Mostly Comfortable - 36 Weeks (Baby #5)



I am happy to report that the hospital bag is packed!

Mostly.  There are a few things, like my hair straightener, that will have to be thrown into the bag whenever I happen to go into labor, but other than that, it's packed.

It was kind of weird packing the hospital bag this time around, because I still am kind of in denial that I have less than a month until this baby gets here.  How did this pregnancy go by so fast?  I still think it's a bit surreal that we are having a fifth baby.  I'm a mom of five babies.  I will have five children trailing after me in the grocery store for the next decade.  It's kind of cool!



How We're Doing

As far as symptoms go, I am feeling pretty good in general.  I did have pretty bad sciatic nerve pain the other night, and I had to lay on the floor and have Derek help me rotate my knees from side to side so I could actually put weight on my left leg.  I really need to get to the chiropractor this week.  

I also have had insane heartburn, and I may have taken more than the recommended amount of Tums a couple days in a row last week.  When I realized what I did and told Derek, he may have threatened to take my Tums away.  Surely "overdosing" on Tums can't cause much damage, right?


She seems to be fine in there anyway - she still moves constantly.  With all my other babies I remember at least once worrying that they were not okay in there because I hadn't felt them move in a while - this baby girl has not given me the opportunity to worry about her at all, at least not yet.  Sometimes I'll just be standing in line or at the kitchen counter, and I won't really feel her kicking, but I'll look down at my belly and I can see her rolling around in there.  This girl is rarely still.

Despite having sciatic nerve pain and the worst heartburn I've ever had, this pregnancy is such a breeze compared to the last one that I am feeling really optimistic right now.  Clarice was breech or transverse most of my pregnancy, and her placenta was anterior, and I'm convinced those things made her pregnancy a lot harder on me.  I just remember being D.O.N.E. at this point last pregnancy, but I am feeling really good this time, like I could go late again and be okay as long as I kept myself busy.



I feel pretty comfortable most of the time, and I actually feel pretty small for 36 weeks, despite my standard answer to "How are you feeling?" being "Big."  Baby has dropped, and the stomach is mostly out front and not pressing on my ribs anymore, so in comparison to other pregnancies I feel pretty cute still, and I can still move around pretty easily.  

Early?  Late?

I am really trying not to think she is coming early, because that is part of what made going late last time so tortuous...but I can't help it, there is still a small part of me that is hoping she'll come a little before her due date.  

To combat this, I have set up a couple "rewards" for myself for the last couple weeks of pregnancy.  If I make it to 38.5 weeks, I'll buy the fall ankle booties I've been eyeing.  And if I make it to a day before my due date, I'm hoping to be able to go see "Murder On The Orient Express" when it comes out on November 10th (if you have not read that book, you have to - it's a classic).  I don't have any rewards for if I go past my due date, but I'll set one up later if I think I'll need it to keep my waiting attitude positive.  I wouldn't say I'm impatient quite yet, but I am getting pretty excited to have her here!



What's Next?

I have a doctor's appointment next week, the first one where they will check my cervix.  I'll probably put an update on Instagram after my appointment, so follow me there!  If I'm only at 1 cm or less, I'm anticipating I'll make it to 40 weeks.  If I'm dilated more than that, there is a possibility she may come a bit sooner.

Derek will be hunting next week though, so let's just all pray that I don't go into labor while he's out traipsing through the woods, shall we?  I do think we'll be okay though.  I don't think she'll come before November.

(Me and the biggest sister!)


Book Series I Read As A Kid



If you are expecting this list to be populated with all the "children's classics", think again, my friends!  When I was in elementary school I mostly read a few series that captured my attention at the time.  I don't think they'd be considered great works of children's literature, but they did get me reading!  Just for fun, today I thought I'd share a few of the book series I remember reading as a kid.





The Saddle Club Series - These are some of the first books I remember being interested in, ever.  I think what drew me in was not so much the stories, but the collectible cards that came with each book.  Not to mention that I met my closest elementary school friend because she was also reading the Saddle Club series.  They were basically just stories about girls and their horses, and I remember very little of them now.  Like I said, I was in it for the cards.



American Girl Series - Did anyone in my generation not read one of the American Girl book series?  My favorite was always Felicity, because my favorite era of American History was the Revolutionary period, even back then.



Encyclopedia Brown - I used to love these books!  Each book had multiple stories - mysteries with clues! And it wouldn't tell you the answer at the end, you had to guess who you thought "did it" and turn to the back of the book to find out if you were right.  I was always so proud of myself when I picked the right culprit.



Grandma's Attic - Okay, this one is sort of a classic.  I mostly remember whichever book is the one where they pull an old quilt out of the attic, and each patch on the quilt has a different story.  Really cute stories.



American Adventure Series - I'm actually relieved to see you can still buy these!  Around the time we started homeschooling, my mom bought a couple of these American History books and assigned done of them to me for school.  I didn't get too excited about that one, but about a year down the road I got a hold of a book a little further in the series.  I was hooked.  Each book in the series follows the children of the characters in the previous book, so it's like one long family story down through all the eras of American History.  I used to save up my own money and march into the Christian bookstore with my $4 to buy the next book in the series.  Until a friend started loaning me the books, which I kind of regret now.  I wish I had kept buying them so I could have completed the series.  The ones I did buy are in a box under Gwen's bed, waiting for my children to get old enough to read them.




Nancy Drew - Obviously.  Gotta love Nancy Drew!


What did you like to read in elementary school?






Did You Always Want A Big Family?




I grew up with one brother and one sister.

My siblings are twins and are two years younger than me.  We had a lot of fun growing up, being so close in age.  I remember so many different games we came up with, and we would play with each other for hours.  We had pretty good relationships with each other, and I loved having both a brother and a sister.

I think when we are young (especially us girls), it's easy to think that you get to plan your whole life out.  When I was in middle school, I decided I wanted to get married at 22 (my mom's marriage age), wait two or three years to have babies, then have three kids (because it seemed to work for my family of origin).  I even had names picked out (because of course my husband would love every name that I did).

If you have been following this blog for a while, you know that none of that worked out like I thought it would!

So to answer a question from my blog buddy Natalie, I didn't always want a "big" family (unless you consider three kids "big", which I don't).

I continued on with my well-planned-out life, and when I was 19 years old and in dental hygiene college I read a book called "America Alone" by Mark Steyn.  I can say with certainty that this was the point when I started to think about family size a little differently.  

This book was not necessarily about family size, it was about international politics, but it did address the history and current state of birth rates in different countries.  In the book, Steyn presents evidence that countries or cultures that have higher birth rates tend to accomplish more in the world, and those that have anemic birth rates tend to go into decline.

This was a shifting point for me, because for the first time it occurred to me that maybe choosing how many children to have isn't a decision that should be merely based on personal preference or some arbitrary "ideal".  It introduced to me the idea that having children is a way to pass something on, and if there are more children in the family, there is more of a chance to pass it on to more people.  As a strong believer in Christ, that idea was interesting to me, because I want to pass on my faith to my children, and for them to pass it on to their children.  For the first time I thought about having four kids instead of just three.

I think the Lord used that unexpected book to get me thinking in a new direction, because a year later Derek and I got married, and a year later we went off birth control because of our pro-life convictions.  Still, I clung to the idea that I could control everything in my life, including the timing and size of my family.  This was my decision, and I didn't think about God's opinion about my family much at all.

But God wasn't finished working on my heart, and I was rudely awakened to the fact that maybe I wasn't in control of this.  Things weren't working quite right after I went off the pill, and for the first time it occurred to me that maybe getting pregnant isn't as simple as I thought.

We went through about eleven months of waiting for things to get back to normal, and I very quickly went from thinking we'd wait to try to get pregnant to being desperate to have a baby.  This was what God used to turn me toward what He wanted for our family, instead of just what I wanted.   This is what He used to change my view of children from something to check off my list, to viewing them as a true blessing that He was in charge of giving. 

Fast forward a few years later, and instead of the two or four Derek and I said we originally wanted, we are expecting our fifth baby.  Until about two years ago, the idea of five never even entered my head - but I credit this baby completely to God working in our hearts and family.  After we had Clarice there was just that nudge from the Holy Spirit to wait, to not do anything permanent quite yet, and we wouldn't have been listening at all if not for all those years of God slowly changing my attitude on children.  We would have cut things short long ago if God hadn't used our trouble getting pregnant to teach me to seek His will for our family, not just my own.  He used a stressful time in my life of dealing with sub-par fertility to actually bring me more babies than I would have otherwise!  Looking back now, I'm amazed at how gentle He was with me.  He gave me just the right resources and circumstances at the right times to change my heart.

So here we are, having a "big" family.  (I can probably say "big" without quotation marks now - it's just that the Duggars and Bates kind of redefined "big" for me.)  Derek and I never really planned this out, but looking at our five babies (even the one still in my belly), we really cannot imagine not having them here.  God has been really gracious to us, and He gave us what we didn't know we needed.  

So, to finish answering Natalie's question, my favorite part of having a big family...well, they are all running around, laughing as I type this, and the joy is pretty infectious!  (Of course, there are also times of everyone crying, but let's just skip over that.)  I think my favorite part of having a big family is those moments when they are all gathered around me for school or Bible time, and we are talking about something really important, and I know that this is it.  This is what God made me for, and these children are one of the only things I will do on this earth that will really last...and He trusted me with five of them.  



It's a powerful thought, and it's humbling, and it makes me want to cry for the responsibility and privilege of it.  He's been really good to me, and I see that nowhere more clearly than in these little faces that look back at me every day.



P.S.  If you asked Derek his version of the story, he'd have a very different one than mine...but I saw how he kept his heart open to what the Lord might have for us over the years too.  There is a reason God sent us each other, and these five kids are good proof!

P.P.S. If you have any "getting to know you" questions for me, now's the time!  It'll help me come up with material for the last two weeks of my 31 Day Writing Challenge!

A Day With Dad



I was fixing my makeup when she came bounding into the bathroom.

"Mama, Daddy's going to take me to a princess movie!"

The grin filled her entire face, and she bounced around the room like Tigger.  

"I'm so 'cited!"

A couple weeks ago, Derek told me about this princess event at his alma mater, including princess-themed activities, dinner, and a movie.  "Should I take Gwen?" he asked me, and I said he definitely should.  He bought the tickets, and today was the day.

Gwen picked out which princess dress she wanted to wear (which just happened to be the princess dress from my own childhood), and they left early so they could go out to lunch first and buy Gwen a tiara.  I don't have any cute stories from the day aside from a picture of her making a funny face with Snow White, and an interview video Derek sent me.  But when she came home that night, after everyone else was in bed, I asked her how it was.

"It was the best day ever!"

She had Snow White mac-and-cheese for dinner, and they colored, and did "science experiments", and watched the original Snow White.

"The bad queen was chasing White Snow, and she eated a poisonous apple, and everyone thought she died but she was really just asleep.  And then her prince came and kissed her and waked her up."

I'm told the theater was silent when the queen fell over the cliff and the boulder fell after her...until my little princess yelled "Yes!"

She ran upstairs to get changed, and her daddy tucked her in bed, and I just chuckled to myself.  I always knew Derek would be a good dad, but I didn't know just how good of a dad he would be to his girls.  I'm glad I married a guy who is happy to delve into the world of princesses with his daughter.  This was her first true Disney princess exposure, and though I am looking forward to watching more of the movies with her as she grows, I am loving the fact that she got to experience her first princess movie with her dad. 




From The Archives: Derek And Callie (The First Year)

( A picture from our honeymoon in Hawaii.  Is it weird that I still have that shirt?)

I might be typing this while watching a Hallmark movie and eating coffee ice cream at 9 o'clock at night.

The last couple days turned out to be all-day errand-running days, and I had no time at all to sit down and write my photo organizing post that I had scheduled for today!  I'm hoping to get caught up on it tomorrow, but for now, I thought I'd switch in Saturday's "From The Archives" post and take you all back to nine years ago on this little old blog - our first year of marriage, before babies were in the picture.  

What did I even write about then, anyway?  Mostly about newly married nothings, but I have to say, it's fun to have those posts now.  I think it will be fun for my kids too to look back on what our days were like before they were around.

So, if you want to see how much we've changed in nine years, here are a few old (really old) posts to explore!

-I started this blog up after our first major stressful marriage situation - namely the fact that Derek and I were both unemployed at the same time a mere two months after our wedding!

-A brain dump post, including pictures of Derek and I setting up our first Christmas tree.

-A 2008 recap of all major events the year we got married (I seriously didn't even remember that I did a recap post that year!).


-Proof that I have always written about books here, and also some confessions of our early marriage arguments - the "honeymoon phase" didn't last long for us, but hey, we figured out how to fight well sooner that way!

-First Easter as a married couple.


-When I discovered the wonders of Sam's Club, thanks to Derek.

-A post I wrote about what I learned in the first year of marriage - still true, but kind of cute to read now since we've been through so many harder things than unemployment since then!

-Our first anniversary gifts, and oh my goodness, there is a picture of me in my wedding dress in this post since I tried it on at my one-year wedding anniversary to make sure it still fit.  Look how skinny I was!  But did that stop me from feeling the need to explain why I had gained two pounds over the first year of marriage?  No!  Oh Callie, you were so silly back then.


A few things to note about these posts that I wrote the first year of our marriage:

1.  There are some posts with no pictures at all.  I am reminded how freeing it was to just write something without having to find a picture to go with it!

2.  I think my writing has gotten better since then.  I think.

3.  I wrote about really mundane things.  But that's what we were all doing back then!  It was glorious.

4.  Shortly after our first anniversary we went off the birth control pill, and shortly after that realized that we might have trouble getting pregnant - enter baby fever!  So it's interesting to look back on the days before we had kids on our minds.  It was a special time with just the two of us, but goodness, how much richer our lives are now!  Having our children has just made me love Derek even more.  

So...how long have you been blogging, friends?  Do you have early married posts still, or am I the only crazy one who keeps these slightly embarrassing early posts up for all the world to see?

Snow And A Shower



Since it's an off-week for my bi-weekly pregnancy updates, I thought this would be a good opportunity to get back to a round of old-fashioned blogging.  Even though this whole memory-keeping series is kind of a throwback to the old-school style of blogging, today is a brain dump sort of day, so here we go.

Snow Day

This week we had our first snow day of the season.  Just last week I was looking at my Facebook memories (Facebook finally gave me my memories after blackballing me from that feature for years), and I saw that we got our first snow at the beginning of October last year…and what do you know, a week later we got our first snow in October again!  Somehow it came to me as a bit of a shock this year, I guess because all the seasonal changes were so sudden this fall.  We went from 80-degree, weather to a cool 40/50-degree weather last week, and then boom, the next week it snows.






It was a decent amount of snow too!  The kids were making snow angels.

My kids (except Clarice) are finally old enough to send outside into the snow by themselves, so that was an exciting realization this year.  I bundled them all up and they traipsed outside by themselves while I started a fire and a batch of pumpkin bread.  It made me really look forward to more snow days this winter, because this will be the first year that a snow day doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll all be stuck inside all day.

A Baby Shower

This week I also had a baby shower with my mom and sister!  I had been toying with the idea of throwing a little pre-baby party with my family and friends, because I think every baby should be celebrated in some way (even a fifth baby) - but I just could not seem to get my act together enough to get it planned.  The month of October started and I just figured it was too late and I was a bit too stressed to try to get something on the calendar at this point.  

Then my sister asked if I was planning anything (because I had mentioned this idea to her before), and I was disappointed when I had to tell her no.  I felt like I was letting this baby girl down somehow, since we had some sort of pre-baby celebration for each of my other kids.

Well, my sister is a thoughtful sort of person, and she conspired with my mom to have a little baby shower for this baby too!  So my mom took the three of us out to dinner at The Cheesecake Factory, and they showered me with presents.  

And when I say showered, I mean showered.  There must have been ten gifts between the two of them!  It was so sweet, and they got me all the remaining things I needed - including swaddles, bottles, and baby bath towels, which I was trying to figure out how to budget in to buy for myself.  That was such a blessing - I don’t think I ever realized it before, but just because someone has multiple other kids doesn’t necessarily mean they have everything for a new baby.  Especially when it’s their third of one gender, because a lot of stuff just wears out after 2+ babies.



(You can't see very well in these pictures, but they even decorated the table with little party favors and everything!)

I am really blessed to have such a great mom and sister, and they really blessed me with the effort they put into my shower!

Mini Golf

Before the snow, we snuck in some fall fun!  The dental office we are going to now does this "fall festival" every year, and this year it was at a mini golf place.  I signed us up because it was free fall fun, and who doesn't like free?  

It ended up being a great family outing!  We had a free barbecue dinner, and then we got a free round of mini golf with the kids.  Mini golf is probably not a family activity we would pay for at this point since the kids are a little young yet, but did I mention free?!  So we introduced the kids to mini golf.  The big three had a bunch of fun hitting their balls toward the holes, and it was kind of a put-ing free-for-all.  




But Clarice, on the other hand, took her golf turns very seriously.  She put the ball on the ground so carefully, and Derek helped her hit the ball, and she would get so upset if the ball went off the green.  By upset, I mean she would burst into tears!  Maybe we have a future golfer on our hands.  It was so cute to see her little careful and competitive personality come out on a put-put golf course - at two years old, no less!

Last Month of Pregnancy Busyness

The next couple weeks are surprisingly busy - I’ve learned after so many pregnancies that a few weeks before you are supposed to have your baby, the schedule tends to fill up, because people want to see you one more time before you are cocooned up with a newborn for a while.  I went out of the house almost every day last week, and this week is shaping up to be the same.  

Then the last two weeks or so of pregnancy, the schedule really frees up because people think you won’t want to schedule too much so close to baby (and they’d be right) - but then you just sit home bored, waiting for something to happen.  So, when I get overwhelmed by my schedule right now, I just remind myself that if I give it another two weeks I’ll probably have nothing to do at all.  I hope my friends and family are up for some last-minute things, because if this baby ends up being late like Clarice was, I'll need to get out of the house!

What has your October looked like so far?  Have you had a chance to do any fall-ish fun yet?





What Made Me A Reader



I listen to a lot of homeschool and book-related podcasts, and a recurring theme seems to be the question "How do you turn your kids into readers?"  A lot has been said on the subject, most of it quite a bit more scholarly than what I am sharing here.  But whenever I hear this question come up, I start to think about my own childhood.  What made me love books?  What turned me into a reader?

I'm sure much of it has to do with some of those "right" things parents are supposed to do.  My mom always had an abundance of books around, and I used to love digging through the boxes of books she had hidden away in our basement.  I saw my parents reading frequently - usually when I came upstairs in the morning, my mom would be sitting at the table with a cup of tea, her Bible and devotional book stacked neatly next to her on the table (I could tell she had read God's Word first), and her nose in a book.  My dad would bring books when he knew we would have lots of leisure time (like on vacation), and it was fun to see him get involved in a good story.  

But one of my best book memories from my childhood is when my mom told me one evening that tonight was going to be a "reading night".



I didn't know what a reading night was, but I laid awake in bed as slowly all the lights in the house went out.  My brother and sister were in bed, even my dad was in bed, when my mom snuck stealthily into my room and told me to come with her.

We went up to the kitchen, and she pulled out two mugs and made us some tea.  She pulled out a Hershey's chocolate bar and gave me half.  We went to the living room and settled onto the couches with our books.  I drank my peppermint tea and savored my chocolate as we each read a chapter of our books.

Once I was finished with my chapter, I put my book down and looked up to my mom grinning at me. "What happened in your chapter?" she asked.  And I told her all about what I had read (I don't remember the book, but I am willing to bet it was a Nancy Drew mystery).  We discussed my favorite parts of the book so far, and what I thought was going to happen.  Then she told me about her book, and what was happening in her story.

We continued our occasional reading nights all through my middle school and high school years.  I was the oldest, so I got to start reading night first, but I know my mom did reading nights with my siblings too.

Whenever the question comes up of how to make your kids into readers, my mom's reading nights always pop back into my brain. I can't pin down exactly what made me a reader, but I can pin down those reading nights as one of the things that made reading fun. 

It's a tradition I fully intend to pass down.  I'm counting the days until my kids are big enough to be reading chapter books, and I can mysteriously tell them that tonight is going to be a reading night.

A Brief History Of My Hair


I never said these memory posts were all going to be serious, did I?

Back When I Was A Blonde: Birth-Two Years Old

Yes, my friends, despite being solidly in the brunette camp now, when I was a toddler I was blonde.   A picture in case you don't believe me:



When people wonder where my kids got their blonde baby hair, I can say for certain that it was from me.  I don't remember what it was like being a blonde.  Did I have more fun back then?

The Brunette Phase: Three Years Old-10 Years Old

My hair changed rather suddenly to a light brunette when I was three years old.  It still changed to blonde in the summer when the sun would bleach it during all those hours outside, until I was in first or second grade - then I was solidly a brunette, and it's only gotten darker since then.

The Frizzy Phase: 11 Years Old-14 Years Old

Ah, puberty.  That was a rough hair time for me.  Something about the hormones made my hair want to try to turn curly, but it wasn't quite succeeding - I ended up with a semi-wavy frizzy mass.  I am quite thankful for my mom during this period, who tried to help my hair situations with different anti-frizz products she would buy for me.  But my hair just refused to decide if it was going to be semi-wavy, or sort of straight, or full-on curly, so it was a confusing time.



The Curly Phase: 14 Years Old-16 Years Old

My hair finally curled up enough for it to actually look like it was on purpose, and we found some decent products.  Still, I had a hard time accepting my wavy/curly hair.  The preferred hair style in the culture at that time was definitely sleek and straight, and my hair was just...not.  I always felt like it was a little out-of-control, and it was hard to get my curls to look right because they were still half in the "wavy" category.  (I'm still not sure how to deal with my curly hair au natural, to be honest).

The Straightening Phase: 16 Years-20 Years Old

I finally got a hair straightener and started using it more regularly.  I found at this time that I liked my day three hair the best.  The first day I washed and straightened it, it would still be on the frizzy side (I'd try to wash it on days we weren't going anywhere).  The second day, the frizz had calmed down some.  By the third day it actually looked pretty smooth!  But by then it was time to wash it again.  I wrestled with my hair in this manner until my 20's.

The I've-Got-It-Figured-Out Phase: 20 Years Old-Present

I got married and started working at a real job (and hence earning my own grown-up paycheck) at 20 - which gave me a lot more wiggle room to try out different products.  And what do you know, I finally found THE product that would make my hair cooperate! Sexy Straight Hair (that's what the product was called).  I even had the courage to try growing my hair long once I found this lifesaver.



It didn't last long, I think I'm more of a bob kind of girl.

I eventually switched to a Chi straightener (game-changer) with the Chi Shine Infusion Spray (which is pretty similar to the product above, just easier to find), and that's what I use today.

I do have one regret about the different stages of my hair up to now, and that is the fact that I have never figured out how to wear my hair curly and like it.  I am not sure if it is because of the semi-traumatic experience of having my hair go rogue at a stage when everything else was changing too (oh, puberty), or if I internalized too much of the straight-hair-is-better message of that time when my hair was changing, or if I have just never found the product that would make my curly hair manageable enough to suit me.  

But I do wish I could have figured out how to make it work and love it, because I would love to be an example to my daughters in that way - I'd love to teach them to embrace the unique beauty of their individual hair types, like my mom tried to do for me.

Maybe that will be the next stage of my "hair evolution" - The I-Finally-Get-My-Curls Phase.

Do any of you have wavy/curly hair?  What products do you use?  Did you ever figure out how to tame the curls, or do I just need to learn to go with the curly-hair flow?


When Encouragement Comes From A Stranger

(Written last Thursday.)

As I am typing this, my kids are sitting on the couch across the room, watching Rio.  I don't typically let them watch a full-length movie in the middle of the week, but this was been a particularly long week, and a particularly long day near the end of a particularly long week.  I decided I'm allowed.

Though the day was busy and a bit exhausting, it was good too.  We went to our mom group this morning, and as I picked up the kids from their classes they handed me their crafts.  "This is for you, Mom", they always say, and I grin and say I love it, even if it's just a paper with stickers on it.  It's sweet that they want to give me presents (even if I sometimes suspect it's just to get me to hold said crafts and papers for them).

We had a few errands to run, and I felt like we were a bit of a mess, as I usually do.  When I take all the kids into a store - especially a store with no carts - I feel like it's a constant stream of "Come here {insert child's name}", "Don't touch that {insert child's name}", and "Don't lay on the floor {insert child's name}".  People ask me how I do it with four (soon five) kids, and the truth is that when we are out in public I try my best to keep my kids close by me and not breaking anything, and I feel like we are a mini circus.  A happy, adorably cute circus, but a circus nonetheless.

Sometimes I even feel a little sheepish, like we are a bad advertisement for a big family.  But today the cashiers smiled at me and told me how adorable my kids were, even when I was too busy wrangling them to properly respond.  I kick myself for that now.  I've gotten used to not-quite-positive-not-quite-negative comments from strangers, to which I usually give a closed-lipped, nondescript smile, but the comments today were sweet and encouraging and deserved a big grin.

I was getting the kids packed back into the car when a lady came up to me.  

"I just wanted to say, you are amazing.  I have trouble with two kids, and you have four!" she said with a smile.  I laughed and said "Well, thank you! I feel like we're always a bit of a mess."  And she said, "No, you are doing an amazing job.  Your kids were so well behaved."

I thanked her again, and I guess I am thanking her a third time here.  I doubt she even realizes that her words will be remembered, but they were what I needed today.  Sometimes an encouragement from a stranger can make you see yourself in a better light, and sometimes in the middle of the minutia of motherhood you need that.  I looked at my kids and realized they really were quite well-behaved, despite my constant stream of directions that felt so chaotic to me.  They listened well, overall.  They walked in a row, like little ducklings, to the door.  They climbed in the car and got so excited over the clementines I gave them for a snack, patiently waiting while I peeled them.  

They really are very cute, and very good kids.

During a week when I am feeling overwhelmed and when I feel like I'm failing at this whole motherhood thing, I needed that reminder to step outside myself for a minute and appreciate my kids for the little people they are, the people they are becoming, and to comprehend the role I am playing in that. To look at the day, and my whole mothering journey, with fresh eyes.

I am thankful that God let that lady cross my path today, and I hope immortalizing that brief little encounter here will help me remember to refresh my eyes on rough days in the future.

I also want to remember it here, because maybe it will remind me to offer encouragement to a stranger myself sometime.  If I notice someone doing something well, or even just trying their best, why not offer a word of encouragement?  The gift of fresh eyes can so often be given this way, and it is worth a lot.

Has a stranger ever encouraged you when you needed it?



Update On My 31 Day Challenge



Time for a quick check-in on my 31 Day Writing Challenge!

This is the first year I have done this, and since I decided to join in literally the night before it started, I didn't have much of a plan.  After winging it all week, I decided to try to set something of a writing routine for myself for the remaining three weeks.  Here is what I'm thinking:

Sundays will be a little open.  I may post a schedule of posts for the upcoming week, or I may share something different (all depends on how much time I have the rest of the week).

Mondays will be for a "daily snapshot" of our lives right now.  (Full disclosure: this snapshot may or may not be actually written on Mondays).

Tuesdays will be for a personal childhood memory (I'm going to be using writing prompts from a few books I have for these).

Wednesdays will be for book-related memories (because I obviously like to talk about books, and I think a lot of you do too!).

Thursdays will be for pregnancy updates, and other family-related memory keeping.

Fridays will be for the practical side of how I attempt to keep our memories.

Saturdays will be a look into the archives of this blog (I've got a lot of interesting posts hidden way back in those archives).

This is what the schedule looks like for the upcoming week:

Monday: When Encouragement Comes From A Stranger
Tuesday: A Brief History Of my Hair
Wednesday: What Made Me A Reader
Thursday: {To be determined}
Friday: How I Organize My Photos
Saturday: Derek And Callie - The Early Years

Now would also be a great time to ask my any getting-to-know-you questions you have, because I'll incorporate the answers into some of the memory-keeping posts this month!  
So if you want to know something, ask away (I could also really use the material).



Birth Story Memories

(This photo is from way back, from my maternity photos with Gwen.)

I'm getting to that stage of pregnancy where my mind is going to labor quite often.  First I found myself getting a little nervous when I think ahead to labor...mainly because I plan to go without the epidural again, and I remember the pain well enough to make me a bit nervous.  But as I've been thinking about how everything went with my other kids' births, I'm remembering that I just took it like it came with my other labors, and I can do it again.  I'm about as prepared as I can be for this, and  I'm just praying for peace and fortitude for this baby's labor too, when it comes.

Since I seem to have labor and delivery on the brain these days, I thought I'd take this Saturday morning to reminisce a bit about my previous birth stories by re-sharing them here.  Who doesn't love a good birth story, after all?  And some of you may not have been around since I started having babies, so this is a good chance to catch you all up.  Enjoy!

Wyatt's Birth - Born at 37 weeks, because of pre-eclampsia.  My pre-eclampsia induction story.

Gwendolyn's Birth - Born at 39 weeks, with a fast-moving labor.  My didn't-make-it-to-the-hospital story.

Clyde's Birth (And Part Two) - Born at 39 weeks, after a night of violent vomiting.  My slightly traumatic, back-labor, partial placental abruption labor story.

Clarice's Birth - Born at 40 weeks 3 days, when I was so ready to meet her!  My pretty-dreamy-labor story.




Three Everyday Photo Ideas For Memory-Keeping


My sister has this crazy ability to remember events exactly as they happened.  Sometimes we'll be talking and she will casually mention something we did when we were kids, and I realize that I literally haven't even thought about that event for years.  It makes me sad sometimes that I have all these memories locked away in my brain that I won't remember until someone else brings it up.

As an adult I have realized pretty quickly that if I am going to remember something, I'm going to have to have some record of it.  Maybe that's part of the reason blogging has stuck, but to be realistic, I can't sit down every evening and write out every detail of the day.

This is where photos come in.

The say a picture is worth a thousand words, and that saying has lasted so long because it's true!  When I have a picture of something we did together, it's so much easier for me to remember all the details of that time in our lives.  Photos are a quicker, easier record to take than writing out my thoughts, and I've relied on them even more as a mom.  How else am I supposed to remember the face my babies make when I tell them to say "cheese"?  How else am I supposed to remember the way their hair curled before the first haircut, or how their faces have changed year to year?

So photos have become a really important part of my memory-keeping, but I do have a tendency to only take photos when we are doing something unique - like when we are on trip, or celebrating someone's birthday.  I'm grateful for those occasions because without them I might go too long between taking photos with my "good" camera.  But I make it my aim to take pictures between those special occasions too.  These are a few examples.

Unique Details

Each kid has some thing that they do, some physical feature, or some interest that makes them unique.  Does my child have a special blanket or toy?  Are they really into Hot Wheels cars or legos?  Do they scrunch their nose when they smile? Does their hair curl just right, or am I always getting comments on their impossibly long eyelashes?  I try to take pictures of those things!

Doing Ordinary Things

It's easy to pull out the camera when we are doing something Facebook-worthy, but I love the images of us doing everyday things even more, because they help me see the beauty of these ordinary days.  I've ben told too many times how it goes by so fast and how I'll miss this stage someday.  So I want photos that help me remember what our day-to-day was like.  I might take pictures of the kids eating cereal (or watermelon, which was a hit last summer), Wyatt working on his schoolwork, or the kids digging a hole in the yard, for example.  

Places We Visit All The Time

It's fun to sometimes think a little outside the box and take pictures in places we often frequent.  Examples would be the place you stop for coffee, the grocery store, or the library.  Is it a little awkward to pull out your camera in a public place?  Yes, but those photos are some of my favorites to look at!  (I really like Alex's documentation of a visit to Aldi, for example).

On my list of things to improve...capturing more of these kinds of photos, not just of my kids, but of my husband too!

Do you take pictures to keep memories?  Or are you more like my sister who can remember everything without photos?





The Belly Has Dropped - 34 Weeks (Baby #5)



We've entered into the phase of pregnancy where I am an emotional mess.

The last couple weeks I have been sensitive and irritable and overwhelmed and crying about stupid things.  I can't decide if it's related to being tired, or hormones, but it's probably some combination of both.  I feel bad for my poor family, and I'm trying really hard to lower my expectations so that I don't get so easily overwhelmed - this would be a good thing now, while my hormones are a mess, and after baby, when my hormones will still be a mess!

I have crossed a couple more things off my baby to-do list, which is satisfying.  I've also added a couple things (like beating out our living room rug before winter).  I was hoping to get my hospital bag packed before my appointment this week, just in case, and I'm about halfway there...I have a bunch of stuff in a pile waiting to be packed.  That counts for something, right?



As far as baby goes, she is still moving like crazy, and she lets me rub her little feet through my skin now without trying to kick my fingers away.  She hiccups all the time, which makes me happy because it means her lungs are maturing.

Also, in major news - BABY GIRL HAS DROPPED!  This is always exciting to me, because it means my ribs hurt a little less, and it means baby is less likely to flip.  You probably can't tell very well in these pictures, but trust me, the belly is definitely lower.



My body seems to be getting ready for labor a little more - I have definitely had more Braxton-Hicks contractions in the last couple of days, and there were a few days last week where my hips hurt so badly from loosening up to get ready for delivery.  Thankfully the hip pain has subsided a bit, and I am generally feeling pretty comfortable.



Tomorrow is my 34 week appointment, and probably the last appointment I will bring my kids since they'll start checking my cervix at the next appointment (37 weeks).  I want to enjoy their little reactions for this last time they'll get to hear the baby's heartbeat.  They always are so interested to hear what she's up to in there, and every one of them seems happy and excited about the baby.  It's making me more excited to have her here, and to have our whole family together on the outside!

(I've been trying to get a picture with each of the kids during these little bi-weekly photo shoots.  This week was Clyde's turn!)




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