11 months

Crawling all over the place and fast. Pulling up. Cruising. Singing. Dancing. Making herself laugh. These are all the fun things she's doing these days. It's happening way too fast.

Christmas time!

Here are the first set of pics. Our Christmases are usually spread out over a couple of weeks. We've had three of four so far. Tessa has been so sweet. I love seeing the twinkle of lights in her eyes.

nose, red nose, ahhh-chooo!

We had brought back this puppy dog from Justin's parents' house a few weeks ago. It has labels and buttons that you push and it will tell you the name (ie. hand, foot, tummy) and then sing a song. Tessa didn't really seem interested in it since it doesn't light up like some of her other toys. But I pulled it out the other day and she's started to play with it. Yesterday, Justin figured out you can push the nose even though it's not labeled. Tessa found it quite amusing.

Later in the afternoon, she started pushing the nose by herself and laughing every time.

tiny dancer

yesterday we were waiting for the beahms to come by for a visit. here's tessa as she patiently waits.http://vimeo.com/8334483

10 months

Well, this has perhaps been the longest time in between posts in awhile. I guess it's due to the fact that we have a 10-month-old! She keeps us quite busy keeping up with her these days. And I guess it only gets worse! So, 10 months comes with so much fun and personality. She's crawling everywhere and her favorite thing to do is stand up. She pulls up on everything. Chairs, tables, my legs, the dogs. She knows her name and can wave and give high fives.

We're so excited for the holidays and ready to start new traditions with her. Do you have any favorite traditions?

9 months

Sorry for the delay. All 3 of us were in different places on her 9-month bday. Justin = Banner Elk, NC for the Emmaus Fall Retreat. Holly = DR for work. Tessa = Marion with the g-parents for her first time away.

What is she up to these days? Well, everything. First came the army crawl and now she's into the legit crawl on all fours. She pulls herself up on everything. Walls, doors, tables, chairs, Montana, Neela. She has a million toys and only wants to play with non-toys. Her top front teeth are coming in. She ate a french fry. She turns and looks at you when you say her name. She's more fun than she'll ever know.

Tessa and the girls

Of course we have a ton of toys for Tessa to play with, but her favorite playthings are furry and bigger than she is. Montana and Neela are politely tolerating her so far. Let's hope it stays that way. (You'll notice it's mostly Montana in the pictures. That's because Neela just tries to lick Tessa all the time, so we make her move. Poor Neela.)

...and forward

On the move

It's happening. Life as we know it is over. Tessa is crawling. First, she was able to push herself up and then lay back down having scooted backwards a few inches. Then, she was up on all fours rocking back and forth trying to move, but not going anywhere. Next came the lean and roll to reach a toy in front of her. Now she's on to the army crawl and the occasional up-on-all-fours legit crawl. And within the matter of a few hours, she went from crawl position to sitting. Then at naptime yesterday, I laid her down only to hear her a few minutes later. When I peeked through the door, she was up on her knees playing with the ladybug mobile (which has now been removed).

We've been trying to catch her on video as much as we can, but our little camera isn't the best at movies. I think a real video camera is on the short list!

Here's our first installment. Backwards:


Tessa was baptized on September 20, 2009. It was such a special day celebrating her and all that God will do in her life. We committed ourselves as her parents to raise her as a follower of Jesus teaching her to love Him more than anything. I pray that we will lead her by example everyday.


A couple weekends ago I hosted 4 friends from college for a girls' weekend. It's been 6 or 7 years since the 5 of us have been together. And none of us can remember when it was. We have a picture from that time, but no date to tell us exactly. We know we've had as many as 4 of us together since then, but living in TN, NC, VA, and MA as well as another country since moving on from Chapel Hill has kept us apart. Well, now we're all back within 2 states so we decided to reunite. We had so much fun catching up on life.

I'm so thankful for friends that I can go years without seeing (which is NOT my preference), but as soon as we're back together, it's like we never left. Love you girls! (Now we have Facebook, my blog, and pictures with dates so we won't forget this time.)

8 months

Tessa is 8 months old today. Here are her pics with her bear. She's really becoming fond of stuffed animals. She wanted to hug and eat the bear while I was taking her picture. And the hair is looking especially fluffy today! She's almost crawling. Definitely up on all fours moving backwards really well. She flips over so fast now. Her favorite place to do this is on the changing table making diaper changes quite the challenge.

We'll have more pics from her baptism up soon. And hopefully some fun videos of her latest moves in action.

Happy Fall everyone!

Tessa's DR adventure

Last week, Tessa got her first stamp in her passport. Big accomplishment for a 7-month-old. She and I set out for five days in the Dominican Republic. My mom (thankfully) joined us to help out and see the place I've been telling her about for years. The trip was fairly smooth. A quick overnight stay in Charlotte, then a 6am flight started the trip off well. Until Miami. Ugh. First we were delayed an hour. Then another and another. We occupied our seats at gate 36D from 8am until 1:45pm. Then sat on the plane for another hour waiting for the crew to get there to pilot the plane!

Once we did arrive in the DR, I breathed a huge sigh of relief when I saw Elliott and Lindsay there to pick us up. There's nothing like a familiar face after a long day of travel. Tessa was such a trooper. She ended up sleeping through both flights. My mom was awesome. She lugged around our carry-ons, fed and played with Tessa, and helped keep me sane as we waited like what seemed forever in that airport.

After a decent night's rest, we started our day in Cielo where I was able to introduce many of my Dominican friends to my mom and Tessa. My mom was a little more excited about meeting people than Tessa was. It's really funny to see people talk to a baby in a different language/culture. They still talk in high-pitched voices and call her things like "doll," "chi-chi," (I guess short for 'Chinita' which is 'little Chinese'), and my personal fave, "caballita (little horse)." The latter is due to her hair that sticks straight up all over her head. Like an Asian afro. Needless to say, they loved her even though she wasn't so happy at the sight of them. It was more about her being tired than not liking them. She doesn't like anybody when she's tired.

Anyway, the Women's Co-Op spent the few days working on a jewelry project with Caroline. She had been down in June and started working with them then, but decided to return to really help jumpstart the business. The products are beautiful. I'll post about them soon. We hope to have them ready to sell for the holidays.

We visited Luma and her family every day. We had some good quality time with Elliott, Lindsay, and Avery. Tessa and Avery were able to get to know each other as we hope they will grow up to be best friends! (We'll have to put a few more stamps in our passports to make that happen.)

I'll leave you with a link to all the pics. I've already put them on Facebook and I'm too tired to post them here. So just click here and you can see them. Thanks everyone for your prayers as we traveled!


Now that we're constantly surrounded by college students, Tessa has a multitude of new friends. She's learning all sorts of new things like how to relax in a hammock and how to look good in the trendiest shades.

7 months

Let's see...what's new in the world of Tessa? She's sitting up on her own which means she can now sit in high chairs and shopping carts. She has a new big girl carseat and high chair. She can roll both ways, though sometimes she forgets that she can. Her first two bottom teeth are starting to come in. Yellow squash and pears have been added to her eating repertoire. The coolest thing that everyone loves is her growing hair. It stands straight up on her head. Thus, no hair bow will stay. I've tried a couple of times, but it's just too wispy. That's ok, Justin doesn't really like hair bows anyway. Though I've realized they could come in handy, especially when she's dressed in red and someone calls her a "him."


It's been over 8 months since we moved back to Winston and we're still settling in. It's haunted me ever since a friend of ours mentioned that our house is nice, but we don't have anything on the walls (thanks Katie!). So I've been trying to make our house more like our home now that we know we're going to be here for awhile. There are now 8 things hanging in proper places on walls. The 4 that I'm most excited about we just finished hanging this afternoon.

A friend that we've spent numerous weeks with in the DR also happens to be an amazing artist/designer/photographer extraordinaire who was kind enough to send some of his latest prints. He decided to take up-close pics of the wood of different Dominican houses. I first saw them on the Drakes wall (via their blog) and LOVED them. So, now we have ours. A simple, beautiful reminder of a people and place that we love. Thanks Bob! You're amazing.

And here's a pic of the pretty flowers my sweet hubby sent on our anniversary. I meant to put this up that day, but time got away. Eight years, five moves, two dogs, jobs, seminary and one daughter later here we are. Becoming parents has been the best and most challenging task yet. But so worth it!

Tessa and Charlotte

Born just 20 days apart, Tessa and Charlotte have their first conversation of what I hope to be a lifetime of "girl talk." Charlotte's mom and I have been friends since 4th grade and we often refer to each other as our twin. We've shared so much over the years and we can only hope we'll live close enough for our daughters to experience a friendship like ours. Love you Christy!

Virginia is for Lovers

On the road to see the Alleys, two great moments.

  1. Justin: Whenever I listen to Radiohead, I always think about... what's that movie... you know the book... Edward...Bella...Vampires...?
    Holly: Twilight
    Justin: Wow. Now I feel like I've packed so much stuff into my head that I'm shoving out simple, obvious things like Twilight.

  2. A car approaches quickly from behind. The driver is noticeably agitated...perhaps because I (Justin) am just not going quickly enough for him. He swerves around and passes...while holding his New York Yankee (blinged out) hat for us Red Sox fans to see.
    Justin and Holly: (laughing out loud)
    Holly: That's never happened before.
    Justin: For some reason, it's just funny.
    Driver of little white car with blinged out Yankee hat: (bursting with pride) Yeah, yeah, yeah...I passed you! And Yankees rule. Take that you ****** Sox fans.
Favorite moment of the night (so far): Reading Cat in the Hat and What Smurfs Do All Day to Owen.

6 months

I'm a little late in posting, but she did just have her 6 month well-check today. So even though it's not her actual 6-month birthday, we're close enough. The doc says she looks great. She's the size of a 9-month old! Just under 19 lbs and just over 27 inches long. Every night my shoulders are sore and I think I've realized it's from lifting her all day long.

As for new fun stuff, she loves her jumper. She is so tall, we've had to creatively figure out how to raise it higher so she doesn't spring herself out of it. She can scoot herself backwards and in semi-circles on her tummy. She babbles all the time. Mostly "da da"s (yay Justin!). Only once has she said, "ma." She loves to watch Montana and Neela. As soon as she hears the click of their nails on the floor, she starts looking. One day we were on a stroll through the neighborhood and she started laughing at Montana walking beside her. She's eating more foods...rice cereal, oatmeal, sweet potato, avocado, peas, and bananas have been added to the mix. I'm trying my hand at making my own baby food. It's pretty simple really. Just throw it in the food processor and go. Thanks Anne for the Super Baby Food book. It's great!

Here are her 6-month pics. It was fun taking these because this is the first time she's noticed the bear sitting beside her.

My new job

It isn’t any surprise that I (Justin) have been waiting for the first post-seminary job for 6+ months.  I joke with folks that I (along with other graduating seminary students) carried a hefty amount of naivety when it came to job expectations…perhaps in part due to optimism, perhaps the rest in ignorance.  This economy has placed question marks on many graduates’ resumes and the applicant pools have been tougher – being filled with so many talented men and women. 

We set off for Winston-Salem this past December in faith not knowing where “home” would actually turn out to be.  Boxes were left unpacked and pictures remained unhung.  When Tessa came, we needed her home to warm and complete, but we could never really bring ourselves to settle and re-establish roots. Our church, however, family stepped up -- brought meals, dropped by…called.  And they prayed for God to open doors.

Having spent hours upon hours reading job descriptions, meeting with churches and pastors, I became further relegated to my basement office and doing odd jobs for folks around Winston-Salem.  It should also be no surprise that the work I’ve been doing (volunteer/part-time) has been with college students and young adults.  My heart and passion has increasingly grown more excited and committed to this generation and I have longed to pastor these groups. 

Well, I am pleased to announce that as of July 1, 2009, I am the new Associate for College and Young Adult ministries at First Presbyterian Church in Winston-Salem.  By God’s great grace I get to continue and grow deeper in my ministry role(s).  And I get to do this at a place we now call “home”.  (Yes, pictures might finally appear on walls now.)

These next couple of months are going to be wonderful and challenging; I look forward to carrying the torch of both Joe Farrell and Andy Hamer – honoring their work and legacies, particularly in their work with Emmaus.  And I look forward to seeing how God might use my gifts to shine a new, unique light on these ministries. 

Pray for the days ahead; for clarity and the right pace.  For now, enjoy the following announcement in today’s church bulletin:


5 months

The past month has flown by! Tessa has started doing some fun things...eating solids (rice cereal and oatmeal), rolling over from tummy to back, babbling ("deedeedee dadada"), screeching (we'll show you a video soon), and sleeping from 8pm or so until 6 or 7 in the morning (yeeessssssssss...). Her personality is showing through more and more each day. She loves to play and laugh. She likes playing peek-a-boo and standing in her johnny-jump-up. I can't believe it's been 5 months since she showed up and changed our lives forever.


We do lots of laundry these days. Mostly it's due to Tessa's diapers, but between the 3 of us, we go through alot of clothes and towels too. As I toted the laundry basket up and down the stairs today I realized that if I used the big basket, I could accomplish toting Tessa too! She seemed to be okay with it. What do you think?

un regalo para T

In January, the annual Mission Emanuel Women's Trip was held in the DR. This is the first time in 3 years I've missed that trip. I knew the women would be working on an embroidery project that week and had even seen some pictures of them in action. But little did I know that they were actually working on something for me. At a recent reunion of the group from Winston, I was blessed with a gift for Tessa.

Each of the patches was made by one of the women in the group. I know many of them personally and they are dear to my heart. Seeing their names and handiwork on the quilt is so special. I cannot wait for Tessa to meet her Dominican family!!!

Sweet T

The long-awaited installment of T's fascinating (and fascinated) moments:

Enchanting isn't she?

By the way, welcome to the I-Have-A-Daughter Club, Beahms and Drakes! I expect your videos soon.

Not much else going on. I (Justin) might have a job update soon... for now, please keep us in your prayers as we wait.


Tessa has a new friend. He doesn't have a name yet. We just call him "froggie" or her "lovey." We just started to put him in the crib with her when she sleeps. Apparently, it can be good for babies to attach to something other than Mom or Dad. I think she likes him.

We actually have several of these small blankets with stuffed animal heads. Two frogs, two bunnies, two bears. Each one is slightly different, but the same concept. I'm hoping she'll be happy with all of them and not settle on just one. If not, we'll be scouring stores and the internet for several extras in the inevitable case that we lose one at some point in the next few years. (Speaking of which, Christy told me that there are mean people out there who buy up all of these things and then resell them on eBay for insane amounts of money. They know that desperate parents will pay anything to replace their child's closest friend). Anyway, I had to wash the frog yesterday and she seemed just as happy with the bunny.

Did you have a lovey as a child? I had "Elephant" and a blanket. Elephant is still around I think at my mom's house. The blanket is long gone. Not sure if Justin had anything when he was little. Probably a GI Joe or Transformer.

The rice cereal experiment

Since we just celebrated Tessa’s 4-month day…and found out that she’s the size of a 6-month old… we decided (with Doctor Bill’s encouragement) to give rice cereal a shot.  We’ve spent a few days reading up on this big adjustment and today we took the plunge.  Instead of telling you about it, we’ll let you enjoy the video!

4 months

Hasn't she grown? At our doc visit on Friday, we found out she's more the size of a 5 or 6-month-old. Here she is beside her bear. Big difference from a month ago!

Believe, Behave, Burp

Those were the three “words” given by my commencement speaker last weekend -- three words of wisdom given to graduates of Gordon-Conwell, who are marching forth into vibrant ministry, teaching, or counseling positions… (“Burp,” just to clarify, was the advice to raise a holy ruckus…and at times, upset the status quo to speak against injustice. Credit to Dr. Seuss, of course.)

What a blessing to be with school friends and introduce Tessa to New England. (And yes, a Nick’s Roast Beef sandwich was crucial to the visit.)

The real highlight though was having my wonderful family present with us in Massachusetts. (And by family, I mean my parents, sister, grandmother, 2 aunts, 1 uncle, and 3 cousins!!!) It’s both honoring and humbling to be so supported and loved and the past month has given plenty of opportunity to receive it.

April 19- Ordination at Grace Community Church

April 23- Tessa’s 3 month bday

May 4 – 31st birthday

May 12 – Graduation from seminary

What a month, right!? Thanks to all who made this a special weekend and for the years of support! Enjoy the pics from last weekend.

Other news: Still no news on the job front… obviously, this is the question. We’re trusting God to help us through and know that he takes care of his kids. Please pray for open doors and new opportunities.

born and bred

Saturday we took Tessa on her first trip to Chapel Hill. We've been wanting to go since the azaleas started blooming to see the sights and reminisce, but also to buy the all-important National Champs t-shirts. Kev accompanied us as well and we set out for our day-trip adventure. First was lunch on Franklin St., then a walk through the quad, pictures by Davie Poplar (the Old Well was occupied by a bridal picture session), peeking in the windows of Gerrard, shopping in Student Stores and Chapel Hill Comics, Oreo yogurt from the Yogurt Pump, a detour to Trader Joes (one of the things I miss about living in MA), and then dinner at 35 Chinese. What a great day. Aaaah. Chapel Hill. It's good to be home.

nursery rhymes for dummies

mother_goose_lg.jpg Now that Tessa is becoming more playful, we've started singing songs and playing little games with her. However, in the process Justin and I have come to realize that we need to brush up on our nursery rhymes and children's songs. Why? Here's my version of "Patty Cake."

Patty cake
Patty cake
Baker's man
Bake me a cake as fast as you can

Roll 'em up
Roll 'em up
Throw 'em in the pan!

After doing this several times, I realized there's something wrong with this and it makes absolutely no sense. So, as with all things I don't know, I google it. Apparently, there are lots of versions, but mainly one. And nowhere does it say "Roll 'em up, roll 'em up, throw 'em in the pan."

Mother Goose, visit the Lewis house soon. We need some help.

3 months

So, another blog I follow is documenting her baby's growth as compared to a stuffed animal. I thought it was a good idea, so I'm totally copying...

And, check out Tessa's latest fashion accessory.

what's so funny?

this is perhaps the most awesome thing ever. (but then again, i'm slightly biased)

Easter weekend

After a few rough days and nights of little sleep, we managed to make it to church on Easter Sunday. Tessa was in her first Easter dress (thanks, Aunt Irma) hamming it up with her church family as we celebrated the risen Jesus. Later that day, we headed to Nana and Grandpaw's house to celebrate his 68th birthday. Of course, we had to take a few photos by the tulips. And my mom pulled out a pic from my first Easter (I was about 6 months old). We took a pic of Tessa's Easter pic beside mine. Amazing, huh?

Then, on Monday, our friends, Christy, Owen, and Charlotte came to visit. We had a blast, though it was crazy at times with 3 adults, a 3-year-old, 2 2+-month-old babies, and 2 dogs. It was so fun to enjoy time with our friends who we see too little of in the first place. One of my favorite moments was getting up in the morning to feed Tessa and Owen would come in the nursery and lay in the floor because he didn't want to go back to bed. Eventually, he would come into our bedroom with us after Tessa was back to sleep. He would snuggle in the bed for a few minutes only to wake and proclaim, "The sun's out!" meaning...get up you guys!!!

We visited the Ledfords on Tuesday and it was so great to swap stories of being a mom. (Justin stayed home and enjoyed a little break from the action.) After much playing by Thad, Hudson, and Owen and a couple naps for Charlotte and Tessa, we headed home for Taco Night and American Idol. We were all exhausted and went to bed without much fuss. We were sad to see the Alleys go yesterday and hope to see them again soon. You could even bring Will along next time! (If only he didn't have important things to do like saving lives...)

cookies, books, and friends

Tessa sure has had a fun past few days. She received a few great packages in the mail. First, a box of cookies from the Yandles. Then, several books from the Amazing Baby collection. Our friend, Maryanne, really likes hers, so Nana Norma bought some for T. I know she's going to love reading them soon. And this weekend, Becky flew down from MA for a quick visit to meet her niece. We had a great time chatting, shopping, and then grilling and cheering on the Tarheels!

The most exciting thing happened this morning. I had just come back from taking Becky to the airport. Tessa was sitting by the front door looking at the sunlight coming through the glass. I went over to say hi and she returned the greeting with lots of smiles and her first laugh! It was by far the best part of my day. We tried to get her to laugh again on film, but no such luck. Maybe next time. You'll have to settle for her just talking for now. :-)