Williams' First Fiesta

Holy guacamole, Williams is UNO!

I still can't believe that I'm writing a blog post about my son's first birthday. It still stops me in my tracks to say "I have a one-year-old." Time sure flies, y'all. Williams' birthday was a couple of weeks ago and I've been so excited to share all the photos from his party. 

I opted to hire a photographer friend to come snap candids and be in charge of all the documenting, because I knew I'd be busy setting up , visiting with friends, and oh yeah, chasing around a one-year-old. It was the best decision I made for the day, without a doubt! We used Heather Guarascio from Heather Guarascio Photography and she was so easy to work with. I forgot she wasn't just a party goer, honestly, because she blended in and chatted and had fun along with everyone else. Thank you so much, Heather, for sharing your skill with us--I'll treasure these photos forever! She completely captured the fun, festive vibe of the party with all of the bright colors and all of the heat! I swear, you can almost tell by the photos how hot it was!

We had family and friends come from near and far to celebrate our boy and it was a day full of love. We are so grateful to have so many people loving on Williams and being a part of his raising. He had lots of little friends come too--it was so fun watching all of them run around in the yard together, play with bubbles, and fight over toys! They'll be his best buds for years to come. 

When talking about themes for Williams' party (months ago, it seems like), I threw out the idea of having a fiesta, mainly because we love Mexican food and so does Williams. And I figured it would be in the middle of June and hot as hades, so all the bright colors and fun fiesta decor would go perfect together. My husband laughed it off at first, but then he decided that maybe that was the winning idea. It was so easy and fun to plan! 

Most of our decor came from Target, Hobby Lobby, or TJ Maxx. I tried to stock up on fiesta decor around Cinco de Mayo! I also utilized Amazon like crazy, of course. I couldn't live without Amazon Prime! Pinterest was my best friend for some of the inspiration, as usual. There is invaluable information on there! I'll link some of the decor at the bottom. 

We had a local restaurant cater the meal, which was also one of the best ideas of the party. Andrew made the cantina for all of our drinks and I plan to use that for many parties to come--I'll just decorate it for whatever theme we're going for. I made Williams' high chair banner with a little felt, a hot glue gun, and lots of cute ribbon from Walmart. I really wanted it to be bright, colorful, and festive, and I think we accomplished that!

It was such a fantastic afternoon, even if we did melt into puddles. That's what we get for having an outdoor party in June in Mississippi! Happy first birthday, Williams! Taco 'bout fun! 

Mini pom-pom banner, mini pinatas, and pom pom banners: Target
Taco and donkey pinatas, and all paper products/silverware: Walmart
El Pato cans: Ebay
Cactuses: Home Depot
Cake and smash cake: The Cakery in Oxford, MS
Fiesta Taco Bar: Salsarita's in Oxford, MS
First Birthday Shirt: Knapptini
Mini maracas: Amazon
My fiesta shirt: Amazon
Decorative fans on cantina: Amazon
Williams' mini sombrero: Amazon
One "1" pinata: Amazon
Invitations: Pristine Print Co on Etsy
Florals: my sweet grandmother

A Letter to My Son on His First Birthday

My sweet Buddy,

You're a year old today. A whole 365 days. I just can't get over those words. I start to cry every time I think about it, maybe because I don't want you to grow up so fast but also because it's been such a rollercoaster of a year. Those tears are mostly happy, joyful tears, but a little sad, too. I look back at our first year together and see the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. Motherhood changed my heart in ways I never saw coming.

I had a gut feeling you were a boy from the beginning. There's just some things that a Mama knows, and that was one of them for me. We didn't find out if you were a boy or girl until you were born, but I had already bonded with you, my son, before your birth day. Your daddy and I prayed for you for a long time, Buddy. Looking back now, I wouldn't change a single minute in our journey, because the Lord knew what a precious, wonderful gift He was giving us. It was worth every second of waiting. You were worth every hard day of waiting for a baby.

We didn't get off to the best start. My labor with you lasted a lot longer than we expected, but you came into the world in a fury with only a couple of pushes. Those first few days in the hospital were bliss, like out of a dream, but I don't think either of us slept a wink. I couldn't stop looking at you. I couldn't believe you were actually here, and that you were mine. I remember the pediatrician coming to check on you a mere 36 hours after you were born; he looked at me and said, "Well, he is perfect. Y'all can go home!" And that was it. They discharged us, and I looked at you and said, "Wait, y'all are really letting me leave already? Shouldn't I have some paperwork or instructions on what's normal or something? We just leave?" Your daddy drove you around the Square on your first car ride home and I cried the whole time. Partially because it was so surreal and perfect and you slept like an angel in the car, but partially because I wasn't sure what to do with you. They just let us take you. I didn't feel ready.

Those first few weeks (well months, if I'm being honest) were a blur looking back now. They seemed to have lasted forever, but now I know they were really just a blink. The days were long but the months were really short. I wish I could say I enjoyed every minute, but we both know that's not true. And I've learned as the year has passed that that's okay. I look back at photos of you in those first few weeks and barely remember you looking so tiny. People told me to cherish those days, because they pass so quickly, but all I could do is cry and wish for those sleepless days filled with reflux, tears, and guilt to be over already. I think I cried some days because I was grieving the postpartum/newborn period that I thought we should have. No one tells you how hard it is to feel normal when you have a brand new little life who is completely dependent on you; when a love for that baby almost seems to suffocate you...when that little baby doesn't sleep and just cries, you feel like you're doing everything wrong. But now, I see that it was just part of our story--part of the Lord turning my life upside-down and making me depend on Him with every fiber of my being. 

But, we made it through. The Lord met me in those moments and truly redeemed the hard days and nights. I got to know you and you got to know me. We finally started figuring each other out, and the fog seemed to lift a little. There were less tears on both of our parts, lots more sleep, and finally the joy I was supposed to feel in the beginning. The days with Daddy away at work didn't seem quite as long. We listened to a lot of worship music; "Good, Good Father," "Jesus, We Love You," and "10,000 Reasons" will always, always make me cry in church because it takes me right back to your nursery, rocking you in your glider, praying for you to sleep so I could sleep, too. I wish I could've seen then that those were moments of pure, precious worship; of Jesus meeting me in my valley. 

You got cuter with every day that passed. I looked forward to getting you out of your crib in the morning, because you were so happy to see me that your smile almost leapt off your face. Your eyes became bluer and bluer with every day, too. You finally started getting some hair...blonde hair! We did a lot of traveling in your first few months--you went to the beach, to Nashville, and to Savannah all before you were 12 weeks old. You were a champ traveler, and we loved showing you our little Southern world. I treasure those trips and can't wait to keep seeing the world through your eyes. You make every day better, Williams. 

We did a few things as parents that made some people think we were nuts--from sleep training to putting you on a schedule, we know what works for you. You've been on a schedule since you were a bitty babe, but you thrive on that. I think you're like your dad in that way...you like to know exactly what is coming next and what the day holds. You are a creature of habit, but I think that's one reason you're such a good sleeper and so happy most of your days. The funny thing is that regardless of your schedule, you're still so easy going. You go with the flow, and I love that, too. We figured out what works for us and our home is so much happier because of it. 

We made it a year of breastfeeding, and I'm so proud of that, Buddy. It wasn't easy and was part of the reason the first few months were so tough, but that is one thing I wouldn't change. That time together was and is still so special. Nursing you in those early months gave me a chance to sit and really savor you and your little face and fingers, the rolls in your chubby legs; the way your body curled into mine while you fed made me feel like you really needed me and that felt good. That bond is unlike any other and I'm so thankful we have that. I keep saying I'm ready for that journey to be over, but I know deep down I'll miss that time for just me and you--you won't be my little baby any more. It's a bittersweet feeling.

You are the happiest boy, my Buddy. You've already got such a big personality. You do this thing where if someone around you laughs, you do a fake laugh, too. It makes me laugh so hard and I just love the joy in your face. When you smile, your whole face smiles. I pray that you always have that kind of contagious happiness in your spirit. It never fails--when we're out in public, we're stopped by no less than 3 people saying how beautiful or happy or precious you are. You're the center of attention, and for good reason! 

You've gone from a jaundiced little boy who had his nights and days confused to laughing, sitting, crawling, clapping, waving, driving cars, and taking your first steps. You have 2 teeth with a few more expected any day. You say "ma-ma," "da-da," "Ne-ne," and will mimic a lot of words we say. You love food; you will literally eat anything we put in front of you. Waffles, yogurt bites, turkey, bananas, and eggs are your current favorites. Those are things I never expected to celebrate so hugely, but each milestone is a celebration around here. You are utterly obsessed with Nena, our dog, and Mary Elliott, your big cousin. You are pretty partial to your Mama, too, and I secretly love it. 

Your daddy and I were talking last night about how, just the day before you were born, he caught me sitting on the end of our bed sobbing. He of course thought I was in labor or that something was wrong, but he says I just choked out words between tears, "I won't ever feel this baby move inside of me again. What if I miss it?" We laugh about it now, because I know now that life with you on this side is infinitely greater than life with you in my belly. Don't get me wrong, I had a wonderful pregnancy with you, and I really did enjoy every minute, but I had no idea of the joy the Lord was about to cover our world in with your little life. 

I can promise you this, my Williams: I promise to treasure every second from here on out. I promise to truly experience those moments. Even when it's hard, and even when you're so fussy that I just want to scream. Even on the hardest of days, I'm going to remember every second, every emotion, every fear, and every joy. I'm going to savor every new thing  you do and every milestone we reach. Sometimes life happens way too fast for my heart and soul to process, but I'm going to do all that I can to make those first days up to you. I promise to never wish a day with you away. You've taught me more in a year than I ever imagined--you saved my life and gave me back a life that is truly joy-filled and worth living.

Today is going to be a big celebration. I'll try not to cry too much, but if they do come, I promise they're happy tears. You're the best thing that ever happened to us, Charles Williams. Thank you, Jesus, for this little life. 

Happy first Birthday, Williams Walker. 
Love to the moon and back, always and forever,

A Little Thing Called Essential Oils

Y'all, I'm the biggest skeptic. I'm always the last to get on board with any trend because I think a lot of them are silly or unnecessary or will fizzle out quickly. But then there are those "trends" that come around and intrigue me, so I sit back and watch and learn about them for years before I do anything about it. That was me with essential oils. They piqued my interest from the start. Young Living is no newbie in the world of blogging--most of the bloggers I've followed for years have been using them and advocating for them as long as I can remember. I've always kept them at arm's length--sure, they probably helped them some, but I thought I didn't have the time to dedicate to using and learning about essential oils. I also don't feel like they're as prevalent in my area--I don't know many people who use them in real life, so I was hesitant to believe that they could actually help us day to day.

Then I read a post by an Instagrammer/Jesus-follower who I loved (who I eventually enrolled under) about how the oils have been crucial to her after having 4 kids close together. Her claims about the emotional support that the essential oils bring to her postpartum was enough for me to want to try them. After battling anxiety after having Williams, I was looking for anything to help me with those anxious feelings, insomnia, and stress overall. I'm a huge believer in medication when needed (hello, I'm a nurse!) but with me breastfeeding Williams, I was afraid to take anything that may affect him, too. I was really just looking for a way to introduce wellness into our family, little by little. Essential oils sounded too good to be true, but I prayed hard about whether this was the way the Lord was leading me or not, and He opened wide that door for me and I'm so thankful for it. Young Living is an incredible company that truly values the product they're putting out, because they know we're using them every single day on ourselves, our husbands, and our babies, so they have to be the best of the best. 

I'm only a couple of months into using my oils, but they're already a huge part of our day. I diffuse peppermint, lavender, and lemon every morning to get us awake and alert (and it makes my house smell like a spa!) Stress Away has become my new best friend. I carry a roller of it in my pocket at work for those busy nights, and I roll it on a couple of times a day to keep me grounded and less anxious. Williams gets diluted Thieves on his feet and down his spine to help with immune support, and the R.C. and frankincense were so helpful with his breathing when he had RSV a few weeks ago. And the Lavender before bedtime makes me sleep so soundly, I don't even hear my husband snore anymore. Peppermint is my go-to for headaches now--I don't reach for that bottle of Ibuprofen anymore. I'm telling you, they're so versatile. And there are SO many of them to utilize. I find new ways to incorporate them in our lives every day and it's kind of thrilling to discover new uses.

My husband is still a little doubtful, but I'm bringing him to the oily side little by little. He loves the way the Panaway smells--I catch him with it often! If you're looking for something more when it comes to daily immune support, emotional support, mood support, sleep support, and more, holler at me. Plus, they smell divine. I would love to just chat with you more about how incredible these little oils are. I have no intention of making this a business, I am just a firm believer in finding things that truly work for our family and spreading the love to those around me, so they'll know the goodness too. I love anything that combines my love of people and my love of serving, and I think that these oils are exactly that. Interacting with people while serving them with ways to fill their lives with abundance and wellness, little by little, day by day with oils. Good stuff, y'all. If you try them, I know you'll love them. 

How 2016 Changed Me

A new year has arrived and it only feels appropriate to look back and reflect on the year behind us. Everywhere I turn, friends have posted about how their 2016 was for them. I've heard about how great some friends' years were, how others were tough years in their lives, and lots of recaps on events throughout the months. Looking back into our 2016, it's easily divided into two parts--before Williams and after him. He was born right in the middle of our year, so the first half was spent preparing and waiting for his birth, and the second half was used to adjust and figure out what our life as a family of 3 looked like. He was our defining moment for 2016. 

I'm painfully aware that the Rachel from March is quite different than the Rachel in December, in good ways and bad, too. Spring Rachel was eager and expectant and naive, Winter Rachel is tired and weary but overjoyed and fulfilled. They always say that a baby completely turns your life upside down, and I was one that agreed with that statement, but silently thought, "Yeah, but this baby will really adjust to our lives, right?" I look back and laugh at the Rachel I was before Williams. 

I wrote the next couple of paragraphs when Williams was around a month old and never got around to finishing the post, much less posting it. But the words are raw and real and the feelings feel too familiar to me, and I wanted to share them, because they tell a lot about my year. 
      Motherhood. All I ever wanted to do in this life, and here I am, drowning. It's been a hard, trying month, if I'm honest with myself. Having a baby with tummy issues and sleep troubles plus a mama with emotions and hormones all over the place doesn't quite add up to the picturesque version of my firstborn's first month on this Earth. Lots of tears have been shed and lots of sleepless nights have gone by. I've prayed some desperate prayers and have had to ask forgiveness more times than I can count for being irrational and angry and sad. I've questioned if God was even listening to me anymore, usually around 2 am, when I feel nothing but alone. 
 Being a mom has brought out the best in me and unfortunately the worst in me, too. I've really struggled with letting go of the vision I had in my head of what motherhood would be like, because it's nothing like what you plan. I've had moments of total clarity when all felt right in our world, when he would rest peacefully and stop crying for an hour. I'd think, "well maybe I do know what I'm doing." But then came the overpowering moments when I felt completely broken and inadequate as a mom. The latter feeling is one of the hardest things I've had to overcome in this life--I've been weary and worn down and sometimes can't see past the day that I'm stuck in. I've wondered why this doesn't come easy to me, why I'm struggling so much. All I've ever wanted in life is to be a mother, but I'm just not cut out for this like I thought I would be. Who knew you could feel so many emotions at the same time? Happiness, helplessness, joy, exhaustion, bliss, sadness, anger--all in the same day, all in the same minute. I guess that's one of the joys that comes with being a mother. All consuming emotions.
Anxiety has taken over my heart these days. And I feel like that's something that people don't tell you about before the baby comes. You're warned that you'll be tired and that the physical recovery will be tough, but it's so much more than that. No one tells you that you're going to worry every second of every day when you bring that sweet little bundle home from the hospital. That your mind never shuts off, never rests, and is constantly thinking of that baby. Is he warm enough? Should I give him formula? Is he going to wake up soon? Why won't he sleep? Why hasn't he pooped? Why won't he stop nursing? Am I enough for him? But with this influx of worry comes love. A deeper love than you knew was possible, but an even greater responsibility than you knew, too. The kind of love that almost feels like it's suffocating you. A heavy kind of love, that fills your heart up but weighs you down at the same time. It consumes you. You'll feel like everything is going wrong. I said to my mom yesterday, "But this wasn't supposed to be how his first weeks went...it shouldn't be this hard." You'll feel buried in this love for that new, sweet baby. How is it possible to feel such joy and such emptiness at the same time? 

Those words shake me to my core, because those feelings are still so familiar. Postpartum anxiety is real and is hard. I think Andrew and I both knew I had it, but were too afraid to really talk about it. But one day, you wake up and everything seems more settled. The fog in your mind seems to have lifted a little bit and you start to feel more like yourself again. You start letting go of the unrealistic expectations you had for your life as a mother, because that just fuels the anxiety you try so hard to get out from under. You start to figure out what works best for your family. Your baby starts to know you and you start to know him--you look at each other and it feels comfortable and familiar and like it's supposed to. Your heart wants to explode because you love him so much. That love seeps into places in your heart that you didn't even know were broken. 

I want to hug that Rachel from July and tell her that it's going to be okay. That the baby WILL sleep eventually. And you'll get to shower regularly and even eat a full meal in peace every now and then. That in 6 months, you won't know what you did before that little baby. That your whole life will revolve around him and it'll be all you ever wanted. That that heavy love will grow you and make you stronger than you knew you could be, until all of the sudden it doesn't feel quite as heavy.

Looking back, I see really wonderful, redeeming moments when I physically felt the Lord's presence around me and around our family, reminding me that even in those dark moments, when anxiety clouded my every move, I was and am still enough for Williams. That the Lord created us for each other, to be what each other needs day in and day out. That the Lord restored me even in the many moments of weakness as a mother, and still rescues me from those depths of sadness or worry or anxiety today.

When I think of 2016, I want to talk about preparing for Williams, my baby shower, and his perfect birth. Or even traveling to Charleston, Nashville, Savannah, or the beach with family; the many weddings and good times with friends. I want those to be our highlights, those to be the things I blog about and boast on--but it's easy to focus only the months of survival with a newborn. The months of anxiety. The hardest days in my life, when all I was trying to do was get to the next day. But thankfully, in the middle of the glorious mess that was the second half of our 2016, all I see is Williams' little face and God reminds me that his life is an answered prayer. How we spent days and nights longing for this life we're living, as difficult as it is some days. So in the high and the low and every other fleeting moment between the two, I'm pouring out thanks for the year that was 2016 in my life, for Williams, and for the redeeming, forgiving, and gracious Lord above who gave him to us and constantly reminds me that even in the darkness, there is light. There is redemption and grace. 

So I'm going into this beautiful, fresh, clean-slated new year with a bigger heart, more love, and maybe some deep scars, but they're healing with every day that passes. I learned a lot in 2016 and grew in ways that I didn't want to grow, but needed to grow. My faith was stretched and tested but the Lord remained faithful even when I didn't. It's safe to say that 2016 was tough, but I wouldn't change a minute of it, because it brought us to where we are right here in this moment. I have big hopes for what this year will bring for me as a mother, as a wife, as a friend, for our family. I know He will keep reminding me that I'm enough for Williams and for Andrew, even when I don't feel it. Here's to 2017 being a year of redemption in my life. I know that the Lord will continue being faithful with every step.