Easter Ideas

Easter Ideas
I’ve spent the last few weeks thinking about A’s first Easter, and how we can create family traditions, while also not going too overboard since the holiday should be a mix of honoring the holiday, welcoming the spring season (if the snow ever melts), and delight in the magic of a tradition my husband and I loved as children.
Above is a small sampling of things we’ve thought about putting in A’s basket (including the sweet little basket we ordered at half price from JoAnn Fabric when they had their $1 shipping sale on St. Patrick’s Day.  We’re hoping to strike a balance between useful (bibs, bath spout cover, and bathing suit) and whimsical (both stuffed animals are from JellyCat – a brand that I can’t recommend highly enough).  And the stuffed animals go along with a book my mom sent A from her own childhood: The Golden Egg Book by the same author who wrote Goodnight, Moon.  In the story, a lonely bunny finds and egg that hatches into a friendly little duckling.  I love the idea of having these to friends to help A understand the themes and ideas as we read it together for years to come.
I’m hoping to have a post up about planting soon, but with more than 36” of snow still on the ground, we’ve put off planting until this coming weekend.
What ideas do you have for your little one’s Easter basket, and what holiday traditions do you look forward to at this time of year?

Cloth Diapering Essentials

We have been cloth diapering since three days after we brought A home from the hospital, and so far it has been everything we hoped it would be.  She has had few, if any, rashes; we’re not contributing excess trash to the landfill; and – above all – we’re saving money.  Here’s a quick list of our essential products to precede a post on how we’ve set up her cloth diapering station in her bedroom and another post on cloth diapering and daycare (yes, our provider uses prefolds and seems to like them!).
Cloth Diapering Essentials

Cloth-eez Prefold Diapers from Green Mountain Diaper

These are the cadillac of prefold diapers, made from 100% cotton twill.  Although I always thought we’d move to BumGenius or another one size pocket option as A got older, we are so happy with prefolds, that we just ordered a bale of medium for the next several months of diapering.

Cloth-eez Workhorse Diapers from Green Mountain Diaper

These are similar to the prefolds, above, but instead of folding them, you just fasten them around baby and secure with a snappi (they are fitted and you order them by size).  They are our go-to diaper for car rides, naps, and bedtime because they do such a good job of containing moisture and keeping it further away from our precious girl.  We also ordered eight more of these for the next few months.

Peri Bottles

I got this idea from another cloth diapering mom.  We really didn’t want to use chemical-laden wipes on A, particularly given their propensity for containing aloe (which I’m allergic to).  Instead, we fill a peri bottle up with water and use it to wet the homemade cotton flannel wipes that I made myself.  So far this system has worked great!  And the bottle makes bringing water with us on the go even easier!

Kanga Care Wet Bag

We ordered a few different kinds of wet bags, but by far, this type is our favorite.  They are small enough for her daycare bag, but large enough to contain a day’s worth of diapers.  We usually air dry them, but they can also go in our dryer on low heat if we’re running late and need one (they dry in about ten minutes).  Hands down, this is our favorite wet bag!

31 Gifts Utility Tote – Our Daycare Diaper Bag

I received this gem for Christmas from Jason’s cousin, and it has been a great daycare cloth diapering bag.  Every morning, I am able to stack eight lined prefolds into the bottom with a pile of cloth wipes, a wet bag, and a few extra Thirsties covers, and A is good for the day.  The outer pockets easily hold her peri bottle of water, change of clothes, mason jar full of (so far unused) pacifiers, and the variety of other things she needs.  I snap a small cooler of frozen milk right onto the handles and we’re good to go!

Thirsties Duo Wrap Snap

These are the only brand of wraps we’ve used since retiring some (great) bummis that we were loaned by friends during A’s newborn days.  They fit her as soon as she was about ten days old and size one is still going strong at almost four months.  We might need to size up to size two sooner than later, but the quality is excellent!

BabyLegs Newborn Leg Warmers Organic Over the Rainbow

A has a huge wardrobe thanks to generous family members and a mom who loves a good sale, but these are her dad’s go to choice for bottom wear.  While I love a good pair of jeggings on her (I NEVER thought I would have said that pre-baby), he loves the ease of BabyLegs.  She grew out of the newborn size within a few weeks, but the one-size-fits-all model look like they’ll last us a good long time.  Super cute and so easy!

Amazon.com: JJ Cole Caprice Diaper Bag, Silver Drop: Baby
Jason bought this bag for me as a pre-baby gift, and it has been a great cloth diapering diaper bag.  Although it is a bit ungainly (doesn’t stay on my arm with the smaller straps), I love the look, and it came with a great pair of hooks that attach to our stroller.  All and all, the size is excellent given the added bulk of the diapers, and I can’t complain too much given all of the organizational possibilities it provides.
Snappies are used to secure prefolds in either a specific fold or to hold the workhorse diapers together.  They work great and protect baby from the pokes and prods of a safety pin.

Amazon.com: Earth Mama Angel Baby Angel Baby Bottom Balm, 2-Ounce Jar:…
This product is excellent for diaper rash without containing the aloe that I am so allergic to.  We’ve had no rash that this ointment doesn’t immediately eradicate.  It’s also been great for mom’s minor cuts and scrapes and it smells fantastic!
Our Collection of Homemmade Cotton Flannel Wipes

Our Collection of Homemade Cotton Flannel Wipes

As I said before, we just ordered a bale of medium Green Mountain Prefolds (24 flats and 8 fitteds) and are slowly building a stash of Thirsties Duo snap covers.  But if you have any questions about cloth diapering, I’d be happy to answer them!  Do you cloth?  Are you thinking about trying it?  I’d love to hear from you!

Planning the 2014 Garden

A few weeks ago, when the average daily temperatures were lingering around -22 (without the windchill), we placed our 2014 seed order with Park Seed.  Part of the reason we order through Park (despite my heirloom, seed saving dreaming) is their super reliable Tenderette and Soleil green beans, a staple of our winter diet (they freeze like a dream, and we eat them 2-3 times a week).

Young, fresh beans

Tenderette and Soleil Beans in Our Garden

I would like to say that A’s arrival has made us more cautious gardeners, but though we’ve cut back on some things (we might not have terribly over-ordered seeds as we have in past years), we still plan to fill both our primary garden 100′x50′ and our smaller garden 10′x100′, and if you were worried, we’re also preparing for a 2014 chick purchase to add more genetic diversity to our flock of Buff Orpingtons after a 2013 decline in hatch rate.

Chicks hatched in 2012 from our own birds.

Chicks hatched in 2012 from our own birds.

In planning our garden, we made the choice to grow more crops that we use all winter (carrots, beans, peas, onions, garlic, tomatoes) and fewer try-it-out-for-fun crops (though we will be planing parsnips again this year because we’ve really enjoyed having them!).  So what did we decide on?

2014 Vegetable Order

  • Green Ice Lettuce (Free Add-On)
  • Master Chef Blend Lettuce
  • Summer Glory Blend Lettuce (Free Add-On)
  • Green Towers Lettuce (Free Add-On)
  • Sweet Rainbow Blend Pepper
  • Orange Paruche Hybrid Tomato
  • Sugary Tomato
  • Costoluto Genovese Tomato
  • Mr. Big Pea
  • Lincoln Pea
  • Tendersnax Carrot
  • Honey Bear Squash
  • Summer Squash Medley
  • Soleil Bean (Yellow String)
  • Tenderette Bean (Green String)
  • Albion Hybrid Parsnip
  • Yellow Onion Set

In addition to this, we’ll purchase cucumber plants from a local grower because no matter how we try, we’ve never been able to get them to grow reliably from seed; whereas, every year we buy plants from the same mom and pop  greenhouse and they thrive.  Other than that, we’re hoping for another big crop of blueberries from the bushes we planted a few years ago.

A was more than ready to help when we placed our seed order a few weeks ago!

A was more than ready to help when we placed our seed order a few weeks ago!

What are you planting in your garden this spring?

Happy Valentine’s Day

I’ve always loved Valentine’s Day and the opportunity it provides for reflecting on the blessing of my loved ones, but this year leaves  me even more thankful for my wonderful husband who is such a fantastic father and partner and our sweet, beautiful daughter.  I hope you are spending the day with loved ones!

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A’s 0 – 4 Month Favorites

Over the past few months, I’ve loved watching other moms post baby favorites because they’ve provided me an invaluable way to sift through the (literal) TONS of baby products out there.  I don’t anticipate this being a monthly post, but at least quarterly, I’ll try to check in with A’s favorites.  A's 0 - 4 Month Favorites

Baby Einstein Baby Neptune Ocean Adventure Play Gym

A’s Baby Gym was a Christmas gift from my mother and step-father.  While I don’t think it’s necessarily worth $70 (they got it on sale at half price), A love, love, loves mauling the toys, namely the octopus and the Lamaze Moose we regularly attach to it (we removed most of the toys, including the battery operated lights/music machine that was just too much for all of us).

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Fisher-Price My Little Snugabunny Bouncer Fisher-Price

The bouncer was my mother’s idea as well, and probably the best gift we received for A from 0 – 2 months.  It was a convenient spot to set her down and she really slept well in it as a newborn during the day.  It also got us through her first cold at six weeks.  Since it doesn’t have a five point harness, it’s not super safe to leave her in now, so it’s primarily just a spot to set her down quickly while I’m supervising her.

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HALO SleepSack Swaddle – Micro-fleece Target Exclusive

The HALO SleepSack was a great registry item that has been worth its weight in gold.  As a swaddle-hater, A was really hard to get down to sleep at night because her legs would twitch and she’d wake herself up.  We’ve only open arm swaddled her with it, but it keeps her cozy and warm and, best of all, asleep!

Bright Starts Lots of Links- Solid Colors

These links were a gift from a former student, and they were one of the first toys A showed any interest in.  We keep them linked above her crib, so she can look up at them while I’m picking up her room or choosing a new outfit.  If she’s sleeping in her crib, however, they are easily unlinked for safety reasons.  They’re also a great way to keep track of small toys in her diaper bag, like the…

Comotomo Baby Silicone Teether Blue One Size 

A has been drooling and chewing on everything (but namely her own hands) for the last two or three weeks.  I picked this up about a week ago, and its the perfect size for holding in her hand and sticking in her mouth.  It is also so easily sterilized, which has made for  a very happy Mama.

Jellycat ‘Cordy Roy Cat’ Stuffed Animal Pink One Size 

My mom sent this for A for Valentine’s Day, and she latched on and only let go long enough for the dog to eat it (and me to order a quick replacement from Amazon).  He’s made of soft corduroy and his tail and ears are perfect for chewing and sucking.  We’re eagerly awaiting replacement kitty’s arrival.  Note: A has the 9” small kitty – it’s the perfect size!

Amazon.com: Carters Easy Fit Velour Crib Fitted Sheet, Blue: Baby

A was born in October, and for the first two weeks refused to sleep anywhere but on me.  I quickly figured out that her cotton sheets were too cold.  As soon as we replaced them with these (we also bought a set for the pack n’ play, she was willing to sleep on her own (right next to our bed).

Jellycat Puppy Tails Book 8″

Of all A’s toys this one has been the longest lived and most used.  She loves the crinkly pages that she can now turn with her own hands.  The tails are great for sucking and the colors are vibrant.  She also has Jellycat’s Kitten Tails (pictured).  We give this toy two paws up!
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We purchased several very expensive “breast simulating” bottles for A, but the only one she’s taken is this Walmart cheapie.  At 97 cents a pop, they fit right onto my pump, so I can’t really complain, and they clean super easily.  They may not be the Cadillac of bottles, but the relief I had when she took it for the first time on her second day of daycare more than makes up for what I spent in bottles that are currently collecting dust in my basement.

Lamaze’s Muffin the Moose

This little fella was a gift from a great high school friend.  He first attracted A with his jingling toes, but later drew her in with his long, puppet-like legs and crinkly feet (girl loves the paper at the doctor’s office!).  He is most often found hanging out in her gym, and now that she has better hand-eye coordination, she loves to suck on his toes almost as much as she wants to suck on her own.
We’ve used this as a bassinet since week one (technically, week three after the sheets), and it has been great.  I was able to move it into the living room when I was staying at home with A, and I anticipate a ton of use this summer in shady spots with a good layer of mosquito netting.
For those of you with older babies, what came next?  What products does your little one love?

Stepping Back Into the Garden

Fifteen weeks ago, our lives changed forever, as Baby A made her arrive three days late.  At seven pounds, fourteen ounces she was, from the first, a delightful little snuggler.  Now that we’ve settled back into our life together, and after much deliberation about whether this was the place to do it or whether I should start a new blog more devoted to the changes our life and lifestyle have taken, I’ve decided to return to the garden, not because everything is the same or because all of the pieces will fit as nicely and logically as they used to, but because this is the place where I’ve written off and on for almost two years.  And as A grows, and we can pay a bit more attention to the chickens and our crops, this will be the most reasonable place for all the pieces to come back together.  So I ask for you to be patient with me in the coming months as I rediscover my voice and stretch the edges of gardening and chicken blogging to include this marvelous new person we are just getting to know.

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First Week with Gestational Diabetes

I’ve been following the gestational diabetes diet for just about a week now, and so far, things seem to be going great.  I know one of my biggest fears was being hungry all the time, but with the regularly scheduled snacks, I’m hungry a lot less than I was before the diagnosis, even if I have lost a pound or two because the choices are so much healthier than some of the choices I was making before my diagnosis (goodbye handfuls of chocolate chips…).

I’m going to talk a bit about my diet and what I’m eating, but please note that this is not advice for folks with GD.  This is what my doctor and dietician prescribed for my specific situation.  Seek the help/counsel of your medical professional if you are suffering from the condition.

Since I get up really early (usually between 4 a.m. – 5:15 a.m.), my dietician allowed me to follow pretty much the same schedule I had already been in regard to morning meals.  I eat something about a half hour after getting up, work out, and then get to eat a second small breakfast about two and a half hours after the first.  Right now, I’m loving Arnold Whole Wheat Sandwich flats with either two tablespoons of natural peanut butter or the sandwich flats with two tablespoons of soft goat cheese (pasteurized!) and a quarter to half cup of berries.  I usually have one earlier and the other later.  And if I sleep in, instead of eating two breakfasts, I just eat the one.  I’ve also added an occasional decaf coffee with half and half — glorious!

I have a snack around 10:30, and was advised to mix a protein and a carbohydrate for all snacks/meals.  I’ve typically been eating a small red delicious apple with a piece of string cheese.  If I’m really hungry (we did a lot of yard work this weekend, and I was), I add a hard boiled egg (organic, from our chickens) to the mix.  I’ll include a great way to hard boil fresh eggs later this week!

Lunches tend to vary, but I usually eat salad – two cups of greens and about a half cup of other mixed veggies (cucumbers, peppers, tomatoes).  I add to that a half serving (sometimes a whole) of carbs in the form of organic, whole wheat croutons (Olivia’s from my home state of Vermont are my favorite and so close to homemade without the temptation of snacking on them while they’re baking), a full serving of carbs as fruit (sometimes one and a half), and usually a serving of carbs in the form of dark chocolate – lately I’m choosing Green & Black’s Mayan Gold.  At times, I’ll substitute in bread or leftover rice or grains, but getting a legitimate chocolate fix in the middle of the day helps me feel less deprived and has kept me from even thinking about cheating.  I top the salad with either a hard boiled egg or three to four ounces of grilled, organic chicken to add some protein.

My afternoon snack varies between a few favorites.  Right now, I’m loving three graham cracker squares smeared with a thin layer of peanut butter.  If I’m in a pinch or on the go, I resort back to the apple and cheese.  If it’s super warm, or I’m not feeling very hungry, I throw three quarters of a cup of 1% milk in a blender with half a cup of frozen blueberries and a tablespoon of flax seeds.   There are TONS of other options, but these have kept me pretty happy so far.  I also just read about Peanut Butter & Dark Chocolate Kind +Protein bars, which I’m thinking about picking up tomorrow for those days when I’m on the road and can’t grab an easy snack (16g carbs per bar – 1 serving).  We’ll see how they do!

Dinners are pretty standard.  I can still eat almost everything we were eating before, but I just have to watch my carb serving sizes.  Honestly, though, sometimes it’s hard to get enough of them.  I’m thankful for the Eating Well cookbooks I’ve accumulated over the years because they have TONS of great and interesting recipes.  I’m also scouring the internet for new things to do with some of our favorite old veggies to spice things up a little because lean proteins get a little dull after a while when I have to incorporate so many of them throughout the day!  After dinner, we take Abby for a nice, long walk – a new ritual that I’m finding really soothing (and great for my blood sugar levels!).

I’ve tried a few bedtime snacks (a must with GD), but the only one that I’ve found consistently keeps my morning, fasting blood test around 80 is a half cup of fat free, plain Chobani Greek Yogurt with a half cup of berries and a quarter cup of nuts.  I haven’t really had a problem with other bedtime snacks and my fasting sugar test, but this one is satisfying and on hot nights, I make it at dinner time and throw it in the freezer for something that tastes a little more like ice cream.  The only rule I have for evenings is that I’m not allowed to do simple sugars – so no ice cream or chocolate or other quick fixes.  But, really, everything else is still on the table in small portions.

If you’re dealing with GD, what are some of your favorite snacks and meals?

Painting a Tree for the Nursery

When we found out we were pregnant, one of the first things I knew was that I wanted a mural of some kind in the nursery.  Something soft and calming, and – most importantly – something I could do myself.  Given that the carpeting in the room is green and still in great condition, warm blue walls and a tree seemed like a reasonable choice (even before we knew we were having a girl). 

That said, once we knew our little one was a girl, I wanted something a little more floral, particularly since the nursery prints we chose focused around gender neutral images of animals native to our area: foxes and skunks and squirrels.  I’ll have a more complete nursery post up once we hang the curtains later today, but I thought starting with the tree would be a good idea.  Now, in order to paint the tree where I wanted it, Jason and his dad had to do quite a bit of work preparing the room and sheet-rocking the north wall, which I hoped would make the room cozier and more complete. 

The former guest room, when we were using it as a guest room.

The former guest room, when we were using it as a guest room.

Cleaned out for baby...

Cleaned out for baby…

 

It took about one day for Jason and his dad to install the sheet rock, and during that time, his mom put down a coat of primer over the existing teal-green paint.  We decided to paint the room with Benjamin Moore’s Riviera Azure 822, which has soft lavender undertones, particularly in the late afternoon.  While I had thought about buying their Aura paint, we went with the Regal Select Interior paint in eggshell and were perfectly happy with its coverage and low VOC status.  My doctor had already nixed my helping with the painting, anyway, so it wasn’t as though I was being exposed.  I was surprised how little the paint smelled (they did keep the windows open) and how quickly any remaining smell dissipated. 

Sheet Rocking: Day 1

Sheet Rocking: Day 1

It took almost a week for the sheet rock mud to dry and be sanded away properly before Jason and his mom could complete a second coat of primer and paint the room (they did two coats, just to be sure of coverage).

Benjamin Moore Riviera Azure 822

Benjamin Moore Riviera Azure 822

 

Once the paint dried, I started working on the tree.  Now, I’d looked at TONS of trees (you can see evidence of this over on my Pinterest site), but I’d fallen in love with the “Tree of Life” print from Ruth Baker.  The problem was that with humidity fluctuations here in the summer and winter, I didn’t want to be constantly replacing bits and pieces of a tree on the north wall of my nursery.  Add in toddler hands that might want to peel it off, and I knew I had to paint it, myself. 

Ruth Baker Tree Decal

In addition to this, there were parts of the design that didn’t really fit with my image of the nursery.  I didn’t love the roots at the bottom, the birds were a bit cartoonish for my taste , and the colors didn’t quite match our palette.

So I got to work on creating my own using a few simple tools.  I purchased a Bohin Mechanical Chalk Pencil from Amazon, knowing that I needed it for a quilting project I was already working on.  This tool was invaluable, as it allowed me to sketch my tree trunk before I painted it; and as soon as I was done and the paint was dry, the chalk came right off with a dry rag.  I also purchased two stencils, one of birch leavesand another of flowers.  You could freehand these if you wanted, but I found a stencil much easier to use. 

I started by sketching my tree in chalk on the north wall of the bedroom.

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I know it’s difficult to see, but there is a tree sketched here.

Using simple, matte acrylic paints from Walmart and Michaels, I created a base coat on the entire tree and then mixed in some black and started shading around the edges to give the tree some depth using a few paint brushes that we’d picked up at a craft store.

Shading for Depth

Shading for Depth

DSC_0294This process took an afternoon.  Notice that I didn’t add every little branch.  I painted most of the smaller bits in after I started stenciling on the leaves and flowers.  The problem I encountered stenciling (using a variety of small stencil brushes) was that I was trying to do WAY too much at once.  I had all of my lighter flower colors out; I was trying to switch back and forth between flowers and leaves, and I was up and down over and over again, which is not so much fun at 26 weeks pregnant. 

Initial Stenciling

Initial Stenciling

So I quickly changed tactics and painted all the leaves, followed by all of the flowers, which gave me better control over where colors were being distributed.

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Completed Tree

After two days of work, I was left with a floral tree that matched the other colors in the nursery and completely fulfilled my vision.

Coming soon… adding the trim to frame and finish the room!

 

 

Winding down from the GD Diagnosis

I went into Monday and Tuesday’s appointments with the Diabetes Educator and dietician well prepared but very nervous.  The internet is great for some things, but more often than not, medical information on the internet just makes me feel more anxious.  And what I found, even among my own friends is that plenty of people had had GD and just never mentioned it until I brought up my own fears and concerns, which makes me wonder how much of that silence is shame that we’ve somehow done this to ourselves and our babies, even though both the educator & dietician reassured me that it had nothing to do with my previous diet, it was just how my body was reacting to the stress the pregnancy was placing on it.

Now on day three of testing my sugars, I’ve realized that my numbers tend to hang out in the lower side of normal.  I haven’t even come close to hitting the GD two hour post meal max of 120 (it’s different than regular diabetes, for those who might be concerned), and my morning numbers hit right between 70 – 90 (again, GD specific goals).  So having watched my body respond to the sugars I’m feeding it made me feel so much better about how things must have been going prior to my diagnosis since my diet really hasn’t changed that much.

I’m not saying it’s all easy.  For the first day or two, I developed a real fear about my inability to control things, though we had dinner out last night, and my numbers were still fine afterwards, so I’m starting to trust the flexibility of the diet (and moments when I can’t track the exact number of carbs on My Fitness Pal).  In addition to that, the dietician actually has me eating more regularly now than I was before (every 2 – 3 hours), and, if anything, I have been more full and satisfied than I was before the diagnosis.

The best part is that, so far – for me – nothing is off limits. I can have a cupcake (or half of one if it’s a monster), but it means limiting other carbs at that meal and not eating it as my bedtime snack.  And dark chocolate is still totally on the table, especially at lunch where my salad eating habits have me struggling to meet the carb allotment I’ve been given.  Honestly, buying two Green & Black bars to chop into smaller serving sizes was the highlight of my week!

So what has been helpful so far?  I am loving My Fitness Pal, which I’ve always used in the past (pre-pregnancy) for diet management when I’m worried about my eating habits slipping a bit.  I also ordered a kitchen scale from Amazon to help out with tough portions like fruit (when was the last time you tried to measure a 1/2 cup of raspberries?).

In addition to that, I treated myself to two ASOS maternity dresses that are on sale until tomorrow with a great 20% off coupon (HAPPYFOURTH as you’re checking out).  Though I’ve never ordered from them before, the company offers free shipping, and since we’re planning a little getaway next weekend, I saved enough money to upgrade to free, expedited shipping.

So what’s coming in the mail?

This little black dress that I’m hoping will pair well with blazers and sweaters and some different accessories for back to school:

Little Black Dress

And this sweet little dress in navy, that I think will be a bit longer on my frame (I’m not the model’s 5’11′) and be great for running errands or teaching (pending length).

http://us.asos.com/ASOS-Maternity-Belted-Dress-With-Scoop-Neck/zdy0o/?iid=2722235&cid=5813&Rf980=3672&sh=0&pge=0&pgesize=36&sort=-1&clr=Ecrulongerlength&mporgp=L0FTT1MtTWF0ZXJuaXR5L0FTT1MtTWF0ZXJuaXR5LUJlbHRlZC1EcmVzcy1XaXRoLVNjb29wLU5lY2svUHJvZC8.

I’ll let you know how the sizing runs.  Since I tend to sit between dress sizes, I ordered the larger size, just because I want them to last through the end of the third trimester (which started yesterday!), as once school starts again, I’m going to have to give up my uniform of athletic shorts and maternity tank tops.

Happy Fourth of July!