photos in the snow

As if I weren't already excited to take pictures of this beautiful child, her parents wanted to do them in the snow! Which I've always wanted to do. Remember these? Clearly I'm up for taking pictures in the snow! 

But enough talking already. Look at this doll of a two year old: 

It was cold. She was a champ. And I want to steal her. Which is saying a lot since my home is already well stocked with girls. :)

Several people have asked my prices lately,  and here is what they are currently: 
/ For a child/newborn session, two kids or less: $100/
/Engagement session: $100/
/Maternity session: $100/
/For a family session, or more than two kids*: $150/
/For multiple family session [i.e. grandparents who want entire families etc] : $175/
These prices include up to an hour session a full rights to all edited images. 
*I hate that I have to charge you more just because you have more than two children because I have witnessed larger families being "discriminated" against in settings they shouldn't be, but it takes a lot more time to pose and edit for more than two children, so that's why I have to do that. 
Please feel free to contact me though if you have any questions and/or $ questions. I would love to work with you and see what we can come up with! 

And check out the bottom of my post from Monday for a little deal that's ending soon :)
If you're around here today, I hope you're enjoying the sunshine...and the bitter cold. 

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making decisions...for your kids

As if making decisions for yourself isn't hard enough, becoming a parent and making decisions about and for your children is sometimes the worst. Is it not?

I mean, there are some things that are easy:
The decision is always "to bed" if the other option is allowing them to stay up late. Right? [I'm kind of kidding]

And then there are others that depend on your personality:
Should I let her poop in the bathtub or should I just catch it in my hand to save myself the trouble of having the drain the water and scrub the tub? I prefer to catch it. My sister prefers to scrub the tub. [And now the only comments I get on this post are going to be about this.]

And then there are those monumental decisions-- or at least they seem monumental at the time:
Do we sleep train? Do we co-sleep? Do we do pacifiers? Do we start preschool at three or wait until four? Do we spank? Do we make them get a job when they are in high school?

And sometimes the decisions you never thought you would make, are the ones you make.
Here is an example:

A solid month and a half ago Brent and I decided it was high time to take Blythe's pacifier ["paci"] away for good. She only got it in her bed and in the car, but we figured it was time. So one morning I told Blythe it was time to throw them away and she could get a bike. And she did. Just like that.

Well sort of "just like that" except for the 3-4 days of crying and asking for it. It wasn't too bad. She still slept through the night and we survived. And then we were done. They were gone. The end.

Except. Not.

You see, my wonderful sleeper stopped napping. She still slept a solid 12 hours at night, and the beauty of that is not lost on me, but this soon to be threenager still needs her nap. I could tell. Several people suggested that maybe she was just done with naps. But she wasn't. She just couldn't fall asleep. I tried everything I could think of: I laid with her [that was a joke!], I put her in her pajamas for nap, I switched locations, I didn't switch anything and kept everything consistent, I switched times, I played music, I gave her a stuffed animal, I gave her a "napping pillow",  I made a reward chart, I offered her every bribe under the sun, I busted out the favorite "blow up bed" that my mom has, and even on the days she had a touch of a cold and I gave her Dimetapp, and even on the days she played in the snow all morning... NOTHING!!

I was about to lose my mind. You see, stay at home parents know that your attitude is in direct correlation, even if it shouldn't be, with how long and how well your children nap. It's true. If you see a very, very frazzled woman at the store with her kid at two in the afternoon it is most likely because that child is not napping and she had to get out of the house before she threw him out the window. [I know that sounds dramatic, but can I get an amen?]

One night I was sitting in the living room with my mom and Brent, and Blythe was crawling around with my dad [literally crawling around. I think they were squirrels? Or something?], and I was sharing my exasperation and said, "I have tried everything!" And Brent said, "You haven't tried everything." I gave him a look that was a cross between "Don't you dare say I'm not trying my hardest" and "Do you have a magic pill and how much will it cost us?".

"You haven't given her her paci back."

He said it so nonchalantly. I glanced over at my mom, expecting her to laugh a little and say, "You've already taken them away. You're past that. Don't look back." But instead she shrugged her shoulders and said, "That's true."

I waited a few more days, resigned to the fact that I had already made the decision and the pacis were gone. Done-zo. But I cracked.

A week ago I informed Blythe I had "found one" and she could have it if she wanted it. She said, "No. I want a bike." Well crap.

"You can still get a bike if you only use your paci for nap time,  and when it is dark outside and you go to bed, then you don't use a paci. If you can do that, you can still get a bike."

Okay! I laid her down. Gave her the paci. Out like a light. Every day. Without fail. And at night? She hasn't asked for her paci once.

I felt like I had "lost" for awhile. But then I realized, I'm just making the best decisions I can. And she needs a nap. And right now, she apparently needs a paci to have a nap. So be it.

In the future there will be bigger decisions that I have to make for her. But I hope I remember that sometimes, I can change my mind and try something else, or try something again. It isn't "losing" to admit that your initial decision isn't working. And "sticking to your guns" proves nothing. Actually, in this case, sticking to my guns was sending me to the loony bin and Blythe to an emotional disaster.

When I was teaching I learned that one thing that spoke volumes to my students and garnered their trust more than anything was when I admitted a mistake. When I changed a policy because I had been wrong about it. Sometimes my decisions were right, and my students didn't like them, but they were right and good and I had to say, "Tough cookies." And you know what? They could deal with the tough cookies far more then they knew I was willing to always look at my decisions again and see if they were still right, still working, still effective.

And in the end, making decisions shouldn't be as crippling as we let it be because ultimately we aren't even in control anyway. Making decisions for my children has been yet another lesson in letting-go-of-fear-and-perfection-and-control-and-chilling-the-heck-out-because-God-is-right-here-with-me-and-always-with-my-children-too.

And I still can't believe I gave her her paci back. And I still can't believe that I regard that as one of the best decisions I've made in a long time. Parenting is a trip!

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roll call

/An update to THIS post about my van almost exploding while I was driving it:

Last Friday we got the call that all the parts were in for all our recalls. Brent took the afternoon off to go and take care of it...but I GRACIOUSLY said I could handle it and handed him Becks and told him Blythe was in the bathroom and beelined for the van. kidding. sort of. Anyway, since we had so many recalls to get fixed, they told me it could take up to two and a half hours. TWO AND A HALF HOURS? < That is not exasperation. It is excitement. A family friend [one of those good ole neighbors from back in the day, actually] picked me up and dropped me off at Panera Bread where I witnessed a girl get fired, had high-fives repeatedly requested of me from a 5 year old, joined in  eaves-dropped on the best conversation a group of 8 elderly men were having ["She's a car-jacking waiting to happen" was one of the favorite things I heard], but mainly I sat next to the fireplace and read. For two and a half blissful hours.

 I secretly wish the air bag light would start flashing again.

/An update to THIS post about my struggles to potty train: 

Whew. It was funny/not-funny-at-all to go back and read that post because: 1. It was not fun. 2. I thought we had "figured it out" and thought she was done. HAHAHAHA.

She really did okay after those first 2-3 intense months. But THEN. December came and it. was. awful. It was like it was July all over again. Girlfriend just all of a sudden FORGOT how to not pee/poop her pants. I thought she was maybe sick. Or we were too busy. Or something. I had no idea what to do. And then we traveled the Springfield to visit my aunt and POOF! No accidents. What the heck? And from that trip forward, I would say she really is FINALLY potty-trained. Does that mean we still aren't careful to not make her laugh too hard? No way. But she so rarely has accidents and I so rarely think about asking her/taking her because she just tells me now that I would say we are through the fog.

My sister told me when we were in the thick of it last fall, "One day soon you will go an hour without thinking about taking her potty. And then that hour will become hours. And then days. And pretty soon it will have been weeks since an accident." To which I said, "Liar, liar, pants on fire." But she was right. Sort of. Because it didn't really feel soon, but we are here. And if you are potty training...God bless you. And I mean that from the very bottom of my heart.

An update to THIS post about me not being hip or trendy and not understanding how to wear shoes without socks in the winter:

You ladies pulled through and gave me a lot of great tips and options! I haven't ordered them yet, but I'm pretty sure I'm going to check these out:

An update to THIS post about the using the devotional "I Can Learn the Bible" with Blythe:

I would only update a few things about this, the further in Blythe and I have gotten. I still think this is a great devotional for kids and is a super awesome tool to have and use! We love it! I would maybe edit my thoughts on the age-appropriateness: it may be/is a little bit beyond toddlers [a lot of the analogies refer to school/homework/teachers etc. and the general lesson is a little advanced for Blythe], but Blythe still enjoys it, still can understand the verses, and I am usually able to tweak the lesson just a hair for her to relate to more. I would still love if the verses weren't from the kid's bible, but when I like a different translation more I just use it. It's way cuter to hear her say "righteousMess" than "doing what is right". 

And I haven't had any trouble thinking of a small craft to accompany each of the week's verses/lessons. It's been fun! 

An update to THIS post about me taking pictures and giving stuff away:

In December I ended my giveaway month with my own personal one, giving away a mini photo session. In that post I also mentioned that I would be giving away a discount price for my blog readers and that they could lock in the price-- several of you did and I can't wait to schedule your pictures soon! [Soon...SOON! You hear that, weather?! Get warm!... though I took some of my favorite pictures ever last week IN THE SNOW, and I'll be sharing those soon. So that's always an option. I'm up for it if you are!]

All that to say, I have a list of people who locked in the 15% discount price on a session, and I got a new lens last week and I am giddy with excitement. SO I decided that if you still want a discount, just let me know to add you to the list by the end of February [which is Saturday].

Any other updates I am forgetting that you are dying to know? 

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notes to self: a review

For Christmas this past year my grandma got all of the granddaughters some socks. Now my grandma doesn't just give socks, she always finds the best of whatever she is giving. And she didn't fail this year! The socks read "I am blessed" across the toes, and said BLESSED along the bottom. I had never seen anything like them, so I checked out the tag immediately: Notes To Self. The tag read: Positive affirmations are phrases that we say to ourselves to build confidence and train our minds. They work on the subconscious, which is most receptive early in the morning and late at night. At those times, notes to self products are there, improving your thoughts, actions, and performance...

I got home and put them on immediately. I don't know about you, but I think comfortable socks are about one of the best things ever, and these were some of the best socks I had had on in a long time. [The last pair that was this comfortable that I had worn was some fancy schmancy pair that Brent got me when he worked at Dicks.] So they were comfortable and reminded me I am blessed? I was sold!

I immediately checked out their website. I read their story, about how the founder/creator, Laura, dreamed up the idea of creating a product to remind people of the power of positive affirmations, and I knew I wanted to share their products with you guys.  The $10 price tag made me cringe just a bit, but they are seriously the most comfortable socks [they grip your foot in all the right places, ya know?], and they are a business that is still getting off the ground a bit, AND they are so cool that I think they are probably worth that!

I have actually been wanting to write about this sooner, but I kept waiting until my socks were clean so I could take some cool pictures...but  I never wanted to take them off to wash them. So I decided to grab the pictures from the website-- and plastic feet look way better than mine anyway! Laura generously sent me some other pairs to test out, so I could make sure the comfort level wasn't just a fluke, and I can assure you it was not! I haven't worn any other socks. And I go sock-footed all day everyday. [And you better believe I have crammed them in my Sperry's, even though you all told me it was a faux pas. ]

Check out how great these are:

Laura sent me the "great mom" socks in black, and I rarely wear black socks, but I'm glad she sent them because I feel like a better mom when I don't see my white socks getting crazy dirty on the bottom from my dirty floors ;)

There are some cool customer stories on their website about different socks. Several woman have shared about receiving the pink "I am Strong" socks as a gift to wear during chemo treatments, and how they would look at the positive note on their toes. I think that's awesome.

Graduation is coming up and I think these would be a fun pair to throw in for your graduate!

They have so many options: strong, blessed, grateful, thankful, kind, smart, courageous, awesome, creative, great mom, great dad, I love Grandma, I love Grandpa, I love you forever. 

And they even have infant and toddler socks! Would Becks not be killer in these? And how true. What a blessing that little lady is in our lives. 

And the perfect [gripper!] pair for Blythe: I am joyful! How perfectly fitting since that is not only what her name means, but also one of the traits we pray for her. 

The options are endless: crew cut, low-cut, infant, toddler, xs to xl! And be sure to check out their site because they have a few other products as well.  If you spend $59 plus, you can get 10% off with the coupon code SOCKS4EACHDAY. They also have a facebook page to check out.

I think these would make THE BEST gifts for just about any occasion.

Check them out and show your feet some love!

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getting in the boat

Today I watched my oldest daughter dance and sing, and saw my younger one flap her arms along with her, sqwauking away.

And I felt it.
I viscerally felt time slipping away.

The other day we were at my parent's house and Blythe found a Popple*. My mom and dad had given it to my older sister when she gave up her pacifier. And all of a sudden here I am, with an almost three year old who sleeps at night without her very own"paci." How does time trick us?

In one moment it can absolutely stand still.  Like this scenario: I am trying to get lunch ready, Becks is crying because I can't spoon feed her while heating up chicken nuggets for Blythe, who just informed she has to go potty. I know Brent will be home at noon, and it is 11:50. But I'm pretty sure it has been 11:50 for half a century. 

I was updating Becks' baby book the other day, flipping through to locate all the blank pages I hadn't filled yet: but there were so few blank pages left.

The other day Blythe said, "I'm not too big. I'm just a little big." But she is so big. Half a second ago she was just a squirt, signing more and please, and if she's not that baby than surely she is the little girl squealing for Elmo. But she's not. She's almost three.

And as I watched her spin and sing and give so many facial expressions, it was one of those moments that I wanted to grab tightly. I felt so nostalgic for that very moment I was living, as if it had already passed.

I'm not one to wish the days away, but I'm also not one to always cherish them like I should. I'm ready to be done nursing. I'm ready for Becks to eat on her own. I'm ready for Blythe to be able to wipe her own "bum bum". But in my readiness for what's next, I don't often feel the day I'm in.

Today Blythe grabbed an old frame for a mirror that was broken and waiting to be taken out to the trash. She laid it on the ground and got "in it" and said it was her boat. She informed me she was floating to M-ville [our town]. I wanted to get the last load of laundry done while Becks was napping, but instead of informing her that M-ville wasn't a port city and crushing her adventurous heart, I hopped in. And we pushed off and set sail.

So often I choose the laundry. And that is why that moment today hit me in the gut: these days are almost gone, and before I know it I will be letting Blythe's child borrow the bike we gave her when she gave up her paci.

 My days are hard sometimes. This mothering thing is brutal. But it's also great and fleeting. It's good to have moments that remind me I need to get in the boat more often.

if you weren't a child of the 80s, this is a popple.

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diy : journals

I am a sucker for journals. It never fails when I clean out a tote or a closet that I find about 3 or 4 old journals filled with my ever-changing handwriting and likewise changing dreams. 

A few months ago I met with some great ladies and we started brainstorming for the women's retreat at our church. We knew the focus was going to be on prayer, and we thought it would be great if we could give all the women something to keep that could remind them of what they learned at the retreat. I was volunteered to make whatever it was we would come up. I think it was because I had to be late to the meeting. 

We tossed around bookmarks as an idea and I figured that would be simple enough to make. But then we thought it would be cool if we could give all the women some prayer journals. I thought I could figure that out. 

So I looked at a few ideas on pinterest, combined a few, borrowed my dad's paper cutter, and set to work. 

They aren't huge, but they ended up being a nice addition to the retreat, and I was able to pop in some note headers and verses our speakers would be addressing.

So if you want to make one [or fifty] of these, the instructions are fairly simply:

Cut your paper in half [hamburger style < please tell me you remember these instructions from grade school?], and and then fold your two halves in half again. I used a paper cutter to make the process move quicker, and guarantee a straight cut, but you could easily do this step with scissors. Repeat for the number of pages you want [so 10 pieces of paper would give you 20 halves which would give you 40 pages, is that math right?]

Choose some fun paper or cardstock [or even leather?] for your cover. I simply laid one of my half sheets on it and eyeballed it and cut it a little bigger.

The hardest part: hole punch. If you have one of those sweet crafting punches that can punch through a million pages at once, you're golden. However, if you're like me, this step may be a little trickier if you made a lot of pages and can't punch through them all at once. But however you do it, line your holes up and punch two holes through each page [see picture below].

Then find some fun string/twine and thread it though and tie it in the center of your journal:

Bust out your washi tape and decorate the front. Or don't. It's up to you. I tend to like my journals to have lines in them, so you could maybe try and use notebook paper for the pages if you're like me. However, sometimes it is fun to have wide open spaces… 

There ya go! It would make a fun gift or even party favor for a kid's party with little crayons or something? Have fun!

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Thank you for all your kind comments and added stories on my last post. 

I have decided stickers are the worst and best thing that have happened to me lately. Nothing can simultaneously keep Blythe more occupied, while creating a never ending scavenger hunt for me.

I have found stickers everywhere:
the walls
the door frames
the windows
the counter
the crib
the highchair
the toilet
the remote
in Becks' mouth
on Becks' back
on my socks
in my shoes
in the washing machine
in the dryer
in the car
on my pillow
no my coat

You name it, it has been stickered around here.

I now have to do a 360 in the mirror before leaving the house to make sure I don't have twelve stickers on my behind or in my hair.

I figure stickers are pretty cheap, and they come off [most] things pretty easily [and for the rest there is goo-gone]. So I let her peel and press those stickers pretty much anywhere she can reach. Most days I do a round up at the end of the day and unstick and un-peel and un-decorate our walls and windows and counters.

I kind of hate them. And I kind of love them.

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loving your neighbor

Friday I re-posted a satirical view of elementary Valentine's Days because I didn't have the mental capacity to post about the grittier, real side of love I was experiencing.

Last Tuesday my neighbor passed away. He was almost 88. But he wasn't just some neighbor-- he was some neighbor [ said like "Some Pig!" ]. And he wasn't just my neighbor since moving into this house in 2010-- he has been my neighbor my entire life.

the house on the left: Keith's, the house on the right: the home where I lived until high school

I've written before about my view from my living room,  and how every time I look out my window I am literally looking at my past onto the same street where I grew up. And a few days after April 14, 1986 when my parents brought me home from the hospital, they brought me back to this street. And they introduced me to my neighbors. All of them. Up and down the block and behind our home.

Our neighbors knew us, and we knew them. When my mom needed an extra egg for her cookies she could walk over to Yvonne's. When she needed to run an errand during nap time, she knew Kelly or Bob could pop over and hang out with me or my sister, or we could go to their house [the house where I sit and write this now]. When some kids eyed the bikes my sister and I had left in our front yard one night, Tom watched from behind his screen door to make sure the motion light would scare them away [and if it hadn't then he would have]. And when our garage caught on fire one February night fourteen years ago and the flames licked at and threatened our house, Keith grabbed his garden hose and jumped right into the action while his wife, Billie, opened their kitchen to our worried and cold bodies. When I had chicken pox Joann let me borrow E.T. and Charlotte's Web from her extensive VHS collection. Jim was happy to field worried phone calls from my mom in the middle of the night as she asked for his pharmaceutical/medical advice. Marge was always available for a great conversation on her front porch, and Janet let us have picnics under her large evergreen, its heavy branches closing around us as if we were in Narnia.

We weren't just neighbors because of proximity. We were neighbors because we chose to be.

Slowly, our street changed. People moved. Kids graduated. Some funerals were attended.

Then Brent and I had an opportunity to move back, not just to my home town, but to this very street that taught me what it meant to be a neighbor in the very truest sense of the word.

And the day we unloaded our moving truck, a 90 year old Yvonne shuffled over carrying a hot cherry pie to welcome us. And when he noticed a substantial amount of water draining into our ditch, an 80 year old Keith crept into our crawl space to see what was leaking before we got home.

Yvonne never got to meet Becks, but she held Blythe and brought us a gift at her arrival. Keith was known for doling out candy to kids, and Blythe instantly fell in love with him and his chocolate. And when we buried him on Friday, a lump caught in my throat as I thought of the stuffed red monkey and chocolate hearts he brought Blythe last year for Valentine's day. And I couldn't stop my tears as I wept over the kind and gentle man who had been a neighbor to me my entire life.

Last year on Keith's birthday [three days before Blythe's!]. We brought him a birthday card and he gave Blythe her butterfinger, as always

The funeral home is just two doors down from the house where I grew up, and right next door to Keith's.  How appropriate, that to bid him farewell we just slipped on our coats and walked right up the street as if we were paying him another visit.

I think Keith passing away caught me off guard a bit. I didn't think I would grieve that much over a man who wasn't family; a man who I could go weeks without talking to but saw almost every day driving by or in his yard. He was a kind, generous, humble man who knew Jesus. But I think the grief was thicker because it seems he is one of the last of the people who know how to neighbor well.  How to do the behind the scenes things. How to be a good Samaritan. How to look after the least of these.

Do you ever get the sense that you are just existing in your neighborhood? It is where you land in the evening, where you sleep, where you rest up so you can go live somewhere else? Keith and the rest of my childhood neighbors [and my parents] taught me that this place, this street full of homes and people, this is where I am called to really love. To be a good neighbor in ways beyond just making sure no one steals their mail when they are gone on vacation. To celebrate with each other. To grieve with each other. To put out fires and welcome babies. This is what it means to be a neighbor. This is what it means to love.

Brent and I have a long way to go, but we want to invest in the people behind the doors of these homes around us. And someday if our children move back to this street, we want them to grieve when one of their neighbors passes away because they knew him; because they loved him.

Jesus said, "Love your neighbor as yourself." I think we do a good job of going out into "the world" and trying to find neighbors to love. When Jesus said this we think He meant just our figurative neighbors. But when the lights turned off in the house across the street last week, I knew He meant our literal ones.

Keith knew four generations of my family, not because he lived next door, but because he chose to be a neighbor. 

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