Your Real Mommy

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To my surprise it had been a fun filled day with no trauma related meltdowns or behaviors. I was thankful. The sun was beaming in, the girls were looking at picture books on the couch and little man cub was pretending to win a heroic battle of some sort. I was mopping when I heard the unfiltered words effortlessly fall out of her mouth, “And see that’s your REAL mom.” 

 Those words hit my ears like a million pieces of glass piercing my weary soul and I stopped. I had to remind myself to breathe. I waited a second longer before turning my head, mop in hand and with a questioning tone said, “What did you say?” 

 Our eyes met; her dark brown eyes met my weary eyes and she fumbled for words. Two years into her adoption being final, those words somehow cut deeper now than they did two years ago. 

 “Real mom?” Why does that cut so deeply? Why do I feel like the air has just been knocked out of me? 

 To be totally transparent, it was only God that gave me grace to move towards my daughter. I was no stranger to words that severed the soul.  Sorrow and suffering had been very present in our call to adopt older children. My flesh wanted her to know the depth of pain those words caused me. 

 But Jesus. 

 I stop. I lay the mop down and I kneel down to her. 

“I love you” -a declaration to my own heart more than to hers, because sometimes we have to speak it, to believe it. 

“You have a place here. You belong. You are wanted” -a truth we are all really longing to hear.  

“I am your real mommy. I am also baby sister’s real mommy and man cub’s real mommy” -a promise that will never change no matter how hard things get. 

“I know I didn’t grow you in my belly. Your birth mom had that beautiful privilege and she will always be part of your story” - a truth we often talk about in our home. 

“You are my daughter. You will always be my daughter and you will always be part of this family…forever”- a reassurance that none of us are going anywhere. 

 Tears well up and for the first time, maybe ever, I see a genuine feeling being released. Sadness and thankfulness wrapped up in those big brown eyes and suddenly it was as if the light finally was showing through with every tear that fell. Instead of harshness, gentleness was present. Instead of anger, thankfulness. Instead of suppressing all emotion, she allowed herself to feel something real. 

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 Tears stream down my cheeks as I exhale. Baby sister comes running into my lap and man cub wraps his arms around my neck and my brown eyed girl embraces me tightly. I whisper, “I’m so glad I get to be your mommy.” For a moment in time it was as if Jesus wrapped His arms around all of us, filling us with hope. Hope that He indeed will make all things new, one day. The weighty stories, the broken hearts, the weary souls, He lifts and mends and makes strong. 

 This is what Jesus does. 

 He draws near to me in my brokenness. He meets me, face to face in my confused and misplaced heart and reminds me that I belong. He does not wave his nail pierced hands in front of my face, He simply reaches out and says, “Come.” He reminds me of my place in the kingdom and He declares that His love will never run out. 

 So tonight, I do not lose heart.Though outwardly most days I feel like I am wasting away, inwardly I believe I am being renewed.For these momentary troubles (as Paul writes) are achieving for us an eternal weight of glory, if we do not give up. So tonight, I fix my eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen. I fix my eyes on Jesus and I hope today or tonight or whenever your eyes read this, you too are reminded to fix your eyes and your heart and your affections on the only one who can fill you with all HOPE and PEACE.

Engaging Summer

Note to the Reader

This post is not sponsored and all opinions and purchases are my own


As a mama of three I have to prepare myself for the long summer days. I like to look at the summer months as a time for me to intentionally engage my kids. Idle time creates chaos in our home. My kiddos thrive on a schedule and routine. So, I want to share with you what our summer months look like in hopes it will help some of you!


DEVOTIONS

My kids LOVE our devotions in the morning. It centers them and me. After breakfast and morning chores I gather the kids and we read from the book Hinds Feet on High Places. We read, discuss what we read and they write in their journals as well as draw a picture. They love this time together in the morning!

ENGAGING THE MIND

My kids NEED to have their minds engaged. Learning is fun and we make it even more fun in the summer months. They get to work towards “treats” which can be anything from outings to picking out a toy at the dollar tree. We spend at least an hour a day doing “summer school” which consists mostly of math, reading and reviewing things like site words and math facts. Below are the resources we are using and loving!

Math: Summer Bridge Activities Books(Rising 1st Grader & Rising 2nd Grader)/ Math Facts Cards

Read Aloud: The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane/ The Kings Equal/ Charlottes Web/ Lon Po Po/ The Egyptian Cinderella/ A Chair for My Mother/ The Gardener/ Mrs. Katz and Tush

Individual Readers for the Kids: Magic Tree House Series/ Nate the Great and the Phony Clue/ I Can Read Readers/ Heroes for Young Readers Series/ Julian Rothman Collection


Toddler Activities

There are days it is hard to focus on “summer school” while having a disruptive toddler. I try to engage our youngest in the midst of helping the older two kiddos. Here are some things I have found my little one loves to do while the big kids do school work!

Building Blocks

Water Color Painting

Play Doug

Write and Learn Creative Center

Word Puzzle

Water Wow Books

STEM TOY ACTIVITIES

We love stem toys! They are great tools to help engage your children’s minds while still playing! We like to set up three stations. Each child starts at one station and the timer is set. They have to try and create something within the allotted time (usually between 15-20 minutes) before rotating! It is a fun game the kids love! Below are some of our favorite STEM toys!

Magnetic Tiles

Grippies

Lite-Brite

Kinesthetic Sand

Wooden Blocks


I hope you find this post helpful! If you have other summer ideas please comment below! I always am eager to hear how others structure their summer days!





Elimination Diet

Note to the Reader

I am not a doctor. I am simply sharing what I have done as someone living with chronic fatigue and gut issues with the help and oversight of my doctor. I have found this processes to be helpful. While this can be done independently and has been successful for me, I encourage you to consult with your doctor if this is right for you. 

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Over the last month I have been on the elimination diet. The Elimination diet is beneficial for those who are trying to discover what their body is naturally rejecting/causing issues so it can be avoided in the future. I like to think of it as a simple allergy test. The nice thing it does not cost you anything. The elimination diet can be totally self -led. 

 

My hope is that this post gives you the tools to help you discover what you should and should not be putting in your body. I am going to break down the process so you have a full understanding of what to do and how to start. 

The Process

The elimination diet is a 21-day detox plan to rid your body of all inflammatory foods. You limit what you eat so you can then reintroduce foods to see how your body reacts. You eat only what is listed on the “plan” which I have attached later on in the post. Taking away foods that often cause issues allows your body to detox and gives you an idea of what you need to stay away from in the future. After 21 days you choose one food group and you reintroduce it in a whole form. For example, you reintroduce bell peppers into your diet. You eat them three times a day for three days and keep a journal of how your body responds. If there are any reactions at all you should avoid bell peppers and all other foods with peppers in them (paprika, chili powder etc.). If no reaction occurs the food is potentially safe for you to put back into your diet. 

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Reintroduction 

Once you start reintroducing foods keep a journal with the date and food you introduce. Record any symptoms! Here is what you should be looking for as you reintroduce foods back into your diet. 

Digestion/Bowel Changes

Joint/Muscle Pains

Headaches

Nasal/Chest congestion

Kidney/Bladder Changes

Skin Issues

Energy Level

Sleep 

 

Step 1 DECIDE

Decide you are going to do it and do it well. I took a whole weekend to prepare my mind and home for this process. I took away things I knew would be a temptation (my coffee station). I cleared it and put herbal teas there. I prepared food for the week and I had the attitude that I COULD do this. I prepared myself that it would be hard but once the detoxing stage was over I was confident I would feel better. 

 

Step 2 Prepare FOODS

 I believe food prepping will truly make or break this process for you. If you “fail to plan then plan to fail.” Being a mom of three my time is already limited. I knew I needed things I could grab and eat when I was in a rush. Familiarize yourself with what you can and cannot eat on this 21 day elimination series. 

 

Step 3 Don’t Overcommit During Detox

The detox stage is serious. I had a dull headache for two weeks, struggled with extreme exhaustion and had 5-6 mouth ulcers that were extremely painful. At times I had to take breaks in my day to just sit on the couch and not do anything. The detox processes can be hard. I encourage you to not overcommit during this time because your body is going through a lot. 

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Acceptable foods for your 21 day DETOX

Vegetables

Artichoke

Arugula

Asparagus

Bamboo Shoots

Bok Choy

Broccoli

Brussels Sprouts

Cabbage

Carrots

Cauliflower

Celeriac Root

Celery

Chard/Swiss Chard

Chervil

Chives

Cilantro

Cucumber

Daikon Radishes

Fennel

Garlic

Greens Beans

Beets

Collard greens

Kale

Turnip

Horseradish

Jicama

Leeks

Lettuce, all

Micro greens

Mushrooms

Okra 

Onions

Parsley 

Radishes

Sea vegetables

Scallions

Shallots

Snap Peas/Snow Peas

Spinach

Sprouts

Squash

Turnips

Vegetables, fermented 

Water chestnuts

Watercress

Plantains

Sweet potatoes 

Yam

Proteins

Fish: Halibut, Herring, Mackerel, Salmon, Sardines, Tuna

Meat: All Wild Game, Buffalo, Elk, Lamb, Venison, Chicken, Turkey 

Dairy Alternative

Unsweetened Coconut Yogurt, kefir, coconut milk  

Fruits (unsweetened, no sugar added)

Apples

Applesauce

Apricots

Banana

Blackberries

Blueberries

Dried Fruit (no sulfates) 

Figs

Grapes

Grapefruit

Kiwi

Kumquats

Lemon

Lime

Melon

Mango

Nectarine

Orange

Papaya

Peach

Pear

Persimmon

Pineapple

Plums

Pomegranate Seeds

Prunes

Raisins

Raspberries

Tangerines  

Oils/Fats

Avocado

Coconut Milk (Canned)

Olives, black or green

Avocado oil

Grapeseed oil

Olive oil 

Beverages

Filtered water

Sparkling/Mineral water (unflavored) 

Green Tea

Fresh juiced vegetables and fruits 

Eliminate All:

Beef

Pork

Legumes

Nuts

Seeds

Dairy

Grains

Gluten free Grains

Sugar 

 

I hope you find this helpful. It is fairly simple. Throughout this process I have learned to enjoy the taste of fresh fruits and vegetables in a new way! Enjoy! If you so choose to do this, well done! You are on the road to better understanding your body and listening to what it is telling you! 

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Go Grab A Cup Of Mint Tea & Enjoy!

Combined Girls Room Reveal

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We recently combined our girls to one room. Everyone had their own room but we felt it was time to try combining the girls for several reasons. One of the biggest challenges with combining rooms is double the stuff; double the clothes, double the animals, double everything. I knew the only way to make it work was to get bunkbeds! I found a steal deal at Walmart on THESE bunkbeds and we have loved them. When we were looking they were half off! They are sturdy and pretty; both things I love!

I tried to spend the least amount of money possible doing this room. The best way of doing this was using what I already had! I took a few things from both of their rooms and changed up the layout. I had gold accents scattered throughout the room as well as soft pinks and yellow! I love keeping things neutral for this reason. It is really easy to switch things up when the majority of your main items are neutral!

If you have been following along on instagram I shared how I shopped my own home to give this corner an update. I took these old cheap Walmart frames scattered around my home and spray painted them gold ( I love using the Rust-oleum brand). I put the prints in the frames from the book collection by Julia Rothman my daughter got for Christmas. It was such an easy and inexpensive update.

There were also a few practical things we upgraded for the girls, like a sound machine and dimmable wall lights. THESE wall lights have been wonderful. They produce a lot of light and I love that I can turn them off or lower the light after the girls fall asleep! I also love THIS sound machine. We have tried lots of sound machines and this is the best by far! It is loud and does not have any clicking noise throughout the night!

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I bought matching throw blankets and the little round pillow for the floor. I got all of those things on clearance or at Dirt Cheap (one of my favorite places to find good deals on Target items). It was an easy room to redecorate and combine.

The girls love playing in their room. It feels light and clean and I love getting on the floor with them and playing doll house or baby dolls with them. The room is inviting and simple… two of my favorite things!

One last item I want to share with you is this sweet doll you see in the pictures. This doll is from Land Of Mae. My friend Stacy hand-makes each doll. There is so much detail and love poured into each doll. The doll you see here was a custom made doll. It has my daughters name on the ballet slipper, her skirt is removable, we chose everything from skin color, to hair style, to dress pattern. If you are wanting a special heirloom piece for your little one go check out Land Of Mae!

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Source List

Shop Small Series

This post was written in collaboration with the following small shops. Thank you for supporting small businesses that I love.

 

The Holiday Season is here. As promised, here is a “shop small gift guide” for those of you wanting to support small businesses. Below are a few gifts and shops I personally love.

 

Leslie Ann Designs

Leslie makes beautiful jewelry. Everything from earrings to necklaces, custom pieces and more. I have a pair of her feathered earrings and these brass hoops and absolutely LOVE all of them. They are great quality and would make great gifts for someone special! You can checkout Leslie’s items HERE on her instagram account.

 

Mint & Maple

The Art Journal Kit has been a favorite this past year. It is the perfect gift for the person who loves to be creative, doodle, journal etc. Natalie, the founder of Mint & Maple, is passionate about equipping others for the creative life. Mint & Maple offer modern calligraphy classes for those of you in Texas! Go checkout Mint & Maple HERE!

 

Susan Gordon Pottery

Susan Gordon Pottery is elegant and unique. Susan personally creates all her pottery pieces and has everything from home decor items, to jewelry. She is very talented and has so many wonderful gifts for those women in your life! You can checkout all the beautiful pieces HERE.

 

Lydia Duncan

Lydia Duncan is an artist local to Birmingham. She creates beautiful acrylic painting using canvas. I love this 6x6 nativity scene shown above. She also does card stock and ornaments. I love seeing what others create. Go look at some of Lydia’s other work HERE on Instagram.

 

Ellie In Her Element

Ellie is another fabulous jewelry maker. She creates trendy earrings as well as bracelets. She just recently came out with little earring studs that are so cute. Go check out all her jewelry HERE on her website.

 

Thank you all for supporting small businesses this Holiday Season. I hope you find these shops helpful while you are shopping for your loved ones!

How to Style Your Session

We are a family of five and I know how challenging it can be to coordinate and style for a photography session. I tell clients that they need to coordinate without matching, which I realize can be very difficult. My hope is that the following guide will help you when you are choosing outfits for your session! 

Step 1 - Color

Decide which colors you want to be present and then fill in where needed. For example, our last family session I really wanted soft pinks to be our “pop” of color. So I had a full pink dress and my oldest daughter also had a fully pink dress but her skirt portion was tulle, which is beautiful on camera. My youngest daughter had a pink and cream tulle dress that matched with the soft pink but was much more subtle. I opted for the boys to both wear blue. My husband wore a light blue button down with brown pants and my son wore a light blue and white-checkered button down with brown shorts. So while all the girls had pink and the boys had blue we were not all matching.  So my dominate color was pink and I filled in with light blue and cream. 

Step 2 - Texture 

Add texture to your outfit. I love photographing tulle skirts and dresses. They are gorgeous on camera. I also love ruffles or dresses/skirts that the wind picks up and we can gain movement. Lace on dresses or the ends of shirts are beautiful. Moccasins with tassels are cute, especially for fall sessions.  Boys with suspenders or a linen Gatsby newsboy hat look great.  

Step 3 - Lay It Out

Lay it out and see what it looks like together. Take a picture of it laid out and see how it looks next to each other. This gives you a different perspective and allows you to step back and envision it all together!  

I function under the rule that if I am paying for family pictures to be taken I want to put a little effort into my outfits. We are averaging family pictures once every two years (yes, that is me, the photographer, saying that) and so I want these pictures to look good!!! Give yourself plenty of time to look and find what you want! 

Below I am showing you a few samples from Amazon of outfits I would love to see clients wear. I have looked at the material and the colors and these are all outfits that would be good options for those of you wanting more direction! 

Amazon Picks For Her

Amazon Picks for Him

Baby/Toddler/Girls

Baby/Toddler/Boy

 

I hope you find this helpful as you prepare for your upcoming session! 

Toddler Room Refresh

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One thing I had to mourn the loss of was not “preparing” a room for my babies before they came home to me. Because God wrote our story through adoption I did not have the privilege of preparing a nursery for my kiddos.  I am one of those moms who really love creating beauty in my kid’s rooms. So if you are in the same boat I thought I’d share some easy and affordable ways to spruce up a simple room. 

Today, I want to share a room refresh I did for our youngest. She is now very much a toddler. We have added a few things to her room I wanted to share. Whether you are preparing a nursery for a baby girl or want to spruce things up in one of your toddlers room you will enjoy all of these items! 

Around the Room

We read lots of books at our house. These bookshelves from IKEA have been wonderful and have been moved several times. I love how books naturally bring color to a room. Her baby picture has been in her room awhile. I spray painted the old frame gold and it looks new! 

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I love having Scripture on the walls. I LOVE this Scripture from SHILOH COLLECTION! The colors went perfectly in my daughter’s room. I added some dried eucalyptus to a pretty pink vase and it added a little extra character to this beautiful verse that I framed! 

You can’t go wrong with white and gold.  I bought this dresser from a second hand store. The gold light, mirror and baskets are from Target. I love placing mirrors in small rooms because it helps bounce light. I love neutral furniture and accents because they don’t go out of style very quickly and last a long time. 

Wire baskets are some of my favorite for corralling all the stuffed animals. I try to not have too many toys in bedrooms but we do keep all the stuffed animals in there! These wire baskets are sturdy and perfect for the little zoo we have. 

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I absolutely love this kid table. We moved this from the playroom into my daughters room and I love seeing my little girl sit and read her books at this table.  We often have tea parties here too. Adding some faux greenery that you don’t have to upkeep is my favorite way to add a little life to a room. And of course, I will always encourage spray paint! =) Spray-painting the pot whatever color goes best in the room is a very affordable and easy way to change things up!   

I love the simplicity of her room. I love that it has a clean and bright look without being cluttered! It will be a great transition room as she gets older because nothing is too “baby-ish”. 

Hopefully this inspires you to create a clean and simple space of your own!   

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A special THANKS to Shiloh Collection for their collaboration on this room refresh!

 

Sources

Bookshelves- IKEA

Faux Greenery- IKEA (Similar to the one shown)

Scripture Art- Shiloh Collection

Kid Table- Target

Lamp- Target

Mirror- Target

Dresser- Second Hand

 

Girls Room Makeover

Well, this blog post is over due. Summer hit me like a ton of bricks and I have been playing catch up every day all day. But school has started and we are jumping back into a good routine and I am excited about the new school year for my children and for me. Lets jump right into this budget friendly makeover for my daughter’s room! 

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Her room was pink and none of the furniture matched. When we moved in I knew I wanted to spruce things up without spending a ton of money. 

Our DIY Projects

The largest change was painting her room. I am always surprised how paint can really make a huge difference in a room. The color I chose was Repose Gray by Sherwin Williams. It is a lighter gray and I think it goes well with the other gray in the rest of our house. 

I also painted her post bed. The bed was given to us and it was an old faux wood bed that was an easy project to paint. I used my favorite spray paint RUST-OLEUM paint and primer in one. The color I used was French Cream and it turned out great. It took me three days to spray paint it and let it fully dry, but it was a very easy project. All I did was wipe it down and then spray paint it. 

The other DIY project we did for her room was the little bird/leaf chandelier we created and hung from the celling. The birds were originally from Uganda,  where my husband and I lived previously. They were painted bright colors and I knew I wanted to use them but needed it to be more neutral. So I spray painted them white.  Can you tell I love spray paint? We then gathered dried eucalyptus and bought a hoop that we used as the ring. We hot glued the greenery to the outside of the hoop and then covered it with some material I bought. We hung the birds in the middle and it turned out great! 

Tips When Shopping on a Budget

Some of you may look at her room and think… gosh that must have been expensive. But to be really honest with you it was very budget friendly. We paid $50 for the wall paint, $50 for the spray paint and the other items I bought were found on sale at a very discounted price! Here is what I do when I am looking at a room… the VERY first thing I do is create my plan. I decide what I want the feel to be or the theme I want to weave within the room.  Then I go through our home to discover what I already own! 

Yep! That is the biggest tip/trick I can give you… use what you own. 

For instance we owned the bed, the hanging birds, the light switch cover, the lamp, the bookshelf and the coat rack shelf! By spray-painting the bed, birds, lamp, light switch cover I saved a ton of money! It looks like new and it goes with the feel of her room and all I had to purchase was spray paint! Pretty great, right? 

When shopping for furniture I always try to get second hand furniture! I got this cute midcentury modern dresser from a lady who was cleaning out her house. I snagged it because I knew I wanted to use it somewhere and it was perfect in my daughter’s bedroom! 

Another great way to find bargains is walking the clearance isle. You bet I do! Those cute little bird book holders were in the AT HOME clearance isle and I got them for an extra percentage off because one of them is missing white paint on the other side. I knew I could just turn it around and no one would ever know… so I grabbed them and got them for next to nothing. 

One of my new favorite stores is DIRT CHEAP! I discovered it a few months ago and let me tell ya, it is awesome. If you don’t like digging through products then you will not enjoy DIRT CHEAP, but I am a bargain shopper and so I love it! I purchased my daughter’s bedspread from DIRT CHEAP. Have you seen it before? It is the OPALE HOUSE line from Target and runs at $70 for a twin. But guess what? I got it for $20 at DIRT CHEAP! The store buys overstock or somewhat damaged goods and sells them at a cheaper price. I was so excited to find this for her room! Dirt Cheap is a  great place to shop if you are on a budget! 

Last, but not least, my next tip is, think out of the box! I knew I wanted some form of artwork but I was not willing to pay for anything too fancy. So I went over to Paper Source, bought a piece of wrapping paper that looked like a wall hanging of cacti and framed it! Boom… $5 for a pretty piece of artwork! 

I hope this inspires some of you! We all have budgets to live within, so whether yours is large or small I hope you are encouraged to make your space feel welcoming within your budget.