Farewell, 2017 and Hello, 2018!

As we say goodbye to 2017 and hello to 2018, I’ve spent moments this weekend reminiscing, recalling, remembering, and just really feeling a whole lot of grateful for the past 12 months of our life. I personally walked through some high highs and some low lows. The start of this year hit my soul deep, in ways and for reasons I have not shared publicly or on the Internet. My heart was in "the thick of it." In the thick of battling some very real struggles and pain that hit deep and hard in tender parts of my soul. The start of 2017 hit me hard, amid all the joy and beauty and goodness…. and, in all the smiley and pretty photos that I posted (choosing to see “the good” is not wrong, and not “posting it all for the world to see” was on my heart) I wrestled with a whole lot and sank, in some ways, under it. And yet, the Lord…. He was there all along. He held me up and walked me through “the valley of the shadow” — through it; not over it or under it or around it. Through it. There were times when I felt like I was drowning. And then, as you do, by grace, I surfaced. 2017 held some of the sweetest blessings and joys — time spent with dear family and people we love, abundant provision and undeserved gifts, prayers prayed 20 years ago and almost forgotten, answered. My word for 2017 was “Redemption.” And in some ways, I can look back and ask, “But, God? What about _____. And ______. And _____?” Those still “unredeemed” things. The still broken things. And He says, “But, look….” And throws His arms wide, revealing all those seemingly small and unnoticed redeemed broken pieces. What a gift. 

Through it all: a health challenge we walked through at the start of the year. Marking our two year wedding anniversary with a blessed trip to Mexico. Celebrating Weston’s first birthday. Precious moments with family, near and far. In my own heart, I look back and see how I “hit the wall” (inwardly) on our wonderful, whirlwind trip through Europe, and how the moment I stepped foot back home, I found I began to heal… the trip broke me and healed me and I’ll always hold the countryside of France, the Swiss alps, and magical Paris at night as some of the dearest, most cherished moments of my life, with my beloved boys.  “God moves in a mysterious way, His wonders to perform.” — William Cowper.

When I think of 2017 I will always think of these words, written by Billy Jack Brawner III (his story shared with me this year by my sister in law, and used as one of the small threads that stitched my heart back together): 

“Always both/and, in these days: both hope and heartache. 

Both laughter and tears. Both beautiful and broken. 

Both life and death. Both peace and war. 

Both contentment and longing. Both joy and sorrow. 

All held in tension, until the Day." 

 [Billy Jack Brawner III] 

This year, full of goodness. And looking through it, counting the fruit… oh, I am a grateful girl. My heart and hands are full, and I am overwhelmed with the thousands of gifts. 

These pictures shared here are just a few of the thousands of snapshots we took. Just a glimpse into the beauty of 2017. Just a taste of my gratefulness. There were so so many more moments; so many connections, adventures, mountaintop-highs and quiet lows, so many milestones, so many crock pot meals, so many cups of coffee, so many hard conversations; so many words spoken and books flipped through, baths drawn and bananas cut up for a tiny boy, miles driven, airplanes boarded, phone calls made, yes-es said and no’s chosen; toilets cleaned and dishes washed, birthdays celebrated, people missed, beds made, laundry folded, coffee stirred, doctors visits and beach trips. It’s all a gift. And I am grateful for the mundane and the unbelievably exciting, for the brokenness and for the healing. 

So with an overflowing-with-good-and-joy heart and a renewed clarity and peace in my mind, I close the book that was 2017 and place it on the shelf of life. It went too fast, really. And oh how I long to hold onto the coming days, to remember, to write it all down, to feast on the good and learn from the dark. A wise and seasoned mama friend of mine who has walked through more life and motherhood than I told me this year, “Write it down. You will forget. You don't think you will, but you will.” I don’t have a huge laundry list of resolutions for the fresh year, but I want to write again in 2018. To journal. And blog. With vulnerability and faith. To remember and recall His faithfulness in the night and His new mercies every morning. I want to sing and play piano again; to sing over my boys and to worship my King. I want to read more and go deeper, to focus on the “depth over the breadth” — in every little piece of life. Daniel and I are striving to become physically healthy this year, and I’ll share more of that journey (for accountability) probably on Instagram. Most of all, I want to enjoy every moment and drink up the joy and pour it all out on my people, and serve and love without hesitation or condition. 

My on-repeat anthem for 2018 is “He Will” by Ellie Holcomb. Holding onto it.

Only He knows what 2018 holds, but I pray and hope with all my heart it is a good one, a giving one, a grace-filled one. Our family is thrilled to embark on some exciting adventures, work hard, love on our growing boy, work on some brand new projects, take a few trips — including another trip across the pond to chase some dreams! 

Thank you for your presence in our lives, even through a screen. For your kind words and connection. For your messages on Instagram and for listening and being and supporting. For your kindness, prayers, encouragement, and love. Cheers to 2018, my friends.

Let’s make it a growing, gracious, good one!

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Our darling Valentine.


Dates and ordinary nights and at-home days with my man filled up my soul. 


We spent a few days in sunny Palm Springs for Nana's (my sister's) birthday this spring

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And lots of afternoons at our community pool with this little fish!


A few trips to our beloved Santa Barbara for favorite eats.

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Our first just-us trip, to Cabo, Mexico, to celebrate two years of wedding bliss!


And back home to smother our boy in kisses as he turned ONE in June

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We took him to a cozy cabin in June Lake, California, and showed this baby bear the mountains

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Celebrated milestones with family

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And were blessed to visit Mickey lots and lots


Enjoyed our beautiful families


And hugged dear might-as-well-be-family who live too far away


We skipped over to France and Switzerland for the most epic trip of our lives, to celebrate Daniel's 30th birthday. What a joy.


I fell in love with my lifelong crush, the Eiffel Tower


And head over heels with my man and baby boy, all the more.


We made our little townhouse more of a cozy home and I enjoyed cooking more than ever


Spent a few days in the mountains with my family


Daniel released a couple of albums, provided so well for our family, worked incredibly hard, and I could not be more proud of him. 

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So grateful to have had the opportunity to be hired by and work with two of my lifelong favorite brands, Ralph Lauren and L'Occitane. Offers for collabs often show up in my inbox but I turn down 90% of them because my time is so limited (my main heart goal and energy-focus in this season especially is my precious little family... babies don't keep!) but these two collaborations came along and I just adored working with them. One of those "dream come true" moments I dreamed about when I began this little blog

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Flew to Oklahoma in the spring, hosted some of Daniel's precious family here in the early summer, celebrated a sister's wedding in Indiana in the fall, visited Texas for Thanksgiving and spent a few days in Florida to hang out with Westie's cousins! 


photo by: http://imkristenmorris.com/

Abundantly blessed and graced. 

Thank you Lord.

Happy New Year!!! 


Gift Guide: For Babies

Christmas is getting closer!!! I know we are all in the middle of our Christmas prep (and maybe you're already done with your shopping -- woohoo!) but I just loved putting together this fun gift guide with a few items for baby. Weston was 6 months old last Christmas so these are mostly things we gave him -- items we loved and used, and still use. Most of them you can run and pick up at Wal Mart or Target, or order quickly on Amazon Prime (the best way to shop, right?) Hope it's helpful and helps you fill in those gaps you might have in the gift list of the precious little one in your life!

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1. Laugh and Learn Crawl Around Car // My mom gave this to Weston last Christmas (he was 6 months old last Christmas!) and it's still one of Weston's favorite toys. Hours of entertainment! It features songs and words (there are several levels for different stages. This car is for ages 6 months to 36 months.) It's been a favorite toy for us!

2. Activity Gym // Weston had a similar gym and loved it for tummy time! I think this one is so darling. The white, gold, moon and stars? The sweetest! 

3. Duck Tub // We switched from an infant tub to this inflatable duck tub when Weston turned 6 months old -- we gave this one to him for Christmas. It's a perfect transition as your baby begins to sit up and crawl, but isn't quite ready for the tub. It's also great for travel! 

4. Our Favorite Teether // Teething is no joke -- for babies and their parents. Weston had 8 teeth by 1 year old.... so, yeah... I knew about teething that first year! He was such a little trooper. We tried so many teethers, and this was by far his favorite. My grandma picked it out and just knew it would be perfect -- of course she would know. I know I stuffed our little guy's stocking with a couple of these last year!

5. Baby Lit Books // I'm collecting all of these for Weston -- I love that he's already being exposed to classic literature. And the artwork is beautiful! Especially loving that they have "Little Women" and "Anne of Green Gables" (two personal favs of mine) and classics like Huckleberry Finn.  

6. Pots and Pans // When he started crawling, Westie loved playing with all my pots and pans. I wish we'd known about these cute play ones -- I've heard littles love them! Melissa and Doug toys is a favorite brand of mine and it is an investment, usually, so it's a perfect holiday gift splurge.

7. Shaker // I picked up one of these at Wal Mart when our little guy was just a month or two old, and I know it helped him to learn how to grab and hold things. Ideal for your tiny little love's stocking!

8. Elephant Rocker // A most-loved item in our nursery, this rocker is so well made and quality. We got it for Weston last Christmas and it's definitely one of our investment pieces. It's one of those items that will stand the test of time and will pass from baby to baby as the years go on! 

Slow Cooker Buffalo-Ranch Shredded Chicken Sandwiches

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*Inspired by and adapted from this recipe 

As a busy wife and mama of a hard-working husband who works long hours several days out of the week, I am always looking for slow-cooker recipes that are easy, flavorful, and filling! My boys are "meat and potatoes" guys  (Daniel is a Midwestern man, born and raised!) and so especially on long work days, I love to make him something hearty for dinner. This recipe is one of my favorites and it's super, super simple and quick -- as a busy mom of a little one, that is a must! 


  • 2 Pounds Boneless, Skinless Chicken Breast 
  • 12 Ounce Bottle of Buffalo Wing Sauce 
  • 1 oz Packet Ranch Dressing and Seasoning Mix
  • Rolls or Homemade Biscuits
  • Toppings we like: Blue cheese crumbles and blue cheese dressing or shredded cheddar cheese and ranch dressing, lettuce, onion. 

* Can also be served on nachos, in taquitos, or on potato skins for a game-day type treat 

If I have extra time and am feeling "fancy", I also add in these ingredients I have seen in other versions of the recipe:

  • A few fresh cloves of garlic, minced
  • About a tablespoon of brown sugar 
  • Fresh ground black pepper, to taste 
  • A pinch of salt 
  • 1/4 cup of low sodium chicken broth


Spritz slow cooker with non-stick spray.

Add chicken breasts to slow cooker pot, and season with ranch dressing mix. Add garlic, brown sugar, salt, pepper, if desired. Mix in buffalo sauce and chicken broth. 

Cook on "low" for 8 hours. (If short on time, cook on high for 4 hours but I think the flavors blend best on low!) 

Shred chicken with a fork one hour prior to completion.

Serve with your choice of cheese, dressing and toppings along with your favorite side dish -- I love making a big salad and serving it along with potato wedges, fries, potato salad in the summertime, veggies and ranch dip, or chips. 






Gift Guide: For Him

Yay yay yay! It's December! Time to thoughtfully buy and loving wrap all the gifts for all the loved ones. A sweet but sometimes daunting task, amIright, ladies? Well, I put together a short series of Gift Guides to help a sister out! I so enjoy Christmas giving and it was so fun and therapeutic for me to put together. I hope it helps you out!  

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1. Yeti Tumbler // Daniel, being a Midwestern Man ;), is obsessed with Yeti tumbler cups! And they have been one of my go-to gifts for men the last couple of Christmases. They truly keep your drinks steamy hot or perfectly chilled -- for hours -- and are super well-made and designed. 

2. J.Crew Socks // I always buy Daniel J.Crew socks for Christmas! They are a bit of an investment (as opposed to, say, Wal Mart brand socks) but the quality is worth it. He will wear a pair for a year! I often pick them up on online sales or at J.Crew Factory's website. Aren't these campfire themed ones so cute?! 

3. Passport Holder // If your guy loves to globe-trot like mine does, he'd probably love a quality, leather passport holder and I doubt he would invest in one for himself (my sweet hubby is always thinking of others and is so frugal when it comes to his own needs!) 

4. Cozy Robe // Another item men usually don't buy for themselves but would probably enjoy -- a cozy, nice robe! My mom has gotten dad robes for Christmases and he's always thrilled and feels like he is in a fancy hotel when he wears it! 

5. Quality Ear Buds //  If you're like us, you have a slew of Apple and Target or Dollar Store sets of ear buds lying all around the house, but don't really own a truly quality pair. Hubby might love a pair for runs, flights, and quiet times! I've never used this brand, but I have seen lots of posts and reviews from bloggers saying they're great.

6. Hubby Mug // Every time I step into the Target check out line, these little cuties are staring me in the face and always almost toss one in my cart for Daniel ;) They're cheap and remind him every morning that you're thinking of him.

7. Ahava Skin Care // You guys. Of all the products I've ever tried in my 31 years of life thus far on earth, ohmygoodness.... this is one of the best. I first tried Ahava products on a trip to Israel at age 13. We stayed at the Dead Sea (a dream) and Ahava products were everywhere -- and cheap there at the time! Goodness, the scent of heaven and it takes me back to that dreamy trip and season of my life. I love to buy Ahava products as gifts for loved ones (I often find the brand at Marshall's or TJ Maxx these days, FYI) and am scooping this up for Daniel, as I'm always trying to encourage him to take good care of his skin. 

8. Lantern // My grandma is the queen of practical gifts for men. She always shows up at Christmas with some super amazing, as seen on TV but totally real-life usable, product for the guys in the family that she ordered off QVC! She bought Daniel and my dad lanterns last year and they were a major hit -- perfect for camping, power outages, or just working in the yard or garage!

9. Fuzzy Blanket Throw // Another one to file under "he probably wouldn't buy this for himself" gift ideas! I personally adore cozy, super soft blankets, and this Target version is a favorite -- we own several for guest visits and movie nights. What man could say "no" to one of these soft throws?

10. Ugg Slippers // We all know Uggs are oh so soft and oh so comfy! This pair of slippers is suede and I love the color. After a long day of work, our guys deserve this kind of soft coziness. 

11. Leather Luggage Tag // My man is a wanderlust guy so these chic, leather, monogrammed luggage tags are perfect for him. There's just something that feels so "grown up" about monograms and leather -- and these tags would last for years and many wonderful trips, I am sure!

12. An Encouraging Read // One of the few men I respect most, Bruce Marchiano, wrote this book, "The Character of a Man: Reflecting The Image of Jesus." I've read it and just love every single word on every single page! It's an inspiring, encouraging look at how to be a man who models Jesus, in a practical and very real way. It was published a few years back, but it's truths ring true timelessly. 

Alright, sistahs! I hope that gives you some ideas for showering your men with love this holiday season.

What do you plan on getting your guys?

My Black Friday Favorites

Hey loves! I hope you've been chillin' at home with your people today, eating leftover pumpkin pie, sipping hot drinks all cozy today! For fun and to hopefully help you out, I've rounded up some of my favorite items on sale for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These are just a few of items I've scooped up or that I just loved! 



50% off everything! 





30% off!



American Eagle

40% off plus free shipping!


40% off your purchase and free shipping

BLANQI Leggings

50% off!!

These fit like a dream, keep everything pulled in, and come in a pregnancy version and also a postpartum/nursing design. I'm wearing the postpartum version here and wish I had worn these right after Weston was born. 

 See their website for all their amazing supportwear!! 

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Weston's Wild One Birthday Party

Weston's Wild One Birthday Party

Our beautiful, bright, beloved boy turned one in June! What a year, what a life, what a joy he is. I meant to blog all about his birthday and party months ago... but, you know how mama life is -- busy, busy, amIright? And sometimes, when you get the choice: play with my baby or blog his party? Or, sleep or blog the party? Well, you know what won ;) haha Such is this season and it's beautiful, long-dreamed of, and precious to my heart!

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Christmas Decor Favorites 2017

Christmas Decor Favorites 2017

I know it's a little early for some people to think of Christmas decorating (#notme haha), but whether you're a Christmas crazy who decks the halls before Thanksgiving or if you are waiting until December 1st, it doesn't hurt to get ideas and plan! I had so much fun putting together this guide full of my favorite Christmas decor items. I hope it inspires you with ideas and inspiration for the holidays!

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Favorite Recent Amazon Purchases

Favorite Recent Amazon Purchases

Amazon Prime, you guys... I mean, is there anything more fabulous? I think not. I am absolutely obsessed, especially as a new mama -- it has been invaluable, time saving, and money saving too, for us this past 16 months of parenthood plus the 9 months of pregnancy before! I love hearing what treasures my friends and favorite bloggers find on Amazon.com and so I thought I'd put together a little list of some of my favorite things that have arrived at my door in that happy cardboard box! Hope it's helpful for you and gives you some ideas and inspo!

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Loire Valley: Chateau de Chambord | Europe 2017, Day 2

Loire Valley: Chateau de Chambord | Europe 2017, Day 2

When planning our trip to Europe, one non-negotiable thing on my "list" was: at least a day seeing castles and chateaus. Loire Valley came up on all my Internet and travel book searches and was recommended to us by several friends who are familiar with Europe, although no one we know had actually "been there." But, based on research and photos, I just knew we had to visit this seemingly-magical place.

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Montresor, France | Europe 2017, Day 1


Our great Europe adventure of 2017 is one for the books. What a magical, beautiful, wonderful whirlwind.

With grateful and excited hearts, we packed our bags and headed out for the trip of a lifetime. Starting with a flight from Los Angeles to Indianapolis, we spent the first days of our journey celebrating Daniel's sister and her wonderful new husband's marriage! We had the best time hugging family and dear friends who we see far too little, laughing, dancing, and enjoying along with them. From there, we flew to New York City (with a short layover in Chicago) and spent the night (our goal was to "break up" the trip from Indiana to Paris so that Little Guy could stretch his legs and rest.) And then onto Charles De Gaulle Airport! I really can't wait to share all the bits and pieces of our trip (including the much-asked for post about traveling overseas with a baby/toddler -- not that I am an expert, at all -- having done it just once! But I am going to soon share our NYC day as well what we learned while traveling via bus, train, car, plane, cable car, etc -- in hopes that it will encourage or help other traveling parents!)

All in all, we spent 16 days on the road in September and had so many adventures. 8 flights. 3 countries. 4 states. 2 rental cars. 8 hotels. Los Angeles > Indianapolis > New York City > Paris and back. 

We arrived in Paris on September 5. We took the "red eye" flight from NYC and Weston (thankfully) slept 90% of that 6 hour flight. He cried for about 20 minutes straight, mid-flight (and I cried, too) and the rest? He slept peacefully (#dreambaby) I was oh so relieved. I prayed so hard that he would be comfortable, peaceful, and sleepy. I didn't sleep. Too excited/nervous/worried/thrilled/just "all the feels" (sensitive feeler ENFP over here!) Weston awoke that morning in Paris, bright eyed and ready for the day! We thought about staying that day near Paris and resting up the first day, and left that as an option based on how we felt "when we got there," but when we arrived and got our rental car, Daniel felt alert enough to drive to our first destination. I, for one, did not! Jet lag hit me hard and I was drowsy and exhausted, but Daniel had slept on the flight and he felt "ready to go" -- so we went! 

As we planned our trip, we chose to make it easy-as-possible and "baby friendly"-- to forgo crowds at the most popular sites, the museums, etc (things we would love to do someday) in hopes of making it would be easier with a toddling little one. So that he would be safe/happy and so we wouldn't be stressed and totally frazzled.  The trip was purposefully crafted to be very family-friendly (our sister in law, who had just been to Europe with her littles, gave us some really helpful tips as we began to craft our plan which helped much) and in retrospect, we are thrilled with how it all played out. No horror story moments in Europe and everything smoothly flowed fairly perfectly as far as plans being fit for a young family! We are grateful it all went so beautifully. And I hope that those of you planning to go on a Europe adventure with small children will be inspired and given ideas by our itinerary (several people on Instagram asked what our exact itinerary was and in this and following blog post, I will be detailing it in hopes of helping ya out!) Choosing smaller towns and villages to visit by rental car was a wonderful choice for us. We were free to create our own schedule, haul all our luggage and baby items more easily (we brought a Pack N Play, Car Seat, Stroller, etc -- more on that in a following post), and be free to explore the French and Swiss countryside at our leisure! 

The heart and purpose of this trip was to celebrate Daniel's 30th birthday as a family (we celebrated mine in Maui) , and his request? To see the countryside of France and the alps in Switzerland. The year before we met, Daniel backpacked Europe, all alone. He is a brave, fearless, wild and free adventurer, and he literally packed up his backpack and grabbed his viola case, booked a flight to Europe, a little money in his pocket, and a dream in his heart: to see the big wide world! Looking back, I am so proud of him (and, also sort of happy I didn't know the sketchy moments he would encounter on that crazy wild trip! There were definitely some unsafe moments in his wild adventure -- his phone was stolen and he slept on several park benches, played his viola to make money to go to the next town, had no plan in place, knew no one, stayed in hostels, rode trains... and had a happy, happy time!! And the Lord totally protected him ;) This trip looked a bit different than his former one -- a family trip, with much more than a backpack (#overpackerwife #workingonit) and a baby boy in tow! He kept remarking on how much more he was able to see this time, with a little more money in his pocket ;), a plan in place, and wheels! Seeing Europe on a train is a bit different than via car -- we had so much freedom and loved it. 

As I planned and researched our trip and made our itinerary, I kept Googling, searching in travel books, and "Pinterest-ing": "The Best French Villages." In my mind's eye (having never, ever visited this part of Europe, myself) I could just see that "Beauty and the Beast" style historic, charming village and I knew that is how I wanted to start our journey. I didn't know if "they" truly existed in the way I imagined, but as a hopeless romantic full of dreams and idealism, I hoped they did! Every time I researched, I found lists of "The Best French Villages" and on almost every list, I saw the village of Montresor. Another "ideal" for our trip was to spend some of our time visiting historic castles and chateaus. (If you know me, you know a real castle in the countryside is basically my idea of heaven, and Daniel's idea of heaven is rolling hills, countryside, and lots of trees and green -- we grew up on a farm and a ranch....what do ya expect! ;) I found that Montresor always made it to those "Most Beautiful French Villages" lists. In fact, in 2015, it ranked as the #2 most beautiful village in France! And Loire Valley... goodness. Just research it! It looked like a slice of paradise, and it truly is. And so, with much research (and I don't love research, so seeing it all unfold as I planned was quite satisfying and addictive!) I chose to begin our adventure in Montresor. And, can I just say..... best decision ever. We were on Cloud 9 and I am grateful we began in that little piece of heaven. People asked us, "Why Montresor? It is so random! I've never even heard of it!" And it really is rather tiny and random! But, it was truly perfect and I would personally say: it was my favorite part of the trip.

Montresor is set in Loire Valley. Loire Valley is a wonder in and of itself! I could truly spend a month there and just eat, explore castles, sip local wine, and just enjoy the beauty. Loire Valley is described on one website this way:

"If it's French splendour, style and gastronomy you seek, the Loire Valley will exceed your expectations, no matter how great. Poised on the crucial frontier between northern and southern France, and just a short ride from Paris, the region was once of immense strategic importance. Kings, queens, dukes and nobles came here to establish feudal castles and, later on, sumptuous pleasure palaces – that's why this fertile river valley is sprinkled with hundreds of France's most extravagant fortresses. With crenellated towers, soaring cupolas and glittering banquet halls, the châteaux, and the villages and vineyards that surround them, attest to a thousand years of rich architectural, artistic and agrarian creativity. The Loire Valley – an enormous Unesco World Heritage Site – is also known for its outstanding wines and lively, sophisticated cities." 

Uhhh, sign me up! One local told us there are over 150 castles/chateaus in Loire Valley. Every time I researched the castles, it was overwhelming to just choose a few -- each one looked dreamy. I had a list of 4 we planned to see, but once we arrived, we stopped in the tourist center in Montresor and a sweet British lady directed us to the perfect castle to visit and so our plan changed. (Sometimes "being there" is helpful and talking to locals is the best!) There are just so many photos I wanted to share from the first day in Montresor that the next blog post will be all about the chateaus we saw.

 Montresor is just the sweetest little village full of the most darling people. At the center of the village is the 11th century fortress, and we stayed in the most perfect little B & B just 50 meters from it! The view out our window, the church... every morning we were awakened by the most magical bells ringing through the village. I will never, ever forget that enchanting sound. The quiet, quaint village is situated right on the banks of the Indrois River, and it is truly the most charming place. We stayed at The Little Salimander. (And we could not have chosen better accommodations!)

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The flowery path outside our door.

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Our little front porch and table on the deck area of the B & B

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Simple and clean, the little apartment was so quaint and sweet. The view out the window of the cobblestone street and church steeple... the dreamiest.

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Our precious hosts brought Weston toys! Including this darling little piano. He adored it!

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The beautiful, charming, breathtaking view out our window. The church bells woke us up every morning, and I wasn't even mad about it. #magical

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Look at the little hearts carved into the shutters!! Fair warning: I'm going to sound like a broken record in all these Europe posts. But, truly, every detail was full of charm and uniqueness! 

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We dined at Cafe De Ville twice or three times during our stay in Montresor. It's a lovely little cafe I highly recommend, situated right beside the Chateau! Like, a few feet away from the fortress. Sipping coffee beside the castle? My dream come true! The staff was darling. Few spoke fluent English (and I felt so bad that we didn't speak French -- in their country! They were so gracious to us!) but we managed to communicate and they were truly very kind to us and accommodating. I adored their espresso and their bread was tasty! Sitting and sipping outdoors felt very "French." 

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Oh, the espresso. My word. I can truly say it was the best I'd ever tasted. Daniel agreed! I'm no barista, but I know it's difficult to make perfect-tasting espresso. Just divine. Not bitter, not weak, not too "jet fuel" strong. Rich, but not overpowering. Perfectly creamy and sweet (I ordered a cappucino and added some granulated sugar) and the flavor. I crave it every day and probably always will! (And I just loved these turquoise-tinted water jugs they brought out. So pretty!)  

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Nearly every day, I ordered a salad at whatever cafe we found ourselves dining in. French salads are different than American, made with very fresh ingredients and I mostly very "clean." Some of the toppings weren't my favorite (so much fresh fish, which is so healthy but I didn't love it!) but those dressings. Goodness! The dressing were perfectly emulsified, with the right amount of oil to acid. Mouth-watering!

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Charming, darling, unique, historic details in every layer, corner, nook and cranny. None of the architecture is perfect or linear in France. There are no right angles or symmetry, really. And Daniel and I loved that. 

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The pots, the flowers, the roofs, the ivy, the chataeu fortress, the church steeple. Ahhhh, it's just too much! 

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I am going to print out this photo at Costco, and write, all "old fashioned"in pen on the back, like our mamas used to, "Weston Joel, fourteen months old, in France." 

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The front of our sweet B & B.

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Roses sprouted up everywhere, all around the village. It was just so "Beauty and the Beast," I could hardly stand it.

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Our hosts dear friend, the owner and chef at a crepe cafe down the way, invited us to take a stroll through his personal, river-side garden. The view of the chateau was breathtaking -- every historic detail in place. It was amazing! 

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The view just across from where we stayed. The little village homes all have the most beautiful, working, lush gardens behind!

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Part Two coming soon! With more details about Montresor, our tour through the unbelievable historic castle, and other areas we visited in Loire Valley. (Two of the happiest days of our life!)

Travel Diaries: Maui, Hawaii


"Basically, you haven’t been to paradise if you haven’t been to Hawaii."

- Bruno Mars

Maui. You guyssssss. (And I feel sorta silly quoting Bruno Mars of all people... but, he is just so right!) 

It is -- by far -- one of the most fabulous places we have ever been.

One definition of "fabulous" is: "amazingly wonderful." And, goodness... Maui was exactly that.

It's been almost a year since our trip (time flies) -- we went last November. But, better late than never to post the pictures, right? I wasn't blogging much last year, just focusing on my new baby which was bliss! But, this summer, I have been organizing all our photos since we got married, including the trips we have been blessed to take together, and I just thought I'd share here on my little online journal with all your sweet friends some of our adventures. Partly to remember (because, even though I am printing out albums soon of all these photos, it is sometimes nice to have them on my blog to easily access and reminisce, and also because I, personally, have been so inspired by blog posts about travel -- travel with babies and kids, and locations in general. Reading real-life experiences, recommendations, personal pictures, etc, at certain destinations is one of my main inspirations for traveling, and seeing real-life parents travel with their littles inspires me all the more!  So, hopefully, some of you will be somehow inspired by our photos and trips I share here. 

We only spent a few days there, but in our short stay, we quickly discovered that everything about Maui drips with beauty, sweetness, warmth, relaxation, and perfection. It really is paradise... through and through. 

Daniel planned this trip, at the last minute, to celebrate my thirtieth birthday! And, it was the perfect way to enjoy saying goodbye to my twenties and "hello!" to a brand new decade.

Chill, happy, sunny, beachy, delicious, and just plain gorgeousness -- all wrapped up into one island package. We got a steal of a deal (through Costco Travel, actually!) and stayed at the Ritz-Carlton, Kapalua,  -- it was one of the loveliest, most luxurious places we've ever been. My sweet man treated me like a queen on the trip and spoiled me far more than I deserve, and my heart just ached with gratefulness for thirty full years of life and the precious gift of my boys. 

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Everything about the hotel felt grand yet relaxed, all at once.

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The breakfast every morning was superb. When we booked the trip, we didn't expect "Breakfast Included Daily" to mean a complete spread of fresh fruits, made to order omelets with every topping you can imagine, made to order breakfast items (like eggs, bacon, sausage), fresh squeezed juice, an array of breads, a waffle bar, and even fresh-made kombucha! The breakfast dining room view overlooked the lush grounds and sparkling ocean. We were floored and ooh-ed and ahh-ed every morning (you can tell we'd never stayed at a Ritz before haha!) 

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Found this handsome dad ;) 

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The way the trees met the sea made us say, "It's like Carmel, California!" over and over. Something about parts of Maui reminded me of California's northern coast.  

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Friends who love Maui, you ladies on Instagram (you always know best!), and even the hotel concierge highly recommended we visit Baby Beach.  And we were so happy we did! It is a protected lagoon and very safe for swimming, so it was perfect for Weston to dip his toes and swim in the ocean for the first time ever! It is on the North Shore of Maui, right before Paia. 

Baby beach is beautiful and the sand area is easy to walk to, flat, and very shaded. 

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Daniel snapped some photos of me on our balcony before we headed down to dinner (again) at The Banyan Tree. For the first time postpartum, I felt like "myself" again. Like a glam, confident new mama. So I wanted to document it. 

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The Banyan Tree proved to serve some of the best food we've ever tasted -- hands down! This shrimp was absolutely divine. Our wonderful waiter -- a Frenchman who'd lived in Maui for years and worked for the Ritz for over 20 years -- was the most skilled, devoted man who literally adores food, flavors, atmosphere, and serving. He made such an impression on us because of his pure passion for his career and for the art of dining. He served us this (off the menu) shrimp -- sautéed in butter and garlic. Ahh, my mouth is watering remembering the depth of flavor. We ended up going back every night for a glass of white wine and these fantastic shrimp!   

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I think this is the only photograph we took as a family on the trip! I took just a handful of photos and (sort of) wish I'd snapped more. But, we were so focused on enjoying, resting, soaking in our boy and family time, that we didn't even think to (which is rather strange for me!) 

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This trip -- four months postpartum -- was the first time my heart began to truly feel healing after all the trauma we went through. I will never forget swimming in the warm water while my boys played on the golden sand, basking in the sun and feeling healing wash all over me. It started that day. 

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More shrimp!

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Sweet little guy chilling in his sunglasses!

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One morning, after breakfast we took a drive through Kahakuloa Village. We thought about taking The Road to Hana but since we only had a few days and our little man along with us (who was just four months old at the time!) we decided to wait until next time to take that adventure. We got to stop by charming frui stands on the drive, stopped by the Nakalele Blowhole, and found the yummiest shave ice ever in a pink road side cafe (my dream)! A perfect little road trip day.  

Later that day and the next day, we stopped by the ever-recommeded Ululani's Shave Ice -- just melt in your mouth delicious!! The flavors were just so "true to life" and not "bottled" tasting at all!

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In Maui, we were blown away by one of the top two best dining experiences of our lives. This is the only picture I can find of the memory, because, well -- I was too busy enjoying my man, my baby, the view, and the food to take photos, I suppose! But, ugh. It was absolute heaven on a plate at Mama's Fish House. Basically everyone we knew who'd been to Maui very highly recommended Mama's. And it absolutely lived up to the hype. More than lived up to it! Every bite of the meal we enjoyed was delicious -- from the bread basket to the wine to the dessert. Go to Maui, y'all. And if you only go to one restaraunt, go to Mama's Fish House!   

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Sweetest memories with my sweetest people. 

I'm a happy girl.


Other Maui recommendations from friends of ours that are on our bucket list for "next time": 

- Paia Fish Market

- Molokini Sunrise Snorkeling Cruise

- Upcountry Maui

Bringing Back Blogging

The other day, I talked a little bit on Instagram stories about how much I miss blogging. Yeah, blogging is still here. But, it's changed so much. I started my blog 6 years ago and it was a very different culture than what it is today. Not that today's culture is bad! It's grown so substantially and I love that. Blogging used to be seen as unique, semi-weird, and something that could never really be a "real job." And now, it's recognized as a career. It's crazy and amazing to me! I picked up People Style Watch magazine the other day and noticed that probably about 80% of the features were fashion bloggers. I love that blogging has become a thing and it's actually become a multi-million dollar thing. Which makes it a wonderful opportunity for business-minded ladies (what a wonderful thing, especially for stay at home mamas who get to work from home due to their blogs!) but it's also become a whole different culture than it used to be. Blogging used to be so real. So raw. Such a community. And now, it is so saturated that it has changed. There are still those bloggers and posts out there that are full of realness and life. But, many blogs have dissolved into Instagram (which I am not saying is bad -- it's definitely easier to use for busy people!) but, it is what it is. I just personally miss writing and reading blogs like we used to. Connecting like we used to. And I'm not saying that it's wrong to use blogs for business - it is amazing for women, a wonderful opportunity that I take part in and am passionate about. When I started blogging, I was nannying, making minimum wage or less, and then didn't have a job most of the time... I dreamed of writing a book someday, of perhaps making a living and supporting the dream I set out on. Little did I know that blogging is how the Lord would bring my husband into my life! I've also been able to make money through blogging -- through selling books, campaigns and advertisements, affiliate links, etc. I am approached weekly to take part in ads, product promotions, giveaways, etc, etc and I turn 95% of them down. And that is because I take my blog so seriously and my readers are precious to me -- I only share things that I am truly and honestly passionate about, for real. And I try to share ads and products with a genuine heart. It is a blessing to me and my family and helps support the time I spend putting into the blog, writing, and creating. Know that as I do sometimes share sponsored posts. When I say, "bring back blogging" in the way it used to be, I'm not saying we shouldn't be bloggers who make a living -- the opposite! If you sell essential oils or lipstick through your platform -- do it, if it is what you love and makes an income for you to stay home with your babies. If you sell books or make money from affiliate links, you go girl! What a fun opportunity we have to make money at home using our laptops and phones, being our own bosses! 

But I do miss writing and not always worrying about our "aesthetic" on Instagram. How fun it is, to be creative, take beautiful photos, to enjoy it all! But, my heart is and always has been and will be to share honestly, to share my heart, to share my life and faith, and to hopefully inspire my readers. I love these words I recently read on the topic:

"I view my Instagram feed as a daily, visual list of things I'm grateful for."

- Joy Prouty 

Maybe we can bring the heart of blogging back, in our small words, significant posts, and sincere honesty. Motherhood and a year of joy mingled with pain has taught me much, but most of all, I've learned how beautiful the "ordinary" small things are, how silly comparison is, how much we have -- right here -- and how powerful and connecting storytelling, genuine heart sharing, and gratefully posting our hearts and lives is. 

Cheers to you, storytellers and grateful sharers. Your words and posts, your kindness and gratitude -- they matter. In fact, they change the world. (Whether you have one hundred thousand readers or one reader.) 



Self Care with L'Occitane

When I was seventeen and just really "getting into" beauty products, the guy I had a crush on told me he bought some L'Occitane lotion for his mama for Christmas. He'd just come home from a trip to Europe and he picked some of it up along the way. That is how I heard about it L'Occitane and I'll always remember that girlhood moment, for some reason! ;) Years later, as woman and brand new mom, my husband gave me a beautiful box full of L'Occitane treasures. Smelling that lovely scent and using the luxurious products were good for my soul. I've truly been a longtime fangirl of L'Occitane and believe these products are absolutely wonderful (and their scents are amazing!) Their new line of Peony products is just lovely and smell like heaven. We are headed to France next month and so I am even more excited about L'Occitane than ever, as it captures the "true art de vivre" of Provence.

As a new mom, self-care has become all the more vital for my life as a new mom of a busy little boy as I strive to care for myself so that I can continue to give so much as I care for my sweet boy! A few days ago, I took a little self-care moment during naptime and tried the new Peony products and snapped some photos for you! 

I tried the Peony Purifying Minute Mask -- when I opened it up, it smelled exactly like the peonies from my wedding bouquet. So happy! 

The Minute Mask is a "melt-in-mask" that is super easy to apply. I am very picky about what I put on my skin -- especially my face -- because I have extremely sensitive skin and have struggled with severe cystic acne over the last few years (it's cleared up post-baby thankfully!) but I am cautious. Yet, I use L'Occitane products trustingly and never have an issue. 

The mask helps absorb excess sebum and reduce impurities, and it only takes three minutes! Perfect for the busy mama I am! Just apply a fine layer to your face, leave on for three minutes, then rinse off. Waa--laa! (I was dying over the scent!!!! Daniel walked in our bathroom and said, "What is that smell?! So good!" 

First, I washed my face off (because I was wearing a little foundation, bronzer, and a swipe of mascara) with the Peony Petal Cleansing Oil. I've never washed with an oil before but it worked wonders! It's infused with real peony petals from Provence (in the actual bottle, you guys!) which was so unique and romantic ;) It really did leave my skin feeling glowy but not oily.

The combinations of the Cleansing Oil plus the Minute Mask made me feel so refreshed when I rinsed it off! And my face smelled like peonies all day!

These products are just lovely -- way to go, L'Occitane.... once again!! This kit would make a lovely gift for your mama friends, your mom, or yourself as a little pick me up :) 

*Thank you to L'Occitane for sponsoring this post. #ad

When Breastfeeding Doesn't Work Out

"Sometimes life doesn't turn out like you planned. 

Sometimes, it works out better."

-  "Half A Dozen Babies"

Can we take an honest, real-life moment?

Have you ever had days where you just delete your Instagram app, or stay off of it purposefully, because a hashtag is trending, everyone is posting "something" and it just hurts too badly to see it every time you check your app? Perhaps it's Mother's Day... and the ache of losing your own mom or the emptiness of your arms makes seeing photo after photo of happy, smiling mothers and children too deep a hurt to bear. Maybe it's on Valentine's Day... when your own loneliness is accentuated all the more as you watch pictures of happy, kissing couples dominate your "feed" all damn day.

That was me last week. Because, you see, in the land social media (which I harbor a rather love/hate relationship with.... who doesn't, really. So much good! So much....meh) it was "World Breastfeeding Week." And the hashtag, #WorldBreastfeedingWeek hit me up again, and again, and again. Little knives to the heart. 

Don't get me wrong: I am a cheerleader for breastfeeding mamas -- you gals are heroes. You sacrifice, work incredibly hard, pump like crazy, restrict and supplement your diet, suffer with mastitis, endure leaky boobs and altering your wardrobe, say no to your favorite things to do, drink and eat, stay up all night, get up early in the morning, and give and give and give to your babes... breastfeeding is one of the hardest things I've ever done (for the season we tried to make it work) -- you mamas give up your bodies in a significant way for another 9+ months after pregnancy. What you are doing is so important. 

But, I am a mama.... of a thriving, beautiful, healthy thirteen month old baby boy, who dreamed of, fought for, tried with all my might, to breastfeed, and it did not work out. I've written and shared a bit of the journey on my Instagram, and found myself surrounded by a crowd of mothers in the "same boat!" Who knew breastfeeding was such a difficult undertaking for many women, and who knew how painful (emotionally and physically) it is for thousands! I have been stunned by the volume of messages and emails I've received, continually, after just a couple of posts on ths subject. Speaking up about my struggle, and hearing back from the multitude of mamas who were "right there" was like a tall, icy glass of lemonade on a hot August day to my hurting heart. And so, I wanted to write a little more here, in the spirit of honesty and keepin' it real. I hope, with all my heart, that someone resonates with the words I write here and will feel a glimmer of hope and linked sisterhood arms as I share my story. Because I know I am not alone. 

My plan (while pregnant) was to breastfeed as much as I could (at least at first) and yet, after a very traumatic, physically and emotionally difficult birth (read his birth story here) it didn't work out how I planned. Oh, life....life doesn't work out how we plan.

  It was "a struggle" -- to put it mildly. For me, breastfeeding was not easy. It was absolutely one of the hardest things I've ever done. I wheeled out of the hospital immediately after my surgery post-birth (oh the long story that is. so so "much"), I rushed straight home to by fresh, newborn baby. He needed me. From moment one, it was a fight to breastfeed. (Actually, in those days, It was a fight to shower and move and breathe.) Nothing like the fairly-easy experiences most of my friends had, not the magical photos I'd seen all over the internet and mommy blogs: a wistful mama wearing her flowing Free People gown, looking into a golden, seaside sunset, holding her tiny, nursing baby in one arm and looking like a Greek Goddess while doing it. Oh, no. For me, it looked like lots of tears (from both of us), lots of pain, lots of shame, and lots and lots of sadness.

"Liquid gold" they called it. "I can't give him the liquid gold. I suck so hard. I am the worst mother ever." Those are the ugly, honest thoughts that floated through my brand-new-mama mind those first hours, those long nights, those first days. My body was holding on for dear life, in mind numbing pain, and my soul was lurching all the more. The pressure was too much.

Add a tongue tie and a bout with thrush into the mix.... and the first weeks were difficult and painful for me and my sweet boy. I spent weeks trying, pumping, milk not flowing, low supply, weight loss, hours with a lactation consultant, help from our Pediatrician, supplementing, physical pain, late night weeping, baby screaming, feeling like a failure. A disappointed failure. Moving to mostly formula-feeding, and crying every time a bottle was filled. Tender and weepy every time anyone mentioned nursing. I pumped like crazy. Herbal supplements. Vitamins. Water, calories, relaxing, trying, crying. Sweet husband encouraging. Things did not go as planned, or dreamed of. I had to stay away from Instagram... because every time I saw a mama posting about how easy, magical, and dreamy her breastfeeding journey was - I would lose it.

My wonderful OB and Weston's pediatrician told me my body was in so much pain, it wasn't producing milk. I would pump and pump and 1/2-1 ounce is the most that I ever measured.

So I chose what was best for my boy. Fed is best. Gaining weight is best. It was best for me to be "there" and"okay"... not over "the edge." Healthy for my family, and for me. I'll never forget the first time I purchased formula. I took the round, orange-topped can off the shelf at Target. I carried it in my hands as I walked to check out. I will never forget the way the hair on the back of my neck stood up. How I turned beet-red and felt hot all over. Shame crashed over me like a tsunami wave.

A shame that had no place in my mind or heart.

 It felt like loss and I grieved over it. But I was in mind-numbing pain. Physically, and also emotionally. I began to struggle with what I now know was PTSD after the trauma we endured that first day. We mostly formula-fed as the days unfolded, and I pumped all I could, under 1 ounce each time, for 3 months. And then, finally chose to stop. I knew, it was more important to be "okay" and enjoy my boy than to nurse. I realized I was sitting attached to a pump when I could have been holding him and bonding. So I packed the pump away, with tears and honest relief. I put it in the back in the closet in a box. I did what was best for us. And that looked like bottle feeding. And you know what? It was beautiful and he more than thrived (he has consistently been in the 90-110 percentile on every area since he was born) .... and we are extremely bonded and close.

I'm so over the mom shaming, you guys. Breastfeeding mamas, formula-feeding mamas, mamas who do a mix of both -- you are rockstars. Feed your babies! No shame. No guilt. No fear. However that works for you. I'm forever grateful we had those few weeks of breastfeeding and I'll cherish the memories forever. If you're a mama or mama to be, know that you are the best, God-given mom for your little one.

My heart was set on breastfeeding, and it had a place in my heart where it did not belong. It became a shining beacon, an idol, of sorts, of motherhood. And looking back, I wish I'd held that dream and hope with an open hand, rather than a clenched fist. Recently, I read some words from @risenmotherhood on the topic of feeding babies and oh, how my heart resonated with it. This is truth. This is what I wish I had held onto during those dark first days. This is the truth I will hold onto and wave like a flag next time (if there is one, someday, Lord willing):

"This is for all the mommas out there. The breastfeeding ones, the pumping ones, the formula feeding ones, the supplementing ones, the 'little bit of everything' ones. Here's the deal: How a mom feeds her baby has become a huge issue in today's society - way too big of an issue actually. And because of that, there is a whole lotta crazy, messed up feelings that a mom experiences in that first year+ of having a baby that really, don't even need to happen.

I'm one month into breastfeeding my third child, and let me tell you, for some reason, it doesn't seem to get easier, each time just comes with it's own challenges. What's supposed to be natural, doesn't really feel all that natural, at least at the start.

So let's take a step back here, okay? Society's got its priorities all wrong - because, it's not what you feed your baby's belly that matters at all - it's what you feed their heart. We're raising souls, not perfectly fed stomachs.

So if your emotions are in a tangle because something's not working out like it should, or it's not what you expected, or whatever, let me lift your guilty, misplaced burden: While feeding and nourishing our babies is a genuine way of loving our children, the method - or your opinion of someone else's method - is not what matters. What matters is our hearts, and how we raise our children's.

So, in all this mess women, and the internet, and our culture has created over how we feed our children, can we all just take a big, deep collective breath and trust that all the mommas are just doing what they believe is best for their child, for them, for their family?

Grace upon grace, right?

For yourself.

For others.

Let's try this: What would happen if we refused to let our feeding method define our first year with a child, and instead, treasure Christ above all else?"

You moms are amazing women. Formula feeders - however it looks for you, cheers to you! You are feeding your baby, and that is what matters. It is hard to stumble downstairs at 3AM, to wash a dirty bottle and make sure it is 110% clean, to measure that white powder and pour clean water to mix with it. It's hard to constantly remember to fill the diaper bag with clean nipples, bottles, water bottles, just enough formula for the day. It's hard to fly on an airplane or travel as a bottle-feeder. Keeping everything clean and organized in a hotel room isn't easy. Formula feeding is a constant washing/sterilizing/filling process... and don't even mention the price. It is expensive to feed a hungry babe. It's hard when you get judgey stares in public or invasive questions from friends or family members. 

    Perhaps you are a mom who could have breastfed, but you chose not to -- for your own mental health, because it doesn't work out for your work schedule, or because of _________, or because you can't handle it after 10 months of giving of yourself to another, because you are giving all the more -- of your heart, your mind, your strength, your everything -- and that is something that you need to say "no" to. You do you, mama. You are doing what is best. Don't listen to any voice in your head or in your ear that tells you otherwise. 

Someday, in the future, if God gives us more children, I don't know what feeding will look like. We will cross that bridge when we come to it. But I know one thing: my #1 priority and concern will not be breastfeeding. So much of our joy was stolen those first months as I fought for that dream. And it is okay to grieve over it, it was a loss. But, it's not the most important thing. No one shows up to their college orientation and says to their dorm-mate, "Where are you from? What's your major? Were you breastfed or formula fed?" Treasuring time with your babies is the most important thing. Filling their hearts most of all. being faithful to fill their bellies, however we can.  And someday, when he's at college orientation, he won't be thinking about breastmilk or Similac.... but I sure hope he think, "Man, I miss my mama." ❤️


 I want to be a real, honest, truthful voice on motherhood that empowers women - I see so many "perfect" easy-looking mama moments, birth stories, nursing experience online...and I hope my honest words bring peace and hope, and life to someone. I want to be honest about the struggles and the joys. Yes, it hurt last week....just a little.... when I saw the throngs of mothers with their wonderful breastfeeding experiences... it wasn't jealousy; it was just a small stab of sadness, but it is less and less as time moves along.  And redemption comes.

Life is beautiful, messy, hard and magical, complicated and it's really, really good. And it's gonna be good. 

My Nordstrom Anniversary Sale Picks!

1. Uggs: A good deal if you want brand new Uggs - don't you love the side detailing on these? 

2. Donna Karan Deodorant: This is one of my top 5 must-have beauty/skincare products. It smells like heaven and is the best protection I've ever used as far as deodorant. Very worth the price, in my opinion, and this is a good package deal.

3. Fringe Scarf: You can't go wrong with a Madewell (or J.Crew) scarf for fall! I've worn their scarves for years (they are classic), over and over again with different looks. This is the time to snatch one up if you want to get a deal! The shades of blue, red, and cream in this one are dreamy! 

4. High Waist Leggings: I've yet to own or try a pair of these on, I've been eyeing them for a while and they seem like the perfect investment pair of leggings that probably fit like a glove and make going to the gym that much more inviting. 

5. Pajamas: These have been on my wish-list for about a year now and are currently sitting in my shopping cart. They're just so soft!

6. Tee:   I'm always wearing basic tees around the house and around town, running errands with Weston (#momlife) and lately I've gotten some questions about quality ones. What a great price! 

7. Black Jeans:  I bought a pair of 7 For All Mankind jeans in college and wore them for a good 8 years. They fit like a charm (in my experience, size down.) If you're going to invest in a brand new pair, today is the day. (And black skinnies are perfect for fall and winter!) 

8. Robe: I've heard rave reviews from so many friends and fellow blog sistahs about these robes and blankets! And if you're going to invest in one, this is the time to do it. Next time (someday!) I am pregnant and postpartum, this brand is on my must-have list :) 

9. NeuLash:  After reading a thousand reviews and doing a ton of research, I took the plunge a few months ago and bought NeuLash. I was a little hesitant because I actually have the lightest, blondest, thinnest eyelashes (and brows) of all time! But I wanted to use this "window" of time where I am not pregnant and not nursing, to try it out and see what the hype was about. And I can honestly report that after consistent use for about a month, I noticed a huge change, and people close to me have commented on how much thicker my lashes are! Combined with some major layering of the right mascara, I'll never have to wear fake lashes again for events where I want that extra drama. It's been so fun to be a gal with luscious lashes -- for the first time ever! I'm glad I made the investment and truly recommend it to you ladies.

10. Cashmere Sweater:  This pink cashmere number is on my dream-list! 


The next items are organized into categories and are those "dream items" you hear about, research, write on a list that sits on your iPhone notes for years, save your pennies for, and then buy! Some are investments, some you'll keep in your closet for years, some are splurges. Hopefully finding them on a majorly good deal. The following items are all on my "lists" - some I have, some I haven't tried but would love to! 

Some other favorite items you might love! 








Friday's Fab List

If we were having a coffee date, I'd probably spill all about these fun, random, current favorite things!

1. Favorite Summer Nail Polish 

"Cajun Shrimp" by OPI is - to me - the ultimate summer shade! I have it on now -- it's cheery, bright, and not-too-red and not-too-orange. I love soaking up summertime while we have it and this polish just makes it all even more fun! 

2. This Song

When I was fifteen years old, I attended to "Women of Faith" conference with some gals from our church. For some reason (I can't remember why!) Mom and my sis were not able to come, so I went with some dear friends. The conference was set in the heart of Orange County in summertime -- near Disneyland; that hot, dry heat permeating the air. We snacked on chips and salsa and I remember feeling very self-conscious without Mom there. But safe, with our friends. But independent, for the first time. I will never forget eating Mexican food with all the ladies and then filing into the Anaheim Convention Center with thousands of women, hungry for Him. Some of the older ladies who spoke were wise and wonderful, I knew that. But at fifteen, with crushes fresh on my heart and lots of new ideas, thoughts, and feelings, I was struck by the main musician: Nichole Nordeman. She was blonde, pretty, honest, real, forthright, oh so cool, and a brand new mama. She caught my attention as she played her new songs, "Legacy" and "I Am." I sat in the bleachers and wept as she sang her heart out. I'd never once in my life been moved by art, music, a sermon, a book, or worship at church. But that day? Something in me broke. Something in me became tender. Something in me "felt." I didn't even know why. Or what. Her honest words and heart opened up my eyes and heart to something new and I will always remember that day and those songs. It brought me closer to Jesus in a tender way that has grown ever since. (Just shows the power of vulnerability.) 

She just released this song, "The Sound Of Survival." It's perfect for my healing in this season. (Also, if you're a new mom or just a sentimental lady in general, listen to her other new hit, "Slow Down." #allthetears 

Give it a listen. 

3. Nordstrom Sale

I'm not your typical fashion blogger. But if you follow some fashion bloggers (and there are so many good ones!), you know that yesterday, it was all. about. Nordstrom's. sale. Which is great! It's a good sale! It just open right now for early access to credit card holders and will open officially for the public on July 21. I'll post my favorite picks then if you are interested! (I'm just not going to encourage ya'll to run out and get a credit card for shopping (we do have credit cards we steward carefully and it is not a bad thing, in my opinion! They can be such a blessing and used for such good and investments. But I personally have abused them in the past as a single gal, for shopping, and it's led me down some negative paths.... so I am hesitant to post about the pre-sale, encouraging credit cards for buying clothes....  as I hold you, my sweet readers, carefully in my hand and want to be super careful to encourage you in ways that make you not feel like you need more, more more..... (as sometimes, the Internet - honestly - makes me feel) but I want to inspire you to know you *have* oh so much and *are* so much and that things like shopping, fashion, clothes, and investments are fun, can be joyful, and enrich your life! But they are not necessary and you don't *need* more to be happy. I just don't want to be all about that.

Anyway, that's why I didn't post today like many sweet fashion bloggers did. But I will share in the upcoming days some of my favorite deals... 'cause we all know I love a good deal and hardly buy anything full price! #aintnobodygottimeforthat

4. Favorite Maxi Skirt

Ever a favorite. It's just so happy! Here are two similar ones (this specific one I wore was from a small store in my So Cal town and no longer available online, sorry!) But these two I found are very close: 

5. Two Articles I Read That I Loved

This one


This one

two mama-related articles that I resonated with, for one reason or another. 

6. Makes My Cry

This video is not brand new. But, man, it got me. 

Lisa Harper is a writer I've looked up to and read for years. A few weeks ago, she was in California and posted Daniel playing viola on the Santa Monica Pier. I was so excited #fangirl

She and her darling daughter were sweet as pie to him, and joy itself. Bubbling up, dancing, laughing, just pure JOY, Daniel told me! And kindness! 

What a testimony of our God's heart. Makes me want to adopt someday. That's the Gospel, you guys. Right there.


What are you loving this week? 

Thank you for reading, sisters! I am always thankful.

I'm hosting and helping throw my amazing grandma's 80th birthday party this weekend -- can't wait! 





Laguna Beach: A Happy 24 Hours

Adventures with my boys make my heart skip a beat. We spontaneously packed up the van, found a cheap deal on a seaside hotel, and headed to the beach a few days ago for a quick trip! Little man got to play in the sand and it was a fun getaway for our little family to spend some time together. 

The proposal, September 2014. In this very spot, just below the cliffs. 

Showing our boy the place we got engaged.

The succulents and plants in Laguna are huge and lush!

The Montage hotel in Laguna is right above our engagement spot and it's just divine. We've never stayed there (maybe for a big anniversary someday :) but one of our favorite things in life is to sit by the fire on the hill overlooking the proposal spot and sip drinks while watching the always-epic, almost always pink sunsets. 

In the morning, we each got a bowl from Banzai Bowls! In blog land, I've seen so much hype about it so we had to try! We got the Maui Sunrise -- super delicious! A little sweet for our taste for breakfast (we are savory breakfast people, as a general rule ;) but would be perfect for a snack or dessert. Very fresh! 

The town is full of unique, sweet little shops overlooking the ocean.

Our favorite tacos in Laguna! Papa's Tacos. Daniel says the burrito is the best he's ever had!

Beach time with my boys

No filter on this gorgeous water!

I have always wanted to visit the mysterious 60-foot, castle-inspired La Tour Tower and it did not disappoint! You can read more about it's history here

There is a beachside cement pool beside the "castle tower" that once formed a circle and is now partially filled in with sand. If the tide is high enough, waves splash up against it (and they did yesterday -- a little too much for this mama's liking!) But Daniel played with Weston in it, and held him and moved out of the way when a big wave came, so it was safe! It made for a fun kiddy pool (especially for older kids, I think, to freely play in.) Weston absolutely loved splashing in it and the waves kept crashing over and spraying or cascading down the wall like a waterfall. It just added a little extra fun and magic! 

Oops, I def missed a couple buttons on Weston's Ergo -- we just walked a couple minutes up the beach so he was all good! Super baby lives on! ;) 

We ended our beach day at Peppertree Lane. Oh, it holds sweet memories. If you read my book, At Long Last, you know that the first week Daniel and I met - when he flew to California to meet me in person - we ended the whirlwind week in Laguna. We stood on a rock out in the sea (where we would, later that year, get engaged. And then stumbled upon Watermarc restaurant where we had dinner. Our first "real date" kind of dinner. This restaurant is in Peppertree Lane, a charming and darling spot -- the most precious lane in the world! When we first had that date, I told Daniel, "It reminds me of Disneyland!" (He'd not yet been to Disney so he didn't know what I was talking about haha) And it smells like heaven. It is literally something out of Europe, or Disney, or heaven. "Gelato Paradiso" is a little gem inside the lane -- lines always out it's open doors, and it smells like sugar. It actually smells even better than the gelato tastes (and it's amazingly good!) Ugh. I can just smell it now. It will always remind me of our first, twinkly-eyed date there and how we were beginning to fall very fast in love.

It was sweet to bring our boy, eat gelato, remember, and smile.

The table we had out first date is directly across from the sweetest little chocolate shop. It is literally a dream, so quaint, charming and cute.

The table we had out first date is directly across from the sweetest little chocolate shop. It is literally a dream, so quaint, charming and cute.

I'll write a guide to Laguna Beach sometime -- this was just a quick trip! 

I love Lauren Conrad's Guide to Laguna Beach if you are traveling there and need some good pro tips -- who better than Lauren, right? (Total former "Laguna Beach" TV show watcher over here ;) 

One Year Later: Birth Story

One year ago this week, our beautiful boy was born. He is heaven itself, pure joy in the form of a little boy, our best gift, our precious blessing. 

Weston Joel. 

My heart is full.

You might have noticed that I've been quieter this year about our story. Opening up and loving to share all the Lord does and things we walk through is normal for me and has been part of my heart and ministry for years. Sharing about my waiting journey and singleness, sharing struggles, sharing our love story, writing my book about our stories - separately and together. But, this year, I was quiet (I even switched for a while to a private Instagram account that many of you followed, because I needed to step away from the public-ness of IG and just take some time to breathe.) This week, last year, we walked a journey that was dark and painful in so many ways but led us to the greatest gift. 

But it can be hard to tell the story when you're in the thick of it, and not even right to tell it, sometimes. Sometimes you need to pour it out on pages and press "Publish." And sometimes, you need to quietly open up a personal journal and process and just be, write or talk it out with the closest ones, cry it out, grieve it out, live it out, and sometimes that looks like silence or even retreat. 

The truth is, this time last year we were rejoicing... but we were also reeling. Weston's birth story was full of trauma and in so many ways, it went completely opposite of what we had planned for, hoped for. Even writing this post, though it sounds vague at times, is terrifying and oh so vulnerable for me. But I am ready now. Story telling is powerful and I believe with all my heart it is one of the ways God works, heals us, connects us, and redeems our brokenness. Simply telling the truth and being raw and real is powerful. It's a complicated dance of not over-sharing, respecting those in the story, not telling parts of the story that are not yours to share, keeping sacred things sacred, and then speaking boldly what can and should be said, opening your heart, and being real and vulnerable. There is power in that. Even through the fear. My hope and prayer is that some new and hoping, or hurting mama, or dad, someone planning and making decisions for their baby's birth, someone hurting from the pain of something completely different than what we have walked through...will find hope, will feel "not so alone," will be touched and changed, that the Lord would use my open hands and honest words to somehow and some way do something good. 

Maybe, someday, I will tell the whole entire story, and all the details. They are hard to tell, it's a lot of ugly truth, and pain. Maybe I'll write it in a book someday.

I don't know.

What I do know is that this week last year, we walked through the unexpected. And we ended up healthy and whole. We are grateful and full. And yet, the beautiful, perfect birth we planned and anticipated for our son went very, very differently than we expected, and that hurt. Especially this mama's heart. Sometimes, especially in the "blog world" it feels as though I'm the only one who had less than a magical childbirth experience. And when it is traumatic and horrible and even terrifying, your world is rocked. When you almost died and you could have lost your baby, you reel at the thought. When the people you trusted to keep and care for your life and your unborn baby's life drop the ball, let you down, screw you over, make poor decisions, or just prove to not have the experience, quickness, or ability to care for you in the way they should have, it stings. 

My pregnancy with Weston was very healthy and rather easy breezy. We were fortunate to have no bumps in the road. Mid-way through the pregnancy, we chose to switch from our OB to a midwife, and chose an out of the hospital birth. So many people close to us had wonderful, healthy out of the hospital/midwife births, and after so much research (and we hate to research), so much talking, so much praying, so much thinking, we decided to go that route. As a blogger, I had seen many many shining stories of natural birth experiences. And I wanted our boy to be brought into the world in the most peace-filled, sweet, natural way possible. I wanted candles and warm water baths, calming scents of soothing essential oils, scriptures whispered, worship music softly playing, a supportive team of people we trusted. I had planned every detail. And I cared. I cared so so much. 

Every birth is different, every family is unique, every mom and dad and baby has their own needs and story. We just felt that, after hearing so many glowing stories of births at home and at birth centers, without much medical intervention, we wanted to go with that plan. I'm not known by those who love me to be the physically toughest gal on the planet... I'm a girly girl who has never played sports and tends to be very sensitive and tender at times. But I knew I could do it. With God's grace and strength. I wanted to be strong for my boy, not to prove something, but to truly do what was best for HIM. There were a myriad of personal reasons why we chose the kind of birth we did for our first baby. And we spent endless hours hashing through questions and talk with our midwife and doula and one another as we made our plans. After what we experienced, I have a completely different perspective on birth, in general. That's what happens when you actually go through something, instead of just reading about it or imagining it. Perfect vision is 20/20. 

In some ways, I truly believe the "trendiness" of that natural birth experience was glamorized and fueled at times by fear and a certain agenda, on some YouTube videos we saw, documentaries we watched, blog posts we read, stories I heard. It almost seemed as though "a hospital birth will leave you feeling cold and uncared for." And "an out of hospital birth is quite as safe but a much warmer, more wonderful experience!" 

I also had it on my heart to trust the Lord to give me the strength to endure the pain of labor without meds. I didn't (and absolutely don't) think medical intervention is wrong or bad (it's life saving and good) but I personally had it on my heart to endure the pain and the Lord put some very specific promises on my heart to hold onto during labor. It's all very personal and not something I want to share today, but He placed on my heart some specific promises about our baby's birth being in His hands, about believing for miracles, holding tight to His strength and not mine (because I'm not a physically strong person) and believing a pain free birth, even! I didn't share all this with everyone, but Daniel and I held our hands open to God, believing and trusting His best plan for our precious boy's birth. And we truly did expect it to be nothing short of magical and wonderful. 

And in many ways it was.

But as the story unfolded, it was also terrifying, painful, and extremely traumatic. And that is the hard part.

Weston was due on June 14, 2016. And he was born on June 23, 2016. Nine long days of waiting, hoping… it’s all full of details, but we since we chose a midwife, we chose not to induce, and to wait for our baby to come naturally, on his own. The last day before we would need to then move our birth plan to the hospital, our midwife helped things along with some natural induction, including recommending Castor Oil (maybe some day I will write more about that experience, but all I can say now is: I know that for many mamas it works like a charm, and we took it very seriously and trusted our midwife and we researched it extensively before choosing it…. but in my experience, it was awful. Picture getting the most severe stomach flu of your life combined with the worst food poisoning of your life a few hours before giving birth, meeting your baby, and trying to breast feed. Being 10 months pregnant – and it was also 113 degrees outside that day -- and going through that was physically exhausting and horrific, and ended up completely dehydrating and wearing down my body, which is not a recipe for a successful birth or new momma journey, and I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. But I am not here to give advice and am not a medical professional ;)  

I went into labor the night of June 22nd. After nine days of holding our breath, trying to be patient, praying and praying and crying and waiting, and hoping.

Looking back, my labor was (by grace) rather easy. I never felt (during the laboring phases) as many women describe… I never felt like “I was gonna die” and I wouldn’t even call it terrible pain. It felt like very bad menstrual cramps. As I see all that happened from our viewpoint today, I truly think the Lord gave me a special grace in that. He is so kind. And it went fast. I was not even sure I was in labor, to be honest. That’s how painless it was. I labored mostly in our shower at home, under the hot water… holding onto Daniel and the shower curtain rod (which I later realized I held onto so intensely, it broke!) It wasn’t severe pain, it was just intense. We talked to our midwife and doula, and they told Daniel that if I was talking, I was not ready to come to the birth center. It would be hours, still. I suddenly felt what I later realized was the urge to push…my mom knew it and told the doula, “She needs to go NOW.” We ran to the car, and it all began changing and happening fast.

Transition happened for me in the car. I held peppermint essential oils up to my nose in a washcloth as Daniel tore down the dark road, minutes to the birth center. Driving down, and realizing…I need to push. I have to push.

It all happened in a flash. And no one was ready. The midwife arrived at the center as we did. And despite my baby being nine days past due, and despite the fact that the midwife had tried to naturally help start my labor that morning, nothing in the birth center was prepared. My world was spinning and I knew my baby was coming, but I remember being shocked. The birthing tub was being bleached, the oxygen tank was not set up. We rushed into the birthing room at the back of the serenely decorated birth center. The bed wasn’t ready. I remember standing in the middle of the room, holding onto my terrified but strong as steel husband, and everyone around us was rushing madly about like chickens with their heads cut off. It felt like chaos. The atmosphere was the opposite of peaceful or calm. There were no candles burning, no birth tub ready full of warm soothing water. My pregnancy was complication-free (which is why an out of the hospital birth was a “safe” option) but I did test GBS positive, and so we had a plan for an antibiotic IV to be administered during labor. It was not ready. My midwife grabbed my arm and called me over to squat on the floor next to her as she fiddled frantically with the IV and needle. She was shaking and frantic. Trying to find a vein as I tried valiantly to stay still and kept moaning and screaming, “I need to push now.” She told me to wait, to hold it, to keep from pushing. (And any women who has every experienced childbirth knows, that is impossible.)

“Hold it in?” Really?

She frantically kept trying to find a vein for the IV and I continued to tell her that the baby was coming now. Shaking, she dropped the IV and all of it spilled across the wooden floor. She told me to lay down and she checked me.

As I laid on the not-ready bed, the room spinning and my body cringing, my midwife blurted out the F word.

“We are %$#@#$  having this baby now.” She said, with a tone that seemed terrified, panicked and a little angry.

“NO time for the IV. %$#@.”

 My heart began to slowly break that moment (and it didn’t stop for the next 24 hours.)

Really? At the birth of my baby? My long-awaited, long-prayed for baby? The baby I’ve dreamed of and wished for… my whole entire life? At this sacred moment? His entry into the earth? And she said the F word? It was just so unprofessional. So off-color. So nasty. This was our baby’s birth day.

My birth team consisted of what proved to be a frantic, panicked and unprepared midwife, a timid and quiet medical assistant, and a terrified doula. I will never forget looking around that room and feeling more vulnerable than I had ever felt in my life. And yet, I had never felt stronger. In the midst of the chaos, I took control of the room. I had to. I began telling every one what I needed. Directing people to do certain tasks, to get specific items.

As I began to push, the IV tossed aside and never administered, we thought, “This is it! He is here.” I started out by laughing and talking as I pushed. It was not really painful, and it was a relief. I joked with Daniel that his pant’s “fly was down!” And we all giggled.

But the pushing continued. For hours. The midwife said it was normal for new moms and that sometimes babies needed time. We trusted her.

We pushed and pushed and his head crowned, he had hair! Sure he was almost “here”….. and the pushing continued.

I pushed for a total of three full hours. Almost four. Hours upon hours, pushes upon pushes.

It felt like three years.

Many things happened in those moments. It was all very shocking and, of course, new for us… a blur that just dragged on and on and yet a flash that seemed like a moment. I was given an oxygen mask, but it was broken and kept falling off my face. The room was hot and stuffy. I remember getting very scared at certain points, terrified that Weston was not okay. Afraid I couldn’t keep going. Completely exhausted. Terrified. We were assured by the midwife that everything was fine, “he was just stuck.” Stuck?

I felt totally and absolutely exposed, afraid, defenseless, vulnerable.

Something was wrong.

We later found out, the midwife did not realize, Weston was in an extremely unique position. It was what they call a “complex presentation.” I have now, through research and talking to a few friends who have had similar situations at births, discovered that this is very, very, very rare, but that midwives and doctors are trained to watch for this to occur and to know what to do in this case…. And yet, our midwife clearly didn’t know to check and did not know what to do. Because of this complex presentation, it is a miracle something worse did not happen in those moments. We shudder to think.

I felt as though no one knew what they were doing… my medical team did not make me feel safe or cared for. There I was, lying naked (in the chaos, we didn’t have a chance for me to put the dress and top on that I planned to wear for the birth) on a messy bed, gasping for air, sweat drenching my hair, trying to push…. For three long hours… when I had no strength left. But I continued to fight. Because that is what mamas do to keep their babies alive. I later told Daniel, “If Weston’s life had not been on the line, and it was just mine? I would have given up.”

In the last days of my pregnancy, Daniel came to me with a song. “I wrote it for the baby.” He said, and smiled. The most hauntingly beautiful melody, on piano and viola. He called it “Peace.” I had a whole playlist planned and set on my phone for Weston’s birth. Because of the chaos of it all and the trauma that would unfold, we never got to it. But, when I started pushing, I begged Daniel to play “the song.” And he played it, on his iPhone, over and over and over and over. Until yesterday, I couldn’t bear to hear that melody, and had not been able to listen to that special song… not since Weston’s birth day. It will forever bring a flood of memories back and take me back to that birth center, in those hours that we hung somewhere between heaven and earth, when it felt as though all the powers of darkness were trying to take us down, take him down, and kill, steal and destroy… and when we could feel the Holy Spirit moving and working… as we waited and worked for our baby.

During those sacred hours (and I can say this because of my former admittance of being a complete weak girly girl) I was bada**. Every power and force in the universe was in me. I could have taken down a building. Taken on the world. I was strong for my boy, and I am proud of that. But, I am also incredibly grateful and humbled, knowing those whispers of “Jesus, come. Jesus, help me” — it was Him. Breathing real, tangible life. Giving strength. I’d never in my life experienced the supernatural strength that rushed through my limbs and muscles and bones. I could have taken over the world in those hours.

I began to realize, as I pushed, in the whirlwind of the moment, that my birth team was not prepared and not confident in the way they should have been. The room felt like it was spiraling out of control. The way you a woman feels and how she is treated in those sacred, close-to-heaven moments as she gives birth to her baby, stays with her forever. It isn’t something you shake off and it isn’t something you probably ever forget. That experience is seared into your heart and mind, all the days of your life. If you felt supported, cared for, safe, and elated… you won’t ever, ever forget it. And if you felt vulnerable, or forced, alone or unacknowledged…you won’t ever, ever forget it. And those moments of vulnerability seared something on my heart that I don’t think I will ever really forget.

I cannot say enough about the strength of Daniel in these moments. Words really aren’t adequate for that kind of courage, that kind of support, that kind of strength. He literally held me up, as I was forced by the midwife into every position imaginable (of course I was absolutely willing and jumped right into the positions she commanded, to keep our boy’s heart rate up and safe, to keep him alive and healthy.) He breathed along with me. He was the definition of strength and safety. He was the reason I was able to do what I did that day. (Later, the midwife and doula raved about how Daniel was a male doula. They told me how lucky I was to have him, and how they’d never seen such a hands-on husband or dad, ever.) We had a professional photographer at the birth, and when I received the photos, tears just streamed down my cheeks as I watched Daniel in every one. Active, “right there”, 110% engaged, breathing along with me… his face looks pained and terrified in every photo, as though he literally felt the physical pain along with me. He is my rock and the reason our love and marriage strengthened that day. My mom and sister, two of my best friends, were at our side the whole birth. They were a silent, interceding, supportive strength. Locking eyes with my beloved mama was the power that gave me courage. She stood across from me, staring into my eyes the entire time, just as she has always done, since I was a baby – giving me life from her life. If she would move even slightly out of my line of vision, I would beg for her to come back. I could not do it without my eyes on hers. My dad, in the waiting room, pacing, listening, probably terrified, and talking to the Lord, as he always does. Knowing he was out there made me feel safe. Mandy, my best sister, was our silent calm in the storm. She played the music over and over, offering sweet words, placing a cool wash cloth on my forehead, praying and praying and praying. She updated the very concerned family and friends via text, as they waited miles away, with bated breath and concerned prayers lifted up.

I will someday tell Weston of all the love surrounding us in those moments. It held us up.

There were terrifying, touch and go moments, and if time had gone on any longer, we would have transferred to the hospital in those next moments. In all the pain and blur, and a terrifying few moment, I remember just letting go, pushing as hard as I possibly could.

Words cannot describe the pressure, the pain, the force. It felt like a Mack truck was ramming and rushing through me. As I pushed one final time, I felt like I was free-falling….I let go, I whispered, “Jesus, come… help us.” And as Weston slid out, my body completely ripped apart.

I will never forget the feeling of lifting his little body onto my chest and crying the happiest tears of my life. I wept. He was perfect and he screamed, loud and strong.

In a fog of pain and complete shock, I remember how beautiful and cute he was. How he looked so much bigger and older than we imagined! How strong he was. He was so so strong. So brave. He was the bravest, strongest, best baby boy in all the world.

When experiencing severe physical trauma, your body goes into shock. I knew I was not okay. I knew something was off.

I’m told (and now see in photos) we sat on the bed for a little while, a new family of three, admiring our boy. I’m told Weston was passed around by my parents and sister in those moments, loved on and doted over. I’m so glad he was, but I don’t recall it.

He was beautiful, I knew that. And he was healthy, I knew that. He was ours. He was here.

But, I was in so much mind-altering pain, my body seared and shocked. White as a sheet, pale as a ghost, shaking hard, bleeding fast, torn completely open from the inside up in four very severe places. I remember shaking. I remember a shot in my thigh. I remember the midwife quickly shoved a white cutting board under my naked backside. I remember, in those moments, I quite literally felt like a piece of meat, laying in what felt like a pool of blood on that bed.

More painful to me than the scary, lengthy pushing phase or the absolutely horrible physical pain of tearing as Weston was born, was that I don’t remember those first moments. And that is what hurts the most. The midwife called another midwife in to examine me. They were making phone calls and chatting quietly in the next room. My family and Daniel were terrified. They knew I clearly needed to get to the hospital, that my birth injuries were intense and needed immediate care.

It was, again, such a chaotic, unknown, unexpected atmosphere, that we didn’t get “those moments” you dream of with your newborn.

We didn’t get to sit and count his little toes. 

I do not remember kissing his itsy bitsy lips or really locking eyes with him.

I can’t tell you what his tiny hands looked like.

Mom tells me that I did. That I was a mama. That I kissed him and soaked him in and nestled him against my chest. But I don’t really remember.

The hours that followed were the most horrible and painful of my life.

From my belly button down, it felt like a war zone. Breathe, just breathe. The midwife suggested I “Go home. You should be with your baby, and your tears are not that bad. It’s okay.” I felt as though she was crazy. Go home? We chose to go to the hospital. And thank God we did. We later discovered that if I had “gone home”… I would have surely bled to death.

As the MA attended to Weston, and my family watched close by, the midwife stood me up to shower. I couldn’t imagine how I would possibly walk, let alone shower. But I did it. I mustered up strength as I staggered into the cold, tile bathroom. Holding the hot shower head in my shaking, weak hand, I sat on the bench in the shower. I’d never felt so weak. Daniel sat across from me, his eyes pained with worry. My new baby crying somewhere in the next room. I knew Mom was with him, all was well.

Someday, when I am an old lady, sitting in a glider rocker in a home or some wooden porch by the sea, with nothing but memories and time, I will still remember exactly how I felt when I stood up, got out of that shower and looked in the mirror. I looked into my reflection, my white as the clouds reflection. I was there, yes. But I wasn’t there.  I felt as though I was hovering, somewhere above that birth center. I’ll never forget that haunting, out of body experience kind of feeling.

The midwife agreed to have me go to the hospital down the street, but she insisted it was such a minor birth injury that it would be a quick, outpatient procedure and that I would be back here with my new baby in no time! Daniel stayed back at the birth center with our fresh little newborn, not yet named. Thank God he is an older brother in a family who welcomed thirteen babies, because he knew exactly how to care for our brand new son.

I threw on the black dress I had worn into the birth center, just hours before. I walked out to the car, we drove down the street, and I got out of the car and walked down the sidewalk into the Emergency Room, holding onto Mom. I have no idea, no clue, how I walked, in the state I was in.

The sun was coming up. I remember the air was more crisp than I’ve ever felt in my life. Clean. Cool. The sky, all blue and pink above. I was extremely aware that morning. So “in the moment” and highly sensitive to everything around me. And yet, I also felt as if I was not there. Like I was not in my body. Like I was somewhere up above in that pink and blue sky, suspended in air, watching the story unfold and play out. I remember stepping into the ER, and nearly passing out. Breathe. Breathe.

We waited, in the ER, in a curtained off section of a room, for a few hours. I’d been given some pain medication, and so I do not remember feeling pain in these moments. As the minutes and hours drew on, my heart began to sink as the reality began to hit…my baby and I are not together, on his first day. My husband and baby and I are not where we should be, together in each other’s arms. And as the reality set in, it hurt like hell.

Every doctor and nurse who came in as we waited, asking me questions about why I was sitting in the Emergency Room, gasped with shock when I told them “I just had a baby,”

“Just now?? Like today?”

“Yep, a few hours ago.”

The OB/GYN on call came in. He looked concerned. And he treated me with nothing but absolute respect and kindness.

My midwife told him he needed to quickly examine me and “stitch me up with pain killer.” She wanted me to get back to my baby, where I wanted to be. But, I knew that was not enough. And so did he. He nodded his head, patiently. “She has been through enough. She needs surgery. I can tell. We are admitting her and preparing her for the Operating Room now.”

I remember being wheeled upstairs. I remember a text popping up from Daniel, gushing with words of love and pride and care for me and our beautiful new boy. I stared at my new baby’s face on the cell phone screen, my heart melted with sweetest joy I’d ever felt. And the deepest sadness. Oh, he was beautiful.

The midwife left to go check on Daniel and our newborn at the center. She would bring him formula and try to feed him. My first dreams of breastfeeding, dashed. But, in light of the physical injuries I faced, I knew I needed more care than just “a few stitches and some lidocaine.”

I remember the Operating Room. It was big and freezing cold. They placed me on the table, team working around me, calling things out. Bright, bright lights. White, white walls. The anesthesiologist stood at my head, and his assistant said, “Why is she here?” I answered, looking up at him, “I just had a baby and have some severe birth injuries.” “Uhhhh, huh?! At home?! Like, in your backyard?” He said, jokingly chuckled, looking at me like I was crazy, making me feel like some kind of strange animal. I quietly answered, “No, with a midwife at a birth center.”

My doctor knelt down by my side. He looked me directly in the eye, not above me looking down. And he gently placed his hand on my shoulder and said, “I have six babies! You are doing great, and you are going to be okay. We are gonna get you back to your baby as soon as we can.”

He smiled warmly, kindly, confidently. Like he understood. Like he knew what he was doing. And he knew we would be fine. Someone put a few warm, thick blankets on my chest. I sighed, a sigh of relief. And I finally, for the first time in the past 24 hours of giving birth to my son, felt safe. Taken care of. Someone knew what they were doing. Someone had a protocol. And they were care-filled, in control, purposeful, and I was safe. My arms tied to my sides, my legs strapped up far above me. Slowly, I remember drifting off under anesthesia, breathing a sigh of relief and letting myself drift away and rest.

Back at the birth center, Daniel rocked and fed our baby (who didn’t want a bottle). He looked into his little eyes. He laid him on his chest. He was there for Weston, he was there for me. He was exactly what a father should be. And he made me so incredibly proud, and thankful for the gift of a man he is and the strength of his character that pours out in the form of blessing on our lives every single day.

The doctor guessed my surgery would take about 45 minutes, maybe an hour. Mom paced the waiting room. She called the midwife, but she didn’t answer. She had gone home to sleep.

Hours passed, and everyone was terrified.

Three hours later, the doctor came out.

It’s typical for birth centers to release families a few hours after birth, send them home and then check on them in their home. It was time to go.

Daniel found the little bag I had packed and slowly unfolded Weston’s “going home” outfit. All alone. I cannot tell you how many times (especially with a 9-day-late baby!) I sat at home, folding and unfolding, smelling, kissing those little outfits. Imagining what it would be like to dress my new baby for the first time in his first little onesie or sleeper, and slip a soft hat on his perfect little head, to watch Daniel strap him into his new car seat and take him home. I had placed several outfit options in his diaper bag, labeled with a Sharpie: “To wear if he’s under 8 pounds.” “To wear if it’s hot” “To wear if he’s over 9 pounds.”

Daniel dressed him. All alone. In his gray “Worth The Wait” onesie, a little white hat, and tiny blue and white striped mittens.

When I woke up in recovery, my eyes fell on a clock. I felt queasy and numb. A nurse sat beside me, smiling. “You are doing great, sweetie! The surgery went well! And I just have to tell you: 20 years ago, my son was born and I had 3rd degree tears just like yours, and now I am completely fine and he is in college!” I smiled. But my heart started to sink. The hands on the clock were far past what I’d imagined or hoped. How was Daniel? How was our still not-yet named baby doing? Where were they? Mom came in, her eyes pained. I took my phone and opened up a text from Daniel: a picture of Weston in his going home outfit. Hot tears stung my eyes.

I missed it.

I started to realize that those “very first” dreamed-of moments I’d imagined my whole pregnancy… or really, my whole life – every time I played Barbies or dolls, were gone.

It was all so far from the plan or the dream.

But I was thankful my boy was doing okay, that he was alive, that I was alive, that we would soon be together. I hoped.

Recently, I found a lost voice mail I had received from Daniel while I was in surgery and he was about to head home from the birth center. I’d missed it in the craziness of that day. His voice sounded so terrified, so shaky, so scared, so concerned. Praying hard. I cried for a solid hour when I found it the other day, and I will save that piece of our history on my hard drive forever.

There were reasons Weston was not admitted to the hospital with me, and it is complicated. My doctor did not recommend me leaving. He said it was best for me to stay a few days in the hospital, to recover, to watch for hemorrhaging and other complications. He said my injuries were far, far worse than he had anticipated. Third, almost fourth, degree tearing in many places due to the abnormal position Weston was in as I gave birth to him. He said he’d only twice seen anything similar to what I experienced and that it was extremely rare. I would recover, hopefully, but may need two or more surgeries. But it looked good.

As the nurses wheeled me on the gurney into the Maternity Ward, we passed by rooms full of families, big balloons bumping against each other, people carrying fragrant roses, and mother after mother with their newborn babies. I will never forget crossing my arms and nodding my head and shutting my eyes tight as the tears streamed as we wheeled past all the happy smiles and sounds. Hearing the newborns cry made my heart lurch in a way I’d never before experienced. I shared a room that day with another new mama. Every time her baby would cry, I would reel and weep. The physical pain hurt. But empty arms and my newborn away at home without me as I sat in a lonely, cold hospital bed was far, far worse. That stands as the single most awful memory of my life and sometimes I wake up in a cold sweat at night, reliving that feeling in a nightmare.

 Looking back, perhaps we could have handled parts of the situation differently, but because Weston could not be admitted into the maternity ward, as I had been GBS positive and he was exposed without antibiotics. There were rules, and agendas of our midwife, I believe now, and so many layers…. All in all, birthing out of the hospital presented specific and unique challenges to us that we did not expect, and that caused the separation that we went through that day. I have changed my mind about so many of the things I used to believe and think about birth. So many of my personal opinions made a 180 shift. So many thoughts swirl in my heart, and I don’t want to go through it all here now. But what I do believe (and Daniel is beside me on this, as with everything) is that a mama should choose – without comparison or judgment – to do what is best for her and her family. If that’s hospital birth, do it. If that means choosing a midwife as your care provider, go for it. If it is having a scheduled c-section, do it. If it’s getting an epidural, you get that girl! If it’s formula feeding, you feed that baby! And if it’s breastfeeding, you’ve got this, mama. For your baby’s birth, do what is best and what will make you the best mom you can be, feeling empowered and strong. And when it doesn’t turn out like you plan, oh mama.. you are not a failure, you are not alone, hope is not lost. But, put all shame aside and do not – for a moment – let in an ounce of guilt or shame for grieving the loss of the dreams you had, the plans you made, the hopes that got up so high… like a hot air balloon, and then were dashed violently to the ground. I just want our story to be one that does speak the truth that needs to be said, that I believe with all my heart based on the experience we endured (and a message that is is not ever said in those complication-free birth stories: out of the hospital birth carries with it the possibility that if something is wrong with mom or baby, if (God forbid) something “bad” happens, you may be separated if mama or baby needs to be admitted in the hospital. In our situation, it was unfortunately a “perfect storm” of sorts…causing us to truly have to be separate.

My nurse was an angel. She was understanding and sweet. She took care of me, and she begged my doctor to let me go home to my newborn. I wish I could have stayed, under his orders, as I respected him, but I had to get home to Weston. The next hours and days unfolded in a blur. Getting home to my boy was happiness itself, but pain colored it all. I will always remember, though, how special I felt. I felt so so special to just be holding this magical little person. He was heaven, itself. He was the most amazing person we had ever met.

 We ended up taking Weston back to the hospital that first evening, and waiting again in the ER. Hours spent. A long story. More trauma and pain and disappointment. But thankfully, all in all, we were “okay” and for that we are grateful.

 The next days and weeks that followed were full of overwhelming love for our boy, but a lot of pain, fear, and some major unknowns. Tests waited on. Trauma recalled. Because of the physical trauma and then the difficulty it caused, it was from the “newborn bliss” that so many mamas describe. Because of the pain I was in, nursing really didn’t work out, even though I tried and tried, with help from a lactation consultant.

I honestly don’t remember much from those first weeks, except little blips. The pain, oh the pain. It was ten out of ten on the “pain scale.” Twenty out of ten. My recovery was awful, but our sunshine boy was the light through it all.

In the fog of those days, I remember doctor appointments. So many pads and those huge diapers. Searing pain at every movement. Tears streaming every night as I sat on my phone, reading through similar birth stories and similar birth injuries, hoping but fearing -- would I be able to have a normal life? Use the bathroom? Walk? Etc? I will always remember the way Weston felt as he laid on my chest. Warm and cuddly and perfect. The way Daniel let me sleep in the middle of the night as he held our new boy on his chest, how he didn't sleep at all and just watched us, took care of us. I remember Mandy bringing my favorite Starbucks order every day. And Mom and Dad cleaning the house and making food and beaming at their grandson. I will always remember Daniel's twin brother, Caleb, flying from Maryland to California to be with us, and how he listened to my stories of what had happened that first day; how he made delicious mac and cheese and how it is the first meal I remember eating postpartum. 

The weeks went on. Weston was tested for GBS and he did not get it. He was completely and perfectly healthy. It could have been much, much worse. I healed, slowly but surely. In fact, my wonderful doctor (who I literally adore! the Lord used him and his care for me to heal not only my body but my heart as well, because of his respect and care for me) told me he was shocked every time I had a check-up. Shocked at my healing and shocked it healed up so perfectly. 

Due to his birth and some other issues, Weston was diagnosed at a few months old with Torticollis. This is a whole other story that stemmed from the story I am now writing, but it caused some health issues he needed that had to be taken care of this year.... and those broke my mama heart. (He is doing amazing now and the issues he had are fixed, praise the Lord.) And yet, I haven't felt ready to share any of this with you, my dear Internet friends, because my heart was very tender about it all. (I will always remember watching a Periscope video by Jess Conolly where she said, "If you are tender about something, don't post it on the internet." If a comment or even a well meaning question may make your cry or "send you over the edge", then wait. And so I abide by that as a public blogger and try to think through and be careful about what I share, and when, especially when it comes to our family.) 

Grace upon grace covered and carried us. 

In the scary moments we faced during that uncertain, terrifying day, and in the trauma that ensued in our hearts afterward. We reeled, for a while. We enjoyed our boy and we rejoiced in our gifts, but the memories were haunting, especially for me. I found healing every day in listening to this song  and reading blog posts like this one. And being surrounded by so much loving support, listening ears, and understanding hearts. 

I think it's easy for new moms who have healthy babies to talk about or even acknowledge the hurt that a traumatic birth can cause. It feels like shame and guilt, sometimes, to be honest. Because, you do not want to sound or be ungrateful for the greatest gift. Babies die, mamas die, and we are healthy and safe. But, I have come to find that a traumatic birth story is a real loss. It is a poignantly painful experience for women and it needs to be talked about. (Hence, this longest blog post of all time ;) This project was therapeutic for me to read through. 

Here we are, one year later. Looking back, I know I've struggled with some post traumatic stress and pain. By God's precious grace and my surgeon's skill, I am 100% physically healed. That itself is a miracle! But emotionally, one year later, I am healed but hurting. It can be lonely to walk through a grief no one understands. It can be awkward and painful when you bravely tell parts of your story and it is met with awkward comments or silent and strange looks. All kinds of things can trigger the memories, and they come flooding back in flashes. Pampers commercials or gasping in the frozen aisle at Trader Joe's when I think I see my doula, and I really do not want to see her ever again. Or, the other day, when I took my mom to the hospital for a quick test (she’s totally fine.) As Weston and I waited for her in the waiting room, he started to get a little antsy and so I walked him out to a courtyard by a fountain beside a window that looked out to the big lobby. As if I was watching a movie, I noticed a little scene play out in the hospital pick up and drop-off: a mother, wheeled out, beaming, tired, and smiling, holding her tiny new baby wrapped in a pale blue blanket, wearing a matching hat and little mittens and pants that coordinated. Dad pushed her in the wheel chair, smiling ear to ear and you could just feel how proud he was. She looked oh so tired but oh so blissful. They pushed big “it’s a boy!” balloons into the car, loaded up flowers, laughed about something, smiled at the car seat. I imagined them minutes before, up in the hospital room, putting him in the going-home outfit, picked out well before. They placed their boy in the car seat in for the very first time. Side by side. Together. Heading home. Safely. Happily. How it “should” be. I stood, staring through the glass. Tears streaming. Heart lurching.

If only. 

But then, my 9 month old little dream boy giggled about something and bounced in my arms. And I sighed and looked down, laughing with him. Oh so grateful. And really, really happy. 

Walking through this past year, of joy and grief, has made me more aware of and think far more about the pain people experience... pain far, far worse than a traumatic birth story that ended in the happy life of a perfect one year old. The other day, my sister in law told me about an extraordinary couple, Sara and Billy Jack Brawner III. They lost their baby girl, Willa Rose, at 34 weeks. She died in the womb (watch their precious video here.) Willa's dad said this at her memorial,

 "In my weakness, I began to question all of this. I didn't get it. It felt cruel. And I was mad. And then I was reminded that if my life seems unfair, I must remember that Jesus's life was anything but fair. And in the middle of it not seeming so and our world falling apart and all the chaos and the brokenness and the death and the mourning, SK [his wife] and I know that God is good and He is kind and He loves us and He is for us, and that He gives and He takes away and we are called to bless His name."  

I read a book this year that stirred and brought healing to my soul. In it, the mama who lost her darling daughter to cancer wrote these words:

"This is the stuff of life: Mountains and valleys. Births and deaths. Laughter and weeping. And in my life, because I was an enemy of God and he showed me mercy while I was yet a sinner, I want to do right by him. Paul told us in 1 Corinthians 7: 'Let me say this, dear brothers and sisters: The time that remains is very short... Those who weep or who rejoice or who buy things should not be absorbed by their weeping or their joy or their possessions... For this world as we know it will soon pass away.' 

P31 girl was known for laughing without fear of the future, not sitting around crying about the past. She found a depth in suffering that made steady her confident steps heavenward. She was given so many good things to look forward to, and she wisely chose joy. There's no time to waste. 

Real life is full of real people, and real people are messy. Bathsheba was messy. Sarah was messy. Even Mary was messy. We are undeserving and selfish. We screw up, we drop the ball, we blow it time and again. But here's what's so amazing about looking heavenward and choosing Jesus: it doesn't matter if you haven't been the perfect woman. It doesn't matter if you've been eclipsed by bitterness or marked by sin. It's never too late for you. This glorious future is not only for the Proverbs 31 girl who makes the rest of us look bad. It's for the hurting. The lonely. The bereaved, the grieving. It's for the woman who's hiding an abortion. For the woman who is in need of forgiveness, to be washed clean. It's for the one who has suffered abuse, who is going through a divorce. It's for the girl who has tried to take her own life, for the one who cuts herself to feel something, anything. And for the one who is tuned out, numb, dead to the world. Goodness awaits you! Goodness awaits me! Come with me, jump in, and feel the warmth of anticipation, even in the cold and dark night.

Can we please laugh together? Can we please honor God, the Giver? If he gives ice cream, lick up the last drop as it runs down the cone onto your arm. If he has given a warm day, let your skin soak up the sun until your tan glows. When he gives sweet moments, camp out there a little while, sweeping your soul with goodness. Let the food you eat not only nourish your cells, but let it be beautiful and delicious and flavorful and plentiful. Walk in the rain, splash in puddles, catch snowflakes on your tongue. Watch a spider spin a web. Explore the world with your preschooler, his hand in yours, sticky with peanut butter and fat with love. Draw eyeliner kitty cat whiskers on your six year old, then drink milk out of a saucer on the floor of the kitchen with her. 

If he has given you babies, to love, pour it on thick. Rock and sing and kiss and bless, in the same way your Abba pours out on you. The home you have been given, have fun making it pretty. Pick your neighbor's flowers, put up drawings made by tiny, unsteady fingers, and paint the walls hot pink! Let music ring throughout; let singing and prayers abound, flowing freely from grateful lips. If he has given you a friend, a mentor, or a little sister, revel in the gift of human hearts knit together by truth. Use your gifts, use your talents, and point to the One who gave it all.

Sometimes, the goodness is right in front of our faces, and sometimes it must be unearthed, but it's there. 

This is life.

It's strange and wonderful and terrible all at the same time. Feel free to laugh, and feel free to cry. Feel free to create and love and take chances in scary areas of your life, for we have the brightest future to enter."

- Kate Merrick, "And Still She Laughs." 

Thank you for reading this story. I haven't really written in a long time (really since At Long Last!) and this ended up being a small book of a blog post, itself :) I just wanted to share where I (and we) "have been" this last year. Where my heart is. And where it is going. There is so much more to the story, and I have partly hesitated so much in sharing the birth story because I don't want any one to misunderstand anything I am saying or feeling or portraying... this is just our story and experience, and whatever yours is or was is beautiful and right for you. Also, this post I focused on the truth that we walked through a traumatic birth but I didn't focus much on Weston... that is because, it was not about him. He is sunshine and joy itself, and he is our greatest gift -- I will tell him someday, the story of how he was born, and I will tell him how brave and beautiful and amazing he was. He was a fighter and I am blown away by his strength. But, I this story does not color his story or his life.... his story is a joyful one full of sunshine, and on his birthday later this week, I will be sharing more of this past year's JOY he brought just be being "him." 

I have found that the Lord makes the broken beautiful. I don't know what the Lord has for us in the future. If and when the Lord gives us more children, we will definitely be back with my wonderful OB who was on call that day and became my surgeon and we will certainly have an in-the-hospital birth (I know there are sharp, competent, caring midwives and safe, wonderful birth centers. But after what we experienced, we will never choose that experience again, personally! But every single story is different and right for each family of course, this is just our story) especially because next time (if and when there is one) there will be some special complications due to my injuries that we will have to consider, and truth is -- that is scary. It is still hard to hear birth stories, it's still hard to talk about them, it's even hard to see them on TV. It's hard when people don't understand why I have struggled this year or been a little MIA, in some ways. It's hard when people do not understand why the birth was such a big deal to me, or how I cared so so much about it. But it is good, too. 

 My heart is healing, every time my boy laughs and giggles. Every time I sit in the sunshine or swim in the ocean or talk to a friend or hold hands with my man. Or when I ran into my hospital nurse randomly at the local children's clothing thrift store and we hugged and cried and she was just thrilled to see me healthy and whole, because, she said, "There are some cases that come into the hospital that just stick with you. Yours stuck with me and I've wondered how you are since. I am so happy you are doing well."

There is beauty in the broken. There is redemption in the lost hopes and the pain.

Please, please, email me, sweet sisters, if you want to talk, if you have a sweet comment (I really don't want to rehash or get advice on anything that occurred in our birth details) but I would be thrilled to talk to you if you have been through something similar or a traumatic birth. We need one another and there is healing in telling our stories.