Saturday, July 26, 2014

Behind the Camera

This summer I've had the opportunity to do several photo sessions for friends. I love every minute of it. I don't get nervous anymore and always leave feeling completely energized. I love this creative outlet. I love getting out of the house for a couple of hours and making kids giggle. I do charge for my time but I don't charge very much and I generally leave it up to the family to pay me what is a comfortable amount for them. I realize I have a whole lot to learn still, so if you're a professional, please know that I know these aren't technically perfect by any means. But I love having something to learn about and grow and develop in at this stage of my life. It's so fulfilling and satisfying when so many days with young children can feel a bit monotonous.
I love shooting this family. I don't know many other people that are as full of joy as my friend Katie. She brings me laughter and encourages me every time I'm with her. Theirs was the first "real" photo shoot I ever did a couple of years ago. I barely even knew how to work my camera in Auto mode then. Its fun to compare my progress. (I also reeeeally liked the filters in those days. ;)

They were announcing their adoption, a little boy from China, so we shot some with a globe. Of course I started crying when she told me because adoption always makes me cry these days.

 Little girls are SO much fun to take pictures of!
I did this next session for an old friend I hadn't seen in a few years. We didn't have any sunshine and the thunder was threatening but I think we got some good ones despite the cloudy weather. I loved my friend's blue dress against the green. 

This little girl cracked me up. Classic first-born; very serious and very worried about everyone's safety at all times. It was fun to try to coax a giggle from her.
This next shoot was for a friend's little boy's first birthday. One year old boys are just as challenging to shoot as you might imagine. It was pouring rain all day so we were pretty limited to the front porch. I've learned not to wear nice clothes on shoots because I had no choice but to be right down on the wet, muddy porch. There are all sorts of things about photography that I wouldn't have anticipated! Like how sore my legs are the next day from all the crouching. We shot family photos and then I stayed and photographed the party. 

The funny thing was, he never even ate any of the cake. He just played in it. Big brother came in to make sure it didn't go to waste.

This last newborn session was crazy hard but so much fun. My friend's boys are exactly like mine. In other words, sitting still for pictures isn't their idea of fun. Wrestling, punching and making fart noises, is, however, their idea of fun. Thankfully I have a whole lot of practice getting little boys to follow my instructions and to crack a smile. I really loved working with them because I just felt right at home. The newborn, however, was totally not having any of it. It took a really long time to get him to stop screaming his head off every time we laid him down. Lesson learned. Newborn shoots take a whole lot of patience. And time. (And these are completely unedited, straight out of the camera. I just need to crop a few before I give them back.)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Just keep swimming

I think this is the longest I've been away from this space. It makes me a little sad. You can blame it partly on the Braverman family who's keeping me company most nights via Netflix and partly on sheer exhaustion and mental fogginess. And I've gotten so far behind, I don't even know where to begin. It's kinda like when my house gets so messy I tend to just do nothing, which helps zero times. And by nothing I mean wander around aimlessly and occasionally throw an article of clothing from the pile on the bed to the pile on the floor and maybe toss a random Lego toward the other pile of random Legos. Focus and drive are not things that come easily to me. Take right now for instance. Am I talking about blogging? Parenting? Cleaning my house? I have no idea.
Moving right along. (As if we were actually going anywhere.) This phase of my life is called Survival. With a capital S. I hate survival mode and the guilt it induces, particularly since this survival mode has been going on for the better part of a year. When does it stop being survival mode and turn into just all around crappy parenting? Don't answer that. Or do, if you were ever in survival mode for a full year. You see, I have a lot of things working against me. An incredibly difficult season of marriage (we're working towards normalcy but it's a slow process), a husband who travels approximately a third of the time, living by a public pond with my three monkeys (ie: they can't ever go out to play alone.), a very very active and impulsive seven year old, a four year old who's recently reverted to very difficult behaviors and a two year old who cries. A LOT. But! And it's a big but. I have something far greater working for me. And that is the power of Jesus Christ. If I didn't have his grace and hope, I would surely be in a loony bin by now. Or there's a strong chance one or more of my children would not still be alive. (I kid. I think.) So I keep on plugging along, clinging to the hope that He will pull me through. And receiving so many blessings along the way from sweet friends He's recently placed in my life. I want to love like some of my friends have shown love to me.
I have several things I want to blog about-- Bennett's 7th birthday, my first solo road-trip with all three boys to my parents' in Memphis, 4th of July...but for now I'll just throw a few cute pics up here and call it a blog post. These are unedited, straight out of the camera, because it's past midnight (per usual) and I'm just going for finished, not perfection.
Bennett has always been tough to reign in due to his extremely high level of activity and lack of focus. (Wonder where he got that?) But he's always been my easiest emotionally. Up through year five, he was pretty much always happy (besides that torturous transition into being three years old). Not much could get him down. The boy exudes joy. But year six and now seven have brought lots of pouting and grouchiness and sometimes outright tantrums. Its so hard because you just want to yell at him, "Your life will never get easier than this right here. EVER. So quit pouting and enjoy every blasted minute of it!" But that probably wouldn't be very effective. So I make it a priority to end the day reading aloud to him, just him and me. It tends to redeem whatever went wrong and the day ends on a really good note. That hopefully outweighs all the other sour notes.
We were making a lot of ground with Dawson's behavior but it has severely reverted lately. Its exhausting and heartbreaking and sometimes I fee like calling my husband and asking him to quit his job so he doesn't have to travel anymore. But then somehow I make it to bedtime again and the quiet night air refreshes my spirit. 
Last night before bed he said, "How do the sun and moon go up and down and up and down and get to China?" I had him repeat his question a couple of times and then did my best to explain how the moon gets to China.  
Oh, my sweet baby Channing Jude. How does one tiny human person evoke such extreme emotions in such a short span? I go from steam coming out the ears, cursing in my brain one minute to giving you butterfly kisses over and over the next minute wherever you ask me to (I always laugh when you want one in your hair). You scream the loudest and you giggle the hardest. You are such a mystery to me still, with your extreme stubbornness, your cautious and shy nature and your tender heart. I'm hoping that the more you learn to speak, the less you'll feel the need to scream and cry. My saving grace is that, unlike your brothers at that age, you haven't learned to climb out of your crib yet. I'm keeping you in there as long as possible. But the bad news is, you're nearly ready to drop your nap since some days you don't fall asleep at all and you're having a really hard time falling asleep at night. 

I'm not sure the point of this late night ramble but to say I'm here. Surviving. Breathing deep most of the time and asking for forgiveness when I don't. The moment I take my eyes off of Jesus is the moment I feel like I'm drowning. I'll end with this quote from my Streams in the Desert devotional I keep re-reading, hoping it'll sink in fully at some point:

Friday, June 6, 2014

Tour de Texas

Bennett finished school on May 23rd (Phew! We were ready.) and of course I scheduled a roadtrip for that very day. Because I pretty much have the itch to travel all day every day. We left as soon as we possibly could. I packed up the two big boys (two-year-olds are not my favorite roadtrip companions. Sorry, Channing. He had a great time with his daddy and his Nana.) and we hit the road. I'd made some very very dear friends through Instagram who became my people at the Hope Spoken retreat and since they were a fairly easy day's drive away, I couldn't wait to go visit them again.
My first stop was at The Anderson Crew's house in Dallas, TX. She and I connected briefly at Hope Spoken but hadn't gotten to know each other all that well. But she was so gracious in opening up her home to us on our way further South into Texas. Emily's home was even more beautiful in person than in photos. I was constantly staring at her walls. It was wonderful getting to know her better in person since I've been following her family's journey for about four years. And the funny thing was, her kids were all exactly how I imagined they'd be. Just goes to show what a great writer she is. I fell in love with each and every one, but particularly those sweet girls. Gah. I loved loving on those girls for the half day we were together. There were lots of Olive snuggles ("I wanna hold you!", she'd say over and over) and lots of hair braiding all around.
After breakfast they took us into town. We had a great time and miraculously, it went fine, walking around with all eight kids. We happened upon an old Magic shop complete with red velvet curtains and live rabbits at the entrance and got a mini magic show up in some creepy attic. It was weird and awesome.
Bennett climbs on ALL.THE.THINGS. and had Caedmon following suit by the end of the afternoon.

 And this was just for the Anderson kids...
 Olive's squishy face just kills me:
My Dawson doesn't have the posing stamina that those Anderson kids have:
This is one awesome family. Emily has that house running like a well-oiled machine. I took a few notes while I was there. Can't wait until I can hang out with my twin-sized friend and her crew again. I fell in love with those kiddos. 

We left around 2:30 and headed to my dear friend, Chrystal's in Austin, four hours away. We got there around dinnertime and she had the guacamole and margaritas ready for me. The next morning started out with an unforgettable breakfast of waffles and all the fixins. They were truly the best waffles I'd ever had and gluten free, no less. (And yes, those are strawberries on the mason jar glasses! She claimed it wasn't fancy but I ignored her.)
We went to a nature center for the day (I totally forget what it was called but can find out if anyone wants the info) and it was such an incredible day. It was one of those hot summer days that you just want to last for days. These trees were straight out of my dreams. We spent a long time swinging and climbing in the shade. Bennett fell in the only patch of mud for miles because that's what he does. It was so relaxing and rejuvenating.  

This whole place was just stunning. All these flowers and open spaces and sunshine....the best. 
And excuse me while I die over their cuteness. I can't even handle this picture. I can't believe any of this boy still remained after I left, I just wanted to eat him up.
I'm so glad Chrystal snapped this photo at the end of the second evening we had together. I was reading to Bennett and her big boys just climbed right in there and curled up next to us, crunching carrots in my ear. It was one of my favorite moments of the two days. I guess I don't have all that much experience with older elementary aged boys but I would imagine not all of them are this much fun to be around. I knew I'd have fun with all of my friends on this trip but I did not anticipate having so much fun with all the kids! They were incredible boys. Polite, funny and totally social. Chrystal has such a gift for hospitality and I just love her to death. Her love for others is incredible. It comes so effortlessly for her. I don't even think she knows how well she loves. I soaked up her gentle spirit and listened to the way she spoke life into her boys. I've stolen a couple of her parenting lines already ;) 
We left after breakfast on Monday and drove an hour and a half East to my dear friend, Lynsey's. She and her husband own Yonder Way Farm. This isn't a great picture but its the only one we took together so we'll go with it. 
It ended up raining almost all day. I think it stopped somewhere around 4:00. So for most of the day, the kiddos were holed up, snuggled together watching a movie. I don't know anyplace cozier than the front porch of a farmhouse in the rain.
When the rain finally let up, we all grabbed a pair of boots and headed out into the mud. We got to watch Lynsey and Jason catch several escaped pigs. That was no easy task. It was like trying to catch 400lb stubborn two year olds. It took them a couple of hours to get them all back in. And Lynsey was still laughing when it was all over. 
Their third daughter, Ruthie, staked her claim on Bennett and they tromped all over the farm hand in hand. It was the cutest thing in the whole world. (Ahem, arranged marriage.)

Dawson figured out if he lifted his boot all the piglets would come over for a sniff. 
Exie didn't let go of that tiny umbrella all day long. Some serious dedication right there. And she was quite distressed when she slipped and got mud on her dress. These are the sweetest little ladies who just happen to be tough farm chicks too. 

The most amazing flower I've ever seen, growing on a vine right through the pig pasture:
Finally the sun came out before dinnertime and it was glorious.
I have an unhealthy obsession with this next picture. I hope it's in their wedding slideshow. 
In between these two pictures were two meals that I won't soon forget. Lyns made carnitas for dinner (which happen to be my very favorite) along with some killer mojitos (also my very favorite). I don't know why I didn't take any pictures at dinner when we were sitting outside under the trees with the golden sun setting. I suppose I was too busy stuffing my face. And you know I could talk for days about the bacon we had for breakfast the next morning. Oh my word, I might have just teared up thinking about it.
I wish we'd had at least three more days there. But these short visits were also great because I knew we weren't a burden on anybody. And they left us all wanting more, which is a good thing. These four chicks and their mama left such a huge impact on my heart. I loved each one of them. Kalyn's grace, Lainey Rae's strength, Ruthie's connection to others and Exie Jo's joy. You better believe I'm gonna keep getting my boys together with her girls over the years. Lynsey and Jason are absolutely incredible parents and it was such a blessing to be in their home. I was just filled up to the brim after a day with them.
From Lynsey's house, we drove eight hours north to Ashley's in Oklahoma. We stopped for a potty break at 9:30 and then I had to fill a tire around 10 (but the boys didn't get out) and we didn't stop again until 4:30!!! I just kept on driving expecting to hear a plead for the potty but it never came! It was awesome. They just helped themselves to snacks all day long. I was so proud of my road warriors. (And this time I was prepared with cash for the Oklahoma tolls. On the way down I didn't have any and the lady very unhappily let me through without paying! Yikes.)
We got to Ashley and Chris's for dinner. The boys disappeared up into Lego land and we didn't see them for a couple hours. I had such a great evening getting to know Ashley better, along with her sister Lesley who came over. I had connected very briefly with Ashley at Hope Spoken but spent a decent amount of time talking to Lesley. They are such incredibly talented women, with such a huge heart for the Lord. Our time was brief but rich. And boy, does she do hospitality well. She had so many sweet touches to make me feel welcome. Its a perfect halfway spot down to the farm so I'm sure we'll pass through again. 

Ashley had to leave very early in the morning to be with a friend in the hospital but the kiddos played Legos together again out in her studio. I was pinching myself, waking up in that dreamy space. Ashley has always seemed a bit larger than life through her blog, but I can assure you, she was perfectly human and her kids' rooms were perfectly messy ;) 
Man, throw in some Legos and my boys are good. Her oldest did a great job defusing any arguments between the littles.

It was such an incredible experience staying in these four different homes and getting to know my friends on such a deeper level as they interacted with their families. And one big thing I took away from the week was, despite the fact that all four of them are seriously talented women with huge hearts for people and for the Kingdom, none of them were perfect. Not one of them was a superwoman who did everything. Each of them had their areas of focus and let other things slide. We tend to champion a couple of key areas in our household but tend to feel guilty about the things we're not good at. At least I know I do. It just gave me a little more permission to keep fighting for my areas of passion and to not get so hung up about everything else. Another thing I came away with? Man, I love roadtrips. I could just live like that- a total gypsy. Although I think the boys were done with all the transitioning and ready to be back home. I was beyond exhausted on the way home and heard angels singing when I finally saw a sign for Caribou coffee. But it was so worth it. We even stopped at my good friend Lindsey's (another IG-turned-real-life-friend) in Kansas City to let the boys jump in her neighborhood pool. It was a perfect pitstop. She and I gel so well with our spontaneous spirits and wild boys. Phew! It was a whirlwind but I loved every minute of it.