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A Swell Mama's Birth Story: All Natural June 15 2017, 0 Comments


Swell Mamas Blog Birth Story

 

So, most of my friends know that I read and research EVERYTHING.  I turn to google for everything and keep a running list of things I need to look up.  When we found out I was pregnant, I hadn’t done much due diligence.  Sure, I had plenty of friends who had had babies at this point.  But, the whole area of pregnancy and childbirth was still very much a mystery to me.  My husband and I married just out of college and knew that we wanted plenty of time together before kids.  We knew childrearing was an important and all-encompassing job, and we wanted to be ready for it.  We put it off until I turned 30, and then my biological clock kicked into gear.  We were ready for kids!  But, I wasn’t ready for pregnancy and childbirth. 

When we found out I was pregnant, I was well into my first trimester.  Exhausted all the time.  Feeling queasy all the time.  As soon as I got home from work every day, I put on my pjs and laid on the couch.  There was no time and no energy for my research.  Growing a baby is hard work! 

Nick went with me to my first prenatal appointment, and we met our midwife.  I had purposefully joined her practice a couple years before knowing that I wanted a midwife to oversee my pregnancy.  We asked first-time-parent questions, and she gave us two recommendations that I took to heart:  read Penny Simkin’s Pregnancy, Childbirth, and the Newborn; and take a Confident Childbirth class.  (She also recommended The Birth Partner for Nick to read; he made it through one chapter and never picked it up again.) 

I quickly jumped into action.  I was well on my holistic journey, but so far my expertise was limited to healthy eating and cleaning products.  I had recently starting switching personal care products.  (This is especially important during pregnancy because anything absorbed by your skin transmits into your bloodstream and has a direct route to baby through the placenta.)  I had no idea what a natural childbirth really meant, but I was determined to figure it out.  I read every naturally-minded pregnancy and childbirth book I could get my hands on.  I scheduled my regular chiropractic care.  The nausea dissipated, and I was able to resume my normal healthy eating habits.  And, we plugged away on our basement remodel. 

Our friends also know that we always have some sort of home improvement project going on.  With Bambino’s impending arrival, we were turning the guest room into a nursery and wanted to reclaim a third bedroom in the basement.  This was the last major project in our fixer upper.  We had already touched everything else in the house.  What started out as a distant downstairs project that I could shut the door to quickly escalated to a whole-house endeavor that included updating the last of the electrical outlets on the main floor, adding recessed lighting in our living room, and refinishing our original 1930’s hardwood floors.  (This also meant moving out all of our furniture and shacking up with my in-laws for week!)  We don’t do anything half way! 

All natural birth

Along with our major life change of becoming parents, I also struggled with every mother-to-be’s question:  be a working mom or a stay-at-home mom.  I always thought I would stay at home with our kids.  (This is one reason we waited so long to start our family - we needed a good nest egg!)  But, suddenly, the decision seemed so daunting.  The thought of having a little extra income was enticing.  Ultimately, though, I knew I needed to make a break.  I could always go back if I missed it.  I gave my notice and helped find my replacement.  I chose my last day in the office as the Friday before my following Thursday due date.  I BEGGED Bambino to stay put to give me some time to rest at home before he made his debut.  Surprisingly, he agreed. 

Labor Day weekend was spent pulling weeds outside and napping on the couch while my dad and Nick plugged away on our basement remodel.  Sunday evening, we walked across the street to our best friends’ home for a takeout dinner.  (Burgers - yum!)  Nick was drinking for two, and I finally managed to pull him away to stumble home to bed.  He was snoring in about 5 seconds.  I couldn’t sleep.  I cuddled with our fur baby in bed, telling her she would soon be a big sister and reassuring her (and myself) that she would maintain her special place as “first-born.” 

Just before midnight, I rush to the bathroom as my water breaks.  Now, I wasn’t expecting my water to break.  Only about 15% of women have their water break as the signal that labor is starting.  I REALLY wasn’t expecting that my water would KEEP “breaking.”  I had heard of frequent trips to the bathroom for a little leaking, and I had seen the Hollywood images of huge puddles all at once.  But, I had never heard of a SERIES of puddles.  For half an hour, I move around the bathroom.  All the while, Nick is sawing logs - LOUDLY.  I figure I have plenty of time, and I want one of us to be rested for what is sure to be a long day ahead of us.  At this point, I haven’t felt any contractions. 

All of a sudden, our security alarm goes off.  Great!  I’m in labor and someone is breaking into our house!  I yelled for Nick to wake up.  Delirious, he tells me to turn off the alarm.  He, apparently, is not worried that the alarm is going off when all 3 of us are in the bedroom. I turn it off, and then his phone rings.  I pick it up and see a number displayed that I don’t recognize.  Now, he’s yelling at me to answer it.  I still don’t know why the alarm went off, but I tell the alarm company that all is ok.  When I hang up, Nick tells me that they had taped the basement motion detector up in the midst of the remodel, and it probably fell down.  He was right.  That would have been good information to have before I almost had a heart attack during labor.  At this point, I tell him my water broke, and he’s not going back to sleep.  My contractions have started.

Over the next hour, we make our final preparations for our hospital visit as my contractions quickly intensify.  Nick even runs to the ATM to get cash for parking.  I’m just happy he is not serious about transporting me the .10 miles to the hospital up the street in his John Deere.  When he returns, my contractions have been occurring every four minutes and lasting one minute for an hour.  We remember the 4-1-1 rule, so we head for the hospital.  We check in at 1:45 AM.  I still haven’t slept.  Bad news is that my midwife is out of town for the holiday weekend.  We find out that the head of the practice is on call - the only OB I’ve in the office during my prenatal visits.  Thankfully, we both liked him.

We get settled into the L&D room, and I get hooked up to the monitors.  I am only 1 cm dilated.  What a let down!  Because my water broke, I’m required to stay in the hospital.  at this point, I’m really wishing I had tried to get a cat nap in, but I honestly don’t know how anyone sleeps through that initial anticipation of beginning labor.  I also wish I had tried some of the techniques we had learned in class for early labor, but again, I was too anxious!  Just as we’re getting settled into the L&D room and discovering that it’s going to be awhile before any real action happens, Nick’s phone starts to ring.  He answers it to find out it’s the alarm company calling to check on the alarm that’s going off.  We know that it’s just the motion sensor again, but our poor fur baby is at home, most likely going crazy with the alarm.  Nick *literally* runs the tenth of a mile home to turn off the alarm and reassure Miss Ave.  He runs back to the hospital to discover *GASP* nothing has changed.  Bummer!

The first L&D nurse we had left me hooked up to the monitors, and we had to ask to be unhooked to allow me to walk around.  She was annoyed.  Thankfully, her shift ended shortly after, and we lucked out with an amazing L&D nurse who helped a lot in achieving the natural birth I desired.  Her babies had also been delivered by my OB, and she was confident that we would be happy with the experience.  She mentioned at this point that Nick would be allowed to catch the baby!  How awesome?! 

I spend some time in the shower, and labor progresses pretty quickly and consistently.  By about 7:00 AM, we feel certain that Bambino would be here soon, so Nick calls our parents.  They are both local, so they get going and are at the hospital within the hour.      Not long after, labor stalls.  I am in and out of awareness at this point trying to hold on to any second of rest I can between contractions.  The nurse and Nick are both trying to get me to move around, but all I want to do is lay on my left side.  I’m so exhausted at this point! 

The OB on call comes in to check on my status probably around noon.  He notes that I’m not progressing any further.  I have a contraction that I barely register, and he points this out to me.  He says we can have a little time, but the next course of action would be pitocin, and if that doesn’t kick my labor into gear, a c-section is possible.  Now, I know looking back that he was just laying out possibilities, but I can tell you that I heard “c-section,” and I woke right back up!  If this baby boy was still doing just fine, he was going to come out the natural way!  I specifically remember the nurse asking the doctor to give us an hour, to which he agreed.  (This is one of the tips I had learned in childbirth class, and Nick and I were well prepared to ask for more time before turning to interventions.)  I’m so thankful she asked the question before Nick and I had to remember to. 

The nurse suggests we try changing positions, and I whole-heartedly agree.  It’s time to get this show on the road!  I kneel on the bed facing the headboard and baby boy starts moving into position.  Once again, labor progresses.  About an hour later, I am 10 cm dilated and starting to feel the urge to push.  The OB is called in.  Pushing is exhausting.  They keep encouraging me to keep up with the pushing.  As baby boy’s head crowns, the OB worries about how I would tear.  He believes the direction and degree of the tear warrant an episiotomy instead.  MAYBE if I had had a doula or a midwife, dedicated perineal massage would have prevented it, but at the time, I was ok with this.  (I’ve had several friends who had third degree tears and were unable to sit or wear pants for at least a week post partum;  I healed very quickly and have had no issues post-procedure, so I am content with the decision.)  He applies a localized lidocaine and performs the episiotomy quickly.  After a few more pushes, Nick catches our little munchkin as he enters our world.  (I didn’t want any pictures during L&D, but I do wish I had one of this moment!) 

We got to enjoy skin-to-skin time as I was stitched up.  We enjoyed some family time together the three of us, and Nick and I finalized baby boy’s name: Colton.  It was the same name that we kept going back to during pregnancy, and now, it seemed like the right fit.  We also incorporated Nick’s middle name, Reese, which is a strong family name on his side since his grandfather.  Colton was weighed and evaluated quickly during this time, and Nick finally went out to tell our parents their grandson was here!

All in all, I am very happy with my labor and delivery experience.  I’m a little bummed that my midwife was out of town, but I did like my OB and felt like he did a good job respecting my wishes.  I LOVED our L&D nurse - she really helped us have a great experience.  Most importantly, though, Nick was an amazing labor coach.  Even though he couldn’t make it through one book, he showed up to our childbirth classes and kept all of the information in his back pocket.  He kept me hydrated and pushed me when I needed pushing. 

We couldn’t have done it this way without our amazing childbirth class.  While the class focused on natural methods, it also recognized the place for modern medicine.  We are lucky to live in an age where we have access to incredible medical advances that save lives every day.  Our only fault is relying on these measures too quickly and too frequently, in my opinion.  Childbirth is a natural process - one that our bodies are equipped to handle, for the most part, without interventions.  There are certainly plenty of situations where interventions save both mothers and their babies, but we need to remember to trust our bodies first and let our natural instincts guide us.  (This is also my motto for parenting!)  So, in that spirit, I encourage you to pursue a natural birth, if that’s important to you, but most importantly, I urge you to demand an empowered birth;  one where you are an active part in delivering your baby (not simply the vessel from which it comes.)  We should not be bystanders to a miracle occurring around us, but we should be active participants in bringing our babies into a world where we are their first advocate. 

Newborn in the Nursery

Every labor and delivery is different, but the following steps should help you achieve an empowered birth:

  1. Do your research:  Read pregnancy books; watch childbirth videos; pay attention to all the details!  Learn about the steps of labor.  Find out what interventions your doctor and hospital ascribe to, and what best and worst case scenarios look like.  Figure out what interventions you’re on board with and which ones you want to avoid. 
  1. Focus on your prenatal lifestyle: Healthy nutrition is important for growing babies.  (This can be a tough one given morning sickness and pregnancy cravings, but do the best you can!)  Talk to your doctor or other health care advisor about any supplements or specific nutrients to include in your diet.  Walking and squats along with Kegel exercises prepare your body for childbirth.  Even if you plan to use modern medicine with your birth, preparing your body physically will allow your body to handle those interventions more easily.  Regular chiropractic care helps keep your body in alignment, allowing more space in your pelvis for baby’s head, which encourages a head down position.  Investigate other ways to deal with any side effects of pregnancy you are experiencing such as morning sickness or edema. 
  1. Build your support team: choose a doctor and/or midwife you trust and respect.  You want somebody who can handle the best and worst case scenarios.  Decide if you want to hire a doula.  If your spouse is not going to be dependable or won’t be able to articulate your wishes, a doula can offer support for both of you!  Lean on any other mothers in your circle - parents, sisters, and girlfriends can all be valuable sources of support and wisdom. 
  1. Attend a childbirth class: I really think this is an excellent way to get your spouse involved in your pregnancy.  So much goes on “behind the scenes” that he is not experiencing first hand.  A class is a great way to share what your body is going through without you having to lecture him. 
  1. Write a birth plan: This is a great exercise to visualize your best-case scenario.  Meditation and visualization can be powerful tools.  Use them to show your mind and prepare your body for how you want your labor to go.  A rough timeline can help as well - identify the steps of labor and how you plan to cope.  This is a great way to really evaluate medical interventions and under what circumstances you would be comfortable with them.
  1. Remember the one hour rule: If at any time during your labor the doctor is advising on a medical intervention that you don’t want or would like to avoid for the time being, ask for more time.  As long as the baby is not in distress, give yourselves a chance to mentally process the information provided as well as giving your body the chance to physically respond.
  1. Stay empowered: Remember that you are the mama bear and this is your baby cub!  Trust your gut instincts and trust your body to know what to do.  If at any time you feel that childbirth is happening TO you, take a moment to visualize your strength.  Barring life-or-death situations, there is always time for a two-way conversation with your doctor.   
  1. Enjoy the golden hour: Regardless of how your labor and delivery went, take advantage of that first skin-to-skin contact to focus on what’s important: this little miracle!  You’ll have plenty of time later on to go through the what ifs and the could haves.    Even if everything didn’t go exactly as planned or how you expected, spend the first few moment’s of your little one’s life in gratitude. 

 

This blog is authored by Swell Mama Sydney! 

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Swell Smoothies: Pre-Made for Toddlers April 24 2017, 0 Comments

Amazingly simple and nutritious premade smoothies for kids
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You're a busy mom so we will keep this simple. Got a picky baby or toddler that doesn't eat? Sensory issues can also lend themselves to food and texture avoidance. Making a large batch of smoothies in advance and freezing them in reusable pouches is a great way to add more nutrition to your toddler's diet and experiment with flavors they already love while sneaking in the good stuff.
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Brooke's Recipe is easy to tweak for dairy free, or various fruit/veggie combos.
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Pre-Made Toddler Smoothies
2 cups Ripple Milk (high protein pea milk we love from Target)
Two large spoonfuls of yogurt (Greek in this case)
Two spoonfuls of ground Chia seeds
A handful of frozen butternut squash
Two handfuls of frozen blueberries
A scoop of frozen spinach
Two handfuls of frozen strawberries
A handful of sliced frozen peaches
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Blend and this recipe should fill up 6-8 reusable frozen pouches. We found ours on Amazon and love them! We need to make carpool and our kids wake up just 20 minutes before arrival time. Grab a pouch, set it in some warm water while getting dressed and it should be thawed enough to enjoy on the way to school.
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Healthy Toddler Smoothies

Crockpot Favorites from the Swell Mamas! April 24 2017, 0 Comments

Swell Mamas's Favorite Crockpot Recipes!

Best Balsamic Chicken CrockPot Recipes!

If there is one Swell Mama that has dinner ready at night, Holly is definitely at the top of the list. No real introduction needed for this post! Enjoy her favorite crock pot recipe and a few others from the Swell Mamas!

Balsamic Chicken Easy CrockPot Recipe from Holly of The Swell Mamas on The Swell Blog. @swellmamas

A few notes from Holly:

- I do 1 large can diced toms AND 14.5 oz can - we love tomatoes.
- Put sliced onion on top of everything.
- We used to do spaghetti squash, now I do brown rice as it's just easier for me. (Now you can buy ready to heat brown and wild rice in prepackaged containers for the very swift meal prep)

Favorite CrockPot Recipe:

Easy Salsa Chicken


Paired with:
Cauliflower Rice (pre riced in the frozen section)
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Favorite CrockPot Recipe:

Slow Cooker Beef and Broccoli

 

Paired with:
Cauliflower Rice (pre riced in the frozen section)
Sydney is on the GAPS diet and uses coconut aminos and refrains from thickening the sauce.

When Women Come Together For Mothers in Need April 24 2017, 0 Comments

A Diaper Party for Refugees~

Photo Credits: Stephanie Madison Photography/Atlanta

If I am being completely honest, I felt very overwhelmed the day of this event. The night before I took my baby to the ER for a high fever and hours of crying. I returned late to wake up to another sick child and was short on childcare the day of the diaper party. I forgot (no really this is how we roll these days) that a huge shipment was arriving at my house in the middle of the day along with an unloading crew of three men. My mom coordinated the shipment, our nanny arrived to help despite a false alarm of an impending delivery (she is a midwife), and I jumped through some entertaining, yet exhausting hoops to get everything set in place for our fundraiser. 

What appeared on the surface as a bunch of frustrating distractions and challenges actually turned out to hammer the message home as to the purpose of this event. As a working mom that day, I faced unexpected circumstances that impacted my ability to "go into the office." I exhausted resources to do what I knew had to be done despite the fact my kids really needed me that day. But in the end, I had resources and support to make this event a success and get through my regular "work day." Despite a late night at the ER, it was only a five minute drive. My baby had access to incredible care and we were back home within an hour. Our copay was $150. Cheap? No, but manageable. My challenges were barely a taste of what it takes for so many mothers to just survive and ensure the health of their babies. 

I am so appreciative of stressful days when I feel as if I am running a marathon. Did I really just admit that? It is because I can run it. I might kick and scream and text my friends about my drama all the way (pretty typical behavior for me) but I have the strength, support and ability to run the great marathon that is motherhood in the "fast lane." We could not have pulled this quick turnaround effort together so well without the village of other women who came out to support us, participated from their phones and computers, and donated so generously. Jean, our tag designer, helped sell raffle tickets. Kelly from Bon Glaze dropped off amazing baby donuts in plenty of time for set up. As did Shannon from Constellation Brands (wine). Bob at Fragile helped me put together Evey's old crib for the diaper bin. Ashley, owner of our raffle sponsor, lilywrap, not only contributed but also showed up with all three girls in tow including her newborn! So many women came out to drop in and support this event. Thank you!

While I keep coming home to diaper donations and they keep showing up at Fragile Gifts in Sandy Springs, we are close to about 4,000 diapers donated to the local distribution group, Helping Mamas. Wipes, clothes, formula and other items were also collected. That is about enough diapers to keep two Atlanta babies fully diapered for an entire year! However, we want your help year round so if you live in Atlanta, please consider continuing drop offs at Fragile in Sandy Springs whenever you have extra diapers you have not used (opened is fine) or extra sample formula, baby and kids clothes etc. Bob and Susan are so kind to be an official drop off for us!

Between online donations, the raffle and in store purchases, we raised at least $1000 to purchase diapers for refugee camps housing Syrian Refugees. We are still taking donations so feel free to donate tax deductible at www.fosterswell.org. So far, we should be able to purchase well over 7,000 diapers with funds raised so far!

How to give back on a budget

Brooke with Aysza from Helping Mamas and Swell Graphic Designer, Jean

So often I feel like a tiny contributor to the greater community. There are thousands more babies in need of diapers and many other things. It is hard to be keenly aware of all that I cannot accomplish through Swell Forever or personally. However, giving back is a state of mind that is infectious. Ignore the political craziness on the news for a week and perhaps just focus on one concrete thing you can do for others. We have an amazing opportunity in our own community to inspire change. Don't waste it! It is so easy to pay love forward and those who came together for our Diaper Party proved to me that little efforts mount into big ones to become a tipping point of great good in our world. 

I know a lot of you moms feel overwhelmed and have a lot on your plate. However, it is those very times you can relate to someone else whose needs are far greater. If you can afford to do it, maybe commit to buying an extra pack of diapers every time you purchase some for your child and donating them. No change in routine required. Short on time? Set up recurring payments to a favorite charity for the year. Maybe five minutes of your day required and the result is continual giving. You can be a fierce champion for others in the little things even if you feel as if you are underwater yourself most of the time!

And Our Adorabe Swell Mamas: Holly + Michelle!

A few remaining thoughts from our partners for this event:

"When a child is left in a dirty diaper all day, this not only affects their immediate health but their well being in the future. Insufficient diaper supply is linked to physical health concerns, child abuse and neglect, mental health concerns, and economic well being."

- Helping Mamas, Atlanta

"For the past several months, Carry the Future (CTF) volunteers throughout Greece, Serbia, Jordan and France have reported an urgent need for diapers in the camps. Our volunteer teams have purchased diapers with their own funds, at the request of our in-country partners and there are never enough to go around. Often babies are not changed as frequently as they should be, resulting in severe diaper rash and other complications."

- Carry the Future, Distribution to Refugee Camps Abroad

 

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This contribution is from our Swell Mama Brooke!
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    Diaper Need + What We're Doing About it April 10 2017, 0 Comments

    Syrian Refugee Support

    "When a child is left in a dirty diaper all day, this not only affects their immediate health but their well being in the future. Insufficient diaper supply is linked to physical health concerns, child abuse and neglect, mental health concerns, and economic well being."

    - Helping Mamas, Atlanta

    "For the past several months, Carry the Future (CTF) volunteers throughout Greece, Serbia, Jordan and France have reported an urgent need for diapers in the camps. Our volunteer teams have purchased diapers with their own funds, at the request of our in-country partners and there are never enough to go around. Often babies are not changed as frequently as they should be, resulting in severe diaper rash and other complications."

    - Carry the Future, Distribution to Refugee Camps Abroad

    No matter how my life differs from a woman living in a refugee camp overseas or a woman who is living in my own community struggling to provide for her children, the incredible thing about motherhood is the ability to understand the heart of another mom. Feeling the emotions that she must be going through as she desperately seeks to provide for the basic needs of her children is easy. It is easy because I know what it is to love so deeply these kids of mine and I can feel the own fight that I have to make sure they have what they need. 

    One stark contrast in my life and theirs is that I have never known what it is like to face the reality of not being able to give my child a clean diaper. I've forgotten diapers. I have often forgotten to wash my load of cloth diaper laundry, but I have never walked a day in the life of someone who literally cannot come up with a diaper for her child. I have never run away from home with nothing but the clothes on my back. I have never delivered or raised a child in a camp or seedy part of town. 

    There are too many ways we are different, but in the fact that we are mothers, there is a common bond of understanding. It has been on my heart to do something, anything, for years since first seeing images of refugees in Syria and the Yazidi in Iraq. I am tired of feeling powerless to do something and hope that the gift of a diaper will somehow bring relief to a mother who is raising a child in an almost impossible situation.

    Please join me and several other companies in coming together to show love and solidarity for our fellow mothers who happen to be in a place of need today. On Thursday, April 20th from 7-9 pm, I invite you and your friends to Fragile Gifts in Sandy Springs for a Diaper + Donuts shindig. Bring a pack of diapers for the babies supported through an amazing Atlanta organization called Helping Mamas. Helping Mamas not only assists local refugee families but also serves over 60 local organizations in need of baby essentials from diapers to car seats. 

    During the event, our friends at LilyWrap are sending in some amazing mystery gifts for a raffle to raise funds for diapers in Syria. Bob + Susan at Fragile will donate 20% of proceeds from gifts purchased in store to Carry the Future as well. If you are not familiar with this incredible organization, please go look them up. They provide baby carriers, baby boxes for safe sleeping and now diapers for refugees in camps across Europe. 

    https://fosterswell.org/products/buy-diapers-for-refugees

    While researching and planning this event, I came across a blog from Helping Mamas about Diaper Need. I have shared a portion of the blog below because I feel it is so helpful in understanding how your participation really matters in the lives of the babies you are helping to diaper.

    When a child is left in a dirty diaper all day, it affects...

    Physical Health Concerns:  Inability to supply a consistent supply of diapers exposes babies to diaper rash and infectious diseases. These situations are physically uncomfortable as well as dangerous to your child. Diaper rash can be so severe, in fact, that it causes the area to blister, bleed, and peel. This means more doctor visits and really unhappy babies. Unhappy babies lead to higher instances of child abuse, thus bringing us to our next point.

    Child Abuse and Neglect:  Studies show that diaper shortages have actually been directly linked to child abuse. Why? Well, cranky babies cry a LOT more. Babies who cry excessively are the most likely to be victims of Shaken Baby Syndrome. Additionally, babies who cry more tend to bond less with their mothers. This too increases parental stress and the likelihood of child abuse.

    Mental Health Concerns: Along with parental stress, mothers who are not able to provide a consistent supply of diapers feel guilt and anxiety, which can eventually evolve into depression, generalized anxiety, or other mental disorders. Furthermore, heightened stress in the home in early childhood can make children less ready for school, impact their socialization, and delay reading.

    Economic Well-Being: Without diapers, children cannot secure a spot in daycare, as you have to provide your own diapers. Without daycare, parents cannot work. Without work, parents cannot bring in a disposable income. If you’re a single mother living at or below the poverty line, not working is simply not an option. Additionally, inability to go to daycare can negatively affect the child. Children who go to daycare are more likely to obtain higher levels of education, thus insufficient supply of diapers leads to gaps in academic achievement. Gaps in academic achievement = gaps in education attainment. Gaps in education attainment perpetuate the cyclical nature of poverty, unemployment, and health disparities.

    This is where Helping Mamas and diaper supply banks are critical. Meeting diaper need improves overall well being as it is shown to stabilize families. Diaper distribution networks have found that diapers are an effective incentive for new parents to participate in parenting classes, GED courses, and other programs of the like.  By supplying diapers we aren’t merely supplying mothers with clean, happy babies. We are supplying mothers with a more secure future for their children.

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    https://www.facebook.com/events/296082900821020/

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    This contribution is from our Swell Mama Brooke!
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      For the Hesitant Hostess April 04 2017, 0 Comments

      Lumberjack themed first birthday party for boy

      The Hesitant Hostess

      by Kaylen "The Free Spirit"

      Parties... I LOVE parties: friendsgiving, Easter egg hunts, Taco Bell run after the Christmas Eve service... seriously, I come up with a reason to celebrate even the smallest thing.
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      My family laughs at me because I send an invitation for everything. I always want to have everyone at all of our parties, even if that means inviting 65 people to our son's 1st birthday which, thanks to the Georgia "ice" storm, only 40 people showed up for. I heard a quote the other day that described me perfectly-
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      "I love to throw parties but they give me so much anxiety."
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      Winter themed lumberjack flannel first birthday party
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      There, I said it... my pretty invitations, Pinterest decor, and full table of food and drinks puts me on edge until about mid party (or a few glasses of wine, whichever comes first). So you're probably wondering why I keep torturing myself by throwing these parties. Fellowship- I love the relationships that form at these parties, whether they are because of a common interest or something totally bizarre. But I have found that the best way to keep relationships thriving is to make an effort with anyone you want to keep in your life.
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      Family and friend first birthday party
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      I have thrown a girls Friendsgiving party for the past 5 years (I'll post about this come closer to Thanksgiving). But needless to say, after the first year of cooking everything, I decide to make it potluck, which ending up working out much better. This year, I decided to host an annual Easter Egg Hunt for the kids. Why do I decide to make things "annual" instead of waiting until I see if they actually succeed!?!
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      Yes, this party stressed me out, but it was a blast! My poor sister, who moved home from South Korea the week before and is staying with us, was in deep helping me prepare. Flashbacks of "Bossy Kaylen" from our childhood quickly appeared, but I quickly apologized for a snappy attitude. 
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      Thanks to the Georgia heat, the treats in the eggs were melted by hunting time. We even waited to put them out for that exact reason, but it didn't seem to help. My dog ate a cupcake (and some cookies, fruit, and candy), one kid had a gulp from my Dad's beer, and one of our guests had to rush home because her dogs escaped from her house. Needless to say, we all slept hard that night. On the other hand, I wrestled my son in the bounce house and he laughed so hard the entire time. Those giggles were worth every bit of anxiety I had before the party started. 
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      First birthday party high chair boy decor
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      --For the Hesitant Hostess with the Mostess--

      If you enjoy hosting parties but you get uneasy before the big show, here are a few tips I've found to help me:
      -
      1. Breathe... it's the memories that matter, not the wording on the invitation
      2. When people offer to help, let them (I am bad about this)
      3. You don't have to invite everyone- let the guest list aline with the party theme
      4. Invite a few people over early to help you set up (this is my mom and husband 100% of the time)
      5. Give your set-up crew specific tasks- they are there to help
      6. Live in the moment and enjoy yourself! 
      ---
      We asked the other Swell Mamas for their entertaining tips and here are some good ones: 
      -
      -----
      "If you have time, pick out a theme a few months in advance so you can start finding decor in random places even on a tight budget. I often shop at Homegoods and find something I love to build my theme around. I also started laying out dishes and serveware a week in advance to get a better idea of where things will go and what else I need to borrow or buy to round out the theme. This makes a huge difference in reducing my "to do" list and eliminating last minute errands."
      -
      -----
      "Invest in some "party bins" to store leftover decor after hosting a party or shower. Join online party decor exchanges so you are not starting from scratch if you can find them in your area. And...spend the majority of your budget on good food and drink because that's what makes the party!"
      -
      -----
      "Pinterest is my best friend! I spend hours looking for theme ideas and inspiration before hosting a party/event. And since I am not crafty, I plan ahead so I can order decor from Etsy or other sites!"
      -
      -----
      "Always prep food the night BEFORE! I love using yard clippings for arrangements. Azaleas, camellias, magnolias are all native plants here in the South that provide beautiful blooms. Utilizing what you are growing in your own backyard adds a relaxed vibe to your event. Even if few plants are blooming, you can rely on greenery such as nandina foliage and berries in winter. Sometimes I grab an inexpensive bouquet from the store and break it up into several arrangements with greenery to make it go further."
      -
      Food + Drink
      "These are the most important for me! I always try to consider my guests' preferences to make sure I have something for everyone. If certain friends don't drink alcohol, make sure you have a fun option for them besides water so they also feel as if they are celebrating. If vegetarians are in the mix, offer them a meat free option that is also filling."
      -
      "And lastly, I always make a spreadsheet for an event. I keep track of decor, menu, what needs to be bought, made or done. This proves helpful as a honey-do list for my husband. I can just print out the spreadsheet so both of us can see what is left to be done or create a quick shopping list. Be sure to print out any recipes pulled off Pinterest. It saves a lot of time prepping so you don't have to keep looking up the recipe online."
      -
      -----
      "I make sure to welcome guests at the door and offer a drink. It's really important that people feel noticed and welcome from the beginning!"
      ----

        This contribution is from our Swell Mama Kaylen!

        Mom Blogger Kaylen


        Starting a Cooking Club: The Planner's Story March 24 2017, 0 Comments

        How to Start a Cooking Club! Swell Mamas

        How to Start a Cooking Club!

        The summer of 2013 I read Bread and Wine by Shauna Niequist.  The book was recommended by my church as part of their summer book club series and peeked my interest as it was a “collection of essays about family, friendships and the meals that bring us together.”  It also included a few recipes and as someone who loves to cook (and eat) I figured it would be a fun, quick read.  Little did I know, this book would move me to action – using food and wine to bring people together and over time become so much more…

        It was in my early twenties that I really started to enjoy cooking – trying new recipes, spending hours to make a special meal and experimenting with different flavors.  I remember learning so much by just watching others in the kitchen and seeing how simple things such as fresh herbs and the actual presentation of a dish could make all the difference.  I don’t claim to be a master chef by any means, but most importantly I enjoy the process and labor or love that goes into cooking a good meal and (most of time – yet, there have been some failures!) others seem to enjoy them too.

        Bread and Wine Cooking Club Inspiration

        Yet, just like Niequist shared in her book, I think what has always brought me the most joy is the gift of community that happens when eating a good meal and sharing a bottle (or two) of wine around a table.  Some of my fondest memories (yet, note not all are necessarily happy) are linked to food and fellowship.  So, that September after reading Bread and Wine I was craving the need to connect more regularly with friends and thought why not through cooking?  So with girlfriends scattered across Atlanta all with varying schedules and interests I casted a wide net and sent an email to about twenty plus women (some who I knew well and some who were more acquaintances) and asked “who wants to join me in starting a cooking club?”

        Our first gathering was hosted at my house and I made most of the meal just asking people to bring drinks or dessert.  It was Mexican themed (my favorite!) – chicken enchiladas, sautéed corn and poblanos, homemade salsa, etc.  I wanted our first gathering to one where people could just get to know one another and plan how our “club” would work.  We sat around the table for a couple of hours – telling our stories – where we grew up, how we met our husbands, what we enjoyed doing, what we did for a living, plans for the future, etc.  I knew everyone except for Holly (who Brooke had invited) but still learned something new about everyone that night and was impressed how honest and open everyone was from the start.

        Our first cooking club!

        From that first night, we took off – rotating houses, meeting once a month - usually on Tuesday nights.  The host picks a theme for the dinner and provides the entrée.  They then assign others a dish category such as a salad, side, appetizer, dessert or drink to bring so we have a complete meal.  We originally had a Google Doc we used to capture our theme and recipes, but that quickly went by the wayside.  However, we do keep a Pinterest board which has a fair amount of the recipes we have tried over the years.  Also, during some months we jazz things up a bit by doing a weekend event that includes spouses and/or kids, girl get-away weekends, or our regular standing Christmas Tea each December at various hotels. 

        As time has evolved though, so has our group – we now find ourselves all moms of young children, some have moved further out into the Atlanta suburbs, and there have been many life and/or career changes.  However, through it all we all have remained committed to our cooking club and that is because gathering with friends around the table each month has nurtured not only our love of food but  fellowship.  We are doing life together and I never would have imagined that what started as a cooking club would turn into so much more.  Even on my worse day – when I don’t feel my best, had a long day at work, feel guilty for leaving my family, or just really tired – it would be easy for me to say “Hey girls, I’ll catch you next month” but you know what I find?  When I go – I always come home rejunivented, happy and so thankful for such wonderful friends.  They support me, laugh with (and at times at me), and push me in ways I would never have imagined (such as writing this blog!)  I look forward to our monthly gatherings and know each month will bring something new.

        I take much pride in my cooking club, because it is there that, “I feel honored to create a place around my table, a place of laughing and crying, for being seen and heard, for telling stories and creating memories (Bread and Wine, p.251).”  I hope many of you will be inspired by our story and if so look into starting your own cooking club.  Let’s create more fellowship over food and wine.

        Tips for Starting Your Own Cooking Club

        1. Keep the group manageable. Six is a good number because everyone can sit at a table together which helps in creating authentic relationships.
        2. Pick a regular day of the week and starting time for each month. We do Tuesday’s at 7:30. We usually just confirm a date month by month but it may also help to set a calendar for a few months at a time. 
        3. You don’t need rules but you need a plan (and usually an organizer) to ensure the group will continue to meet month to month. In our case this person was me (hence the nickname “The Planner” but usually there is one in every group!).  For us, we rotate homes and the host selects a theme and makes the entrée.  They then assign others a dish category such as a salad, side, appetizer, dessert or drink to bring so there is a complete meal.  The dishes can be anything that match the theme.
        4. Keep track of your themes and your recipes! This is something we haven’t done very well and looking back I wish we had a list of the themes we have done each month.  We do have a Pinterest board where we have posted many of our recipes, but it still doesn’t capture everything we have made.
        5. Include wine at every meal. Trust me.  Moms need wine.
        6. Vary from your regular monthly night a few times a year. We have gone to a restaurant a time or two, taken a cooking class, had family bbqs, attended Christmas teas and did a girl weekend get-away.
        7. Have fun. Your recipes may not always turn out perfect, but they make for a good laugh.  Sometimes it is ok just to be the person who brings the wine (or the store bought food disguised as homemade).  It is the memories made while enjoying the food (and wine) that matter.

        This contribution is from our Swell Mama Michelle!


        Tea Party for Three: Tulle + Toddlers March 16 2017, 0 Comments

        Toddler Tea Party: Table Decor

        -----

        The older I get, the more I like to create. However, the older I get, the more responsibilities I have...fabulous, beautiful, rewarding responsibilities...but alas, responsibilities. I have found that hosting a party is my outlet. However, my mom has urged me to watch my margins and not commit to putting too many on my calendar! Well I listened and decided to throw my oldest sweet pea a "low key" tea party with her input. She wanted a princess tea party but I had to draw the line for my sanity and my budget.

        The idea was just to have her closest friends over, set some cute place settings for tea and call it a fun, girly day. That was a GREAT idea until I sat down to write down who to invite limiting it to girls right around her age. Well, my baby girl is blessed to have at least 15 little girls to call friends. So what started as just one humble little party table that would take me about 30 minutes to throw together turned into using my dining room, coffee, and kids table in three different rooms. I had good intentions to start off simple. Things just happen! Sorry mom!

        My trick to planning parties is to start out super early (months or weeks ahead) when I have energy or an idea captures my attention. I go on a little frenzy and find discount decor (Homegoods is my go to for inspiration I can afford and return if I change my mind) and then put a short plan together for the event including pulling some pins for food. Food is hard for me. I try so hard to cook and prep but it is always the hardest part of entertaining for me. I have learned to keep it basic.

        For toddlers at 10:30 am in the morning I didn't have to have lunch. I found gluten free macaroons and shortbread cookies at Homegoods. I did luke warm tea, lemonade or water for drinks. The only actual prep for food I did was muffins (my adorable babysitter let my daughter make them) and strawberry raisin bread toast (made first thing in the morning). The cake was ordered completely plain from my local bakery (petit fours were way too expensive although so pretty). I found mix and match tea cups and saucers over the course of a few months at Homegoods as well. It took visiting a few locations to get a good variety.

        Since I had the party at home and didn't have to pay any fees like I would at another venue, I made the tea cups and tea pots my little girl's heirloom third birthday gift. I was working on a concept Forever Blanket and made that her gift as well as she transitions to a big girl bed. I am so excited to see years and years of parties, afternoon snacks and play dates with both my girls enjoying the adorable tea sets I found.

        Everything I found for her party was on sale or clearance. That is my rule in life. I can do things fancy, but they have to be bargains. The best thing about a tea party theme is the ability to dumb it down or make it fancy, depending on your preferences, kids, space, and budget. We've already shared a pot of tea together post birthday. That is the real magic that has transpired since celebrating my little lady...another excuse to spend time with my baby girl who is growing up faster than my heart can follow.

        I have one thing left to do though (besides put all this stuff up!). In place of traditional favors, I had each mom address an envelope and since we had a fancy photo booth for the toddlers, I will be sending out a printed photo of each girl as a thank you gift and hopefully, invaluable keepsake. How's that for saying goodbye to material things!

        A few things I learned from this experience:

        • If you have an affordable photographer in your area, hire them! Last year all I did was try to capture the Puppy Pawty 2nd Birthday since no one in my family is much of a photographer and I feel like I missed the fun. Stephanie Madison Photography did an amazing job! And was so fast!
        • Don't overdo food, three year olds don't need a ton of sugar (oops).
        • Start setup a week ahead. I laid out the place settings and played with the tulle I found on clearance at Joann's to see where things would go and if I needed anything else.
        • Invest in a handmade party dress. I let Isla pick out the color and materials for her dress while at Joann's along with the pattern. My seamstress in house made both girls gorgeous matching dresses sized so they can wear them more than once.
        • Use your assets! My mom is an Atlanta event florist. All those gorgeous blooms were actually an entire week old and had been sitting in her flower cooler from an older event. I didn't pay a dime for flowers. Lucky me!!! Thanks mom.

        In case you see something that catches your fancy, details at the end of the post!

        Tea Party Food Ideas: Kids

        Tea Sandwiches and Cookies

        Tea Party Table Settings

        Floral Design: Atlanta Parties and Weddings

        Tea Party Invitations: DIY

        Unique Toddler Birthday Party Ideas

        Dance Party: Tea Party Birthday

        Shabby Chic Tea Party Themed Toddler Birthday Party Cake, Silk Peonies and Garden Roses.

        Gorgeous flower birthday party cake ideas. Simple, silk flowers on white cake.

        Family Birthday Party Photo: Toddler Tea Party

        Birthday girl, Tea Party Table Decor.

        Shabby Chic, Style Me Pretty Style Floral Arrangements for Tea Party Birthday.

        Organic flower crown party hat. White roses, greenery. Flower girl style.

        Birthday girl and her cake with daddy. Shabby chic tea party birthday, Pink tulle dress.

        Pink Tulle Baby Girl Party Dress, Flower Girl Style.

        Whimsical floral painting, Baby flower girl dress in tulle, flower crown, mom and daughter party photos.

        Blowing out candles, Flower cake, light pink, peach, white roses and silk peonies, Tea Party Birthday Party.

        Tulle flower girl and party dress for toddler with flower crown, Toddler tea party decor. Pink!

        Light pink Hobby Lobby Tulle Dress Pattern, Handmade toddler party dress.

        Baby Light Pink Tulle Party Dress from Hobby Lobby Pattern, Handmade and beautiful!

        Toddler Birthday Party Ideas: Family Photography in tulle dresses. Pink theme tea party.

        Flower girl handmade flower crown with white roses and greenery. Wedding or party style ideas.

        Toddler Tulle Pink Dress and Flower Girl Style Crown, Headpiece made of roses.

        Handmade party hat for toddler tea party birthday, tulle pink dress with full skirt.

        Rose and greenery flower girl crown, tea party headband, organic inspired parties and weddings.

        Pink vintage tea party themed birthday party for little girls, three years old. Classic gold accents party decor.

        Grandparent Party Photos.

        Beautiful floral inspired organic white wedding or birthday cake. Tea Party themed toddler birthday dessert. Peach, pink, white roses and peonies. Style Me Pretty fun!

        Life is short, eat dessert first napkins. Dessert party.

        Tea Party Table Setting, Wedding, Shower, Birthday Party. Vintage tea cups and saucers, high tea pink details.

        Mom and baby natural light photography. Light pink tulle baby dress. Birthday photo session.

        Mom and baby natural light photograph birthday party session. Pink and white accents.

        Baby girl tulle dress, bare feet photograph. Birthday party photo session. Natural light photography.

        Three year old toddler tea party high tea birthday party ideas and details. Tea pot with flowers. Silver set arrangement.

        Pinkies up, toddler tea party for little girls

        Pinkies up, toddler tea party for little girls, Daddy pouring tea.

        Pinkies up, toddler tea party for little girls

        Pinkies up, toddler tea party for little girls

        Pinkies up, toddler tea party for little girls

        Pinkies up, toddler tea party for little girls

        Pinkies up, toddler tea party for little girls

        Pinkies up, toddler tea party for little girls, Cake table decor.

        style me pretty birthday or shower cake with silk flowers, toddler tea party. three years old.

        Putting candles on the birthday cake, tea party.

        Kitchen island, flower arrangements, cottage style kitchen, calcutta gold countertops

        Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

        Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

        Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

        Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

        Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

        Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

        Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

        Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

        Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

        Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

        Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

        Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

        Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

        Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

        Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

        Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

        Swell Caroline Jewelry Photo Booth Idea, Toddler dress up tea party ideas. Pinkies up!

        Toddler Tea Party Floral Layered Birthday Cake, Shabby Chic Vintage Style

        White brick cottage portico front porch exterior with floral front door wreath, stained wood 6 lite glass door, flagstone steps, stained columns, wooden window boxes, nautical copper exterior light.

        Unicorn heirloom baby blanket with bunnies, personalized gift. Swell Forever

        Unique birthday gift heirloom for toddler. Forever Blanket personalized baby blankets.

         Sources:

        • Invitations: Designed to print by San Francisco Crafts and printed at Costco
        • Dresses: Joann's Tea Length Party Dress Pattern, Tulle from clearance rack except top layer
        • Tulle on Tables: Clearance rack at Joann's 
        • Ribbon chandelier (not sure if pictured): Discount ribbons at Michael's, leftover tulle from dresses, sewing hoop from Joann's
        • Tea pots, tea cups and saucers, flower plates, etc. all came from various HomeGoods and T.J. Maxx stores in Atlanta area
        • Front Door Wreath: Half off at Michael's
        • Photo booth lace: Old curtains from my mom, heirloom chair of my grandmothers
        • Photo booth jewelry: My cousin owns an adorable costume jewelry shop called Swell Caroline and let us borrow the pearls and beaded necklaces.
        • Cake Flowers: 40% faux flowers from Michaels - spray roses, garden roses and peony cut down off stems. Took 5 minutes to decorate cake and less than $10.
        • Flower Crowns: Handmade by my mom's flower shop, www.gingerlilyevents.com

        Swell Mamas: Hello There! March 02 2017, 0 Comments

        This was an accident. Truly. The path to this little space for other mamas started when I was pregnant with Isla in October 2013. My best friend from college, Michelle, asked me what I thought about starting a cooking club. I had actually been thinking about something similar at the time but didn't have the focus to get it going. One email later inviting some lady friends to start this nebulous social group called "cooking club" and we were official. We started with eight but quickly settled into six. Six women who represent a lot of diversity in styles, preferences, personalities, life experience and passions.
        -
        Sydney was a brand new mom at our first cooking club but I was soon to follow. And then the mothers in our group snowballed. Holly and I had met and bonded previous to cooking club through a mutual friend as we were both trying to get pregnant and stay pregnant! She was the only one who didn't have an initial connection to Michelle. Turns out Sydney and I actually both went to Furman together (I was there for a few years) although we were not familiar with each other. I met Kaylen and Christi for the first time. 
        -
        So it began, this humble group of funny and kind women (most of whom had some talent in the kitchen, yours truly not included). A few years down the road, we found ourselves at my cabin in North Carolina on our first retreat. We were desperate for a break. Two of us brought breast pumps. Sexy, I know. 
        -
        Swell Mamas came about after the most expensive bottle of wine I have ever bought got consumed and then we started in on the cache that most likely came from Sydney. The house was literally bumping. We went from teary eyed stories, bonding over bad boyfriends to just dancing in complete lack of rhythm and singing very loudly. It was the best of times. Somehow we joked about a blog. Supporting other moms. Writing about life. Being real. And our hopes to inspire and befriend other moms who need the very type of girlfriendship we were experiencing at that moment. (Note: Holly had to return home that night and got volunteered into this project by force of our wills)
        -
        I promised the girls if they would blog for my company I would buy them food. Free food is what sealed the deal. And wine. Maybe I promised them a trip to the spa too? We don't remember a ton of the details, but the Swell Mamas initiative was born. 
        ----
        -
        Our goal + mission? To share our hearts, to invite others into this beautiful bond we have nurtured and cultivated these past few years, and to just sprinkle joy and understanding into the lives of other mothers who need what we have needed from each other all this time: genuine, selfless friendship. 
        -
        We are not a clique. We are not a tribe. We are just six women who have a heart for loving others and inviting them into our everyday world.

        An Eric Carle Baby Shower! February 18 2017, 0 Comments

        Eric Carle Baby Shower from Swell Forever. The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme.

        Swell Parties:

        Gender Neutral Baby Shower with Eric Carle

        Truth be told, I hosted this Eric Carle themed baby shower for a dear friend at the end of last year. I'm not busy at all so of course it took "a few" months to share some photos. Since the baby's gender would not be announced until birth and would be a big surprise (yay!), the nursery theme was the mom's favorite, all things Eric Carle. As a school teacher, this just fit perfectly. It also happened to fit perfectly with the wide array of adorable teethers, books and baby toys being hawked at Marshalls. Lucky me! 

        I am getting way more efficient at hosting showers even with the two little people in my life keeping me on my toes. Simple menus, planning months in advance so I can buy things as I see them on sale and prevent last minute cramming for the right look, and having the housecleaning ladies from Green Queen come AFTER the shower are a few lessons learned from years of throwing parties.

        Enjoy some photos from our festive event. Cake from Henri's Bakery in Sandy Springs, GA. Rubber ducky from Amazon. Stolen decor from another shower the mom-to-be brought back (again, lucky me --- I am not so crafty). Food from the one and only Kroger. And adorable company consisted of her school teacher friends of all ages and stages...they were a hoot.

        Eric Carle Baby Shower from Swell Forever. The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme.

        Eric Carle Baby Shower from Swell Forever. The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme.

        Eric Carle Baby Shower from Swell Forever. The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme.

        In case you were wondering, Eric Carle has written a lot of books. Over 40 in fact!

        Eric Carle Baby Shower from Swell Forever. The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme.

        Eric Carle Baby Shower from Swell Forever. The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme.

        Eric Carle Baby Shower from Swell Forever. The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme.

        Eric Carle Baby Shower from Swell Forever. The Very Hungry Caterpillar theme.

        You know every baby has to have one of our personalized Forever Blankets...even if they don't have a name yet and we don't know their gender. The beautiful thing about our navy Millie Forever Blanket gingham check pattern and red embroidery.

        https://swellforever.com/collections/forever-blanket-baby/products/the-millie-forever-blanket-baby

        Eric Carle Themed Baby Shower!

        Cute Gender Neutral Baby Shower Ideas

        By the way, I now know if Baby O is a boy or a girl...to be continued...in the nursery.

         ---

        For more inspiration, subscribe to our blog.

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        Shop Small Gift Exchange! January 11 2017, 0 Comments

        Shop Small Gift Exchange: White Elephant Party Ideas

         

        Back in December, I hosted our Swell Team members for a holiday party to celebrate an amazing year. As my gift to them, I curated some special gifts from other small businesses and entrepreneurs and tried to only buy gifts that were purchased through such shops or in local stores I love. Enjoy some of the gifts I came across and keep these in mind for your Valentine's gifting!!! Unless of course, our Forever Blankets fit the bill for your gift buying needs. 

        Swim Gift Ideas and Gifts for the Beach

        Some of my mompreneur friends have pretty AWESOME beach ready gear. Betsy at SwimZip carries my favorite kids bathing suit line as well as SPF protective cover ups for women. I love mine in the same pattern as the one featured above. The kids suits are a must have for summer, especially the long sleeve rash guards.

        Beach Ready Maternity Cover Up

        I have also loved gifting Kami's Simple Sarongs. They are adjustable for all sizes and great for teens to more mature ladies. I gave my mom one a few Christmases ago. I love how practical they are because the material is made like a towel but keeps you covered up when you get out of the water.

        And the Bogg Bags made by Kim's company are perfect for everyday but made for the beach and pool lover. You can wash out the sand and gunk easily. She has different sizes, tons of colors, and they are a great price point. The recipient of these this year gave her little girl the small one so she could match mommy's larger bag. 

        My friends at Beer Greetings make clever giftable 6 pack greeting card cartons. I filled one with food themed goodies including a gift card to our local Buttermilk Sky pie shop here in Sandy Springs, GA. My family is from South Georgia so I also included a batch of Blackberry Patch syrup made in Thomasville, GA.

        Clever Beer Greetings Gifts. Gift Basket Alternative.

        I love photography and a local friend of mine takes beautiful photos. One of our pregnant team members, Meghan, received the Family Photo Shoot session from the extremely talented Atlanta photographer, Sofia Di Trapani.

        And then there were the local shops that I love like Acorns in Highlands, NC where we have a cabin (I bought several gifts there!) and a few spots here in Atlanta.

         

         

        Located in Brookhaven, GA

         

        Shops around Atlanta

        I love their storefront and their facials (whenever I get them!)

         

        And the best registry shop in Atlanta is located in my town. I registered for my wedding at Fragile Gifts!

         

        In terms of Skin Care, two lovely lady friends of mine sell stuff I love.

        For a face balm, I have discovered Beautycounter's Balm thanks to the beautiful Averi who can help you make your skin look as awesome as hers.

        And an all time favorite adoptive mompreneur of mine is Samantha from Green and Lovely Products. They are divine and affordable. My mom is really into her face lotions and I love her caffeine infused Wake Me Up face cream. It smells like fresh coffee and goes on like a whipped cream. And it is organic.

         

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        For more inspiration, subscribe to our blog.

        Follow Us on:
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        Foster Swell: 2016 Wrap Up Part 2 January 10 2017, 0 Comments

        Swell Adoption Fund: 2016 Wrap Up: Part 2

        We are continuing to highlight some of the beautiful and deserving families who have received grants this year.
        -

        Melissa

        Melissa has been fostering her daughter since she was 3 days old.

        -
        -
        "With 45 minutes notice I brought home a beautiful 5lb 5oz angel who was nameless and born positive for cocaine. After 15 months of no contact from any of her birth family the court finally moved to terminate parental rights and allow me to adopt her. My home has been approved to adopt and we are just waiting on the process to finish terminating parental rights.
        -
        -
        I fell in love with a beautiful little girl who took over my home, my life, and stole my heart. I found out when I was 19 that I could not biologically have children, but I knew I would figure it out. The day I met my daughter my heart was home and my sweetest of dreams came true. I can't imagine life before her and life after her will never be the same."

        Caitlyn + Brett

         We have always known that we wanted to adopt but didn't expect it to happen so soon in our lives. God has a great sense of humor though. Over summer 2015 we decided to participate in an orphan hosting program and hosted an 8-year-old boy from Ukraine. We fell in love, but the family who was hosting his older brother decided to pursue the adoption of both boys. Our host son made a lasting impact on our lives however and opened our hearts to the world of orphan care.

        -
        That winter, we decided to host again, by hosting two siblings from a sibling set of four. "We're just hosting," we said. "We can't adopt four kids!" Yet again, we fell in love, and this time we knew for certain these were our kids. Friends and family members thought we were crazy, as we have no children yet and to go from zero to four kids is a major lifestyle change. So we decided to host them again over summer 2016, bringing the oldest three siblings into our home for two and a half months. Every single day something would happen, some small reassurance or feeling, that we knew these were our children and this was meant to be. By the end of the summer there was no doubt in our mind - soon, we would be parents to four children from Ukraine. It's hard to explain the feeling, but having actually met the children whose adoption we are pursuing, we have this amazing connection that is indescribable but incredibly reassuring at the same time. They are our kiddos, and all we have to do now is bring them home. 

        Stacey + Matthew

        We have always felt called to adopt, we are just being obedient to make the Gospel tangible to others and live out James 1:27. God already gave us a special child with our son, so He equipped up to bring another special child into the family.

        We are adopting a 5 year old girl from China who has Down Syndrome.  

        Our home study is final and we will be applying for the 1800A application and sending our dossier to China.  

        Tracy + John

        We are Tracy and John, and we are adopting an older, special needs child from Bulgaria!
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        Before I met my husband, I had already decided that adoption was part of my future family plans. When I met my now husband, we talked about family, and he was in agreement that we would adopt as well as (hopefully) have our own biological kids.

        It soon became apparent that we would not have much success with having our own babies without spending a great deal of money, and enduring more and more invasive fertility treatments. We mourned the loss of a biological family, but were still very much committed to building our family through adoption! 

        For about a year, I had been a member of a couple of private group pages for families interested in adoption, from Bulgaria and other Eastern European countries. Last July, a member posted information for a then 9-year-old special needs girl living an orphanage in a small village. We had previously lost the opportunity to begin a dossier for a 3-year-old boy from Poland, after the family who had originally declined his referral decided they wanted him once they knew another family was interested.   This little girl also had a lot of interest, so we were extremely happy when we received word that we were the first family to commit to her!

        We are now in the home stretch of our adoption. This will be our first (and possibly only) child, and we are so very happy and feel fortunate to have found her! We went on trip one in July, and she is a wonderful child. She shares many personality traits similar to ours as well as having cute dimples (we both also have dimples)! 

        Jenni + Eric

        Hi! We are Eric and Jenni, from Ohio have been married for 20 years and in that time we have been blessed with 5 wonderful children. Emilia is our oldest and she asked for siblings for 6 years until Jakob arrived.  In 2012, we welcomed Kofi and Joy from Ghana and they are thriving in our family. Eve was adopted in 2013 and she is the most joyful child full of determination. Eve has cerebral palsy and she is deaf, but none of that defines who she is. Once we were used to the medical world, therapies and wheelchairs, our hearts were open for more children with medical needs. We just waited until we found him or her.
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        We learned about Josie as she had been waiting for a family for 18 long months. Words like paralysis and cancer can be scary, but we felt that no child should go through something like that alone. We knew that she would be the perfect little sister in our family. We spent time learning about spinal and brain tumors, chemotherapy and what the future might hold for her. We are already used to wheelchairs so that was not a concern.
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        Because of her medical condition, Josie  needs to come here for medical care urgently. We have the means to take care of her in our family, but we need to raise the necessary funds to pay for the adoption fees and travel. We are so thankful that there are people who want to learn more about our story and join us in our journey to Josie.

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        Foster Swell: 2016 Wrap Up Part 1 December 27 2016, 0 Comments

        Swell Adoption Fund: 2016 Wrap Up: Part 1

        As 2016 comes to a close, we are celebrating the creation and success of Foster Swell this year. Since the launch of Foster Swell in June, we have been able to award grants to 16 families going through the process of expanding their family through adoption! Below is a beautiful collection of some of the deserving families who have received grants this year.
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        Brian + Paula

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        Brian and Paula have two biological children, Shane 19 and Sarah 13. They wanted more children, but due to medical reasons, were not able to have any more children. 
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        "Brian and I are currently adopting a little boy who is a dwarf like us from China. We feel we could provide him with everything he needs. Lief is 5 years old and was abandoned in a park in China. He may need surgery for hydrocephalus, we don't know for sure. Since Brian, the kids and I also have dwarfism and feel we can help him to get the medical care he needs as well as the love he deserves with a family to love on him."

        Jeremy + Jacinta

        After many years of trying to have a baby and a diagnosis of unexplained fertility, Jacinta and Jeremy decided to move forward with they dream to adopt. While the process was long and emotional, their dream was finally realized with the adoption of a newborn baby boy in March.

         "We finally got the call we had been waiting for. Sarah, a high school senior, wanted to meet with us. That day changed our lives.

         Our baby boy was born at 4:27pm, Wednesday, March 30th.   He entered this world completely perfect, and we were blessed with the best birthmother, who allowed us to experience the entire birth.  Our son is now 6 months old, and our finalization court date is quickly approaching. While our journey to this point in our process was long and often painful, we wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world. We ended up getting the best opportunity to raise the best little boy in the entire world! And not only did we gain a son, we gained an entire extended family! We meet with our birthmother and her family once a month, and text at least once a week. We love our unique family created from so much unconditional love!"

        Christina + John
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        After being inspired by a friend's adoption journey, Christina and John decided to follow in their footsteps. After looking on an adoption website to identify children to specifically pray for, Christina and John fell in love with one child in particular and felt moved by God to make her part of their family.

        "For our whole marriage, we had been advocates for adoption and foster care. We believe strongly that the Bible instructs us to care for the needs of the widow and the orphan.  We decided to make it a family project and pray and advocate for waiting special needs children ourselves.

         Immediately, the family felt drawn to this little girl.  It seemed impossible, because international adoption is expensive and complicated…but God continued to tug on our hearts. We asked Him for a sign. We kept our eyes peeled to see “Sylvia” somewhere but we didn’t.  Finally, we were about to just let it go when an email from the adoption agency said this: “Yes, her name is Sylvia but she goes by Sissy.”

         You see, Sissy is Chris’ nickname.  Her sister, brother in law, nieces and nephews all call her Sissy. It was decided right then and there.  This was our daughter. We are so excited to see God move in this little girl’s life and to be the family she deserves."

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        Adoption: Truly A Dream Come True December 27 2016, 0 Comments

         Swell Adoption Fund: 2016

        Adoption: Truly a Dream Come True
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        Amanda Hatcher shares her story about her and her husband's adoption journey, they began when they both had a similar dream about their future son.
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        Our adoption story begins with a dream-literally. Three years ago Joe was in El Paso, TX preparing to deploy with the Army National Guard. I went with our year and a half old son, Caleb, (we’re from West Virginia) to visit him for a few days before he left for Afghanistan. One morning I woke up and told Joe I had a really vivid dream we had another little boy, one with chocolate colored skin, about 3-5 years old, and a big smile. Surprisingly, Joe told me he had the same dream that night too. We’d always talked about fostering or adopting at some point in our lives-I was adopted as an older child from foster care when I was 15, and Joe had relatives who were adopted-but we always talked about that being in the distant future because we wanted to focus on raising biological children first.

        Joe returned after 12 months overseas, and about a year after he’d come home, we were fortunate to become pregnant with our daughter, Hannah. We still talked about adoption, and occasionally Joe looked up local children that needed homes. We were certain God gave us the dream (although Joe confessed he didn’t remember), but we weren’t certain when, where, or who was meant for us.

        One of my best friends from high school, Tiffany, adopted a seven year old boy with special needs from Colombia the beginning of 2015. She told me about meeting-by chance-her son’s foster brother while she was there. She said the two boys had been together since they were both babies, and had been moved through different foster homes together. She inquired about the foster brother (who also has special needs) and found out there had been a mix up in his paperwork, and he had never been available for adoption his whole life. Though a single mother, Tiffany decided she would return and adopt this boy as well.

        Over the following year Tiffany and I lost touch. Back in April we started chatting through messenger one night to catch up. She shared with me that she’d decided not to go forward with the second adoption. She said she and her son, Elias, recently returned from visiting the foster brother in Colombia, and she realized her limitations as a single mom, and didn’t feel she would be able to care for two special needs boys. She said she was determined to find him a home in the U.S. so the boys could stay close. She’d shared a photo of him with me the previous year, after she brought Elias home, and I’d been surprised to find he wasn’t hispanic, but looked more African (she said he’s classified as Afro-Colombian). So when she shared her news with me-I talked to Joe, about the possibility of adopting this boy. I told him I knew he didn’t remember his dream from three years ago, but when he told me his dream that morning, he had told me the boy in his dream was Tiffany’s boy and she couldn’t keep him so we took him. At the time, I thought it was a random part of his dream-I never even considered it might be a very significant detail.

        In April, after a lot of prayer, we started the process to adopt this special boy from Colombia. We’ve had a lot of amazing things happen since our process has started, and we know God’s hand is over it all. Thank you for reading our story!

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        Sharing the Dream of Adoption December 19 2016, 0 Comments

         

        Swell Adoption Fund: 2016

        Sharing the Dream of Adoption
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        Melissa and Matt Thomas both knew they wants to adopt before they met each other. Early in their relationship they were excited learn that they shared this dream!
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        We are so excited to be on this journey! I (Melissa) grew up in the 80’s, the glorious era of Cabbage Patch dolls, and I remember wanting one so badly for Christmas. Everyone around me had a doll that looked like them (hair and eye color, etc.) so I was expecting a blonde haired, blue eyed doll. But, it turns out that they were hard to come by, and for Christmas that year I opened a dark haired, dark skinned doll. I was instantly in love. I think this is where my passion for adoption started. Knowing that family can be all about the people you choose and the tribe you build - not only through blood. We know that life is precious, and we count it as a big gift to be able to share life with a child. We are excited about loving our little one with all we have, pursuing new adventures together and expanding our definition of family! 

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        We do have some very special circumstances that have shaped us as a couple. In 2009, before we met, Matt was in a mountain biking accident, leaving him paralyzed. Having been a professional whitewater kayaker and general outdoorsmen the accident was devastating. And, where most would have probably felt hopeless, Matt chose to never give up. After a long hospital stay, and lots of physical therapy he decided to spend time in Southern California to pursue some intensive exercise based recovery methods. We count it nothing short of a miracle that our paths crossed and we are thankful everyday for our lives together. We were married in 2014 in what we like to think was “the best weekend ever”. Really, how could it not be the best when it involved our family, friends, some killer tacos and all you can eat churros! Amazing!

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        Here’s what we believe: that relationships matter, laughter is the best medicine, and as a family we choose to “Never Give Up” - both in what we pursue and also those we love. We love our new normals and we are excited to expand our family to include a little one. We’ve learned that life gives us no certainties, but there is always hope and that hope gives way to something beautiful! 
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        The Beautiful Gift of Adoption October 25 2016, 0 Comments

         

        Swell Adoption Fund: Fall 2016

        The Beautiful Gift of Adoption
        Bryan and Rachel Wendel are excited at the opportunity to adopt a second child and grow their family. They share how adoption has been a beautiful gift for their whole family...
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        With this being our second adoption journey, we do have prior experience with adoption. Although there were many emotions along the way, our adoption journey ended exactly the way we envisioned it. We started our adoption process shortly after finding out we both had fertility issues. We were matched with our first child August 2012. One week prior to the birth, the birth mom decided to parent. We were then matched again March of 2013, again the birth mom decided to parent as well. Our 3rd match came July of 2013, with that one failing soon after the match. As emotional as it was, we knew a child was out there who would be perfect for us and who needed us more than the first three matches.

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        On December 7, 2013, we received a call stating a baby girl born the night before needed an adoptive family. We had one hour to decide what we were going to do since we would need to be in Florida that night. During that hour, there was no hesitation. We immediately started making arrangements for our pets and booking flights. That night we had our daughter in our arms and have had her ever since. She is truly one of the most amazing gifts we could ever receive and her birth mom was just as amazing. We cannot wait to hold our second baby in our arms and bring him or her home to their forever family just as we did our first. We love the idea that both of our children will be able to share the blessing of adoption and lean on each other for support.

        Our inspiration to build our family through adoption was also emotional, but it was one of the best decisions we could ever make. Bryan grew up knowing he was unable to have children due to his Klienfelter’s syndrome. Shortly after we were married we started fertility treatments. After several failed treatments and a miscarriage, testing was done on Rachel. Results showed a unicornuated uterus. It was determined that even if the fertility treatments would work, it would be considered a high risk pregnancy. The chances of having a successful pregnancy would be low. Instead of dwelling on this news, we looked at this as an opportunity to share our unconditional love and become adoptive parents. We wanted to be able to bless children with opportunities they may not have had in the situations their birth parents may have been in at the time of birth. Adoption is an amazing gift to not only the adoptive child but their adoptive parents as well. We cannot wait to start our second journey!
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        A Nest for Evey: Nursery Inspiration October 05 2016, 0 Comments

        A Nursery for Evey Lyn

        A dash of this, a little of that. Clean, bright, woodsy and playful.
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        With my first daughter, I had a clear picture of how I would decorate her nursery. I picked an amazing peony themed aqua and pink colored wallpaper from Anthropologie and made it my accent wall and tried to keep everything else classic in white or light pink. I LOVED that room from my Craiglist Serena and Lily glider purchase (which I bought unknowingly from another mompreneur in Atlanta) to the tiny floral coat hooks in pink and white. Other than the wallpaper, I didn't spend a lot of money in that room. I didn't pay full price for a single thing I can even remember.
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        When I found out I was having another girl, I was not ready to move my oldest, who still sleeps in a crib at 2.5, to a new room. My sister sold me her white jenny lind crib for Evey's room. I moved the Ballard Design clearance rack whitewashed dresser to the new nursery (formerly the living room as it still has a fireplace in it) and the glider along with some decor. And then I just lost my way. 
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        This room did not come easy. I couldn't find a wallpaper that worked and realized if I ever had a boy in the future, I probably needed to keep at least one bedroom free of floral wallpaper! Finally I stumbled upon Bari J's beautiful prints. I loved the whimsy, the nature theme and her use of bright colors! Our tag designer used those prints over the crib to inspire a gorgeous custom painting that was supposed to go over the mantle. It is perfection. It was supposed to be in her room until I bought another art piece and realized it would not fit where it was supposed to in my house. So we played a lot of swapperoo and here is the end result. 
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        As cheap as I am when it comes to buying things for our house (our bar stools literally were stolen from a garbage pile in front of someone's house and repainted), original art is one of my new favorite things to buy. I find it so incredibly special to own and harder to get tired of. The other part of Evey Lyn's room that stood out to me were the LOVE letters when my sister took me shopping at the Atlanta wholesale mart. I had to have them. Too bad they took weeks to arrive so needless to say, the nursery never really got "finished" until Evey was about 3 months old. 
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        This was a hard room for me. I never had an exact vision and finally just threw things in it that I loved. I kept the draperies really simple since I don't know how long it will be a nursery. They cost $18 and I found them in an unmarked clearance bag at HomeGoods. The rug was the hardest decision by far but Rugs USA had a lot of options in this color so I just had my sister help me make a final decision...She designs at www.carolineweigel.com by the way.
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        As a second child, I just felt Evey deserved her own nest. She may not care as a baby but I do think looking back she will love that I created a room just for her. Sitting in it now at night as a nurse her to sleep, I get to sit next to my grandmother's former foyer table. If it had not been for my sister encouraging me to mix the old dark wood with newer furniture, I might not have figured out how perfect that table would be. It is odd how sentimental furniture is for some people like me that often catch themselves living in the past. I love taking in the detail of the marble top and the table now stands out at me every time I see old photos of me in my grandmother's front room. Thanks to my uncle for keeping it all these years since my grandparents passed. 
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        While I know doing a completely new theme for a second girl might seem a little much, I am pretty pleased that both my girls have their own nests to reflect the uniqueness that is in each of them. 
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        Sources:
        Crib: Amazon.com
        Rug: Rugs USA, Color Grey
        Dresser: Ballard Designs
        Crib Woodland Prints: Bari J
        Rustic Frames: Hobby Lobby
        LOVE letters: Indaba Trading
        Original Art: Cheryl Connelly Art
        Side Table: Passed Down, Heirloom
        Wooden Crate: RH Baby
        Baskets: HomeGoods
        Glass Jars for Bows: HomeGoods
        Wall Shelving: Land of Nod
        Curtains: Clearance Rack, HomeGoods
        Driftwood Lamp: HomeGoods
        Glider: Serena + Lily
        Peony pillow, white polka dot pillow, vintage fringed chenille throw: Scott's Antique Market
        Swell Forever Forever Blankets:
        -The Noah Forever Blanket (White with white satin, navy monogram)
        -The Charlotte Heart Forever Blanket (handknit, all profits for a CuddleCot)
        -The Millie Forever Blanket (pink gingham check pattern)
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        Bringing Home Baby From India! October 04 2016, 0 Comments

        Swell Adoption Fund: September 2016

        A Special Needs Adoption in India!
        Ms. Caroline Seeberger is excited to share the story of her journey to become a new mom through special needs adoption in India...
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        I have invested a great deal of time considering why I would like to be the mother of a special needs child. My decision to adopt came from an overwhelming desire to provide a loving family for a child who has lost his/her parents and is in need of this opportunity.  I feel very drawn to Indian culture and the heritage my child will celebrate. I have much love, and an extended support system to make a difference in the life of an Indian child. I have considered the challenges of adopting a child who is different from me in race and ethnicity and will require specific medical care. I believe that though there may be challenges, the rewards for the child and for my family will outweigh the difficulties.
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        Since receiving and accepting my referral for a HIV positive little girl, I am beyond ecstatic and committed to bringing her home and providing her with the best medical care possible.  In my joy of receiving her referral, I can best describe her to you as round like a cherub, beautiful skin like a cocoa bean and a smile like a Lalita goddess that will melt your heart.
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        Despite the joy of the recent referral, my adoption journey prior to this moment in time has been long and financially challenging. I had begun with adoption process with my application into the Marshall Islands program in December 2014. Unfortunately this program has endured its challenges and has caused the wait for referral to extend much longer than originally anticipated. With this longer wait the requirements for updated home studies and clearance paperwork has increased my overall adoption cost. Early February the team at CHLSS recommended I switch programs from the Marshall Islands to India. This switch in country program required a giant leap of faith, in addition to the added costs for USCIS paperwork and revising my non-Hague home study to a Hague home study. All in all, the leap of faith was definitely worth it!
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        Our Calling to be a Family For Children Who Have Lost Theirs September 30 2016, 0 Comments

         

        Swell Adoption Fund: September 2016

        A Family For Children Who Have Lost Theirs

        We are Brian and Amy Shaw of Wauseon, Ohio. We have been blessed to be married more than 19 years. We love the Lord Jesus with all our hearts and are so thankful to have walked many, many years with Him. We each maintain our own walk with Christ on a daily basis, in His Word each morning and praying together as a couple each night. We believe strongly that raising up our children is the highest task God has bestowed upon us and we continually seek to listen to His voice and ask the Spirit to guide us and adjust ourselves accordingly.

        We have been blessed with 4 living biological children--Jensi (14 yrs), Anneli (12 yrs), Oliver (9 years) and Darrah Kate (5 years). We have also been entrusted with the blessing of little ones who began their lives in Amy’s womb but then ran ahead to Jesus early: Timothy (Anneli’s twin) at 22 weeks gestation, Hope Carolina at 10 weeks gestation and finally sweet Oskar Brian at 39 weeks gestation. Each of these were dramatic losses in our lives but we have seen God bring beauty for ashes in each circumstance. We would not want to rewrite our story.

        Throughout our married life we have always sought to serve God overseas. We each did this before we married, and wanted desperately at times, to do so together. God allowed us to serve two amazing years in China together with our two oldest daughters. The timing of Oskar’s death kept us home from returning to overseas service. From that point, God burdened our hearts for children without families.

        We began to see that we were a family who had lost children, and by God’s power, we could be a family for children who had lost theirs. We believe that our experiences overseas have increased our understanding of the plight of orphans. We saw firsthand the poverty and desperate need for these children to be loved and have their hearts trained in the Lord’s ways. We understand that families adopting orphans is not the end solution for the global orphan crisis, but it is what we can do, and how He is empowering us to serve Him. First for Zareb from Uganda (Asperger’s Syndrome), then for Toby from China (diagnosed with Arthrogryposis Multiplex Congenita), then for Esty also from China (who has Spina Bifida, scoliosis, incontinence, hydronephrosis) and then Gable (hepatoblastoma in remission). We are now adopting two more little girls from China! Windsor Grace is 3 and has Cerebral Palsy (Right Hemiplegia) and Schizencephaly and Summerlin who is 20 months old and also has Arthrogryposis like our son Toby.

        We trust that when the Lord says to bring them home that He will empower, fund and teach us all we need. We have an amazing support team of church members, friends and family surrounding us. We know that a family is the best place for children to overcome their obstacles and that the love of Jesus is the true healing power.

        We believe the greatest thing we can impart to our children is to live a life of following Jesus, completely trusting in Him. We believe this is best modeled and caught, rather than lectured. We live this way and involve our children in praying and rejoicing as God continually meets our daily needs and proves Himself over and over again. What a joy it is to walk as His children, as a family!

         

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        Baby Loss, Foster Care + Adoption September 08 2016, 0 Comments

        Swell Adoption Fund: September 2016

        The M Family's Travels From NICU to Foster Care and Finally Adoption

        My husband, Michael, and I were your typical high school sweethearts.  We started dating in ninth grade, were homecoming king and queen, went through college together, got married and had our whole life planned.  My idea was to have two kids by the time I was thirty years of age.  I became pregnant with a baby girl at the age of 26 and my life seemed to be going just as I had hoped until April 30th, 2011, when I gave birth to our beautiful Lily Grace.  The doctors had laid her on my chest and I knew something wasn't right.  She was lethargic, no interest in feeding, low muscle tone...I just had a "not so good" feeling.  
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        After our family swooned over our new baby girl in the hospital room, the doctors and nurses had asked to keep her in the nursery so they could monitor her.  As hours went by, she would still not feed and they decided to admit her to the NICU.  After 18 days of countless tests, blood work and narrowing down disorders, our Lily Grace was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Zellweger Syndrome.  Zellweger Syndrome (ZS) is a rare genetic disorder which affects the brain, liver and kidneys.  Babies with ZS have little to no functioning peroxisomes, which break down toxins in the body.  These babies usually have low tone, an inability to suck or swallow, cannot move, and eventually have seizures.  Unfortunately there is no cure for ZS as well as no treatment.  The prognosis is poor, the babies usually do not survive past six months of age.  
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        As Michael and I were told that our baby girl had ZS, the tears poured and our hearts were broken.  There are no words to describe the hurt we felt that day.  We brought Lily Grace home from the hospital and chose to live life with her to the fullest and not grieve her death before she died.  We went hiking, swimming, and tubing down the creek.  We snuggled and loved for as long as we could.  Just shy of three months, on July 24th, 2011 Lily Grace went to be with Jesus and our lives and hearts were forever changed.
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        I vividly remember standing in the hospital room with Michael shortly after receiving Lily Grace's diagnosis and talking about what this all meant for our future children and our family.  It meant we had a 25 percent chance that all of our biological children would have this fatal disorder.  We immediately knew we wanted to adopt and there was a peace in that decision that I cannot explain.  We took some time to grieve and heal before we dove into researching ways of growing our family by adoption, but after almost two years we decided it was time.  For various reasons including cost, we have chosen to go the route of adoption through foster care.  After signing up with a local agency, doing hours of paperwork, training and background checks, we were certified!  The thought of having children in our home and of being a "mommy" to a child who needs love more than ever made me ecstatic.  I was naive to the fact of what that really meant, that by a child coming to my home they had to leave theirs.  And not by choice, but they were either neglected, abused, abandoned, homeless, or hurting.  

        When we received our first placement call just a few days after being certified this became real and our hearts were opened to the ministry of foster care forever.  We now had to help heal the broken and that was not easy, and honestly, we were both scared.  We welcomed two adorable blonde haired little boys into our home and they stayed with us for a little less than one year before they were reunified.  Our journey with them was not an easy one but we were so blessed to share our hearts and home with them in such a time of need.  We had a few shorter term placements after the boys left our home as well as some promising placements of adoption that never panned out.  We also had a private adoption that had failed as well.  It seemed as if every time we got our hopes up for a "forever" child, it just wouldn't happen.
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        Hurt and broken, it was hard for me personally to hold onto God's goodness and to trust in His timing.  We had been praying for years for a child and I couldn't make sense of why so many placements and adoptions have failed for us.  I was beginning to lose hope and to think it would never happen.  With lots of prayerful consideration, we have decided to contact an agency that would help us to facilitate an adoption and connect us with a birth mother looking for adoptive parents. And so began the countless hours of paperwork, home studies, background checks and creating profiles.  By the summer of 2015 our adoption profile was ready!  We received a few phone calls from potential birth mothers but nothing too promising.  
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        At the end of September we were connected with a wonderful birth mother who was getting ready to have her baby girl in the next few days.  We received a phone call from her that she needed to be induced and we were beyond excited to go and meet our baby!  October 2nd, 2015 Aminah Marie entered the world and stole our hearts. We got to be present for the birth and I even got to cut her cord!  She was perfect, she was beautiful and we were beyond blessed for her birth mother throughout this entire process.  We have been praying for her and her baby before we even knew who she was.  We have an open adoption and the relationship forming with Aminah's birth mother is beautiful.  We are excited to have our baby girl grow up knowing who her birth mother is and the selfless love that she has for her.
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        One month before we found out we would be adopting Aminah, we had received a call for our previous foster child and his new baby sister.  We accepted the placement, and just when we thought it would be short term, it turned into months.  The oldest went to live with his grandparents and we continue to foster Isabella.  We currently have been fostering this beautiful, fun, silly little girl for almost a year.  
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        With two girls only four months apart, our house is full of bows, tutus, glitter and giggles. We are hoping to be able to adopt Isabella as well, we have been praying for God's will for her and our family.  Every day, the picture of our lives becomes a little more clear.  Every day, we see more of God's goodness through the pain and trials we have faced throughout the years.  Every day, we learn to love a little more, just like Christ has taught us.  Every day, we feel blessed to be on this journey and whatever comes our way, we cling to the promise of God's unending love and faithfulness.  My plan to have all my children by the time I was thirty looks silly to me now.  I would have missed out on so much if God would have allowed me to do it my way.  We are excited to see how our family continues to grow and the plan that God has for us and all of our children.    
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        Waiting for the Call: A South Korean Adoption September 06 2016, 0 Comments

        Swell Adoption Fund: September 2016

        Adopting from South Korea!  

        Hi! We are Zach & Hannah.  
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        We are so excited to be adding a child to our family through adoption from South Korea!  
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        We started dating when we were 18 and 19 years young and got married shortly after.  On our very first date, we talked about adopting "one day".  From the time I was a little girl, I always knew I wanted to adopt.  I can't pinpoint the exact moment that God placed adoption on my heart but it seems like it's always been there. I knew that whoever I would marry, would need to have the same heart for adoption.  And he did!  After 7 long years of infertility and pregnancy loss, we were blessed with our biological son, Josiah. 
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        Through those years, adoption was always on the forefront of our minds but the time never seemed right for us.  Now, 14 years after our first conversation about adoption, we are finally in the process of adopting a son or daughter from South Korea.  We were initially on track to adopt domestically but, as we were waiting month after month to be chosen as parents to a newborn, God spoke to our hearts about how there were orphans all over the world already waiting to be chosen by parents.  After much prayer, we decided to switch to international adoption. 
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        We can't wait until we get the call from our Social Worker that we have a referral of a child and are trusting in God's perfect plan, provision, and timing.  Although the waiting seems hard at times, we are doing the best we can to learn about Korean culture and to prepare Josiah for being a big brother. 
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        "I will not leave you as orphans, I will come to you." John 14:18
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        To support this family directly, check out their crowdfunding link:
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        A Heart For Down Syndrome September 06 2016, 0 Comments

        Swell Adoption Fund: August 2016

        The M Family's Heart for a Child with Down Syndrome 

        We are the Meredith family! Andrew and I (Diana) have been married for 6 years and we have two biological children. Audrey is our oldest at 4 years old, and Jonah is the youngest at 2 years. 
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        Adoption has been a topic of conversation for Andrew and I since we were dating, but we were not sure when we would begin the process. As we discussed adoption on various occasions, I asked Andrew what he thought about adopting a child with Down syndrome. I was a special education teacher before we had children, and I was especially drawn to children with Down syndrome. At first, Andrew wasn't sure what to think about adopting a child with DS, but over time he became more open to it. As we learned about the harsh reality and grim future for children with Down syndrome in orphanages in foreign countries, we became more convinced that we wanted to adopt a child with DS.
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        In November of 2015, we saw the photo of a little girl with Down syndrome in China, and we decided to contact the adoption agency about her. Soon after, we learned we were not quite old enough to adopt from China, so we landed on Eastern Europe instead. Although that sweet girl was not meant to be our daughter, she stirred our hearts to take action and pursue adoption right then, rather than waiting any longer. In late November, we submitted our official application to our agency.
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        From January through May, we completed our home study visits, attended several weekends of excellent parent training classes specific to adoption, compiled our dossier, obtained multiple sets of fingerprints for various background checks, had medical evaluations done, and worked on saving as much money as we could. We also completed several fundraisers to help raise the money we needed to pay agency fees.
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        Our dossier is now complete and in Eastern Europe awaiting a match to our future son or daughter, who will happen to have Down syndrome. As we wait, we are continuing to save as much as we can since it is possible that things may move very rapidly from here. Our remaining expenses are a large legal fee to the country we are adopting from, travel costs, and some additional paperwork expenses. Our child's country will require two trips, one to meet our child and one to bring him or her home.
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        We are so grateful for all of the support we have received from our family and friends, both in prayer and financially. Adoption has already been a joyful, yet difficult journey, and we look forward to seeing how God will use this in our lives to bring glory to His name.
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        Want to support this sweet family directly? Check out their fundraisers and blog.
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        The G Family Adopting! July 26 2016, 0 Comments

        Swell Adoption Fund: July 2016

        The G Family's is Building a Family Through Adoption!

        Hey, we are Manuel and Michelle!  We were first led to adoption about 2 1/2 years ago. Manuel brought it up to me when we began looking into seeing an infertility specialist. After doing some research into adoption, I said "No. No way. This looks like a lot of work, and a huge risk. This is going to be scary. This is going to cost a lot of money. This is going to be rough on us. No." But the idea kept coming up, and Manuel remained steadfast that this was the way we were meant to have our family.
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        Suddenly, adoption was surrounding us. We found out one of our friends was adopted. There were sermons at church about adoption. Songs on the radio, and stories online jumped out at me about adoption. We prayed about it. Then prayed some more. Finally, I agreed to stop running from it. It was clearly God's plan for us, and it was time to embrace it. 
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        Pursuing this adoption has been nothing like what I thought it was going to be. It has been all about Love.  
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        We have experienced God's love for us in so many new ways since we have started this process, and it has left us secure in the knowledge that this is His plan, and He is in control of everything.  We have had so many people come up to us and tell us that they are praying for us. The feeling of knowing you have an entire team of people saying daily prayers for you and your future child is almost overwhelming.
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        A love for the birth-mothers has been placed on our hearts so strong that it brings me to tears praying for them. I can't imagine what they are going through during this time, and pray that they receive some peace from their decision. And finally, a love so strong for our child. We were expecting this wait to be hard, but what we didn't know was that we would already love this child.
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        This child we have never met, and know absolutely nothing about. But we love them already. We can't wait to meet him or her, but we rest assured that they will come to us when it is time. God has everything in control, and we couldn't be happier about that.
        We can't wait to see where this process eventually takes us, and are looking forward to the amazing ride that is to come!  The day they place our baby in our arms will be the happiest day of our lives. 
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        A China Adoption Love Story July 26 2016, 0 Comments

        Swell Adoption Fund: July 2016

        The B Family's Heart for International Adoption

        When I was 14, I went on my first international missions trip to Guatemala.  On that trip, I spent some time working at an orphanage.  The time I spent there made such an impression on me that I knew I would some day complete an international adoption.
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        In 2012, my husband and I applied to adopt a child from Ethiopia.  Shortly after sending our dossier, policy changes in Ethiopia seriously changed our timeline.  We were on a waiting list for a year and a half.  During that time, we had a biological son, Charlie.  
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        After much prayer and discussion with our adoption agency, we decided to switch from the Ethiopia program to the Taiwan program.  However, we had to wait until we both turned 30 in the summer of 2015.  We put in a request for a little boy in Taiwan in August, but were turned down, because of the age of our biological son.  
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        After more prayer and discussion with our adoption agency, we decided to switch to the China program in February of 2016.  Since we have been in the China program, things have been moving very smoothly, and we have just been matched with a 5 year old boy.  
        God has been so good to us throughout this process, and we know he has great plans for our family!  
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        Before we received our referral, I prayed that my husband would know without a doubt that this was our child, as soon as he saw the file.  When the file arrived it was titled "Jackson", the name my husband has been saying he wanted to name our little boy!  Even though we have arrived at many closed doors, we know that God has led us to this child, at this time!  

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        A Swell Birth Story: Evey Lyn June 23 2016, 0 Comments

        Scroll for Photos...
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        Thank you so much to our fans and customers for patience while we welcomed our newest daughter to the family in May. Six weeks out and it is still a transition running a business and tending to a two year old and newborn at home, especially when that newborn LOVES to eat around the clock and doesn't always sleep. We do a lot of baby carrying around here and showering is for the birds apparently. 

        Makeup as well.

        Not a lot of people choose to have a birth photographer present at their birth. For some it can seem invasive or just plain unnecessary. And having someone there for who knows how many hours it takes to delivery isn't exactly cheap either! However for me, I wanted to capture so many moments I did not get to capture having a c-section with my oldest daughter. I never even labored the first time around despite studying and reading up on natural childbirth for months in advance of Isla's arrival. I was really bummed when we found out she was breech at 40 weeks and she clocked in at over 9 pounds.

        It felt as if the experience of giving birth was a bit robbed from me. I was NOT happy about a c-section but I was incredibly happy to finally have a baby in my arms after three miscarriages. So I got over it. But I did have back problems and ended up in physical therapy to help my ab muscles start working better again when Isla was 17 months. I knew I wanted another chance to give birth the non-surgery route the next time around, however a VBAC (vaginal birth after c-section) is frowned upon by WAY TOO MANY DOCTORS even though the statistical risks are very low for a uterine rupture.

        I researched and asked around and was referred to Dr. Joseph Tate in Norcross, GA leading up to planning my second baby's prenatal care. His office is a stark contrast from a clinical environment and includes lots of kids running around and office furniture circa 1980s perhaps. However, Dr. Tate delivers all of his patients and believes in evidence based medicine and not fear based medicine. His faith that most women can deliver without surgery or crazy interventions was reassuring to me. I think my first OB thought I was crazy when I said I would try for a VBAC the next time around.

        I also had pain from my epidural in my back for several weeks after my first birth via c-section so I wanted to avoid having to go through that again and the horrible itching I had right after my daughter's birth. No one tells you that they can make you scratch all over and it was so not fun. I wanted to bounce back as quickly as possible and be as present as possible for my daughter's arrival so we hired a doula. I mean I love my husband but what does he know about childbirth? He barely read a chapter in the Birth Partner book!

        We thought Evey Lyn would be a smaller baby. I didn't gain the 70+ pounds I gained with Isla and I measured a bit behind for the last several weeks of my pregnancy. Dr. Tate doesn't put any stock in estimating weight, which was a good thing. Evey shocked us all at 8 pounds 13 ounces. We thought maybe 7 pounds! 

        For anyone who has been told by their OB that a VBAC is not an option, I encourage you to research other practitioners and really push for WHY it is not an option. Ask them for evidence based reasons not to attempt a delivery. Obviously there are reasons not to attempt a trial of labor in some cases for some women, but I read somewhere that about 70% of VBAC attempts are successful! Says a lot about a woman's ability to give birth!!! That is a lot of ladies that don't have to recover from major surgery. And whatever you do, run if your OB says anything like "we won't let you go past xx weeks." It is your beautiful baby and your beautiful body and your health. No one should tell you what you are "allowed" to do. They can suggest options but should not back you in a corner. And yet it happens all the time and I hear it all the time. Advocate for yourself.

        I advocated for myself and challenged the norm of today's OB practices and I am so thankful for the experience I had. A few days before my due date, my water broke although my contractions didn't really feel like much. I was admitted to the hospital to monitor the baby and worked all day long. Finally around 9 pm I started getting uncomfortable and my doula, Christine Strain, arrived to help me out. I did not want pitocin although it was offered and after every dilation check, my contractions got worse so I was confident my body was figuring it all out. 

        I never felt the need for an epidural thanks to the support (and lots of massages!) that I had in place but Dr. Tate is one of the few who offers something called a paracervical block. By 2 in the morning on my birthday I really wanted something just not an epi so they called him in to give it to me. Thankfully I was 7.5 cm dilated so he agreed although he wanted me to try pitocin in hopes it would make my contractions more intense and keep me from hitting the infection and baby distress call that might lead to another surgery...I had about 4.5 hours before hitting the 24 hour mark that my water first broke and the baby showed some irregular heart activity due to my loss of fluid.

        The paracervical block only lasts 2 hours at a time and is like a numbing agent that just relieves pain in the cervix, nowhere else. The great thing is you feel the need to push and where to push but it took the edge off for me even though it didn't remove the pain or feeling. I could move just as freely but you can only get it twice so it should be game time before you get it!

        My contractions were already 1 minute apart and 1 minute long before the pitocin but the combination of the low dose pitocin and the relaxation relief made me feel the need to push and within an hour I was asking to do so. A whole crew came in and Dr. Tate said I was ready to push and 21 minutes later our gorgeous platinum haired little Evey came into the world on my birthday! She was a large little marge which surprised us all. It was 3:21 in the morning and I think everyone was relieved she was finally here. I could smell a lot of coffee.

        Now the one big drawback to a VBAC with no epi is the fun that comes after the baby is born. Being completely numb would have been nice below the belly button for that part but I guess the lidocaine was OK. Emory Midtown is great at promoting Baby Friendly policies that help moms bond and breastfeed successfully so my little lady got to lay on my chest and stare up at me while we stared back for a whole hour. It was a great distraction and some of the absolute best moments of my life. Thanks to another baby with low blood sugar, she went off with her dad to the nursery before coming back to see me. 

        All of the sudden it was time for everyone to go, included my husband and baby. I found myself with just our lovely photographer Claire Elise. And then it was just me for a bit before my nurse came back in. It is such an odd scenario going from crazy action and buzz everywhere to nearly complete silence...but that did not last long!

        I treasure the memories made becoming a mother for the second time to an earthly baby and am so thankful for the photos we have to remind us of such an incredible moment in our lives.  And I have to say the recovery was great. It definitely took 4-5 days to be completely off motrin, but by one week out I was able to take walks, hold both girls, cook, clean and do laundry. Two days after Evey came home we went out to eat for dinner as a family. We even took a family trip to Callway Gardens for a night the second week we came home while Kevin had paternity leave!
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        One of my favorite memories was Isla meeting Evey or "baby"! She brought her the Millie Forever Blanket I had made with a tag matching her current two year old place in life. It is the most precious sister gift and I hope Evey treasures it. The Noah Forever Blanket with white trim is from my husband and I. It has our handwriting on the tag and the quote from the movie The Help "You is Kind. You is Smart. You is Important." It has a spot of blood on it now that I cannot get out, but it was from the day she was born. It is crazy how something that could be seen as a blemish actually symbolizes something beautiful, the birth of a new life, a brand new soul with gifts to bring this world. I am so thankful for the doctors and specialists in life that push against the accepted norms. Without such courage I might never know what my body can do.
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        Transitioning to Active Labor the night of May 11...
        Meeting the Family...

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        Local Adoption in Atlanta June 21 2016, 0 Comments

        Swell Adoption Fund: June 2016

        An Atlanta Family Adoption

        "There is something so undeniable and irresistibly beautiful about adoption - of opening your arms, your life, and your forever to the ones who are without arms to hold, days to share and the hope of a forever with someone. 


        The word "adoption" comes from the Latin word adoptio, which means to "choose, wish, or desire" something. Through the interplay of life and language, adoption came to mean to choose or take in as family. The etymology is beautiful. Built into the very word is not only the choosing or selecting we think of when we think of adoption, but there is also the "wish and desire" for something. 

        It's beautiful enough to bring someone into your house, give them a place at your table, buy them clothes and help them with their homework. But what our heart really wishes or desires is to give this child our name, to call them son or daughter, to know that we are family through bonds stronger than genetics. Our entire adoption story is bound up in the very word adoptio. 

        We anticipate many bumps in the road, just like we have found in the choosing of forever in marriage. But we also know that on the other side of those bumps is the deepest love we will experience in this life. In that love is where we find our true selves, our family, our hope and our peace. So we choose to open our arms to growing a family through adoption, celebrating that we will continue choosing each other for as long as we live."

        {The C family is adopting locally via infant domestic adoption. They are open to any race or gender. Their desire is to meet the immediate need of their community and be placed with an Atlanta babe.}

        You can support their adoption by shopping at https://www.etsy.com/shop/wildflowermornings

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        Because of Hope: Ava's Adoption June 21 2016, 0 Comments

        Swell Adoption Fund: June 2016

        Meet This Newly Adopted Beauty from China, Ava! 

        Once upon a time, our little family of four doubled when we added four more. They changed everything about how we look at love, hope, and family. It didn't have to make sense because many of life's greatest blessings never do. Had we given in to fear and doubt, we would have missed out on so much. God's plans are always better.

        Then there was our son. We saw his face in April of 2015 and knew right away that he was ours. But his untreated heart and lungs were so very sick and we didn't have long to get to him. Would we make it in time? It seemed impossible. Paperwork and money, process and procedure. But four months later, mountains were moved and he was on his way home. Only God. He loved being home. He was so happy to finally have his very own family. And we were so thankful to finally have him. What we always feared but didn't know for certain then was that had he not come home when he did, he wouldn't have come home at all.  A few days later, sudden fainting brought us to the hospital where he spent most of the next six months, fighting for his life.

        He wasn't supposed to survive, but he did and he is home now and so very loved, all because of hope.

        Our son's story was once one of loneliness and hopelessness. But it is now full of so much love, faith, commitment, and community. Hope did that. Some wonder why we would ever choose this.

        But we would do it all over again, because our yes changed our son's life and it has changed ours. Once you choose hope, anything is possible.

        And then there was Ava. Yes was easy. A thousand times, yes. Why? Hope is why. No matter where you are, there is always hope. For four, that was hope in a care center in rural Ethiopia. For one, it was hope in an orphanage in eastern China. For Ava, it was hope in a hospice home because she shouldn't be alive. But she is.

        Because hope.

        So we did it again. Because her life mattered right now. Because there is no room for fear in love. Because it doesn't have to make sense. Because God's plans are always better and they never fit into neat little convenient boxes. Because stepping out in faith is always worth it. Because every heart matters and there is no heart too broken. Because yes can change a life. Because it changed ours and it changed theirs and we know that it will change hers.


        We ran to her. Because she was worth fighting for and she deserved to have her very own family fighting alongside of her. And now she has exactly that, all because we chose to believe in hope. Ava has very complex congenital heart disease and multiple other health issues. So many families said, "no, too much". But our precious girl doesn't scare us. She is smart and funny and beautiful and so very worth it all. And whatever her life looks like? It will always have hope.

        Because love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences, and penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope. ~ Maya Angelou

        {The S family wrote this while returning from picking up their daughter in China just this past month. We hope to help them fund this amazing adoption and cover the many expenses involved in travel, paperwork and medical care for Ava.}

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        Introducing Worthdays for Children in Foster Care! May 09 2016, 0 Comments

        Foster Care Awareness Month in May

        And we are celebrating by donating a portion of this month's Foster Swell Fund for children in foster care to Worthdays! This brand new organization is dedicated to helping ensure children are honored on their birthdays when living in the foster care system. Thanks to Worthday's founder, Caroline, for guest blogging and sharing more about her non-profit start-up.

        ---You are so worth it!---

        There have been many times in my career as a child welfare social worker that I simply had no explanation. There's no graduate level college course, trauma informed therapists, best practice conferences that has all the answers you'll need in this job. Not when the sweetest, big brown-eyed girl looks up at you and asks why she can't go home with her mommy. Or when sisters grapple with the decision of whether to be adopted separately or not adopted at all. Not when the tough teenage boy pleads with you, through never ending tears, to just give him one more chance to prove himself before you take him from his 'last ditch effort' foster home to a group home. 

        We can craft whatever blubbery, compassionate response but there simply are no answers that make sense sometimes. Even after a decade of this work, I found myself speechless many days. 

        It was on a day in January with snow on the ground that will always stick with me, among other similarly devastating days. I finally got the dreaded call from the foster parents of a particular teenage boy that they just couldn't make it work anymore - he had to leave. This family was amazing and had certainly tried very hard. They had taken the child to see the ocean for the first time. He had taken his first communion in front of their church family. And they had even said that one day he could share their last name. This was a rough around the edges yet so incredibly resilient boy who had literally lost everyone and everything in his life. But on this day, his foster parent called and said they just couldn't keep him anymore. Many of their reasons made sense but at the end of the day it was a dream shattered. 

        This happened to be a day most people didn't go into the office because of the snow but I decided to go in to get some things done. It happened to be my son's third birthday and we were headed that afternoon to a family water park resort. Instead of focusing on the fact that my personal plans were likely to be railroaded because of my need to respond to this crisis, I set out to handle this situation. 

        There are so many words that may describe this situation but I'm not sure there is a word in our language that can genuinely describe the mixture of grief, abandonment, overwhelming sadness and terror. Sitting across from a boy who looks more like a man overcome with the most intense sadness begging you to give him just one more chance to prove himself. The tears of abandonment flowed without the typical embarrassment a teenage boy may exhibit and the defeat he felt was visible throughout his whole entire body. 

        As social workers typically do, we came up with a plan for the young man that night. 

        To leave that scenario to then go to celebrate my newly three-year-old was daunting. This wasn't the first time I had pondered the differences of experiences of those I worked with and my own children. But it was when I sat down that night and watched my sons watch a magical animated story time at this water park resort that the inequities in this world were glaringly apparent. 

        Why do some kids get to sit with their siblings in their favorite pair of Ninja Turtle pajamas watching an incredible bedtime story after a full day at a water park to celebrate their birthday while some kids literally have to plead to be loved?

        There are simply no good reasons why. I will likely always have an aching in my body to have some explanation for this. I rest assured that each and every sweet child on this Earth was fearfully and wonderfully made and that it is our job to ensure they all know that. 

        Fast forward about a year - this same brave teenage boy sat in a residential treatment center preparing for his sixteenth birthday. Alone. He wasn't surrounded by his siblings, he didn't have his parents planning his party, or friends to invite, there was no cake nor any recognition that this day was the anniversary of his birth. As his former social worker, I pieced together a few things for him and shipped it to him. I made a large note on the outside asking that the staff hold it for him until his birthday. 

        Take a moment and think about your sixteenth birthday. 

        Now think about sitting in a hospital, with paid staff surrounding you, with other hurting kids nearby, with no family, no birthday song, no candles. Literally nothing. Imagine that when one of the only consistent people in your life calls to wish you a happy birthday they are told that you don't have phone time. 

        Now tell me what message that sends to you about your worth? That on the anniversary of your birth .. No one shows up, no one celebrates you, no one cares to speak the words 'happy birthday'. 

        At the moment when I handed this boy's birthday package over to the the postman, I would've never thought cupcakes, cookies and birthday supplies could impact the foster care system .. But I was wrong. This brave teenage boy, his resilience, his drive to be loved, his birthday ... along with all the other kids just like him in this world ... Started a celebration that is just beginning.

        That celebration is a new non-profit called Worthdays (www.facebook.com/worthdays1 www.worthdays.org). It has become my calling that kids in foster care know they are worthy, important and celebrated. That on important days in their lives, like their birthday, they know that someone out there in this big, scary world thought of them. And kids being celebrated isn't even the ultimate goal. Instead the ultimate goal is that we never have to make a birthday box again because each and every kid in foster care has found a family that loves them deeply and stands with them on their birthday loudly singly the words 'happy birthday'. Until then .. There are over 400,000 kids in foster care that need us.  

        Meet Caroline, the founder of Worthdays!

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        A South Korean Adoption! May 09 2016, 0 Comments

        Swell Adoption Fund: May 2016

        Meet the W's!

        We are in the process of adopting a sixteen month old baby boy from South Korea.  This will be our first child, and we are so excited to become parents!  God undeniably opened our hearts to adoption and His hand has been visible throughout our adoption process. When people ask us “Why Korea?”, our answer is simple – that is where God clearly led us and put on our hearts. We describe our adoption story as us knocking on one door and God opening that door and (seemingly) dozens more. We are humbled that God has allowed us to start our family through adoption, and we cannot wait to see what God has in store for our growing family!

        Our baby boy is a waiting child who had a seizure early on in his life; we are happy to report that he’s growing and thriving and hasn’t had any additional seizures. We are currently awaiting one last document from the US government, and then our Dossier will be complete and ready to send to Korea. We’ve known about our baby boy since September 2015. Back then, when we were collecting tons of documents, undergoing our home study, and moving to a home that could fit our family, the feeling of waiting was distracted by how busy we were. Now, the waiting seems harder…finding out that our baby’s vocabulary is growing, seeing pictures of him giggling, etc. and not being able to be a part of those moments is tough. But, we trust that God has a perfect time for our son to join our family. We are so eager to meet our son in Korea and finally be able to hold him in our arms!

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        The Ms are Adopting! April 11 2016, 0 Comments

        Swell Adoption Fund: April 2016

        (Our second family feature for the month)

        Hi, we are Tom and Tori Magnett.

        Adoption is such a beautiful word.

        Adoption to us means love, dedication, and courage.  Love because it is the most loving act a person could do.  Dedication, because it is a long process with lots of paper work and hoops to jump through. And courage, because you have to walk through a lot of unknowns. In March of 2013 God laid adoption upon our hearts, so we have been in the process now for 3 years. We felt we should adopt overseas, but after trying to adopt from 2 countries that decided to close their doors to adoption in the middle of the process, we decided to switch back to domestic adoption. We are adopting through Lifeline Children Services. Domestically, Lifeline specializes in Birth Mom Adoptions. We have been waiting patiently for a birth mother to pick us. It is a very long, hard, emotional journey, but it will be well worth the wait! We have had our ups and downs but this process has made us stronger.

        We cannot wait until we have our forever child in our arms! 

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        Gideon's Adoption Story April 09 2016, 0 Comments

        Swell Adoption Fund: April 2016

        (Our first family feature for the month)

        We are Craig, Ellen, Isaiah, Naomi and Lydia Lauer. Two and a half months ago we brought our 2 year old son home from China. This is his story.

        God started laying orphan care and adoption on our hearts over 13 years ago when Craig and I were engaged to be married. We knew from the start we would have a large family and felt that God meant for us to adopt part of that family. We started praying that He would reveal his plan for us and clearly give us a call to action when His time for us to adopt was upon us. So we waited, and we prayed, and we waited, and we prayed and over the next 10 years God blessed us with 3 beautiful, healthy and happy (most of the time) biological kids! After Lydia (our 3rd) was born we knew God's time for our family to grow in the traditional way was over. But that desire for another child was still there.

        (Especially in me!) I would sit at our table or in our car or at a fun family event and feel that someone was missing. I spoke with my friends about the fact that at times I would feel that missing person so strongly that I was sure if I looked again they would be there, and yet, I was relieved to know I would never give birth to another child. In the fall of 2014, I noticed this NEED for another child went away completely and I talked to Craig's sister, Ashley, about it. She asked if we were still considering adoption and I confessed that I just didn't think we would ever actually do it. You see, it's SCARY, and it's HARD and there is SO MUCH out of date and just plain UNTRUE information out there that the thought of the adoption process was overwhelming! Our family was in a good place, our kids were getting older, life was getting easier and we were content. We were DONE!

        Well, WE might have been done but God wasn't! We just didn't know it yet.

        Craig and I weren't talking, praying, or even thinking about adopting at this point. We were done, remember? Sometime after this God started to speak to both of us (and even our first-born) about adoption again. How could this be??? I thought 3 kids was it for us! No more 'missing child' at our family events! He spoke quietly at first. Quiet enough that we could ignore Him. But His words just kept getting louder and stronger until we started to wonder if maybe we weren't done, but we still weren't talking to each other about it. Without telling each other, we both started praying again that God would show us what he wanted us to do.

        Remember when I said that before we were married we prayed that God would give us a clear "call to action" when His time for us to adopt was upon us??? At a One Less Orphan event at our church, a ministry leader stood up and said 'This is not a ministry to convince you to adopt. We do not want to single anyone out.' (I'm paraphrasing.) Moments later, a man at the meeting who was adopted as a child stood up and asked, point-blank, if there was a family there who was thinking about adopting.

        Craig and I looked at each other with wide eyes and tentatively raised our hands. (And by tentatively, I mean we each lifted a finger off the table.) Seeing the other raise their hand gave us both the confidence we needed to go ahead and lift our hands high and declare that "Yes, God was, in fact, calling for us to adopt!" There it was! Our 'call to action'! Now, hearing that call and answering that call are two very different things altogether! We began to agonize over exactly how we were to add to our family.

        Foster care? Domestic adoption? International adoption? We prayed. We prayed hard.

        When the answer came to us it seemed like an insurmountable task. China? But what about all the orphans here in the States that need families? When God speaks, He doesn't always reveal his entire plan at one time. All He asks is that we have the faith to follow His leadership. So that's what we did. Over the next several months we went through the process of preparing our home for a home study and got all our ducks in a row for our dossier. We filled out mountains of paperwork, went to doctor appointments, had our fingerprints done and waited for that phone call.  

        Then one day, it happened. WE GOT MATCHED!!!

        On September 15, we got a call (THE CALL) from our agency that they had found a little boy for us! They actually called Craig while he was at work and when he texted to let me know, I didn't believe him! LOL! I had played a little joke on him the week before and it backfired on me! Anyway, he finally convinced me he was being serious and they were sending him the file in an email.  I told him to forward it to me IMMEDIATELY, even before he read it, so I could read it too.  I checked my email about every 30 seconds for HOURS! Then I decided to take matters into my own hands and I called our contact at Holt.  The answering service put me through to her line and I got a voice mail. :-/ So, undeterred, I called every single person I had a number for at that agency.  When every call went to voice mail, the answering service finally took pity on me and told me they had all gone home for the weekend.

        TIME.STOOD.STILL.  

        How could they have made that call, TOLD US they were sending the file and then gone home?!?!?!?!? This was NOT acceptable! So I cracked my knuckles, set my writing voice to 'polite and business like' and went to work emailing every single one of them, hoping I could catch SOMEONE and let them know we hadn't gotten the email.  If I had gotten a response, I was determined to whine, beg, badger or even bribe them to go back to work and send it! Lucky for me (and them!) the answering service lady was wrong...the entire staff was in a meeting. LOL! I am sure they all had a few laughs at my expense, but I'm not even sorry!

        You see, there is a time limit to how long you get to look at a child's file before making a decision. During the review time, you have to get the file to a pediatrician to review so you know what to be prepared for.  If the pediatrician finds something peculiar or worrisome, you may want to have the file reviewed by a specialist.  You research and pray over every single sentence in that file. You worry about every single abnormality or inconsistency. You wonder why they use certain words to describe this little boy's personality and if that word means the same thing to them as it does to you. ("Relentless"??? What does that even mean???) You look at the picture of that sweet, innocent face 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 times (I don't even know what that number is, but you get the point.) and dare to ask yourself..."Is this my son?"

        I can't describe to you how it felt when that email finally came and I quickly scanned through the entire thing looking for the picture.  Our first glimpse of him.  He was BEAUTIFUL, he was PERFECT, and I started sobbing. I've heard from other adoptive parents how they felt in that moment.  Some know right away, some look at the picture and are unmoved.

        For me, it was love at first sight. I knew. I could not tear my eyes away and my arms and heart ached to hold him.  The weight of what we were doing came down on me in full force and everything that followed is a blur. Luckily, Craig was able to keep his head and he forwarded the file on to our good friend, who just happens to be a Neonatologist, and who has experience reviewing China adoption files. She knows our family very well, is aware of what we can handle medically and we trust her. I am so thankful for her! To me, it didn't matter what that file said because I was already emotionally attached.  But we needed someone objective to let us know what to expect.  She wouldn't hesitate to tell us if she thought there were issues we couldn't handle but she would be there to help us, no matter what our decision was.  Our prayers were answered when she called and told us she didn't see ANYTHING in the file that was outside of our capabilities. There are no guarantees that the file is 100% correct, but based on the information we had to go on, she was confident we could handle this little guy's special needs. In truth, we had already prayed over the file, written the LOI (Letter of Intent) and sent it. Heather's recommendation was perfectly timed confirmation that we were following God's will. About a week later, another friend and neonatologist offered to review the file and give us a second opinion. He was very detailed and gave us great advice on what to do first and what appointments to set up so we can hit the ground running when we get him home and advised us on how to go about doing that and what to expect.  I am so thankful God placed both these doctors in our life!!!!!

        The time that followed being matched was absolutely the HARDEST part of this process.  We got our LOA (Letter of approval) from China on September 30, saying they had reviewed our dossier and we would be allowed to move forward with the adoption. Why was this time the hardest?  Well, if you're a parent, imagine knowing that one of your children is on the other side of the world and you have no idea if they are being protected, loved or cared for.

        No....I mean ACTUALLY try to imagine it, right now.  Feel that giant hole in your chest??? Throat tight??? Pulse racing??? Fighting back tears??? Yep, every day.  That's how it feels. This child is your child, no different than your bio kids.  I can't explain how that happens, it just does.  I grieved his absence every day.

        On December 7, in a noisy government building in Southern China, we met our son for the first time.

        He was SO SMALL and SO AFRAID and SO PERFECT! I remember trying not to cry when they handed him to me because I didn't want to scare him but I was shaking and the tears just wouldn't stay inside. He felt very thin and fragile and all I wanted to do was snuggle him in and make everything alright. That was NOT what he wanted from me.  He sat there in my arms as stiff as a board with his bottom lip jutted out in a pout and started to wail. Our oldest child, Isaiah, came with us to China and if it hadn't been for him, I'm not sure I would have gotten through that meeting. He picked a little ball up out of my bag and handed it to him. Gideon immediately threw it back at him and giggled. That game continued to get louder and more animated as the minutes passed until finally the paperwork was signed. That ball began their relationship and ours. Ten days later that ball came home with us from China as we began the process of grieving, loving, growing, learning, forgiving and becoming a family.

        We have now been home for two and a half months and I finally have my answer to "Why China?" Why China? Because that's where our son was. That's where he was born. That's where he was being cared for and loved by his foster mom until I could come get him. Gideon is part of our family, he just joined it a little unconventionally. He fits us and we fit him.  We love him completely and it feels as if he's always been here. He's energetic, goofy, outgoing, smart and determined not to let his small size or his special need hold him back.  Since being back in the states he has been seen by several doctors. He has surgeries in his future, but he's doing well!  He's a happy, healthy, LITTLE 2 year old with a BIG personality, a BIG smile, a BIG future and a BIG God!

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        Cottage Before + After: Part 2 March 29 2016, 0 Comments

        Updating a Sweet Cottage in Atlanta

        {A Swell Side Project: Part 2}

        Here is part 2 of our Swell Cottage Renovation for a dear friend. The master bath was supposed to be just a few upgrades until the tile guy discovered rot and water damage requiring a complete overhaul. We did salvage the tub and found new windows for $150 to brighten the space thanks to a salvage yard!
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        This project was on a budget for sure!!! We ran into the same issues with finding custom cabinet sizes on a tight timeline and good quality. By far, that was the biggest frustration and something that would be nice to do over. However, the faux marble tiles and shower wall mosaic mixed with authentic marble floor and chair railing as well as the carrara marble countertop mixed perfectly for my modern loving friend.
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        For more Cottage Before + After Photos, visit our previous blog post here.

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        Swell Parties: A Beer Tasting March 25 2016, 0 Comments

        Swell Parties:

        {A Beer Tasting Couple's Shower: Wedding Season}

        Can I tell you how much fun a beer tasting is? Well, since I am pregnant, it is not as fun, but the decorating, company and planning were quite exciting for me. I love that our friends at Beer Greetings let me borrow some of their unique beer cartons that double as greeting cards. They also let me use the graphics to create our invitations and some of the decor for the event like our Beer Tasting Rating Cards.
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        How to throw a beer tasting? I can't say my way is the best, but letting guests rate their favorite beers from little shot glasses and pick the perfect two that reflect the couple best was how we did it. There were four hostesses who all pitched in to bring a different style beer (fruity, stout, pilsner, etc.) and a selection of appetizers that paired well with beer! The winner? Actually, I cannot remember the name but it had grapefruit in it! 
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        Besides the Beer Greetings cartons that pretty much set the design and color scheme, I found the polka dot glasses and shot glasses from two different Marshalls and almost everything else was purchased from Amazon the week of the event from the beer napkins, confetti, green paper plates to the cupcake liners, dot stickers, plastic shot glasses and beer can cupcake toppers. 
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        Our Menu:
        - Soft Pretzels and Dips
        - Cocktail dogs in crescent rolls
        - Trail Mix
        - Salad with avocado and fresh parmesan, raspberry dressing
        - Fruit Bowl
        - Cheese Platter with Hummus
        - Mini Cupcakes adorned with beer cans
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        And every couple needs a Forever Blanket as a wedding gift
        with personalized message tag!
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        A Baby Girl Sprinkle March 23 2016, 0 Comments

        Swell Parties:

        {The Sweetest Girl Sprinkle for a Swell Addition}

        We are so excited to add another baby girl to our family soon. My sister and best friend offered to help celebrate her even though we have all the basics covered except a few things here and there to prepare for her arrival. Having been a second child myself with a half finished baby book, I loved the idea of having something for her to look back on to see that her arrival into our lives is just as epic and special as our first born's entrance.
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        I am so appreciative to have such loving and supportive friends. Since we cloth diaper, I registered on babyli.st for cloth diapering items (I will have two in cloth!), a few 0-3 month summer outfits since my first was more in winter clothes, and miscellaneous things you realize you need extra of with two kids under 3!
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        I requested easy and simple and they just delivered an absolutely beautiful party. A friend offered to make the most delicious strawberry mousse cupcakes from scratch and my mother decorated with her gorgeous as ever floral designs, www.gingerlilyevents.com. The confetti balloons I hear were from Etsy and the round confetti decor was so perfect. I call my stretched belly with freckles "Polka Dottie."
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        Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!
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        Another huge thank you goes out to Anita from La Belle Bump, a new designer maternity rental company that ships you a box of several maternity items based on your style. You pay by the month and can exchange for as many items as you need to get items you want to wear more of. My dress is from Maternal America and was borrowed from her ample selection of spring dresses!
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        Simple, yet amazing party food:

        - Tomato, Basil and Mozzarella Sticks

        - Fruit Skewers

        - Cheese and Crackers

        - Pigs in a Blanket

        - Homemade Strawberry Mousse Cupcakes

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        A Puppy Pawty! March 08 2016, 0 Comments

        Swell Parties:

        {It was a PAWTY: Turning Two!}

        We don't own a puppy or a dog or any living pet for that matter, but it became very obvious that my little girl LOVED her some doggies as it was one of her first five words and still remains a favorite. When your daughter is a bit behind on her language development you definitely pay attention to the few things she does say so with that, a puppy themed birthday just seemed to be the ticket. 
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        Unfortunately, my diy invitations were quite a bit of work. My printer was out of the right color ink and nothing I tried made them print correctly. I then spent an hour at Office Depot and still had to handcut the invites to fit in the cute little envelopes! Never again.
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        Thank heavens dog related party decor is SO EASY. I pulled Pinterest pins and then went to Hobby Lobby during Valentine's season and lucked out to find the puppy foam valentine decor I used everywhere and lots of pink, black and white decor which pretty much took care of most my party needs. The foam puppy Valentines took me ten minutes to assemble and cost $4.99 for a pack of 12.
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        I used the mason jars I always have and invested in off of Amazon a few years ago. If you follow any previous party posts, you can tell I love colored straws. For the favors, I used Oriental Trading as they were the best price on small stuffed puppy dogs and I was on a budget. No really, I was, which is why we kept the food super simple and just went with baby's breath for flowers thanks to mom from Ginger Lily Events. Since we don't anticipate having a lot of energy for entertaining once we have two babies in the house, we decided to invite most of Isla's playmates, school mates, etc. and their families.
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        For the hot dog silver warming covers, bone cookie cutter (which was too big for my sandwich idea), dog bowls and miniature toy dogs that I used on the cupcakes, I bought through my Amazon Prime account. My mom made a wonderful cake from scratch full of everything that will make a person incredibly bloated and fat. It was thoroughly iced at my request as we all have a knack of never making enough icing. The cupcakes were magically on sale at Whole Foods the day before the party. I wanted real food and not weird ingredients. Have you ever read the stuff they put in baked goods at the grocery store? Ugh. Since we had so many little ones, I wanted a mix of cupcake sizes and the marshmallow paw prints took all of 5 minutes to add.
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        --- Note my childhood Spottie Dottie Piggy Bank as a cake topper ---
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        The puppy chow was clearly easy (Chex mix), the bone sandwiches never materialized as planned but were easy (pb&j) and the "fetch sticks" were a ten minute project and seemed to be popular. They all pretty much got eaten. I used Ghiradelli chocolate bites for the melting over the stove from Target and laid them out on parchment paper to cool. 
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        Isla's little party dress came from the clearance rack at Nordstrom at Christmas and was a Santa gift. It was less than $25 if I remember correctly? The best part was her handmade birthday hat and puppy ear headband that my cousin made and sent from LA. They arrived the day before the party after getting held up in the mail. She wore them the night they arrived and then fought us on the actual birthday! Her Coral Pear bow moccasins.were a Black Friday Deal and she finally fit in them after months of me waiting. 
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        Perhaps the most unique part of the day was getting to have the only neonatal puppy orphanage in the country (Bosley's Place) come to the party with the cutest 8 week old puppy dogs. I was so busy I barely got to pet them, but Isla's face was to die for when she first got to meet them. And then she was back to the jumpy house (her first birthday gift from last year which is the best thing ever to have for play dates). I barely even saw her the entire day she was having too much fun.
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        And our Swell Forever cover page model with yet another dog...several years later!
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        The highlight of the day for me was definitely all the friends and family that came out and the moment mom said she saw Isla sitting by herself at the cake table in a chair helping herself to cupcakes off the table. She gladly let me take a few photos as long as she could stuff herself without interference. She loves her "cayke." Actually, ever since learning the word, she asks for it first thing in the crib every morning. 
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        I toyed with having a no gift party again this year but figured books couldn't hurt and any extras would be donated to our library. The amazing thing is we didn't really have any duplicates at all and her library for her language development is amazing now. So many adorable books were gifted and a few awesome toys. How we made it through a birthday without a toy or book we already had, I will never know! 
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        And that was our last birthday party as a family of three!
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        Adopting Again: The Bentons! March 03 2016, 0 Comments

        Swell Adoption Fund: March 2016

        (Our first family feature for the month)

        Antonio is a medical technician and was pseudo adopted himself as several loving families took him in as a youth and allowed him to see a different side of life.  A side vastly different than the extreme poverty and drugs that gripped the life of his family.  God used these families to show him love and stability in spite of their differences in race and background.

        Crissy is a teacher who has a love for children and helping others. Adoption runs in her blood, as her grandmother and mother took in several people throughout the years who needed an opportunity to press the "reset" button of life.  Her mother, a retired teacher, took in many students, family and friends who needed a place of refuge.

        Antonio and Crissy have 3 children.  Two sons that they call belly babes and an adopted daughter that grew in their hearts.  They are excited to add to their family, again, through the journey and gift of adoption.

        Here is their take on Adoption:

        Adoption is a journey of surrender.  We surrender our will, way, thoughts and timing and take on His; He breaks us and makes us more like HIM so that His glory can be seen in our story.

        Some come to adoption to expand their family, others to make a difference in the world, nevertheless,  I come to adoption out of a heart of obedience to God. Adoption is my calling; at the age of 5, I felt God speak this to me and it has lead me every day until this time. 

        I always tell people that adoption never sleeps.  I literally eat, breathe and sleep it 24 hours a day.  God has graced me to be able to minister to and encourage those who are going through the process, to guide and pray for our daughter's birth mom as she proceeds in her life's endeavors, and to muster up the strength to walk a second adoption journey of our own.

        Adoption is not easy and it is not cheap.  Neither was our redemption, for it was bought with a price- the blood of Jesus.  Sometimes this journey, full of uncertainty and loss, surely feels like a cat of nine tails striking against your heart.  But in our brokenness, there is beauty.  We are beautifully broken before a perfect God who seeks to mend all of our broken pieces.  We all come to adoption broken- adoptive families, birth families, and the adoptees. We all need the grace of God as we pursue this avenue of change.  

        Growing together through the journey of adoption is a beautiful exchange.  Adoption is the heart of God.

        As this is The Benton's second adoption, they have set up a GoFund me page if you would like to contribute and learn more about their heart for adoption.

        https://www.gofundme.com/nzs4apcs 

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