Our fam.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

I'm so, so thankful to have new family pictures (said all the moms in the room!). Shannon Mills Photography did an incredible job with a short window of time and impending rain - and a few wiggle worms - and I love that she captured our family at this crazy wonderful season. 


Sunday, September 1, 2019

Back in June, our new family of 6 made the trip to Tennessee. We celebrated a dear friend's wedding reception and my dad's birthday, and got to show off Beckham to dozens of friends and family. Besides much of our family being in middle Tennessee, the golden light, the lush landscape, the open fields... there's no place quite like it. Tennessee hasn't been our home for 6 years now (hard to believe!), but it will always be a place of rest and respite for us.

DIY: Viking Runic Stones.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Today I'm sharing a fun Viking-themed DIY project that's rooted in history. This could be used in a homeschool co-op setting or even as a mini unit study on Vikings. 

The Vikings, who came from what is now northern Europe (Denmark, Norway, and Sweden), used letters called runes and carved their writing and designs into stones or wood. The first runic carvings date back to 200 AD and runes were used to write up until the Middle Ages. 

The Viking alphabet, called the Futhark, is composed of 24 sound syllables or runes. Each rune is composed of combinations of mostly straight lines that made them relatively easy to carve. Bills, stories, and even love messages were written in runes on sticks. Vikings also celebrated men who died heroically in battle with memorial stones. These stones were carved with pictures and runes and were placed in public places for people to admire. 

Today, you will be using "Elder Futhark," the oldest version of the Runic alphabet, to compose a Viking message on a clay stone. 

Toothpicks for carving
Aluminum foil
(Optional) 1 tsp. white flour

1. Roll your piece of clay into a smooth ball in your hands, then flatten the ball to form a flat oval-shaped stone. (Variation: Divide your piece of clay into four equal sections, then roll each one into a ball and flatten it into a stone.)
2. Using your toothpick and the Futhark alphabet as your guide, carve a message or story into your stones. Perhaps you can carve your name? Or maybe you could compose a simple story using the words listed under the alphabet? The possibilities are endless! 
3. With a parent's help, place stone(s) onto an aluminum foil sheet and bake in the oven at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes (or according to package instructions). 
4. Let cool completely. 
5. (Optional) Once cool, add one teaspoon of white flour and rub into the crevices to create a more realistic stone.
6. Once finished, use your runic carving to display your Viking name or tell a Viking tale!

Our 1st grade curriculum choices (and... who is Charlotte Mason?).

Monday, July 22, 2019

When I first considered homeschooling our kids, I had no clue how many methodologies and curricula there were to choose from. So the summer before starting kindergarten with Liam, I did a little research but mostly relied on the recommendations of several moms I trusted and went with Sonlight. I loved that it all came in one box: instructor's guide plus all the books and materials you'd need for the entire year.

You can read more about our experience with Sonlight here.

For new homeschool families, I still highly recommend the "open and go" approach. It certainly helped me get my feet on the ground, and as a new mom to 3 kids, it's what I needed. I didn't have the time, energy, or knowledge to spend hours planning.

Fast forward several months. As we wrapped up our first official homeschool year, I have realized that my personal bent is definitely toward the Charlotte Mason philosophy. If you're wondering who Charlotte Mason is, here's a very basic overview:

Charlotte Mason was a British educator who lived in the late 1800s/early 1900s who was well ahead of her time. She encouraged lots of outdoor time, immersing children in nature and handling and observing natural objects. Instead of formal science lessons in these younger years, she used nature observation as the primary means of early science teaching. She espoused the use of manipulatives and real-life application to understand math rather than rote memorization. She believed that children are "born persons" and therefore worthy of respect, rather than "blank slates." She taught that it's better to feed a child's growing mind with living literature than with dry facts from a textbook that have been pre-digested by the teacher. She wanted even young children to be exposed to great and noble ideas that arouse their curiosity through reflecting on great art, music, and poetry. Her idea is that schooling should be teacher-directed, not child-led, but school time should have short enough lessons that students have the free time to play and pursue their own interests. She was also a Christian and her ideas are Biblically rooted.

After learning more about Charlotte Mason, I felt so drawn to her methodology. Still, I felt torn because I really do love Sonlight - especially their emphasis on missions and how easy it was to just "open and go." I already had the books and Instructor's Guides for the next 2 years of Sonlight, so I decided to try to adapt what I had to fit a Charlotte Mason style. I could add on a Morning Time routine with hymn study, composer study, and picture study in a loop. I could have Liam narrate books back to me. We could add in dictation, nature study, and tea time. But the thought of that overwhelmed me. I've only been formally homeschooling for one year and didn't feel I had the expertise to write my own lesson plans from scratch, especially using a philosophy about which I have so much more to learn.

Enter A Gentle Feast. It's a new curriculum deeply rooted in the tried and true principles of Charlotte Mason. It's structured, but still allows flexibility if you want to switch out books here and there. It's affordable, even giving tips on where to find some of the books for free online. Amazingly, I had several of the books already and was able to find others at thrift stores for $1 or less.

The name "A Gentle Feast" alludes to the feast of ideas that we are to spread before our children. Morning time, the "appetizer," begins each day. Language Arts is the Soup and Salad. The Academic Block (which includes natural history, geography, history, math, foreign language, and singing) is the main course. And dessert includes handicrafts, poetry tea time, drawing, read aloud, and nature study.

A Gentle Feast is about as "open and go" as it gets with Charlotte Mason. Julie Ross, the creator of this curriculum, has chosen rich, living books and created a complete curriculum, minus math. We'll be doing Right Start Math level B this year with Liam. I've felt so excited as I've flipped through the curriculum and started planning. We'll begin each day with Scripture as a family. We'll study hymns. We'll study composers (right up Liam's alley!) and great artists. We'll recite poetry, learn about the natural world around us, and read picture books to understand American history.

One thing I did when I was first researching A Gentle Feast was download their booklist. It's $5 and it gave me a glimpse at what types of books would be assigned in the curriculum. As soon as I did, I was sold. There are lots of classics and some I'd never heard of, but it feels cohesive and beautifully curated.

The bottom line is this: I'm more excited than ever to teach this year because of this curriculum. It seems to fit our family's desires and natural bent, and it's much more gentle for this season of our lives. We'll be doing Cycle 1, Form 1. 

I am proud to be an Influencer with A Gentle Feast, which means if you choose to click through this link and purchase the curriculum for yourself, I'll receive a small percentage of that purchase. But mostly, I'm interested that you choose a curriculum that fits your family and your spiritual convictions. This is just one curriculum option of so many you have to choose from, and if you've already found one that you love, go for it!! 

For the next year, I'll pop in from time to time to update on how it's going, highlight favorite books and activities, and give my honest review. In the next few weeks, I'll show how we're organizing our days. Thanks for reading!

DIY: Sydney clutch free sewing pattern.

Monday, July 15, 2019

For our next free sewing pattern installment, I'm sharing my personal favorite: the Sydney clutch. When I was sewing bags for a living and selling them on Etsy, this was my most popular design. It's simple enough for a beginner, even with a zipper involved! I take you through step by step with very clear instructions.

Download the free PDF sewing pattern here: 

July 4th wedding.

Sunday, July 14, 2019

I had the privilege to photograph another wedding in downtown Raleigh, at the same location where I shot a wedding a few months ago. Hayleigh and Ben had such a fun, relaxed wedding. There was nothing forced or stiff about their day, and I think that came through so beautifully in the photos. They were fully present, just drinking in the goodness of their family and friends that surrounded them. And how fun is it to get married on July 4?! They'll get to celebrate with fireworks every single year! Here are just a few of my favorites. Enjoy!

Instant Pot: saving summer cooking!

Tuesday, July 9, 2019

Cookie and Kate's incredibly delicious veggie sushi bowl recipe, with brown rice made in the Instant Pot
I might be a little late to hop on this train, but I am enamored with our new Instant Pot. I have to admit I was skeptical at first. I didn't have room for another kitchen gadget, and the claims my friends made about theirs felt slightly exaggerated. Hard boiled eggs in 6 minutes? Perfectly cooked chicken breasts (from frozen)? Even making cheesecakes?!

We got our Instant Pot from Kohl's during an online sale and it's been worth every penny. I have to say it has exceeded my expectations... so much so that I recently gave away our slow cooker because it's no longer needed.

DIY: Emma foldover clutch sewing pattern.

Friday, July 5, 2019

For our second installment of sewing patterns I'm sharing, today we'll sew the Emma clutch. This simple foldover clutch with a magnetic snap is classy and clean, perfect for every day use. It measures 10" wide (at the widest point) and stands approximately 6" high.

This tutorial is created with the beginner in mind. Someone who has completed a few simple projects will be able to complete this bag. And YES! You can sell the finished product! Please offer me design credit in any written description by linking back to my blog.

The downloadable pattern comes with printable pattern pieces. You can download the FREE pattern here:

DIY: Pleated flower sewing tutorial.

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Does anyone remember when I made a living sewing bags for bridesmaids? It feels like a million years ago, but I loved it!

Now that I'm in a very different season with 4 small children, homeschooling, and keeping up my nursing license... I've decided to "retire" my patterns and share them for FREE with you! Over the next several days, I'll be sharing all of the patterns that were formerly listed in my Etsy shop. Please feel free to download, share with friends, or pin them for later. And if you make something from one of these patterns, I'd love to see!

First up: this pleated flower sewing tutorial. This makes a beautiful addition to any bag, or could even be attached to a headband or brooch.

Homeschool recap 2018-2019.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

We've officially finished our first full year of homeschooling, Liam's kindergarten year! I wanted to share a few things I learned, mostly to record it for myself, but also in case someone reading may be interested in exploring homeschool and this could be an encouragement. I was

Here's what we chose for our Kindergarten curriculum: Our Homeschool Adventure
And to see how it was going a few months in: Homeschool/Sonlight So Far
Here's what we did for preschool: Homeschool Preschool

It would take pages to fully capture all that we've learned and how we've grown this year. But here's a start.

+ I learned that homeschool doesn't have to look like school at home. In fact, it shouldn't. I'd heard this premise before, but really had to live it to understand it fully. Initially, my pre-conceived ideas of school (having never been homeschooled myself) bled into the way I planned our homeschool days. For example, as much as I loved setting up our classroom space downstairs, we hardly even used it. It turned out there were better places inside and outside our home to accomplish our homeschool goals, though I did appreciate having an organized space to house our books and supplies. We listened to audiobooks in the car, spent mornings at the museum, enjoyed countless hours on our deck and exploring in the backyard or at the nature preserve. With active bodies and active minds, we rarely sat at desks or even at the table. One of the reasons we chose to homeschool in the first place was so that Liam wouldn't have to sit at a desk for hours a day, so replicating that at home made no sense.

+ I learned that you don't have to check every box. As a (recovering) perfectionist, this was a hard pill to swallow. I was so afraid I'd mess things up that I followed Sonlight's lesson plans to a tee, even when a couple of the assigned books were losing my children's interest. We plowed through them anyway, but looking back, I wish I could have replaced those choices with something that fit the kids' interests more. Using our Sonlight Instructors' Guides as a map rather than a task master was a lesson I learned the hard way. Some days, I needed to remind myself, "This is kindergarten" to ease up a bit on what I felt were requirements. Liam was reading well, doing math, and learning so many life lessons being at home with us each day. If the boxes weren't all checked, it was going to be ok.

+ I learned that you have the freedom to make it your own (and you should!). Next year, we are moving in a different direction, which I will detail in another post. I've learned through the year that our family leans toward more of a Charlotte Mason-style education. So this coming year, I'm excited to incorporate more hymn study, Scripture memory, habit training, and afternoon tea time with poetry. I learned that there's truly no one-size-fits-all homeschool curriculum, and your curriculum choices should reflect the interests of your family. While I believe using an "open and go" boxed curriculum for our first year was a good choice to help us ease into homeschooling, I'm now excited to make next year fit our family's style even more.

+ I learned that homeschool is simply an extension of home life. We are not only learning math, we are learning good habits. We are learning kindness toward one another, how to make our beds, how to cook grilled cheese. We're always learning, always growing, even if we aren't checking boxes on our curriculum guides. Sometimes it's hard to change the mindset that all things should be quantifiable. But I see such growth in all areas and in every person from last year to this year, even though we don't have report cards or test scores to prove it.

+ Finally, I learned that self care = family care. I think the term "self care" gets a bad wrap in the Christian community. But truly, creating a positive home atmosphere begins with me, the mom. So if I am not taking the time to care for my soul by reading my Bible and communing with the Lord... if I'm not caring for my body by exercising and eating well... it all bleeds into my family life quicker than I'd like to admit. So any investment in caring for myself is a direct investment into the lives of those in my home.

Overall, I feel so much gratitude for this year together. I had no idea I'd enjoy it as much as I did, and we all can't wait for next year!

On hospitality.

Monday, July 1, 2019

A few weeks ago, a man was brutally murdered just down the street from our house, his body left near the playground we walk to every day. (I know... most blog posts don't usually start out like this. I should have warned.) We've known for some time that our neighborhood isn't the safest around, but this event made it painfully clear.

Since then, I've been jumpy. It's been my inclination to close doors, to shield our babies from the hate outside these walls. While some measure of caution should obviously be taken, I've acted out of faithless fear.

So reading Rosaria Butterfield's The Gospel Comes with a House Key came at the perfect time. Her writing is convicting, inspiring, and certainly thought-provoking. I lay awake at night wondering how I could serve and love my neighbors instead of hiding from them.

I started very small: from my kitchen window, I saw our neighbors across the street working on their car. English isn't their first language, but the mother certainly speaks "baby" so I brought Beckham over for an impromptu visit. She immediately reached for him, bounced him in her arms, and beamed. Her boys are grown and this was a sacred moment.

Our conversation quickly turned to the murder in the park - it's heavy on all of our minds - and how it affected their perspective of our neighborhood, even after over a decade of living here.

Dr. Butterfield's frequent admonition is this: "Radically ordinary hospitality is this: using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers neighbors, and neighbors family of God." I'm realizing that while I would love to practice nightly table fellowship with neighbors in our home, this season with four little ones makes that highly impractical. We host a weekly community group in our church during the year, and even that feels like a stretch at times.

But as Butterfield writes, "Hospitality shares what there is; that's all. It's not entertainment. It's not supposed to be." Right now, I feel I have very little in the way of margin. Little time, little energy, little money that spills over after our growing family's needs are met. But I can start small. I can take a few steps across the street, share my beautiful baby and a listening ear, and build a bridge.


Friday, June 28, 2019

 Have you heard of the Scribd app? 

It's like Netflix for books and it's changing my life! For $8.99/month, you have unlimited access to audiobooks, E-books, and even sheet music (hear that, Liam?). No expensive purchasing of books (like Audible) and there are thousands and thousands of titles. I've been listening to Rosaria Butterfield's The Gospel Comes with a House Key and my kids love listening to The Magic Tree House series while Liam reads along. Scribd also has lots of the books - in E-book and audiobook form - that we'll be reading with Liam and Lanie's homeschool curriculum for next year.

If you download the app using this link, you'll get your first two months FREE and I'll get one month. Score. Give it a try! You can cancel anytime.

Tea time.

Friday, June 21, 2019

In the past few weeks, we've begun incorporating afternoon tea time into our daily routine. We'd practiced it on occasion through the past year of homeschool, but never made it a habit. This upcoming school year, we'll be using a Charlotte Mason-inspired curriculum that sets aside time for tea and reading together each afternoon. But whether or not you use Charlotte Mason or even homeschool, this would be a sweet practice to incorporate into your day - especially during the summer when kids are home.

This day.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

These photos were taken just moments before I realized I was going into labor. Little did any of us know how our lives were about to change in a matter of a few hours. I will cherish these photos - and this day - forever.

Meeting Beckham.

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Forgive the photo dump. These are just too precious not to share. I'll let the photos tell the story of this much anticipated meeting of our littlest guy.

Breastfeeding at night: the essentials.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

I'm four times in to this breastfeeding-through-the-night gig, and I'm still learning new things. What works? What doesn't? What makes being up every 2-3 hours at night for weeks on end somewhat bearable? I thought I'd share a few of my favorite items that are new to me this fourth time around. As simple as they are, they are making these early days of newborn life more manageable. Click on the links to purchase from Amazon, if you're interested.

Introducing Beckham Wells.

Friday, April 26, 2019

Welcome to the world, 
Beckham Wells Newby
Born April 19, 2019 at 2:57am
7 lbs. 9 oz., 20.5" long
Beckham means "homestead by the stream" and Wells means "spring" or "plentiful supply." Wells is also the street in Chicago where Shawn and I first met 12 years ago.

Shawn came to me one morning when I was 33 weeks pregnant and said, "I think I have the name." We'd gone back and forth a thousand times for weeks and never felt completely settled on one, so my heart was in my throat just before he said it: "Beckham." I loved it immediately, and even more when he shared the meaning. And with two L names and now two B's, our family feels complete.

My pregnancy with Beckham was quite an adventure. It started unexpectedly on the heels of a miscarriage. Then somewhere in the middle, I got the flu and all three of our kids were hospitalized with flu complications. At 34 weeks, I was hit in the belly by a violent patient. Thankfully we were both ok, but it hasn't been a smooth ride. 

So the imagery of a homestead by a stream - one that connotes peace, rest - was so welcome. Big brother Brooks' name means "peaceful stream" and to picture that Beckham was made to be home next to our Brooks - that he was always meant to be part of our family - was so meaningful to us. In addition, our prayer is that he would make his home near the springs of Living Water, Jesus. That he would find true peace, comfort, and plentiful supply there and only there. We have big dreams and bold prayers for our littlest man's life. We are so grateful he's here. 

Downtown Raleigh wedding.

Friday, March 29, 2019

I had the sweet privilege of photographing a friend's wedding last week, and I wanted to share a few pics. Faith was the most relaxed, radiant bride and the day went seamlessly. Both the wedding and reception were held in a local cafe (Caffé Luna) in downtown Raleigh, which couldn't have been more quaint or romantic. It was such a joy to capture these!


Thursday, March 21, 2019

If there was one word that my sister Kelsey and I were encouraged to embrace as little girls, it was "flexible." As daughters of full-time Christian musicians, we traveled as a family nearly every weekend to churches around the country. We slept in countless hotel rooms, were expert flyers, and navigated late nights and early mornings like pros. We became the embodiment of "flexible."

Kels and I, outside Alcatraz
It felt like a true privilege, this adventurous life we’d been given. After an evening spent at a church concert - selling product, unpacking and repacking sound equipment, greeting church members - we’d get to stop at a gas station on our way back to the hotel and choose anything we wanted for dinner. I’d pick a cherry Icee and a bag of sour cream and onion potato chips and revel in the fact that I knew none of my friends’ Sunday night dinners looked like this.

This was my early childhood.

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