WILLIAMSON FAMILY

Awww geez. How can I even BEGIN to talk about these amazing people? Abby and I (yes, we have the same name. No we are not twins. Yes, that is a real question we have been asked many times by dense people) have been friends for more than 20 years. Wüt. We (along with our other 1/3, Jessa) have been truly, deeply besties for most of that time. This friendship has been one of the most shaping influences of my life. I am so profoundly grateful for Abby, and now Ross, her husband, and JUDE, their sweet little 11 month old. 

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The Williamsons are back in the US for a year, preparing to move to Nepal in 2018. They are one of the most rad families I know. Their wedding was my favorite wedding I've ever been to, because the people who know and love them are so fantastic and lead such fascinating, inspiring lives. That alone says a lot about Abby and Ross. Between the two of them, they've lived in Afghanistan, Nepal, Indonesia, and South Korea, and traveled extensively beyond that. Their kid already has like, I don't know, 6 countries in his passport or something. DANG JUDE. 

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We spent a sweaty evening romping around the Eno River Walk in Hillsborough, and had a great time catching up on life since the last time we all saw each other (like 18 months ago - we added two kids to the posse in that time span!). I'm really thankful to be living in the same area as them again (Abby and I grew up in RDU together, and then lived in Seattle together for 3 years), and am excited to hang out in the time before they move to Nepal. 

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Wish them well as they prepare for the next (huge) adventure, and check out their blog for more updates (click"join us!") : http://wewilliamsons.com

CHEERY CHERRY

I love this tree. It's one of my favorite things about our house, and I'm always sad that the blossoms can't stick around longer. 

But! We capitalize on them while we can. A year ago was the first time we saw them, because when we moved in 2015, it was just after they had bloomed. What a difference a year makes! 

2016 (Esther around 15 months)

2016 (Esther around 15 months)

2017 (Esther at 2)

2017 (Esther at 2)

My favorite people

My favorite people

These last six weeks have been probably the hardest so far in parenting, and probably even in our marriage, and we can trace most of it back to the beginning of POTTY TRAINING. It is the best of times and it is the worst of times. Being a parent and being married are both such hilarious and wonderful and hard and ugly and beautiful circumstances. Because of all of those things and more, they are tremendous gifts, and I am eternally grateful for them. 

A very un-Wesley face, but a very happy accident when paired with this onesie. 

A very un-Wesley face, but a very happy accident when paired with this onesie. 

MCDANIEL FAMILY

This beautiful family!! This was one of my very favorite family photo sessions of the last few months. I love the McDaniels — Jason and Heather were my campus ministers all through my years at UNC, and I've reconnected with Heather since moving back to Durham in 2015. It's pretty cool to have known them as newlyweds, and now as parents of FIVE gorgeous children. I so respect and admire their family, and am thankful to know them. 

I was SUPER pregnant while taking these photos, but I was excited to capture some photos for their Christmas cards in the Forest Hills neighborhood in Durham. Their kids were promised ice cream after this if they cooperated, and as that's a rare treat for them, they DEFINITELY cooperated. I was amazed — they were so well-behaved, and for the most part smiled on command. It also helps that the siblings all get on very well and make each other laugh a lot, so we got lots of happy faces for most photos. 

Alexa

Alexa

Gavin

Gavin

Caden

Caden

I had to keep this outtake, because GAGE! He is hilarious, as only 3-year-olds can be. And do his suspenders not KILL you!??! I love them so, so much. 

Gage

Gage

Baby Elias!

Baby Elias!

Also an outtake: they're all reminding Gage that if he wants ice cream, he needs to pull it together and turn around. HA! I can't. 

This photo was Alexa's idea, and I was shocked that Caden was okay with it! So sweet!! What a great brother. :)

These boys love their one and only sister so much — it's pretty sweet. 

Thanks so much for letting me capture this special season in your family's life, Jason and Heather! :)

ESTHERISMS PART 2

And some of our family photos from a couple of weekends ago, taken by my sister Jessie. YOU'RE THE BEST, TANNE JESSIE!

  • She still refers to herself mostly in third person, and she pronounces her name "Eh-tay," unless she's being really deliberate, and then it's "Essstherrrr." 
  • Sometimes while crying (because she bumped her head, can't get on her bike, Butter licked her, etc), she'll say, "Ehtay feelin' a lotta big emooootions!" I started talking to her about "big emotions" when she was upset at just a couple of days or weeks old, and I guess it's stuck. HILARIOUS.
  • EVERY time her feet touch the threshold of our front door when we go outside, she says, "What a beautiful day out here!" I totally love that positive outlook. 
  • She loves to be wet — in the pool, the bathtub, or especially if it's raining. She does not care that she gets completely soaked. Even if we are LITERALLY 18 seconds from getting in the car. 
  • She can sing a surprising variety of songs and recite a lot of books and poems by heart. My father-in-law read to her a lot when they visited a couple of weeks ago, and he took to pausing at different moments in books and let her complete the sentences... I was really surprised to hear her doing that, even with books she had only heard a couple of times. She can do a lot of Robert Louis Stevenson's "Swing" poem, loves to "sing" (recite) "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star," and knows many verses of worship songs we listen to (a lot of Bethel and Bryan + Katie Torwalt).  
  • She's up to 4 baby dolls, and these are their names: Baby Girl, Baby Boy, Baby Emma/Eliza (changes from week to week) and Baby Bebo. She must have all 4 to go to sleep, for naps or bedtime. 
  • She's recently taken to drinking "coffee milk," which is a trick I learned from a family I nannied for (hi, Jacobsens!). Just a splash of black coffee in a Peter Rabbit mug of milk and she feels like a SUPER BIG GIRL. 
  • She was quite taken with the cloggers at the folk festival at the state fair a few weeks ago (basically like a NC-style of tap dancing). The 8-12 year old girls wore a lot of sparkles, and now she won't stop talking about "sparklies." I found a pair of glittery platform heels to sell on Poshmark, and she loves to wear them around the house. I'm kind of impressed that she can already walk in them, because they are FIVE INCHES TALL. 
  • She knows when I'm working on Poshmark, and when we're at a thrift store, or when I'm on my phone/laptop, or when she sees a stack of clothes waiting to be photographed on the couch, she says, "Mama's workin' on Poshmarrrrrrrrk."

Other random things..

+If you're a mom, I feel like you should know about the blog The Mom Edit. It's the mom version of Man Repeller (which is a refreshing blog for me, as the writing is clever and it stands out from other fashion/lifestyle/women's blogs). I am really thankful for the changing tide of motherhood, that appeals to another set of women who don't necessarily want to wear yoga pants and no makeup 24/7. I know LOTS of moms like that, but personally, I feel like a super frump if i don't shower, do my hair, and put on makeup and real clothes on the daily. So this blog GETS ME. And I appreciate that. 

+ iPhone's new iOS upgrade with the GIF keyboard is going to be a major marriage enhancer for the Stalsbrotens. I honestly don't know how we've made it this far without it. 

+ Things I miss most while being pregnant (not in any particular order): overalls, sleeping on my stomach, painting my own toenails, living without heartburn, running (weirdly), carrying Esther around unencumbered, pants not falling down and/or cutting into my growing belly. Hello?!?!

+ Things I love about being pregnant (this time around): feeling this little dude moving ALL THE TIME, not being so concerned about how my body is changing, my maternity clothes (seriously! even sans overalls, I'm digging them), feeling more connected to this baby (because now I know the joy of having a baby!), how fast this pregnancy is going compared to being pregnant with Esther, the AMAZING group of moms I have around me, Esther understanding that she's having a little brother and being SUPER motherly to her baby dolls (SO CUTE). 

These photos were taken at 33 weeks, and I'll be 35 weeks this weekend. With any luck, he will be here just after Thanksgiving (what I am TRULY hoping for)... And if not then, we're shooting for the 5-7 week mark. Which is amazing!! Little dude, we are so thrilled to meet you soon! 

ASHLEY + J.MIKE

A couple of weeks ago, I met up with my new friends Ashley and J. Mike at Cocoa Cinnamon in downtown Durham. If you haven't checked this place out, put it on your list NOW, because it's some of the best coffee in the South (coming from a sort-of Seattle-ite... You know I'm serious, and it's good!). 

We started at CC and then strolled down to some old railroad trestles around the corner to get some headshots/couple shots for the Blake's new venture, Midnight Harvest. These people are so rad. We met through our church, and now they're moving on to help with another church plant southeast of Raleigh. I'm sad they won't be at King's Park as much, but I'm excited for all their new adventures! Ashley grew up in Kazakstan and speaks Russian (what?!) and Mike works as a sports journalist at the News & Observer, so they're both pretty much my heroes. AND they're super creative, are parents to two adorable babies, obviously have a great friendship, and love Jesus, so I'm just over here like... #goals. 

Thanks, Ashley and Mike, for letting me spend this time with you, and sharing a little bit about your lives with me! Excited for your new chapter... Now everybody go check out Midnight Harvest on their blog and Instagram! :)