baby shower #1.

This past Sunday, we got to celebrate a day that I never thought would arrive … my BABY SHOWER! *Cue all the tears, feels, emotions, and mush* I prayed for this day for so long. Like many of you, I’ve spent time in the bathroom at many baby showers collecting myself and wiping away a few tears, wondering if it would ever be my turn. Years passed and then suddenly, in the blink of an eye, last Sunday it was my turn and it was just as magical and special and miraculous as I ever imagined. It made the wait so worth it – the celebration on this end felt so rich and meaningful.

This first shower of ours was hosted and planned by my sister-in-law Monica, who did an amazing job from start to finish! (And I know she had a special helper in my mother-in-law Lori and my nieces!) I loved that I was able to be surprised with the details and felt so special and loved knowing how excited she was to plan this event. This shower was mainly Josh’s side of the family and family friends. It was so great to celebrate with those who have prayed for us for so long!

Here’s a peek at our invitations! The theme was “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star”.

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The morning started off with so many nerves! I didn’t anticipate to wake up with so many butterflies in my stomach. Was this real life? I struggled to anticipate what my emotions would be, as well as manage what I thought others would be expecting my emotions to be. I was nervous to be the center of attention for an event that was waited on for years. Thankfully after some prayers and deep breathing, the butterflies went away and the excitement was full-on!

One of my best friends Julie came by in the morning to curl my hair for me, which was so fun. It loved being able to process through my thoughts with her and seriously, she does the best job with my hair. It felt a little like a school dance moment, as I slipped on my dress, her and her family oohed and ahhed. It was so sweet and I am thankful for her offering to come celebrate with me the morning of!

Here’s a running-out-the-door bathroom selfie of my shower look! The dress is from Pink Blush Maternity and was so incredibly comfortable! The navy and pink colors were of course an ode to baby boy and boy girl. (PS – If you haven’t already shopped Pink Blush or Pink Blush Maternity, what are you waiting for!? They are my favorite online boutique!)

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Josh drove me to the shower and got to see all the fun festivities before sneaking off to play pickleball with his brother and dad. We got to walk in to a house full of gorgeous decorations and very eager family ready to celebrate! Here are some of the gorgeous touches!

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The shower was over the lunch hour and we ate an amazing spread of soups (tomato basil, beef barley, and duck wild rice) and sandwiches (ham, roast beef, and turkey with delicious condiments and gourmet cheeses). The spread was completed with homemade potato chips and a lovely fruit spread. It was catered by Lake Elmo Inn and SO DELICIOUS! Desserts were yummy cupcakes, turtle bar bites, and coconut macaroons. SWOON.

In the invitations, Monica invited guests to participate in a diaper raffle and we were so blessed to get so many boxes of diaper to start off our unending need! Guest began to arrive and were invited to fill out “I Wish…” cards for babies and also, grab a Bingo card to begin filling it out for the gift opening. Everyone was visiting, laughing, eating and talking about different gifts that could be included on the bingo card. I still couldn’t believe this day was about US!

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When we transitioned to the gift opening, Monica and my mother-in-law started with a little game where they asked me questions and saw how my answer compared to Josh’s. Monica asked me all the questions first and then surprised me by popping in a DVD to see how Josh responded. It’s so special to now have these answers on film! Here’s the questions and how we both answered them (edited versions):

  1. What is Chelsea’s favorite pregnancy food craving?

C: buffalo wild wings (parmesan garlic)

J: buffalo wild wings (parmesan garlic with blue cheese dressing)

  1. What is one word that would describe Chelsea’s mood while being pregnant?

C: happy

J: appreciative

  1. Do you think your baby girl will be born with a full head of hair? And your boy?

C: yes / yes

J: yes / yes

  1. How many diapers do you think the babies will go through in their first year?

C: 7,000

J: 7,300

  1. How many hours do newborns sleep each day?

C: 15 hours

J: I think they just sleep and eat, so I will say sleeping 18 hours a day.

  1. Which baby items have you registered for that you believe will be most helpful?

C: Some sort of rocker/swing, like a Rock’N’Play or a Mama Roo.

J: I’ve heard the Mama Roo is pretty awesome.

  1. What aspects of motherhood do you think Chelsea is most looking forward to?

C: EVERYTHING.

J: Just being able to cuddle with the babies.

  1. What traits of Chelsea do you hope the babies inherit and don’t inherit?

C: My empathy or compassion. Don’t inherit my stubbornness to admit when I am wrong.

J: Her love of other people and caring about other people. I hope they don’t inherit her habit of not putting lids back on any jars or containers.

  1. What traits of Josh do you hope the babies inherit and don’t inherit?

C: I hope they inherit his sense of humor and positivity. (forgot to reply to the don’t inherit part)

J: I hope they inherit the same work ethic that I inherited from my dad. I hope they don’t inherit my webbed toes.

  1. Which memory from growing up do you hope to recreate with your babies?

C: Making the little things an adventure, like going to the grocery store or cleaning up toys. My mom always made normal things extra special.

J:  Rough housing and playing with my dad. It was so fun to team up on dad and mess around with him.

  1. What are you most looking forward to about being a dad to a girl?

C: Having daddy/daughter moments.

J: Having daddy daughter times and making sure she knows how loved she is. I want to show her how loved she is and what it looks like for a man to care for her in her life.

  1. What are you most looking forward to about being a dad to a boy?

C: Having a little buddy to rough house with and hunt with.

J: Instill in him a solid faith and a strong work ethic, and what it means to be a real man. Not in the worlds definition, but what it means to be a man of God. And bow hunting. For both of them. And loving pizza.

  1. What aspect of being a parent are you most excited about in general?

C: Having the opportunity to raise kiddos to love Jesus.

J: It’s another way to experience love and to be able to love even deeper. It’s a different kind of love and I can’t wait to experience that.

As you can imagine, it was so special to hear Josh’s answers! I can’t wait to see him as a daddy to our human kiddos! (He’s such a great dad already to Cali!)

Next I opened gifts, and was so incredibly blessed with such special goodies! Monica asked guests to bring a book instead of a card, and I loved that we are able to get our kiddos library started off strong! (If you know me well, you know I LOVE books. Top  favorite things of all time. So these books are so treasured!). Our babies got such special practical and fun items. A huge thank you to everyone who blessed us so richly!

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Before I knew it, we were giving out hugs and saying our goodbyes! The afternoon flew by! Monica handed out lavender chamomile sugar scrubs stars as a parting favor, which is one of my favorite scents ever! It was such a lovely parting gift!

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It truly was such a wonderful day from start to finish! Josh came to pick me up and helped pack up the car. I smiled the rest of the night, so gratitude that we were able to celebrate this day, a day of God’s faithfulness! It was a dream come true in more ways than one.

When we got home, I finally remembered that I wanted a non-selfie picture of myself in my dress with my 25+4 baby bump, and of course by then, my hair had fallen, the sun went away, and I looked as tired as I felt, but still …. we had to capture the day and moment!

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Now, to my friends who are still waiting, hang in there. It’s h-a-r-d, I understand, but I’m believing that you’ll be the center of the party in the future and praying for that day to come soon for each of you. Keep the faith that your waiting will not be in vain. The wait will make the celebration even richer than you could ever imagine! And God will get so much glory!

Thank you to all who came out to celebrate. Our hearts are SO FULL. Thank you Jesus for the chance to celebrate these little lives!

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(left to right bottom) Colleen, Jeannie, Nancy, Meghan, Grandma Jones, Denise, Aunt Donna, Pam, Alicia, Emily, Katie, Gena, Diane, Lori, Kinsely, Scarlett, and Gabby. (left to right top) Patti Jo, Rachel, Lynn, Monica, Courtney, me, Mom, and Jeannie

 

update + celebrations.

7

Ladies and gentlemen, hold on tight … Here’s the post you’ve all been patiently waiting for!!!

OUR UPDATE!

So, last we talked, we shared that our embryo fertilization report came back that had 19 fertilized embryos. AMAZING NEWS! But how many continued to develop? How many would we have to freeze to add to our future family? Well, it all came down to one phone call, one voicemail from our doctor.

And, then we decided to wait to listen to the voicemail. Hear me out!! We had a mini vacation planned at the end of last month and as crazy as it sounds, wanted to venture into those few days without the weight and reality of the news that might be shared. We have felt such peace about this cycle, but there was a chance the voicemail would share we had no embryos and with that, our journey to starting a family would end. It was a loaded voicemail with potentially big effects … and so we saved it until we got back. I had such peace the entire time and wasn’t distracted by the wondering. It gave us a chance to enjoy our time together without distraction.

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Snorkeling and enjoying precious time together!

So, imagine our utter delight and surprise when we listened and learned we have 7 embryos waiting to be welcomed into our home!

Thank you Jesus!

I feel incredibly humbled and moved sharing this outcome with you right now. While nothing is guarantee, we have babies! Teeny, tiny frozen babies that may grow our earthly family in incredible ways.

I have to admit – when I first heard “Fantastic news … 7 embryos!”, my eyes widened. Whoa, babies. If all goes to plan and these embryos result in pregnancies and live births, we may have a REALLY large family. And as I starred as Josh with big eyes, envisioning what this might look like, he sweetly reassured me that God has known this number and these babies all along. And so we continue to trust Him for that! And also, keep our eyes open at van potentials. HA!

No part of this cycle has been without Him. Not only has this cycle been SO significantly different (in a great way!) from cycles past, but the peace He has provided us has been unspeakably reassuring.

So, friends, our family is waiting for us in cryopreserved vials and we couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds. No matter God has planned for us, today we celebrate, rejoice, and THANK HIM for all He has done thus far.

Okay, let’s get a few FAQ’s out of the way!

How many are you going to transfer?

We plan to, in time, transfer all of them, because these precious babies deserve a family! However, we will begin by only transferring 2 of them. If it’s a success, yes, there’s a chance we could have twins. If it’s not successful, then we will transfer 2 more, so on and so forth. If and when we are successful, the others will remain frozen until we are ready to grow our family again. It looks like we have many more embryo transfers in our future. :)

When are you transferring them?

We are planning on a mid-September transfer. Yes, that’s later than we originally planned! There’s two main reasons for that decision:

1) Josh has a trip planned with his father later this summer and if the cycle were to work, he would be gone during some important ultrasound appointments. I know I will be a worried mess when I am pregnant (a huge test of faith!) and having him out of reach anytime during 8-12 weeks makes me uncomfortable.

2) I want to get back into shape! The last year has been a rough one for me in regards to health and fitness – I kind of crumbled after our March 2015 miscarriage and it’s taken me a while to get back into a good routine. This will give me time over the summer to get my butt into a pre-pregnancy health I would be comfortable with.

What did you do differently this cycle? (non-IVF’ers, feel free to zone out on this question)

First of all, we had a new doctor, who is AMAZING and I can’t recommend enough. I strongly believe Dr. Batcheller’s wisdom, care, and dedication to our success has impacted this cycle immensely.

Secondly, in the past we have done a birth control + Lupron suppression protocol. She shared concerns that it may not had been the right protocol for me and over-suppressed me. This time, after just a few short 15 days of birth control to regulate my cycle, we jumped right into stims.

Past: 150-200 IU’s of Follistim, 1 vial of Menopur, daily lupron injections, 10,000 hCg trigger shot, 8 days of stimming, natural fertilization, moderate caffeine intake.

This cycle: 300 IU’s of Follistim, 2 vials of Menopur, 2 spaced out Lupron trigger shots + 2,500 hCg trigger shot, Ganirelix injections starting day 6 of stims, 9 days of stimming, ICSI fertilization, vitamin cocktail, no caffeine for Chelsea, 1 8-oz half-caff cup of coffee for Josh a day, Chelsea gluten free.

What’s the vitamin cocktail?

Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine – Minneapolis gave us this handout and Josh and I both took each of these vitamins as recommended. There was SUCH a significant different in outcomes (see below) that I strongly believe these vitamins had something to do with it.

I am unsure copyright details, but will attach the handout here for you to review until I hear differently! :)

Vitamin Cocktail Handout – provided by CCRM-Minneapolis

Female Cocktail: 2016_01_12_12_30_05

Male Cocktail: 2016_01_12_12_30_48

Summary:

Cycle 1: 11 eggs, 9 fertilized, resulted in 1 day-5 blastocyst, 1 day-6 blastocyst (frozen), and 1 morula for transfer.

Cycle 2: 14 eggs, 11 fertilized, resulted in 2 day-6 blastocysts.

CCRM Cycle: 27 eggs, 19 fertilized, resulted in 7 day-5/6 blastocysts.

How’s the puzzle going?

YOU GUYS! We’re still working on assembling it! This intricate puzzle is a perfect depiction of our journey thus far, haha! We can’t wait to share the final product with you when it’s all assembled and your names have been written! SWOON!

Now, join us in thanking God for His glorious provision for our precious little babies and if you could, continue to pray for their homecoming in September. (Well, 2 of them at least!). Also, if you could pray for my strength and dedication to get my butt back in shape, that would be incredibly helpful. I will certainly share more about that journey throughout the summer.

Alright, now your fertility update has officially concluded! If your eyes are crossed and you have NO idea what I am talking about up there, that’s okay! I share for those who do. And now let’s get back to our regular scheduled blogging updates going forward! I will keep you posted as our Frozen Embryo Transfer (FET) plans start to kick in (mid-August) and we will keep rallying with you! HOORAY!

Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us, to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.

Ephesians 3:20 (NLT)

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PS: My reunion with caffeine was previous. Did you know that our budget includes $0 for Starbucks? Since 2011 when our infertility treatments started, it became a no brainer that coffee splurges were not a priority. And so, I began asking for Starbucks cards for birthdays and holidays, using them when there was a balance and skipping it when there wasn’t. And as silly as it sounds, I’m always amazed at God’s simple provision over something SO MINOR. Random giftcards are sent to me for no reason but thoughtfulness, always when, unknown to a friend, my balance is getting low. Or, I’m almost out and my free reward cup is earned and ready to be used. I know it’s silly how much a cup of coffee means to me, but it’s a highlight in my day when I’m running around or provides a cozy spot to write or work. As so, every sip of Starbucks reminds me God cares about the little joys in our lives. Love that!

trusting, praying + puzzling.

Update: All of the pieces have been claimed! How amazing is God!? We are so incredibly grateful and humbled by all those who have joined us in this puzzle and will certainly share pictures as it is finished being assembled and marked on. We are watching Him put together a puzzle far bigger than we could ever ask for or imagine! Thank you all for your sacrifices, thoughts, prayers and love. We are overwhelmingly grateful.

Ah, the long awaited update. Friends, it goes without saying that our road to starting a family hasn’t been easy, yet it’s one we have been called to fight for. Fight for the promises God has written, fight for the desires He has put on our hearts, fight to stay obedient to Him throughout it all. The fight has led us through 7+ years of infertility, lots of medication and treatments, surgeries and tears. And through it all, the miscarriages, the tears, the fears, and the questions, still He whispered Hang onto Me. Don’t let go of Hope. I have not left you. Keep your eyes towards heaven and wait for Me.

The last year called us to do simply that, wait on Him. Wait for His timing, His direction, His guidance. Truthfully, we kept crying out that if starting an earthly family would not come to pass, that He would graciously change the desires of our hearts and lead us towards another road.

And yet, still He whispers, Wait on Me. I have something in store.

I shared with you all that He began stirring in our hearts at the beginning of this year, pointing us towards a new clinic, Colorado Center for Reproductive Medicine – Minneapolis. (You can read more about that here.) Oh friends, it’s hard to put into words how much He showed up that day. Your prayers circled us in the days preceding, melting away anxious thoughts and ushered us into the appointment with complete peace, articulation and a God-given sense of calm.

That appointment went so well! We felt completely listened to and validated, the seasoning of cycles past able to lace the conversation with wisdom that I can only say was God-led. And so, after much continued prayer, Josh and I are excited to share that we are stepping into the waters of in vitro fertilization (IVF) one final time with this clinic and doctor!!

The timing and excitement stirring in our hearts isn’t a coincidence! The changes we are making to our cycle protocol are significant and we feel a lot of peace and confidence regarding the path that lies ahead for us. Our prayer is simply that He would use us and our story for His kingdom, regardless of the results. (If there is anything we have learned along the way, it’s that He is writing our story here and we are simply along for the ride!)

As we have been praying, we have felt a strong call to invite others in to help us bring our baby home in a tangible way. How so? We have designed this beautiful 1,000 piece puzzle and are humbly asking you to claim a piece. What does this mean!?

Our goal is to put together this puzzle, piece by piece, with the names of those who are committing to pray and support us as we jump into this again. After the puzzle is completed, we will frame it between two pieces of glass and hang it in our child’s room as a wonderful keepsake, visually representing the team of cheerleaders behind us. (Yes, we are claiming there will be a child as a result!)

We will be offering 2 types of puzzle pieces – prayer pieces and sponsored prayer pieces. Many of you have asked in the past if you can donate financially to our cycles, knowing that the cost of uncovered IVF is expensive. We continue to feel, as we always have, that the power of prayer is much stronger than the power of the dollar, however, this cycle, unlike cycles past, we feel led to open up the door to vulnerably allow people to support our journey in this way should they so choose. We don’t want this to be a big commitment, so the cost of the sponsored puzzle piece is simply $5. We do NOT want a dollar amount to stand in the way of you being part of our puzzle. If you cannot or simply don’t want to chip in $5, please, do not feel any obligation. Josh and I always try to be intentional stewards* of the money God has given us to manage and all puzzle donations will be specifically used to fund this cycle. We want to stress though that this is not about the money but about the prayer involved.    

Simply put, this puzzle is our way (and God’s way!) of organizing a team of prayer partners behind us and giving your name a tangible piece to our puzzle. We hope to be able to visually see the names of the army behind us!  If you have sent over any prayers, thoughts, positive vibes and support, in the past or currently, we sincerely thank you and hope you join us for this next adventure.

Here’s how it works:

  • If you want a piece of the puzzle, it’s all yours! We simply ask in return that you offer up a small prayer** for us over the next few months. If you have stumbled across this blog and find yourself still reading, YES! Please, we covet your prayers too! No prayer is too big or small! We mean it! (The thought of complete strangers being part of this story gives me goosebumps!)

To have your name put on the back of one of these puzzle pieces, simply click here and submit your first name (last name not required but welcomed!) or your family name. **LINK IS CLOSED AS THE PUZZLE IS FULL**That’s it! Josh and I will rejoice as we write your name into our story! Go do it right now before you forget!

  • If you want to purchase a puzzle piece and support us in this way, first of all, truly, thank you. We know $5 is a cup of fancy coffee, a car wash or lunch out. We don’t take your sacrifice lightly.

You can sponsor as many pieces as you would like! ($5 = 1 piece, $10 = 2 pieces, $20 = 4 pieces, etc…) With each additional piece you add, feel free to add a message to your portion of the puzzle scaled to size! We would love words from you etched into the puzzle!!! (This is optional.)

If you choose to donate, you can do so in one of these three ways:

  • 1 – Click on the Donate button below and pay securely through PayPal. Simply add the amount of pieces you are purchasing (Feel no need to purchase more than 1! Honestly, your $5 gift is so meaningful! The thought really does count.) You will see a spot available to “add special instructions to the recipient” during “checkout” where you can add your puzzle message. If you include anything else in that message, please make sure to note what is a personal message and what you’d like written on the puzzle.

**DONATIONS CLOSED AS THE PUZZLE IS FULL**

  • 2 – Write a check or donate cash and hand deliver to Josh and/or Chelsea.
  • 3 – Mail a check to us (email us at trialsbringjoy @ gmail.com for a mailing address).

Please don’t let the hesitation of not having talked to us in a while, not knowing us at all, or having been a quiet observer stop you from being a part of this road with us. We are so hopeful that God has great things ahead for our family!

We humbly thank you so much for caring about us so deeply. It’s only in Him and through Him!

Love,

Josh, Chelsea and of course, Cali

I also tell you this: If two of you agree here on earth concerning anything you ask, my Father in heaven will do it for you. For were two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them.”  Matthew 18:19-20 (NLT)

*I feel it important to note that prior to knowing that we would be pursuing these costly medical treatments, Josh and I planned a small, half-week vacation for early May. Had we known we would be undertaking this IVF cycle and extensive testing, we would not have financially committed to that. However, His view is always bigger than ours and we are grateful now to have this short get-away to look forward to in between our egg retrieval and embryo transfer. We do not in any way want to make you uncomfortable if you choose to purchase a piece and leave you feeling that we were not clear about this pre-paid trip.

**Not a pray-er? We invite you to offer up simple words such as “Dear God, thank you for the chance to pray for Josh and Chelsea. We know that You and only You are the one who makes and sustains life. I pray right now for Josh and Chelsea and the medical journey they are about to step into. I simply ask that they would be blessed with a baby for their family! Amen”

PS – I know that many of you are interested in all of the fun details of IVF cycles! The blood tests! The medication protocol! The timeline and nitty gritty details about how this cycle will differ from others. We wouldn’t let you down! All of these details will be shared in the coming month as we proceed. I will share now that as I write this, I am already on medication to begin this final cycle! Our intentions are to enter into the egg stimulation phase at the end of March with a tentative and God-willing egg retrieval surgery early April. YAY!

photography: Gina Ziedler

Photo by: Gina Zeidler Photography

pregnancy and infant loss remembrance day.

There’s a Lumpy Rug day, a No Socks day, even a Talk Like a Pirate Day. The silly and humorous days that fall on the calendars bring laughter and create conversation. Then there are other days that we hear about that bring awareness, like today, which is Pregnancy and Infant Loss Remembrance Day. Let me preface this post by saying this day is not a day where we (generally speaking of those who have suffered a loss) are looking for pity. Today is not about getting sad looks or making you feel uncomfortable because you don’t know what to say. Today is about connecting together a community – those who are grieving and those who are simply supporting those who grieve – it’s about remembering the too-short lives of lost babies and infants and spreading love.

So often we comfort widows, cancer victims, and orphans – all who are beautifully deserving of love and care. But more often than not, there is a group of people who suffer without anyone around them even knowing, ashamed to speak of the sadness that they feel, stripped of the public title of parents or saddened to have other children who will never know they had another sibling. The New York Times last year said “Unless you wear a T-shirt emblazoned with your children’s names or tattoo them on your wrist, you rarely speak their names aloud no matter how much you need or want to tell others. And for women who have struggled with pregnancy loss, there seems even less place to mention the love they feel for babies they will never have.”

One of my favorite parts about today, other than the comfort that it offers and the community it builds, is that there is a way for each one of you to offer support. Tonight from 7:00 pm – 8:00 pm, in all time zones across the world, you can light a candle to remember the babies who have been lost from miscarriages, ectopic and molar pregnancies, born stillborn or lost to infant death. The lighting of these candles creates a “wave of light” across the world and is a beautiful, touching, moving tribute to the families who have suffered. It’s not an image that will likely ever be seen, but if you are home tonight, even if it’s not at 7 pm, light a candle for those who have lost their precious babies.

Each family’s pain is unique. Each life, no matter how short, was meaningful and special. To our own babies lost, I love and remember you often. I often wonder what milestone you would be hitting, what color your eyes would have been, how your laugh would have sounded. We have treasured every embryo created, prayed for every embryo transferred, and fell head over heels in love with each pregnancy we have experienced. I can’t wait for the day our family can be reunited in heaven.

Light a candle tonight, even and especially if you have not lost a baby. The support and opportunity to spread love and care means more than you will ever know. I’d love to see any pictures you take of your candle burning – feel free to email them to me at trialsbringjoy (at) gmail (dot) com.

Today is a beautiful day of remembrance. I am so thankful this day exists.

hold them

mug exchange.

mug exchange

Since April 2013 I have been coordinating different quarterlyish package exchanges for the TTC (trying to conceive) Instagram community. We typically have a theme – lucky socks, stationary, ornaments, local love, nail polish, scarves, favorite things – and it’s SUCH a fun time to put together package for someone who knows about the season you are in. We don’t just cut if off to the people who are struggling to conceive, we welcome women for all phases of infertility (pregnant, adopting, new mom, etc… more details on this below!) I absolutely LOVE how all of these women come together to support one another and spread positive energy and love.

And guess what – it’s time for the next one! Typically I don’t use my blog to spread the word about this, but this time I want to invite bloggers, instagrammers and all of social media to participate (plus have a place to answer lots of questions in an easier forum than a tiny IG comment section). Our theme has been suggested to me from several past participants and I am SO excited for it. Drumroll please ….

The next exchange theme is A MUG EXCHANGE! Woooohooooooo!

Before I share how to sign up participate, let me answer a few commonly asked questions about these exchanges:

Who can participate?

Anyone who is currently trying to get pregnant, including those suffering from secondary infertility; those who have recently adopted, are in the process of adopting or searching for their new family member; anyone who is currently pregnant after dealing with infertility or recently having had a baby after a struggle and lastly, anyone who is using a gestational carrier, egg donor, sperm donor or surrogate.

Please note that you may be given anyone to purchase for, not necessarily someone who is on the exact same journey as you. As this exchange grows, it has become increasingly more difficult to ensure that you get an equally appropriate match. Just try to remember that you are encouraging another TTC sister no matter what their story is!

How does it work?

Once you sign up and get the name of the person you are sending to (more details below), you will work to put together an exchange box for them, including a coffee/tea cup/mug. You will be given a “send-by” date and I ask that you respect that date unless there are extreme circumstances. You will send a box to someone and receive one from someone else!

How much is this going to cost me?

Typically the suggested amount per box is $20 plus shipping. I don’t advise that you spend more than $20 but we definitely do have some generous women who put together a box worth more. Since not all mugs cost $20, you are able to fill the package with ANYTHING else that might make someone smile! Lucky socks, a special treat, a fun lipgloss or nail polish …. You can’t go wrong (unless you break the law) – this is definitely a situation where it’s the thought that counts.

I do ask that you invest in a lot of bubble wrap and a good box. It helps tremendously to ship it US Priority and get a tracking number just in case anything should happen during transit. (Plus it comes with $50 insurance!) No one wants to receive a shattered mug due to poor packaging!

Besides a mug, is there anything else I HAVE to include?

A note! Please include a card inside with a special word of encouragement for your new friend. Many will include a way for their person to get in touch with them – a twitter handle, blog or email address or IG account – it’s really helpful for me if you include your name so that my inbox isn’t inundated with “who should I thank!?” emails.

I live in the US/Canada/UK/Australia/etc, can I participate?

Yep! We always have women from all over the world participate and I think that is what makes it so much fun! HOWEVER, you will only be assigned an overseas person if you agree to be open to shipping internationally. (More about that below). I do ask that if you live outside of the US, that you be open to shipping internationally, as many of the participants are located in the United States, however I know that sometimes that’s not an option and that’s  okay too.

So am I exchanging with the same person I am sending one to?

Nope! The fun part is that who you are sending to will be a completely different person than who you receive one from.

Does that mean I should keep my person a secret?

It certainly does make it fun when that happens but it’s not necessary. If you are too excited to hold it in, feel free to share. You will be getting their social media information so feel free to friend them, follow them or look them up!

What kind of mug do I need to send?

You can get ANY kind of mug. Travel, big, small, delicate, clunky. It could be a cute mug from your local coffee shop, something you ordered on Etsy, bought at Walmart, or purchased from a garage sale (just make sure it’s clean). There are SO many adorable mugs out there – be creative! Don’t put too much pressure on yourself – this can be a mug that you adore or that you think someone else would love.

Because shipping a mug can be tricky, there may be some women who just want to order a mug online and have it shipped directly to their person and then they can send a separate little box of surprises if they didn’t spend $20. (If you do this, take advantage of the “gift card” section in a order to let them know that’s what you are doing).

How many women participate? Is this a legit exchange?

The first exchange I coordinated started as 30 women putting together a package and has now grown to a couple hundred. And I have a feeling now that we are opening this up to more of the social media world, it’s just going to grow bigger and bigger! Yeah support team!!!!

What happens if I send a package but never get one back?

Ugh, guys, it does happen, I have to be honest. It doesn’t happen often but there are definitely a small handful of women each exchange that are subjected to a lost box, a flakey partner, or some other sort of weird circumstance. I will do my best to reach out to your sender once or twice but sometimes due to the sheer volume of participants, it just becomes impossible to make sure everything gets straightened out. From the very beginning of the exchanges I have warned participants that you have to come into this exchange with the understanding that you may not get a box. It stinks that there are some people that might taint this experience but I do promise that it is far and few between. I am a firm believer that it is a blessing to give and if you are one of the few unfortunate few that receives a shattered mug or nothing at all, just know that your gift has blessed someone else. So please understand the risks involved but know that you likely won’t have a problem! In exchange for my time coordinating this, I just ask that you follow through with your commitment to send a package, sound good? :)

Can I share this on my blog/with my instagram followers/on facebook/twitter/etc?

Of course! We LOVE new participants and their friends. They don’t need to be a follower of my blog or instagram account (chels819) to participate. Anyone in the infertility community is welcome to join in. We will be using the hashtag #TTCmugexchange2014 so feel free to share and let’s spread the love! (Also, if you want a live link, you can send them to this one: https://trialsbringjoy.com/mug-exchange-2014/

What are the dates I need to know in order to participate?

You will need to sign up no later than Monday, October 13th. That’s a FULL 2 weeks of time to sign up, spread the message and start brainstorming. You will then receive your exchange partner from me via email on either October 16 or 17. (Because of the hours it takes to coordinate, I am not always able to get ALL the emails out on the same day. So if you see someone post that they got their person and you have not yet heard from me, it’s likely due to the amount of time it’s taking me to email everyone back individually. Do not panic!) Once you receive your person, you will have until Friday, October 31st to put together your package and mail it out. Please make sure if you sign up that you are able to get your box out on time.

What happens when I get my package?

This is the fun part! I LOVE seeing all of the posts where people show off their package! Post your mug to social media and tag it with #ttcmugexchange2014 so we can all peruse the pictures. Send a shout out to your person, blog about it, tweet about it, do whatever you want to celebrate this fun exchange! I do understand too that there are many women who are not publicly sharing their infertility journey with others so know that you don’t have to share it publicly in order to participate. The key thing is that we offer encouragement and support to one another, even if that circle stays small.

Enough FAQ’s! HOW DO I SIGN UP!!?!

Alright, here is how you sign up!

1. Email me the following info to ttcexchange@gmail.com NO LATER THAN Monday, October 13th:

  • Your full name
  • Your full mailing address (please remember to include your zip code so I don’t have to google! Also if you are in the USA, please type your address on one line (ie: 123 Notebook Lane, Janesville, LA 45698. This makes it a lot easier for me with the system I use). If you are from outside the USA, you can use multiple lines.
  • Your blog/twitter handle/IG name (be specific which is which)
  • Your willingness to ship internationally (just write YES if you are willing and NO if you are not)

I will close the exchange at midnight on the 13th (central time) and will not be able to accept stragglers after that.

2. Wait to hear back from me! I WILL CONFIRM THAT I HAVE RECEIVED YOUR SIGN-UP EMAIL. If you do not hear from me within 24 hours, please check the email address you send it to and resend. (Also, check your spam filter to make sure my reply didn’t go there). If you have emailed and still haven’t heard back from me, leave a comment below with your email and I will connect with you.

3. Share! Let your friends know about the exchange! You can share my blog or instagram account so that they can find out more information. I feel awful when someone finds out “too late” and can’t participate so help me make sure no one gets left out. Again, use #ttcmugexchange2014 to share – the more the merrier!

4. Shop, write, smile and sip! Once assignments go out, shop and send out your package with an encouraging note. Then wait patiently and enjoy your mug once it arrives. Share the thoughtfulness of your new friend! I have seen so many amazing friendships form as a result of this exchange. Cell numbers are swapped, emails are exchanged – I have even seen friends plan trips to visit one another due to the friendship formed over a simple package! I LOVE THIS PART!

That’s it guys! I am so excited for this. These exchanges are among the highlight of my year and I am pumped to open this up outside of Instagram. YIPPEE!!!!

Ready, set, GO!

community post.

What happens when you join forces with some of the best bloggers around? This post! A few months ago I was reading some of my favorite blogs and felt selfish keeping their words, perspectives and stories to myself. So instead of just sharing their links, I decided to invite them over to my page and team up to create a post. Lucky for me (and you!) they said yes!

Anyone going through life knows about the difficulties of mental attacks and the way that lies can be so easy to believe at times. This fact got us thinking, as women who have struggled or are struggling with infertility, what are some of the lies that we have faced on this journey? And how are we dealing with them? Believing lies and feeding those negative thoughts are one way that we stumble, pick our scabs and dig ourselves into an even deeper hole that can be tough to get out of. Some days it’s simply recognizing that what we are bemoaning is a lie – other days it’s just finding the strength to keep fighting what we know isn’t true. I’ve asked these ladies to share with you today one of the great lies that they have defeated (or continue to battle) and I hope and pray that these encourage you as much as they have me. These women are in all different phases of their TTC journey – some pregnant, some adopting, some still trying to conceive – yet I believe that their stories will bless each of you. Be sure to give them some love too and check out their blogs (linked throughout) and walk along with them. So without further adore, please enjoy reading the words of my amazing friends!

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1. “The lie that I am broken.” By Chelsea (me!) at Starbucks, Peace and the Pursuit of a Baby

Recently I was asked in a study to list out words that I associate with myself – labels that define me. I was surprised at how quickly the first word came – broken. If you read my last post on PCOS and what I deal with, you may understand how I got to that word. It came so quickly that it seemed like my subconscious had been stewing on it for a while. And as I scribbled in my notebook, the word broken just made so much sense. My body doesn’t work right. It doesn’t do what is supposed to be natural for so many women. Verses in the Bible about how we (women) are supposed to be ‘fruitful and multiply’ make me want to cry. “I can’t! I’m trying!” I fight shame constantly over the fact that my body isn’t doing what it’s supposed to do. It’s broken.

But then I remembered these simple verses – and it changes everything: “You made all the delicate, inner parts of my body and knit me together in my mother’s womb. Thank you for making me so wonderfully complex! Your workmanship is marvelous—how well I know it… How precious are your thoughts about me, O God…” (Psalm 139:13, 14, 17a).

These verses reminded me of these truths – one, He made me. Insulting my body is insulting His work. Does anyone remember that old bumper sticker from the 90’s that said “God doesn’t make junk!” It’s true! Two, we are complex – wonderfully complex. There are so many moving parts in our bodies and just because something isn’t working correctly doesn’t mean the product is broken. It doesn’t define me – I am not broken. Third, His workmanship is marvelous, therefore I am marvelous. (I will withhold from inserting a picture of me in a princess crown, pretending to be marvelous.) But all joking aside, I am not anything less than His perfect daughter, created in His image and crafted to be me. Insulting His creation is insulting Him. Lastly, He thinks precious, beautiful thoughts about me – a Creator who is proud of His creation, not ashamed.

2. “The lie that I am not worthy.” By Wynne at Gloriously Ruined – Living His Story

The past five years have been quite the journey of ups and downs with our struggle with infertility.  At times, I am on top of the world knowing and believing the truth that God is good, and He is trustworthy and He is able to do immeasurably more than all I could ask or imagine.  Then there are times I doubt my healing and restoration will ever come.  I didn’t realize until a few weeks ago actually, that I didn’t feel worthy of healing or good gifts from God.

How could that be?  The Bible says, that “every good and perfect gift is from above” and I know that God is the giver of good gifts.  He loves me, and He is working all things together for my good and His glory.  I believed this lie that because of sins in my past, that I wasn’t “good enough” to receive good gifts from God.  I have been praying and believing that God is ABLE to heal me, but I don’t think I’ve really believed He will.  The Word also says, “nothing is impossible with God”, and “God is ABLE to do immeasurably more than all we could ask or imagine”.

God is the great physician, and in this season I feel He’s asking me to stop my striving, and know that HE is God.  While I can’t expect God to respond in a certain way to my faith, knowing there is no “formula” for healing and restoration, I can chose to believe that God is who He says He is, and He is GOOD!  He is about the ultimate good and glory of His name and His story.  He doesn’t have to prove that He’s good by doing what we want Him to – we just chose to believe He is trustworthy!  He is the giver of all good gifts, and I am enough [so are you!].

3. “The lie that I was all alone in this struggle.” By Jessah at Dreaming of Dimples

In my first few years of infertility, I believed that I was alone. I believed that I was surrounded by pregnant women who got knocked up easily. But it wasn’t true. It was a lie that I was telling myself. There are so many of us who are suffering or have suffered varying degrees of heartbreak on the road to parenthood. Some silently and some wearing it all on their sleeves. If 1 in 6 couples have trouble growing their families, we are really never alone on this journey.

Now that I am finally pregnant, I realized something that I will never forget and remind myself often using the phrase “you don’t know her story”. What do I mean by that? Well, a woman in the depths of infertility despair could look at my growing baby bump and think negative thoughts about how she is the only one in the world who can’t get pregnant. That everyone around her can have a baby with such little effort yet it’s so hard for her.

But she doesn’t know my story.

That woman would have no way of knowing that I am just like her. That this pregnancy didn’t come easily or without a fight. That I shed my share of tears. That I tried to conceive for almost 6 years before finally seeing a BFP. That I had to endure three failed IUIs and three failed IVF attempts before finally using an egg donor to conceive my miracle baby.

This woman could feel pain and alienation. But she just doesn’t know my story. I wonder how many pregnant women I saw when I was trying to conceive that made me feel sad. How would I have felt if I had known that they had just got done fighting their own hard battles? Would I have felt connectedness? Camaraderie? Compassion?  Hope? If I had just reminded myself that I am not alone and that I don’t know her story.

4. “The lie that God is punishing me for something I have done.” By Caroline at In Due Time

How many times have you heard someone say that they feel God is punishing them for something they have done? Many people have the thought that the reason they are going through a trial or suffering is because of something they did to cause it and therefore Jesus is punishing them.

That is a lie.

Are there consequences to our actions? Absolutely. Often times when we suffer, it’s because of our own mistakes. However, God does not punish us. God loves us. When you feel like you are being punished, recognize that your punishment was already bought. Romans 5:8 – “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Jesus already paid for our sins. HE is the one who was punished for our sins, not us. HE is the one who received the repercussions, not us. He doesn’t give you what you deserve (punishment and death), because He already paid the price. “He does not punish us for all our sins; he does not deal harshly with us, as we deserve.” Psalm 103:10

We know God doesn’t punish us, but does He discipline us? Yes. Just as a parent disciplines their child to correct and train them to be more mature, that is what our father does with us. He does it out of love. He does it because He cares for us.

If you ever think that you are being punished, I encourage you to reflect on God’s character. When you have fresh revelations of who He is, you will never doubt that all of His actions towards you are out of love.

5. “The lie that adoption is ‘Plan B’.” By Kailey at Cheers to Plan A

The lie that adoption is ‘plan b’ is a lie that I’ve continually had to lay at Jesus’ feet. It is very easy for me to think, “Oh because we couldn’t get pregnant, adoption is what we had to do so we could become parents.” The truth is that my God is not surprised by our journey to adoption, which was His best plan all along. THAT eases my soul. It gives me peace and allows me to praise Him because His plan is far better than I could ever imagine.

My husband and I have played this silly game called “what is the truth?” I will tell him all these things that are going on in my head from the enemy and he will call it a truth or lie. It sounds super silly, but it works. It helps me match up my thoughts with the Word of God.

The truth is that infertility is how we got to adoption. It is OUR story. And I accept that with joy in my heart. I have no idea what our future looks like, but I know the Heart of my Savior. His heart is turned towards His children and He wants nothing but the very best for you and for me.

I hope that this has encouraged you to make your journey, just that, YOURS. No one else has it. Take ownership, be thankful. It is a privilege to have your own story and live it out. Much love to each of you and know that “Plan A” is what God has had planned for you since the beginning of time AND it is the absolute best!

6. “The lie that I am not healed … at least not yet.” By Elisha at Waiting for Baby Bird

I sat on the edge of my bed taking my blood pressure and as I waited for the reading, I remember thinking to myself that if it is within normal range than I am finally healed of this symptom resulting from PCOS. However as the numbers appeared and I saw 160/92, I heard a whisper that said, “Not healed yet.” Each morning when I would pluck out 15 dark coarse hairs from my chin, I would hear the same voice whispering, “Not healed today.” As my menstrual cycle would go past 50 days for the fourth time in a row, I could hear it again quietly reminding me that I was still not healed.

It wasn’t until I looked in the mirror one day, wondering when I would be healed of this dreaded illness that consumes my entire being, that I heard a different voice…a different whisper. This one said, “By His wounds you ARE healed.” I laughed! If I am healed, then why do I still see the evidence of PCOS? Why do I still have high blood pressure, excess facial hair, insulin resistance, lack of ovulation and long cycles? I am not healed…at least not yet. It wasn’t long after thinking those thoughts that I realized the voice I had been listening to…the one telling me I wasn’t healed yet, was the enemy. He was feeding me the lie that my healing of PCOS was a work to be completed rather than already finished. Isaiah 53:5 says that by His wounds we ARE healed. It doesn’t say we might be…will be…could be…but ARE. God wants you and me to know that what we desperately need Him to do for us has already been done.

Jesus’ finished work at the cross satisfied the Father’s heart that from heaven’s throne came the pronouncement, “It is done!” in response to Jesus’ cry, “It is finished!” on earth. I no longer worry about what I see or feel, or the presence of contradicting reports. These are just lies from the enemy and though they are very real, I know that they are temporal and not the truth. God’s Word is the truth and when you start believing that only what God’s Word says about your situation is true, all the lying symptoms will eventually have to line up with His Word. I am living proof as I can testify that once I began ignoring the voice of the enemy and believing the truth that by His stripes I am already healed, my cycles suddenly became much shorter and ovulation started occurring naturally. I give all the honor, glory and praise to God.

My question to you today is what do you see when it comes to your healing? Do you see a finished work or a work that is yet to be completed? God the Father says, “It is done!” Jesus says, “It is finished!” What do you say?

7. “The lie that God’s gift is actually a curse.” By Charity at The Word of a Nerd

Sixteen weeks along – this milestone was filled with excitement – if we chose to, we could know the sexes of our babies, see how big they’d gotten, and watch them squirm on the ultrasound screen. Instead I laid down for what seemed like hours as the ultrasound technician scanned over and over on my belly. Her excitement waned and she was no longer as chatty as before. I wasn’t worried until she brought the doctor in – a doctor who couldn’t be any worst at delivering bad news. The news about one of my baby’s health was accompanied by the fiery arrows of the devil. They pierced into me and I began to question all of what I thought I knew.

My babies are a miracle! GOD himself directed our path to pregnancy, He orchestrated every single step and I knew that. In that moment I wasn’t sure I knew anything and I was positive that I didn’t hear God correctly. I was sure that I had been disobedient and that God was punishing me by stunting the growth of my baby.

Since then my mind has drastically changed. I am not allowing the words of death to penetrate my heart or my womb. I am reminded that I am loved deeply by the GOD who sent His Son to die for my sins. I am reminded that GOD knew my babies before I did and He loves them much more than I can. His love is what I have hope in and His ability to heal is where my faith lies – not in doctors and not in a diagnosis. The enemy seeks to take the joy that God has given to me by making me believe his gift is a curse. I don’t believe it anymore, I know my God – He operates in love not fear. 1 John 4:18

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I hope this post has blessed you as much as it has blessed me! We love touching others as well, so feel free to share with your friends or readers! I’d love to hear what lie you are debunking and how you are doing it too, so please, join in the conversation and share your heart with us in the comments!

Until next time …  XOXO!

PS – For those regular readers of my blog, Friday Favorites will be postponed a few days — check back Monday or Tuesday for a special edition. :)

friday favorites – august 29.

Friday Favorites after 2 of the busiest and funnest weeks of the summer? Nearly impossible. Instead of the normal format, I am going to share some of my favorite moments through photos and captions. Then next week I will be back with some regular posts and more of the usual! Enjoy!

Favorite Movie-Watching Experience: In San Diego, Josh and I got to watch Disney’s Planes on top of the historic aircraft carrier USS Midway. Being on the ocean with the breeze and a firework show in the background was truly spectacular!

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Favorite experience with ocean animals: Yes, this one is a stretch. But we had a BLAST at SeaWorld!! I got to pet dolphins, I cried at a few of the shows (I am way overly emotional when I am excited), we laughed, I rode a ride – all in all, it was so much fun.

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Favorite Sunset shot: Sunsetting over the ocean as we took the ferry back from Coronado. Gorgeous.

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Favorite Historic Moment: Josh and I rode on the world’s oldest wooden roller coaster at Mission Beach. A little clanky, but so. much. fun.

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Favorite food on vacation: Ceviche and fish tacos. We ate our weight in them. Oh and Iced teas. YUM!

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Favorite Concert: Ahhhhh, you guys, seriously. The Jason Mraz concert was one of the top 10 favorite moments in my LIFE. The music, the theater, the energy, the songs …. I was a little nervous I would pass out before I could enjoy it all. Music speaks to me like no other creative force and great music (especially acoustic music for me) is such a raw, beautiful place. Love.

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my super excited face.

my super excited face.

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Favorite Challenge: Josh and I decided to take a 14-mile guided bike tour all around Coronado and I have to admit, I was a little (okay a lot) nervous going into it! We were the only two signed up for that time slot and had a great guide who we could pedal and chat with. It ended up being a breeze to accomplish and we got to see the island from all angles. Such a blast!

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Yes, we wore helmets. They are just not pictured here. :)

Favorite New Treat: Lemon Basil gelato for the win.

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Favorite Get-Together: The Minnesota State Fair of course! Check out some of my favorite pictures from the night.

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Me and my Mom :)

Me and my Mom :)

Me and my Sis

Me and my Sis

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Love my girlfriends!

Favorite Views: The beaches and cliffs in La Jolla were just gorgeous. None of these pictures will do them any justice!

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Favorite Summer Finale: Pretty Little Liars anyone? Oh my goodness! Anyone with a good theory, let me know immediately.

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One of the only clues I caught - totally not the right hair!

One of the only clues I caught – totally not the right hair!

Me the last 3 minutes.

Me the last 3 minutes.

Favorite Back to School Photo: Why it’s Cali of course! Who remembers always wearing the wrong type of clothing the first day? I swear I always wanted to wear my new fall clothes and sweat my face off the first day. Cali is no exception with her GAP hoodie. :)

Waiting patiently for the school bus.

Waiting patiently for the school bus.

Favorite Birthday Celebrations: I had so much fun celebrating my birthday this year! Thanks to everyone who made it SO special. There are no words.

My adorable nieces made me painted birdhouses. So cute!

My adorable nieces made me painted birdhouses. So cute! Thanks to my mother-in-law for hosting a great dinner party for me!

Josh decorated my car for me - and my birthday selfie was bombed with Cali. Ah, real life.

Josh decorated my car for me hence the balloon – and my birthday selfie was bombed with Cali kisses. Ah, real life.

My mom handcrafted 3 of my favorite mini desserts in little shotglasses. These look so much bigger than they really were. :)

My mom handcrafted 3 of my favorite mini desserts in little shotglasses. These look so much bigger than they really were. :)

My girlfriends took me out for dinner and spoiled me rotten. I am so blessed.

My girlfriends took me out for dinner and spoiled me rotten. I am so blessed.

I got so many great gifts, but I especially love this necklace my cousin Brittany got me. The bar has the roman numerals on there for

I got so many great gifts, but I especially love this necklace my cousin Brittany got me. The bar has the roman numerals on there for Josh’s and my anniversary. Love!

No funnies this week (whomp whomp), but don’t worry, all will be back to normal next week. Thanks for reading and letting me document my life on here! XO!

Elevator selfie!

Elevator selfie!