Marvelous Mama Samantha

14 January 2016

I can think of few better people to kick off our Marvelous Mama series than my dear friend Samantha Terhune. Of course, I adore all the mamas that will be featured, but to me, Sam is in many ways the quintessential mom – sometimes I even feel like she’s a mom to me! :) She has taken to every stage of motherhood so gracefully, and it’s as easy for me to picture her as a mom of an elementary school student, a high schooler, or someone with their own babies as it is to see her as the mama of the two-year-old she has now! I knew I would love her thoughts on being a mama, and I do – especially what she had to say about “happy tears” and why she was crying them in the days after Perry’s birth. I have already experienced this, too, and though it’s a little heartbreaking, I think it just adds to the preciousness of the whole parenthood experience. Friends, please welcome Samantha!


Photos by Anna Routh

Name: Samantha Terhune
Occupation: I am the associate director of a food studies program at UNC-Chapel Hill. I am also the second half of Graham Terhune Photography, and I accept a limited amount of calligraphy projects throughout the year.
With whom do you live? I live in Chapel Hill with my husband, our son, and our puppy (who is really getting to be quite an old lady, but she will always be a puppy to us). Graham and I were married on June 18, 2011 and we welcomed our baby boy on November 25, 2013.
What does a day in the life look like for you? Our days tend to look quite different depending on the day of the week. Our mornings always start around 6am when either Graham or I head downstairs to get Perry and bring him into our bed. We all enjoy a good family snuggle before carrying on with our day. During the school year I work Mondays, Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Graham and I spend a great deal of our Saturdays photographing weddings. On the days we work, Perry is in a Montessori school program during the mornings and spends the afternoon with either his grandmother or our wonderful nanny who has been with us for over two years. I always take a break in my day to be the one to pick him up from school. I love chatting with him about his morning, what he had for snack, and his friends. Perry takes a long afternoon nap giving me additional working time or time to clean the house or squeeze in a Pure Barre class. After nap, Perry spends a lot of the afternoon outside building forts, playing in the mud, or throwing rocks into the pond. I always emphasize the importance of family dinners and try to include Perry in part of the cooking process. After dinner, it is bath, stories, prayers, and lights out, and then Graham and I spend some time catching up on our days and finishing any remaining work we have. I always find time to soak in a lavender bath and read a few pages of a book before bed.


Words you live by: My dear friend, Ellie, always says that with parenting, “mothers make the best decisions we know to make with the information we have.” These words give me the confidence to know that my instincts will always be for the good of my family.
What was one of the best things you did to prepare for having kids? We built our foundation by loving each other well and learned to talk with one another rather than at one another. We learned to work through our disagreements and disappointments and understand the importance of cheering one another on in all things.
What is something you were not at all prepared for? Everyone always told me that it takes a village to raise a child, but I think deep down I had this fear that if there were too many people to love on my child, then perhaps my love would get lost. I’ve realized now that there cannot be too many people who love your child. Our village of family, friends, babysitters, teachers, and random people who smile really do make an impact on the way Perry views the world as a place where he can feel safe to learn and thrive and grow. This realization has allowed me to graciously ask for help and accept support in many different facets of our life.


What is your parenting philosophy? This is a short season of our lives and I am doing my best to embrace every day and every new milestone. Some days feel really long and hard, but for the most part, I spend my time thinking how special this time in our life is and I know that one day when our children are grown I will look at these messy years of life with stars in my eyes. Anyone who knows me knows that I am a big worrier and I ask a lot of people for advice when I make a decision, but I’ve completely surprised myself with how relaxed and confident I am with parenting. I tend to let Perry have a lot of personal space to figure out things on his own and I think that level of mutual respect has really worked for our relationship.
Where do you go for parenting advice? I always talk to my mom, who is a super listener and great at only giving her advice when I ask. She has an amazingly calm approach to parenting. I also ask my mother-in-law who has raised boys and always has thoughtful wisdom, and my sister who is currently pregnant with her fourth little girl! We are also a recent Montessori school family and therefore I spend a lot of time reading Montessori articles.
Best tip for a new parent? I have two. Take time to write and preserve your memories. The weeks pass by with record speed and little ones grow and do new things all the time and as much as we think we will remember, unfortunately, we do not. Second, learn to accept free advice graciously. It will be given to you, and sometimes it will make you want to scream, but try to accept it from a place of love and not view it as an attack on your parenting.


Tell us about a few of your favorite family traditions. We love family dinners and treating each day as a celebration. We love talking about our days, singing our family prayer, and saying a cheers. We also love hosting people in our home for meals. We love celebrating Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter with special morning breakfasts and long family walks. We love traveling together and exploring different places. We keep a family journal when we travel so that everyone can add their thoughts along the way. And when we travel, we try to spend a lot of time outdoors, eating delicious food, and soaking in all that a place has to offer. It has certainly been more work traveling with Perry, but the experiences have been so worth it.
What is your favorite part about having children? Many, many, things, but if I had to pick one I would say that staying up late on Christmas Eve with my husband and doing what parents do to prepare for Christmas morning has been one of my favorite parts so far. It seems to summarize how I feel about being a parent and encompasses my delight at doing something purely out of love that will make their corner of the world safe, happy, and magical.


One thing you are doing the same as your parents and one thing you are doing differently: My parents divorced when I was very young and it certainly shaped the way I grew up. I’m grateful I was always given an incredible amount of freedom to make my own choices, and I hope to empower Perry with the tools he needs to be autonomous and make good decisions, too. With that, I think one thing I will do differently is never waiver in my commitment to being a united team with Graham. Although we’ve only been parents for a short while, we’ve learned so much about each other and the things that matter to us most about parenting. There have certainly been times where I would have handled a situation differently, but the bottom line is that we are always seen as a united and supportive team to our children.
One thing that has fallen by the wayside since having kids and one thing you’ll never compromise on: I used to care a bit more about my appearance before I left the house, but this has fallen a bit by the wayside. It’s a luxury to shower, wash, and dry my hair, and I often leave the house feeling less put together than I would like; however, I think in a way it has helped me become more confident with who I am and understand that everyday I put on my “mom uniform,” and it is the greatest one I get to wear. I do try and find a quiet time once a day to take a lavender soak bath, which helps me relax and gives me time to reflect. It also eases achy muscles from carrying a toddler!

Family Picture 5

Photo by Meredith Perdue

How do you keep communication lines open with your partner? I’ve been thinking about this particular question a lot lately as Graham and I are entering into a phase of parenting requiring a bit more thought concerning Perry’s behavior. Graham and I often differ in the ways in which we would handle particular situations, but what we’ve learned is that you have to take time to discuss the things that matter to you most. For example, Graham gets frustrated easily by messes, loudness, and throwing things in the house. Those are his non-negotiables, and I have had to learn that although they aren’t necessarily the behaviors that irk me the most, I have to respect that we are a unit and must function as a team on all levels. I think it’s good to have upfront conversations about particular behaviors that you want to keep out of your home. Often parenting seems to be about picking your battles, and we’ve found that setting clear boundaries together partner helps this tremendously.
Tell us about a lesson you’ve learned since having kids. In the early and very emotional days after we brought Perry home from the hospital, I spent a lot of time crying tears that I declared happy tears. However, I was actually crying because I was mourning the loss of a day with a tiny baby that was aging beyond my control, due to my obsession with not wanting Perry to change or grow but stay my tiny newborn forever. It sounds a little silly as I type, but at the time, it was a very real challenge. I talked to many people who told me that “it just keeps getting better,” and finally, as my hormone levels evened out and my emotions came under control, I realized that that is the truth. A very wise friend also told me that God does this amazing thing when we have children: he erases a little bit of our memory of each previous phase so we don’t dwell on missing it and instead can love the current stage.

Thank you so much, Sam! We love you!!

P.S. If you’d like to hear more from Sam, I loved her interview on Map & Menu about traveling with kids!

Say hello to June Chen Thomas!

11 January 2016

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Hello, friends! I am overjoyed to introduce you to our daughter, June Chen Thomas. She joined our family on January 7, 2016 at 1:45pm, surprising us all by weighing 7 lbs, 14 oz and measuring 19.5 inches long! There were, in fact, many surprising things about her arrival, including the method (c-section), and there have been many surprises since. But the best “surprise” for these two newborn novices is just how completely, naturally, and totally we have fallen in love with her. She is the sweetest, best, most adorable little girl, and we are so grateful!

More to come soon! :)

Introducing Marvelous Mama

6 January 2016

Most of mine and John’s conversations about our girl’s impending arrival revolve around the fact that we have NO IDEA how our lives are going to change once she’s born (only that they certainly will!). Everyone’s experience with a newborn seems so different that it’s hard to know just how much time we’ll have to eat, sleep, shower, or do anything else. Knowing this, I thought it might be wise to prepare a few posts in advance for EFM, just for my own peace of mind… and that’s where the idea for my Marvelous Mama series was born!

But the truth? I’m doing this as much for personal reasons as I am for blog ones! I wanted an excuse to pick the brains of my absolute favorite mamas, and this series gave me the perfect opportunity. It has been a joy, a comfort, and a delight to read their answers as they trickled in over the last few months, and I can’t wait to share them with you so soon.


Oh hey, Ayer family! That’s my mama on my right and my older sister (another great mama!) on my left.

So who are these ladies? Many of them are related to me! :) A few you will likely recognize right off the bat, and longtime readers will recognize a few more. They have children ranging in age from younger than six months old to older than sixty years old. Some have only children, and one has six children. Some are self-employed, some are full-time employees, and some stay at home full time. A few have blogs or Instagram accounts, but several do not. They have different faith backgrounds and political beliefs. What they all have in common is that I think they are doing a wonderful job raising their children, and I wanted to learn from their wisdom as John and I begin to navigate our own way. Whether their names are familiar to you or not, I hope you’ll find some nuggets of wisdom in their answers, too!

Marvelous Mama interviews will start appearing weekly on the blog once our girl arrives. In the meantime, I would love to hear: if you wanted to glean the wisdom of your favorite mama, what questions would you ask her?

P.S. I’m so excited for this!!

My 2016 guideposts

4 January 2016

There’s something wonderful about our girl’s birthday lining up fairly neatly with a new year – it’s allowing me to think about not only what I want my 2016 to look like, but what I want her first year of life, and our first year as a family of three, to look like.


Longtime readers will know that I am not big on setting yearly goals. I love to set monthly goals, and have used a daily goal system in the past. In 2015 I focused on cultivating the fruits of the spirit. Other than that, I tend to work with a longer time horizon, as with my ongoing 60 Before 30 project.

But 2016 seemed to call for a year-long structure. And though I didn’t necessarily want to set goals, per se (my long-term goal focus will still be squarely on 60 Before 30!), I loved the idea of having something to measure myself against throughout the next twelve months – a touchstone to refer back to in this year that has the potential to be tumultuous.

Because you know, the one thing people love to tell you about kids is that they will change your life in ways you could never imagine. And while I welcome that, I also don’t want to start at zero on January 15. I want to protect and preserve the best parts of the life John and I have built together over the last ten years while welcoming the changes that will inevitably come. So, knowing that this Big Change has the potential to throw us off track and derail the progress we’ve made, I wanted to establish guideposts that I could look to to remind myself of what matters most to us as we integrate our girl into our life over the next year.

So what are these guideposts? I’ve listed them below, along with a few thoughts on how I might know whether I’ve been successful for each!

1. Stay healthy in mind and body. Continue weekly meal planning, pick back up with running and biking, play tennis with John, go on lots of hikes, recover from pregnancy and get back to a place where I feel great about my body, spend lots of time reading (I’m joining in Nancy’s book club!)
2. Stay adventurous. Go berry picking, plant our garden, introduce our girl to our favorite outdoor concerts and movies, explore the Triangle, take day trips, embrace the whirlwind of bigger vacations and road trips (Maine and Michigan) with grace
3. Stay faithful. Attend our church when we’re in town, continue visiting new churches when we’re traveling, listen to Adam’s sermons weekly, fill idle time by listening to other favorite sermons, lean on our family group, continue to make progress as stewardship chairs, adjust prayer and Bible rhythm as necessary, sing hymns and listen to worship music throughout the day
4. Stay financially free. Stay on track with our 2016 budget (it will probably be the hardest year we’ve ever faced!), stay on track with our plan for paying down our mortgage early, open a college fund, make wise decisions on baby purchases, continue to give generously
5. Stay in relationship. Be intentional about involving our far-away families in our girl’s life, make new friends in our neighborhood, continue Articles Club, go camping, host another adventure dinner party, keep up our monthly tennis dates, have a Southern meet-up with Kim
6. Stay strong in love. Hug every day, go on nightly neighborhood walks, prioritize conversation together, cultivate patience, kindness, and peace, laugh a lot, read The Meaning of Marriage


A peaceful home, family singalongs, simple time together, reading good books, camping and time outside, trips to Michigan, Maine, and Bald Head Island, laughter, a new backyard, and lots of love. See all my 2016 inspiration board sources here.

To wrap things up, here are my goals for January!
— Organize coat closet and install hook for Ergo
— Read “How to Win Friends and Influence People” for NR book club
— Research landscaping companies for our backyard project
— Pack our hospital bag
— Re-read first chapters of Babywise and The Nursing Mother’s Companion
— Order favorite Instagram prints from 2015
— Prep several EFM posts for after our girl’s arrival

If you’ve posted your monthly (or yearly!) goals somewhere, I’d love to take a look – leave a link in the comments! :)

Quote from designlovefest