my first maternity shoot 

I’ve been pregnant 3 times now, and this is the first time I’ve ever done maternity photos.  My first pregnancy was too complicated for me to even consider them, and my pregnancy with Gracie conincided with buying a house.  I was so preoccupied with becoming a new homeowner, before I knew it I was 38 weeks and not wanting to move.

This pregnancy, our sweet friend at JW Photography took our first ever set of official bump photos.  I wasn’t quite sure how to prepare for them, but she offered plenty of guidance.

When she asked what look we were hoping for, I said “light and bright.”

When she asked what I was planning on wearing, I said “a black dress!”

I realized that didn’t make much sense, and together, we found a few good options on Pink Blush.

Posing wasn’t as uncomfortable as I’d thought it would be.  It was basically a fun night at the beach with my family and our friend, talking and laughing, and getting our clothes completely soaked with ocean water.  There is no better smell!

I have a few closing thoughts on maternity photos, if you’ve never done them before and plan to:

  1. Pick a photographer that you feel comfortable with!
  2. Talk to your photographer about the look you want.
  3. For specific thoughts on look and style, check out my friend Jen’s post here!

And without further ado, below are almost all my favorites from our maternity/family shoot last week at Wingaersheek Beach!

And because she never ceases to steal the show, some of my favorites of our little Gracie girl.

 

Thanks again to Jen!

If you have any photos to share, would LOVE to see them in the comments below.

our new rainbow


Around June of last year, I started to feel ready again.  Whenever the decision is made to open up your heart again to great love, and potentially great loss, it brings about the cautious optimism that often accompanies “We’re trying again.”  My heart was ready in June, and our newest rainbow baby was ready in November.

3 days after Thanksgiving, I got the “yes.”  After that, I got a case of “Now what?!”


We told our families early, but kept it a secret in general for as long as my body would cooperate.  Because it’s my third pregnancy, I started gently showing around 6 weeks.  By 10 weeks, I was running out of big sweaters.  

Starting to show at 11 weeks! Feels like so long ago, about 4 times as bumpy now.

By 14 weeks, I was ready to tell everyone.  

During my pregnancy with Gracie, I wanted to wait until after we got the “all-clear from any signs of CDH/Fryns” at our anatomy scan.  This time, I just felt ready sooner.  

I think I realized early on with this pregnancy that nothing in pregnancy is ever for sure…that I’m not in charge, so why not celebrate this life with everyone?  It’s still a life, no matter what happens.  At 18 weeks, we were blessed with an ultrasound free of any signs of CDH.  I’ve been so busy with Gracie, it hit me at once: this new one, she’s coming.


At 22 weeks, this little one is starting to dance.  I’m getting my typical cravings for cheese and meats and buffalo sauce, and all the sweets I see.  I’m remembering to work in carrots and avocados, and the occasional green juice.  I’m tapering my running, and I plan to stop completely at 24 weeks.  Walking fast and uphill feels so nice.  I am nesting like crazy, and I don’t mind at all.  I’m completely in awe of and thankful for this next new life that I am growing inside my belly.

This morning, I woke up earlier than normal and just felt her dance in my belly like a butterfly.  She’s already a happy one.  She’s so loved and so wanted.  No matter what, children are always a blessing.  She’s my next rainbow, our newest little girl, and August can’t come soon enough.  

is she your first?

We all have our own personal stories.  When a question from a stranger, seemingly harmless, challenges our story…we are forced to question how much we actually want to reveal.  What’s appropriate, what’s not.


In my case, now that my little baby is truly a toddler, she doesn’t just attract attention when we leave the house.  She commands it.  Pointing, laughing, yelling, and babbling in the language that she has created that sounds really similar to German.


When we are out at the grocery store, park, or another errand and she has managed to indirectly introduce us to a stranger, the first typical question is “How old is she?”  After answering, the next question is usually “Oh, and is she your first?”

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This question always make me pause.  This well-meaning stranger, often a parent and just looking to swap stories, doesn’t know what they are asking.  How could they?  And yet, I still pause.  No, I think, but I can’t tell you that.  I can’t wreck your day.

I want to say: You see, kind stranger, I’ve been hurt.  This charming toddler, she has an older sister.  One that would likely have been equally as charming, and someone that she will never get to meet.  Someone that I was blessed to know for minutes, and somehow those minutes have shaped the rest of my life.  This little girl has a sister who is not here.  They will never get to run and play, tell secrets late into the night in the room they share, play dress up with all of my old clothes, fight over toys that they both don’t even like that much…because her sister couldn’t stay.  The doctors said that she wasn’t compatible with life; I say she was too beautiful for Earth.  And so, I’m not sure how to answer your question.  If I say yes, she is my first…am I dishonoring Darla?  If I say no, is that fair to Gracie?  Is that fair to you?  Is that fair to me?   

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I could tell you that no, she is not my first child.  There was one before her.  However, she is my first in so many other ways.  She is my first baby to cry.  She is my first baby to laugh, and she has the best laugh I’ve ever heard.  She is my first baby to smile, and sing, and ask for a hug, and give me a sloppy, open-mouthed baby kiss.  She’ll be my first to potty train, sleep in a big girl bed, start kindergarten…so many firsts.  But when she eventually hurts me, as all kids unfortunately do at one time or another, she won’t be the first to break my heart. 

And it’s because she isn’t my first baby that I am so abundantly thankful for every single first.

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And yet, I can’t say all this.  Not to a stranger.  It’s too much to unload, especially to someone who is looking for a friendly exchange; I don’t know if they also have lost a child. And so, I smile and say “Yes, she is.”

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I pray she is the first of more.  Now that I have experienced all these new firsts, I don’t want them to be the lasts.

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on your second Christmas 

It’s been a confusing few weeks, hasn’t it?  Seriously, Mom and Dad have been acting so weird.

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Thanks to our lovely friend : JW Photography

It all started when Dad brought a large tree into the house.  Mom put a bunch of shiny toys and sparkling lights on it, and told you not to touch it.  The tree was practically crafted to be impossible to for toddler hands to resist, and yet, we insisted that you not mess with it.  That seems really unreasonable.


To add to the craziness, Mom brought you to a crowded mall full of strangers, and into a very unnaturally staged area full of large presents and candy canes.  Mom encouraged you to sit on the lap of an old man that you’d never seen before in your life.  This seems so random and completely unsafe!


As the weeks progressed, Mom made a bunch of really yummy treats and put them just out of your reach in shiny green containers.  Mom told you they are called, “Cook-ies!” which you immediately mastered.  Mom left the green containers in your line of sight and tried to give you celery of dinner.  Everything about that defies logic.

While we are on this topic, lately, there has been some inconsistencies with expectations when it comes to destroying things.  You are supposed to leave the tree alone, and yet, the boxes underneath the tree  are meant to be “unwrapped.”  But only when Mom and Dad say.   Not any sooner.  Mom probably should have been more understanding when she left you alone with these boxes and returned to find you unwrapping.  You were just following directions.

And yet, little one, all this newness, chaos, and confusion of the holidays will likely never go away.  The hustle and bustle will likely always be there.  And with this, as your Mom, I hope to help you to understand why we are acting so joyful.  The greatest gift I can give you as a mother is to teach you about the perfect love that was gifted to us thousands of years ago.

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In an attempt to capture the joy that was born so humbly, we do everything out of the ordinary.  We don’t need to change things up, but we do.  And yet, probably the best thing we can do is just sit still.  Do the ordinary things better, and then worry about the extras.  Mom needs to work on that.


I pray that the story of the first Christmas remains one of the first books you reach for, year round.  I’ll leave it in your bookcase, just to be helpful.  And to help me, please always keep being you, in the purest form.  Keep loving ferociously, living adventurously, and reminding Mom and Dad what’s important.

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We love you Gracie girl.  You are forever our gift.  Merry Christmas.

cut-outs from a beginner

Growing up, we always made cut-out cookies for Christmas.  Frosting and decorating them was a tradition. However, ever since venturing out on my own, I have bought many cute cookie cutters than have remained unused.  With so many pictures posted of perfectly portioned cut-out cookies with flooded icing…I have to admit, I felt intimidated and inadequate.  Thus is the curse of a Pinterest addict.

This year, I decided NO MORE!  This would be the year when I dusted off my lonely cookie cutters and got to work.

I must say, I am pretty proud of how my moose and star cut-outs came out!

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Granted, my moose cookies may resemble triceratops, depending who you asking.

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But hey, any fan of Friends will agree that they are kind of like the Holiday Armadillo!

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If you are looking for a last-minute recipe, maybe a batch to decorate on Christmas Eve, I highly recommend the recipe below.  I cannot take credit for it, it’s a Taste of Home creation, but I can fully endorse it!

Christmas Sugar Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground mace
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • White candy coating
  • Green paste food coloring

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg. Beat in the sour cream, honey and vanilla. Combine the dry ingredients; gradually add to creamed mixture and mix well. Cover and chill for 2 hours or until easy to handle.
  2. 2. On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough to 1/8-in. thickness. Cut with a floured 3-in. cookie cutters. Place 1 in. apart on ungreased baking sheets.
  3. 3. Bake at 325° for 8-10 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove to wire racks to cool.
  4. 4. In a microwave-safe bowl, melt white coating; stir until smooth. Stir in food coloring; drizzle over cookies.

The recipe says it yields 8 dozen, I got about 4 dozen…my cutters are big.

Now comes the great cookie debate: to flood or to frost?!  Any suggestions?  I’d love flooding advice, as that’s how I am leaning.

4 days to go!  Merry Christmas!

three years ago today

“Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.”‭‭Psalm‬ ‭139:16‬ ‭NIV‬‬


Three years ago today was both the best day and the worst day.  We said “hello” and “goodbye” to a beautiful little girl that wasn’t meant to stay here, on Earth, with us.    

Some people only get minutes together, some get years, but we got hours.  Yet, I am so thankful for those hours. I’ve never felt so helplessly in love, elated and devasted all at once.  

We spent our precious hours as a family of 3 holding and loving our sweet Darla Jane. I told her I love her constantly, because even though she couldn’t understand the words, I knew she’d feel them.  Even though we lost her, those precious hours live on in my heart.  A mama’s heart doesn’t forget.

People can be so amazing.  One friend told us that you don’t have to live very long to have an impact on the world. That quote never left me.  Other friends gifted us this beautiful oak tree, in her memory. It lives on the banks of the river in the arboretum in Ann Arbor, MI, where Jon and I met and went to school.  



And so, even though Darla doesn’t live here on Earth, this beautiful tree lives and thrives because of her. Her daddy and I live and love and parent better because of her. And even though Darla doesn’t live here on Earth, she live enjoys perfect, whole, and peaceful eternal life in Heaven.  
I couldn’t have her here, and to this day, that still stings. But as a parent, you always want what’s best for your kids. It’s hard when it’s not with you, but in the end, she got the best. She got what we all strive for. In the end, what else could any mama hope for?

I love you, DJ.  I always have, and I always will.

beautiful little smudges

I like a clean-ish house.  Maybe that’s why my toddler loves her broom set, even if she doesn’t really use it correctly.


I was rushing around my kitchen this past week, trying to get a good cleaning in between work emails.  I had about 30 minutes before I needed to leave and get Gracie from daycare.  Counters: check, dishes: check, floor: check…and then I stopped.


I saw the smudges on the patio door, and I just couldn’t bring myself to wipe them.  Sure, they are messy…but in them, I saw tiny hands.  Tiny hands with little fingerprints unique to a toddler that was so excited to go outside, or straining to show me the birds just past the glass, she just couldn’t help but leave marks.  These little marks were left as an innocent byproduct of pure joy.

I started to take stock of the other marks in my life that didn’t use to be there.

  • The living room rug smells like clementines because unless you squeeze each piece and step on it, how will you know what happens?
  • The upstairs bathtub needs to be wiped more often, thanks to rowdy nightly splash sessions.
  • The Jeep kind of still smells like vinegar from the last bought with car sickness.
  • I learned very quickly that washable crayons actually work…even when you chew them up and spit them all over the rug.
  • I learned very quickly that washable crayons actually work…even when you color all over your comfiest chair.
  • I discovered that I CAN make finger paint from flour, water, and food coloring.  However, I CAN’T wash out said food coloring.
  • I almost always have another human’s snot on my sleeve.
  • My hairbrushes turn-up missing because they are actually meant to be shoved into the top of the hamper.  Duh.
  • We run out of apples really, really quickly.

Every extra mess that I have to clean, or thing of mine that is lost or changed, exists because the little person that lives with me is learning about the world through trial and error.  Perhaps each mess or mishap isn’t completely random, but instead, is carefully crafted by a brain that is hungry and excited to learn.


It’s hard for me to fully change who I am and how I like things.  I consider myself reasonably neat, and let’s face it, some messes are gross and can’t be ignored.  And yet, things like smudges on our patio doors can probably wait to be wiped…at least for a while.

Maybe next time I see her pressing her little nose and fingers against the glass, I should pause my super important adult stuff and go sit next to her.  Maybe I should let her show me what all the excitement is about.  I’m not sure who said it, but this quote is in the notes section of phone, meant as a warning.  I read it often.  It makes me feel appreciative and terrified all at once.


“Think of the mess as fairy dust.  One day it will go away, and take all the magic with it.”