Motherhood Monday – Ashleigh T.

It’s Monday, and after a special edition of MM last week, we’re back to our regularly scheduled interviews this week! This week’s MM Mama is Ashleigh T.!

Meet Ashleigh

Ashleigh and I were in the same 5th grade class! We became fast friends then and were friends all the way through high school. When we went to different colleges, we lost touch a little bit, but through life circumstances, we have been reunited over the past year and a half or so and it has been so sweet! She has a sweet one-year-old named Turner that is absolutely precious, and it has been so much fun walking through having little boys together so far! We can’t wait to be able to hang out with the “T” family more soon! Ashleigh is kind, caring, and so funny. I have loved getting to be her friend through the years!

The Interview

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

My husband and I met on September 17, 2012 at 12 pm at the University of Montevallo Farmer Hall. We had been set up by a dear mutual friend. We talked for a few hours about life, dreams, and well…babies. We discussed the desire we both had to adopt hours after we first met. Our relationship blossomed quickly, and we were married on July 19, 2014.

On August 15, 2015 I had a “gut” feeling to take a test. Without any symptoms or any reason to think it would actually turn positive, I took a test for the fun of it. Three tests later, we jumped in the car and purchased more tests for those also to turn out positive.

I had a very scary pregnancy in the beginning. My hormone levels were not increasing as they should, had a uterine tumor that was causing issues, and doctors had tried to prepare me for the worse.

Fast forward nine scary months filled with fear and doubt by doctors and too much googling, I gave birth to the most precious baby boy on April 6th, 2016. Turner Stephens Thomas, (now ONE YEAR old) came into the world via an emergency c section a few weeks early and spent his first few days in the NICU. On the day he was released to go home, I held my son wire free for the first time in what felt like an eternity. I was in awe that his tiny life had been entrusted in the hands of my husband and me.

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First moments as a family of THREE! Picture provided by Ashleigh

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

Mommin’ ain’t easy. Turner’s first few weeks at home were tough. I had the mindset that “fed was best” and told myself that I would try nursing and if it didn’t work, well then; it simply wasn’t the end of the world. The day after we arrived home from the hospital, with the stress of everything that had happened and trying to heal from a major surgery, I was not producing anything to satisfy my son. We put our boy on formula and to this day I wonder if things would be different. Letting go and realizing that in the big picture not everything is my fault has been my biggest lesson.

Lesson two would be that, after seven ear infections and a pretty extensive surgery our son surpassed doctors’ expectations, and I now know that doctors don’t know everything. My faith has grown so much in the last ten months, and I cannot wait to see what God has in store for my little family.

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Such a sweet face! Picture provided by Ashleigh

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

Sometimes I jokingly wonder if Turner can read our minds. He often comes to snuggle or give kisses just when we need them making, our day so much brighter.

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Turner First Birthday Pictures — Helena, AL — Spring 2017

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

My biggest challenge of motherhood is feeling sufficient. I am a recent graduate and have my first teaching job. I teach fourth grade ELA at a small town school about twenty minutes from home. I love and adore my 43 students and consider them “my kids,” but when I am home my time must be devoted to Turner. I often wonder if I am doing the right thing but God gives the perfect signs at just the right time telling me that I am. I know I must move forward and give my job my all in order to provide for my family. Being a mother will always be a top priority so finding balance is something that I will continue to work towards in the midst of this crazy thing we call life.

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Way to go, Mama!! Ashleigh graduated a couple weeks after Turner was born. Picture provided by Ashleigh

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

Hours: 24/7, 365

Pay: kisses, squeals, and unmeasurable amounts of joy

Description: Worry endlessly, give it your all, run on caffeine and limited sleep, clean lots of vomit and poop, LAUNDRY galore, kisses, tears (from both the parents and baby), hugs, & laughter

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“T” Family Pictures — Helena, AL — Spring 2017

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

Growing up my parents were very involved with everything I did. My grandparents were also extremely involved, and some of my fondest memories are those that were spent with my extended family. Turner sees my parents pretty much every day and sees my husband’s family at least once a week. I pray he cherishes the time with his extended family as much as I did growing up!

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“T” Family Pictures — Helena, AL — Spring 2017

7. If you knew someone who just found out they were going to be a mom, what would be your two pieces of advice for them? A practical tip and a piece of wisdom.

As cliche as it sounds, enjoy every single second. It goes by way too fast and stay off google! Don’t google the good, bad, and ugly because it fills you with unnecessary fear!

Take time for you and your spouse or significant other before the baby comes; in a good way, things will never be the same.

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8. Anything else you want to include?

Life is precious and you have been chosen by the Father to raise your child. Lean on Him and there is no doubt that good things will happen!

Wrap-Up

I love how Ashleigh talked about the stress and pressure of breast feeding and how she chose that “fed is best.” There is so much pressure and disagreement about how babies should be fed, and most of the time we don’t applaud moms for simply doing what is best for their family and their child. I also love how she talked about her faith growing while Turner has surpassed doctors’ expectations. Isn’t it amazing how the Lord answers prayers?

Thank you for answering my questions, Ashleigh!! Your words were encouraging and honest.

What was your favorite thing that Ashleigh 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 that would like the Motherhood Monday posts? Send them a link to this post! The goal of these posts is to reach out, encourage, and empathize with moms all around.

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The “V” Family

Like I explained in Jessica’s Motherhood Monday intro, we have husband best friends. Sam and Edgar were roommates for three years in college and have been best friends since then. They live in Nashville doing work with the Nashville Navigators, and we’re living in Atlanta. This means we don’t get to see them much, but when we do, its such a sweet time of hanging out and more recently, playing with babies! We also always get a game of Settlers of Catan in when we can. I loved doing this session for this sweet family! I especially love the shot of Nathan’s little baby grin. So cute!

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The “V” Family — Nashville, TN — Spring 2017

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The “V” Family — Nashville, TN — Spring 2017

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The “V” Family — Nashville, TN — Spring 2017

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The “V” Family — Nashville, TN — Spring 2017

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The “V” Family — Nashville, TN — Spring 2017

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The “V” Family — Nashville, TN — Spring 2017

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The “V” Family — Nashville, TN — Spring 2017

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The “V” Family — Nashville, TN — Spring 2017

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The “V” Family — Nashville, TN — Spring 2017

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The “V” Family — Nashville, TN — Spring 2017

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The “V” Family — Nashville, TN — Spring 2017

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The “V” Family — Nashville, TN — Spring 2017

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The “V” Family — Nashville, TN — Spring 2017

Motherhood Monday – Special Edition

Part of our family story is that Sam and I were “long-distance married” for the first 9 months of our marriage and the first 5 months of my pregnancy with Henry. One of my sweet friends from college is going through a similar season of life, and she asked me to answer some questions for her blog!

Here’s a sneak peek of the post:

How did you deal with the stress of being pregnant while Sam was gone? 

When we found out I was pregnant with Henry, we had already been living long-distance for about 4 months. This did not make it any easier though. Sam took the majority of the stress on his back. He served me well by traveling back and forth from Atlanta to Tuscaloosa almost every single weekend. Since I was still in school, it was hard for me to get over to him and get back at reasonable times. Looking back, I did not appreciate all that he did for me and Henry during that time. When he was there, he put cold washcloths on my neck when I would get sick. He would buy me Coke icees or whatever I was craving that day. He would get to Tuscaloosa really late at night Thursday or Friday nights after fighting the traffic, and he would leave really early in the morning on Mondays to make it back in time for work. He sacrificed a lot, so I could finish school well, and that is something that I will always be grateful for. Being long distance also allowed us to be more appreciative and thankful for the time that we had together. I would get so excited about the weekend, not only because it was the weekend but because I knew that Sam would home with me

 I think there were several ways that I dealt with the stress. One of them was just being in an active relationship with Jesus. He frees us, and He loves us. He wants the best for us, and spending time with Him was and still is the best stress reliever. One of them was being in/leading a small group of girls. This created a consistent time to be surrounded by other believers and talk about Jesus. It was a sweet time of rest that I truly came to love and appreciate so much more than I ever had, even though I had been in these small groups before. Another thing that saved my sanity during this time was my friend that I carpooled with to the school we were both interning at. It took about 30 minutes to get to our school, so we spent a lot of time in the car processing, talking about what the Lord was teaching us, and being each other’s sounding board for all of life’s craziness. I am so thankful for the way Rachel loved me in that season. I cannot stress enough the importance of community in all seasons of life.

Click here to read the rest of the post and my answers to all of Hailey’s questions! 




Motherhood Monday – Andrea N.

Monday is here, and I’m welcoming Andrea to the blog for Motherhood Monday!

Meet Andrea

Andrea has quickly become one of my closest friends in Atlanta. We do a “family” dinner with her family (+ Allison‘s family + one other family, whose mom is my next guest!) every other Tuesday. It has been so much fun to see our kids play and our relationships grow since we started getting together. Andrea is wise and so loving to her three girls. Her youngest and Henry are less than two months apart too! We are so thankful for their family for inviting us in and being intentional with us.

The Interview

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

I was never one of those girls who dreamed of becoming a mom. I always knew in the back of my mind that I wanted to have a family one day, but it wasn’t something I thought about all the time. My husband, Jeremy, and I were married for six years before we had our first child, Analeigh. I use to tell people if she came out as a teenager I would be happy. Why, you may ask, because my husband and I were in youth ministry and I felt like I understood teenagers way better than babies! I remember holding Analeigh for the first time and being over joyed and terrified at the same time! As she grew, I learned so much about unconditional love and how much the Lord loves us. And, man, did I need that reminder! That little girl stole my heart and I have been thankful ever since that she made me a mommy! We liked the first kid so much we decided to have another one! Eva was born and we felt like our family was complete. However, God had other plans and decided to give us a little surprise six months ago and Hadley joined our family. For those of you keeping track, that’s three girls! Analeigh is five, Eva is two, and like I mentioned Hadley is six months. Life is busy and sometimes a little chaotic, but also filled with so much joy!

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A family of five! Picture provided by Andrea

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

The biggest lesson I have learned is that things are not perfect. No matter how much planning, Pinterest searching, or ideas in your head things and life are not perfect! I do not have a perfectly clean house (ask Erin!), I don’t have perfectly behaving kids, and I’m not perfectly organized. And that is perfectly okay (pun intended)! Childhood is about allowing your children to explore, grow, and fail. That’s what will eventually make them great adults. Do I get upset sometimes about things not being “perfect”….sometimes I do. But I try to remind myself to find joy in the everyday and enjoy my children where they are at. The only thing perfect in this life is God’s love and that is what I want my girls to learn more than anything else!

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Sweet Analeigh and Eva. Picture provided by Andrea

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

This stage I’m in right now is becoming my favorite! Analeigh and Eva love each other and love to play with each other. They make up stories with their babies, they play family, and they dance and sing together. It’s been so fun watching them become friends! My prayer is that their bond and friendship continues through out the rest of their lives.

My husband and I always talk about how Eva has been hit in the head so much in her short life. A few weeks ago, Analeigh and Eva were playing and Analeigh slammed Eva into the corner of the wall (by accident). She had a huge bump on her forehead! Thankfully, she was okay. The next day, we were outside playing in the yard. I was throwing the wiffle ball to Analeigh and she hit it right into Eva’s forehead! The poor girl! Sometimes it’s so hard not to laugh!

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Best sister friends! Picture provided by Andrea

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

I think the biggest challenge of being a mom is not losing who you are. Before I had kids I got my master’s and worked. After Analeigh was born, I just couldn’t leave her. So I became a stay at home mom and I knew it was the right decision. However, I struggled with feeling like all I did was “be a mom”. I had to get vulnerable with Jeremy and tell him that even though I loved being with my girl everyday, I felt lonely and like my purpose was gone. Obviously, I had some things to work out with God about my feelings and emotions. I had to figure out what things I needed to do outside of the house that brought me life. I had to ask for help so that I could do those things that brought me life. And I had to learn that “mom” was a part of who I was and not the only thing that I was. The Lord was sweet and brought me a great group of other stay at home moms that I was able to speak openly with who totally understood where I was at. We started a monthly play group with our kids and I got involved in a bible study filled with other moms. I learned that the Lord didn’t want me to stop being me, but learn how to balance my different roles. It can still be challenging, especially with more children, but it is worth fighting for!

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Becoming a mom with Analeigh. Picture provided by Andrea

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

To be able to handle ALL.THE.THINGS. while being sleep deprived, functioning on less brain cells, and never sitting down.

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These girls really love each other. Picture provided by Andrea

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

My parents always made sure our childhood was filled with memories. They instilled great family values in my sister and I. I want that for my girls, to value family and understand how important that is. At the same time, I want them to know that family is more than just blood and that we invest our time in others who are important to us. I also knew growing up that I could always talk to my mom about anything and I did. Well, except for middle school, my mom would tell you! I want my girls to know they can always talk to me about anything, without judgement or criticism. I want them to feel comfortable and know that they can trust me.

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Eva loves being a big sister. Picture provided by Andrea

7. If you knew someone who just found out they were going to be a mom, what would be your two pieces of advice for them? A practical tip and a piece of wisdom.

First, there will be many people that will give you advice. As a first time mom, I’m sure you will listen to all of it and be overwhelmed. Take it all in then do what you feel is best for you, your baby, and your family. You will know your baby better than anyone and it will happen quickly! Don’t be afraid to speak up for yourself and what you feel is best for you and your baby! Second, a practical tip, invest in a good video monitor! It will save your life!

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And Hadley makes three! Picture provided by Andrea

8. Anything else you want to include?

Motherhood is a journey and it is always evolving. There is always a “terrible” thing about every age, but there is also always something magnificent. Try to enjoy each season because it really does go by so fast! I use to hate when people would tell me that when I was a new mom, but recently I am seeing how true that statement is! I have learned so much about grace and why God has given it to us as a free gift. There is no way that I can go through each day without the grace of God and without extending that same grace to my girls. And, as my sister always told me, crying is free therapy!

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One of Eva’s first days at home. Picture provided by Andrea

Wrap-Up

Andrea’s words of wisdom about still being herself after becoming a mom really hit home for me. I love how she says, “I learned that the Lord didn’t want me to stop being me, but learn how to balance my different roles.” It can be so hard when you feel like you’ve list yourself when you gain a new role, like wife or mom, but the Lord is teaching and refining us to look more and more like Christ. I believe He does this by adapting and adding things to our lives to shape who we become.

Thank you so much, Andrea!! I look up to the mom that you are to your girls, and I am beyond thankful for the way you and Jeremy have welcomed us in.

What was your favorite thing that Andrea 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 that would like the Motherhood Monday posts? Send them a link to this post! The goal of these posts is to reach out, encourage, and empathize with moms all around.

Turner Turns One // “T” Family Pictures

I loved meeting up with the “T” family to take some family pictures, as well as some pictures of Turner for his first birthday. Ashleigh, Turner’s mom, and I have known each other since 5th grade. We were in the same class. Since then we have stayed friends and recently really got to be able to start hanging out again. Turner is such a joy. He is laid-back and sweet. He did such a great job with smiling and showing his little personality in the pictures. The ones with his tongue out may be my favorites. We even got to do a smash cake, provided by Ashleigh’s sister-in-law. Turner wasn’t really a big fan of getting messy though… Overall, we had a great time, and we got some good shots to show for it!

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Turner First Birthday Pictures — Helena, AL — Spring 2017

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“T” Family Pictures — Helena, AL — Spring 2017

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Turner First Birthday Pictures — Helena, AL — Spring 2017

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Turner First Birthday Pictures — Helena, AL — Spring 2017

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“T” Family Pictures — Helena, AL — Spring 2017

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Turner First Birthday Pictures — Helena, AL — Spring 2017

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Turner First Birthday Pictures — Helena, AL — Spring 2017

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“T” Family Pictures — Helena, AL — Spring 2017

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Turner First Birthday Pictures — Helena, AL — Spring 2017

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Turner First Birthday Pictures — Helena, AL — Spring 2017

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“T” Family Pictures — Helena, AL — Spring 2017

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Turner First Birthday Pictures — Helena, AL — Spring 2017

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“T” Family Pictures — Helena, AL — Spring 2017

What I’m Into (March 2017)

Disclosure: The links below are affiliate links unless otherwise stated, meaning if you purchase something from my link I will make a small percentage in commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting Open Hands, Open Home!

I’m linking up with Leigh Kramer to talk about what I’m into from this past month.

March always seems to fly by. I remember in high school there were all kinds of things going on that made it go by so quickly like tennis matches, baseball games, spring break, etc. Then in college, it was always when the weather got consistently warm enough to hang out on the quad or find somewhere to hang up some Eno hammocks with friends. Also, my mom, dad, and brother all have birthdays in March. Needless to say, we’ve been running a million miles an hour it seems like, but more on that farther down in this post.

Reading-Related

I read some really great books this month, and I learned about the magic of the library holds system. I put a few books off my TBR on there, and wow, I got way more than I thought I would right away. I am slowly making my way through them!

Another reading-related thing that I have found and love is Books By The Pound. It is a bookstore near where we live, and you pay for your (used) books based on how much they weigh. I got The Chronicles of Narnia collection and four other books for $19. You can’t beat that. I will be going there again (hopefully Sam will let me) to get more books from my TBR list.

“For as long as she could remember, she had thought that autumn air went well with books, that the two both somehow belonged with blankets, comfortable armchairs, and big cups of coffee or tea.” // The Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend by Katarina Bivald has been on my TBR list since I began keeping up with it. This book was so charming! The small-town setting gave me a nostalgic sense while reading it. It is also packed with lovable characters and a bookstore, which makes for a perfect book to snuggle up on the couch with. I couldn’t put this book down once I started it, and it was a great, light read that had a happy ending!

“Our limitation is God’s opportunity. When you get all the way to the end of your rope and there ain’t nothin’ you can do, that’s when God takes over.” // Same Kind of Different As Me by Ron Hall and Denver Moore was one of those books that I knew about for a long time but had never read. It is the story of two unlikely friends and the woman that brings them together. It far-exceeded any expectations that I had built up in my head. It was such a heart-wrenchingly beautiful story. It was fast-paced but not a page-turner with short chapters and alternating perspectives. I think this is the book that I have cried the most in ever. This is a book that I would recommend to anyone!

 “Strange, how such a small realization can affect everyone’s life forever. In movies there is always a carefully staged moment – a big crescendo of music, close-ups of the actors’ faces, the camera slowly pulling away to let all this sink in for the viewer…but, in real life, most all of the extraordinary things happen with no more loudness than a whisper.” // Eli the Good by Silas House was a great, YA read. I don’t really know how to explain the book, except that it made me feel good. Eli is the most precious character that you end up really loving. I loved his observations about his family and everyday life. This was a good, quick read!

“Life changes you, even if you don’t realize it while it’s happening, and it turns out you can’t take back the years that have passed by.” // The Sweetness of Forgetting by Kristin Harmel has a lot of the elements that I love in a book! The family secret, the lovable characters, and the pretty much happy ending made this one that I will always remember. World War II was woven into this story in a beautifully tragic way, and it showed the reality of how war tears people apart. It also illuminates that people, no matter how difficult, will come together to help in times of great difficulty.

I also did a reading recap of the first ten books I read this year in a post here.

Watching-Related

This Is Us is just incredible television. I know that’s not really news to anyone, but wow. The finale was a bit disappointing I will say just because I thought we were going to find out what happened to Jack. I’m okay with prolonging it though, I guess. The redeemable part of that episode was Randal telling Beth that he wants to adopt. TEARS

I’m still watching Grey’s Anatomy, but mostly because I just have to finish it. I have to stick it out. It could be redeemed if they brought back another original cast member maybe, but we’ll see how it goes…

Yes, I am one of those people that watched The Bachelor, and yes, I was one of the people that picked Vanessa as my favorite. I was really sad for Raven just because she is so sweet, and I am more than a little bit annoyed about the way that they announced Rachel as the bachelorette before she was even off the show. I’m glad Nick’s season is over. I never really liked him…

Survivor is back, and it is crazy, as always. If you watch it, you know what I’m about to say, THAT TRIBAL COUNCIL was ridiculous, and the fact that Malcolm is the one they voted out makes me so mad. Get rid of Sandra, people!

Lastly, I made a bracket this year, so we’ve been keeping up with March Madness. I only made a bracket because our group of friends made one and a date night is on the line. I think I did decently, and at the time of writing this, it’s between my husband and one of the other guys to see who wins. Go UNC (that’s who we need to win for us to win the date night :))!!

Baby-Related

The IKEA high chair is the way to go when it comes to high chairs people. It’s cheap, and it is easy to clean! You can’t beat a $25 high chair people, you just cant. We’ve also been using this zip-up picnic blanket that my mom let us borrow to hang out outside with Henry. He loves it, but now that he’s mobile, he doesn’t really stay on it very well… Anyway, we’ve been keeping that accessible since we’ve had all this beautiful weather lately.

My brother got Henry some sunglasses that look a lot like these. Henry likes to take them off, but they are so cute when he does leave them on for a bit.

Will also bought Henry this Carter’s Baby Boys Baseball Cap . It is so cute! Henry will actually leave it on for awhile too. My parents bought the outfit that go with the hat too. Henry has no shortage of clothes or accessories, mostly because of his grandparents.

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Thanks, Mom, for this super cute picture of H!

Food/Drink-Related

While in Birmingham this past week, we visited Feast and Forest for breakfast with some friends. It has a really cool feel, a loft-type area, yummy food and coffee! It was a spot I’m sure we will visit again.

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We also went to the new Pizitz Food Hall in Birmingham with the same friends. We had bowls from Ono Poke which were essentially all the things from a sushi roll in a bowl. SO. GOOD. There are all different kinds of food from all over the world there, so it is definitely a place we’ll have to go back to to try more things!

Listening-Related

This was an impulse buy for us. We knew that we liked the Ed Sheeran stuff we had heard on the radio, but we had never been big enough fans to buy his other songs. We impluse-bought the deluxe version of his new album at Target, and we have been listening to it non-stop! I think Sam says, “Oh, I like this one!” to every single song, except track one.

I’ve also been listening to some podcasts recently, which I’ve really enjoyed. My favorites right now are The Popcast, which is about pop culture and is so funny. I find myself laughing out loud and talking back to Knox and Jamie the whole time. I’m also loving What Should I Read Next? for all my reading needs. This is one of those shows that I’ve gone back and listened to old episodes while waiting for the new one each week. Lastly, Sorta Awesome is another great listen. It is about all things awesome. I’ve really enjoyed it!

Blog-Related

I took a little break from Motherhood Monday (unintentionally but life got crazy), but it is back now! Jessica V. is my latest mom with a sweet story and some great words of wisdom. I’ve also been more intentional about blogging my photo sessions. There are several sessions on the blog that I would love you to look back at!

Life-Related

Life has been crazy around here lately. Sam had ACL and meniscus surgery at the beginnig of March. That required me to drive him around pretty much all month.

We’re also facing a big transition for our family. We haven’t really announced what that transition will be yet but keep checking back to find out what that may be.

We got to spend a week traveling and seeing family and friends, and I’ve been trying to carry my camera around more to take pictures of everyday life. This was a good time to start this practice.

Lastly, Henry is crawling, clapping, waving, and squealing all the time. He is such a happy baby, and he loves people.

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Henry has always loved bath time, and now his favorite thing to do is splash!

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We celebrated the March birthdays on my side of the family this month!

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Henry with both of his maternal great-grandmothers.

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We can’t wait for Aunt Maci and Uncle Aaron to get married in June!!

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Henry got to meet and hang out with Rhyken, who is only 3 days younger than him.

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Henry with his Maw, Sam’s grandmother. She had a picture of Henry’s great great great grandfather, who was always named Henry!

That’s it for this month! Like I said, keep checking back to see what the big transition for our family is. We’re really excited about what’s to come!

 

Motherhood Monday – Jessica V.

Welcome back to Motherhood Monday on the blog!! It has been about a month since I’ve welcomed someone to the blog to talk about their motherhood experience. I’m really excited to welcome Jessica V. to the blog today!! We actually got to visit them last week, and it was so much fun hanging out with them and seeing their son, Nathan, for only the second time. He is the sweetest baby!

Meet Jessica

Jessica and I have husband best friends. Our husbands lived together in college, so we got to become friends too! Edgar, her husband, was in our wedding, and Sam was in theirs. We actually have similar timing when it comes to our stories with our husbands too. They started dating around the same time we started dating, got engaged around the same time we got engaged, and our weddings were two weeks apart. It has been so special to live life alongside each other, even from far away. Jessica is a very sweet, thoughtful, and wise friend. She is very loyal to those around her, has an incredible heart for the Lord, and seems to juggle being a mom and wife very well. I can’t wait for y’all to read her words of wisdom.

The Interview

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

When I think back over my motherhood journey, I feel such a mix of emotions, from sadness and grief, to absolute joy, to fear and confusion, and also a large measure of gratitude towards God for all that He has taught me through this process. My journey started almost exactly a year ago. One Sunday in mid-March 2016, I found myself in my bathroom holding a positive pregnancy test. My husband and I were definitely in shock, but elated to be expanding our family. On Monday, I miscarried. It was very early in my pregnancy, and my doctor told me it was fairly common and probably would have no bearing on my ability to get pregnant in the future. Even so, I was heartbroken. One moment there had been a little life growing inside of me, and the next it was gone.

I also felt a lot of shame and fear of condemnation. I felt like the world would have me believe that it wasn’t a big deal; that it wasn’t even a baby that I had lost, because it was no bigger than a poppy seed. I was in counseling at the time, and my counselor was so helpful in giving me a framework for thinking about my pain. She reassured me that I was absolutely entitled to grieve my loss (and to me it was a very real loss), no matter what the world wanted me to believe. I think the Lord really used that experience to teach me about allowing myself to feel my emotions, to grieve loss and acknowledge pain rather than just pretending that “I’m fine.”

That was also a season of learning to trust in God’s character, even when I don’t understand His plan. A verse that was really comforting to me during that time was Psalm 139:16, which starts, “Your eyes saw my unformed substance.” I clung to the truth that God could see that little unformed baby just as clearly as He can see you or me. Even if no one else could mourn that tiny life in the same way as me, God could.

Another lesson in trusting God’s character came when I found out I was pregnant the second time. In the interest of being honest, I’ll say we ended up getting pregnant right after my miscarriage because we didn’t realize that a woman could be ovulating immediately after a miscarriage and before her period returned. It turns out she can! That was such an emotional roller coaster. I had just accepted that we were not going to be having a baby and had turned my mind towards what our next year of ministry with the Navigators would look like…and then I found out I was pregnant again. I had been feeling so hopeful and excited about really investing in freshmen women at Vanderbilt, only to then realize that I would not get the amount of time with them that I had expected. I was so excited about this new baby, but at the same time I was sad to be “giving up” my expectations for what the next year of my life would look like. I really had to wrestle with accepting that God’s plan for my life was good and right.

As my pregnancy went on, I did come to feel greater peace about this new season that God was leading us into. I also think that God began to really increase my joy, especially through sweet moments like seeing my little man on the ultrasound and feeling him kick. At times I still felt sad for how my life would be changing and fear for how unknown the whole parenthood thing felt, but it was really helpful for me to be honest about naming those emotions when they came. I am so thankful that I had the Lord, my dear husband, and sweet friends to walk with me through whatever I was feeling and help me to face the coming season with hope and courage.

My healthy baby boy, Nathan Judah Voltz, was born December 13, 2016 (5 days earlier than his due date). He is three months old now, and I absolutely love being his mommy. My life right now looks so different than I had expected, but I am so thankful for it and for the truth that God’s plan is so much better than my own.

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“Nathan was just a few days old when we took this picture. My husband, Edgar, is such a wonderful husband and father!” Picture provided by Jessica

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

The biggest lesson that I’ve learned is one that I feel like I learn over and over again through different seasons of my life. I think I could sum it up in two parts: 1) my life is not about me (nor has it ever been) and 2) I’m selfish and often want it to be.

Being a mom means I can no longer choose to do what I want whenever and however I want anymore, because there’s a tiny human who needs me to meet all of his needs and provide stability for his little world. It’s funny, I’ve always thought of moms as just being these inherently selfless superheroes, but I’m learning that selflessness isn’t inherent at all (in fact, I think the Bible tells us that we are instead inherently self-centered).

I think God is building selflessness into me through the daily trial of choosing another over myself. There have been plenty of moments when I am finally about to fall asleep, cozy in my warm bed, when my baby wakes up crying. In those moments, a part of me is really tempted to roll over and hope my son figures it out on his own, but because I love my son, I get up and go to him…time and time again. There was a period of time (after the initial adrenaline rush of parenthood had worn off) when this process of choosing another over myself was really hard for me. Even if I was physically caring for my son, I was constantly thinking about my “needs” and the things I felt like I was missing out on. However, as time has gone on and I’ve adjusted to my new role, it has slowly become easier to put his needs before my own.

I’m slowing becoming a more selfless person, and honestly, I really like the person that motherhood is making me become. I want to look more like Jesus. I was recently reading Philippians 2:3-4, which says, “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” When I read those verses, I thought, “Wow, that kind of humility is what I want my life to be marked by.” I really believe that motherhood is a huge part of God’s training plan for me to grow to look more like Christ.

Nathan 3 Month

“Here’s my sweet 3 MONTH OLD! Where is the time going?!” Picture provided by Jessica

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

Nathan is still so little, so I’m not sure that I can think of any specific story to share. However, I love just spending time with him and seeing his little personality come out more and more. He’s just a sweet, happy, laidback, inquisitive, and thoughtful boy. I am getting so much joy right now from the times we spend together while I’m putting him down to sleep. I typically sit with him in my arms, rock him, and sing worship, Disney, or Needtobreathe songs. Often times, while he’s still fairly awake, he will “sing” along with me by making these elongated cooing sounds (I can’t think of a better way to describe them!). It just makes my heart soar. I love thinking about all of the singing our family will do together in the future, whether in times of worship or just playing around in the car. I also love that I get to sing the Gospel over my son and myself every day; it really ministers to my heart!

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“I’m generally a pretty silly person, and I love sharing that with my little guy!” Picture provided by Jessica

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

I think that women today, mothers or not, feel a lot of pressure to “have it all together”. We can feel like we have to excel at everything we do, and if we’re not excellent in everything then we must be failing at everything. I think the heat just gets turned up on all that when you become a mother. We can put so much pressure on ourselves to have perfectly-behaved model babies, a successful career, a tiny waistline, a Pinterest-perfect house that is always clean, healthy home-cooked meals on the table every night, deep relationships with friends that we keep up with regularly, and an ever-grateful husband who just gushes about how good we are at loving them. I get exhausted just thinking about it, and yet I often get caught up in trying to figure out how to meet these impossible standards!

Now that I’m a mom, I feel like I’m even less able to meet these standards. Nothing can thwart the best-laid plans quite like a baby, am I right? So, I’ve been trying to challenge myself to really devote the majority of my effort towards nurturing my son and loving my husband. If I have additional capacity in a given week, it usually goes towards my ministry with college students, but I’m trying to practice discipline by putting my family as my first priority. I want to be a woman who is faithful to work where the Lord has called me, not a woman who is chasing after an unrealistic standard of perfection that I will never meet. Granted, I am so far from having this figured out. If I’m being honest, I still spend way too much time comparing myself to the perfect mommies of Instagram. Thankfully, I am often reminded by my sweet husband and good friends that I do not have to have it all together to try to meet some imaginary standard of perfection – and that is so freeing!

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“Snuggly nights in watching Netflix are some of my favorite times with my little family!” Picture provided by Jessica

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

I think it would go something like this:

“This position requires long hours; must be willing to work weekends, holidays, etc. Actually, there really is no off time included with this position. No experience required; plenty of on-the-job training. This position will quickly help one to develop skills such as problem-solving, advanced negotiation tactics, and flexibility. Daily tasks may include but are not limited to: spending large amounts of time making sure your child is eating enough, handling various bodily functions (which can often be found in places they should not be, like on your clothes), practicing the art of stealthily placing a sleeping baby into his crib, experiencing the small wonders of discovering a big world while you watch your child play, and relishing in lots of baby snuggles. This job can be extremely difficult, but more rewarding than words can describe.”

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

I know that my parenting will certainly be influenced by the way my parents raised me, but because Nathan is still so young, I’m not sure I’ve seen much of my parenting style or tendencies come out yet. I’m also realizing it is a lot easier to think about all of the things I would do differently from my parents, but that’s not to say that my parents didn’t do a lot of good things to love and support me and my sister either.

One thing I’ve been thinking about lately is just how much I value traditions. My family was never much for creating traditions that we held onto for years and years. We were generally very flexible in most things that we did. That flexibility had its benefits, but sometimes my heart really longs to have traditions that I can carry on with my own children. Now that I’m planning my own family’s future, I LOVE that I get to be in control of creating sweet moments that my children can look forward to and expect each year. Most of the traditions that I want to start revolve around Christmas, but I also love the idea of birthday traditions and summer vacation traditions. I want my children to feel a special sense of closeness and security from our family structure, and I think traditions are one way to build into that.

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.

I don’t know if I have much sage advice to offer because I’m still such a newbie at this myself, but one thing that comes to mind is just to give yourself so much grace! Adjusting to parenthood is hard all by itself, and when you add on top of that the fact that you are recovering from a major procedure (no matter which way your baby is born) and trying to adjust to chronic sleeplessness, things are just going to be difficult at first! It is totally okay to eat take-out every night, have dirty dishes in the sink, laundry piled up, etc. You will eventually learn to adjust to a new routine for your family, but it doesn’t have to be a week after your baby is born…or even seven weeks for that matter! As an aside to that, when Nathan was first born I made it a practice to never turn down help when it was offered. If people wanted to bless our family by washing our dirty dishes, I totally let them. It made such a difference to have people who were willing to help us!

As far as practical goes, I would say don’t let your guard down when it comes to your baby’s bodily functions. I swear, every time I think that I don’t need to throw a burp cloth over my shoulder because surely my child won’t spit up on me, I end up with the biggest trail of spit up running down my shirt. The same goes for little boys with peeing. The moments when I think I’m safe, that surely my son won’t pee when I open his diaper, are the times that I end up using my hands to block a huge stream of pee from covering the walls of the nursery! But then again, maybe my child is just a prankster!

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“This was my reality when Nathan was first born! I was exhausted all the time and needed so much help.” Picture provided by Jessica

Wrap-Up

Jessica’s answers were all so real and so wise, but one of my favorite things that she talked about was how hard it is to always put someone else’s needs over your own. This is something that I know I really struggled with when Henry was first born, and it is still a struggle now, as I’m sure it will probably always be. We are inherently self-centered, so I know the Lord uses motherhood to teach us selflessness along with about a million other things.

Thanks for answering my questions, Jessica! Your honesty and wisdom is so appreciated, and I loved reading your motherhood journey.

What was your favorite thing that Jessica 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 that would like the Motherhood Monday posts? Send them a link to this post! The goal of these posts is to reach out, encourage, and empathize with moms all around.

Lexie Turns 6 Months Old!

Lexie turned 6 months old, and we took some cute pictures to celebrate. I met her family at the park, and we spent some time taking pictures. She was such a good sport! She loved all the poses, smiled at her parents the whole time, and showed off her little personality. We had a great time, even though it did start sprinkling a bit while we were there. Her parents even got in a few pictures too!

I’m looking forward to taking this cutie’s one-year-old pictures when the time comes! 🙂

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Lexie Six-Month Pictures — Birmingham, AL — Spring 2017

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Lexie Six-Month Pictures — Birmingham, AL — Spring 2017

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Lexie Six-Month Pictures — Birmingham, AL — Spring 2017

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Lexie Six-Month Pictures — Birmingham, AL — Spring 2017

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Lexie Six-Month Pictures — Birmingham, AL — Spring 2017

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Lexie Six-Month Pictures — Birmingham, AL — Spring 2017

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Lexie Six-Month Pictures — Birmingham, AL — Spring 2017

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Lexie Six-Month Pictures — Birmingham, AL — Spring 2017

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Lexie Six-Month Pictures — Birmingham, AL — Spring 2017

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Lexie Six-Month Pictures — Birmingham, AL — Spring 2017

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Lexie Six-Month Pictures — Birmingham, AL — Spring 2017

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Lexie Six-Month Pictures — Birmingham, AL — Spring 2017

Brittany + Trey Pregnancy Announcement

Brittany and Trey are so sweet to each other and to the people around them! We are in the same small group at church, and Sam and I have loved getting to know them. When they told our small group that they were expecting, we were so excited for them!! They are going to be such great parents, and we can’t wait to meet that sweet baby.

We took their pictures at Stone Mountain Park, which is where Trey proposed to Brittany!! Such a sweet place to take these pictures. We had quite the time with the balloons, but after duct taping them together and snapping a bunch of takes, we finally got one with them up in the air pretty much perfectly. I love the way these turned out!

Oh, and don’t worry, I waited until they announced. That’s the hardest part about having these pictures–I’m so impatient to share them!

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Brittany + Trey Pregnancy Announcement — Stone Mountain, GA — Spring 2017

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Brittany + Trey Pregnancy Announcement — Stone Mountain, GA — Spring 2017

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Brittany + Trey Pregnancy Announcement — Stone Mountain, GA — Spring 2017

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Brittany + Trey Pregnancy Announcement — Stone Mountain, GA — Spring 2017

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Brittany + Trey Pregnancy Announcement — Stone Mountain, GA — Spring 2017

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Brittany + Trey Pregnancy Announcement — Stone Mountain, GA — Spring 2017

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Brittany + Trey Pregnancy Announcement — Stone Mountain, GA — Spring 2017

Jordan + Andrew Maternity

It took awhile for Jordan and me to find a date that worked for their maternity pictures, but when we finally did, the weather was so nice! We got to spend the morning outside exploring, snapping pictures, and swapping pregnancy stories. Sweet Sawyer still hasn’t made an appearance yet (only a few more weeks to go), but doesn’t Jordan make a pretty pregnant mama?? I know they can’t wait to meet their precious baby boy!

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Jordan + Andrew Maternity — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Jordan + Andrew Maternity — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Jordan + Andrew Maternity — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Jordan + Andrew Maternity — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Jordan + Andrew Maternity — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Jordan + Andrew Maternity — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Jordan + Andrew Maternity — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Jordan + Andrew Maternity — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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Jordan + Andrew Maternity — Alabaster, AL — Winter 2016/2017

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