7.07.2015

for my mom


Thank you.
Thank you for making sure my hair was always brushed and pulled out of my face.
Thank you for feeding me good food.
And food I liked.
And making me eat food I didn't like.
Thank you for praying with me.
Thank you for taking me to the pool.
Thank you for reading books to me.
And buying books for me.
And taking me to the library.
And making me read on vacation instead of listen to music.
Thank you for singing me to sleep.
And all the back scratches.
Thank you for holding the puke bucket.
Seriously.
That's a big one.
Thanks for letting me hang stuff on my wall.
Thanks for making sure my house didn't collapse on us when I had new babies.
Thanks for loving Brent as much as you love me [and more sometimes!].
Thanks for still feeding me good food.
Thanks for spanking me.
Thanks for teaching me how to cook.
Thanks for showing me I didn't need to diet to be healthy.

Thank you for being patient with my teenage years.
And my toddler years. 
And my twenties.
And I'm sure my thirties. 



Blythe was sick this morning. It was the first multiple-throw-up-sick she has ever been. And we survived it together. And it made me want to thank my mom in all new ways. And now she is sleeping, and feeling better, and I need to clean. Unless my mom wants to come over so I can nap ;).

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7.06.2015

sticky and sweet

I wanted to write more last week, but then the hot sun was calling me and friends and the pool and good books. Sigh. Summer. 

I hope everyone had a great Fourth. We didn't travel, but still saw lots of family and had a really great weekend. I always love celebrating the Fourth of July

To start this week, I wanted to share some pictures I took of this adorable little lady. She turned one last month and her parents asked if I could capture some shots and do a little smash cake session. It was so fun! She is a month younger than Becks, and her older sister is just 8 months older than Blythe, and it's always fun to be around girls the same age as mine and talk with their parents. I ask questions like, "Do your girls whine incessantly?" And when they say yes it makes me feel so much better. :) 

But really, this little peach was too adorable: 














Blythe was just excited she stuck around long enough to get some leftovers :) 


I love taking pictures on these looooonnnggg summer evenings, and this girl was an excellent subject!

For more info about my photography, click HERE.
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7.01.2015

under the fence

We moved to our house in 2010. And ever since then I have been pestering Brent to get a fence for our huge backyard. And last winter we did it!

Let me tell you about this fence:
It is awesome. I feel like we added on another room to our house. Seriously.


But also, here is what the fence has taught me, and it started with this:
Our fence went up right before Christmas last year. Actually, the last day of installation the two guys were out there making the finally adjustments in the snow! Bless them. They were always grateful for the hot chocolate I brought them.
And then the final piece was in place and I could not have been happier. It looked beautiful! It was going to change our backyard life! No more dogs! Or…

You see, the edge of our yard has one spot where it is quite a bit lower than the rest of the yard. To make the fence level across the top, we had to leave a gap in that section between the ground and the bottom. We would fill it in with dirt later. [Brent said this spring…cough, cough]. It was the first full day that we had the completed fence, and we had just had a coating of fresh snow, and we happened to have a two year old bursting with excitement to go out and play. So I bundled her up and Brent took her out that evening.

I was finishing up dishes and watching them out the window above the sink. I saw Brent running around the perimeter with a snowball cocked up in his arm. And then I saw it. The dog. There was a small-ish dog that had gotten under the fence who was frantically running around because it could not find the way out. Brent was trying to guide it back to the hole-- by gently pummeling it with soft snowballs.

And these were my thoughts: ARE YOU SERIOUS?! I wait FIVE years to get my DREAM fence to keep out dogs and keep in kids and THE DAY our fence is completed we have a DOG running around in our backyard?! 

Brent thought it was hilarious. But it made me think:
I try to put up a lot of fences in my life-- for my kids, for myself, for others. I try to protect us. I try to keep things in, but more importantly try to keep other things out. And I think that dog [it has only happened that one time] was God's way of saying, "Kels, look here. I'm the only one who can really put up fences. Or take them down. Or seal holes. Or keep you safe."

I thought of that hole in the fence again this week when I took the girls to a park in a nearby town. This park has three different play areas with varying levels of "difficulty." Blythe, of course, wanted to go down the biggest slide there. Now before you think I'm saying "big" about a normal park slide, let me describe it: it is about 20 feet tall. At least. [I'm terrible with guessing things like this]. The steps up to it are fairly steep. And there I was, in the mess of pebbles, watching Blythe slowly make her way up. And up. And up. And when she got to the top I was surprised that I was nervous. I try to be cool with letting her explore and do things, but it was pretty high.

And then I thought of that fence. And the hole. And my God who tells me that my sense of security is a farce.

And she slid down that slide with the biggest smile on her face. And I learned again that parenting [and life] is all about moments of letting go. It's all about moments of trusting God.


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6.30.2015

ReSqueeze: a review, and a miracle





Those of you who have parented in the last five to ten years are aware of squeeze pouches. They are REVOLUTIONIZING the way we feed our little ones. Well, that may be an exaggeration, but you know they are awesome. And if you don't, let me tell you:

THEY HIDE VEGETABLES!
THEY CAN BE EATEN ON THE GO!
THEY CAN BE THROWN IN A BAG!
KIDS LOVE THEM!
YOU DON'T HAVE TO SPOON FEED THEM!

But, they are dang expensive. All baby food is expensive, but when you look per ounce, these things are ridiculous. And I'm a penny pincher. And they are so awesome that I just bite the bullet sometimes and buy them even though it hurt me.

And that is where ReSqueeze came in and saved the day!



These guys have made REUSABLE pouches. Let me say that again in case you missed it: REUSABLE POUCHES!!  So I gave them a whirl. And let me tell you, they are legit.



Here is what I did. I gathered up my supplies and went to my parent's house because they have a nutri-bullet, and I figured that would be the easiest and quickest way to puree all this stuff.

And then I just threw stuff in. SPINACH! BANANA! MANGO! ZUCCHINI! APPLESAUCE! AVOCADO!



I tested it, because I knew it needed to be sweet and not bitter. And it was awesome. So then I just opened the double sealed bottom of the ReSqueeze pouch and poured the goodness in.


I resealed it, and was impressed by the tight seal. I had no doubt it was going to stay in there, even with the grabby little hands that would be holding it.


I filled a few, then made a new mix: BROCCOLI! PEAS! PEARS!


My favorite part? YOU CAN FREEZE THEM! So I threw all of mine in the freezer [I also made a berry mix with raspberries, strawberries, blueberries and spinach]. Yesterday we went to the park and I packed some sandwiches for the girls and threw the pouches in. When we sat down to eat I just laid them out in the sun, and by the time the sandwiches were gone the pouches were ready to be enjoyed.


Blythe is WAY picky. She gets weirded out when I hand her something new and she passed on both the berry one and the first one I made. But Becks? She devoured them! I was a little concerned with how they would wash up, but it was super easy. I even tried on in the dishwasher and it did really well [I opened it over a holder]. Now I still have some in my freezer, and some empty ones in my drawer ready to be enjoyed. The pouch shown in the picture is one of the smaller ones. They also have a REALLY large one [if we're talking pouch size], which is great for older kids.

The ONLY thing that I don't like? They do have to be refrigerated, obviously, unlike the store bought pouches. [But that's why I froze mine, because then I can still throw them in the bag and they will be cold an hour or two later when I need them]. But that is all! With a small about of prep, they are super convenient, and a great way to sneak some veggies in [just make sure you sweeten them up with enough fruit!]

If you check out the ReSqueeze website they even have some great recipes. I am going to try some sweet potato ones next, as well as some of their peanut butter ideas because my girls LOVE peanut butter!

Kali got me another brand of re-usable pouches for Becks' birthday, and I tried them alongside ReSqueeze. They functioned just as well, but they were so small I could hardly get any in them and when I tried to seal them they were messy because I was trying to get too much in them. So if I buy more, ReSqueeze will be my go-to.

ReSqueeze provided me pouches for this review, but all opinions are my own. 
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6.26.2015

offering hands


Yesterday I wrote about receiving companionship, and it reminded me of this piece I wrote in college about my time in Jamaica, so I thought I would share it with you today:



Her mom was in the apartment braiding the other white girls' hair to earn some American cash for her upcoming trip to the states. A little over 2000 Jamaican dollars was the price for a full head of braids. This meant 25 U.S. dollars. This meant the difference in our worlds. 

I only had a few braids done, the pulling had begun to give me a headache, and I made my way out to the pool. That is where I met her-- nine years old. 

It's funny, but true, that most Jamaicans can't swim. I say funny, but I mean ironic, their location being an island. But she wanted to learn how to swim, and as we flitted around in the shallow end I realized my English teaching degree wasn't going to be able to help her learn. 

And that's how we started talking. And that's why, in this pool in Jamaica, she asked to pray for me. She held my hands, the water rippling into her chest, and she prayed with the force of a Southern Baptist revival pastor: and dear Father God, I just ask that you would walk with Kelsey, and dear Father God, that you would show her the way… 

She used "Father God" liberally and frequently, like my mom uses garlic. Her Jamaican accent added rhythm to the otherwise routine words. I was impressed by her maturity and the way she spoke with such authority. And then my world hit hers abruptly: and Father God, I ask that you protect her, Father God, from anyone who would want to murder her, Father God, from any one who would want to steal from her, Father God, protect Kelsey and her body from someone who would seek to sex her up…

The water around my waist was different now-- it was a meeting place for me and her. It was common ground that showed us there is no such thing as common ground between wealth and poverty. I have never sat trembling in a closet at home, scared a strange man might come in at any moment. 

I hugged her tightly as she said amen, displacing the water between us. She smiled up at me, Can you teach me how to back float? 

Too much was happening. This was Jamaica after all-- it was supposed to be like Florida with an accent. 

Now nothing made sense. 

She ran inside to get a snack, and I began talking with two of my teammates. We didn't see her come back and we didn't see her jump for the life ring in the deep end and we didn't see her miss it and go under water. 

She's under the water, her sister said, not as frantically or loudly as she should have. In some span of time that I can't remember being short or long we had her out and coughing up water on the edge of the pool. As her breath came back she said, I opened my mouth to say 'help' but all that came in was water.

This happens in her life more than she realizes. And I wonder if anyone will ever be able to teach her how to back float. 

In that pool, and in that country, I saw the beauty of the body of Christ. I was encouraged by my Jamaican brothers and sisters and their willingness to invite me into the privileged spaces of their own lives. I was humbled by a God who is transcendent and yet near-- who is able to be in the midst of the live we all live and share as believers, both in the States and in Jamaica. 

When I returned to campus that fall, the first week back I met Derefe. From Kingston, Jamaica. We became friends and when I gave him a winter coat and gloves he hugged me and said, Kels, I  know you got a lot out of your trip to Jamaica-- but I really think you went for me. 

Before we left, the leader of our trip had said it was about us-them. God has shown me that to follow Christ and to love like Him does not mean giving handouts--it means giving hands. 





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6.25.2015

the power of the person



I was reading "Travels With Charley" by my old favorite, John Steinbeck. In this book he chronicles his journeys across the states with his dog, you guessed it, Charley. It is humorous and endearing, and in true Steinbeck fashion there were passages that left me stunned by their beauty and passages that left me stunned by their fullness.

Early into his trip, Steinbeck realizes just how lonely it will be for him, and just how desperately our human souls need one another. While camping one night and listening to the silence, save the heavy breathing of his dog, he recalls a previous journey he had taken:
I remember an old Arab in North Africa, a man whose hands had never felt water. He gave me mint tea in a glass so coated with use that it was opaque, but he handed me companionship, and the tea was wonderful because of it. And without any protection my teeth didn't fall out, nor did running sores develop. I began to formulate a new law describing the relationship of protection to despondency. A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ. 
I read that paragraph about twelve times. I resonate with that because I have seen the beauty of relationship. I resonate with that because I have let me soul become sad out of fear of something. Or preference for something. Or judgement of something. Or lots of somethings.

While I was growing up, my dad was in law enforcement. This meant that a lot of times he had to make  some house calls. Sometimes he showed up unexpected [and trust me, no tea was offered then], but other times he was summoned. And welcomed. He may not even remember this, as it was a brief story he mentioned one time casually to me, but it stuck with me and I think of it often. He shared about one of the houses he was invited into. There wasn't a clean place to sit, and his hosts were definitely not freshly showered. It was evident they were in want, and to be frank, they lived in filth. And yet they extended my uniform-clad father hospitality that day, as the lady rummaged for a mug and poured him some coffee. My dad doesn't drink coffee. He can't stand it. And from the looks of the place, the mug was definitely not clean.

At this point in the story I thought my dad was going to share with me how to get out of an awkward social situation such as this, or how to politely decline a drink you don't like. But you know what he said? "I read somewhere that the cleanest part to drink out of a used mug is by the handle." Did you catch that? He drank the coffee out of a filthy mug. NOT because his job depended on it. NOT because he was so desperate for a drink. NOT because he wanted to make a good impression. He drank the coffee out of a filthy mug because of the hand that poured it for him. 

I have thought of it so many times, that simple act done in a trailer somewhere in rural Missouri. When someone offers me something I don't like, or that doesn't suit my taste, or that I may even have an adverse reaction to, I will accept it. And I will not make a face [my mom taught me that one over and over at the supper table]. And I will say thank you so much and I will mean it. Because the hand that is serving it to me is also serving companionship. And when I have a choice between protection or despondency, I will choose the person in front of me and the hope they have to offer. Because a sad soul will kill me far quicker.

And I realize this is not just about food, though I do think something deeply spiritual happens at the table. This is about the power of the person. This is about offering hands. This is about realizing we are all the least of these. This is about offering Jesus. And hope. And grace. And at that table, when we choose to pass around companionship in spite of [whatever you need to fill in this blank with], we will find deep satisfaction in our souls.


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6.22.2015

according to Blythe


Happy Father’s Day
2015



My dad is he has a B in his name and he’s how old I am, three. [showing fingers] Like that.
His hair is brownish and his eyes are color like me, like mine is brown. 
My dad likes to wear work clothes. 
He loves to eat noodles. He loves noodles
He is smart because he knows that he can hit the ball
My dad works hard at his work- which is at the office
Daddy always tells me that I love suckers. And he says “you love suckers too?” and I shake my head like that. 
It makes daddy happy when I come to his work. 
If he could go on a trip, he would go at my house, because I love daddy here, and he would take Toby. [“toby is at his work right now”]
I really love it when my dad plays Little Miss Muffett and we play bat and Cinderella. 
If I could give my daddy anything it would be draw him a picture of Cinderella
My daddy’s name is Brent and his favorite drink is milk [my favorite thing to drink is milk too. I like milk]. He likes blueberries. 
My favorite thing about my dad is he brings me diamond chocolates

Love, 
Blythe Kathleen
age 3 & 3 months 



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6.19.2015

lovin' it


First: THIS $35 coupon is only good through the weekend! 

I have had the opportunity to take a lot of pictures lately, and I'm loving it! 
And it doesn't hurt that I get to take pictures of the cutest kids. 

This little man turned two recently, and was quite the model at his shoot. Boy knew how to pose. And those shoes? I want a pair. 







I mean, really, I can't get teenagers to pose like this! 





And then…THEN!… one of the BEST boy moms I know calls me up and says, "I have an idea. What if you take some pictures of my boys playing in the mud and I'll hang them up in the mudroom/laundry room/boy's bathroom?" What if? I'm there! And it was one of the most fun shoots to date. I won't lie, they threw some mud at me. If I didn't have my camera I may have just dove in with them. 
This first picture expresses the PURE DELIGHT they experienced during this "photo shoot." 









It's safe to say, they did not hold anything back. That mud was EVERYWHERE!! 





This would give a lot of moms severe anxiety, but my friend just stood back and laughed. And then threw buckets of hose water on them as they squealed and ran away. So much fun. I hope they show these pictures to their kids someday and then let them romp in the mud.



And then I fell in love with two more children. This little boy even told me I was pretty, and won my heart forever. And this little lady wanted to come home with me, and I almost snuck her in my van when her mom wasn't looking.









Oh, and if that weren't enough cuteness for you: TWINS! These one year olds have such fun personalities and sure kept me on my toes during this shoot. There was a lot of cheerio and bubbles bribing that went down, but little miss duck-face finally gave us some smiles, after her brother was like, "Sister, come on, this is easy." And then gave me photo after photo that could be in a magazine.









To learn more about my photography, or to see my current prices, click on the photography link at the top of my blog page under the header!

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