Thursday, October 27, 2022

Don't Blink

I'm always a little heartbroken when I'm reminded again how fleeting these newborn days are. The hours turn into days and weeks, while my baby seems to grow before my very eyes. This season is not always blissful or idyllic, but it is so very dear.

It's a retreat from "loftier" pursuits to care for a tiny soul's simple needs of food and warmth and touch -- needs that I can satisfy with my own body, because God's design is very good indeed.

It's a reminder that my heavenly Father cares for me even more tenderly than I care for my littlest love (and a reminder that I'm as utterly dependent on Him as my baby is on me).

It's a reprieve from the groanings of a weary world -- life in the face of death, joy in the midst of darkness, a taste of the good things that He has promised to bring to pass.

Our soul waits for the Lord;
He is our help and our shield.
For our heart is glad in Him,
because we trust in His holy name.
 Let yYur steadfast love, O Lord, be upon us,
even as we hope in You.
Psalm 33:20-22

Sunday, October 16, 2022

Tiniest Blessing

 It's hard to believe, but it's true -- our sweet rainbow baby made it earthside, and is safely in our arms! Praise God for His astounding grace! 

I did fill out the birth announcement! In retrospect, it would have been much easier to
take an "internet friendly" photo before filling it out, rather than editing it out later...

"Kit" is absolutely precious and perfect, and we all adore him. It's so sweet to see his older siblings loving on him; it's been so long since there's been a baby in the house.

The days leading up to his birth were hardly "peaceful" -- our water heater died suddenly, storms took out the power the next day, and there was a baby shower scheduled on his due date! Happily, he cooperated and I didn't go into labor until the power was back on and he had been properly celebrated. We did have to wait a few extra days for the hot water, but at least we had the ability to heat it manually again (thank goodness I wasn't interested in a water birth!).

Wrinkly newborn hands

I was unsure what to expect with this birth -- you'd think I'd be more confident at this point, but it had been 5 years since I'd done this, and this was our first home birth. Also, my last birth was only 1 1/2 hrs from start to finish. Talk about a hard act to follow! Anything over two or three hours would surely seem disappointing by comparison.

Some of the lovely blooms arranged for Kit's
shower by a dear lady from our church

I'd had some prodromal labor over the past few weeks, mostly just the odd contraction here or there. But then I woke up at 3:30am and couldn't figure out why my stomach hurt. As the fog cleared, I realized that I'd had a contraction, stronger than the prodromal labor. The contractions continued every ten minutes or so, but as I sat on my birth ball and tracked them on my app, I realized two things. One, I was quite tired and wanted to sleep more! And two, there was no real progression, and therefore no reason to wake my husband or the midwife. I went back to sleep, waking every 13 to 20 minutes to record my contractions. I finally got up around 8, feeling a bit more rested but also confused -- I'd never had labor that just didn't progress! After five hours of mild, erratic contractions, nothing seemed to be happening. But I had some bleeding and the contractions weren't stopping, so surely this was the real deal? I let my midwife know, and continued to track contractions while I did some last minute prep and house cleaning,

Itty bitty baby toes -- how can a toenail be that tiny?

By 11, I was frustrated -- not so much because labor was difficult or tiring (I wasn't even vocalizing during contractions because they were quite mild), but because it was already my second longest labor with no sign of progress! My midwife checked in, and when I told her what was happening (or rather, what wasn't happening), she suggested that I do ten inversions -- while Kit had been in the same favorable birth position since his 20 week anatomy scan (left occipital anterior), it was possible that his head wasn't engaging in my pelvis properly. Apparently the solution to this is to put your knees on the couch and your forearms on the floor...while you're having a contraction. Let's just say this was NOT my favorite activity! 

My midwife and I agreed that I would let her know when active labor started; after four births, we were both confident I would know when it was "time." 

As I started doing the inversions, my contractions immediately grew closer and more consistent: 6-7 minutes apart. Still not active labor, but at least some definite progress! But after five inversions, I was hit with my strongest contraction yet -- I was certainly vocalizing now. Another strong contraction followed 2-3 minutes later, and I texted my midwife to let her know: 

There are just two minutes between my last text and
my husband's "announcement" text! Forgive all the
typos, we were all in a bit of a rush...

My husband had just gotten our daughter, who wanted to be there for the birth. As soon as I texted that I was feeling "pushy," I had another contraction.  This one was incredibly intense, and my immediate thought was, "I don't want to do this anymore!" That should have been a clue -- hitting the notorious "wall" in labor is a sure sign that birth is imminent. But I usually feel the urge to push before it's actually time, so I didn't think much of it (I was more concerned about how many of these intense contractions I was going to have before the actual birth!).

 I was leaning on our dresser during that contraction, and suddenly realized that the amount of pressure I was feeling could only mean one thing. I reached down and felt Kit's head, and I don't even remember pushing again as I caught the rest of him in my hands! He started crying straight away, and I held him to my chest while my husband helped me to the bed (which we'd fortunately prepared several hours earlier). My husband texted the midwife "he's here," so she called us and stayed on the phone while she drove to our house. Kit and I settled in for some skin-to-skin, and were snuggled up together when she arrived. So much for knowing when to call the midwife! Though, in my defense, I only had 4-6 minutes of what I'd call "active" labor. 

I was sure this thrifted Gap "wrap" top would be perfect for 
skin-to-skin, and it is! I love snuggling with this tiny fellow.

Birthing the placenta proved a bit trickier, as my contractions stopped altogether as soon as Kit came out. I got a dose of Angelica and then Blue & Black Cohosh before it cooperated. But I had barely any blood loss (not even a cup, according to the midwife), and felt great the entire time. 

Technically, Kit was born en caul, because my water broke after/while he emerged -- I've always hoped this would happen, and thought it might be possible since my waters have never broken on their own (with my first four births, my doctor/midwife ruptured the sac immediately prior to birth). But Kit's sac broke as I caught him, so I didn't get to "see" it; I've watched some insane videos of babies born entirely en caul, where they're basically still "in the womb" on the outside! It's exceedingly rare, though.

I'm terrible about actually taking time to recover post-birth,
but I'm doing my best to rest this time.

One thing I found odd was how clean Kit was after birth -- he wasn't goopy or messy at all! After we'd had a good, long snuggle, he had his exam. My initial guess was that he was less than 7 pounds, and he weighed in at barely over 7 pounds. It may seem strange, but this was an answer to...well, not so much a prayer as a hope. Scout was a whisper over 11 pounds at birth (a nurse at his birth had to go exchange the newborn diaper she had ready for a size 1! *wink*). While I would be overjoyed to welcome another baby of any size to our family, I really do love the tiny newborn phase. With Scout, I felt like I had birthed a toddler! My midwives had assured me that Kit was not a big baby, but I wouldn't have dared hope that he'd be our smallest yet. Especially since he "cooked" about two weeks longer than his three oldest siblings, who averaged 7 1/2 pounds.  Even newborn clothes seem generously sized, and he curls up into such a sweet little bundle. I'm savoring this phase...and ordering a few newborn diapers. 

They fit! I can't describe how wonderful it is to finally 
have two tiny feet inside these little booties.

I'm grateful that we planned a home birth -- not only would I have not even made it to the car under the circumstances, but without my midwife's knowledge of labor positions, who knows how long my labor would have lasted (perhaps even ending in an unnecessary C-section). As it turns out, our home birth was even better than I could have imagined! Our littles were able to meet their newest sibling right away, and no one had to wear a mask -- two things that would not be possible with current hospital regulations. I also felt far more rested than usual. No one took my baby away for exams, and there was no need to pack up and get in the car for the drive home. Perhaps best of all, we weren't rushing to the hospital; I've gone through transition during the ride to the hospital twice, and I wouldn't be disappointed to never repeat that experience! Admittedly, I was blessed with a birth easier than I would have dared ask for -- another gift that I do not take for granted. Bringing our rainbow baby into the world in such a peaceful (but exciting!) way was better than I could have dreamed. 

I'm trying to soak up every fleeting moment of this newborn phase. Kit is changing so much already, and I don't want to miss a thing! Happily, nursing has gone well despite a mild lip and tongue tie (and my body's confident belief in the first week or so that we're feeding ten babies! Haha...). In spite of ending up in the hospital for observation this week -- the longest 24 hours of my life , even though it was just a precaution -- Kit is thriving, and has been such a joy and delight. We're all hopelessly besotted.

Welcome to the world, little Kit!

Friday, September 30, 2022

Waiting on a Rainbow (with a little sewing on the side)

I had every intention of getting some maternity photos with this pregnancy around 34-35 weeks -- after all the heartache we've been through in the last four years, this "rainbow" pregnancy was certainly something to commemorate. And I've always regretted not getting decent bump photos with most of my babies (only Little Man has a handful of "maternity" photos, taken in my parents' back yard -- my goodness, my husband and I look like babies ourselves!). I knew exactly what I wanted to wear, the absolutely lovely "Eliza" dress from Emme Mama. The only problem was the price's hard to justify spending more on a cotton gauze everyday dress than I did on my silk wedding gown, even though it's a company I'd love to support because of their ethical manufacturing. I decided to try my hand at drafting my own dress, and even made a trial run before we moved (which was a significant help, as it turned out). 

And then our house needed more renovations than anticipated (well, not all of them were needed), and our shipment was delayed by a month... As you can imagine, sewing a new dress was hardly my top priority when our belongings finally showed up. I finally managed to squeeze in some sewing, and finished my "knock off" dress just before 37 weeks. Cutting it a bit close, wouldn't you say? Though during the delay, I remembered a local museum that has the loveliest grounds. It turned out to be the perfect setting, and we all wished we could stay longer (we were trying to find the happy medium between closing time and golden hour, so our visit was a bit rushed). I suppose we'll just have to go back! 

Back to the dress details:

Even with some experience to guide me, I had to tweak (and tweak, and tweak again) to get the fit right. After the first try-on, I had to reduce the length/circumference of the puffed sleeves and hack almost eight inches off the skirt -- which meant removing and reattaching the ruffle. At which point, I realized that the ruffle just wasn't full enough, and still a bit too long. So it was removed again, expanded to include an extra length of fabric, and re-hemmed. 

I feel a bit narcissistic posting so many photos of just me (and Kit, by default!), but I've omitted photos with my husband and children for the sake of privacy. I promise that the rest of the family was involved; the littles have been so excited to welcome a new baby to the family, and it was truly sweet to capture memories with them as we all anticipate this little rainbow's arrival.

It seems foolish to make a maternity dress only a few weeks from delivery! But it should prove a boon during that awkward postpartum stage (and beyond, for that matter); it's insanely comfortable and nursing friendly. Besides, it has a decidedly autumnal flair, so I suppose it wouldn't have been ideal for the blistering summer we've had.

I found my cotton gauze on Etsy -- the five yards I purchased yielded the dress with plenty to spare (in fact, I've already made a wee pair of Misusu Olli pants and a bandana bib for Kit with the leftovers, and still have a yard or so left). It washed up beautifully, with a slightly squishy texture. In the end, the fabric cost about a fourth of the "inspiration" dress...considerably more budget friendly.

I debated hiring a photographer for a maternity shoot, but in the end I'm glad it was just us -- I didn't need or want a whole album of photos, especially since there are only so many ways to pose with "the bump." But I did want to capture a few memories of a season that's come after so much waiting and prayer. Thanks to my in-house photographers (i.e., my husband and oldest son), a tripod/remote, and a bit of help from Lightroom, we were able to do just that. We even managed to get a full-family photo, which is a bit of a shock considering how many people and how little time we had. *wink*

It's surreal to be here, in the final days before we meet this sweet boy, Lord willing. My heart overflows with gratitude for the Lord's undeserved mercies in bringing us to this point. So many times as we walked (stumbled? crawled?) through the valley of grief and recurrent loss, I wondered if the clouds would ever part. The darkness seemed so consuming and so endless at times. It's true, the scars of loss will never fully heal on this side of eternity -- I will always be a mama missing her babies until He wipes away my tears for good. And let me be quick to say that a "rainbow baby" was not the inevitable outcome of our valley sojourn, nor the only way God could bring healing and hope to our hearts. But I am so grateful for this little life, this tiny soul who has already brought so much joy to our family. He is not a "replacement" for the sweet babies we lost; he is a precious gift entrusted to our care. A gift that we do not take for granted.

We're ready to meet you, Little Kit! 

Tuesday, September 20, 2022

Courageously Expecting

Shortly before this pregnancy, I came across Jenny Albers' (at the time not-yet-released) book, Courageously Expecting. It was advertised as a 30-day, Scripture-based devotional for women navigating the mingled joy and terror of pregnancy after loss -- which sounded wonderful, though I wondered (rather cynically) if I'd ever have a reason to read it. Lo and behold, five days after the release date I was holding a faintly positive pregnancy test. It took me two more months to actually order the book, a testament in itself to the protective layer of caution I'd wrapped myself in. Even then, I felt far from confident that this pregnancy would last -- but that was part of the reason I felt I should read it in the first place.

As I started reading, I was so glad I'd summoned up the courage (no pun intended) to place that order. It took me far fewer than 30 days to finish, because I couldn't stop reading! It was such a blessing to find someone who could relate to what I felt, but who also pointed to Scripture as the source of truth about both my past and my future. No empty, "feel good" mantras or affirmations -- just trust in the One Who is writing my story, even if that story involves more loss. Jenny is gentle, but doesn't beat around the bush; once you've experienced pregnancy loss, there is no comfort to be found in saying "of course it won't happen again!" In her words:

"It's hard to imagine your body producing a living being when you know so intimately its ability to destroy one." (pg 71)

Hope. It's a precious commodity when the line between life and death seems so fine, and so out of your control.

"Most people would say I was 'expecting,' but it was more complicated than that. What was I expecting? Was I expecting life or death? Was I expecting to leave the hospital with or without my baby? Was I expecting a full-term birth or an early death? And even in the case of a full-term birth, I knew I wasn't guaranteed to deliver a living child." (pg xvi)

The uncertainty can be crippling. Waiting, day after day, for the signs that your worst nightmare is coming true...again. Unable to say the words "when the baby's born," qualifying every statement about the future with the word "if." As someone who has always delighted in pregnancy, I have found it deeply saddening to lose not only my precious babies, but also the innocent joy of expectation. But:

"While pregnancy after loss isn't exactly the way we'd hoped to experience pregnancy, isn't it enough to help us cling to God's promise of a better day? Isn't today, with your womb full, a better day than when it was so heartbreakingly empty? Hasn't faith, even the smallest amount, carried you to this point?
God has given you this child right now, and even if you can't predict what the future holds -- even if you're scared and unsure and hope seems impossible to grasp -- might the life that's inside you right now be enough to spur you toward embracing that elusive hope in a tangible way?" (pg 123-124)

I'll admit, I was skeptical when I ordered this book, unsure of what kind of theology I would find in its pages. So many, even in the Christian community, are quick to undermine God's sovereignty in an attempt to make bereaved mothers feel "better." They clearly haven't thought through the implications of a god (little "g" on purpose here) who desires to spare us from pain, but is incapable of preventing it! But Courageously Expecting proved to be filled with Scripture that underlined God's providential work in our lives. Instead of skirting the issue, Jenny acknowledges that even the babies we've lost are part of His plan -- and just because we don't understand why they couldn't stay doesn't mean that plan (or its Author) aren't good.

"Remember this: we have a God who knows us better than we know ourselves. He knows where we're going even when we don't, which is why we can be comforted even when our sense of control dissolves in our hands. There is comfort when we realize that our pregnancies are in hands far steadier than our own, and that our lives are being formed into something good even when we feel defeated." (pg 202)

I feel like this post probably reads like a book advertisement (extra points if you pronounced that ad-VER-tiss-ment in your head!), but I couldn't help but share a book that was such an encouragement to me. While it didn't magically strip away my fears -- which would be an unrealistic expectation -- it helped me to process the emotions I felt and give voice to worries I was scared to verbalize. 

Of course, all women process pregnancy after loss differently. I don't recall feeling much anxiety with Laddie, my first "rainbow" pregnancy. I know I was concerned in the early weeks, but once we'd had a positive ultrasound and passed the gestation of our previous loss, that mostly vanished. This time, it's different. Six losses in a row, including one at 16 weeks, will challenge even the most persistent optimism. But at the same time, so much grief has also taught me something about the value of joy even in uncertainty. By 20 weeks, I felt mostly at peace. By 30 weeks I found myself saying, "when the baby comes." Now, at 38 weeks and planning a homebirth, preparation has been essential! Granted, I've been blessed with a blissfully smooth pregnancy so far, I've reached the "viability" milestone (when a baby has a good chance of surviving preterm birth), and am well past the point that we've ever lost a baby. But I'm not oblivious to the possibility of loss, even though I'm now in what's considered by many to be the "safe zone." If only there were such a thing! I know I can't guarantee the outcome I desire, but I also know that the precious life inside of me deserves to be celebrated, no matter what.

As we've been blessed to add children to our family over the past decade, I've sometimes felt wistful for my first pregnancy; that may sound odd, but there is just something magical about that once-in-a-lifetime experience of becoming a parent for the first time. Granted, I didn't want to relive all of it! Even the passage of time hasn't totally erased the memories of bewilderment as we navigated those early weeks. Each successive pregnancy/birth/postpartum stage has grown easier, as those stages become more familiar to both my mind and my body. But somehow, my twelfth pregnancy feels like a first pregnancy (not counting the almost constant sight and sound of this baby's four energetic older siblings!). I've taken more bump photos than any of my other pregnancies, thrifted and sewn maternity and baby clothes, and taken such delight in preparing for this much-anticipated baby. For many loss mamas, those activities are just too painful or scary to contemplate, even in the third trimester; each mama's story is unique, and so is her response. For me, I've been waiting for years, and I don't want to miss out because I was too scared to enjoy this answer to many prayers (both mine and others'). 

I'd highly recommend Jenny's book for those who are pregnant after loss. I'm incredibly grateful to be here, counting down the days to our sweet baby's arrival -- this moment in time seemed so unattainable for so long. But no matter my circumstances, I'm always, always, carried in the arms of the One Who gives and takes away, and Who gave up His very own Son for me. That assurance is my true hope, and allows me to enjoy every blessing He grants along the way. 

Saturday, September 10, 2022

Easy Does It

You know I'm a loyal knitter -- but sometimes I can't resist the speed and versatility of crochet! Especially when it's this sweet little pattern from Josiah + Co, which I've had saved for ages. Having just finished up Kit's baby blanket (which I still haven't taken pictures of), I wanted a quick, simple project.  

It's only my second time using a crochet pattern (instead of a video tutorial), and it did present some difficulties! Mostly due to the lovely but confusing mock invisible join -- it hides the transition to each new round beautifully, but I just couldn't figure it out. In the end, I improvised a bit and am happy with the results. I would love to improve my confidence with written crochet patterns, though, as I still feel at a bit of a loose end and usually have to "practice" more than I'd like. Good thing crochet works up quickly! I was able to make both pairs of booties in two evenings, and I think I could cut down on that time significantly now that I've had some experience.

Even though I used a worsted weight yarn, I needed a smaller hook than called for and my booties consequently are smaller than the pattern dimensions. But my babies have traditionally had small feet, so I don't think that's a bad thing! The rust booties (KnitPicks Wool of the Andes in Persimmon Heather) are knit in the smallest/newborn size, and ended up at 3 1/2" long (instead of four). 

For the blue booties, I knit the 6-12 months size in the hope that they'll fit at the same time as Kit's Summer Cardigan, as they're made with the same KnitPicks Wool of the Andes Tweed in Marine Heather. I'm guessing both cardigan and booties will be roughly 3 months size, but I suppose that depends on how big this baby is, and how quickly he grows. 

 I decided to use tape yarn for the ties -- in this case, Hoooked Ribbon XL yarn in Sandy Ecru (a colorway that is apparently now out of stock). I'm kind of curious what it's like to knit with, but it works beautifully for this purpose. And at only a yard per bootie, it's destined to last a while! 

For now, Kit seems content to keep his little feet tucked up against my (ever growing) stomach, and that's all right with me. We're nearly at full term -- it's hard to believe his due date is less than a month away!

Thursday, September 08, 2022

Last Looks

While I always look forward to the new adventures that come with military life, the farewells aren't easy. We've been blessed to find welcoming church families and friends every time we've moved, and I don't love leaving them behind (though there's always the hope of reunions, either here or in heaven!). But there are also the places. While I didn't get to say "goodbye" to every favorite spot, I'm so glad we managed a last visit to this woodland wonderland -- and yes, these pictures are from early June, but I'm feeling "nostalgic"...

I wish you could smell the aroma of the sun-warmed pine needles!

Still snowcapped in June

Lupine will always hold a special place in my heart!

Much as I love the beauty of the east coast, I'll miss these icy mountain rivers

Snow plant, an unusual parasitic flower (notice the absence of green leaves)


Little details, all tributes to God's glory


Tuesday, August 23, 2022

The Accidentally Providential Cardigan

Last August, I bought some yarn to make a gift for what I thought might be my nephew (the baby's gender was a surprise, but I heard through the grapevine that a boy was suspected). I bought a gender neutral yarn, Berrocco Ultrawool Fine in colorway Driftwood, from a local yarn shop and cast on a wee cardigan. Well, turns out the nephew was a niece! But by that time, I was 99% done with the sweater and realized that the combination of yarn and pattern was definitely more masculine than gender neutral (I think a girl could wear it, but it didn't seem appropriate as a gift). The only steps left were sewing down the pockets, weaving in ends, and adding buttons. In other words, my least favorite steps in the construction process. So I stashed it away, and got to work on a more feminine project.

Fast forward a few months, and we finally had a rainbow baby on the way.
Fast forward a few more months, and we discovered that our rainbow baby is a boy.

And suddenly, I realized the sweater I'd made for my "nephew" was for my not-yet-existent son all along. This may seem like nothing more than a convenient coincidence, but knitting that sweater in the first place was not the easiest task to undertake, for reasons unrelated to pattern or yarn choice. Our own baby M was due just a week before our niece -- but instead of knitting for my longed-for rainbow baby, I was knitting for his or her cousin. It's not the first time, either; of my six nieces and nephews, four are just a few months, weeks, or even days younger/older than the babies we lost would have been. Five of our seven losses have happened while my sisters-in-law were pregnant; as any loss mama can tell you, rejoicing with others is often (perhaps inevitably?) mingled with wistful longing for what you've lost yourself. As grateful as I am for those dear children, they will always be reminders of my own little loves that didn't get to stay. It's been a challenging journey to cope with that realization, in addition to the already-heavy weight of grief. 

I'm grateful to be carrying a baby who will -- Lord willing -- be born almost exactly a year after baby M's due date. I was really knitting this wee sweater for Kit, the baby I could only dream of while I recovered from a surgery that I prayed would help us finally bring another baby earthside. That's why this simple sweater means so much to me now.

I'm realizing as I look at this photo that it buttons the "wrong way" for a boy --
but that's how the pattern is written, and surely a baby can get away with it?

Well, I didn't plan for this to be an "emotional" post, but here we are. Perhaps pregnancy hormones are getting the better of me! On to less sentimental details... 

I used Tin Can Knits' Playdate Cardigan pattern, which is generously sized from 0-3 mths through adult. 

I knit the 3-6 months size with smaller-than-called-for needles to suite my chosen yarn, and I'd say it's about a 3 months size. That should be perfect for Kit, who's due in early fall. I'd certainly knit this pattern again! it's been a long time since my older boys have had a mama-made sweater, and this would be a good candidate.

I tried wood and tortoiseshell buttons of various kinds, but they were all the wrong shade of brown or too plastic. So coconut shell buttons it was (a recent favorite of mine), sewn on "backwards." 

I still can't figure out if I managed to knit my pockets to different lengths, or if I blocked them poorly, but they're not quite the same depth! Somehow I doubt Kit will either notice or care, and it's not visible from the front unless you look very hard (which you now will, since I was foolish enough to point it out...). It was my first time doing pockets like this, and was rather fun.

I do much prefer raglan sleeves to pick-up ones -- I'd almost rather knit the sleeves separate and sew them in, to be honest. For some reason I usually have to do multiple pick-ups to get the counts right, and that becomes tiresome rather quickly. But I sorted it out and am happy with the result. Now they just need chubby little baby arms to fill them, but that project's still underway...

Wednesday, August 03, 2022

Hold, Please

I've been absent for a while, for the simple reason that our move is still "underway," and I am not skilled at blogging from my phone!

We started the trek east in late June, and somehow it's already August. With four littles, a dog, and two vehicles packed with travel supplies and oddments left over from the move (they won't pack liquids, batteries, light bulbs, etc, and we knew we'd need air mattresses and other supplies), it was hardly a "vacation."  But after six days of driving, we finally reached Florida. 

While neither my husband nor I consider ourselves Floridians anymore, it was home for many years (and still is to our nearest and dearest) -- and coming home felt good after years spent out west. The humidity was a bit of an adjustment, to be sure! And we managed to arrive during a particularly rainy/stormy season; I think we have been officially "rehydrated" after our desert sojourn... 

This little guy was hanging out on my parents' steps one morning

We enjoyed a taste of beach life -- much more enjoyable now that all the "littles" aren't so little. Laddie surprised me by getting the hang of snorkeling pretty quickly (albeit in shallow water, as he's still a beginner swimmer), and we hunted hermit crabs and let the fish nibble our toes.

But by far, the best part of our trip was spending time with both sides of our family -- that time is so precious, and we truly had the best time just being together (and eating lots of good food!). Rosa got to visit her first tea shop with her aunt and grandmother, and it was such a sweet memory.

The rainy weather made it difficult to keep the littles occupied, and they were quite energetic after spending nearly a week in the van -- but we found some activities, and squeezed in as many beach and pool visits as we could between storms.

I also got to try out the maternity/nursing swimsuit I made shortly before we moved! It's made up of skirted leggings and a sleeveless top; eventually it will get its own post, but that will probably be a while... I think it will work well for nursing, and I'm hoping it transitions well to postpartum.

This was 28 weeks -- finally in the third trimester!

It was time for the final leg of our journey, back to Virginia -- sadly, our last tenants left our beloved house in a bit more disrepair than we'd anticipated. Apparently they didn't understand the concept of supervising the use of art supplies, because virtually every wall, door, set of blinds, etc, was "decorated" with a variety of mediums...crayon, pencil, marker, pen, paint, you name it. Even my go-to magic erasers couldn't remove the marks. And we didn't find out the AC had been broken for a week until the day we arrived (no surprise when we saw the air filter, ugh!), which meant a quick change of plans and an overnight stay in a local hotel. We're still flabbergasted by how much damage was done in less than a year; two solid wood interior doors and the front door were damaged beyond repair, and the three year old refrigerator had to be replaced! There are splatters on the ceilings (?!), and the wood floors were so filthy that our children's bare feet were black after walking on them. I had to use lots of hot water, cleaner, and scour pads to get them remotely clean. 

To top it all off, the move company contracted by the military was/is running far behind schedule. We had even delayed our arrival in Virginia for nearly a week, but as it turns out our household goods still haven't arrived, and will be a month late. The silver lining is that we've had plenty of time to make needed repairs, as well as some upgrades that we never got around to the last time we lived here. Nearly every wall and ceiling will be freshly painted (in a more cohesive palette), which I'm quite excited about. Even if I'm a bit tired of painting at this point. After three years of renting bland military housing, it's nice to be able to personalize our own home! Some board and batten here, a new light fixture there...with a baby on the way, lots of time on our hands, and a mostly-empty house, there's no time like the present.

Speaking of baby, I can't believe how quickly the second trimester flew by! And the third trimester seems to be following the same trend. Little Kit is doing well, and I am enjoying his squirms and wiggles -- always one of my favorite parts of pregnancy, but this time it seems near miraculous to feel life stirring within me again. Scout got to feel some hiccups the other day, which made us both smile! We're down to single digit weeks until his arrival, Lord willing, and the excitement is tangible.

I'm still stitching away at Kit's baby blanket, and it's growing at a satisfying pace. Over 40,000 stitches so far, and I'm averaging 1,200 per day. I'd love to finish it before our household goods arrive; not only will we have our hands full with unpacking for a while, but it would be nice to be ready to start on one of my remaining projects as soon as my craft supplies are unpacked. 

Much as I miss the west, I'm so happy to be back on the east coast! So many trees and flowers, and water. I thought the wisteria would be long gone, but a visit to a favorite park yesterday proved me wrong; there were a few blossoms holding on, just enough to savor their beauty and heady scent. 


Between renovations and the heat wave/storms, we haven't had many outings (besides the hardware and grocery stores!), but once our house is in order and the weather has cooled a bit, I'm hoping to revisit our favorite haunts. 

I'm so struck by how God has orchestrated all of our circumstances -- His timing is truly best, even though it has been challenging at times to surrender our own plans in that regard! While we've faced hurdles that we neither desired or anticipated during the past two months, I've been able to see so many evidences of how He has faithfully cared for and guided us. His grace is enough, always. 

Even though we're not "settled" yet, it feels like we're home, and I'm grateful.