Our Family Holiday Cards – Why We’re Hiring Someone This Year

In the past, I have always taken Sterling and my pictures. We set up a tripod in a gorgeous area, connect our wireless clicker, set the manual focus and “click, click, click” we snag the shot we want. We’ve done for major celebrations like announcing our pregnancy, the gender of Finley, paying off our car loan etc. We’ve also done this every year for our family holiday cards since getting married. But not this year.

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My 11 year Quilt(s)

This. took. forever. A labor of love for ELEVEN YEARS and I am SO glad to be done and also so proud of myself for finishing. So many mistakes were made, so so so many, which is why this quilt did not turn out as one big 6ft x 7ft quilt but instead became TWO MINI QUILTS. I’ll get into that in a second. 🙂 Also DISCLAIMER: this post is SUPER long but it’s only fitting since it took me SO LONG to finish this quilt haha.

I’ve made a total of 2 (well I guess now 3) quilts in my life and each time I started a quilt it was during a summer when I didn’t/couldn’t go to summer camp. Each time I found myself so camp sick and wishing I was in the Shenandoah mountains, jumping in the river. I needed something to keep my mind busy so I wouldn’t go crazy from boredom. Lesson learned: summer camp is more consistent fun than ANYTHING ELSE you can do in the summer, always choose to go! So this quilt was my second project and I started it in the summer of 2010. I had just graduated undergrad from JMU and my graduate school program started immediately after in May. All my college room mates moved out to go on with their grand adventures and I was in Harrisonburg in my very lonely townhouse. I couldn’t go to camp that summer since my grad classes started in May lasted through July before picking back up in late August. So I decided to pick up a new project and this quilt was born. I sat down with a pen and graph paper and sketched out the design. I wanted it to be a full sized throw so I did all the math calculations for how big each block would need to be in order for the final design to be 6ft by 7ft. I picked out five green fabrics and five yellow fabrics and started to cut! First mistake made.

Now you should know that this entire quilt, from start to finish, was one mistake after the next. I nearly gave up and threw EVERY BIT of it away multiple times. The first big mistake I made was not understanding basic quilting techniques. I thought that I would sew all of the diamonds together and so I cut out the large diamonds before really figuring out how I’d piece them together or do the edges…. So yeah, I have TONS of precut squares of EVERY fabric for this quilt just sitting in bags upstairs… because they were the wrong size once I finally figured out how to do it properly…. Mistake number 2: I bought more fabric and cut MORE fabric for the new pieces instead of just making the old pieces work…. (so many face palms here).

Well then the quilt lay dormant for a few years because I realized I didn’t actually know how to piece these together. Then I met a friend teaching at Quioccasin Middle School who also liked to quilt and was far more experienced than me! She invited me over to her house and we had quilting dates were we hung out and did projects together. In all honesty, without her encouragement and guidance, I would have NEVER finished this or actually enjoyed the process. Well I finished about half of the blocks and then, I got busy with life. I’d pick it up here and there and do a little bit more before putting it back down again. What I realize now is that Alex in her 20s didn’t dig the meticulous process that is quilting. I didn’t love having to sew and then iron and then cut and then sew and then iron and then cut and on and on and on it went. It was too slow for me then. So even when I wanted to finish it I just couldn’t get enthusiastic enough to do it. And then I was doomed. My sewing machine died.

Yes it’s true. The sewing machine I got when I was in 3rd grade and had ever since, called it quits on me. I tried taking it to the sewing machine doctor to get it fixed but was ultimately told that the machine I had had run out it’s life and wasn’t fixable. So that was that. My pieces of this quilt sat in a box for the next 5 years traveling from house to house to house. In grand total this quilt has moved with me to 10 different homes. WOW.

Flash forward to Mother’s day of last year when I was pregnant with Finley and my parents gifted me a new sewing machine for my first pre-baby mother’s day. I now had the opportunity to finish this quilt! I didn’t have any more excuses. The reality though was that I honestly didn’t want to finish it, I just didn’t like it anymore. I fell out of love with the fabrics and couldn’t get myself geared up to finish. The real reason I finished this quilt was because I made myself do it. I have three (or more if we’re being honest) projects that I am SO excited to start and I looked at this big box of fabric and half pieced quilt and said “I’m not allowing myself to do any of the fun projects I want until I finish this d*#$ quilt.”

So with a new found motivation I sat down and BUSTED IT OUT! I mean really! The quilt in total is 42 blocks and before this moment I had finished 20 of them. In TWO WEEKS I finished the other 22 blocks and was ready to piece the whole thing together. I was PUMPED! I instra-storied the whole layout of the big quilt, organized the rows, sat down to start pinning and realized the biggest mistake of the entire eleven year project. The blocks didn’t fit together.

Yup. All of the blocks that I started on my old machine measured 12in x 12in (almost) exactly. All of the new blocks from the past two weeks… measured 11in x 11in (or even 11.5in x 11.5in)…. Yup. It’s because my old machine had a quarter inch seam presser foot and I assumed that the edge of my new machine’s presser foot would also yield a 1/4 inch seam… No such luck. It instead was 3/8inch seam. And yes, the 1/8th of an inch did make that much of a difference. Full discloser moment: I did notice the mistake earlier on in the process but that that maybe all of the fabric had collectively shrunk… at the same rate… over the course of the last eleven years.. Yeah, my brain was off that day.

You might ask – “So what? What’s the big deal?” Well with the blocks being off by an inch all around meant the points on the diamonds didn’t line up and the edges didn’t match. Huge deal with a HUGE headache of solutions that was WAY MORE work. “UGGGGHHHH” + tons of curse words was my response. I literally sat slumped in my chair staring at the pieces for 30 minutes thinking “Welp, I’m done. I’m throwing this all away.”

I reached out to my old quilting buddy friend for ideas and she was such a help problem solving with me. And then I realized the answer. Just split them up and make two tiny quilts. It was almost evenly split with 12x12s and 11x11s and so I took what would fit together and made two separate baby quilts. Each quilt used 15 blocks, totaling 30 of the 42 blocks. Blocks that were too small, wouldn’t fit, or in a fabric I no longer loved, got tossed to the side and I only focused on what I could make work. The other 12 pieces became scrap for practice or are still being stored in my attic. (Shout out to anyone wanting them! They are yours for the low low cost of FREE!). Years before I had bought new yellow and green fabric to use for the quilt instead of older fabric I no longer liked and it happened to be just the right size for the backing fabric. Within a few weeks I finished both!

With a TON of broken needles, A LOT of cursing, the wrong walking foot purchased, a trip to the sewing machine doctor, and mistakes made EVERY STEP OF THE WAY, I finally finished, eleven years later. With the final touches of quilt labels hand sewn onto the backs and a vinyl applique of our camp’s symbol ironed on, they are done. Since I was on the green team, Finley is going to keep the quilt with the green backing and the quilt with the yellow backing is going off to Richmond for my camp friend Lauren’s baby girl Rook (Lauren was on the Buff (a version of yellow) team).

Now that they are done, I kind of love them. I also love that they are two separate quilts and will have a longer life in two homes. I love that the quilts are twins and can connect Finley and Rook, if they want of course :). I don’t typically brag on myself but I have to say that as many visible mistakes as there are (like 1/4 of a block being cut off the top), I’m really proud of these. I’m proud of them not because they are beautiful or perfect but because they are done. I didn’t let myself throw away years of work just because I was bored with it and now I have something to give away that represents finishing the job even when it’s not perfect and when you’re mentally over it. 🙂

So here are some pictures of the finished projects and of course some cutie pics of Finley too since she was my side kick through the final push! You won’t have to look too closely to see the mistakes haha but I think they’re pretty regardless. 🙂 Also it’s worth mentioning that the 30s version of me LOVES the slow meticulous process that is quilting. 🙂

Finley deserves an award for most patient self timer baby!
The two quilts compliment each other with opposite backings and bindings. Finley will keep the one with the green back and my good friend Lauren’s baby will receive the yellow backed one. I used Terrial Magic spray to stiffen fabric. Then I was able to print directly on the fabric to make the quilt labels. More mistakes were made when I didn’t set the ink with vinegar before sewing it on to the quilt. Of course it bled everywhere the second it got wet and I had to tear it out and redo the process…. (Face Palm).

Finley’s 3rd & 4th Month!

I have been trying to get this post created for (obviously) two months ::face palm::. I have been making a concerted effort to get TONS of pictures of our life with Finley as she gets older. I’ve been taking my camera everywhere and unapologetically been demanding pictures because the cliche saying that they grow up too fast is too true – THEY GROW UP TOO FAST. I’m so glad I have these images and these frozen moments in time but now I have a back log of images to share :). A good problem to have, no doubt.

That other cliche saying of “I wish there were more hours in the day” is also very true of parenthood. In the hubbub of Fall Minis, a 12 week growth spurt, the holidays, Christmas shopping, and a four month sleep regression, I have found so many excuses to put off writing this post. The thing is, I WANT to share these images because in a few months, a year or more I will be so glad that I can look back on this post. I have been blogging here since 2011 and every so often I’ll go back in time and look at personal blog posts of what I was randomly doing. This place is like a scrapbook of my post college life and I LOVE it! So as much as I’m sharing these images for you to see – I’m totally sharing these images for me. 🙂

NOW the reason for the post – Finley updates!!

In the past two months she has really grown SO much! Not only is she significantly bigger but she also has a bigger and bigger personality! Between 3 and 4 months she became so much more interactive and you can see it in the pictures below. At three months she’d make eye contact, track us and smile but also had a real serious face (as seen below) and would still space out. Jump to 4 months and she smiles ALL the time, has tons of little facial expressions and even laughs! Even her doctor kept saying at her four month check up “WOW she is so expressive!” :).

I love that she LOVES being read to and will even grab the book and push to move the pages. She is OBSESSED with her play mat and all the things we have hanging from it for her to grab, chew on and feel. She found her hands and loves chewing on them. She LOVES the bath and makes a HUGE mess as she kicks like crazy – splashing water EVERYWHERE. 🙂 At 11 weeks she started sleeping through the night but has recently hit a bit of a sleep regression. We’re hoping it won’t last long but who knows. It’s hard that she struggles to fall asleep but I do love that she’s easily comforted by being held and snuggled, so I’m exhaustedly soaking up the snuggles.

I’m so glad to be sharing these images and want to give you fair warning that this is a pretty big photo dump. 🙂 We love this girl more and more and as hard and exhausting as it is – it is truly the so much fun watching her grow and learn!

Finley LOVES this fox. We named him “Mr. Fox” and she thinks he’s the greatest.
The face on the left KILLS ME – I’m DYING laughing!!

The next few pictures are from the beginning of October when Finley had just turned two months (and was in her third month – thus being included in this post). We had just taken the Perez family pictures and we hung back after their session so Sterling could get some pictures of me and Finley. She looks SO different here! It’s amazing to see the difference, she’s so much more interactive with people and her surroundings now.

One day this past October I was driving past the Maryland Agriculture Resource Council and noticed this GORGEOUS road that was tree lined with BEAUTIFUL colorful leaves. I came home and said to Sterling that we HAD to get fall pictures there before the leaves fell. Thank God we did because three days later I drove past it again and EVERY leaf had fallen off. We tried so hard to get a family picture together using my tripod but the distance was too far for the phone remote app and none of them turned out. I’m so grateful I got preordered a clicker for my camera to own for any future spontaneous photo shoots. 🙂

When we were in Richmond for minis Sterling’s family came over from Charlottesville to have a socially distanced lunch with us. Sterling’s sister’s family had never met Finley so it was especially nice. His mom even got a COVID test so she could hold Finley.

GiGi and her Granddaughters


Now for some iPhone pics

These bear outfits kill me 🙂
Holding her bottle for the first time. I only sobbed a little bit 🙂
She looks so much smaller here!!
My friend Jessie, Finley and I went to a park and walked around together. We took off our masks for a second to snag our own socially distanced pictures in front of this really cool painted barns.
Oh she just loves her Daddy
Happy Halloween indeed.

Finley’s Newborn Portraits

New mom confession: We took these pictures weeks ago (like 10 days after she was born) and it took me until this past weekend to finally finish editing them. One thing I love about Finley is that she loves to be held and is such a snuggle bug. But, one thing that’s hard about Finley is that she loves to be held so I don’t have full access to my hands to get things done. My mom guilt made me feel pretty bad that it every day editing these images was on my to do list and each day I just couldn’t get it done. I eventually had to realize that this is my new normal and I needed to give myself all the grace!

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Finley’s First Month

It has been a whole month since our baby girl was born and it feels oddly like it was yesterday and forever ago all at the same time. It’s 9:38pm on the night before September 1st and I am forcing myself to sit down and write out this post because 1) it has been on my to do list for awhile now and 2) I know I will be so mad at myself if I don’t. So… in the full transparent parent truth, I’m sitting here with the messiest bun, spit up on on my shirt, haven’t eaten and Sterling is taking one for the team trying to put Finley back to bed as she’s upstairs crying. Now this picture may seem chaotic (and it is) but through all the chaos and tears, mess and poop, this has been the most beautiful month of my life.

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Building the Crib

One of the things I was most looking forward to doing for our baby as new first time parents was picking out and building the crib.  It felt like such a “parent” thing to do and made me feel like I was doing something specific for our baby.  We bought our crib from Target and decided to get the one that will convert into a toddler and then full size bed when she’s older.  We felt oddly particular about which one to get and spent a fair amount of time comparing different styles before settling on the one we picked.  🙂  Read More »

Baby Travis’ Gender Reveal

In the past few weeks, Sterling and I have once again been reminded that our privilege has held us blind to a system that is oppressive, prejudice, and racist. We keep coming back to each other asking ourselves what can we do. As we attempt to educate ourselves and address our ignorance, we talk a lot about ways that we can both be more of an ally. As we look deeply into our own responsibility as white people, we also have been evaluating our responsibility as future parents who are bringing another person of privilege into this world.

As we bring this new life into the world we know we have a strong responsibility.

A responsibility to protect this life and keep it safe and healthy but just as important, to teach our child to be a truly compassionate person.  Someone who listens to people’s stories and who fights to stand up with others and what’s right. We want to raise this child to recognize injustice and not sit back as a silent bystander.  Someone who stands up against bullies, whether that be an individual picking on someone in the hallway or a system designed to oppress.  We as future parents know that we have to teach ourselves how to do this in our own hearts and then work every day to teach our children.  Raising Baby Travis to be a person that others can lean on, trust, and talk to means being parents that demonstrate this every day as an example.  By sharing this part of our baby’s journey with you, we hope to invite you in to help us and hold us accountable on this goal.  They say it takes a village to raise children and we hope you’ll be a part of ours.

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Surprise! We’re Pregnant!

A year ago this month, doubt started to creep into my head.  Something that seemed normal and easy for everyone else around me, was starting to not be easy for us. November had come and gone, December too, then January and February joined the mix of disappointments.  Month by month I went from hopeful and excited to sad and distant.  Each month I would take a test I dreaded knowing it would be no but secretly hoping I’d be wrong.  Each no making me feel more and more like a failure.

I think the hardest part of walking through 12 months of NOs was that feeling of deep failure only to walk into the next month and have to try and find hope again.  For me, praying kept me hopeful.  I prayed and prayed and prayed that God would give us a chance.  That God would give me patience and remind me that this was not on my schedule, my timeline, my control.  Real talk? This sucked and was really hard.  For someone like me who loves to plan and finds comfort in knowing, not having any control was disheartening.  Part of me thinks God was waiting for me to stop planning, stop counting months, stop worrying and just TRUST him.   Let go of the control, let go of the anxiety and fear and just give it to him.  Read More »

Cromwell Valley Park Fall Portraits

Let’s keep it real. There may or may not have been a snake(s) in that field…. We will never know.

FACT about me. I am NOT brave. Not in an obvious way that is. I cry when getting shots, I jumped around like a LOON to scare away any snakes in this picture and I normally would NEVER be brave enough to wear a hat like this. I am a Plain Jane. I order what I know I’ll like at restaurants, am too nervous to online shop, and try to avoid change at all costs.Read More »