hey baby!

here's what we know:

#1 (all others being a distant second and beyond): this baby looks healthy, happy and is OURS!

this kid is cute.

this kid has the longest, bicycling-est legs i've ever seen on a fetus.

oh yeah, and one more thing...

this kid is a SHE!!!


tuesday's the day!

We are getting our gender ultrasound on tuesday morning. Ummm, I'm straight freakin'. Either way, I'm gonna flip out because we're going to be lopsided! Right now we have two boys, two girls and a token "baby" in our family, but come next week, that baby is taking sides! Oh man. Or woman!

please get your protrusion off her head, young man.

With Judah we just found out during the ultrasound. We let the tech tell us as soon as she saw and then show us the evidence. With Layla, we wanted to wait and do it later, maybe months later, so we got it in an envelope...and we made it to the parking lot where we recorded this little gem.

We know we want to do the envelope again this time and do something a little special. Nothing pink or blue on the inside or with other people, but probably just another video of our blammo-first reactions.

Here's what I know. 

-last appointment the heartrate was in the "girl" range according to that little belief
-the chinese lunar predictor says boy
-I have had 3 dreams about the baby and it was a boy in all of them.
-Layla thinks insists it's a girl named Pink Lollipop
-Judah thinks insists it's a boy
-I keep thinking of it as a "she" possibly because Layla talks about the baby a LOT and that's the pronoun she uses, and possibly because my last fetus was a She so that's freshest.
-I craved Captain D's (dont judge) constantly with Layla and when i ate it once this pregnancy I immediately barfed. I ate Krystal a lot with Judah (pregnancy nutrition expert, here!) and have been loving that this go round as well
-I have always pictured myself with 2 boys and one girl
-Sometimes when Judah is in an insane wrestle-fight-ninja frenzy with Jesse on the living room floor and Layla is just sweetly sitting next to me having girl talk, I think, "maybe doubling the estrogen wouldn't be so bad!"
-I was sick for 10 weeks with Judah, 14 with Layla and about 12 with this baby.

Accounting for some time for us to find out ourselves, to tell our families, and to generally process, we'll probably let you in on the news Tuesday. Until then, take your best guess on the little poll I added up at the top right of the page.

As much as we can't wait to find out on Tuesday, this is also a cool time that is coming to an end. I mean, for the rest of our lives we will know if this child is a boy or a girl, so I want to enjoy these last 4 days of "anything is possible" and letting it kind of be both in our minds. As a mom of older kids, it's INSANE to look back and realize that Judah and Layla were once just these genderless, blank little ideas to us, all the while being utterly themselves ready to explode into our hearts...we just didnt know it yet. 

For us, the gender ultrasound is huge. Of course, just having a baby in there (and starting to feel it like crazy!) is very special in itself. But we really don't know anything about this child besides it is one. Finding out the sex is like getting the first insight into our child's personality. Of course, there are plenty kids who bust the gender stereotype roles, but nevertheless, when we can start saying "he/she" instead of  "it" (which isnt the sweetest term, but i refuse to use the grammatically incorrect "they" as a neutral) our baby becomes SO much more real and we can start imagining--in broad strokes--what their life might look like. 

Another big deal for us is the ever-sacred "Naming of the Child." We take this very seriously (read what jesse wrote about that way back in 2009!!) and look at the naming of our kids as a chance to speak a blessing over their lives, or to claim something for them. Jesse is the master of the deep-thinking on these and wrote about how we came up with Judah and Layla's full names and what they mean to us. And make fun of us as you will (it's totally okay if you think we sound insane, you just name your kids Katniss and move on), you know it's true that 99% of the people you meet just SO fit their name.We definitely think there's power in a name. 

Ok then, log your vote and the next time you hear from us will probably be with the big ol' news. STRAIGHT FREAKIN'!


Goodbye Pacis: 2014 Edition

For some reason we seem to always try to rehabilitate Layla off pacis around her half-birthday, May 14. We did this last year so that we could have a little mini celebration (complete with half of a cake) to amp up the fanfare and gloss over what must seem to a 3 year old to be a horrifying trauma of saying goodbye to her most treasured comfort object. 

I guess it was just sort of "tradition" then that we did it again this year during the same week. "Again?" you say? Yes, again. because after three weeks of cold turkey paci-sobriety last year, we gave Layla back her pacis. We decided she just wasn't ready and that we were doing it mostly because we felt like "we were supposed to." As in, it looks weird for a 2.5 year old to have a paci. 

Deciding to let her keep one of the last vestiges of babydom was one of our best parenting moves yet. We stopped caring how it "looked" so much and started paying attention to what it gave Layla to have the paci in certain situations (car, bed, sick). I cant really explain it beyond saying, we are her parents and we just knew she wasnt ready yet.

But I knew after her first ever visit to the dentist last fall, that we were approaching "need to" realms in terms of going off the paci. You can already see her top teeth warping out from that little plastic imposter of my boob being in there so much. We'd love to avoid spending thousands on metal torture devices for her mouth when she's older, therefore we felt like three and a half was the time. She had also during the past year shown signs of not "needing" it as much as just liking it at times.

We've been talking to her about giving the pacis away for months. We told her that when May came we would get her a wonderful surprise and then one day she could trade her pacis in for that treasure. We also encouraged her little budding big-sisterhood by telling her that the new baby would need them. Every time we talked about the future moment of saying bye-bye pacis, she was totally on board. 

Last night we decided to pull the plug.

You can see what a strung-out little addict she looks like when she's hitting the paci-pipe (and you can see where Judah gave her one strand of bangs with my sewing scissors, and you can HEAR what a freak i am), and how ready she appears to be for this milestone (or at least for the bribe that come along with it).  I also ADORE how she immediately plans what "events" she is going to wear each look to. And how she calls it a "Let It Go" toy (in case you thought she was saying LEGO...no).

And then shortly thereafter this was the scene:

Layla was happy as a clam in an Arrendelle fjord to be in scratchy lace netting and polyester. Judah shocked us all by asking to put on the Anna costume ("it's just silly, mommy, i'm not really a girl") since he has been very anti-"girl things" lately despite our attempts to not force gender lines on either of them. We were happy to oblige and Judanna was a fetching sight (even whilst scratching himself..."dont know if he's elated or jock-itchy, but he's somewhere in that zone").

We let her go to bed as Elsa (Judah was ready to take off his Anna duds rather instantly and ask for a Kristoff costume...which, stupidly, is not a thing) and did their normal bedtime routine, reiterating how proud we were of her for making such a wise choice. Afterward, Jesse went to the store to fetch me some ice cream (pregnancy stereotype anyone?) and I was in the studio sewing next to their room.

About ten minutes after putting them down, I heard soft crying and talking. I had been prepared for a full-on fit of "I DONT WANT THESE DRESSES GIMME BACK MY PACI, YOU CON ARTISTS" but not for this. She wasnt even yelling to be heard by us, she was just softly pouring out her sadness. Oh, my heart.

I went in their room (Judah was thoroughly unconscious by now) and climbed into bed with her. Her little face was soaked with tears and she was just quietly murmuring about "mah pathi." I told her I knew how hard it was to give something you love up, but that I promised it would be okay, and even better, eventually.

I looked around and saw how she had previously gotten up and gathered a few favorite objects in bed with her to use as a substitute (a doll, more of their binky cloth diaper snuggle rags, a pony), and for a moment I even thought about offering her her own thumb or something else to chew/suck on, but then thought better of it, since that would be totally defeating the purpose. She said, "I wanted to give my pacis away so I could be big, but I want them back now." She wasnt whining or being demanding (which made it all the more hard and heartbreaking), just mourning what feels like a huge loss to her little heart. 

I told her how proud i was of her and how it was going to be so much better soon. After I left, we didnt hear another peep from her until this morning (when she was a little weepy again not to get her wake-up dose of paci...but quickly got over it). 

As I thought about what had just happened, it hit me so hard that maybe this whole paci saga was more a lesson for me than for her. Because in an instant I saw how many times God has gently told me it was time to let go of something that i have nursed or held onto for too long--a relationship, a sin pattern, a job, bitterness, a goal, unforgiveness, control--that I simply dont need anymore. 

It seems like every time He has tenderly told me, "it's time to put this aside now, child," I have screamed and cried and raged and doubted and fought to hold on to whatever it was, to control the situation so I could just have everything back the way I wanted. When I  finally do let go, how quickly I  go searching for something else to quickly fill that empty place, and how it never ever works out and just leaves the hole gaping all the bigger. And in the end, how I resignedly end up on my butt, empty-handed and red-eyed, throat raw from bargaining and denying, and I finally just surrender to what He has left me with: Himself and His promise. And how finally--after so much extra, self-inflicted, pain--I am ready to dive in to the promise He has made that this way is better for me: not because it will be happier necessarily, but because it's His way and He knows.

Layla completely schooled me in how beautiful this process can be. She handled it with such trusting grace. She was still sad, and still misses her pacis, but when i said, "I promise; you can do this, and Daddy and I will help you, and there are even better things on the other side of this," she really grabbed onto that and BELIEVED. No screaming, no scheming, just faith like a child that her mommy and daddy's promise was true. She let me wipe her tears and was comforted by my presence and my acknowledgement of the legitimacy of her pain (things I rarely stop to honor Jesus for in my own suffering).

With so much uncertainty and change in our future, I have been getting taken to town on faith and what it means to believe the promise through tears. I am so thankful that Jesus used my precious little Layla to model what that can look like when it's done with unblinking faith.

I'll sum it up by staying on theme with the entire post: That kind of faith doesn't suck.


Therapeutic Dreams

Not long ago I had no style. That's not me being self-deprecating, I just literally had no style of my own. I had never given any thought to what elements or themes or looks from fashion/design I felt best expressed who I am. I would shop for a room or an outfit and just kind of wildly go, "I like that thing, and that other thing, and that one too," never considering if the things went well together or if they were a fitting reflection of what i found beautiful or functional.

Pinterest had a big hand in changing this. So did my snap decision to blog more of my life and MAKE more of my life. I had always liked my house. It was functional and nice and I had picked paint colors for every room based on which swatch was prettiest. What more could I want? But i started thinking in terms of, "does this space give me joy right now?" and quickly found out that, no, our house as it was didnt really make me joyful or inspired on any given day. 

At first I figured we'd just have to move. Start fresh. Then we spent .005 seconds looking into that and realized, LOL, we're not going anywhere because all of a sudden the house we bought in 2006 is worth nothing in 2009. Thanks a million, market

I'm so glad we didnt move and start from scratch though. A: because i would have been completely overwhelmed trying to build a style and house from scratch and B: I found out that it wasnt the house's job to be beautiful and reflect joy, but MY job to make it so. And that's what we started to do. Room by room and no interest-financing project by project, we've turned our blah little wood-veneered and khaki colored home into a bright, modern, quirky, fun space that LOOKS like us and that genuinely gives us joy to be in and to work on. Proof? the kitchen, my bathroom, the living room, the studio/office, the pantry, the dining nook, the hall, along with two areas i havent shown you yet because they arent finished.

I said Pinterest was a big part of this change. At first its biggest contribution was "UNNNNGH look at all these pretty rooms and houses, I love them all so much and they are better than mine and I NOW HATE OURS" and a whole lot of COVET.   A common pitfall of ye olde pins. But slowly and surely I was able to say things like, "okay i love that bohemian budoir as a photo, but honestly, that is not me and would be a tad ridiculous in my home." I started figuring out how to gather ideas that would both work in our style of home/stage of life/area of the country and which looked beautiful, joyful, and stylish to mine own eyes.

just a butt load of beauty.

One of the first rooms we got to sort of reinvent from scratch was Layla's nursery. I made no secret of the fact that I got 100% of the inspiration from a nursery tour I saw on Apartment Therapy. I found Apartment Therapy through pinterest and had been scouring their stunning kids room tours for ideas for Layla's. I was completely intimidated by everything I saw on this website. Most of these room-designers weren't actual professional designers...but, dayum, they were light years beyond anything I could slap together or think up. Every room they featured was a work of art to my design-deprived eyes, but Maeve's nursery tour put that inspirational fire in my gut to START PAINTING AND SEWING AND DOING AND MAKING NOWNOWNOW. And that is when you know you've hit inspirational paydirt.

Obviously many of the most beautiful elements of Layla's nursery were straight up copied from this gorgeous space. Since I could never make up a room design of my own that would be this fantastic, I figured copying the look and ideas would have to be my crutch. (And that's a lot of what style is anyway I think: copying from here and there--probably not as much as I did here-- and curating your own look, with a few lightning bolts of original inspiration along the way).

I am dying laughing as I type this because I just went and looked on the original Apartment Therapy Tour and remembered that I had written a comment on it; telling the room's owner how much I loved it and wanted to replicate it for my little girl. Here is what i said 3+ years ago:

hahaha, at least my honesty has not changed.  i'm insane and unoriginal, but at least i'll tell you loudly.

Fast forward 3 years. Lots of trial and error along the way as I learned my own style and started to implement it all around our home, one little makeover at a time. I noticed that, over time, I stopped relying as much on other room tours and Pinterest...I actually started to be able to piece things together on my own. I'm still NO DESIGNER: those evil geniuses who spew face-smackingly gorgeous ideas that you've never seen before from their every pore, but I have found my own groove. Enough of a groove that I even felt confident enough to reach out to IKEA and pitch a partnership with them...which, as you know, they were game for (but I sure wasn't confident to tell hardly anyone about that pitch until it was accepted!).

From the moment IKEA said yes, and the project of making over Judah and Layla's shared space became a reality, I about lost m'damn mind. Saying, "I've found my style! I am a confident interior design gazelle. Watch me prance!!!" is one thing, but having your #1 favorite company back you and say, "Hey , go do this with our name behind you and we're going to put it on the internet forever," is quite another. Crushing anxiety and pressure headaches anyone?

But what else could I do but go for it? I had a van full of furniture waiting for me to make it look good and nothing but a bunch of allen wrenches and my brains to make it happen. And, as you know, it very did happen. A pregnancy complete with horrifying morning sickness happened too--right in the middle of the project--but that's all in the past, and we can all laugh about it now without hardly gagging. 

When the project was over, the photographs taken and my presentation at an IKEA event complete, WHOOOOOSH, what a relief. IKEA was happy with the room, I was proud of what we had created, and the kids were living happily ever after inside of the room. 

On a wild whim I decided that maybe I had graduated from style-idiot bumbling around and copying the best of what I saw, to sort-of-not-clueless-possible-innovator. I decided to submit the room to Apartment Therapy. How cool would it be to go full circle from 100% consumer of their tours to an actual tour contributor!?!

I submitted my link and the pics and waited...and nothing ever happened. I really wasnt too bummed about it since I truly loved the room, and since Apartment Therapy was on such a pedestal in my mind that even my best work was probably not good enough.

So you can imagine the pants-pee that occurred when, completely unrelated to my submission (she said she never even saw it since they get TONS of submissions) I received this email from an AT editor:

I screamed. A lot. And loudly, and basically acted like a complete idiot psycho. 

And this past Friday, the tour went live: a Tour of the Room of My Design (capitalized for fancy), live on Apartment Therapy. Is this real life? And the orange squiggle is looking extra sexy to me all of a sudden.

and then i died of smiling.

I can now retire happily from designing, and blogging, and maybe breathing...just for a moment.

I was pumped at how many people said they were surprised by how much IKEA stuff made up the room. That had been a big goal of mine; to show how you can use IKEA products without it looking like an obviously-IKEA furnished room. I was NOT surprised by all the dumbwaiter love because it's such a  Swiss Family Robinson / Webster dream come true to many a grown up child. 

I expected Apartment Therapy commenters to all be pretty seasoned tour-viewers (with rare exceptions of insane noob comments like mine above) and that they would be a tough crowd to please, let alone impress. I was ready for feedback and critique on my choices and had thickened my skin and opened my brain-heart to use criticism for future good.

Even still, there was a small period of despair when some of the comments on the tour turned decidedly negative and kind of mean/judgmental to my eyes--and not even about the design so much as about our parenting choices. Some folks were loudly anti-TV in the room (understandable, but maybe not relevant in this post) and others were concerned about the safety of the kids in the bunks (not so much the loft though, weirdly). 

It was late Friday night when I saw these and it was hard not to feel pretty hurt. I am a salty gal, but in a horrible twist of fate, I am also really sensitive.  And I am not of the personality that could just remain silent. I replied to a few of the comments, trying really hard to remember that I represent not just my blog and IKEA in this forum, but also Jesus (in every forum, because duh). 

I didnt think I could feel sunnier about the tour than when it first posted, but I was surprised to find that the most meaningful compliments I received about the room didnt end up being about how pretty or cool it was (though truth: those made me soar), but rather how I responded with grace (and funny) to the negative commenters. THAT meant a lot, because it was 100% not me--I had to pray and revise, and pray some more, and then make Jesse talk me down, and then pray some more and then revise again and THEN post my replies.  I never expected an Apartment Therapy tour feature to provide a benchmark Jesus moment for me, but it so did. It was also a great reminder that as awesome as recognition feels, or a pretty room looks, people are more important, even the grumpy ones. 

I am at peace the no one cares more about the safety of my kids than Jesse and I do. Just because someone else might not choose to do a loft or a TV in their room doesnt mean it isn't a valid or right choice for us. How we parent our kids is between us and Jesus, and I feel more secure in that after going through that little spell.

Deep, spiritual detour aside, I am just so proud and happy with how everything turned out. If it wasn't glaringly obvious: An Apartment Therapy Tour was a dream--one I almost didn't even dare to dream--come true!  I absolutely have to thank yall for supporting me by reading, teaching me with your insightful comments and emails, and encouraging me through numerous dark times. I would have never pitched to IKEA if I didnt have a blog that I felt confident about, and that confidence comes from from yall.

I cannot think of a way to end this post that doesnt sound like an Oscars acceptance speech. So let's roll with it, Judah, and Layla, if you're reading this, I love you, and when did you learn to read? Thank you to the Academy, to my husband who is my best friend and #1 supporter, and most of all to my savior, Jesus Christ! Good night!


there is a $100 Visa gift card up for grabs just for one of yall from the good folks at GE on the previous post...enter today!

the winner of the Big Mommy Bag giveaway was Laura W. who has been informed and is fist pumping and dancing around. thanks to everyone who entered!


GE Appliances Owning the Weeknights (Giveaway)

as i have emerged from the first trimester tummy-death-funk, i am peeking cautiously around the corner and looking forward to my full return to the kitchen. one of my least favorite parts about early pregnancy is how much it turns me off to cooking (smell/see/touch my food before it's time to eat it?!? NEVER!) and just all things kitchen in general. opening the refrigerator can be a game of russian roulette. loading the dishwasher? a minefield! there's no telling what unexpected sights/smells i might encounter that will explode me.

but like i said, that's over now. i recently i cooked a real meal for the first time in about 10 weeks. 

i was surprised by how much i had missed it! the kids had gone to bed (because when you're pregnant and want poppy seed chicken as your second dinner at 9 pm, you just go for it!), but jesse was up and sat at the bar as i made the magic. 

and it really was magic. my hands and eyes were mixing and measuring, but all my attention was still somehow on my conversation and catching up with jesse. it sounds hokey, but it really felt like a homecoming (and i am not a lady who typically says "the kitchen is my home") to be spending time making something fresh and delicious while having an uninterrupted impromptu little reconnect-date with my husband. 

it made me realize that, as domesticated as i pretend not to be, our kitchen really is the heart of our home. sure we have wrestlemania in our bed, and insane "Frozen" scream-a-longs in the living room, but the touchstone that our crazy busy family always returns to is the kitchen. it's where we steal an hour after naps and before soccer or small group to scarf a quick meal, and more importantly to catch up with each other. the kids get to update us on their soap opera preschool friendships, at least one item of food or drink is spilled, jesse and i try to tell each other about our grown up days while fielding insane questions from the children--and without even realizing it, we're in the middle of the best part of our day.

GE Appliances knows it's all about the kitchen as has designed their line to help make the kitchen a relaxed and inviting space. every step of their design is driven by what the consumer (that's me!) needs. their dishwasher philosophy is “We know the only thing worse than prewashing is rewashing.” YES! GE Appliances calculated that if i spend just 20 minutes a day pre-washing dishes before putting them into the dishwasher, that is 5 full days every year spent on pre-washing, and they decided to design a dishwasher that would return those 5 days to me. hence 102 jets that do their job: washing dishes FOR me!

another way GE Appliances wants to give you more time with your family: their hands-free auto-fill refrigerator which will fill your glass with water and knows just when to stop. because moms know how valuable one hand can be when it's not tied up in a task that her fridge could be doing for her.

By the way, GE Applainces is also offering rebates and promotions (GE Artistry begins 5/15/2014 - 5/28/2014). 

GIVEAWAY : Leave a comment below letting me know how you own your weeknights for a chance to win a $100 Visa gift card!

Sweepstakes Rules:
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You may receive (2) total entries by selecting from the following entry methods:
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  2. Tweet (public message) about this promotion; including exactly the following unique term in your tweet message: “#SweepstakesEntry”; and leave the URL to that tweet in a comment on this post
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  4. For those with no Twitter or blog, read the official rules to learn about an alternate form of entry.
This giveaway is open to US Residents age 18 or older. Winners will be selected via random draw, and will be notified by e-mail. The notification email will come directly from BlogHer via the sweeps@blogher email address. You will have 72 hours to respond; otherwise a new winner will be selected.

The Official Rules are available here.

This sweepstakes runs from 5/1/2014-6/30/2014.

Be sure to visit the GE Appliances brand page on BlogHer.com where you can read other bloggers’ posts!

#tbt #LOL

i rarely do the day-of-the-week-themed posts that are popular on social media (man crush monday, transformation tuesday, woman crush / way back / what i wore wednesday, throwback thursday, selfie sunday are some eye-roll-inducing examples...not to say i havent totally done them before).

today i am going full force with the throwback thursday to almost exactly a year ago when i snapped my favorite funny instagram photo of all time.

i was shopping at Goodwill (poppin' tags) and glanced up and had to do a raging triple-take because the couple across from me looked, at a glance, JUST like jesse and me....except not really and upon closer inspection they were certainly different enough from us that i was positively tickled.

these arent funny-looking people by any means. and i am certainly not laughing at them. i think it's the pairing of them alongside the pair of me and jesse and the so-close-but-not-really resemblance between us two couples that cracks me up. i'm pretty sure if you showed them a pic of the two of us they would be laughing just as hard (although we are, admittedly, funny-looking).

if you know these people, put them in touch, in case either set of us ever needs stand-ins or a stunt couple.

i heart you, goodwill dopplegangers! happy anniversary!