Friday, April 29, 2016

Finding the Beauty in God's Timing through Infertility: Our Journey to Sweet Baby Sam

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"Infertility" is defined as the inability to conceive after one year of unprotected intercourse (six months if the woman is over age 35) or the inability to carry a pregnancy to live birth. {source.}

 We are one in eight. Our journey to conception with our sweet Baby Sam was a long one, and so is this post, but it's also one that I wouldn't change for anything. It's also not something I have ever kept secret. I encourage you, if you are experiencing any sort of infertility, to share your story. Talk about it with your peers or anyone you feel like may need to hear it. Understanding that I was never alone was a fact that kept me strong on my weakest days.

Matt and I got married on November 16, 2013. We knew before our wedding, that children were something we wanted immediately. We've always known that we were meant to be parents, and were never the type of couple that needed to "live life" before children. Four days after our wedding, on our way home from our honeymoon, I started to experience a sharp pain in my lower abdomen (at this point, I can't even remember what side!) so I decided to make a doctor's appointment. After just one visit and one ultrasound, we found out that one of my ovaries was covered in cysts and the pain was probably from one erupting. I should also mention at this point, I hadn't had a period in over 3 months but the doctors seemed to think this was normal since I had quit birth control in September. This was my only diagnosis. Cysts were common, and probably something I shouldn't worry about. So for the next few weeks, I continued to live a normal newlywed life.

By the end of December I had finally gotten a period, along with a random phone call from my doctor on his cell phone. He called to tell me that after reviewing my ultrasounds again, he wanted me to start taking at home ovulation tests. He didn't think I was ovulating. Strangely enough, I got a super late positive ovulation (like day 30 in my cycle) and a period just 5 days later. This was also the shortest cycle I've had in the past three years. After learning so much about normal cycles and ovulation, I now know this was completely abnormal. With that, I let my doctor know I received a positive ovulation and we were given the go ahead to try to get pregnant on our own.

Now here is why I consider myself one of the luckier ones. We found out fairly soon that conceiving on our own may be difficult. We knew that no matter what the doctors said, there could still be a problem, but we chose to try on our on anyway. No more tests or peeing on a strip. We simply wanted to enjoy our first year of marriage, while trying to get pregnant without any stress.

Unfortunately by April-June (ish) my periods were still crazy abnormal and I was still experiencing a lot of regular ovarian pain. I would go 70+ days without having a period and spent a lot of time with a heating pad, so my doctor finally referred us to an OB/GYN. In June of 2014, after more tests and ultrasounds, I finally started going in for regular monthly blood tests for ovulation, all of which came back negative through October. At this point, we finally decided to turn to fertility drugs to start my period and encourage ovulation.

After a negative ovulation test our first month on Clomid, we decided to forgo a second treatment and try acupuncture. I wasn't a fan of how the drugs made me feel, and will always choose a more natural way if it's an option. After a positive home ovulation test in December, we found out we were finally pregnant in January of 2015! We were thrilled and in complete shock, but we were also horrified. Call it a woman's intuition, or sheer paranoia, but I knew from the beginning something wasn't right. Matt did his best to encourage me, but something in the pit of my stomach wouldn't allow me to relax. We went for our 8 week ultrasound to discover there was no baby. The term for this is called a "blighted ovum". Although they couldn't "confirm" the diagnoses because our "conception dates could be off" we knew they weren't. There was no possibility for different conception dates, and we left that day knowing in our hearts that we would soon miscarry. 

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 {8 week ultrasound of our first pregnancy}

Sure enough about a week later, I started spotting. It took 4 days, but eventually I ended up having a complete miscarriage at home. While this was probably one of the worst things I have ever experienced, it was also a relief. At that moment, the tiny bit of hopeful anxiety I had left was gone, and we officially knew we had lost the pregnancy.

We decided we would hold off on trying another round of fertility drugs and just stop "trying" all together. The loss of our pregnancy was so difficult, we knew it would take a while to heal. But 7 months later and after 2 more rounds of Clomid, on September 29, 2015, I woke up at 6am to take a pregnancy test. 5 minutes later, I woke my husband up with the darkest positive stick I had ever seen and the biggest smile. We had a second chance, and I had more hope in my heart than I could put into words. We were 6 weeks pregnant with our little miracle, and completely sure that no matter what, God was completely faithful. We chose to put our complete trust in Him, and have been so unbelievably grateful ever since.

God's timing is perfect, and His stories are the most beautifully written. There was a moment after we found out we were pregnant with Sam where I was standing in church worshiping while the band was performing "Every Line" that I heard these words and knew He was writing my story in the most beautiful way that I could never even begin to fathom. "I close my eyes cause faith is seeing for me. I'm out of breath, but you are breathing for me. I lift my hands, to Jesus be the glory. My fight is gone, but you are fighting for me. The battle won I'm standing on your victory. I lift my hands, to Jesus be the glory." I held my belly as tears streamed down my face. My fight was gone, no matter the outcome, because He was always fighting for me. Then and now, my heart is full of so much love and gratitude for our Sweet Baby Sam. I have the comfort in our Savior, in His goodness, and in knowing that no matter what, He is good.

Matt and I now have the ability to look back and see just how perfect His timing is. Every "no" we ever received was only to prepare us for something better. Our journey to conception was difficult and at times heart crushing, but I truly believe we wouldn't appreciate our baby Sam as much as we do, had we not gone through everything we have. It has made us stronger in every way, and we have become so much closer to Jesus through needing Him more than ever. How crazy and beautiful is it to look at our children and know that we have a Father who loves us infinitely more than the way we love them? Having a Father who loves me the way Jesus does saves me over and over every single day. My heart is so full of gratitude that Sam will know how much he was wanted and prayed for, and that he will also grow up with a Daddy who loves him more than Matt and I could ever imagine.
 *I have never been diagnosed with PCOS. While I did have multiple ovarian cysts, and unexplained anovulation, I never met the criteria for an official diagnoses. I've never been given the reason "why" for any of our struggles with conceiving. In my heart I believe that the "why" is simply timing. It was simply God's way of saying "Not yet, my child" and I'm so grateful for His "but, now" in our story.

National Infertility Awareness Week is April 24-April 30. You can find more information here.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

"The Meaning of Marriage" Chapter One Thoughts {Husband's first Guest Post!}

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Initially, I had planned on writing this post with my sweet husband, Matt.  But after reading his thoughts alone, I've decided to just completely hand this one to him. Let me preface this by saying, I did not force him to write any of this and all of the goodness you see shine through, is completely genuine. My marriage is not perfect (thankfully!), but it is my very favorite part about life. If you know me, you know I truly enjoy being Matt's wife and I think after reading this, you'll get the smallest glimpse as to why. 
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{Matt and I about to sign our marriage license}
Let me begin by saying that I have been sitting in agonizing anticipation of the day my bride would ask me to share my thoughts on her blog; and I could not be happier that it is about the Tim Keller book, The Meaning of Marriage.  Amanda pretty much gave me free reign to express my thoughts however I wanted (she usually knows better than that), so I thought I would give some highlights of the first chapter and how I see myself applying them in our marriage.  

Before I do that, let me say first that it does not matter if you are newlyweds, celebrating your 40th anniversary, engaged, or single - this book is for EVERYONE.  It can certainly change how married couples love each other, but I can't help but be amazed in wondering the impact this book would have on a single person in preparing their heart for their future spouse.  

Chapter 1 - The Secret of Marriage

Tim starts by giving a fascinating history of marriage and how it has evolved over thousands of years.  Let's be honest, my generation is the worst generation.  We are completely self-absorbed and horribly obsessed with freedoms and rights that we are in no way entitled to.  A common argument against marriage has risen in many young people today that marriage restricts their freedom.  That submitting to another in marriage goes completely against their nature.  Their needs won't be met, they will become unhappy, and the marriage will be doomed. 

What I loved most was how Tim shatters this objection and paints it as the idea of the sinful, selfish people we are.  Marriage is about putting someone else's needs above your own.  While my peers may argue that submitting to someone else in that way restricts their freedom, Tim argues that this is the ultimate way to live in freedom.  By putting someone else first, you are learning to master your own feelings.  Choosing to live a single life because you can't stand the idea of being "tied-down" by another, only means that you are living a life "tied-down" by your own feelings and desires.  

Now let me explain how this history lesson and definition of marriage is so useful for me.  
Tim talks about how Sara Lipton, a New York Times contributor, wrote a piece once on a bunch of scumbag politicians that couldn't keep it in their pants.  She wrote that the defenses being argued for these "men" we're that truly masculine men just don't work well in a traditional marriage.  They have so much testosterone pumping through them that their desire to be the alpha-male just won't let them repress their instinctive desires and feelings.  Well let me explain something bud, those desires and feelings to sleep with anything that will let you, is not millions of years of instincts, it's called sin - and it will kill you.  Sara goes on to explain how true masculinity has traditionally been defined as self-mastery.  You are truly a man once you have learned to be the master of your own feelings and instincts.  For most of history a man who could not rule his own self, could not be trusted to rule a household.  Wow.  As a husband and soon-to-be father, that is a powerful statement.  Being a worthy leader for my family is something that I know will be a constant battle, but something worth fighting for.  

Let me close with this -  how can we know that this idea of marriage can be successful? Because Jesus modeled it for us.  Paul commands us to love our wives as Christ loved the church.  Christ's love for his church (all of us) was so great that he came to Earth, lived a perfect life, and chose to die for us.  His sacrifice makes it possible for us to be reunited with Him in eternity, when we in no way could ever be deserving of that.  Jesus became a servant and put our needs above his own.  And that, according to Tim, is the secret of marriage - that the gospel explains marriage.  

If you have made it this far, my sincerest thanks for sticking with me.  I hope you enjoyed and will seriously consider picking up a copy of this book.  I also want to thank all of you that have been following Amanda on this journey with girl(ish).  Thank you for giving my bride the voice she had for so long tried to find. 

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Sweet Baby Sam: 33-34 Weeks

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Morning, friends! I don't want to jinx myself, but pregnancy, all around, has been pretty awesome lately. Other than the kidney pain (which I've just learned to handle), I feel pretty awesome. Awesome enough for a few short workouts and walks, and awesome enough to run lots of errands and have some good date nights! And although I did end up hiring a cleaning lady (because let's be real, I don't have that much energy), I've even been able to keep the house looking pretty normal lately. I'll definitely enjoy that while I can!

Weight Gained: 24 Pounds. I'd be willing to guess a few of those are from the extra snackage lately. Oops.
Symptoms: Kidney pain from hydronephrosis, serious hanger, slightly swollen feet and hands (I had to take my wedding rings off for the first time since we were married and I'm still crying about it!)

Movement: I've got knees and feet in my right rib and right side constantly, but I really do enjoy it. I'll honestly be a little sad when this sweet baby isn't snuggled safe in my belly anymore. Luckily, he's still super low and head down, which I'm hoping will work to my advantage during labor. We shall see.
Food Aversions: Still sausage and now plain chicken breasts. I just can't.

Food Cravings: Plain Cap'n Crunch! I've eaten 7 bowls in the past 72 hours and I'm not even a little ashamed. Also plain greek yogurt with honey, fruit, and granola, chocolate peanut butter Muddie Buddies, Little River decaf coffee, and Pirate's Booty.

Sleep: Still not happening. I bet I was up 10 times last night, no exaggeration. I have officially forgotten what deep sleep actually feels like!

Maternity Clothes?: Do nursing bras and tanks count? I bought this bra and tank from Target, and this bra from Amazon.

Stretch Marks?: Still mostly just a ton of veins on my belly. I am starting to get a few minor stretch marks on my lower back/upper butt area, but luckily they are still coverable with a bathing suit bottom.
Miss Anything?: Red wine and sushi. Same as always! And I'm really starting to miss hardcore workouts! I used to be pretty strong, and at this point I just feel like jello. EVERYWHERE. I watched Matt do a P90x workout a few days and wanted to cry because I couldn't join him. Working out together was always one of my favorite things, and I'm praying I'll have the chance to start again once Sam is born!

Baby Items Purchased: Baby clothes, diaper bag, swaddle blankets, receiving blankets, fluffy blankets, post delivery self care stuff, travel items for my hospital bag, play gym, drapes for his nursery, and a few other small things. Matt and I took a big trip to Buy Buy Baby this past Friday and it was SO MUCH FUN! 

Looking Forward To: Still semi normal clothes! And at this point I'm really just looking forward to meeting our precious baby. Only 6 more weeks! Eeek!

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Currently {Bible} Studying

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Good Morning, friends! Today I want to share a little faith based glimpse into my weekly life. I am constantly trying to learn more, and better myself as a wife, friend, and daughter of Christ, and I want to share with y'all what I've been studying recently. Now, I will admit, that some days are better and easier than others, and I tend to have a little more time than most since I don't have an 8-5 job. I am, in no way, trying to tell you this is what you should be studying or how much, I just want to share what has recently been working for me. Also, these are just brief snapshots. If you would like for me to discuss something a little more in depth, please feel free to ask!

Marriage: "The Meaning of Marriage" by Timothy and Kathy Keller

Matt and I just started this book and I'm so excited to dive deeper into it. In "The Meaning of Marriage", Timothy and his wife, Kathy, dissect Ephesians 5:18-33 chapter by chapter. Below is a brief synopsis via Amazon:

 Modern culture would have you believe that everyone has a soul mate; that romance is the most important part of a successful marriage; that your spouse is there to help you realize your potential; that marriage does not mean forever, but merely for now; and that starting over after a divorce is the best solution to seemingly intractable marriage issues. But these modern-day assumptions are wrong. Timothy Keller, with insights from Kathy, his wife of thirty-seven years, shows marriage to be a glorious relationship that is also misunderstood and mysterious. The Meaning of Marriage offers instruction on how to have a successful marriage, and is essential reading for anyone who wants to know God and love more deeply in this life.

There is a study guide and DVD that you can purchase separately, but Matt and I have decided to study it without them. We each read a chapter in the mornings, highlight in different colors what we loved about it, take some notes, and then discuss it in the evenings. We're only an introduction and chapter in, and I already know that it is going to do wonderful things for our marriage. Because we just began, I'll be sure to give y'all updates on our notes and thoughts.

Small Group: "Life Is ___." by Judah Smith

I fell in love with Judah Smith's teachings when I read his book "Jesus Is ___." for his Bible study Katey was sharing on her blog, so I was super excited when our small group agreed to start his study for "Life Is ___." Judah's teachings are youthful and engaging, while still being knowledgeable of Jesus' teachings and being able to share them in a way that is coherent. 

We did purchase the DVD and study guide for this book, which I highly recommend if you want it to be a true group study. I consider myself very lucky to be a part of a group of married couples who love Jesus so much and want to grow in their relationship with Him the same way we do, and that we also consider family. We have our second group meeting on the book tonight, and as always, I'm super excited to meet and discuss!

Personal: The Book of Job 
For a while,  I wasn't doing much on the personal end except for my devotionals. I realized to truly become closer to God, I needed to spend intentional time in His word on a more regular basis. Reading the Bible is something I struggle with because I feel like I have to read one sentence twenty times to understand it, but it's something I long to improve at. I was on the hunt for something to make it easier for me to comprehend when I came across The Moody Bible Commentary. The Commentary is written by 30 professors and theologians who explain, in depth, each book, chapter, and sentence in the Bible. When I say this book has completely change the way I understand the Bible, I mean it. I read a chapter in the Bible, followed by the notes on it in The Moody Commentary. I've learned so much more than I ever would have with the Bible alone, and I cannot recommend it enough!

If you would ever like to compare notes, or chat about The Book of Job, or any of the studies I'm partaking in, please feel free. I love to hear other peoples opinions and perceptions, especially when reading The Bible. 

Daily Devotion: She Reads Truth and/or "Life Is ___." 

I try to do a devotion every day, but with the other studies, it sometimes doesn't happen. When I do have the extra time, I always turn to She Reads Truth. Luckily, you're able to subscribe to daily emails and have them delivered to your inbox every morning! 

Because we are currently studying "Life Is ___." I've been doing the devotions to go along with the study each day. They are short and to the point, and go along with what we've learned in the week's study. I also have a few in my cart on Amazon that I would love to start when I'm not doing so much else!

I truly love sitting down with a cup of {preferably Little River} coffee and spending time with Jesus each morning. I know it's harder for some than others, but I believe that just ten minutes a day can change your entire day in the best way. I love sharing my faith, and I would love to hear more about yours! Are there any studies you recommend for the future? Please share!

Thursday, April 14, 2016

101 in 1001

 {image source}

Inspired by Mackenzie, owner of Design Darling, I have created a list of 101 things I would like to accomplish in the next 1001 days. These are my dreams, hopes, and wishes for the next 2.75 years and I hope that by posting a public list, it will help me hold myself more accountable. Feel free to write up your own list to share with me or keep for your own personal use. If you're a blogger and have a list, please share with me and I will add it to the bottom of this post for others to reference!

1. Become a Mama!

2. Visit South Africa. More specifically, travel to Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, Kenya and then fly to Capetown to swim with Sharks and visit the penguins at Boulder Beach!

3. Mildly renovate our house.

4. Write and share my testimony.

5. Start a D-Group.

6. Clean up my eating habits.

7. Read a new book every other week.

8. Invest in a quality handbag.

9. Organize my recipes.

10. Run a 5K

11. Visit Washington D.C.

12. Take one week off of the internet/social media.

13. Go to a blog conference.

14. Be completely debt free.

15. Host a murder mystery party.

16. Start a weekly bible study on the blog.

17. Try Pure Barre.

18. Learn CPR.

19. Take a cooking class with Matt.

20. Take a spin class.

21. Take a photography class.

22. Take a girls trip with my mom and sister.

23. Start or join a monthly book club.

24. Host a holiday.

25. Take a trip to NYC.

26. Subscribe to 3 of my favorite magazines.

27. Go wine tasting.

28. Visit The CMA Festival.

29. Volunteer.

30. Visit Israel.

31. Try Blue Apron meals.

32. Invest in a class pair of pumps.

33. Make a scrapbook.

34. Ride a rollercoaster.

35. Tip 100%

36. Get my CWP.

37. Read the entire old testament.

38. Start a marriage bible study with Matt.

39. See a live musical.

40. Learn to film and edit vlogs.

41. Take a basic HTML class.

42. Go one month without using any heat on my hair.

43. Rent bikes in downtown Greenville.

44. Pay for someones order at Starbucks.

45. Finish furnishing and decorating house.

46. Go on a picnic with Matt.

47. Be a contributor for another blog.

48. Collaborate with a brand I love.

49. Have a full stocked and beautifully decorated bar cart.

50. Go to a braves game.

51. Find a new area to serve in at church.

52. Take a dance class with Matt.

53. Attempt Whole 30.

54. Study the Book of Revelations in depth.

55. Keep a plant alive.

56. Take Matt to Linville Caverns.

57. Learn to sew.

58. Grow a herb garden.

59. Buy my sister a nice handbag.

60. Adopt a baby.

61. Take Mom for the girls day I keep promising her.

62. Adopt a family for Christmas.

63. Create an editorial calendar and stick to it.

64. Get a passport.

65. Blog about accomplishing these goals and wishes.

66. Go fishing with Matt, Sam, and Cruise.

67. Learn more about Google Analytics and AdWords.

68. Mail 10 "just because" gifts to people I love.

69. Host a dinner party in our new home.

70. Take a hand lettering class.

71. Learn to tie a tie.

72. Get my yoga body strength back.

73. Host a girl's brunch.

74. Learn to play golf.

75. Visit a museum.

76.  Create a new media kit.

77. Train myself to wake up earlier.

78. Visit Magnolia Market in Waco, TX.

79. Get my last two wisdom teeth removed.

80. Purchase an entire week's worth of groceries from The Farmer's Market.

81. Visit a brewery.

82. Take a floral arrangement class.

83. Treat myself to a pair of Valentino Rockstuds.

84. Go ice skating.

85. Learn how to use manual mode on my DSLR proficiently.

86. Cook a lobster at home.

87. Get laser surgery on my leg stretch marks.

88. Try Microdermabrasion.

89. Take a beach trip with my boys.

90. Invest in a few good coffee table books.

91. See a urologist and try to repair my overactive bladder.

92. Visit Disney World.

93. Improve my skills of photo editing in Lightroom.

94. Have my teeth professionally whitened.

95. Go hiking with my boys while Sam is still a baby we can wear.

96. Finalize and hang pictures for the gallery wall in our living room.

97. Host a kids party for adults. Moon bounce included.

98. Eat every meal at home for a week.

99. Learn to "semi" coupon. Not crazy lady status, but to save a little money.

100. Update the blog's design.

101. Put $10 in savings for every new goal accomplished.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

What's Next For girl(ish)

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I've been having what some would call a "writer's block" lately. I have the time to write and blog, I just can't find the want. Luckily, I've figured out why.

I know this blog started out as a fashion or "life and style" blog, but it's about to morph into something different. Pregnancy has made me realize that I want to share more than a photo of an outfit or a collage of shoes to purchase. While I still love reading those blogs, that's no longer what I want this one to be or become. I want to share more truth, more of my daily life, more of my husband and our family, and more of the things that make my heart happy. I want y'all to know me and be able to relate to me in a way that will inspire you to come back. I want you to want to sit down with your cup of coffee in the mornings, the same way I do, reading your blogs, and mine be included.

That being said, girl(ish) is on its way into transfoming into a "lifestyle" blog. I'm still on the fence about keeping the name the same, because I do still want to share the occasional outfit and of course baby Sam's outfits. I also like girl(ish) because I feel like it essentially describes my world. I'm severely outnumbered by boys, therefore I think the title still fits? What do y'all think? Any suggestions?
I know some of you are here mainly for the fashion posts, but I hope you'll stick around for the rest of it. I'm so excited, and I have great expectations for the future and I hope you'll enjoy the new content as well. Thank you all for your support during this time of transition!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Sweet Baby Sam: 31-32 Weeks

{Excuse the rough, no make up look. This was after a long day of kidney pain and ridiculous allergies. The pollen here is intense!}

The past two weeks of pregnancy have probably been the best I've had so far. I hate saying it, because I feel like I'm going to jinx it, but other than a quick trip to the hospital for a negative fetal fibronectin test, pregnancy has been pretty enjoyable. I may be one of the only women in the world to enjoy the third trimester the most, but so far that's how it's going! 

Weight Gained: 20 Pounds. Finally starting to catch up to where I'm supposed to be!
Symptoms: Still dealing with the kidney issues, Braxton Hicks, a little shortness of breath, my feet swell when I walk too much, the first trimester hanger is back with a vengeance, AND my hormones are crazy. I'm not super emotional or anything, but every time I see a baby I wanna bring it home. Seriously, right now I want the biggest family, but I'm blaming it on my hormones. We will see where I am after baby boy makes his debut.

Movement: The cutest, and sometimes most painful things in the world. Sam is already pretty far head down (which I'm grateful for!) but I can feel his fingers "tickling" my bladder a lot during the day. It's the strangest feeling! I already feel like he's running out of room but my doctor says my belly is actually measuring a week behind. Lord, please don't let him be a week late, haha!
Food Aversions: Still sausage. OMG, ew.

Food Cravings: Still Five Guys Cheeseburgers! A Pelican's SnoBalls just opened not far from my house and I've stopped by there every day for the past four days. The half georgia peach, half black cherry, is the best thing in the world! I've also eaten Chipotle 3 days out of the last 7. But then again, I would do that pre-pregnancy.

Sleep: Nope, not happening. I feel like Jesus is preparing me for life after baby! I don't remember the last time I got in 2 hours straight!

Maternity Clothes?: Last Monday, I sat in the floor of my closet crying because nothing fit, so I went out and bought five dresses. This, this, this, this, and a maternity one I can't find (but plan on shooting for y'all Saturday!). I'm also adding a widget below and I highly recommend all of these for all of my Mama to Be's out there! I didn't have to go up a size in any of these and none of them are maternity!

Stretch Marks?: All the veins, no stretch marks. 
Miss Anything?: My pre-pregnancy bladder wasn't the best but it was better than my current one, so I miss that. I still miss red wine and sushi, and would love to eat a spoonful of raw cookie dough just because I could right now.

Baby Items Purchased: Some storage stuff, a diaper pail, onesies, baby first aid stuff, ANNNNDD my most favorite item I've purchased so far: Freshly Picked Moccasins. Y'all, I die. These are probably the only shoes he will ever wear! For all of my locals, Armoire downtown Spartanburg carries them plus a ton of other cute baby, childrens, and adults clothes!

Looking Forward To: Being able to wear all of the clothes in my closet again!

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