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Summers Are My Favorite

I can’t believe that as I’m sitting here typing this all three of the kiddos are at school. In all transparency I welcome the silence these two days of the week, but I also long for their giggles, splashes in the pool, and the sound of them singing at the top of their lungs. (However I don’t miss playing referee or the sound of their arguing – amiright?!)

We had an amazing summer. A summer filled with family time, Vitamin D, and many opportunities to serve together as a family. I learned so much about myself and about our family. My heart grew emotional as the summer days were coming to an end and the school year was approaching. I just wanted to bottle up all the best parts of summer and keep the kids and all our memories in one big bubble. The kids however were trying on their school uniforms every other day and were sharing with me all their big plans for TK and Kindergarten. They didn’t fully share my sentiment, but I was reminded of how incredibly thankful I am that my children feel loved and cared for even when I’m not around. I’m so blessed that I have an extension of what is happening in my home, in the shape of a school for my children. So as I’m sitting here completely exhausted by the beginning of the school year (I am NOT  a morning person!), I want to take some time to share a bunch of iPhone pics of our best parts with you – key words – best parts. I have three kids 6,4, and 2… obviously they fight and argue and wine. Oh do they wine! But your kids probably do that too. You’re so sick of hearing it – why would you want to read about it? So as I choose to focus on all the sweet times, maybe it will help you see your sweet moments in the “in between” too!

Lessons from the Summer:

  1. It’s hard being a homebody with three little kids. They like to do stuff! They make huge messes when they’re home all day. So treat the kiddos with a movie in mommy’s bed! It keeps everyone contained and the living room gets a break!39937417_10100448027307648_1032304271585968128_n
  2. If you’re a homebody in Florida, you have to have a pool! Whether you blow that bad boy up or it’s built in, just have one! The kids don’t realize that you’re kicking them out of the house, they think it’s a reward or something! Win win for all!
  3. If you add a banana to the nastiest green vegetable juice you can find and then freeze it as a popsicle, you don’t have to fight your kids to get their daily dose of veggies! 34321879_10100417502774058_3535881502023745536_n
  4. Mark your calendars months in advance for Chick-fil-A day and 7-11 day. What’s better than free Chick and Slurpees? And they’ve already had their veggie pops so don’t fret over all the dye in the slurpees – balance people!
  5. Serving together as a family has provided us with some of our most bonding moments as a family. It gives us an opportunity to show our children people and cultures that are different than us, while showing them the equality between us as well. It has brought the teaching they receive to life. It shows them what “daddy’s job” is all about, and that it’s not a job just for daddy! It has taught me to respond to opportunities rather than make an excuse.
  6. The beach is a must. I don’t like sand and I rarely get into the ocean, but for some reason I just LOVE the beach. We go to NSB every summer. The kids are always on their best behavior that week and we bounce back and forth between pool and beach all day every day. We are lenient of schedules and we check out of technology for the most part. Is summer really even summer without a beach vacations?! Not for this family!
  7. One on one time in a family of 5 is hard to come by, but being intentional is worth it! We took both girls out on dates this summer and Jonah got a day at Sea World. All three of them were in heaven for those few hours and it’s so much fun seeing who they are when they’re the center of our attention. Our oldest and youngest lived it up! Our middle was so quiet at first (not like her at all) and it almost felt like that awkward first date in the beginning – I suppose it’s a classic middle child thing, but she soon loosened up and it was a perfect night.
  8. Sign your kids up for all the fun! We did a fun reading camp and a VBS and it was a perfect way to break up our summer routines, or the lack thereof, and a great time for them to spend with their friends. Added bonus: Jesus and books!
  9. Stay up late and when you’re so tired the next day make a fun starbucks trip! It’s what summers are for, right?!
  10. Even if you don’t go to the beach, or go to VBS, or have a pool, just have fun together. More than any other summer the reality of these little people growing up hit me hard. The days can be so long. So.very.long. But the years are flying by. I checked on the kids the other night and the sight of my 6 year old sleeping overwhelmed me. She looked so big. How did she fill out her bed so fast? When did her face get so mature? The “growing up” stuff is happening every time we blink. Each year is a year closer to when she doesn’t need us for every little thing. When she doesn’t live with us. When she doesn’t share our last name. We have to be intentional with this small window of time we have with our babies and that intentionality doesn’t require money, or theme park passes, or a beach. It just requires that we’re present.

 

So cheers to an amazing summer and fall we welcome you. Mostly we just welcome your somewhat cooler temps, football games,  and holidays… not the 5:45am wake up calls (palm in face emoji).

Wedding

#FallingHeadleyOverHeels

Summer in Florida is our rainy season. I know, kind of ironic since we’re known as the sunshine state, but it’s true! Many outdoor weddings are moved inside, engagement sessions and senior portraits are often rescheduled.

The week leading up to Gabby and Thomas’ wedding was no different. It rained all week long and the few moments of relief it gave us was still extremely overcast and cloudy. I knew that Gabby was a roll-with-the-punches kind of girl and honestly, I wasn’t worried about her being disappointed about pictures outside. I have the cutest bubble umbrellas and knew that her and Thomas would make the most of it and we would still get adorable photographs. However, as much as I love those umbrellas, I was so happy for Gabby when we didn’t need them!

You guys – it was a miracle! The clouds opened up and rays of sunshine came bursting through! It made for a gorgeous day, a day that perfectly reflected their love for one another!

“They are always happiest when they’re together.” 

“When they first got together we knew that was it, nothing else seemed to make sence.” 

“Thomas made it a priority to facetime Gabby every day during their years of long distance.”

“Gabby talks about Thomas all the time when she’s not with him.” 

These were the words that filled the ceremony and the toasts. Their pastor, family, and best friends witnessed their relationship for the past six years and were all thrilled that the day was finally here where these two would become one! You know you have something beautiful when you have so  much support and encouragement from your people. Support and encouragement that gets you through six years, and most of it long distance!

Thomas and Gabby, it has been an absolute honor to come alongside you in this season of your life. I feel so privilege to get a peek at what the rest of your friends and family have witnessed over the last several years. I pray that your love for one another continues to grow more and more every day!

Enjoy your preview!

xoxo

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Inspiration for Brides, Wedding

Sweet Summer Time

Its officially the first day of summer and we couldn’t be more excited! I’ll be honest, living in Florida it’s felt like the summer for a while now, but nonetheless, we love it!

Some of your favorite Orlando wedding vendors came together to give you summer wedding inspiration! We had all things patriotic in mind while styling it and this would be a perfect design for Memorial day, 4th of July, Labor Day, a military wedding, or heck, really any summer wedding! Hues of red and blue are the perfect pop against the clean white and bright look we all love!

Southern brides, don’t think you have to sweat like crazy to have a beautiful outdoor wedding! Don’t be afraid to pick that short wedding dress off the rack! As you can see here, when Sarah topped it off with the veil and red heels, she had classy written all over her!

I don’t know about you guys, but I was a bride on a budget! So take it from me, that doesn’t mean you have to trade classy for cheap or timeless for tacky! This design shows you how topping off your simple white cake with a sprinkled donut, decorating your tables with in season berries, and adding fresh flowers can make all the difference!

So pick up your glass of lemonade and scroll through for a taste of summer!

*This shoot was also shared on Southern Bride’s‘s blog – click here to see more

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A huge thanks to all the amazing vendors that made this possible!

floral designer: Flowers By Lesley | beauty: Abstract One Cosmetics and Studio 122 | gown store: Bridal Gallery of Orlando | cake designer: Bake A Wish Cakes and Sweets | venue: Paradise Cove Orlando | linens and coverings: Over the Top Rental Linens | equipment rentals: Dishie Rentals and Orlando Wedding and Party Rentals | event planner and calligrapher: Two Peas Designs | event planner: Big Day Celebrations

 

My Story

Dear Nikki,

Your body is trembling. You feel like you can’t breathe. You’re begging them to make the contractions stop but it feels like they’re not listening to you. Chris is right beside you holding your hand. He looks scared but you can tell he’s trying to be strong for you. All you want is for everyone to just stop moving and talking so fast. And your mom. You really want your mom.

After one more assessment the doctors will suggest they can wait a little longer and just like that your wish will come true. Your room will empty except for Chris and one nurse. But you still shake, and Chris still looks scared.

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These next few days will be the most painful and scariest days of your life. You will be told all of the possible scenarios of having a premature baby. You will be educated on the risks of developmental delays, physical handicaps, and possible death. You will sign a form giving the doctors consent to take extreme measures to save your little girl’s life. You will endure a pain that literally takes your breathe away. You’ll itch all over and see three of everything because of the steroids that will help your baby’s lung function. After 6 days you’ll be up all night with contractions that just wont stop, rushed into delivery and you will do your best to have your daughter naturally as you grasp to your original plan even if she is coming 16 weeks too early. But everything will go very very wrong and you’ll be numbed from the neck down as you lay exhausted on a table and they scoop your first child out of you. Even though you will be warned that 24 weekers can’t cry when they come out, the silence of her delivery will break your heart. They’ll put your little girl up to your face, snap the picture, and rush her to the NICU. And again, you’ll begin to shake, Chris will look scared, and you still want your mom.

I wish I could tell you the hard part is over… but it’s just beginning. You’ll try to stand up on your own before you’re ready because they wont let you in the NICU until you can have feeling in your legs again. You’ll be wheeled down to the NICU and see the tiniest little human you’ve ever seen. You’ll be so overwhelmed by everything that you think you’ll pass out, but instead you will vomit … in the NICU… in a sterile environment. You will learn how to scrub in any time you want to see your baby, what kangaroo care is, and where you can privately pump every three hours for the next five months. You’ll wait the longest 7 days of your life for her first brain scan to come back to let you know what level brain bleed she has. You’ll wait for tests to come back on her blood levels, her liver, her eyes, and her brain again. You’ll wake up in the middle of the night across town and call the nurses to see how her night is going. You will ride the NICU rollercoaster for five months and you will laugh and you will cry and you will pray and you will beg.

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I know it will be hard and I know it will seem impossible on certain days and I know that you will have faith that you wont ever be in the NICU again, and I know that you will be a second time, and a third time, and I know that you will question everything and experience heartbreak and anger and fear and emptiness…

but that’s not all to your story Nikki … there’s so much more that six years later I can tell you.

You will be in pain and you will shake and you will be scared, but you’ll also have an unexplainable peace that tells you your baby girl will be okay. You will stop shaking once the steroids wear off and there will come a time Chris doesn’t look so scared, and your mom does come, and she keeps coming! You will visit your baby girl every single day and you wont think twice about scrubbing in because you get to hold your tiny baby and experience skin to skin all day every day for those first few months.

Those tests that you’re so scared of, they come back clear every.single.time! No brain bleeds, no infections, no failures,… she’s perfect. You will meet the most incredible nurses that give you so much confidence that God went before you even in these small details. You will treasure the highs and you will endure the lows and you will survive the NICU, again, and again, and again.

You will learn why you took this so hard and feel like a failure. But even better, you will learn that is a lie and you will learn to be a little easier on your self. You will forgive yourself and ask for forgiveness. You will receive that forgiveness and you will experience healing, your faith will be restored, and God will get glory from this season of your life.

One day you’ll wake up and realize you have a six year old little girl who is more than ok, she’s perfect. She is kind and loving and extremely in tune with how others are feeling. She is cautious and a perfectionist and she overthinks things, but she is still that strong and fiesty little girl you see fighting to get unswaddled in her incubator. She will tell you how beautiful you are and make your heart melt and she will also ignore you and talk back and make your blood boil (I know that’s hard to believe, but it’s true). She will read to her little brother and she will teacher her little sister how to swim. She will love her family and have a heart for Jesus and she will always be a reminder to you not of a time when God wasn’t there, but of a time in your life where he was so very close and so very kind to you.

You’ll have two little girls and a little boy and they will have your whole heart. You and Chris will grieve together and heal together and you’ll keep praying together and you’ll always be reminded of God’s hand over the life of your children.

You can trust that these days are momentary troubles but there are days ahead that will far outweigh them all.

You can trust that God is a God of seasons, and though this may be your winter, richer the harvest He brings.

You can trust that though these days feel like days for mourning, I can assure you there are many days of dancing ahead.

And 6 years later, that is what you will do. You’ll jump up and down with your six year old daughter and watch her twirl, and you’ll laugh inside because her moves remind you of her daddy.

And your heart will be filled, and you will dance. 

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Happy 6th birthday Adyson Joy.

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Cecilia and Andre

Cecilia and Andre are the most outgoing, friendliest couple I have ever met! I swear that everyone they know instantly becomes their best friend. Whether you’re their barista or their UPS guy, it doesn’t matter! They’re going to treat you like they’ve known you forever and next thing you know you’re partying at their wedding! And that’s what it was! A PARTY!

It was a night like none other! My cheeks were sore at the end of the day due to me constantly smiling at them and laughing with their friends and family! There was a ton of laughter, squealing, jumping up and down, and pure excitement coming from everyone at their gorgeous Sarasota Garden Club Wedding.

Cecilia is so sweet that she couldn’t help but compliment everyone as she walked down the isle. Andre jumped up and down when they were pronounced husband and wife. They both kept checking on me the whole night to make sure I was eating and drinking plenty. I’m telling you guys, this is a special couple here.

It’s a crazy story how my path crossed with theirs, a story that maybe we’ll tell another time, but I will forever be grateful to have met Cecilia and Andre and capture the next chapter to their love story. Because of who they are and how they treat others, I wasn’t just a hired vendor for the night. For a few hours I became their closest friend, like their family, and I will always cherish their wedding day and their friendship for years to come!

Cici and Andre, thank you for being you! Thank you for loving people so well. Thank you for being a ray of light in a sometimes dark and gray world! Enjoy a little sneak peek from your special day!

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Uncategorized

Alex & Ray | Engagement

Ray received the news that once again he had orders to leave. In an attempt to celebrate his birthday before he left, Alex called all their friends and family together to have a big party. As she was setting everything up Ray asked her to run one last errand. Little did she know, Ray was doing some planning of his own! When she left Ray immediately started changing out the birthday decor for “she said yes” memorabilia. He put on his nicest suit and asked all the guests to make two lines leading from the front door to the back of the house where he had rose pedals set up, “Will you marry me” letters standing up, and him awaiting on one knee. Alex walked in completely surprised and overwhelmed. She said yes to spending the rest of her life with Ray and I am so thrilled to be able to walk alongside them during this season of life!

They’ll be tying the knot in the beautiful St. Augustine and it made the most perfect backdrop for their engagement session. It was an unusually cold morning but Alex didn’t let that stop her from rocking this gorgeous red dress, and of course Ray was nice and warm in his dress blues.

Ray and Alex, congratulations on your engagement! A huge thanks to Alex for allowing us to be part of this season, and Ray, thank you so much for your service to our country and our freedom.

Enjoy a preview of their engagement session!

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Wedding

Kim & EJ

I’ve known Kim for a few years, and when you become friends with her there’s a few things you’ll learn fairly quickly. One is how amazingly positive she is. She’s been through tough times and heartbreak in her life, but you would never know! She always has a smile on her face, usually is laughing about something, and always has a positive perspective at whatever the situation may be. Her zeal for life is contagious and you simply can’t be around her without smiling.

You also learn fairly quickly how she was suppose to be born in the 70’s and loves all things “hippie”. She always rocks the boho pants and hairstyles and loves all things flowers. So it was no surprise at all when she fell in love with The Acre and told me all about the flower crowns she would be making for her wedding! EJ is the perfect blend of crazy to go along with all of Kim’s fun personality, and totally carefree to let his girl have whatever she wants!

Kim’s vision came to life beautifully for their romantic bohemian styled wedding. The Acre Orlando was the perfect backdrop and everything from the flower crowns to the lace on the dresses complimented their special day.

Kim and EJ, I hope you can relive all of your emotions from that special day as you look through these photographs. I pray many happy years ahead of you, and of course all the babies 😉

Enjoy!

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Venue: The Acre Orlando

Meal and Cake: 4Rivers Catering

Bridesmaid dresses: ASOS

Bridal Gown: David’s Bridal

Suits: Men’s Warehouse

Jewelry: Forever21

Bridal Shoes: Guess

Hair and Makeup: Beautified by Bekah

DJ: DJ Todd and Company