Thursday, March 28, 2013

I'll be the first to admit... today was rough. There was a 5:00am wake-up call from a hungry baby, and soon after, there was an email from an upset customer (the worst!). There was the accidental dropping and shattering of two favorite dishes. There was the overwhelming truth that oh my goodness I have to make 15 clutches today. You've had this kind of day, I'm sure of it. It's hard. I felt on the verge of a panic attack more than a few times.

Later this afternoon, there was a teary call to my mom, which prompted her to immediately ask, "Ok, what can we do?" My dad hopped in the car and arrived within about 20 minutes, ready to take Liam for the rest of the afternoon so I could get some work done. These doting, committed, sacrificial grandparents of his bless me so much. I know that they're there to catch me - and my smiley five month old - when I fall. They are constantly serving our little family by helping clean our house, catch up on laundry, make us a meal, or entertain our boy.

I have a husband who sent me to a hotel last weekend - alone! - because he knew how desperately I needed a full night of rest.
I have a Grandma who sewed 25+ purses for me in the last couple weeks.
I have friends who volunteer to watch Liam or cut fabric or bring Chipotle.

I am loved. And because of this, I am humbled.

Tonight, I was able to help serve a meal to women who had recently come out of prison and are in rehabilitation before returning to their lives. It was one more thing that hardly fit in my overpacked day, but I'd committed to it, and had a sense that it would be a life-giving experience. So I met my parents and Liam there, along with my friend Ashlyne and a couple others, and we dished up some delicious enchiladas, salad, and key lime pie to about 40 hungry ladies. Liam was a hit (of course!) and just sat there looking cute. As the ladies left the room, they'd say, "Thanks so much for dinner. Bye Liam!"

Whenever I have the privilege of serving - whether at a homeless shelter or my neighbor across the street - gratitude always hits me. Usually it's gratitude for material things. For example, when I serve a homeless man, I'm grateful to have a home.

Today, I was so grateful for how I've been blessed relationally. These women are often very alone. They've been estranged from family members since being incarcerated, and they don't have strong support to fall back on. They don't have a community to come to their rescue. They don't have a loving family cheering them on through their recovery from addiction and abuse.

So I am grateful. Humbled. I'm allowed to be broken, to not have it all together, to be vulnerable. I am confident I won't be rejected by the ones who love me, but will always be helped and encouraged. I am surrounded by an incredible group of servant-hearted people, which make my life so rich. Thank you, sweet friends and family of mine. I love you.

5 months with Liam.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Liam love, 

I think I say it every month... but this month was even more wonderful than the last! (Is this how it goes?) We took our first road trip to Ohio to see your Gigi and your auntie and cousins, and you were a dream. I really hoped you'd be a flexible, go-with-the-flow baby, and you've been exactly that so far. Thank you! You grow more curious every day, exploring the world as you scoot on your belly and grab anything in sight to put it straight in your mouth. You're loving your feet, too, as you can see. :)

You're becoming my little buddy, so content to sit on my lap during dinner (if you're not trying to grab my plate) and drink in the world. We're in no rush to start solid foods yet, but will in another month or so. My favorite time of day with you is still the morning, when we often read Scripture together and pray. I love placing my hands on your warm, fuzzy head and praying for you with the hope that someday you'll understand the lavish love Jesus has for you - and how much greater it is than anything I will ever have. 

I love you, little buddy,


Liam's new quilt.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Several weeks ago, I saw this triangle quilt popping up on Pinterest quite a bit, and I loved the idea of making one for little guy. I've never made a quilt before, but the instructions seemed simple enough and I got started on my very first one. Some people have commented that it only took them a few hours... I'd say it took 6 or 8 for me. I spread it out over a few weeks and would work on it when I needed a break from more difficult sewing.

Here's the progress... 

Laying out the triangles. This part was pretty random... I just wanted the colors to be somewhat equally spaced, but there was no real method. The colors I chose: dark grey, lime green, light avocado, cream, white, and light blue. I think it works best to stick with several neutrals/similar shades, then add pops of color and some contrast. I found all of these cotton solids at Joann's and used sales/coupons, so the whole thing probably cost less than $20 to make.

Piecing it together, row by row. Definitely the most time consuming part.

The top almost finished...

(Liam already looks so much bigger!)
There were only a couple times I veered from the tutorial. First, I added a layer of flannel between the front and back. I didn't want it to be puffy, but I wanted it to have a bit of weight to it. One layer of flannel was perfect for this. 

 I also added an avocado green binding instead of the black and white stripe. I thought it would go a little better in our house.

 For the back, I added a row of triangles for interest, just like the original tutorial.
And that's it! While I was working on it, I kept thinking, "This will be the first and last quilt I'll ever make." Now that it's done, though, I'm inspired to do more (of course). As soon as I finished it, I threw it in the washer and the dryer to give it that worn, crinkly look that I just love. It's far from perfect (especially the mitered corners... yikes), but it's super soft and cozy.  

PS - See him getting up on his knees and rocking? Too SOON!

This week's meals.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Sweet potato burgers via
Monday: Slow cooker vegetarian chili with sweet potatoes + spinach salad
Tuesday: Southwestern quesadillas (I'll add some chicken, too) + smoothies
Wednesday: Sweet potato veggie burgers
Thursday: We won't be eating at home, but if we were, these Chipotle chicken lettuce wraps look great
Friday: Maple mustard salmon + White House salad

It's been a while since I've written you a letter.

Friday, March 22, 2013

My Liam,

As I write this, it's nearing 1:00am and it's high time I head to my warm bed and cuddle in beside your dad. But instead, I'm re-reading the handful of letters I wrote to you when you were inside my belly.

I started writing to you when you were barely the size of a blueberry. It's amazing to read that just days after we found out about you, I already had a strong feeling you were a boy! What a handsome boy you are. I think it's so interesting that no stranger has ever mistaken you for a girl. Even if you aren't wearing blue, they'll say, "What a darling little boy!" or "How old is he?"

In one of my letters, I questioned if I would be enough for you. It's the question that haunted me for months as I anticipated your birth into the world and my birth into motherhood. It's the question I've asked a lot in the last few hectic weeks. We've been working some long hours, the two of us. Actually, I've been working hard while you play across the room in your exersaucer or practice rolling or putting things in your mouth that shouldn't go there. But as I work, I often glance in your direction and call your name until our eyes meet. As soon they do, you tuck your chin down and look up at me with a gummy grin that just melts me. That look from you tells me pretty clearly, "Mom, you're enough." It's a look you've only given to me so far, and that means the world. In the midst of this crazy busy time, it's a reassurance from you that blesses me to my toes.

That baby I wrote to for all those months? You're so much more wonderful than I dreamed he'd be. And if you're making mommy this proud and choked up at just 4 months old, I'll be a mess and a half once you start walking and talking and doing big things for Jesus.

I believe in you, my little man. And I love you so much. Thank you for making my days sweeter than I imagined they could be.


Evolution of a photo shoot.

I'm telling you... this guy better be in the mood for a photo shoot, because if he isn't, things go south pretty quickly.

Our impromptu shoot started out just fine, but I didn't love the messy background. So we moved near the front door for some natural light.
Ok then! :)

As you can see, we went from semi-happy to altogether miserable in about 5 seconds. My favorite is the middle photo where he's looking at me through his tears, as if to say, "Mom, are you serious?!" How do they already have so much personality?

I tried to flip him over on his back - maybe that would help?
Then again, I guess not.

Poor guy. I subjected him to what looks to be the most miserable photo shoot ever. But hey! It was funny and cute. And he started smiling and giggling about 30 seconds later as soon as I picked him up.

In other news, while my mom was over today, he started to crawl! I know... he's not even 5 months. But he got up briefly on his hands and knees, lunged forward, then started over and did it a couple more times. He moved a couple feet as we watched in disbelief. TOO SOON!

Escape from Camp 14.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I just finished this book, Escape from Camp 14 by Blaine Harden. I read it in a matter of days while I nursed, and I debated every few pages whether or not I'd recommend it for anyone else to read. To call it "shocking" doesn't even do it justice.

Shin Dong-Hyuk is the only known North Korean born in a total control prison camp to escape. His parents were political prisoners, for reasons that are vague at best, so Shin was condemned to a life of beatings, starvation, and hard labor. The depiction of his life in the prison camp is provocative, graphic, and completely heartbreaking. He knew nothing of the outside world and had no desire to escape until another prisoner (who had traveled outside North Korea) told him of the delicious food beyond the barbed wire. Driven by a life of chronic hunger, Shin equated freedom with an abundance of grilled meat. It was enough for him to make a miraculously successful escape to freedom.

I won't give away the ending, as there isn't really one. He's just a few years older than I am now. I was hoping his story would feel redeemed. And while he's doing much better than he was in the camps, the truth is that Shin will work through what he experienced for the rest of his life. There are no easy answers to what he went through. No quick cure for the nightmares that were his entire life.

I really believe that as believers, we're called to show love to a hurting, dying world. But if we don't even know what's going on beyond our little bubbles, how can we do that? I knew so little about North Korea until reading this, and now I'm fascinated (and will probably read a few more books about it). The brainwashing, the abuse, the malnutrition... it's almost unbelievable. This book urges the reader to care. And that, in my opinion, is a great start. A lot can happen when a group of people start to care. I know that now, whenever I hear of North Korea on the news, I will see Shin's face in my mind and be prompted to pray for the hundreds of thousands just like him.

So I guess I'm going to have to recommend this book, but not without a very strong warning. It is graphic. It is heartbreaking and mind boggling in every way. If you are human, it will change you. Looking at my own life, I've never been more thankful for the comparatively lavish amounts of food in my pantry or a soft bed to sleep on or the palpable love I feel from my family. I've never been more grateful for my country's government and military that protect my freedom.

On the list next... Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo. It looks equally as graphic and heart wrenching, but has excellent reviews and won the National Book Award. I'm excited.

Anyone else read Escape from Camp 14? Thoughts? What's on your reading list these days? I'd love to know. 

Working mom.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

I've done a few difficult things in life:
... Getting a BSN nursing degree in 16 months.
... Sitting perfectly still during active labor while a long needle was inserted into my back.
... Spending a summer in the Amazon, when I'd never even been camping before.

But growing a baby and a business at the same time? It is, beyond a doubt, the hardest thing I've ever done.

I feel like I'm on a very steep learning curve, learning more from my mistakes than anything. I'm thrilled for the opportunity to stay home with Liam and make a living at the same time, and I'm equally overwhelmed by it. I've tried doing it all at once - holding a drooling baby in one arm, and sewing or responding to emails with the other. It doesn't work. He gets fussy, I get fussy. It's not a pretty picture. As he's nearing 5 months old, he's getting a lot more active, and also more clingy to mommy. If I'm not holding him or interacting with him, he doesn't stay occupied for more than a few minutes (this is a new thing).

This isn't really a post asking for advice (though if you're a work-at-home mom who can relate, I'd love to hear it!). It's more just to let you know I don't have it all together. Not by a long shot. My blog and shop might look pretty, but the woman behind them is often a mess. Just last week, I didn't make one dinner, stayed up past 2am on three occasions, and wore a shirt soaked in spit-up about 90% of the time. I am impatient, prideful, broken.

At the same time, I know that for this season, this feels right. God is undeniably blessing our business, and He's blessed our family immensely with this precious little boy - and He chose for it to all happen at once. He's created a beautiful season for me in which I need Him every hour. And as messy as I am, He loves me. Adores me. Died for me! I'm redeemed, and I don't know about you, but I desperately need to be reminded of that good news every day.

PS - As I've said before, I think all types of moms have the toughest job in the world. Just because I'm not a stay-at-home mom who doesn't work or a working mom who isn't home with Liam doesn't mean I have it any harder than any of you... I am in awe of the strength of mothers out there! Seriously!


Monday, March 18, 2013

Do you see the Ask Me Anything tab right up there? If you click there, you'll go straight to my Formspring account, which has been a great way to receive questions and respond so everyone can see. I've answered hundreds of your questions, and they've (very helpfully) prompted quite a few blog posts. 

Well, Formspring is shutting down. This month!

At the end of this month, I'll be whittling down my Formspring Q&A into a FAQ section on the blog. In the meantime, if you have a question for me that you want to post there, do it soon and I'll do my very best to respond! :)

Lessons from a nail salon.

Friday, March 15, 2013

via Instagram @whitneynewby
Yesterday, I had a few hours to get things done without my little man around (thank you, Mimi & Poppy!) and decided to take 45 minutes and get a manicure. It was the first manicure I've had in nearly a year, so I was thrilled to sit down, relax, and enjoy every second of the experience.

As my nails dried, there was only one other customer in the salon who was finishing up a pedicure. I'd heard her snap at the lady doing her nails a time or two, so I already felt nervous when she got up to pay.

As soon as she got to the checkout counter, she presented a Groupon and demanded that they take it, even though it had expired two weeks before. She claimed that the value she paid would never expire, even though the deal had expired (and looking at Groupon's policies now, she was technically correct). But the way she talked to the ladies in the salon - immigrants from Asia - made me physically sick. My heart raced and my face turned flush as I listened to her tell them she was an attorney and threaten their business if they didn't allow her to use her expired Groupon.

It made me embarrassed to be lumped into the same group alongside her... another white, privileged woman. As soon as she left, the employees were clearly flustered and softly talked to each other in their language, trying not to make a big deal out of it around me. I ended up apologizing for her behavior and the way she treated them. They were so eager to please and so kind to customers, so to be treated that way over a pedicure was disturbing.

I'm currently reading this book, Escape from Camp 14, which chronicles the life of the only known person born in a North Korean prison camp who was able to escape to freedom in the west. It's a disturbing read, at least at this point in the story, but I just can't help but look at my own life with so much gratitude. Shin, a man about my age, was born and raised without love, without hope, without hardly any food apart from rats and insects he caught. He was tortured, abused, and knew nothing of the outside world. Can you imagine the culture shock he experienced when he moved to Southern California?! I know it's an extreme example, but as a young wife and mother living in a very wealthy part of the world, it would be so easy to get so caught up in my own little world that I know nothing of stories like Shin's. But I don't want my head to be in the sand and think that my life is normal - or difficult. My life is not normal. Not for a second. I am incredibly blessed, and to whom much is given, much is required.

So back to the nail salon. If this lady was immature enough to enter a heated discussion over a pedicure, I'm sure there were other things going on her life. But it makes me so sad how the majority often treats minorities or anyone they view as inferior in such subtle and yet such cruel ways. I find myself, recently, employing a first generation immigrant - and my eyes were once again opened to how I should be treating her, loving her, and serving her as my equal. It makes me so excited to watch Brighter Day grow and to hopefully realize our dream of employing those who have once been victims of human trafficking. Which is another story for another day. Little by little, the Lord is preparing us with lessons - even here in Franklin, Tennessee - that will serve us along the way as this business and ministry grow.

PS - They did an excellent job on my nails. I'm a fan.

Goofus or Gallant.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Growing up, it seemed like every time we visited the doctor's office, there was a (usually very outdated) Highlights magazine on the waiting room table. Mom would pick it up and flip through until she found the Goofus and Gallant feature. Even from the time we were 5 or 6, we thought it was hilarious... and incredibly cheesy. (Anyone else remember these guys?)

Goofus was naughty and Gallant was nice.
Goofus took short cuts. Gallant took his time.
Goofus was selfish. Gallant thought of others.
For whatever reason, what most stands out to me about them is that Goofus complained, while Gallant looked at the bright side.

Recently, I've felt like there's a Goofus on one shoulder, and a Gallant on the other.

At 1:00 am:
Goofus: I can't believe I'm still sewing. I've been a mom all day, I've run errands, answered emails, and sewed, and I'm still not finished.
Gallant: I have a thriving business and get to make a living sewing! I'm getting paid for my creativity, get to work with my hands, and spend my days with my baby. What a gift.
Side note: I've been able to hire two seamstresses, and still have lots of work to do... but it's getting more manageable by the day. Thank you, Lord!

At 4:00 am:
Goofus:Can he seriously be hungry again?
Gallant: He's so healthy and growing, and I'm the only one in the world to get to spend this time with him right now and provide for his needs.

At 5:00 pm:
Goofus: What in the world are we supposed to have for dinner? There's no time for grocery shopping, planning, and I don't know how anyone can expect me to keep up with that.
Gallant:  I have no idea what I'm going to cook, but there are so many options. And if I don't have time to cook, we can eat out! I don't want to take that luxury for granted.

Both perspectives seem pretty extreme. Goofus is a total downer, and Gallant appears to live in dreamland. But what I'm learning (again and again and again) is that it's all about perspective. They both live in the same world, right? But they've made a choice. A choice that I can make at every turn. I can choose gratitude. I can choose joy. The thing is, joy never comes naturally from my heart. I can easily find a Goofus in there who is bitter and whiny, but it's harder to find Gallant. Joy comes solely from Christ, as He's my source of joy, of beauty, of inspiration, of motivation, of every good and perfect gift. So I have to pray for that perspective: at 1am, at 4am, at every hour of every day.

So I'd love to hear... any Goofus vs. Gallant scenarios in your own life? This could be fun. :)

PS - It's a privilege to be guest posting on Hollie's blog today about some new mom things I've learned. Visit the post here. Thanks, Hollie, for having me!

Spring Sale.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

I know it technically isn't Spring yet, but I'm ready. Aren't you? 

I've added several pairs of earrings to the shop today, along with a few new bags from the last week or so. Take a look and if you see anything you like, take 15% off with the code SPRING15 (through Friday at midnight).

My baby must-haves list.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

I've gotten several emails recently from family, friends, and blog friends alike asking what has worked for us in regards to baby things. Or, in other words, What should I register for?  I am, by no means, an expert on this (and I was asking the same question just a few months ago!). But I'm happy to share what's worked for us for the past 4 months. Despite how long this list looks, I like to keep things simple. Other than a place to sleep, clothes to wear, diapers, and food, a baby just doesn't need very much. Nonetheless, here's what we've loved so far.

A few things we registered for (or purchased) that have been great: 
A carrier. We bought the Britax and were given a Boba wrap, and we like them both a lot. I know there's a debate about hip dysplasia for the Britax and an Ergo is touted as a better choice, but with the reading we did about it, it really wasn't all that concerning. Liam loves both carriers (and has had no problems with his hips).
Velcro swaddles. These have been life savers. We have this one in multiple sizes and colors. From the day we brought Liam home from the hospital, we'd swaddle him tight, kiss him goodnight, and put him to bed on his back. Once he began to understand the routine and that it was bedtime when we did this, he slept longer and longer and began sleeping consistently through the night (7 hours or longer) at 6 weeks. We've tried having him sleep without it, but he ends up swatting himself in the face and waking up. And if we just use a blanket, he's out like a ninja in about 30 seconds.
A sound machine. We have this one and love it. It's been turned on in the nursery since we got home from the hospital.
A portable swing or bouncer. We have this one. It's light enough to move around the house (or take to Mimi & Poppy's house) and he's loved it since day 1. I also like that it's soft colors so it goes with our decor. :) He gets a little antsy in it now, but it was very useful for the first 2-3 months.
A boppy and cover. This helped me so much as I was learning to nurse - especially in the hospital - and it makes a great baby shower gift.
A carseat/stroller system. We have this carseat that works with this stroller. We love both of them and our main reason for choosing this specific stroller was that it can eventually adapt into a double stroller, so it'll last us a while. The only downside is that it's super heavy (as is the carseat), but I'm not sure these kinds of strollers or carseats come any lighter. Otherwise, we love it - it glides smoothly and is great quality.

Things we didn't register for and wish we did: 
Diapers and wipes. You can't have enough! Even if you plan to go the cloth route, newborn diapers are so helpful because they go through 8 to 10 or more every day at the beginning, so it helps to have a big stock.
A bed/bassinet for before the baby moves into his/her crib. We didn't have a plan for this until Liam was born, so the three of us ended up at Target when he was 48 hours old looking for a solution (oops!). This is the one we found. We didn't use it on our bed, but right beside the bed on the floor. It worked perfectly for the first few weeks before we put him in his crib, and even worked well a week or so ago when we took a road trip to Ohio.
A play mat/baby gym of some kind. We were given one and he has loved it and spent hours playing with it. It's nice to keep him occupied and stimulated. I guess I didn't really think to register for baby toys because they seemed so far off, but the time that he can use them comes earlier than you think!
A rocker. We found this one at a great discount (ours was even cheaper as it was the floor model) and have loved it.

Something I wouldn't register for if I could do it again...
Clothes. You'll get so many (and many that are not very practical), so I would probably save the registry for things you may not get unless people are prompted.

OH! Also... lots of you were so, so helpful in giving advice for what to register for. So if you want to look through the comments on this post, there are many helpful ideas!

Gluten free banana bread in a mug.

Monday, March 11, 2013

For the past few years, I really haven't been a fan of using the microwave. I prefer a stove or oven for most of the cooking around here. But for this? Well... for this, I make an exception. It's the perfect one-serving afternoon treat paired with a cup of decaf while baby naps and I get to work on sewing orders. To be clear, that's in a perfect world. Today it's the perfect treat while I listen to over-tired baby screaming from his crib. But hey. It still makes the afternoon brighter.

I've adapted this recipe for a cookie in a mug by making it into a banana bread and making it gluten-free. However, if you're not restricted to eating gluten-free, I have a feeling it would be just as delicious replacing the gluten-free flour in the recipe with normal flour. It makes for a decadent, cakey treat that's sweet, gooey, and comforting.

1 tablespoon melted butter
1 egg yolk
1 tablespoon sugar
Scant 1/4 cup gluten-free flour*
1/2 very ripe banana, mashed
Dash of salt
Few drops of vanilla extract

Mix all ingredients with a fork in the bottom of a microwave-safe mug. Microwave for 45 to 60 seconds (mine is perfect at 55 seconds, but all microwaves are different) until the banana bread is cooked through. Eat it while it's hot and enjoy every bite.

*I use Pamela's GF Pancake & Baking Mix Flour, but again, I think it would work just fine with normal flour. I haven't tried it (for obvious reasons), but if you do - let me know!

Food for thought.

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

I read this quote today from one of my all-time favorite authors and it hit me hard. The last couple weeks have been packed with sewing orders, an out of town trip, and a million other little items on my to-do list that probably haven't been crossed off. I'm overwhelmed. I haven't cooked dinner, called people back, caught up on laundry, or sat still for a while. It's time I take a few days off from blogging, from Instagram, from Facebook. It's one of those times I hear the Lord reminding me to breathe. To be silent, just for a moment.

See you next week.

A story worth sharing.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Ty was a former neighbor of mine who I'd only met a couple times, but the story of his life and death and now how he is giving life after death through organ donation touched me today. And when I saw his dad listening to his son's heart beating in another man, I pretty much lost it.
Click on the photo to take you to the video of Ty's story.
What a beautiful gift he's given. Life.
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