Last time I blogged it was green and warm outside. I’ve been sooooo behind with planning for baby (due in two weeks now!) that I’ve neglected this entirely. Not today though, because this is my best friend’s maternity shoot, and I had to share it. We just did a mini session since it was 17 degrees outside, but Felicia got her wish of a snowy day, and no pregnant women were harmed in the making of these photos, so I’d say it was a success!The sun was out and bright, and thank goodness for that, because the wind was harsh. I was alllll bundled up, and Felicia was in ballet shoes! This girl really braved it for these photos!I love how they themed it with the winter and plaid. It is a perfect combination. We were cracking up over these because it looked like Felicia was announcing to Jason that they were having a boy, which if course he already knew! I love their big laughs and the way they look at each otherOh and kissing in the snow with the sun….breathtaking. We needed to warm up though so we finished inside with some belly shots…And gorgeous silhouettes. I couldn’t decide which “look” I liked better so I just did both. Her bump is so sweet!Thank you Felicia and Jason for letting me capture your lives through these photos! I can’t wait to meet Riley!!!
Micah is the son of Mackenzie and Ben, and BOY is he a cutie. I was taking his pictures the other day and just thinking that having a boy would be really fun! Being pregnant, I find myself looking at sessions totally differently. At newborn sessions I get choked up, at 3 month sessions I inventory the baby rooms and take notes, and at 6 month sessions I just fawn over the adorable little outfits. I can’t wait to be a momAnyway! Micah. He’s a perfect, chunky-legged little bugger and I just love him. He wakes up so smiley and ready for pictures, and smiles the brightest when everyone else is laughing too. We did a few different looks for this session. Outdoors, Tennessee Volunteers, and Naked Baby! Fun mix
First we found this great chair and did a test run since he was so smiley. This blanket is the same one we used for Ben and Mackenzie’s maternity portraits!All of this amazing light and scenery was in a backyard!Ben is a huge Volunteer fan, so…..And then we finished with no clothes, because that makes every baby happy!
Thank you Mackenzie and Ben for such a fun session. You two are always a blast to photograph, and Micah was picked that up from you too!
It’s been a while since I’ve posted! I’ve been so busy with getting ready for the baby, Jamberry stuff, and photography, that I honestly just forgot about the whole thing 😉 Then I took pictures of Hadley. Perfect, plump, sleepy Hadley, and I knew I had to share them with you! This little kid slept the. whole. time. I mean, she didn’t wake up once! I moved her around, changed her diaper, put her in different outfits, and she was as content as could be. It was amazing!!Mom and Dad were Cowboys fans!I LOVE toes!These booties and blanket were made by grandma! Isn’t that impressive?!So precious.
Holy yum, ya’ll, this was SOOOOOO good! I love Indian food, but I rarely ever eat it, and I’ve never made it in my life. That’s about to change because I’ll be making this recipe a frequent thing!
Every time I come across a yummy Indian recipe on Pinterest, I click and see about 10 ingredients that I don’t have. I know I could go buy them, but we only spend $125 a week on groceries for the 5 of us, so it’s a bit of a stretch to buy that many items for one meal. Well then I came across the recipe I adapted mine from (this one), and it only had two items I didn’t have, so I decided to go for it. I looked at a lot of other recipes though for Butter Chicken too, and I read other reviews on the recipes to see what people thought and made several changes. Since I did make a few pretty significant changes, I thought I’d write it out here both for me to remember and you to enjoy! Recipe belowIngredients:
- 2 lbs of chicken thighs
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
- 4 Tbsp of butter, divided into 2 Tbsp each
- 1 package of frozen onions (or about 1.5 large white onions)
- 3 tsp garam masala
- 1 tsp chili powder
- 1 tsp cumin
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1 Tbsp grated ginger
- 1 tsp minced garlic
- dash of cinnamon
- 15 oz tomato sauce (canned)
- 5.4 oz coconut cream (canned)
- chopped cilantro for garnish
Serve with rice and salad. The differences from the original recipe are that I omitted the water, substituted coconut cream (and less of it) for the heavy cream, used a dash of cinnamon instead of a stick (for a more muted flavor), cut the cayenne pepper in half to make it suitable heat for kids too, decreased the butter by a third, used chicken thighs instead of breasts (cheaper and darker meat is juicier), and subbed frozen onion to save me time. It worked out perfectly, and non of the issues other reviewers had occurred in my adaption. I was pretty proud considering it was my first time!!
1. Cut up chicken thighs into bite sized pieces and put them in a ziploc bag with 1 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp ground turmeric, and about a 1/2 tsp salt and pepper. Allow to marinate in the fridge for 15 minutes while you grate the ginger, chop the onions (if not used the frozen chopped ones), open the canned items and measure out your other spices. Be efficient in the kitchen!
2. Melt 2 Tbsp of butter in a pan, and add the chicken , browning it until cooked. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon, keeping the juices in the pan.
3. Add the onion, 3 tsp garam masala, 1 tsp chili powder, 1 tsp cumin, 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, 1 Tbsp grated ginger, 1 tsp minced garlic, and a dash of cinnamon, salt and pepper to the pan over medium heat, cooking a few minutes until the onions are soft and fragrant. During this step I start on my white rice!
4. Add the tomato sauce and bring to a simmer. Add the coconut cream and again bring to a simmer. Return the chicken to the pan, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes.
5. Add remaining 2 Tbsp. of butter to mixture and melt in the dish with salt and pepper to taste. Serve over the rice with a bit of fresh cilantro. This recipe makes a great sized portion, enough for two meals for our family of 5 (or one meal and 3-4 lunches for me…hehehe).
Tip: Anytime I make my homemade seasonings, like taco seasoning, cajun seasonings or in this case, Indian, I double the seasoning and put it in a ziploc bag for next time to cut back on time! The step 3 of this recipe would work great for that!
I hope you love this dish as much as I did!
Part 1: News
This is going to be such a long blog. I might actually split it up a bit because I could just go on and on and on. Something has happened. If you’re reading this blog you might already know what it is. Actually, lot’s of somethings have happened, come to think of it. Our first foster placement of three sisters will soon be coming to a close and they reunify with family. They’ve been with us for over a year and it’s going to be really hard, but we believe the placement is a good one and will likely be able to stay in their lives, so that is about as good as it gets for foster parents! We found out that news three days after our other big news.
No, a birthmom didn’t pick us. We don’t know if we have been considered at all by birthmoms, actually, because you can choose to be notified or not, and I’m not one who likes to get her hopes up and then dashed (you’ll notice that theme again later). The process to adopt can be very long though, and we are prepared to have to wait years to bring home our baby. In the meantime we are working on fundraisers and grants, but it’s been so busy in our home that we’ve only made a little progress on that front (meaning we received one grant and have one fundraiser in the pipeline).
So if those two huge things are not the news, you have probably guessed it. Unbelievably, incredibly, surprisingly…We. Are. Pregnant. WHAT?! Even just writing that down right now is such an unexpected thrill that it makes me emotional all over again. Emotional has been my go-to demeanor lately, as I’m sure you can imagine. I’m a bit meaner to my family, although luckily those mood swings only lasted about a week, I’m more weepy over anything baby related (anything, anywhere), and literally anytime I think about God’s grace I just want to sob with relief and joy and assurance. It was so unexpected ya’ll, like seriously. It took 5 pregnancy tests for me to actually believe it. I want to tell you the whole story with every single detail (partly for your benefit, but mainly for mine because I don’t want to forget a single minute), but first, I just have to give you this one song I wept over today.
This is from Bethel’s CD “You Make Me Brave” and it’s called “Shepard.” I didn’t actually even know that was the name of the song till just now when I looked it up to show you, and that’s even more special to me now since Psalm 23 is probably my favorite passage in the Bible. Anyway, here are the lyrics in italics (anything in parenthesis are my thoughts on it):
In the process
In the waiting (could those two lines describe the last three years of facing infertility any better? I immediately got chills)
You’re making melodies over me
And your presence is the promise (it’s been the one thing that’s gotten me through the pain of infertility, is knowing God is grieving with me too, that He hates our pain and the sin in the world that causes it, and that He is always with me no matter what)
For I am a pilgrim on a journey (at the risk of sounding like someone from “The Bachelor,” it really has been an emotional journey)
You will lift my head above the mighty waves (sometimes I felt like I was sinking in my grief, only held up by His love for me. How did this singer know this???)
You are able to keep me from stumbling
And in my weakness
You are the strength that comes from within (Yes, HE was my strength! The only thing that kept me from becoming bitter or sad all the time was His strength and love that is so evident in my life.)
Good shepherd of my soul
Take my hand and lead me on
You make my footsteps and my path secure
So walking on water is just the beginning (the miracle of Peter walking on water was just the beginning, not the point of the story, but the means through which Peter started to learn to fully realize Jesus for who He was)
Cause my faith to arise, stand at attention
For You are calling me to greater things (I feel like I am on the verge of finding out what those things are)
how I love You
how I love You
You have not forsaken me (this is the line that is sung over and over and just makes me weep. I always knew God hadn’t forgotten or forsaken me. I fully trusted that and believed it, but even so, this unexpected gift is just washing over me in how He wants good things for His children)
With you is where I want to be
You can listen to the song here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m_vgsfgy-rs
Part 2: Before
So how’d it happen? Well, not how how, you know that part, but I’m sure you want to know the story about how we found out, so here goes…
First of all, we’ve been trying for three years, and for especially the first year and a half, we were pretty gung-ho about the whole thing. We used an app to chart my cycles, Jason woke me up early every morning to take and record my basal body temperature, I read books on how to increase your chances, I tried oils, prenatal yoga, cutting out hormones from my body products (I switched to Beauty Counter, I highly recommend it!), started seeing a chiropractor, did a hysterosalpingogram (HSG) test (dye is injected into the fallopian tubes to allow the specialist to see the path of the tubes and make sure they are clear), and even three rounds of Clomid after that, despite the fact that I’ve always had perfect cycles and have always been ovulating on my own. Now, before you think it, we were NOT stressed about it, except for probably the first three months of trying, so that was not the problem. It’s so tiring and annoying to hear people say “Well if you only stop trying and keep your stress down, it’ll happen.” NOPE! If you’re someone who says that to women struggling with infertility, please stop, right now. What you’re saying is probably very well intentioned, but you’re basically implying that it’s her fault she can’t get pregnant, rather than a medical condition that plagues 1 in 8 women. It’s hurtful, it’s agonizing to hear, and boy did I get tired of it! Anyway, allow to me jump down from my soap box…
So after about one and a half years of those things, we stopped tracking, decided not to get any further medical intervention, and though I continued using Beauty Counter and seeing a chiropractor, besides marking down each day I’d start a cycle, we gave up all the other “proven methods.” Six months later we decided to adopt and also become foster parents, so although our hearts were full from having a house full of kids, we still tried every month, without much hope. I gave up expecting anything a loooong time ago though, so that contributes to the massive surprise that was May 21st, 2016.
Backing up a few days, there were only two teeny tiny signs that I noticed before realizing my cycle was late. Once, about a week after conception, I mentioned to Jason that I had been FAMISHED the last two days and couldn’t get enough to eat. He raised his eyebrows at me, signaling that he was wondering if I could be pregnant, and I nearly cried. “Please don’t look at me like that babe.” I said, “It hurts too much to hope and then be let down this many times, so I don’t even want a glimmer of expectation entering my head, and it’s hard when you look excited like that.” Of course Jason, in all his perfect-husbandness, apologized quickly and promised he’d try not to do it again. Another day during that week I had a sharp pain on one side of my stomach and briefly thought of pregnancy. I squashed it though. The thing is, everything is a pregnancy symptom! None of those things were really special at all, because every month of the last three years I could give you at least one instance of something “weird” happening that could be pregnancy related, so these things did not stick out to me at all, and in fact I hated that they happened because they would just lead me to start thinking about it again.
So, those were my only warnings until one night it occurred to me that I should be starting my period soon, and noticed I hadn’t had my customary cramps beforehand (sorry, TMI, but I have to give all the details here). I looked at my app to find out when it should happen and realized it was already day 30 of my cycle! Why was this significant? Because for four years I have tracked my cycles and never, not ONCE have I ever gone over 30 days. I’m usually firmly between 28 and 30, and never ever over 30 days. Naturally, I freaked out a little. Not because I thought I was pregnant, but because I knew that now not matter what, I would be crushed in a day or two when my period inevitably started, and my hopes had already gotten way too far up in just that instant.
It was all I could think about. It was agonizing. I was literally just going through the motions that night finishing supper and getting the kids ready for bed, and it was really painful. Finally, right before the kids were supposed to sleep, I curled up on the coach in my living room and folded my hands and quietly but audibly started praying to God. I needed peace. I begged for it, asked Him to please get it off my mind so I could calm down, and I recited Psalm 23 to myself, which is the passage about how God is our Shepard and looks out for us and will lead us through troubling times. While I was praying, four-year old K came out of the bathroom and saw me praying and came over and folded her hands and sat next to me and started praying too. I have no idea if she was saying any specific words, she was whispering like I was, but she knows how prayer works and was right there with me while I prayed. In an instant the most overwhelming, blanketed peace came over me. I’m talking like it literally felt like God covered me with a blanket of peace, and I was completely fine, and so incredibly relieved. I went the rest of the night, even through a few episodes of television where moms had babies or lost them, and was totally at peace. It was so powerful.
Later that same night (I stay up pretty late) when I was getting into bed the anxiety approached me again and this time I prayed for something different. I prayed for cramps. I said “God, please just give me the cramps that always come before my period now so that I will know I’m not pregnant and can get to sleep.” Not five seconds later my cramps came, no joke. I went to sleep mildly disappointed, knowing I was definitely not pregnant, but mostly so thankful to God for so directly answering my prayers and for giving me His peace that surpasses all understanding. The next few days my cramps continued, and I had very light spotting as well, so I was 100% convinced my cycle was just late and coming soon, and hardly thought about it again for two days. I even had reasons all lined up in my mind why it was probably late that month!
On day 32 of my cycle, still very very lightly spotting, it was the Grey’s Anatomy season 12 finale and I spent the evening with my amazing friend Katie and her sister and mom. They made pasta a la vodka and I had two glasses of wine. Don’t judge me! As I said, I was 100% convinced I was not pregnant and didn’t even think twice about it. It was a terrific night. On the way home (Katie was my driver, which is why I had two glasses of wine and not one), I told Katie about how the week had gone, with the weirdness of it being Day 32, of the incredible peace God had given me, and that no matter what for me “It is well with my soul.” That song has been huge for me for months now. In case you don’t know the story behind it, the gentlemen who penned the words “When peace like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say It is well, it is well, with my soul” wrote the song after arriving on the spot where his four daughters had been drowned in a boat accident. He cried out to God in his sadness but still admitted that even in his most trying moments, his faith in God would not be shaken. It’s a powerful song to me, and as I struggled in my infertility, it was one that I sang to the Lord over and over again, assuring Him and myself that no matter what He chose to do with my life I would still love Him and my faith would not be shaken. Even now I feel that way, and it is still an anthem to me as I reach 12 weeks of pregnancy. I intimated that to Katie that night, asking her to pray for me as I struggled with trying not to get my hopes up. Two days later, I got a positive pregnancy test.
Part 3: Realization
I don’t really remember the morning of Saturday, May 21st at all. I know that I had a newborn shoot that morning, and that I was excited for game night that evening with my church group, but otherwise the moment I first really remember was when Jason and I were trying to take an afternoon nap. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t get comfortable, and knowing it was Day 34, I was wrestling with myself over whether I should take a test that day or wait until Monday. I don’t even think I had told Jason I was late by this point. I didn’t want him to get his hopes up too, which would in turn be even more devastating when my period finally, inevitably, would come.
After three years, those little pregnancy sticks are your worst enemy. They taunt you, disappoint you, and tease you relentlessly and I just couldn’t bare to see another negative sign. I had decided to wait until Monday to test when I suddenly got out of bed, went to the bathroom and rummaged until I found the old tests I had bought years before. I don’t even remember consciously making the decision to test right then, but I was just so fed up with the games that I finally decided to just get it over with. I didn’t wait three minutes to read the results like the tests say to do. I put the test down and stared angrily at it the whole time, a glimmer of hope in my stomach betraying me, daring it to make me wrong. It did. It made me wrong. I saw the faintest little cross show up on the test and thought I was going to pass out. I wasn’t even excited, I felt like I was going to throw up, SURE that it was a trick. I called Jason into the room. He came running, my voice apparently making him very nervous. Remember that he had no idea I was even late or testing!
“I’m freaking out” I said “My heart is beating so fast and I think I might faint.” Jason thought I was having a heart attack, no joke. He had no idea what was going on. I sat down on the toilet lid and didn’t look at him as I handed him the stick and asked “Does that look like a plus sign to you?”
He immediately understood and switched to his soft, caring husband voice (it’s a noticeable change), and said “Yeah it does baby.” Did I smile or get excited? Did we jump up and down and snap pictures? Nope! My first words were “Don’t smile!!!” I was terrified. Completely mortified. I was sure it was all a horrible joke and I was about to go into mourning for the loss of a pretend baby that this little blue line was mocking me with. I told Jason it probably wasn’t real but did another test about a half hour later with the same result until I realized that the tests were expired. That was the joke I was afraid of all along. I knew it. False positive, the tests were expired. I told Jason and we decided to just pick up some new tests after game night that evening to be sure. We both knew it was still positive, and I think a smile or two snuck in by that point, but I was still so nervous and doubtful. We sat down on the bed together and once again prayed for peace and that His will would be done. I texted Katie that I had had two pregnancy tests that were positive and she completely freaked out! I told her after game night I would test again and promised to let her know the results. She probably texted me three times that night asking if I was on the way home yet!
Game night was a blur. I didn’t have any alcohol, I know that, but even though I was happy to spend time with friends, I really just wanted to get to the finale. By this point the hope was seriously creeping in, there was no stopping it. On the way home we stopped at Food Lion, which I never go to, and I hobbled around the unknown store with my broken toe in a cast looking for pregnancy tests. I finally had to ask someone, and when I found them I picked two different well known brands and decided to buy both. We went home and hopped into the bathroom while the kids got ready for bed.
Both tests were VERY positive. I mean no doubt whatsoever, dark as can be. It was such a shock, and the experience was absolutely nothing like what I always pictured finding out would be like. I was relieved yes, but I could hardly even say that I was happy. I was so sure I couldn’t be pregnant that it was really very hard to accept it. Jason asked “Can I smile now?” and that kind of did it. “We’re having a baby, I think.” I said. We both just smiled, hugged and stared at the tests. I numbered them one through four so I wouldn’t ever forget and we took a couple of pictures to commemorate the moment, but I was still in a major blur. Of course I told Katie and she was so excited, and it helped me get excited too, but mostly I was just an incredibly emotional zombie. I went to bed in slight excitement and mostly stunned disbelief, just trying to accept the news. I never expected to have that day, and I couldn’t believe it was happening.
Part 4: Aftermath
Sunday I was still in a blur, walking around at church as if people could tell. We sat with a guy we had met earlier that month who was going through some very hard times, all the way in the back of the church. Usually we sit third row center, so being back there was unusual, and during the songs we sang I kept bouncing back and forth between wanting to loudly and joyfully praise God for the moments I was having and also be sensitive to the obviously bad time the guy next to us was having. It seemed like every song that day was about how good God was, and boy did it resonate with me, more than ever. I silently sent up thanks to God for remembering me. Of course Katie found me and gave me a secret hug, and I later that day we told C, our 12 year old foster daughter, who immediately started looking up baby names on the computer. It was so precious.
Monday I think was the first day I got really excited. I started planning when to tell people and how to tell them, and that day I made the ultrasound appointment, which made it so real for me! I started spontaneously going up to Jason (who works from home on Mondays) and saying “We’re having a baby!!” From then on it was game on. I created a Pinterest board and kept it secret of course, and downloaded all the pregnancy apps. We also told my sister Elisabeth that day on Facetime, since I knew I wouldn’t see her in person for a long time. Tuesday we told my community group at church (watch: video), Friday we told Jason’s parents (watch: video) and Sunday my family all came down for Memorial Day and that’s when I told them (watch: video). It was special that it happened at that time because four years ago during that weekend my sister Rachel announced her first child too! I took videos of all of those ones so I’d never forget those moments. I used to just bawl and bawl over pregnancy announcements on YouTube, so doing one of my own was incredibly special for me.
At 7 weeks, 6 days we had our first ultrasound, and we got to see our baby moving and the little heartbeat chugging away and found out our due date is January 25th. At 11 weeks, 2 days we met with the midwife at the birthing center we will be using and heard that heartbeat for the first time, racing at 162 bpm (watch: video). In case you are wondering, we are not going to find out the sex, because it’s more fun and neither Jason nor I have any preference at all. Our baby’s room will be gray with teal and yellow, and be decorated with vintage hot air balloons. If we have a boy, a few airplanes will be added, and for a girl we will add butterflies. It’s been so much fun planning!!
One thing nearly every single person has asked after I tell them I am pregnant is “So what about the adoption?” So many friends and family contributed to it, so it’s natural they want to know! Our agency’s guidelines state that if you have a new child in the home you must have them a year before you can adopt, so we are simply pushing back our timeline. We will not be shown to birthmoms for the remainder of the time we are pregnant, and a year after I give birth. After that we will go on with our plan, assuming we still feel God’s hand on it, as we do now. We both figured that God gave us a peace about it before and this pregnancy didn’t surprise Him, so our move is to just wait out the time period we are supposed to. I’d love to have two small ones at once!
So now we’re in full celebration mode. This month we are focusing on our precious girls since they leave us early next month, but after that it’ll be full planning! We have a getaway planned for the two of us in September, and we plan to enjoy the time we have as just a couple to the fullest extent. Since we plan on fostering again when our children are older, this is likely the last time we will ever be just the two of us, in our entire lives! We really could not be happier though. I keep telling people that I feel like my cup is overflowing. Before I got pregnant I had the perfect husband, loved my church, had tons of good friends, loved my jobs, loved my home, have peace with my whole family, and basically, life was perfect. Add on top of that another HUGE dosage of blessings and I am just brimming with joy; it’s falling all over the place! I’m in this unique position where I completely understand the wretched reality of infertility, and mourn for women who suffer in this way, and also get to experience pregnancy and the joys of that.
There’s no way you’ll ever hear me complain. No way. If you ask, I might tell you that sleep has been difficult, and sometimes funny things happen with food, but I don’t care if I’m bedridden the rest of the way, you’ll hear no complaint from me. I am so overjoyed to have this life in me and I don’t care what it takes to get there. I don’t think I would have appreciated it half as much if it had happened three years ago. I know I wouldn’t have.
Another thing that’s been put into perspective is the possible reason why God’s answer to our prayer was to wait. We realize now that we would never have become foster parents and had our three girls if we had gotten pregnant when we wanted to. We always planned on being foster parents, but not this soon, not before our biological kids. If we had had our way, C and B would not have come to love and follow Jesus in front of our eyes, and K would never have graced us with her incredible smiles. I would never trade those things for anything, and now I praise God for making me wait. His timing is always perfect, and His ways, no matter what happens next, are always better than ours. I never felt like God abandoned me, or that I was owed motherhood; I knew that God mourned with me when I cried. I knew He wanted His child to feel His love and just needed me to wait and see, and even if I had never gotten pregnant, that He felt that loss with me. I serve a loving God even in the midst of the storm, and it is well with my soul. It is so well.