The winner of the Freshly Picked giveaway is: Carrie Harms!
Congratulations! Email me [kelsey [dot] irwin [at] gmail [dot] com] or message me and I'll hook you up!
Remember to come back Monday for the next awesome shop and giveaway- I'm really excited about this one! 

Twenty nine years ago today my beautiful mother in law delivered her last child into this world. Like most mothers and fathers 29 years ago, they had to wait for that first glance to see if it would be a son or daughter joining their family. They were prepared with a boy name, but could not think of a girl name.

She had to have a c-section because his sister before him was breech [trouble from the start ;)].
And then his first cry.
7 pounds 14 ounces, 21 inches of baby boy.

Bret William. That was the plan. Four letter name just like all his siblings. No extra letters, per his dad's request ["It's not Bret-T."]
But the Royals had just won their first World Series behind George Brett and Bret Saberhagen, and every boy in every hospital in the greater Kansas City area was being named Brett.

Brent it was.

And his parents brought him home to his older three siblings and they loved him.
And they prayed for him.
And they prayed for his future family-- his wife, his children.

And the raised him in the Word.
And they gave him a sense of humor.
And taught him how to shoot hoops.
And hit a baseball.
And throw a spiral.
And respect.
And compassion.
And a gentle spirit.

And then they released him to the world; gave away what the Lord had entrusted to them for a time.

And our home began.
And we had babies.
And we laughed.
And we cried.
And we learned.
And we grew.

And we celebrate birthdays together every year. We look back and we are thankful for another year to get to know one another more; thankful for another year to spend in each others company.

After having babies of my own, I think about his real birth day and the love he was born out of and into. And I think of him as a little newborn, pink and all limbs and fingers, taking in the world around him. I wonder if his parents knew then the great person he would become? Did they know he would be a great father to his own new bundle someday? Did they know he would be humble and kind, and seek God?

Probably not. They were probably scared and excited in all the ways new parents are, and one day at a time they helped guide and shape Brent into who he was when I met him.

And now, at age 29, he just keeps getting better.

Happy birthday, Brent William. We love you so very much.

In quietness and in confidence shall be your strength.
Isaiah 30:15

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snacking with a toddler

I have a two and a half year old.

Correction: I have little ears around that hear absolutely any packaging that could possibly contain a snack being opened within a two block radius. Maybe three.

But  sometimes  all the time I need a snack. And she doesn't because, well, have you tried to get a two year old to eat a full meal even when they haven't been snacking?

So I sneak in the kitchen. At this point Becks could care less that I'm headed for the Oreos but is slightly distraught that I would dare leave the room. I make a run for it anyway. Blythe is semi-occupied with stickers and paint and a book [yes, simultaneously]. I open the cupboard door, glad I shot some WD-40 up in those hinges, and reach for the bright blue package.

I open the "easy- open" top [which, let's be honest, IS a better way to keep those puppies fresh because it re-seals…until you're trying to get the last Oreo out of the corner of the back of the package and I'm all, "GET THE SCISSORS!!" It's a minor crisis every time.].

Where was I?

Oh, yes.
I open the package…

and it is as if a thousand chandeliers have dropped two hundred feet and shattered into millions of pieces…on a glass floor.

I realize I shut my eyes during the initial onslaught of noise, so I open one carefully. And there she is, her brown eyes looking up at me with wonder and joy thinking that her mom is finally going to give her a cookie at 9 in the morning [what? You don't eat Oreos for second- breakfast?].


It's not any better during nap time if your child's room shares a wall with the kitchen like mine [design flaw. I'm about to give her the master bedroom.] .

What is a mama that needs her snack fix to do? And maybe your snack of choice isn't Oreos, but I guarantee it's something in a loud package, am I right? Cheetos? Animal Crackers? [Don't say you just eat an apple. Liar].

I know you all think this is just one of my sarcastic posts where I exaggerate a problem. It's not. This problem is real, folks. And I found a solution.

Ziploc bags, my friend.

Not just regular ones, but the slider ones. You can open these virtually noiselessly.
I have a couple bags in my cupboards right now holding my glorious snacks. Sneaking away is still an issue, and I'm not kidding about keeping those hinges oiled, but if I can get to the bag itself my odds of not rousing the attention of my toddler have improved drastically.

Snack on, friends. Snack on.

Now, about sneaking snacks in the car once your toddler is forward facing…

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oh, snap!

First, can someone please tell me you used to use the phrase "Oh, snap!" when you were in high school? 

This past month I took a ton of pictures for people, and spent hours and hours of snaps and evenings editing, and I never got around to posting any here. I've always loved taking pictures. I can remember loading up on film for my cheap, lime green camera every year before I went to church camp. I would take 4-5 rolls and then wait anxiously for the few days it took to process them. 

In high school I took a photography class, learned to shoot manually, and learned to develop my own pictures in a black room. [One day I want a black room in my house. Right?] 

In college I finally got a Kodak digital camera, and I loved it! Brent and I could email pictures back and forth of our day to day [literally, I would mail him pictures of me getting my mail! eating my chicken patty! working out in the rsc!]. It's hard to even remember a time before we all carried a camera in our pocket, but that little digital camera was one of my favorite possessions, and I dreamed of one day owning a DSLR. 

Shortly after I graduated, my parents bought me my Canon. I was ecstatic! And my picture taking increased exponentially, which is hard to believe since I was taking pictures of myself eating cafeteria food before, but it did. 

Slowly but surely I learned how to shoot manually with my digital camera, and over time saved and bought better lenses. 

About four years ago some good family friends asked if I would take senior pictures for their oldest daughter. Then her friend asked me. Then another friend wanted some shots of her kids. And so on. I learned as I went. 

I still feel like I would need to invest a lot more time in education and A LOT more money in equipment if I wanted to really make a run at this, but for now, I really love taking pictures for people. I'm always flattered that they ask, and I still get a little nervous before each shoot, afraid I'll mess something up and not capture this moment in their lives quite like they had imagined, but overall I just really enjoy it. 

[And shout out to my for real-professional-photographer-friend, Meagan, who has showed me and taught me a lot with my camera-- if you're in the Kansas City area PLEASE contact her for pictures. She's the best.] 

This first shoot was fun for me because the family was great, but they brought their dogs!! Oh my. I was sweating bullets but they were so good about it and really respectful of my insane-fear and Knox [the beautiful black lab], was kept on a leash nearly the entire time. Whew. 

 He really is a good- looking dog, though, right?

And then this little nuggest of cuteness was about to turn one, so we had to get some pictures of that!

I've been taken pictures of these little guys since the youngest was just a newborn, and it's always fun to get the whole crew involved! Never a dull moment trying to get this crowd together for a picture :)

This is one of my favorite pictures I captured during the last month, because it pretty much sums up this family and I love it!

As our family is growing, I've realized that Brent and I have fewer and fewer pictures of just us. I figured that was probably true for a lot of families, and tried to snap some for the couples. I think the children will like seeing their mom and dad together in pictures down the road.

And then there was Gibson, the boy with the longest most luxurious lashes you ever did see. It was fun to just kind of let him do his own thing and capture his curiosity and grins. What a doll. And quite into fashion, too.

I mentioned it's becoming a tradition to visit my sister in the fall, but I think my college roommate and I have started a fall visit tradition as well! This was year three…I think three years constitutes tradition! And each year I've been able to snap some pics of their beautiful family.

Is she not one of the most beautiful women ever? And yes, her husband has a disgusting mustache in this picture. [I can say that. Don't worry. But if I take pictures for you I won't say your mustache is disgusting…unless it looks like this. Then I might. ]

I really love taking senior pictures especially for guys because, let's face it, senior guys are funny: they really don't want to spend an hour or more taking pictures [their mom is making them], but if they are going to do it then, dangit, they wanna look cool! This guy is such a good kid and he was a good sport about his pictures.

And this, friends, is how you SM-EYES!

Here is one thing you should know: My cousin has beautiful daughters. She came up for a day and I got to take some pictures of these beauties in one of my favorite locations: my Grandparents' backyard [where Brent and I were married].

Some friends I have known and loved for a very long time [preschool! church camp! the best kinds of friends, right?!], are having a baby girl in January and I had the privilege of taking some maternity pictures for them. It was so much fun because these two are so much fun, and can I get a "SHUT UP!" about her dimples?! I mean, seriously, how do you have such amazing dimples when you're not even smiling! This baby is going to be the coolest kid ever.

Then there is my sister and her family. Obviously I love these people crazy amounts, but they would be the first to tell you that getting a good picture of three of them, let alone FIVE of them, is tricky. :) We did our best though and these came out wonderfully. I wish I could dedicate a post just to all the faces I captured of Ellie, but for now, here are a few of my favorites:
[FYI: just before we were going to take these pictures, Kali asked if I had any boot warmers. I hadn't brought mine, so I asked if she had an old sweater she could cut up. Badda bing badda boom. She had some awesome boot warmers. Do it!]

She is very into Irish Dancing right now [because what three year old isn't]. I'm so glad I caught this! [She wants her  next birthday to be an Irish Dancing birthday! Have fun with that theme, Kali!]

And lastly [I told you I took a lot of pictures last month!], my church does this awesome fundraiser where several photographers volunteer one day and families can sign up for a thirty minute mini session and all proceeds go to the children's ministry/money for camp etc. It's a brilliant idea and if you're church is looking for a good fundraiser--DO IT!

So anyway, I took some pictures for this event. It was a seriously cold, seriously windy morning, but all the families were great sports. It was also incredibly bright out, so the lighting wasn't phenomenal…except it was for black and white! I love slightly overexposed black and whites, and it was perfect for that, so I just rolled with it.

And I got to take some pictures of some beautiful families and make some cashola for the church. Win-win!

Favorite picture from the day:

Yes, this little man and Becks are great friends already.

And that's a wrap!
It was a busy month, but I enjoyed it and learned even more behind my camera.

Sometimes I feel like I need to be taking more pictures of my girls with my "real" camera, but Meagan once shared a quote by someone [she'll have to remind me who in the comments] :

The best camera is the camera in your hands. 

So don't be afraid to take pictures of your kids with your phone, your old-school digital, or your lime green film camera! You'll be glad you did.

In the mean time I'll try not to overload your instagram, because I clearly take this advice seriously :).
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