And That's A Wrap!

This morning I woke up before everyone else. I shuffled downstairs, pushed brew on the Keurig and poured myself a cup of coffee.

It's my last cup of 2016, and it's kinda weird thinking about how fast this year has gone.

Maybe because it's been so crazy!

From welcoming our third daughter to moving into our fixer-upper (and running into a few hiccups along the way...eh hem, like that $20,000-dollar AC and furnace and that slight major asbestos scare...), this year has been busy. But boy, have we had a lot of fun!

I mean, HELLO: Disney World!

Here's a look at the TOP 10 posts you've shared this year:

10. It's A...(GIRL!)

9. Welcome to our Fixer-Upper

8. 7 Stunning Before & After Photos of Our Home

7. What I Want My Daughters to Know About America

6. Surprise At The Supermarket

5. Why I'm Walking Away From TV

4. Announcing Our Pregnancy

3. Why We Don't Celebrate 'Gotcha Day'

2. Love At First Sight: Powerful Photos of us Meeting Our Daughter

And the top-viewed, most-shared post of 2016 is ((drumroll, please)):

1. Recipe for Dangerous Bagel Dip

Happy 2017, friends!

Related content:
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When Tomorrow Doesn't Come


How Infertile Women Really Want to Answer the 'Kids' Question

“When are you having kids?”

If you’re a woman — especially a married woman — you’ve likely been asked when you’re gonna start pushing babies out of your hoo-hah. And if you’ve struggled with infertility, you’ve likely felt like throat-punching every single person who asks when you’re going to have kids because they sure as shit don’t know the infertile hell you’ve been trudging through trying to get that BFP (Big Fat Positive).

Here’s how infertile women really want to respond to the obtrusive and dreaded, “When are you having kids?” question:

1. When my hysterosalpingogram shows my fallopian tubes are open and a catheter is shoved up my vagina 36 hours after I give myself a huge-ass HCG trigger shot in my butt to stimulate ovulation and inject sperm that’s been processed and washed to ensure it contains a high enough motility and morphology score to even swim its way up my uterine cavity and reach the eggs I’ve stimulated for the past  two weeks with injectable FSH medications.

2. Fuck you.

3. When I’m put under general anesthesia to have my eggs aspirated with a hollow needle inserted through my vagina after weeks of injectable meds are shot in my stomach and ass. And when those aspirated eggs are transferred back into me via a catheter after being fertilized in a lab and surviving at least two to five days with sperm from my husband who whacked off in a dark room and ejaculated into a plastic cup.

4. Gee, I don’t know. When do you think I should I have kids?

5. As soon as I can figure out how to get pregnant.

6. Whenever you learn to stop asking that question.

7. I’m trying to figure that out. You wanna give my reproductive endocrinologist a call for me? Maybe you can get a better answer for me. I can get a release form from the clinic, and I’ll add you to my approved contact list. It might be another week or so before they’ll talk to you because HIPAA can be a real pain in the ass, but I’m sure they’d totally tell you what my baseline blood draw and ultrasounds look like before I start stimming with injectable gonadotropins.

8. We just did the deed this morning, but it’s too early to tell.

9. Stare at them. Break out into unintelligible screaming until the individual’s eyes bulge in pure panic. Then stop and stare again. Gasp for breath. Snort a few times, then stop. Don’t say a word. Just stare at them until they walk away so traumatized and confused by your response that they’ll be too scared to ever ask anyone that question again.

This post was originally published on Scary Mommy.

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A Tremendous Honor For My Favorite Story
Why I'm Grateful for Years of Infertility


To the Woman Who Shamed Me For Not Breastfeeding

I dumped two scoops of powdered Gerber goodness into 4-ounces of water.

Shake, shake, shake. SCREAM.

Four-week old babies have no patience, especially in a quiet corner of the public library while her toddler sisters climb bookshelves like trapeze artists scouring for a Daniel Tiger book we haven’t yet read.

With a burp cloth draped over my shoulder, I cradled my hangry newborn in my left arm and one-handedly pried the lid off her bottle in my other.

As soon as the bottle’s plastic nipple met her mouth, all was right in our calm area of the library.

Until that woman looked at me, that is.

We were sitting on a carpeted bench near the kids’ corner with puppets and bright-colored blocks between us. And through her thick-framed glasses, the middle-aged woman thought of a way to suck far worse than a hangry baby.

“You have a hard time breastfeeding?” she asked me pitifully.

With tired eyes, I looked at her. Perhaps I misunderstood.

She waited for me to respond.

“Nah, I didn’t even try,” I said.

As I muttered those words I saw dozens of books falling from the ceiling tiles. My two giggling toddlers – as if on cue – were tossing piles of paperbacks into the air like confetti.

I instinctively jolted from that carpeted bench while juggling my newborn, her burp cloth and bottle – with formula. I had no time to offer that woman an explanation. This multitasking momma had a paperback party to bust up.

When every Haitian-Creole, Hindi, and Japanese folk and fairy tale was returned neatly to their designated shelf, I walked back over to the corner of formula-feeding shame.

That woman – whoever she is – was gone.

I had no opportunity to elaborate why I chose not to breastfeed my daughter. And why I’m proud of it.

I wanted to tell her I didn’t think twice about inverted nipples or whipping out my boobs on demand.

I didn’t have to battle with insurance companies for pump coverage or figure out when and where I could pump-n-dump efficiently and comfortably in the office.

I didn’t bother shopping for nursing bras or scour the internet for tips to increase my supply.

I didn’t need to look up ways to ease the engorgement that housed my bulging jugs of liquid gold because the pain would leave as fast as it came on.

I didn’t buy an ass-load of nipple shields or creams or nursing pads or nipple balms.

I didn’t pencil in appointments with the local La Leche League or put out feelers for lactation consultants to help with latch problems or offer tips for surviving overnight cluster feeds.

I wasn’t concerned about developing plugged ducts or mastitis.

I didn’t pump around the clock to stock the deep freeze with breastmilk bags to last through my transition back to work.

I didn’t bother with any of this, because I simply didn’t want to.

So, to the woman who unapologetically assumed I had problems breastfeeding my daughter because I dumped two scoops of powdered formula in my baby’s bottle: I did not have any problems breastfeeding because I didn’t even attempt it.

And my daughter is healthy – fed and growing. That’s all that matters.

Read more HERE.

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How Infertile Women Really Want to Respond to the 'Kids' Question
I Wish I Had Known How Much I'd Miss Being Pregnant


A Special Kind of Christmas Wish

This post may contain affiliate links. 

I was sitting at the computer when the notification popped up.
Oncologists gave us the opportunity to stop chemo... 
I stopped reading. My screen was blurry because tears instantly began bubbling over my eyes and down my cheeks.

My momma's heart shattered into tiny pieces thinking about 9-year old Kyla and how chemo had taken a toll on her little body.
Christmas Wish For Kyla With Cancer
You wouldn't know it from this picture, but Kyla has an inoperable brain tumor.

Her prognosis is something her family doesn't talk about often because each day is a gift.

But the truth is, if this chemo regimen doesn't work -- Kyla will likely die.

Her tumor type is so rare that some of the top oncologists in the country believe she may be one of only three children fighting this battle. One of THREE.
Christmas Wish For Kyla With Cancer
Kyla's mom doesn't need a rare cancer diagnosis to know her daughter is special, though.

She's known that from the day she took her first breath at Allen Hospital in Waterloo in the spring of 2007.
Christmas Wish For Kyla With Cancer
Life was much simpler then. Babies have such an innocence about them, don't they?

Now -- years since her diagnosis, life is complicated. It revolves around dozens of pills and hospital visits in Chicago and Iowa City. There's experimental treatments, uncomfortable side effects and regular checkups with specialists across the country. There's uncertainty and fear, yet faith in believing there are better days ahead.
Christmas Wish For Kyla With Cancer
Amanda has dreams of her beautiful daughter growing into a young woman, finding love and creating a family of her own. But every now and then, reality sinks in. She knows life with her daughter is fleeting. It can change -- it can all be gone -- in an instant.

While Amanda hopes for the best, she is preparing her heart for the worst.

This may be the last Christmas she shares with her daughter.

Still, she prays for a miracle.

And that's where YOU come in...

Will you be part of a Christmas miracle for Kyla?

Can you make this Christmas unforgettable for Kyla and her family?

Here is Kyla's Christmas Wish list -- You can see, it's simple things (like pancakes from IHOP or a new app for her iPad) that bring much joy to this sweet girl.

And she most certainly deserves it.

Amanda is a loyal blog reader-turned-friend. She is a beautiful, strong mother on a journey none of us would ever choose to be on. And during this season of uncertainty in her daughter's life, I can't think of anything more meaningful than the prayers, kindness and generosity from strangers coming together to bring them an unforgettable Christmas.

There is no greater gift for this family than the ability to enjoy the time they have left together.

Related links:
Kyla's Christmas Wish list
Kyla Kicking Kancer's Keister Facebook Page
Go Fund Me: Kyla's Brain Cancer Battle


A Tremendous Honor for My Favorite Story

It was rainy. So rainy. All day it was rainy and cold.

But the weather wasn't about to stop us from enjoying our night out in NYC.

Our driver picked us up at 4:45 p.m., and 30-minutes later he was opening the doors for us at The [beautiful] Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers.

I held my gown off the ground with one hand and Chris' arm with my other, and we walked through the doors together.
RESOLVE Night of Hope
I mean, look at the view:
NYC Gala
After a few photos and fancy appetizers, we found our seats and dinner was served.
RESOLVE Night of Hope Gala
Wine was poured. Lots of wine. But I was far too nervous to drink. I've been away from public speaking for more than two years now. I talk to toddlers and babies and WEAR YOGA PANTS with spit up stains and crushed Cheerios on my butt.
RESOLVE Night of Hope Gala Emcee Tracey Wilson
The night's host Tracey Wilson energized the crowd. Her enthusiasm was contagious. And her story -- her journey through infertility -- is inspirational (watch her "coming out" video here).
RESOLVE Night of Hope Gala
Plus, if I'm being completely honest, I'm glad she was sitting next to me during the salad course because let's be real: I didn't quite know how to eat off of this plate. ;)
RESOLVE Night of Hope Gala NYC
RESOLVE’s President & CEO, Barbara Collura opened up the award portion of the night by inviting CNN's Alisyn Camerota on stage to accept the Hope Award for Achievement.
CNN Alisyn Camerota RESOLVE Night of Hope Gala
Other award recipients made their way to the stage and eloquently shared their appreciation for the recogition of their significant contributions to the infertility community.
RESOLVE Night of Hope Gala Awards
How an Iowa "mom-blogger" like me was worthy of standing among these articulate people who have accomplished SO MUCH with IVF/infertility coverage and laws and access to care is [still] beyond my comprehension.
RESOLVE Night of Hope Gala NYC
I nervously waited back stage before I was introduced as the recipient for the Hope Award for Best Blog. Don't trip. Breathe. Don't trip. Breathe...
RESOLVE Night of Hope Gala NYC Chelsea Piers
When I walked out in my sister's floor-length gown, all eyes were on me.
RESOLVE Night of Hope Gala Best Blog Award
Here is what I said:

Four years ago, my husband and I were sitting in our living room in small-town Iowa.
It was cold and snowy. Our dog was curled up on the rug next to the fireplace and we starred at each other. 
Our hearts were broken. We felt defeated. 
We had spent years aching to become parents; begging God to somehow make the injections and uncomfortable procedures work. 
But they never did. There was no explanation.  
So on that cold winter day – after years of grieving our inability to have biological children – we made the decision to start the adoption process
At this time, I was a news reporter – chasing stories during the day and telling them at night. Off camera, though, our infertility struggles were a secret. 
And – in typical journalist fashion -- I wanted to share our story.  
I came out of the infertility closet in a blog called “This Family’s Journey.” 
Six months later --  I called my news director because I wasn’t going to work – we were hopping a flight to meet our daughter.  
When Olivia was 18-months old, we got another call. And with twelve hours notice, we brought Kendra home from the hospital.  
I finished out my contract at the local NBC affiliate and decided to stay home. After all, motherhood was something I had dreamed about for so long.
I continued blogging, though; and when Kendra was just seven months old, I had the pleasure to share with thousands of readers that -- to our total surprise -- I was pregnant
(Yes, we have three daughters ages three and under...our house is loud and crazy, but we wouldn’t have it any other way.)
In all seriousness, though, I am honored to accept the HOPE Award for Best Blog
As a journalist, I can say that our family’s journey is my favorite story I’ve ever told.
RESOLVE Night of Hope Gala Best Blog Award
To the RESOLVE organization that serves and supports families like mine, to the thousands of you who have followed our family's journey through infertility, adoption and pregnancy, to my amazing husband and our families: THANK YOU for this tremendous honor.
RESOLVE Night of Hope Gala NYC
I am humbled and grateful my family's story has touched and inspired so many of you.

One final note: RESOLVE is a vital organization for people struggling with infertility. I hope you'll consider joining the the #GiveItUp4RESOLVE campaign or simply donate by clicking here. Your tax-deductible financial contributions will provide services and support to help families beat infertility.

Photos: 5th Avenue Digital Photography | NY, NY

Related content:
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Thank you, Infertility.

To Infertility:

Years ago I hated you, but now I’m grateful.

Thank you for making my marriage stronger; for showing me I could survive even the hardest days.

Thank you for helping me get over my fear of needles; for throwing my humility out the window.

Thanks for changing my heart; for breaking and reshaping it to appreciate even the most chaotic days of motherhood so much more.

Thank you for teaching me that sometimes when things appear to be detours in our lives, they simply lead us somewhere better than we could have imagined.

My life hasn’t turned out the way I expected, but it truly has turned out better because of you.

With gratitude, I thank my loving husband Chris, our supportive families, wonderful friends and loyal blog readers at ShelleySkuster.com.

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What I Want My Daughters to Know About America

It was 2 a.m.

We were laying in bed wide awake with tears rolling down our cheeks.

On the opposite end of the house were our three daughters, snuggled in their footy pajamas innocently sleeping soundly in their bedrooms with books scattered all over their floors. They were oblivious to the message the world just sent us about our family and its worth.
What I Want My Daughters to Know About America
Yet four hours later, the sun had somehow risen.

"Mommy! Daddy! I'm awake!" announced our three-year old.

With bloodshot, blurry eyes, my husband and I shuffled down the hallway and into their bedrooms for our daily hugs and "Good morning" song.

We filled sippy cups with apple juice, poured oatmeal flakes and milk into neon-colored plastic bowls and punched up the microwave for a minute-thirty.

Together, we finished our breakfast at the dining room table as if it was a normal morning.

Except in our hearts, we knew it wasn't. It was the Wednesday after our fellow Americans sent a loud message of hate and intolerance and bigotry toward people like my daughters.

Here's what I want them to know:

My dearest daughters...Your Daddy and I love you.

We love the skin you live in. Your birth families. Your heritage. Even if America thinks less of you because the amount of melanin in your skin -- we know better. 

We love the potential you have as young girls growing into intelligent young women. Your fierce personalities already shine, and your confidence radiates from your beautiful smiles. Even if America thinks less of your capabilities because of your gender -- we know better.

We love your abilities. And your genuine acceptance of others who have disabilities. Even if America thinks it's okay to mock those who are different than us -- we know better.  

We love your inquisitive minds about God and your faith. At the same time, we recognize you may choose to believe differently than us. We accept whatever religious or non-religious path you choose for your life. Even if America fears those who aren't Christian -- we know better. 

We love your pure ability to embrace others regardless of their sexual preferences or gender identities. We also recognize you or your friends may grow up in the LGBT community, and that's okay. We love you for who you are, and always will. Even if America devalues people in same-sex relationships or those who identify as transgender -- we know better. 

We love the friendships you pursue with those who are different than you, including those who speak English as a second language or whose families immigrated to this place we call our home. Your curiosity and willingness to learn and celebrate their cultures is admirable. Even if America wants to send them away and build walls instead of bridges -- we know better.

You -- my three beautiful daughters -- have a place here. In our home, at our table and in this country. You will ALWAYS have a place here.

Our neighbors, our brothers and sisters -- our America -- knows better. And only when we know better, are we able to do better.

To my friends and family of color: I love you. You belong here.
To my LGBTQ friends: I love you. You belong here.
To my Muslim friends and non-Christian friends: I love you. You belong here.
To my friends who immigrated or sought refuge in this country: I love you. You belong here.

While I am heartbroken by the silent compliance of those around us -- those too politically proud to denounce the misogyny, racism and bigotry in their affiliations -- I stand alongside those of you suffering today with love and solidarity. You belong here, and you are not alone.


Note: If the darkness is too much of a burden for you right now, please talk to someone. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is free and confidential: 1-800-273-8255.


How To Easily Save $10,000 In Home Renovations

This post contains affiliate links.
How To Easily Save $10,000 In Home Renovations
No doubt about it, remodeling a home can be an expensive undertaking.

Here are 9 EASY ways to save more than $10,000+ in home renovations:

Offer Cash | Savings: $1,000+

Painting a 2,400 square foot house is expensive and far too labor-intensive for us these days because: kids. We knew we had to hire the pros to do it, but we also knew we didn't have a huge budget for it. We asked around and got quotes, and we saved almost $1,000 by offering CASH. It took three weeks to get the interior painted, but it looks fantastic and we saved a ton by being patient and paying in cash.

We also saved 10% on electric work by paying the electrician cash.

Change Your Address | Savings: $250+

When you change your address online, you'll get a bunch of coupons sent straight to your email.

We made a large purchase at Lowes on exterior doors for the house, and I received a 10% off coupon less than 48-hours later. I called the store, and they did a price adjustment for me, ultimately saving us more than $250!

Price Match | Savings: $300+

We knew we wanted this washer based on the quality, its longevity and its overall rank in Consumer Reports. But dropping $1,000 for a washer alone wasn't in our budget, so we inquired with locally-owned appliance shops. We compiled various prices, negotiated with a business that was willing to price match, and we ended up saving $300 because we found a great deal on this washer 45-minutes away!

Inquire About Rebates | Savings: $5,000

When we found out we needed a new furnace and AC, we cringed. Sure, a good system is an investment; but who has 20g laying around? (Not us!)

We found a local place willing to match the energy company's $2,500 rebate. The rebate-match was a promotion this company had just finished running, but we asked about it anyway and they were generous to honor it!

Shop Clearance Sections | Savings: $300+

Would you believe me if I told you I got these beauties for less than $15 a piece?! (They're still 50% off here!) And because these 95" curtains had been repackaged, I got 'em for $20!

I saved more than $300 by shopping in for clearance window treatments alone.

Coupon Alerts | Savings: $100+

Impulsive buying can be expensive. I found this floor lamp I really wanted, but signed up for a text alert to get discounts at a local store. Whadduya know? Two weeks later, I received a coupon and bought it for $40 less!

I did the same with frames and prints for my photos on our gallery wall.

Shop Online | Savings: $50+

When I ordered rugs and furniture online, I went to Ebates.com first. If I needed to order anything from Amazon, I also went to Ebates.com first. By typing Ebates.com into my browser first, I earned cash-back and discounts from my regular online shopping trip! (Plus, if you use my Ebates.com referral code and sign up for your own account, you'll get a $10 welcome gift -- no strings attached!)

Sell Items | Unlimited

We had a 300 lb concrete sink in our laundry room. Yes. You read that right: a 300 lb CONCRETE SINK.

It definitely wasn't something my and husband and I could carry out and because the plumbing needed to be updated in the house, we had no choice but to get rid of it. We also didn't want to fork over a fortune to bust it up and haul it out. So we listed it on Craigslist and Facebook; within 12-hours five people had contacted us. We didn't make any money off it, but we saved money by offering it free for the hauling!

DIY | $5,000+

This one wasn't necessarily easy, but with a lot of patience and help from family members, we were able to refinish the floors ourselves. We spent weeks ripping up carpet and prying out staples, sanding and sealing floors which saved us well over $5,000.

Related content:
7 Stunning Before & After Photos Of Our Home


7 Stunning Before & After Photos of Our Home

For more than a month we've been renovating our fixer-upper.

We've spent our evenings apart ripping out carpet and drapes, refinishing floors and counter tops, researching appliances and scheduling installations.

We've run into major hiccups along the way -- like the asbestos scare, needing to purchase (er, finance...) a new furnace and AC, faulty plumbing and electric and gas lines. We weren't prepared for all of it and these home renovations have taken a toll on our pocketbook, but we've somehow survived, and we're SO EXCITED to take you inside our new home!

Come on in!

Here are 7 Stunning Before & After Photos of Our Home:
Before & After Photos of Our Home
Before & After Photos of Our Home
7 Stunning Before & After Photos of Our Home
Before & After Photos of Our Home
Before & After Photos of Our Home
Before & After Photos of Our Home
Before & After Photos of Our Home
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How to Beautifully Update Your Kitchen For Less than $100

This post is sponsored by Giani Granite. This post contains affiliate links. As always, thoughts and opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that make this blog possible!
How to Beautifully Update Your Kitchen With Giani Granite For Less than $100
With the unexpected cost of a new furnace and AC, our budget for updates in our fixer-upper plummeted.
How to Beautifully Update Your Kitchen With Giani Granite For Less than $100
Our original plans included updating the wood-paneled kitchen with fresh paint, new appliances and counter tops.

But with those unexpected expenses allocated elsewhere, we bid our dream kitchen goodbye...or so we thought.
How to Beautifully Update Your Kitchen For Less than $100
Our painters patched the paneling, sanded, patched and sanded some more.
How to Beautifully Update Your Kitchen For Less than $100
But when the dust settled (er, was sucked up by this trusty thing), those plain white counter-tops were still there.

My Pinterest searches led me to Giani Countertop Paint.

In 4 EASY steps (see progression below), our kitchen was beautifully transformed!How to Beautifully Update Your Kitchen With Giani Granite Countertops For Less than $100
Can you believe it?!
How to Beautifully Update Your Kitchen With Giani Granite Countertops For Less than $100
Not only are these counter-tops stunning, the process was affordable and EASY to do -- if I can do it, anyone can!
Now ((drum roll, please))...welcome to our NEW KITCHEN!
How to Beautifully Update Your Kitchen With Giani Granite Countertops For Less than $100
Can you believe this is the same kitchen?!
How to Beautifully Update Your Kitchen For Less than $100
Check back tomorrow for a home reveal with more before & after photos from our fixer-upper.
How to Beautifully Update Your Kitchen For Less than $100Meanwhile, who's ready to tackle the refrigerator with this stuff?! ;)

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An Exciting Update On 'Best Blog' Award

We're knee-deep in moving boxes.

And 2/5 of us are sick with a stomach bug.

It's been a while since I've been able to fire up my laptop, but yesterday I plopped down at our kitchen table (one of three, by the way -- hello, big house!), and saw the subject line:

Update on Best Blog Award

Truthfully, I had forgotten this was a thing.

And when my eyes read the subject line I had a feeling it was an update that another fabulous blogger had won this coveted national award for her significant contributions to the infertility community. I was simply honored to be listed among five of the very best...

I clicked the subject line and my eyes immediately saw, "CONGRATULATIONS!"

You guys. I am humbled. Honored. And so incredibly grateful to have been chosen as the recipient of the 2016 Hope Award for Best Blog.

What a true privilege it is to be recognized for something so close to my heart.

I can't wait to see you on stage at RESOLVE's Night of Hope Gala in New York City!

Thank you for this tremendous honor.

Related content:
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I Wish I Knew How Much I'd Miss Being Pregnant


I Wish I Had Known How Much I'd Miss Being Pregnant

Every night after I tucked my 2 and 1-year old daughters into bed, I'd sneak back downstairs.

I'd arm myself with the ice cream scoop, grab a tub of Blue Bunny and plop my big-bellied self down on the couch.

I'd spent the whole day waddling around the pitter-pattering feet of my toddlers, but now it was time for me to focus on that miracle growing inside my belly.

With my feet kicked up for the night, the creamy, chilled scoops of ice cream were well-earned relaxation from a carton. Each spoonful was sweet enough to get her rolling, punching and somersaulting.

I'd count her kicks and log 'em on my phone -- usually 10 within 10-minutes. And then I'd watch her tumble across my belly until she'd nestle in and get comfy for the night.

I wish I had known how much I'd miss moments like this from my pregnancy.

I wish I had known how much I'd miss tossing and turning each night; the moments where it seemed like she and I were the only two awake in the world.

I wish I had known how much I'd yearn for her jabs to the bladder and ribs; her gentle and sometimes not-so-subtle reminders she's still there, and she's okay.
I Wish I Had Known How Much I'd Miss Being Pregnant

I wish I had known how much I'd miss taking selfies in the bathroom mirror; how much I'd long for the days of watching my husband's old t-shirts progressively shrink into tight-fitting crop tops, barely covering the front of my growing belly.

And how much I'd miss driving to the doctor's office with my toddlers in tow for monthly and weekly appointments; how much I'd miss the anticipation of the nurse calling my name in the waiting room and whisking me back to hear the thump-thumps of her heartbeat or watch her little arms wiggle and legs flutter across the ultrasound screen.

I wish I had known how much I'd miss the justification to eat heaps of shredded pork, gas station donuts and Hot Tamales. Oh, those Hot Tamales...

I wish I had known how much I'd miss her big sisters eagerly stretching their arms across my belly to feel her kicks and resting their heads on their new squishy pillow while talking to their baby sister about this big, beautiful world she was about to see.

I wish I had known how much I'd miss the anticipation of her birth -- her beautiful, grand entrance into the world. How much I'd miss watching her take her first breath, whimper out her first cry and take her first glimpse into her Mommy and Daddy's eyes.

I wish I had known how much I'd miss those moments; the quiet moments of just me and her; the moments where I was the only person she knew, where I was enough and all she needed; where the bond we shared was something only we knew and understood.

While I'm incredibly grateful she's here, I wish I had known how truly fast my nine months with her would go.

I wish I had known how much I'd miss being pregnant.

This post also appeared on TODAY Parents.

Related content:
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Announcing Our Pregnancy
The Truth About Getting Pregnant After Infertility And Adoption
Why We Chose to Take Maternity Photos


The Important Lesson My Kids Taught Me At Disney World

This post is sponsored by Holiday Inn brand. As always, thoughts and opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands that make this blog possible!

Beep, Beep, BEEEEP...4:30 a.m. came fast. Too fast.

We'd been up all night popping zippers off our luggage while packing for vacation.

It felt like we'd just closed our eyes before our alarm clocks were blaring at us.

So we shuffled downstairs, brewed some strong coffee on the Keurig, loaded up our minivan with diapers, bottles, sippy cups, snacks...and more snacks; and we buckled our sleepy kiddos securely into their car seats before driving on the dark interstate to the airport.

With our three daughters in tow plus two suitcases, two carry-ons, a diaper bag, purse and MASSIVE, heavy car seats, we huffed and puffed our way down from the fifth floor of the long-term parking garage and into the airport where ((drum roll, please...)) Grandma and Grandpa were waiting!

With their arms stretched wide for big hugs from their squealing granddaughters, Chris and I were finally able to catch our breath.

We could totally do this flying-with-three-kids thing...with their help. 

Hand-in-hand with Grandma and Grandpa, our giggly toddlers smiled and skipped their way through the security line.

They talked about airplanes and Mickey Mouse and swimming at our hotel until we boarded the plane.

The tiny plane.

The aisles were so small, I could barely squeeze into Row 17 without hitting my head on the carry-on compartments, let alone carry in our children and belongings.

Thankfully, my parents were there to help buckle them safely into their seats.
And just like that we were off on an adventure.

It was an adventure that included four flights at three airports with two layovers, a very squirmy 1-year old, a loud 3-year old and a smiley-but-sometimes fussy 5-month old.

"Thank God my parents are here," I said as I rested my head on my husband's shoulder and watched our teething baby girl old smile at her grandma; both were sitting across the aisle.
After sprinting through the Minneapolis-St. Paul Airport to catch our connecting flight (YOU'RE WELCOME FOR THE ENTERTAINMENT, FELLOW FLYERS), we found ourselves on the final stretch to Orlando. And before we knew it, we were unlocking the doors to relaxation and fun at our home away from home: Holiday Inn Club Vacations Orange Lake.
Holiday Inn Club Vacations Orange Lake
This 3-bedroom 1,700 square foot villa was perfect for our crew. 
Holiday Inn Club Vacations Orange Lake
The girls claimed their beds right away, but with swimming pools, hammocks and a lazy river at the resort, their bedtimes were pushed back -- after all, there was fun to be had!
Holiday Inn Club Vacations Orange Lake
We woke up the next morning to the Florida sunshine beaming through the patio windows and the smell of freshly ground coffee brewing in the kitchen.
The Important Lesson My Kids Taught Me At Disney World
Then we hopped in our rental car and drove a few miles down the road where we had reservations for a special breakfast at Disney.

As if on cue, one of the girls had to go potty and another needed a new diaper (and new outfit, eh hem...), and we nearly missed our reservation. Grandma and Grandpa to the rescue. We weren't gonna miss this memorable breakfast buffet with Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, too.
The Important Lesson My Kids Taught Me At Disney World
Maybe the red velvet pancakes hot off the griddle and assorted gummy bear toppings had something to do with it, but this breakfast was so much fun.
The Important Lesson My Kids Taught Me At Disney World
As I sipped my coffee, I couldn't help but sit back and smile.
The Important Lesson My Kids Taught Me At Disney World
The girls were just as excited to see their favorite Disney characters as they were to share these breakfast memories with their Grandma and Grandpa.

And as the days continued, I began to realize it's them who made this trip so special.

It's them who captured these candid moments of our family meeting Mickey Mouse for the first time...
The Important Lesson My Kids Taught Me At Disney World
It's them who shared epic proportions of dessert after dinner...
The Important Lesson My Kids Taught Me At Disney World
It's them who danced to the girls' drumbeats in the streets of Harambe in the Animal Kingdom...
The Important Lesson My Kids Taught Me At Disney World
It's them who cooked heaps of pancakes and sausage and sliced up fresh, juicy peaches for us to enjoy in our pajamas...
Holiday Inn Club Vacations Orange Lake
It's them who kept the girls smiling in long lines to meet Donald Duck...
The Important Lesson My Kids Taught Me At Disney World
Who rode safaris...
The Important Lesson My Kids Taught Me At Disney World
...and pushed strollers and made cardboard cutouts of cars outside Dino-Rama seem like the most fun thing in the world.
The Important Lesson My Kids Taught Me At Disney World
They made the "Happiest Place on Earth" even happier because they were there.
The Important Lesson My Kids Taught Me At Disney World
If you ask my daughters about their Florida vacation and who they saw they'll be the first to say, "Grandma and Grandpa." They'll follow-up shortly with Mickey and Minnie Mouse, of course. But at the very top of that list -- the highlight of their vacation -- is spending time with Grandma and Grandpa.

And that's when it hit me -- after all the preparing for our Disney trip (the breakfast reservations, the food, the outfits, the Magic Kingdom "Fast Pass" selections...), my children taught me an important lesson:

It's not about where you are; it's about who you're with. It's about who you're sharing the journey with that makes it extraordinary. And there is nothing more pure and genuine than the love of a Grandma and Grandpa.

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This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of Holiday Inn. The opinions and text are all mine.