Christmas Card Inspiration with Smocked by StellyBelly

You’d never know that the day we took these photos, we had to wake both babies up from their (much needed) naps and they were very, very fussy. My friend Meredith works her magic year after year and captures my family in a special way that only she can, and I’m forever grateful.

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This year, I’m sharing our Christmas card photos a little earlier than usual because I’ve teamed up with Smocked by StellyBelly to share a little family photo inspiration! I’ve loved StellyBelly clothing for many, many years, so it’s a joy to feature a few pieces from this year’s Christmas collection on our Christmas cards!

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StellyBelly was founded in 2012 and their goal is to “dress children in classic children’s clothing with playful charm, at an affordable price,” which is pretty much my goal in life, too. Ya’ll know I love traditional baby clothes, and StellyBelly’s selection and prices are just right.

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Other favorites from this year’s Christmas collection that would be perfect for your little ones this season:

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Thank you so much to StellyBelly for providing the matching outfits that are featured in this post and to M.Lanier Photography for the photos. As always, all opinions are my own.

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Thanksgiving Week Festivities

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! We always eat lunch with Grayson’s family at his parent’s house in Hickory and then have dinner with my family in the mountains, so needless to say, we are always very, very full. The older I get, the more I love the traditional Thanksgiving meal (and the more thankful I am that I didn’t marry into a family that runs a 5k on Thanksgiving haha).

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We have turkey, ham, sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, green beans, broccoli casserole, congealed salad, slaw, rolls, creamed corn, and all kinds of desserts. I miss my grandparents all the time, but around the holidays, sometimes it just feels unbearable. Have you ever missed someone so much that it physically hurts? It’s been eight years since my Paw went to be with Jesus and four years since my Baba, and time hasn’t eased the ache at all.

I know so many people who have lost loved ones this year and this was their first Thanksgiving and will be their first Christmas without them and my heart breaks for them. Holidays can be so hard, because while we have so, so much to be thankful for, we can’t help but miss those who aren’t with us anymore.

My family celebrates Thanksgiving in my grandparent’s house, which is nestled in the mountains and is just kind of frozen in time. It almost feels like they’re still there. We fill their house with laughter and babies and sink baths and messes and board games and conversations over coffee and pie because that’s exactly what they’d want.

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We picked out our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving at Elk River Evergreens (this post from last year tells all about it) and it was freezing. I think Harper was the warmest person there, all bundled up in her snowman suit, but the rest of us just about froze to death. The wind was whipping around and it was just bone chilling cold, but another sweet memory, nonetheless.

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We went to visit Santa and Landon ran right up and jumped on his lap, as usual. That boy isn’t afraid of anything, Lord help us! He asked Santa for a play kitchen, because he loves playing with the one in his Sunday School class at church and at my grandparent’s house. It was Harper’s first time sitting on Santa’s lap and she didn’t cry but wasn’t quite sure what to think. He’s the best Santa ever and after asking each child what they want for Christmas, always makes sure to tell them that Jesus is the reason we celebrate Christmas and it’s just so personal and special.

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Landon went to the App vs. Troy game with his Daddy and Papa on Saturday and had a blast, of course. That boy loves football! He yells “GO APP!” and “TOUCHDOWN!” and it’s just about the cutest thing ever. He’s looking so grown up these days!

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On Sunday, Grayson had the honor of singing with the Holiday Singers at Halton Theater for the 7th annual Christmas Extravaganza with the Charlotte Civic Orchestra and combined Butler and South Mecklenburg High School choirs, Charlotte City Ballet, and Encore Dancers. It was such an amazing production and I enjoyed it so much! It really helped get us all in the Christmas spirit!

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Hope you guys have a great week! We have to put up our tree one night this week, I have my Bible Study Christmas party, and we’re going to a parade! So much to look forward to this time of year!

A Thanksgiving Confession: When Brokenness & Unspeakable Joy Coexist

Can I be completely honest for a minute? Thanksgiving is a hard one for me. On one hand, death and broken relationships have stolen from my babies what are some of the most cherished parts of my own childhood and my tradition-loving heart aches for what they’ll never know. On the other hand, I am unspeakably grateful for the new traditions we’re building with them and for the relationships I’ve seen restored.

Jesus has been speaking and stirring gently in my heart this year that brokenness and unspeakable joy can coexist.

It’s okay to hurt for what should have been or what could have been or what used to be. It’s okay to think of the Thanksgiving from my childhood spent running around my great aunt’s farm with my cousins and chopping slaw with my grandma and picking out our Christmas tree in my great uncle’s tree patch and both mourn the loss of those times and joyfully remember those memories that truly shaped my life.

The question then becomes, what do I do with these conflicted emotions? And, I share all this because I know that I’m not the only one who struggles with this.

What I’m learning – and trust me, Jesus is still doing a big work in my heart here – is that you have to:

  • embrace the season you’re in now
  • be thankful for the sweet seasons that have passed
  • learn from the hard seasons
  • look forward to the seasons that will come, because change is inevitable

Romans 8:18 promises us that joy is coming. And it is. What’s broken now may be restored, and we hold on to that hope because we serve a God of restoration. But we also have to remember that there’s a time for everything and His perfect plan and purpose will prevail.

I’ve spent a lot of time with this tear-stained passage in my Bible (Ecclesiastes 3:1-11):

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

a time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

What do workers gain from their toil?I have seen the burden God has laid on the human race.He has made everything beautiful in its time. He has also set eternity in the human heart; yet no one can fathom what God has done from beginning to end.

I don’t have all the answers, but I encourage you today friends, if you too feel the game of tug-of-war in your heart between complete gratitude and deep sorrow, let’s choose joy today. The One who holds your heart cares about every detail and is working on your behalf in ways that you can’t even yet comprehend.

Happy Thanksgiving, from my family to yours!

NeeSee’s Dresses

What I love most about NeeSee’s Dresses is the huge selection of modest, beautiful clothing that they offer. It took me a long time to choose one for this post, and I have a long list of items I would love to add to my closet. NeeSee’s offers a wide selection of nursing friendly dresses, as well, which I love.

This emerald green maxi dress is so soft, has pockets, and is a wonderful thick, quality fabric that’s not clingy or see-through. Because I’m 5’2″, it is quite long on me, so having it hemmed a few inches wouldn’t hurt. This style maxi (the “Mallory”) is available in several other beautiful colors as well and they just released a new maxi style called the “Danni” that’s five inches shorter, eliminating the need for hemming!

They are having a HUGE Black Friday Sale that you don’t want to miss (details here). They are one of the few brands that I wouldn’t think twice about getting a surprise grab bag from, because I literally love just about every single item they offer!

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Thanks so much to NeeSee’s Dresses for providing the dress featured in this post. As always, all opinions are my own. 

Edna & Milly Boutique

Sometimes it can be so fun to step outside of your comfort zone and wear something a little different. Just like it can be so fun to wear your hair in a new style or order something you’ve never had before at a coffee shop, sometimes ya just need to change it up a little. When shopping with Edna & Milly Boutique, there’s something for every occasion and the prices are just right. And the best part? They’re local (right here in Mount Holly, North Carolina)!

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Edna & Milly Boutique is named after the owner, Kayla’s great grandmothers, Edna and Mildred. She says, “They are no longer with me, but so close to my heart and I wanted a way to honor them. I honestly had a  tough time finding a name for the boutique, I prayed and prayed and prayed 200 more times until one Sunday morning our pastor asked “What is weighing on your heart most right now? What is something that you have been struggling to find answers to?” and instantly – those two precious ladies crossed my mind and I knew! I couldn’t have thought of a more unique names if I tried – I am so proud to have their love intertwined with my business.”

The dress I’m wearing here, the Layla Dress, is so versatile and can be paired with any top you choose (it does not come with the blush colored top shown on the website, just FYI). It looks great with solids or patterns underneath and if it’s chilly, you can pair it with tights like I tend to do in the winter months (although the length is perfectly long enough that I don’t need tights except for temperature control). I love the vintage feel of this jumper style dress and the fact that it has pockets and a ruffled hem makes it even better!

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Other items I love from Edna & Milly Boutique:

Free shipping on all orders of $40 or more (or local pickup)! And another thing I love about Edna & Milly boutique, there is always 25% off for those who serve our country (details here). And until December 1st, you can use the code “COFFEEDATE” for 10% off your entire order!

If you’re local, you can shop with Edna & Milly Boutique in person (and knock out the rest of your Christmas shopping!) at a few upcoming events:

  • Cramerton Christmas Bazaar – December 1st from 10am-2pm – 8 Julian Street, Cramerton, NC 28032
  • Pure Bliss Sip+Shop – December 2nd from 1pm-5pm – 168 Highway 274 #147, Lake Wylie, SC 29710
  • Cork & Crate Sip+Shop – December 5th from 6:30pm-9:30pm – 2413 Central Ave, Charlotte, NC 28205

 

Thanks so much to Kayla from Edna & Milly Boutique for providing the dress featured in this post. As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks also to my favorite photographer, Meredith Fields, for snapping these photos. Check out more of her work here!

Kari Berry Posh Sweater

I could have never anticipated loving this cardigan as much as I do. It’s far better than I could have hoped, and the material is quite possibly the softest, most amazing quality of any I own. It is a beautiful heather grey and will go with so many different outfits (although all black underneath will probably always be my go-to) and ya’ll… it has pockets! It is very oversized, so be sure to size down. I ordered a M/L and could have easily gone with a S/M.

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If you aren’t familiar with Kari Berry Posh, they offer beautiful clothes for women and also for little girls. There’s even a small selection of Mommy + Me dresses (which I can hardly wait to do with my Harper girl). I love this beautiful royal blue maxi dress, this red bell sleeve dress, and this sweet floral top that I think would probably work well for maternity, too.

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Kari Berry Posh got started about a year ago and the owner, Kari, said that she started the boutique because she always had a hard time finding comfortable, stylish clothes. One thing she said that really resonated with me is, “as a mother of three and always on the go, comfort is very important to me. I wanted to find clothes that were comfortable enough to be at home in but cute enough to run errands in.”

As a mom, who can’t relate to that?! Kari has been so sweet to offer my readers 20% off through the end of November with code KATE20. So, be sure to take advantage!

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Thanks so much to Kari from Kari Berry Posh for providing the sweater featured in this post. As always, all opinions are my own.

My Mama’s Chocolate Buttercream

This is my Mama’s recipe so you know it has to be delicious. Becky doesn’t fool around in the kitchen. I’ve made it more times than I can count, and it’s really the definition of an “old faithful.” She always puts this rich, creamy buttercream on her brownies and they’re truly the best thing you’ve ever put in your mouth and such a treat with an ice cold glass of milk!

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The first few times you make this, you’ll think it isn’t going to turn out right, but then at the last minute, it comes together and you eventually just get the hang of it. Each time you make it, you’ll become more and more confident in the consistency.

Ingredients:

  • One bag of powdered sugar
  • Two tablespoons of cocoa powder
  • One stick softened butter
  • A couple splashes of milk (as needed for consistency)

Instructions:

  • In your stand mixer bowl, whisk together powdered sugar and cocoa powder.
  • Then, with your mixer on its lowest setting, incorporate the softened butter (be careful or powdered sugar will go everywhere!).
  • Let it mix for a few minutes and watch the consistency.
  • Add a splash or two of milk (but not too much, or it will be soupy).
  • Frost anything you’d like – brownies, cake, cupcakes, etc. YUM!

Go Happy Plates

It’s so funny how now as a mom, I do things that would have never crossed my mind ten years ago. Did I ever think I would text my husband at 2pm saying, “Harper finally used the bathroom!” accompanied by ten clapping-hands emojis? Nope. Did I ever think I could ruin a two year old’s entire day by handing him the wrong sippy cup? Nope. Did I ever think I’d retrace my steps through Wal-Mart searching like a crazy person for a lost shoe or lost pacifier? Nope. Did I ever think I’d obsess over toddler meal ideas and inspiration on Pinterest and hashtags on instagram? Nope.

But here I am. Guilty of all of the above (and loving it)!

If you have a toddler to feed, you know the struggle it can be to make mealtime fun and you understand the need to constantly change it up so that they don’t get bored. I am by no means an expert (and I serve prepackaged mini muffins every now and then just like the next mom) but I share Landon’s meals with hopes that I could give someone else ideas and inspiration just like so many have given me! It’s so fun to try new things and see the smile on his face when he says, “I made a happy pwate Mama!” Yep, he says “pwate” and it’s the cutest thing ever!

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These stainless steel plates from Go Happy Plate are so great and easy to clean (dishwasher safe). They are now available on Amazon, which makes them even better (all the praise hands for free two-day shipping with prime, am I right?). You can get the complete set (plate, fork and spoon, and 8oz tumbler) for $32.99 or just the plate, which is sectioned into four compartments for $16.99.

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The stainless steel dinnerware for kids featured in this post were provided to me by Go Happy Plate, but as always, all opinions are my own.

The Giving Manger

I have admired The Giving Manger from afar for quite some time, but now that I have one of my own, I can say without any reservation that it’s far better than I could have ever hoped or imagined. If you’re looking for something special and meaningful to do with your little ones this year, look no further. This is a precious, memorable way to teach them that Jesus is the reason for the season.

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From the way it’s packaged to the beautiful illustrations in the story book, to the craftsmanship of the wooden manger and the simplicity and perfection of the Baby Jesus figurine, it’s all absolutely wonderful and so very special.

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From the moment I opened the box, it was clear that this is going to be a cherished and highly anticipated tradition in our home. Traditions have always been so important to me and incorporating traditions from both mine and Grayson’s childhoods with our babies has been so precious to us. It’s also been so sweet to start new traditions and Landon is at the age where everything is extra special. I wouldn’t trade anything for the way his sweet little eyes light up with awe and the most innocent wonder, and it seems like as the holidays approach, that’s all just magnified.

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If you aren’t familiar with The Giving Manger, it is an interactive Christmas tradition experience that first started back in 2015. The goal behind it was to create beautiful, timeless pieces that are built to last and will be used by your family year after year. In each box, you’ll find a beautifully illustrated story book, a wooden manger, a bundle of straw, and a Baby Jesus figurine. The idea is that, leading up to Christmas, you place the manger in a prominent place in your home, read the story with your little ones, and find different ways to serve and give to others. After each act of service or generosity, a piece of hay is placed in the manger, which should be full and ready for baby Jesus on Christmas Day!

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This is a tangible, interactive way to teach your children about the true meaning of Christmas and a wonderful way to instill in them a love of giving at an early age.

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On instagram, you’ll find thousands of photos (search the hashtag #mangermoments) of families participating in this sweet tradition and I’ll be sharing more as our family participates this holiday season! You can find a free printable with service ideas here, and The Giving Manger is available for purchase here.

Thank you so much to Allison Hottinger and Emily King, creators of The Giving Manger, for providing my family with this timeless gift. As always, all opinions are my own.

 

Postpartum Encouragement

I’ve started this post about ten times, only to close my laptop each time feeling frustrated that I’m not able to fully and effectively express my thoughts. Postpartum body image is a topic that can be really hard to talk about, and while you can find encouragement and grace in some conversations surrounding it, you can find comparison, pressure, and negativity in others.

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I’m almost six months postpartum after my second baby in two years. If you’ve been where I am, you know the struggle of pre-pregnancy clothes not quite fitting and maternity clothes looking like you’re wearing a tablecloth. It can be so frustrating and easy to forget Whose you are.

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When I read this post by Kate at Naptime Kitchen (she’s one of my favorite people on instagram) it just resonated with me so much and literally left me in tears. I immediately snapped a screen shot and texted it to my Mama (of course) and I have re-read it several times since then. She says here what I’ve been wrestling with in my heart for months:

“Allow me to be a bit vulnerable with you on this Friday morning.

I have an upcoming event that requires me to wear a dress. A fancy dress. So yesterday I went to my closet to try on my dresses and, not shockingly, most didn’t fit.

Here’s the thing I am processing through: my inclination is to of course write this off with a whole lot of grace. “Kate, you’re 6 weeks postpartum. 6 weeks! It’s a miracle anything fits at all and you’re not wearing a moo moo. Don’t worry, in a few months you’ll be back in all your old clothes and this season of daily leggings and flowy shirts will be a thing of the past. This too shall pass.”

But here’s the thing: if I leave it there, I still place a large amount of self worth in my appearance. What if my ribcage doesn’t come back together? What if my hips stay wider? What if I always have a pooch in dresses and my beloved blue jeans never fit right again? What then?? Here’s where I remind myself that my body isn’t beautiful based on a small ribcage or flat stomach or legs with no varicose veins.

But ah! There’s more…my body also isn’t called beautiful based on it’s ability to birth a child or lift my toddlers and nurse a newborn. These things are very beautiful and empowering, but still, if I base the beauty there I am left lacking. What if I never birthed a child or couldn’t nurse? What if I faced an illness that rendered me unable to lift and play with my little people?

The basis of my beauty, and I’ll have you know I’m #preachingtomyself more than anyone, is Jesus. God looks down on me and sees beauty not because of abs of ability, but because of His Son. His son who “had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him” came and died to make us beautiful.

When I search and see my worth there, there is freedom. There’s freedom to have toned arms but also freedom when they are squishy. There’s freedom to seek after health for the sake of my body being used for the Lord, but also to be ok with its limitations.

I can wear the fancy dress, jeans, or bathing suit whether my stomach be flat or flabby, because He who made me has called me beautiful in Christ.”

What a beautiful reminder of who we are in Christ! I hope that in sharing this, I’ve encouraged you today, my friends. Let’s focus a little less on fitting into those pre-pregnancy jeans and a little more on who we are in Christ. Besides… I’ve always preferred an easy little dress over jeans anyway… wrinkles and all (insert wink face emoji)!

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Speaking of dresses, this pretty little teal dress is only $51 (with free shipping) and it also comes in a beautiful, rich burgandy color. I’m looking forward to pairing it with tights, taller boots, and a cardigan when it gets cooler. All-weather dresses like this that can be dressed up or down are always my favorite! If you didn’t know, PinkBlush clothing is intentionally designed for before, during, and after pregnancy and if you aren’t pregnant, you can shop the Women’s side of their site here.

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The dress featured in this post was provided to me by the PinkBlush Style Ambassador program, but as always, all opinions are my own.