An Open Letter to GCIO


This week marks the very last GCIO for the Senior Class of 2018 – students and leaders alike. Four years ago, we all showed up to the Say Hey to Summer Party and had no idea what to expect but we were all excited and ready to begin. It seems like just a few weeks ago, but here we are staring into the next chapter of life for these students. We’ve watched you grow up and become leaders, influencers, scholars, and soon – graduates. As I reflect on my time as a leader, I had some parting thoughts that I wanted to share.

To my fellow GCIO leaders –

Thank you for your devotion to these students. Simply and most importantly, you have no idea the impact that you’re making on the next generation and your commitment is truly amazing. From seeing Alvin Hicks in a red leather jumpsuit and mustache to Jeff Moyer literally chasing his students through the woods, you all have quite literally done everything possible to share the love of Jesus. It’s incredible.

It has been my joy and privilege to serve alongside all of you. It’s not easy to do what you all do on a weekly basis, but you not only do it, you excel at it. We’ve seen the number of students grow exponentially and that would not be possible without the welcoming atmosphere that all of you foster. Mandy and I have developed some great friends, we’ve all experienced the amazing memories from events (shoutout to that sunrise at VR!) and gotten to witness the magic of students that we love professing their faith and getting baptized while Reed cries. Y’all are genuinely the Navy SEALs of Gwinnett Church. You da real MVPs.

To the GCIO staff: Reed, Ansley, Mike, Sam, Brice, and the best slew of LDPs to ever come through GC –

This team leads the way and the example that you set for leaders is remarkable. Within an organization like North Point that is known for innovation, this team is known as the ones that consistently go outside the box. That shows the lengths to which you’re willing to go to accomplish your mission. GCI-Rogue forever!

While making it happen is tough, chasing after a vision is easy when you all convey it to us with such heartfelt passion. Mike has said for years that he wants to be an old, wise man – the old part will get there eventually but the wisdom has already arrived. The name Sam Sardone is already sweeping through the state as a leader in doing whatever it takes to love people. Ansley is a creative genius and nothing that we do would be possible without her. Brice and the production team are wizards, I think. Everyone makes a big joke of how much Reed cries, but that wouldn’t happen if he wasn’t so utterly devoted to impacting students. He literally can’t contain it. This must be one of the most talented groups of people ever assembled and I’m glad that I got to be associated for this chunk of my life.

Finally, to the students of GCIO –

Your time as a part of Gwinnett Church InsideOut may seem like a Sunday evening activity that you participated in, but I believe that you will look back and see how impactful it really was. The people that have poured into you have set a foundation of faith that I pray you will fall back to when life gets tough. Unfortunately, that will happen. When it does, please never forget the family you have at Gwinnett because you will always be a part of it and you are always welcome back home.

The potential of this group is limitless, and I can’t wait to have a front row seat to all of you legitimately changing the world. Whether that looks like you developing the cure for cancer – which is totally possible – or causing a tidal wave of faith throughout GCo, the world will be a better place because of you. Thank you for letting me be a part of your lives during high school. I love all of you and I know that Jesus has some amazing things up His sleeves for each and every one of you if you trust Him.

Thank you so much for making Sundays the #BestNightOfTheWeek.


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Welcome New Readers!

Thanks to all the new visitors to the site! Here is a quick reference guide to our weight loss journey and the process to which we used to change our lives. Since our healthy life style journey began over 3 years ago, many things have changed. We collectively lost many pounds. We truly believe that weight loss allowed Mandy to become pregnant with our first child , Parker. Conner began group fitness in the form of working out with a men’s group and CrossFit. He has even competed in a few local CrossFit competitions. We are currently on a blogging hiatus as we are journeying through new parenthood and about to welcome our second child in a few months. To see our daily happenings, check out @volpemandy or @connervolpe.

Below are some great references to our healthy lifestyle and the things we did along the way:

Ahh Sugar Sugar: 4 Replacement Ideas

Training for Adventure Racing

An Open Letter to the Food Channels

Resolve To Be Healthier

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New Motherhood Essentials

You can read everything under the sun to prepare for motherhood. Yes, the research helps and it has given me a peace of mind when it felt like I was a mess of emotions or stuck in the “Is it just me?!?!’ phase. But ultimately, there are just some things that no one tells you are the “must haves” of motherhood. Clearly I don’t have anything figured out (Hello! It took me 3 months to take my child to the doctor for them to diagnose a potential milk allergy), but these are a few of the things that have helped me get through the last few months as a new mom.

Sleep Pillow App. There are a ton of apps out there for parenting, but this one has been used since like day 5 in our house. Parker LOVES the sound of rain and it instantly makes him go to sleep. We didn’t have a sound machine to begin with, so the app on the iPad worked amazingly. It also is great for on-the-go naps, especially at restaurants.

Hear Album by North Point. Those early weeks felt very lonely at night. Feedings lasting an hour…occurring every hour or so, wore me out. Pain radiated through my body from having birthed a baby, lack of sleep, and emotions at 1000%. I both hated and loved nursing in those early days because it was an escape for an hour to be alone with my new little baby. It was also frustrating because I felt like I was alone in doing all the work (I was the cook and waitress for P’s meal times), experiencing all of the new scheduling barriers, and still having to figure out how take care of myself. Insert the HEAR album. I played those songs on repeat. I found hope and rest in the lyrics of those songs. Turning them on and letting the words wash over me during feedings usually resulted in tears, but also made me feel refreshed. Praise the Lord for talented musicians that can write and sing such powerful words.

4Moms glider. This spaceship contraption is. The. Jam. Motion + sound machine + pretty design = so good. I typically have this set up in the bathroom in the morning so that I can watch Parker play while I get my clean on. He loves the mobile and it is so fun to watch him discover the colors.

Parker in the 4Moms

Nuk nursing pads. (If you are a guy, then stop reading now) Leakage. Enough said. These things keep your clothes dry because who has time to change clothes a million times a day, especially when there are no clean shirts to change in to. Just make sure you throw them away, or your dog will eat them.

Swaddleme wraps. We have a Houdini baby. I think normal swaddle blankets lasted 3 days. Parker would bust his arms out so quickly and would just cry. I love the Swaddleme wrap because of the Velcro and the fun colors. Also, since they come in multiple packs, it makes it easy to have one on hand at all times.

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#Latenightnursingfeed. If you are on Instagram- check it out. A momma started this hashtag to connect all the women who are up in the middle of the night and provide good information. Seeing the community of women come together and voice best practices has been great and comforting!

sleepy parker

Amazon Prime. I can’t even fully explain how much I love AP. I quickly realized that I could order something and it would arrive 2 days later. Now, that probably sounds like “Um yeah, duh. That is the purpose of AP.”. But you don’t understand. In order to pick up batteries, I have to time a trip to the store when I know my baby will not be crying due to needing to be fed, I have to put Brinkley in his crate, I have to hear Parker cry when initially being put into the carrier, I have to drive to the place and hope that there is a parking spot open with enough space to get my baby and stroller out without smacking the car next to me, and I have to hope that no one parks over the line and therefore forcing me to place Parker into the car from the wrong side thus making me flustered. Gosh I am stressed just typing that. I’d rather remember during a feeding to click over to Amazon, and purchase whatever necessities I realize we need. Books to read during nursing- Check! Gifts for holidays- Check! Food for the dog?- Check! Lotion for a very dry-skinned baby? Check!

I’ll tell you what. I am loving this whole Motherhood thing. Of course it has its challenges, but it is really fun figuring out this new little human and how he fits into our lives.

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Baby Fox and Hound Status

Atlanta-Wedding-Photographers-Nathan-And-Natosha-Newborn-P-Favorites-4191Brinkley is slowly warming up to our newest family member. And I do mean slowwwwllllyyyy. The first day we brought Parker home, Brinkley wanted nothing to do with his presence. We ventured to a dog park the second day, and his territorial big brother senses came out. Other dogs circled the stroller to sniff out the little human and Brinkley swooped in to make sure no one was hurting him.

The last 15 weeks we have discovered that Brinkley only gets close enough to sniff out the dirty diapers and “check on” his brother. He will walk into his room to make sure he is sleeping but immediately walk right back out.Atlanta-Wedding-Photographers-Nathan-And-Natosha-Newborn-P-Favorites-4287.JPG

I think the funniest thing is the fact that while he doesn’t like to be close to Parker, he loves to cuddle up during feeding times. The barrier between the pillows and Parker is enough to make him comfortable. Brinkley will even allow Parker to sit near him, but only if Brinkley is fully covered in a blanket. That kills me. BUT the moment you uncover the blanket and Brinkley discovers it is in fact the little human rather than an adult, he bounces off the couch quicker than you can say “#babyfoxandhound”.2015-12-28 16.11.57.jpg

We did have a tiny moment of Brinkley showing his love to Parker a few weekends ago when they both settled in to a nap on the bed. Brinkley didn’t think anyone was around so I snapped a quick photo. Baby steps….literally…as the only thing worth noting of a cuddle in this photo are the fact that their toes are touching.

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Maybe one day they will be best friends and Brinkley will allow Parker to pull on his ears and snuggle endlessly watching movies. Until then, I will just look at this picture of when Brinkley was covered in a blanket, and snuggled on top of Parker.

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Welcome Parker to the Family

Hello, it’s me.

I was wondering if after all these weeks you’d like to meet….

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Mason Parker Volpe???

Father son magic-1That’s right. Little Parker graced us with his presence on October 8th, 2015 after 41 weeks of cooking along in my belly. We are 10 weeks into parenthood and it has been a fog, but also really fun at the same time. Yes, sleep only happened in 1-2 hour increments (for both baby and mommy) those first 5 weeks, but the little half smiles and milk wasted faces continue to make it all worth it. We are on a much better sleep schedule now, but learning and failing by trial and error every day.

So wasted....on milk

Full details on all that is happening, how it all went down- literally, and a few lessons that we have been learning will be gracing this blogosphere soon…mostly so that I can remember all that has happened. But for now, just enjoy a few of my favorite photos of Parker from the past few weeks.

Cutest Pumpkin in the Patch

3 Week Old Houdini

Babies first christmas


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Nursery Tour

Parker has decided to keep on cooking, so I have decided to go ahead and give you a tour of his new digs.

One of my favorite things we have done to get ready for Parker was to create his personal space for sleeping/nursing/all things baby. I really wanted to design a space that would feel neutral and not scream baby blue/baby pink paradise. I also wanted the room to feel like an extension of our home, not a themed play space. Throughout our entire house you will find black + white + turquoise + grey + wooden accents + stripe patterns. That is where I jumped off from with the nursery.

Parker's Nursery 1I knew I wanted the black and white look with the accent color being neon. At the time, I didn’t know if the neon would be pink for a girl or green for a boy. Either way, I didn’t want it to be overwhelming but rather as accent pieces throughout the room. Here are a few pictures of the finished room.

Do you know how hard it is to find bedding that isn’t pink/blue/grey? Yeah, I scoured my local stores but ended up landing on a crib sheet from Etsy. Luckily, we were gifted with some neon green bedding sheets, too, that we can use when blow-outs happen. As for the blanket, my super mom made that chevron beauty happen. I love everything about it!!

Quilt on Fleek

I knew I wanted chalk art on the walls. I love the graphic look of hand lettering and Conner was on board so we quickly began looking for someone to accomplish our goal of a large wall mural. I am obsessed with the lettering. A sweet guy from Columbus, GA came out and free handed all of the art. I love the way the room came together.

Parker's Nursery

I die that Brinkley actually laid in his bed as I was snapping photos. Best friend in training right there.

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We wanted the wall art to have a scripture as well. There are quite a few verses about children in the Bible, but we didn’t want something cliche, either. When we read this verse there was a resounding “YES!” because all throughout being pregnant, Conner would pray over Parker asking him to grow big and strong. Love it, and this verse so much. I also love that Mike (the chalk artist) placed a little nod to the Jackets in the G of strong.

2015-09-17 09.03.34 HDRFor the changing table, we wanted something “different”. We also wanted something in the room that Conner built himself. Knowing that the crib would be way too time intensive/costly, we went with Conner building the changing table instead. I had envisioned the steel pipe and wooden look to play off the black and white theme we had going on in the room. Conner did a great job constructing this piece!Changing TableIf it ain’t neon, it shouldn’t be on. That’s the moto, YOLO.

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And the final corner of the room is the little reading nook. The books were all gifts during our showers as our friends encouraged everyone to sign a book rather than a card. I thought it was a really sweet gesture that has a long shelf life (Oh yeah, all the puns. That’s what happens when you are 40+ weeks pregnant). Now, if only Parker would decide that this room is way cooler than his current womb and come on out to say hello- that would be great and we would read him all the books.

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Documenting This Season

It is hard to believe that we are just a few weeks (or days) away from meeting our sweet little boy. I have all the feels as I think about how we are going from being just the two of us to having a little sidekick all the time to tag along on our adventures. I am thankful for this season that we have been in over the past few months, but excited to see the new season that will unfold as we move into this next phase.

We have been learning a lot (I’m looking at you parenting how-to books and baby gear manuals) and having a ton of discussions around what will our lives look like with a baby/kid in the mix of our every day life.

Building Strollers Like A BossWe have been soaking up every moment we can for unplanned date nights and spur-of-the-moment dinners out. There are so many things we love to do like volunteer, hang with the high school kids, work out, diy projects, and travel but ultimately the plans we are dreaming up could and will look very different once we figure out our new “normal”. I get a little excited thinking about it.

Last month we took the opportunity to document this current growing phase with a little maternity shoot. We chose to have our wedding photographers capture the moments and the evening was filled with laughter, great conversations, and beautiful lighting. I am thankful for these photos as they document this journey of bringing Parker into our family and the celebration that is 4 years of marriage to my best friend.

Atlanta-Wedding-Photographers-Nathan-And-Natosha-Photography-Maternity-MandyConner-Favorites-2 Atlanta-Wedding-Photographers-Nathan-And-Natosha-Photography-Maternity-MandyConner-Favorites-10 Atlanta-Wedding-Photographers-Nathan-And-Natosha-Photography-Maternity-MandyConner-Favorites-13 Atlanta-Wedding-Photographers-Nathan-And-Natosha-Photography-Maternity-MandyConner-Favorites-15 Atlanta-Wedding-Photographers-Nathan-And-Natosha-Photography-Maternity-MandyConner-Favorites-16Atlanta-Wedding-Photographers-Nathan-And-Natosha-Photography-Maternity-MandyConner-Favorites-8

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