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Seasons

The leaves are changing. (THE LEAVES ARE CHANGING!!) I wish I could fully exude my happiness about this Autumn colorshow. I have been staring in awe all day, every day. Seasons. Oh, how I missed them.

I was recently in conversation with a family member who was living back in the Midwest after a stint in Southern California and we were talking about seasons and how they impact a culture on such a deep level. When nothing changes, including the weather, life just…carries on. I think I savored less, accepted monotony more. Nothing ever changed. Not the landscape, not the activities. It just was. After six years longing for crisp mornings in south Texas, I am home. Home in the Midwest. Not home where I was raised (Northern California) but my adopted home. Cool air. Color around every corner. We are truly savoring the light & warmth as we prepare for a deep change, prepared to weather stuff that makes life difficult. Seasons are so metaphoric. They change you. I really think they do. I love them.

I have not been one to hide how little I enjoyed living in South Texas. I made the best of it and walked away with lifelong friends (which made it worth every bit of the misery) but I do not miss it. Not one bit. I am happiest when my nose gets cold in October and my lungs fill with ice cold air. And where there are huge, massive, colorful trees around every corner. I just breathe better here. Summer is bearable, because it never lasts. It’s just a season.

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I seem to say that a lot. It’s been the story of my life. Life married to a resident. Life with non-sleeping newborns. Life that was hard. It was just a season. But it really all is. As the colors change and the winds shift, so do priorities. I never thought it would take me until October to log back into this blog, but I really needed to take a break. My kids pretty much just have me right now, and I need to be everything to them. Business & writing & this outlet–it wasn’t what it always has been. Like any season, it darkens. It brightens back up. Leaves fall. & then the tree blooms with life again. I am just not sure when that life will come back here.

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It’s been a bit of a rough transition for our family–our first big move. There has been lots of adjusting and a new home to set up. New parks (TONS of new, incredible parks!!) and a whole new city to explore. New people, new food, new (dream) school, new routines. It’s all new. We do love it here in St. Louis, but it’s still been tough for our family. Being married to a medical fellow in his seventh year of post med school training is hard. Life feels really heavy, a lot. Life & death are daily topics of conversation & I am not sure when that heavy feeling will lift. I am hoping it is just a season, but I am sort of gripping the reality that heart surgery is not just a season. It’s kind of always heavy. & we’re working through how to handle that.

Like many moms I still struggle with the “what else” in life. The non negotiable priorities are food, exercise, cleanliness & books + art. Beyond that, well, I just don’t know where it all fits right now. Real food takes forever to cook & prep. Hard exercise makes me really tired. Laundry and dishes and the floor don’t clean themselves (darn) and books + art…well. We just love those. Non negotiables during this season. But what about what is missing?

It’s been a constant pull between what I CAN do, what I LOVE to do and what I actually have the ENERGY to do. My puzzle pieces just don’t fit together very well right now. So I am trying to make peace with this season & embrace it for what it is. All my time constraints would be solved if I had the desire to outsource, but I don’t. I want to be with my children and I feel strongly about that decision, strong enough to let all the other stuff go.

The season of “no.” That is what I am calling it. Just me, my kids and the non negotiables up there. :)

That’s what feels right.

I keep thinking about the next season and what that will hold. It’s fun to daydream. I know I am really good at taking things I love and turning them into a job, that I no longer enjoy, so I am being very mindful of that trap. I feel like I still haven’t found my calling in life, beyond motherhood. & maybe, just maybe, that is my true calling. I am good with that. But I also have “the fear.” The fear that someday when they are in school and It’s just me around here, that I will need something more. So I daydream. There’s no harm in that. Now’s just not the time to formally do anything more, unless it’s simply for my own joy.

So until that season, I’ll keep dreaming. Mostly, that looks like decorating imaginary spaces. It always seems to come back to making something pretty. & practical.

Imagine that. :)

So…to answer a couple of questions that are lingering in pending comments:

Q: Are the stylebabyLOGs going to be for sale again soon?

A: I am not sure. I have supplies to print another huge batch, but I haven’t resumed business in Missouri, and with the way things are going, I am pretty sure it will not happen until next year. Come August, I will have two children in school (at least part time) so until then, business will wait. Unless I find that energy that I seem to be missing. :) But thank you for your continued interest!!

Q: How has your Pelvic Floor rehab been going? Any updates since the article?

A: Yes!! I left my awesome PT and am still working on a referral to see one here. Due to a lack of good yoga, I ventured into a whole different world: Pilates. I have been working with an insanely amazing Pilates instructor with a lot of formal education in rehab & Pilates is the best thing to happen to my core in years. I mistook it for a posh and prissy workout–oh no. How wrong I was. It’s the hardest workout I have done in a very long time and I am even back to doing my beloved squats and lunges with zero impact, on the reformer. I could not recommend it more. I have also been doing a home yoga practice using YogaGlo.com on my ipad (I love Katherine Budig’s flows) and that has been a nice filler. I am at the gym three days a week in my classes, and doing my home yoga practice at least once a week. Before I left it was confirmed that I was able to reverse my original position quite a bit, just by rehabbing. So again, let me be your hope–it’s not a life sentence of misery! Just a detour that may lead to something out of your comfort zone! Like some awesome Pilates!

& also, I have hundreds of blog comments in queue. I try not to approve them if they warrant a response to a valuable question. I just haven’t found the time to sit at my computer to adequately reply! So if you have one pending, I am sorry. I am a mama, with a big solo parenting responsibility and while I would love to resume professional blogging, the kiddos win! :) Thanks for understanding!!

So, pictures?? It’s been almost a year since I posted any big camera images. yikes. I have a zillion, and I love them all. BUT…hardly any are edited. So we’ll celebrate my very favorite time of year to take pictures of my kiddos. HALLOWEEN! Happy Halloween! I can’t believe this is our SIXTH with kids!! Oh, so fun. But entirely different, with our first deep freeze of the season projected for tomorrow night. FUN!!

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styleberry 2014 Halloween_6styleberry 2014 Halloween_3styleberry 2014 Halloween_10styleberry 2014 Halloween_2styleberry 2014 Halloween_1Gosh, I love Halloween!! We always try to make costumes that are appropriate to their interests. Everettosaurus + Rainbow Ballerina Hello Kitty. Concepts by kids, execution my this creative mama. :) Now I have to go back & reminisce…to the First, Second, Third, Fourth…and oh my goodness, I forgot last year. Well, for old time’s sake!! Can’t forget Ariel & her turtle friend, Squirt, who was totally into backpacks:

styleberry halloween 2013

All so fun.

& random things worth linking:

Happy Halloween!!

xoxo.

Cindy - I’m so glad you’re happy! I understand the changing leaves. I’m a Virginia gal, and we moved to the gulf coast of AL for 6 years (and my inlaws live in San Antonio). I didn’t quite realize how much I LOVED fall until I didn’t have the changing leaves, crisp air, etc. This is our second “real” fall after moving to NC and we’re loving it. I’m still in awe when I drive down the road and see all of the yellow & orange trees. Continued luck with your transition in St Louis.

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Jenn B. - Shawna, I’m glad to read something from you again, but I’m even more glad for your honesty! I had my third baby this year and it’s definitely been the most life changing event yet! I love this time but I am overwhelmed by it as well. It’s good to hear I’m not alone in putting everything on the back burner. Or that I’m afraid I don’t have a passion or a purpose beyond staying home with my kids. Thank you for making me feel like I’m not alone!

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Lindsay - Gosh, I just miss your blog! While my husband is not a medical resident, he travels for work {mainly to Texas} I am a solo mamma about 90% of the time. It’s hard. I need to make 2015 a year for me {kind of like 2014 was for you}. I’m always inspired by you and find myself cruising around your blog from time to time. I admire all your changes you have made this year and I feel I need to find my way and do the same. My babies need me {100% of me} and not the current me that is always checking my Facebook, blog, Instagram, etc. It’s a hard balance and I need to figure out how to prioritize to help me get closer to that feeling of balance since I know being 100% there will hardly ever come. Thank you for coming back to this beautiful space and updating us. Happy to see you are enjoying your new surroundings. I hear what you are saying about the seasons. I moved to Denver for about 8 years and loved every ounce of it. I grew up in Arizona and it’s pretty much the same as Texas…monotonous. Enjoy the change of the seasons! :)

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A Mom’s Guide to San Antonio

The time has come. We are thisclose to rolling out of town and I am getting sad. It’s so easy to look forward to this day–graduation day & the end of a significant chapter–and then it hits. We’re leaving her nursery. & his nursery. & I will never rock a baby in them again. The home where we became a family will live on in our memories, but I will not walk the halls where my babies took their first steps for much longer. I will remove the last pictures from the walls. I will say goodbye to all the people that were my confidants, cheerleaders and support through a substantially challenging chapter of life.

Leaving this city is really freaking hard.

Don’t get me wrong, I will not miss the traffic and the heat, but I will miss my people. I have never found such a warm & loving community of mothers. I feel so blessed to have met some of the most amazing women I’ve ever known, here. I have been inspired and encouraged and consoled. How did I get so lucky? Investing my heart in these people has been one of the best experiences of my life. The worst part is leaving. I know we’re probably coming back in two short years, but life will never look the same. That’s tough to swallow sometimes. I feel like I am leaving babyhood here in San Antonio. And I am. This is the end of me mothering an infant. We are entering the school years. & as great as that feels, I am mourning a little bit too. I guess what I am trying to say is that I really have loved life here. Mostly because of the people, but those people have introduced me to places that have been the heart of our relationships. Our places of community.

So in an ‘ode to San Antonio, let me share my favorite local stops with you. We were regulars at any & all of these wonderful places!

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Kids Activities

  • San Antonio Botanical Gardens: My favorite place in the city. They have fun events for kids–Halloween, spring break & Viva Botanics for Fiesta are our favorites! We adore the quiet, feeding the ducks back by the lake and splashing in the fountains. Especially when the rubber duckies are in it.
  • Morgan’s Wonderland: Our second favorite place in the city. The cleanest, quietest, most engaging place for [littler] kids around. It is amazingly accommodating for those with special needs, but open to all families. We could not love it more.
  • Little Gym of Helotes: What can I say about Little Gym and Ms. Cyndi, other than we love her and will be crying big ugly tears when we leave. My kids grew up at the gym and I owe a lot of their confidence to her. They adore her and the gym/dance classes. We have gone once a week since caroline could walk. It’s the single best kids activity we’re participated in regularly.
  • Fiesta Farms: A happy little farm oasis! We love this place. Quiet & muddy/dusty. :)
  • San Antonio Zoo: Not the best zoo, but a decent one. We always ride the train and head back to the Tot Spot, where it is quieter than the rest of the Zoo. The new carousel is pretty fun. & the train! The main attraction. We especially love the kitties on the other side of the tunnel.
  • McKenna Children’s Museum: Worth the drive up I-35 to New Braunfels, especially if you have a daughter who is into babies–they have a full little NICU! Everett loves the giant outdoor water table and the shopping cart area. We will soon have a DO-seum on Broadway, which will replace the San Antonio Children’s Museum. The current museum in the city is not a favorite place of mine. I find it lacking, and avoid it, and its current location, at all costs. I am not comfortable going alone with my kids, for safety reasons.
  • Ft. Sam Houston Quadrangle: How could I forget this one?! My profile picture up there was taken there–as was my last family session. The most dreamy light in all of the city is within the bright white stone walls of the beautiful, historic Quadrangle! There are also deer you can pet (!!), peacocks, ducks and some rowdy geese. Be sure to bring some carrots for the deer. I’m not sure if you can easily get on base as a non-military member, but even a quick bounce into the visitor center is worth it–we love the Quad! And there is the most incredible oak tree I have ever seen in my life in there. Insanely gorgeous. Now I wish we’d have gone one more time! Hopefully we’ll live right around the corner when we get back. :)
  • Magik Theatre: A dynamic variety of great kids shows!
  • Libraries we love: Igo & Landa. Both have great playgrounds! I think Igo has a better book selection, but you can request anything in the San Antonio system for delivery to your home branch. So nice!
  • PeeWeeBees: A great place for littler kids to run off steam when it’s a hundred degrees out.
  • The Painted Plate: some of my most treasured pottery/plates/Christmas ornaments were created here! I need to go pack them up for the trailer…
  • The Twig: This is a locally owned book store, and storytime with Anastasia on Friday mornings is fantastic!

This was a little over a year ago at the Botanical Gardens. They were so little!

styleberry_botanical5Preschool

  • The Discovery School: This is the most special place ever, ever in the history of ever. We adored our time at DS. Mrs. K & Ms. H were a huge source of joy & love for my caroline. I could not recommend them more. It’s a hybrid play/montessori-ish model. Lots of creativity. Lots of love. & the fairy garden is such a treasure!!
  • Giant Steps: Caroline did her first year of school here. We had an excellent experience. I moved her because I was adamant about half days as a four year old, and that wasn’t an option here, but Mrs. G was incredible. & the playground is second to none!!

These are all snippets of our magical Discovery School experience. So much fun. E was an honorary student. :)

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Personal Care

  • Nowlin Roberts Salon: Sweet, sweet Nowlin. He is more than your hair guy. His talent with both rich color & the scissors in wonderful. I will miss him SO SO MUCH.
  • Woodhouse Day Spa: A nice treat. I prefer the one at the RIM.

Physicians

Realtor

  • Cheryl Nichols of ReMax The Premier Group: The hardest working realtor I know. She’s a full package–realtor/stager/photographer. Excellent accessibility & communication. We sold fast. Twice actually, when we had a fluke thing happen and our first deal was dead after both parties signed the closing papers. It happens. I’m proof. Six days later, back under contract. (Let’s hope this one sticks!!) Thank God for Cheryl.

Church

Tailor

Dining Out

  • Best Coffee: Local (The Pearl is our favorite location & caramel latte is TDF. We also love the pastries, which are actually made by Bakery Lorraine!)
  • Best Date Night: Il Sogno or Boiler House (soooo good!!)
  • Best Vegetarian: Green (their nachos & ranch are incredible!)
  • Best Pastries: Bakery Lorraine
  • Best Cupcakes: Bird Bakery
  • Best Burgers: BurgerFi
  • Best Custard: Freddys
  • Most gobbled up kids lunch: Cosi

Gym/Yoga

Shopping, Unique to San Antonio Area

  • Whole Earth Provision: My FAVORITE store here! Think REIish meets creative kids store. The most incredible children’s book/toy selection I have ever seen. We also love their shoe department. It’s amazing–for both kids and adults!! Military gets an extra discount off sale items, and they always have great sales!
  • Go Baby Go: Cloth Diapering/Baby Wearing/Fun mama gear store. Tell Liz I sent you! She also offers a military discount.
  • The Tiny Finch: A pinterest haven. Anthro-ish. But more home stuff.
  • Nursery Couture: Owned by Katy, of Caden Lane. Posh mama one-stop-shop.
  • Pottery Barn/Williams Sonoma/West Elm outlet in San Marcos: I cannot say enough about this place. I have so much gorgeous furniture that I got 50-80% off retail from here. It’s hit ans miss sometimes, but don’t forget the military discount! Yes, that is ON TOP of the ridiculously low prices already!
  • Restoration Hardware Outlet in San Marcos: Still pricey, but much cheaper than the catalog!
  • Architectural Antiques: A fun place for any of you restoration buffs.

Random Home Stuff

So there you have it! The Best of San Antonio, that we experienced. While we’re leaving with a lot of sadness in our hearts, we’re going to remember all the smiles on our faces over the years. This six years have been the best of my life. So much happy happened here in SA!! All signs point to us returning in a couple of years, so maybe we’ll run into you again soon! Happy Exploring!

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SA mamas–what did I forget? I am sure I missed something…add to the list if you wish!! :)

Gina - This is awesome Shawna! I think A and I will have a great time this summer as we have only been to about half of these places. I would definitely add The Quadrangle on Ft Sam to the list although now most people cannot get to it w/o going to the visitor’s center first. Such a quiet, peaceful gem!!! I will miss seeing your beautiful children playing at DS. Here’s wishing you all the best in St. Louis!

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Kendall - This is amazing! Wish I could find an article like this for where I live! Sending to every mama I know in SA!

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Colleen Pence - What a fantastic resource (just shared it on my blog’s FB page!). I’m sorry we never had the chance to meet in person. I’ve loved reading your blog and following along on your Instagram adventures. :) Safe travels and have fun in your new city!
Colleen Pence recently posted..Photo Tour: View all three of the Girl Scouts of Southwest Texas’ summer camps

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Carla - The Magik Theatre is a great place to introduce children to plays.

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angie - This pics of your kids! ..they look soooooo grown up! ADORABLE! Good luck on your new transition!

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Courtney - This is great! We don’t get to San Antonio that often, but we do love it down there! I do love the zoo, the great thing about the SA zoo is that they focus on conservation and there are a lot of animals there you won’t find at other zoos.

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Pelvic Prolapse? No. Way.

I have thought a lot about what I want this article to say. Mostly, I have tried to figure out my point. & I think my goal is simple: to start a conversation. Pelvic Organ Prolapse (or Pelvic Floor Dysfunction, or Pelvic Floor Disorder) is not a topic you’ll see floating around the Internet unless you dig for it. It’s uncomfortable to talk about (for some) and if you are squeamish about medical stuff, then go ahead and just skip it now. I am going to share details that I longed to find discussed by a real person, or even on the internet–and they might make some blush. In our house, we talk about the body a lot. I see a lot of gross textbook pictures laying open on my coffee table. Nothing really fazes me anymore. So here is your warning: this is educational. I am not going to sugar coat stuff!

Pelvic prolapse is, what some will describe as, one of the last hush hush topics in gynecology. Seems like we can now talk freely about most anything with our girlfriends–and we do!!! But I have yet to have an educated conversation with a non-medical professional about a prolapse. And for a problem that affects as many as HALF of women, why is that? It’s not just an “old lady” problem. I’m in my early thirties. I have pelvic prolapse. And I think we need to have a discussion–and more importantly, talk about improving our chances of preventing it! My goal is simply to share my story–because you may have a similar one. I had NO IDEA that the symptoms I have been experiencing (some for years!) were a clue to my path to prolapse. I don’t want any of you to end up like me–formerly clueless, engaging in heavy physical activity, and then sidelined with a serious pelvic floor issue. It’s depressing and frustrating and it did not have to be this way. So let me tell you my story.

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If you follow this blog, you know I have had two deliveries. Both were quick, once they got going. Both were tough on my body, for different reasons. I recovered from both slowly, gently. I never jumped right back into exercise, but I did get there eventually. After my first delivery, I had some incontinence issues, but nothing so bothersome, that I sought treatment. Back then, I was crossfitting in my own way, and my “should have seen it” clues were in my jumps. Burpees, Box Jumps, Jump Rope. All equaled leakage–but I thought, eh, consequence of having a baby. There is nothing I can do about it & I want another baby, so I’ll put it off until I “have my body back” for good. Mistake #1!! You can ALWAYS work on strengthening your pelvic floor–and this helps with incontinence!!

My second pregnancy came with a lot more discomfort than my first. I had some vaginal vein issues and my discomfort made me get off my feet for the first time in my life. It was not fun, and I assumed it would go away after delivery. Most of it did, but some of it did not. My second delivery was fast & furious, and while it was exactly what I wanted, it was really the start of this whole thing. At least that is what I think.

Fast forward about a year, and I got back into a regular and rigorous workout routine. I would do my yoga (like, drip sweat on your mat because it’s so hard yoga) twice a week. Then on Saturday I would lift really heavy (like out-lift most of the dudes in my class, heavy). It was mentally freeing. I take great pleasure and pride in getting and being strong. I feel best about myself when I am strong. Lifting myself and other heavy stuff is essential for my well-being, but it was damaging my body–not because I was doing it, but because of the way I was doing it. I went on, not knowing there was a problem for nearly a year. Until one day…something was different.

I had done two heavy barbell classes in a row. One Saturday we’d done some PR (personal record) lifting. I had my instructor help lift and rack my weight because I couldn’t rack it myself–that’s how heavy I’d gone. We did tons of squats. Tons of lunges. All really heavy, until failure. After unwinding in yoga on M/W, I went back for more. We lifted heavy again, but this time it was heavy deadlifts. We had to have done over a hundred deadlifts that day. I completed the class. Felt great. Then the next morning, I felt IT.

I felt like I had a tampon that was falling out. I did my own physical exam and wouldn’t you know–my cervix was like…right there. I used to have to work really hard to check my mirena threads in my cervix. You know, squat in the shower to reach them. Now it was like, RIGHT THERE–what was happening?!! I freaked out (something I normally don’t do) and consulted with my husband, who said I was likely experiencing prolapse. So I googled it (because I had no idea what that was!) & then I really lost it. This pretty much explains it.

I saw my Gynecologist (who happens to be a pelvic floor specialist!!) and she confirmed with some measurements, that I had exactly what I thought I did. Except it was not only a uterine prolapse, everything was moving south. There were words like hysterectomy and pelvic sling and pessary on the table. Whaaat?? I am healthy. I take care of myself. I exercise. What went wrong? What happened here?

& the answer was simple: I neglected to strengthen my pelvic floor. & then I repeatedly did several exercises that are known to significantly increase pressure on the pelvic floor. & I did them with heavy weight on my back. So therein lies my recipe for disaster! No pelvic floor muscles + lots of intra-abdominal pressure = everything falls down. And this can happen to ANYONE, regardless of how they treat their body. While prolapse cannot be reversed (without surgery) you can sometimes improve the symptoms by strengthening the pelvic floor.

So I was referred to an amazing Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist (can you believe there is such a thing??) and learned a whole lot about my body. & I want to share some of that with you. Let’s start with the symptoms, because maybe you can relate.

My Prolapse “Clues”

  • Posture: I noticed that after carrying Everett, my belly always stuck out a little more than my bust. This was not the case with Caroline. What I learned was that I had such weak abdominals (despite my exercise–I had been totally overcompensating with the other muscles!), that I was still carrying my body like I was pregnant–sticking out my bum a bit & rolling my hips toward the ground, slightly bearing down at all times. Try standing in the typical “hands on my back because I am so pregnant” stance–are you still doing this after delivery?? Time to strengthen those transverse abdominals!
  • Bearing down: like you have to “push.” I was constantly bearing down–to lift, to walk, to breathe, to cough, to bathe my kids. This is a major sign of a weak pelvic floor.
  • Breathing: I was a belly breather. I did not engage my diaphragm much. I would breathe down, not up into my diaphragm.
  • Bracing to get out of a chair: My quads were very strong, but my hamstrings were weak and I couldn’t even get out of a chair without using my arm strength. Try sitting on a firm chair & without any assistance, using your legs to get up. Can you? I am still working at this. I know it sounds ridiculous, but it was another red flag that I am still working hard to correct.
  • Incontinence: Inability to stop urinary flow. Always feel like you have to go to the bathroom. Leak, even after you think you have stopped the flow or urine. Trampolines & treadmills=bad news.
  • Vagina “Farts”: are you laughing yet? This one is soooo embarrassing. I googled this for so many years, and NONE of the sites I found ever came up with prolapse as an explanation. So as mortifying as it is, let’s talk about it. So you’re in yoga. You go into down dog. You lift your leg to three legged dog, and then curl it into scorpion and then as you head back up, & back to mountain, OMG. Noise!! MORTIFYING. Well. If you have a prolapse, this is what happened: your uterus slipped from its prolapse into normal position while you were inverted, and created an awesome vacuum. Then, as you returned to your upright position, your uterus fell back down (thanks, gravity!!) and shoved all the extra air you accumulated right on down with it. & out it went. So there you have it, my four year long mystery, solved. Does this happen to anyone else?? No one ever talks about it, so maybe I am a minority? It was a very real problem for me–and actually kept me away from yoga for a time.
  • Low, painful periods: After Everett, I had increasingly painful periods. Some of this is surely related to my endometriosis, but some of it was new because of the location of cramping. My periods were not painful in my abdomen anymore–they were painful much, much lower. As painful as those vaginal varicose veins during pregnancy. Makes sense, now that I know that my uterus is so much lower than it should be.

So then what? What happens if you do have prolapse? Is there any hope for improvement?

Let me encourage you–yes!! There is a lot of wishy washy info out there on google searches. I am currently going to Pelvic PT, where I have my progress & strength monitored under untrasound, so I can see just how to do things like kegels and the other strength exercises. I can tell you that in the last couple of months since I started Pelvic PT I have seen a major improvement in how I carry my body. I am still symptomatic, but I do my PT exercises every single day & I am adding in more yoga as the weeks pass & I can hold the poses while engaging my pelvic floor/abdomen correctly. This is a skill that has to be acquired & practiced, & my PT has helped me identify how to fire the muscles correctly. It is also encouraging to see, under ultrasound, how much more control I have over these muscles–and that I can actually fire them now. I could not even see my kegel on ultrasound when I started–that’s how weak mine was. I have also done vaginal e-stim–which is quite a strange experience. But it works! I am learning how to control the muscles that have completely lost function. There is so much work that can be done to improve the function of the pelvic floor muscles, but I will emphasize “work.” It takes dedication!

styleberry_yoga_900Is there a treatment? What are you doing long term?

I am still at the beginning of treating my prolapse. I am in no rush for a hysterectomy, though I am sure it is in my future. We are learning more about my body as the treatment goes on–and how much of my problem is muscle weakness vs. ligament damage. Ligament damage (which is a result of both pregnancy and childbirth) cannot be reversed. Ligament damage is permanent & I did have two significant tears with my deliveries, so there’s likely some damage. However, the muscle improvement is ongoing, and will never be considered done. Like any other muscles, I will need to work on them the rest of my life. Even after a hysterectomy, a woman needs a strong pelvic floor. No surgery can strengthen my muscles–so I will exercise them regularly!

I am also using a pessary, which has been great! My doctor calls them a “bra for your vagina” and that’s exactly what it is! It is a soft silicone device that you insert like a diaphragm. It comes in a bunch of shapes & sizes; yours is determined by your doctor during a fitting, based on your anatomical needs. It is tricky to get out sometimes, but after a while you get the hang of it.

I have to say, the idea of using a pessary made me really sad for a long time. I thought about how much of a pain it would be to take it in & out every day. Was this my new normal? I need something to hold my insides up? I am too young for this!! & I was sweaty and in tears one night, at the beginning, when it got stuck. I swore I would never get it out. But I did. & you know–the internet has no tips for getting a pessary in & out. So while we’re talking about everything uncomfortable in this article, I will share that I’ve found it is easiest to remove in the shower (relaxed!!), standing. Squatting does not work for me. At all. I cannot get it in well sitting down, either; standing is best. It is so awkward at first, but for anyone who may be seeking encouragement here, you get the angles down eventually and it does become second nature. It isn’t ever “comfortable” but it gets easier. Just experiment with new angles until you find one that makes it easy.

The best part of the pessary? It works!!! I can’t feel it when it’s in. It relieves my symptoms (most of the incontinence too!) and I can even breeze right through that three legged dog hip opener–SILENTLY. That may be the greatest achievement of all. :) Yoga, with no noises! WINNER!

Exercise in the future is still up in the air. Many experts will tell women who have been diagnosed with prolapse that their exercise routine should include only exercises where you can keep at least one foot on the ground at all times. This means zero impact exercises. No running, no jumping. Nada. I can tell you that I will probably never be comfortable running again–just because I do fear making my prolapse worse and being forced to have surgery. Weights is something that will get introduced back into my regime over time. I don’t think I will ever lift as heavy as I used to, but with the right form & being really mindful of those pelvic floor muscles, I hope to get to a place where I can include at least light lifting again. For now, I am going to continue my yoga practice. I’ve bumped that to three times a week and hope to add even more. There is so much strength that can be gained from moving your own body around. & bonus, a new study even comments on the pelvic floor benefits of yoga. But as I have learned, you have to know how to properly engage your pelvic floor muscles or you could be doing it all wrong!!

So what can I do? What do I do??

If you show no signs of a prolapse and are looking to prevent it in the future, work on your kegels & pelvic floor strength! My doctors have always checked the strength of my kegel at my annual–which is a great place to start. Don’t ignore their advice, like I did!! squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. See if there are any local PTs that offer informational seminars in your area. There are also a bunch of resources on YouTube! Do an exercise search. Here is a search for pelvic floor exercises for women.

If you suspect something is up, see your gynecologist. Seek treatment from a specialist. I would find a Urogynecologist, board certified in Female Pelvic Medicine and Reconstructive Surgery. Bonus if they are affiliated with a Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist. If I had the chance to rewind to right after Caroline’s birth, I would have sought the help of a Women’s Health Physical Therapist immediately. I think their work is incredibly valuable. Don’t put it off–seek expert help ASAP. & make sure they examine you standing up. This is important–as everything can move back when you are laying down!

Additionally, if you happen to live in San Antonio, lucky you!! My doctor and my Pelvic Physical Therapist are putting on a fun evening program this Friday night, open to the public, to discuss all things related to Pelvic Floor Health. This is an amazing opportunity to learn more from the experts. I cannot even begin to say enough good things about Dr. Dooley and Dr. Rodriguez. Go & learn from them! Ask your questions! They will have a q&a box if you are too uncomfortable to ask your questions in front of everyone. It is open to the public, not just military, even though it is on Ft. Sam Houston. Seriously, take advantage of this opportunity!

Pelvic Floor Info Night

I have read the internet up, down and sideways. Here is a collection of the articles about the Pelvic Floor that you may find particularly useful. :)

IMPORTANT RESOURCES:

  • Find a nearby Urogynecologist HERE
  • Find a Women’s Health/Pelvic Floor Physical Therapist HERE
  • Take the Floor, The American Urogynecologic Society non-profit organization that supports all things PFD HERE
  • The best article I found on Lifting Weights & Prolapse HERE
  • A random source, but excellent overview of prolapse & symptoms & therapy HERE
  • 12 Unsafe Abdominal Exercises for Prolapse HERE
  • Pelvic Exercises (& a really great Pelvic Floor info website!!) HERE
  • 7 Yoga Poses, safe for your pelvic floor HERE
  • My favorite Pelvic Health Blog HERE

Did you make it this far? Holy smokes. That was more than I thought I would write. If you have anything more you wish to add, as always, let’s make this article a resource for women who may stumble upon it on a freaked-out google search. I’d love to hear how you’ve handled a diagnosis or what you are doing to rehab. Or even if you are part of the noisy yogis club. HAhaha. No, really. It’s not funny. But it is. Sort of. Not laughing about it yet? Maybe you need a pessary! ;)

Amy Renea - HOLY CRAP. I NEVER knew…any of that.

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-shawna- - Mimi–yes, you are misinterpreting me! While many women may have a mild or moderate prolapse, many will never be symptomatic. Hysterectomy is only advised for those with a severe prolapse, often when it surpasses the hymen and is near or on the outside of the body. The recommendation by a urogynecologist will be based on the severity of the prolapse & any symptoms that interfere with quality of life or health. Last week I found out my prolapse has actually improved–yay!! I am pretty symptomatic, so if I continue to rehab & experience issues with exercise, despite regaining as much muscle control as possible through pelvic PT, that is when I will seek a hysterectomy. Even then, I will have to be really careful when I exercise, so I don’t “blow” the sling, as is what happens to women who overdo it & aren’t careful with the kind of exercise they do. Make sense?

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Cori - You are AWESOME! I so admire your research, candidness, and willingness to start discussions. What an eye-opener this is.Thank you!!

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Mimi - Very helpful and interesting information. Thank you! I do have a question though… You mention that even though treatment is going well for the prolapse, you’re sure that a hysterectomy is in your future. Will it be necessary strictly due to the pelvic prolapse? If so, I find this odd; if indeed half of women have this condition, and a hysterectomy is prescribed as the ultimate “cure”, I think that someone is misleading you! While pelvic prolapse is probably a “normal” effect of childbearing and age, it cannot be normal or natural for half of women to need a hysterectomy! Am I misinterpreting what you intended to convey?

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PR - Thank you so much for posting this. I am 10 weeks PP and was recently diagnosed with a prolapse. It came as a complete shock because I had also NEVER heard of this and had no idea that this could be a complication after birth. It has felt devastating and I have been trying to wrap my mind around how to not have these feelings. It is very helpful to read about how other women are coping. My OB referred me to PT, however, the wait time is 2 months so I have been doing the Hab-It DVD in the meantime. How are you feeling? Have you encountered any other of your friends/family that have dealt with this? I have also read that 50% of women will experience some degree of prolapse, but have not really spoken to many who have experienced the same symptoms as me (feeling like a tampon is falling out). I am finding the emotional part is worse than the physical. Thank you again for your post. Any encouragement is GREATLY appreciated!!

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Jamie - Shawna, I am so thankful for your post, I have been researching for the past 4 weeks about this exact issue. I don’t know the extent of my problems, only that my uterus is indeed prolapsed. I go to my gyno for my 6 week postpartum check up in a week. I have spent the whole day trying to find a urogynecologist in my area. I’m in Louisiana and the closest I’ve found who is board certified like you suggest is New Orleans or Houston. Both are about equal distance from me.
I’m in extream pain and some days can’t even function.

Thank you again,

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Susan P. - Oh, Shawna, this was such an educational post~thank you! 32 years ago I had a difficult delivery with 2 hours of hard pushing, a fourth degree tear/laceration and cracked tailbone. A few months later I discovered the pelvic prolapse and have had mild symptoms through the years, but nothing significant. Now , with age, have come some additional symptoms. last year my gynocologist said “it’s not really that bad” but she did refer me to a pelvic floor therapist to which I responded wwhhhaaaattt? now that I have read more on your links, I will definitely activate the referral. my advice to younger women is to not ignore the early symptoms as aging adds to your list. Thanks again for your pro active approach to staying healthy!

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Soah - I think I’ve already started down your path. I’ve only had one baby, but I leak when I do jumping jacks, and any sort of headstand or exercises where I lean over in certain ways result in… noise. And just when you think you’re done… nope, here’s another.

Another thing I’ve noticed is that during the first day of my period, it feels like I’ve been kicked between the legs. I remember some women saying they felt that during pregnancy, so I just chalked it and everything else up to postpartum life. Thank you for this post because I will definitely be more proactive addressing my symptoms now.

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-shawna- - Sarah, go on Friday, if you can!!! I know it would be tricky with the baby–but bring him!

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-shawna- - PJ-I have heard that! We do a lot of isolation in my yoga practice, but I have always been curious about Barre!

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-shawna- - Becca, I have not heard of this! I am sorry you feel frustrated. I do too. That is probably my favorite word to describe it. :( It just…sucks. Going to go read now…

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Becca - I have a bladder prolapse and had a lot of the symptoms you list. Went thru 8 weeks of therapy that my gyno offered but it was mainly for incontinance. Which wasn’t my main issue. So it helped with that small issue and I learned the correct way to do a kegal. But I still have a prolapse and have a pessary and feel frustrated about it.
Have you looked into Aligned and Well by Katie Bowman? What do you think if her techniques? She has written extensively on prolapse but it’s pretty overwhelming to start looking into it. I would love to hear if anyone had done her excercises and how it worked for them!

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PJ - Bar method could be your workout solution. One foot on the floor at all times and it will make muscles you didn’t know you had extremely sore. It’s legit.

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Kate B - Can I just say you are so awesome! Such an inspiration to so many women. You’re not afraid to “go there”. But I think truthfully a lot of women need this. Your posts are not only informative (VERY) but quite entertaining. Vagina farts… you’re not alone. ;)

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Sarah - Oh my goodness…some of this sounds so familiar. Just had my post Pierce appointment and now I’m worried my OB isn’t proactive enough. He referred me to a specialist but the DO NOT accept my insurance in network. Not sure what the heck to do now. I may just pay out of pocket and be up front with them about having to rehab at home. THANK YOU THANK YOU for bringing all this to light. I feel like I have ZERO muscle — the standing without using arms story is all me! :(

Clicking on all the links you posted…

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Sara - Oh my goodness Shawna, THANK YOU for posting this! Every time I jog, I have to wear a pad because I leak urine. I thought it was just the consequences for having birthed four children. And those farts-yes, you’re not alone:)

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Ends & Beginnings.

Hellooooo!!! I have missed this little corner of my life!!! Let’s catch up!!

  1. I finally logged into my wordpress for the first time since I last wrote in January. I’m getting the itch to write again (that sometimes happens after a nice little happy hiatus!) but gosh, not turning my computer on but several times a week sure helped in the productivity department!!
  2. We are one month from our big move–happy & sad! Sad to leave, happy to go. :)
  3. Our house has SOLD! It took A day. WOAH for good staging, a great realtor and a happenin’ market! Oh, and a pretty awesome, well loved home! The best news of all, Caroline’s fancy nursery will be enjoyed by a sweet little girl who should be on her way into this world any day now…aaaaaand cue tears!
  4. Everett is TWO! How did that even happen? I realized I never got to blog his first birthday. His second was full of all things diggers & dump trucks, as he is OBSESSED. Thus, his formerly nautical big boy room is now going to be an industrial chic construction haven. & I am contemplating a big boy bed…eek!
  5. Meanwhile, the little miss and I are singing Let it Go on repeat, repeat, repeat. & we are planning the most awesome rainbow room for our new home–all her idea! We’re still negotiating about those purple walls she wants. I think we may be able to compromise on a plum-ish color like elsa’s north mountain cape for ONE wall…yowza. The girl knows what she wants…shocker. ;)styleberry2014 update
  6. We found a rental in St. Louis! I still haven’t seen in in person (yikes!) but for this season of life, it’s not worth the logistics of making a quick trip up. & we already signed the lease. Ha! This is a new journey for us, as we’ve been homeowners (twice!) for about ten years now. I anticipate some growing pains with the limitations of a rental, but overall, I am SO excited to be in a new city, and right in the heart of it. Maybe even some blogging about how to make a house that is not yours, a home. Until then, I am soaking up every last word of The Nesting Place, a very inspiring read.
  7. I’ve had a not-so-awesome female anatomy diagnosis…the P word…prolapse. As in, pelvic organ prolapse. Heard of it? Well you’re gonna. I am making it my new mission to build awareness about this, as it affects HALF of all women. HALF. Eh, I am healthy. YOUNG! Can’t happen to me. I work out!! HA. Then one day after setting some PRs in my weights class and heading into well over a hundred heavy, HEAVY deadlifts…it happened. (or shall I say, I finally felt it happening) I promise to educate you so you don’t end up in my shoes!
  8. Yoga is goooood. I swear, the more yoga, the happier mama.
  9. stylebabyLOG update–I still have about a dozen in inventory, and will be shutting the shop down until we get settled. They will likely not be available again until the fall. If you want one, grab it! I’ll give the BUY NOW link about another two weeks live, then I can’t promise you’ll get one any time soon!
  10. How awesome has the San Antonio winter/spring been?! Man, this place is tricking me into thinking the weather is tolerable.
  11. The Power of Habit. GREAT read. Life changing, for me–especially as it relates to parenting! :)
  12. We are thisclose to being done with residency!!!!!! I know what lies ahead is infinitely worse, but this is a major milestone for us, and I am so excited for the next chapter!

Whew. It’s been in insane four months. Pretty sure the next four are going to be equally as crazy–but hopefully the GOOD kind of crazy! Change is good. New places to explore are exciting. & I keep getting asked for a “Best of San Antonio” article and I PROMISE that I will get that going! Despite my love/hate relationship with this city, there really is a lot that I am going to miss. Wait, what? No really. There are some gems here and you absolutely, positively cannot beat the community of mothers. I don’t even want to think about what life would have been like raising two infants without my village. This is an awesome place to be a mom!! :)

More soon!

xoxo.

Nowlin - “Glad you are back to writing…I have missed the virtual you!” I know that we will have one more visit befoe you take off on your way to SLMO, but I miss the thought of our visits, already! See you in a few.

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Carrie - Loved reading the update! Boy does Everett look JUST like you or what?! Best of luck with your move! Can’t wait to hear tips on making a rental house a “home” as we’re moving into one shortly and I’m currently debating whether or not to paint… :)

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Bahar - Hi Shawna! I live near STL. Just recently I discovered my new favorite little place to go with my kiddos. It’s The Nest. So cute and fun for kids but nice for the mamas as well. Hope you enjoy!

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Nicole - Hi Shawna!

Loved reading your blog post today- so glad to hear you and your little family are doing well! I would love to purchase a stylebabyLOG for #2 due in a few weeks, but when I click on the buy now link it takes me to the small business Saturday link, which is for 2 logs. I only need 1… Is it possible just to purchase the one right now? Thank you!

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lindsay - what great news and exciting changes! it was so nice to see your blog update in my feedly feed this morning. :) i just put the power of habit in my wish list, looks very interesting, would love to hear your review on it when you have time {not like you have a million other things to do, right?!} ;) congrats and best wishes to you and your family on the big move :)

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Jordann K - I don’t know why I think about this as often as I do, but I’m curious to know if E ever turned into a better sleeper or does he still need less than the average kid?

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Angie - I was so excited to see your post this morning :) It’s great to see a few new pics and read what you have been up to. Those kiddos of yours are so cute! Good luck with the move, and thanks for the book suggestions!

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Kimber C - I’ve SO missed your updates so it made me so happy to see a new post from you! good luck with you move!

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Bree - You and me with the prolapse. It’s the worst. Good for you for raising awareness.
Bree recently posted..This is 38.

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donya - So fun to see your post pop into my Feedly reader! And so exciting to hear about your upcoming move! I have to admit, I’ve been eyeing your pins on Pinterest for your new place and they look great! Can’t wait to see what you do with it. I’ve been reading The Power of Habit as well, and have LOVED what I’ve read so far. What a great book!

Good luck with the move with two littles!

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2014: DO MORE WITH LESS.

It’s getting real. REALLY real. 2014 was always the number. It marked the end of residency. THE goal. The moment we could breathe. The year we could look forward to. I’m going to pretend (for just a moment) that there aren’t several even harder fellowship years right around the corner, and celebrate. Somehow, we made it. This six year Texas chapter is very close to being over. We MADE it. We grew roots. I grew two babies. I grew into my very own shoes. I am not the same person who set foot on this brand new foundation in 2008. & I never want to go back. These four walls we’ve loved in have brought the highest highs and lowest lows. Emotionally. Physically. Looking back, it seems like a volatile chapter, but somehow what I remember clearest, is the sunshine. Through the infertility & career struggles & challenges of being married to someone who just isn’t physically present & sleep deprivation beyond my most awful imagination…I still see the sunshine. The dark days have made me who I am, and the sunshine got brighter. & there was plenty of it. Literally and figuratively.

As I took down the Christmas decorations, I started the process of taking down everything personal in my home. Staging is right around the corner and that means that it’s time to purge & pack away. I am holding & lingering upon frames full of images that mean so much to me. They take me right back to the quiet of the first baby I brought home. The chaos of the second. The crazy that has been our lives in between.

With each passing year my outlook seems to shift just a little bit. When I built this house, I was in a dark place. The cabinets are dark. The paint colors were dark. The furnishings were/are dark. It’s lightened up over time, but I’m ready to move on to something different. I used to be a collector. I liked stuff. I still like a cozy & decorated space but at this point, where the overwhelming-ness of two small children and all the stuff that goes with them rears its very messy head, all I am looking for is negative space. I want less. Can we get by with just ONE plate for each? & just wash them often? ONE water bottle? Can we just please have an EMPTY room to play? The former me would have wanted rooms filled. Stat. Oh, how kids change you at your core.

As we prepare to move & downsize, my motto is very clear:

do more with less_styleberry

LESS furniture? MORE space to play. LESS stuff to clean? MORE time to do something fun. LESS toys? MORE imagination. LESS time on a screen? MORE time to engage face to face. LESS home? MORE intentional space planning. It seems like all my goals come down to having less right now. Pretty much the opposite mindset I’ve ever had before.

So that is the goal for the start of 2014. I recently read this article & the thing that stuck with me most (as it relates to paring stuff down) is asking yourself one simple question: “Would I buy this today?” If the answer is no, donate it! :) So I am on my fourth car full of stuff out the door. It’s so easy to purge using that mindset. SOOOO easy.

& at the strong urging of my read-a-holic husband, we’re starting a book club. Just the two of us. We’re reading a book together and using it to help each other grow & find stuff to talk about in our fairly narrowly focused lives. Our first book, which is absolutely fascinating, is The Power of Habit. I have several new habits that I am implementing (habits being the behaviors that we consistently do over time to achieve goals). I believe in them & they have already brought about a positive mental change. The simplest, but possibly most impactful so far, is making my bed. I’ve never been a bed maker, but it really seems to boost my productivity. (The book claims it does). So a small win for Shawna. I need all of them I can possibly get.

& the super fun part I’m dying to share…before I started transforming my home back into a house that someone else wants to buy, I insisted on having a very special kind of photo shoot. I begged Gina Zeidler to take a trip down here and do a “live in” session with me. I wanted to have her photograph every bit of this home where we became a family–& us living in it. & I was so blessed by her. She spent a few days with me and gave me the most incredible gift anyone could right now. You know all those little moments with your children that you have burned in your memory, but you just never have a picture of? THOSE moments. The little stubborn chin to shoulder move, that you’ll never catch on camera. That sweet nose nuzzle after a bath, that just never lives as anything but a memory? THAT. Sweet Gina. She just hung out while I did my regular ‘ol routine. & she had her camera. & every time I look at these precious images, I cry. Some of these include the tiniest important detail that only I notice. Facial expressions that I can hear loud and clear the moment I see them. The moments so intimate, the ones I never thought I’d ever be able to show my children, don’t just live in my memory anymore. These are such a gift. The epitome of real. So perfectly & casually, US. Gina, thank you. I could not share even half of them here, but these are some of my favorites. What treasures. :)

styleberry by Gina Zeidler_630For more information about Gina’s incredible Live-In sessions, check out her website: Gina Zeidler. I cannot even begin to tell you how wonderful our experience with her was. & then the pictures. Oh, the pictures. This was a splurge for me, and one I know I will never regret. Priceless!! :)

Happy 2014!

Angie - I love these photographs! What a precious way to capture your everyday life! Hoping you’ll return to blogging soon.. You’ve been my inspiration :)

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Amber at Love, Laugh, Live Well - Oh,I love the live in photoshoot idea. Such precious, real photos of everyday life that often get lost in the chaos. I hope one day to have someone capture those moments for us too.
Amber at Love, Laugh, Live Well recently posted..Must Have Monday Product Review – Swaddle Angel Blanket by Munchkin

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Lindsay Meister - Have you read “simplicity parenting”…based on all your blogs I’ve read I really think you would enjoy it. “Simply” the best parenting book I’ve read about how simplifying (and in ways you might not have originally thought) can do wonders for our children.

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Julie - Loved this blog! Your feelings and life remind me so much of ours……40 years ago. I am still buying/fixing/selling houses but my newest disaster zone has made me think about finally putting roots down in this nest on the mountain overlooking the lights of the Las Vegas Strip and the glorious sunrises over the mountains to the east. Time is slowing me down and maybe I finally can relax a bit and savor the last chapter of our glorious lives. Have a great adventure kid! Julie aka Mauigirl :)

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Janalin - Your post had me saying, “amen, amen, amen.” I too have transformed from the dark and rich interior phase to the light and airy. (Although the hubby has yet to embrace the idea.) I have been paring down and purging over the past year but still feel as if there is a LONG way to go to get to my simple ‘happy place.’

Love, love, love your photos!!! What a treasure. I have found a transformation also in my style of photography… coming from a person that loved styled sets, lifestyle is now where I am at. And I have a hard time believing that I will ever leave this place. The raw truths of photojournalism are what life is all about.

Best wishes to you in 2014! xo Janalin
Janalin recently posted..Realistic Expectations

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Nikki - Love, love, LOVE this and all the pictures. Can I ask you how you managed to get so many great “everyday” photos captured with YOU in them?? I can get these of my kids, but never any of me with them…. perhaps a blog post/tutorial?

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Joanna - Your post today really hit home with me. My husband just graduated from a 28 month Nurse Anesthesia program. In the last three years, we had a baby, moved 700 miles, lost two immediate family members, almost lost our minds, celebrated (finally), and moved 700 miles back to where we began. It was definitely the best of times and the worst of times. I have been through so much that I have been having a hard time finding the words to describe it. So I appreciate what you wrote today, as it really reasonates with me. Best wishes as you move on. As always, I look forward to reading about your journey.

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Lisa Humphries - After having lost our rental & all our belongings in a terrible housefire in late June 2013, we are finally getting ready to move into our new home. That we’re buying. And it is muuuuuch smaller than we ever imagined buying. BUT…it is a heck of a deal, esecially for California, and we can’t pass up this opportunity to own our own home. So, instead of a 3bed/2bath like we had planned on, we’re moving into a 2bed/1bath that has great potential for future add-ons. But for now, we’re going to nestle into our small home and be thankful that we have a roof over our head and new/used belongings that we so generously donated by our friends, family, and community. Less house means less cleaning, which means MORE time for play!!

Plus, I am really looking forward to welcoming our 2nd babe in our new home sometime late June :) Fresh starts are fun!

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Veronica Midgley - Ohhhh, I was crying myself looking at these. These moments SO familiar, SO close to my own heart. I would love to have someone capture these moments for me. What an amazing gift! <3 to your sweet family, Shawna.

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Sara - The images are absolutely priceless. Authentic. Life itself. As a Minnesotan-I may just have to commission Gina. Can’t wait to see what 2014 brings you and yours.

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stylebabyLOG Small Business Saturday Sale!

SMALL-BUSINESS-SATURDAY

& just a side note–I am very low on inventory. (yay! thank you!!) I will not have inventory again until some time this spring. We have a crazy seven months ahead with our upcoming move. If you NEED a stylebabyLOG anytime soon, I would suggest grabbing one, as I do not have a date that I can firmly say they’ll be available again, after they are gone.

Thank you for your tremendous support of my small business! Thanks to you, thousands of mamas around the WORLD are keeping better track of their sweet babies.

THANK YOU!

*Update 12/2–I have just a small bit of inventory left after the sale & I will leave the “add to cart” button up there until I am completely sold out. Thank you for your support!

Sara - Well now I’m super disappointed I missed this. My baby is due in February & this was on my registry!! I’m so happy you sold out, but really bummed for myself.

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Christin - Well, it is not bringing up anything when I get to the Paypal page. I really want these.

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How to Pick a Preschool

I love education. I love reading. I love learning. I love school. I always have. But for some reason, I have a really hard time picturing my children in school. Weird, I know. Cut the cord already! But I have always considered myself their primary educator, and I take my job very seriously. We learn and read and do projects a lot. Some days more than others. Some days not at all. Some days, they are into everything I am doing, and we make it as much of a learning opportunity as we can. We are curious creatives. & I don’t ever want to stop doing what we do here.styleberry_preschool_6

I know what you are thinking…and I am not going to say what some of you probably want to hear me say…because I am just not a home schooler.

I believe in school–outside of my home. I want my children to learn to navigate a rich social environment. I want them to have access to more learning materials than I can provide for them. I want them to learn to listen with others, to others. I want them to learn how to collaborate. For these reasons, I believe in school outside of my home.

Now that doesn’t mean that I will stop teaching….It just means I need to find the right school!styleberry_preschool_2

What is the right school? Only you can answer that for you. (more on that in a minute.) But I think there is a perfect school for every family, based on wants, needs and values. I am looking for some specific things, and those specific things I cannot find in a public school. I am sure there are good public schools out there, but we are choosing to send our children to private school. This will be a very big sacrifice for us financially, but one we are willing to pinch pennies to make. There is little that is more important to me than the education of my children. I will happily wear Target clothes and drive my ten year old car if it means my kids can get the education that I feel is best for them.styleberry_preschool_1

Here in San Antonio, we do not have a lot of school options. Most of the options on my radar are a good 30-50 minutes from my home, which has significantly limited my pool (puddle?) of choices. We have had wonderful educational experiences during our last two years of school, but we are at a turning point because…we are moving. (!!!)

This summer we are relocating our family to St. Louis, which has the second highest number of private schools in the US, behind Boston. We just got back from a trip up there to tour our top choice school options and it was such a unique experience that weighed so heavily on me that I really feel that I have to share what I learned. It is not every day that you get to research dozens of schools, whittle that list down to a half dozen, and squish six school tours into two school days. It was a whirlwind. A super fun whirlwind. My anxiety over the whole thing quickly turned to excitement and gratitude. I have never seen schools like I did in St. Louis. I never even knew schools like these existed! & I am SO excited about the opportunities that lie in front of us.styleberry_preschool_3

The first thing I did was look at a variety of learning styles. I have read extensively about the Montessori and Reggio Emilia methods of education. These were atop my list of “search terms” for finding the right school. I really like what they have to offer young learners. I also look at, but am not limited to, certain certifications. NAEYC is a big one for me, but I also know that certification isn’t everything. Amongst Montessori schools, I looked at AMI & AMS certified programs. I also looked at Christian Schools. I am fond of the programs Handwriting Without Tears and Singapore Math, so those were two little curriculum boosters for me that were found in some of the Christian (and nonsecular) schools that I have looked at both here and in St. Louis. But regardless of the education method or certification, I looked for some very specific things on each tour. Making my decision was easy, when each of these was just right:

  • What does my gut say? Do I want to bring my kids here every day? Does it feel like an inspiring place? How do I feel here? I know whether it feels right within the first five minutes at a new school.
  • Are the children moving? I like to see self directed learning–children picking their tasks & moving through them. Bonus if they are collaborating with other children. I also look to see if any children look bored and how that is handled. I also really want to see them play, as I think that is a fundamental part of school.
  • How does the teacher speak to his/her students? I think you can learn a lot from tone of voice. I like to observe the one on one interactions and see how much the teacher asserts authority vs. lets the child figure things out on their own. A school is only as good as MY child’s teacher.
  • What does the classroom look like? Is it tidy and appropriately “lived in.” Is there a variety of materials accessible? What kind of work is displayed? This shows me the values–if there’s one version of the same craft, done by each student, I am not impressed. If there is child directed creativity–where no two look the same even though you can see they are essentially the same themed project, I am inspired. Is there an art studio? How much time is spent in the various corners of the room?
  • Tell me about the average day. Start to finish. Is there a separate “motor skills” class or structured physical education component? Foreign language? Music class? Art class? Or is it woven into the curriculum? I want to know how the day is broken up.
  • How much learning takes place outside the classroom? Can I come on field trips? What kind of learning opportunities do these field trips present?
  • How are parents included in the learning experience? I don’t necessarily want parents to be IN the classroom regularly, but I want to see a reasonable amount of parent involvement in extracurricular activities surrounding the school and fun seasonal events. I don’t want to see other parents teaching my children (I pay my tuition for extraordinary certified teachers!) but I like to find a sense of community amongst the parents at our school. I like school to be an extension of home, and I want to be part of the process, within appropriate limitations.
  • What happens next year? So once this school year is over, do next year’s hours and days fit my family’s needs? How about when the second child starts school, do they arrive at the same time? Pickup at the same time? Is it just a preschool or is this the beginning of a complete early, elementary, middle and high school education? A cohesive education is important to me.
  • What is the application process? While it may seem cumbersome and ridiculous that my four year old is “reviewed by committee” before acceptance into a program, I have learned to significantly value this step in the process. Knowing that a school takes a level of care and thoughtful examination of their applicants before constructing their classes is very encouraging to me. The more they ask about my child  before acceptance, the more I can have faith in the matching of our values to the school’s values.

So all that being said, I am sure you’re wondering about what I chose & have chosen in the past. For the sake of safety, I always keep my children’s place of education private. I also don’t want to influence you and your decision making process, as I really am just a parent who reads a lot about education and happens to have a platform to share. This does not make me an expert on anything other than what I feel is the right education for my own children.styleberry_preschool_4

What I can tell you is that last year, I made the mistake of not paying attention to what happens the following academic year, and ended up switching Caroline to a different school (an NAEYC, high parent involvement school) for her second year of preschool. I was not ready to send my barely four year old to school from eight to three. She has done fine with the switch. She still goes just three half days per week, and that works great for us. She misses the Missouri Kindergarten cutoff by eight days, so she will be doing a THIRD year of “PreK,” which I am totally fine with. My challenge has been finding a place for her next year that will challenge her beyond where her reading/writing four year old self is right now. I have read so much about Montessori and while I agree with a lot of the principles on paper, I have not yet visited one that “felt right.” I don’t know how else to put it, but it’s just not the right choice for us right now. I love what it has to offer elementary students, but all the schools I have toured significantly lacked the “warm and fuzzy” feelings I need to experience for it to be the right fit for us. I love the Reggio Emilia style and have found a school that is an amazing example a joyful, meaningful, experiential learning environment. I really would love to go to school every day right along with my children if we get manage to get in!styleberry_preschool_5

If I can encourage you to do one thing, it is to go visit as many schools as you can. Watch the teachers. Talk to the parents. See what the school means to them and see if it is the kind of place that fits your family’s vision of education. We don’t all want the same thing, and the wonderful part of education is that we have choices. These choices come with sacrifices, but I know these sacrifices will not ever be something I regret. Education is everything to me–and cultivating a love of learning is my number one priority for my children.

Good luck on your search! & for those of you new to this, know that every community has different application deadlines and processes. I have found that most of the time, you want to be looking at schools by Fall (some have open houses, which is a great place to bounce questions off current school families) and come to your final decisions by January. Applications are usually due and reviewed in February and March. Happy school shopping!

Oh, and one last thing. Sir Ken Robinson is one of my favorite education researchers (I recommend watching every one of his TED talks!) & this is a talk that has influenced how I view education:

Aarti - Not related to the topic, but can you point me to any of your posts that describe your
own teaching philosophy and/or what kinds of things you do with your kids? My son is 2, and I’m feeling a little stuck with our activities. Thank you!

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-shawna- - I love this! :)

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-shawna- - I think it is a really personal decision. For us, it was more of a social thing than an educational thing. It took caroline six months to speak a single word to her teacher last year (she was super shy!). By the end of the year she read a book aloud to the class. & this year, she’s doing great in the classroom. Her social development was amazing–we first started a week after her third birthday. For us, with a new second baby, it was a wonderful place for her to go & experience some new adventures of her own. :)

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-shawna- - You are exactly right. I will be paying SIX times what I do here if we get into our top school next year. I joke (thought I am not joking) that STL is land of the $15k kindergarten. I could come up with a dozen schools that top that. Talk about sticker shock! :/

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Jessica - I really appreciate you sharing your thought process. When we were in Texas, I spent a lot of time researching and looking at teaching methods and schools. I toured a few schools and based my decision on that “gut” feeling you were talking about. It was a great choice and Gracie had a really positive year of school. She loved attending, I felt great dropping her off every day. I haven’t quite found that yet here in California where cost is more of a consideration. Some of the schools here are five times the cost of our school in Texas (FIVE times! Isn’t that nuts?!?).
I hope the school in St. Louis is a terrific fit! One of my best friends grew up in STL and explained to me that everyone who can attends private school there.
Jessica recently posted..Baby Spinach Salad with Dates and Almonds

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adri@dreambookdesign - Love all of your posts. Just curious- at what age do you think they should go to pre-school? Do you think there is a magic age, or just dependent on each child to an extent?

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Sara - I have been blessed to work at the University of MN and have been even more blessed to have made it through the 20 month wait to get our daughter into the Reggio Emilia/NAEYC daycare program. People thought I was crazy to go on the waitlist at 12 wks pregnant but it was so worth it. We absolutely love it. My daughter is thriving and the providers are so wonderful with her. Cant say enough about it. One of the faculty members in my department traveled with the Director of the program to Reggio Emilia a few years ago and saw it all in action. Convinced me that its where we need to be.

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A. Berkoski - Love this. Just the right amount of information and I could tell you were careful as always, while still being true to you, not to make it sound preachy or like you were better than anyone else. That is so rare to find on the Internet! We chose to put our kids in public school and enrich them in different ways but I can totally appreciate your approach to the way you made this choice. Good luck in STL! It’s one of my favorite American cities, I lived in Columbia, MO for many years and try to visit STL whenever I can. You’ll love it!

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Silver Sage & a DIY Herringbone Headboard

I’ve made a pact with myself that I am not going to start another blog post with an apology for the lack of a prior blog post. There is nothing to apologize for. I am still creating at about the same pace as I used to, I just choose to keep creating, instead of stopping to blog about it. I still haven’t figured out how to do it all and I have thoroughly embraced this season for what it is. The end of having my kids both home all day is way too close for my comfort and there is so much to be said for living this life, not talking about living life through a screen. Which brings me to my four month old project…that I love… :)

I’m in the thick of preparing my home for the market. (side note: should you, or someone you know, be looking for a home in San Antonio in June, mine will be turn-key ready!!) Staging my very personalized home is at the forefront of my mind. Given my own background in home staging, you’d think it’d be easy. But it’s still a struggle when it is your own space. That you love. With your babies faces smiling at you from every wall. :) I digress. But I do love pictures and they are all over!! I think the rule of thumb is, if they look like they belong in a magazine, leave them. If not, depersonalize, depersonalize, depersonalize. That being said, I am lightening and brightening everything. I am neutralizing. I am de-wrought-iron-ing (is that a word??) Regardless, early 2000’s wrought iron be gone. It’s not my style anymore and my bedroom (my, first furniture we ever purchased together, bedroom) needed a serious facelift. You may remember my old bedroom back when I talked about how to place a rug under a bed. Well, I physically could not look at the bed anymore. If I was doing it all over again, I’d NEVER buy a 5pc bedroom set. Never. The old me was matchy matchy. That was ten years ago. These days, the more imperfect, the more beautiful. But this darn furniture is so solid & such good quality that I just don’t have the heart to ditch it. Well, nor do I have the budget to replace it.

So I had to get creative.

I tossed around a ton of ideas as to how to cover up the space that was left empty after I removed the wrought iron (see 2nd picture below) & after consulting with my best design-y friends (thanks, Beth!!) trying a fabric covered panel, a wood panel, even a blank space, my bestie Nicole got my creative juices flowing. I have to give her credit. This was all her idea. I just executed. & gosh, I love it so much I kind of want to do a lighter, rustic, horizontal striped version for everett over an entire headboard! It was so easy. & so cheap. Here’s the scoop.

styleberry_herringbone headboard_5

MATERIALS:

  • 6- 12 packs of wood shims (that were $1.50/ea!)
  • wood stain
  • wood glue
  • mounting whiteboard
  • spray wax
  • wood screws
  • hand saw
  • circular saw

HOW I DID IT:

  • First, I measured the board to fit in the space. The precut wood was just shy of being tall enough to cover the open space, but perfect after I mounted in on another board. This made it nice & sturdy for mounting, too.
  • Second, I laid the wood shims out in the pattern I wanted. Shims are thicker on one side than the other and have the most beautiful texture! Some pieces were broken or just poor quality, so I bought two extra packs to account for the duds. These are only meant to be functional, not pretty, so I had to be selective!
  • Once I figured out how many I needed, I started to stain. I grouped them into thirds. Each set getting one, two or three coats of stain, so I could get a nice variation in color. I also stained the board I was mounting on, since I knew parts of it would show through.
  • After the shims were stained, I laid them out and began securing them after I made sure they were perfectly centered and lined up top to bottom. The hardest part, for sure! I used a foam brush to paint on the glue, only because my bottle was plugged from the last time I used it!
  • Once I got down to the little tiny corners, I used a hand saw to cut some smaller pieces to fit in. I tried to cut the shims with a shears, but they cracked. A little handsaw goes a long way. I did not cover the tiniest portion of the board. You can’t tell at all.
  • Once the board was completely covered in my herringbone pattern, I watched a few youtube videos to finally conquer my fear of the circular saw. I knew this project wasn’t going to get done if I didn’t just do it myself, so it was time to learn! & I did it. In a dress, nonetheless. ;)
  • Once it was trimmed, I applied a couple of coats of spray wax, let it air out for a good week, and then mounted it to the bed frame with my wood screws and I was done! (almost)

styleberry_herringbone headboard_6

Part of my decision to keep this bed this color (I almost went crazy and painted all my furniture…thank goodness I didn’t) was how pretty the insert came out. I loved the texture & color variation that was missing from before. & who doesn’t love crisp, neutral bedding next to some pretty wood?!

The last step of this transformation was chopping off the foot board. I have this thing for foot boards. It’s my ultimate pet peeve to have bedding falling off the end of the bed & seeing as we only need a quilt a couple months out of the year, that duvet is mostly for decor. & I do love it, so it must stay. A foot board is a necessity. But, I wanted it to be a lower profile and I was SO surprised how hacking a foot off changed the entire feel of the room. It opened it up SO much! It complimented the bedding and diverted your eye. It drew you right to the headboard. I’m thrilled!

styleberry_herringbone headboard_1

Now we have that darn couch that I refuse to get rid of because I know we’ll have the right place for it in our next home. For now, it lives there, but when we show the home, it will go into storage.

I made over this room on a major budget. I ended up getting a store credit for a massive Homegoods rug that fell apart and decided to do this whole thing using that gift card. Thus, beyond wood and paint, I was limiting myself to ONLY Homegoods for accents. I managed to grab the ikat pillows, sunburst mirror, six curtain panels (!!), lamps and new mirrors over the dresser for the value of the card. Score!!

I changed my “accent walls” (from this art, seen here) and framed out the window with a few mismatched frames I got several years ago for $6 on clearance at target. They were a fun size, but all different colors, so I greywashed them & put 5x7s in them. This one is actually an instagram that I blew up!

styleberry_herringbone headboard_3

I replaced my “factory” dresser mirror a long time ago (you can see the “before” above in the IG images!) but after I painted, I needed something with more contrast since the paint was lighter. I found these amazing old “windows” turned mirrors at Homegoods, and there happened to be three, which was perfect! Eventually I want to replace the vase with sometthing made of reclaimed wood and some natural flowers. I’ll also replace the hardware on the dressers with some rustic pulls. I plan to remove the bottom drawer from each nightstand and replace it with a basket, to add some more visual appeal, too.

styleberry_herringbone headboard_2

& speaking of paint color! I have seen this gorgeous chameleon of a color in several of my friends’ homes and absolutely loved it. If you aren’t yet acquainted with Restoration Hardware’s Silver Sage, then give her a look. Is she grey? green? blue? She can’t decide. She looks completely different on every wall. I specifically did not run any actions on these images because I wanted to show you how different Silver Sage looks on each wall in this room. The color is just as dynamic in person as in these images. I just LOVE that about it! It even feels like it gets lighter in the morning and darker in the evening. I’m doing everything in my power not to paint my whole downstairs Silver Sage before we move…!! I had it color matched at Lowe’s. It’s beeeeeautiful!

& something to note–I took a picture of the herringbone pattern from both angles, because the texture is different depending upon the side you view it. I love that. But just expect this if you do this pattern on something!

styleberry_herringbone headboard_4

I really think you could go crazy with this technique. Tables. Trays. Full headboards. Shims come in several sizes, and the combination of wood stains is endless. I can’t wait to do it again, a little differently!

Happy woodworking!!

Related Posts with Thumbnails

Syreena - Hi shawna. You’re right, there is absolutely nothing to apologize for. I’ve followed your blog for a while and you inspire me to keep pushing on and create whenever possible. I’m a momma of two boys 2 and 4 and a new baby girl 4 months old. Your post are fresh air to me. I understand completely when you started scaling back on your blog post and even when you made your Instagram private and began to purge your followers. I, unfortunately, have been a lurker and not connected to let you know how much I love seeing your post etc. and so I was one of the followers to go. This is my shameless plea to ask if you’ll allow me to follow you again…lol. Your everyday with your kiddos makes me smile and I’m hoping you’ll add me again. I used to blog which I put on indefinite hold since my life with three is a lot right now. But I do have an instagram and my username is syreenab and hopefully I’ll get to see one of your post come through my feed someday soon. Oh yea and, I LOVE this headboard! You’re the best!

I’m writing all of this in your comments section because I know you’ve said it’s the best way to reach you. Now all of my desperation is out there for errrbody to see. But it’s worth it. :)

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Brooke - I’ve been wanting to do a shim piece above my fireplace for a year. Maybe this is just the motivation I need to get it done before the holidays! Looks fab!

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angie - LOVE this beautiful update you did to an outdated piece of furniture!! When my husband and I renovated our home seven years ago, we too purchase several pieces of “matchy” furniture that we now regret. Our style has changed so much over the years, and yet we can’t afford to purchase all new stuff. You’ve definitely inspired me to make some changes.. thanks :)

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Amanda - This is a gorgeous room. Beautiful work!

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