Wednesday, December 30, 2015

six months

panda girl, you have turned into a full-of-personality person.

you don't really care if you're an expert at anything but you want to try everything. i joke that you are going to be an amateur at everything and master of nothing. you are an excellent rolling wonder but you are too busy trying to sit, crawl, stand, and talk simultaneously to really settle down and learn any one new trick. where i am careful and dry, you are impetuous and outgoing like your daddy.

at 26 weeks old exactly you sprouted your first tooth. and honey child. we have been battling the sleeplessness and teething rage like whoa. somehow in all this craziness your weary parents have retained some semblance of humanity but only just. be kind to us in the new year.

"weaning" you off of anything is really a pointless endeavor and it's amazing that i continue to devote so much thought and time to such a meaningless task. you are already over the bottle and only continue to drink it because my will remains just strong enough to subdue you. food, however, is your jam and you are all about it. i really think you are weaning us off the bottle. also, you went cold turkey on the swaddle. we kept the swaddle forevvvaaa because flailing about. i tried to slowly work you off the swaddle but you find delicate weaning confusing and irritating and so finally we went cold turkey and just like that you are no longer a swaddle baby.

you are however a blanket baby and a lovey baby. i invite anyone who thinks i'm a bad parent for giving you these nighttime miracle items in the crib to spend the night with us and rock your screaming form for hours to not avail. please. i beg you.

you like people. you made it through the holidays like a champ. you are obviously a spoiled only child who gets toted about and cuddled all ze time. but you handled being passed around to rando people and schedule chaos like a champ. i mean, you'll probably never sleep 10 hours straight but at this point who's counting. you smiled and cooed and let people smother you with all their christmas joy.

speaking of christmas, i can't even tell you how christmas with a baby gave me all the feels. i've never been so exhausted during christmas break and yet so overwhelmingly happy. you are not old enough to understand presents or the "reason for the season" but you pulled at wrapping paper and sat with us while we opened your gifts and played with some of your toys. but mostly you sat there and let us squeeze you right to the point of insanity and gush over your beauty and our good fortune.

i am already embarrassingly proud of you. i do a decent job of refraining from posting a million blurry phone photos to the internets but it doesn't stop me from taking them. i find you to be heartbreakingly beautiful, hilarious, and extremely charismatic. i realize i am extremely biased and that my love for you is sickeningly sweet but panda, you are amazeballs and i can't get enough.

it's so bittersweet watching you grow. i love each new phase and yet miss all those moments that are gone forever. please slow your {thigh} rolls from all the growing. i mean...keep growing. just not so stinkin' fast. i just can't.

you are loved so deep and so wide. and i'm just so thankful that you're mine.

Monday, November 30, 2015

five months

little pup, i can hardly believe that you are five months old today. you can do so many things that make me so proud and so sad at the same time. you can pick up objects, play with them, and then set them back down. you've started throwing your toys out of reach and on to the floor so that your daddy or i have to get them for you. you are an expert roller when it comes to going from your back to your belly. you don't really care to roll from your belly to your back although you know how and it is clearly easier for you. instead, when you are tired of being on your tummy you fuss and wait for someone to flip you over.

also, much to my dismay, we started real food the weekend after thanksgiving. i really really really wanted to hold off a little longer, but girl, you were hangry. you'd look and stare so longingly at food any time we ate around you. sometimes you'd even open your mouth like a baby bird, as if it say, "feed me!" your very first bite was fresh avocado. it was not your jam. but you practiced "chewing" and swallowing and i would call it a success. your second bite was butternut squash with cinnamon and you loved that. you'd smile when you saw the spoon coming for you and open up your mouth just waiting for it.

you are getting much better with crowds although you'd prefer to have someone familiar to you holding you. i get it. i don't like strangers pawing all over me either. but you are polite enough to smile at people when they make ridiculous faces at you and talk in the highest, squeakiest voice audible to the human ear. but your politeness comes from daddy and you're definitely a southern sweetie. you don't have much of mommy's new jersey sass. yet.

this month has been incredibly busy. time with the three of us all together has been at an incredible premium and sweetie, i'm so sorry there's not more of it. but we make the most of what we get.
we celebrated my 29th birthday. i can't even. we celebrated your very first thanksgiving at home with a big meal. that you didn't get to enjoy. womp womp. we spent time with family and friends. and now, somehow, it is christmastime. we went and got your very first christmas tree and we watched christmas movies and listened to christmas music while we decorated the tree. 

right now your favorite things are: being carried around. looking at your hands. rolling. watching tv (so sue me. i let my baby watch tv sometimes). music (you LOVE music). being surprised by funny faces (sometimes this is also terrifying). 

pet peeves: the inability to crawl (you can crawl exactly one pace before you give up). strangers. sleeping through the night.

my favorite things are: your big brown eyes. the chubbiness (rolls errwhere). your giggle when you're really happy. your serious face. and cuddling you when you're sleepy.

this has been a really hard season for us. for me. i can't believe that five years ago i had just met your daddy. i had no idea we would get married. i just thought he was just a hot southern man. i can't believe a year ago i had just found out i was pregnant. girlfriend, it was devastating news. i really didn't think i had the you-know-what to grow and expel a human. but here you are, the very best part of our life. and i'm so thankful that on the toughest days i can look at your sweet little face. God knew what i'd i would have never believed it. but you are the grace of God in a little chubby package. we love you.

Friday, October 30, 2015

four months

little panda,

you are no longer our sleepy little newborn. you are a full-of-sass baby! you love to squeal, gargle your spit, and sit up (with help). you also decided you are too good for room temperature bottles and prefer your milk nicely warmed or else you will spit it all over us.

daddy went out of town very briefly this month, which meant mommy was able to take you to the nursery at church. you were perfectly content with all the other little people there and didn't seem to mind being left with strangers for an hour. i hope this is a good omen for daycare because honestly...i'm dreading the daycare days with everything i have. i'm just not ready for you to spend all day every day at daycare and not at home. somebody hold ME! the mommy can't deal.

you have turned into such a happy little puppy and i finally understand why people are crazy enough to have multiple children. i'm all like let's go back to the zombie days to have that tiny baby back! jay kay. those days were tuff. i mean, child, your first months of life were so hard and exhausting and every day felt like i was barely scraping by. but we're best buds now and no one wants to ruin that. and you are just so fun to be around. 

on the other hand, i'm still thinking that you might be our only tiny baby and so it's been really hard for me to watch you grow up. i daydream about when you can talk and walk and do big kid things with me. but hot dang, i just want to cuddle your tiny body forever. hashtag thigh rolls for prez.

your chubbiness has made you a pretty strong baby and i won't be surprised if you're an early crawler and early walker. you are also proof that biracial babies are THE BEST LOOKING people ever.  i'm serious. tiger woods being the exception to that rule. your daddy continues to be your favorite person to look at. he's also the best at getting you to laugh. you like being active and doing your own thang sometimes but when you're sleepy you still love snuggles and quiet time rocking. bedtime, which used to be the bane of your short existence, is now your favorite time of day. except baths. you love a bath. i don't know if it's the nakedness or the splashing or what. but a bath can solve any problem you've got. 

you are smart, sometimes serious, sometimes giggly, opinionated, determined, and absolutely gorgeous. 

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

three months

little puppy, you are three months old and so much fun to be around. i can't believe we are already saying goodbye to the newborn days. you have turned your daddy and i into those annoying people that take a million pictures of you doing the exact same thing. but we don't care. we just love looking at your cute little face.

this month you got to attend your first sporting event. we took you to a minor league baseball game on labor day. you screamed the entire time. i felt basically like a total failure as the judgment stares rained down on me. but at the same time i felt pretty angry that people couldn't see that you were so amazing to me that you were worth all the screaming and confusion. you don't like being hot or in direct sunlight for prolonged periods. we learned that the hard way. that's okay.

at ten weeks old exactly you decided to roll from your back to your tummy. i wasn't at home to witness your big accomplishment but your daddy got a video. it took two more weeks for me to witness your new trick. but now you've got the hang of it and sometimes you think it's a game to roll over again and again for us. at thirteen weeks old exactly you rolled to your tummy and then rolled right back onto your back! twice! daddy was at work and i was too busy clapping for you to get a video. but i promise it happened.

you are totes obsessed with chewing on your hands and you've just recently discovered you have a tongue and you like to stick your tongue out at everything. basically you are a major drool puddle. we are pretty sure you are going to be a thumb or finger sucker, much to our dismay. and girlfriend, you want a blankie so bad you can't even stand it. 

you have slept through the night exactly two times. proving to us that you CAN do it but that you'd rather not. recently you've started waking up many times a night wanting to chew on your hands, be held, or eat. i'm pretty sure we could let you cry-it-out and you'd go back to sleep but there are limits to what we can bear.
being held is still your favorite but you also like alone time in your swing. you love watching tv even though we try to leave the tv off most of the time. as soon as it's on you're a little moth to a flame. you can full-on belly laugh, which always makes me laugh too. you smile back at people and your hair just gets longer and longer. you continue to be our little butterball and i call your thighs "christmas hams" because they just look so tasty that even your vegetarian mama could eat you up.
on a serious note, this has been a really hard month for our little family and i'm so glad you're small enough that you won't remember the hurt raking us across the coals. above all else, my baby panda, know that you are so loved by me, by your dad, and by so many other family and friends. you'll never be without love.

Thursday, September 3, 2015


nine weeks ago i brought my tiny human home from the hospital. she was a bundle of jaundice, mixed up days and nights, screaming cries, and snuggly sleepiness. G and i were zombies, living off of love and the hope that someday soon we'd remember how to human. 

and i tried like mary to treasure up those precious first days in my heart. but at the same time i was wishing away the newborn stage. what no one tells you is that owning a pet is in no way like being a new parent. no amount of dog walking, house training, and remembering to feed and water your barking pal will provide you with the skills to survive night wakings every hour on the hour followed by 30 minutes of crying, by every human in the house. 

so you make it up as you go. i made a lot of mistakes. i got frustrated at my lack of ability. i threw parties for the smallest wins because they seemed like the biggest victories of my life. i prayed and prayed some more. and slowly and all too quickly the time passed and the #rowenugget got a little more predictable and i got a little more skilled in faking it until i made it. 

before i brought that tiny life into the world, one of my biggest fears was that i would lose myself and my own personal identity by becoming a mother. i'd no longer be my own person. i'd only be someone's mother. and in a lot of ways that's so true. especially in the first weeks, you lay everything you want and have at the alter of insanity and you just do whatever you can to eat, sleep, and shower while that baby sleeps. but instead of losing myself, i think the word i would use to describe motherhood is that it transforms you. i'm transformed. i'll never be the same person i was. and suddenly that's totally okay with me. because even though i still want to be myself and have my own identity and stuff and likes and dislikes i want to be the #rowenugget's mommy even more. 

if there is one thing that the transformation of mommy-dom has done it has been to shine a light on what really matters to me. my first calling is to my family - G, the #rowenugget, and the people i hold most dear. the second is to my ministry - serving at my church in tangible ways, serving with my life. and everything else is just part of lesser callings. not unimportant. just not the most important things. there's only a handful of days left before i return to my nine-to-five. and while i'm extremely grateful for a job that provides for our little family, i am especially sad to leave my little one. because she's part of that most important calling in my life. and gosh, i just want to spend every minute of the day squeezing her. 

so today i am just going to treasure her up in my heart. treasure up the days i've had and the days i have left and the days to come. treasure up those 3 am feedings, treasure up the cries. treasure up the way she plays with her hair just like her daddy when she's sleepy. treasure up each smile and snuggle. 

Monday, August 31, 2015

two months

during the second month of your sweet little life you finally figured out that you like me. and that you like me better than anyone else in the whole world. when you were first born, you were daddy's girl. daddy gave the best snuggles. daddy calmed you down the quickest. daddy had the big warm hands that rubbed your belly just right. now you are all about mommy. you still love staring at daddy and being snuggled in his arms. but your favorite place to be is in my arms. this is heart warming all of the time except when i have to pee or when i'm so hungry.

we also learned to endure the cries to teach you how to fall asleep at night. daddy thought i was the biggest baby bully to let you lay there and cry. but you were safe and warm with a full tummy and i knew you'd be all right. you're a total champ at bedtime now. nap times are still full of cries. but i'll take a happy bedtime baby over a happy nap time baby any day.

you are a pretty chubby little baby and people love to comment on what a big girl you are and what lovely hair you have. and you are so cute and chubby. you have a double chin and thigh rolls and even chubby arms. you are basically so squishy i can't even stand it. it's amazing. and you have always had the best baby hair. so soft and long. you still can't decide if you want to have black hair or brown hair but daddy and i are still crossing our fingers that you'll have black hair like me.

i have loved staying home with you these last two months. i can't believe our time together, just you and me all day long, is almost over. it makes me so sad. but i know that ultimately you belong to God and he just allows me to take care of you and be responsible for you. so i'm trying really hard to trust him to take care of you and be your truest parent while i'm at work and can't snuggle you myself.

you are turning into such a happy little baby. you are still so serious most of the time. but you smile and giggle now and it made your mommy and daddy cry little happy tears the first time you had a giggle fit. you have turned us into those people that take a million pictures of you doing the same thing because we just love to look at you and tickle your belly and kiss your chubby cheeks.

you are so loved, little panda. and i'm so lucky to be your mom.

Thursday, August 20, 2015


when i found out i was pregnant...well first i was pretty much devastated. pregnancy did not fit into my type "a" plans. but then my desire to control basically everything kicked in and i became super concerned with doing the right things the right ways. so obviously i assumed several things about the coming months. i would do everything in my power to gain as little weight as possible. i would make a plan and stick to it no matter what. i would enjoy the slow days of staying at home with my little human. i would nurse.

then life happened and i birthed a human and all my plans got turned upside down. 

i really thought that certain aspects of motherhood would come naturally to me because i am naturally pretty motherly. what i didn't consider was that i've considered nursing on my top 3 least favorite ideas for the entirety of my adult life. i totally forgot all my personal opinions as the "breast is best" propaganda infiltrated my plans for the #rowenugget. i wanted her to have the best possible nutrition that i could give her. i wanted all those bonding feelings that nursing is supposed to bring. i assumed that it would come naturally and that i would love it because i was her mother and that is how it was supposed to be. 

so imagine my disappointment when only days into the #rowenugget's life i was crying at the mere thought of nursing. nothing was going as i planned, least of all nursing. the harder i tried to enjoy it, the more frustrated i became. with myself. with my baby. with my body. i tearfully told G that i didn't think i could keep it up. i was literally dreading the time i spent with my baby nursing. it wasn't helping me bond. he lovingly suggested formula. which made me cry even more. shouldn't i want to keep nursing more than i wanted my body back? shouldn't i be willing to sacrifice my happiness for my daughter's nutrition? what kind of monster was i? 

plagued with guilt i kept going for two weeks. two weeks of crying onto my daughter's face multiple times a day. two weeks of feeling like motherhood wasn't meant for me. two weeks of dread. i had switched to "pumping exclusively" thinking that would give me the freedom and peace i was so desperately craving, but i hated that even more than nursing. i felt like the biggest failure in that target aisle picking out the organic formula and washing the bottles that weren't meant for use. 

i felt selfish. i felt sinful. i felt full of fear. i felt guilty. i felt ashamed. i was a failure. i was giving up on something that i was meant to do. i felt like i was failing my daughter. 

of course none of that is true. as G so kindly reminded me, our someday adopted child will be a formula baby and that doesn't mean i will love them any less. i was a formula baby and i'm perfectly healthy. and my desire to feed my baby well and enjoy my time with her is just as important as anything else. and being a happy and whole individual is important to be a good mother. nursing does not a mother make. 

i'm laying it all out there because when you google random bits to help you regain some sanity there's not a lot out there in the way of support for formula feeding. there's a lot of shaming. a lot of "hang in there, it gets better", and a lot of "do it even if you hate it". 

there are moments i'm still covered in guilt and shame for giving up on nursing. there are moments where i wish i could have hung in there...for her and for me. but that is not our story. and when i snuggle her close and feed her and stare at her beautiful face, i know i love her and that my decision was made in love. there isn't dread anymore. 

and there's this...

G doesn't have a lot of experience with babies. but he's found his way pretty easily. he changed the first diaper and has basically done everything and anything for the #rowenugget. but for the first two weeks he just had to watch me cry every time i fed her. the silver lining to my failure to nurse was the ability for G to feed her. and then he got to watch me feed her and smile for the first time while feeding her. and man, God showed us his goodness in the form of a Dr. Brown's bottle and a carton of The Honest Company formula. 

but more than a story about boobs versus bottles, this is a story of grace. whatever i face. whatever you face. God is there holding you, cheering you on, and guiding you to the right choice. 

Thursday, August 13, 2015


i am a good six weeks into motherhood making me an expert on absolutely nothing.

the one major thing that i have learned so far is that sometimes you have to eat your words and all your well-made plans and just live in the moment and survive. i don't have an easy baby. and that's totally okay. she's sweet and lovable and the best little person ever. it's so good to be with her. but it's not easy. and when it's 3 am and no one is sleeping and G has to get up to go to work in 3 hours you will rock that baby forever so that the other parent can sleep.

speaking of not sleeping. i'm doing this newborn thing caffeine free. i haven't had coffee in over 4 years and guess what. i haven't given in despite multiple days where i thanked God that i actually slept for 3 hours. total. 3 hours total. caffeine free. feel free to clap. however sometimes the grace of God does come in the form of red wine in a very large glass. don't judge me.

this week is definitely a week of change. the #rowenugget is more alert than ever. and she can smile! her whole little face lights up and she makes the biggest gummy smile and then it's gone and you feel like you just saw a shooting star. sometimes i make the most ridiculous faces at her to try and elicit a smile. but in general, the panda is pretty serious about life.

other items of note include the fact that i can wear my regular jeans. praise hands. however, if any of you are in need of extra skin, my midsection has an over-abundance. and i'm willing to share. also, my wedding rings still don't fit leaving me looking like a worn-down single mother wherever i go when alone with the #rowenugget. and you'd think that would make people take pity on me and help a sister out. but no. it's a lot of passing by with judgment faces. i am the man attacked by robbers waiting for my good samaritan. except instead of being attacked by robbers i was owned by a person who weighs 11 pounds.

the lesson here? when you see a tired woman carrying a baby in a parking lot with a cart full of stuff and tears in her eyes, unload that cart for her. or buy her some starbucks. because seriously. do you put the baby in the hot car while you throw your crap in the trunk? or what?

if you haven't met the panda yet, you are totally missing out on some chubby cuteness. and if you are one of the many people who have brought us food, prayed for us, held our little one (double points if she cried relentlessly while you held her), or just cheered us on. thank you! we couldn't survive without you. 

Thursday, July 30, 2015

one month

my little panda

your first month of life was maybe one of the hardest months of my life ever. you made me rethink everything i thought i knew. about myself. about my life. you have not been an easy baby. you fight naps like it's your job. you wake up multiple times a night and won't go back to sleep. you fuss and cry for no reason and leave me totally clueless. but sweetie, you are so worth it. you are worth every minute of lost sleep. every moment of confusion. you are worth all the self-doubt, the worrying, the late nights and early mornings.

you love to be snuggled. you've loved snuggles since day one. you don't mind when people besides mom and dad cuddle you because you just love to be cuddled. you must get that from your dad because i'm not the snuggle bug in this family.

this week you've been so awake. the newborn sleepiness is definitely fading fast. you just stare at me with your big brown eyes. sometimes i don't say anything and just stare back at you and sometimes i sing you little songs and tell you all sorts of mind-numbing things. but you never seem to mind.

we've been reading you a story from your jesus storybook bible every night before bed. then your dad and i judge whether or not it was decent and true to the "real bible". then we hold you and pray for a little bit of sleep. and for your heart to love Jesus.

sometimes in the middle of the night, when i want to cry i'm so tired and you just want to be rocked forever and never actually fall asleep, you give me a little sleepy giggle. your dad has yet to experience the sleepy giggle but it is basically the best gift for your sleep-deprived mother. more of those wouldn't hurt your case, especially at 3 am.

i know the days will get easier. and you'll sleep more. and you'll need me less. and as much as i long for those days i'll miss these days. the slow days with lots of cuddles and sleepy sighs and squishy newborn-ness. it's already been a month and i still can't believe you're mine.

you are so beautiful. and i love you little puppy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015


if you had asked me only a few short months ago how i thought life with a newborn would go, it would be a totally different explanation than reality.

honestly, i thought it would be a little bit easier. i'm not too prideful to admit that some moments are just plain hard. like bring back the labor and delivery part hard because that was a cake walk comparatively. bring back the cankles. wait. i don't mean that.

and if you had asked me how i thought G and i would weather the sleepless nights and screaming new baby cries and total confusion as to what to do with the little person in our arms, i would have probably told you we'd be ready to kill. but i would have been wrong about that part, as well.

they say having a baby can't fix your marriage. and i'm sure that's true. but hot dang, it's made ours so much stronger. i have never seen my husband be such a rock star. he has been so selfless in providing for our little family, sacrificing sleep and comfort and personal time to be present and helpful. 

where i thought there would be tension there is patience. where i expected complaining there is none. where there might typically be arguments there is affection. i thought i'd get tired of having him home. i thought i'd be pushing him out the door and back to work. but instead i was soaking up each moment with just the three of us. completely exhausted and totally overwhelmed but absolutely in love with each other and our little #rowenugget. 

today is the first day G is back to work. and i can't tell you how nervous i was to tackle this baby care thing alone. because G has been absolutely crucial to my survival these last two weeks. he's kept me sane, let me cry my hormonal brains out, given me time to myself to feel human, and cheered me on every step of the way. 

having a baby has been the most challenging thing we've ever done. but i wouldn't want to be on this road with anyone else. you are my favorite person in the whole world. we're so lucky to be your girls.

[all photos by the talented jonathan o'brien of the bearded lensman]

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

she's here.

exactly one week ago my world changed forever.

welcome, baby girl. we are so glad you are finally in our arms.

it's so true that being a parent points you to our Father, the Creator of the Universe. 
my desperate need for Him, reflected in my daughter's desperate need for me.

it's been a whirlwind week. full of newborn snuggles and very little sleeping. but we are so thankful for a healthy baby. for family and friends whose love and support has been so precious. for doctors who have been patient and calm. and for our Savior who holds us tired parents in the hard moments.

we have full hearts. 

Friday, June 26, 2015

adrianne & nigel

i had the pleasure of meeting adrianne as an awkward middle schooler. we accepted each other in all our nerd glory and the rest is history. i was honored to be able to shoot her e-session, because i love her and not many people stick out a friendship with you for well over a decade. 

it is so obvious that adrianne & nigel are in love. the way they look at each other, the affection between them, it makes you feel all the love when you're around them. i can't wait to share in their wedding day as a bridesmaid but for this day i was super happy to be the one behind the camera capturing their awesome chemistry.