Sunday, August 30, 2015

MY SECOND PREGNANCY - Second Baby vs First Baby

THE SECOND CHILD VS THE FIRST TIMER

Having had a child already, you’re a lot more informed and prepared for the second one. There are a lot of things you don’t have to worry about or buy and that kind of thing.

You typically don’t have a baby shower after the first baby. In our case, that’s a good thing anyway. Having moved to Minnesota from Virginia last year, we have very few real friends yet and no family around, so no one to plan or attend a shower to begin with.

We didn’t take a birthing class this time around. We’re pretty informed now, and have even been through the whole birth thing, so we felt pretty confident that it wasn’t necessary for another course. We also have our workbook from our Bradley class, so we can skim that for a refresher. Plus I’ve already bookmarked the page with the “things to pack” list so we’ll be as prepared as possible when “D day” (as I like to call it, you know – D for delivery?) comes.

We haven’t really talked about much regarding raising the kids, because we have some experience now. We also know that you can plan all you want, sometimes it just comes down to doing whatever works.

We don’t have to buy a stroller, pack n play, swing, and many other things because we saved them from when Tara was an infant. We know we could have waited to buy a crib (but my nesting instincts wouldn’t allow it) and to not spend a whole lot of money on a changing table. This time we went with a nice little Ikea one, that’s sturdier than the brand name one I spent twice as much on for Tara last year.

We hadn’t planned on getting another stroller, however we MIGHT consider it only to get a tandem stroller. I’d like to be able to take them both for walks without worrying too much about having to chase the toddler or go at a snail’s pace with her getting so distracted. We’re still debating on that because of price.

We aren’t making a birth plan, which is fine because we’ll be in a birth center with a midwife anyway. We hired a doula nice and early since we already knew we wanted one, so no debating how necessary they were.

The only major thing you DO have to worry about is what to do with the toddler when D day comes. My mother-in-law is flying out to spend a month with us so that, unless this boy comes a week late, she’ll be here whenever the baby comes. That way I have someone I know well and trust with my daughter so I don’t obsess over how Tara’s doing when I’ll have other things to worry about. I’ll probably still think about her – it’s a mommy thing! :-)


Tuesday, August 25, 2015

BLOG TOUR: Knave of Broken Hearts by Tara Lain


Thanks to Enchantress Design and Promo for hosting this blog tour. I'm sharing my review of Tara Lain's Knave of Broken Hearts today. Happy reading!

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Summary:

Jim Carney has a full time job—running from himself. Since he walked out on his wealthy family at sixteen because he’d wrecked his best friend’s life over some yaoi graphic novels, Jim has lived a macho, blue-collar existence of too much booze and too little responsibility. Then Billy Ballew, the man Jim most admires, gives Jim a chance to come through as his construction supervisor. For once, Jim is determined to make someone proud. Then Jim goes in for a physical for his new job and his yaoi dream comes to life in the form of cardiologist Ken Tanaka. Jim discovers he has two heart problems—a wonky mitral valve and a serious attraction to his doctor. But Ken is a major player, and Jim might be just a notch on the doc’s stethoscope. To Ken, Jim is unforgettable—but the living embodiment of his traditional family’s worst nightmares.

How come the minute Jim decides to be responsible, he finds himself taking care of his kid brother, getting a proposal from a wealthy woman, making a deal with the devil, and winding up in the hospital—when all he really wants is the Knave of Broken Hearts?

Title:  Knave of Broken Hearts
Series:  Love in Laguna
Book #: 2
Author:  Tara Lain
Approximate Book Length:  222 Pages
Recommended Reader Age:  18+
Sexual Content:  Explicit

Thoughts:

Holy sweetness Batman! Jim is such a teddy bear. Ken is sort of depicted as a player, but I didn’t feel that was so true. I found them both to be incredibly sweet and strangely occasionally naïve.

Parts of the plot were predictable, but it didn’t change the effect of the events. They were riveting and they most certainly tugged at the heart strings.

The supporting characters were superb as always. Constance and Ian were among my favorites, and I loved Billy’s role. I would have liked to see more of him and Shaz, but I understand why things had to play out the way they did.

I just really can’t wait to see more in this series, especially since the next book goes back to Shaz’s world.

Bottom Line:

Knave of Broken Hearts is a heartwarming sequel in an intoxicating series. Go grab this awesomely sweet and satisfying read!

Rating:



Links:



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About the Author
Tara Lain writes the Beautiful Boys of Romance in LGBT erotic romance novels that star her unique, charismatic heroes. Her first novel was published in January of 2011 and she’s now somewhere around book 23. Her best­selling novels have garnered awards for Best Series, Best Contemporary Romance, Best Ménage, Best LGBT Romance, Best Gay Characters, and Tara has been named Best Writer of the Year in the LRC Awards. In her other job, Tara owns an advertising and public relations firm. She often does workshops on both author promotion and writing craft. She lives with her soul­mate husband and her soul­mate dog in Laguna Beach, California, a pretty seaside town where she sets a lot of her books. Passionate about diversity, justice, and new experiences, Tara says on her tombstone it will say “Yes”

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Monday, August 24, 2015

REVIEW: Summer Crush Box Set

Summary:

Summer Crush: A wonderfully romantic boxed set of Upper YA short stories by today's hottest authors.

Summer is the time for lazy days at the beach, sun-kissed hair, flip-flops, and sizzling nights with a new crush. Those stolen glances and first kisses can quickly spark a flame. However, the road to love isn’t always a smooth ride.

Every Summer has a story, whether it’s a second chance on love, seeing a friend in a different light, or taking a step in a new direction with someone special. Love and long days create endless possibilities, but can a summer crush really last?

Sutton Summer by Sasha Hibbs:
After breaking Dylan's heart last year, McKenzie returns to Sutton Lake for another summer. McKenzie realizes love was in front of her the entire time, but is it too late for Dylan to forgive her?

Exquisite Torture by S.D. Wasley:
16 year old Ryan thinks he's in for the summer from hell, stuck at his Gran's farm in a remote town ... until he meets the adorable Connie. But why is she so cagey about her past?

Forbidden by Melissa Frost:
The new guy in town has a bad reputation and a bad boy demeanor to go with it. Even so, Olivia can’t help feeling drawn to Gavin. Can she convince her mother he’s not the delinquent everyone believes, or will his past tear them apart?

Taking the Plunge by Diana Stager:
Overwhelmed and alone, Jessica is a teenage mother struggling to give her son the best possible life. Erik, a lifeguard at the local pool, never expected the girl of his dreams to have baby in tow. They have issues, but will it keep them from pursing the relationship, or are they willing to take the plunge?

Boarderline Love by Deanna Dee:
Nearly drowning wasn’t part of Dalya’s vacation plans. Neither was being rescued by a guy with a perfect six pack and a haunted look in his eyes. Mason reminds Dalya too much of her over-protective older brother, but when he offers to teach her to surf, she can’t say no. Can Dalya get past her frustration with her brother to realize how much Mason means to her?

An Ocean of Their Own by Bridie Hall:
Lola spends her days trawling the sand dunes in search of the perfect subject for her art. She finds it in a solitary, beautiful girl. Sarah doesn’t just fill the pages in her sketchbook, she enchants Lola’s heart too. But how can Lola tell her family about Sarah?

Title:  Summer Crush
Series:  N/A
Book #: N/A
Author:  Sasha Hibbs, SD Wasley, Melissa Frost, Diana Stager, Deanna Dee, and Bridie Hall
Approximate Book Length:  207 Pages
Recommended Reader Age:  16+
Sexual Content:  Mild

Thoughts:

This boxed set is actually fairly short, so I’ll touch briefly on each story, but I won’t be able to say much without ruining things.

Sutton Summer barely felt like a romance. It was mostly just kind of sad and all about healing. She was frankly kind of shallow and I didn’t feel like she deserved him. The ending was decent, though predictable, but it just wasn’t the most satisfying read I’ve experienced.

Exquisite Torture was a little weird, but kind of nice. I liked his character development and his sweetness. The ending was a little open though, feeling a smidge incomplete.

Foridden was one of my favorites in this collection. It was refreshingly authentic with great characters and a very sweet story. I think many out there can relate to some degree to the couple.

Taking the Plunge is a little more grown up than the other stories. It was very compelling and highly emotional. Predictable, and a little fast moving, but ultimately the story was satisfying and left me smiling.

Boarderline Love was a little tough for me. She’s incredibly whiny and immature in the beginning so it was slow. She does grow some through the story. Overall, it’s a decent read, but wasn’t particularly satisfying.

An Ocean of Their Own was a pleasant surprise. I hadn’t read the full description of all the stories in this collection, so I wasn’t expecting a lesbian romance and it was rather refreshing. The sweetness of the girls was very cute and totally believable. My favorite aspect though was Lola and her dad. This was my other favorite of the stories and left me smiling!

Bottom Line:

Summer Crush is a set of stories that’ll make you take a trip down memory lane as well as drag you into characters’ lives until the last page is turned. Don’t miss out on this sizzling YA/NA beach read!

Rating:



Links:



Friday, August 21, 2015

BLOG TOUR: Shadow's Strike by Dianne Duvall


Thanks to Authors Taproom for hosting this blog tour. I'm sharing my review of Dianne Duvall's Shadow's Strike today. Happy reading!

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Summary:

The Immortal Guardians protect the innocent in secret. Sometimes the secret gets out...

U.S. law enforcement agent Heather Lane can read minds. But not the future. The dream of battle and blood that recurs every night must be a fluke, some obscure terror from her own mind. What its significance might be, she can’t guess: an attack from seven psychotic vampires at once, only separated from nightmare by an eighth very different immortal. A handsome, brave man fighting at her side, a man she misses when she wakes.

Then the dream comes true. Heather is flung into a war between predators and protectors of humanity, the man from her dreams beside her again. Except now that she’s awake, she isn’t sure she can trust Ethan, or the shadow organization he represents. The U.S. military doesn’t trust either of them. But against an onslaught of evil like the one that’s coming, it will take everything they have just to survive...

Title:  Shadow's Strike
Series:  Immortal Guardians
Book #: 6
Author:  Dianne Duvall
Approximate Book Length:  320 Pages
Recommended Reader Age:  18+
Sexual Content:  Moderate

Thoughts:

Dianne Duvall is in a class of her own. Every book in this series is consistently amazing. Her cast of characters is full of laugh out loud fun, a wide range of histories and personalities, and a sense of family; her stories always full of heartwarming romance and nail-biting action.

Ethan’s story is no different! He and Heather are adorable together and bring on a whole new aspect to the immortal guardians’ fight. They wade through a mystery with the highest of stakes with courage, skill, and love.

This book changes the rules and I already can’t wait for the next book. I just can’t get enough!

Bottom Line:

Shadow's Strike is a gripping installment in the Immortal Guardians series. It will keep you on the edge of your seat and up all night to finish. It’s another awesome sequel from Dianne Duvall!

Rating:



Links:



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About the Author
Dianne Duvall is the New York Times and USA Today Bestselling Author of the Immortal Guardians paranormal romance series and The Gifted Ones series. Her books have twice been nominated for the RT Reviewers' Choice Award for Best Vampire Romance and are routinely deemed Top Picks by RT Book Reviews, The Romance Reviews, and/or Night Owl Reviews. Reviewers have called Dianne's books "utterly addictive" (RT Book Reviews), "fast-paced and humorous" (Publishers Weekly), "extraordinary" (Long and Short Reviews), and "wonderfully imaginative" (The Romance Reviews).

Dianne loves all things creative. When she isn't writing, Dianne is active in the independent film industry and has even appeared on-screen, crawling out of a moonlit grave and wielding a machete like some of the vampires she has created in her books.

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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

BLOG TOUR: Treasured by Thursday by Catherine Bybee


I'm sharing my review of Catherine Bybee's Treasured by Thursday today. Happy reading!

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Summary:

The seventh and final tale in the dazzling, heartwarming, and pulse-racing Weekday Brides series.

Gabriella Masini: She’s a woman haunted by her past, with the scars to prove it. She believes that fairy tales are for other people. An elite matchmaker at Alliance, she’s great at crunching numbers, but something doesn’t add up with her latest prospective client: a billionaire bad boy with his own secrets. When Gabi refuses to be his temporary wife, Hunter forces her hand with an offer she can’t refuse. But marriage to a man like that could never last…or could it?

Hunter Blackwell: Only his bank account is bigger than his ruthless ability to obtain anything he wants. These days, he has a secret reason to settle down, at least for a while—and he thinks the sensual and sassy Gabi will fit the bill perfectly. But when their marriage of convenience becomes downright dangerous, Hunter must decide how far to take his vow to honor and protect Gabi forever.

Title:  Treasured by Thursday
Series:  Weekday Brides
Book #: 7
Author:  Catherine Bybee
Approximate Book Length:  368 Pages
Recommended Reader Age:  18+
Sexual Content:  Moderate

Thoughts:

I was so happy to see Gabi get a story. Her history from the last book was so heartbreaking that I wanted to see her get her happy ending. The circumstances under which her relationship with Hunter began were shady and sad, but the character development that evolved bringing them closer was so worth it. The story was compelling with a wonderful cast of supporting characters. I have only read the last two in the series and have every intention of grabbing the first five, but I’m still a little sad to see it end. Good thing there’s more to explore from Catherine Bybee!

Bottom Line:

Treasured by Thursday is an intense and emotional read full of suspense and sweetness. It’s a lovely end to a great series.

Rating:



Links:



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About the Author
New York Times & USA Today bestselling author Catherine Bybee was raised in Washington State, but after graduating high school, she moved to Southern California in hopes of becoming a movie star. After growing bored with waiting tables, she returned to school and became a registered nurse, spending most of her career in urban emergency rooms. She now writes full-time and has penned the Weekday Brides Series and the Not Quite Series. Bybee lives with her husband and two teenage sons in Southern California.

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Sunday, August 16, 2015

MY SECOND PREGNANCY - Third Trimester

THIRD TRIMESTER

With Tara, by this point I was still pretty ok. I had gotten some nausea back and had some heartburn, but ultimately I just don’t remember it being too bad.

This time has been pretty miserable if I’m honest. It started early and hasn’t let up much. The nausea is occasional and not bad, but the heartburn has been GOD AWFUL. I take a Tums almost every single night and sometimes during the day too. Milk only sometimes helps.

The belly has grown quite a bit and grows faster during this trimester, so sleeping is made difficult because I can’t get comfy, even with a body pillow. However, my weight gain is still perfectly on track and baby boy is measuring on track for his due date as well.

I’ve been getting LOTS of Braxton Hicks contractions. Heat makes it worse and when they get really intense and frequent, it can take a lot of water to get them to chill. Rest helps too when possible, which isn’t too much with a toddler around.

I have had more anxiety this time around. Every expectant mama is at least a little nervous about preterm labor. It’s important to be aware of your body and all so that if you do show signs of preterm labor you can have it addressed in time to stop it or at least help advance the baby’s lungs if necessary. I did have one minor scare, but a night of bedrest and an absurd(!) amount of water did the trick.

I had been freaking out about having everything ready to the point that I have a bag packed and ready and I’ve been a little naggy to my poor husband regarding buying the last piece for the nursery (a dresser). I saw my therapist and she gave me some helpful tips on handling the anxiety so it doesn’t rule me and it’s better.

I’m still pretty antsy though at this point. However, it’s a much more natural antsiness. I’m ready to meet my son and frankly so very tired of being pregnant. The two things I want first after he’s born is a bottle of wine and to wrestle with my daughter!


Wednesday, August 12, 2015

BLOG TOUR: Guarded by Carmen Fox


Thanks to Bewitching Book Tours for hosting this blog tour. I have Carmen Fox, author of Guarded here today. Welcome!

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DEVISING THE PERFECT BOOK COVER

My publisher designed the cover of my first novel, DIVIDE AND CONQUER, largely without my input, and the result wasn’t what I’d imagined. Not that it was horrible, it just didn’t match my expectations. For a control freak like me, that was tough to swallow.

With GUARDED, I was able to take charge, which proved a truly liberating experience. In broad terms, the covers that appeal to me most are uncluttered, with a definite feel for the genre. And that’s exactly what I was after.

First I had to conjure a theme. Since GUARDED is a sexy novel, I wanted a sexy albeit not erotic image to grace the cover. No hot bod of a hunk or a semi-clad young woman for me. Even if my book is heavy on romance with an over-18 tag, the story primarily focuses on the character of Ivy, a sassy 25-year-old who changes from a shy ‘good girl’ into a young woman who’s comfortable with her sexuality. A character-driven book needs a character-driven cover to represent it.

One by one I assembled the basic elements of an eye-catching visual. A woman’s legs in a short red skirt, because a strong stance expresses control and sensuality. And a (were)wolf to symbolize the genre.

Once I’d made up a mock-up picture, I asked my Facebook followers for comments and advice. They helped me perfect the details. The vibrant red of her skirt, in itself an aggressive color, should be reflected in the wolf’s eyes, and the confrontation between Ivy and the wolf must be palpable.

Armed with this, I researched book designers. The choice was almost overwhelming, but I whittled my final candidates down to Ana Grigoriu, whose covers just spoke to me. She favors simplicity, no clutter, but with wonderful lively colors. I e-mailed her my mock-up, filled in a short questionnaire about the tone of my novel, and within a few days, she sent back her version. And holy toaster, did she knock it out of the park.

I couldn’t have asked for a better designer or a better result. Everything you need to know about GUARDED is right here. A strong, sexy heroine. The paranormal element. Conflict. Even the background adds a sense of mystery, once again in keeping with the plot where everything, from the true identities of Ivy’s suitors to her past, is shrouded in uncertainty.

Together with the backcover blurb, the cover tells a reader exactly what to expect when picking up my book in a store or online.

I’m working on the sequel now, and while I have no clue yet as to what my cover will eventually look like, it’s comforting to know I have Facebook friends and readers to help and a designer who will convert a vague idea into a piece of art.

There are many obstacles you face as a newbie author, but having complete control over the cover art is a pretty awesome perk.

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About the Author
Carmen lives in the south of England with her beloved tea maker and a stuffed sheep called Fergus. An avid reader since childhood, she caught the writing bug when her Nana asked her to write a story. She also has a law degree, studied physics for a few years, dabbled in marketing and human resources, and speaks native-level German and fluent Geek. Her preferred niches of geekdom are tabletop games, comics, sci-fi and fantasy.

She writes about smart women with sassitude, about pretty cool guys too, and will chase that plot twist, no matter how elusive.

Expect to be kept guessing.

DIVIDE AND CONQUER, Carmen’s first urban fantasy novel, was published in March 2015.

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Guarded

When everyone's existence depends on the lies they tell, trust doesn't come easy

Ivy’s neighbors have a secret. They aren’t human. But Ivy has a secret, too. She knows. As long as everyone keeps quiet, she’s happy working as a P.I. by day and chillaxing with her BFF Florian, a vampire, by night. When a routine pickup drops her in the middle of a murder, her two worlds collide. While Florian knows how to throw a punch, deep down he's a softie. His idea of scary? Running out of hair product. It’s time Ivy faced facts. Even with a vampire on stand-by, one gal can only kick so many asses.

For help, she must put her faith in others. A human, who might just be the one. A demon, who will, for a price, open the doors to her heritage. And a werewolf, who wants to protect her from herself.

Torn between these men, Ivy must tread carefully, because one wants her heart, one wants her body, and one wants her dead.


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Wednesday, August 5, 2015

BLOG TOUR: Imagine by Jenna Greene


Thanks to Bewitching Book Tours for hosting this blog tour. I have Jenna Greene, author of Imagine here today talking about character inspiration. Welcome and happy reading!

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The Inspiration for a Character

My latest novel, IMAGINE, has two main characters who vary a great deal in age, appearance, and personality. The question that follows is “Where did the inspiration for these two different personas come from?” Well, I might not have known about it while I was writing, but now that the work is completed, I’m fairly certain I know the answer.

Katharine “Kat” Bowers: She is based on two roommates I had while I was in university. Their names were Kate and Cathy, so it’s pretty obvious why I chose the name Kat. Both of them had short, auburn hair, and weren’t super tall. Thus, Kat was given the same characteristics. Though my former roommates had different interests and talents, they were both feisty, not afraid to say what was on their minds, unabashed about standing up for themselves. I really admired the strength these two women had – especially since I was fairly shy at the time, lacking confidence, and just starting to find myself. Thus the character of Kat Bowers is a bit of wishful thinking on my part. I created someone who acts confident, even when she isn’t always feel so. Kat is an independent gal with a mind of her own.

Rebecca “Becky” Thatcher: Becky is probably more like me than any character I’ve ever created. Her brown hair is modeled after my own, though she wears braided pigtails and I prefer a simple ponytail. Just like me, she LOVES reading. Becky generally lives inside her own head, creating fantasies and re-living plot lines, and has great enthusiasm for every part of life. She’s a bit naïve, (though she’s only ten so it’s excusable), and also unfailingly optimistic. While I might not have her unfailing “joie de vivre”, I certainly do try to live my life with energy and joy.

I can’t say where other authors get their inspirations for characters. I can only speak of my own work. And I take my inspiration wherever I can find it. Characters I create come from people I know, the person I am, or the person I want to be.

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About the Author
Jenna Greene is a middle school teacher in Alberta, Canada. She lives with her husband and their two dogs: Thor, Dog of Thunder and Tyko. Her other YA novel is Heroine, published by Aaspirations Publishing.

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Imagine

A fierce wind and a blast of green light during a strange storm causes everything to change for Katharine Bowers and Becky Thatcher. The girls wake up in Oren, an entirely different realm than their earthly city. They meet Enalie, a fading magical presence who sets an incredible destiny before them… then simply disappears. Left alone to fend off creatures that hunt them in the night, they must relay a magical heritage that doesn’t make sense, and – if possible – save a world that they know nothing about.


Sunday, August 2, 2015

MY SECOND PREGNANCY - Second Trimester

SECOND TRIMESTER & FINDING OUT THE GENDER

Last time, I got that boost of energy that around 14 weeks that everyone talks about. “Oh the second trimester is the best!” Well, when you already have a toddler, that boost of energy isn’t nearly as noticeable. I still needed to nap when Tara napped almost every day.

Things that should start around the second trimester had already shown up a couple weeks prior too, such as round ligament pain. Joint pain showed up nice and early as well. After talking with many other moms, as well as my midwife, I was assured that was normal…but it still sucked.

I continued to feel like I grew really fast. Part of the reason for that was because I was gaining weight a little bit faster than I had the first time. You’re supposed to gain about half a pound a week and I was gaining about a pound (or more during a trip to visit family on the west coast :P). Part of it was also probably just my hormonal imagination, obsessing over feeling fat like most pregnant women haha.

I did notice that I got fewer nose bleeds during this pregnancy. Last time I think I started getting a lot of bloody snot and some full scale nose bleeds during the second trimester, but this time I noticed some bloody snot only occasionally.

At about 20 weeks, we did get an ultrasound. It was our first during this pregnancy as we’d had no need for one sooner, so we were excited. We did decide to find out the sex again this time which only increased the excitement.

They actually had trouble getting a good look because this kid was sitting SO low. They actually had to press down behind my pubic bone! I was 20 weeks pregnant, so it’s not like I didn’t have a decent belly already.

They finally got a good look, and what’s the first thing we see? It’s a boy! Other than that, everything looked good and he was measuring perfectly for his due date, just like Tara always did.

As I write this, I’m 30 ½ weeks pregnant, so I still have 9 ½ weeks left, but if he’s anything like his sister, I should think of it as more like 7 ½ weeks! I’m actually anxious to meet him already, but I know he needs more time…sigh!