Family

OUR NEW ADVENTURE...

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Oh my goodness friends...I can't believe it's been over a month since I've blogged. It's been a month filled with so much change for our family.  Like selling our home that we loved so much, and moving into a FIREHOUSE.

Wait, but didn't you just move into your other home?!?

Yes...friends, God worked a crazy miracle. I'll be blogging the long version of the story, but the short story is we decided to go after a crazy opportunity in buying a firehouse...where it can be used for our budding business, but also so I can have a space to give back to the community by teaching creative skillsets to the young adults. This dream is one that the Lord had been whispering into my ear since last May...and friends He did it!

So we have been living in the firehouse for over 2 weeks now, and we are loving it! We just had our family photo shoot, and can't wait to share them with you.

Anyways, it's definitely a change for our family. Meaning, the girls now share a room, and we have to climb lots of stairs to get into the living space, and more! But we are excited for all that God wants to do through this space!

So friends, I hope you will journey along as we renovate, get settled in, and share more of our hearts with you authentically....which is the whole reason why we started our brand!

We want to show up, be real, and help others to be encouraged and inspired through sharing our stories!

So while our new home is so much fun, and such an amazing opportunity. I have to share we are walking through a hard mental health journey. Not only for myself but for our daughter. We are hopeful, and cling onto the truth that He is with and for us! I'll share more of my personal journey another time as I hate to make this blog post too long, but know that everyday is a battle. A battle in my mind. To take every lie captive, and to remind myself that I'm called, so deeply loved, and so much more.

Until next time friends!

-Jasmine

HOW TO CREATE A SAFE HOME

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Creating a safe home as been one of our unspoken priorities. It's often said that when you grow up you either perpetuate what you learned, or you do the complete opposite of that. And well friends, Jeremy and I have chosen to be intentional in how we make our home safe for our girls. We long for them to know their voice matters, how they feel matters, and we care enough to talk about it! We are challenged with, "How we do help teach and mold our girls to be confident, and be grounded in their God created-identities?" Now, I'm not talking about being perfect little girls who go to church and follow rules to be loved by God. I'm talking about being ever so rooted in the truth of who they each are created to be, and to know who they are: which is loved, wanted, chosen, accepted and so much more!!! And trust me, we aren't perfect at this by any means. To be honest, it took DK turning 5 years old before we began to fully understand the gravity of our choices, and how we spoke to each other.

So, I wanted to share 5 ways we create safety and boundaries in our home.

1.TEASING IS A NO GO

I was bullied, picked on, and made fun of when I was little, by classmates, and by family members. So I admit, teasing is definitely a trigger for me. I don't like it, whether it's a joke or not. I don't want our girls to be raised in the toxicity of teasing, and for it to be excused as, "Oh, come on....it was a joke." So we have a rule where if we say or do something and one of us doesn't like it, we have the freedom to say, "I didn't like when you said (dot dot dot) or did this." Whoever the offender was, which does include us (mom and dad), apologizes, and asks for forgiveness. We don't excuse it with humor, say it was a joke, or say, "Come on, you need to learn how to take a joke."

Why do we do this?

To build confidence and courage within our girls to have the freedom to say "No, that wasn't okay," or to say, "What you said hurt my feelings, and I didn't like it." Now, I get in the real world, not everyone will apologize, or understand their feelings, but at the very least it's building up the confidence in them to have the courage to as least say it, and be heard, without it affecting their identities.

2.WE DON'T COMPARE, WE CELEBRATE

This one is huge!!! Jeremy and I don't compare our girls to each other, and we don't allow the girls to compare themselves to each other either. Comparing robs the beauty of who God created each of us to be and accomplish in this world. Learning to celebrate well takes real skill and time. So why not start when they are young?!?

Why do we do this?

Sibling rivalry is real, and it doesn't go away when we grew up. I believe it remains deep within ourselves. Instead, we are teaching our girls to celebrate one another. For example, a few years ago, DK had the opportunity to do some modeling. Savi said, "How come I didn't get to do it?" I had 2 options here: Either redirect her comment in a way that celebrates or let her feel and say whatever she wanted. That was a moment for me to teach them, and set a boundary in that we don't compare but rather celebrate. So I told Savi, "Instead, how can we share in the excitement of what DK experienced? Maybe we can say something like, "DK that's so cool that you got to model. Did you have fun?" or "DK, I love that you got to do something so fun like modeling. Tell me all about it."" And then you know what happened?!? A dialog between them opened up, and Savi got to celebrate along side DK in what she experienced. Then a few weeks later, our whole family was casted for a modeling gig, and Savi was the one to be in the spotlight. And now the same situation was reversed, and this time DK had to celebrate Savi, and Savi got to see that when we can truly celebrate someone else purely, an opportunity may just open up for her! I have so many more examples of this, but will have to share more later.

3.WE USE OUR WORDS WISELY

This one is incredibly true, especially with body image. We don't use words like "fat" in our vocabulary when describing ourselves or someone else. We also don't say things like "You look beautiful," or, "Be good."

Why do we do this?

We believe our words have power. It's with our words where we can either build-up or break down one another. What better way to show love, by building each other up. "You look beautiful" and "Be good," is deeply connected into their identities. I learned early on my girls greatest fears, and gained discernment that statements like these and more would greatly harm them. I'll be blogging more about this concept, but here's what I can say for now. Instead of saying, " You look beautiful, I say, "You are beautiful." And instead of saying, "Be good," I say, "Do your best."

4.WE REDIRECT

Now when they miss the mark, we either redirect or walk through "asking for forgiveness" process. What do I mean by that? Well, lets say someone raised their voice out of frustration. I'll say, " I think there's a better say to say/ask that?" And then they have to ask their question in a way that shows love, not yelling, or being disrespectful. After they've been redirected, then are they walked through the asking for forgiveness process that I share more of below.

Why do we do this?

Sometimes our kids just need to be reminded of the boundaries we've set, and how we communicate with people we love. They are kids, so boundaries will get pushed and tested, especially as they get older, and want more of their own independence. My hope is that we've been consistent in how we treat each other, that even when they are older, that they can still be redirected, and understand that how they speak matters.

5.We are QUICK TO ASK FOR FORGIVENESS

I didn't learn how to forgive well when I was younger.  It was a process in which God had to walk me through lots of years ago. I was one who held onto records wrong like nobodies business. Learning to say the words, "I forgive you," was so hard for me. And I knew I wanted this cycle to not be continued in our home. Then 4 years ago at church we learned a great way to practice forgiveness.

The offender: Step 1. I'm sorry for..... Step 2. I was wrong. Step 3. Do/Will you forgive me?

The offended: Yes, I forgive you for..... (saying it's okay, or it's fine, is not an acceptable response for us)

And then I added a step. Step 4. Both the offended and offender have to hug it out. I even say that...."Now, hug it out." :)

Why we do this?

Learning to forgive well takes practice. And I quickly learned we can say we forgive someone but actually haven't. Sometimes our feelings need time to catch up with our words. So by having  the offender and the offended hug it out, it helps the offended to let go of unforgiveness. There's such power with touch, like a hug. And it's in "how" our girls hug it out, where we can tell if they've truly forgiven or are harboring. Now I bet you are wondering, "Well, what if the offense was like really really bad?" Well, the offended, has the freedom and space to say, "I forgive you, I just need some time or space." The offended then can take a few minutes to cool off, meditate, etc. Then they have to go back to the offender, accept their apology, and then hug it out.

Well friends, there's so much more I could add, but I've made myself a promise that I won't write exceptionally long blogs.....haha! Which, I haven't been the best at with our personal blog posts.

I share all this in hopes to encourage and inspire you to create safety in your home. For you, you'll have to figure out your own why, and what matters to your family. For us, creating a safe space to share our full selves matters a ton to us, and our why is tied into our upbringings. Like I've said before, we aren't perfect at this thing called parenting, and boy do we miss the mark. But our kids have the freedom to share their feelings, and to be heard. We learn everyday how we can improve, and use our words to empower each other.

What are some ways you create safety in your home?!?

Until next time....

-Jasmine

 

I USE TO THINK I DIDN'T NEED A DAD

A special note to any single parent reading this: Hey friends, it's Jasmine here. This is an extremely vulnerable post for me, but first I want to speak to every single parent who is reading this, please know that my heart is not to shame, or make you feel like your love is not enough, but rather give you some support in how you can start the conversation with your child(ren) about their feelings. Also know that I'm writing from a place in where my dad left our family before I was born. But this is for any single parent, where the dad, or mom has chosen to leave.

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learning to feel

I've spent the majority of my life dissociated from what's happening around me, in other words, I wasn't fully present enjoying all that life had to bring. I didn't even become aware of this until I had my very first therapy session in May 2017. Let's call my therapist, "Judy." After Judy learned my story, and past history, she said, "Well, there is definitely PTSD, disassociation/depersonalization, and abandonment issues." If I was honest, I was shocked to hear about the abandonment as I had walked through a forgiveness journey with my dad when I was 17. You can learn more about that part of my story here. Needless to say, I thought I was healed from that part of my story.

As the months passed and we continued to meet, I quickly learned that in order to cope with my true feelings, I had disassociated. I coasted through my childhood and teenage years, just waiting to be an adult so I could move on with life, because the only way it would be good was by own means.

I'm now 34, and learning to "feel" has been extremely hard and vulnerable for me. I want to learn how to be connected with myself, so I can live the life I was intended to have. Most importantly, so I can also be the mom I long to be with my kids.

For all of these years, I thought I didn't need a dad, that I was fine, and my mom did an amazing job (which she did). But I've learned that not having my dad for the first half of my life greatly impacted my identity, and my world views. I'm now working on breaking so many mindsets and lies that I've believed to be true about myself. So my hope is to help you open the dialogue and help walk your child(ren) through a healing journey while they are young.

 

Here are 6 ways you can begin to help

your child(ren) HEAL.

 

1. Start Therapy.

There are so many different stigmas when it comes to mental health, whether it be culturally, generational, etc. Or there's a sense of pride, that you got this, you can do this alone. But friend, you have the power to normalize what mental health is, by first recognizing it's not healthy to suppress your feelings. Now just because I'm recommending it doesn't mean you are ready to start therapy and that's okay. There also isn't a one size fits all with therapy. There are so many different types of that you can do, but only begin therapy if you want to for yourself. It has to be your choice and decision.  When you are ready to start going to therapy, it begins to normalize it for your kids. It's so beneficial to begin walking through your own hurt, and feelings first. The more healed you can become, the more you can help your kid(s) walk through a healing journey. Kids are very smart, and they understand the world in a different way that as parents we could never understand. So to bring in an outside perspective in with someone who is a professional could be very helpful in bringing healing to your child's feelings.

 

2. Make your home a safe place.

Now I get this is hard! I don't know what led to you to becoming a single parent. But if it was divorce/seperation, then when the kids are old enough to process what it means to not have a parent living with them, begin to open the dialogue. Help them to connect with themselves. This isn't about who's the better parent. Who is right or wrong. Or even how you sacrificed everything to provide for them. This is about a piece of their identity being confused and missing. Now I'm not saying go into detail about what happened, but rather ask them questions like "How does it feel to not see daddy/mommy as much as you'd like to?" or "How's your heart feeling today?" It will them to be connected and present with their feelings.

 

3. Speak into their identity.

Tell them how much they are loved, wanted, accepted, created with purpose and a destiny. Begin to make it a habit to flood them with truths. Abandonment has a way of changing how the brain processes and thinks. It changes their worldview on life and experiences.

 

4. Don't say things like, "You don't need him/her, you have me."

This is even harder than number 1, but know that their feelings aren't about you. In reality it's about how a piece of them is missing and they are trying to understand what it all means. Instead, validate their feelings, do your best to listen, and not fix. Also comparison is so destructive. So saying things like "But, you have me", won't ever take away the void they may feel. Which is why walking through your own healing journey is so important.

 

5. Spend as much time as you can with your kids.

I get it, you have to work and provide, especially since you live on one income, but try everything you can to not let work consume you to where all you do is work. Because a story will be written: "That everyone I love doesn't really love me." Be intentional in creating time to be fully present with your kids. Whether it be on Saturdays, or in the evenings after school. Just do your best to give them your full undivided attention. Ask them about their day, etc. Play with them, laugh with them. Don't let the need of money take away from having intentional quality time.

 

6. Make time for self-care.

Parents this is so hard, but you need time for yourself. You need some time to reset, focus on your own health/well being. Find something that rejuvenates you. Whether it be exercising, dancing, art, or something that brings you life. Just whatever it is, allow yourself to have fun with it, and be fully present in it. Your to-do list can be put off to the side for a few hours. Because a healthy mommy/daddy makes for a happy home.

WHAT NOT TO SAY TO SOMEONE WHO LIVES IN A "NOT SO GOOD" AREA

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It's crazy to think it's almost been 2 years ago when we started entertaining if we could buy a home again. I say again, because we were the "1 in 5 million" that lost their homes during the mortgage crisis, but I'll have to share more on that later.

Just to give some context, if you don't know, the Chicagoland area is very segregated either by race or class, which when you think about it really goes hand in hand. Someone can tell you what neighborhood they live in, and you can have an idea if that neighborhood is, "good or bad" "affluent or low income." I know...crazy right?!? There's so much Chicago history on how it became so divided, and it continues to remain one of the most segregated cities in the US. Feel free to Google it, if you are intrigued and want to learn more.

Our home buying experience was interesting because the more we shared we were looking to buy, the more we got unwarranted advice, suggestions and questions. For example, I had a friend ask me where we were looking.  Now mind you, my husband is the only salaried person in our home. With the home buying process, using the salaried income is the best way to go.  Also, we were very determined to find a space that fit our needs, but didn't want to go beyond what we were currently paying for our apartment....which was no easy task. So to answer her question, I hesitantly mentioned some nearby suburbs (just out of the city), and she quickly responded that I should add in a very commonly known affluent community. It left me in an awkward situation of what to say, because I knew this quaint community existed, it just wasn't within our budget. So, I nodded my head, and changed the conversation. These comments came constantly. After searching for months, we found the perfect home for us in a community called Maywood, which is just outside of Chicago.

Now after we bought our home, more comments came. If you don't know anything about Maywood, it has a reputation of being considered a "bad area" or "up and coming," in which, I'm not a fan of these words. Maywood was a thriving community until the mid 1970's when a major factory closed down causing a huge loss of jobs. The community never really recovered after that. Today, it has a 97% minority population, it's a food desert, there's lots of abandoned homes, and more. The assumptions about Maywood bother me, because the reality is they are mircoagressions towards a certain people group, whether we want to admit it or not, and lets not forget, I am one of "those" people.

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So friends, I want to share 4 things not to say to someone who is looking or just bought a home in what would be considered a "not so great" area.

1. SO....HOW'S MAYWOOD (OR INSERT SAID NEIGHBORHOOD?!?)

You wouldn't believe how many times I've gotten this question. Sometimes I don't really know how to respond. But I say, "Oh we love it!" You guys....we can't always believe what blogs, articles and non-residents have to say about "these" areas. Unless you've lived in that neighborhood, please don't share what might be inaccurate opinions. I have experienced community more here, than anywhere else we've lived. Our neighbors look out for us, helped us when we got stuck in the snow, closed our garage door when we forgot to close it on several occasions and so much more! Our neighbors are genuinely amazing!

Maybe instead ask "How are you enjoying homeownership?"

 

2. OH....SO, HOW'S THE SCHOOLS?

This usually is the followup question after the first one. One time, I did have someone just go straight to this question. And my response was...."Ummm, I don't know. We homeschool." We’ve been a homeschooling family for 4 years because we quickly learned our daughter thrives better one on one. However, with a basic internet search I could gather an idea that the schools are considered "underperforming," but I don’t believe we should formulate an opinion without actually walking into each of the schools, meet with the principal, and allowing ourselves to draw our conclusions. Let's not let the internet and hearsay be what determines if a school is good or not.

Maybe instead ask "How are you enjoying your child's school?"

 

3. SO HAS ANYTHING BAD HAPPENED TO YOU WHILE LIVING THERE.

I couldn't believe I was actually asked this but I was. I could tell this friend was trying not to dig herself deeper in a hole. I responded quickly with a no, and shared more of my positive experiences with my neighbors, but at this point the subject got so awkward that the subject was changed.

Maybe instead ask "How are you enjoying new your neighborhood?" or "Tell me what you are loving most about your new neighborhood?" See a pattern here?!?

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4. YOU SHOULD JUST MOVE TO THE SUBURBS WHERE THERE'S  A WHITE PICKET FENCE AND THE SCHOOLS ARE REALLY GOOD, YOU'LL PAY HIGH TAXES BUT IT'S WORTH IT.

Yup! I've gotten this one too. Now as awesome as that sounds, the reality for us is that our budget couldn't go that high. I had another friend, say, "Well you could live "here" if you just allocated your budget appropriately." I wasn't sure if I wanted to laugh or cry.

You guys, we have to remember that just because one might be able to purchase a $500k+ home doesn't mean everyone can. Heck not everyone can qualify for a $200K+ home. We have to remember that we all live on different levels of income, and if we are truly submerging ourselves around those who don't all look and live like us, we have to be aware of how our livelihoods may not be like be our friends. Also, we have to be aware of the words we say, and how they may come from a place of privilege, may be making an assumption about a certain people group, or sharing insight on hearsay that is  founded in stereotypes and prejudice. Now let me clarify, there's no shame in your game if you can purchase a $500k+ home, just don't forget that isn't the story for everyone. We have to be willing to ask ourselves, "Is my circle of friends living a similar lifestyle as me? Does everyone I hang out with look like me?" If they are, then we have to ask ourselves, "Am I truly diversifying myself in a way where I'm doing life with those who don't look and live I do?? Are my actions aligning with my words, and what I say I'm for?"

Instead say: "I love that you are looking to buy a home, what is your dream home?!?" or "I heard you bought a home, how did you know that was your 'Home'? Did you get that tingling feeling inside?"

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All in all, Jeremy and I are challenged to live our lives in a way that honors Jesus, which to us means not living above our means. Remember how I mentioned earlier that we were the "1 in 5 million" that lost our home during the mortgage crisis?!?  Well, we did everything we thought we were supposed to then, to achieve the American Dream. We believed that buying a home beyond what our income could handle and filling it up with lots of brand new beautiful furniture somehow meant that we "arrived." Before we knew it, we lost everything, and in losing it all, it taught us to let go of the American Dream, and begin to go after the God Dream. For us the God dream is living out each of our purposes in whatever way that looks. Now that may mean we won't be super wealthy, but we are okay with that. As long as we can eat, support our kids, and pay our bills, while going after our God dreams, we are more than happy! Now let’s say our income increased significantly…..we still have a huge conviction to stay simple, live on less so we can give more, and help support other’s big God dreams. So to us, where we live doesn't matter. It's about making our home a home filled with love, safety, and togetherness, while our door is open to being a light to those around us.

So....who wants to be our neighbor?!?

CLICK FOR HOPE | MY HEART STILL ACHES

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Please share your story:

All my life I have struggled with issues related to my reproductive system. At age 25, I was diagnosed with infertility due to my overweight interfering with my hormone levels. To make a long story short, I have had 2 miscarriages (one of which was a set of twins), one stillborn at 23 weeks and a premature baby born at 27 weeks. I have gone through 2 sets of IVF treatments, a long period or ignoring my desire to be a mother and 2 natural pregnancies, one which I lost and one that I almost lost despite all efforts.

One thing I have learned during this long 12 year journey is that you cannot help but love your child. Women are scared to shared the wonderful news of a pregnancy before 12 weeks, as if somehow, losing your child before then has no impact. Then, most times women suffer in silence as to not disturb the comfort levels of others. I have learned that having a child doesn't minimize the pain of losing a child, whether at 23 weeks, 11 weeks or 8... as a matter of fact today completes a year since I lost my Alahna Maia... and even though I'm grateful for my Anayah, and her rolling over today, my heart still aches for the one I held for only a brief moment... my heart aches for her and my other 3 angels whom I didn't even get to see...

My Anayah spent 97 days in the hospital and every day was scarier than the first... as the days passed the more attached I became and the more frightening the idea of not being able to bring her home was. Her dad, usually quiet about these matters, even expressed to me, "The more time passes, the scarier it becomes."

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How has your story shaped who you are today?:

A child makes his/her presence known almost immediately after conception. They make you feel sick, tired, emotional and ever so hungry. Then, as they grow, they stretch your body, they move and kick and even respond to your voice or a special song... I know my Alahna did! Just because she did not grow in the outside world, doesn't mean she will not be missed. She certainly left a deep imprint in our lives.

Now, and even more than ever, I am grateful for each new day and the little things that may be a bother sometimes: my baby crying all night, lack of sleep and trying to figure out why she is crying when I have done everything I could possibly do...those are blessings too; I get to hold Anayah and she is alive and expressing her needs... nothing tops that!

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What compelled you to want to share your story with us?:

I want the mothers of little angels to know that contrary to what many may think, they are in fact mothers. I want them to know that there's no need to suffer in silence: someone is willing to listen. I also want to commend you because it takes immense strength to keep on living, smiling and putting on a brave face even when a whole lifetime of dreams came crumbling under you... I also want to share that prayer and worship were my refuge, and my strengthening force... He really is our comforter... seek HIM...

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?:

Do not lose hope... God answers... He can give you the desires of your heart, and as you wait, he can fill you with peace and joy. In the meantime, do not be afraid to feel. Acknowledge your loss. I can't stress enough that there is no need to go through this alone, nor should you.

CLICK FOR HOPE | WE HAVE BEEN RAISED BY A SINGLE MOM

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For the majority of our lives we have been raised by a single mom. Our father, not being a consistent part in our lives, greatly impacted us, because we were not able to be raised by both parents as many others are. It created emotions that still affect us now. There’s a range of feelings that go on which we do not know how to handle. Our mom has taught us to turn to God to help us with those feelings and we believe that this will make us stronger in life. Our mom, though she has struggled, still manages to keep us in good schools, raise us with good values, and teaches us important life lessons that will help us succeed in the future. She has been a positive and encouraging role model to us and has shown that we can do anything in life. As time goes on it’s become a natural part of our lives to be raised by one parent. We are extremely grateful for all that our mom has done for us and she has done a great job raising us and setting us up to be strong, faithful women. We may not have a father present in our lives but our mom has filled that void and we wouldn’t have it any other way.

How has your story shaped who you are today?: We have learned to be strong, independent, faithful and determined young ladies.

What compelled you to want to share your story with us?: We want other other kids/teenagers to know that there is nothing wrong with being raised by a single parent.

What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?: Being raised by a single parent is not as bad as you think and over time you will learn to appreciate all that he/she has done for you.

WE LOVE WATCHING OUR KID'S PERSONALITIES FORM

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When I walked in through the door, Elena greeted me excitedly with a hanging tooth. She just couldn't wait for it to fall off. Mom was still getting ready, so I told her to take a deep breath as she finished getting ready. I played and took photos of the kids up stairs, and Elias said the most sweetest thing to me. He said, "Wow, this is the funnest photo shoot ever!" It made my heart jump, and I just loved the honest feedback. After they each showed me their rooms, we played super hero, chase, and did a little dancing. 

We went back downstairs, to enjoy some scones and Abuelita (Mexican Hot Chocolate). Mom and Dad prepped their coffee, as the kids devoured their snack. We had all these fun random moments of laughter as the awkwardness of "what should we do" began to dissipate. It began to flow, and was super natural.

I wanted to make sure that we photographed lots of the activities they love enjoying doing as a family, which is eating, painting, dancing, and a newly discovered activity: playing video games. My greatest goal while being there was to photograph them with minimal guidance, create authentic photos, and for everyone to have fun. And friends, it happened....

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I asked Karina a few questions about their family and here's how she responded:

What are you loving most about this season of life?

I love seeing our kid's personalities form. It's so interesting to me how the kids can make up games and their own fictional worlds during play time.

What's a current challenge for you guys in this season of life?

It's always a challenge to balance how much we DO (work, school, soccer, violin, ballet, etc.) with how much family time we spend together.

What makes you laugh?!? (mom and dad)

Our kid's can usually make us laugh. It's funny how we can be stressed, but the kids being silly can pull us out of that mindset, if at least for a little bit.

Well friends! Check out my favorites from their session and I hope you love them as much as I do.

-Jasmine

FAMILY IS AN ENVIRONMENT YOU CREATE

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When I was transitioning into our new brand, Nicole had reached out to me about doing a session with her family. I knew I wanted to photograph them with our new approach but didn't quite have my process ready. I asked her if she was willing to hop on a phone chat with me and she did. We had the most amazing intentional conversation, about life, her new transition into staying home with the kids, marriage and more. It was one of those conversations, that flowed perfectly, almost like it was for a podcast or something...haha! It was so natural. I felt this instant connection to her, and her family, and knew that our time together would be not only fun, but full of intentional moments that was genuine to who they are as a family.

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I did ask her a few questions and here's what she shared:

What does family mean to you?

To me, family is an environment you create. And ideally, it's one that is a safe place to land. A place to be challenged, be encouraged, and ultimately to be all of who God fully created you to be.

What are you loving most about this season of life?

We are loving that we have the opportunity to focus on our marriage and on our kids during this foundational time in their life.

What do you guys love doing together?

We love to paint, do crafts, read, go to the park, and BAKE!!!

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During our chat one thing that stood out to me the most was how Nicole spoke of her hubby. She said something along the lines of, "For so long I was focused on my career, and now I'm excited to partner up with my hubby, and support him in his dreams as I stay home with the kids. They are growing up so quickly."

So, I really wanted to capture all of who they are and love to do as a family, but I also wanted to get some shots of just them two together. Because finding your groove as ONE with kiddos, and the craziness of life can be challenging.

Well friends, I hope you love this session as much as I do!

-Jasmine

CLICK FOR HOPE | JACOB IS GOD'S DAILY MIRACLE FOR ME.

Click for Hope inspiring story SWS

Please share your story:

My name is Jazzmine and I am a single parent to my son Jacob. I don’t like the stereotypes of a single mom, because there are so many negative connotations associated with the term “single mother”. I am a mother first and foremost to an amazing child who has Sturge-Weber Syndrome (SWS). SWS is a congenital, non-familiar disorder caused by the GNAQ gene mutation. It is characterized by a congenital facial birthmarks and neurological abnormalities. Other symptoms associated with SWS can include eye, endocrine and organ irregularities, as well as developmental disabilities. Each case of SWS is unique and exhibits the characterizing findings to varying degree. Jacob has SWS, facial Port Wine birthmark, seizures paralysis, glaucoma, developmental delays, murmur, Bicuspid aortic valve (BAV), and auditory processing disorder and sensory disorder. I claim my son’s healing in the name of Jesus.
I got pregnant early in my relationship with my son’s father. It seemed like from the moment I found out I was pregnant; everything in my life seemed to fall apart. I lost my house, I had to declare bankruptcy, I instantly became a step mom, “wife” and expectant mother all while everything I worked so hard for was lost. I fell into a depression and it just was not what I imagined becoming a mom should be.
When my son was born, he was born with a birthmark on his face. I had a very hard labor and the doctors thought that it might be a bruise caused from me sitting on him. My son truly is an amazing child because of what he endured during the labor. The umbilical cord was wrapped around his neck and his heart kept dropping. This was just the beginning of his challenging life.
Jacob had his first MRI at 10 days old.
The results showed he had Port Wine Stain. At 6 weeks old he had his first surgery for pyloric stenosis, which means his stomach was not connected to his intestines. It was during the ultrasound that was done to confirm this in Jacob that I knew this was going to happen. At 7 weeks old Jacob had another MRI which was requested by Dermatology and Neurology. By this time, I had just returned to work and I received the call that changed mine and Jacobs’s life in a big way. He was diagnosed with SWS. My heart dropped; I was so devastated. I had so many questions and concerns running through my mind. I had no clue how I was going to handle a work-life balance. After looking up his condition I felt it was a life sentence with no chance for a normal life.

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His first 3 years were very challenging. He had 7 pulsed dye laser surgeries done on his face to help remove the birthmark. Two sets of ear tubes (he had multiple ear infections), Adenoids and tonsils removed and he was hospitalized four times with seizures. He had to see various specialists including neurology, dermatology, ophthalmologist, otolaryngologist, gastrointestinal and cardiologist. At the same time, Jacob was also receiving various therapies such as occupational, physical, speech, and developmental therapy (eyes).
In March of 2011, my life took another turn when I was laid off. I took the opportunity to go back to school and get my Master’s degree. I completed this program in 10 months. However, those 10 months were not easy; my son was hospitalized twice for seizures and diagnosed with a heart murmur and Bicuspid Aortic Valve. To add to the challenges I was facing at that time, my son’s father also decided to move to Arizona to pursue his career. Again, I was heartbroken, I did not know how I was going to handle all of this alone. I had completely lost myself. I did not like the person I had become. In 2012, I made the decision to become a Christian. I knew I could not continue this journey without Jesus.
I finally landed a job in September 2012. I thought all my trials and tribulations were over. Boy, was I wrong. In April of 2013, the city of Chicago froze my bank account, my wages were garnished and my son’s dad was fighting me for custody. To make matters worse, in July 2013, my job did a massive lay off and I was one of them. In the middle of all this my son still had many doctors’ visits and weekly therapies. Even though I was going through all of these problems, I made a huge effort to make sure my son was not affected by any of it. My job as his mother was to provide him a stable and loving home. Jacob was and is still my motivation to wake up every morning and not crawl into a dark hole and forget about all my problems. I could honestly say that in the middle of my circumstances that the Lord gave me peace. He never left my side. In October 2013 the Lord blessed me with another job. Things were starting to look up. I had found a job that allowed me to have a work-life balance. The issues with the city and custody were resolved.
 

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A few years went by and my life was great. I had an amazing relationship with Jesus, I had accepted that I was a single mom, and Jacobs’s health was stable. I had a work-life balance. On September 30, 2016, my life took a turn again. I was laid off by my employer. I knew God had a plan for me because I was at peace about it. I did not expect, nor was I ready for the news I was about to receive two months after my getting laid off. Due to Jacobs’s conditions he has to be examined every year. During one of the visits to his Ophthalmologist, Jacobs’s doctor that he was seeing for a few years now, he told me that he was moving to a different state and referred me to see another doctor. (Back in 2015 Jacob was diagnosed with elevated pressure in his eyes -liquid build. They were giving him drops to control the pressure). I went to see her in November 2016. She examined him and told me he had glaucoma and he needed surgery. I was shocked because I had just been at the previous doctor’s office a month ago; he never mentioned glaucoma.
The real journey came on December 14, 2016; it was surgery day. Jacobs’s dad and Godmother were at the hospital with me. We all received the news at the same time. Jacob had 80% optic nerve damage on the left eye and 70% optic nerve damage on the right side. His doctor told us we needed to prepare ourselves because he is going to go blind. My life came crumbling down. I could not stop crying. I remember driving Jacob home after the surgery and I was asking God if it is his will for Jacob to go blind please give me the strength and allow us to lead as normal life as possible.


The next day we went back to the doctor and we received the news that we had to go back into surgery. His eye was rejecting the tube-shunt they placed in. I was crushed. I had no idea how I was going to explain to my son we had to go back into surgery. They needed to remove the tube and allow scar tissue to grow on the plate. He had his third surgery on February 8, 2017. They were going to put the tube back in his eye. I remember this day like it was yesterday. My son made me so proud. They were about to take him into surgery and he told the lady that he was not ready yet because he had to pray. His prayer was “I am healed in the name of Jesus." We were all crying and everything was a success.


The surgery for the right eye was scheduled for March 2017. The day of surgery he was sick so they canceled the surgery. I started panicking. Remember, in December of 2016, he already had 70% optic nerve damage. It was becoming very difficult to control the pressure and every day that went by more optic nerve was being damaged. We finally got rescheduled for March 21, 2017. His doctor gave me the option of performing his surgery in parts or should we take the risk of putting the tube and hoping his eye won’t reject it. I told her to take the risk. We went to the doctor the next day, surely enough the eye was rejecting the tube. As I was in the doctor’s office with Jacob, I got a call that my mom was in the hospital. Again, I felt the world crumbling and I was torn between my mom and son. I wanted to be there for my mom, but my son needed me. At this point I knew I had to reach out to my praying community/friends to pray for Jacob, my mom and I. I was getting very weak and I was not sure how much more news I could endure. I just remember telling Jesus to please give me the strength to continue. I was praying over Jacob telling his body that he is healed.

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We went back to the doctor, now for his fifth surgery. Jacob and I were extremely anxious. I had to explain to my son that the purpose of this surgery was to help him not to go blind. Only by the grace of God the tube in the right eye did not have to get removed. The doctor actually took the opportunity to fix both eyes. She kept telling me this is a miracle. Since both eyes were operated at the same time, we had to spend the night at the hospital. Jacob was not happy to wake up with both patches in his eyes. He was so upset. He kept telling me “Mami, why would you let them do this to me?” He was so miserable. He kept crying out to God to help him…that he needed him. We were discharged the next day. These surgeries have been very difficult for Jacob. He is scheduled for one more surgery in March 2018. He hates waking up from surgery with the patch on. He gets very upset with me because to him I allow this to happen. He dislikes it when I give him his eyes drops. (4 different drops, twice a day in both eyes. At one point it was 10 different drops per eye, twice a day.) When they finally took off his patches he was so emotional. He kept telling me “I just missed seeing you, Mami!”


My trials and tribulations did not end. Five surgeries later and going to the doctor almost every week for 6 months, my unemployment was finished and I prayed “Okay God all I have is you. I will trust you.” In June 2017, my previous employer called me back to help them temporarily. Little did I know my child support was stopped due to an error made by the state. God knows all things because if I would not have come back to my previous employer, I would not have had any income. I knew that God was there with my son and me the entire time. I have seen God’s hand move in my life. I have been praying for a career and was recently blessed with a new job opportunity. This is just the beginning of what God has in store for Jacob and me.
The reason why I share my story is because of the great lesson God taught me through it all. God blessed me with the greatest gift anyone could receive and that is being a mother to Jacob. In Hebrew his name means: Holder of the heel; sub planter; may God protect. Jacob has met all odds. He has endured and survived 16 surgeries all by the age of 8. He may have many of the traits and symptoms of a child with SWS, but he is the strongest, most courageous, amazing child I have ever known. He has taught me compassion, patience, sympathy, empathy and appreciation for the smallest things in life.


All my life, I have been very strong and independent, but now I can add to it faith filled and courageous because Jacob is God’s daily miracle for me. He is proof that God exists. I have worked hard for everything in my life from an early age. I believe I have set realistic goals, and have met most of them already. But you are never really prepared for those extras that hit you unexpectedly. You just go with the flow and hope for the best. I know that many women who are raising their children alone never planned it that way. I know I didn’t, but it happened just the same. One major thing I have realized is that, without faith in God, my family, and the support of great friends, I know I could not have made it this far. Everything I do is because God gives me strength and Jacob gives me purpose.

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MUSIC VIDEO "A MILLION DREAMS"

 Photo By: Ed and Aileen Photography

Photo By: Ed and Aileen Photography

I can’t express the joy I have in being able to share this video with you! When Dakota was a baby (about a year old) I noticed that as I would walk around the house humming she’d be able to match my notes in her cute little baby voice. As the proud new parent I was, I of course turned it into a fun party trick :) 

 As she grew older, I realized that she had a PASSION for singing. I mean, eyes closed, hands clenched kind of passion. We would spend so much time singing together over the years and at one point she even asked me to start giving her little vocal lessons. 

What amazes me about her is that she has that little heart of worship and its grown into a full blown love for God and music.

Well, last week we went and saw The Greatest Showman together (her first time, my third), and I couldn’t stop looking over at her huge smile. She was so moved by the film and the music and so we decided to share our favorite song from the movie. There's a moment in the film where Barnum’s character hears his kids singing this song he once sung as a kid and it shoots him right back to that childlike wonder. I think that's what struck me the most about this song. It's a beautiful reminder of the wonder of a child that still lives in all of us. So I hope it inspires you as much as it inspired us!

-Jeremy Lopez