Going Through It

On June 14th, our life changed completely.

I sobbed all morning, and then we drove to Children’s Services and dropped off our baby.

Well, I guess she technically was never “ours”, but if you try telling that to my heart, you aren’t going to get very far.

We drove away from her and I sobbed. All day.

We got flowers. And texts. And even some emails. We felt loved and supported. And even in those really tough moments, we knew that what had happened was the right thing. Not the easiest thing. But the right thing.

We gave nine long (and often incredibly difficult) months of our lives to sweet Little Miss.

And we don’t regret that one bit.

 

But the healing journey. Man. That has been something that I totally didn’t expect. I didn’t expect the grief to manifest itself in the ways it has. I didn’t expect to still be here, in this spot, over two months later.

We talked it through and decided to give ourselves at least one month off from taking another placement. A lot of people in our life affirmed this and told us it was wise. I am really glad we did that, and it is something that we will continue to implement as we continue our journey through foster care.

After one month, we still weren’t ready for another placement. There are a million factors, like the fact that we were traveling for most of the summer, or the fact that I’m in the third trimester of pregnancy. I have a million reasons that I’m not ready, but I keep going around and around in my mind fighting myself back and forth over the issue of not being ready. In foster care…there is never an ideal time. There is never a moment when you lean back in your chair and say “I’m ready for a phone call now”. Maybe in our hearts, we are ready. But within the wall of our homes, “the phone call” always seems to come at a crazy time…like the middle of the night. Or two hours after you said goodbye to your last houseguest of the summer. Or two weeks before your due date. The list could go on. It’s never going to be perfect timing, because it’s something that is almost completely out of our control.

After the first month passed, the check-ins and the comments and the hugs petered out, and we have been left with our grief. I’ve heard that’s how it is on this grief journey. Our lives came almost to a complete halt, but I have to remind myself that no one else’s life did…and that is ok.

This summer has been SO FULL of joyful moments. I was in two of my best friends wedding. I mean…nothing can get more joyful than that! We had a gorgeous family reunion, full of so much family and laughter and fun. I couldn’t help but be so grateful for those huge events that showed me that life is still beautiful, even in the midst of the hard.

Another thing that this grief journey has revealed in me is my struggles with anxiety and my need for control. Since Little Miss left, I have struggled with the anxiety of losing Tera more than ever before. Spending time away from her is difficult for me. When there is a storm or a near-miss or when she is sick, I struggle. I think about God and how his sovereign plan is sometimes not the same plan that I would choose, and I wonder what He is going to ask me to do next. Right now is a time of beauty and rest and celebration in our lives, but what will be right around the corner? Is it sinful of me to be terrified?

But mostly…I’ve been learning about grief. How it is a journey. But it’s not a journey with an end mark, as so many people expect. I think that especially with our grief, I am expected to reach the end, to not be “grieving” anymore. But I think that I will always grieve saying goodbye to Little Miss. I think I will always miss her, even if the journey dulls the ache over time. And grief is funny, because I often think I’m over a particular emotion, and that out of the blue, it hits me like a freight train. Sometimes I’m standing in the store and then suddenly I’m bawling because I am reminded of something. Going to a place for the first time without her is one of the hardest things, too. We went Up North for our family reunion, and immediately upon arriving I missed her fiercely, because the last time I had been there, she had been there, too.

It’s also interesting how grief comes on people in different ways. I’m actually far less emotional about it than I thought I would be, and most of my sadness comes out as anxiety and a lack of control. But some days it surprises me and lingers in an emotion that I thought I would have been done with by July.

As the months have passed, I have gotten less questions asking me how I’m doing, and more questions asking me when I’m ready for another placement. It’s humbling to say that I’m not ready yet. I mean…if I’m this devastated by the loss of Little Miss, how can anyone trust me to be a foster parent again? I mean…there are so many foster parents out there who don’t let their rooms sit empty, who are almost immediately ready to welcome in more children. And here I am…still struggling two months later. I think we will know when we are ready. I think it will be obvious to us when we should say yes. And so far…that peace has not come over us. And I need to be ok with that. I need to remember and remind myself that I am not a failure, nor am I doing anything wrong by saying no to those phone calls. I am not weak and I can certainly stand to be humbled a little more often.

A lot of people’s first comment to me when they hear that I am a foster Mom is: “I could never do that. I would get attached and it would be too hard to say goodbye”. Well, I hope that if you are reading this, you are given a peek into the moment of “too hard”, Guys…it’s hard. It’s so hard. But it’s not TOO hard. And all of this? All of these emotions and feelings I just wrote about? It’s so worth it. Because this girl? This Little Miss right here? We changed her life. We gave her the best start she could ever have. We gave her our all. And no amount of pain and grief would make that NOT worth it. Yes, we will do it again. Yes, it will hurt again. And I’m more than ok with that. I’m just willing to be honest about the emotions while we go through it. But it’s not too hard.

I got home in early August from our last trip of the summer, and August has been good to us so far. I have been able to be at home, keep up with my housekeeping and cooking and grocery shopping, and spend time with those who are most precious to me. I have been able to keep up with my blog and to even work ahead a little bit in preparation for baby boys arrival in October. This past week has been difficult as Tera has been really sick with a virus. It’s not fun having a sick child, and as I mentioned above…my anxiety is through the roof. But in a way, I am so thankful for these moments that I get to snuggle with her all day, cramming my pregnant self into her bed and reading book after book to her. I won’t forget these moments.

Timing is Everything

One thing that I love to do is brag on my man. Theo is not only an incredible husband and an incredible Dad, but he is an incredible EMT, too. I am always filled with pride when I get to announce what my husband does for his job. I love declaring that yes, indeed, Theo is a public servant…and he saves lives on the daily basis!

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Do you know how important timing is in Theo’s line of work? Not only does he have to remain calm and collected under immense pressure, but he has to do everything he does as quickly and effectively as possible. I love collecting little facts about Theo’s line of work, and I thought I would share a few of them here:

  1. Theo and his fellow first responders are not allowed to run. Even if the circumstance is life or death (and it often is), they still have to walk. The reasoning behind this is to help keep calm, and to make sure that the first responders can get there without tripping/falling or injuring themselves in the process.
  2. He works long, long, long shifts…24 hours, to be exact
  3. He responds to an average of 16 calls in his 24 hour shifts
  4. He uses everyday devices (and his God-given common sense) to save lives
  5. In Theo’s line of work, time is everything. His medic’s average response rate from alarm tone to departing the fire house is less than two minutes.

Yes, time really is everything in his line of work. And that is one reason why I was so happy to be able to gift Theo this Jord Wood Watch!

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Theo is one of those men who is incredibly hard to shop for. He doesn’t want clothes, he doesn’t need more tools or weights and he certainly couldn’t care less about cologne or beard trimmers (fun fact: firefighters are not allowed to have beards since it can break the seals on their face masks and cause nasty smoke inhalation!). But a watch? Now that is something that is not only stylish but also VERY practical in his line of work.

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JORD Wood Watches are beautiful hand-crafted wood watches that use time to tell our stories. There are many different types of wood watches available, including zebrawood, ebony, sandalwood, purpleheart, bamboo, and maple. There are so many unique watches available, made with all these different kinds of woods, different colors, and different types of watch faces. You can view the men’s watches by clicking here, and you can view the women’s watches by clicking here.

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JORD Wood Watches are not only beautiful to look at, but so functional as well. Made from wood, the watch is light and the clasp function is easy to take on and off. JORD Wood Watches are measured to your wrist and therefore are the perfect fit for your individual wrist. Theo got the Fieldcrest Dark Sandalwood watch specifically because of the simplicity. Although JORD offers watch faces that have intricate designs and colors, the simplicity of this watch shows off the beautiful sandalwood grain.

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Do you love JORD Wood Watches? They have graciously offered to give away a $75 gift card to their shop to ONE winner! However, if you don’t win you will still receive a $20 gift card automatically- just for entering! Talk about generous!

To enter, just click on the link below and enter your name and email! Remember, one of you will win $75, but each one of you will win $20! You can’t beat that!

This giveaway will run until 8/28!

To ENTER, click here!

We love you, Theo, and we are so proud of the work that you do!

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Shop Feature: Ella and Ezzi

Happy Monday!

We are two weeks out from Tera’s birthday, and I’m STILL thinking about her party and the birthday presents that she got! Did I mentioned that I loved the farm theme so much??

I think my absolute favorite gift came from the shop Ella and Ezzi, and they are my shop feature for today! I seriously want to buy every single thing in the shop!

Ella & Ezzi handcrafted treasures and toys began when my heart’s desire for creativity and quality collided. I wanted to create both toys and treasures that were not only whimsical and fun, but durable and ideal for little ones.
Each item in my shop is handcrafted by me with both the buyer and child in mind. I wanted to create toys and treasures featuring their favorite characters to encourage both educational and imaginative play. Moms and Dads will appreciate the durability of the toys and unique packaging that makes each item perfect for gift giving right out of the mailbox.
I’m Gretchen, mama to 3 wonderful kids; Ella, Ezzi, and Andrew. My passion is to create quality gifts that will last for years to come. I will always strive to choose materials that are of the highest quality even if it means I have to spend a little more for them. I don’t believe in cutting corners and I’m a bit of a perfectionist when creating my items. I want each recipient to receive their product in a timely fashion, beautifully packaged, ready to give as a gift!
I enjoy all things crafty, dabbling with graphic designs, the culinary arts, coffee with friends, and relaxing in the sunshine with a fine crafted adult beverage–hey, I have 3 kids under 6! I’m married to my best friend of 12 years and am incredibly blessed to have him as my rock, biggest fan, and amazing father to our kids. Our life is an adventure filled with peaks and valleys, but through each high and low, we remain steadfast in our pursuit of authentic love without agendas. We strive each day to be the very best versions of ourselves. Some days are better than others, but we press on because the alternative is to give up and settle for second best. Our promise to you at Ella and Ezzi is you will always have our very best.
Here are some the favorite items from my shop:
Wooden Memory Tile Games:
(Frozen)
Frozen Wooden Disc Memory Matching Game, Frozen Party, Frozen Gift, Anna & Elsa, Montessori, Wooden Toy, Educational toy
(Camping)
Camping themed Wooden Disc Memory Matching Game, Campfire, Hiking, Wooden Toy, Educational Toy, Happy Camper, Camping Party, Memory Match
(Barnyard Theme)
Wooden Chore/Reward Boards (these are fabulous for potty training or working towards a reward/goal. Each completed task earns one tile on the board, when the board is complete, the child earns a reward!):
Hipster Animal Reward Board, Animal Magnets, and Magnetic Chalkboard, Reward Chart, Behavior Chart, Tokens, Woodland Animals, Wooden Disc
Story Starter Sets (these are fabulous for starting stories! “There once was a _____. And he went to ______”):
Story Starter Set, Story Stones, Wooden Disc Game, Montessori, Educational Toy, Quiet Time
I am also open to custom orders, so don’t let what you see (or don’t see) in the Etsy shop limit you!!!
Don’t forget to find me on social media:
Gretchen is offering my readers a 10% off discount code! Use the code THANKYOU10 at checkout to get 10% off your order! Please take advantage of it!!! I can think of SO many places those story tiles would come in handy- in the car, out to dinner, at doctors appointments, using for homeschool, etc.
Tera received the barnyard memory matching set for her 2nd birthday, and boy does she LOVE it. She received it in the mail, wrapped in this paper with this personalized card. I mean…you guys. I work with a lot of shops, and a lot of shops just sent me their product, which is all fine and dandy. But when I get a product in the mail that goes above and beyond, I just want to shout it out. I mean, how perfect is this present??
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The tiles are just the right size for her to be able to handle…not too small, and not to large. As soon as we opened up the box, Tera fell instantly in love. She has been carrying them around for two weeks now. Although she isn’t quite ready for memory matching, her favorite game to play with Daddy right now is matching. Theo will lay them all out, and Tera will pick one. Theo will then say, “Where is the other cow?” and Tera will find it! She’s pretty good at it, although she does get a little confused between the farm girls 😉 Hey, she’s only two.
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Not only is the idea for a wooden matching game genius, but the characters on the tiles are SO CUTE!!!
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They are so well-made and durable, and that’s always a good thing when something is going to be played with by a two year old!
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The barnyard set with all the matching tiles. Remember that you can order any of the sets in Gretchen’s shop, or you can request a custom order!
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No, my playroom floors and my photography are not perfect…but I’m all about being real, and not perfect on this blog space. And I’m being real about how much we LOVE this game!
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SO CUTE!
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Thanks so much Gretchen for sharing your shop with us today! Don’t forget about the 10% off discount!! Take advantage of that!
If you would like to view my other shop features, please click here.
If you are interested in having your shop featured, please email me at [email protected]

31 weeks (Pregnancy #2)

How Far Along: 31 weeks! Down to the single digits in the countdowns: 9 weeks to go!

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Size of Baby: He is the size of a coconut! I believe it! He should weigh over 3 pounds now and be about 16 inches long. It’s so crazy to me how much/fast he is growing. I still don’t think my mind has caught up with the fact that I have a full-grown baby in me. And that full grown baby is going to have to come out! Ha!

Weight Gain: 20 pounds!

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How I’m Feeling/Symptoms: I’m feeling…sluggish. Sluggish and very pregnant. I have slowed wayyyy down this week and I keep trying to convince myself that I’m the home stretch. But 9 weeks with a very busy toddler does not feel like a home stretch to me!

And I had the emotional breakdown this week. You know the one, pregnant Mamas. All of a sudden…nothing fits. I was bending over trying to pull up a pair of maternity shorts and it was SO DIFFICULT that I just burst into tears. I mean…maternity shorts! I’ve outgrown maternity shorts! And don’t even get me started on my maternity jeans. I can barely even get them over my thighs. These are the jeans that I wore the entire pregnancy with Tera. It’s a little depressing. Theo’s words of comfort? “It’s ok! You can just start wearing my clothes now!” Thanks, babe. (For the record, Theo is extremely comforting and emphatic when I have irrational emotional breakdowns).

I’m having hard time sleeping at night, mostly because this baby likes to wake up right when it’s time for me to lie down. I’ve also been SO thirsty before bed, so I’m up half the night peeing.

I’ve been reading up on my birth stories and I cannot believe that I have so little time to prepare for going through labor and delivery again. I think I’m more anxious this time going into it because now I know what to expect. I am planning another natural birth at Family Beginnings (the Birth Center), and while I’m really excited about this, I’m also getting nervous! There is just so much that my body will have to endure to get this baby from point A to point B. Yikes!

I’m also trying hard not to think about all the potential outcomes of having a really fast labor. Tera’s labor was only 7 hours from start to finish, which is apparently pretty quick for a first baby. I’ve heard the second one can go even faster! But then again, I’ve also heard from ladies whose second labor was much harder than their first, so I know that it’s not a cardinal rule. Ha! I don’t think labor has any cardinal rules!

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Dr. Appointments: I had another appointment this week, and everything is looking great. I mentioned that I have been having contractions, and each of the last appointments they have kind of just rolled their eyes at me. I guess all women have contractions during their second pregnancy. However, this time, I had a full-blown contraction while sitting on the exam table. The midwife’s eyes got kind of wide and she was like, “woah. That was a strong one.”. Yep. All day. Every day. I don’t think my labor is going to last very long with this baby boy!

Food Cravings/Aversions: I’ve been really exhausted again this week, so the nausea has come back. At least now I’ve narrowed it down to only feeling nauseas when I’m really tired!

I have had a series sweet tooth the last few weeks. And for someone who doesn’t usually have a sweet tooth, this has been a new experience for me!

I don’t seem to have any aversions this week, which is a fabulous place to be!

Best Moment this Week: This week it was fabulous to just be home. I can’t think of any particular moment that was absolutely fabulous, but I’ll take just being at home with my little family to be pretty fabulous!

Worst Moment this Week: Tera spiked a really high fever on Thursday night. It always causes me a lot of anxiety. She was sick all afternoon, and then in the evening her fever seemed to peak. Then, she up at least once an hour on Thursday night, and that was ROUGH. I was dragging on Friday, but thankfully today has been a bit better and she seems to be on the upswing. There were absolutely no other symptoms…just a high fever and the lethargic/not feeling well that seems to go with it.

What I’m Looking Forward To: My parents will be here in less than 2 months!!! It has been two years since we have seen them…and I’m SO excited to have them here again. SO EXCITED.

And dare I say it…I’m actually ready for cooler weather! This might be the first time in my life that I’m ready for summer to be over so that we can have some cooler nights and mornings. I still love the heat and the warmth during the day, but I think I’m ready for fall! I seriously can’t believe I just said that.

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Exercise this Week: Ha. Haha. That’s a funny one. Again, I’m hoping that with the cooler weather I’ll be motivated to start walking again? Here’s to hoping…I know I need to get my body more ready to weather labor, so this is a goal for next week.

 

And just for funsies!!! I put on the same shirt that I wore with Tera, and here I am at 31 weeks with baby boy (on the left) and with Tera (on the right). It’s SO eerily similar! And yet…I look smaller with baby boy, but rounder over all?

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31 weeks with Tera

Birth Story: Jennifer from The Brock Blog

It’s Friday! That means it’s birth story day! Half my readers are rolling their eyes, and the other half can’t scroll fast enough past my intro!

 

Today Jennifer from The Brock Blog is sharing the birth story of her son, Joshua.

As always, please be respectful of any differences you may have between the author and yourself. Sharing a birth story is deeply personal and no two births ever go the same. Be respectful, and please feel free to leave a comment or head over to Jennifer’s blog/social media accounts to give her some love!

If you have been around blogs and the online world of pregnancy and birth, you will know what a **trigger warning** is. However, if you have not ever seen this before, it simply means that this story may contain parts that bring on anxiety or even PTSD for women who have gone through similar things (whether the outcome was good or bad). In this story, there is a small trigger warning related to breathing issues for the baby, so please do not read if you feel that it will be a trigger to you.

To view the other birth stories that have been published on my blog, you can click here.

If you would like to submit your own birth story, please email me at [email protected]

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Joshua Alexander was born on March 2, 2016 at 1:45 in the afternoon. Although I would say it was an easy labor and delivery we had our share of complications. I went in to be induced on March 1, two days shy of being 41 weeks pregnant. I was severely anemic and had a horrendous tooth infection that I could do nothing about until he was born. I tried ALMOST everything to naturally bring on labor. My husband bought me a yoga ball that I bounced on from sunrise to sunset while I binged watched One Tree Hill and colored in my time consuming adult coloring books, I walked almost 2 miles on a treadmill every night while my husband and his best friend worked out, I ate ALL the spicy food I was able to get my hands on (Which is no problem for me. To me the spicier the better. LOL), and we even tried sex….but none of that worked.
When I went to be induced I was only dilated to about 1.5 cm and not effaced at all. At 7 that Tuesday night the process began with the cytotec. I had my husband, mom, and aunt there for support, and boy did I need it. Around 4:30 am on Wednesday I started my iv pain meds and they started the pitocin. Every 2 hours they came to give me another dose of my meds and at 11:30am I was at a 4 so my doctor came in to break my water. They thought that it was going to be another 7-8 hours before I even went into what they called “Active Labor” but within 30 minutes I was to a 6 and having the most painful contractions.
They gave me my epidural at about 12:30 pm and at 1:15ish I started pushing. Joshua heart rate suddenly began dropping after he started to crown. My doctor ended up giving me an episiotomy and tried to use a suction cup to get my son out but when that popped off he had to pull him out forcefully.
Now, I’ve heard my whole life that once your baby takes his very first breath and you hear him/her crying as they enter the world it is music to your ears. Well, I heard no music. What I saw terrified me. My son was the purplish blue color of a blueberry. There was no sign of life. I glanced over at my mom trying not to burst into tears because I knew that something was wrong. Babies aren’t supposed to be blue and purple. My mother did her best to reassure me that everything is okay. The issue was that the chord was wrapped tightly once around Joshua’s neck cutting off his airway.
Quickly my doctor cut the chord and air began to fill his lungs.
As I was being stitched up and they were cleaning him they noticed that his oxygen levels were dropping and he was having problems breathing on his own. His lungs were filled with fluid. I got to spend about 10 minutes with him before they needed to take him to the nursery so they could hook him up to oxygen. He was screaming. As they put my 7lb 13oz miracle on my chest and I started talking to him he began to calm down some. The screaming became small whimpers and he just laid there content but still not breathing well.
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Our first family photo!
Joshua spent two days in the nursery and one day in my room. My recovery went well. On March 3 I was walking to and from the nursery constantly so I could check on my son and rest. We had very few visitors because of how miserable I was. Now I am fully recovered physically and am still working on my emotional recovery.
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Joshua’s first picture in the nursery before they hooked him up to his iv’s and oxygen!
I would love to have more kids in the future. Labor and delivery doesn’t scare me, the postpartum depression does. BUT postpartum depression won’t stop me from loving my son and being the mother I am so desperately trying to be. It may get hard but it will get easier in time as I surround myself with people who will uplift me and pray for me! Joshua means Yahweh is Salvation, and I truly believe that God saved him. Satan tried so hard to steal this blessing from Joe and I, and is still trying to steal this blessing from us through my depression but I truly believe that God will be our saving grace. He saved me from depression before and He will do it again.
About Jennifer Brock
My name is Jennifer Brock. I am a stay at home mom and a loving wife with dreams of being a missionary, writer, and worship leader. Once my son was born I had to put my dream on hold. In this time that I am not pursuing my dreams I decided that I would use my love for writing to bring hope, joy, and laughter to those willing to read it. I have battled many mental illnesses and am willing to talk to anyone who needs someone as well as share my story. Like every mom I have my good days and I have my bad ones but I have just learned to smile through them. Keep Smiling! 🙂
Links to Follow Jennifer on Social Media:
Blog Link- https://thelanguageofheaven.wordpress.com/
Instagram- @Ynnej.rose
Twitter- @TheBrockBlog

Recipe: Chocolate Caramel Squares

A few weeks ago I posted a spaghetti squash recipe and I mentioned that I don’t usually post recipes on my blog.

HOWEVER, I think I need to make (another) exception.

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Because these Chocolate Caramel Squares are my everything this pregnancy.

I’ve mentioned in my pregnancy updates that I have a serious sweet tooth this pregnancy. Now, most people say that they always have a sweet tooth, and to that I respond…I’m sorry. I’ve never had a sweet tooth. I usually turn down dessert, just because it doesn’t sound all that wonderful to me. I’ll eat M&Ms and chocolate chip cookies, but the less chocolate chips the better. Until this pregnancy. And these Chocolate Caramel Squares.

I’ll stop gabbing and just let you try them for yourself. Also, don’t judge my food photography. #notmygifts

Also, I must say that the term “caramel” is rather misleading. I am not a caramel fan, pregnant or not. And these don’t taste anything like caramel. They taste like shortbread topped with s gooey, sweet topping and then topped with icing. So basically, sugar topped with sugar topped with sugar. Aka delicious.

First up, prep the counter! This means getting a glass of water, a snack (a cupcake because #sweettooth), my favorite and most well-worn cookbook (the one my Mama compiled for me as a wedding present) and a podcast. The Happy Hour is my go-to!

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All the ingredients that you will need! Did I mention that this recipe contains a little bit of sugar? Haha.

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Recipe:

Preheat oven to 400

Mix together and press into an 8×8 pan:

1/2 c margarine

2 Tablespoons sugar

1 1/2 c flour (this might depend on what type of margarine you are using)

Bake 10 minutes. While baking, cook caramel topping on the stovetop:

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Mix together:

1/2 c margarine

1/2 c sugar

4 Tablespoons sweetened condensed milk

2 Tablespoons corn syrup (I actually use honey as a substitute!)

Boil 2-5 minutes. Pour immediately onto shortbread.

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Cool, then ice with chocolate icing.

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We find that although it doesn’t have to be refrigerated, but it holds together much better if it is stored in the fridge!

 

ENJOY!

 

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Tera’s 2nd Birthday Party

BIGDisclaimer: If you are reading this post on a mobile device, the pictures will be sideways. I have tried to fix the problem, but so far I have not been successful. Thanks for letting me know. If you don’t want a crick in your neck, turn your phone sideways and lay on your left side. Just kidding. You can either scroll through and ignore those sideways pictures, or open up the blog post on a laptop. Once again…I apologize, and I am working on getting it fixed!

Tera turned 2 on August 8th! It’s so crazy to me that my baby is two years old!

We decided to celebrate her party the next day, August 9th. I had just gotten back from a trip the day before her birthday, and I was glad that I took the one day to prepare for her party and spend with my girl.

You can read her 2 year update here.

As most of you, I’m a huge fan of keeping it simple and within the budget. I am NOT a Pinterest Mom, and I don’t have any goals to become one.

I delegated some tasks to Theo and his friend Jeff who was visiting for the week. Theo was doing an awesome job until…

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Oops.

We had Tera’s birthday party at the Learning Tree Farm. I cannot say enough about this farm and all they do! Birthday party packages include 2 hours at the pavilion, a farm hand that takes the children around to all the animals and on a hike, and then uninterrupted time to go on a hike or play with the animals. I just love the atmosphere of the farm and how the kids can get down and dirty with the animals. It’s not like other farms where the kids have to stand at the gate and look at the animals. Instead, they get to touch all the animals and all the animals are so gentle.

You do have to bring your own food, decorations and handle your own clean-up, but as far as parties goes…the farm made it so easy!

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We stuck with some simple platters of fruits (the fruit orchard), veggies (the veggie patch), no-bakes (cow patties), and rice krispie treats (hay bales). For drinks, we just had water bottles.

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All of the paper products and decorations are from the Etsy shop 3 Little Flowers. You can read my feature of the shop by clicking here.

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It was so hot and humid, so we were sure glad to have this water!

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I love having summer babies so we can always party outside!

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After we got set up, we all walked over to the barns to start looking at the animals. The farm has two barns and includes pigs, sheep, goats, ducks, cows, chickens, ponies, donkeys, cats and two sheep dogs!

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First up: the pigs!

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Jenny was our farm hand, and she did SUCH a fabulous job leading us and our gaggle of children all around to the animals. She shared facts about the animals and was SO good with the kids- all of them! She let the kids take their time touching the animals and interacting with them. We absolutely loved her!

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In the second barn, there are a few playground type devices like rope swings and hay bales all saddled up to ride.

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There is a fun little interactive activity where you learn the technique to milk a cow!

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Tera loved the rope swing! She was a little small for it, but she still managed!

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The animals are so gentle and loving!

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All the kids loved the animals!

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Here we ALL are petting the sheep! One of the sheep stood up and pooped, and Tera is STILL talking about it. She will randomly tell me “sheep pooping! sheep pooping!”

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We got to line up and help the corral the animals out into the pasture.

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Sebastian the donkey did not want to go the right direction!

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I think the highlight for most of the kids was the chickens! They learned how to properly pick up and hold a chicken, and how to let it go when they were done. I just love how hands-on the time at the farm was!

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She might have a few of these at home:

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Family!

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Kyrin was loving the chickens!

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After seeing all the animals, Jenny led us on a little hike into the woods! We all got to pick some flowers on the way to the hiking path.

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The hiking path was easy, but not stroller accessible.

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There are two one mile loop hiking paths, and a tire swing along the way. Usually for a birthday party, the group would do the whole loop, stopping at the tire swing along the way. Since we had so many littles, we just went to the swing. It was the perfect distance and the kids loved it!

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Everyone got a turn on the tire swing!

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Tera LOVED it!

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Tera and Sophia are just a few hours apart! Vanessa and I were pregnant together and we are loving celebrating our girls birthdays every year!

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And Kaylee is just a few weeks behind Tera and Sophia! It’s so fun having so many little girls the same age (there are 6 little girls within 6 months in our church family!).

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Tera got a cupcake! Because what birthday is complete without a cupcake?

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And then she got to open some gifts! It cracks me up how EVERYONE was involved in opening her presents. Hahaha.

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Tera got lots of puzzles for her 2nd birthday!

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And that was it! It started pouring while we were eating, which was a blessed relief from the heat, but it meant we packed up fairly quickly to leave. Usually, the kids are free to go back to play with the animals or go back to the tire swing.

I think that Tera loved her birthday party and I’m already excited for next year!

 

//Tera’s Birth Story//

//Tera’s 1st Birthday Party//

The Learning Tree Farm

3 Little Flowers

Shop Feature: 3 Little Flowers

Happy Monday! With the business of the last few weeks/months, I haven’t had as much time to contact shops to be featuring here on the blog. However, this month, I have a jam-packed schedule for my shop features. I recently planned out Tera’s 2nd birthday party and decided to take the chance to feature all the shops that I used during her party!
Today’s shop is 3 Little Flowers, and I am SO in LOVE with the work that Anelys does!
My name is Anelys  and I am 35 years old.  I’m the mom to 3 beautiful, crazy, smart and active little (not really) girls: Gaby (12), Cami (10) & Mimi (9).
I’m a graphic designer, photographer and Etsy Shop owner! I can go to bed every night knowing that I’m blessed to do for a living something I enjoy and LOVE!
My shop first started back in 2007 after many years of doing digital designs for free for my friends.  I was focused on invitations, thank you notes and holiday cards. I found this to be really fun.  One day, a friend asked me to design a birthday invitation for her daughter and insisted on paying me. That was when 3 Little Flowers © was born. It was the perfect way to get to stay home with my 3 babies under 4.
The name for the shop is a tribute to my three daughters. Their last name means Flowers in another language, which means I actually have 3 Little Flowers.
In June 2016, I decided to expand my digital shop into something more.  After lots of researching, I was able to find ways to offer many personalized gifts and that is when I opened my Etsy Shop. My shop has MANY great gifts for children (even for adults), and I still have LOTS of more items to publish. My shop is the go-to place to find every kind of personalized gifts.  After all, who doesn’t love seeing their name on the things they get?
Here are some of the items that are available in my Etsy shop:
Personalized puzzles:
Personalized Pregnancy Announcement Puzzle - Personalized 8" x 10" Puzzle - Grandmother Pregnancy Announcement Puzzle - Custom Puzzle
Personalized plates, bowls and placemats. These can be customized with your child’s traits (Note from Suzanne: and all the foster/adoptive/biracial Mommas said AMEN!).
Little Girl Plate and Bowl Set - Personalized Melamine Children Plate and Cereal Bowl - Kids Dishes for Mealtime - Choose hair skin color
Personalized digital files:
You can find me on several social media sites as well:
Thanks for sharing all about your shop, Anelys!
Of course I have to share a few more things that Anelys makes for her shop. She makes incredible custom birthday packets! I ordered an entire birthday packet for just $25. It was SO WORTH IT!
I got an invitation, a thank you note, a welcome sign, a candy wrapper, a goodie bag tag, cupcake toppers, cupcake wrappers, a table sign and a birthday banner. Basically, every single décor item I would have wanted was provided. I will share the items from Tera’s party, but here is an example of what the entire package looks like:
Garbage Truck Party Package - PRINTABLE Party Package - Personalized Birthday Package - Garbage Truck Invitations Thank you notes and Favors
Obviously, we didn’t do a garbage truck theme…instead we did a barnyard theme! Anelys was awesome to work with and to customize everything that I needed. At one point, she emailed me the completed file and I responded and said I didn’t like the fact that the girls overalls were pink because they clashed with the red barn (pick me, I know!). So a few minutes later, she emailed back with a file that didn’t have the red/pink combo that I hate so much! So perfect!
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Here are some of Anelys designs in use at Tera’s party:
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If you would are interested in collaborating with The Glorious Mundane, please email me at [email protected]
To view other shop features click here.

30 weeks (Pregnancy #2)

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How Far Along: 30 weeks pregnant! Hello there, baby! It seems insane that I’ve reached the 30s now! Only 10 weeks to go!

Size of Baby: Baby is about the size of a large cabbage. He should weigh in around 3 pounds and there is a lot of amniotic fluid going on in there, too! He’s still working on his vision and working to gain weight!

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How I’m Feeling/Symptoms: I arrived back home on Sunday afternoon and that completes ALL of my trips from the summer. It’s been a fabulous summer, but I am SO happy to be home. All the traveling and emotions of the summer have certainly played a toll on my body and I am so ready to just rest. For the first week this pregnancy, I haven’t had hardly any nausea, and instead I’m hungry ALL THE TIME. It’s such a welcome relief! Unfortunately, I’m mostly hungry for sweets!

I’m having a hard time getting comfortable at night, but when I do finally fall asleep I usually sleep straight through the night with one bathroom break around 5 am.

Sciatic nerve pain is possibly the worst!!! I feel fine when I’m sitting down, but as soon as I stand up, I can feel the entire 3+ pounds of baby just sitting on my sciatic nerve. I’ve tried lots of different remedies, but the only thing that seems to work is laying down and getting that baby bump OFF the nerve. Which does not bode well for…life. Ha.

I’m having a really hard time bending over to pick things up, especially when that thing is a 23 pound toddler. I know that I have a tiny toddler in reality, but I’m still very much done with hauling her around.

The heat is still very persistent, and I don’t think I’ve ever looked forward to a fall more than this one! I have noticed, though, that my body has somehow managed to entirely avoid swelling so far. Well, except for the areas that are legitimately putting on weight. That’s a whole ‘nother type of swelling! Haha!

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Best Moment this Week: Celebrating Tera’s 2nd birthday!! When people ask me what my favorite holiday is, I have to say birthdays! I just love that we all have that one special day a year that is OURS. And it’s soooooo much fun to have a child and get to celebrate their birthday! I am totally going to be that birthday Mom. You know, doughnuts for breakfast, balloons all over the place, special ice cream for lunch and friends over for dinner. Or whatever the kid wants, it’s their day! Theo is already rolling his eyes. My kids future friends already love me.

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Worst Moment this Week: This week has been pretty fabulous! I have been an emotional wreck once or twice, and I’ve had epically bad attitudes about a few things, but otherwise I feel like I have finally had a steady week and that’s fabulous!

Exercise this Week: At this point, doesn’t growing a baby count as exercise? Ha. I haven’t done anything except go on one or two walks with Tera. I know I need to get back into that, especially as the end quickly approaches.

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Birth Story: Tera Evelynne

Did you miss my post last week?

I’m posting weekly birth stories again here on the blog, and of course I’m collecting them all in a tab at the top of the blog! You can browse through and read as many birth stories as you want! Most of the women who have submitted their stories also have their own blogs, so be sure to go and visit their little families on their blogs, too!

Today I’m reposting my favorite birth story yet…but I might be a little biased.

Tera Evelynne turned two years old on Monday, and I thought it would be sweet to post her birth story here again! So without further ado…the birth story of Tera Evelynne!

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Ok, major disclaimers:

First, if you don’t like words like cervix, placenta, bloody discharge, etc: STOP READING! This is a birth story. If you know me and think that our relationship will be destroyed by the fact that you hear this story: STOP READING!

Second, I have been reading tons of birth stories all throughout my pregnancy, and I found that I love them. That is honestly what helped prepare me the best for my own labor and delivery. So I will be including full details in this story, and it will be super long.

Thirdly, my labor went almost exactly like I wanted it to go, but I can’t claim the fame for that one. I had an AMAZING team helping me through this. Theo was incredible the entire labor. He never ONCE left my side and put up with me saying the most ridiculous things for 5 hours straight. I also had a wonderful doula, Paulette. She met with us beforehand, and gave me lots of reading material and tips on how to get through labor. She had her hand about squeezed off by me, and as you will see throughout the story, she was the one who helped make the labor go so quickly. I HIGHLY recommend a doula, but even more than that, I HIGHLY recommend Paulette. Since my Mom didn’t have a chance to make it to the delivery, I asked my aunt to step in and be an extra support person. She was also SO helpful, and gave me lots of encouragement throughout the labor. I also had an excellent nurse, and I immediately felt comfortable with her. She actually ended up delivering the baby, and took great care of me and Tera.

 

So, let’s start at the beginning.

10 months ago, …..

Just kidding.

Thursday, August 7th.

40 weeks, 1 day pregnant.

Theo went to work at 4:30 am, and was going to get home around 11:30 pm. Let’s please remember that he has at least an hour commute, more like 1 1/2 hours.

I woke up, and had a contraction. No big deal. The same thing had happened the day before. And the day before that. I piddled around some in the morning, then went in for my regular 40 week appointment. Since I was overdue, they wanted to do a non-stress test.

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The test went great, no problems. The Dr. asked if I wanted to be checked for dilation, I said no thanks. And I went on my merry way with my big ol’ pregnant belly and my happy-as-a-clam-to-stay-inside baby. Or so we thought.

My friend Hannah had invited me to go to a local lake/beach with her, so I grabbed some lunch, changed into my swimsuit and headed out the door. I met up with Hannah, and sat on the beach and read a book as Hannah did a hardcore swim to train for her triathalon. It was a very nice day, and the sun was so relaxing. I had a couple contractions, but again…no big deal, nothing new.

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I got home from the beach around 5, and went to the bathroom. When I wiped, there was bloody discharge. I knew this was an early sign of labor, and I suddenly just knew that this was it, even if there were no other signs. I called Theo and told him that I was pretty sure I was in labor, but that I wasn’t feeling the need for him to come home RIGHT now, so we would just play it by ear. I figured if it was just early labor, I would still have HOURS and hours of labor ahead of me. I called my doula, she said things looked good, but to not jump the gun and call it “labor” yet, as it could still be hours. But I just knew. I knew because I was SO. CALM. And I’m NOT a calm person. I called my parents, who were in DC (having just flown in from Africa the night before) and told them I thought I was in labor, and that they might want to drive through the night instead of coming down the following day. Again, I was so calm, and I figured that as long as they left soon, they would easily make it. I was expecting labor to last a long, long time. I washed the dishes, took down and folded the laundry, then had a really strong contraction.

And pop! My water broke. It was around 6 pm. I called Theo and said “come home NOW”. Unfortunately, he was with a patient and wasn’t able to leave immediately, but his co-workers were very helpful in getting him out of there within an hour. I called my parents and said I really was in labor. I called my doula. I called the midwife, and she said to come in sooner rather than later since I needed two doses of antibiotics, 4 hours apart. We decided as soon as Theo got home we would head in. I called my aunt, and she came over and helped me through the (hard and strong) contractions that I was having. I wasn’t timing them or anything, just letting them come while I bounced on the birth ball. Theo gathered up all the last minute stuff, made both of us some dinner, and we headed out to the birth center (8:30ish). At this point, time started to become completely irrelevant. I couldn’t tell you if it was a long drive or a short one, if it was dark or light out, how many contractions I was having or how frequently. My body just completely took the lead and we went with it.

We arrived to the birth center, and Theo dropped me off at the door so he could go and park. I sat on a bench and labored through a contraction, and all the ladies at the front desk rushed over to see if I was ok. A security guard rushed a wheelchair over but I told him I didn’t need it as the contractions was already over (duh! Hello, dude? Who do you think you are trying to be all helpful??!??). I insisted I could walk to my room but by then my contractions were getting really intense, and I really needed help through them. We got into the room, and I just sat in a rocking chair and rocked, holding Theo’s hand and focusing on a focal spot on the ceiling or floor every time one hit (my aunt’s recommendation- and an INCREDIBLY helpful one! Don’t close your eyes as it keeps you focused on the pain, instead focus on something else in order to get through the pain).

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I was SO COLD, and I couldn’t stop shaking.

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I think I was telling Paulette, “I don’t want to throw up!”

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They checked my cervix (my first and ONLY check!), and I was at a 6. A 6!!! I was delighted about that, but I hated having fingers stuck up me- that was the first time I cried. I vowed never again to let them check me, and panicked a little bit about how bad this was going to be!!! My doula arrived right about then, and started helping me breath through the contractions while they administered the first dose of antibiotics and filled up the birthing tub. As soon as that antibiotic was done, I got in the tub. Oh, heavenly! It was so warm and soothing, but I did not like being in there by myself, so I had Theo get in and hold me in place, especially when I had a contraction. But I hated him being beyond me, because throughout the contractions my focal point became Theo’s eyes. I would just look at them and that would help remind me to breath through.

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Like I mentioned before, I have absolutely no idea of time. I don’t know how long it was before I got in the tub, I don’t know how long I was in the tub for. While I was laboring in the tub, I hit transition. Apparently I was saying some pretty funny things, like, “I don’t want this baby anymore!” “I don’t want her!”, and “just cut her out of me! Just cut her out!!!” I really, really, really didn’t want to be in labor anymore. I kept telling everyone I was so tired and I just wanted to take a nap. They kept reassuring me to keep going and it would be over soon, but I didn’t want it to be over soon, I wanted it to be over RIGHT then. I wanted it to have never begun! I wanted to rewind 10 months and rethink that decision to become pregnant. They kept making me go on my hands and knees, but I didn’t like that because I couldn’t see Theo’s eyes and those contractions were even more painful! I really, honestly felt like I couldn’t do it. And that is when I discovered the absolute miracle of natural childbirth. My whole body just knew it couldn’t take much more…. and it took a break. I went a good 10-15 minutes with only tiny little, bearable contracts, just floating in the water. I think I actually fell asleep. I was perfectly happy to stay like that, but Paulette finally said, “ok, we have to get this labor going again, so let’s get you out of the tub.”

At this point in time, my contractions were starting to feel “pushy”, and I was terrified! I did NOT want to push at all. I hated the feeling of a pushy contraction. I hated that I had no control over the urge to push. And I really, really, really did not want to throw up. I felt like those pushing contractions would make me throw up, and I didn’t want anything to do with them. So I layed down on the bed, clenched my legs together really tight, and cried through all the contractions that I absolutely did not, could not, would not do this!!!! And here is where the body played miracle number 2: no matter how hard I tried to NOT push that baby out, my body was doing it anyways. While I layed there, my body pushed that baby down the birth canal, despite all my attempts to stop it! Paulette and Theo let me writhe in misery for a while and then told me that was enough of that and I needed to get up and push the baby out. Paulette gently commanded (I think that is a good explanation of what a doula does) me to have a couple contractions while sitting on the toilet, as that is the perfect position to get that baby moved down. I complied, but only because I knew I really didn’t have a choice. At this point, I hadn’t really told anyone that the contractions were ‘pushy’ and that it seemed like she had moved way down the birth canal. I didn’t know how to describe that, or even if that was what I was feeling. I had voiced my fears about pushing and feeling out of control, but it didn’t really seem to help me overcome my fear of pushing. Anyways, so I shuffle myself to the bathroom, and have a couple contractions while standing next to the toilet before they finally convinced me to sit down. When I finally sat down, I went through 4 or 5 contractions, and I pushed, but I guess I forgot to tell everyone I was pushing a baby out! My brain is really fuzzy about who was where and who I was talking to, but I remember someone asking me if I wanted the midwife to check my cervix again. I rolled my eyes and said, “I KNOW I’m at a 10, I just don’t want to push!” Like, duh. Come on, people. What a stupid thing to suggest!  So the next contraction I pushed really hard, and her head squeezed right out- while I was still sitting on the toilet! I stood up real quick ’cause I didn’t want her to fall into the toilet, (and for some reason I thought once the head was born the rest of her would just fall out). All of a sudden, things got real exciting in that bathroom, and everyone kept asking me where I wanted to deliver. Again, eye roll.

“I don’t care where, just get her out of me!!” I shouted, and I just got down onto my hands and knees on the floor. Remember…head is hanging out, and I’ve just been told I have to wait until the next contraction to push her out. Up until that point, there had not been more than 5 people with me at a time- Theo, Aunt Natalie, Paulette, the nurse and the midwife. Suddenly, as I’m on my hands and knees, I just see feet. All I remember is tons and tons of feet. I have no clue who they all belonged to (I still don’t). And as I’m on my hands and knees with this baby half-born, I kept shouting two things: “Somebody get this baby out of me!” and “Where is Theo?” In all the extra feet, I lost sight of his, and I panicked that he had somehow been shoved out of the room and was not there! Aunt Natalie said she kept answering both of those questions, but I was too focused on panicking that I didn’t care what she was saying!

So, with the next contraction, Tera Evelynne Hines was born at 1:34 am. Both her and I bawled our eyes out, and the nurse helped Theo cut the cord. Since I was on my hands and knees on the floor, they cut the cord right away so they could get me to the bed and the baby on me as soon as possible. I STILL don’t know who all those feet belong to, but I found out after the fact that the midwife didn’t even make it in time for the birth! So the nurse and Theo ended up delivering her! (Edited to add: the feet all belonged to med students who were hoping to observe a natural birth. Sorry, for most of them it was over before it even began!)

Most people’s birth stories end there, but there was still a least another hour of the whole birth ordeal. I heard that delivering the placenta and getting stitched up was nothing since you had the baby and the joy of that overshadows everything else going on. Ha! Haha! That’s a funny one. Nope. I was delighted that she was finally here, but I was even more exhausted and just plain ol’ relieved. And delivering the placenta actually does hurt because they PUSH on the uterus and pull the thing out while I have to have a contraction-like feeling and push. Fun? Nope. Then, they get their fingers all involved and decide to put some stitches in. So, a shot and then stitches? Ugh. Ugh. Ugh. I didn’t want to hold Tera during all that, because I was so exhausted, shaky and distressed about everything that was going on down there. Theo sat next to me and held her.

Once that was all over, I finally got to hold Tera and concentrate on her. We worked on feeding, and I thought I it went well, but we found out later that I had some breastfeeding issues to overcome.  Around the time that all this has been wrapped up, my parents, brother and sister-in-law arrived- they drove all the way from DC through the night! Lots of tears and retelling of the story, rejoicing and looking over the baby from head to foot!

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So, a couple extra details to just throw in here at the end: I didn’t ever get the second dose of antibiotics. They were just getting the IV ready when I delivered. That threw a wrench into our recovery plans, but otherwise it was fine.

Yes, we had an amazing room- the room had that rocking chair, birth ball, armchairs, a big double bed and the bathroom with that glorious tub. I loved the birth center and the care that I received there.

Yes, I did go through labor 100% unmedicated. It was an incredibly powerful experience, but it does not make me better or more successful than anyone who went through labor and delivery with medication. I loved the way my labor and delivery went, but like I said at the beginning- there was a lot of factors as to why I was able to do it unmedicated. First off, my body did exactly what it was supposed to. This doesn’t happen to everyone. Second off, I had the greatest support team/people who forced me to get up and move and have that baby. Third, being in the birth center mentally prepared me that there was no medical intervention options. I didn’t even consider asking for pain relief, although I was seriously willing for someone to CUT HER OUT OF ME! Haha!

And I’m here to tell you: I went through the entire pregnancy without throwing up ONCE! Hallelujah!

She is such a delight, and we are glad that she is here- finally!

I put her in this nice, warm PJ set and everyone thought she was a boy #momfail

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We sure did love that double bed since we had to spend three nights in the hospital!

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Phew- as much as I loved her birth, I am so glad that it is over! I am SO glad she is here!

 

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Two years later, and I still bawl my eyes out every time I re-read that story! What a miracle our precious Tera Evelynne is!

If you would like to submit your birth story to my blog, please email me at [email protected]

You can read other birth story submissions here.