Savoring December


It’s getting close now. Christmas is coming – quickly. Every so often I’ll spot a countdown – “6 shopping days until Christmas!” – and I think I should probably feel rushed by it, but I find myself wondering why I don’t.

Maybe this year it’s the impending arrival of a newborn, but I’m in a savor kind of heart-space lately.

I think ahead to next year and things will be so wonderfully different. We will have a 10 month old baby boy, and an almost F O U R year old daughter. I don’t want to rush any seasons. Ever. 

We didn’t even get our Christmas tree until last weekend, simply due to the way our schedules lined up, and letsbehonest…some procrastination, too. We drove out to a local tree farm, and wandered around assessing the trees that were left to choose from. (When December is already 1/3 over, you don’t get much say in how pretty your tree is. You just pick one that’s the right size and doesn’t lean too far to the right or left. Also, when you only bring a small amount of cash with you, you find that your choices are even narrower.)


Just like last year, Aven brought along her beloved Minnie ornament to “try on” the tree. Once Minnie approved, Brandon fired up the chainsaw and down it came. The sweet old man who owned the farm offered up s’mores, and we happily obliged. We sat around his big fire pit, eating s’mores for lunch and chatting.

It was perfect. In a very unperfect, ordinary way. 


A couple of nights later, we strung white lights on our little “Charlie Brown” tree, as Brandon calls it. After a friendly debate regarding whether to start from the top versus the bottom of the tree (bottom – duh!), it was shimmering sweetly in the corner of our living room. Then, just before bedtime, my two-year-old asked me to dance with her in the light of the tree. Dressed in our pj’s, we swayed, twirled, and giggled as the Christmas music played. It’s a little early to say for sure, but so far that moment is the front runner in my favorite memories this season. 


We bank on the big holiday moments – Santa’s lap, the perfect gift, Christmas morning – that’s what we’re focused on. We chase those moments with anticipation, and we rush around, checking every box on our Tradition To Do List. But the truth is, the spark of the Christmas spirit starts small and is much, much quieter. Just like His birth all those years ago. Simple. Modest. Almost unnoticed. And yet? Special. So immensely special and undeniably significant. 

If our hustle and bustle gets too loud, chaotic, or restless, we may just miss the simple sweetness of this season altogether. So pay attention to the small moments. Intentionally look for them. (And when you find them, don’t feel like you have to document them with a photo or an Instagram story — #preachingtomyself — because some of my most unforgettable moments are stored up only in my heart, just like the dance with my little girl that I mentioned earlier.)


I realize there is a certain busy associated with the holidays that we can’t exactly avoid, but we can choose to not let it overtake us and distract us. Always be on the lookout for the pause button and don’t be afraid to press it. I know there’s not much left of December, but there’s always, always room to savor the significant.

*Write this at the top of your to do list today: Savor > Hustle. And if that’s the only box that’s been checked at the end of the day, just consider yourself ahead of the game.


My Approach to Photographing My Daughter (amateur tips + two from a pro)


Honestly, I’m hesitant to even attempt this post because there are ONE MILLION people out there who take amazing, inspiring pictures of their children. Literally, about a zillion people are doing this better than me. (And I’ve included links to some of my very favorite ones throughout this post). But because I’ve been asked about my Instagram photos many times, I thought I would simply share what works for me when I photograph my daughter. This is not a technical how-to, but more of an outline to my general approach from an I’m-just-a-mom-who-loves-photographing-my-kid perspective. A “momtog” if you will. (ha!) 

I do have a pretty sweet bonus for you, though! I happen to work as an assistant for a truly gifted photographer who was kind enough to offer a couple of pointers from a professional standpoint, so be sure to check those out at the end of the post as well. (Thanks, Denise!)

*Edit: Several people have asked what type of camera I use. 99.9% of the time I use my iPhone6. I do break out the DSLR from time to time, but rarely. And all of the images in this post are from my iPhone. 

Here are some of the things I try to keep in mind when I’m snapping a photo of Aven: 

This took me a while to learn, and is still something I have to remind myself of. Close up shots can be so great and certainly have their impact, but when you back up a few feet (or twenty, haha) and zoom out, you capture more in the frame and can set the entire scene. It adds more visual interest because you’re really telling a whole story rather than just one page.

Here are a couple of shots where you can see more in the frame than just Aven. I think the extra elements in each photo really add to the magic.

Someone who does this well: @etst


If you scroll through my Instagram feed, you’ll notice most of my pictures of my daughter are mid-play. I much prefer to capture Aven in her element as she just goes about life as a two year old, rather than asking her to stop and smile for the camera. Especially because right now, Aven is in the super-unnatural, super-cheesy smiling phase. She cocks her head all the way to the side, squints her eyes shut, and smiles as big as she possibly can. I mean, it’s adorable of course, but I don’t want all my pictures of her to be sporting a fake smile.

Instead, I hang back and just let her do her thing. I go for less (fake) smiling, more silly. Less posing, more playing. Most of the time, I don’t even mention I’m taking a picture, but just try to catch her more naturally. I’ve noticed that this spontaneity not only makes the image more intriguing, but more importantly, it allows her true personality to shine. I love having documented these little peeks into her demeanor, expressions, and the funny quirks I might forget later!

Someone who does this well: @thegraygang  / @nihaoyall / @imayasr


I always take more than one shot of whatever I’m trying to capture. This is especially important with kids because they are unpredictable and on the move! Chances are, out of 5-10 images, only one or two will turn out how I had hoped. Sometimes I just snap away, other times I hold my finger down to capture a “burst series” (like if she’s swinging or twirling), and if I have time to play around a bit, I’ll reposition myself between shots for variety if I’m not sure which angle will look best.

Here’s a screenshot of my camera roll after a visit to the pumpkin patch, just to give you an idea. Once I’ve taken these, I go back and delete any that definitely won’t work and then hang on to a few favorites.



So while “more is better” when trying to get a good shot, I try to stick with the “less is more” philosophy when it comes to actually posting those photos. 
I usually pick my one favorite of the day (or of the group of photos I’ve just taken) and only post that single image. If I do post more than one, I’ll make sure there’s some variation in the ones I choose.


For every shot you take, there is a generic, straightforward, “basic” approach. And in most scenarios, there is also a more engaging (“outside the box”) choice you could make. For example, yes, you could take your kid’s photo on the beach: them smiling at you while standing beside their sandcastle masterpiece. OR you could have them jump as high as they can in front of it while you snap away. OR you could have them stand behind their creation and peek over the top. OR you could get an action shot of them pouring the last bit of sand as the finishing touch.

The goal here is to play around and see what works best; there isn’t a right or wrong way, so just see what you can come up with!



To help illustrate this, here are some unedited shots I took while Aven played in the garage yesterday. You can see right away that certain images draw you in more than others just based on the angle/approach alone. (My favorite is probably the bottom right.)

Someone who does this well: @mimiandfar


Some of my most favorite shots are blurry or out of focus from capturing Aven when she’s swinging, dancing, twirling – ya know, just generally being a little girl. And some of my most treasured pictures are the simplest. So don’t allow yourself to get too caught up in the “perfect shot” – instead, focus on documenting your child in a way that really lets them shine, and I promise you’ll be happy with the outcome.

Someone who does this well: @thegraygang / @masseya


Editing and other tips for Instagram:

  • Shoot in square mode on your camera so you can be sure to get all of the scene in the shot. It’s helpful to save a step and not have to worry about cropping, although now IG does allow you to post a full sized photo, which is a nice feature that I like to use sometimes.
  • Consider your overall feed. (Think about it, don’t stress about it.)  Whenever possible, I try to maintain some diversity among the images I post. Some black and white among the color pictures, various angles, close ups and then zoomed out. I also generally edit my photos the same way (rather than picking a different filter each time) so it’s more uniform. 
  • I always, always brighten my photos, even if I do nothing else to them. The editing tools in Instagram are really good, so I usually just stick with those. 
  • Use the Adjust tool to create better balanced photos for the ones that are a little off but otherwise great shots. Symmetry goes a long way in creating a more polished final image. 


For more photo inspiration, here are some of my favorite IG “momtogs” to follow: @thegraygang, @masseya, @etst, @samscrazylife, @jlgarvin, @nihaoyall, @courtbrown, @mimiandfar, @notatallsarcastic, @mrscourtneycooper@imayasr


As I mentioned earlier, my boss and friend Denise is a professional family photographer and sent me her top two tips for parents. (You can check out Denise’s beautiful work here and here. Seriously, if you are local and need a photographer, she’s your girl.)

1. “Get down on [your child’s] level. See the world as they see the world. We get so used to looking in the downward direction toward our kids, but there’s something magical about getting down on the ground and seeing them and their world from their perspective.” 

2. “Also, I might add that another tip (that isn’t really a ‘tip’) is to be mindful to put away the camera from time to time and just be in the moment with them.  Not every magical moment has to be recorded, and that’s okay.  Just being ‘in’ the moment and making memories is really important.”
I love both of those suggestions so much!
I know this was a wordy post, but I had fun putting it together, and I hope it helps you even just a little bit the next time you pull out your phone to snap a picture. If you have any questions for me or extra pointers for parents, please leave a comment! 





Toddlerlife: 2.5 year old Aven

Sometimes when I see an old picture of Aven or during a conversation with a mom friend, I’ll try to think back on what life looked like with Aven at a certain stage, and I surprise myself with how much of the little details I’ve already forgotten! So now that she is 2 1/2 years old, I wanted to document a little snapshot of what life is like with her.


First, we’ve hit a major milestone, people!
My kid is POTTY TRAINED. Feel free to cheer! (I am!) I thought it was never going to happen, because she’s been using the potty randomly since about 18 months, but it was so inconsistent. We had just gone to her 2 1/2 year check-up and her doctor reassured me that she was close and it would happen when she was ready. The thing was, I knew she was ready. So about a week after that appointment, I just told her she was going to wear big girl panties all day. She didn’t put up a fight and turns out, that was the ticket! She has had accidents, of course, but I was shocked with how quickly she transitioned. (We also give her M&Ms for going, so I’m SURE that helps quite a bit). I guess I should have pulled out the big girl panties months ago! Anyway, we are pretty thrilled to get a short break from diapers before baby #2 comes. (She still wears Pull-Ups at night for now.) 
*These potty books are her absolute favorite and I really think they helped with getting her excited about going potty: Big Girl Panties & My Big Girl Potty

Other milestones & big moments: 
-Her first time to a movie theatre (to see Finding Dory)
-Getting ready to transition to a big girl bed in the next week
-Learning how to dress herself
-Memorized her first two Bible verses: Nothing can separate us from God’s love – Romans 8:39 and Trust the Lord with all your heart – Proverbs 3:5


Typical day:

7-7:30 Wake up. Breakfast of choice is milk, muffins, fruit, and dry cereal. She always asks to watch Daniel Tiger within 46 seconds of waking up.

9-11:00 We run errands if needed. Gotta capitalize on that good mood in the morning.

12:00/12:30 Lunch time. (Pretzel chips with peanut butter or a half of a sandwich, yogurt, cheese stick, fruit, etc)

2ish-4ish “Rest time.” This is something I had to start once she quit taking a regular nap in my bed. She wasn’t sleeping and I was getting frustrated spending so much time trying to get her to settle down. Now she goes to her bed and understands that she has to be still and quiet until I come get her. Most days she falls asleep at some point, and other days she just lays there and talks with her stuffed animals. Either way, it gives her (and me) time to chill out a bit and then she’s more pleasant for the remainder of the day.

4ish (or whenever she wakes up): Play time while I start cleaning up, prepping dinner, etc.

6ish Dinner time. She eats some of what we’ve fixed, depending on what it is, and some of her own food.

7:30 or 8 is bath time. We still do a bath most nights. If we aren’t home at this time or if we’ve had an extra busy day then we skip it.

In the bed by 8 or 8:30 (most nights)


she’s still pretty picky, but she does branch out now more than ever. She has a major aversion to meat unless it’s a Chick-fil-a nugget (because DUH). She loves baked beans, mac n cheese, corn, strawberries, bread, ketchup, and sour cream.  Oh, and lemonade. 🙂  Such a well-rounded diet. (Only not).

right now she is loving fake food (her “begetables”), her play bowls and plates, coloring books and crayons, her little guitar (“pintar”), as well as constantly lining up small toys/puzzle pieces/alphabet magnets into a big pattern on the floor.

Mickey Mouse has taken a bit of a backseat to Daniel Tiger. And I have to admit, I don’t hate it. Daniel Tiger is such a cute show, with tons of moral lessons and since they put everything to a song, she often breaks out a verse in the middle of our day. Plus, she gives me “ugga mugga” nose kisses like Daniel and it’s the sweetest EV.ER.

Like I mentioned, she has rest time every day, and most of the time she’ll take at least an hour long nap during that. At night, we usually do a bath plus the normal bedtime routine stuff, and then we either sing songs, read a Bible story, or have a dance party before she gets tucked in for the night. If she’s especially tired or cranky we short-cut and stick with the necessities. Generally she ends up sleeping from about 8/8:30p-7:30a.

Stuffed animals:
always a rotation of favorites going on, but she is not usually without her tiny Bunny and Lamby, Mama Fox, Baby Fox, and even Ella the Elephant has been making a comeback. (as you can see, we are SUPER creative with our stuffed animal names) 🙂

She wears sizes 3T and 4T right now. She is obsessed with dresses, and calls them “Princesses”. She loves picking out a princess dress, a hair bow, and panties for the day. All girl. ❤

the color pink, her rain boots, playing hide & seek (but she’s always the seeker), her pink kitten purse, being a helper, the library, smoothies, trains, riding in her daddy’s truck, church, nail polish, Finding Nemo/Dory, and green M&Ms.

Despite the typical toddler stuff, she has a really sweet spirit. She is highly observant and detail-oriented. Particular; routine-oriented. Still very social, although occasionally her shy side comes out. Affectionate. Sassy. Generally happy.

My favorite things about this stage of toddlerhood:

She’s so verbal & can communicate really well which makes parenting easier in general. I love seeing how different she is from me & how she really is her own person. She loves to pray before meals, before bed, and even when she knows someone is sick. She also prays for the baby and talks about the baby in my belly multiple times a day. Watching her big imagination. Listening to her sing songs. The way she says her full name. When she asks me “can I snuggle on the couch with you mommy?” (The answer is always yes, a million times YES). When she’s cranky, we can say “no smiling!” and she breaks out a huge, cheesy grin. And she makes me laugh CONSTANTLY.


What’s been your favorite age so far? Why? I would love to hear about it! 


*All professional photos are credit: D Crowe Photography. Affiliate links used in this post.





I was in the shower when my phone rang. I yelled for Aven to bring it to me because I had a feeling it was my OB office calling.

Sure enough, they had the results of my blood work back. This particular genetic testing would also include the sex of the baby. 

The nurse explained that all of the genetic testing came back normal and fine, and would I like to know what we were having?

“Ummm, YES!” (Who says no to this question? Crazy people, that’s who.)
(Only kidding if you are one of those “find out at delivery kind of people”. Well, kind of kidding. Partly kidding and partly serious.)

She responded with, “it’s aaaaaaaa………….BOY!”

I honestly couldn’t believe what I was hearing.  “A boy??” I had to say it out loud to help it sink in. (This is even after seeing convincing evidence on an ultrasound…something about the conclusiveness of blood work just sealed it for me).

I didn’t even realize how much I was expecting to hear “it’s a girl” until the exact opposite was said.


It’s not that I wanted another girl, or didn’t want a boy. Not at all. I just assumed it would be another girl. I think it’s a natural response to being completely submerged in my current role of raising a daughter. So, at two and a half years into this parenting gig, I have fully embraced the title of #girlmom and make zero apologies for it. I use the pink bow emoji far more frequently than I would have imagined. We do girly things together like shop and plan outfits (we even match sometimes…I know..) and basically it’s full on Girl World around here.


And something about living with all things pink (no, really, ALL THINGS PINK, despite my efforts to steer away from that), baby dolls, requests to share my makeup, and “princess” dresses had convinced my mind that Girl World would be our permanent place of residence. And I was okay with that. It’s comfortable, it’s familiar…and it would be really nice to reuse all of Aven’s old clothes. (Ya know, just saying.)  

But to have the opportunity to venture into Boy World and take on a completely new adventure? We couldn’t feel more excited or blessed. As I finished getting ready that morning after the call from the doctor’s office, I could not stop smiling. Even through my surprise there was so much joy bubbling up, and it just keeps rising. 

And with this news, I immediately felt more connected to this babe inside of me. It’s like the reality of a new baby can finally take root when I’m able to picture life with him here: what name he’ll answer to, what his nursery will look like, and what kind of toys we will be strewn all over our house. I’m pretty pumped to be a #boymom.


Sweet Baby Boy, we are thrilled. Thrilled to imagine life with you, thrilled to meet you one day soon, thrilled for the impending adventure of navigating Boy World. Prepare yourself: you have a very excited daddy who wants a fishing buddy, and an eager big sister waiting for you. She always thanks Jesus for you when she prays, and asks me constantly if she can be my helper when you get here. We all love you already.






Current Book Stack

(This post contains affiliate links).

You guys. My stack of current reads is getting a little out of control. I already had several on deck and in my “rotation” when I ordered four more from Barnes & Noble the other day. Oops.

And then while I was writing this post I remembered two more and just Amazon Primed them.

I have a problem.


Anyway, these are the ones I’m currently working through:

Present Over Perfect – Shauna Niequist
I’m just getting started on this one but so far – it’s great. It’s all about her personal quest to pare down her life to what’s really important, and stop falling back on the self-imposed excuse of “I’m so busy.” I’m different in that don’t aspire to busyness (like, AT ALL), but I do have the disease to please, and those are all things she tackles in this book.

Nobody’s Cuter than You – Melanie Shankle
Melanie Shankle is one of my very favorite authors. (If you’re a mom or soon-to-be, you need to read Sparkly Green Earrings. I read it while I was pregnant with Ave and it made me so pumped about motherhood.) But this book of hers is all about friendship and I kid you not, it makes memories from my childhood come flooding in, one after another. I’ve been blessed with truly beautiful friendships (both new and some that have spanned decades) so this is a really sweet reminder for me to cherish those relationships.

Falling Free – Shannan Martin
I’m on the launch team for this book, and I am not exaggerating when I tell you I’ve devoured my copy (an e-book, so not pictured). I won’t lie to you – this is a hard read. It’s confronting and convicting, but in the best ways possible. It’s all about how God turned Shannan’s family upside down and gave her a new perspective on doing life wherever God places you, however He directs you. All about surrender. (Which is my “word” for this season while I’m waiting on baby #2).


Recently finished books: 

Even if Not, by Kaitlyn E Bouchillon : thumbs up; easy quick read.

Wild and Free, by Jess Connolly & Hayley Morgan (thumbs up with a head’s up: it’s a good read with so many applicable truths to women today, it just took me a while to work through and digest.)

Looking for Lovely, by Annie Downs: thumbs up; honest and quirky.


And here are the books I just got in the mail/ordered today off Amazon (seriously, I have a disease):

Bittersweet – Shauna Niequist

When Breath Becomes Air – Paul Kalanithi, *probably the one I’m most looking forward to.

Giddy Up, Eunice: (Because Women Need Each Other) – Sophie Hudson

You & Me Forever – Francis Chan

Missional Motherhood – Gloria Furman


So there are my updated lists! Ridiculous, I know.

Oh! One more thing. I’m currently on the lookout for a bible study for a small group. I want to host a study group in my home this fall, but I have to narrow down my choices. Do you have a recommendation? PLEASE tell me if so! And if you know me personally and want to join in on the study (women only), I’d love to have you. 🙂




Writing has had to take a bit of a backseat lately, for various reasons, but today it feels so good to get my hands on this keyboard of mine because I have something sweet and special to share.


I cannot believe I get to do this again.



Carry a baby. Assist in another miracle. And become a mama all over again. 


It feels too special. Too heavy and light all at the same time. Too full and too happy and too much. 

Entering motherhood two and a half years ago thrust me into the wildest adventure of my life. It also plunged me into conversations, experiences, relationships, and issues I never even knew existed before. My eyes have been opened to so much, and among that, especially a greater understanding and gratitude surrounding this space of bringing babies into the world. I know it doesn’t always come easy, or when or how we hope it will. Have I mentioned how thankful I am? 

I notice I’m worrying less this go-around, and praying more. Praying over absolutely everything – mostly my heart, my attitude, my spirit…but also things like who will be clocked in at the hospital when it’s delivery time. 

I find myself craving less control, more surrender. And what I really want is for that essence to diffuse beyond these next six or seven months, beyond the day this baby enters the world, and settle deep into my everyday life as I walk through motherhood. Another prayer to add to the list. 

So here I sit, smiling from the inside out, gratefully surrendered to whatever He has in store. Thank you, thank you, Lord.  




Another Fix

I am still fairly new to Stitch Fix, and I have found that I like my Fixes more each time as I learn how to use the system better, and they learn my style more.

My first Fix is reviewed here. I didn’t bother documenting the second one because I was pretty unimpressed, but I did keep one cute casual dress that I have worn about 85 times already (only a slight exaggeration), so it turned out to be worth it regardless.

For this most recent Fix, I told my stylist I wanted some loose, flowy tops that would be cool for summer in the South, like what I’ve pinned recently to my wardrobe board on Pinterest. I also requested several jeans to choose from because I have a hard time finding jeans that fit me well.

I got the notification that it was on the way and I totally cheated and peeked to see what was coming. Sorry not sorry. (Read my tips below to find out how to do this!)

Here’s what I received:

(P.S. I really thought this mirror was clean until I saw these pictures. Oops.)

(P.P.S. please be kind and forgiving as I am not a fashion blogger. And for good reason.)




1. Daniel Rainn Richard Crochet Shoulder Top. I was immediately in love with this because I had pinned several similar styles to my Pinterest board. The blue + white combo looks summery to me, and it was a thin material so I knew it would work for hot days. When I tried it on, it was more sheer than I expected, so I’ll have to wear it with a top underneath. That’s not ideal (again, I live in the South and it’s JULY), but I love the crochet detail so much I decided to keep it. It’s more than I normally spend on a top, but I don’t have many “dressy” tops & I knew I would be applying my credit to the bill.


2. Le Lis Feran Cut Out Detail Knit Top. I was not a fan when I peeked and saw that this was coming. It’s better in person, but not by much. It’s more of an A-line tunic style in a lightweight knit fabric. The shape and that shade of yellow do me no favors. (Returned this one). **Rule #1 of SF: You have to try everything on, even if you’re 99% sure you’ll hate it.


3. Lila Ryan Liza Skinny Jean. These are pretty darn near perfect jeans for my body type. They feel good on, and fit me in the waist and length. These are a keeper, fo sho.


4. Level 99 Shauna Skinny Jean. Overall, I liked these. If they had been cheaper, I probably would have kept them. But they are more high waisted than the Lila Ryan’s so I felt a little suffocated. And then once I glanced at the price, I knew they were going back from whence they came. (Returned).


5. Just Black Dean Skinny Jean. They were more of a cropped jean with zippers at the ankles. Too loose on me and I just don’t like the style. (Returned).

So I kept two items, and due to the prices, I wouldn’t have kept more even if I wanted to. Generally, one to two items is all I am expecting to keep, so no worries there.

As I’ve mentioned before, the price points are definitely my biggest hang up with Stitch Fix – they are always higher than I would normally spend. (And this is with me marking that I want everything “as cheap as possible”). I do feel like it balances out, though, since I’m super frugal about my other clothing purchases (hey, Target clearance rack) and because these items are picked out for me based on my current needs (so it eliminates the issue of going shopping at a store and buying things you never intended to.)


If you want to try Stitch Fix out, I’d love for you to use my referral code. Once you sign up, make sure to refer your friends so you earn credits too!

If you decide to schedule a Fix, here are a few tips for you:

  • I’ve found it very helpful to pin current likes to my Pinterest board so they can refer to it for my style preferences. (Be sure to update it for current seasonal options!)
  • Make sure you’re as informative as possible in the questionnaire and the Notes to Stylist section, so they can send you a Fix that meets your current needs/wants. (If you have an event/vacation coming up, tell them about it! And be specific.)
  • One key tip that will save you major frustration: Only list the things you DO want in the Notes to Stylist section, rather than what they should avoid. For example, if you say “No long pants or jackets” that may actually read as a request for pants and jackets. So instead write an affirmative statement, like “Please send shorts and short-sleeves only”.
  • Oh! And to peek at your Fix once it’s been shipped, download the StitchFix app to your phone. Click on “Checkout” and you’ll be able to see images of the items – just be very careful not to actually go through the checkout process since you haven’t received it yet!


If you try it out, I’d love to hear about your experience. Email me or comment below!