Hannah + Will Couple

Will is my younger brother, and Hannah is his long-time girlfriend. When they came to visit us around New Year’s, I took them to a park I wanted to check out as a photography spot and took some pictures of them. We had lots of fun laughing and having little kids talk to us. I may or may not have also run away from the geese/ducks that were there… Overall, it was a great shoot, and these two make it easy to get some good shots!

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Hannah + Will Couple — Lawrenceville, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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Hannah + Will Couple — Lawrenceville, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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Hannah + Will Couple — Lawrenceville, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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Hannah + Will Couple — Lawrenceville, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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Hannah + Will Couple — Lawrenceville, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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Hannah + Will Couple — Lawrenceville, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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Hannah + Will Couple — Lawrenceville, GA — Winter 2016/2017

The Open Hands, Open Home Photography Spring Special key word is BROTHER.

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Sofia’s Birthday Pictures + A Surprise

Sofia’s 3-year-old pictures were so much fun!! We got together at her favorite park and took pictures including her Beauty and the Beast tea set and flowers. She loved the flowers and wanted to hold them the whole time. We had a great time laughing and watching her play. We even took some surprise pictures that you’ll see at the end of this post announcing that Sofia won’t be an only child for much longer! (I waited to post this until after her mom announced of course :))

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Sofia 3-year-old Birthday — Snellville, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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Sofia 3-year-old Birthday — Snellville, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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Sofia 3-year-old Birthday — Snellville, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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Sofia 3-year-old Birthday — Snellville, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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Sofia 3-year-old Birthday — Snellville, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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Sofia 3-year-old Birthday — Snellville, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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Sofia Sibling Announcement — Snellville, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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Sofia Sibling Announcement — Snellville, GA — Winter 2016/2017

The Open Hands, Open Home Photography Spring Special key word is SURPRISE.

Anna Maria Headshots

Anna Maria and I go waaaay back. I’m talking went to pre-school together, rode our bikes around our neighborhood, and had a backyard band back because she was my neighbor. We would play outside for hours and hours together with her little sister. She has always been the sweetest, most genuine person. She is also an incredible actress. I will never forget watching her as the stepmother in Cinderella when we were in the 6th grade. Now, she is off auditioning and acting, so I got to take her acting headshots. Catching up and taking her pictures was so much fun, and she is so photogenic!!

Anna Maria has a vlog, and Open Hands, Open Home Photography was featured on it. Check that out here. You can also visit her website here.

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Anna Maria Headshots — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Anna Maria Headshots — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Anna Maria Headshots — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Anna Maria Headshots — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Anna Maria Headshots — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Anna Maria Headshots — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Anna Maria Headshots — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

The Open Hands, Open Home Spring Special key word is NEIGHBOR.

The “S” Family

I met the “S” family at a park in Atlanta to take some family pictures of them. It was a bit colder than we expected it to be, but they braved the wind to get some great pictures together. The way they love each other is so obvious when you see them interact! The two kiddos have the prettiest blue eyes I’ve ever seen. They were a lot of fun to photograph, and we spent the afternoon laughing, talking, and exploring the park.

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“S” Family — Atlanta, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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“S” Family — Atlanta, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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“S” Family — Atlanta, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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“S” Family — Atlanta, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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“S” Family — Atlanta, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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“S” Family — Atlanta, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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“S” Family — Atlanta, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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“S” Family — Atlanta, GA — Winter 2016/2017

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“S” Family — Atlanta, GA — Winter 2016/2017

The Open Hands, Open Home Photography Spring Special key word is PARK.

Cari + Luis Lifestyle Maternity

We had planned Cari + Luis’s maternity shoot for their baby girl, Chloe, weeks in advance. Of course when the day finally came around, it was raining… Cari and Luis were so flexible and sweet to open their home for me to come into and take some pictures of them during the waiting time before their sweet baby arrived.

Side note: Their home is decorated so cute and with very thoughtful decorations from their lives before marriage and their life together now. Foxes have a sweet memory and meaning to them, so the fox they have is extra special for their Chloe. Also, the dress on the fox was Cari’s when she was a baby. See? I’m telling you, they are so thoughtful!

Update on baby watch: Chloe Elizabeth is here and beautiful! I know they are loving life as new parents with their precious baby girl!

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Cari + Luis — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Cari + Luis — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Cari + Luis — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Cari + Luis — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Cari + Luis — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Cari + Luis — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Cari + Luis — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Cari + Luis — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

The Open Hands, Open Home Photography Spring Special key word is FOX.

Maci + Aaron Engagement

Maci is my very best friend in the whole world. I came home from kindergarten one day, told my mom that I made a friend who was my center partner, but I didn’t know her name. I gave Maci my phone number so her mom could call my mom and we could play at her house. The rest, as they say, is history. Fastforward, 17 years and here we are. Still best friends, so you can imagine my excitement when Maci got engaged to the man of her dreams!

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Seriously, I could not have picked a better guy for her. (Welcome to the family, Aaron!) My mom and I got to take their engagement pictures in Birmingham right at the end of 2016, and they are some of my favorite pictures I’ve ever taken!

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Maci + Aaron Engagement — Birmingham, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Maci + Aaron Engagement — Birmingham, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Maci + Aaron Engagement — Birmingham, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Maci + Aaron Engagement — Birmingham, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Maci + Aaron Engagement — Birmingham, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Maci + Aaron Engagement — Birmingham, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Maci + Aaron Engagement — Birmingham, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Maci + Aaron Engagement — Birmingham, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Maci + Aaron Engagement — Birmingham, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Maci + Aaron Engagement — Birmingham, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Maci + Aaron Engagement — Birmingham, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Maci + Aaron Engagement — Birmingham, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Maci + Aaron Engagement — Birmingham, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Maci + Aaron Engagement — Birmingham, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Maci + Aaron Engagement — Birmingham, AL — Winter 2016/2017

The key word for the Open Hands, Open Home Photography Spring Special is RAILROAD.

January & February Reading Round-Up

Disclaimer: The links below are affiliate links, meaning if you purchase something from my link, I will make a small percentage off of it at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting Open Hands, Open Home!

This year I have had the opportunity to read a lot more than the end of last year. I haven’t posted a reading review lately, so since I’ve hit my 10 books this year mark, I figured I would share a little bit about them. I’ve also been listening to the podcast What Should I Read Next? with Anne Bogel and continuing my TBR list. It is ever-growing. Another fun reading thing I have done is make a list of bookstores all over the United States that I would like to visit. There are so many cool independent book stores that are begging to be explored. Last but not least, I started a Facebook Book Club for book recommendations. To be added to that group, just click here and request to be added. I would love to have more friends and more readers to discuss with!!

“But God showed us that even in the midst of a crisis, we can look for His gifts of joy and peace.” // The Yada Yada Prayer Group by Neta Jackson is the first book I read this year. It is about a group of women who meet at a women’s conference and form a prayer group that gets them through some hard times. While it wasn’t anything that stood out to me, the story and characters were likable. I found the main character Jodi Baxter to be relatable. It is the first book in a series. I would probably pick up the next ones at the library if I were to find them!

 “But it is not bravery; I have no choice. I wake up and live my life. Don’t you do the same?” // All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr was available at the library, and I snatched it up as quickly as I could. I saw that everyone was raving about this book and wanted to see if it lived up to the hype. The answer is YES. It is the story of a blind French girl and a German Nazi soldier boy. Their paths intersect in occupied France. I was blown away at how this story came together at the end. It is both sweet and tragic juxtaposing the innocence of childhood and the corruption of war. The character development was incredible, and I loved how you got to peek into each of their thoughts and actions. This is one that I haven’t stopped recommending.

“So, in a world that likes division and categories, that sections us into the homeschoolers and the public schoolers, the breast-feeders and the bottle feeders, the “working moms” and the “stay-at-home moms”…how do we link arms?…I think the answer is listening to each other.” // Women are Scary: The Totally Awkward Adventure of Finding Mom Friends by Melanie Dale was laugh out loud funny. There hasn’t been a book that I have felt myself nodding and saying, “Yes, that’s me,” in a long time. Dale uses baseball to talk about the stages of “momlationships.” I read this on my Kindle, and I underlined so many things. Dale is encouraging, funny, and real about what it takes to make deep heart friends. I loved this one!

 “Daddy gave me real useful information to protect me in the real world. If anyone hits me, I’m not to hit them back. I wait until their back is turned, then hit them in the head with a brick.” // Daisy Fay and the Miracle Man was my first Fannie Flagg book. It is the coming-of-age story of Daisy Fay Harper. It is set in Mississippi in the 1950’s. Daisy Fay is funny, sassy, and determined to make something of herself. The story is told in her journal entries, and you will learn about her loyalty and optimism. I will say that at the beginning of the book, I wasn’t sure where it was going, but by the end, I didn’t want it to end! If you are a fan of Southern novels and haven’t read this one, you should pick it up.

“I learned that there is good in this world, if you look hard enough for it. I learned that not everyone is disappointing, including me, and that a 1,257-foot bump in the ground can feel higher than a bell tower if you’re standing next to the right person.” // All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven is the only YA book I have read this year so far, and it is a good one! It hooked me from the very beginning. You meet the two main characters Violet Markey and Theodore Finch while they are both at the top of a bell tower. The story continues from there. While I had a gut feeling of what was going to happen the whole time, it was beautifully and tragically drawn out. Fans of John Green would enjoy this one!

“William knows that science and magic are the same thing; magic is only science that hasn’t been explained yet.” // Someone Else’s Love Story by Joshilyn Jackson drew me in from the very beginning, probably because the first scene is a gas station robbery. The story that follows traces the steps of the people in the gas station and how their lives intersect. I had a soft spot for Natty, the main character’s son. While part of the ending was very predictable for me, another part took me by complete surprise. There are some heavy topics that this story hinges around, but I thought they were handled well.

 “Why do we do this? Why do we undervalue things when we have them? Why is it only on the verge of losing something that we see how much we need it?” //  After I Do by Taylor Jenkins Reid had been on my Kindle for awhile, but I decided to start it after hearing Anne Bogel recommended Reid on WSIRN. While the premise of taking a year-long break from marriage is not something I morally agree with, the book sucked me in. The story was good, and I loved seeing the main character’s transformation throughout the story. The ending was a bit unbelievable, but it was sweet and even made me tear up at one point. It was a good book that I would recommend for a fun, quick read!

“I know this isn’t a conventional love story. I know there are all sorts of reasons I shouldn’t even be saying what I am. But I love you. I do… And I think you might even love me a little bit.” // I was obviously late to the Me Before You train, but when I saw it at the library, I decided to pick it up after all the hype I had heard about it a couple years ago. Honestly, I didn’t want to love this book. I thought it surely must be overrated… I knew how it was going to end from the beginning, and it still made my heart ache. One of my favorite parts was Louisa’s transformation from the beginning to the end. So no, I didn’t want to love it, but love it I did.

“First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.” // Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel is a post-apocalyptic story, but the cool thing about it is that it only takes place a short time after not hundreds or thousands of years after when society is all different and moving along. Mandel does an excellent job at world-building, and I really enjoyed her writing. There are several characters that you follow throughout the book, and the way they come together is beautifully tragic. Loved this one!

 “It wasn’t so much the discovery of one single clue, as the coming together of many small details. That moment when the sun shifts by a degree and a spider’s web, previously concealed, begins to shine like fine-spun silver. Because suddenly Sadie could see how it all connected and she knew what had happened that night.” //  The Lake House by Kate Morton left me with my jaw dropped the way it all comes together. It is told in varying perspectives and varying time periods. It is all based around a lake house and the disappearance of an 11-month-old child 70 years prior that was never solved. I felt like I couldn’t read this book fast enough when trying to put all the pieces together. This is one of my favorites that I have read in quite some time, and it makes me want to read more books in this genre and by Morton.

I’m linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy to talk book recommendations!

Have you read any of these books or books by these authors? Tell me what you thought in the comments or email me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com. I love talking books!!

Motherhood Monday – Linda R.

It’s Monday again, mamas, and I am so excited about welcoming my mother-in-law, Linda, to the blog!! Yesterday, my sister-in-law, Sam’s older sister, Judith, turned 27, so Linda has officially been a mother for 27 years and 1 day!

Meet Linda

Linda (Henry’s Nana and Sam’s mom) is one of the sweetest ladies I’ve ever met, and I’m not just saying that because she’s my mother-in-law. She welcomed me right into the family when Sam and I were dating and engaged. I always felt welcomed, included, and loved when we would visit her in Decatur. She loves celebrating others and giving thoughtful gifts. I have absolutely loved getting to see her be a Nana to Henry and my nephew, Crosby.

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Such a sweet picture from our wedding day! Taylor Dane Photography

The Interview

1. Explain your “motherhood journey.” Including your kid(s) and their age(s)

My children are Judith 26 and Sam 23. I was 23 when I became pregnant with Judith. I was on a weekend getaway and I felt nauseous on the golf course. My best friend said, “Are you pregnant?” I didn’t think so – I wasn’t really late – but I did miss my period – took a pregnancy test and yes, I was pregnant. I was on birth control and missed a few pills, like I had done many other months.  But it was such a blessing. My mom was sick with cancer and she was able to see Judith before she died. I know now the Lord had this all planned.

Two years later I was ready to add to our family – so I TRIED to get pregnant. It took a couple of months and I actually took the pregnancy test on my mom’s birthday. I will never forget that.

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Little Judith and little Sam! Picture provided by Linda

2.What is the biggest lesson (or 2 or 3) that you’ve learned from being a mom?

I never knew I could love someone so much. It’s a lot of work, but very gratifying. The teen years are tough but you we survived. The sweetest thing now is watching my children be parents.

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Nana got to come to Henry’s dedication at church!

3. Share one (or 2 or 3) funny or sweet stories that make it all worth it.

Just the other day I picked up a book I was reading and found where Judith wrote “I Love You, Mom” on one of the pages. It made my day. It reminded me of something my mother would do. I’ve tried hard to keep her memory and spirit alive for my children.

4.What do you think the biggest challenge of being a mom is?

Making good decisions that are best for them. You have about a million decisions to make a day and sometimes you make the wrong ones. It is very overwhelming.

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Meeting her second grandson!

5. What’s something from your family growing up that you think affects your parenting or the way you raise your child(ren)?

My mom was very kind and giving. She always made us feel loved by doing things for us or giving us little gifts. I try to do that with my children.

6. If you knew someone who just found out they were pregnant with their first baby, what would be your two pieces of advice for them? A practical tip and a piece of wisdom.

Every baby is different. Listen to your doctor, but you know you baby.

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Nana in her element

Wrap-Up

I loved reading these answers because I know that Linda lives each of these things out. When she says that her mom was kind and giving and that she tries to do that for her kids, she succeeds in that each time we see her. She always has little gifts for us and works hard to make sure we are comfortable and taken care of when we stay with her. Linda is coming to stay with us this weekend and into next week because Sam is having knee surgery, and we are so excited to see her!

Thank you so much for answering my questions, “Nana”! We love you so much, and we are so thankful for the way you love us and Henry.

What was your favorite thing that Linda said? Do you have a question you want the Motherhood Monday moms to answer? Comment on this post or e-mail me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com. Know a mom that needs some encouragement or can relate to Linda’s story? Send them a link to this post! The goal of these posts is to reach out, encourage, and empathize with moms all around.

Motherhood Monday – Erika Z.

This Monday’s MM Mama is Erika Z! I’m excited to share her story and words of wisdom today.

Meet Erika

Erika is the mom of 2 boys and a girl, like she will tell you. I got to know her because one of her sons had my mom as his teacher several years ago. Since then, we have kept up on Facebook and through other events in my hometown. The think about Erika is that she is supermom, seriously. She does so much for not only her own kids, but the community that she lives in! She has an incredible servant heart and lots of love to give to the people around her.

The Interview

1. Explain your “motherhood journey.” Including your kid(s) and their age(s)

My husband (Michael) and I had been married for almost three years when we decided to have a child (we had always talked about having three children). Our family around us was also pregnant, and we thought it would be good to have cousins around the same age. In May of 2003, I ended up needing an emergency C-section at 32 weeks due to pre-eclampsia and Noah (now 13 YO) spent the first three weeks of his life in the Shelby BMC NICU. Postpartum was the most difficult time for me as I was a new mom. This was our first child, and he entered the world not how I had planned or imagined.  Flash forward to 2005, we were expecting Sam (now 11 YO) and Noah was being evaluated for delayed speech and developmental delays with Early Intervention. Normally, premies show some signs of delay but Noah never seemed to “grow out of them”. I vividly remembered being big and pregnant with Sam and sitting through a speech evaluation with Noah and just praying for Noah to answer the speech therapists questions. Noah’s qualification for early intervention with developmental delays came prior to Sam’s birth. Sam (who is now 11 years old) was my only typical birth. At the time, I was working at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Alabama and I had just gotten in to work. I was 37 weeks along and my water broke (luckily I made it to the ladies room). I was not having any contractions and had no fear of delivering quickly so I logged off my computer and went to my car. I remember calling my OB/GYN and then stopping off at the house to pick up my “go bag”. My MD was going to let me try a VBAC, and I had hoped to be able to do so but once at the hospital, I was only dilated 2CM and never progressed past there. So around dinner time, I asked for a C-section and sweet Sam came home with us a few days later.  Life with two boys was fun and chaotic, and with Noah’s added “official” autism diagnosis that followed, we held off on having the 3rd child we had always wanted. Later on, we came to a mutual decision that if we had not had any other children because of autism, we would have missed out on the miracle of Sam. Fast forward to October 2009, I was working as a RN at Shelby BMC Hospital and after having a typical birth, there was no reason to worry about our third baby, Addi Rose (now 7 YO). I was 32 weeks and started having severe pain (thought to be gall bladder pain) only to be admitted to the hospital and the next day, I had a seizure (preeclamplsia/eclampisa/hypertensive crisis). We had not even come up with a name for our sweet girl at that time. Addi Rose stayed in the NICU for 3 weeks just like Noah. This time, I knew what to expect and being an RN I felt more relaxed and prepared. Life with three feels complete – it is chaotic, silly, fun and a blessing for sure!

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The ZZzzz family! Picture provided by C. Hut Photography (with permission from Erika)

2.What is the biggest lesson (or 2 or 3) that you’ve learned from being a mom?

  • Don’t worry about the critics (there will be plenty) – you have to do what is right for YOUR child/family and no one else.
  • The saying about “blinking and then your children are off to college” is so true. I wish I had more time at home with my boys, but I appreciate the time I got to work a flexible job (RN) and be home with my girl. They really do grow right in front of your eyes, so soak up every minute of their lives (good and not so good).
  • Don’t beat yourself up when you mess up – it’s a lesson learned, move on!

3. Share one (or 2 or 3) funny or sweet stories that make it all worth it.

  • The first time Noah used appropriate language/phrases to express certain emotions instead of his autism behaviors. Also, the times he used inappropriate words in the right context and when discussing it, he just smiles knowing he was wrong but trying to win me over with his smiles and giggles.
  • Seeing Sam become a Peer Helper to help struggling and special needs students.
  • When Sam and I can “nerd out” and laugh our heads off at the silliest things
  • Seeing Addi Rose share my love of arts (and crafts) and being able to share that joy with her.
  • When Addi Rose volunteered to help out our religious education director at church instead of just playing in the nursery.
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This cute picture is a few years old now, but it was taken where Erika and her husband, Michael met! Picture provided by C. Hut Photography (with permission from Erika)

4.What do you think the biggest challenge of being a mom is?

The biggest challenge is trying to form the best balance between doing too much or too little for your child/children and the balance between being a wife/mother/woman.

5. If you could write a “job description” of being a mom, what would it say?

Seeking individual with excellent project management skills. Skills include (but not limited to): Orienting, training, and coaching family members on a minute to minute basis. Candidate must be able to continuously monitor expenses and implement cost-saving actions with little to no warning. Maintains household supplies inventory, anticipating needed supplies. Establishes a compassionate environment by providing emotional, psychological, and spiritual support to family members. Maintains professional and technical knowledge daily.  Candidate must be able to establish personal networks of support (other moms) and participate in professional societies (such as a MOMS group at church). Maintains a cooperative relationship among family members by communicating information. Must be able to respond to requests repeatedly with patience. Must be able to participate in family problem-solving methods (lead by adults or children).

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Sweet siblings! Picture provided by C. Hut Photography (with permission from Erika)

6. What’s something from your family growing up that you think affects your parenting or the way you raise your child(ren)?

My mom taught us the importance of volunteering and helping others. I was a teen-age volunteer back in high school and it taught me the importance of giving and always being grateful for what I have. That is something very important to me that I want my children to know that we are grateful for the blessings we have and that gratitude can be shown by giving back.

7. If you knew someone who just found out they were pregnant with their first baby, what would be your two pieces of advice for them? A practical tip and a piece of wisdom.

Enjoy the crazy, laugh a lot, and you are not perfect but you will always be perfect in your child’s eyes!

8. Anything else you want to include?

I love my job being a mom and would not trade it for the world!

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A cute holiday photo! Picture provided by Erika

Wrap-Up

I loved reading Erika’s answers, and I love watching her juggle her crew from afar mostly. One of my favorite things that she said was her job description of a mom. Her answer is pretty all-encompassing and reminds that even though moms have countless things to do, they are all to be done in love for the ones around us. She also talks about how important it is to give back to your community and show how grateful you are, and Erika and her family truly live that out. It is such an honor to be a small part of their lives!

Thank you so much, Erika!! The way you love your family and your community shine, and I am so thankful to get to see your story play out.

What was your favorite thing that Erika said? Do you have a question you want the Motherhood Monday moms to answer? Comment on this post or e-mail me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com. Know a mom that needs some encouragement or can relate toErika’s story? Send them a link to this post! The goal of these posts is to reach out, encourage, and empathize with moms all around.

 

Motherhood Monday – Kim R.

This Monday brings Kim R. to the blog for this week’s Motherhood Monday!!

Meet Kim

Kim and her husband, Dave, head up the adult discipleship ministry at our church. My freshman year of college, they came and spoke at my college ministry’s spring retreat, and they are good friends with my former college minister and his wife. When we got to our new church and connected the dots, it was such a cool way to see the Lord’s hand in our circumstances. Kim is one of the most hospitable people I have ever gotten to be around. She is very intentional with her time and with the people around her. As she will explain later, their family has a lot of rhythms in place. Getting to know Kim over the past few months has been such a treat for me! I absolutely love Kim’s story. You won’t want to miss her motherhood journey!

The Interview

1. Explain your “motherhood journey.” Including your kid(s) and their age(s)

So my name is Kim, and I have three kids. I have a 13-year-old, a 10-year-old, and a nine-year-old.  My husband and I waited five years after being married before we started to think about having kids.  Once we started trying, I was diagnosed with PCOS, polycystic ovarian syndrome.  This news was a little bit shocking to me because leading up to this point I just had no clue. I remember sitting in the doctor’s office after an ultrasound and the technician looking at me and saying, “You’re going to have a hard time having children if you can have children at all.”  I was devastated, but willing to do anything to begin creating a family.

Our first child was conceived on Clomid after a few months, and it seemed my body responded to that treatment.  I was thrilled, and nine months later we welcomed our first daughter, Emma, into the world. We had always wanted to have more than just one child, so when Emma turn two we decided to start trying for our second child thinking we would use Clomid again and things would be fine.   A few months turned into a few years of struggling with infertility. My body was no longer responding to Clomid or other low-cost infertility treatments. We had decided we didn’t want to spend a lot of money on other options, but after two years of trying we were drained and tired.  I remember being so frustrated with God because I was totally open to other ways of adding to our family but I just had this heart desire to birth another child. I remember telling God that He either needed to help me conceive one more time or to take this desire away. I would be fine with either outcome, but living in the limbo was awful.

We had contacted a local attorney to begin the process of a domestic adoption. Also during that time, our church had a bunch of women that were struggling with infertility. They had a service one Sunday where they asked anyone struggling infertility to come up and be prayed for. I was very hesitant since that week I had gotten news from our infertility doctor that they had done everything they could do and my body was just not producing any eggs, but we went up and were prayed for anyway. I left still feeling discouraged and without hope but pressing forward into looking at adoption. Two weeks later, I began waking up in the morning feeling very different as if something was off. From that moment, I just knew that I was pregnant even though I knew it was not a possibility.  I took a pregnancy test, and it came out positive. I remember calling my infertility doctor saying that I thought I was pregnant, to which they said, “Well come on in and we will check it out, but you were just here and we don’t think that’s possible but we will look.”

Sure enough, when I went in for the official test, I was pregnant. My doctor looked at me and said, “This doesn’t make sense, even from your scans there’s nowhere showing where the egg came from.”  We choose to believe that God intervened and, through a miracle, allowed me to conceive. Our second daughter was born nine months later. We named her Izzie, which is another form of the name Isaac, which means laughter. There was much laughter in our household when we realized we would have one more child.

Our journey to growing our family didn’t end with Izzie. Through all of the struggles with infertility, God certainly laid it on our hearts the passion for adoption. When Izzie was one, I took a trip to Haiti where I met a little boy named Frankie, who at the time was nine months old. I came home from that trip telling my husband that I thought we needed to start an adoption through Haiti.  Haiti was always special for me because in high school I took a trip there in a difficult season in life, and it totally changed me. I’ve always had a heart for the country, and it was so neat to see how God would open doors for our third child, Frankie, to join our family.

The adoption process through Haiti took a long time. We knew it would be at least a four-year-journey to get him home, but we were okay with that. Two years into our adoption process with Frankie, the earthquake hit. He was in Port-au-Prince at the time. The home where he was staying with missionaries and other children sustained much damage, but everyone was safe. During that time President Obama granted humanitarian parole to anyone that was in the adoption process in Haiti. Two weeks later our son was flown on a military plane into Orlando, Florida, where we flew to pick him up.  We went from thinking we had two more years of waiting for him, and within two weeks he was in our home.  From that day, we have been a family of five.

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The Rhodes family of 5! Picture provided by Kim

2.What is the biggest lesson (or 2 or 3) that you’ve learned from being a mom?

One of the biggest lessons I’ve learned is, no matter what season you’re in as a parent or a mom, embrace it. Don’t wish for the next season. Be present in the season you’re currently in.  In the early years of newborns and toddlers, so many hours of my day were spent around surviving and waiting until they got a little older. I wish I could go back and tell myself, “Enjoy it more.” Be present more because the season does pass, and it passes by so quickly.

So, if you’re waiting on your first child to arrive, go out on dates, take a trip, go to a lot of movies. If you’ve got young ones in your home, know it’s okay that you can’t get out and do things that other people can do. Sometimes you have to miss things because the kids just can’t take it with their nap schedule or the stage their in.  Don’t let resentment built up and continue to imagine what could be. Find contentment in what is.

3. Share one (or 2 or 3) funny or sweet stories that make it all worth it.

I probably have 1 million stories.  This question is a hard one for me.  I think today looking around my table with three kids that are now fully functioning. They can buckle their own seat belts, they can wipe their own butts. If they’re hungry, they can go to the pantry or the refrigerator and figure out what they want to eat.  I think that’s the sweetness of it all. Waking up each day finding ourselves in family together and being thankful and realizing it’s by the grace of God that we get to be who we are.  I think that’s my sweetest story.

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The Rhodes kiddos. Picture provided by Kim

4.What do you think the biggest challenge of being a mom is?

One of my biggest challenges as a mom is to still be who God created me to be while also helping each of my kids with their own personalities and passions to be who God created them to be.  I want them to look back on their time in our home as the Rhodes family and feel like we created mission and rhythms.  I want them to value things that are important, and I want them to live with a kingdom passion to know they can go out into the world and do anything that God puts on their heart for them to do.  Some days I think I do well at equipping them, other days I feel like I fail miserably. That’s one of my biggest struggles right now.

Another challenge is not feeling guilty for taking time out for myself.  Regardless of what season your kids are in, it’s really important to take care of yourself first and then your kids.  So, if you need some time during the week to be alone, then leverage your resources to make that happen. If you need to physically exercise or get a workout in, make a time and resources available to allow you to be able to do that. If you need conversation with other people during a day of your week, make time and leverage your resources to allow you to do that. And when you are in those moments where you’re investing in just yourself, enjoy it. Don’t feel guilty. You will be a better mom because of it. You deserve it.

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Their dog, Louie, snuck in this one! Picture provided by Kim

5. If you could write a “job description” of being a mom, what would it say?

Under paid CEO of the Rhodes family.

6. What’s something from your family growing up that you think affects your parenting or the way you raise your child(ren)?

So growing up I lived in a home where my mom wasn’t very organized. Our house was just always cluttered and you could pull open a drawer and there be crumbs. Part of my personality is that I like things clean and organized, minimal and efficient. My husband always jokes with me that if somethings not useful it gets thrown out or sent to Goodwill. He often worries one day he’ll wake up at Goodwill :-).

But it is interesting it seems that I’ve become opposite of what I grew up in. Because that’s what I desire so in my parenting today, I don’t want to live too structured to where my kids don’t feel like they have freedom. So finding that balance is a thing I often work really hard to do, to have both structure and spontaneity inside of our home, work and play.

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Another picture including Louie! Picture provided by Kim

7. If you knew someone who just found out they were pregnant with their first baby, what would be your two pieces of advice for them? A practical tip and a piece of wisdom.

Wisdom – Rhythm leads to predictability, predictability leads to security, security leads to significance, and significance leads to success.

So, my first big advice as you begin to have your family is to set rhythms in place for your family and children.  I loved using baby wise because it was so helpful to just set some rhythms, and even if we got away from those on certain days, I always knew where to return to.  Our children, whether they’re newborns or teens, need a sense of rhythm and predictability in their lives to orbit from. That’s been hopefully the biggest contribution I’ve given to our family in being successful.

My second encouragement would be to always, in whatever season of life you find yourself in, find someone who’s older and wiser than you and just ask them questions about parenting and what has worked for them. That has been so helpful in each stage of my parenting journey. I always try to find another woman who I respect, whose life I look at and I would like to imitate and just asked for advice. It doesn’t mean you have to follow it, but just always being open to ask others what they think is a very powerful tool that I think sometimes as women we can get insecure and stop asking. I think we miss out on a lot when we don’t seek wisdom from other people that we trust.

My last piece of advice is to know who you are as a family. We worked really hard as a family to create a family mission statement, what it means to be the Rhodes family, and we have a list of five values that as the Rhodes family are the values that we have for one another. We truly try to live into those every day.  It’s probably been the most important thing that has been the biggest foundation for our family. It’s definitely worth fighting for your family language. I often encourage many young moms to create these for their family.

Here’s what they are just in case you wanted to know:

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Picture provided by Kim.

Practically – Start going out to eat a lot. Go watch movies at a movie theater. Take a trip. Do you things outside the home that you want to do because the next few years you are going to be more restricted.

Buy butt paste.  Invest in some good nipple cream if you’re going to nurse. Ask some other new moms what their favorite product is and why.  Get ready for Baby Einstein videos, the Wiggles, and miss Patty Cake was also a fun one around our home back in the day.

Wrap-Up

I look up to Kim so much, and I loved so many of her words here. When she talks about rhythms and family values, that is something that she really does live out with her family. She and her husband, Dave, teach those things to adults and families at our church, and it has been so cool to see that be the way they live their life, as Sam and I try to do something similar with our young family. One of my favorite things she talked about is embracing where you’re at in your motherhood journey. So often I find myself looking into the future, anticipating something else, but I don’t always look around at where I am and appreciate it for what it is.

Thank you so much for answering my questions, Kim!! Your life and your words encourage and inspire me as a young mom!

What was your favorite thing that Kim said? Do you have a question you want the Motherhood Monday moms to answer? Comment on this post or e-mail me at openhandsopenhome@gmail.com. Know a mom that needs some encouragement or who would benefit from reading Kim’s words? Send them a link to this post! The goal of these posts is to reach out, encourage, and empathize with moms all around.