Thursday, January 26, 2012

Motherhood Lessons: More than a Mom

Motherhood Lessons is a regular series of posts shared on Mom’s Talk Network – every day lessons shared by real moms.
I’m not very good at balancing things. You’d think that years of dance experience would give me some semblance of balance and grace, but no. I am a total klutz. Multi-tasking isn’t my strong suit. I need to focus on one thing, 100% for a short period of time, and in my twenty-five years of life, this has worked fabulously. Until I became a mother.
A little over ten months ago, I was a wife. I was a blogger (though admittedly. an absent one at the time.) I was an etsy shop owner, a singer/ actress/ dancer, an executive assistant, and photographer. These things, along with my faith, had come to define me. I was wearing a lot of hats and loving it! I was also pregnant.
Although I was full of anticipation  and excitement to meet our little girl, I had to wonder if her arrival would mean I had to redefine who I was altogether. Would I still get to blog about vintage fashion and go on photo shoots? Would I ever get to read a book again? Or perform on stage? Would my dream of getting a second (or third) tattoo have to be placed on the back shelf? What if I ceased to be who I always thought that I was, and I simply became mom… just… mom.
The selfishness of this thought is not lost on me, I assure you. But think of it- what if one day you woke up and you were someone entirely different than who you always assumed yourself to be. The realization of this fact is one thing, but the practice of being this new person is a different challenge altogether. How do you know you want to be this new person? From where do you gather the knowledge and skills required to completely embody this new position in life? What if you suck at it?
And so for nine months, I waited… and I wondered… and I tried to soak up every last bit of life that was left, because in my head, everything was going to be over “once the baby comes…” You know what I mean? “we better go see all the movies we can, because once the baby comes….” and “I need to chop off my long, wavy, strawberry blonde locks because real moms don’t have hippie hair and once the baby comes…” or “better enjoy this whole having-a-social-life-thing while you can because once the baby comes…” The truth is that as excited as I was to have this little angel in our lives, part of me was treating it as a death sentence.
But then December 1st rolled around, and we weren’t doing much, so we decided to have a baby. But not just any baby. The most beautiful, sweet, smart, and perfect baby in all the land. And we named her Vesper because we had spent so many nights praying for her.
Her arrival was quick. Less than four hours, only ten minutes of actual hard labor. Three pushes and she was here. In the world. Living and breathing and just… being my daughter. And you know what? All of a sudden I put on a new hat. I was mom. I was Vesper’s mom. And it felt like I was always meant to be.
Those first few weeks were tough. I really did feel like I had lost my identity as anything other than a feeding trough. Slowly but surely, I emerged from the motherhood fog to find myself in the world again.  And you know what I found? Remember the person I was, and the things I always loved to do? I still loved those things and I was still that person.  And being her and doing those things became so much more special to me with my baby girl in my arms.
Thanks for asking me to participate, Rebecca!

Monday, January 23, 2012

A New Normal


I returned to work last Thursday. It was quite possibly the hardest thing I’ve had to do since Vess arrived. It was inevitable. We’re not one of those couples who can afford to live off of one income at the moment, so I knew it was coming. But I managed to completely avoid thinking about it for the majority of my maternity leave. Something inside me hoped- just for a second- that a miracle would happen and the world would give me permission to stay at home and raise our baby girl.

On Wednesday, it finally hit me that my imagination had gotten away from me. I wouldn’t be able to stay home. In fact, in less than twenty-four hours, I would be sitting in my office, staring at spread sheets and forcing myself to stay awake as the hum of my printer lulled me to sleep.  So I did what any grown woman would do. I threw a little pity party. That’s right. I took a nice hot shower and had a good cry. Then I pulled myself together and decided on an outfit for the next day- Sensible black pants and a polka dot and floral top. And then I packed Vesper’s diaper bag. I planned out my route from our house to the sitter’s, then to the office. Being the overly-cautious planner that I am, I had timed the commute earlier in the week, just to be sure that I wouldn’t be late. I pre-loaded the car with a few items for the next morning. I went over the next morning’s plans over and over in my head. wake up, get ready, feed, change, clothe baby, finish getting ready, leave for sitter’s, remember to tell her about Vesper’s eczema, avoid construction traffic, make it to work by 8:30. I fully knew what to expect. In fact, I had planned the morning out so carefully that I just knew I would be too focused on getting to work to have time to feel sad.

The next morning, everything went according to plan. It was as if Vesper knew that I needed her to cooperate. Like she wanted to make this as easy as possible for me. I just had to keep moving. As long as I kept moving, I wouldn’t have to think about what I was actually doing. Auto Pilot. I think every mom has one.

Before I knew it, we had made it to the sitter’s house. I should pause and mention that the girl who is watching our daughter is a very very dear friend of mine. She graciously offered to watch Vess and we are so blessed to have her, her husband, and their daughter in our lives. She’s such an encouragement to me every day as I struggle through this new adventure.  She seems to know me very well, even though we’ve only known each other a short while. I am eternally grateful for her friendship and advice in all aspects of my life. I feel such great joy when I am with her. But as I pulled into the driveway, I felt my throat catch. I felt myself begin to gasp for air. Nope. Must keep moving. I tend to do this a lot. When things get tough, I forget to breathe… I kept a brave face as I carried my daughter into the house, blurted out a few quick reminders (“she likes to be swaddled. Don’t forget to keep her upright when she eats. The eczema cream and gas drops are in the bag.” etc etc) and then dashed out the door before my emotions got the best of me.

As I pulled out of the driveway, it hit me that I was alone for the first time in nearly two months. Alone… I finally let myself breathe. Deeply. In… and out… mixed with a wave of salty tears. I didn’t expect it. It wasn’t in the plan. And so I sat at the stop sign at the edge of the neighborhood and cried. And breathed. And worried that my carefully planned morning would be shot to hell due to this unexpected bawl-fest. I thought of all the time I would be losing with my daughter. How unfair that my friend would get to spend her happiest hours with her during the day and I would pick her up just in time for her fussy time and bedtime. No more mid-day naps with her head on my chest. No more play time on the floor with the dog after lunch. All the smiles and coos I would miss… What if she got confused and stopped recognizing that I was her mother?? What if she liked my friend more than me? What if I was totally and completely screwing up my kid by having someone else watch her during the day! She might grow up to be like Snooki or something. (actual thought. not kidding. Clearly I was being irrational.)

I cried most of the way to work and finally pulled myself together just in time to pull into the parking lot and realize I had forgotten pretty much everything about my job. The door codes had been changed while I was away (should I have taken that as I hint?). People had come and gone. My office was still in tact. My job had been done for me. Life had continued without me. I wasn’t needed at the office. I was needed at home… Someone else can do spread sheets, but no one else can be Vesper’s mother and Ryan’s wife. What was I doing here anyway? I spent the rest of the day trying to focus on work. I’ll be honest, I didn’t get much done.

It didn’t hit me right away. In fact, it’s something I’m having to continually remind myself of, but this is the conclusion that came to me: right now, my ministry is outside the home. I was created to be a helper to my husband and family, and right now that means working a full-time job during the week days, and being the best wife and mother I can be on the evenings and weekends. It’s a tough balance. I’m not sure if it will ever feel “right.” I’m not saying this to justify it to you. I’m probably saying it to justify it to myself for the hundredth time. I’m okay. She’s okay. It’s a new normal.

I don’t have any profound words of advice which were derived from this experience- except that maybe, in hindsight, one should wear waterproof mascara on her first day back to work after maternity leave. I can only say that I feel like I’m part of the club now. You know the one I’m talking about- the Working Moms club. Every morning, all around the world, moms take their sleepy-eyed kiddos to the sitter’s, or school, or daycare. And then they fight the guilt time and time again.  Maybe they feel guilt because they can’t stay home, or maybe the guilt is because they don’t want to stay home at all.  Either way, I’m starting to notice that we as women and mothers sure do heap a lot of guilt onto ourselves. Does it make us better people? I’m not sure yet. I’m still wading through mine…

This will be my first full week back at work. A true test. I still feel guilty, but somehow, I feel like I’ll make it out on the other side. I’ll make you a deal. I’ll pray for you, if you pray for me. As iron sharpens iron… And we’ll get through this week together.



Friday, January 20, 2012

Must Have Baby Items- 0-7 Weeks

I have a few girlfriends who are pregnant right now and had asked me what my “must haves” were up until now. I’m happy to share a few of the items that have saved us tons of time and a few headaches as well! Maybe they’ll help you out too!

Fisher Price Newborn Rock n Play Sleeper

We didn’t register for a bassinet because we thought we would use the pack n play that we already had. But Vess didn’t like to sleep lying flat because of her reflux, and that PNP took up a TON of space in our Master Bedroom. This little rocker has been our saving grace. She sleeps really well in it!

Wipes Warmer

I know you’re probably rolling your eyes at this one. I sure did. I considered it a luxury that we probably didn’t really need, but after some friends raved about how great theirs was, we decided to add it. Boy am I glad we did! We work so hard to get that baby to sleep, and an icy cold baby wipe is the perfect recipe for a screeching child at 3a.m. This one keeps the wipes warm from top to bottom and doesn’t dry them out. We’re fans.

Diaper Genie

This is another one of those “do we really need it?” items. I figured we’d just use a trash can with a lid. Fortunately, we went with the diaper genie because for as tiny as newborns are, they sure can make some STANK! This has been a lifesaver in keeping her nursery from smelling like a portapotty!

Soothies Pacifiers

I was skeptical at first. This is the type of pacifier sent home with us from the hospital and Vesper was NOT interested. But then I learned that babies don’t just automatically take to a pacifier. You have to teach them that it’s there to soothe them. We ended up trying three different kinds before finally switching back to these. Now, they’re her favorites. She’ll take others, but she recognizes these almost immediately and they seem to soothe her more quickly. We’re going to need a few more packages because we ALWAYS end up losing them (or they end up at the foot of her carseat/ my car floor board during trips).

Swaddle Blankets

Not all babies like to be swaddled. Ours loves it. It soothes her almost instantly and she sleeps much longer because her arms aren’t hitting her in the face ever few seconds. Newborns are funny… this gauzy package is one that we really like because they’re so big, but our favorites are from Carter’s. They’re a jersey knit so they stretch really well and hold really tightly.

Gentle Naturals Eczema Cream

Our poor little bird has some pretty gnarly eczema. We started using this cream a few days ago and although it hasn’t completely cleared up, it has definitely started to go away and soften up. It also makes it less itchy for her. My only complaint is that it’s pretty greasy. Any suggestions for a less greasy eczema product?

Carseat Cover

This has been a lifesaver in the chilly Oklahoma winds! definitely a must!

My other must-have is patience and a sense of humor. <3. Hope this helps! Happy Friday!



Monday, January 16, 2012

Vintage Accessories

Vintage accents are a great way to make any outfit fun and unique! Plus, there’s very little chance that anyone else will be wearing it! Here’s a peek at a few of my favorites in my collection.




Shoes, bags, umbrellas, hats and scarves. I can’t get enough! I’m hoping to imcorporate them into photo shoots more and more too!

xo, Chels

Friday, January 13, 2012

After reading this article recently, I felt compelled to pour out a little advice onto the pages of my little corner of the internet… not because I’m an expert- not even close. Simply because it’s fresh in my mind and I hope to never forget it…

baby blogger banner

There are things no one tells you about motherhood. Perhaps they’re worried that if this information were to be shared with the world, the population would cease to increase in number. Nevertheless, and never one to shy away from self-disclosure, I feel the need to express these things.  For example, veteran moms won’t often tell you about the daily shower of bodily fluids that land on their clothing, or the struggle to get their child to sleep/ eat/ poop. They rarely mention the fact that their bodies are no where near what they used to be, nor the fact that it will take you approximately 1.5 additional hours to get to any destination. This includes the pharmacy around the corner.

No one tells you that you will cry. OHHH you will cry. That surge of hormones in the first few weeks after delivery may make you question your sanity and capability and consider admitting yourself to a mental hospital. They neglect to inform you that it hurts. I mean, yes, we’re all aware that delivering a baby hurts, but the recovery really is a six week process. And it’s difficult. It’s difficult to be in pain, but it’s also difficult to not be able to just bounce back and be your old self again especially now that you have a lot more on your plate.

While you’re pregnant, you will hear plenty of advice- some of it welcome, and some of it notsomuch. You will read a thousand books (or maybe none) and Google a million different things, but no one tells you that most of that advice can be thrown out the window once your little one actually arrives. Why? Because you go into survival mode. No matter how much you highlighted or dog-eared or book-marked, you won’t remember to turn to page 254 of your beloved “What To Expect…” book. You might not remember all that sound advice your sister gave you about soothing a fussy baby. And even if you do remember, it might not work. You do what works to keep your baby healthy and your family/ sanity in tact.

There’s no mention of missing your former life and the freedom that came with it- even for just a split second. I’m not even talking about the freedom to go and do and be seen. I’m simply talking about the freedom to get up and go to the bathroom without feeling guilty because your child is still screaming in the other room from gas pain, or the freedom to have time to brush your hair or change out of your pajamas- oh, the pajamas. They probably didn’t tell you that you might go to bed in the same clothes in which you awoke that morning AND the fact that these clothes will probably be covered in the aforementioned bodily fluids. Realizing this fact might also throw you back into those fits of tears. 

God forbid we say it aloud lest the other super moms think we’re doing it all wrong, but motherhood is not always fun. It’s not always enjoyable. It’s not even bearable sometimes. There are days when the simplest things seem the hardest (“Child, just EAT/ SLEEP/ POOP! I promise you’ll feel so much better!”) and there are certainly moments when I cry more tears than my six-week-old daughter. They don’t tell you that there will be emotions that come with those tears that you didn’t expect- anger, frustration, confusion, fear, doubt, and a healthy heap of guilt just for feeling all those things to pile on top… but also another emotion emerges from the motherhood fog… joy.  Unspeakable joy.

I  never knew that I could be so in awe of such a tiny little thing- That her smallest accomplishment would feel like my accomplishment too.  I didn’t expect for her to feel like an individual- especially at only six weeks old. It was difficult to realize that she is not me.  She’s not even an extension of me. She is her own unique being with emotions and thoughts and opinions and needs.  I never imagined that I would choose to stay awake and watch her do nothing but sleep rather than sleep myself.  I didn’t’ anticipate just how incredible she would be. I’m not biased at all, and I have to tell you, it’s very possible that she is the greatest, sweetest, most adorable and smart little six-week-old in all the world. Yes. Very possible.

And those tears that I mentioned before? Yeah. There will be plenty. But some of them are cried at the most beautiful moments.  Sometimes when it’s dark and quiet in the house and you’re bleary-eyed and cursing this newborn eat-every-two-hours-phase, you look down and see her beautiful dark eyes gazing up at you… and you realize what God has done. He’s set you on the path to be a better person.  He has provided you with a gift over which you are commanded to be a good steward, just as any other gift He gives us.  And that’s another thing no one mentions… that it’s not just her that’s growing… you’re growing too.  While she’s becoming who she’s supposed to be, you’re doing the exact same thing. More patient. More loving. More selfless. More understanding of Christ’s sacrifice for us… They don’t tell you that you’ll never be perfect. No where near it.

Just better. So much better.

Happy weekend.



Thursday, January 12, 2012

vess sleeping luke 127

Naming a child is a funny thing. It’s such a big decision. Whether you believe in this kind of hocus pocus or not, you can’t deny that there are several Ashleys (or Brandis, Heathers, or Elizabeths- whatever) in your life and it’s downright uncanny how similar some of their qualities happen to be. For instance, every Brittany I’ve ever known has been blonde and bubbly. Coincidence? Maybe. Probably. But you can’t ignore it!

So how do you go about deciding on a name? And even then, how do you get the stones to choose a name as unique (weird?) as “Vesper”?

Easy. It just clicks. Sounds simple, I know. And it is. Ryan and I spent countless hours discussing potential names for our little girl.  His favorites were names like Lillian, Emma, Annie, and Sadie. Pretty tame names for a young lady. Mine were a bit more unconventional: Everly, Piper, Alouette, Ruthie, Charlotte, Calliope, and Cosette to name just a few.  Clearly we weren’t on the same page.

But one day, Ryan said, “I figured out the perfect name for her. I think you’ll like it.” I was skeptical, but then he breathed out the most beautiful name… “Vesper”…. it was weightless. Effortless. Light and lovely. It was perfect. {click} I instantly knew it was right.

Lucky for us, upon further research, we found nothing strange in the meanings or associations with the name. A martini. A bond girl. A teenage heroine from a series of novels. But also something more meaningful to us: evening prayers.


We had sat up so many nights asking God for this one gift and finally, graciously, He allowed us to have it.  He’s so good to us…

One more name association stood out: a sparrow. Somehow, my love of all things “bird” had spilled over into my name preferences. It was too perfect too ignore. {and click}

We later decided to choose a verse to be “Vesper’s Verse” from the Bible, we came across Luke 12:7

“But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Do not fear therefore; you are of more value than many sparrows.”

More clicking ensued. It became even more perfect when she came out with a good head of hair! Funny how these things work out, huh?

Yes. We get lots of questions about our little girl’s name. We get lots of funny looks. We even get hurtful comments, but the fact remains that she is a Vesper- our answered prayer… a little bird… She was meant to be just that… and I have no doubt that she always will be.




Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Nurserypost header

I’m extremely happy with the way Vesper’s nursery turned out! I knew I wanted to base the room off of a vintage Mexican dress that I have, as well as center the room around a really bright, vintage crib. The result? A mix of vintage, new, and handmade pieces created a fantastically fun space for Vesper to grow, rest, and play!


The gallery wall was the main feature inspired by the Mexican dress. I had several of these beautiful vintage, embroidered wall hangings sitting around our house and I knew they would be perfect. I mixed in a few little odds and ends to give the arrangement more depth and interest. The photo above also shows the paint color in the truest light. It’s a very light, airy grey (Glidden “Silver Birch”).


We got really lucky and scored a vintage Jenny Lind crib at a garage sale for twenty-five bones. Don’t worry, the mechanisms have been fixed and are safe for little V.


We sprayed the crib a bright yellow (Olympic- “Acorn Squash”). Over the crib, I hung vintage chinese paper lanterns and made a pennant banner out of some vintage sheets I had laying around.  The blue “window” frame was also a piece we had sitting in a closet.


vintage pieces, musical posters, baby shoes, and even a vintage baby doll dress made great artwork for the walls!


We also wanted to keep a little bit of our own legacy in the room for Vess to enjoy. The stool was made for Ryan by his grandfather when Ryan was little, and the yellow chair (in a previous picture) and baby shoes were mine!


I also got to use a few pieces I’ve been dying to display. Scored these curtains two years ago at a thrift store and haven’t had the right space for them. Now they’re PERFECT for letting just enough light into the room!

I should also mention that I couldn’t find a rug that I liked, so I made one. I used rag rugs and wove them together using strips of sheet fabric. I really love the striped effect! It took me about two hours total and only cost about $20 to make a room-size rug! I call that a score.


So here’s the breakdown:

Paint: approximately $80 Grey- Glidden "Silver Birch"; Yellow (crib)- Olympic"Acorn Squash"; White (trim and crown moulding)- Valspar "Du Jour" (all at Lowes)

Crown Moulding- $100; DIY installation and paint, Lowe's

Vintage Jenny Lind crib- $25 (including mattress!) at a garage sale (DIY refinishing and paint job)

Dresser- $100; thrift store find

Hardware- $60 at Lowe's

Side tables- $0; extras “borrowed” from other rooms and storage

Glider- $0; (gifted from my mother) (purchased from Target)

Lamp- $0; on-hand around the house (originally purchased on clearance at Gordmans)

Rug- $20; Six 2x3 mats, at $3 a pop, woven together to form one large area rug = about $20 (and only took me about an hour total!) purchased from Walmart)

Artwork- $2; We already had all of the artwork on-hand (including the large blue “window” frame) except for the "Before I formed you..." print- (a gift from my mother in-law), and the DIY vintage doll dress, which I made myself. The only cost was the frame which was a whopping $2 at Target!

Pennant Banner- $0; DIY no-sew project from vintage sheet scraps

Vintage Chinese Paper Lanterns- $10; vintage purchase from Etsy

Curtains- $0; already had them in the house and begging for an excuse to use them!

Light fixture- $11 at Walmart

Wire “changing station” baskets- $1/ ea at the thrift store

Bumper- $2 vintage find at the thrift store

Misc (electrical outlets and plates, 3M command hooks, velcro, painters tape, etc) approx $30

Grand total: about $450!

Did your jaw just drop? Mine too.

I hope you enjoyed a little peek into our baby girl’s nursery!




Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Maternity Session with Sarah-Beth Photography

As promised, here’s an extended look at my maternity session with my sister, Sarah. Initially, I didn’t want to have maternity photos taken. Pregnancy is a funny thing. It’s beautiful in so many ways, but you don’t quite feel yourself in that new, rounded body, and I just didn’t really think I wanted to have it documented. But Sarah changed my mind.

WAAAAAY back in September, we were planning a visit to Indiana to see Bear’s family and Sarah suggested that we do a maternity shoot. I was hesitant at first, but I knew she would do amazing work (she always does) so I happily agreed! I started to get really excited when I got all of the props together and saw the hair piece that Ashley of Laynie and Belle made for the shoot! It was all coming together perfectly and I couldn’t wait to see the finished product!

And here it is…

I’m so glad Sarah talked me into letting her document this time in my pregnancy. It was such a special time and I will always treasure the photos!



Monday, January 9, 2012

The Makings…

Has it seriously been that long since I last blogged? Goodness gracious. I’ve missed it, for sure! Quite a bit has happened since we last convened… namely the birth of our little girl, Vesper Kaylyn! She’s almost six weeks old now and just an absolute joy! Over the coming weeks I’m hoping to get into a new “normal” routine with our little bird and continue to blog semi-regularly. As you might expect, the format of this blog will probably change a bit. There will still be plenty of fashion, photography, and home d├ęcor eye candy, but I just can’t pass up a forum to brag about my little girl and our new life.  I hope you’ll indulge me every once in a while!

Today is one of those days. I’m excited to share with you- in photos- a little bit of our lives over the past few months! So grab a cup of tea and settle in! There’s a lot of catching up to do!

Bump Photos

DSC_054024 weeks


Maternity Session

(I’ll do an extended post of these later. They’re too gorgeous not to share! Here are two of my favorites!)

The Nursery

(Just a peek! I’ll do an extended post with all the details later!)


Babysitting this little guy (my nephew, Shepherd)


Vesper’s Arrival

Vesper’s Newborn Photo Shoot (extended post to come!)

Christmas as a Family of Three


Life with Vess


DSC_0007-2DSC_0331-2tubtime11-1tubtime13-1tubtime16-1vess sleeping-1

Apologies for the gratuitous nature of this post. It just makes my heart happy to see all of our most special moments captured in photos! I hope you enjoy catching up as much as I do! See you soon!



Maternity and newborn photos by my sister Sarah of Sarah-Beth Photography | Labor and Delivery Photos by Rebecca Manney of RM Photography