Sunday, December 27, 2009

Reflections on Christmas

What a wonderful Christmas I had! Family, Friends, and Food! This Christmas Eve we spent at my parents house and we opened our Secret Santa Gifts from one another and ate some delicious Arroz con Pollo! And then in the evening Richard, Karis, my parents and I attended New Life Fellowships Christmas Eve Candlelight service. On Christmas morning Richard, Karis and I opened gifts, ate breakfast, spent the day together and went over to Veronica's new house for Christmas Dinner with family and friends.

As I reflect on this Christmas season all I can say is that God is so generous and loving. I've had a rough couple of years as I've had to face some challenging situations. But the Lord has blessed me with an amazing husband, a beautiful daughter, and great family and friends.

It has been tough, financially, recently because I had lost my job 3 months into my pregnancy and haven't been able to obtain employment since then. We have had to learn to adjust to living on one income while expecting an additional member to our little family. But in the midst of it all, God has been teaching us to re-prioritize, get organized and plan ahead. All while blessing us with a great Christmas of giving and receiving gifts. I am so thankful for the blessed people in our church. Many have given us Christmas wishes, delicious Christmas treats, gifts for Karis and for Richard and I. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts!

Here are some pictures from this past Christmas season:

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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

CORRECTION ON PREVIOUS POST: "Married with Children..." Post

Sorry for the delay. But this just occurred to me today:
I stated that Mick Jagger was in the rock band Aerosmith. He's not. Steven Tyler is.

Don't ask me why I made that connection... I have no idea! :)

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Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Faces of Karis

Just for fun, I took just a few of the millions of photographs we have of Karis and decided to put together a little collage on Photoshop to post on my blog. As you look at all of the "Faces of Karis" you may be able to see why we love her sooooo much! Enjoy!
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Thursday, September 24, 2009

And Now: Married With Children! Well... With A Child!

Karis (pronounced like Paris but with a 'K') has now been with us for over 4 months now. All you have to do is walk into our apartment and see that it now looks like a very messy day care center. Toys, burp cloths, bibs, and bottles are sprinkled throughout our digs and I love it! Don't get me wrong being a first time mom has been a tough adjustment for me (and I'm still adjusting). But I can't imagine not having our little girl with us.

Let me introduce you to Karis Rose Villodas. She is 4 months and 2 weeks old and FULL of personality. She loves to be tickled and to see her mom, dad, aunts and uncles act super silly just to get a laugh! She knows what she wants and is not afraid to cry for it... :) Karis enjoys sitting on her dad's lap and watching the Mets game (Dad has already brainwashed her). She actually stares at the television as if she is following the game. Karis is always looking for a change of scenery. She loves to look at and examine her environment. With wide and bright eyes she looks at every corner of a room searching for something to capture her attention. Once she finds the attention grabber she is focused.

When you call her name and give her a big smile she will turn towards the sound of your voice, catch your smile and put her head down as if she was blushing from the flattery of your attention. This will totally melt your heart as it does ours.

Her laugh is infectious! All you want to do is hear it again, and again. You'll do anything to hear that laugh. Yes even sound and look like an utter fool! But who cares... Karis' laugh is one of the best sounds you could ever hear.

As for me... I'm sooooooo tired! She is a lot of work. More work than what you read about in books, online articles or Child Preparation classes. Richard and I were married a little over 3 years before we had Karis. I thought I was busy then! Boy was I wrong. She's 2 Full-time jobs! :) Don't get me wrong. I can't imagine not having Karis around. She belongs in our family, and I love her. But becoming a mom for the first time has proven a challenge for me. I'm used to picking up and going as I please, getting PLENTY of sleep and having a lot more ME time. Now it's packing several bags for a trip to Grandma's, waking up at all hours to feed her or soothe her crying and starting ME time only to be cut short for a feeding or Karis time!

Now that we are 4 months into it I'm starting to get into a rhythm with Karis. I'm learning her cries and discovering new ways to soothe her and meet her needs. And as she gets older I'm sure it will become more manageable.

I recently tried to start a Part-Time work from home gig only to realize she was still young and the time it took me to make any progress at work took a lot out of me. I spent many hours away from her at 3 months old and it broke my heart. She had grown so close to me. I had barely left her for that long before. I had then decided to put that on hold and take this time to get to know Karis better and to do more reflecting.

At different stages of your life certain "parts" of you (sides of you) begin to reveal themselves. For example: I've never been a mother before, so at this stage in my life I'm learning more about what is important to me as a mother, how patient I am or am not, etc. So, I'm learning to let all of my experiences as a new mom sink in. I'm enjoying every moment. And I'm especially enjoying Karis. She wont be this little for much longer. And in the words of Mick Jagger (Aerosmith) "I don't want to miss a thing."

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Monday, April 27, 2009

9 Day's & Counting...

So according to the ticker on our blog, it says Karis Rose is due 9 days from now. So I have decided to give everyone an update on how I'm feeling.

The first 7 months of my pregnancy were great! I kept having to remind myself, "I'm having a baby. Take it easy Rosie, no you can't plaster, sand and paint your apartment...!" By the eighth month I was like, "Ok, I'm having a baby. This is not that bad. I'm getting a little more tired than usual. But, no biggie. I can handle this." Now I'm in my 9th month (about to hit 39 weeks) here's what I've been feeling:
*Achy joints
*Immobile (hard to get up out of a chair, couch, car, etc.)
*Waddling (I've been trying really hard not to waddle while I walk but to no avail...)
*Walking is both tiring and uncomfortable.
*Very, very, swollen ankles.
*None of my shirts fit well anymore. :-(
*It's easy to catch a leg cramp.
...among many other unpleasant pregnancy side effects.

But as I sit and ponder this journey called pregnancy, becoming a mother all I can say is WOW! How amazing is this that my daughter is growing inside me right now and soon (very soon) I will meet her in person for the very first time. I will be able to be a witness to her life how God chooses to reveal His love to and through her.

Rick and I will no longer be a family of 2 but a family of 3. I can't wait to meet her. What will she be like? What kind of personality will she have? Will she be quiet, loud, silly, funny, inquisitive, curious, mellow...? I wonder...

As I get closer to D-Day (Delivery Day) I feel two things. (1) Anxiousness; I read all the books, asked all the questions but still don't know what to expect. All I know is that there is an end and the end is sooooo sweet! (2) Anticipation; I can't wait to meet her. Karis Rose Villodas. Richard and I can wait to love her, laugh with her, grow with her (as parents) and just to enjoy her as the gift that she is.

This pregnancy has been a blessing in so many ways. The little irritating side effects have been nothing compared to the joy of knowing what's to come. Our little girl.

I'll tell you one thing though, much love and respect goes out to all women who have been through and are going through a pregnancy right now. You are all beautiful and when someone asks you what is your superpower you should say, "I make human beings!!!!!" LOL! :-)

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Florida Baby Shower Video

Here's a little video I put together with pics and footage of our baby shower in Florida. Enjoy!


Thursday, March 26, 2009

My week at the monastery with the Trappists

This week, Drew Hyun and I went up to Spencer, MA to spend time in prayer and reflection with the monks at St. Abbey's monastery. The Cistercian order (or Trappists) is a monastic order known to many because of the writings and ministry of Thomas Merton. We joined the 70 or so monks for four days and below are my journal entries of my experience. I feel like I'm a perpetual beginner when it comes to prayer. Maybe that's not a bad thing. I hope these entries can connect with you on some level and get you to think on what it means to be a contemplative and follow Jesus in our world today.

3/23/09 @ St. Abbey's Monastery. 5pm:

Today, Drew and I drove to St. Abbey's to rest and enjoy God's presence. As we walked into the retreat house (which was beautifully constructed), I felt at home. The first thing I recognized was the warmth of the building. The temperature was perfect, especially in light of a cold and windy afternoon. For some reason I expected to be in a cold, dark room with mice running around. We met the Guest Master (a man named Joseph who was in his 70's) and he showed us to our rooms. Drew is in St. Peter's room. I'm in St. Paul's. I like to think that I'm like Paul sometimes. At least I imagine myself to be. The room is perfectly spacious for me, with brick walls and a bathroom that looks like a Home Depot model (at least the shower). Small, but quaint. Joseph gave us a brief tour of the house and it is so beautiful. So quiet. So serene. When Drew asked about what we should be doing when we get to the times of prayer, Joseph gave us simple instructions. "Follow and Listen." I hope to live out those instructions well over the next four days. Follow and listen to God's spirit directing me. I miss Rosie already.

Well, it's about 5:30pm. Time to go to Vespers to observe the office.

3/23/09 @ 6:30pm

Vespers was a great office. As the bell rang, I followed the father (monk) and the other retreatants (7 others) on a single-file line. We walked across the building, through the kitchen and dining rooms into the visitors chapel. The chapel is beautiful. Dark brown wooden ceilings, brick walls. Simple, yet awesome. The monks walked in and then there were readings. Before that however, as we walked into the chapel, I saw people placing their hand/fingers in something. Not knowing what it was (and not wanting to stand out), I place my hand, almost my entire hand into what they called holy water. At this time, I thought, "what in the world am I doing?!" It was pretty funny how I can go with the flow and not have a clue what I'm doing. We followed the readings as the monks chanted scripture with a fullness and rhythm. Then they chanted the Lord's prayer (Our Father, which art in heaven...). That was one of the most beautiful things I've ever heard.

3/23/09 @ 8:30pm

Compline (the last office of the day) began at 7:40pm. After a great hour nap, I got up and followed the monks (although I was late and had to find my way to the chapel). I almost got lost. That would NOT have been a good thing! As I walked in, the lights were dim, and then, after sitting down, it went pitch black, except for the little light that the monk read scripture from. They chanted while one of them played an acoustic guitar. At first, I was very self-conscious and anxious. What do I read? How do I know what to do next? When is this over? Then I remembered the words of Joseph the Guest Master. "Follow and Listen." In the darkness, I listened and heard the word of God proclaimed. Then one monk prayed something to the effect of "Lord, give us rest tonight from all the work we have done today." There was a surrendering of the day to the Lord at 8pm! That's when the night usually begins for me! The atmosphere was full of peace. Anxiety and worry were no where to be found. We did all we could today. I then got on line to leave and one of the fathers sprayed me with holy water. Definitely not expecting that! But it was all good. I'm gonna call Rosie now, eat a peanut butter and jelly sandwich and read a bit. Next office is the Vigil at 3:30am!

(Please stay tuned for more of my journal entries).

3/24/09 @ 4:15am. In my room.

I woke up at 3:15am this morning. I got bed at 10:30 last night. Haven't got to bed at that time in a while. I feel surprisingly refreshed. I know some of this can be attributed to adrenaline. I threw on my wind breaker pants and jacket, washed my face and left. I walked over to the visitors chapel with Drew. We had to walk outside to get there. It was very cold! As we sat in the chapel at 3:30am the bells rang. One of the monks, in a deep, raspy (almost scary) voice read from Psalms. I believe it was Psalm 73. The monks responded antiphonally. Another monk got up and read Romans 9:6-15 in a clear, articulate (almost like a guy who would be a Christian radio host) voice. There was then a reading from Hebrews 8:1-13. Then a reading from St. Augustine on his commentary on the Psalms. That was a very moving reading. I'm back in my room now and I'm enjoying the silence. I'm gonna read from Merton now.

Lord, I offer you my day. May my mind and heart remember you. May I love you in all your goodness.

James Finley on Thomas Merton in his book "Merton's Palace of Nowhere"

"Merton leads us along the journey to God in which the self that begins the journey is not the self that arrives. The self that begins is the self that we thought ourselves to be. It is this self that dies along the way, until in the end, "no one" is left. This "no one" is our true self. It is the self that stand prior to all that is this or that. It is the self in God, the self bigger than death, yet born of death. It is the self the Father loves forever." pg 17

3/24/09 @ 5:30am

As I sit here and read, thoughts of super-piety rush to my mind. But it is the piety that wants people to "recognize" a difference in me. I want them to see me with a "glow" without me having to say anything. Kinda like a Bruce Leroy glow! Well, maybe not like Bruce Leroy. Then I realize that my false self is asserting itself again. There are times when I am content with hiddenness. Then there are time when I long for notoriety. For praise. For affirmation. For people to put me on their shoulders like Rudy. But Lord, help me to recognize that my deepest desire is that I would be found in you.

Another quote from Finley on Merton:

Here, Merton equates sin with the identity-giving structures of the false self. This in itself is significant. The focus of sin is shifted from the realm of morality to that of ontology. For Merton, the matter of who we are always precedes what we do. Thus sin, is not essentially an action, but rather an identity. Sin is a fundamental stance of wanting to be what we are not. Sin is thus an orientation to falsity, a basic lie concerning our own deepest reality. Likewise, inversely, to turn away from sin is, above all, to turn away from a tragic case of mistaken identity concerning our own selves."

3/24/09 @ 9:50am

Just finished a conference with father Robert. He was a tall, bald man who resembled Darth Vader (when Luke takes his mask off, except with out the scars). He wore the customary Trappist black and white outfit with a pair of combat looking boots. He was a light-hearted man with a winsome personality. He had to be in his low 70's. He spoke from John 5. Story about the man near the pool of Bethsaida. He said so many profound things. I wish I had a notepad. Basically he highlighted the event as an event with Jesus. For father Robert, that's exciting all by itself. For father Robert, the miracle was not the healing of the man after 38 years of illness. The miracle is the earthiness of Jesus' intentionality to be in relationship with this person. Fr. Robert then mentioned that after Jesus heals him, he tells him not to sin anymore. Fr. Robert mentioned that that statement seemed to be paradoxical. How could the man have sinned? He's been cripple for 38 years. He said the clue to understanding this lies in the response that he gave to Jesus when Jesus asked if he wanted to get well. The man basically responded "every time the angel stirs the water someone gets in my way!" The man totally missed Jesus' question. Fr. Robert continued by saying the man was a complainer, a grumbler, a critic. These sins had the potential to keep him lame even after he was physically healed. Fr. Robert then spoke of success, and that the mark of success is not what we do, but our love relationship with the Father. Great stuff!

The unceasing question in my mind as I reflect is, what am I or rather, how am I to live in NYC?

(More entries to come)

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Karis' Room Transformation (Phases 1 & 2)

So we are almost done with Karis' room! Here is a link to a gallery where you can follow the transformation from Home Office to Baby's Nursery!!!! Enjoy!

Phases I & II are complete! Stay tuned for Phase III... THE FINAL PHASE!!! ;-)

32 Week Sonogram Pics!!!!

I wasn't feeling well a few days before this sonogram which included a trip to the ER and contractions due to dehydration. So to see pictures of Karis and to hear a report of her growing well and how healthy she is was such a relief and such a joy to hear.

She waved to us, began sucking on her hand and then couldn't find what she was sucking on so she was pursing her lips looking for her hand/thumb again. LOL! It was the cutest thing! She's been wiggling and kicking me like crazy, letting me know "Mom
I'm doing ok!!! "

So here is our lovely baby girl Karis Rose:

Baby's Name!!!!

Rick and I had a few names for our baby girl in mind. They were all beautiful but none felt quite right. As we finished up a "Daily Office" on our sabbath we began talking about what a blessing and what a gift this baby was. Rick quickly remembered a word study he did in one of his seminary classes (Biblical Greek). He did a word study on the word gift/grace. And so the word Charis (sounds like Paris with a 'K' Karis) came to mind. Her name truly encompasses everything we want to speak over her as she grows up.

Here is a little something I put together with the meaning of our daughter, Karis Rose Villodas', name:

Thursday, February 26, 2009

From the Mark of the Beast to a Mark of Blessing

Yesterday was my first time observing Ash Wednesday. What a day it was. I began my day in St. Bart’s church in Midtown. I stumbled across it as I looked for a place to reflect and pray. As I entered the church, which had beautiful Byzantine architecture, I was moved to see a good handful of people hearing the priest recite the meaning of Lent. For me, it was a sacred moment.

This is a far cry from my first encounter with Ash Wednesday. About thirteen years ago (I was not following Jesus at this time), as I went on my lunch break, I was startled to see a mass of people with black stuff on their foreheads. I wasn’t theologically trained or ecclesiastically informed, so I took it that the black stuff on their foreheads had something to do with the Anti-Christ and the mark of the beast. For the next two hours, I experienced existential dread. Oh snap! The anti-Christ has come. Armageddon is about to ensue. I found out later that the black stuff had to do with Ash Wednesday.

Since then, I have been quite indifferent to Ash Wednesday and Lent. I realized that I was influenced by an evangelical tradition that judged all ritual and those who participated in it as superstitious or legalistic. Little did I know that there is a means of blessing and grace that one receives as one comes before God in repentance and receives the ashes. It’s sad to know how I have judged people’s motives during this day, and subscribed to a snobbish and haughty evangelical theology. And so, my journey to a new understanding of Lent has brought tremendous blessing to me. Ironically, on the first day that I observed Ash Wednesday, I administered the ashes at my church during our contemplative service. Here are some of my reflections on this day and season of Lent. It is by no means comprehensive, and I hope I do not go down the road of judging those who do not practice this ritual. These are just some of my unedited ruminations.

The Ashes
The ashes represent my repentance. I come before the Lord and prepare for his death and resurrection. The enormity and majesty of this cataclysmic event is glorious, and because it is, I’m like Isaiah before the Lord. I’m a man of unclean lips living among a perverse generation.

The ashes also represent my humanity and the fragility of life. I am human, and not a god. Therefore I recognize my limits and choose not to live with the guilt of being human. Ash Wednesday is not a day to live in guilt. It’s a day to recognize our brokenness and humanity. It’s a day to freely come before God and declare, “I am human, I am dust, and you still love me.” Guilt tends to arise from a perspective of ourselves as exempt from sin and brokenness. We say, “how could I have done such a thing?” When we utter those words, we have forgotten our humanity. This is not a theology for licentiousness. Rather it is an accurate and realistic theological anthropology.

To live according to my limits means I recognize that one day I will die, and so I ask God to help me live with a vibrancy and appreciation for the gifts that are before me.

By observing Ash Wednesday, I recognize that God is the center of my existence. My entire being revolves around the one who died and rose again.

As I sat in St. Bart’s, the priest marked a cross of the parishioners’ foreheads and said, “Remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.” Some might say that these people are superstitious. I say they come to this place because of recognition of the divine. God has stamped an inner-witness within humanity and they are responding to it (obviously some do it for the wrong reasons, but I’m not there to judge). Interestingly, the dust and the divine converge once again in a theologically profound way. We have seen this before. God comes to us in Jesus, wrapped in human flesh. The divine and the dust are one. Our Lord is fully human. Fully divine. Furthermore, the creation narrative speaks of God breathing life into humanity. We see it again. Dust and Divinity.

The earthiness of the ashes serves as a critique to what I call a “spiritualized spirituality.” This term is not a redundancy. Rather, it is a neo-Gnostic approach to the spiritual life. Essentially, it means that all meaningful spiritual realities are to be found in an intangible experience. It says that true spirituality has to do exclusively with visions and goose bumps. But the ashes teach us that true spirituality is rooted in the mundane. Rooted in the earthiness of the human experience.

Last night, as I marked the foreheads of people coming for ashes, I was deeply moved. There are so many broken people in the world. In a way, the ashes gave many of us the permission to feel our brokenness and look with hope to a day of resurrection.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

At the end of My 6th Month...

The time is drawing near. I have about 12 weeks to go. Wow! Time seems to just be flying by.

What's goin' on?
I'm the type of person that likes to plan ahead, prepare with time and not do things last minute. Interestingly enough, God seems to be teaching me a lesson in being a parent... YOU CAN'T CONTROL EVERYTHING! If it were up to me, this is what I'd have done by now:
  • New Office: renovated and painted
  • Office furniture cleared out of what will be the nursery
  • Nursery: Walls fully painted
  • Nursery: Windows repaired
  • Nursery: Carpet professionally cleaned
  • Nursery: Partially Furnished with nursery furniture (maybe just a crib or a changing table)
Funny thing is... this is what we actually have done:
  • New office space has just received it's first coat of primer.
So that means we still have to do another coat of primer, paint the room, move in office furniture from what will now be the nursery and THEN we can get started on the nursery...! LOL!

I think since the moment we knew we were having a baby God has been really stretching me and teaching me to let go a little bit more and just to enjoy where I am now. Not to be so anxious about what I need to do down the road and how I can make sure it goes "my way". It's a hard lesson for me to learn.

With children comes new joys, concerns, worries and just incredible experiences. I should expect to really experience a change in my daily life. Some unpredictability and some surprises... good surprises! So this has been a crash course in "Chill Out 101: You Can't Control Everything".

Recent Pics
For those of you who have been wondering what I look like at the end of my 6th month, here are some pics I took of myself in the dressing room in the mall a few weeks ago. I was shocked at how big my belly had gotten so whipped out the iphone and took some infamous cell phone pics through the mirror.... LOL!

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Latest Sonogram Pics!

Let's See who can figure out where her face is?

Her face is on the right side of the photo. She is facing us. She looks like she is peeking out at us.

She is about 1lb. 3oz.

Here is a pic of her foot! LOL!


Tuesday, January 6, 2009

It's A.......BABY!

On November 1st, 2008 Richard and I took an early gender test called "Intelligender". A friend of mine had taken that test, or one similar to and and it predicted the gender of her baby accurately. The website also said that it had an accuracy rate of about 82%. So I bit the bullet and bought the test. If the test predicted you were having a girl it would turn an ornangey-yellow color. If a boy it would come out a dark forest green. Here was the result of our test.

Today we went to the doctors office and she asked us. Do you know what you are having? I said, "Well we took an early gender test that I bought online and it said boy." She asked, "What was the accuracy rate?" I said, "82%" She then proceeded to say, "Well, that test was quite inaccurate... Your having a GIRL!" We were in shock! Rick was speechless, my mom was grinning from ear to ear and I was questioning the Dr./technician... "Are you sure?... Really?... NO WAY!" All this was going on while she did a freeze frame on our little girl and pointed out the obvious.

We couldn't believe it! We were so convinced that we were having a boy. But what a wonderful and delightful surprise this was! I'm glad it happended this way though. It made it that much more exciting... to be surprised by an unexpected outcome.

Mom (abuela, grandmother in spanish) and I celebrated with a breakfast from Ihop and then a shopping trip to buy a cute girly outfit! (We couldn't help ourselves! LOL!

We also were sent home with some updated unique pics of our little girl. We hope to have those posted up here by tomorrow. Stay tuned!

Yay!!!! We are having a little Girl!!!!! :-)

Monday, January 5, 2009

Boy or Girl? TELL ME ALREADY!!!

So it's been a while since our last post. Sorry about that. Richard and I were supposed to go to the doctor to find out the sex of our baby on December 12th, 2008. Unfortunately, the sonogram technician was having a bad day and took it out on us. She rushed through the appointment and complained that we weren't on her list of patients to see (as if she was swamped for the day, which was not true because I saw her meandering the office aimlessly...). She couldn't finish taking measurements of the baby because he/she wouldn't turn the right way. So the technician decided... "We will have to reschedule you to come in again, besides you're only 19 weeks, it's too early for this sonogram." This was completely untrue seeing as my doctor had scheduled me for that week and I had read that between 19-22 weeks is the time for this Level 2 Sonogram.

We were dismissed... Me, Rick, My Mom, Dad and Sister were dismissed from the room. How disappointing it was. I had endured a looooonnngggg wait in the waiting room with no food, a full bladder (they recommend you come with a full bladder), and and annoying episode of the Rachel Ray Show. After which I had to wait another 30 minutes to see my doctor for him to tell me that there was nothing to worry about that we would reschedule my sonogram. The good news was that we would no longer need to see that doctor/technician. They had hired someone new. If I never saw that lady again... it would be too soon! (Those feelings toward her go way back. Rick and I had a bad experience with her for our first sonogram. LOL!)

So here I am. The night before the day I should find out the sex of my baby, and I am excited! I have recently begun to feel the baby move/kick so this little human being is becoming more and more real. He or she is coming, and will be here around May 6th, 2009!!!! Wow... Our lives are going to change! Life as we know it will be different! I can't explain the excitement, fear, joy and wonder I feel as this pregnancy progresses. I can't wait for the day we will hold our baby in our arms but at the same time wonder.... "What will it be like? How will I feel?". I guess I'll find out on that day. And oh what a day it will be! :-)

I had no real new news to tell in this post. I just wanted to update everyone on our journey so far and to lookout for our next post revealing the sex of our baby... hopefully!

Thanks for reading!