Life Lately / Summer Travels

July 28, 2016

We’ve been lucky enough to be able to travel to see both our families again this summer. Thank goodness for school summer vacation! Michael worked a few weeks at his school and at a basketball camp at Rice University and then we hit the road. First, Cincinnati for a family wedding on Michael’s side (congrats, Anna and Mitchell!), and then a flight to Denver for more time with Michael’s immediate family in the lovely dry air. After a quick stopover in Houston, we escaped the heat again and headed to Maine to be with my family for a while. Michael will go back to Houston to start work next week, but Maya and I are staying a few weeks longer – and avoiding the dreadful Houston heat!

maya-summer-02 Our first flight with two babies! We dominated. Go team Westbrooks! The girls were so well behaved and charmed everyone around us. Or put them to sleep apparently!  maya-summer-04 Maya hadn’t seen her Grandma Lois since she was three weeks old, and she’d never met Grandpa Jerome! Once she inspected his facial hair she warmed right up.  maya-summer-03 Not scared of the wolf dog in Cincinnati one bit!  maya-summer-05 Couldn’t help myself. I love watching her sleep since we never get to at home because she sleeps in the very dark!  maya-summer-06 These are all snaps from our time in Denver at Michael’s brother Aaron’s house. He and his wife Summer are so hospitable and always put up with our crew and mess in the summer! Their two-year-old Julius is a wild man who was so sweet to both girls, always offering toys and helping calm them if they were sad. Heart melter, that kiddo!  maya-summer-16 Hiking with her dad while I was doing the sad thing in Houston :( maya-summer-15 Acrobatic bottle feeds (and wet hair with no makeup ;). So glam!  maya-summer-14 A wine tasting party on the back deck while the babies slept! It was such fun!  maya-summer-13 maya-summer-12 maya-summer-11 Maya’s just about had it with bouncers that keep her cooped up, but they’re useful when you need to contain her or when she keeps bopping Baby J!  maya-summer-10 Michael’s aunt Monica came out to Colorado from Chicago – we hadn’t seen her in seven years! Maya loved her, of course. maya-summer-09 And then we did a crazy thing and decided to drive to the top of Pike’s Peak in Colorado Springs! We’ll never do it again, that’s for sure. SO SCARY. But we lived to take a photo!  maya-summer-08 You can’t tell from this photo, but Maya’s wearing a kiwi dress and Baby J was wearing a pineapple dress – and they’re both chewing on plastic lemons. Fruity ladies! 😉 maya-summer-07 Pool time on the 4th of July!

And now a few photos from our first week in Maine.  maya-summer-17 My brother looking for favorite uncle status letting Maya climb the stairs. She can climb them all and it’s terrifying.  maya-summer-25 Grammy with my new niece, Claire Elizabeth! She’s so snuggly and has the softest skin ever.  maya-summer-24 Wasn’t happy at all to meet her squishy self, can you tell?! She’s also only 3 pounds behind Maya despite being nearly 8 months behind her! Come on, Maya, eat up!  maya-summer-23 Maya in her daily chaos. That dress/top (gotta love Old Navy clearance!) is my favorite though!  maya-summer-22 My parents got Maya this elephant that plays little Jamaican style jingles. It’s hilarious and Maya loves it. maya-summer-21 Whole lotta soft grass outside my parents’ house in China Village! Houston grass is so sharp and scratchy that this is really Maya’s first grass experience and she enjoys taste testing every single blade and prowling around like a tiger. maya-summer-20 Maya’s first real ocean visit! So thrilled! Very sweaty.  maya-summer-19 Stroller naps with her lovie (lovey?). Love those dimpled fingers. maya-summer-18 Chilling with her dad on the porch! She (we) got him that portable speaker for Father’s Day and she loves playing DJ and bopping to his tunes.  (Video of that bopping here!)

And that, there, is a roundup like you haven’t seen in months! I’m back in the game. Ha!

Braver Than You Think

July 28, 2016

IMG_0827 I feel like half of what I’ve been writing here this year has been explaining long silences here. Blech. That wasn’t the plan at all for this year, but this year has been a whole different ballgame than we ever anticipated, and I’ve realized that when we’re working on something particularly emotional in our family, I don’t have room in my brain to put words together and I’m quiet here. I can’t say this will be the last time that happens – heck, with the wacky way our year has been I’d be shocked if that was the case! But I’ve decided to just keep diving back in when I can. Here’s what we’ve been working on in the last few months.

If you follow me on Instagram or follow my FCV Facebook page, you likely caught the general gist of it. At the end of May, even before Maya’s adoption day (gosh, that feels like an age ago already!), we got a call on a Friday evening (it’s always a Friday evening!) from our agency asking if we could take a five month old baby girl for a few weeks while they finished licensing another family for her to go to as a long term foster family. We said yes, and at 9pm that evening, our caseworker dropped Baby J to our home. A sweet, sweet baby with the longest eye lashes, the chunkiest thighs, and the easiest sparkly smile.

We knew very little about her case or circumstances at the beginning, although it seemed there were quite a few family members involved and it seemed like it would be complicated. We enjoyed the insanity of having two babies just ten weeks apart in age, but prayed that her next family was ready for whatever was ahead.

Baby J took a little break and went to my friend Jaimee’s house for a week while we focused on Maya’s adoption and the subsequent celebration. We didn’t really anticipate that she would return to us, we thought she would go from there on to her long term foster family. But lo and behold, she boomeranged her sparkly little self back to us.

By this point, we started to learn a little more about Baby J’s circumstances and the prognosis for her in the long term. Without getting into any specifics, her case moved quickly into Child Protective Services (from voluntary placement with our agency), and they took custody and officially placed her in our home. We’d never been part of a CPS case, so that was a learning curve in itself. Court ordered DNA tests, visits from her guardian ad litem (the lawyer assigned to ensure her best interest was being served) and more caseworkers in addition to our agency’s. And what we began to learn from everyone involved was that they thought Baby J would likely be headed for adoption by non-relatives.

Just a week before we were set to head out for several weeks of traveling around the country visiting both our families, we were asked again to consider whether we could be Baby J’s forever family – not that that was a guarantee, but it was such a strong possibility that we needed to consider. But our extensive travel plans were a hitch. CPS denied the travel for Baby J, but her ad litem thought it was best that she stay with us rather than moving to another temporary foster family, so they pushed hard for her to be able to come with us. The night before we got on a plane, we found out she was approved!

To be honest, by that point, Michael and I had already been up and down on the Baby J roller coaster. We had tried to protect ourselves from falling in love with her, then fallen in love with her a little anyway, and then mourned the loss of her from our family once when CPS said we couldn’t bring her with us out of the state. But when she was cleared to travel, and when we were being told by everyone on her case that she would likely stay forever, we let ourselves completely fall in love with her as a part of our family. I don’t regret giving her that love one single bit, because what she needed from us then was to feel unconditional our love in a scary time for her, but it certainly made what happens next much harder.

Two weeks into our travels, at an emergency hearing back in Houston, a judge ruled against all of the parties who testified and ruled that Baby J was to return to a family member within 48 hours. We knew the hearing was taking place, and we knew that decision was a possibility, but according to everyone involved in her case, the decision that was made was a complete shock.

An hour after receiving that news, I left Colorado to head back to Houston to relinquish her to her family member via CPS. Between learning that she had to leave us and dropping her off, was a space of forty-eight agonizing hours. Michael and Maya stayed in Colorado with his family, so Baby J and I were on our own, sharing a list of lasts before dropping her off. Last bath, last bedtime, last bottle and snuggle before a last nap. It was heartbreaking. To look at her and know that we will never know what she grows up to be, to wonder forever whether she would be safe and loved, and to know that I would always miss her infectious smile.

But.

But through the sadness of our loss, we weren’t broken. It was actually quite a strange feeling. Absolute heartbreak, but the kind where you know that you will be okay eventually. Perhaps not fully whole, because I think Baby J (along with our baby boy who wasn’t meant to be) will have a piece of our hearts forevermore.

I should make a few disclaimers at this point. First, from the very start of this roller coaster we always knew this was a possibility, and we protected ourselves as much as possible with the knowledge that it’s not over ’til it’s over when it comes to foster-to-adopt situations. Second, we do always support reunification of babies and children with their families. We know that that’s the best place for them if that’s a safe, secure place for them – as determined by the agencies in charge of determining those factors. It’s not our job to decide that, it’s our job to trust the people whose job it is. Baby J’s case is particularly hard because her safety was and is at question, but the judge ruled against every recommendation that was made to the court that she stay in place.

Our job was simple in theory but emotionally complicated nonetheless. Our job was to love Baby J as hard as we could – as though she was our own – for as long as we could. As we met family in Cincinnati and Denver and Colorado Springs, I explained Baby J’s story – including the fact that she could be returned to her family at some point. And I also joked that if that one day had to happen, we would do just that, but they’d probably have to pry her from my hands. But I wasn’t joking when I added that if we had to return her, God would just have to give me the grace to hand her over.

And He did. Until the moment the CPS worker took her, she was loved and loved unconditionally. And He gave us grace to pray for her safety, to pray for her caregivers, to pray that she always keeps her sparkle. And as if that wasn’t gift enough, He has already begun to heal our broken hearts. We miss Baby J, and for the first week Michael and I both felt there was just a hole in our little family. But little by little, it stings a little less.

As we were driving up to my parents’ house after meeting at the airport in Boston, Michael turned to me and said, “I just miss her back there.” Even though two babies certainly wasn’t the easiest thing to do, taking two flights with an 8 month old and a 6 month old, or to take care of them each day. It was so much baby food and diapers and formula! But it didn’t really seem hard either. It seemed normal. Maya loved playing with Baby J, even if she enjoyed using her to pull up even more. There’s enough hubbub on our travels that Maya has been distracted from the loss of her little playmate, and thankfully that has mostly been the same for us.

The last hard part of this story was the moment I actually had to relinquish Baby J. I am so grateful for the prayers and texts and calls of so many of our friends and family at the very moment I had to bring her to CPS. And I will be forever grateful to our caseworker, Allie, who drove us there, hugged me when it was over, and prayed for me and our family in the parking garage after the very unpleasant deed was done. Without Michael or any family there, I needed her there more than I even knew. By the time she dropped me to my car, I felt like I’d been run over by a tractor, but I wasn’t crying anymore. I’ve cried since, of course, especially in those first few days when everything was missing a Baby J shaped piece. But when I got in my car, I felt strong and hopeful that Baby J will be okay, because that’s all we can hope and pray for every day.

That day, of course, turned comically awful, as some of those really bad days have a tendency to do. My car broke down on the enormous highway in the horrible heat at the same moment that my phone died. I had to flag down a passerby and try to convince him I wasn’t a total weirdo while hoping he wasn’t one either! Turned out Brent was totally nice and absolutely saved the terrible, horrible, very bad day. And then I had two glasses of wine, dinner with family and slept so many hours that night.

I mentioned before that this experience felt like utter heartbreak without being completely broken. I woke up the next morning, the first morning in nine months without one tiny life, let alone two, depending on me or at least playing with dad in the next room. I spent two hours in bed just because I didn’t want to see and feel the reminders of that Baby J shaped hole. But what doesn’t kill you, can in fact make you stronger. I never thought I’d be strong enough for that kind of roller coaster with that tragic an ending, but I’m still standing. Our family is only better for the blessing Baby J was for those two months. Life is perhaps a little harder than we knew it would be, but we’re often braver than we thought we could be.

I’m forever looking for the lessons God is teaching me in this roller coaster season. This one for sure came with a few. I believe strongly that we were supposed to open our hearts and home – like really, utterly open – to care for Baby J, and that we were supposed to learn what it’s like to love that hard through complete uncertainty. We were supposed to practice ultimate service, hospitality, sacrifice and love, and we were supposed to learn that whatever the terrifying, scary outcome, He would be with us to help heal our broken hearts.

We’re in Maine for another few weeks and so grateful for the rest and distraction and help from Maya’s grandparents. My brain is coming back after the busy-ness of two babies and the emotion of the last few months, and I even have a post for later this week (two in one week, I know!) with a few highlights from our summer so far. It hasn’t been all drama, I promise! More soon, friends, thanks for sticking with us (and praying for us!) on our wild and crazy sabbatical roller coaster. xx Em

 

A Rite of Passage

June 16, 2016

maya-cheerios-11 We gave our sweet girl Cheerios for the first time a week or so ago and it seemed like such a baby rite of passage. I wanted to remember her tiny fingers pushing the Cheerios around and trying to squash them into her mouth. So many ended up on the floor, but she did pretty well getting a few of them down the hatch.

For your viewing enjoyment, way too many photos of sweet Maya eating her first Cheerios.

And bonus! My mom made her little raindrop dress! It’s too cute.  maya-cheerios-10 maya-cheerios-2 maya-cheerios maya-cheerios-8 maya-cheerios-12 maya-cheerios-13 maya-cheerios-14 maya-cheerios-15 maya-cheerios-5 maya-cheerios-7 maya-cheerios-9 maya-cheerios-10 Happy munching! (And much cleaning up for some of us….;)

No Take Backs, No Do Overs

June 14, 2016

maya mike tattoo 2016 Never in a million years did I think I’d marry someone who likes tattoos, it’s not really my thing at all. But I married this guy and here we are. Tattoos. This family tree was my gift to Michael for our first Christmas after we got married (against all my better judgment since I think this started a whole lot more!) nearly eight years ago. He found a tattoo parlor in Dublin and we went together with a vague idea of what he wanted. A tree, with his parents’ names at the bottom, ours on the trunk and room for our kids’ names at the top. The tattoo artist was Latvian and spoke literally no English. Like zero. We showed him a sketch and he drew a circle and two sticks and stuck it on Michael’s back. He said “Like this, yes?” and for some insane reason we both said, “Yeah, I guess?”

How on earth either of us thought that was a good idea, I will never know. But it was and it turned out really well.

Seven years later, it was finally time for the first of hopefully at least a few finishing touches. We took Maya (and our 5-month old temporary foster baby – making it quite possibly the most hilarious scene those tattoo artists have probably ever seen!) to a tattoo parlor for a quickie tattoo. Five minutes and one little grimace from Michael later, it’s official. No take backs, no do overs.

mike tattoo 2016 maya family tattoo maya and mike tattoo 2016

But from everlasting to everlasting
    the Lord’s love is with those who fear him,
    and his righteousness with their children’s children

Psalms 103:17

Here’s hoping it’s the first of many!

Video: Maya’s Adoption

June 9, 2016

My friend Andrew helped me figure out that you can embed Facebook videos!

On adoption day, we live-streamed a few different videos leading up to the adoption and then a few after when we were basking in the excitement. You can watch them one after the other for the full effect, or you can just skip to the one with Maya’s Adoption right above it.

My favorite is obviously the adoption moment (followed by giraffe judge moment ;), but I also love that in one of the videos before the adoption I’m feeding Maya with my back turned to the camera. We were very serious about following all the foster baby rules and not showing her face until she was really official!

Pre-Adoption Anticipation! 

Maya’s Adoption! 

Post Adoption After Joys! 

Thank you all for joining us in our excitement! And thanks to Leah and Eanna for video-ing and figuring out this whole Facebook live thing for us. It was really fun!

Maya Catharine: Adopted!

June 9, 2016

IMG_0426 Friends, after a lot of back and forth about whether Maya’s adoption would go forward, we found out Thursday evening last week that it was a go. And it went! I’d love to share with you the play-by-play of adoption day! Sorry it’s taken so long, we’ve got our temporary foster baby back and there’s very little down time between refereeing babies!

So here’s the play by play of adoption day!

Once we enjoyed the partial relief that court was scheduled to open on Friday, we had to worry about my parents’ arrival. They were flying into Houston on Thursday evening and hit major thunderstorms. They were diverted to Dallas and got to Houston at midnight, only to sit on the runway for an hour! They are troopers. But we were so, so glad they were able to make it for Maya’s big day. leaving-for-adoption-day Friday morning, we woke up very early (Maya woke us all up at 5:23am!), got spruced in our adoption day finest, and headed west to Fort Bend County Court. We crossed over the very swollen Brazos River on our way, in total awe that court would go forward. But it did! When we arrived, the court was open and we waltzed right in.  walking into adoption We signed a few papers with our lawyer, met Maya’s ad litem, then waited for a little while outside of the courtroom. Our caseworker, Taylor, handled the termination of Maya’s birth parents’ rights with the lawyer, then they came out to get us. Maya charmed everyone and we took a little video to test the Facebook live stream before the actual court part.

The court part was so fast! I wish we could do it over and just make it longer! But one of the first things the judge said was that there would be no do-overs, no take-backs. (Cue the tears!). But the adoption flew by, and Michael and I were both so emotional. Our judge, Walter Armatys, was wonderful. He even sent Maya away with a stuffed animal and posed for photos with us. We’ve named Maya’s new giraffe Walter in his honor!

The strange thing is that neither of us have ever felt threatened with Maya’s situation. From the moment we saw her face, we knew she was ours and the particulars of her situation meant we didn’t need to worry that she would ever be taken from us. But nonetheless, having Maya’s adoption finalized, having her officially become a Westbrooks, having her officially be our daughter in the eyes of the law, was a big deal. Michael pointed out over the weekend that part of the excitement was because we’ve never really had a chance to celebrate Maya with our friends and family. We didn’t have a baby shower and her birth was such a surprise that it took a while for most of our family to even meet her. Sadly, some of them still haven’t – but they will later this summer. So this was our celebration of Maya joining our family, and it was wonderful from start to finish.

If you are on Facebook, you can watch the whole video sequence from adoption day right here. If you are not on Facebook, you’ll have to wait just a little longer as I figure out how to pull the Facebook livestream video off Facebook to share with non-Facebookers. Anyone have any ideas?

In the next few weeks, I have more to share about Maya’s first 8 months. I actually have video of the first time we met her, which is rather tear-jerking, and tons upon tons of photos of her. It’s a lot to catch up on, and I haven’t the foggiest how to go about it, but we’ll get there eventually.  post-adoption-maya For the time being, this is our sweet girl after her adoption. She was a champion and looked absolutely gorgeous in her little blue and white dress! I went back and forth about the size of her bow, but in the end I figured what the heck, when in Texas, right?!

And now, a whole lotta photos from the day!

First, the waiting in anticipation for the lawyer to call us in…. adoption selfie Our adoption day crew! My parents on the right, Michael’s sister Leah in the red, our dear friends the Walkers on either side of her, and Leah’s boyfriend Eanna (team photographer! Thanks Eanna!) at bottom right. Our caseworker, Taylor, is in a lower group photo as well. Couldn’t have done this without her! walkers adoption day Maya and I with the Walkers, without whom Maya simply wouldn’t have been possible. Their encouragement before we moved here, their welcome and help when we got here, and their constant support as we have raised Maya for the last eight months. They constantly believed this would happen, which was such an enormous gift. em excited adoption maya pre adoption with grammy And here we go! Cue the waterworks! We do solemnly swear…. we do adoption moment with judge armatys To love this baby girl forever and ever! Thanks, Judge Armatys, for making it such a sweet moment. And for posing for photos with us! Ha!  family of 3 official First photo of our official family of three! If you look closely you can spot the alligator tear rolling down Michael’s nose. Big softy, that husband of mine. mike banty and maya And very proud sister/aunt!  mike and maya post adoption

maya and banty adoption crew post adoption courthouse adoption crew adoption crew courthouse While Michael and I were inside getting Maya’s adoption decree and filling out applications for her new birth certificate, my mom entertained Maya by letting her play with the courthouse roses. Thank you, Eanna, for snapping these! My mom and her first grandbaby!  maya and grammy flowers maya and grammy flowers 3 maya and grammy flowers 2 Then Maya’s grandparents treated us to a delicious lunch at Revival Market in our neighborhood! They know Maya and Michael by name, so we thought it would only be fitting to celebrate in a place that knows us well!  family of 3 celebration lunch em and maya lunch mike and maya adoption lunch mike and maya adoption lunch 2 maya first high chair Maya got to sit in a high chair for the first time. My dad was nervous she was going to slide out, so I’m pretty sure his hand was on her the entire lunch! Sorry, Dad! She also got her first taste of danish (minus the filling) and made a lovely, flaky mess – luckily we were eating on the patio! We spent most of the lunch trying to decide whether to go forward with our plan of a picnic celebration later in the afternoon. We went for it and we actually got sun!  adoption day party We had a lovely little picnic celebration in a park around the corner from our house, and apparently everyone got the memo to wear blue! 😉

Thank you all, for consistently and constantly being so excited for us and encouraging about our adoption journey. We loved knowing that so many people were rooting for us from afar even during the adoption itself! I’ve said it before, but it’s been so powerful to know how much support we have from friends, family, blog readers and strangers for the last eight months. I never anticipated what a boost it would be to have you all by our virtual sides! Lots of love from us! xx Em, Michael and Maya

Adoption Day Tomorrow…We Think!

June 3, 2016

family of 3 in pool Oh, friends. What a week! You’ve probably seen the news that Texas is getting record storms and we are in the thick of it. Personally, we’re high and dry in the Heights. It has certainly been many days of torrential rains and I think there’s a leak in one of the bedrooms, but overall we’re completely unscathed and grateful. Some people have had their homes flooded twice or three times in the space of a few weeks or months.

One spot that’s not high and dry? The courthouse where Maya’s adoption day is to take place tomorrow morning. It’s on the banks of the Brazos River, which is experiencing its highest levels in over 100 years. What are the odds?! The courthouse was closed on Wednesday and yesterday, but they have tentatively said that it will be open tomorrow. So we’ll drive an hour west and cross our fingers that the flood waters have receded and are going to stay that way!

But to add a little insult to injury, my parents were supposed to fly in tonight and with constant severe thunderstorms today they were diverted at the last minute to Dallas. So as I write this, Maya’s grandparents are stuck in Dallas and we’re so hoping they’ll make it to Houston in time to see her adopted.

If all ends up going as planned tomorrow morning (which will shock me to no end after the drama of the last few days’ weather), we’re still planning to stream her adoption on Facebook Live. Now, that said, Michael nor I have any clue how to do that, so we’re going to work on it while we wait for my parents to make their way here!

And meanwhile, Maya not only broke through her first two teeth (adorable bottom ones!) this week, she also started crawling! It’s halting and punctuated by belly flops, but it’s forward movement and it’s glorious. She will never cease to amaze and delight us. So, all in all, we’re hanging in there and remain excited for tomorrow…or whatever day she’s finally adopted. But man, we really hope it’s tomorrow!

Thank you for all your prayers and well wishes. We’ll be updating my FCV Facebook page tomorrow morning if you’d like to keep track of how it all turns out!

And hopefully that photo of the three of us in the pool is the last time I have to hide Maya’s face!

Houston Home

May 25, 2016

dining-area-houston How about an impromptu and imperfect and mostly unstyled tour of our Houston home? There was a clean moment a week or so ago and we snapped some photos. Maya makes a cameo. She’s the cutest.

We live in an apartment in a building with only four units, two upstairs and two downstairs. The bottom floor was apparently renovated just before we moved in, which is so nice! The floors are polished concrete, which doesn’t photograph terribly well since it’s a little on the dark side. And totally worries me with Maya learning to sit, crawl and walk someday. But we’ll likely never live with concrete floors again so it’s kind of a novelty.

I’ve already shared a corner of the nursery. The few tweaks I’ve wanted to make still aren’t made to finish off the nursery, but this is the rest of the apartment (minus the bathroom). My one complaint about the apartment is that it’s darker than I realized it would be. I miss our light-filled living room, especially on days that are too hot to go outside or pouring rain. It can feel a little cooped up faster than our old apartment did and faster than our new house in Dublin will. There’s good light in that little house! But otherwise, this apartment has been a perfect little spot for us as a new family of three.  kitchen-dining-houston Here’s the view from the front door. You can see the patio out the back. The time has passed for us to spend much time back there — too hot and too many mosquitos! But Michael grills back there every day. houston-kitchen This is also possibly the only time we’ll have stainless steel countertops. I’m not sure they’re my favorite surface since they show every mark. But they go with the concrete, so that’s fun. Know what else is fun? The disposal. And the dishwasher. We haven’t had either of those in seven years. And a little pantry on the right there, which is more storage than we know what to do with! It’s mostly filled with formula and pretzels.  houston-kitchen-shelves I’ve enjoyed the open shelving, but I think it would be way more fun with all my pretty kitchen bits that are currently in storage back in Ireland. When we make some changes to our kitchen back in Dublin I think we might have just a few small open shelves for the pretty things. I’d rather the everyday things be tidied away. houston-kitchen-shelves-2 living-room-couch For the living room walls I picked up two big pieces of handmade marble paper with gold ink swished throughout. I tacked them onto mat board and had Michael secure them to the wall with copper nails. Cheapest and cheerful-est. Funny enough, we ended up with a used Ikea couch that was my vote when we bought our last couch in our old apartment. I didn’t win but now that we’ve ended up with this one, I think I’ll win when we get back to Dublin.  living-room-houston living room houston A tiny baby hand made it into this photo! Ha! Couldn’t bear to crop it out. We haven’t managed to cover the TV cords, but at least we hid the boxes and all that behind this little bookshelf. The bottom piece needs a better cover, but for now it has contact paper draped over. Like I said, we’re not shooting for perfection these days. Our Irish house is getting all my perfectionism when we get back. Maya’s toys are in the bin on the right. so far, they’re mostly contained and haven’t taken over. But as you can see there’s very little room if they do start taking over!  maya-jumping You can see Maya’s nursery on the left, dark from blackout material pinned over the windows. That kiddo needs total darkness or she’s convinced she’s supposed to be partying. Also, Maya in her hilarious jumper (here’s an action video!).  bedroom-houston Kind of wonky curtains (left Michael in charge of that one weekend 😉 and a pillow my mom made from a Nicole Miller dish towel for me. I do really like our quilt but I don’t think Michael will let me take that back to Ireland. That won’t stop me from trying though! bedroom houston I found the side tables for $15 – for both! – on Craig’s List and painted them dark teal. The rattan boxes, if you can believe it, I’ve had since my first apartment after college. They fit perfectly. I found a lamp for my side because I am in charge of bedtimes. Michael gets sucked into books and keeps the lights on for hours and it drives me nuts. One day he’ll realize there’s a reason he never has a lamp, but for now it’s a very sneaky trick. 217 bedroom I found this painting at the creepy second hand Sand Dollar store in our neighborhood. It came in the frame below, which I painted and put a Rifle Paper card. The painting is coming back to Ireland with us, I find it so cheery.  bedroom vignette Michael and I have been walking two blocks over to the community tennis courts to practice for the family tennis match this summer. We’re going to win. Maya is a great cheerleader, so long as she gets to keep one ball at all times. maya-jumping-houston Maya looks like she’s walking out the door. Won’t that be a crazy thing to see! My aunt made the batik fish wall hanging decades ago and it used to live in my dorm in college. My mom sent it down when we first moved in and Maya and I counted those fish a million times while rocking her when she was tiny.

Thanks for visiting!

Cushions and Quilts from Live Love Smile / Etsy Ireland

May 24, 2016

002 We unexpectedly had a tiny temporary visitor arrive Friday evening, so forgive me while I dream about all the pretty pillows I can lay my head on while I wrangle a 5 month old and 7 month old all week. So much cuddling! So many bottles and diapers. Thank goodness for sleep training, though, Maya slept 13 hours last night and her tiny friend slept 9! I think they’re wearing each other out!

Looking for some Irish baby gifts on Etsy a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon the sweet shop Live Love Smile. Owner Lise O’Malley sews the prettiest cushions (not so much for babies) and affordable baby quilts, among other bits and pieces. In related trivial information, did you know that in Ireland pillows are called cushions? Fair warning, this post uses both words interchangeably.   004 Lise’s baby blankets are so lovely – her fabric choices are impeccable. This papel picado printed play mat is my favourite.  016 (1) 025 I asked Lise for a little advice on choosing cushion inserts, because she sells mostly the cushion covers and you’re responsible for finding your own insert. She said to always use a pillow insert that’s two inches bigger than the pillow cover. That sounds like a brilliant idea and is probably the reason so many of my pillows look so sad!  sidebar-1 Lise also told me that ikat (the print above and below) is pronounced eee-kat. How have I missed that? Two very interesting pieces of information in a very short interview. Thanks, Lise! sidebar-2 I love these pillows that are backed with linen. The combination of modern colors and two different textures is really fresh.

Live Love Smile

Happy Weekend!

May 20, 2016

maya playing

Happy weekend to you, friends! The weeks are flying by at the moment, mostly because we’re cruising to the end of Michael’s school year and Maya’s adoption day. Wahoo! We start every week saying, gosh, I can’t believe it’s only Monday, and end them saying, how is it already Friday?!

Well, this week I became an aunt again! My little sister had a baby girl, Claire Elizabeth, and I’m unnaturally obsessed with her already. I won’t likely get to meet her until July and until then I’ll be bothering everyone looking for more, more, more photos! I can’t get enough!

When I wasn’t ogling tiny baby toes on my phone, this week was spent working on a few articles, rolling around on the floor with Maya, trying to keep her from licking the library books, and watching her bounce up and down a million times. Even though it’s been seriously sweaty outside, we’ve been trying to get out for a walk every day for fresh (ish?) air, which has helped my mood tremendously.

We don’t have many plans yet for the weekend, but we’re hoping to make some and make the most of it!

Lots of links I’ve been collecting during my last little hiatus. Enjoy!

My dad’s latest book came out this week and it got an awesome mention in the New York Times! He’s kind of a big deal and he turns 60 today! Giant happy birthday hugs from Houston, Dad!

Really helpful explanation of Muslim headwear, although I wish the gif moved slower so you could really remember which is which!

A career site that helps combat the motherhood penalty. All of a sudden, this became especially relevant to me.

Throw a crepe party!

The all-white-wall debate heats up. Oddly interesting.

A few Houston fourth graders are petitioning to ban plastic bags and I already voted. If you’re Houston based, you can vote too!

Michael and I have been dreaming of an RV trip around the American west. This family has tons of tips (start here and here) and makes it look amazing.

The long form story of the million people buried in mass graves on Hart Island off New York City will blow your mind. The drone footage is incredible, too.

And on a lighter note, great ideas to make your week feel more like the weekend.

Until next week!