Wednesday, June 1, 2016

The Great Big Chloe Post

How do I begin? These past seven weeks have been like living inside of a dream. I hold my baby and marvel that she is mine. This one is growing. This one is healthy. I don't have to give this one back. 

Preparing for Chloe
After receiving the call that changed our life forever, I went into supersonic speed mode and had to juggle wrapping up work projects, packing for our temporary move to Virginia, figuring out what we'd need for the baby and finding a lawyer and adoption agency. On top of this, I had a bunch of friends and family members to call with our happy news! We immediately begin receiving gifts — a delicious meal, a stroller and carseat, baby clothes, generous checks... so many kind gestures! We are even receiving breast milk from kind friends! (I tried to nurse the first few weeks — yes, it is possible — but I did not produce.)

Chloe's birthday (April 14)
I hope to write a blog post solely about this special day soon. I had planned to be in the operating room with J, but she had to go under general anesthesia and no one was allowed in surgery with her. We were able to meet Chloe shortly after she was born. It was MAGICAL! We had a private room that we spent the night in and our nurses took incredible care of our girl. We received a 24-hour discharge and I walked out of the hospital with a living baby in my arms! Thank you, Jesus.

The first few weeks
Chloe was the easiest newborn! She rarely ever cried, except to tell us when she was hungry. Even then, her cries were polite and short. I call them baby lamb bleats. She seemed to attach to us right away — especially to Andy. She would gaze into his eyes and stare at him until going cross-eyed with exhaustion. Everyone in the family (extended family included) fell in love with her right away. She fits into our family so perfectly! We all kept saying, "are you real? is this real?" (I still ask this!) My mom and I would run errands now and then and we'd take Chloe with us, and people would say, "you look great for just having had a baby!" I would simply say, "thanks!" Haha. It felt good to get out of the house, especially because my time at home was often spent scanning documents and making phone calls. That leads me to...

Adoption requirements
Oh for heaven's sake. The amount of documents to scan, errands to run, phone calls to make... Chloe's adoption was a full time job! It was absolutely worth doing, and we had to get it done ASAP in order to have a timely consent hearing and move back to Frederick, but it was truly miserable. I desperately wanted to spend all day holding my baby and enjoying being a mother, and instead I was spending hours every day dealing with paperwork and fees. Thankfully, it's mostly over! We'll have a few follow-up home studies and we'll go back to court in one year. There is still SO much I don't know or understand about adoption. I'm hesitant to share much about our experience because it happened under such unusual circumstances (and I was in a new-momma daze the whole time). I know adoption is often a very long and hard process. Still, I'm happy to answer questions if anyone has any.

Andy quit his job with Kellogg's at the end of February and took a job selling solar energy with Vivint Solar. The timing was interesting, because his new job is 100% commission and has zero benefits. (Totally ideal situation for having a baby!) Then, in March, a friend called and offered me a job with her graphic design company. As if two new jobs wasn't enough of a change, we were offered a baby soon after! I've been teasing Andy that a new job and new baby is enough — he can't get a new wife! We are blessed to both love our jobs and our coworkers. I now work part-time as an administrative assistant for Kalico Design, doing everything from website work, social media, client projects and making a million spreadsheets and google docs. I've been commuting from NOVA to Frederick twice a week since the end of April, and Andy has been commuting to his territory in Gaithersburg. Andy's hours allow him to be home with Chloe while I'm at work, which is yet another blessing. I will be cutting back on Laura Rennie Interiors, but I'll still take on projects here and there as my schedule (and sanity) allow.

Chloe, lately
Chloe is growing like a weed! She was 7 lbs 13 ounces at birth and was 9 lbs 8 ounces at her four week check-up. It breaks my heart that she no longer fits most of her newborn clothes!

A few of her favorite things are:

- Baths! You wouldn't know it from this video, but Chloe LOVES baths! We started giving her a bath in the sink, and that seemed to help. I have her sit with her little bottom over the drain and use one hand to hold her chest while using my other hand to bathe her. She doesn't make a single peep during the whole bath, even when water runs over her face!
- Being held against our stomachs. She likes to have her face planted in our side, with her body against our belly and her legs dangling over our other side.
- The word "oblivious." It makes her smile. It's the darnedest thing!
- Tummy time
- Being sung to
- Feeling a burp cloth being tucked around her neck. She immediately stops fussing and relaxes her body. She is so trusting of us!
- Her daddy, grandpa and uncles. She loves deep voices.

Chloe has been to Winchester to visit her Meemaw (Andy's mom), Grancy (Great Aunt Nancy) and Andy's brother's family. She's also been to the movies! My mom and I went to see "Love and Friendship" the other day. Chloe slept through the whole movie. We took her to a restaurant for the first time last night, and she did fabulously. We celebrated Chloe's adoption at my family's favorite restaurant — Carlyle, in Shirlington. Chloe gave it five stars.

Us, lately
Andy formed an instant connection with Chloe and is such a natural with her. He took on feedings and diaper changes as if he'd done them a million times! He has been an amazing parenting partner, selflessly serving me and our girl. Having help from my parents has given us the ability to get good sleep and have occasional just-the-two-of-us time together. For our anniversary we were able to leave Chloe with her Grandma and Grandpa and go out for dinner at Southside in Old Town and ice cream at The Dairy Godmother in Del Ray. It was so weird to us (but fun) that we had a baby to go home to! Living in Springfield with my parents has truly been a gift. If you know my parents, you know they're the ideal people to have to live with for 7 weeks! I've only cooked and done laundry a few times. :) We miss our friends and our home and will be glad to get back to Frederick, but we will miss the love and help my parents have given to us and our girl. Once we get the go-ahead to cross state lines we will head to my family's cabin in Pennsylvania for a short vacation with my parents, brother, sister and their spouses. We hope to get the call today!

Even more praises
- We hit our $3500 fundraising goal! We also received personal checks. I haven't done the math, but I would estimate that we've raised a little over $5,000 for Chloe's adoption! These funds are a HUGE blessing, as we have three attorney fees, plus the cost of home studies, random adoption related fees (fingerprinting, driving records, etc.) and medical bills. Huge thank you to all who have donated!
- Thanks to gift cards and the many presents Chloe has received, we have not had to use our own money to pay for any baby items! I actually haven't bought Chloe a single item yet, other than things for her nursery.
- My brother and sister-in-law, who live in Korea, had planned their May/June visit to the states long before we knew about Chloe. What great timing, right?
- We continue to have a great relationship with J (Chloe's birth mom). Adoption can be a heartbreaking experience for adoptive parents, but we have had full confidence in J. I love spending time with her, because it gives me a glimpse into Chloe's potential future personality and looks. Plus, I truly enjoy her company! She's funny and independent and driven and smart.
- Chloe is a healthy, happy baby who sleeps well and eats really well. Praise God!

photo by Erin Swann Photography

The end! :)

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

We're adopting!

on our last date before baby — Five Guys! (We're so fancy.)

Our wild adoption story:
Thursday, April 7th: My mom called today with the craziest news. “J is making an adoption plan, and she’s offering the baby to you and Andy. It's a girl, and she's being delivered next Thursday, April 14th."

(I know. I KNOW. That is in two days! Crazy town!!)

Oh, the tears. I cried so hard and so loud that my dog fled from the room in fear. The best word to describe it is verklempt. I could barely speak. I managed to get out the words “I want her so bad."

I called Andy and asked how he felt. When he said, “I’m open to it,” I immediately burst into tears again. I’ve done a lot of crying over the last few months, but nothing compared to how much crying went down that day! The start of this year has been super emotional for me. This summer marks the third anniversary of our son John's death, and the second anniversary of the loss of our daughter Jane. (You can read more about them and my grieving process here.) My heart has been aching for my babies and I've wondered what the future held for us in terms of children.

It feels amazing to be weeping tears of joy.

It turns out Andy already knew about the baby. My parents had the wisdom to share with Andy first so he could pray about it before I found out. (I think everyone knew I would be all in!) He asked me to give him a little bit more time, which was absolute torture.

The next day I woke up smiling. I prayed for Andy to make a decision by the end of the day. Before he left for work he turned to me with a grin and said, "What are we waiting for? Do you want this baby? Let's have this baby!" It was the absolute BEST! I imagined the angels in heaven bursting into cheers and songs of praise.

I went back and forth between astonished laughter and fits of happy tears. We kept saying over and over, “How is this real life? What is happening? We are having a baby in a week!” 

I called the birth mother and she was so happy and relieved to hear our answer. J is a friend of my parents and both Andy and I met her last fall when she joined our family for Thanksgiving dinner. Funny enough, I joked with my family that I was going to ask J for her baby! God knew all along. :) 

Ever since Jane died I have prayed for God to bring a baby to our doorstep. I begged Him, "God, make it easy. We don't want to have to go through more pain." He heard my prayers! I've also been asking for God to restore my ability to hope and to show me His redemptive love through my pain. Through this crazy amazing experience I am learning that God wants us to dream big and pray even bigger!

Andy has been the most wonderful partner through all of this. Our shared grief brought us closer together in a sad but beautiful way. We have experienced seasons of being hermits and seasons of being social, and I'm grateful when I think of how much sweet together time we've enjoyed. (We celebrate eight years of marriage in a few weeks!) Andy has been especially helpful over the past few days as I have been an absolute wreck trying to tie up loose ends and pull things together to prepare for our daughter, who arrives in a matter of days!

Friends, we get to hold our living baby in our arms. (More tears!) God willing, we will leave the hospital with a baby instead of leaving empty-handed. We are in awe of this incredible gift!

What happens now:
Our baby will be delivered Thursday morning in a Virginia hospital. J has graciously invited me to join her in the operating room so that I will be able to hold the baby right away. We will be living in Virginia until the adoption is finalized, which may take a month or two (or longer). We cannot cross state lines with our girl during that time, but we will both be coming up to Frederick here and there for work and getting our home ready. We are working with an attorney and will receive a home study and follow-up visits in the coming weeks.

What we have:
We are so blessed to have already received some baby items in addition to a few things we had for John and Jane. If an item is not on one of our registries, we likely already have it. We will add things as we think of them or ask for anything someone might be able to give us secondhand. If you happen to leave something at our door or send something to our home in Frederick, it will be picked up by a neighbor and we will receive it the next time we are in town.

What we don't have: a name! We're working on it! :) We will joyfully share a birth announcement on Thursday or Friday.

How you can help:
Pray for this adoption to proceed smoothly and quickly. Pray for J as she recovers emotionally and physically. Pray for us to show one another grace as we navigate this new, exciting, sleep-less season! 

We have already received many requests on how people can help out. Here are a few ways:

Donate to the baby Rennie fund
Our Target registry
Our Amazon registry

Our church community will set up a meal train for when we move back to Maryland. If you'd like to be a part of that, you can either leave your e-mail in a comment or message me on Facebook.

While I love to share this news and tend to over-share in general, I want to protect J's privacy and our baby's story. We will not be sharing any more information about the birth parents publicly, and may choose not to share it privately, either. If you know J, please do not give her identity away. Thanks! If you're wondering, we are legally allowed to share pictures of our baby, and J has given us her blessing to do so.

A final note: hugs to anyone reading this who is bummed to hear this news via Facebook. These past few days have been a whirlwind — so much to do in so little time!

Your prayers for our hearts have carried us through such a long, dark time. Thank you! God is good and He is faithful always.

Psalm 145:3-21
Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
    his greatness no one can fathom.
 One generation commends your works to another;
    they tell of your mighty acts.
 They speak of the glorious splendor of your majesty—
    and I will meditate on your wonderful works.
 They tell of the power of your awesome works—
    and I will proclaim your great deeds.
 They celebrate your abundant goodness
    and joyfully sing of your righteousness.
 The Lord is gracious and compassionate,
    slow to anger and rich in love.
 The Lord is good to all;
    he has compassion on all he has made.
 All your works praise you, Lord;
    your faithful people extol you.
They tell of the glory of your kingdom
    and speak of your might,
 so that all people may know of your mighty acts
    and the glorious splendor of your kingdom.
 Your kingdom is an everlasting kingdom,
    and your dominion endures through all generations.
The Lord is trustworthy in all he promises
    and faithful in all he does.
 The Lord upholds all who fall
    and lifts up all who are bowed down.
 The eyes of all look to you,
    and you give them their food at the proper time.
 You open your hand
    and satisfy the desires of every living thing. 
The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and faithful in all he does.
 The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
 He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cry and saves them.
 The Lord watches over all who love him,
    but all the wicked he will destroy.
 My mouth will speak in praise of the Lord.
    Let every creature praise his holy name
    for ever and ever.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

around here

- Design work! I’m planning to launch in a couple of weeks, and I am bursting at the seams to share it with y’all!
- House updates. We got a gorgeous four-poster bed frame for the basement guest room! For FREE! I also sold some furniture to purchase a new desk for my new office. :) :) :) I’m going to paint this weekend while Andy is off doing fantasy football shenanigans. It’s a good thing I still have a few Undisclosed episodes to listen to!
- Reading outdoors. These crisp mornings and sunny-but-not-sweltering afternoons have been amazing. I’ve been hit with deep sorrow on an almost daily basis and getting outside always boosts my spirits. 
- Barre. What?! I tried it for the first time last week and loved it. I went back this morning and had an awesome “Center Stage” moment while doing glute bridges.

- roasted petite potatoes like it’s my job
- butter lettuce. With roasted potatoes on top. :) And bacon, and fried eggs. My new favorite salad.
- honey bunches of oats with unsweetened almond milk. And roasted potatoes. (Kidding!)

- Project Runway is back!!!!!!
- Playing House on USA is great. It’s our new favorite show.

- I just finished “The Martian” by Andy Weir — have you read it? I have mixed feelings about the movie cast.
- “Anything” by Jennie Allen. Who gave me this book? Whoever you are, thank you.
- “The One Year Book of Hope” by Nancy Guthrie. I tried to start this devotional after John died, but I gave it up. Then I tried it again after Jane. I’m finally dedicated to having a morning quiet time, and this daily reading plus some Scripture has been manna to my soul.

- Doritos were vegetables
- For more crisp mornings and sunny afternoons, and that it would be Monday, because that’s when Dunkin Donuts starts selling their pumpkin coffee!!!!!!!!!

What’s going on with you? What are you reading/cooking/watching these days?

Monday, August 10, 2015

my first Stitch Fix

My friend Jackie received a gift card to Stitch Fix last Christmas and has been talking about the service ever since then. (She finally got a box last month.) I'm more likely to try something if someone else tries it first, so I followed suit and decided to give it a try for myself!

Stitch Fix is an online styling service that sends five items picked for you right to your door. (Packages are the best!) You fill out a style profile when you first sign up to let your stylist know what sizes you are and what styles of clothes you like, hate, and want to try. You pay a $20 styling fee for each fix, which is later applied as a credit if you choose to keep anything from your fix. If you keep all five items, you receive 25% off the entire purchase. Return shipping is free and easy. 

Click here if you want to try it yourself!

Stitch Fix sends the items neatly folded and wrapped along with a run-down of item names and prices and tear-off style cards that give you examples of how to wear each item. Your personal stylist will also include a note explaining why she picked each item for you. It's a really nice touch!

I knew if I took pics with my Nikon that I’d be really picky about the background and I’d want to edit them and I’d put stupid pressure on myself, so I decided to snap pics with my phone instead. I am a super awkward selfie-taker. Also, I'm clearly in a bathroom. #keepingitreal

Here we go!

Market & Spruce Sam Hi-Lo Short Sleeved Tee, Gray - $44
love this top! It fit perfectly, the hi-lo isn't too drastic and it’s incredibly soft. Unfortunately, it's a little bit sheer, and it's not quite special enough for me to spend $44. Regretfully returning!

Just Black Rogers Distressed Boyfriend Jean - $78
These fit me like skinny jeans - not at ALL like boyfriend jeans. Regardless, I liked the fit everywhere except the knee. The material was noticeably loose in the knee area, and that would be a problem for me. I also didn't love the distressed detail on the top part of the jeans. But, I was impressed that they fit well (other than the knee area), considering how hard of a time I normally have when it comes to finding pants that fit. Returning.

Market & Spruce Corinna Striped Dolman Top, Navy - $48
Stripes. Dolman Sleeves. Navy. These are a few of my favorite things. I am on the fence about this one! It’s GREAT and I’m willing to pay for it, but I have several similar tops. Update - sold this item to a girl who returned hers and regretted it. 

Levant Wavy Laser-Cut Earrings - $28
I asked for medium-sized gold earrings, and my stylist delivered. Unfortunately, the wavy texture was a bit too funky for me. Returning!

Pixley Kathy Striped Fit & Flare Dress - $68
I fell in love with this dress when I saw it on another girl's blog. I had a hunch it would fit my body type well, and I was right! It fits like a glove, and I feel great in it. I already own a 3/4-sleeve striped fit and flare dress from GAP, but I don't care... this one I'm KEEPING!!!! (Knowing the dress will be $48 with my credit made this an easy decision for me.) I may never take this dress off. 


I was grateful to receive lots of advice from Jackie on how to get a successful "fix." I was as specific as possible when filling out information about my body type and style preferences. I also provided my stylist with a link to a Pinterest board containing images of clothes I like. I even included a few pictures of myself.

What I didn’t like about my first Stitch Fix
I was really hoping to see a fun sleeveless top in my fix. I pinned a bunch of different ones I liked, so I was surprised not to see one. HOWEVER...

What I did like about my first Stitch Fix
I was overall thrilled with my first fix. My stylist clearly took the time to read through my notes and look at my Pinterest board. ALL of the clothing items I received were ones I had pinned! Some people don’t love their first fixes because their stylist is still getting to know them. I’m glad I took the time to give my stylist a lot of information about myself. My stylist played it safe by giving me items I specifically said I liked, and I think that was the right way to go.

This post contains referral links. If you sign up for Stitch Fix using my referral link, I will receive a $25 credit to use toward future purchases. (Please use the referral! If you accidentally skip the referral section, you can still get me the credit by sending my email address and name to the customer service email. Id love to try Stitch Fix again! Make sure to read this post about how to get your best fix.)

Friday, July 31, 2015

God’s real love in my real suffering

our precious baby John

Each night at VBS this week we’ve focused on a characteristic of God’s love: incredible, faithful, invincible, unconditional and real.

Last night the 4th and 5th grade girls in my group learned about the realness of God’s love. Both their craft-time and Bible-time teachers asked the girls if they could give examples from their own life of how we know God is real (even thought we cannot see Him). Several girls had stories to share, and they all went something like this:

My cousin’s baby had a hole in his heart but everyone prayed and now that baby is eleven.
My mom’s stepsister’s baby was sick before it was born and it was really scary but she’s okay now.
My sister’s extension umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck and she almost didn’t live, but she did.

Goodness, was it ever tough to sit there and hear those stories.

When the doctor listed off everything that was wrong with John, it made sense that he would die. But I believed God could make John whole. I believed (and still believe) God could have done some crazy heavenly fetal surgery and the doctors would have been speechless, and I could have gone on to birth a healthy, living baby, and people around the world who had been praying for us would have been able to point to John as an example of God’s love. He could have healed John, but He didn’t.

When I became pregnant with Jane, I battled fear constantly and I prayed constantly. I believed God was blessing us with a life after our loss. I believed God would rejoice in giving us a healthy baby, and I prayed that He would. He could have, but He didn’t.

God didn’t show His love to me by giving me what I prayed for. The evidence of God’s real love in my life does not look like what I thought it would (but it is still there). There have been many dark days when the choice to recall to mind God’s love and goodness has felt excruciating, but I HAVE that choice because His love IS real.

"I cry out, “My splendor is gone!
Everything I had hoped for from the Lord is lost!”

The thought of my suffering and homelessness
is bitter beyond words.
I will never forget this awful time,
as I grieve over my loss.
Yet I still dare to hope
when I remember this:

The faithful love of the Lord never ends!
His mercies never cease.
Great is his faithfulness;
his mercies begin afresh each morning.”

-Lamentations 3:18-23

We need these stories of real love during real suffering.
We need to remember God’s realness isn’t only found in “success stories” and prayers answered “yes.” We can experience God’s love throughout our times of trial — not just when the trial is over.

My story is not "God is real! He healed my babies."
My story is "God is real! He is healing me.