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On my first Mother’s Day

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Motherhood: there are no words to fully describe this life. I may never know all that my mother has done for me but now, I can fully understand it. The magnitude of this love is endless; it can change the world and impact the generations yet to come.

To all those who have mothered me, I thank you. To all the life givers, I honour you. To my son, who made me a mother, I will love you with every breath, in all I do, every day of my life.

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When I became a mother I joined the ranks of swaying Mamas bouncing their babies in the back of the church. In subconcious cheorgraphy we would sway together- left to right, left to right, left to right. Under sleepy eyes from long nights awake, we would look up at each other, give a knowing nod and sympathetic smile before returning with a soft hugh and kiss on the forehead atop our own sweet babe in our arms. This was our rhythm, our season, our heart poured out.

Yet on more than one occasion I’ve had to step out farther than merely the back of the church. Wandering halls on the outside, separated from the action, unable to hear the words of the preacher. And though my heart delights to serve my son and comfort him as he needs, my time on the outside is making me ever thankful for the way Jesus draws us near.

I think of the old temple in Jerusalem and the distant women’s court, far from the Holy of Holies. There in the innermost part of the Temple was the very presence of God, His sacred dwelling place in the midst of His people. But sin kept the people separated from Him, and the women, like myself, were found far away in our own court at the other end of the temple.

But when Jesus’ feet walked the earth, He called to us – letting the children come, letting the women listen. When Jesus’ feet hung on the Cross-, the veil was torn, from top to bottom, from Heaven to Earth- and the barrier between God and us was forever removed. (Matthew 27: 51)

So come closer, draw near. Feel the warmth of His arms and the breath of His voice pouring over you. It is finished and there is room for us on the inside. 

 Now that I know what it feels like to be far, I’m so thankful for a God who draws us close.

 Happy Easter Sunday, friends.

 

Think Dirty

In honour of Natural Beauty Month, I am working hard to detox my life of harsh chemicals with high toxicity and carcinogenic properties. It’s actually my 2015 goal to live a cleaner, greener, more organic lifestyle. When I became pregnant last year I started questioning all the chemicals that we put into our bodies through our skin and by what we eat. Within minutes the chemicals in our products find their way into our bloodstream, contaminating our bodies with dangerous toxins. I’ve too many family friends who live healthy and active lifestyles that still succumb to cancer and I can’t help but wonder if its the products in our bathrooms and vanity shelves that are killing us?

One tool that I’ve discovered in my quest for a cleaner lifestyle is the Think Dirty App. Created by some incredibly clever folks in Toronto, the Think Dirty project was designed to inform consumers of the hormone disrupters in our beauty and personal care products, often causing breast cancer, infertility and other forms of cancer. Unlike the food industry, the cosmetic industry is unregulated and there is little transparency for the ingredients of products, even for items labeled as “natural” or “organic”.

As a consumer I find all this incredibly frustrating and its not always easy to find safe and effective alternatives for myself and my family. Enter the Think Dirty App. This handy little guy is a constant companion on my iPhone, enabling me to enlist his help whenever I am shopping for new products. I can regularly be found scanning an entire aisle in the drug store or cosmetic boutique, searching for the best and safest product that is worthy of my hard earned dollars. I believe in making informed decisions and the Think Dirty App is my guide on this journey to wellness and truly healthy living.

The other day I was in The Body Shop because the eczema on my dry hands was causing me discomfort and with their “green” marketing I was hopeful to find a safe solution. The friendly sales staff greeted me as I entered and was quick to answer my questions. I was assured that the entire store was safe with 98% organic ingredients in all the products. Feeling hopeful, I picked up The Body Shop Hemp Hand Protector, a hand lotion that I had been recommended by others who also suffered from eczema. With a quick scan I discovered that this so-called “organic” lotion scored a 9/10 on the Think Dirty App, mainly for its developmental and reproductive toxicity levels, although its carcinogenicity level was also notably high.

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I left the store disappointed.

Thankfully the Think Dirty App does not leave me hanging but offered a safe solution for a similar product that did not leave me at risk for developing cancer or disrupting valuable developmental and reproductive hormones. The app also provides a direct link to Amazon so that I can easily find better products if I choose to give them a try and incorporate them into my daily life.

(To be fair to The Body Shop, there may be products that scored higher yet the majority of the products that I picked up and scanned before I left were all in the red.)

Clearly, we have a long way to go. I foresee many more product reviews in the future as I continue on this journey to more holistic, natural and organic living. Join me?

 

The 4th Trimester

 View More: http://alyssakellert.pass.us/chayton

Well that’s it. My newborn is growing up! We have officially completed the fourth trimester and I’ve never had three months move so quickly in all my life. Its been hard and wonderful all at the same time. I’ve learned, he’s grown and Chris still can’t believe we have a baby! Through all the diaper changes, sore nipples, crying sessions and late nights, I kind of miss my newborn baby!

Here’s some of the things that I found made those early days a little easier and the stories that go along with them:

NüRoo Swaddler $25

I found this during a trip to Colorado when I was 15 weeks pregnant and it has been a total lifesaver every night. Chayton does.not.stop.moving. We also have the Woombie but the NüRoo is by far my favourite because it keeps his arms securely in place so that he can’t twitch and wake himself up every five minutes. With three different sized pockets, the NüRoo grows as Chayton does and the leg pockets are wide enough to relax his knees or kick his legs. And with the velcro arm flaps, our little escape artist is snug and secure all night long!

The Honest Company Organic Nipple Balm $14

From the beginning I wanted to breastfeed Chayton. I knew all the nutritional, cognitive and relational benefits that breastfeeding can bring. Naively, I had a blissful image of us together in the rocking chair- him nursing to contentment while I gazed lovingly down to my sweet baby. Unfortunately this was not the case. Chayton was born with a tongue tie  that effected his ability to establish a proper latch. The damage was extensive, forcing us to hand express colostrum and milk into a spoon to feed him. I cried hard, ugly tears and felt like a failure when the pain became too much. I’m embarrassed to admit that some nights Chris would bring our baby to me, crying and searching for milk, and wouldn’t want to feed him, even though I always did.

Truthfully, I was ready to quit. Formula looked so appealing. Yet God hears the tiny, desperate prayers whispered into the darkness and when the morning rose, the pain was gone.

Now we have a beautiful nursing relationship. His tongue tie was fixed, the pain has never returned and he’s a healthy, solid little boy with consistent weight gain.

I’m so grateful to my husband, parents and midwives for literally standing by me during those intense first weeks. I wouldn’t have made it through without them. And organic nipple balm. Thank you Jesus for organic nipple balm.

New Mama Bottom Spray $15

Earth Mama Angel Baby is easily one of my most favourite companies for anything pregnancy or postpartum related. Not only is everything organic but its just really lovely. I credit my fast healing to an incredibly skilled and patient birth team, padsicles, a squeeze bottle and this little spray of refreshing goodness!

Usana BabyCare Essentials $54

Okay, these vitamins are technically for pregnancy but you need good nutrition even after baby has been born! Everyday I have a twice-daily routine of BabyCare Essentials, BiOmega, Active Calcium chewable and Vitamin D, because with breastfeeding, I’m basically taking over where the placenta left off.

Maya Wrap Baby Sling $80 / MOBY Wrap $45

I’m going to keep this short: Every Mama needs to Babywear. I’ll get into all the details at a later date or else this will be a very very long post but just trust me on this, a baby carrier of some kind is an absolute must. Baby happy, free hands, close cuddles. Just trust me and get a baby wrap of some kind!

Sensé Firming Body Nourisher $24

Let’s be honest. Postpartum bodies take some getting used to.  After nine months of dedication, I wanted to hydrate and reward my body and my skin for a job well done. This lotion stands above the rest because it contains Proteo-C and Proflavanol-T complexes to nourish your skin while luxurious shea butter and Ceramide 3 soothe, firm, and replenish essential moisture. It’s a dream for postpartum skin.

{DAVIDsTEA} Tea My Baby  Cost determined by weight sold

Because as a breastfeeding mom, I’m always concerned about keeping up my milk supply to meet the demands of my growing boy’s needs. Although I usually didn’t find time to drink tea until it was already cold, this blend was loaded with fennel and fenugreek- two herbs known to boost milk production. As an added bonus, it also included cocoa, because chocolate…is chocolate.

Young Living Lavender Oil $35

It took at least six weeks to establish an effective bedtime routine but ours is actually quite simple. Once we notice a few yawns from Chayton, we’ll change his diaper, put on jammies, have a little playtime to tire him out and swaddle him snug. After that I’ll put a few drops of lavender oil into the diffuser for a cool mist of relaxing fragrance into the air. We lie tummy to tummy on the bed and I nurse him until he peacefully falls asleep. The whole routine works wonders and we went from hours of endless crying to a peaceful bedtime.

View More: http://alyssakellert.pass.us/chayton

Oh sweet, tiny boy! Part of me wishes that I could relive those precious first days. I’m thankful for all the photos and videos that we took because newborn days are such a blur. I can’t believe how much he’s already grown, all the skills he’s learned and how much he has already changed. If these three months have gone so fast, I can’t imagine how the next years will be!

//Photos by Alyssa Kellert Photography

The Voice

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My son is learning to speak right now. Not talking words yet but he has certainly discovered his voice. All day long I listen to him as he babbles away. We sit together in the mornings, eye to eye, and he tells me stories. I believe that he truly thinks he’s talking to me, and in a way he probably is. I watch as he discovers the world around him and then tells me what he thinks of it all.

As a parent, it brings me such joy to watch him grow and discover, to learn to speak and to use his voice. Right now his voice is so small and tiny but each day I listen as he becomes more assertive and more passionate. Oh the things this little boy will say. What truth will come forth from his lips one day?

As a writer I believe there is power in words. As a speaker I believe there is power in voice.

In the beginning God said “let there be light” and there was. It was his voice that brought life. Imagine what His voice must have sounded like as it hovered over the mountains, calling them into being. Did He create with the booming voice of authority or the gentle melodic hush of a whisper? Imagine the verbs. Imagine the nouns. What was it like, to hear the sound of life for the very.first.time?

It was his voice that carved out the depths of the waters and raised up the heights of the peaks. It was his voice that called out into the wilderness, teeming with life, bursting with green, twittering with song.

It was his voice in the burning bush- calling for boldness, calling for freedom.

It was his voice on the road. The voice that changed the heart of a man. The voice that ignited a conversation. The voice that birthed a revolutionary.

It is the red letters on the page and the young boy teaching his elders in the temple. It is the line in the sand and the grace for the woman in adultery.

It is the cry from the Cross. Poured out in totality.

It is the voice, filled with breath and alive, walking in the garden and comforting a woman named Mary.

So often we encounter God’s voice in our lives. Yet far more often we fail to recognize it. I am certain of three specific times that I have heard God’s voice to clearly: when I chose to return to my faith, taking a risk and dedicate my life to living His Way, when I was challenged to speak up about human trafficking and take action against the injustice of this world, and when I wasn’t sure about becoming a mother and God gently reminded me that children could be the ones who offer us a new start in the world.

Each time His voice brought redemption. Each time His voice brought life.

Because we are made in His image, our voices also rise. Our voices can bring life, redemption, liberty and transformation, depending on how we choose to use them.

Proverbs 31:8-9 says:

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves,
    for the rights of all who are destitute.
Speak up and judge fairly;
    defend the rights of the poor and needy.

It’s a powerful part of the famous Proverbs 31 verse and it takes great wisdom to know when to speak up and what to say.

When we see injustice in the world and choose to remain silent, then we are standing on the side of the oppressor.

When we see someone hurting and choose to remain silent, we lose an opportunity to build a bridge, bring comfort and speak life into someone’s life.

When we hear God calling us to step out and take a risk on our lives, we miss the next thing that He is leading us to.

It is often said that public speaking is the most common fear yet I would argue that missing out on the best of this life is far more terrifying.

I don’t want to live lukewarm, in the shallow end of life where the water is calm and comfortable. I want to be brave enough to step out onto the waves, where Jesus is, where the risk is great, where the comfort is gone and where we see miracles happen.

So we must learn to wield our voices courageously, life depends on it.

2015 Valentine’s Day Girly Gift Guide

Happy February

I love February, mostly because I love Valentine’s Day, mostly because its a super girly holiday, but truly, mostly because its a sappy reason to celebrate great love and all that goes with it! While it’s important to celebrate the sappy and romantic side of love, I also think its important to focus on the fun and friendly side of love and those incredible ladies in your life who just make your world work.

So here are my favourite gifts to surprise your sister, mother or BFF!

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Twinkle Twinkle Little Jar $28

Home of the original Glitter Dipped Tumblers and Mugs, these precious little beauties are handmade in Southern California and they sparkle, need I say more?

Great Love by Tesori Handmade $71

Since the first days after Chayton was born, I’ve worn a beautiful little sterling silver necklace close to my heart.  I know that this one of a kind jewelry is the perfect gift for a wife, mother, sister or friend this Valentine’s Day. Each piece is hand distressed and hand stamped for a uniquely organic and vintage look. You can add the names of your loved ones, important dates from your life or special quotes of significant meaning. Each piece is completely custom and made for the people that you treasure most!

(PS-  For the month of February, enter Coupon code Save5 for free shipping in The United States or $5 off your order for those in Canada and beyond. Hurry! Valentine’s orders must be in by the end of the week!)

Rosé by Landeau $95

It probably doesn’t get more cliché than this but honestly, what girl doesn’t love receiving roses on Valentine’s Day- there’s just something about it! Landeau roses are beautiful, modern and easy to order. All Landeau bouquets include: 25 fresh cut, hand tied roses wrapped in tissue, 2 packages of flower food and a Landeau box, plus a greeting card written on high quality, custom stationary. Just choose your bouquet, enter the delivery details and wait for the beauty to arrive!

elle est forte by She is Clothing $35

This company is my girl crush. Seriously. Their slogan is “She is purposeful, she is honourable, she is strong” and their inspiration comes from Proverbs 31:25 “She is clothed in strength and dignity, she laughs without fear of the future.” Seriously, I love this company with a capital L-O-V-E.

So you have it, my 2015 Valentine’s Day Girly Gift Guide! Surprise your girlfriends or treat yourself, I won’t judge.

Tara, xo

Maternity Photos on the Farm: 36 weeks

As we celebrate the first month of Chayton’s life, I find myself constantly gazing down at this beautiful baby boy in my arms. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that this little one lived inside me, nurtured within the safe confines of my womb. Other times I stare down at him, with absolute pride, knowing that my body nurtured him within the safe confines of my womb. Wow! Truly, pregnancy and childbirth is a miraculous wonder.

In light of this beautiful accomplishment, I am posting my final “baby bump” update for Chayton and sharing some of my favourite photos of our final maternity photo shoot. It was an absolute honour to collaborate with the creative genius of Iulia Agnew Photography and Belle and Rebel Beauty, two of my favourites to work with.

I’m not gonna lie, part of me does miss the “bump” and the quiet :) but I wouldn’t trade any of it for all the world’s gold! Every moment from my pregnancy, and now the early days of motherhood, is etched in my memory and cherished in my heart. I know how blessed I am to walk this journey and in a place of gratitude if where I’ll always be.

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