6 Months Pregnant with Baby #6!

Well, look at me go with a pregnancy update only 3 short weeks after the last one.

27 weeks

(Can you tell that I’ve got pregnancy hair? Thick. and. bushy)

6 months (27 weeks) just seemed a little too momentous to pass up.

On the one hand, I think, “Holy wow! I’ll be snuggling this little guy in no time!” On the other, all I can think is: 3. More. Months.

I know it will go fast, especially considering that we have 4 birthdays, and multiple holiday celebrations between now and then. But still. 3. More. Months.

I could try to look on the bright side by reminding myself that–hey!–at least I don’t have to gestate my offspring in my body for 2 years like elephants do, but there’s really nothing about comparing myself to an elephant that makes me feel better, so I’ll pass.

So, here’s the lowdown on how things are going right now.

Cravings: These are still random and rare (I haven’t had an Icee in weeks). I usually eat eggs and turkey bacon for breakfast, an apple with peanut butter for a morning snack, a salad (topped with yummy stuff like chicken, pecans, cheese, and croutons) for lunch, a kale smoothie for an afternoon snack, almonds + dried fruit for an even later afternoon snack, and whatever I’ve made for dinner in the evening. Throw in an occasional bowl of ice cream or other treat, and you have the rundown on the never-ending process that is getting (and keeping) me full. Usually, after dinner, I’m good to go and don’t get hungry again before bedtime, but up until then, I’m munching on something every two hours or getting hangrier by the second. (My kids are lined up behind me saying, AMEN!)

Weight gain: Pretty darn high. There’s a reason I’m trying not to think about elephants, y’all. I hadn’t weighed myself once during this pregnancy, but I made myself step on the scale the other day because of that whole being 6-months-pregnant business. And now I wish I hadn’t. It’s amazing what 3 little digital numbers can do to your morale. Still, I know it’s for my little guy’s good, and it will be totally worth the extra time it takes to come off after he’s here.

Exercise: Still teaching and taking classes…although it’s definitely harder than it was even three short weeks ago. I’m modifying more and skipping workouts here and there when my body feels particularly crabby. But for the most part, I still feel better after I make myself sweat and plan to keep going to the end, barring something unexpected. I’m hoping the feeling of lead in my legs subsides a little in the coming weeks (which probably sounds strange, but I actually felt better from months 6-8 with the twins than I did for several months before that…here’s hoping).

Pregnancy side effects: The wild and crazy dreams have amped up considerably over the last few weeks. Sometimes, I wake up with the entire plot for a very convoluted action movie in my head, feeling a little bit worn out from “experiencing it.” I’m convinced I’d be the next big hit director in Hollywood, except that the vividness of the details starts to fade just minutes after I really get my eyes open, and I’m left with just a general impression of sword fights and derring-do.

Also, as an update to the varicose veins complaint…they’re still there. I think they’re actually more prolific than ever. However, I’ve been faithfully taking a combination of an MK-2 supplement and Collinsonia Root, and I’m happy to say that, while it still looks like a colony of aliens is about to crawl out of my right leg, it no longer feels that way. The pain has diminished considerably, so for all of you “ME TOO-ers”…there’s my tip.

Energy: Some days, I feel as normal as a woman who’s been growing her 6th baby for the last 6 months can. Other days, I feel…a little like a Mack truck smacked me, backed up, then did it again. Okay, that might be a wee bit dramatic. I generally feel fine, but my initial nesting phase (which came earlier than it ever had before) has kind of petered out, and there are days (like yesterday, ahem) that my planned 25 minute nap turns into an hour, and I wake up wondering when bedtime’s coming.

Overall though, I have no complaints. And I was reminded how easy my pregnancies are just the other day when my midwife, Diane, said to her apprentice, “See? Abbie’s the perfect example of how you really can do a prenatal check-up in 15 minutes. Or, in her case, 5.”

It’s hard to get too upset over aches and pains and exhaustion when I really stop to think about the awesome and exclusive privilege I get of nourishing my child  for 9 months until (after a healthy dose of pain and agony), he comes out, and I get to see his wrinkly little turtle face and feel his amazingly strong grip as his fingers curl instinctively around mine.

One of my favorite anticipatory activities for my babies is imagining how they’ll compare to their siblings. Each of my children has a distinct look (well, minus the twins, of course…although, even they are quite unique from each other, once you get to know them), but we do kind of have a Shaun + Abbie = THIS mold that they all loosely fit into.

So, the other day, when someone suggested that #6 might have brown eyes, I couldn’t even wrap my brain around it. All of my children have blue eyes. The thought of any other color just feels silly at this point. But that’s the fun of it. He could have brown eyes. Or green. He could be bald as an egg (all of my babies have had hair, thanks to their rather hirsute Mama). Who knows?!

Only God at this point. But I’ll tell you what: this Mama can’t wait to find out.

So, what about y’all? Any updates to share? I know lots of you are pregnant right now, so don’t leave me hanging! :) Anybody else not on speaking terms with their scales right now? I think we’re going to stay broken up until a good three months after I give birth.

Did I leave out anything you’re itching to know?
I thought about including a chart for how many times I pee a day, but something told me you’d be all right without it.

5 Learning resources my kids LOVE (because they don’t feel like “learning”)

UPDATE: one awesome reader let me know that you can get the entire Kingdom Tales Trilogy here, spiral-bound (there are even discussion questions!) for only $30.

There are aspects of “school,” no matter what route you choose, that pretty much mean “gittin’-ur-done.”

Like math. I mean, yes, I could go on Pinterest every day and come up with cute/clever models and exercises to reinforce carrying the 1 in addition, but honestly, I just don’t have the time. Or interest. And so far, my boys are getting the concepts from simple repetition and practice.

I’d rather reserve my limited supply of creative effort for art or Spanish or history.

But any time I can easily introduce some sort of meaningful media or fun supplementary material that makes learning feel less like work, I’m all about it.

So, I thought I’d share 5 of my favorite learning resources that my kids go gaga for…because they don’t feel like school at all.

1.

Liberty’s Kids

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This 14+ hour series on the American Revolution is so engaging and well done. The main characters are teenagers, but the series is completely age appropriate for even your youngest learner (unless they’re easily scared by gunshots or other slightly perilous situations). Told from the perspective of the fictitious characters, James (an apprentice to Benjamin Franklin at his Pennsylvania Gazette during the period before and during the American Revolution), and Sarah, a British loyalist-turned-reporter, it manages to weave tons of factual information within a fun, story-telling framework. It features quite a few impressive voice credits, including Walter Cronkite, Billy Crystal, and Dustin Hoffman, and my kids absolutely eat. it. up.

It’s not part of our “regular school,” but my kids fold all of our family’s laundry (yes, you read that right), and so every other day or so, they fold a couple of loads while they watch Liberty’s Kids. It’s pretty much a total win-win, as far as I’m concerned. (Also? You can get the entire series from Amazon for $5. Whaaaaat?)

2.

Christian Liberty Nature Readers

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The lady at our local Christian bookstore recommended these as a supplementary resource for science (we use Apologia), and I’m so glad I went with her suggestion, I kind of want to go back and take her flowers.

My boys luuuuuuurve these. Now, granted, they’re more than a little obsessed with nature in general. But these books are just so stinking interesting and accessible that I think the boys would devour the entire book in one sitting if I let them. (I only assign a few pages per day and, if the boys are ever reluctant to do a subject, I ask them to hold off on reading “science” until they finish the subject that’s making them drag their feet; it’s a huge motivator, they love it that much).

Right now, Simon is learning about crabs, and Ezra is studying ants, and, considering that these are boys who have really only recently gotten into this whole “reading thing,” their information retention is staggering. They practically can’t wait to do a daily report about cool details like the fact that crabs can grow back their legs and even their eyes! (It takes a year, but still…wow). And I’m not gonna lie: I find their recitations absolutely fascinating and the passion for knowledge shining from their blue eyes pretty darn exhilarating.

3.

The Story of the World: History for the Classical Child

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Again at the suggestion of the lady from the bookstore (and after a mom walking by overheard that suggestion and enthusiastically corroborated its awesomeness), I ordered this audiobook version of these history books.

We listen to it in the car on the way to and from the gym, and my kids are totally hooked. I’ve had to back Ezra off several times for being too pushy when he’s trying to hustle me into turning on “the history cd” before I’ve even gotten my seat belt on.

When the reader first started talking, I thought, “Uh oh. This guy sounds stuffy and boring.” But, it turns out, he’s anything but, although his voice is–ahem–mature and his diction is frighteningly proper. He does voices and just generally makes the kid-friendly but super-informative historical accounts (we’re learning about ancient history from the “Earliest Nomad to the last Roman Emperor” right now) come alive.

4.

NEST Animated Learning DVDs

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We watch these also when we fold or sometimes in the car for trips. NEST has a huge library of really well done animated videos on everyone from Abraham Lincoln to Eric Liddell to Helen Keller to John the Baptist.

The videos are approximately half an hour and usually cost between $5-8 each. A few years back, I bought several of the collections (which gives you a bigger discount) for Ezra’s birthday, and we’ve been enjoying working our way through them (with lots of repeat viewings) ever since. The quality is surprisingly good, the stories are worthwhile and uplifting, and the messages are clear and positive.

(Side note: please know that, if you order any of the Biblical ones, some embellishment takes place. For example, Jonah is given a plausible back story for his hatred for the Assyrians–they burned his childhood home–which doesn’t actually appear in the Bible. But they never change or water down the actual truths in the Bible, so I just make sure to point out the added parts to my children and then read them the read deal and don’t worry about it too much).

5.

Kingdom Tales Trilogy

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This is the series I’m reading to my older kids at night. My mom read them to me when I little, and I remember loving them. Sure enough, my kids do too.

They’re not strictly “educational,” per se, but I honestly consider it my first job as a mama to instill godly character traits in my children–before math, science, reading, or any other pursuit of knowledge. Sure, spelling is important, but it pales in comparison to honesty or integrity.

The Tales of the Kingdom Trilogy is made up of a series of allegorical stories about the inhabitants of The Enchanted City, where the evil Enchanter rules, and Great Park, which is ruled by the one true King. Each teaches a lesson, and while they flow well and build upon each other, each can be read as a stand-alone story as well.

Best of all, the writing is some of the best I’ve encountered for raising vocabulary levels and forcing kids to think, without losing their interest (I sometimes find myself reading on to the next story while my kids brush their teeth because the writing keeps my interest as well).

And because each story is allegorical, it requires a lot of critical higher thinking skills (just this morning, Ezra asked me if something that had happened in last night’s story was “real,” and I told him that we can’t know for sure, to which he fired back a fact from the story that supported its being intended as literal in this case. I was thrilled! He had not only listened well, but he had been mulling it over and even had a support from the story for his point of view!)

Note: it’s pretty much impossible to find these books in anything but their trilogy form, which are kind of pricey at $90 for all 3. However, if you have a Kindle, you can get each one separately for $10.

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So, there you have it: my picks for learning that just feels like fun.

Care to share some of yours? I’m always on the lookout for ways to engage my kids’ minds without their even realizing it.

The Perfect Patio Snack: Black Bean Salsa (Recipe)

We’ve had the most incredible summer in terms of weather here in E. Texas. I’ve only been blogging for a little over three years, but during that time span, we’ve experienced both the worst and the best summers of my lifetime. Two years ago, it was the worst, with 100 straight days of 100+ temps (you would get in your car, and the thermostat would read: 117, and the skin on your thighs would fry against the leather seats). Things start to run together, but I think that was the same summer that we had a severe drought, complete with wildfires (or it could have been the year before; either way, it was a rough couple of summers).

But this year. Oh THIS year has been (relatively) cool and rainy (apparently, it rained practically every day we were in Europe in June). But other than the rain, the most brutal aspect of our summers has been noticeably reduced. And that would be the humidity. Typically, within five minutes of stepping outside from May to–oh, you know–November, you’re sweating. Profusely. No matter what you’re wearing.

But this summer has been surprisingly dry. We’ve only broken 100 degrees a handful of times, and let me tell you, 91 and mild humidity feels like the Swiss Alps compared to 103 with 386% humidity!

In fact, yesterday morning, it was in the 60′s, and some friends of mine had a good laugh at church as we noticed that we had all busted out the scarves, even though it was barely cool enough to warrant jeans.

So, why the weather rundown?

Well, it’s been so nice that we’ve been eating outside on our patio every chance we get (when normally, we would stay huddled around our kitchen table, on which the air conditioning vents conveniently blast).

Last night was no exception, and dinner was so yummy that it just felt selfish not to share the best part, so I thought I’d show you today how I make a super delish, super healthy, super easy black bean salsa that goes great with all things Tex Mex and beyond.

To get started, you’ll need:

  • 2 cans of black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 can of corn (drained and rinsed)
  • 3 Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1/3 cup purple onion, chopped (you could also substitute scallions or any other kind of onion)
  • 1-2 avocados, roughly chopped
  • 1 large lime
  • 1 handful of cilantro (I usually just shred mine with my fingers, but you could chop it) IMG_4628

Pretty bowls are optional, but I’ve been slowly collecting all of these specimens on super-clearance or from Ross, and I couldn’t resist the chance to line them all up for a picture.

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Apparently, they made everything look so especially appealing that our cat, Scout, had trouble keeping his nose out it.

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{Literally}

After everything is chopped up, dump it all together in a bowl…

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…and add the seasonings and “dressing” which basically consist of:

  • 1 – 1 1/2 tbs of olive oil (depending on the juiciness of your tomatoes, you may need more or less moisture)
  • 2 tsp of red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper
  • 3/4 tsp salt
  • the juice of one lime

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Give everything a good stir, add a bowl of tortilla chips, and–TADA!–you’ve got the perfect accompaniment to pretty much any casual dinner.

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I serve this at parties and family gatherings a lot, and it always gets gobbled up before any other dips.

We ate ours last night with brisket tacos.

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{I like it so much, I had it on the side and on top of my taco; also, did anybody else spot the floating piece of corn?)

I hope my kids remember these patio dinners with as much fondness as I know I will ten years from now (when, hopefully, they’ll still be going on).

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Talking with her hands…such a girl. IMG_4681

{This would be Nola trying to mesmerize me with her baby blues, all while looking innocent and stealing my phone}

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This kid has been losing teeth (literally) right and left. Pretty sure, he’s not going to have any left to chomp his tacos soon. IMG_4686

{Evy knows how to work those blue eyes too; all the better with a little hair swoop}

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And as much as Simon pretends to hate it when people comment on his dimples, I’m pretty sure he’s fully aware that they’re his secret weapon.

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Shaun absolutely loves it when his girls snuggle with him, so I don’t think he was too sad when Nola heard gunshots (we live in the country; this is normal), and made a beeline for him, wailing, “Daaaaaadddy!”

Oh, and in case you’re wondering what my boys’ latest obsession is and in case you had begun to believe that all things at our dinner table were either ridiculously cute or pretty to look at, here’s what was staring me in the face for practically the entire meal:

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I know, right?

Appetizing in the extreme. (Better yet, they’re in my kitchen right now, and Simon and Ezra informed me this morning that a grasshopper and a stick bug have gone AWOL. To which, I replied: “Better them than the spiders; now put another layer of plastic on that jar!!!“).

And just so I don’t leave you with a jar full of your bugs as your last image…

watermakrr

Do you have a version of this black bean salsa recipe? I can’t remember where I first had it, but I’ve encountered lots of different variations (sometimes, I hear it called Texas Caviar) over the years. This is just the version that our family loves best, but I’d love to hear what you do differently if you make it too.

What kind of summer weather did you have? I feel like I’ve been spoiled for life, and when it goes back to being ultra-sticky and sweltering next year, I’m not even going to know what to do with myself.

Is your house a glorified bug zoo too? It’s gotten so bad around here that I don’t even blink when I find some sort of critter hopping across my kitchen table. Ugh.

 

 

 

A small token of thanks (Giveaway)

I wasn’t really nervous when I pressed “publish” on Wednesday’s miscarriage post because you guys have proven over and over again that you are a kind, caring, and compassionate bunch.

But still.

When you share something so personal, there’s at least one toe-curling moment when you wonder if it will fall completely flat. What if all you do is open old wounds, or nothing about your story resonates with anyone else?

Based on your oh-so-sweet responses and emails (I’m working on answering them, I promise!) that have been flowing steadily into my inbox–emails full of heartache and trials but also so much hope–I’d say that we really are all in this messy thing called life together. I’d say that God knew what He was doing when He gave each of us a specific role to play and formed us uniquely in our mothers’ wombs so that no two of are exactly the same, in experience or our reactions to it.

You have been such a blessing to me over the past 3 days, if for no other reason than that you affirmed that what I shared was needed and timely for you.

So…

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As a small token of the BIG love I have for you guys, I’m giving away a fun little package to one lucky winner.

It includes:

  • a cute gold striped pouch from Target
  • an 8 piece set of thank you cards + envelopes
  • a pretty paper bead bracelet made by Ugandan children that I bought to support one of my favorite organizations, Parental Care Ministries
  • a short camera strap made from a scarf by my talented friend, Lia

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To be entered to win, simply comment with the name or description of a woman who has inspired you or helped you out in a hard time. You can tell me how, or you can simply leave her name.

BUT I have one request: if you win, would you take one of the thank you cards from your package and write that woman a note, telling her what you just told me? She will cherish it. I can promise you that.

I’ll pick a winner randomly and announce it next week.

(Open to residents of U.S. and Canada only; sorry international, peeps!).

Thanks for being awesome, and “may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13)

A soul filled with rainbows (my journey with miscarriage)…

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The soul would have no rainbow had the eyes no tears. -John Vance Cheney

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I pushed through the gym doors with maybe 13 minutes to spare before the 2009 Turkey Trot kicked off and made a beeline for the bathroom. There was no way my full, 13-week-pregnant bladder was going to make it through a 5K without something embarrassing happening. Especially not with its being my third run at this whole pregnancy business.

As I walked, I absentmindedly massaged my lower abdomen, which had been feeling crampy all morning. I banged through the stall door, creating quite a ruckus in the thankfully deserted bathroom. My mind on the race ahead and the bread rolls I needed to mix up as soon as I got home if they were going to have time to rise before we headed to my mom’s for her annual Thanksgiving feast, I sat down on the toilet and stared unseeingly ahead.

It wasn’t until I moved to stand up that I saw it.

Blood.

And not pink or spotty either. But thick and so dark it was almost black.

Everything froze. My mind. My body. Time itself.

And then, as if someone had taken their finger off of “pause” and mashed the fast-forward button instead, a barrage of emotions pummeled me in quick succession. Fear, panic, and above all, guilt.

You see, I hadn’t been very excited about this baby. I had thought I would be. That I was ready. That after having my first two only 18 months apart, a 22 month break from pregnancy would be sufficient to recharge my baby anticipation meter. I was wrong. I had been fighting frustration and borderline resentment for most of the pregnancy. I felt disconnected from the little life growing inside of me. And it didn’t help that my emotions were all over the place. Although, let’s be honest: they were mostly in an ornery, short-tempered place. I wasn’t much fun to be around, and I knew it.

Granted, it was a stressful time of life for us. We had just finished building our house completely from scratch and were barely moved in with lots of work yet to do. I spent my days chasing toddlers and changing diapers with one hand while holding a paint brush in the other, fighting nausea and fatigue along the way.

Still, this pregnancy seemed different–leeched of joy somehow.

But none of that mattered when I saw the blood, and the chill of possibly losing my child crept its way up my arms and into my soul. Once I could breathe again, I called my mom, who is, sadly, no stranger to miscarriage, and she listened and talked and prayed and just generally did the things that good moms do when their daughters are hurting.

But I think we both knew what was happening.

That didn’t stop me from hoping, though. From praying and frantically shoving away the thought that I deserved this for not being excited enough about this baby. Because, surely there was no “this.” Pregnant women bled all the time during pregnancy. My midwife said as much when I called her, stumbling over my explanations and apologies for disturbing a day of grateful happiness with my mess.

For several hours after we hung up, I hunkered on the couch, trying to be as still as possible, as if, somehow, my lack of motion could hold my baby inside where it was safe and warm.

At first, it seemed to work. But then, then there was another trip to the bathroom and more blood. More nauseating fear.

My roll ingredients languished on the counter top, unmade and ignored. There would be no feast for us that Thanksgiving.

My midwife called to check on me again, and I told her the grim news. She offered to leave her own family feast to drive 40 minutes to the childbirth center and listen for a heartbeat. Clinging to hope, we agreed, thanking her effusively for her selflessness.

I’m not sure I breathed once as she ran the wand over and over my belly, to no avail. No familiar whump-up, whump-uh, whump-up emerged from the faint crackle of the Doppler signal.

I lay there, feeling numb as she described what I could expect in the upcoming hours.

I think I remember tears leaking out of my eyes, down my cheeks, and puddling in my ears, but I can’t be sure. Everything about that moment is blurry and strangely metallic.

The contractions began in earnest before we were even all the way home. I had to pause to let one subside as I dragged myself up the stairs. I know I cried then. Tears of sorrow and self-pity and anger. No one had ever told me that miscarriage could be a mini version of labor, except with no sweet, squishy babe at the end to make it all worth it. This was not supposed to happen.  It was Thanksgiving day, for the love of all things sacred! How was I supposed to be thankful for this?

I spent the next several hours surviving the process, mostly in the tub, pretending to read The Count of Monte Cristo, ignoring the pain and trying to ignore the impending moment when I would have to hold my tiny baby for the first and last time.

The only thing that kept the sobs at bay was a thought that Thalia had offered when I described how odd I’d felt throughout the pregnancy as well as some other unusual things I’d noticed. She had suggested the possibility that I might be looking at a blighted ovum, which meant thatalthough my body had been behaving as if it were pregnant, with heightened hormonal levels and a developing placenta and everything, there would be no actual baby.

In the end, when all was said and done, I think that’s exactly what happened. I never saw a baby, but I did experience the other symptoms, subtly different though they were, that Thalia had said to look for in this kind of miscarriage.

And, relieved as I was, I was also battered and exhausted. And sad. Sad that my body was broken. Sad that I wouldn’t get to meet that particular iteration of me and Shaun. Sad that the last 13 weeks had been wasted. Sad that Thanksgiving Day seemed destined to bear the taint of loss.

The thing is, with God, no sadness is truly wasted. He keeps count of our miseries, collects our tears in a bottle. It is we humans who shovel sorrow away by the double fistful, hoping to bury it beneath activity and sound and something, anything that will make it ache less. I know that sounds trite. And believe me, I would never have chosen to be pregnant for three months, only to endure a miscarriage and discover that my body had been misfiring all along. But I learned some things about myself that I needed to know. The experience stretched and reshaped me, forcing my gaze up from my own navel and outward towards the hurts of other women to whom I would have never related in some ways.

And three months later, after my body and heart had both had time to heal, I was genuinely thrilled and oh-so-grateful to find out that we were pregnant with Della. That was a pregnancy full of anticipation and joy and complete redemption of what had been lost.

She was my rainbow baby, and I was in love with her from conception.

Fast forward 4 years to this pregnancy–to the moment our sonogram technician swiped the wand across my 11-week pregnant belly, and I immediately said, “Did I just see what I thought I saw?”

And she said, “Goodness, girl. It’s twins again! Or at least it was.”

That last phrase filtered through my stunned thoughts as I squinted at the screen, straining to make out the second shape. But it was too faint, the mere shadow of a tiny babe.

Almost like that second rainbow I captured on my way home from the gym one day. (Did you see it?)

Again, I held my breath as the hunt for a heartbeat commenced. My prayers were a simple loop of: “Please, let him be okay.”

But, once again, there was silence. One baby we thought we knew who turned out to never have been at all. And one baby we knew nothing about who slipped away from us before we could ever wrap our hearts around his very possibility.

Honestly, the second time was less traumatic, both for my body and my heart (somehow, not knowing he existed in the first place made releasing him back to Jesus easier).

But it still hurt. It still tugged and pinched to think what his twin, who is kicking me as I type this, could have had (now that I’ve seen the bond that Evy and Nola share, I kind of think every singleton is missing out). What I could have had.

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So, why do I tell you all of this now? (I certainly never planned to before this pregnancy).

I tell you because I know that it is hard for many of you to read about a woman who is effortlessly pregnant for the sixth time when you would give anything to see those double pink lines just once.

I tell you because of this verse: “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

I tell you so that, maybe, possibly, my story could comfort those in any trouble with comfort I myself received from God.  Those of you who extended such sweet words of congratulation in the midst of your own struggle to conceive. Those of you kept silent and fought the urge to throw your laptop across the room (I get that). Those of you who can relate to the horrible, nauseating stomach-drop when there’s blood on your underwear, and the Doppler does nothing but crackle.

My story is different than yours. But I still hear you. I see you. I’ve felt at least a tiny sliver of your pain. And I’m for you.

But, more importantly, Jesus is for you. Even on Thanksgiving Day when your bathtub water runs red or on a Monday morning when you’ve just tossed your 23rd negative pregnancy test in the trashcan, along with a fair bit of hopes and dreams.

“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither miscarriage nor barrenness nor unexpected pregnancies when we don’t feel “ready” nor rebellious children nor anxious nights in the NICU nor stillborn births nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:37-39, added paraphrasing, mine).

We don’t always know why we hurt, but we can know this with certainty: “I will see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Wait for the Lord; be strong and take heart and wait for the Lord.” (Psalm 27:13).

If you’re struggling with miscarriage or infertility or feeling overwhelmed by lots of little kids or…whatever…I would be honored if you emailed me at:

blogabbie{at}gmail{dot}com.

As I’ve said many times before, I don’t have all the answers. But I know a God who does. And I would be happy to lift you up before Him in prayer. And if that whole “love of God in Christ Jesus” thing sounds confusing or foreign or too-good-to-be-true, I’d love to talk to about that too.

You probably have some processing to do, but in the words of the inimitable Joe Fox: “Meanwhile, I’m still here. Talk to me.”

Homeschooling, one week later (in snapshots)

Well, we’ve survived one full week of homeshooling now. More than survived, actually. Outside of one morning last week during which Della, then Simon, then Ezra fell victim to the domino effect of the full-on tantrum meltdown, things have been remarkably smooth.

At one point, Ezra chirped, “I love homeschooling, Mama! This is perfect!”

I tell you that because–oh my goodness–those words actually came out of his mouth!!!!! How could I not document it?

But it doesn’t mean that every day sounds like something from the script of Leave it to Beaver around here. (I’m pretty sure the Leave it to Beaver mom never referred to her child as a “dingbat” when he claimed to not know how to do something and didn’t even bother to read the instructions first…ahem).

And, yes, things are hectic, and I’m getting my daily workout in just from how many times I run up and down the stairs as I alternate between feeding twins, changing diapers, helping Della with her letters, and answering questions for the boys.

I’ll talk more about the actual routine of things in another post soon-ish, but for now, I thought I’d just share a few snapshots from our first week back to homeschooling.

I’m not doing anything terribly formal with Della’s “schooling” since she’s only 3, but we do work on letters, numbers, and writing a little bit at a time each day until she gets bored and wants to go trash her room with her sisters.

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Clearly she and the twins are quite proficient and would make great rock star groupies (future hotel rooms of America, watch out).

And this is how they look when they emerge from the debris.

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Tutu, check. Brother’s soccer socks, check. Owl hat, check. Swimsuit, check. Mama’s swimsuit (worn wrestler-style, natch), check.

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Oh, we can’t forget Evy’s obsession with toothbrushes and toothpaste.

(P.S. I had just given the twins baths and had not braided their hair, which is pretty much the only surefire way to keep it from hanging in their eyes like that; they look like poor little neglected orphan children).

And while the boys do this…

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…the laundry does this:

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Most of the boys’ work happens upstairs in our “big room,” but every now and then, they end up scattered all over the house.

In the kitchen…

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Even on the ottoman in the living room…

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When the twins are napping (AKA: unavailable for room demolition), Della does a little of this:

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(I already talked in another post about the whole tongue-out-for-concentration thing being an inherited trait from their daddy, but I don’t think I’d ever noticed Della doing it particularly until now).

Which produces this:

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Which, I honestly think is kind of pretty…except that it only occupied her for 9 whopping minutes4.

Fridays are a bit more laid back than the rest, with the emphasis on a weekly spelling test and art.

Last week, we made pinwheels out of leftover magazines. (If you’re an artsy sort, don’t laugh; it’s not my forte).

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And the ABSOLUTE BEST part of homeschooling so far? My boys woke up at 5:30 this morning and made a surprise breakfast of (woefully under-salted) eggs and bacon! Come to think of it, I have no idea what that has to do with homeschooling, but it happened and also needed to be bragged about documented for posterity’s sake (AKA: I need to reread this post when I’m losing my ever-loving mind on a particularly hard day).

I won’t lie and say that I feel all perky and excited most days (um, ever?). I don’t. I have silenced my 6 AM alarm every. single. time it’s begun it’s annoyingly melodic trill this past week. That’s going to have to change. Starting with an earlier bedtime than midnight.

And by 2 PM, all I can think is, ALL CHILDREN IN THEIR ROOMS NOW!!!! At which point, I stumble to my room, ignoring the pile of folded laundry I need to put away, and collapse on my bed for 45 minutes.

Those 45 minutes are what gets me through the second half of the day (that, and lots of Jesus), so when the 3-year-old hollers, “I need to go pooooooootttttyyy!” from her room 19 minutes (i.e. 7 minutes after I fell asleep) into Mama’s 45 minute cone of silence, Mama is…unhappy.

And when Mama ain’t happy…yeah, you know the rest.

Anyhoo, just keeping it real, there, but other than the inherent chaos that results from attempting to do 95 things at once, I have no real complaints.

Homeschooling is exactly what I expected: hard, busy, but totally worth it.

How have your first weeks back to school (homeschooling or otherwise) treated you so far?

Any good stories to tell? I’m all ears!

Meet Jo-Jo, the Unexpected Buffet

I mentioned last week in my solo Dallas trip recap that I’d been on the lookout for specific house items (which I didn’t find) but found something I really hadn’t been looking for and couldn’t be happier. And I promised to show it to you in full this week. Welp. I just barely squeaked in under my own self-imposed deadline, but I did it!

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Meet Jo-Jo (yes, in honor of Joanna Gaines from yesterday’s post…I’m sure she would be honored. Or she might take out a restraining order. You know, whichever).

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I happened upon Jo-Jo when I did an impulsive Craigslist search for “buffet” in the Dallas area while lying in my friend, Lisa’s, super-comfy guestbed. I already had buffet, which I loved and had scored an incredible deal on (you can see it here), but it just wasn’t quite meshing with my style anymore, so I had decided to sell it–oh–a whopping two days before.

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I didn’t expect to find a replacement quickly, and I did expect anything I found in my price range to be a major project. But all that changed as soon as this beauty popped up. It just so happened to be in the same area I was heading in the morning, and I just so happened to be able to talk them down $50 from their original asking price.

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Done and done!

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Of course, there was that moment of feeling like a complete moron when I texted, “I’m here, but I don’t see the place,” only to realize that I had selected World Market instead of my actual destination from “recently found addresses.” Fortunately, the actual meeting place was close by, but trying to explain to a complete stranger that you aren’t actually “here” because you’re at World Market instead is a little awkward.

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But scoring a gorgeous, completely done (no project for me, what?!) piece that was even more perfect for the space (did you see the rug I already had?) than I had dared to dream, complete with Anthro knobs? (Cuz you know I love me some great knobs). Totally worth looking like a total spaz to someone I will never see again.

Also, can we talk about finding pine cones in your driveway on your way back from taking pictures of your offspring holding a giant six and actually having the presence of mind to bring them inside and then remember to decorate with them before said offspring find them and scatter them all over the house?? I tell you what, if you were less than impressed with my GPS skills, you should be totally in awe of my decorating-from-nature skills right now.

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Oh, and in case you were wondering about sources (not that most of these will be very helpful since most are old or were on major clearance to begin with).

Table runner: Target (clearance, a few months ago)

Lamps: Goodwill

Chalkboard: Barn Sale

Number 6: Marshall’s

White bowl: Anthro (major clearance from several months back)

“Home” print: Urban Outfitters (sold out)

Rug: Urban Outifitters (It’s already a great price for an 8X10 rug, and I got mine for 20% off, so you might watch for a sale; just be aware it’s pretty thin and will need a rug pad underneath)

Pine Cones: my driveway (if you live in E. Texas, you’ll have NO trouble rustling up some of your own)

Ever just “stumbled” on an unexpected treasure when you were least expecting it? This seems to be my “m.o.” as I rarely find exactly what I’m looking for if I have it on a list.

Any suggestions for cheap rug pad sources? I haven’t looked too hard yet, but I’m fast discovering that they can cost practically as much as a rug.

Are you bad at GPS too? I’m even fairly incompetent when it comes to typing in the address on the little screen. My husband can do it in a snap, but heaven forbid that type something in wrong because I can’t get the darn backspace button to work for the life of me!

Must Watch: HGTV’s “Fixer Upper”

I’ve talked about shows/movies that I like here on the blog before, but I don’t think I’ve ever gone so far as to devote an entire post to promoting a specific show.

Well, that’s about to change because Shaun and I discovered HGTV’s “Fixer Upper” on our Lake Livingston vacation and proceeded to inhale the rest of the series in a few short weeks after we got home.

Now, we don’t have HGTV. We don’t really have much of anything (just a couple of fuzzy network channels), and what we have, we don’t watch. However, we are big fans of Amazon’s Unbox for the few shows we find ourselves drawn to, and the entire first season of Fixer Upper (there’s only one, but they’re already filming a second) was only $10 to buy and then stream.

So…what is it?

Well, it’s essentially a home makeover show, which sounds pretty blah and unoriginal, but the premise is made fresh and engaging by the charm and talent of the family it centers around.

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Meet Chip and Joanna (he affectionately calls her Jo-Jo) Gaines, the Waco-based owners of Magnolia Homes. They’ve been married about 11 years and have 4 kids, 9 and under. And in their family interactions lies the show’s biggest draw.

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It doesn’t hurt that they’re all ridiculously cute. But the real surprise is how much they all seem to genuinely like each other. Sure, it’s an HGTV show, so there are aspects of it that are obviously scripted, but watching one of their children hurry to help another tamp down the dirt around a newly inserted plant in their farmhouse garden or seeing one brother unselfconsciously drape an arm around the other’s shoulders in the background of a shot that has nothing to do with them…It’s hard to fake that. Their kids are polite, well-mannered, and exude a sweetness and innocence that is rare and beautiful to behold, and while I have no doubt that they do their fair share of squabbling, it’s clear that the family is invested in each others’ well-beings. As Joanna points out in one episode, they make it a point to gather around a table for dinner every night, no matter how hectic their schedules get (and, with a new hit show, a realty business, a brick and mortar + online decor store, and a blog, it’s hard to imagine a family with more going on). Now, that may mean gulping down pizza around a coffee table while Joanna hustles to style the last minute details of a house before the big reveal the next day, but it’s a priority nonetheless.

joanna + kids

A lot of all the family togetherness and sweetness can be traced to the Gaines’s Christian faith (you can see a glimpse of Joanna here in their adorable country farmhouse, decorated with all things meaningful to their family, including chalkboard scripture verses). They make no effort to hide their love for the Lord, but it’s woven naturally throughout the show rather than showcased or clunkily hammed-up.

In addition to the family dynamic, it’s just fun to watch Chip and Joanna be Chip and Joanna. He’s a lovable, self-deprecating goofball, while she’s admittedly more high-strung but still manages to maintain an admirable level of dry wit in the face of his antics. Their comfortable, flirtatious camaraderie works really well in a show that’s technically about beams and French doors but really wouldn’t be anything so very special without their chemistry.

Of course, I haven’t even gotten to the main business of Fixer Upper, which is the fixer uppers themselves.

The basic premise of the show is that Chip and Joanna show a couple three prospective homes at varying levels of disrepair in desirable neighborhoods in the couples’ price range, and then they choose which one they want to buy and to what extent they want to renovate it.

Not too surprisingly, given the show’s tagline of “we take the worst houses in the best neighborhoods and transform them…” it’s almost always the saddest, most neglected option (with the biggest budget margin for renovations) that the couples choose. Again, there are aspects of the show that are highly formulaic (like the inevitable call for more money when they run into an “unexpected” foundation problem or whatnot), and I honestly think the show would be much smarter to do away with those, and just let it flow.

Even so, the proceedings, if predictable (especially when you’re watching it at a rate of 1-2 episodes a night, several nights in a row) are still highly enjoyable, and the big reveal at the end (after all the fun banter and progress footage in between) is always gasp-worthy.

I don’t want to ruin anything for you, but I did want to share a few of the before and afters as well as a peek at my favorite rooms from this season’s episodes.

First up, check out this amazing transformation:

harp collage The Gaines’s custom furniture-maker, Clint Harp, and his family were featured on an episode and ended up buying the house on the left for only $10,000 and then getting the house on the right (yes, the same one, but it sure doesn’t look like it) for approximately $115,000 when all the renovations were done.

Which is another thing I love about the show. Since, it’s based in Waco, where realty is crazy-cheap, the all-in prices are really reasonable and make some of these feats seem actually possible to pull off.

Of course, it wouldn’t hurt to have someone like Joanna Gains to decorate for you.

harp house living room

Other than the staggering exterior before + afters, the best part about the houses is by far Joanna’s styling prowess.

There are recurring themes: white kitchen cabinets + furniture-style islands, chippy farmhouse tables, huge Roman numeral clocks, French doors, exposed beams, an open floor plan flow, and lots of unusual wall decor (she hangs everything from wooden chairs to metal washboards to antique bikes).

And if your style is ultra-modern or minimalist, you probably won’t appreciate her work as much as I do. But for a lover of vintage with a funky and traditional twist, her designs are a feast for the eyes.

Another extreme change was this French Country makeover…

french collage

I was honestly skeptical of their ability to take a traditional red-brick ranch-style home and transform it into the French country style that the owners were looking for, but they totally did it.

And, in perhaps my favorite exterior transformation of all, the Gaines took what the buyers fearfully referred to as “the haunted house” and turned it into something classic and beautiful and still totally fresh.

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Want a few more interior shots? Okey dokey.

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Love everything in here from the colorful rug to that World Market table + stool combo (I’ve seen it in person, and it’s super cute) to that amazing coffee bar (and I don’t even drink coffee!)

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The bench. The miniature farm table. The hanging washboards used as magnet boards for pictures. The toolbox-turned-Crayon-holder. It’s all great!

craft room Gorman- yum

As I mentioned before (and as you’re probably seeing), there are lots of repeated elements in Joanna’s decorating style, but one of my favorites is her use of old neon letters that have been stripped of their lights and then hung on the wall. The “yum” above is just one example of many. outdoor space

Believe it or not, this is actually an indoor space, which at one point was a creepy atrium (the buyers joked about all the snakes that were probably hiding in it) that Joanna transformed into super-chic herb garden. play room

There aren’t very many kid spaces, but this one with the windmill + locker storage + b/w map is really fun.

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And I’m totally in love with that chandelier, which can be bought from Joanna’s online store.

I know it probably sounds like HGTV called me up to plug this show, but I promise they didn’t. I just so rarely run across something that showcases such impressive talent combined with such consistent likeability, all while being positive and drama-free. So, yeah. I just had to share. If you’re looking for something fun, uplifting, and–let’s face it–pretty darn inspiring to watch, I highly recommend Fixer Upper. In case you can’t already tell. :)

Do you watch Fixer Upper? I don’t use the word “girl crush” often, but I think I might have one on Joanna. That girl has mad skillz!

Any good, clean shows to recommend? I’m always open for suggestions!

{All images are from magnoliahomes.net}

Guess the Number (Kid Photo Shoot)

Saturday night, the twins and I went to “town” to pick up a few last minute things for today. (AKA: the first day of full-time homeschooling for us in 2 whole years…gulp).

I was hoping to find some storage baskets to hang on the wall, so I ducked into Marshall’s. I didn’t find my baskets (boo!), but I still love a good excuse to troll their aisles stuffed with randomness.

And, let’s be honest: it doesn’t get much more random than this:

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That would be a giant six made out of greenery and wire, complete with a burlap ribbon hanger and built-in twinkle lights.

I picked it up out of pure curiosity at first. But then. Oh THEN, an idea for a photo shoot with my kids rapidly formed in my mind. So, I hung that $12 piece of awesomeness on a stroller handle and tried not to poke anybody (the greenery is quite prickly!) on my way to the front.

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And then, Sunday morning, I dressed my kids up all cute-like, even though we weren’t going to church because Ezra had been running a fever and was still feeling sub-par (not that you would know it from the pictures…he’s a trooper!). And then, my husband and I had an extended “discussion” about whether I had, indeed, brought home a 6…or was it a 9? Which I finally won when we figured out that the supposed “hooks” on which he had hung (see how I did that?) his entire argument for the number 9 were actually intended for holding the battery pack for the twinkle lights.

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The entire debate ended with all of my children prancing around the room, parade-style chanting, “Ma-Ma’s Riiiiiight!” Awesome.

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I managed to snag quite a few similar shots, but pretty much the second I tried to get the twins to themselves, Evy decided she was done. I sent Shaun to the house to grab some bribes (aka: homemade chocolate chip cookies), but all that got me was this:

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Total absorption in cookie crumbs and zero attention left for mama.

Still, I can’t complain too much when I managed to capture jewels like this one.

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And this one:

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Oh, and we can’t forget this!  take7

And even though it was actually a 6 (so sorry, babe), one of the things that sold me on it in the first place was that when/if God blesses us with another kiddo, we can flip that bad boy over and use it for a prop with all of us in the picture (I suppose I could keep it around for if we ever hit #9 in the kid department, but that’s an overwhelming thought at the moment. One kid at a time, Abbie. One kid…oh wait, I have twins).

P.S. Anybody else out there doing this homeschooling Mama thing with me? I’d love to hear from you, pray for you, and–well, why not!–have you pray for me too!

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!