Sunday, June 15, 2014


Our 3 month old beauty. I'm so behind on catching up with Annabel's little life!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Real quick...

A few pics for family/friends who aren't on Instagram and are wondering if Annabel is in fact a real child that we have brought home from the hospital! Ugh I hate that I haven't caught up yet on the blog but sleep deprivation wins. 

Fresh from the womb with Dr. G!...

And just yesterday... In the last two days Annabel has decided that she knows who we are and gives us the biggest smiles and sweetest happy noises when we talk to her. 6 weeks is pretty magical... 

Sunday, April 6, 2014

We will get there...

Coming soon: Annabel's birth story!

(how in the world am I ever going to keep up with this blog with 4 children...)

Monday, March 24, 2014

She's here!

Annabel Rose was delivered on Saturday morning, March 22, at 9:24am. She weighs 7 lbs even, and is 20 inches long. We are all healthy, recovering and happy.

We have so much to be thankful for, but we are flat out exhausted. I look forward to recording and sharing some of the details of Annabel's birth with you... When I'm better rested. 

Thank you for your prayers and suppoet!


Friday, February 28, 2014

And then my baby tried to claw her way out...

 I now see my OB every week (on Thursdays), and a high risk doctor for a high level ultrasound on Tuesdays. Seeing the OB weekly at this point in the pregnancy is standard; the ultrasounds are a precaution to keep an eye on the little one and make sure she doesn't have any more heart decels or cord issues. This week on Tuesday was my second high risk ultrasound and our daughter checked out beautifully, and quickly! She practiced her breathing, had a perfect heart rate, responded well to nudges through the belly by moving around, had great bloodflow through her umbilical cord, and the cord was still in the same unthreatening position as it was the week before. As a bonus, the technician was the same woman who did my ultrasound last week and could tell me (because she remembered me) that the baby had changed position a little bit - shifted from the right side of my belly to the left - and had dropped a little lower in the head down position. I was happy to hear that she thought the baby was starting to drop, because her movements are starting to take my breath away and be very uncomfortable and even painful at times. But I'll take it in the name of progress.

My regular OB appointment yesterday was... lively. And I have to write it out so that I remember the details, because - 4th baby.

I headed into the appointment with a week's worth of thoughts and questions about how we should approach the delivery of this baby. Backstory: Robbie was a natural birth, Ellie was a C-section (she was breech), and Maddie was a VBAC that went very well but had to be helped along with breaking my water and doses of pitocin. I switched OB practices after Maddie's birth once we knew we wanted to try for a 4th baby, because my favorite doctor of the 8 or so that practiced with the last group left to practice elsewhere. The new OB I chose for this current pregnancy, Dr. G., is so so wonderful. Many of my friends see him and I've watched him handle routine births as well as tough situations, medical emergencies, and loss in ways that are highly impressive. He's also a one-man practice so you always see him at appointments, and his office is located within the hospital so he rarely misses a birth. All good.

Dr. G. isn't a fan of using pitocin with VBACs though, and that's all I have known with all of my natural deliveries. With the other little hiccups we've had with the pregnancy, I was beginning to question whether we shouldn't just schedule a C-section for the delivery of this baby in a few weeks, even though it's not my preference. I was anxious to talk it all through with him and see what his medical advice would be.

While I was waiting to be called back, I had a strong pain develop at the base of my stomach on the right side. I tried to relieve it by changing positions, rubbing it, drinking water, relaxing, breathing... but nothing was working. It wasn't a contraction but the kind of steady sharp pain (round ligament, I assumed) that makes your eyes water, and after sitting there with it for 5-10 minutes the nurse called my name and took one look at my face and asked "Are you alright!?". I assured her yes, just typical pregnancy pain, and she helped me slowly get up and shuffle back to the exam room. She looked at my chart and mentioned that she didn't think Dr. G. would need to 'check' me today (internal exam to evaluate any progress towards labor), and I explained to her that I actually hoped that he would check me, in order to have as much information as possible as we discuss how I might anticipate delivering the baby in a few weeks. So she laid out the paper cover, left while I got undressed and situated, and then came back and hooked me up to the monitor to observe the baby's heart rate (standard for my appointments now). The pain I'd been feeling had subsided to a manageable level by now, and I sat on the monitor for a while.

Dr. G came in a little later, said hello, looked at the monitor readout and was satisfied, and said he didn't think he felt the need to do an internal exam today. I explained that I wanted to discuss delivery methods and the pro's and con's of scheduling a repeat C-section, and that an internal exam at this point might be helpful to add to the information I'm working with. He agreed, and we discussed at length my options. In summary, he is strongly in favor of me trying to attempt another VBAC. He thinks it will be uncomplicated (as best as he can foresee, of course), that I have a good history of natural births, and that if my labor did stall, he's not completely opposed to using a little pitocin if necessary. What a relief! The answer seemed clear - I no longer felt that a C-section was the best option for us at this point, and put those thoughts to rest.

Then he started the internal exam. They're always pretty, um, uncomfortable... but this one went on for longer than usual and it was all I could do not to crawl up the table (and I might have yelled at one point). When he finished, he had this odd look on his face, and said "Well, now we have a different situation! Your baby seems to be breech." I could not believe it - "Are you serious!?" I said to him, "Just two days ago the ultrasound showed her to be head down and starting to drop more...".

Dr. G says to me, "I could not feel her head, and I was reaching pretty far, as you know... but something grabbed my hand. I think she tried to grab on to me." I started laughing and thought he was joking, but he assured me that he wasn't joking at all, that he definitely felt our baby's hand during the exam! He also said that I'm softening and dilated to 1 cm (last week I was 'a little soft and totally closed'). So, progress.

He then spent the next few minutes scaring me with a lecture on what to do if my water spontaneously breaks while she is in this position... that I am to get in my car and drive straight to the hospital, don't wait for anything, don't even bother calling 911 because in this situation they would BE TOO SLOW, etc. He explained why - if my water breaks and the baby's breech, the cord could come through the birth canal and present a dangerous situation for the baby. Then he asked me to follow him across the hall for an ultrasound so that we could determine exactly what position the baby was in and get a better look at things.

He did the ultrasound himself, and within a minute or so was able to tell me that the baby was actually still head down, just not sitting very low. And then he pressed the ultrasound wand right where I had been having such intense pain while I waited in the waiting room for my appointment, and said "Look at that!". Our daughter had her arm stretched out and her hand was above her head, right between her head and the lowest part of my abdomen. What a little stinker. That nearly debilitating pain was her hand reaching out!

A sigh of relief. Dr. G and I laughed at the turn of events, and he said "Ok, forget the complications we just talked about related to her being breech - she's head down and we are back to our original plan of waiting for labor and attempting another VBAC!" I asked him if she could still change position between now and 40 weeks, and he said it's definitely possible (and then told me a story about a baby literally turning from being head down during labor as the mom was dilated to 6cm, to being breech and having to be delivered via emergency C-section, so anything's possible!). So we will continue to check in on the baby twice a week just as we have been, and pray that she stays head down!

I felt like I needed a nap after that appointment - I went from concerned about her birth, to at peace with the idea of a VBAC and totally confident that I could wait for labor to happen naturally and deliver her that way without complications, to concerned that she was breech and that I'd have to make sure at any point in time I could get myself to the hospital should something happen, and then back to relieved that she's in a head down position... and even laughing at our girl for her spunk. When I walked down the hall and past the front desk, the nurses were all laughing with me and cracking jokes about how my baby is trying to climb out of my womb, she's so ready to be born!

This pregnancy has been far from what I 'expected' it to be when we first discovered we were pregnant. I have dealt with more sickness in the last 8 months than I typically do in the span of a few years. When I'm pregnant I'm usually healthier than usual, so this has been a totally different experience (food poisoning, strep, sinus infections, pneumonia, colds, stomach flu...!). I knew I would probably have a harder time for the last 2 months or so of the pregnancy simply because the last month or two of my pregnancy with Maddie was difficult to endure. I contracted a lot, had a lot of pain, and needed extra help with the kids. But aside from the physical discomfort I've had, I've needed bedrest, and to keep a closer eye on this 4th babe with a few extra doctor's appointments. I've needed a lot more help than I ever dreamed I would, more help than I would say I am comfortable with.

After this last experience at the OB, I've resigned to submitting to whatever these last few weeks hold. I'm giving up trying to predict how things will play out, I'm letting go of hoping for a certain outcome or bracing myself for disappointment... I'm reminded that I've always been asked by the Lord to hold this baby, this pregnancy, this process with an open hand. To accept whatever might come along the way and trust Him with it. It's hard to do, moment by moment! I'm human and I have preferences. At times, strong preferences. :) But I hope and pray that He is refining me every day that I carry this baby, that He is using each unique circumstance for His glory and our ultimate good, which is to be made more like Christ.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Pack it up!

In celebration of hitting this milestone on Tuesday...!


I always love reading what other women pack in their hospital bags when they are anticipating the delivery of their babies. Here are a few things I'm taking with me. And yes, I've already packed my bags. :)

My Hospital Bag
(*this is of course not an exhaustive list... I'm an over packer.)

center: a weekender bag
clockwise from top left corner: 
- baby briefcase (for paperwork)
- S Factor leave-in spray
- blum facial wipes
- fresh sugar lip balm
- gifts for Robbie, Ellie and Maddie... "from the baby", & small thank you gifts for attending nurses
- iHome clock / music player (synchs with iPhone to stream music)
- gum & snacks (to sneak during or after labor)
- lightweight striped bathrobe 
- slippers
- Camelbak waterbottle
- iPhone
- going home outfit (maternity yoga pants, zip up track jacket and tank top
- laptop

The Baby's Necessities

center: petunia pickle bottom diaper bag (well-loved by now!)
clockwise from top center:
- Aiden & Anais Bamboo Dream Blanket
- Chicco car seat
- GumDrops pacifiers
- Aiden & Anais bamboo swaddle blankets
- nail clippers
- emery boards
- Earth Mama Angel Baby Natural Nipple Butter for nursing
- Baby Gap booties, mitts and knotted cap

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Matters of the heart.

Well, we celebrated the day of love... The next night Rob and I went out to dinner and to a hotel nearby for a rare overnight away from the kids. And by sunrise the next morning (Sunday) I got a text from the sitter saying two of our kids were throwing up. 

After nursing them for a few hours, with Rob sharing the duties with me, it seemed the worst was over and I went upstairs to lay down. It didn't take long to realize I was probably next on the list to get sick, and so I called my mom who promptly came over just as it started around 6pm. She drove me to the hospital where I knew I would land sooner or later anyways (vomiting = dehydration = contractions = monitoring). As I made my way to triage, suddenly (frighteningly) unable to breathe well, I had to walk through a group of no less than 20 couples on a hospital tour of Labor & Delivery, women all sporting swollen bellies and the menfolk trying to avoid looking at me as I walked right between them all. If I hadn't felt like death I would have laughed so hard. I was quite a miserable sight. 

A thousand questions, monitors hooked up, IV's started, zofran administered, blood drawn, a quick check to see if labor was starting (no) and an hour or two went by all while I held my eyes shut tight, just trying to endure the miserable minutes until the stomach bug left me alone. My dr popped his head in (I think? Or maybe just talked to the nurses and they relayed his directives to me?) and I was told I'd be moved to a room to continue treatment and monitoring - most likely overnight. My sweet mom, staying with me and not at all anxious to leave my side, slept on the couch in the hospital room with me and helped me pass the long hours by rubbing my hands, feet, head, anything to bring me comfort. Feeding me ice chips. I am so thankful for her, especially when rob and I have to be separated at times like this, when the kids need one of their parents caring for them and we can't be together. 

At some point the pain was great enough that I asked for something to take the edge off. Coupled with the zofran, it allowed me about 2 hours of relief to rest. But sleep was impossible, and by the time it wore off in the wee hours of Monday morning, I had the new sensation of having a heart attack which was disturbing. Pepcid was given through my iv, which had by now pumped 3 or 4 bags of fluid into my dehydrated body, and at some point I was allowed another dose of pain medicine, which actually allowed me to sleep for a few hours. 

The entire time, the baby was being monitored. And while I was acutely sick (first 24 hrs or so) her variations in heart rate were watched but somewhat expected. As I hydrated and recovered from the illness, temperature came down, and all contractions slowed, it became apparent that our baby girl was still having dips in her heart rate that could not be linked to anything in particular (they would happen when I was resting, or asleep, and long after contractions had ceased). 

So instead of heading home Monday, they kept me hooked up to the monitors to keep an eye on our girl. Through the night Monday / into Tuesday, she had a few more dips in her heart rate and that settled it for my Dr... I would need an evaluation by the high risk dr. First thing Tuesday morning I had a very thorough ultrasound that showed good news (healthy girl! Developed palate, perfect heart with 4 steady chambers, great practice-breathing in the womb, plenty of amniotic fluid, good bloodflow through the umbilical cord, great measurements for her gestation and estimated to weigh over 5lbs) and slightly concerning news (the cord may be getting compressed by its position around the baby, which could be causing her heart rate to dip... But that's not for certain, just a best guess). 

I left the ultrasound both thankful and relieved, but with a new set of concerns. With nothing major to point to that is wrong or underdeveloped, we are left wondering what might be causing the dips in her heart rate... Unsure of whether this is cause for concern or not a huge deal. More unknowns than answers and a really big, grey area to bounce around in. 

We are left in the difficult position of wondering what is best for our girl. Without knowing how to find the perfect answer for ourselves - trying to ask the right questions, refusing to give in to fear, asking The Lord to give wisdom and discernment - to us but also to our drs as they provide care specifically for our daughter in her particular situation. 

For now we plan to see the OB weekly (for monitoring) and the high risk dr weekly (for ultrasounds). Tomorrow begins the conversation of what the risks are for the baby and what our options are. What the dr thinks is best... What we are most comfortable with... What is safest for this sweet babe whom we already love...


And yet I re-read the last post I wrote and let my own words wash over my heart in a new way. We will not fear. We will not attempt to control God's hand. And yet we will do everything we can to call on Him, ask for His wisdom and leading, trust Him in all things at all times, and make the best choices that we can with what we know. We will keep walking by faith. 

I will refuse to let the secrecy of my womb scare me, the darkness that seems to hide my daughter from me. 

Darkness is as light to him... And He loves her more than we ever will. She is in His hands, where she always has been. And we are, too. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wake up, sleeper.

Maddie has been under the weather lately. Her cold virus that just won't go away came on the heels of our decision to stop napping her during the day, as bedtime was greatly affected on the days that she did nap {as in, she was up partying in The Big Bed long after we had tucked ourselves in}. But now, this cold virus is draining all her energy, and although I will not lay her down in her bed, I permit her to doze off in the car, and fall asleep in the playroom durning "rest time" (above). The more activity going on around her as she falls asleep, the better (to her). She never fusses or whines either, just dozes off. 

I feel a lot like Maddie, currently. There's a lot going on around me, and I'm distracted by much of it and feel like I'm falling asleep at the (parenting/marriage/friendship) wheel. I retreat into myself a fair amount, whether it's obvious or not from the outside. 

Mentally I can't keep anything straight. I forget what day it is while at the same time am acutely aware of my gestational countdown. It's nearly impossible to focus on anything other than how and when I might go into labor, and how in the world I'm going to be able to know the difference between non-progressive contractions and active labor. I loathe one of two scenarios playing out: being sent home from triage repeatedly (false alarms), or laboring too long and missing my epidural window (horror of horrors, am I right?). I also can't concentrate on much of anything for very long. My thoughts wander, or I'll have a contraction, and just like that my train of thought is interrupted and all focus is lost. 

This is actually welcomed sometimes... I spend a good chunk of time every day (off and on) dreaming about the baby we are about to have... What her delivery will be like, those sweet first hours of getting to know her and comparing her to our other 3 babies, the visitors in the hospital - I love love love all of it. So much. But lately I've noticed that fear is creeping into my daydreams. "What if..." (Fill in the blank with any number of scenarios that are unexpected and unpleasant or worrisome.) As soon as these thoughts crop up I try to take them captive and make them obedient to Christ. Because they have no place in my mind and they are robbing me of joy and peace. I've seen plenty of friends walk through the "what if-s" of my mind and here's the truth of the matter: nothing could have been done to avoid it (God is in control), He has promised to use all things for His glory and our good, if we love Him (God is sovereign), and He will never ever leave or forsake me (God is faithful and good). He holds all time in His hands, including the future. He has already been in my delivery room. He sees and is intimately involved in the forming of my daughter who currently resides in my womb. Darkness to me is like light to Him. There are no hidden places. When I walk into my delivery room, whatever day that might be, He is not surprised. Nor is he unaware or standing in the corner with His hands tied. This is both a great comfort to surrender to, and the hardest thing to come to terms with (at times, esp heartbreaking ones). 

The truth is, we just can't know or control the future but it's a waste of time to fear it. We can only resolve to know Who has ordained all things, who lovingly cares for us in our deepest need and darkest hours, and trust that He will be there to lead us through whatever waters we might face in the future. Basically, that He really does love us and He really is good. 

And so I am determined to choose hope and joy as I anticipate the unknown. I will remind myself to breathe deeply instead of holding my breath. I will try to use and enjoy the days I have left before The Big Day, instead of just trying to survive them by means of distraction. 

This is really living, wide awake. 

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Acutely aware...

I realized this week that I am acutely aware...

...of how good God is to have created a world with variety and vast beauty. How delicious cherries and chocolate are together, the way the changing seasons are beautiful and each full of wonder, and yet leave us always looking forward to the turning of the next one. And with each additional inch {or foot} of snow, I can choose to bemoan the inevitable winter days we have yet ahead of us, or I can ponder how the snowflakes that continue to fall speak God's glory and Lordship over all of creation as they each remain perfectly unique. Such a wonder. 

...of how quickly my little ones are growing up. Him, in his size 6 pants that even so won't fit much longer and looking just like his daddy in button down shirts for school. Her, with her stubborn tantrums making less frequent appearances and her love of helping, pleasing, and growing independence. The littlest, happy to exclaim "I got it!" when anyone tries to assist her. The way her strawberry curls are beginning to graze her back. Her quick mind and able hands. 

...of how small they still are, and how much they really do need me. The way laying with him soothes and comforts him at night, and how often he still comes up to me throughout the day just to lay a cheek on my arm or offer a quick affectionate kiss. The way she prefers for me to tuck her in and will only sit by me at dinner. The comfort my littlest finds on my lap, shallow as it may currently be, and the way her lip quivers when I try to explain that I am no longer able to carry her down the stairs in the early morning hours (I might cave once in a while). The way my kisses have magic healing powers and bandaids can only be rightly applied by me. 

...of how every season of life can be viewed  in two ways. Loathed or savored. And my ability to choose gratitude and positivity and hope is directly related to my time spent with The Lord, through studying His Word and prayer. When I find myself rushing through or wishing away the hours or days, it's because I'm in pursuit of something I've fabricated in my mind or placed above Him. Today is the gift. He made today, the way it's supposed to be with depth and richness and perfectly tailored lessons and provisions that I'd be a fool to miss or refuse to accept. 

...of my inadequacies. 

...of the gift of family, friendship and health. 

...of how warm and safe our home is. 

...of how fleeting the time I have to enjoy reading books again is. 

...that one of the sweetest moments of my life is quickly approaching. That there will be an hour in a day not too long from now that I will look at my child for the first time. I will name her and embrace her and life will never be the same. 

...that God has given me so much grace in places I used to feel completely inadequate or fearful. I've grown in my knowlege and love for Him and in the process have replaced worry with Truth. 

Tonight I'm thankful for this new clarity. 

Monday, February 3, 2014


Just hit the 33-weeks mark. So thankful and starting to see the light at the end of the {bedrest} tunnel. One more week of critical resting to get to 34 weeks. Three more weeks (to get to 36 weeks) until the doctor wouldn't stop labor. And every week beyond that is bonus! WE CAN DO THIS. 

Taking time as I am able to have one on one time with each of my sweeties. 

2nd trip to L&D during week 32 to check on a truckload of contractions and pain. Sent home with the assurance that more measures are not needed to stop contractions because they're not progressing labor at this point! Thankfully escaped the dreaded one-two punch (iv and turbutaline shot). And got to know the sweetest nurse that morning, too. 

Nightly bubble baths are the envy of a certain 2 yr old. Most of the time I let her join me. How could I not?! I mean, that sweet face... Baby girl just wants to be with her mama and I love it. 

Cold viruses are making their way through each of us, making us even lazier than bedrest and the polar vortex were. Lots of naps and movies because why not. 

We have help for at least a chunk of each day right now, and the kids especially love when it's their beloved Mima. Nobody loves you quite like your Mima loves you. 

The girls are all about being little mommies. I think Ellie's ready for the Ergo... She's got the cutest little maternal streak and is very nurturing towards her dolls, maddie and my belly (as she talks about her new sister inside).

Growing independence... I relocated their kids' dishes to a low cabinet where they can access everything they need at mealtime. And lo and behold, Robbie has started to make their lunches on his own occasionally. I LOVE THIS. 

Snow in the bathtub. Open to any and all ideas for making frigid stuck-inside days pass by a little quicker! This was a good one. 

Digging up old toys from the basement to freshen up creativity. All 3 kids love the art easel and it's such a low-mess activity. Everybody wins!
(This is a picture Ellie drew of me, with a question mark on my belly "because we don't know what the baby is going to look like, mom!")

Lots of stuffing dolls under shirts around here. Big sister rite of passage, no?!

Well, I guess one day I let him play in the dry bath tub with toys in his pjs. I am winning at parenting. {this is pathetic to me for some reason... Like either let the kid actually take a normal bath or entertain him conventionally if he's fully clothed, I don't know...}

Back in the day (haha). 

Miss maddie is such a pottying champ. Literally taught herself. Asks to take off her diaper to go in the potty if we have her in one. Uses the perfect amount of TP. Is mortified by accidents. So dutiful, this one. Bless the third child. 

She would babysit him if we let her. Ellie's always had a soft spot for baby Jacob! It's the cutest. HE'S the cutest. I can't blame her. 

I have the best friends. For real. Sweet Liz sent this to me the day she took my kids and hers to Frozen (with her mom). SHE TOOK ALL THREE OF MY KIDS TO THE MOVIES. So I could rest. Who does that?! She does. SHE DOES. So many jewels on this ones crown in heaven, I'm telling you. 

In addition to precious friends, The Lord has totally provided me with fantastic babysitters for this time that I desperately need help. Today our sitter sent me this pic of the girls at ballet. Nothing makes a mama more grateful than to see her kids taken care of and well loved when she can't be the one to do it.

And new sweet friends who keep your 5 yr old boy entertained one afternoon with warm pretzels and rock climbing! 

Pre-bedrest, when I planned to aggressively walk each day. Ha. HAHAHA. That's seriously what I get for trying to exercise while pregnant. The next two days were the beginning of all these contractions and bedrest. But walking that day with friends sure was fun!

Friday, January 31, 2014

Loud and clear.

Yesterday was a long, hard day. By the end of it, I was exhausted, in a lot of pain, and very discouraged. My body doesn't have a history of enjoying the last 8 weeks of pregnancy. It is challenging to discipline yourself to take one day at a time (sometimes it's better to take just an hour at a time) and not look too far ahead. Yesterday I made the mistake of wondering out loud how I was going to make it through the next 6-8 weeks, with the level of pain I was feeling (hardly able to walk or get off the couch, many contractions, tired from broken nights of uncomfortable sleep, Etc). I had a good cry, made an ice pack, took a hot bath, and had a few bites of froyo before heading to bed. 

This morning I woke up with the same discomfort as yesterday. At 4am. I decided to just start the day and took a shower. And here I sit, at the table with my Bible study, reading about the way God led the Israelites through the wilderness. This message was written for me, today. 

God is Jehovah Jireh - our provider. He gave the Israelites His presence in the form of a cloud to direct the people and to protect them from their enemies. 

Exodus 14:19-20...
"But Moses said to the people, "Don't be afraid. Stand firm and see the Lord's salvation. He will provide for you today; for the Egyptians you see today, you will never see again. The Lord will fight for you; you must be quiet."

Other translations have the last part of those verses as saying "you need only to be still." 

Ok. So here I am, trying to fight my own battles. Discouraged by the ways I feel stuck. This winter (in combination with bedrest) is starting to feel like a very real wilderness, trapping the kids and I inside of the house with no signs of spring or the hope that February won't drag on. All I want to do (in all honesty) is fast forward the next 4 weeks and find myself in March. I love those days that seem to fly by in moments of productivity and activity and all the fun, sweet memories that are made at the same time. But those days for me ground to a halt 2 weeks ago, and now I'm forced to accept a slower pace, a more intense awareness of just how many minutes are in an hour, and how many hours there really are in the day. It's a little crazy-making. 

And yet this morning, God is saying to me "Know that I'm The Lord your God, Ashley! I will fight for you. I will protect you and provide for you. All you need to do is be still."

I have a hard time in general being still. I chose stillness for the better part of the last year when I woke early to spend an hour or two with God in the quietest part of my day. But the rest of the hours in those days were FULL! and FAST! and DEMANDING! And most of them flew by. Now I feel as if The Lord has a firm hand on my shoulder, pushing me down. If I won't learn this lesson on my own, He will use other means to accomplish His will in my life. He will use the natural parts of my life - being a mother, carrying a child - to refine me. He will use contractions and pain and discouragement to get my attention, break down the harder parts of my heart, and open my eyes to the fearfully wonderful things He has yet for me to learn about Him. Who He is. What He's done for the people He loves. A better way of living this life He has given me to live. 

I need only to be still. 

The purpose of being still, according to Psalm 46:10? To know that He is God. 

The next verses my study references are Psalm 139:1-6... And it talks about how The Lord hems me in, behind and before, just like The Lord provided for the Israelites as they wandered in the desert. "What a precious glimpse at the tender heart of the Father, who went beyond His children's need for direction and protection to fill their emotional need for a perpetual light in the dark of night." (Beth Moore)

These are the very same verses I have penned on the small chalkboard in our foyer, written last summer. Hemmed in, indeed. I could not feel more surrounded by Him this morning, and what a humbling position that is for this undeserving daughter. 

Ok, Lord. Not my will but Yours. I'm surrendering today, and the next 2 months in particular, to you. Have your way; it's higher than mine. And give me the grace to accept it and find joy in the submission. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

Just write.

I told my Best that the other day I sat down to write something meaningful here, and it came out rambling garbly-gook. I told her it was so frustrating and I didn't know how to say what I wanted to say. She said write anyways. She said sometimes people don't care if it makes sense or sounds beautiful, they just want to know your heart and hear your voice.

So here I am, willing to offer what I have presently to give, even if I can't make sense of it yet or communicate eloquently. A few incomplete thoughts and a peek into what God is up to in our lives. I decided that it's much easier to make a list than try to write a whole post that hangs together. Will you accept a list that doesn't even have a title!?

1. Bedrest lessons learned / physical update.

Bedrest has been an interesting teacher. It's a very difficult thing to embrace (personally). I went from nesting at 90 mph to smacking up against a brick wall and being told to sit and do nothing. And even when I DID that, my insides were still churning and planning. What I've found is that even if I am outwardly still, the mind and heart and spirit still have a very strong affect on the body. I could have been laying in bed all night, or sitting in the tub for an hour, and still have a cluster of contractions that were most likely caused by things like hearing the kids fighting downstairs under someone else's care, or worrying about what is still left on the to-do list. Sometimes I realized that I tense my stomach muscles when I'm feeling anxious or if the environment I'm in is stimulating or loud. I've learned to be aware of how I'm carrying myself inside, physically. How to take full, deep breaths and release muscles that I didn't realize I was clenching. To slow my pace - mentally and physically. Walk with one goal in mind - not to get somewhere fast, but to get somewhere without having a contraction.

On the heels of these lessons, I'm thankful to say that after 6 solid days of bedrest following my stay in L&D, I had a regular OB appointment and the baby was looking healthy and happy. I wasn't having as many contractions; I was averaging 1-2 per hour at rest, and 5-6 when I would get up (as opposed to the 6-8 per hour I had when I landed in the hospital). The doctor wasn't thrilled with 1-2 per hour being my 'new normal' and said 5-6 at this point in an hour is reason to head back in for monitoring. But overall he was ok with the overall picture and the direction things seemed to be going, and sent me out the door with permission to slowly add a little bit of activity back into my days, unless they increased the contractions.

I still have help just about every day, between my mom or a babysitter. I prioritize the hardest parts of the day and try to have help then. Our plan is for me to keep taking it as easy as I can and have extra help on hand so that we hopefully minimize the chances of early labor. Just 4 more weeks until I hit 36 weeks! Then I think we will be able to relax a little more about bedrest and contraction counting.

Between the Polar Vortex bringing sub-zero temperatures and extra days off school, and my bedrest situation, it's safe to say that we feel as if we are hibernating and it's making us all a little crazy. I keep trying to explain things to the kids as they unfold, in terms they can understand. So I have said that we can't have the baby if there's snow on the ground, but at this point it feels like Spring might never come! Also, Robbie knows more about what a contraction is, what its purpose is, and how to time one than most husbands. He'll see me pull my phone out (to time one) and say casually, 'another contraction mom?', or 'is your belly gettin' tight?'. It cracks me up every time, and usually leads to more conversation or questions about the baby, delivery, or pregnancy in general. I apologize in advance for any awkward conversations or moments this may lead to.

2. The baby.

It's been hard to feel like I can write or share a whole lot about this baby, and that's left me feeling very conflicted. I have friends who are currently struggling with infertility on many levels. I've watched a dear friend's heart and life shatter after having a stillborn baby at 32 weeks, and the depth of that grief is still present nearly a year later. I've honestly felt thankful and guilty at the same time to be carrying our 4th healthy baby. Most of the time the guilt has trumped the gratefulness, and the consequence has been fear.

I've irrationally feared losing this baby since the day I found out about her. A definite case of 'why should I have another healthy baby when this isn't the way it has played out / is playing out for others?'. I've had a hard time celebrating her life, for fear of rubbing salt into the wounds of others. I don't speak or write about her much, for this reason. I haven't found a balance, and I wish I knew how to walk this fine line gracefully.

We are so, so excited to meet our daughter. We are beyond grateful for her life and the health God has blessed her with so far. And I am letting myself dream about her birth and who she will be without wondering about how long she will be with us. God is writing her story, and her days are numbered (as all of ours are). If they are in the single digits or if she outlives us, I will humbly accept whatever God sees as best - for her and for us. I will thank Him for the beautiful gift of her life, and do my best to hold His gift loosely. I can't control the outcome by worrying or fearing the worst. And I can't make anyone else's pain less simply by entering into it personally in a way that matches theirs. That's really what it comes down to - wanting to take that pain away and never, ever being someone who adds to it. All I can do is trust that God is in control (because He is), and be with Him each day. Walk the road He's set before me, with faith. And enjoy the blessings He gives to us along the way - not minimize them.

3. Finding your voice/purpose vs. listening to/seeking God's.

I find it fascinating the way The Lord is teaching us all something different at the same time. Sometimes we can identify with others in the way our faith is being built up, and sometimes it feels like no one understands or identifies with you. For the better part of the last year, I've felt God raising up the same theme over and over again in my heart. "Listen to MY voice. Seek ME. Make much of ME. Humble yourself, be willing to be quiet. Don't undervalue faithfulness and obedience or trade it for outward posturing that is empty. Listen. Pay attention. Reach out to the vulnerable. Love every day, even if it's in seemingly small ways."

I keep coming back to these thoughts, whether I'm reading through a new book by a Christian author, or doing my Bible study, or spending time in prayer. I keep sensing this theme as being what God wants to teach me now, setting a foundation for the rest of the life I will live.

I've noticed that this phase of life that my girlfriends and I are in? It can be a little bit of a point of crisis. There's nothing like being a young mother raising a family and entering/exiting the babymaking-and-birthing process over and over to leave you wrung out and wondering what your purpose is. Especially when your days are made up of monotonous routine chores like running the dishwasher, laundry, driving kids to school, making dinner, bedtime routines... the spontaneity of life is replaced with curiosity over who will throw up next or run a fever in the night. We give every part of ourselves to birthing and raising our kids, until we are unrecognizable even to ourselves. Sometimes it leaves us wanting more.

I can see how this affects so many women I know. There are searches for purpose, for meaningful 'work' or causes to get involved with. There are hopes and dreams of doing something 'big' someday and maybe starting that process now. There's a lot of general discontent and restlessness. It's not all bad or wrong, but I'm noticing that some of it comes from a place of discontentment - with who we are in Christ and what He calls us to.

And yet I feel God's call to remain small. And by small, I mean humble. Aware of who I am in relation to Him. Understanding that His voice is more important than mine. His ways are above mine - mine, which change every day and with every new circumstance or challenge. I feel His call to seek Him first, to spend time with Him most, to love Him the deepest. To allow myself to be totally consumed with and by Him.

When I am in His presence, anything I might do or say feels like the small potatoes that it really is. Yes, God can use us in powerful ways. But our human nature can cause us to desire to be used for our own satisfaction or glory, and limits our ability to find contentment and peace and satisfaction in Him alone - by simply being with Him! We think have to DO for Him, SAY things for Him, prove success by writing a book or having something concrete to point to that validates who we are. I'm struck by the thought of living a quiet life in Christ that is powerful simply because HE is so thick in it, because He's become the only source of life and breath and the single desire of my heart. That He is what pours out of me, out of my mouth and heart, constantly, in every situation. Not because I'm the one holding Him out alongside whatever else I'm invisibly pursuing or trying to accomplish or grasp. But because He really has captivated me and worshipping Him is all that matters.

As much as I love to read the next new book or blog by great authors and speakers, I've gotten a little tired of people making much of themselves when it belittles The Lord himself. I want more of Him. I want to be encouraged to pursue Him to the degree that I find myself lost in Him - dying to myself and my selfish desires. I want to be encouraged to set myself aside, set aside the desire for the comfort that comes with feeling like I have a platform or mission that is clearly defined. I want to be encouraged to be who God has made me to be, in the place He has me in right now. And if that seems 'small'? To be OK with others seeing that as small or insignificant but not letting it steal my joy, or my faithful daily obedience. I want to love and serve my little family well, and encourage a knowledge of the Lord that grows into deep love among us. I want to love and serve those around me well. I want to have an eye open for the vulnerable, and be willing to serve in small ways with great love. And most of the time? I want it to go unnoticed. I want to be free from the desire for self-validation that comes from other people. I don't want to write a book for the sake of writing a book, or blog for the sake of blogging. I certainly don't want to lead a small group for the sake of being the leader, or get involved in a specific ministry so that I can hang my hat on it and check the box and feel like I'm proving my worth or pleasing others. I pray that nothing I chose to do, nothing I open my mouth to say, not a thought in my mind elevates me above The Lord Himself, replacing His will with mine, speaking out of my limited perspective for my own glory when I should be listening to His voice and letting Him speak through me.

And sometimes that's why I'm quiet on the blog. :)

4. Things that make me weep.

I saw this picture on twitter the other day, while I was getting my hair done.

It was said that this girl is an Iraqi orphan who was missing her mom, and so she drew her mother in chalk on the ground and fell asleep inside the drawing, leaving her shoes outside the magic space.

I literally could not help the tears that immediately welled up and spilled over, and had to distract myself with something totally mindless in order to pull it together and compose myself. This breaks me open for a hundred reasons. The mere thought of it is enough to bring me to tears each time. I'll admit my first response was "give me this little girl and let me love her. I will raise her". I've since researched the photo, wondering about the origin of it and found mixed reports of it's validity. Someone claiming to be the photographer (the little girl's cousin) says that the girl was just playing outside and fell asleep - that she's not an orphan and the story isn't what it seems.

Regardless of who this particular girl is and what her story is, this picture is still a representation of many orphans around the world who do desperately miss their mothers, or have never known the love of a parent. The response this picture evokes in our hearts is what matters most, I think. The way this image masterfully displays the heartache and loss that is felt by a small child who has lost his or her parent(s)... it will stick with me forever.

5. The ways God has blessed us.

I've been overcome with a deep sense of gratitude lately, for the ways God cares for us. He has come to me so gently through the things we are walking through, providing for our needs and reminding us that He is with us. One of the things I struggle with most is fear or anxiety that I won't be able to care for our family adequately. I struggle with inadequacy issues in general, and so it's no surprise that bedrest stirred up those old familiar feelings of "how in the world am I going to manage this / pull this of?". I've learned that the first step is always bringing my concerns to The Lord, telling Him why I'm afraid or what my need is, and asking Him to provide for me. The next step is trusting that He will, or that He has purpose in the struggle.

Since my little stay at the hospital, I've hired 3 new babysitters. I already had one or two that come over occasionally (and are awesome), but their limited availability was leaving me feeling vulnerable the other days of the week, especially if I was going to need help on a daily basis. God provided 3 more women to watch my kids when I need extra help - through a friend and through one of my current sitters - and I now have someone I can call every day of the week for the hours that Rob is at work. In addition, my mom has been so helpful and present - coming over nearly every day to help me with the kids and the house, encouraging me to rest, driving little ones to school, etc. And then there are my friends... sweet women who have brought us dinner, sent emails and texts of encouragement, checking in on us... one who took all 3 of my kids to a matinee of Frozen in the theater so that I'd have a quiet afternoon! Just above and beyond love and care from every side.

I feel my anxiety over inadequacy melting, not because I feel more able right now than I have in the past when I've faced challenges. But because I am learning that we need each other. I really CAN'T do this alone... I'm totally inadequate to raise these kids (with Rob) and be pregnant and have another baby and manage this life well on my own. I need The Lord, and I need others. When I allow God to direct my steps, and I let go and follow Him... when I allow friends to step in and serve, to help me with what I think is mine to manage... I can be OK with my limitations. I can allow my plans to fall apart or the way I like things done to fall by the wayside. I can open myself up to Someone bigger, to something better than living life out of my own sufficiency and strength. It's a new way of understanding and embracing community, and it's a new level of humility. It's a stretch, and it's uncomfortable. But I'm going there and praying God uses it to do a work in my heart that has yet to be done. I know it is building a greater compassion inside of me, and a more beautiful picture of the way God desires us to live with one another.

And now I'm hitting publish before I edit these thoughts or think twice about sharing them! Here's to a new week of growing to love Him more... wherever we are, whatever we are facing.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Bed rest update & more.

Hello Dear Ones,
I'm writing this little update for you because so many of you care for us and have asked how things are going - and the easiest way to catch you up all at once is to come here. :)

Today will be bed rest day 4. We made it through the weekend without incident and it actually went really well... Rob was home the whole time (even yesterday since MLK Jr is a holiday his office observes). If you want to know what a hard-working husband looks like, stop by our house. Similar to the way he made me look bad when I was in London, our home this morning has never looked cleaner or more picked up! I'm not sure he sat down the entire time, and we even found ways to keep up on his daily runs when kids were gone or napping or someone else was here with me. I'm exhausted FOR him.

Since Friday I have paid very close attention to the signals my body is sending, and have used an app on my phone to track contractions. Bed rest is doing the trick - when I'm faithfully parked on the couch, I have gotten down to one contraction every hour (by yesterday afternoon the pattern was like clockwork, almost to the minute, if you can believe it). When I get up to grab food, or do something else for more than a brief amount of time, they pick right back up and I have a cluster of them. It depends on how long I stay on my feet, how much energy I exert, how quickly I walk around, and how calm or tense I am in general while I'm up, but regardless... they start to come more frequently and the longer I stay up and about, the harder it is to slow them down. So...

Our plan this week is for me to continue to rest as much as possible. We don't want to push it, obviously. I really don't want to land back in the hospital and endure more contraction-stopping techniques. My mom is coming over each day early in the morning and staying until Rob comes home from work so that I have a lot of help with the kids. And I have my next OB appointment on Thursday morning.

I feel good about the plan for the week, and where I am physically at this point. Bed rest is really awkward, and feels indulgent and also maddening at first. But as I've given it my best try and noticed how much it helps, it's easier to accept. Knowing that it's helping provide a safe environment for the baby to continue to grow and develop in is something I have to consciously remember.

Bed rest is a very interesting teacher. It has forced me to come face to face with the natural instincts I have at this time, since many of them conflict with what I NEED to do (rest). The instinct to take care of myself, to take care of the 3 kids under our care and under our noses, the instinct to reach out and care for others/my friends who have needs, the instinct to continue to be involved in ministry and in my son's classroom, the instinct to keep up with commitments I've made and relationships that are important to me that I love to develop by spending time... all of these things are pretty much coming to a grinding halt. It's hard to say 'no', or 'I can't right now', or 'this isn't what I thought would be happening yet'. It's humbling to have to scale back, to refuse to worry about what others think or how they will respond, to accept all the help you need when you're in this position, and to not feel guilty.

I had felt that strong urge to get my house in order, to nest and to take care of some things that needed tending to before the end of this pregnancy. And I was able to get most of it done just before last Friday, for which I'm so thankful. This process is always so fascinating to me, but one of the most frustrating parts that I've repeatedly found is how preoccupied I get with the pregnancy and impending birth and the months afterwards, throughout the last trimester. I think it's natural, and the way God wired us as women. When you're the one carrying the baby, there's a very strong natural instinct to prepare for this little one. Not just physically but mentally, and also within your family, schedule, etc. Maybe it's just me, being wired to forever be a 'planner'. But my thoughts are consumed for now with thoughts of the daughter we will meet and fold into our family. Thoughts about what her birth story will be, dreams about what she will look like and who she will favor as far as personality and quirks go, if she'll have the same milk allergy as her sisters... Thoughts about how in the world I will juggle the end of the school year with a newborn (HA, let me warn you, it's going to look messy). Thoughts about whether or not I'll ever be able to do a sit up or wear a bathing suit again (HAHA).

It's frustrating to know that these consuming thoughts are keeping me from being more thoughtful about other things. At first it's an unconscious shift. But now, I'm fully aware of how little I'm thinking about and doing for others. That feels uncomfortable. And with bed rest smacking me in the face with the complete inability to actually DO anything for others (much less myself) I have just surrendered to this place that I find myself in. I'm trusting that it's the way God designed it to be. For the care of the unborn baby, for the good of our family, for my own sake even...

So please don't feel badly if I don't respond or interact in the usual ways for a little while. I don't ever mean to be rude, but I am realizing how it might come across as such. The gradual pulling-inward that is happening is meant to stabilize and protect the vulnerable places and people I'm responsible for. :) I have felt so deeply appreciative of the love and care so many of you have shown me and my family lately, that it brings me to tears often. To be cared for when you have no hope of reciprocation is very powerful and deeply encouraging. Thank you so much!


Fun Facts About Bed Rest & the Pregnancy so far:

Currently reading: The Book Thief & Reconstructing Amelia
Currently studying: A Woman's Heart: God's Dwelling Place (this session's bible study)
Currently entertaining myself by: becoming an expert Rainbow Loomer. I'm not especially proud of this fact. My kids suddenly have dozens of bracelets. I know which color bands are weaker on the loom, are more prone to breakage, and when they do snap I have gotten really good at weaving a new band back into the most intricate loom patterns. If you have a new bed rest hobby, I'm desperate for suggestions.
Currently eating: not a whole lot. Suddenly the appetite is nonexistent & food doesn't taste as good - that's probably for the best since I can't get up and grab whatever I want whenever I want it! My coffee is back to tasting funky again, too. This has to be the coolest part about observing the natural cadence of pregnancy - I don't need a lot of calories at this point but I do need a lot of water - and that's what I end up with for most of the day. (And if you know me, you know I hate water.)
Currently watching: Downton Abby & The Blacklist. Thank goodness for new episodes. Although 2 hours of TV each week is about all I can stay awake for at this point. Most nights I can't keep my eyes open long enough.
Current pregnancy side effects: swollen hands/knuckles/joints, especially in the morning. Lots of muscle pain at the top of my stomach (where the muscles continue to tear, perhaps?) and ligament pain under my stomach. Headaches. Difficulty falling asleep / staying asleep. Middle of the night trips to the bathroom are getting more frequent. Sleeping sitting up now. Forgetfulness. Emotional and sappy about the small things. Increased desire to circle the wagons, have everyone near to me. Fiercely protective, fear of something bad happening to someone I love, and very uncomfortable with loved ones traveling or being far from me. (This happens every single pregnancy, to the point that I find myself praying for friends taking spring break trips, and get sad and scared when family gets on a plane! It's kind of funny but also not.)
Currently obsessed with: trying NOT to pack my hospital bag. It's the last thing left on the to-do list, and it's way too early (plus I don't want to 'encourage' labor anytime soon). Oh how good it would feel to have that bag all nice and packed up in the corner, ready to go. To be that close to delivery... aahh!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Today didn't exactly unfold the way I thought it would. 
Last night I felt the usual discomfort after a long day of raising 3 kids while carrying a 4th around inside my weary self. Braxton Hicks here and there, muscular pain, exhaustion that is so bone-deep that it makes sleep difficult. I threw back half a pint of Ben & Jerry's Cherry Garcia FroYo and headed to bed, only to wake at 5am with more contractions. 

They were more intense than usual, and coming every 10-20 minutes apart, so I started timing them. 90 minutes later they weren't letting up so I called my Dr. and landed in triage at Labor & Delivery after my mom came to be with the kids. I didn't feel like I was in labor but the frequency and intensity of the contractions had me concerned, so tests were run and fluids were given and then we all waited and watched. 

And they didn't stop. So the doctor nonchalantly explained that I'd be given a shot to stop the contractions and probably be sent home soon afterwards. 

Ladies. Consider this a PSA - if you hear the term "Turbutaline", brace yourself. I was given a shot of this and 2 hours later, I'm still dizzy, jittery and feeling like my heart is racing.

I've been here for over 5 hours now, and have thought of so many things I'm grateful for.
My mom who jumped out of bed and came right away before the sun was up to be with my kids. 
The presence of God, that truly is with us wherever we are and whatever we are facing. 
The prayers and offers of help from friends all morning long.
Good (really good) medical care.
An extra long weekend to soften the blow of bed rest for the next few days.

God is good, all the time.

Monday, January 13, 2014

On awkwardness, Christmas, and nesting. With a few 'favorites'!

I hardly know how to write here anymore! Sometimes a break is good, but it also freezes up your brain and makes it hard to get back into a groove. I'll try to break the silence but it's going to be awkward. Which is probably fitting because much of life right now feels awkward.

Our Christmas was wonderful - only Maddie got the stomach bug the week before Christmas, and we were otherwise healthy as a family (this is a small miracle). We stayed close to home instead of traveling this year, which is always a mixed bag. It's definitely easier and more comfortable for me, given how pregnant I was/am. It allowed us to keep things fairly simple as far as not having to pack, worry about weather, closing up the house, etc. However, it is really sad for us not to see Rob's side of the family as often as we would like, and that's hardest around Christmastime. I spent the Advent season reading Ann Voskamp's new book "The Greatest Gift", Liz Curtis Higgs' new book "The Women of Christmas", and Barbara Hughes' "Disciplines of a Godly Woman" (until it got misplaced in the house, and I have yet to find it and finish it!). Mornings with a mug of coffee by the tree with those books is a sweet memory and made the season more meaningful to me than it has been in years. I never regret slowing my/our pace. 

And now we are in the thick of January - the kids were supposed to go back to school last Monday (Jan 6th) but we got a ton of snow and the temperatures were below zero. So school ended up being closed both Monday and Tuesday! It was a brutal way to start the second half of the year. I don't know about other moms, but I was ready for our routine to start back up, and being cooped up in the house for an extra 2 days (with it being dangerous to even leave for any reason) was making me antsy. It also complicated the fact that I had my glucose test at the OB on Tuesday morning, and I really didn't want to take all 3 kids with me but none of my sitters were available. At the last minute I found someone to watch the kids and was able to slowly make my way across town to the appointment on the icy roads. I may as well have taken a flight to Florida, it felt so good to get out (and by myself!). 

This is what it has come to, folks.

Over the course of the last week, we have been social hermits and I have been methodically cleaning the house, one room and closet at a time. It started with the playroom, just after Christmas. I pulled every single toy, box and container out, purged, and reorganized. Before everything went back in, the room got vacuumed and wiped down. Everything had a place and there were even a few empty bins! Unprecedented. Then I almost put myself into labor so I hobbled around the house and tried to rest for the remainder of the day, and ended up getting cozy with the heating pad for most of the following day.

The nursery was next. I stopped fighting the urge to fluff our nest and got to work pulling baby clothes and bottles up from the basement, sterilizing and washing EVERYTHING, and setting it all up. Which led to cleaning out the 'nursery' closet, which has up until now been known as 'Maddie's closet'. Maddie has been sleeping in Ellie's room, which was our goal all along leading up to baby #4. So I had to purge Maddie's old closet and dresser to make room for baby, and that took some finessing. We rearranged some furniture, added a few lamps and a much needed side table, and I built a few of those cube-storage bookshelf type things from Target (somebody stop me, they are so wonderful). 

Robbie's room needed some freshening as well. We built his new desk and chair from Christmas, rearranged his furniture a little bit, and put one more storage piece in his room. Aside from Legos EVERYWHERE, always (I'm trying to stop fighting it), I am so glad to have gotten this all done. 

And then the momentum could not be stopped. I was hooked on having totally clean, fresh, organized rooms. So I tackled cleaning out the cabinets in my bathroom, as well as the linen closet/medicine cabinet. I won't tell you how many things I found that had expired (long ago), or how many 2/3 empty bottles of hair products I had kept around. I will simply say that between Christmas and our cleaning/purging spree we have taken out a LOT of garbage. And donated a lot of toys and linens to Repeat Boutique! 

The kitchen and dining room were last. I actually had my (awesome) sitter help me with a total pantry overhaul because of all the lifting/bending over/physical exertion a job like that entails. By this time I've landed square in the phase of Braxton Hicks contractions many times throughout the day. But the pantry was done in a day, and the next day I purged our kitchen cabinets, rearranged everything, and made sure all the kids' dinnerware, cups and utensils were in a low cabinet so that they can be more independent in general with meal prep and helping themselves to drinks and snacks. Cleaning for the sake of cleaning isn't really my thing. But smart cleaning makes me so happy.

I have one last project that I can't quite muster up the energy to get started on... the kids' art/craft supplies. It's in 2 different cabinets, 2 different countertops, one tupperware bin in the laundry room and one pile behind the living room couch. And I have no idea how to get it all in one place, and organized. I think my brain is broken, and my body is slowing down too. Bad news for the craft supplies.

Which brings me to today. This week feels like the actual start of the new year. The kids have a full week of school, we have a new routine with our sitter and I'm hoping to hire a few more just to have on hand for pre- and post-baby needs. I'm back into room-parent responsibilities in Robbie's kindergarten class, and Bible Study starts up next week (I'm not leading our group this semester, and I'm not 100% certain that I'll even attend, but I've signed up to keep all options open). 

The awkwardness comes in here, though. My capacity physically and mentally is languishing. Badly. It's always a steep drop-off for me as I enter the third trimester of my pregnancies. I knew it was coming, I just didn't know when. I had my suspicions over the last week when I was in turbo-clean mode. The nesting and cleaning urges during pregnancy are so strong, at least for me, that they take over my focus and create an energy that I can't muster up on my own. 

I still have a few things on my to-do list in order to feel like I'm ready for the baby. And until those things are well on their way to completion, I'm finding it really hard to do other things first or form intelligent thoughts that are unrelated. I can hardly focus on resting or relaxing after 8pm if I'm anywhere other than a hot bubble bath. My social energies are being consumed by trying to intentionally teach my three kids how to be more encouraging and helpful to one another. I feel like it's my last chance to help them gain more independence that will be really helpful once my hands are (even more) full and my brain is fried from sleepless nights. During all the cleaning and purging, we potty trained Maddie. (I credit Ellie with much of the encouraging work and the bringing of toilet paper to the kids potty wherever Maddie happened to be using it at any given time! Thank goodness for older siblings.)

But I wrestle with feeling like I'm dropping off as a friend. Even as a wife. I can't drop off as a mother or it'll come back to bite me (threefold), so I invest my energies there first. Plus my 3 kiddos are still nearly totally dependent upon me for most of their needs. But it all feels out of balance, and forgiving your pregnant hormonal self for that and giving yourself grace to know that you're doing your best and trying to make good choices is a lot harder than it sounds. 

I have a lot of internal, self-growth thoughts swirling around my head but I couldn't make a coherent sentence let alone blog post about them. I have a thousand thoughts and feelings about this pregnancy and the daughter we are about to meet, but I'm conflicted about sharing them. And I have been learning so much about myself but don't have the energy to actually revisit those lessons.

So here's what I'll end with... a little list of simple things that I'm enjoying on a daily basis. These are my constants, things that are easy to share that make me feel good physically. And that's saying something. :)

Pregnancy Favorites, 2014

This face wash is the best I've found, and Mario Badescu products are found at Ulta which is not only convenient but reasonably prices (& the coupons...!). My sensitive, combination skin is easily irritated but this cleansing gel gets make up off and just feels wonderful. It's also oddly sweet if you happen to get a little on your lips. 

I gave in and got the basic model of the Clarisonic facial cleansing brush, and I'm joining the chorus that sings its praises. I feel like my face must have never gotten clean before I started using this, and I also find that I don't really need to exfoliate as much, if at all, anymore. 

This moisturizer actually moisturizes without being oily. First one I've found to actually do what it says it will. It leaves no trace but skin is hydrated. Brilliant.

This is hands down the best night cream I've ever tried. Or at least it's what is working for me right now, in combination with the above skincare products! It's light and has more of a gel-like texture than a heavy night cream, which I love. I'm amazed at how healthy and even glowing my skin is when I wake up in the morning. It smells delicious, too. At a fraction of the price of any other night cream, even drugstore brands, I'm in love.

I love sugar based body scrubs, and this brand has always been a favorite. It's all-natural and every scent/flavor is yummy. I'm using the honey almond version right now, along with the foaming body wash, and I really love the somewhat oily/waxy residue it leaves on my skin. It exfoliates but also gives you a hydrating barrier. For chronically dry skin on arms and legs, this is a plus for me (but not everyone may like this). 

For dry hands, stretching belly skin, etc... all day every day. I've been loyal to this lotion for years and I'm not stopping now.

This summer and fall my skin has been HORRIBLE. I know pregnancy hormones are mostly to blame, but I felt like the more I tried to cover up the new random patches of blemishes on my temples and T-zone, the worse it got. Nothing was working - my old cleansers, exfoliating more often, zit cream, etc. So I changed over everything I was using - I moved to all Mario Badescu facial products for cleansing and moisturizing, and got back out my stash of Bare Minerals makeup in hopes that the lack of oils and heaviness would help. And it did. Adding in the Clarisonic brush really helped too. I feel like my skin is healthier, cleaner and more balanced than ever. And I'm still pregnant! Ha. I tend to not use Bare Minerals in the winter because any dry skin becomes really apparent after the application of the powder foundation and mineral veil. But something about the new skincare regimen I've found is keeping the dry skin at bay. So, Bare Minerals it is! Again, found at Ulta and coupon-worthy. Like.

This tank top is saving my life. I probably won't use beyond the summer/fall, after my baby bump has mostly deflated, and I definitely won't use it beyond nursing... but for now? It has ample room for my very large baby belly, it doesn't creep upward, it'll serve me well after giving birth while nursing, and it's comfortable and stretchy. Thank you, Cantaloop. Best pregnancy/post-partum tank ever. Found this gem at Buy Buy Baby, which means you can use those 20% off coupons!

And these are just for fun...

A peek into the nursery: 
I love everything Aden + Anais makes. This heavier blanket will be a car seat staple.

I found this owl night light at Hobby Lobby and it's so cute when it's lit up! I hope it doesn't freak the baby out. It borders on creepy, but in the context of the nursery I think I can get away with it. Haha. (4th child = guinea pig. 'Did I scare you half to death? Do you need therapy?'... What ever happened to erring on the side of caution? I guess that's boring now.)

A fresh crib sheet and dust ruffle to make the room 'hers'.
(That's a website pic, not our actual nursery.)

And these little numbers just might be packed in the diaper bag already, ready for hospital pics!

Have a happy week. Embrace the awkward spaces in your life today, and just be you. :)