Posts in Motherhood
Growing in Heart: What I read in 2017 for Compassion, Self-Care and Wholeheartedness
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2017 was the year I turned 30, and I suppose this book list reflects that.  Looking back, I weathered a tough year with two littles - 3 & 1 and kept my heart growing in the midst.  I completed 26 books and this list isn't exhaustive, rather a highlights reel of the notables.  To see my whole list, click here.  Also, if we're not friends on GoodReads, WE SHOULD BE!  I love seeing what friends are reading and I obviously need to grow in reading some more happy books and some more fiction, so help a sister out.  

I feel like this year was one of developing deep compassion in my soul for the struggles and trials of others and yep - myself.  This girl has gotten into a pattern of rejoice over mourn with and skirting pains through performing and perfecting.  I'm sure you can relate - yes, no?  Then let's pop through this list of likes.  

Braving the Wilderness by Brene Brown  It's no secret that I'm a Brene fan....isn't the whole world?  While I'm not sure this is her best work I do think it makes short work of standing strong amidst life's difficulty.  It sort of encapsulates all of her teachings and presses you towards belonging to yourself.  Belonging is a strong value I want to instill in my boys - the wholeness, courage and bravery that comes alongside belonging - goals for sure.  

Stitches: A Handbook on Meaning, Hope and Repair by Anne Lamott  Oh sweet, Annie.  I had the pleasure of listening to her, in person, at a lecture series and it only deepen'd my love for her.  She can take difficult topics and lace them tight with a firm dose of hope and this book is no exception. 

Hallelujah Anyway by Anne Lamott . More Annie.  Seriously, this book woke up my mercy-heart and had me crying sweet, happy tears beachside.  I read it in a (long) sitting, but it was such a dear story of underdogs, kind exchanges between strangers and yep - a whole lot of mercy towards self and others.  If your heart needs a lift, a pep talk and a bit of restored hope in humanity - this book's your girl.  Would also make a lovely gift.  

Everyday Faith by Katie Orr This is NOT my first Katie Orr book and I certainly hope it won't be my last.  She taught me how to study the bible more deeply and fully, amidst my stint at seminary - that's sayin something.  Her FOCUSed study method opened my eyes to a bunch of bible resources and got me going deep into the original languages.  Loved this faith focus - another great gift and a super approachable book for easing back into bible study.  I'm all about some biblical literacy and her books really helped ease me back into studying the word and deeply knowing Christ.  One day I'm gonna meet Katie Orr - she lives just a bit up the road - but through these books my study has radically changed.  So good.  

The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown  Love Brene.  Think every woman, mother and human should read this.  In the throws of motherhood, business and just life it's easy to get stuck living our lives for others, in the ways we feel they call us to - and Brene challenges us to let go of all the 'keeping up' - to step into living as wholly ourselves.  Good stuff.  Great stuff for dropping baggage I carry as a Momma so it doesn't rub off on my littles.  They need not carry more than this world will ask of them.  

Coming Clean: A Story of Faith by Seth Haines  Loved Seth's wife's book and loved his nearly as much.  His story is a raw and honest view into his mind and heart as he quit a long love affair with alcohol.  So pure and honest as he takes you on a walk through hiding his addiction amongst friends, to stopping, through therapy and relationships changing.  Good, good stuff.  

A Fierce Love by Shauna Shanks Oh Shauna's book.  Are you stale in your marriage? Disgruntled about little things or stuck in other areas?  Shauna's book is a good perspective reset and shift.  She walks through her husband's infidelity - yes - but what is so much more rich and transformative is her own heart change and approach to what she felt like was an inevitable end to her marriage.  She makes much of Christ and both compels you to Him as well as in your own life.  

You Are Free, Be Who You Already Are by Rebekah Lyons  If you struggle with anxiety or know someone who does this read is for you...so that's you.  Ha!  Rebekah takes you through her life in NYC, lets you in to her battles with anxiety in a season and the ways the Lord cared for and loved her through that.  So much compassion and understanding for those facing anxiety and panic and rich comfort and practical ways to trust the Lord in the midst.  

Soul Keeping by John Ortberg  This book pops up so regularly on my kindle deals email that I decided to give it a go and I am so glad that I did.  It was a good look at soul care through a spiritual disciplines lens.  Lots of good truths like being honest in every single last thing - to others, yes - but to ourselves - no denial etc.  Good stuff - lots of little truths from when we were littles that we so easily forget and don't apply to now.  

Celebration of Discipline by Richard J. Foster LOVED this classic.  I think delving into spiritual disciplines has deeped and widened my faith.  So many practical ways to pray, do solitude, study the bible etc.  It's like a 'doing' of Christianity primer.  

Safe People by Dr. Henry Cloud and Dr. John Townsend  I've been working through Dr. Cloud's works over the past year and this has been one of the most transformational for me.  Looking at the people in our lives and sorting through who is safe, who has safe characteristics and who just isn't.  Also so much growth to be had reading this book in search of learning to be a more safe person for others.  Good, good stuff.  Ministry peeps should totes read this . 

All the Pretty Things by Edie Wadsworth OH my starts.  I'm totally an Edie fangirl at this point and this memoir is what kicked it off.  I think it's the best memoir I've ever read.  For real y'all - and I LOVE me some memoirs.  Her story is just plain crazy, I adored the Appalachian ties, the trash to treasure sort of theme that winds its way through.  And dangit if Edie's transparency and honesty doesn't compel us into leading with our own stories, all hung out and honest.  So good.  If you read nothign, read this.  

Healing the Scars of Childhood Abuse by Gregory L. Jantz, PhD  I grabbed this in a random bookstore trip and am much better for the reading.  I think I read it right after Edie's book, above, that walks through a lot of implications of her own childhood.  After reading this, I feel like the standards for abuse are low (or high - not sure how to say that...) - feels like everyone experienced abusive situations if not length abuse patterns by the criteria within.  I am thankful for this info and the ways this book spells out what childhood abuse grows to look like when you're an adult - how people carry the pains, wounds and patterns of their lives before.  So much understanding and compassion can grow here.  And absolutely has made me comb my mothering with a magnifying glass - and has changed how I respond to my friend's mothering quandaries.  I'll warn you - it will also make you want to rescue quite a few little children from their own terribleness.  

Invitation to Solitude and Silence by Ruth Haley Barton  If you're a high-powered, high-capacity lady (hello fellow enneagram 8's) then Ruths' writing is for you.  I loved her deep dive into solitude and silence from the perspective of a working mother.  Really practical and really transformative of my life with God when I'm sitting under this practice regularly.  If nothing else, I think it helps us claim some yesterdays from our culture.  I often wonder what sort of woman I'd be if I was reared in the 30's or 50's...so much more quiet.  

The Soul of Shame by Curt Thompson, MD  Last in the line of serious -this book is a biblical sort of approach on Brene's shame work.  SO great and while much of the information is similar, much of it is different and eye opening.  Curt feels like an old friend, his merging of medicine, science and faith is approachable yet lofty.  

One, Two B&W Roll
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Some images from a black and white roll(s) that we shot around the house of normal life.  Pretty sure it was from freshman year of college thus the super grain and inconsistencies.  But I love it just the same!

First Year Film

I've made it a slow practice of mine to keep film handy and a camera tucked around the house.  This challenges me to think differently, to slow down and I really just love the images I come away with.  I'm slow to develop it and slow to look, but here are a bucketful of images from the last year or so. The above is obviously long lost on the timeline, but it was on there!

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Adventure & Camping Boy Baby Shower
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A quick little recap from last spring when my sister and I threw our other sister a baby shower for her little adventure baby.  The idea came from the fabrics and theme our sister, Sara, chose for her baby's room. I loved this theme, because we tried to stick with globe colors or green, blue and yellow, then tossed in a handful of vintage floral linens and a few patterns, too.  We picked up this vintage globe bank as a gift for Baby T and I moved a sign in from our guest room on an old high chair she found for me at a yard sale.

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We also pulled out a vintage map and some globes that live in our guest room, added some garlands from Target and called it fancy.  Our Mom gifted her a baby seat and stroller combo, so we popped a bow on those, assembled them and used them as party decor of sorts.  We seperated the drink station out from food to keep guests moving around the house and served up lemonade and water.

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The shower was in the afternoon, so shared a variety of 'trail snacks' that included veggies, fruits, cracker and cheese and some pasta salad.  We also included cashews, as those were a craving of my sister's while she was pregnant.  I homemade a funfetti cake with chocolate icing that matched the colors and we all dug in after the presents were open.  Loved digging up a few old photos of my sister and her husband as kids, too, and popped them in the clipboards overtop some ripped out pages from an old atlas I found at the Goodwill.

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Guests left with their own little baggie of trail mix that featured the mom-to-be's favorite snacks and that sweet little TeePee onesie was a gift to our sister.  Lots of simple things, a bunch of chopped up yummy food - but mostly just a gaggle of ladies excited to meet and love on a new baby gathering together to celebrate!  It doesn't have to be expensive or extravagant to be meaningful and a blessing of a shower!

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venture

Loving Lately: Grove Collaborative

Lots and lots I get asked how I keep up with all the things.  From my photo friends, mom friends, ladies I work alongside...all you ladies trying to do the illusive balance routine while still earnestly desiring to love your own people well.  So first things first: I don't. Long ago I was taught a helpful rule to ask myself often;  if THIS TASK is something my family, friends, clients don't need ME to be doing, how can I outsource or hire this out?  Deep cleaning our home, bookkeeping, shopping and cleaning the dog top the list of my favorite things to pay for someone else to do.  When I get in a weird, guilty place about having someone else clean my house or paying to wash an animal I could clean in a half hour, I keep in mind it's this practice that increases my capacity.  This allows me to do two things - 1. Do more of the work that I love to pay for these services and 2. Spend time doing the things I LOVE, with the people I LOVE.  

One of my most faves lately has been Grove Collaborative.  It's been a few months of receiving their shipments and I have to say after being super leery of mail order, scheduled household stuff, I'm hooked.  They offer GREAT prices on so many items I use to clean, care for Truman, our health and a host of other things.  They ship them to my door monthly after asking what it is that I need and I am never sucked into the temptation tornado I like to call Target when I run in for a quick pack of diapers and come out $100 poorer.

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This month, Grove is offering you ladies (and gents!?) a little bonus for getting started: One Mrs. Meyer's Hand Soap, Dish Soap and Soy Candle, A 2-pack of their walnut scrubbers and Free Shipping to your doorstep.  You just drop another $20 of items in your cart and it's all yours.  You can keep receiving monthly shipments of just the items you choose and need or you can cancel as soon as tomorrow, but I doubt you will.  Each month I spend a quick 5 minutes adding and subtracting products we need in the month's shipment and my household shopping list is done from the comfort of wherever my laptop is sitting with me. Good stuff y'all.

Top ways I use Grove Collaborative to simplify:

  1. I LOVE Mrs, Meyer's smells and formulas and I love that I can choose my scents and swap them out seasonally at my sink.  This Christmas will be the third year running I whip out her Iowa Pine soaps come December.
  2. That lime green scrub brush sticking out behind the soaps works like a dream, has a wooden handle that my numb, pregnant hands can latch onto and cleans all my grandma's vintage pyrex great but still scrubs wonderfully with the Mrs. Meyer's surface scrub on my crusty dutch oven.
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3. Those walnut scrubbers are awesome, they're neutrally colored (I KNOW a bunch of you appreciate my distaste for the traditional neon sponges) and they work great.  I keep this one in the sink of Truman's bathroom.  His sandals tend to get pretty stinky, so we give them a scrub on nights he's in the tub, then leave them over the air vent to dry at night.  Works like a dream.

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4.  While I've always liked Mrs. Meyers, I never ventured past the hand soaps until Grove suggested I give her tub and tile cleaner a go.  It's my new bestie.  Our old cast iron tub needs reglazed, which means it picks up the dirt Leila brings in and often absorbs the bath paint Truman enjoys.  A few squirts of this and a weak wipe down with the walnut scrubber and all is new.  I also LOVE that I'm not gagging from the smell or feel like I'm endangering my pregnant body from chemicals.

5.  LOVE Seventh Generation's liquid dishwasher soap.  Cleans better than anything I've tried and I used to be a die hard Kirkland dishwasher pod person.

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6. Grove has these AWESOME glass spray bottles.  I like to mix up my own cleaning solutions occasionally, but mostly I love that I can water my seedlings and house plants with them.  They spray upside down and sideways and haven't gotten clogged for me after 6 months of use.  Plus they're gorgeous and glass and I love.  We also keep a bottle for Truman's cloth diaper solution in his room for gross hiney issues. 7.  Speaking of gross hiney issues and bottoms, Truman goes through phases of soaking his overnight cloth dipes, so I LOVED that Grove has my favorite Seventh Generation's overnight diapers as an option.  Not even my bestie, Target carries these.  And they work.  I keep a pack standard in my monthly shipment and it's been just the right amount for our overnight travels, thirsty days and nights to grandmas.

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8.  Another Mrs. Meyer's that I was suggested to order: glass cleaner.  After I finished up my last bottle of the blue stuff, I ordered this bottle.  If I'm honest, I didn't think it would work nor did I expect it to be a match for my fingerprint and dust spotting eyes: I like my mirrors and windows and anything I'm looking into: spotless.  This does the job, doesn't have nasty junk in it and smells super.

9.  Grove has also come in handy for having me ready to roll to a baby or bridal shower.  I keep a few extra items on hand that are my most fave to wrap up with a gift or gift card.  They also have a sweet cleaning caddy that is white and simple and perfect for popping supplies in and wrapping up gift-basket style.

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10.  Vitamins and meds!  They offer up a lot of Zarbee's kid's products that I can't find in the big box stores.  I also love their prenatals and their immune support gummies for kids. That's that folks.  I love opening my monthly box and love all the new items I've been able to change over to from my chemical laden past.  I also love that they offer so many kids products that I can't find in stores.  If you're even thinking it over a bit, I'd say jump.  I wouldn't tell you about something I loved if I didn't reallyyyyy love it.  You'll never find me selling ya snake oils or any host of other things that make the rounds these days, but this company has been a sweet little time saver that keeps on giving.  Head over and grab up a couple of my favorite items and your free Mrs, Meyer's items, too!  

Loving lately: Podcasts
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Aside from realllyyyy loving this space, in its newly remodeled state, I've got a little list of loves for ya that mostly revolves around encouragement through words.  But first, can I just say how it's so nice to finally have an online space that truly feels like me.  It's no longer a back-burner space to toss up family photos just so they are somewhere safe and it's not a place where my work gets clouded up with my thoughts.  Hopefully this will turn into the space that matches the all over the place way I do life.  Recipes here, gardening there, some quilting efforts, lots of words, loads of books and a little place to archive images of our family that we can look at regularly. As usual, I'm LOVING podcasts.  I clean to them, do dishes, cook dinner, ride in the car, take showers listening - perfect encouragement for when I'm home with a toddler while my hubs travels.  I LOVE how the iphone automatically has a podcast app - makes listening so easy.  Here are some highlights of my fave episodes, take a listen to at least one and I know you'll feel encouraged.

God Centered Mom has been a fave for a long while.  I nearly hate that it's called got Mom in the title, because sooo many of the episodes are so rich and not just for Mommas.  My top episode faves of hers are by two older ladies....think 80's.  Surprise?  I think not....I love me some wise women.

First up is a two-part episode featuring 87-year-old Vickie Kraft.  You can find episode one here and episode two here.  I love that Ms. Kraft went to seminary in her 50's, chats about how she's studied the bible in her years and how she's encouraging, leading and mentoring young women in her church. What I most love that she talks about how great it is when friends just stop by instead of calling first.  Love how she brings up so many things that were an integral part of her life, growing up in another time.  Since the podcast was recorded Ms. Kraft has gone to be with the Lord - I love listening to it with a sweet gratefulness for the legacy this woman has surely left behind.

Next up?  80-year-old number two: Doris Howard, lovingly referred to as Grammie.  She covers everything from her fruitful marriage that left her a widow, taking in an adult girl as her own to praying for chairs at her church in Asheville, NC.  She's just as sweetly wise as Vickie, but perhaps a bit more frank: which I super love.  She's such an encouragement - even to Mom's of little children - from which she is far removed, but remembers so well.  "We just need to obey and leave the consequences to God." 

There are so many solid - I mean, excellent - parenting episodes, but I especially love this strong dose of parenting wisdom she served up to celebrate two years of the podcast.  So many wise folks contributed to this episode - it's a must-listen if you're knee deep in loving and guiding littles.

I go back and forth and round and round with Around the Table's Podcast.  I love their Friday lunch break interviews and really enjoy the episodes where Jacey and Maggie chat about food and life around the table, but the filler convos can turn me away from time to time.  That said - give it a listen - it may be your perfect cup of tea!  And definitely roll through some of the Friday interviews - they're neat little windows into others.  Best Friday lunch, hands down, is spunky Rach Kincaid's episode where she covers everything from her transforming encounter with grace to her experiences in caring for hospice patients.  You will cry and your heart will be pulled on in the best way.  Love Rach's perspective and love her character that so clearly shines through.

"Grace was for people who were worse off than me and I couldn't be bothered to ask for any of it.  So I just went after this striving, accomplishment, success thing - this life - which is funny, because I've never been stellar at anything ... And then I got smacked with his grace when I became a mother and was absolutely terrible at it ... And that's when I fell in love with his grace for the first time as a twenty-something.  Ever since then I have wanted to walk this line that is right smack-dab in the tension - in the middle - of grace and works because it is his grace that compels us to do good works  It is his gift that asks us to celebrate what he's given us by striving - I don't want to be scared of that word - but we're striving after his kingdom, not after ours.  And we're pushing and we're moving forward into his calling for us and not into our own goals and dreams."  - Rach Kincaid

If you're a reader, Anne Bogel's podcast, What Should I Read Next will be right up your alley.  It's always a refreshing conversation where she listens to her guests (usually authors, wish there would be more 'normal' folks) share a handful of books they love and books they didn't.  She then comes back with suggestions for them, notices characteristics that link the books that they love.  I'm always hearing about new books, enjoying deeper reviews of books I'm considering and just love this easy listen each week.  Take a listen right here.

I saved my current holy grail of podcasts for last:Jamie Ivey's Happy Hour.  I've binge listened to every last one of these and have been enjoying them since little Tru was born.  Jamie has such a deft hand as an interviewer - she graciously and lovingly gets to the heart of her guests.  She's so respectful, approachable and never talking over her folks or leaving me with questions, unanswered about her guests.  She's the real deal.  Ran into her on a curb at a conference and she's just the same in real life.  Love it.  Listen to them alllllll.

My most favorite episode - and possible blogger/internet personality - is Jami Nato's episode.  Listen to her chat with Jami, go sit a spell on her website and see if the grace in her marriage and family and words don't just cover you like a heavy knit blanket on the coziest of days.  Jami remains one of my most favorite encouragers on the internet.

If you want a sweet couple instagram accounts to follow, look up Stephanie Holden and her husband Nick's accounts.   I so LOVED this episode where she talks about how the Lord redeemed their teenage pregnancy, a host of family 'traditions' that you long to see an end to and just the most wild transformation of her family coming to faith.  So good.  Nick also recently did a line of insta posts about marriage.  Look em up.

Jen Wilkin's episode was another fave, wisdom-rich episode of the happy hour that I just loved.  She wrote a wonderful book that walks us through how to study the bible and she just has soo many lovely and smart things to say.

Now pick one, and pop that phone in a wide-mouth mason jar to make an easy speaker and enjoy the wisdom, fun and encouragement these ladies have to share.

The best helper.
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Just one quick image from my chatty, little helper.  T had to come with me to a session with a fella just a bit older than him and wanted to talk with/to him most of the session.  And he giggled at all the entertainment we were clearly directing to the other baby.  Simple guy.  Just looking for someone to chat to and laugh at.  Love him so. 

Rest and waking early
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Lately I've felt like I a. can't get enough done (chronic Elizabeth-Lizzie-Loo-problem), b. I'm not getting to read/learn as much as I'd like, c. I'm not taking the time to workout because I leave it for the end of the day when I'm zonked and d. a tired, bumbling life isn't the one God has for me soooooo...I better get to praying for strength and direction and putting one foot in front of the other.   And while I'm not accomplished at this yet, I'm strides ahead of where I was two weeks when my eyes kept growing big everytime Luke would ask me to do anything and the only alarm clock I was using was Truman's 7am cry.  Much thanks to a few friends on the interwebs, namely Jess Connoly, Valerie Woerner and Nancy Ray.  They can each, often be found instagramming or blogging about their early morning routines and how they run their companies or do crazy things like keep 1-4 kids alive and thriving while planting a church and running a network of women or shipping out a zillion prayer journals weekly while continuing to innovate.  For me, that has been SO encouraging.  To be reminded, that with God's strength, I was made to do more things, serve more people and pretty much roll out of bed in the morning.

And not in the 'lets do so many things so we can be awesome' way.  Nope.  I have a company to continue to run while loving my family well, raising a son to know the Lord and serve others, friends to grow with, peeps to serve and care for, a mind to grow and a quilt to make (more on that later).  I've always been a happy morning person, which I attributes to my parents.  My Dad trains racehorses so he's always been veryearly to rise and I'm sure since I was a chatty little kiddo, Mom sent me to the track often and on the other days I was probably up eating Cheerios with him before he left anyway.  I've always enjoyed getting up, but somewhere in the early years of Lizzie Loo I turned into a crazy, work-all-the-hours kind of silly person and totally forgot that waking before 8 is possible if you go to bed before 2....or 3, which, unfortunately I was notorious for.

Which brings me to my current state of being.   For two weeks my goal has been to be up by 6.  Some mornings the Lord is gracious and wakes me up, so it's staring at the ceiling fan or getting a move on it.  Others I hit the snooze 5x and have to coax myself out of bed by remembering how it feels to have time to myself before Truman wakes up.  I would like to move towards a 5 wakeup, but this progress will have to be slow and steady for now.

Most mornings I wake and grab a cup of coffee and settle down with the bible, a bit of Shauna Niequest's new devotional Savor (LOVE) and try to work through my prayer journal before I hear little baby voices.  Most mornings its worked.  A few have been met with an early, teething riser, which has been hard.  I've decided this practice is only a M-F thing to keep weekends as free as they can be for a wedding photographer.

Other mornings I've been able to write, read and work through our photos of Truman to blog them, and get them printed for his baby book - overall, I haven't missed that hour or two of sleep at all.  Just tricky to get out of the bed, but once my feet hit the floor it's smooth sailing from there.  I've found that having a plan the night before helps me as does going to bed earlier.  At first, the earlier bedtime was annoying, mostly because I'm just plain tired but want to do things.  Usually by 9:30, definitely by 10.  Which sounds plain crazy to my pre-baby self who slept maybe 6 hours and could take on endless activities, but alas.  A little person can both make you giggle til your 'abs' are apparent and put you into a euphoric land when you know they're finally asleep for the evening.

Today I got up and worked out in the basement, made breakfast, had coffee, did a devotional and now I'm here writing as Truman wakes in the next room.  All this to say, if you're feeling weary, you're missing time in your day or once the kiddos are in bed you're ready for sleep, too, that's ok.  It's not just ok but it's possible to listen to your tired, evening body so you can wake up your morning body and do some things for you, get some tasks checked off the list using both hands and avoiding the drool puddles that come with a baby on your trail.  You can always try it for a few days and go back to sleeping longer if it's not your thing.  OR you can try it for a few days, find a whole new way to take care of yourself and be better for your family and get sucked into a 9:30 bedtime, too.  Huzzah!

Having Baby: Packing a Hospital Bag
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This is a real fun post to write, but hey - I've answered it in email form many times lately and found the web of pinterest lists that were meant to help only confused me.  So here's my must-have hospital list.  Know that I am generally more on the minimalist side of things.  I hate extra stuff.  I hate having tons of bags.  And I really hate spending $$ on things I won't use.  So know this is a real list of the things I really used most.

1. My own water bottle:  I took my 24 ounce mason jar tumbler with me and had Luke refill it over and over and over and over.  They fit in the car cup holder, hold a ton of water and kept me from spilling water on myself and Truman.  I'm a little clutzy from time to time.

2. Black Nightgown:  Target's Gilligan & O'Malley line is my most favorite.  Love all their black gowns because one - if your milk leaks, no one can tell, two - they're cozy and three - I'm still wearing them.  This one in particular is sleeveless and loose enough to pull to the side to nurse baby.  I was also a hot person...still am...so this was perfect and allowed me to cover up with blankets if need.  Plus.  Black.  Hides all the things.  I took 2 nightgowns, which was good for me.  We stayed the night T was born (11pm birth) and an additional night so this was all I needed.  And when you're in labor they make you rock the hospital gown, so hey.  No need there.  Here I am rocking my nightgown, all cool and comfy.

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3. One Nursing Tank:  Now you know yourself more than I do, but I hate constricting things, and nursing tanks are a bit of that to me.  This was a good one to have on when folks visited.  I wore a cardigan over it and could nurse easily if needed.  It's also available in black and made me feel a little more human.

4. 3-4 Pairs Underwear:  LOVE THESE.  Still do.  I bought a size up from normal and I still wear them at night, though much more loose and cozy.  This fabric is great, forgiving, cozy, doesn't have a band to push on incisions or the like.  I bought two packs in black (surprise!) and am still so so so glad I did.  They're not the best underwear for wearing with real clothes, but for laying around with a babe or being cozy they're the best.

5. Leaving the hospital outfit: I left the hospital in my favorite maternity leggings.  They're long enough and cozy, but still have enough pressure to help hold all the things together.  They're also black and super tall which feels super on your squishy tummy.   I wore them with a black v-neck, my favorite pair of ballet slippers and a longer sweatshirt cardigan that tied at the waist.  This made me feel like a human, cinched my waist at the only place I still had one and covered my behind since I was wearing leggings as pants.  But listed.  I was comfy.  It was also blue which worked out nice for a boy, but really is a good color on me - so again - anything that makes you feel more excellent is wise in my book.  Look at me.  I even look tan in my blue with my straight hair.  Hurrah!

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6. Camera - Won't bore you with these specifics because we're both photogs, so you're likely not packing to the hospital what we are.  But charged batteries, battery chargers, extra memory etc. are essential.  PLEASE don't just take photos on your iphone.  It's tempting, but what if it crashes before you get home, the quality isn't thaatttt awesome for printing heirloom hospital images and such so yes.  Bring a camera.

7. Nursing Bra:  Soma's nursing bra's were BY FAR my favorite.  They are expensive, yes, so I waited to see if I could tough out nursing to spend on 2 more, but what I should have done was buy 2 of these (they're discounted at two) the week before I had T in a non-snug size.  Take one to the hospital - wear it home.  Wear it until your milk comes in THEN decide if it fits well and either exchange the other for a different size or keep it.  I am not a small busted lady, but not huge either and I was two cups larger than before - and those 3 target bras I tried to 'save money on' made me miserable and are sitting in my closet if anyone wants them.  Spend here.  It makes a world of difference in your nursing longevity.

8.  Baby Book Parts: I used a project life book for Truman, because that works best for our photo heavy ways, so I took the little 'baby feet' card and also had 2 others and told Luke to insist that they make several foot prints.  Still glad I did.  These cards were also perfect because they're small and easy to hand over to the nurse to stamp and then toss in with our paperwork.

9.  Cell phones and chargers:  Pack the chargers.  You'll need them.

10.  Toothbrush, toothpaste, shampoo, conditioner, facewash, razor, blow dryer, straightener: the skinny version of what you use to get ready in one tidy bag.  I have crazy curly hair that annoys me if it's sticking all over my face, so drying my hair and washing it with my smelly hair products made me a happy, clean person.  PACK YOUR HUSBAND A NEW TOOTHBRUSH in case things go South there.  Luke had his own bag packed, too, but I had another toothbrush just in case he forgot.  Cause listen.  Nothing's worse than a bad-breathed push-partner.

11.  Aveda Blue Oil:  I'm not an 'oils person' persay, but I've always LOVED Aveda's fragrance and this one in particular keeps me from nausea.  Sniffed it like I was doing drugs the whole hour I pushed and then wore it like perfume to keep the hospital smells at bay.  It was necessity for me.

12.  My own towel: Brought my favorite hair towel and one cozy towel from home.  Hair towel for my 2 foot hair was necessary, but I could have survived without my own towel from home but I was still glad I had it to be cozy in.

13.  Diaper bag: Packed with one going home outfit for baby.  Yes, one.  People show up with clothes as gifts should a diaper disaster happen.  2 diapers for the ride home (take the hospital diapers and wipes you have left..you paid for them!), one swaddle blanket and that's about it.  Everything you need you'll be sent with.  And you're just going home and you'll pass plenty of Targets should you need something, but you won't.  You'll be all "Let's stop and get some real food, babe."

14.  Cheap Flip Flops and new socks: I brought one pair of cheap flip flops for hospital walking and showering.  Wore them during labor and after for showers.  New socks are divine, so pack 5 pairs of your favorite and change them as needed to get a fresh dose of comfy.  It's helpful.

15.  Car seat with base, installed:  Just have this bad boy in your car, ready to roll and send your hubby for it when it's time to head home.  We didn't need it to checkout, I suppose, but we popped Truman in it and rolled out, no questions asked.  We also wished we had installed our car seat mirror, as you'll find all the baby noises in the first car ride turn into scary noises.  Weird, but true.  Mirror adds a bit of comfort.

16.  Pen and paper stuff: insurance cards (I put copies of them in Luke's bag in case I became a hot mess at any point - this made me feel better), vending machine quarters just in case, drivers license.

17.  Stool softener: Follow the directions and just keep taking it until things are moving.  And chances are you'll need it a bit after that.  And if it's scares you a bit, you can always take it before you get to the hospital to see how things work out for ya.  But don't do hospital time without it.

18. Pads with Wings: Hospital Pads and mesh underwear were fine for me at the hospital for the first 24, but after that I chose these for the added assurance of more coverage.  Fun stuff.  But listen.  They help.

19.  Book or Kindle: Almost forgot!  I read nearly a whole book while I was in the early stages of labor.  Kept me up walking, passed the time and kept my mind occupied.  Isn't for everyone, but it was a saving grace for me.

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Think that's about it.  As for Luke's bag, I had him pack a couple changes of clothes (socks and underwear emphasized), a pair of proper and athletic shorts (I'm hot....all the AC was always high, high and he was glad to have classier bottoms on when meeting T), a sweatshirt, blanket and two pillows.  We used old pillows with matching cases that were weird so we wouldn't overlook them.  We tossed the pillows as we left and kept the cases for a deep clean.  Mostly because I'm weird about my pillows, but I was glad for them.  He had his toiletries, a list of people we needed to tell with their contact info, a book, headphones and copies of our important medical infos.  That was about it.  He used my hospital towel in the shower, the shampoo they gave us and was generally a super flexible person, happy with his small man bag.

Deciding Where to Register for Baby
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When we found out we were expecting lil T, it wasn't exactly on the life schedule and thus, I wasn't quite into it.  Which meant I left registering until the last hour and didn't want to roll up into the big box baby stores with my scanner gun.  I also really like to research products before I buy and know I'm getting the best deal.  So.  The internets!  And even better - my most favorite part of the buying internets - Amazon!  Here are the tips I gleaned in the process - feel free to leave your wisdom in the comments!

1. Amazon's Registry Button - Click here and you'll follow a link to add Amazon's registry button to your browser.  This was the perfect reason for me to use Amazon as my home base of registering.  I was able to add products from big box stores all the way down to my favorite newborn (and beyond!) baby carrier, the Solly Wrap.  It is similar to Pinterest's 'pin it' button, but also allows you to add quantities and notes.  I used the notes section to let people know which items I felt were must haves, which catered to Dad and colors of items I was wishing for etc.

Overall, really helpful and kept me from having to have too many registries, because while I liked an item or two at Pottery Barn Kids, I didn't want to send people on a goose chase nor did I want to be the girl with 6 registries.  Returns were easy through amazon, they also have Prime for Mommas which, I understand, can be super helpful in the days of diaper subscriptions. Other bonus is that if someone isn't comfy using amazon, they can always grab a gift card for you at the nearest gift card kiosk and those are little gems when you're home hibernating with a newborn and you really need this baby widget.  Overall Amazon's baby registry fielded next to zero complaints from my gift buyers, was super easy to evaluate products based on reviews and provided a little guide to things for baby I was maybe forgetting.  And hello, I could add items from Ikea.

2.  Target - At first, I was just going to add Target items to my Amazon registry, and while I did, they often run out of items, only have them in store or online and it was becoming a little tricky.  In the end I folded and added a Target registry for a few reasons.  Coupons.  Hey.  Registering at Target saved me at least $10 in coupons for nursing supplies I needed in the early days.  A whole little welcome care package just like when you register for you wedding, full of affiliate promotions.  Free snapfish photos, anyone?

Registering also allows you to make returns that didn't have receipts without it counting against their store policy annual limit of $45 or something equally crazy.  This helped me a LOT when folks gave us repeat onesises and I didn't know where they came from.  I would head into Target with my bag of unidentified returnables, they would scan them to see if they were Target goods and for the ones that were, they gladly returned them with no receipt for store credit or cash.  Hey.  Can't beat that.  They were also great about exchanges.  But the registering piece allows them to scan your registry each time and gives you more returns leeway.  If you know what I'm talking about, this'll be useful to you - if you don't, you may be my only friend who doesn't often return items to Target...

And hey - who doesn't go to Target?  Makes shopping for the next baby shower easy on your busy Mommy friends.  Now if only Target would update their registry system so it was  easier to use and consistently available...  Again, if you've had this problem, you know what's up!

3.  BuyBuyBaby - Uhm, hey.  This place calls for a nap after each visit because it's so overly visually stimulating, but when I want to get my hands on a product, they almost always have it.  They also have great coupons as they're owned by Bed, Bath and Beyond - so registering gets you a coupon, via mail, email and test, as does having everyone you know sign up for coupons.  Got all of Truman's cloth diaper collection for much cheaper than sticker price thanks to those bad boys I had sent to my sister, mother and parents-in-law.

Their site also has a few great options for comparing goods like strollers (eek!) and carseats that I found helpful.  Reviews here are also very thought out, and thus very useful.

Pros to shopping or registering in-store?  They have ALL the strollers are car seats.  You can drive them, touch them, fold them up, test em out and it's really worth getting your hands on the goods that cost the mostest.  Especially when you have a long-legged, tall husband who needs to be able to reach the stroller to help push.  I was planning on a $400+ stroller due to good online reviews, but thanks to a friend tip and a trip to BBB, I found a much smaller, easier to use and better-for-us stroller that I got for a bit under $150.  Not sure if I would have the stalker-salesperson stamina to register in-store, but hey - to each their own!

4.  Babies R Us - This place.  Oh my.  Can't say I enjoyed any experience there, but they were helpful when I needed to return items, always issuing a store credit without me having a registry there.  Lines are long, high school boys they employ aren't helpful, and our store is a literal dirty train wreck each time I go.  They do carry a few items I needed and they have a giant breastfeeding section that comes in handy when I can't pop in BBB's store in Lex.  But overall, I tried to avoid the timesuck this place is.

There you have it.  All my unsolicited advice on how we chose to register where and why.  I still think Amazon's registry is the bee's knees and loved that it allowed me to incorporate so many different stores.  Bonus: 9 out of 10 Americans can use it.  Seems logical to me, anyway.

9 in 6, my little joy-bubble
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Budzo.   6 months and I'm not getting the things done that I need to.  But you are the best little joy-bubble of a pal.  I could just eat you up, I love you so. A short trip to Chicago with Erin, who graciously kept you so I could attend a workshop.  You've rounded out your 9th state in the 6 short months since we met.  Best travel pal ever.  Except for that one time you literally grew a tooth on the flight home from Colorado.  But who can blame you.

Just what I asked for: A birth story

My linear, self-serving mind says to start this thing off with a bang: Truman's birth story.  For a few reasons.  I tend to process things through images and about 6-8 months after it happens, so it's about that time.  I need to check it off my 'needs to be blogged' list.  It is quite a testament to our God who gives good gifts, in so many ways, but more importantly a lesson in my own life that God works in prayer.  He responds.  He hears.  And he brought us to one of the best, most gracious and kind ladies I've ever met.  She was the first person to hold our little Truman. As I've discussed and aluded to in the past, Truman wasn't exactly in our newlywed plan for life, so when we learned of his coming, the first person to know was my too-great-for-words doctor.  At around 5 weeks pregnant, she was a great comfort to us, she spoke truth over the situation and stuck with me when I was less than kind and basically silent for most of my doctors appointments.  Towards the end of my weekly visits, she reminded me to text her if I was thinking of heading to the hospital and she'd meet us there to deliver Baby S whether she was working or not.  Hello giant gift of undeserved love and kindess towards me that I DID NOT DESERVE.  The whole time I was pregnant, I had a difficult time praying for Baby S.  I prayed, but certainly not with a whole heart and not in the way I would hope to do for any future kiddos, birthed or otherwise.  But lets be real.  I managed to get out the healthy baby prayer, a selfish plea for a good nurser (yeaaa.....) and solely out of fear: my hopes and wishes for delivery.  But God.  He delivered.

Using Val Marie's prayer journal was my favorite and still is - I highly suggest you run to get yourself one of these sweet prayer holders.  It was in those pages that I wrote out wishes for the least stressful and most normal birth possible.  I wanted to head to the doctor for a normal appointment, learn quietly that I needed to pack up and head stress-free to the hospital.  I wanted to have Baby S as naturally as possible - whatever that looked like for me was fine - experience natural labor, drugs or no drugs, whatever - just stress free and no puking.  Yea.  Cause you need to know how I feel about that - I AM WAY AGAINST ANYTHING that has to do with puke.  Cause duh.  It's terrible.  I wanted my doctor to get to deliver Baby S and hoped to spend the least amount of time at the hospital.  My hope was to be as mentally present as I could be for meeting babe, for my husband to be the one who told me the sex of little Truman and for Baby S to be healthy as a horse and on the small side.  All of that: check, check, check.  So here we go.

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After heading to the doc for my standard, weekly appointment - and on my due date, no less - I was still dilated between a 3 and 4 as I had been for a couple weeks, 75% effaced and loosing amniotic fluid slowly.  A quick ultrasound confirmed I was about half out of fluid, so Dr.B asked if we were ready to have a baby today and if I had questions.  I asked for a brief rundown of what would happen at the hosptial once I got there and if we had time to run home and she said yes!  Run home and grab your things, don't be slow, but don't rush.  It was all quite calm.  We got our bags, stopped for Jimmy Johns on the way and started getting giddy.  Honestly, I wasn't afraid, concerned or worried at this point.  Just doing the things.  I had an apple and some water, ate my sandwich and we were soon at the hospital.

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They admitted me, hooked me up, had me change into...nothing.  Hah.  Got me all question and answered, IV in (I've always had a terrible time with my veins being found, but it was cake!) and after seeing I was having random contractions that I couldn't feel, started me on pitocin.  This was around 1pm.  I spent the next 2-3 hours standing in my room, reading a book on my kindle.  To be honest, the first two hours, I was having contractions, but feeling nothing besides tightness.  That last hour they started to hurt, which the nurse seemed glad about because they kept adding pitocin but my body was just chilling.

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Around 5 or 6, contractions started being more painful and were hard for me to stand through so I tried laying down on my side which was a help.  I hung out for about an hour like that - with 2-3 minute contractions about 30 seconds to a minute apart.  Around 6 I decided I needed an epidural.  Truman was still sunny side up, Dr. B appeared and talked me through a few contractions and I asked how much worse they would be.  The nurse and B confirmed that it would continue to get stronger and stronger, though they were backing way off on the pitocin.  Doing so because the contractions made a quick jump in speed and intensity, but they would still keep coming.  Obviously.  I decided I was down for an epidural and asked for it quickly.  Ha.

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Though the epidural came, it wasn't quickly enough in my book. They checked me when I asked for it and I was at 7cm.  While waiting for the anesthesiologist to come sweet Luke read me scripture I had prepared, Dr. B filled the in betweens with scripture from her brain (listen....she's the best) and I kept working through contractions with Truman still turned the wrong way. Also.  Back labor is no joke.  Finally they came to give me the good stuff.  Getting an epidural honestly was cake.  I was so glad for it, but the pain of transition (which we later figured out was happening during my epidural) was more than I could handle, so any pain I should have felt I didn't notice.  Hardest part was sitting still for the actual insertion while having contractions.  Oh my!  Once it started to work, I basically felt nothing but some movement and tightening in my stomach.  They checked me again and I was at 10cm.  Boom.  10cm but still sunny side up, so they turned me on my side and let me rest for 30 minutes, then turned me to the other side and did the same.  My Mom and sister, Abby, came back to say hello and brought me some beautiful tulips to stare at.  This was the only time I felt uneasy.  The epidural was working perfectly but had given me the chills (that and the arctic room I'd ordered up) so there was a lot of shaking and chattering of teeth.  All the turning worked though and best I could tell, Truman had turned.  Dr. B appeared again and announced that it was time to start pushing.

Our sweet friend Deanna made most of these pictures from here on.  Like I said I really hate tossing my cookies, so smelling this kept the nausea at bay.  I think the only complaint I had during labor (I'm not a big talker during pain, y'all) was the nausea.  Sweet Dr. B ordered up a dose of those nausea meds women who are really struggling with morning sickness take, it worked like a charm.  Pretty sure they put it in my IV - I still have no clue.  Those IV's were pumping me up all day, which maybe hindsight wasn't a highlight because I looked way puffy at the end of delivery, but oh well.  The next day I was back to not having 3 chins, just 2.

So I'll spare you the really personal (too-naked) photos of me pushing.  But push, I did, for a bit more than an hour.  I ended up hitting the oxygen pretty hard at the end.  Just felt a little faint during pushing.  I also felt like I was pushing so much and not getting lots of rest time in, so that really helped me.  Blue oil and oxygen kept me up and working.

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And then little Truman was born!  Dr. B was the first one to hold that little fellah, see her there on the right?  So glad about that.  She was great.  She was the perfect, prayerful, quiet encourager during my whole delivery and was such a comfort to have a doctor who is also a believer.  I know Luke will agree with me when I say we are SO THANKFUL for her quiet, confident bedside manner and just the genuine woman of God that she is.  She was informative, but never once over-informed me and made me frightful.  She was constantly reminding me of scripture that spoke to my ability in Christ to birth a baby and being made to do so.   Can't say enough good about her.  Really.  Total gift from the Lord that we did not deserve.  As was Truman, his little self.

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Just the bitty baby I prayed for.  6 pounds, 7.8 ounces.

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This is Truman.  Everyday.  All day.  Hands up on his chest, looking around.

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Our dear besties, Will and Ashley, drove all the way over and hung in the waiting room.  Love them.  So thankful for their preggo friendship and their sweet son, Grant, who will get to grow with little T.  Neither of us knew what sex of babe we'd be having, so two boys was quite a treat.

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5 Months later and looking at this photo and all I can think is we look like babies.  5 months ago!  So glad these images exist and can't wait to look at them in a year, 5, 10, 20...crazy.

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Pretty much everything post-delivery was cake.  They cut my drugs, my shakes and chills stopped pretty soon.  My feeling came back to my legs within the hour.  I moved myself from the delivery bed to another and they wheeled us past the nursery where we dropped T off and headed to our room to rest a minute.  It was around 1:30am at this point.  Only time I felt an ounce less than perfect after delivery was when the elevator took off to move us between floors.  I wasn't quite ready for the sensation and though it only lasted a minute, it was a queasy, disorienting minute.  But Truman was with me as well as our fab nurse and I forgot it as soon as it happened.

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So that's it folks.  It really was cake.  My experience was 1000x less worse than I thought and I absolutely attribute that to a good God who gave a sweet gift to his kiddos.  The gift of an easy and calm delivery and the blessing of a sweet son who has already been such a little joyful light in our lives, to our families and to all the women he flirts with in Kroger.  

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Twenty-six, Twenty-seven

Twenty-Six.

It's over; because today my days measure twenty-seven years.

Oh twenty-seven, I have no expectations for you.  Nothing but breathing because I think that is most wise and the best tracks to lay, for the possibility of joy, anyway.

On my twenty-sixth birthday, my tender husband threw a little surprise dinner gathering at a sweet friend's home.  We'd been married just 7 days shy of three months.  Just 9 days later I found out of the absolute blue I'd be expecting a little babe come April.  Or March.  But that's another story.

Our friends came together to share a meal, my most favorite thing to do.  We shared many desserts, which is my most, most favorite thing to do and we headed home that eve talking about all the things that fall held for us.  Talking about the places we wanted to go and Luke's upcoming assignments that made travel likely.

And then we were out of town.  And then we were weeping, out of town, still in our little secret.  Still in the secret we'd keep for many weeks that tore down all the walls of expectation for twenty-six.  All the walls of newlywedness.  All the walls of flourishing business.  All the walls.  All of them.  And they were replaced by mile-high, night-dark walls of depression and despair.  I'm not sure that I wish I'd been able to function joyfully through a pregnancy.  I'm not sure that's what the Lord willed for that year of life.  It was the hardest, but it makes the joys we have now that much more vivid.  It was the hardest to be numb for so long, but God is good and there is Truman.  And God is good and there are memories.  And God is good and joy now, is magnified.  And God is good and twenty-seven has no framework aside from a simpler life, more time together, more feeling and less of everything that doesn't make my blood pump.  Being numb will do that to you.  Make you aware of what makes your blood move and what absolutely coagulates it.

For now, I know that that tender man I lay my head next to makes my blood move.  The sweet babe whose chest rises and falls thanks to the creator who made him does, too.  The little white fluff that laid with me as I completed college, built a business, bought a home, married a dear man, made a family and got her a yard does, too.  Open spaces.  African accents.  Fresh air.  Ponies of all sorts.  Watching seeds grow into food.  Images.  Creating and making.  My prayer for twenty-seven is that I continue to become more alive.  To the things I loved before twenty-six and all the things I have yet to discover.  And that I would be able to discover new next to the tender man and the sweet babe and the white fluff.  To credit all that new and all that joy to the creator who made us.  That's all.

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Happy Weekend from Truman!

Need to update lots on Truman, as we're all finally well but shot this little picture this morning and I know it's waaaayyyy overdue for some action over here - so just one quick photo.  We're off to a wedding rehearsal tonight and a wedding tomorrow!  Enjoy!

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Just dreaming...
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...About my next bathtime. Truman had another bath (this photo is from the first) and loved it. Sat there looking around, chewing on his hands, just happily chilling. Not a single scream until it was time to get out. Happy Friday from Little T.

The Bestest of Friends: Springtime Shower
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My super generous friends Winona and Brie (that'd be the cute redhead and the babe with the super long hair in mustard) threw a sweet springtime shower for Baby Sharrett a few weeks ago.  I was super thankful that they used our home, that so many of my friends joined us to celebrate, craft and shower us and that it didn't snow too much - that's right.  Funny Kentucky weather. You might not know it, or you may think much of the goodness in our lives was made by me, but that's not the case.  I've got the most generous friends.  And really the most creative, too.  Brenna led a craft to make embroidery hoops for the baby's room.  Each guest got to choose a hoop and crafted whatever they wished on there.  So many cute and thoughtful little hoops were made and waiting to be hung.  Brenna's even stitching one up with Baby S's name and birth info once baby arrives.  So sweet!

Highlights for me aside from the hoops?  Seeing the chalkboard and clipboards being used for fun and goodness.   That chicken salad.  Oh dang.  So good.  Apple pie bars; I still dream about them - and those macaroons from the Boyce General Store.  Ah-mazing.  Favorite gift?  Probably the little navy cardigan my middle sister, Sara, made for the baby...out of one of our Dad's old sweaters.  It's precious.  So grateful for friends who have walked through this pregnancy with us, treated us and showered us - such a joy.

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