It’s been A DAY.

Can I just be real for a second? Like… really, really transparent with you?

Today has been A DAY. The kind of day where I feel like I matter so little that I ask myself why I even bother. The kind of day where I want nothing other than to be understood and yet I feel like nothing I say will make anyone understand me. The kind of day where I seriously wonder sometimes if I am completely invisible unless someone wants something from me. The kind of day where one little thing happens and it brings back EVERYTHING that has ever made me feel the same way and makes me feel an inch tall, not to mention like I'm still stuck in high school. The kind of day where I just. don't. feel. GOOD ENOUGH.

Ugh. I hate days like this. This is not who I am… but it brings out the worst of my insecurities. What's my age again? Thank you Blink 182 for that profound question. I wonder that myself sometimes. One would think at 30 that this kind of crap would be behind me already.

When I was in elementary school all the way up to when I was 20, I had this friend who I considered my best friend. And repeatedly throughout those years, she would bail on our friendship and on me to go be BFFs with someone else. And then when that person bailed on her, she would come back to me and I would forgive her and be her best friend all over again- as long as she decided to keep me around, anyway. My parents and my grandma warned me over and over again to be cautious
with this person because they saw how hurt I was every time I would get
left behind. Maybe I was just obnoxious but I would rather lose a friend permanently knowing that I was obnoxious so I could change rather than wonder what is so wrong with me that someone can desert me temporarily, but keep me around for convenience. This went on many times until she completely wrote off our friendship when we were in college with a handwritten, mailed letter saying she didn't want me in her life anymore. At that point, while I was confused and once again hurt and wondered where she got off being so self-righteous and condescending, I felt as if I were much better off without this so-called friend, and I never responded and moved on with my life. 

It really sucks being used. The very meaning of that word in the
context of relationships implies that, eventually, you get thrown
away-discarded- without any regard for the fact that it really, really
hurts.

Fast forward six years when she tracked me down on MySpace and asked for my forgiveness and for a restored friendship. And I forgave this person, truly, and we are again friends. But what I never made peace with is the effect that friendship had on me through the 12 years I endured never being good enough to be her friend after someone better came along.

Growing up as an only child (my brother and sister were grown and out of the house when I was born), I placed a high value on friendships. I still do, but as an adult I now have more solid boundaries. And I suppose the problem is that this hurt that I never truly processed has made me hyper-sensitive to unbalanced friendships and relationships and the rejection that accompanies them. Being treated like I don't matter to someone I hold in high regard is something I have a really hard time dealing with. Sometimes it's outright shocking and other times it's just like, "OK… but… seriously?" I don't blame my friend for the fact that I haven't dealt with things completely- that is my responsibility. It's just what happened. What I am learning in light of this is that balanced friendships are rare, valuable and definitely to be cherished. The rest deserve respect and kindness but in the end don't really matter, because they won't be there for you when you need them.

OK… enough with the pity party. This is also the kind of day where I totally need to get over myself. I
know this all sounds incredibly narcissistic- half the time the things
that hurt me aren't even about me- they're about the other person.
That's another thing I've learned as I grow older. When all is said and
done, I'm fine… I just need a hug from my husband when he gets home
from work tonight. Tomorrow is a new day.

I know that Linnea will mostly learn from her own mistakes. Now that I'm a mom, I understand that as much as I want to teach her the things I have learned and protect her sweet little heart, experience is going to be the best teacher. I can only pray that she is guarded from being too hurt and that she is wise in her decisions. I can guide her and teach by example. But that will require first that I make peace with my own past, and make the most of the days I am blessed to have. God willing, I will someday fully experience where my true worth lies- not in the opinions and insecurity of others, but in Christ alone. I have searched and searched and no matter who I encounter, another person will never value me as much as my God does. The same is true for all of us.

Are there things in your life that you haven't made peace with yet? Would you be willing to share? If you're a mom, or soon-to-be, are there things you want your children to know based on your experiences? Sometimes, even if the situations are completely different, it's good to know that other people are human and have things they have to deal with too. I normally don't do this, but… today, I just had to get this out.

On another note, I am really thankful for these people:

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Bri, Brett, Cassie, and Matt! These are the folks in our small group… and they are simply wonderful.

I am also thankful for this person, my BFF through thick and thin, through all my highs and lows:

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This girl is the real deal- God has shown me his love, friendship and loyalty through her in big ways. I would not have kept my sanity all these years without her listening ear and no-nonsense advice. If she wasn't on a ten-day camping trip with her hubby this week, I probably would have unloaded all of this on her and you wouldn't have had to read any of this long-winded nonsense. Ha!

First trip to the ocean.

This post is waaaaaaaaay overdue, but too cute not to share, nonetheless. Linnea's first time seeing the ocean. Thanks Jess for taking these for me!

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She was only five months old at the time- it's hard to believe how tiny she was, and how fast she's been growing! Also, I'm not gonna lie: I think she hated the ocean. It was a little too loud and a little too cold for her tastes, but with time I'm sure it'll grow on her! That, or she'll be a mountain lake kinda girl, just like her mama.

My rainbow 30th birthday bash!

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In case this picture doesn't say it all…

I had a totally fabulous 30th birthday party! It was so wonderful having my family and many of my friends there to celebrate with me. It meant so much to have everyone there, and I missed everyone who couldn't make it.

It was a lot of fun putting together all the details! Because I have always loved rainbows, and my favorite collection at the TomKat Studio is the Rainbow Party theme, I researched colorful inspiration and decor, and here's what I came up with. I only had my point-and-shoot, so please pardon the less-than-worthy quality of these photos! 

The dessert table:

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Rainbow Twizzlers and the Cake Pops I made a la Bakerella. I switched up the red velvet for a rich devil's food instead.
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This is my Amma's wine cake: AMAZINGNESS ON A PLATE and my special request for my birthday. It's my favorite cake by far and it was a huge hit at the party! I dressed it up with a rainbow of handmade tissue paper flowers, a craft I found in the Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts:
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Inspired by Amy Atlas's InStyle feature– which was a super exciting time for us at TKS as it included some labels designed by Kim– as well as the 107-degree weather, I included a sundae bar on the dessert table. My favorite combo? Chocolate ice cream with caramel sauce and sea salt.
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I fell in love with this rainbow of glass bottles my mom and I found at HomeGoods:
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Made a whole rainbow of poms- these will come in handy for future parties as well! Have a color theme? There's a pom for that.
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Made a rainbow tutu for Linnea. Somehow it ended up on Hanalei halfway through the evening:
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I couldn't resist these silly moustaches… and neither could Ryan and Alex. How much do you love her skirt? We went on a little thrift shopping excursion a few weeks ago and she found it at Goodwill. It was originally a dress and she turned it into a skirt- fabulous!
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My goofy husband: who needs a moustache when you can have ridiculous eyebrows instead?
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My dad made it to my party. That made my whole night.
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We asked people to bring either their favorite beer or their favorite pot luck item, so we provided our family's all-time favorite sandwiches: Mum Mum's ham buns. It's a secret family recipe, so no, you can't have it! 😉
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The vuvuzelas… ha!
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And, of course, who can forget my favorite part of the entire party? Linnea dressed up in her rainbow tutu and bow! She couldn't possibly be any cuter, just FYI.
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Thanks to my hubby, my mom and my Amma for helping put everything together. And thanks to everyone who came from near and far. It was such a blessing getting to celebrate with you!

Now that the house is back to normal, I'll begin planning Cody and Linnea's birthday party… 99% sure I have the theme for that one picked out! But I have nearly six months to plan this one, so I think I'll relax for a little while 🙂

The One With the House.

I am loving my friend Katie's new blog, The One With the House. This dear woman moved back to Portland a couple of years ago after a four-year stint in sunny Arizona. She recently bought her first home and her blog is documenting the progress. I have to say… I'm a little jealous. Scratch that- totally jealous! What a fun project! 

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Not only is she gutting and completely remodeling an old home in one of my favorite cities, she knows how to GARDEN. And she'll have her own CHICKENS. Yep. I adore that about her- she's always been so crafty and DIY and I wish she lived here still so I can learn awesome things from her! However, I think if we tried to keep chickens in this heat, they would roast alive in our backyard. Save us a step, I suppose.

Anyway, I just wanted to share her link because it's so much fun and I'm totally missing her these days. She's been there for some of my favorite times of my 20s, and I can't wait to go visit her so I can catch a glimpse into this amazing life she's building for herself!

Dang it… all of my closest friends have moved away from us. Doesn't change that they are my closest friends, but… perhaps it wouldn't be so bad if we up and moved to Nashville after all. I'd just have to convince my family to come along too.

Peach Festival.

Last night, I saw on Twitter that there was going to be a Peach Festival this weekend at Schnepf Farms. Since peaches are Cody's absolute favorite food of all time, we decided that it was a must that we go- especially since you can pick your own peaches from their orchard. 

I tweeted and FB'd that we would be there, and our friends Sarah and Jeff saw my posts and decided to meet us there. It was so fun to see them- especially since we haven't seen them since Linnea was two weeks old! We watched a pit-spitting and pie-eating contest, rode the hay ride, ate some amazing peach pie, lusted after the peach cinnamon rolls they had in their bakery, and headed out to the orchard to pick our peaches! Our day in photos:

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Our driver:
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All of us on the hayride:
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Found a little friend on my peach… I wasn't willing to share:
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Yes, I realize it looks like I'm not wearing pants in this photo:
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Hanging out with Sarah:
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We brought home several pounds of delicious, pesticide-free peaches, and now we just need to figure out what to do with them. Now I need some recipes from YOU! Peach pie? Peach preserves? Other ideas? Shoot 'em my way!

First trip to the zoo.

Last week, Linnea and I went to the zoo with my dear friend Jessica and her little man, Cruz. Jessica's family gave her a year-long zoo membership, so we got to go for free, which was great! I can't wait until Linnea is old enough to notice the animals and tell me the sounds they make and be totally enamored with them. Something tells me with all the animal lovers in our family that we will have another one on our hands 🙂

We snapped a couple of pictures in between chatting and picnicking by the lake and they are just too cute not to share. Enjoy!

I had to take a picture of a tiger because those were Mum Mum's favorites. That and they are simply beautiful animals!

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Jessica and Cruz admiring the tigers.

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Linnea and I checking out the lions. (OK… I'm checking out the lions. She's just trying not to be blinded by the sun.)

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FLAMINGOS! My favorite! Plus they're PINK!

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I'm not gonna lie, I'm secretly hoping that someday someone "flamingos" my front yard. That would be simply amazing. And I would totally leave them up until the HOA nazis start fining us. Ha!

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Such a fun day! We're gonna go again before the weather gets too warm to enjoy the zoo. Jessica, Linnea and I are heading out to the OC next month to visit my BFF Amber and that will be such a fun girls' weekend! I can't wait to take Linnea to the beach!

On another note, today is my baby girl's three-month birthday. I can hardly believe it! Time really does fly when you become a mommy. 

A thank-you note for a priceless gift.

Cody and I have some fantastic friends- I could write blog after blog about all the wonderful people we have in our lives. But this post is about one couple in particular- Jason and Jessica Williams- who have been so thoughtful, supportive and generous to us as we have prepared for and entered into this new season of our lives.

I found out that I was pregnant on May 13, 2009. Before I even knew I was pregnant, somehow Jessica knew right away- so in a sense, she was the first to know! I woke up that morning feeling very fatigued and kind of shaky, and because when I was in college I was borderline anemic, I thought that maybe that was the issue. Since we had moved to the same part of town as the Williams, I sent Jessica a message asking if they had a good family doctor she could recommend. Her response? "ARE YOU PREGNANT?!!!!" Ha! Furthest thing from my mind, and by the way, ARE YOU TRYING TO GIVE ME A HEART ATTACK?!!!! I assured her that the idea was absurd and she was entirely crazy, but when I recalled all of the bread pudding I had consumed in recent weeks at work, and I realized that the idea may, in fact, have some merit. That afternoon, two pregnancy tests indeed confirmed my status as a mom-to-be, and I sent Jessica a message telling her that she was right. And we were so freaked out and PLEASE PRAY FOR US. Hard.

I was immediately met with the most amazing support from this dear friend who had recently ventured into new mommyhood herself. She came along side me and promised me that not only would everything be absolutely amazing when our little one arrives, but that if we needed anything, she and her hubby were there for us. Our lives had followed parallel paths in so many ways and it was exciting- and reassuring- to have someone to share the journey with.

As Cody and I were getting ready to start a new chapter of our lives, the Williams were starting a new venture of their own as photographers. Because they were just starting out, they offered to do a shoot with us to build their portfolio, and also offered to do my maternity photos and, if I wanted, birth photos as well. Little did any of us know that their business would literally skyrocket within weeks- I also had no idea the precious treasure they were so generously giving us: our new baby's life in pictures. So here are a few of my favorites from start to finish.

Exactly one month after learning we were expecting, we had our first photo shoot:

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Thanksgiving weekend we did our maternity shoot:

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Jessica surprised me by taking pictures at my baby shower as well! Thoughtfully planned by my BFF Amber and Kelly:

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Then, when Linnea decided to arrive early, Jessica was there to shoot the first pictures ever taken of her:

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And finally… the newborn photos, taken by Jason:

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Jay and Jess-

You are an amazing, inspirational team as photographers, parents, and husband and wife. Thank you so much for these precious moments you captured for us. We will cherish them- and your friendship, wherever God leads you- always.

With love,

The Alley Family.