thank-you to my toddler

It’s hard to believe that my pregnancy with your sister is entering the last month.  It feels like yesterday that I got that positive test.  I picked you up from daycare and whispered “you’re going to be a big sister,” and you whispered “baby.”  All those rough first-trimester afternoons where I held you close on the couch and snuck in a nap while you watched Nick Jr, they don’t feel so long ago.  You were patient, I was learning how to be pregnant and be mommy at the same time.

Thanks to JW Photography

In fact, you’ve always been patient with me, with us…me and your dad.  I honestly thank you for tolerating all the trial-and-error that comes with first time parenting.  On top of the normal, I was first-time momming with an extra layer of guilt that flared up every time I remembered my first first-born.  

Those nights early-on, I felt a little extra afraid at that you’d leave too.  I worried I’d have empty arms again.  That monumental drive home from the hospital, I sat right next to you and watched infant CPR videos until I fell asleep at the foot on your car seat.  

I used to lean over your basinett and feel the warm air coming from your tiny nostrils and pray you wouldn’t leave.  I know so many moms do this, and I’m not sure if my fear was necessarily more, but it was all-consuming at times. 

Thank you for hanging in there when my body wasn’t quite ready to feed you, waiting for things to click.  Thank you eduring 10 long weeks of that darn nipple shield, and working through thrush, and being ok to wean at 17 months so that I could get pregnant with your sister.  

Thank you for showing me it was ok if you fell down or bumped your head.  Your positive spirit showed me that I didn’t need to always call the doctor when you had a fever.  Thank you for the confidence in my boo-boo kissing abilities.

Thank you for being patient and accommodating the time that I brought literally everything to the beach except sand toys.  Thanks for being cool with playing with the Dunkin Donuts cup instead of a shovel and bucket like the other kids had.  You always are so cool to just roll with stuff.

Thank you for healing my heart and making me a mommy again.  Thank you for nursing extra long sometimes when I did a much-needed devotional as I worked to grow in motherhood with His word.  Thank you for holding my face when I cried then because I was so fearfully in love with you, and now when I cry because I’m nervous and excited for you all at once.

I wish I could tell you what’s coming, and yet, I know this change is going to be so amazing for all of us.  Your life is about to change drastically.  Just like you were so patient with me then, I vow to be patient with you now.  I promise to still spend time with JUST you.  I will understand when you need a little cuddles and reassurance when baby sister is here, and be fine with letting the dishes and laundry pile up.  I may not like it, but I’ll understand if there are nights when I don’t sleep because after she goes down, you wake up.  

Thanks to JW Photography

Like everything else, like every first, we will figure it out together.  I can’t wait to see your face in the delivery room, after labor, after she’s here.  I can’t wait to give you a big hug and kiss and tell you what we always say: “I missed you!  I love you.” 

my first maternity shoot 

I’ve been pregnant 3 times now, and this is the first time I’ve ever done maternity photos.  My first pregnancy was too complicated for me to even consider them, and my pregnancy with Gracie conincided with buying a house.  I was so preoccupied with becoming a new homeowner, before I knew it I was 38 weeks and not wanting to move.

This pregnancy, our sweet friend at JW Photography took our first ever set of official bump photos.  I wasn’t quite sure how to prepare for them, but she offered plenty of guidance.

When she asked what look we were hoping for, I said “light and bright.”

When she asked what I was planning on wearing, I said “a black dress!”

I realized that didn’t make much sense, and together, we found a few good options on Pink Blush.

Posing wasn’t as uncomfortable as I’d thought it would be.  It was basically a fun night at the beach with my family and our friend, talking and laughing, and getting our clothes completely soaked with ocean water.  There is no better smell!

I have a few closing thoughts on maternity photos, if you’ve never done them before and plan to:

  1. Pick a photographer that you feel comfortable with!
  2. Talk to your photographer about the look you want.
  3. For specific thoughts on look and style, check out my friend Jen’s post here!

And without further ado, below are almost all my favorites from our maternity/family shoot last week at Wingaersheek Beach!

And because she never ceases to steal the show, some of my favorites of our little Gracie girl.


Thanks again to Jen!

If you have any photos to share, would LOVE to see them in the comments below.

5 things i didn’t register for…and needed

It’s hard to believe that nearly a year ago, I was happily clicking away on Amazon and, adding what I thought I’d need to care for our little baby-to-be with feet of snow outside the window.  This year, we finally got our first significant snowfall last weekend, and that little baby-to-be was able to play in it!


Back to registering: I had done some research, and I felt pretty confident about what I was adding and what I skipping  However, after bringing Gracie home, it took me a few days to understand that there were a few things people always add for a reason.

Based 100% on my own experience, for today’s Friday five list, I thought I would share five things that I left off my baby registry…that we actually needed.

ONE: A diaper pail

While pregnant, I decided that a diaper pail was something we could do without.  Instead, I had a cute, pink basket full of plastic grocery bags and a plan to take each dirty diaper out to the garage, individually.  After changing what was probably 1,054 diapers within few hours of being home from the hospital, I quickly realized that this plan, while good in theory, wasn’t gunna work.

Not only was it difficult to put our newborn down long enough to walk the bagged diaper out to the garage, but also, our trash only gets collected once a week.  Loosely tied bags of poo in a hot garage in July were not going to cut it.  After some research, we chose this diaper pail, and I took my first postpartum trip to Babies R Us.  We’ve been happily bagging ever since.  A simply trashcan with a lid would definitely be comparable.

TWO: A bottle drying rack

While pregnant, I had a plan to breastfeed.  However, because I was planning to return to work, I knew I’d also need to pump.  However, I didn’t know exactly how many parts bottles and pumps have.  I thought we would just dry everything and put it away immediately.


After weeks of setting every nipple and tube and membrane and pump horn (what I call them) out to dry multiple times a day, I began to miss our dry, bare countertops.  I invested in this collapsible drying rack.  I like it because it’s easy to wipe clean and, if there are a few days where I don’t pump/bottle feed, it can be easily collapsed and stored.

THREE: Muslin swaddle blankets

Photo credit Laura Wagner Photography

I originally received a pack of 4 muslin blankets as a postpartum gift.  I didn’t register for them because I seriously was doubting my ability to swaddle without Velcro/ties.  However, once I used one of these blankets for something other than swaddling, I was obsessed.  We didn’t use them to swaddle…but we used them for EVERYTHING ELSE this summer.  They are so amazingly light-weight.  I covered her in her car seat, I wrapped her loosely while holding her, I let her nap with one draped over her in the swing (they are super breathable), I used them for nursing covers….in the earliest days, we didn’t go a day without one!

Beyond being practical, I love all the fun patterns and colors!  We actually ended up getting her a lovey from the same material, and she sleeps with it every nap/night.  There is a reason why everyone loves these blankets!

FOUR: A second carseat base

It took a few times of switching the car seat base between our two cars for us to get wise and invest in a second carseat base.  Obviously, this isn’t something that everyone will need, but for us it was a game changer.  Now, we can just hop in whatever car has gas and leave, without doing the great seat exchange.  I wish we’d done it sooner.

FIVE: This nursing pillow

As a first time mom, I was completely unaware of how to breastfeed.  Gracie and I had a few issues getting started, and once we got started, a few more issues keeping going.  That story is for a different day.  However, after one visit to a lactation consultant, I was in LOVE with this nursing pillow.  It kept my tiny newborn right where she needed to be, it buckled around me so that it didn’t slip off, and it even had a little pocket for my cell phone.  Game changer!  I highly recommend doing your research on nursing pillows if you are planning to nurse: you will be nursing 8+ hours a day at first, and you need a pillow that helps you.

Photo credit Laura Wagner Photography

That wraps up my list of 5 things I wish I’d registered for.  Live and learn.  In the end, I guess I really didn’t need any of it.  All I really needed was a big bottle of water, a sense of humor, a supportive hubby, and a sweet baby to snuggle.

Happy Friday!

This Friday, I linked up with:

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Gracie Kate Western is born

This post is overdue, but we’ve been pretty busy.  In a months time, our life has gotten significantly crazier, louder, and more loved-filled than I think we’d planned on.  It all started after 45 minutes of sleep on a Tuesday night.  

I know pregnant.  I was pregnant before this, and even though it was a high-risk pregnancy, I had some idea of what would happen right up until labor.  So I knew when I woke up at 2am on 4/29/15 that my water was about to break.  I jumped out of bed just in time, just before the gush.  After about a half hour of frantic running around, random chores (I had to make the bed!) crying (I was losing my little belly buddy), and saying goodbye to the cat, we were on our way into Boston.

There was no traffic at 2:30am, and we made it in record time.  As we crossed the Tobin bridge, the view of the city was spectacular.  It was vibrantly illuminated, yet perfectly still.  I felt an ominous pull at my heart as a realized we’d be leaving the city forever changed, again.

The valet was not at his post when we reached the hospital, so I walked myself in while Jon parked.  I waddled through the revolving doors and checked in, and Jon ran in with our bags less than 5 minutes later.  We were wheeled up to Labor and Delivery, and within 10 minutes, what I already knew to be true was confirmed.  My water had broken and we were staying.  I was dilated to 3cm.

The part that follows is confusing to me, in hindsight.  Although I wanted natural childbirth, I was given pitocin to accelerate my labor.  I consented, not completely understanding the effect this drug can have.  I think it was explained to me, but I wasn’t really listening.  I was too excited.  An hour later, my labor had kicked into fourth gear.  I was laying in bed, experiencing back labor again, and my contractions were magnified from the pitocin.  

Thankfully, a 7am shift change brought me an amazing nurse that helped me through the remaining hours of labor.  She found out I was on pitocin, asked that it be stopped immediately, and got me out of bed.  She coached me through each contraction, suggesting new positions to minimize my pain.  At 7cm, I was quickly becoming exhausted.  I was working on 45 minutes of sleep, and I felt myself nodding off after each contraction.

I was worried that, after such intense contractions with so little sleep, I would be too exhausted to push my daughter out.  I had come so far, I wanted to be sure I could complete what I’d started.  I opted for the epidural, and right as it took effect, it was time to push.

An hour later, Gracie Kate Western entered the world.  She was vibrant, beautiful, and screaming as if to triumphantly announce her arrival.  I had held back tears until that moment, as if to protect myself.  Once I learned she was alive, I knew things were different than last time.  I cried and held my daughter on my chest for 2 hours, yet somehow, it felt like mere minutes.  I couldn’t believe that this was real life.

The past few weeks since birth have been a learning experience for our whole little family.  I knew babies were hard work, but until Gracie, I had no concept of what that work actually looked like.  Breastfeeding is harder to start than what I realized, and feeding every 2-3 hours leaves little time for much else.  Yet, we are all learning, and we are beginning to gel as a family unit.  

After a month riddled with tears from both pure happiness and sheer frustration, I am getting more confident as a mom.  I’ve been humbled; my life is no longer my own.  In the first few days at home, I tried to do everything the same as if always done.  Yet, as time passed, I began to understand that it was no longer my schedule.  I am on her schedule, and life outside of her has to fit where it can.

We are starting to know her cries, we understand how they are different.  I learned that singing to her, even if it’s complete nonsense, calms her during diaper changes.  Jon discovered that she likes to be held during squats and other leg excercises.  I discovered that she loves her mobile above her crib, even though I don’t think she can see much of it yet.

I am so blessed to have this perfect little being in my life.  I couldn’t want anything more.  She is the little present that I will spend these next years opening and discovering.  I look at her, and I just can’t believe how beautiful she is.  I’ve never felt so humble, happy, confused, overwhelmed, overworked, and loved at the same time.

Gracie Kate Western, I’ve been waiting for you for a long time.  I can’t wait for more days as your mommy.  I can’t wait for more life with you in it.  I’m just so thankful to have you here.

what i’ve been training for

Today is Boston, as they say.  I love being able to wake up, turn on the TV, and watch all the runners that have been training months, years, even their whole lives, for a race that is less than 20 miles from my house.  I remember watching the Boston Marathon last year, as well.

It was about a month before the marathon in which I’d get my BQ (Boston qualifying time).  I had a beautiful training run that day.  I also had two conflicting ideas of where I could be in a year.  Last year, I hoped that I would either be running Boston in 2015…or that I’d be pregnant again.

I earned my BQ on 5/18/14 with 3:31:35.  I am not sure if this time would have gotten me into Boston this year, as the competition is always fierce and a qualifying time doesn’t guarantee a racing bib.  However, I do know that after my BQ, I was torn.

Around June 2014, I started to feel a pull that I hadn’t felt since losing Darla in December of 2013.  I started to feel the little tug at my heart, a little pain…a tiny loneliness.  Completely independent of any action on my part, my heart was preparing to be a mom again.  I wasn’t ready in June, but July was different.

I felt like I knew how to be strong enough for whatever.  I didn’t have the strength on my own.  Just like in 2013, no matter what was waiting for us this time, we still weren’t alone.  God carried us through the darkest storm when we lost our first baby, and if need be, He would do it again.  I couldn’t lean on my own strength to be ready, I had to cling to where true strength comes from.  I knew how to be brave again.

I still wasn’t quite sure what to do about Boston.  However, after trying unsuccessfully to get pregnant in July, the increase in longing in my heart confirmed that I was definitely ready.  I was more ready than I’d realized.

I knew that, as hard as I had worked to train and qualify for Boston, I wanted this more.  We decided we’d try for a while and see what happened.  If I didn’t get pregnant by when it came time to register for Boston, maybe we’d put it trying on hold.  Maybe?

It never came to that.  We got pregnant in August.  I’ve been blessed with the pregnancy that I’d hoped for.

Now I sit here, on Marathon Monday 2015, less than 2 weeks from my due date, and ready to pop.  I am celebrating all the runners that made it and hoping I someday get the huge honor of joining them.  I still dream to run Boston.  But for now, I’m ok.  I have time.  I’ve been training for this race longer.

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To be honest, the idea of giving birth again is scary.  Walking through those hospital doors in active labor will surely be accompanied by a flood of memories from that December night.  Some will be happy, some will be painful.  I’ll never be ready, but in less than two weeks, it’ll be my own marathon.  I don’t know how long it will take, and I don’t know how much it will hurt.  I don’t know if I’ve trained enough, but I know I can make it through.

I just can’t wait to meet our little rainbow baby.

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This Monday, I’m linking-up with SarahJennRachel, and Tauna for the Mom 2 Mom Monday Link-up.

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my final “push” sanity-savers

I am 37 weeks today, and trying to remain healthy in my pregnancy is getting tougher by the day.  The motivation is there, but so is the exhaustion…and the candy.  I want all the candy.  My belly is starting to outgrow my maternity clothes…how is that possible?

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I know what’s important: keeping a balanced diet, getting rest, taking it easy…it all sounds good, in theory.  However, we just moved!  I have a nursery I want to decorate.  Mopping the floors in a house takes 5 times longer than in an apartment.  I want to wrap everything up neatly at work.  I get random bursts of energy at 3am that make sleep impossible…and the giant belly currently ruling my life doesn’t make it easy to get comfortable.

Please don’t think I am complaining about this final stage.  This pregnancy is something I hoped and prayed for, and so I am thankful for it….all of it.  However, even the thankfully pregnant grow weary from time to time.

In spite of the increase in treating myself to candy and chip dip, I have found a few tricks to help me stay somewhat healthy and strong through this final push of pregnancy.  These habits I am clinging to don’t require a lot of change to my normal routine.  Because it’s Friday, I I thought it would be fun to share five of them!

1.  Juices: Purple and red juices have been my thing these past few weeks.  Any juice I can find with beets, and maybe some purple carrots, has tasted overly amazing.  Naked Bright Beets gives me a huge boost of energy, and is packed with Vitamin A (good for baby’s eye health).  I like to compliment my morning bagel carbs with a loaded juice, for balance.

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2. A Glass Waterbottle: I finally broke down a week ago and made the switch from a plastic to a glass water bottle.  While I can’t be quite as rough on my Ello as I was on my Camelback, I love that the taste of a glass water bottle is fresher.  It’s easy to clean (dishwasher safe), and if I throw in a Nuun, I don’t taste it for days after.


3. Compression Socks: I thought I loved my compression socks before…but now, they are lifesavers.  My Sockwells are continuing to keep my ankle swelling down, and pulling them on after a long day is a treat for me feet.  Granted, the actual process of getting them on is a battle with a 37 week belly.  Yet, once they are on, the struggle seems small in comparison to the reward.

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4. Low impact Cardio: I am using yoga and low-impact cardio videos to keep strong and prepare mentally for birth.  I am planning to keep perfecting my yoga playlist so that I can maybe use it during birth.  Giving birth last time was traumatic for me, and I am doing all I can to prepare for this time to be as relaxed as possible.

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5. My Snoogle: This pillow is a sleep-saver.  Seriously.  I am pretty sure this is the only reason why I am resting as well as I am at night.  Whenever I lie awake, it’s not from being uncomfortable; it’s just a crazy hormone rush.  I use the Snoogle under my head, have it support my back, and come through my knees to offer cushion under my big belly.  If I fall asleep on the couch without it, I wake up with a very sore back.

I can’t believe how close I am to delivery!  I have mixed emotions that I am working to sort out.  Overall, I just can’t wait to kiss her face…and three weeks isn’t too long to wait.

This Friday, I linked up with:

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five on friday: showering baby western

Happy Friday!  After a great weekend, my entire week has been spent recovering from my trip to Michigan for our baby shower.  I’m 30 weeks, getting bigger each day, and dragging myself through the airport isn’t quite as easy as it once was.  However, I had a great trip and I am excited to recap our baby shower.
Friends and Family
With my Mom and Dad.
I have always known how lucky I am to have such great family and friends, but on days like our baby shower, I feel completely in awe of how blessed we are.  The whole day was perfect, from start to finish.  I remember having a similar feeling at my wedding: there is something about having so many people that are normally separate, and that you love and care about, in the same room with you.
With my 2 sisters and my Mom.
With my 2 sisters and my Mom.
With my Mother-in-law
With my Mother-in-law
It’s hard to explain, but it feels so wonderful.  I am thankful to my mother and my sisters for throwing this shower, and to my beautiful mother-in-law for traveling in and her help.  Baby Western is so lucky to be coming into the world, already loved my these people.
Sugar and Spice
A project that I really wanted to take on for our shower was the sweets table, it used to be a fun hobby of mine. I LOVED how it turned out.  I made the banner by hand, and the signs on the candy/cupcakes were an easy 10-minute addition.
I chose lots of white for the candy to match the wintery center pieces.  We were really hoping for the baby shower to have a wintery feel, and so I kept the table clean with lots of white and silver, and a few splashes of purple.
Raspberry Cheesecake
Raspberry Cheesecake
Red Velvet
Red Velvet
The cupcakes were from a great local spot, and I honestly could not choose a favorite.
Baby Gear
From binkies to blankies and everything is between, Baby Western (and mommy) feel completely showered and spoiled after this weekend!  All of the baby gear our apartment (the outfits, the crib, the car seat, the Bumbo) are reinforcing the fact that baby girl is coming…and not too far from now!  We are waiting until we move into our house to dive into some of the boxes, and I am getting anxious to set up her room.
My Fav “Mocktail”
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Old City Hall in Bay City, where the shower was held, has a fantastic cocktail on the menu that I often request as a mocktail.  I tried to re-create it at home, and I think I got pretty close!  You can find the recipe here.  I made several this week, so fresh and delicious!
I mentioned this already, but we just feel so fortunate to have our family and friends.  They have been there for us through the dark times, and now, are there to share in our joy.  They traveled from Minnesota, Kentucky, and New York to Michigan for our shower.
We received several beautiful homemade gifts (like our quilt) that were clearly made with lots of love. We also received gifts that weren’t on our registry that I am thankful for because they come from a  place of experience.  I didn’t even know they existed!
In place of a guest book, we asked that our guests share advice on cards for Baby Western’s scrapbook.  Every one was so thought-out, and I so lad we asked.  There was so much love showered on our little family on Saturday, and we are so thankful.
This past weekend will be tough to top.  However, we are closing on our house in exactly one week, and it’s sure to be another great adventure.
This Friday, I linked up with:
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