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.

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?   

Processed with Snapseed.

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.

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.”

the day I wanted to blog, but then I didn’t do it

I have had this window open on my phone since SATURDAY.  I haven’t blogged in far too long, and I really wanted to sit down to write.  It’s something I love to do.  So why did an entire Saturday go by without me taking 20 minutes to sit down and write?  I decided to take an inventory of my day.

6:45: Earlier than normal, Gracie wakes in a ferocious fit of tears; she is seriously regretting chucking her paci out of her crib.

6:46: Mommy rescues the paci.  Mommy tries to put Gracie back to bed.  Mommy is so silly to think that would work!

6:47 Mommy realizes that today is a Saturday free of plans.  Mommy realizes how long it has been since she’s blogged.  Mommy vows to make time to blog.

7:05 Persuaded by the all-too-familiar sounds of Disney Jr, ,Mommy decides that today will NOT be wasted in front of the TV.  It’s a gorgeous day, it is necessary to get outside.

8:30 Mommy texts friend to arrange a mommy-baby park date.

9:46 As usual, Mommy is late.

10:30-12:30 Mommy and Gracie meet our friends for some park playtime.  During this time, Mommy decided that TODAY is the perfect day to make Chex mix.  Mommy texts Daddy to ask him to pick up the ingredients.

12:30 Mommy and Gracie head home; Mommy is hoping for an excellent nap from Gracie, so that she can blog, edit photos, make Chex mix, and maybe even nap a little.  Mommy has jinxed the day with these naïve hopes.

1:30 Mommy puts Gracie down for a nap.  Mommy thinks about blogging, but decided to fit in an impromptu yoga session.  Why not?  Gracie will likely nap for hours and hours and hours!  Sweet freedom!

1:50 A huge, earth-shattering poo wakes Gracie far too early.  Mommy rescues Gracie from the poo monster.  Gracie is so happy to see Mommy, she won’t even consider letting Mommy put her down.  Mommy realizes she is pretty wonderful , but this turn of events does thwart her plans.

2:00-3:15 Mommy rocks Gracie, tries several times to put her down unsuccessfully, and Mommy ends up falling asleep in the rocking chair while Gracie watches her sleep.  Sweet irony.  At least one of us napped.

3:17  Mommy throws up the white flag and surrenders to nap-resistant toddler.  Time to make Chex mix.

3:30-7:00  Mommy spends the afternoon making Chex mix, cleaning, vacuuming, and getting ready for out night out with Daddy.  In the meantime, Daddy and Mommy try to occupy the increasingly cranky toddler.  Maybe she should have napped.

7:30 The babysitter arrives, and the most over-tired and goofy toddler on planet earth is persuaded to sleep.  Finally.

8:00-11:30 Mommy and Daddy leave for a much-needed night out in Boston.

12:00 Bedtime arrives, and suddenly, Mommy realizes she did not blog.  Shame on Mommy.

Chronologically outlining my Saturday isn’t depressing so much as it is eye opening.  I’m a list nerd; I find myself looking at how I spent my time and being proud of some moments, while questioning others.  The hour and a half I spent snuggling my cranky toddler was priceless.  The Chex mix could have waited.

I love to write, even if no one reads it.  Each day has a finite amount of hours.  If I spend just 15 minutes a day doing something totally out of the ordinary, totally independent of the daily demands of life, I’m pretty sure I’ll feel pretty awesome.

And if you must know…the Chex mix turned out awesome.

i’ve just been thinking

I haven’t blogged in a while, and the only reason I can think of (besides being busy) is that I’ve been digesting everything that’s happened.  So much has changed in the last month, it’s been a lot to take in.  Gracie turned one, I turned 30, we celebrated Mother’s Day, and I ran my first half marathon since baby.

Photo by Laura Wagner Photography

Almost half of what I was looking forward to in 2016 happened in the span of a few weeks.  And yet, although change is often scary, I truly feel relieved to slow down.  I’m glad to have taken time to take it all in.  I feel relieved that the build-up is over.

I just turned 30, and I already like this decade more than my 20s.  I feel settled,more confident, and I care less about a lot of stuff.  It’s almost like someone flipped a switch. It’s refreshing.


Gracie turned 1, and I didn’t turn into a pile of nostalgic mush.  I only cried like twice.  In fact, I love having a one year old.  I love saying “my toddler.”  I love feeling proud as I look back at the highs and lows of the past year.  I love watching her toddle around on her one-year-old legs, taking steps like a champ.

Photo by Laura Wagner Photography
Photo by Laura Wagner Photography

I ran my first half since baby (on my birthday), and my legs didn’t fall off.  In fact, it went even better than I had hoped.  Not only did I gift myself a shiny new PR, but I enjoyed the race so much!  While I still love running, I love a lot of other stuff now too.  It was nice to see that I could focus more on life, less on running, and still accomplish my goals.


I celebrated my third Mother’s Day since Darla, and it was still emotional and wonderful and beautiful.  I felt the slight pains in my heart when I remembered my lost daughter, and I felt the unbelievable feelings of wholeness when I got sloppy kisses from my Gracie Kate.  I felt special, appreciated, and loved by my little family.  More than last year, when I was so unsure about caring for a newborn, I felt confident in my role as Mom. 

 

When I look back at this last month, I feel like pinching myself.  This season in life has been bountiful, sometimes challenging, and always beautiful.  It’s not perfect, but who would want that?  As things quiet down, it’s the perfect time for me to just sit back and be thankful.  I’m just so thankful.

Hello, Summer!  Let’s do this.