December 28, 2016

Bringing It Back

Happy almost New Year! I've decided to dust off the blog and bring it back to life in 2017. I'm sure the two people who read it (hi JP and Aunt Terry!) will be really excited. Ha!

I've been thinking a lot about the coming year. I haven't chosen a word to help guide my year in a long time, and a word very clearly came to me as this year was coming to an end. In a way, I think the word chose me. I've decided that 2017 will be my year of "authenticity," so my word is 'Authentic.' My prayer is that this word will guide my steps as I navigate the year ahead.

To start, I'm going to really cut back on social media. My goal is to step away from Facebook for the entire year. I'm not going to beat myself up if I find myself mindlessly scrolling, but I'm going to try to keep myself from logging in. I still love Instagram, but I'll limit my time there as well. I want the people who know what is going on in my life to be people who see me face-to-face. And that goes for my friends as well. I want to hear about their lives over coffee and play dates, not over the five inch screen of my iPhone.

I'll turn 35 this year, which feels close to creeping up on 40. I want this year to be the year I feel most at home in my own skin in all areas - physically, emotionally, and spiritually. I want to eat good food, exercise more (lots of Pilates and barre - I'm not a runner and I don't like yoga and that's okay). I'm an introvert and a homebody and for most of my adult life I've felt guilty or ashamed of that. I'm not a hermit, but I love being home playing with my girls. I love to work from home and I love decorating our house. Not because I want to show it off, I do it for the three people who share my home with me. If my girls grow up appreciating a cozy, beautiful home, I'm good with that. It's one of the ways I love on my family and there's no need to apologize for it. I'm going to stop saying yes to invitations where my only reason for saying yes is the fear of missing out or because I'm trying to keep up with my extroverted friends. This year will be quality over quantity.

This past year was all sorts of emotional because of the stress of the election. I've seen friends become ex-friends and families at each other over politics. I'm going to be true to who I am and my beliefs and I want to be more involved politically, although I don't quite know what that means, but I also want to be full of grace. I want to love my friends and family well who didn't vote like me. A person isn't identified by their political party and I want to be able to understand where a person is coming from, not judge them. This goes back to why I'm quitting Facebook. I had to unfollow friends and old colleagues because of their political rants, not because I didn't care about their opinions, but because I wanted to like them in spite of their opinions. It's amazing how an unfollow created an abundance of grace. I immediately felt love for those people when my interaction with them was in person and not behind a screen.

This year I hope to be my most authentic self. I have nobody to impress. I'm doing work I love. I adore my family and I have friends that mean the world to me. Why would I want to try to live my life in a way that looks any different? I wish I had asked myself that question ten years ago. I'm tired of pretending I'm cool or that the number of friends I have is more important than the depth of the friendships. My girls don't need to go to the best school in the area. Heck, Crosbi can already read, so I think we're going to do okay wherever she is. I've come to terms with the fact that I'm boring and go to bed early, but when I'm around the people I love, I have all I need.

This month I had some great practice being authentic and it opened my eyes to how I've been doing it wrong all these years. A few weeks ago we hosted about 25 of our neighbors for our neighborhood's annual Christmas progressive dinner. I wanted my house to look perfect, I wanted to make amazing food from scratch, and I wanted to be the perfect host. I bought cute wrapping paper in hopes that our Christmas presents looked Pinterest-worthy under our tree. Leading up to the dinner, our schedules became crazy. Crosbi and Leighton were both fighting colds and I could barely make it to the store. The day of the party none of the gifts were wrapped, it was all I could do to get the floors swept and I hadn't bought all the things I needed to make my elaborate meals. I looked around and for a split second thought if I rolled up my sleeves and got to work I could get it all done. But instead I realized I couldn't do it and that I didn't want to do it. I wanted to be true to me and that meant I had to know my limits. So I shoved all the gifts under my bed, I picked up the house the best I could, and we bought premade frozen appetizers for our guests. And you know what? We had so much fun that night. I felt like I was living Shauna Niequist's theme of "present over perfect" and fully understood that she was onto something.

So here's to 2017 and a life lived authentically. To being proud of my family and my work without needing to boast about either one on social media. To saying no when saying yes will just make me feel exhausted. To intentional time with my girls, especially since Crosbi starts Kindergarten in the fall. To deep friendships, not a busy calendar. To more time in God's word. More time taking care of myself and most importantly, more time seeing people for who they really are, not what a few sentences on a computer screen might say about them (or what others might say about them). To being truly authentic.

Aaaaaaand, to writing more about my girls because man I love to go back and read posts about my babies.

Happy New Year!


August 15, 2016

Leighton :: One Month

It's only fair that I attempt to regularly update life with a new baby. I don't want to hear "poor second child" the rest of my life. Ha! 

I have to admit, having a baby for the second time feels so much easier than it did the first time around. I don't know if it's because I'm much more confident or if Leighton is just incredibly easy, but we found our groove really quickly. She's a great eater, a good sleeper, and rarely if ever cries. I could have described Crosbi the same way as a newborn, but I was so overwhelmed by the major life change that I didn't realize how good I had it. Now that I have a handle on caring for a baby, I'm like give me all the babies! Except that we're done having babies. For real.

Leighton will be seven weeks old tomorrow, so before I forget, I wanted to capture her first month.

At her two week appointment, she weighed in at 9.2 pounds, nearly two pounds up from her birth weight and about an inch taller. 

At over six weeks we're starting to see smiles more regularly. I can't think of many things better than baby smiles.

Crosbi is obsessed with her. Obsessed. Driving us all crazy obsessed. She wants to hold her all day long. She's constantly about an inch from her sister's face and feels the need to wake her up the moment she falls asleep. Thankfully Leighton doesn't mind a bit. 

It's been a busy month. We took our first road trip to Missouri where Leighton met her great grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. She saw her first baseball game (bad idea), but my sister and I got a good laugh out of it when both of our babies cried the whole way home. She went to her first cookout at the creek on Todd's family farm, and we even took her to the county fair. Quite a lot for a baby. We may try to slow it down a bit. 

At a month old, it appears that she really likes... to be held or cuddled + her sister + bath time + eating + naps.

While not super exciting just yet, Leighton has stolen our hearts. We're all smitten, and as cliche as it sounds, we just can't imagine life without her. We're so thankful she's here!


July 4, 2016

She's Here! Leighton's Birth Story

I'm dusting off the ole' blog to share the birth story of our newest addition, Leighton Mabrey Stepp. She came fast and furious on Monday, June 28th at 1:28pm, weighing in at 7 pounds 6 ounces and 20 inches long.

Leighton's birth was completely different from Crosbi's and possibly slightly controversial in that I had an elective induction. I read many pregnancy forums where women basically said it was the worst possible thing you could do to your baby. That makes a person feel great. But I knew early on that I wanted to induce and felt incredible peace about my decision throughout my pregnancy. I had several reasons for my choice:

*I knew for sure I didn't want to go past 40 weeks. Crosbi was five days late and nearly nine pounds, and the last two weeks of my pregnancy were so miserable. I was in so much pain and not sleeping at all. I didn't want to put my family through that again. We induced the day before my due date.

*We live 45 minutes away from my hospital with no traffic. Second babies are known to come quick (which Leighton did!) and I was not about to deliver her on the side of the road. 

*Our closest family members are a good eight hours away. My mom is even further in North Carolina and I really wanted to have a plan in place for Crosbi. Leighton's due date was so close to July 4th that I was panicking a bit that I would go into labor over the holiday weekend when friends are traveling or have other plans and getting to Nashville could be difficult with holiday drivers on the road or back-ups at airports.

*Lastly, I was lucky enough to experience a "spontaneous" birth with Crosbi. My water broke at home, I had contractions in the car on the way to the hospital and was able to have a completely normal vaginal birth. My doctor was confident that my induction would be smooth since it was by second baby. I wouldn't have even considered it if it was my first (as you may remember with Crosbi).

Back to the 5:00am, Todd and I packed the car, kissed our sleeping Crosbi goodbye, and made our way to the hospital. I will admit that even though I was confident in wanting to induce, I was anxious on the way to the hospital. I second guessed my decision because it felt so strange to know I would be having a baby that day but not feeling any labor symptoms at all. 

At 8am I was checked in and the nurse started my IV and pitocin. The IV may have been the worst part of my entire labor. The nurse blew a vein in my hand (ouch) and had to redo it in my arm. My arm throbbed the entire day. By 10am my contractions were regular but manageable. Todd encouraged me to go ahead and get my epidural so I could sleep, but I was nervous because I wasn't in any real pain yet. I went ahead and agreed to the epidural so that I could rest. While I don't regret getting it early (as you'll see later), the epidural was pretty painful. Because I wasn't having strong contractions, I could feel everything. I was so distracted with pain during Crosbi's birth that I didn't even feel the needle. Not the case this time.

Once the epidural was in place, the doctor put in my catheter and checked me. I was dilated 4 centimeters. An hour later (yes, just an hour!), I asked that my epidural be checked because I could feel the catheter and it was making me uncomfortable. Little did I know that it wasn't the catheter, it was the baby. I was dilated to a nine and the nurse was calling for my doctor. I will never forget the look Todd gave me when the nurse said it was time to push. We were thinking we would have hours before it was time. My doctor arrived and with one push (more like one and a half) Leighton was here. Her incredible quick delivery was such an answer to prayer and affirmation that we made the right decision for her birth. My labor was so quick that there is a good chance I wouldn't have made it to the hospital in time for not just the epidural, but possibly her birth. In an hour I went from 4 centimeters to holding my daughter. It's still surreal to me!

We spent the next few days recovering at the hospital. Leighton gave us a couple of choking scares and turned blue twice. I was a mess both times. The doctor's think it was due to her quick delivery and not having a chance to get the amniotic fluid out of her system. The pediatrician encouraged us to stay an extra night to monitor her, and thankfully she was much better by the third day and we headed home. 

We are so obsessed with our newest family member. My fears of not being able to love two, although real, were unnecessary. I'm head over heels and seeing Crosbi with her sister is a joy I can't explain. She completes our family in the best way.

Welcome to the world, Leighton Mabrey. You are so loved.

April 27, 2016

Thirty-One Weeks And A Little Perspective

I'm thirty-one weeks into this pregnancy and I'm not going to lie, I'm ready to be done. This week hasn't been an easy one. All of the normal discomfort of the third trimester has hit, but a couple of nights ago I woke up sick. And I didn't make it to the bathroom. Yep. 

I know that's not the picture of a glowing pregnant woman anyone wants to hear about, but it's my reality. I wish I was one of those women who felt strong and confident and loved every minute of pregnancy, but it's just not me. But I've learned that it's okay to not be that woman. We're all made so differently. Pregnancy is hard on my body. However, it reminds me that at my core, I'm really weak and that's actually a good thing. I can easily start to think that I'm in control of my life. I can set goals and work hard and often, though not always, things work out the way I hope they will. But pregnancy is a much needed humble reminder that I have no control whatsoever. I can't make my body not get sick. I can't make my body not gain weight (and oh how I've tried this time!) and I can't will myself to feel rested. I've cried out for help so many times the past few months. Ironically, while the pain and sickness haven't disappeared, I've felt God so close. Pregnancy brings me to my knees. When I can't bear to look at the woman I've become in the mirror, I have to remember where my worth comes from. When I feel like I can't go on one more day, I'm forced to remember that my strength comes from Christ alone. I don't enjoy pregnancy (like, at all), but it's so sanctifying. My pregnancy with Crosbi completely changed my life and my faith and this time around is no different. 

The day after my unfortunate not making it to the bathroom episode, I felt done. I needed a day to reset. Crosbi and I stayed home and had a lazy day of coloring and watching movies. She wanted to draw a picture for me and I was blown away by her art. 

It's the two of us with a heart in the middle. It was all I could do not to cry. The hard, sanctifying work of pregnancy brought me the greatest gift: my incredibly caring and loving baby girl. I looked at her picture and reminded myself that I would do all of it over again for her. The months of sickness, the pain and discomfort. She's worth it. So worth it. And soon her sister will be here and I'll say the same about her. The beauty of it all is that's how Jesus feels about me. He took the cross, the pain, the discomfort because he knew the other side. He saw me and said I was worth it. 

Perspective is an amazing thing. I don't enjoy this. I would be thrilled if it could be over tomorrow, but I'll hang on to my belief that this is as much about me understanding God's love for me as it is welcoming another life into our family. And today I'll be just a bit stronger.


April 11, 2016

Wrong Words and Other Ramblings

I have done a really poor job blogging about this pregnancy. Poor second child! I think that's mainly because once I got out of the dreaded first trimester, this pregnancy has felt so similar to my first. I'm carrying the same, gaining weight (like crazy) the same. My denial is the same. I don't really have anything new to add this time around. They say all pregnancies are different, but so far that hasn't been the case for me. The only difference I can really find this time is my age. It's pretty wild how much a person can age in four short years! I really feel like a woman in her almost mid-thirties carrying a baby and physically it feels harder. I don't think I was "over it" with Crosbi until I hit nine months. I'll be 29 weeks this week and if this baby was fully developed and ready to meet the world, I would be ready to go. I miss my old body in a fierce way. But as much as I'm ready for the pregnancy to be over, I'm thankful that my body carries a baby with little issue. My doctor has spread out my appointments longer than typically suggested because I'm boring basically. I'm more than okay with that.

Crosbi's feelings about the baby change by the day and as we get closer, I notice her really thinking through the changes and how she will be affected and some days it breaks my heart. There are days when she can't wait to feed and change the baby, and then there are days like a day earlier this week when she told me she didn't want us to have a baby anymore. She said she wants it to just be the three of us because she doesn't want me always taking care of the baby. She's been acting out a bit more than normal and I think it's because she's processing the change that's happening already. I know it's completely normal, but it makes me sad. She's my girl. She has my heart and the changes coming scare me too. But I know it will all work out and when we meet this baby our family will feel complete. My focus will just go from loving one well to being intentional with two. Never did I think I would be a stay at home mom, but in this season, I'm beyond thankful that I am. I will have my babies with me each day to pour into. I know there will be really, really hard days, but there's nothing else I would rather do. 

Speaking of Crosbi, each day she grows up a bit more and all of the words she used to say incorrectly are now correct. Another sign that she's getting further and further away from the baby she used to be. But there are a few words she still says wrong and when she says them, it puts the biggest smile on our faces. 

My favorites these days:

Barvie (Barbie) 
Rester-not (restaurant)
Soupcase (suitcase)
Alfin and the Chickmunks (Alvin and the Chipmunks)

Love that girl. 

I'm pretty pumped I'll get to hear lots of wrong words again in the coming years. Crazy.


March 20, 2016

Crosbi Says...

I'm going to call this edition of Crosbi Says "She is so my child."

Because seriously. She is so my child.

Me: How was school today?
Crosbi: Good. We did centers.
Me: Which center is your favorite?
Crosbi: Lunch. Because I'm always hungry.

Crosbi: Mommy, I'm going to do something so exciting! I'm going to clean the whole house!

Crosbi: Mommy, can we listen to your songs (aka the Sam Hunt record)? They're my jam.

Crosbi eating sausage pizza: I love pizza. I mean, I like pizza, but I really love sausage. -- Says the girl who asked for sausage for her third birthday.

I overheard her playing with her dolls...
"Oh that's a pretty dress, but it's not my color."

I have to admit, it's a little scary knowing how much of my personality she picks up on and imitates. I have to really watch what I say and do these days. But really, what's not to love about a girl who loves good food, a clean house and Sam Hunt?!

Four is the best age.

February 18, 2016

It Takes A Village

 Be very careful never to forget what you have seen the Lord do for you. Do not let these things escape from your mind as long as you live! And be sure to pass them on to your children and grandchildren. - Deuteronomy 4:9

It really does take a village and I'm oh so thankful for mine. It's incredible how powerful words are. The past couple of weeks I have had words shared with me that have stopped me in my tracks, dropped me to my knees, and left me praising my God. All because people who care about me have shared their wisdom and kindness.

When I was pregnant with Crosbi, one of my deepest prayers was that she would find community with women who would lift her up and encourage her, and this week I'm reminded just how important that prayer still is. Not just for me and Crosbi, but now for her little sister. That's right, if you missed it, we're having another girl!

Last week we had our big 20-week ultrasound and discovered that our newest family member is a little girl. The emotions I had about having another girl were all over the place. But God amazed me with his faithfulness. Within minutes my phone was flooded with texts from my mom to best friends to old coworkers who were praying for me and with me, reminding me that God has a perfect plan and that he had always planned for me to be the mom of girls. I had friends share with such vulnerability their thoughts when they first learned the gender of their babies, and I have to say, those words moved mountains for me. God spoke through them to remind me how much he loves me and my family and I went from shock to celebration almost immediately.

Then just yesterday, He did it again. I've shared that adding another child has been a bittersweet reality as I think of how it will change my relationship with Crosbi. I still have days where I'm overcome with fear and sadness when I think of having to divide my time. Yesterday was one of those days. Before I jumped in the shower, I turned on a Taylor Swift playlist and the first song to play was "Never Grow Up." Word to the wise, do NOT listen to that song when you're a 5-month pregnant woman with crazy hormones. I lost it. Sobbed like a baby. All I could think about was how fast the past four years have gone by and how quickly Crosbi is growing up. I thought, will she ever know how much I've loved her during this time? Will she ever understand how much she means to me? (And now I'm crying as I write this...).

As I got out of the shower I heard my phone vibrating and thinking it was Todd, quickly ran to check it. It wasn't Todd, it was my Aunt Terry and her words were so timely that I know without a doubt God was speaking to her for me:

"I wanted to let you know that when I was pregnant, I also wondered how in the world I could ever love another as much as I loved the first...I remember thinking that so well. Believe me, your heart grows big enough to love so much."

What?! Is there a camera in my bathroom? How did she know? I told her I was literally just having a breakdown and her timing couldn't have been more perfect. I also told her my fears that Crosbi won't know how much I love her. Her response:

"You're correct. Crosbi will not know how much you love her until the day she has a child of her own. On that day she will know."

Cue tears forever.

But just like that, her words struck my heart and I knew God was comforting me with them. One of the greatest ways for me to deal with my fear is to know that I'm not alone. I don't know a single woman who hasn't expressed some sadness or worry about how adding another child will change their family. It means even more when they encourage me with their own stories. It's as if God himself comes down to say, "Tara, it's going to be okay. Look at these women in your life. I'm going to do the same for you."

I'm so thankful for my village. I'm thankful for the women in my life who feel a tug at their hearts and share their wisdom with me. I'm thankful that not only are they carrying me, they are going to be such amazing examples to my girls. My girls. It's still sinking in, but I'm not nearly as afraid.

Nineteen weeks left and counting. Let's do this.


January 15, 2016

Another Stepp

As I revealed on social media, we are expecting another baby. Another baby!! I'm still in shock. It's funny the texts/calls/emails I've received. "How are you feeling?" "Did you want another baby?" Completely understandable questions. Before I dig into how I'm really feeling, I really want to be honest. Truthfully, brutally honest this time. Not because I want to remember hard times, but because I have gone back and read all my pregnancy posts with Crosbi and as I read through them, I think, "That's not how I really felt at all!" A lot of what I wrote during that season was exactly what was on my heart...but I also wrote what I expected people would want to hear. If this blog is going to be a tool for my kids later on, I want them to know my true heart...not my sugar coated thoughts.

So here we go.

Were we trying to have another baby? Not exactly. No permanent measures had been taken, so we always knew there was the possibility, but we were really happy with our family of three. Nothing felt missing, if that's the question.

How did I know I was pregnant? I was crying about everything. The day I took the test, I had been in a company wide meeting...a state of the union basically, and I couldn't stop crying about company updates. I sat there thinking this is ridiculous. What is wrong with me? I left work and went to Kroger and took the test in the Kroger bathroom. I was positive I was pregnant. No need to wait to take it at home.

How did I feel about being pregnant again? I had so many mixed emotions. I was really thankful/awestruck that there was another little life inside me, but my younger sister is pregnant and I didn't want to steal attention from her. I was terrified of what the next few weeks/months would bring knowing how sick I was with Crosbi. I researched everything and tried anything I could to avoid severe morning sickness. Nothing worked.

The hardest part was coming to terms with Crosbi not being my only baby. I've explained this to my friends, but I think it has been so hard because I never thought we would have another baby, so I had no issue investing my whole heart into hers. It was always just going to be her, and giving her my all was an easy choice. The moment I saw the two pink lines, it felt like she had been ripped away from me. That sounds dramatic, but I was heartbroken. I couldn't look at her without crying and I would break down multiple times a day when I thought about her having to share me.

How am I feeling now? Much better. It's hard to think rationally when you're extremely sick. With Crosbi, I had horrible sickness. It's been different this time, but just as awful. With her I would throw up 10-12 times a day until around 18 weeks. But as horrible as that was, I would have relief in between trips to the bathroom. This time I haven't thrown up nearly as much, but have felt constantly sick. Imagine having the stomach flu for 3 months, not knowing when it will end. It's hard. Exhausting, frustrating, scary, hard. It's also hard when others don't understand. I felt like this time around family members expected me to suck it up or that my medicine would magically make my symptoms disappear. If only. I was told that if I took Tums I would be better in no time (right, because that would be much stronger than the prescription medicine I was currently taking). Or if I was physically getting sick I would be asked, "Well did you take your medicine?" Yes. Yes, I did. But my medicine just helps take the edge off (some days). If it completely cured pregnancy sickness, I would have gotten pregnant a long time ago. I felt a lot more isolated in my "morning" sickness this time. I'm so, so thankful to be on the other side of it now.

Okay, enough venting! How am I really feeling now, as in today? I feel hopeful. My sickness is practically behind me with the help of my medicine. My energy is starting to return and I've come around to the idea of being a family of four. The irony is that Crosbi has helped me the most. She is so excited about being a big sister. Her excitement has rubbed off on me and I couldn't be more thankful. She can't wait to hold and kiss the baby. She wants to change diapers (but not the poopy ones!) and has asked if she can lay in the crib with the baby while it naps so the baby isn't lonely. She's constantly thinking of baby names and talks to my belly. I really can't wait to see her as a big sister. This baby is so lucky to have her.

Todd is really excited, and that makes me excited too.

It's going to be a journey, that's for sure, but my head isn't quite as cloudy and I'm not as hormonal and now I'm fully on board. This baby might have been a surprise to us, but God wasn't surprised and I know in the coming months/years I will look back and I won't be able to imagine a life before there were four of us. I have no doubt about that.

So, to my loved second child, should you read this some day, know this: While you gave me and your daddy quite the shock with your impending arrival, and you made me really sick, know that I wouldn't go through this for anyone else. You will be the puzzle piece of my life that I never saw coming, but always needed and my greatest surprise.  I'm in awe that God would give you to us. I just can't wait to meet you. Welcome to the family.