Honor’s Birth Story {Part 1}

If you read my latest update before Honor’s birth, then you’ll know that I had been contracting for daaaayyyzz…which is nothing new for me. Prodromal labor–the oh-so-official title for mild pregnancy torture–is my close and constant friend when I’m waiting for a baby to come.

If you’re unfamiliar with the concept, it’s not unusual for prodromal (or false) labor to establish strong, steady rhythms for long periods. It can feel very much like labor…except that–ultimately–the contractions never get stronger, longer, and closer enough together to get a baby out.

It’s fuuuuun.

Fortunately, after 5 other similar rodeos, I was not the least bit fooled by this particular bucking bronco (forgive my weird metaphors; I’m mildly sleep-deprived).

Sure, there were a few times that I thought, “All right, this could go somewhere.” But not enough to actually change anything about what I was normally doing.

And then Saturday rolled around, and the 4 youngest and I decided (code for: mama decided, and they obediently piled in the car) to do a little thrifting. We visited a few stores in a local small town, ate lunch at Dairy Queen (where a man who was leaving at the same time we were asked when I was being christened for sainthood…presumably because I had 4 kids 6 and under with me and was hugely pregnant?? I assured him that “Never” was a pretty sure bet), and then headed home where I wrote a blog post while the kids napped…and I contracted.

While we were out “on the town,” I’d had a few contractions that felt…different. Sharper. Less meaningless. I didn’t think much of it, but they just kept popping up every 1/2 hour or so, and by 5 PM, when Shaun and the boys got home from working on the new house (which is what they do every Saturday, pretty much), I was starting to pay the squeezes at least a sliver of my attention.

We ate dinner, did a little clean-up, and by that point, I was getting a decent contraction every 15-20 minutes. This had happened several times before, but not with this level of sharpness, so we put the kids to bed early and started casually timing them while picking up around the house, flipping the laundry, loading the dishwasher, etc.

My midwife, Melena, had done her absolute best to strip my membranes the Tuesday before, but ever since Ezra, my cervix has always been super-posterior and hard to reach until the very end of labor, so–while she managed to ascertain that I was dilated to a 3 and about 50% effaced (encouraging but not exactly meaningful, considering some people walk around dilated to a 5 for months)–I wasn’t expecting much in the way of results.

Sure enough, another 4 days had gone by with little to no noticeable change in my state. On that same Tuesday, she had also given me a tincture of herbs to help move labor along once it seemed a bit more real, so Saturday night, I started dosing myself with that in between loads of laundry.

And you know what happened?

My contractions stopped. Just…fizzled out completely.

Truth be told, I wasn’t even that disappointed (or surprised). By that point, it was almost 11 PM, and I wasn’t that interested in starting real labor at midnight (never mind that I’ve never NOT labored through at least one full night before).

I finished up my last chore around midnight and lay down, feeling sure I wouldn’t be up again before morning.

Throughout the night, I woke up with the keener contractions but managed to go back to sleep. Around 5 AM, though, I had several strong ones in a row and couldn’t fall asleep again. Right before I got up, though, I had the distinct impression of peeing a little on myself without any actual effort on my part and thought, “Uh oh. That’s not good.”

My water has only broken before delivery one other time–with Della–and then, it was only a small high leak that sealed itself immediately and never produced anything else until she came. Even so, it created a lot of anxiety, since it put my midwife on guard for more leakage and put me on a deadline for having her (she gave me 24 hours before we considered going to the hospital). When Della’s labor stalled after I dilated to a 6, I spent the next 18 hours frustrated and worried I would end up with a hospital birth despite my best efforts to the contrary. My labor finally did kick back in at 7 PM, and I had her by 1 in the morning, but it was still a bad association with waters breaking that has lingered with me for the 6 years since.

I shuffled to the bathroom, hoping against hope that I had just become suddenly incontinent (only time I’ve ever wished for that), but it became clear very quickly that my waters had, indeed, broken–at least to an extent.

I took a shower and blow-dried my hair (something I almost never do) and then went to tell Shaun that my water had broken. He has the same association I do, so he looked a little concerned, but we both decided to just wait and see if the contractions would keep coming regularly, at which point we would take the kids to my mom’s.

frizz

{Anybody else resemble an electrocuted poodle after they blow-dry?}

The one thing I felt a tiny twinge of excitement about was the concept of possibly/maybe/Please Lord delivering during the day. That’s happened twice (Ezra and Theo), but only because I was up the entire night(s) before laboring.

I was far from hopeful, though.

The contractions were still there 30 minutes later when I finished straightening my hair (also something I pretty much never do), and the kids were all set to get in the van.

So, off we went on our merry way–skeptical but a little optimistic.

I had 3-4 decent contractions on the 30 minute drive, but almost the moment we pulled in my mom’s driveway…they stopped.

We were at my parents’ house for about an hour, and I didn’t have one real contraction.

It was the first time I felt genuinely discouraged by the whole stop-start business this pregnancy. I mean, I’ve come to fully expect it, but at 41 weeks and 5 days, I was getting a little weary of it, and I really didn’t want to waste my mom’s time (she loves her grandchildren more self-sacrificially than any other woman I’ve ever seen and never complains about keeping them, but I prefer not to dump all 6 on her doorstep without good reason).

So, right there in her living room, my mom and Shaun stopped and prayed over me–for peace, for perseverance, for progress (i.e. pain…you can’t have a baby without that, in my experience).

We decided to go ahead and leave the kids there, trusting the contractions to return and be real, and left. I kind of figured we would go home and wait for labor, but Shaun had a better idea (pretty sure he knew that my “watched pot never boils” body wouldn’t do well with just sitting around waiting for the next contraction).

So, we went to get Thai food for lunch (yes, I went all stereotypical and ordered it spicier than I normally do, even though I know it doesn’t actually work like that). And on our way, my contractions kicked back in.

They were different this time. Sharper still. They were the kind of contractions I would classify as a 5 (dilation) but still too sporadic to be doing much.

After lunch, we headed to Lowe’s to figure out some house details. At Lowe’s I had at least two contractions that had me stopping to breathe and grab the closest shelving. Honestly, I was a bit baffled, since each intense contraction was usually followed up by either nothing for a good 15 minutes or something so piddly it was barely noticeable.

Mostly, I just rolled my eyes and kept waddling along, determined to ignore them until they really, really hurt and were really, really close.

On the way home, we stopped by the grocery store for essentials like salt, toilet paper, Hershey’s Nuggets (with almonds and toffee, of course), and…wine? Yup. Hilarious because I pretty much never drink anything–much less while pregnant–but two separate friends had suggested buying a bottle of Moscato for labor, since they know how slow/tight my body tends to be and thought a) it might help me loosen up a bit and b) would be fruity enough for my alcohol-averse taste buds.

It took us a laughably long time to even find the Moscato and even longer to figure out if there was an advantage to one bottle over another, but we prevailed in the end.

And all the while I continued to contract at random intervals and levels of intensity.

My midwife–whom I had informed of the water leakage and contraction situation that morning–had been checking in via text all day and suggested that, when we got home, I lie down.

28-year-old Abbie would have been all: “Uh uh. No way. That will kill the contractions for sure.”

But 34-year-old Abbie thought a midwife-prescribed nap sounded just dandy, and if the contractions died, well, all the better because then they weren’t real anyway.

I lay down for over an hour, awakened by a grand total of 4 strong contractions. At this point, I’d been in sort of labor for 24 hours and was pretty sure it was all just a big hoax.

As soon as I got up, though, they kicked back in a bit, so I took some more of the herb tincture and ate some dinner. 15 minutes later, they stopped…and stayed gone.

After 45 minutes of not even one contraction, I felt my old frustration at my pokey body returning, so I texted Melena something like: “What the what is my dumb body doing??” To which she replied: “I dunno. Can I come visit?”

Of course, I said yes, though I assured her it was probably a waste of her time, and she said she didn’t care and was coming anyway.

Then, I asked Shaun to get the Bible and read to me from the Psalms while I lay on the couch.

This method had “worked” twice before when I got too anxious for my own good, so–while I wasn’t really expecting anything miraculous to happen–I was still hopeful that it would banish unnecessary stress before it settled in my already tense muscles.

He read for a good 1/2 hour, and I just listened with my eyes closed, soaking in the promises, enjoying the peace, and not contracting one single bit.

Then, I got up, went to the laundry room, and hauled 2 giant baskets of unmatched socks into the laundry room (my three oldest kids fold 99% of our laundry, but they are notorious for finding only the most obvious sock matches and throwing the rest in a basket, so there was puh-lenty to keep me busy).

We put on an episode of Fixer Upper and started matching. And matching.

By the time Melena showed up around 8:30, I’d had two contractions (after an hour and 1/2 of diddly squat) 10 minutes apart, but other than noting their existence, I thought absolutely nothing of them.

Melena had a theory that, with the somewhat slow leakage I’d experienced, there was a chance that the leak had sealed itself, and the bulging water bag near his head was still intact, in which case the risk of infection was moot, and this baby could just come when he felt like it (pretty sure that was what was going on anyway, but whatever).

When she checked me, though–no small or enjoyable feat for either of us since my cervix was still very posterior–she could feel his hair.

My heart sank a bit. I mean, obviously, he would come when he needed to, but being on any sort of deadline has never done anything but slow my already turtle-paced body down, and I felt the old dread that I would end up in a hospital on Pitocin after 9 months of midwifery care.

Fortunately, Melena is just the chillest human being on the planet and a very relaxing presence, and she assured me that a hospital visit was unlikely but that she would prefer that–since I refuse Group B Strep testing and my status was unknown–we start a round of antibiotics, just to be safe.

I’m not a fan of antibiotics as a rule, but when it comes to keeping my babies safe, I’m all for ‘em.

Melena stuck around for another 45 minutes, working me through some Spinning Babies positions (basically gentle posture/stretching exercises to help the baby get into the optimal position for making the contractions effective), and I noted–almost subconsciously–that I was still having contractions every 10 minutes or so and that they miiiiight possibly be getting a bit stronger with each one.

After that, she left for the birth center to grab everything she needed to administer the antibiotics, giving Shaun and me strict instructions to…

Make out.

Oh, yes, she did.  Because, boys and girls, this kind of monkey business releases Oxytocin, which cause uterine contractions. Aren’t our bodies weird and wonderful things?

Not too surprisingly, Shaun thought this was an excellent notion and assured Melena of our absolute compliance. #men

So, off she went to the birth center, leaving us alone, one of us still hugely pregnant and contracting every 10 minutes and the other grinning like a mouse who got locked in a cookie jar.

And then…but wait. I just looked and saw that this post is over 2,000 words long already, and all I’ve only covered the part where I wasn’t really in labor, so let’s just take a break for a moment and reconvene for Part 2 soon, okay?

Okay.

Honor, who has been doing this pretty much the entire time I typed this…

honor

is starting to wake up and tell me about all of his hopes and dreams (aka: milk).

Until Part 2!

 

What a Big Honor

Just thought I’d pop in and let you guys know that #babynumber7 finally (FINALLY!) made his big (somewhat literally) arrival this morning at 2:25.

honor3

His name is Honor Daniel, and he measured in at 9 lbs. 1 oz. (one ounce smaller than Simon) and 22″ long.

So…big boy! Although, I feel like the above pic makes him look considerably heftier than he is.

Honor

{Or not; he looks like a giant here too}

honor1

{Nothing more attractive than a daddy loving on his baby}

So far, he’s a super-chill sweetheart, except for when you put him down. Ha! But even then, he just kind of bleats like a cute little sheep, so, of course, we pick him right back up again.

honor2

Sorry for the blurry pic. It’s hard to get in there for a decent shot with all of those little sister/cousin hands petting him.

I’ll share a detailed birth story when I’ve had more sleep, but I just wanted to thank all of you again for praying for me. His labor was hard, and I felt every one of those prayers as God was faithful to pull me through with each contraction.

And now…to sleep! (Maybe; feel free to pray for that too)

#nope

I know (because some of you have emailed me as much, you sweet things) that anyone coming to my blog today is hoping for any news except that…

I’m still pregnant.

41 weeks

{Here I am in all of my royal blue, big-bellied, 41 week & 5 days glory. Looking very large and in charge and awkwardly posed thanks to photo credit going to sweet Della}

But–le sigh–it is the whole truth and nothing but the truth. (Please help me, God).

think that I have now officially been pregnant for the longest amount of time in my considerable reproductive history.

Theo came 11 days late, but we passed up that mark yesterday.

Simon and Della were both 14 days late on the dot. BUT! The dates in my head (that I was pretty sure of) were different (later) than the sonograms, and so I think they were probably both “only” 9 days “late.” (Clearly, they both came in God’s timing, and both were perfectly healthy–if 3 pounds different in weight!!).

#babynumber7′s dates are spot on–in my head and on the sonogram (like to the day), which means that I am now 12 days overdue and counting…

How do I feel about this?

Still surprisingly chill.

As long as I don’t think too much about the fact that I may have to evict a 10 pound baby from my body with nothing more than willpower and zero abs, I feel fine. Definitely relying on the Lord for grace when the time does come.

So, mentally, I’m as good as a hugely pregnant lady is gonna be.

And physically, I’m good too. Not even that uncomfortable. Most of the time.

Although…

I finally gave up my fitness classes this week, but it was less to do with a physical inability to teach them and more about a weariness with being asked, “Is he STILL in there???!” every time I waddled in the door.

That said, after all of that talk I’ve done in the past few weeks about how grateful I am not to have had very many “warm-up” rounds to mess with my brain, I have been contracting at regular intervals ALL. WEEK. LONG. (which was definitely a contributing factor to deciding to get subs for my classes…contracting in the middle of a jump kick is no fun)…starting Monday afternoon and then continuing with intermittent fits and starts until, well, riiiiiiiight now (yup, just got a good squeeze).

There have been two nights that I thought, “Hmmm…if these stick, we’ll have a baby in–oh–20 hours.” (Insert eye roll at my suuuuh-low body). But most of the time, I’m just ignoring them completely.

There have been other signs of labor whose gory details I’ll spare you, but suffice it to say that, one morning, when one of them occurred, I was all: “WOOHOOO! I’m going into labor soon!!”

And then, I remembered that I was 41 weeks 3 days pregnant, so of course I’m going into labor soon (one way or another), and I felt distinctly like Cuzco in The Emperor’s New Groove when he throws his hooves in the air and hollers: “YAY! I’m a llama again…oh…wait.” #underwhelming

P.S. If you’ve never seen The Emperor’s New Groove, you must, at least once, for the character of Kronk alone (I mean, he does his own theme music).

ANYhoo, as much as it feels a bit like I’ve got my bags all packed for vacation (exciting) but don’t know when I get to leave (deflating), I’ve finally learned how to enjoy being overdue.

Ready for my I’m-over-a-week-overdue-and-I-don’t-even-care motto?

Carpe everything, man.

This is hardly my normal mantra, but when I’m about to have a baby, I have learned to say yes to pretty much any opportunity to do something a little different and fun–with my family, with friends, by myself…whatever.

So, the last two weeks have been full of much-needed house-cleaning and organizing, as many get-togethers with friends and family as possible, and at least 2 dates with my husband. To say that it’s been a productive and enjoyable first half of January would actually be an accurate statement–despite that I’m down to two pairs of pants that fit and have such bad round ligament pain that turning over in bed is literally a 10-point process (bend, flex, shift, roll, repeat).

craft rooom

{My amazing, servant-hearted sister-in-law came to my house 3 different days this week and cleaned my messy craft room–among other things. She’s theeeee best!}

With Simon and Della (my technically 2-week-late babies), I spent a good 3 weeks throwing myself one pity party after another that I wasn’t having a baby by the end of the day. Sure, I accomplished things–both practical and fun–but begrudgingly. As in: I’d rather be having a baby right now than on a rare date with my husband. Hmph.

No more, though. If Shaun and are I at the movies (something that usually happens once every 4 months at most), I’m thinking, “Don’t you dare come out before I see the end credits, baby boy!” If the girls and Theo and I are out junking and having a lunch date (as we were this afternoon–hence actually bothering to get dressed in that blue outfit above), then that’s what I want to be doing.

41 weeks1

{The weather here has been nuts; a week ago, it was 15 degrees. The other night, when Shaun and I went on a date to see Hidden Figures, it was so warm, that I wore this open-toed sandals + summer dress ditty and was practically sweating…and not just because I’m currently baking a human}

Being grateful for and engaged in the moment has drastically changed my mindset about being “overdue.” I don’t love the ever-expanding belly and uncertainty. But neither do I despise them. It just is what it is. And what it is is an incentive to be more intentional with my time–which will soon be sucked up (quite literally) by a precious little (hopefully) bundle of needy, newborn joy.

house progress

{We’ve made a ton of house progress lately too…sheetrock + wall texture are done-zo. We’re moving on to permanent power, A/C, cabinetry, trim, floors, doors, and such next. It’s pretty exciting stuff! So exciting, apparently, that ,even when Hannah–sister-in-law–and I loaded the van with tons of furniture and boxes to take over to the new house, it still didn’t send me into labor}

By the way, for those of you who are worried about my chillness because you’re sure this baby can’t possibly be safe in this-here-reluctant womb of mine, let me assure you that my midwife keeps a very close monitor on all things baby–especially during these last few weeks. I’ve had weekly appointments for over a month during which she checks all the things (except dilation, unless I ask, because–quite honestly–that means nothing).

And if this little guy isn’t here by Tuesday, I have a sono scheduled to do a complete bio-physical assessment and make sure that my amniotic fluid levels and placenta are good (I had to get those with Simon and Della too and was either in laborat the time or started it shortly thereafter). Other than that? The baby comes when he’s ready, and I am okay with that.

The Lord has just been so good to guard my heart and mind with his peace that passes all understanding in pretty much every area this pregnancy, but the one thing that does still make me nervous if I dwell on it is the labor itself. Every time I picture transition or pushing, I start to sweat. You would think that by your sixth labor, you wouldn’t dread it so, but I have been. At least until the last few days. By this point, though, I’m pretty much good with anytime he’s ready–even though I know it will hurt like the Dickens.

So, who knows? Maybe I’m the one who has been subconsciously holding us up. Whooooo knows…

As always I appreciate all of your assurances of prayer and kind words. It’s actually kind of amazing to know that I’m being upheld before the Lord by–not only my own family and friends–but a sisterhood of women around the world whom I’ve never met.

Y’all are the best!

And don’t worry. I will post as soon (within reason) as there is a baby. I’d want to know too.

Overdue Over Here

First things first: THANK YOU for your lovely responses to my earlier post this week. Y’all are too kind, and I am grateful for this online sisterhood.

Welp…

I’m just over here not having a baby, so I figured I’d check in with a bit o’ this and that, since it’s a lovely, sunshiney, crisp (15 degrees, that’s cold for us!) Saturday, and I should be cleaning, but…this is more fun?

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I’ve had a lot fewer “fake” labor sessions this time, and that remains true, for which I’m grateful.

But I did have one big tease on Wednesday night, when the contractions started rolling in around 6 PM (WHY must I always start labor at night??) and kept coming/worsening until around 3 AM, when they just…quit.

Thing is, I was actually pretty grateful that they tapered off because Theo woke up throwing up at midnight, and I was honestly trying to figure out how in the world to be in labor and hold a puking toddler. I was pretty much pleading with the Lord to pick a different night.

Thankfully, the contractions did, indeed, go away, and the bug was very short-lived (and thanks to grape juice + activated charcoal, nobody else got it…BEST DISCOVERY EVER).

Of course, then, the contractions sputtered back to life, so we took all of the kids to my super nice mama’s house. And then…the contractions quit. Nobody (least of all me) was surprised, but since we were kidless, and it was too late to get the kids again, we took the opportunity to grab dinner and a movie (LaLa Land…probably the most enjoyable/well done movie I’ve seen in at least a year).

Then, yesterday morning, I scored a last minute appointment with the masseuse that shares my midwife’s office (my midwife had been telling me I needed to get a “labor prep” massage with her if I went past 40 weeks, but I hadn’t actually expected to get the chance), and she did a number on all of my tight muscles. It was good/painful all at once. I have no idea if the massage will help me go into labor (supposedly, it could), but I did discover that she was 1 of 9 kids and that I had taught her brother (the oldest) Spanish at the tiny high school where I started fresh out of college. Cue: It’s a Small World. (Sorry).

So…as soon as I clean my house (again) and the kids and I make 5 more freezer meals today, I’m aaaaalll ready to go into labor.

Ha! As if that’s what the baby is waiting for.

Speaking of prepared, I’m finding it very funny what a cliched mama of many I am. With my first, I was suuuuper ready. Nursery! Check. Baby clothes! Check. Bassinet! Check. Diaper cream! Check. You name-the-random-probably-unnecessary-item. Check, check!!

More or less the same with my 2nd-4th/5th for various reasons (only the second kid, first girl…TWINS!).

But with Theo, I was considerably more lax.

And with this one?

Well, here’s what I got, folks.

ready

{I got the Moses basket from Amazon but from their warehouse section, so it was considerably cheaper than the list price, and the adorable otter is from my friend Theresa’s shop}

I figure if he’s clothed, diapered (how are their bums ever that small?), has a blankie to keep him warm, and a place to sleep…well, I’ve got the milk-makers, so we’re golden.

Clearly, I’m not that antsy about this kid’s arrival. I’m actually grateful for another day to prepare a little more and for the Lord’s peace in the process because it’s made me crazy in the past.

Speaking of crazy (you’ll see just how awkward this transition is in a sec), I mentioned in my “house deals” post a little while back that one of my biggest discoveries has been the clearance section of Wayfair.com.

WELL.

Perhaps the craziest of the crazy deals (see? awkward segue) I’ve scored have been 3 (!!) of these leather poufs that I’ve loved for ages but never been willing to shell out for.

I’ve gotten a tan one, seen here:

leather pouf

A deep, rich brown one (haven’t taken it out of the box yet other than to look it over, but it’s purdy)…

And this turquoise beauty.

leather pouf1

EACH of these poufs typically range from $130 (in certain colors) to crazy prices like $400 (for the exact same product…I don’t get it).

Well, I scored all 3 of mine for: $180!! (shipped).

How? Wayfair has them in stock all of the time, and they typically have several on major clearance. You just have to look for the little text below the listing that says something like: “Buy clearance items from: $_______.”

So! The tan and the brown were $60 and $65 respectively, and the turquoise? FORTY DOLLARS, y’all.

They’re all in perfect shape and seem very well made, and the only reason I can think for the constant supply of clearanced colors is that they are made from goat leather and come with a very peculiar smell attached to them. Like…it’s not pleasant. If you read the reviews, everyone acknowledges this, but most people say they air out after a while or respond to essential oils or other odor-ridding methods.

Because of our rental houses (and the funky smells that often accompany them once their occupants have vacated), we have an ozone machine, so I’m keeping my poufs stored in the garage until we move, at which point, I will shut them in a room with the ozone machine for a few hours (which removes pretty much any stank from any thang).

ANYway, I just thought I’d share that little nugget–just in case you, too, have liked the look of these poufs but been unwilling to pay the full price.

And now that I’ve spilled my bargain guts, don’t any of you go buying the emerald green one if it goes on major sale. I’ve got it in my sights!

Another fun find?

This Novogratz9 velvet tufted sofa . . novogratz sofa

I haven’t ordered it yet, but I’m seriously considering it for the girls’ playroom (kind of loving the idea of the pink version up against all of those teal butterflies in that wallpaper I bought).

It’s kind of small and ridiculously cheap (best price I’ve found is from Walmart–only $350!!), but the reviews are decent, and it folds down into a bed for extra sleep space, so…we’ll see. I’m not quite ready to bite the bullet, but I definitely have my eye on it.

I just need to sell off a few more household items we won’t be moving to pay for it. (Thank goodness for Facebook swap n’ shops).

Oh-so-fascinating side note: Lindsay’s brother is in film/commercials in L.A., and he recently got married there to a girl in advertising, who knows the Novogratz family (with whom I was only vaguely familiar but who are apparently well-known enough to have a furniture line) well enough that they insisted on her having the small wedding in their home.

So, yeah. My best friend has been to a wedding at the home of famous people. Which has nothing to do with me (except that she borrowed one of my dresses to wear, which means I was pretty much there, right?) but is still kind of a fun tidbit.

Aaaaand…what else?

Nope, I think I’ve rambled on long enough, and my children are acting hungry (imagine), so I supposed I’ll sign off with a Happy Weekend! 

If you feel led to pray for a speedy, painless (ahem) delivery very soon, I won’t object one bit!

In case you don’t love the stage you’re in…

First things first: no baby yet. 

Hmph. (Although, really, I’m not the least bit surprised).

Now that that’s out of the way…

I have now been a mother for 10 and 1/2 years–give or take–which, I realize, is a mere drop in the bucket for those of you with grown children. I value the advice of more seasoned mamas so much. It gives me hope. Direction. Motivation. Well, assuming it’s helpful and godly, I guess. (I’ve definitely gotten the, “Just wait ’til they’re teenagers. Get ready for hell on earth,” response before, which wasn’t terribly hopeful or motivating. Just to be clear, I’ve also been assured of just how delightful the teen years can be if you invest heavily in the early ones, and that DOES give me hope!).

So, I thought I’d share something I ran across when I was cleaning out my closet last week in a fit of nesting zeal. It was an old prayer diary/journal in which I pretty frankly outlined how much I didn’t enjoy being a mama to two little bitty kids.

Don’t get me wrong: I wasn’t proud of it. I knew my attitude should be softer, kinder, and gentler. But it was the year we finished building our current house, and the particular entry I was reading was a few months after we’d managed to move in but were still miles away from being “finished” (there are enough things that we could still tweak now–8 years later–that I’ve long since given up the concept of ever truly finishing a house to the point that it stays that way).

We built our house quickly (the actual construction only took 9 months with 95% of the work being done by Shaun or Shaun/his dad), but it meant that we saw very little of each other and spent pretty much every spare second doing something house-related or “real”-life-related (you know: the day job to pay the bills, the wiping of the bottoms, the grocery-shopping, etc.). We were tired. I was up by 5 most mornings because we lived with/rented from my parents while we built, and Shaun and I were sleeping in a 3rd story dormer while the boys were on the second floor. Simon–who was a baby at the time–was up dark and early like clockwork, and I did my best to scurry down as fast as possible to keep him from waking my parents or brother up. Sometimes, Shaun didn’t get home from working on the house until 9 PM, at which point he started programming or answering emails, usually falling into bed between 11 and 12 to start it all over again the next day.

It was definitely worth it for a short season, but I think that, even after we moved in, we still had a fair bit of catching up on rest and sanity to do. But Ezra was smack in the middle of the tantrum-filled 3′s, and Simon–well, Simon was delightful, but he was 20 months and into everything (especially the construction zone rooms full of supplies and unfinished floors). Plus–and I just realized this as I think about the timing–I was pregnant (and about to miscarry…not that I knew that).

I wrote in that journal about how I couldn’t wait for naptime. About how short-tempered and irritable I felt. About how little I liked Ezra’s personality at the moment (apparently, he was a bit on the needy, demanding, fussy, whiny, fit-throwing side…sound like any 3-year-olds you’ve ever met?).

And again, as I remember the first (and only) trimester of that pregnancy, I recall how hormonally “off” I felt. Have you ever experienced that skin-crawling, don’t-touch-me, leave-me-alone-for-the-love sensation? If you’re a mama (or an adult female), surely the answer is yes at least once.

Well, I remember feeling like that all of the time.

I might not have been the hugest fan of my toddler at the time, but I liked myself even less.

By the way, if you’re thinking: “Gee, Abbie. I’m not feeling too uplifted here,” I’m sorry.

I try to be as positive and honest as I can here without treading all over our family’s privacy. But this was not my finest (or happiest) moment of motherhood by any stretch.

And I think it may be easy, as you read about the good things that have happened to our family and see our smiling faces in Sunday photos on Instagram, to assume that I’ve never struggled with motherhood. It wouldn’t be true. And it wouldn’t be what I’ve admitted here many times over. But it’s still possible to infer from what’s missing (a daily rant about the 5 glasses in a row of spilled milk and how I lost it on the 3rd) that it never happens.

It does. Because my kids and I are both very human and sinful.

And the honest-to-goodness truth of November 2009 is that I did not enjoy motherhood very much. I even wrote about Shaun’s feeling a lot of the same things, which doesn’t surprise me, since the boys really were in a challenging stage (and very close together at only 18 months difference in age), his wife was grouchy and hormonal all of the time, and he still had mountains of house-building and lay work to do every single day.

Fast forward 7 years, and the honest-to-goodness truth is that I genuinely like all of my kids (as well as love them, of course; that never changes), and I enjoy being a mama.

Well, most of the time. Because there are definitely moments–like when a certain 4+-year-old had a major accident on the kitchen floor yesterday and did nothing to stop herself–that I not only do not enjoy my de facto position as cleaner-of-all-the-grossest-things, but my attitude about it is downright ugly.

I’m still a work in progress, and the Lord is still graciously peeling back layers of selfishness and expectations (that my kids “should” behave a certain way…that I “shouldn’t” have to deal with a particular setback anymore…that my husband “should” notice and appreciate what I do more) on a daily basis.

But I can see the progress. In my children, sure, but mostly in me.

Because what has changed the most between 7 years ago and now is not so much my circumstances as my mindset toward motherhood.

Yes, when the boys were both little, I was exhausted. Yes, while I was pregnant (with the one that I miscarried), I was especially short-tempered (less so with other pregnancies). Yes, my attitude improved when my circumstances changed.

But it was in the grappling with my own self-centeredness, in the crying out to God to create in me a clean heart, in the head-down, teeth-gritted, muttered-prayers enduring of fits and blowouts and late nights that my heart truly began to soften towards these little people he had entrusted to me–that I began to expect this kind of “nonsense” and then feel genuine thankfulness when it didn’t last forever.

It was when I began to have an inkling of what it means to rejoice in the Lord always, instead of simply resenting an inevitable “inconvenience,” that my outlook truly improved. (Still a lot of improvement to be had here). And that rejoicing only increased as my children grew, matured, and showed the fruits of the labor I’d put in.

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{If you’d told me when I only had two under two that one day those two plus their sister would cheerfully make 2 dozen freezer muffins for Baby Number 7, all on their lonesome, I don’t think would have believed it; praise God for perspective from “the other side”}

Since those baby years with my first two, there have other mothering “rough patches.” My miscarriage. Della’s six week nursing strike. Della’s yearlong bedtime strike. The entire process of training the boys to do chores when they were little. The twins’ pregnancy when I already had 3, ages 6 and under. The twins’ four-day-long labor. The twin’s first 12 weeks of life. The twin’s toddlerhood from age 2 1/2-4. (Ah, twins; what instruments of sanctification are thou).

But those periods are not what immediately pop to mind as I consider my decade of mothering. Instead, I remember the  joy of finding out that our 3rd child (who was our rainbow baby after my miscarriage) would be a daughter whom I would name Adelaide–a name I’d cherished since the first time I watched Anne of Avonlea at age 8. The fun of teaching Ezra to read (he’s a quick learner!). The fun of watching my oldest two–then 5 and 3–build their first snowman. That time the boys–who had wept and gnashed their teeth at the process of learning to fold clothes–looked up at me from a quickly dispatched pile and said, “Wow, Mama. That was easy. I like folding clothes!” The nerdy thrill I get when Ezra makes funny quips about being a “whittler on the roof,” as he diligently slices away at a stick while sitting on the (flat portion of the) roof of our new house. The twins’ excitement over meeting the new baby and the giant strides they have made in emotional maturity in the last few months. The sheer glee every person in this family feels when Theo first gets out of bed in the morning and does his signature bouncy run to his high chair, crowing, “Hung-eeeeey!” and grinning the whole way.

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{My cute little whittler…who is such a dreamboat of a young man after giving me a premature gray hair or two in his younger years}

So, what’s my point?

That, if you don’t love the phase you’re in, I get that. I’ve been there. I return there on a semi-regular basis. It’s the cyclical nature of motherhood (nay, life).

But our current circumstances don’t have to define us or determine our character. And hard is most definitely not the same thing as bad.

In fact, it may be the very thing that drives us closer to the heart of God, makes us more empathetic and aware of others’ suffering, and forges a deeper awareness of just how much the Maker of the Universe loves us to give us the exact struggle that we’re experiencing.

If you’re grappling with something hard right now (motherhood-related or not), hang in there, friend. God sees you. He hears your desperate, semi-coherent prayers at 3 AM for just one straight hour of uninterrupted sleep. He loves you more than you could ever fathom.

“We also rejoice in our sufferings,because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.” Romans 5:3-5

For I am confident of this, that He who began a good work in you will continue to perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.“ Phil. 1:6

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful.” Hebrews 10:23

Because: “He will sustain you to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God, who has called you into fellowship with His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, is faithful.“ 1 Corinthians 1:8-9.

Therefore: “Let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” Galatians 6:9

I could go on naming the promises of God, but I think you get the idea. He is good. He is faithful. He is patient. He is kind.

Even (especially) when we are not.

If there’s some way that I can pray for you, please don’t hesitate to email me at blogabbie{at}gmail{dot}com.

It would be my privilege.

I Like Wall Flowers

First up, I can’t miss the chance to wish #theodorbs a very happy second birthday today!

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I should just write a blog all about what a joy it is to be his mama, but it would no doubt be an extremely sappy one, especially with my pregnant, hormonal self in charge of the keyboard.

Suffice it to say that Theo is a delightful kid. Not all of the time, of course. Hints of the “terrific 2′s,” as Shaun called them the other night, are definitely starting to surface. But, as a rule, it would be hard to imagine a happier, more infectiously sunny kid. Aaaaand it doesn’t hurt that he’s still a wee bit Mama-obsessed, so I get all the best snuggles (I’m sure that will change almost instantaneously once #babynumber7 shows up).

ANYhoo, as much as I could just ramble on and on about his sweet, soft voice, the way he says, “Thank ‘ummmm,” and just how precious it is when he giggles into the palms of his hands, I’ll cut myself short and move on to, certainly not a worthier topic, but a less sentimental one.

And that would be: wallpaper.

I’ve loved wallpaper since before we built our first DIY house. But I’m actually pretty glad that Shaun talked me out of most of the options I was considering when we were first building because I don’t really think I knew who I was design-wise. (Definitely had to learn the hard way that I didn’t want most rooms in the downstairs to be a different color after I repainted, um, well, most of the rooms in the downstairs).

In fact, the only real wallpaper (that Winnie the Pooh border in Ezra’s nursery circa 2006 does not count) that I’ve ever hung is the Amy Butler wallpaper in the twins’ (now Theo’s…no I never did change anything; and no, he’s never seemed to mind) nursery.

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{Old wallpaper…meet the new girls in town}

I still love it more than 4 1/2 years later–an indication to me that I should now be allowed to use wallpaper in the new house, since I apparently know what I like (in this arena, anyway) and haven’t changed my mind about it 40 times.

Which! Is why I’ve been snapping up wallpaper deals anytime I run across them. The stuff is expensive, yo. But I’m happy to say that I have yet to pay more than $55 for a roll (that covers 70ish/sq. feet, so we’re talking $0.71/sq. foot). And most of the time, I’ve paid much less (like that time I scored the Petal Pusher wallpaper for $20!).

Strangely, most of my best scores have been from Anthropologie, which, while a prohibitively expensive place to shop 90% of the time, is a great source for hard-to-get stuff on clearance.

So, far, I’ve gotten:

1. Oh Joy! Petal Pusher wallpaper in gold for $20. wallpaper

I plan to use it behind the vanity in the girls’ shared bathroom.

2. The same design in black for $35 (also from Anthro on major clearance; it and the gold above are still available elsewhere for $140/roll).

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I’ll be putting that one behind the vanity in the main downstairs bath with moody teal cabinetry and brass accents.

3. This Peonies design (also from Anthro on sale for about $44…still available elsewhere for $198!!)

wallpaper2 It’ll go behind the vanity (sensing a theme?) of the downstairs guest half-bath.

4. This Acorus design from wallpaperdirect.com for $55 a roll. (Currently on sale for $41…grrr).

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It will go on one wall of the master closet and is SO much prettier in person. My sister-in-law saw it and said, “Well, if that just doesn’t scream Abbie!” with a big smile on her face. Ha! She knows me well.

And last but not least…

5. This Papillon wallpaper in teal from wallpaperdirect.com for $20/roll.

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This one was a really fun score because I’d been wanting to wallpaper one wall of the girls’ play room, but it’s vaulted, which means a lot of space to cover, which means lots of moolah. I’d pretty much given up that “dream,” until I stumbled upon this gorgeous butterfly wallpaper in ivory and teal for only $20/roll. That means that I can do the entire wall for less than $100!

And with that, you’re all updated on my wallpaper escapades for the moment, but I have one more I’m working on that you may just have to wait until I get it up on the walls for the big reveal. I know. Try to contain your excitement.

So, what do y’all think about wallpaper? I know a lot of people think it’s way too big of a commitment, and I get that. But I find myself willing/excited even to take the plunge on this one. Probably mostly because each one of these choices represents one accent wall in a room, instead of a huge, 4 wall kind of deal.

Any cheap/stylish wallpaper resources I’m missing? Happy to hear as always.

39 Week Pregnancy Check-In {Baby #7}

Hi there, guys!

I hope your Christmas was lovely and relaxing and rejuvenating. Mine was…mostly. But I must admit that, by the end of the actual day, I was pretty ready for it all to be over. The kids were hyper. I was ultra-tired. And everything just felt really loud and overwhelming (you know you’re worn out when the thought of getting off the couch to wipe your 4-year-old’s bottom is “overwhelming.” Amen?). Thankfully, the day AFTER Christmas was magic. Slow morning. Calm kids. Yummy leftovers. A nap!!! And then Shaun cooked steaks for dinner (he might or might not have started a grease fire on his first go-round, but the end result was delicious, and the house only smells marginally of flambeed butter after we aired it out for an hour or two).

I may do a more formal Christmas recap if I feel extra chatty this week, but for now, I thought I’d do a quick pregnancy check-in, since 1) I’ve done a HORRIBLE job of keeping up with these this pregnancy (I think my last “official” one was at 30 weeks) and 2) this pregnancy is almost done (I hope), and it’s kind of now or never.

And in the same classic “nobody actually asked me these, but I’ll answer them anyway” format that I’ve always used, here we gooooooo…

39 weeks

Hello there, #babynumber7. You have a whole lot of excited peeps just waiting to meet you!

How are you feeling?

Tired. Big. Achy. Tired.

Ha! Isn’t that how every 39-week-pregnant woman feels? But seriously, other than the normal creaks and twinges, I feel fine. Probably a liiiiiittle too normal for my liking, since it seems unlikely that this little guy is going to emerge any time soon. But then, we already knew that.

I’ve had a few more “real” contractions that will hiccup along for a half hour or so, but nothing to signify any real shift from my state of “ridiculously pregnant” to “ridiculously pregnant-with-impending-labor.”

I still don’t feel antsy, though. So, that’s good. I guess. We’ll see.

Still exercising?

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#pregnantgymselfie at aaaaaalmost 39 weeks? Check!

Yes, although there are definitely days that I think: “THAT’S IT! I’m getting subs for the rest of this pregnancy. That was PAINFUL.” But then, I feel fine, and it seems silly to get a sub when I’m clearly perfectly capable of teaching, and it gives me a chance to get some exercise and get out of the house. So, I go teach. And it’s “great” (at least as great as it’s going to be). It’s kind of confusing. I’m definitely taking it one week at a time.

I did quit teaching Grit at about 35 weeks, and that was a pretty big relief. High intensity ANYTHING (I mean, I still teach BODYCOMBAT, which is a mixed martial arts class that many would consider high intensity, but it’s still not the same) was starting to feel pretty rough on my ligaments, joints, and abs, so I pulled the plug on that around Thanksgiving.

Anything new to report?

The baby’s definitely head down, and he’s started doing this grrrrriiiinding thing against any bone he can connect with. It’s real fun. It basically feels like the end stages of labor but without any contractions or actual progress. Like I said. Fun.

Also, my legs/feet have been swelling like mad over the weekend–probably more than they ever have–but I think that was mostly due to too much hustling and not enough sleep (I might or might not have stayed up til the wee hours finishing sewing some aprons for the girls on Christmas Eve, which is when they really ballooned). Now that I’ve had a chance to rest with my feet up for a day or two and have been taking my magnesium supplements more regularly, the puffiness is still there, but under control.

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Anything you’re still hoping to get done before he comes?

Eh, I have some organization projects I wouldn’t mind banging out, and I could stand to thoroughly clean my room. But! I figure, even if my midwife has to deliver a baby in a less-than-pristine bedroom, if he surprised me by coming tonight, I wouldn’t complain.

I do have a fun girls’ dinner to go to tonight, courtesy of some sweet friends–hence my “fancy” outfit for these photos (I was giving it a trial try-on to make sure that everything fit and allowed for a) sitting comfort and b) proper food consumption and figured I’d have Simon snap a pic, since I don’t wear much other than p.j.s and workout clothes these days ;) ).

I was definitely hoping that he’d hold off for Christmas, and now that he has, Theo’s birthday + a Christmas get-together for my side of the family (both on Friday) are the only “momentous” events to complete before my schedule is pretty much clear.

Are you still eating healthy, nutritionally balanced meals that help support both yours and your baby’s growth and well-being?

Ha! I think we ALL know nobody asked this. But Y’ALL! I have eaten SO bad for the last week. I’m not an over-eater in general and especially not now when I fill up suuuuper fast. But chocolate has been my very close companion of late, and if it’s sounds good, I eat at least a little bit of it. I just can’t seem to make myself care anymore. Which…when I think about this baby’s potentially not coming for another 3 weeks, it’s a bit of a scary prospect since a) I’d rather not deliver an 11 pound baby naturally (or otherwise), and b) gaining 10 pounds of baby weight in the home stretch would just be silly. Get a grip, girl!

Any clue about this baby’s personality?

Other than wiggly, I don’t know for sure. But I guess I would also say “reactive.” I don’t *think* I’ve ever had another baby in utero that responded so definitively to any kind of external stimuli. If I sit a certain way, and he doesn’t like it, he lets me know! (See above about “grinding”). If the midwife puts the heart rate monitor on my stomach, his heartbeat changes instantly. If I move, he moves. Not gonna lie. I’m a little worried that he’s going to be a restless sleeper, but I am definitely hoping/praying/trusting the Lord for the best.

All around, even though pregnancy is not my favorite, and this one, in particular, has had more pain and irritations than most of my others, I’m super thankful that the Lord has allowed me to carry another healthy baby to full term with zero complications and–honestly–no real reason for complaints. He is so good!

To say that I’m excited to meet this little dude would pretty much be the world’s biggest understatement at the moment. To say that I don’t want to do labor at all would be a bit of an understatement as well. And, yes, I realize those two are at odds with each other.

Ce la pregnant vie. 

What about y’all? Pregnant homies? Non-pregnant ones? How was Christmas?

Christmas House Pics + Rambling

This year, I surprised myself by getting almost all of my Christmas decorations up before December 1. That has to be some kind of record for me. Not actually posting about it until the week of Christmas? Yeah, that’s more like it.

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For the past two years, I really feel like we’ve nailed this whole celebrating Christmas thing (in its most frivolous form, anyway). We’ve started early and taken our time, listening to oodles of carols, making cookies at least once a week, decorating gingerbread houses with friends, trolling the local neighborhoods for the best lights with hot chocolate in hand, even getting our craft on (still have a little PTSD after making 9 {!!!} handmade dolls last year).

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But this year has been a whirlwind. And I can’t even pinpoint why. Truly. I keep looking back over the last 3 weeks trying to locate the source of the time-warp it feels like we’ve all fallen into…without any success. We’ve done a lot of the things that I mentioned, but it still doesn’t feel like we should be anywhere close to Christmas day.

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Of course I know (and fully endorse) that Christmas has absolutely nothing to do with how much sugar you consume or how many times you watch It’s a Wonderful Life (we haven’t managed it yet this year). But I still love the slower pace the season seems to bring (especially considering that we don’t attend many parties or brave the shopping crowds practically ever; oh, how I love thee, Amazon Prime).

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And so, I find myself clinging to every last moment of this week, cherishing each moment of family togetherness (I’m currently sitting on the couch, weathering #babynumber7′s knees and elbows to the ribs as I watch Evy, Nola, and Theo wallow all over Shaun on the other couch and feeling very contented).

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I’m not even that desperate yet for this baby to come out.

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{Please tell me that you are shaking your head at the travesty that is my smudgy mirror. I snapped these shots with the last remnants of light on an already cloudy day and decided I didn’t have time to spare for cleaning it first; I would love to say it’s clean now, but…it’s not}

Which…is interesting because, two years ago, when I was pregnant with Theo, I had to force myself to strike a balance between enjoying the moment and wishing they would all just speed along a little more so I could meet my baby boy (and, let’s be real, not be pregnant anymore).

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Maybe it’s just that he was due two weeks earlier, and I was already “overdue” on December 20th (by two days), instead of “only” 38 weeks, but I just haven’t been as worried about when this little guy will show up.

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Partly, that’s due (hmmm…bad choice of words) to the fact that I’ve had considerably fewer Braxton Hicks “scares” this time around. If I remember correctly (no guarantees of that), I’d already had 3 rounds of, “Holy cow, this kid is coming. What the what??!” plus almost constant contracting that I just ignored as a general bad habit of my over-active (teasingly so) uterus by this point with Theo.

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This time, I’ve only had one incident of: “Um…what is going on?” at 36ish weeks, while Shaun and I were enjoying a fancy 7 course dinner we got to attend because Paint and Prose sponsored the paper goods for the event (that was fun and yummy). And I definitely wasn’t ready for him to make his entrance before the two-toned chocolate mousse came (not to mention more serious concerns about having a baby so early), so I was happy when that round of weird contractions quit after an hour and 1/2.

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ANYhoo, suffice it to say that, this time, I’ll be happy to enjoy Christmas day with a big ol’ belly to rest my plate of pie on. Once New Year’s rolls around, though…I bet you’ll hear me singing a different tune. Strangely, the chiller I feel about this kid coming in his own time, the more I almost *worry* that he’ll show up early and catch me unawares. Because my birth kit’s not ordered yet, and I have no clue where the bassinet is.

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Obviously, not THAT worried.

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{Kind of in love with my rosemary Christmas mini tree with sparkly lights + a pretty gold pot from ProFlowers; it makes the whole kitchen smell delicious}

In any case, regardless of when this little dude decides to make his entrance, I’m grateful for this last week of Advent to focus on the wonder of Christ’s birth, to read more books with the twins, to enjoy more snuggles with Theo (we have a joke that whoever gets the privilege of receiving a Theo snuggle–because he is just cuddliest little bundle of chubby, firm little toddler limbs and soft skin–is “winning”), and to finally get a craft or two made with the big kids.

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I think we may attempt snow globes as gifts for the cousins.

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{The stockings were hung from the stair rail with, um, thumb tacks; there’s a reason they don’t write Christmas poems about houses like ours}

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{See? The light was officially GONE!}

I’ll let you know how that goes. I expect there might be a glitter explosion and a hot glue burn or three, but at least we can say that we tried.

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{Nothing says Christmas like a giant cow skull festooned with fake poinsettias and ornaments}

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{A “toolbox” full of ornaments for the breakfast nook, and…done!}

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{Because I know you were just dying for a collage recap}

So, what about you guys? Anything you’re trying to squeeze in before Sunday? Did this month fly by for you too?

If I’m not back before Sunday, here’s wishing you a week full of peace, joy, and the love of Jesus, the Savior of the world!

My Best New House Scores

Just like the last time we built, Shaun’s and my roles are pretty clearly split between a) designer (me), and b) builder (him). Well, I should clarify that he plays a HUGE role in the designing of the actual house, since we design our own blueprints from scratch, but when it comes to finishes, lights, flooring, etc., it’s mostly me. He actually has a great design eye, and I definitely consult his opinion on most decisions, but he also gives me mostly free rein because he knows that I’ll a) research the tar out of every decision and b) find the absolute best deal available. It’s like a treasure hunt for me, and, while it can get tedious, the satisfaction I get from knowing that I made a decision that we’ll all enjoy (hopefully) and saved our family oodles of money is pretty rewarding.

9 years ago, before Pinterest and the true rise of the online response to the DIY movement, almost all of my research and deal-finding involved a whole lot of hoofing it–to Lowe’s, Bruce’s Bargain Barn (yes, an actual place…basically a glorified junkyard full of home improvement store cast-offs at usually great prices), Hobby Lobby, Home Depot, and the like. I found some ah-mazing deals (like the time we bought out the entire end-of-year clearance aisle at Lowe’s–$7,000 worth of merchandise–for $500, then turned around and sold a few of the items we scored to recoup our money, thus giving us free: lighting, flooring, tile, and more). But it was a lot of hours of hauling two little boys from place to place and doing fun things like schlepping carpet home in the back of my dad’s lurching pick-up truck in torrential rain.

This time, although I’ve done my fair share of store visiting, the vast majority of purchases have been online. And, while I never pay very much for anything–in store or on the internet–a couple of deals have been too killer not to share.

So, I mentioned briefly here that we did eventually make it to Charleston, SC, after our initial attempt was foiled by the hurricane, but I never did blog about it. I meant to. I edited the pictures and everything. But it just didn’t happen (let me know if you’d still like me to or if that ship has sailed).

It’s worth mentioning, though, that I scored this first find while in Charleston, and it made the trip that much sweeter.

1. I’ve loved this Oh Joy Petal Pushers wallpaper in gold for forever, but I’ve never been willing to pay $148 for one roll of wallpaper. Imagine my delight, then, when I stumbled upon one–and only one–roll of it in the clearance section at Anthropologie in Charleston. Even with an extra 40% off promotion, it was going to cost $60, so imagine my even greater delight when I got it to the checkout, and it rang up for…$20 {!!!} I refrained from squealing in the cashier’s face…but only just.

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I think my face says it all.

So, what am I going to do with it? Glad you asked. The plan is to put it behind the vanity wall in the girls’ bathroom, which is peerrrrrfect because I’m shooting for a girly, flowery but still sophisticated vibe in there. Plus! I was waffling back and forth on splurging on a pretty floral tile in that space, since it’s a small amount of square footage, and this little roll of golden goodness totally closed that book for me…and saved me a fair bit of moolah.

2. I’ve also always loved the look of “x-stools” (my name for them). But, at an average of $200 a pop, I’ve never even considered them seriously. Until I stumbled upon this Tally Ottoman in Wayfair’s clearance section (online).

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Cost? $40. (They still have some in stock for $60ish, which is also a good deal). I bought two for the end of the guest bed–the perfect solution, since there won’t be a footboard, and I wanted somewhere for my guests to be able to sling their jackets or sit to put on shoes.

3. I love these long-armed sconces, but they can be surprisingly pricey. Even the meh-reviewed ones from random Chinese stores on Amazon are at least $60.

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It goes without saying, then, that I was pretty thrilled when I scored 3 of the ones above for $24 each–in the online clearance section of All Modern’s website (which is a sister company to Wayfair and Joss and Main and carries many of the same items). They were originally $120! I plan to Rub ‘n Buff them with brass and use them over the kitchen sink, but if that doesn’t work out (the arms might be too long), I have several other places I can use them throughout the house.

4. I stalked these Rowan bar stools from Grandin Road for months, y’all. They were originally $200 but had been marked down to $80 each. Which is already a great price for a sturdy, large, all wood bar stool. But! Each stool came with a $20 shipping surcharge, bumping the price up to $100 per, and we needed several. I just couldn’t quite bring myself to pull that trigger. At least not until Grandin Road (which is also where I bought the lights over my kitchen island) ran a Free Shipping + 25% off special around Black Friday, which waived the surcharge and dropped the price to $60 each SHIPPED (no tax).

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I absolutely love these stools. They are even prettier in person, which we know because we unpacked one to test it out in our current kitchen. They are wide and stable and great for kids (with the high backs and the NON-swiveling aspect…I will never buy another swiveling stool). Sadly, they sold out before I could share them with you, but I managed to snag as many as I needed before they did (or maybe I bought the last ones they had…who knows?), so I was a pretty happy camper.

5. This sink was another one that I had my eye on for a while. It had high reviews for design/appearance but mixed reviews for durability (it tended to chip), so I was a little hesitant. But I wanted it for a laundry room sink (so no pans clunking around in there), and the price–which fluctuates between just under to just over $100–couldn’t be beaten for a white sink with this look, quality, and size (it’s 33″ wide). I finally pulled the trigger, praying that mine would show up without any flaws, and it did! And it’s beautiful!

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My mom was there when it arrived, and she couldn’t believe it wasn’t a $200-$300 sink at least.

6. I included this Anthro rug when I did my master bathroom mock-up a few months back…

anthro rug

…but I never intended to actually buy it, since it was pretty ridiculously priced. But then, it went on sale with an extra 40% off. And I decided to go for it. It still wasn’t cheap, but I had been finding so many good deals that I decided that I would splurge on this one thing. But you know what? It sold out AS I was checking out. At first, I was bummed. But then, I did a little research and found this beauty from RugsUSA.

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It’s different, obviously, but it has the same vibe, and costs–get this–1/5 of of the price of the other rug. In fact, I scored ALL off the rugs below from RugsUSA on their Black Friday sale and knocked out pretty much all of our remaining rug needs (we’re not doing any carpet) in the new house for LESS than I would have paid for that one Anthro rug!!! Note to self: splurging is almost never worth it.

P.S. While this rug is still a reasonable price, I paid literally half of what they’re currently asking for the 4X6, so I really did score a pretty amazing deal.

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(You can just see the floral one I bought peeking through on the top right there. It’s much prettier in person; and you can see a baby bump peeking in at the bottom of the frame. Not sure it’s any prettier in person, but I’m excited to meet the tiny human that’s causing it).

7. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention another “on the ground” purchase that pretty much made my Tuesday last week.

bench

I spotted this 11 and A HALF foot solid wood church pew on a Facebook swap n’ shop and couldn’t believe it hadn’t been snagged already. Because? It was only $100!!! That’s a whole lot of pretty wood for 100 greenbacks. So, I woke Shaun up, told him the happy news, and he basically looked at me like this. bench1

Notice that his expression did not change AFTER we (and by we, I mean he) rearranged all of the seats in the van, and then we loaded all of the kids up and drove 20 minutes in the rain to haul it home.

No, but seriously, he thought it was a pretty cool score too (I think), and, being the stellar husband he is, humored his crazy, pregnant wife with grace and patience.

So, what am I going to do with a giant church pew? Well, optimistically, it will be a bench for a dining room table that Shaun builds, but if that doesn’t work out, I’ll definitely find a place for it on our front porch.

Aaaaand…there you have it! 7 of my giddiest deal-scoring moments during this house-building process.

Just in case you’re looking for tips on how to do the same, I think I’ve probably already spilled all of the beans, but:

1) Check local Facebook swap ‘n shops regularly. Way better than Craigslist (or actually leaving your house to go garage-saling) and rife with amazing deals.

2) Shop the online sales weekends. Black Friday was definitely a good one, but most of the stores I mentioned run very similar sales during most other “holiday” weekends.

3) I didn’t mention any specific deals from Overstock.com, but I’ve bought all of our faucets + a lot of our lighting there because–once you start ordering from them, they regularly send you percentage off coupons (at once point, I got a 20% off coupon, which applied to my entire order, so that was pretty sweet). PLUS! If you sign up for Club O Gold ($19.95/year), they give you 5% back (which you can then use on a future purchase). If you’re a casual buyer, it might not be worth it, but if you’re making multiple purchases for a house build or renovation, then the 5% back adds up very quickly…especially considering that their prices on the faucets I bought (brand: Kingston Brass) were almost always the cheapest on the internet (not true of all of their items, but definitely true in this case).

4) Type the word “clearance” into Wayfair or All Modern’s search bar to get a list of awesome (and not-so-awesome) deals. There’s quite a bit of junk, but I’ve scored fans, lighting, and home decor for pennies on the dollar because, when the deals are good, they’re really good!

Or! If you’re looking at a specific item, be sure to check for the small print below the main description that says something like, “Buy clearance items from: $_______.” That link will take you to cheaper versions of the exact same item. It SAYS that they are returned/open box items, but all of mine have been shipped to me undamaged in the original packaging.

If you’re interested in $10 off your order to any of these stores, you can send me your email address (blogabbie{at}gmail{dot}com) and I’ll send you a share code (I get $10 too), but, really, I just wanted to share this find because it’s been a surprisingly helpful one to me and one that I had no clue about before I started all of this research.

So, what about you guys? Any bargains you’ve scored lately that you’d like to brag about? Any brilliant, money-saving tips you have for me? I’d love to hear both!

The Ultimate Amazon Gift Guide {Christmas 2016}: Under $100

Alrighty, guys!

I’m back for my last installment of this year’s Amazon gift guide. This time, I’ve rounded up a group of items that–hopefully–will at least jog your thoughts for those bigger gifts that you still have to buy. Some are practical. Some are pretty. Some are both.

So, here we go!

under100 collage

1.

I can’t think of a better gift that you could give anyone than God’s Word. And a great option for long drives or listening at night before bed or…really any other time you can listen but can’t read…is this set of audio cds. I realize that technology has advanced far beyond the common cd, and yet, I still find it most convenient to have a hard copy I can pop into a player (especially in the car). This would be a great gift for someone “old school” like me.

2.

Along the same lines, I mentioned that we were doing the “something you wear/read/want/need” for our kids again this year, and, for the boys, who have oooooodles of hard copy books to read, I’ve opted for audiobooks that we can listen to on our daily trek to and from the gym in the car. We already have the stellar BBC version of entire Chronicles of Narnia series, but I’m really tempted to get this one too, since it’s done slightly differently (the “narrator” is taken out and put down as the actual thoughts of the characters–a liberty which the reviews say actually works well) and includes a different voice for each character (the BBC version is read by one person per book).

I haven’t pulled the trigger on Narnia yet, but I did get this audiobook on Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and I’m considering these Father Gilbert Mysteries (although, the fact that the reviews–which are excellent!–warn that some of the material is too serious for younger listeners has me thinking I should wait).

This is another one of those where, if wholesome audiobooks intrigue you but you don’t love the sound of any of these, all you have to do is scroll to the bottom of the listings, and they have several more suggestions by the same company (all are produced by Focus on the Family Radio Theatre. All are supposed to be superbly done).

3.

I haven’t included hardly any gifts for men on these lists, but this leather + canvas backpack, which holds a 15″ laptop, would make a great guy gift. Or girl gift. I’d certainly carry it too!

4.

I love essential oils! I’m not really that “oily,” as they say–meaning that I don’t consistently start my day by rubbing specific blends on my body–but I am a believer in their medicinal qualities. I have been known to oil myself or my kids up for everything from colds to rashes to fevers and more. Sadly, my diffuser broke months ago, and I didn’t replace it until recently, but this option is considerably more stylish than the one that I found and would make a great gift for an oil-lover in your life.

5.

I just bought one of these Instax Mini 8 cameras as a gift for the whole family. Not only do I think my kids will have an absolute blast taking pictures of–well, let’s be honest–walls and empty toilet paper rolls, but I have a VERY practical/self-serving use in mind. It’s probably 89% of the reason I bought it. We sponsor several children through various organizations, and I DREAD writing them letters for one simple reason: printing pictures. The letter-writing part is easy! But having to go to a store and print pictures gives me mild hives (yes, I know it’s ridiculous, but it’s also true). And yet, I know that they love receiving those pictures, so I’m over-the-moon excited about the prospect of instantmini snaps we can include in our sponsor letters! Woot!

6.

One thing I hope to do in the new house is have a rolling garment rack in the master closet on which I can set out clothes for the week. I’m hoping it will help me get dressed in “real” clothes every day and utilize my entire wardrobe (or, at least, highlight the items that never get worn, so I can weed them out). We’ll probably make our own DIY pipe version, but if you or someone you know is on the hunt for something similar that’s cute and reasonably priced, then this one should definitely be in the running. It comes in bronze (shown; the other options are cheaper), black, and white.

7.

If you’ve got a lover of nostalgia in your life, I can’t think of a much cuter gift than these Crosley record players. They come in a variety of punchy colors and have generally good reviews (although, they’re not known for amazing speaker quality).

8.

I love these cable knit poufs. I’ve been on the hunt for one for the nursery in the new house for a while, and I think this one just may be what I choose. It comes in TONS of color options, has good reviews (for the most part), and is the best price I’ve found outside of a major sale (Prime shipping too!).

9.

Another fun home trend is these sheepskin rugs. I already got one for the nursery, but it would also work great as a thrown across a chair or in any small space that needs a bit of cozy texture.

10.

Have a basic sewer in your life? I can personally attest to the fact that this is a great, lightweight, cute (!) starter machine. It has fabulous reviews and is really reasonably priced for all of the features that you get. I got the same machine for about $40 less for Della on a Black Friday sale, but it was also refurbished (haven’t had any issues). So far, we’ve only experimented with the most basic of functions, but it’s a great little machine!

11.

I know, I know. A toothbrush? Really, Abbie? But seriously. I got one of these as a gift for Shaun a couple of Christmasses ago, and he LOVES it!

12.

If you read my review of our Amazon Echo, then you already know that I’m a fan. And that hasn’t changed. We use our “Alexa” on a daily basis for entertainment (mostly music + a few games), education, and practical things (like shopping lists, setting timers, and ordering cat food and toothpaste from Amazon). Well, the Echo Dot lets you do all of those same things…but at a much lower price point. As far as I understand, the main difference is in the speaker quality (the full-sized Alexa’s speaker is rather impressive). If that doesn’t bother you, then this miniature version would make a great gift for the multi-tasking techie in your life (or even, as I noted in the review, the non-techie–AKA: me).

And…we’re done!

Hopefully, all three of these guides (or, again, any of the ones in the past, which still have plenty of options that are still available) have been helpful for you. We’ll be back to our regular, non gift-guide program next week, but–in the meantime–happy shopping!