My Body After Baby

{Note: This post is not about exercise, nor about weight gain or loss.}

Struggling with infertility, being diagnosed with PCOS, and going through fertility treatments made me feel a lot of things in regards to my body. It made me feel unattractive, unwomanly, inferior, unworthy, and ugly. In short, it made me feel defective. Being unable to conceive naturally made me feel absolutely broken in many ways.

Since my husband and  I were unable to conceive naturally, once we did get pregnant after our IVF cycle, I really wanted to be able to give birth naturally. I thought that if I were able to do at least that, something that women were created to do (just as we were created to bear children) it would help restore my confidence in my body, and in its Creator.

I thought that giving birth naturally would have a sort of redemptive quality to it.

And it did. 

For me, giving birth naturally reminded me of what a powerful God we serve, and of what amazing, capable, strong bodies He gave us.

Granted, my only experience in childbirth is in giving birth naturally. It could be that any childbirth experience would have been redemptive. I imagine that the act of delivering Bonnie safely into this world would have been glorious regardless of the details… regardless of whether it happened naturally or not. I’m not sure.

I am sure of this though: I’ve struggled with my body image off and on for so, so long, as I think most women probably do. When I look in the mirror now, I see pounds that used to not be there, and hips that are a lot wider than they were a year or two ago, and thighs that are a little flabbier, and boobs that are just plain weird (TMI, I know.)

But now, more than ever, I see a body that I am thankful for: a body that is strong, and unique, and fearfully and wonderfully made.

Giving birth was, by far, the most incredible experience of my life. And it completely changed the way I look at my body… for the better. 

I could gripe about the little bit of baby weight that is still hanging around, but it’s nothing to be ashamed of. I could complain about my hair suddenly falling out in chunks. But at the end of the day, I am so proud of my post-baby body… It means that I made it through a difficult and painful season of my life, and that it was so worth it. It means that God is bigger than infertility. He is bigger than PCOS. He is bigger than less-than-promising odds or statistics. He is bigger than. Period.

It means that God never left me nor forsook me. He was there during the heartbreak of failed fertility treatments. He was there when our first IVF cycle had to be cancelled. He was there during our frozen transfer. He was there during nine months of pregnancy, and He was there during the pain and excitement of labor and delivery. He is faithful, and He is constant.

And boy is He gracious.

I am so proud of my body just the way it is now…Maybe not in the ways you would think, but proud nonetheless.

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Newborn Essentials {Months 0 to 3}

When Bonnie was a newborn, I posted this quick list of newborn essentials. Now that Bonnie is FOUR MONTHS OLD, I thought I’d share another list of all the items that were invaluable to us her first three months of life.

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For sleep, which is important since babies do SO MUCH of it at this stage: 

1) Crib and crib sheets: Beginning on our second night home from the hospital, Bonnie has slept in her own crib in her own room. We had a bassinet set up for her in our room, but she has always slept best in her own room, and in her own bed.

2) Swaddle blankets: I like the blankets that are 44″x44″. And since I had a summer baby, I really liked these. And even if you choose not to swaddle (although we LOVE swaddling!) you can use these blankets for pretty much everything. I’m all about not going overboard, but you can’t have too many of these things.

3) Sound machine: This makes a big difference between a great night, and a not-so-great night. If you don’t want to use a sound machine, you can also use a CD player with lullaby music or piano music on repeat. This is what we do with Bonnie now, and she seems to really like it.

4) Humidifier: We just started using this when the weather started getting cooler, and I noticed Bonnie’s skin seemed dry, and she even seemed a little congested. This has helped a lot.

5) Newborn-sized pacifiers: Bonnie won’t take a paci now, but she really liked it when she was a newborn, and they helped sooth her to sleep when nothing else would!

6) Footed sleepers, in size newborn, and 0-3: These are a given. (:

7) Baby monitor: We don’t use anything fancy… just a basic monitor.

Bonnie in her swaddle, at one week old.

Bonnie in her swaddle, at one week old.

For health and hygiene: 

1) Diaper rash cream: Better to use it from the beginning and avoid a rash altogether than have to treat one after the fact. A friend made some for me, and now I am hooked on the homemade stuff!

2) Sunscreen: I decided to make all of Bonnie’s bath and body products… It turned into a really fun project!

3) Body lotion: Again, homemade is so much fun.

4) Body wash: Also homemade, and I’ll share the recipe soon… so versatile and simple.

5) Diffuser: We run our essential oil diffuser almost every day, all day.

6) Gripe water: Bonnie loves this stuff. It helps get rid of hiccups, and even helps calm her if she’s fussy.

7) Saline nose drops

8) Infant Tylenol: We’ve not had to resort to this yet, but I like having it around just in case.

9) Diapers and wipes: Obviously. And if you choose to cloth diaper, there are several other essentials you’ll need that are not included on this list.

10) Essential oils: You could start with this starter kit.

11) Baby safe laundry detergent

For getting out and about: 

1) Carseat and base

2) Stroller

3) Baby wrap or carrier: I use my Moby wrap all the time, and also have a Boba carrier that I like a lot. The Boba is great because it’s so easy. The wrap is a bit more involved, but Bonnie seems to prefer it, and there are so many different ways you can position you baby using the Moby. You can even breastfeed while the baby is in it, which is a huge plus for us!

4) Diaper bag: The diaper bag you decide to carry is such a personal decision. And it’s one to be taken seriously, because you will carry with you everywhere you go for quite a long time!

5) Portable changing pad: I use this a lot, because I actually prefer changing Bonnie in the car rather than in a public bathroom. I’m not a fan of whatever germs might be floating around in public bathrooms. I mean, I know there are germs in my car too, but at least they are my germs…

If you want to splurge on this, here is a really cute on-the-go changing pad!

Bonnie in her Moby wrap at two weeks old.

Bonnie in her Moby wrap at two weeks old.

For days at home: 

1) Baby swing: We got ours from a consignment shop. It’s very small, which I love, because it’s so easy to carry from room to room.

2) Tummy time matBonnie loves hers!

3) Changing pad and covers

Bonnie on her mat, at three months old.

Bonnie on her mat, at three months old.

And if you are breastfeeding, here is a list of my must-haves for that: 

1) Cabbage leaves: Incase you become engorged. Lifesavers. Kinda smelly and kinda gross, but totally worth it.

2) Nursing pads: Disposable or re-usable, although I find that it works best for me if I use disposable during the day and re-usable at night.

3) Pump: I just use a cheap pump, and it works just fine!

4) Stretchy/flowy/or button-y shirts that are easy to breastfeed in: Since Bonnie doesn’t take a bottle I nurse her in  public A LOT. This means it’s important for me to be able to feed her easily, quickly, and modestly.

5) Milk storage bags

6) Bottles: I recommend learning from my mistake and bottle training your baby!

7) Coconut oil: For cracked nipples.

And here are some extras that are really nice to have, although not essential:

1) Bottle warmer: If you plan on using a bottle at all, this makes it SO MUCH easier. Bonnie won’t take a bottle, but Luke, the sweet boy I babysit during the week, loves his bottle! His mom brought over her bottle warmer for me to use when I have him during the day, and it’s such a huge help when he wants a bottle right now. 

2) Boppy pillow: For me, this has not been essential, because I don’t care for using it while Bonnie is nursing, but she does like to lay in it, and even on it sometimes. HERE is a pretty neat Boppy Tummy Time Pillow. (We don’t have it, but I really like it.)

3) Pacifier clips: Because having to bend over, pick a paci up off the dirty floor, and then wash it, gets really old after about the fiftieth time you do it! A quick Etsy search comes up with hundreds of cute options.

4) Car mirror: This is entertaining to Bonnie, and it gives me peace of mind, because it lets me see her face even though she’s in a rear-facing carseat.

5) Baby bathtub: If you are really pinched for space, this is not 100% necessary, but Bonnie LOVES her tub!

6) Rocking chair: Again, if you are tight on space, this is not a necessity, but I so enjoy rocking Bonnie every morning and evening. It is some of our most special time together! We found an old rocker at a yard sale, and it has been worth every penny.

If you’re wondering where you can find the best deals, some of my favorite places to shop for baby things are Marshall’s and TJ Maxx. I found Bonnie’s swaddle blankets at Marshall’s, where they were HALF the price they were at Target. If you’re into online shopping, I highly recommend checking out Zulily each day. They often have really great deals on baby gear, including nursery decor, strollers, swaddle blankets, clothing, even cloth diapers and covers!

For baby clothing, I love secondhand stores and consignment sales. My favorite “real” store for baby clothing is Gymboree. If you can catch their sales (especially their online sales) or find an outlet store, you can really get some good deals. And my motto for baby clothing is… Comfy is key!

If you can think of anything I’ve left off this list, I’d love to know! Because if you read Monday’s post, you know that my sister is pregnant. So these lists will come in handy for her over the next many months!

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Just Call Her Fertile Myrtle

So, about six or seven weeks ago, my sister and I were chatting on the phone, and she told me that she and her husband had decided they were going to try to conceive.

Three weeks later, she found out she was pregnant.

Talk about fast.

If this had happened before Andrew and I had Bonnie, I would not have been able to handle it. I would have wanted to crawl under a rock and absolutely die. I don’t mean to be dramatic, but I have a feeling many of you know exactly what I mean. I think I’d have lost it completely, in every way possible.

But, we do have Bonnie, so I assumed that whenever she did become pregnant, all I would feel for her was sheer joy. And when I heard her news, my initial reaction was a feeling of absolute joy. Well, scratch that. My initial reaction was one of shock at how quickly it had happened. But my second reaction was joy. How can you not be joyful about the creation of a new life?!

But then, after the joy, I noticed something else… a hint of jealousy, and maybe even some resentment. Resentment about how easy it was for her, of how they were able to have fun with it, and how they were seemingly able to just think about being pregnant, and suddenly, they were.

And then of course, my weird hodgepodge of emotions (shock, joy, jealousy, resentment) was replaced by guilt. And then my guilt was replaced with conviction. Obviously, I experienced quite an emotional whirlwind for several minutes, and eventually my conviction was replaced with overwhelming gratitude.

If Andrew and I never have another child, we are still so blessed to have Bonnie. My experience with motherhood so far has been more incredible than I ever could have imagined. The love I have for Bonnie is more incredible than I ever could have imagined. And even if our IVF cycle had been unsuccessful, and Bonnie had never been born, we would still be blessed, and God would still be so good.

How dare I forget what an amazing gift we have been given? How dare I  let myself think thoughts like, “Wow. She’s going to be able have a dozen children without even trying, and we may only have one?” Thank GOD for the one child we do have. There are so many others who have walked the road of infertility for years, and are still walking it, childless. How dare I forget that having “only one” child is no small thing? How dare I forget that we serve a God who is capable of immeasurably more than we could ever ask or imagine? (Ephesians 3:20)

And how dare I forget that everyone has their own battles? How dare I forget that my sister has struggled with bipolar disorder for her entire life? That there were days when we literally wondered if she would make it through high school alive, and if she would ever be able to live a fulfilled, productive, successful life. We wondered if she would ever be able to have just one, single, “normal” relationship. She battled wrong medications, wrong dosages, misdiagnoses, and an undiagnosed condition for so many years. She fought, and fought, and fought such a lonely fight.

As do we all.

Because we are human. Because we are inherently broken, apart from the saving grace of our Heavenly Father.

Not everyone struggles with infertility. Obviously. But we all struggle. We all have hidden, personal, deep struggles that eventually mold our lives in some way, and become a special and unique part of who we are. God can use those broken pieces of our lives for His glory, and when we give Him those broken pieces, He can bring redemption from them. (Ephesians 1:7)

And if anyone deserves to finally have something in her life come easily to her, it’s Avery.

So after hearing her news, and experiencing every emotion in the book, I am finally just happy. Happy for her. Happy for Brandon. And soooooo excited to be able to have another baby on the brain again so soon! This is going to be such a sweet season in their lives, and thus, in my life too.

Just one more thing to be thankful for.

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I waited patiently for the Lord, and He turned to me and heard my cry. 

He lifted me out of the slimy pit; out of the mud and mire.

He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand….

Many, Lord my God, are the wonders you have done, the things you planned for us.

None can compare with you!

-Psalm 40:1-2,5

When I shared this draft with my sister for her to approve, she sent me a text saying that it was fine for me to post this, and in that text she said, “Just to clarify, before Brandon and I got married we vowed not to have kids until you had at least one, or until you were totally done trying.”

And that was pretty humbling… The kindest thing she has ever done for me.

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Fall Fashion Trends for Baby {What I Am Loving}

This post is a little off topic, since this is not a fashion blog, and since half my clothing comes from second-hand stores! When it comes to my own wardrobe, I would not describe it as “trendy” at all. Although I may have a few trendy pieces hanging in my closet, I generally opt for items that are a bit more classic, so that I can get lots of wear out of them without worrying about them going out of style.

Overall, I maintain that same strategy with Bonnie’s wardrobe too, but we’ve gotten her a few pieces that are trendy, and “in” right now (enough to mix and match and make PLENTY of outfits with) and I am absolutely loving the results.

So here are some of my favorite baby fashion trends this season:

1) Knit sweaters: We bought this cardigan for Bonnie and it is so sweet!

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(You can find it here.)

2) Tutus: There’s definitely an age limit on these things. In other words, this tutu, although adorable on a 4 month old, would not be adorable on a 14 year old. But for babies? YES!

And, pairing a tutu with a knit sweater = perfection, and a great church outfit for fall!

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(Find this tutu here.)

 

3) Woodland creatures: This is one of my favorite trends. Even owls have grown on me, and I was not so crazy about them when they first started making their appearance.

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(Find this outfit here.)

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(Find it here.)

4) Puffy vests, and vests in general: 

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(Find this entire outfit here… one of my favorite stores, and then run great sales if you can catch them at the right time!)

vest(Outfit can be found here.)

When it comes to baby clothes, I maintain the same philosophy that I adhere to for grown-up clothes: LESS is best. This is even more true for babies because, as we all know, they grow so quickly! Just like with grown-up clothes, if you buy a few versatile pieces, you can come up with so many different outfits simply by mixing and matching!

And it’s so fun to at least window shop, if nothing else. (:

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Meal Plan Monday: PCOS Style

Well, I learned my lesson last week in regards to not taking the time to plan and prep healthy meals and snacks. So this week, I am back on track. It’s so crazy that, when you take the time to plan and prepare ahead, you feel like you have tons of groceries in the house, and lots of foods to choose from when you need a quick bite. But you can have the exact same groceries in the house, and NOT plan ahead, and feel like there is NOTHING to eat!

I spent the weekend getting myself physically and mentally prepared for the week ahead in every way I could think of. I cleaned the house, which felt like a big accomplishment. I prepped our meals and snacks, also an accomplishment, and Andrew, Bonnie and I even spent some time outside together. It’s amazing what that can do for your mood! The weather here has been awesome the past several days, and we are taking full advantage while we can.

But back to food…

Here are our dinner plans for the week:

Monday

Meat and veggie Paleo chili (I made and froze a big batch of this several weeks ago. So glad I did!)

Tuesday

Baked flounder (seasoned simply with salt, pepper, and rubbed sage) warm brussels sprouts salad, low-roasted sweet potatoes

Wednesday

An easy garden salad topped with grilled chicken, leftover brussels sprouts, hardboiled eggs, and oil and vinegar

Thursday

Grilled chicken (here is a good recipe) with asparagus and low-roasted sweet potatoes

Friday

Eat out. It’s our Friday thing lately.

Saturday

Spaghetti (using zucchini noodles and homemade sauce)

Sunday

We usually have a big meal after church on Sundays, so dinner is small and laid-back…. leftovers, sammies, whatever.

If our dinner menu seems a bit redundant, that’s because it is! We eat the same things a lot for several weeks before switching it up again. It helps me have less mental clutter (if that’s even a real term) and it helps simplify planning, shopping, and prepping. Since neither Andrew nor I are major foodies, we don’t mind a bit of repetition.

Onto lunch: 

And breakfast: 

  • REAL oatmeal for Andrew (not the sugary packages stuff)
  • Greek yogurt and granola (for Andrew also) If you want a grain free, homemade granola recipe, you can find one here.
  • Scrambled eggs (scrambled in coconut oil)
  • Homemade nut and seed bars

Snacks:

  • Larabars or
  • Nut and seed bars
  • Bananas/apples with peanut butter
  • Carrots and guacamole

Food Prep: 

Prepping meals has been a struggle lately. Partly because of time, but also because our kitchen is not designed well, and is unenjoyable to be in for any extended amount of time. The rental we are moving into in several weeks has a much more updated kitchen, and I am hoping that will be enough to get me a little more motivated when it comes to cooking!

  • Cook chicken
  • Make or thaw spaghetti sauce
  • Slice sweet potato for fries
  • Low-roast 3 or 4 sweet potatoes (so we can just heat them when we are ready for them.)
  • Make tuna salad
  • Make chicken salad
  • Make nut and seed bars (recipe to come eventually!)
  • Hard-boil several eggs
  • Scramble several eggs
  • Make a loaf of homemade bread (for Andrew)
  • Clean and chop brussels sprouts and asparagus

So there is our week in terms of food! Nothing fancy, but it certainly works for us. Now, if only someone else would go shopping for the food, and MAKE the food… and just let me eat it! (: I am not sure which I enjoy less: the shopping or the prepping…

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Even after typing this whole post, and thinking about all these good-for-me foods, all I am actually thinking right now is, “Man, I could really go for a bag of candy corn. Like, right this second.”

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PCOS Diet in a Pinch

I started babysitting Luke this week. His parents have become such good friends of ours, and I feel so thankful to have their family in our lives. Luke is only five weeks younger than Bonnie, so I know they will become fast friends! Although, right now they are pretty oblivious of one another!

Overall, the week went really well… much better than I expected. But I did not have lots of time on my hands for cleaning, cooking, or doing anything other than tending to babies! By halfway through the week I really wished I had taken more time to clean, and to prepare meals/snacks over the weekend.

But I made it work, and thought I’d share some of my quick snacks and meals that have kept me going all week!

1) Bananas with melted almond butter

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2) KIND bars

You can buy them, of course, (these are my fave) or if you’re feeling really ambitious, you can make your own:

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3) Carrots dipped in guacamole

Of course, pretty much any veggie dipped in guacamole would work. We just happened to have a surplus of carrots. And I will dip just about anything in guacamole!

Another great, quick lunch option would have been an avocado with salt and pepper sprinkled on top. It doesn’t get much easier than that! Unfortunately, I did not have any fresh avocado this week, so pre-made guac was the obvious alternative.

4) My super easy/quick/cheap/yummy nut and seed bars, whose recipe and picture I will post soon. Okay… maybe not soon, but eventually. It’s officially on my “to do” list, although that doesn’t mean much these days!

5) LaraBars

AKA: My favorite snack ever. You can buy them in bulk, if you dare. For a protein boost, you can also buy the Larabar ALT bars, which I also love. They do contain grains though, which I am currently not eating. BUT… they make the ALT in pumpkin pie flavor. Can you say “yum?”

My favorite flavors are the butter pecan, key lime pie, blueberry muffin, lemon, banana nut, cherry pie… I could continue. They are all so good (except the coconut cream pie. I don’t care for that one, which is ironic since I normally love coconut.)

Since Larabars contain so few ingredients, they are very simple to make at home too. I usually eat them store-bought lately, since my meal/snack planning has been poor. Here, here, and here are some good guides/recipes for making them homemade if you prefer!

Since Larabars contain fruit, they are higher in sugar than many other quick snacks, so one bar a day is plenty. That being said, I will admit there was one day this week when I literally lived off of them. I think I had FOUR in a single day! Don’t follow my example there though…

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Now that I know how hectic it can be with two babies who are only five weeks apart in age, I will be much more intentional about preparing for next week’s meals and snacks.

Finally, let me just say that Tiffany and I have some wonderful, precious, sweet babies. There were a few rough moments and hours this week, but overall, I could not have asked for a better first week with Luke!

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Four Months with Bonnie

 

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Well, we’ve had some very strange developments over the last month, some great, and some not so great…

Bonnie can roll from her back to her tummy, although I’ve only seen her do it once, and she’s not done it again since. She can grab things with her hands, and she puts everything straight into her mouth!

Unfortunately, she will no longer take a bottle. She HATES bottles, and no matter how hungry she is, she just will not touch them. I am happy to feed her the old fashioned way since I am with her all the time anyway, but with our next baby, I will be more intentional about teaching him/her how to take a bottle. I am still loving breastfeeding, and plan on continuing for as long as possible.

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Bonnie is so strong, and loves trying to sit up, although she still has a long way to go! She also loves to do stand practice, and of course, she still loves her baths. She does not like riding in the car at all. She’s not much of a cryer, but she screams and sobs every single time she is in her carseat. It breaks my heart every time, which means we spend LOTS of days at home, without going anywhere!

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Bonnie started sleeping through the night when she was about six and a half weeks old. She kept that up for several weeks, but a few weeks ago, she suddenly stopped sleeping through the night, and wakes up once during the night more often than not. This started happening right after I stopped eating grains. So I am wondering if she’s just getting hungry more often than when I was eating grains. She has definitely been eating more frequently during both the day and night. I am trying to be intentional about eating lots of protein and fat to see if that helps, but even still, her sleeping through the night is sporadic. She weighed in last week at a whopping 16 pounds, so I know she is still getting plenty to eat!
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In addition to not sleeping through the night regularly, she’s also resisting sleep when bedtime rolls around, which is a new development. After some persistent Googling, I’ve started working on breaking her of that so it does not become a habit.

The combination of Bonnie’s not wanting to go to bed, and then waking up in the middle of the night has left me more tired than usual! She’s been such a wonderful sleeper overall (until now) that I never really experienced that exhaustion that I’ve heard other new moms talk about.

But I am feeling it now! (:

Tired, but happy!!!

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Catching Up

Quite unintentionally, I have really let the blog go by the way-side recently. Life just gets so busy so fast, and by the time I have the time to sit down at the computer in the evening, I feel spent… And like I don’t have much to say that would be worth reading.

Even though I feel tired at the end of each day, I feel so full and fulfilled. Spending my days with Bonnie is absolutely amazing. It is so fun watching her learn and grow. The quick pace at which she is changing reminds me that all of life is so brief, and so precious. So even on the days when I feel tired or defeated, I am so thankful for this season of our family’s life.

And speaking of being thankful… Is it seriously almost time to start preparing for Thanksgiving?!? What??? Until a few weeks ago, Andrew and I had been planning on hosting a small Thanksgiving at our house (he has class the day beforenThanksgiving, and works the day after, so going out of town does not seem wise.) But our lease ends shortly after Thanksgiving, and it looks like we will be moving… Again!

Long story.

But I am actually excited about it, even though the process is a little daunting. I have never moved with a four month old, so we will see how it goes! We have already started looking for boxes, and I am gearing up to get the show on the road, and stay put this time, until it is time to go back to Nashville, of course.

Anyway, depending on when the move actually happens, we may or may not be hosting Thanksgiving. My family has always been very laid back about Thanksgiving dinners, so I am not going to get too worked up over it. At least not yet! One day at a time…

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Photo Update

This is just a quick post to affirm that we are all alive and well in my neck of the woods. Andrew is back in school this week, and we are all getting acclimated to his new schedule. We so enjoyed his week off last week, and loved spending time with both his family and mine.

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We had beautiful weather all week, and spent lots of time outside.

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We went to Cheekwood Gardens in Nashville, and spent a beautiful fall morning there!

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It’s so hard to believe that our sweet girl is nearly four months old. She is getting SO HEAVY!!!

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We are back in Georgia now, and missing the cool, fall weather. And of course we are missing our families, but Andrew is over the halfway hump in school, and I am believing that the next two years are going to be the best so far!

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Seven Down, Seven to Go

Andrew just finished his 7th quarter of chiropractic school. He had lab finals last week, and lecture finals this week. It has been a long, hard two weeks, to say the least. I am SO GLAD it’s behind us. And we are one quarter closer to going back home to Nashville. Praise Jesus for getting us this far!

Since Andrew has all of next week off from school (although not off from work) I am taking a week-long break from the blog to spend time with my family.

Before saying farewell for the week, I thought I’d share some of my favorite recipes from the week, since I did not share my meal plan with you all on Monday (instead, I shared a giveaway, which you can still enter by hopping over to Jessi’s blog.)

1) Andrew and I both loved these low-roasted sweet potatoes:

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2) Tuna salad with apples and pumpkin seeds. This has been my go-to lunch a couple days this week. I would happily eat it EVERY day, except that the experts tell us we should only eat tuna a couple times a week…

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3) I really wanted an easy pumpkin bread recipe that I could throw together with ingredients I had on hand. I ended up going with this cinnamon raisin pumpkin bread recipe. I will definitely be making this recipe again. Probably, like, tomorrow, since this loaf will likely be long gone by then. Seriously. It’s that good.

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