home to Jesus on Friday, June 27th.

I got the call on the evening of Thursday, June 26th informing me that Thalia was in hospice care. At first, my brain absolutely refused to accept it.

Hospice care? Hospice. That’s reserved for dying people. I just saw her! Like the day before. She wasn’t dying! She was FINE. This is not okay.

I had just had my 15 week check-up, and Thalia and I had chatted about our recent trips to Europe. She had mostly been her usual warm and slightly prickly self (we both shared a laugh about a sign hanging on her wall that said something like, “Pretending to be this nice all the time is wearing me out”), but she was stressed about several things happening in the midwifery field and seemed a little down and preoccupied. Other than that, nothing stands out as different about that appointment.

If only I had known. If only I had sensed that this would be the last time I would see her this side of heaven–that she would be hit by a massive stroke less than 24 hours later.  I would have thrown my I’m-not-a-big-hugger caution to the wind and given her the kind of squeezing hug that makes you lose your breath. I would have told her how much she had helped a young mama muddle through some pretty nasty stuff and how, if I hadn’t had her, I wouldn’t have had a clue how to deal with a lot of it. I would have told her that she was an inspiration to me. That she had, on more than one occasion, been Jesus to me.

I am confident that she knew that I loved her, but I still would have cherished the chance to say it out loud one more time.

I cried a lot for about a week after she died. I doubt I would have nearly as much without the baby hormones helping out, since I’m not usually much of a crier, but I’m grateful for the hormonal nudge because all of those tears were pretty cathartic. (They still are as they slip down my cheeks right now).

Of course, it still slaps me in the face sometimes. When I find a comment on my FB wall from her that I somehow never saw and that there’s no point in responding to now. When Words With Friends asks me when the last time I played Thalia Hufton was. When I have a midwife appointment. When I even let my mind get close to thinking about delivering this sweet baby boy without Thalia there beside me.

And yet, as much as my heart aches at her loss, it rejoices too that I got to know her in the first place. And that she doesn’t have to stress about ridiculous midwifery laws or how she’s going to pull off three back-to-back births (again). Instead, she’s in the presence of her Lord and Savior praising Him and hearing, “Well done, good and faithful servant” in return. Oh, glorious day!

This is so much a part of the Christian life. Joy in sadness. Beauty in ashes. New life in the face of death. Rejoicing in mourning. Knowing that we have Jesus as our hope, “an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.”

thalia

(That’s Thalia on the left, holding Nola just minutes after she was born)

Every girl needs a Thalia in her life. And I am very grateful that I got to have mine.