Wednesday, September 26, 2012


My Sweet Kayleigh,

Whenever I glance at a clock that reads 1:22, my heart swells to bursting.

1:22pm is the moment that you came into our life and filled it with such color and vibrance that it's been more beautiful ever since.

You are our sunshine, our music, our rainbow, our dance.

Twelve months, Kayleigh Girl.  You've been in our arms, in our hearts, in our thoughts and in our smiles for twelve beautiful months.

When the nurse traded Daddy you for the camera and took this picture, I smiled at him and didn't think that life could be any more beautiful.

But each day since, I've been proven wrong.   What a beautiful year it has been.  If this is the trend, and it truly only gets more wonderful every day, I'm so excited to live out life with you.

I love to watch you make others smile.  Whether you're dancing and being silly, or trying to fit one toy inside another, you bring so much joy to the people around you.  The way you laugh is so genuine and wholehearted that no one can resist laughing with you.  I pray that God uses you to bring joy to others all your life.

God created a beautiful heart in you, sweet girl.  I love watching you play with your little friends--the sweet way you play side-by-side with little Emily, the smiles you get from watching "big kids" play, the shocked injustice that spreads across your face when someone takes a toy out of your hands or accidentally knocks you over.  I love how gentle you are with your "Bee" and how you love to talk to her and watch her try to lift her little 6 week old head.

I love the way you love your daddy.  He's the first one you said "I love you" to, and it's clear that you mean it.  He loves you so much, too!  Always know that, Baby Girl.  Always trust him to protect you and give you good counsel.  He loves you with all of his big daddy heart, and he will do everything in the world to keep the treasure of your beautiful heart safe.

Thank you for making me a mommy.  Thank you for the joy of waking up to the sound of your sweet voice as you talk to yourself in your crib, and for the morning hugs that make my heart burst.  Thank you for sharing each day with me, for reminding me how beautiful flowers are, and to stop and listen to the sound leaves make as the wind blows through them.  Thank you for bringing me back to share in your awe of God's creation.  Thank you for showing me that my heart will overflow with love for my family every day until I die.

Twelve months, Kayleigh Grace.  Life will never be the same as it was.  I wouldn't want it to be.  I loved my time with just your daddy, but now I love to share him with you.


When I see those numbers, I remember the joy of reaching for you, bringing you to my heart, and staring in wonder at the perfect gift in my arms.  Daddy and I knew in that moment.

Life would never be the same.

It had never been more perfect.

Happy 1st birthday, Precious Girl!

We love you!!!

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

The End of a Beautiful Beginning

My sweet baby girl turns one year old tomorrow.  It's unfathomable, exciting, and heartbreaking all at once.  How are we here already?  When did that tiny little heartbeat I could feel under my hand become this beautiful, hilarious, smart little cookie who comes running at me full force when she wants some momma love?  What will this next year hold?

Too many joys to count, I'm sure.  So many new experiences, new words, new accomplishments, new things to rejoice over.  The upcoming year is so exciting.

And yet closing this one today makes me so sad.

My precious girl.

It has been such a beautiful year--almost two years, really, from the beginning--that she has been in our life.

I'll share birthday party pictures later, but today, I just wanted to share with you two videos that I made for Kayleigh's birthday party.  The first one shares our pregnancy journey, beginning with how I told Jesse that I was pregnant, and ending with the week that Kayleigh was born.  The next one is pictures of her from throughout her first year.  It's amazing to watch her grow before my eyes!

(better quality youtube version here)

Today is the end of a beautiful chapter in our life, but it's only the beginning, really.  Even though I wish I could keep this preciously soft and dimpled curly girl this size forever, I'm so thankful for the opportunity I've been given to be her mom.  I know from my relationship with my mom that the mother-daughter bond grows more and more beautiful every year, and I am so looking forward to that!

Friday, September 21, 2012

Who am I?

A sweet friend and I took a CPR class together last night to keep our teaching credentials current.  We had to wait for our husbands to get home from work to take care of our girls, and then an accident on the freeway stalled us even further.  When we finally stumbled into the Red Cross classroom, we were 40 minutes late.

The teacher, a quippish man a little younger than my parents, sarcastically noted that we were 'right on time' and asked us to introduce ourselves to the rest of the class.  As I fumbled with my seat and tried to put my purse down, I was at a loss for what to say.

"Well, my name is Bethany, and I have a daughter who will be one next week...and a husband.  And I work from home as a teacher."

The attention shifted from me to my friend as she introduced herself, too, and I wanted to slap myself in the forehead.  That's all that I could muster out?  Everyone in that room must be judging me as one of "those moms" who doesn't find value in herself except for as a wife and parent.  Someone who doesn't think she's interesting in the least.  Someone who doesn't have an identity outside of her home.

But that's not who I am.

While my family is definitely at the top of my list of joys in life, they don't define me.  Concern for their well-being defines many of the choices I make, and my love for them defines where I spend most of my time, but I was still Bethany Elise before God perfectly brought them into my life.

Who am I?

I'm Bethany.  I'm a Christian.  I'm a blogger and a homemaker.  I love to bake until everyone around me is plumper and happier than they were when they walked in through my door.  I'm a harpist (though that's taken a backseat this year because of pregnancy arthritis that still hasn't left yet).  I have an obsession with lavender, pansies, and spiced chai lattes.  I have 600 hours of volunteering behind me from my candy striping days.  I've been a preschool teacher, an elementary teacher, an aide in a special ed classroom, music teacher, a Sunday School teacher, and a childcare provider for foster children and children of parents with special needs.  I am a lover of the English language, and while being a 1st grade teacher was always my dream, God has used me much more frequently as an ESL teacher.  I grade about 100 essays a week written by college students who have been speaking English for less than a year.  I work alongside my husband as a youth leader, mentor, chauffeur, summer camp leader, VBS leader, and as his children's message sounding board.  I have a degree in early childhood education, and I love finding new and fun ways to help Kayleigh explore her surroundings with all 5 senses.  I'm a friend who spends hours every week on the phone--sometimes struggling alongside my friends during their difficult times, sometimes sharing in each other's joys.  I have a passion for foster children and orphans, and I'm excited to see what God does with that someday.  I'm a big sister with a mama hen complex.  I love keeping in touch with my far-spread siblings and reminding them that there's a cute little niece at home waiting for them.  I'm a peacemaker, a prayer warrior, an if-the-glass-isn't-half-full-let's-find-a-way-to-fill-it-together kind of girl.

This is the person God created me to be.  I'm thankful for that and I love who I am.  I know that God was working in Jesse's life and mine preparing us for each other long before we ever met.  Being married to Jesse doesn't mean that my life is defined by him, it means that God took two perfect sinners and made us just right for each other.  I love him.  And I love our daughter.  My precious almost-one-year-old with her sweet dimples and crazy curls.  But aside from to her little friends, I will never "just" be Kayleigh's Mom.  I am me, and God created me the way I am to love and serve the two most beloved people in my life.

Who am I?

I'm a lot more than a frazzled mom in yoga pants who bursts into class 40 minutes late.

Who are you?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

One Week Away!

If you've been thinking about joining in on  The AMAZING Busy Bag Swap, you still have time!
The swap lists are open until next Monday, and then I will be closing the lists and emailing all of the participants with the next step.  I'm so excited about this swap, and I love that so many of you are looking forward to it, too!

Curious about how it works?  Check here for the full post, but here's a quick breakdown:

  • Each person can plan to make between 5-10 of the same Busy Bag
  • Depending on your child's age, you can participate in the INFANT/TODDLER Group  (under 2 years old), the PRESCHOOL Group (2-3 years old), or PRE-K (4-5 years old)
  • Once the groups are established and your Busy Bag sets are made, you can mail your set to me (with a few dollars for S/H so that I can mail a complete set back to you).
  • I will organize the Busy Bags that I receive into complete sets for each age group and mail them back to each participant.
  • Once you receive your package, you will have brand new, educational and age-appropriate activities for your child to enjoy!

It's going to be a blast!  There's one week left, so spread the word and let your friends know about it so that they can join in, too!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Starting Goodbye

I gave away my last box of milk supply-increasing tea two days ago.  It's funny how it's been affecting me ever since.  My sweet friend is at the beginning of her breastfeeding journey with her daughter, and Kayleigh and I are nearing the end of ours.

I've been a breastfeeding momma for 353 days, and it's been the most tender, beautiful bond I've ever shared.  It makes me sad to think that we are nearing Goodbye.

Every family is different, and I certainly don't judge mothers who either were not able or chose not to breastfeed their children.  I have wonderful momma friends who have formula fed, and a courageous momma friend who found milk donors so that her children could have breastmilk even when her body couldn't make it for them.  It all comes down to doing what's best for your family.

For my family, breastfeeding Kayleigh was a choice that Jesse and I made together, and I'll always be thankful for the support and care that I received from my husband.

It's been a beautiful year.  I love being Kayleigh's momma, and I love being able to feed her with my body.  It's a precious relationship unlike any other that God has created.  My little girl knows that her momma provides for all of her needs.  We both love the closeness that breastfeeding gives to us.  I love the feeling of holding her so close to my heart, and she loves the comfort of being there.

For the first 6 months of Kayleigh's life, she was an exclusively breastfed baby.  I think it was a big contribution to her delicious chubbiness :)

After that, we started adding solids.  I'm proud of my girl for what a great eater she is--she never turns anything down! {unless she thinks it's baby food}

Even though she officially snubs purees and baby cereal in favor of the good stuff {aka anything on Mom or Dad's plate}, she still really enjoys nursing.  And I'm so thankful for that.

But as precious as it is and as wonderful as it has been, it's not going to last forever.  My baby girl is growing up, and with that growth comes the budding independence that I'm so proud of.  She doesn't need me like she used to.  And while that hurts to think and even wells tears up in my eyes, it's a good thing.  Kayleigh is a loving, smart, increasingly independent girl.  Her daddy and I pray for those things every day for her.

Our children grow up.  We know that.  We treasure the pregnancy days with the little kicks and hiccups knowing that's physically the closest they will ever be to us.  And then we cherish the days of newborn snuggles and holding little ones to our hearts while we feed them.  But they keep growing.  And soon they're doing things all on their own and we're thrown into the world of "Look, Mom!"  And it just keeps tumbling and speeding forward--their independence tearing at our hearts and making them burst with love and pride at the same time.  

This momma's heart is bursting.  Love, pride, thankfulness, and joy fill my heart when I think of our breastfeeding journey.  Every time I nurse Kayleigh, I cherish each little bit of it.  The way she traces her finger across my skin, plays with one of my curls, jingles my necklace.  The way she stops and smiles at me halfway through before nuzzling back in for more.  The adorable way she signs "Milk" to me when that's all she wants.

I'm not intentionally ending our breastfeeding journey, but I know it won't last forever.  I'm producing much less than I used to, and as Kayleigh continues to enjoy other foods and experiment with new tastes, she needs me less and less.  In the past, I used the milk tea as a way to regain my supply when I hit a dry spell from stress or sickness.  I used to panic if my supply started to dwindle, irrationally fearing that my baby was going to starve or become malnourished (isn't it lovely what hormones do to you?)  I don't have to worry any more.  We breastfeed because we love it, not because we have to.   It's a beautiful journey that we've shared together, and I'm so thankful for it.  And when my little girl decides that she no longer needs to breastfeed, I probably will curl up and cry for a little bit.  But then I'll be proud of my sweet girl and the beautifully independent little person she is growing into.

I'm not big about having pics of my boobs floating around on the internet, so this is the only picture I have of Kayleigh breastfeeding.  I love it.  It's from our very first day on this beautiful journey, and I'll cherish it forever.

A mom from church gave us a lot of her children's baby things right before Kayleigh was born.  I remember her getting teary as she moved the things from her car to ours.  Now I understand.  Even though my girl is still little, chapters are closing already and it's very bittersweet.  

Giving away that last box of milk tea began the goodbye on this chapter of Kayleigh and my story. As silly and inconsequential as it may seem, it meant that I was giving away my "just in case."  Just in case my supply dwindled.  Just in case I needed to produce more to feed my growing baby.  Just in case she needed her momma more.

I don't need a "just in case" anymore.  My girl is healthy and strong, and I praise God for that.  She's growing every day and is oh-so-proud of herself.  She loves to try new foods, make up new dances, and learn new words.  Pretty soon, this little Mommy's Girl isn't going to want to breastfeed.

But right now, she still loves it.  As long as it lasts, I'm going to love it, too.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Kayleigh at the Beach

Yesterday, I shared with you why the beach near my parents' house is so special to me.  Monday's photoshoot with Kayleigh added to the list and made it even more special.  I'm so glad that I get to share this favorite spot with her!

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

This is the Beach

A mile's walk from my parents' home is the beach where I grew up.

This is the beach where I played with my siblings every summer, and the beach where we took this family photo back in 1995. (I sure hope it looked better than this when we mailed it out with our Christmas letter!)

It's the beach we would return to when I was home for breaks from college

It's where Kate had me pose on a rickety ladder in a crazy strong wind to get photos for one of her photography classes

It's the beach where "YES!" defined our future

It's the place that I learned very early on that  Kayleigh doesn't like cold water (in the postscript)

Why am I showing you all of these pictures?

Because it's also the beach where we took Kayleigh's one year photos this past weekend.

Tomorrow when I show them to you, I want you to understand why it's so special to me.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Woof, Moo, Baa

On Thursday, Kayse, Stacey, and I took our girls to the county fair to see the animals.

 When we walked into the barn,  Kayleigh got SO excited when she saw the cows.
 "Woof, woof!" She called to them from the other side of the fence. 
"No, Kayleigh," I told her, "Cows say 'Moo.'" We practiced together until she was mooing at the cows, and then we walked over to the sheep.

"Woof, woof!" She tried again. 

Once again, I corrected her. "No, Kayleigh, sheep say 'Baa.'" So we practiced and soon she was saying "Baa."

I was pretty proud of my little girl for picking things up so quickly.

...And then we walked up to the pigs.

Kayleigh clapped her hands excitedly, pointed to the pigs, and said, "MOO-BAA!!!"

Friday, September 7, 2012

DIY: Adoption Nest Egg

Sometimes, an adoption can take place in a whirlwind.  Everything falls into place and you know it's just a God thing.

Other times, the journey to adoption can be agonizingly long.  Raising the funds needed to even begin the process can be a struggle, and the couple longing for their little one needs a lot of encouragement.  {And just because it takes longer certainly doesn't mean that it's any less of God's plan}

A few months ago, I wanted to get an adoption-themed gift for dear friends who have been waiting to adopt for a very long time, and I was surprised by the lack of adoption gifts out there.  Don't get me wrong, there are lovely, beautiful, heartfelt adoption gifts in Christian bookstores, on Etsy, and via various retailers on the web.  But they're almost all adoption baby shower gifts for families who have already brought their little one home, or at least are on their way.  Not gifts that say, "I know this is a long road, but I'm praying for you," or "I have faith that God will bring your sweet baby soon."

Every once in a while, that's what your friend-in-waiting needs to hear.

When I couldn't find a gift that matched what I was hoping to find, I decided to make one myself.  And instead of spending a lot of money on a knick-knack, Handsome Man and I chose to put the money we would have spent inside of the gift and let our dear friends know that it was money to go towards the adoption.

Every little bit helps, right?

This is what I came up with:  a little adoption nest egg.

What you need:
♥ scrapbook paper (I used a blue that was textured like a robin's egg)
♥ pretty fabric for the top
♥ cotton batting, a scrap of fleece, or anything to make the lid look a little more soft and plush
♥ twine
♥ skeleton leaf (I bought a package of them forever ago at Michaels, but you can also make them using Amy's tutorial here at The Idea Room)
♥ wire nest charm (using Sarah Ortega's tutorial)
♥ wide-mouth mason jar

I rolled a cylinder of the scrapbook paper, glued it in place, and set it inside of the mason jar.  I placed our "nest egg money" inside of the jar and closed the lid.  Then I glued some batting to the top of the lid, placed a circle of fabric on top, glued it in place, and then tied it down with twine.  I made the wire nest charm and glued it carefully to the twine.  Finally, I took a skeleton leaf, and traced a piece of cardstock to match the size and shape.  On the piece of cardstock, I wrote, "Fly home soon, Little Bird," and then glued the skeleton leaf on top of it to add a pretty texture to the leaf-tag.

It didn't take very long at all for me to make this, but when my friend opened it, 
she knew that the gift was heartfelt.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

On Independence and God's Love

I've been thinking about independence a lot lately.  There is something new happening in our household, and it has a lot  to do with independence.

The more Kayleigh learns, and grows, and does, the less help she wants from me or her daddy.
While I'm happy to see her becoming so capable of doing many things by herself, it also makes me a little sad that she doesn't need me as much as she used to.  What makes me even more sad is when she actively pushes me away.

I know that it's good for her to experience things, but at the same time, it's scary.  Right now in her precious innocence, she doesn't know that experiencing certain things can bring her pain.  She has no concept of heights, and is always milliseconds away from launching herself off of the edge of our bed, falling from the couch, or pushing out of our arms.  She's also the kid who wouldn't believe me that the stove was "hot" until she felt it for herself.

If I try to catch her, stop her from doing something that could lead to her harm, she grabs my hand with both of hers and thrusts it away as quickly and forcefully as she can, shaking her head and trying out her new favorite word: "Nuh!"

This is a stage that all children go through, I know.  But at the same time, how different are we as adults and children of God?

I'm certainly not going to compare myself to God, but I can say that I've come to a better understanding about the sadness God feels when His children don't listen to Him.  When Kayleigh pushes away from me and doesn't listen when I try to keep her from doing something that will hurt her, I am sad.  But when I push away from God and don't want to believe that His way is best, how much better am I at listening than my 11 month old daughter?

I laugh at my little girl's determination when she thinks she knows better than I do (i.e. climbing up the elevated brick hearth and crawling straight off of it is a great idea!), but then I go and rebel against God when things aren't working the way I want them to.

O, you of little faith.

Kayleigh's stubborn, independent nature is not going to stop me from loving her.  And I'm sure thankful that those traits my daughter inherited from her mother don't keep God from loving me, either.

No matter how many times my little girl falls down after pushing me away, I'm always going to pick her up and wipe her tears and kiss her owies until they're all better.  God does the same for all of His children, but now that I'm a mom, I'm ever so thankful that He's a much better healer, comforter, and parent than I am.

For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 8:38-39

Monday, September 3, 2012

Happy Labor Day!

 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”
Matthew 11:28-30

I hope you are all enjoying a lovely Labor Day.