Our Pregnancy – From Beginning to Birth

Bryan and I found out that we were pregnant on December 14, 2016.  We were preparing to go to the airport to catch our flights to NYC.  Based solely on statistics, we had expected that it would take longer for us to get pregnant than it did.  It’s always exciting to leave for a trip, but the news that we were expecting a little one made that day even more exciting!

We shared the news with Bryan’s family on Christmas Eve and with my family on New Years’ Eve.  I threw up (the first of many…) at my parents’ house on New Years’ Eve.  Our families both did a great job of keeping our secret.

We saw our sweet baby for the first time on January 24, 2017.  Margot’s heart rate was 172 BMP and she measured just 3.1 cm long from the top of her head to the bottom of her tailbone. After waiting for 10 weeks, it was so wonderful to hear her heart beating and to receive confirmation that our little one was alive and well!

On January 29, 2017, we “went public” with our pregnancy.  We know we’ll still be able to travel with a little one (in her first 3 months Margot has already been to 5 states)…we just thought this would be a funny way to make the announcement.

All in all, the first trimester was pretty miserable for me.  I took 4 Diclegis pills a day and still threw up fairly regularly in the morning and in the evening and at night.  I was very tired, and oftentimes Bryan would come home from working out to find my asleep on the couch.  Most food sounded terrible, though I was able to eat ground beef, McDonald’s burgers, canned peaches, popcorn, plain Cheerios, grape juice, grilled cheese sandwiches, and peanut butter toast.

On February 16, 2017, I took my first bump photo! This was prompted by a neighbor asking if I was pregnant when she saw Bryan and me on a walk one evening. I diligently took a bump photo every week that I was pregnant.

On March 27, 2017, my PA-C arranged for us to have a “quick, free” ultrasound so that we could find out baby Richter’s sex.  We were so excited to finally learn what we were having — now we could start buying things to prepare for our baby’s arrival!  Our small group from church threw us a gender reveal party — such an unexpected and fun surprise!

I bought the shoes in the top right-hand corner of this photo the day that we found out we were having a girl; my parents sent us the outfit in the bottom right-hand corner of the photo.

On March 30, 2017, I felt Margot move in my tummy for the first time (right at 19 weeks).  Bryan was able to feel her move for the first time on April 1, 2017.

On May 16, 2017, (25 weeks pregnant) Bryan and I flew to Florida for our babymoon. We had a wonderful time playing in the gulf and eating tons of seafood and ice cream. We also picked out some special gifts for our sweet girl at the nearby outlet malls and a few local shops.

Our baby shower was on June 17, 2017.  A group of 9 friends from our church threw it for us, and they couldn’t have done a lovelier job.  A back patio in Borger, Texas, was magically transformed into an outdoor Parisian cafe.  The food and decorations were perfect, and so many people came to help us celebrate the impending arrival of our sweet, little girl!

On June 24, 2017, the weather was perfect — overcast, no wind — for me to take a few maternity portraits of Bryan and me.  I still need to go back and edit them…as of now, this is the only one that I’ve edited (spare time is uncommon these days).

The nausea continued throughout the rest of my pregnancy but was manageable thanks to my Diclegis prescription.  Beginning around July 16, 2017, the palms of my hands and the bottoms of my feet started itching badly.  I remember one night I went to bed at 10 PM and was still awake at 3:30 AM (which is super abnormal for me) because of the severity of the itchiness.  On July 20, 2017, I learned about cholestasis.  Someone in my online pregnancy group posted a complaint about being itchy, and several people told her that she should be tested for cholestasis.  I promptly called my doctor’s office freaking out (the only time during my pregnancy that I lost my cool), so they had me come in that morning for a blood test.  My next appointment was on July 25, 2017, and at that appointment I learned that my results came back normal.  The nurse practitioner who saw us that day (the PA-C I had been seeing was out of town) went ahead and ordered another blood test just to make sure that everything was okay.  They told us that they’d call us if anything was normal.

We didn’t hear anything from them, so at our next appointment on August 3, 2017 (my 37 week appointment), we thought that everything was good.  The nurse who worked with our PA-C came in to see us just like she always did.  She asked if I wanted to have a cervical check done to see how things were progressing, and, naturally, I declined.  When I declined, she said, “I think you’re going to have one anyways because Haylee is going to want to induce you.”  At that point Bryan and I were worried because we had no idea what was going on.  Haylee, my PA-C, came in and explained what was going on.  The bile salt levels from my second blood test came back “dangerously high,” and I had been diagnosed with cholestasis.  Cholestasis is a condition that pregnant women can get that impairs the flow of bile from the liver.  While it poses no threat to the mother, it can make the womb a toxic environment for the baby and ultimately increases the risk of the baby being stillborn.  For that reason, women who are diagnosed with cholestasis are frequently induced at 37 weeks.  It was then that we learned we were going to be induced the next day.  We hadn’t even pre-registered at the hospital or packed our hospital bags yet.  We had 20 hours to complete many of the things that we thought we had at least 3 weeks to get done.

As I look back on that day, I can see God’s provision for us.  The only reason Bryan was at that appointment was because I had scheduled our hospital tour and preregistration appointment for that day — otherwise I would have learned this news completely alone.  Haylee did a cervical check after all, and I was dilated 3 cm.  This was a complete shock because I was not aware that I had been having contractions.  For that reason, we were granted one more night at home before being induced.  Had I not been dilated, we would have spent the night in the hospital.  The whole time that I was pregnant, one of the things that I was most paranoid about is what we were going to do with my sweet Tibby-Lou when it came time to deliver the baby.  I called our vet in Borger right after my appointment ended, but they didn’t have any openings.  I tried the vet in the next town over, and was so thankful that they had a spot for Tibby at such late notice — I would have been so worried about her if either of the vets hadn’t had a spot open to board her.  We called our parents to let them know what was happening, and my parents were able to leave that evening so that they could be with us when I was induced.  I look back on that day, and I see God’s hand on everything.  He took care of everything that I was worried about…my husband was with me, my dog was safe, my parents were there…He orchestrated everything.  God definitely revealed himself as Jehovah Jireh, God our Provider, during that time.

That evening I took my final bump photos.

Bryan updated our due-date countdown chalkboard — straight from 20 days to 0 days.

The most painful part of Margot’s delivery for me was getting the IV.  It took multiple tries, and they blew out one of my veins in the process.  The epidural was magical, though it did take quite awhile for the feeling in my right leg to come back.  I was only in labor for about 5 hours when Margot made her arrival (much to everybody’s surprise), and I only had to push 5 times.  Praise the LORD that she was completely healthy and didn’t have any complications from my cholestasis!

our sweet Margot’s first photo

our first family photograph

our precious baby

“Children are a gift of the LORD.” – Psalm 127:3


Shenandoah National Park – A Black Bear and Bearfence Mountain Rock Scramble

Blog Working Folder7

After checking out of our room at the Big Meadows Lodge, we continued our drive South along Skyline Drive. Up to this point I had been fairly disappointed about the amount of wildlife in the park.  That all changed as soon as we made it to the parking area for our next hike, the Bearfence Mountain Rock Scramble.

Perched high up in a tree was a black bear! He didn’t pay any attention to the small group of people stating up at him — he was much more interested in getting to the walnuts hanging in the tree he had climbed.

After watching the bear for a bit and taking a few photos, we set out on our hike.

I tend to be a bit more of a scaredy cat than my husband, so I was a little concerned about what this “rock scramble” hike would entail. The initial part of the hike was just a normal trail. As we approached the rocky area, I was relieved to see that the path for the rock scramble portion of the hike was actually painted on the rocks (note the white blazes in the photos below).

This hike ended up being one of our favorites from the entire trip. Check out the panoramic views of the surrounding area from the top!

Our trip took place during the middle of October, so there weren’t many wildflowers left by then, but there were a few still hanging on.

Shenandoah National Park – Lewis Falls Trail

Blog Working Folder6

Our second (and final) day in Shenandoah National Park started at sun-up.  We set out early on the Lewis Falls Trail (the trailhead is at the Big Meadows Lodge) so that we could complete the hike before checking out of our room at the lodge.  The sun was just rising and starting to peak through the trees as we started our hike.  We ate peanut butter and crackers for breakfast while we were hiking in order to make the most of our time.

We came across this doe somewhat close to the lodge.  She didn’t mind us one bit.

I’ve never seen trailmarkers like the ones used at Shenandoah.  The design is actually pretty smart, as the metal holds up much better over time than painted wooden signs.  There were quite a few trails in the area.  It was TOO COOL to see the Appalachian Trail labeled on this particular marker.  Maybe one of these days I’ll get to hike the whole Appalachian Trail, rather than just a teeny, tiny part of it (you can see that the Lewis Falls trail heads south on the Appalachian Trail).

We don’t have much of a fall or many trees where we live, so we were constantly keeping a look out for pretty leaves.  I really love the color variations in these maple leaves.

Continue reading

Shenandoah National Park – Part 2


We picked out the hikes that we wanted to complete during our trip ahead of time.  We put quite a bit of thought into how many miles we thought we’d be able to hike (and drive) in a day.  We also tried to pick hikes that featured different things (waterfalls, good views, interesting terrain, etc.).  There are a ton of hikes to pick from, so having a game-plan ahead of time will allow you to make better use of your time.  The three hikes that we did on our first day in Shenandoah definitely reflect our thoughtful planning process.  We chose one with good views, one with good trees, and one with a waterfall.

Hike With A View

Our first hike of the day was Stony Man.  We started in the Stony Man parking area and took the Appalachian Trail to the Stony Man Trail.  We spent some time taking in the views at the Stony Man summit and then headed back to the parking lot.  The views were amazing, and the total hike distance was only 1.4 miles, so it was definitely worth the time/effort.  One of my favorite things about the view from the summit was getting to see Skyline Drive winding through the trees down below.

 Squirrel on Stony Man Trail

View from Stony Man Summit

Skyline Drive via Stony Man Summit

Skyline Drive via Stony Man Summit Continue reading

Shenandoah National Park – Part 1


After a wonderful day in Pennsylvania’s Somerset Country, we got up early the next morning and headed out to Shenandoah National Park.  It was about a 2.5 hour long drive, so we were able to spend most of the day in Shenandoah.  Our route took us from Pennsylvania, through Maryland and West Virginia, and into Virginia.  I always get a bit of a kick when I cross a state-line, because, being from south Texas, it’s not something that I ever did on any regular basis while growing up.  Taking photographs from a moving vehicle (especially when you don’t have a good feel for when you’re going to pass the signs) is easier said than done, but I managed to get a photograph of each of the “welcome to…” signs as we crossed the state-lines that morning.

State-Line Signs

Shenandoah National Park was established on December 26, 1935, though the park was authorized back in 1926.  According to Wikipedia, 500 families were forced to give up their homes for the creation of the 105-mile-long Skyline Drive.  We started our journey through Shenandoah at the northeast entrance in Front Royal and drove south along Skyline Drive towards Waynesboro.  We received a map when we paid our entry fee and entered through the north entrance.  Once we made it into the national park, we stopped at the Dickey Ridge Visitor Center to stamp our National Parks Passport book and to pick up a few souvenirs (including the vintage-looking vinyl cling in the following collage) before making our way further into the park.

If you’re planning a visit to Shenandoah, be sure to check the park website beforehand to check for road closures, trail closures, ongoing forest fires, burn bans, etc.

Shenandoah National Park Signs

It didn’t take us very long to make our first friend in the park.  While we were driving along, this leaf fell and got stuck on our windshield.  For some reason, we were both very amused by this…maybe it’s the lack of trees where we live.

Our Shenandoah Friend Continue reading

Laurel Highlands – Pennsylvania


We hadn’t initially planned to visit the Laurel Highlands, but we found ourselves in need of an area to stay for two nights that was between Cuyahoga Valley National Park and Shenandoah National Park. The Laurel Highlands region of Pennsylvania was the perfect spot. We stayed at the Quill Haven Bed and Breakfast in Somerset.  We highly recommend staying there — both for comfort and the good location…and the wonderful breakfast — if you ever find yourself in need of a place to stay in the area.

Our day in Somerset County was jam-packed and wonderful. We started our day with a self-made-tour of three covered bridges.  It is worth noting that the first bridge featured, Barronvale Bridge, is the longest covered bridge in Somerset County.  It is also worth noting that you can drive over the last bridge, Lower Humbert Bridge; we took advantage of the opportunity to drive over it, and I photographed Bryan’s car in the bridge.

 Barronvale Bridge

Barronvale Bridge

Barronvale Bridge

Continue reading

Cuyahoga Valley National Park


Cuyahoga Valley National Park was the first stop on our trip.  Cuyahoga Valley National Park is located in northeast Ohio and is about half an hour away from Cleveland.  It was originally established as a National Recreation Area in 1974.  It received its National Park designation in 2000.

We did three different hikes during our day at the park.  First on the list was Blue Hen Falls.  Blue Hen Falls was fairly small, about 15 feet tall according to the National Park Service website and is formed by a small stream.  The sandstone shelf that forms the waterfall, however, is picturesque, and the hike to the water fall is short, so it’s worth seeing if you’re visiting the park.  It was especially pretty during October because many of the trees in the area were changing colors.

Blue Hen Falls

Blue Hen Falls

Brandywine Falls was beautiful, though it wasn’t exactly the type of hike we expected.  A well-maintained boardwalk leads to the falls, and a road is visible above the falls (I did my best to take my photographs at an angle that hid the road).  It felt a little more commercialized (and a little less “wild”) than we expected.  In addition to walking to the waterfall, we continued on to complete the entire Brandywine Gorge Trail.  There wasn’t much to see on the trail, and we would recommend just seeing the waterfall and spending your time hiking elsewhere.

Brandywine Falls

Continue reading

2015 F.A.R.T.


It’s high time I got my butt in gear and start writing about the F.A.R.T. we went on last year.  The dawning of October was just the kick in the pants that I needed to get started!

You may be thinking to yourself, “Self, what in the world does F.A.R.T. stand for?”  F.A.R.T. = Fall Automobile Road Trip.  We’ve referred to this epic road-trip as the F.A.R.T. so frequently that even our fellow Young Adult Sunday School Class members started calling the trip that, as well.  You may also be wondering what the motivation was for taking a fall road trip.  This trip was truly a combination of things that Bryan and I both really like.  For starters, Bryan loves fall.  Combine that with my life-goal of visiting all of the national parks in the United States (we went to three of them during this trip) and our mutual love for hiking — and you get a trip that was made for both of us.

This trip would have been a total flop without all of the hard work that Bryan put into planning it.  He put a lot of thought into how far we could drive each day and where we would spend each night.  October is a popular time of year for Shenandoah National Park, the Blue Ridge Parkway, and Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and having reservations made months in advance for campsites, lodges, and hotels was crucial.  This itinerary is what helped keep us on track throughout the trip.  Yes, it is in Excel (we’re both engineers, we can’t help it). 🙂

In addition to the itinerary, we also had a good idea of what hikes we were going to do each day.  Prior to the trip, we bought several books (Guide to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking the Blue Ridge Parkway, Hiking Great Smoky Mountains National Park, and Best Easy Day Hikes Shenandoah National Park) to help us narrow down which hikes we wanted to do.

Pre-selecting our hikes helped us to make the most of our time because we weren’t wasting time during the day trying to figure out what we were going to do next.  Here’s a list of all of the hikes that we did.  The ones that are highlighted in green are the hikes that I would wholeheartedly recommend.

The map below shows (more or less) the path we took, though it doesn’t represent the Blue Ridge Parkway very well…I gave up on trying to drag the route marker from the highway to the Blue Ridge Parkway because it wasn’t working very well.

We loaded up Bryan’s car and hit the road for what would be a road trip of epic proportions.



Odometer (Beginning of F.A.R.T.)

F.A.R.T. By the Numbers
4,085 photos taken
3,756 miles driven
62.1 miles hiked
44 state license plates spotted (plus D.C.)
14 states visited
13 days traveled
3 national parks explored (plus all 469 miles of the Blue Ridge Parkway)
1 1950/1960s-style family photo taken
1 Treeing Walker Coonhound rescued

1950/1960s-Style Family Photograph

“Preserve your memories, keep them well,
what you forget you can never retell.”
-Louisa May Alcott

Château de Chaumont – Part 2

The is the second post in my series of posts about Chateau de Chaumont.  The first post focused on the outside of the chateau, and this post features photographs from the stables.

The stables at Chateau de Chaumont were designed by Paul-Ernest Sanson and were built in 1877.  At the time, they were the most modern stables in all of Europe; to me, they even looked modern for today’s standards — they were also beautiful.  The stables were divided into multiple sections — there were stalls for “half-blood” horses (carriage horses), saddle horses (full-blood horses), and ponies.  There was also a small, indoor riding arena where horses could be worked on lunge lines.  The Chateau de Chaumont website has a ton of information on the stables.

This is what the stables look like from the outside, as you approach them from the chateau.

The round “thing” to the right of the photograph below is the indoor arena.

Continue reading