Thursday, June 18, 2015

photography & me

I have come to an important decision.

Ok. It's not really THAT  important.

But I'm relieved to have finally found a personal spot of peace and rest on the subject of photography as it relates to me.

For years I've really enjoyed photography.

I was beyond delighted when my husband gifted me with a Canon Rebel XTi on my 27th (ish) birthday.

It has been a joy learning how to use my camera through lots of experimentation for the last 7 years.

It has been an even greater joy to capture moments and milestones in the lives of my own children, as well as many others.

At one point I thought I may pursue the path of becoming a photographer. (back when I had more time to dream and had an elevated opinion of my own skill level)

Then entered the digital age which totally amazed us all and still continues to amaze me.

And then the world became absolutely FLOODED with amateur photographers, just like myself.

Slowly but surely I find myself more than happy to pass off potential clients to other capable  budding photographers.

I don't have the time or money or passion right now to grow as a photographer.

I hate stagnation. I am a self diagnosed stagnated photographer.

I also am NOT a business woman.  Dabbling in photography only confirmed that fact in my mind more clearly than ever.

When money starts interfering with something I love, then I just feel like hanging it all.

So.

Back to my great and important decision.

I am no longer a photographer. (not that I ever really was....)

At least, I am not advertising myself as such in any way.

I still love working behind the lens.

I plan to keep taking pictures of my children.

And I have energy to continue to give to my community through the experience and talent that I have gained in the last 7 years.

I have vision for a community that actively serves one another in greater ways with the talents and gifts we've been given.

This means that I would be DELIGHTED to shoot pictures for the dear folks who live in my community-- whether that be people from my church, family or neighborhood.

It would be a great pleasure for me to share what I have to offer as a gift to my community.

I really and truly mean that.

Don't be scared to inquire about my time. I am THRILLED to share it with you as my other responsibilities allow me.

I don't think I'll ever tire of taking pictures of  sweet babies. Especially ones that live next door. :)







Or ones that I get to see every Sunday at church. Photo shoots are a great time to get to know both mommy and baby better. I'm glad when this kind of opportunity arise for me to interact with families in my community.




A charming little face like this is an amazing mood booster. I promise.




 I haven't figured out exactly how I will handle each and every situation.

Like I said, I am not advertising my services.

I am offering my service to my community. In the same breath, I acknowledge that I do have limited time, energy and skill to offer.

If I get inquiries from random people who I do not consider to be in my close community, I will consider them and possibly agree if my schedule permits me to do a photo shoot for a small fee.

I am happy and relieved to have come to this decision.

The end.

Friday, May 22, 2015

summer strategies

Any good parenting strategies that I have learned over the years are a direct display of God's grace coming to me though other people.

There have been numerous people who have deeply impacted the way I think about parenting and do parenting. In fact, too many for me to mention here today.

However, I would like to zoom in on the one who has walked most closely with me through the parenting saga in the past 12 years.

Meet Amos. (far right)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                


 
sorry about hind shot. Amos prefers to keep his online presence minimal :)


Mr. Administrator.
 
He loves to create systems.
 
He loves to work quirks out of faulty systems.
 
Believe me, he has had plenty of practice at working the flaws out of my hastily created chore charts and summer schedules.
 
Mr. Former School Teacher.
 
Mass (wild) crowd control is seemingly simple for him.
 
He's really good at what he loves to do.
 
In fact, so good that I remain 100% quiet when I  hear ladies saying things about their husbands like "Well, I would like to see him try to keep the house running smoothly and the children fed for a week......(blah, blah, blah)"
 
The issue is that I'm scared to let him even try it because I would likely come back to a household that was running more smoothly than ever.
 
So, while I'm not willing to turn it all over to him, I am slowly learning that he has some very valuable lessons for me.
 
I will admit that I've been a very slow learner.
 
I rather like my own way of doing things which is more of a  "fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants-work-impulsively-in-spurts-as-the-mood-hits-party-hearty-as-often-as-possible".
 
My way actually works fine for me, myself and I.
 
But. It doesn't work so well when you're trying to keep a family of seven on task and in some fashion of order.
 
So.
 
The 3 most significant things I am learning from my husband and trying hard to make part of our summer are:
 
1. Work with the kids.  Yes. They can put a tremendous amount of work though in one day, but I must stay engaged with them throughout the process.
 
 I cannot say "Go clean the basement" and expect them to do a thorough job while I am upstairs sewing. Just doesn't work. 
 
I've been amazed already this summer at how my presence and a few instructions and encouragement along the way really does help keep them on task and keeps the bickering to a minimum.
 
 
2. Make lists 
 
 I easily get overwhelmed by own mental list of things to do, why would it be any different for my kids?
 
I have a master list of projects that I want to work on this summer as well as daily routines. Every morning I make a chore list for each child. They have some flexibility with how and when they complete their chores.
 
Some of the chores are super small and can easily be completed in 5 minutes or less.
 
Some chores are larger so I  split them up into chunks. Like: "mow the front lawn before lunch. mow back yard after quiet time"
 
I like to cross things off lists and feel like I really got something accomplished. Guess what? My kids do too!
 
 
 
3. Reward them for a job well done.  (ahhhh. this is the part that I like)
 
A job well done is a job completed without constant nagging from mom or fighting with your siblings about who is doing the most or the least or whatever.
 
The reward doesn't always have to be monetary or something big. It can be as simple as a trip to the library which I already had in the plans for the day. (shhhh....don't tell them)
 
I like to give them rewards throughout the day to keep them going.
 
Again, don't think too big.
-  a Popsicle for mowing a section of the yard
- 10 minutes playing a computer game
- 1/2 hour in the pool
- a ball game (w/dad :) )
 and such like.
 
 
I know that these ideas are pretty basic, but it is truly a stretch for me to stay committed and consistent to even very basic concepts.
 
So instead of trying to take on every area that I think I need to work on, these are the 3 that are on the front burner this summer.
 
Maybe once I get them under my belt, I will be able to move on to higher heights.
 
Onward then to "Work hard, Play Hard Summer 2015"



Tuesday, May 19, 2015

first day of summer vacation

Some days are just a little dramatic.

Especially when summer break jumps upon you like a wild hyena and your only response is to scream like a calm woman being chased by a wild mouse.

So. Actually our first day of summer vacation went well, especially considering the fact that there were no plans in place besides a few random words scrawled on a piece of notebook paper.

My mantra for the summer is "Work Hard, Play Hard!"  It's going to take a lot of defining to help my children understand what all this may look like in the coming weeks.

Here's how the first day of summer vacation 2015 shook out at our house:

- two mile walk for mom to pull together a few plans for the day and to get some much needed  exercise.

-5 huge loads of laundry processed

-basement cleaned

-visit to the library. 35 books scanned {quickly} and approved by mom.

-back lawn mowed

-leaves cleaned out of hedge

-swimming pool set up and filled with water (small inflatable one)

There's nothing quite like the first jump in the pool of the season. 


-met new neighbors while 4 kids were splashing and shrieking in the pool.

-encounter with mouse followed by a raging battle {insert massive amounts of screaming and hollering and thumping and banging}

terrified mother hangs close to her brave son

-the battle was unsuccessful for the humans. The mouse was thought to be trapped in the parents bedroom.

-mother refuses to sleep in bedroom until the matter is settled once and for all

-total furniture rearrangement in master bedroom in a desperate search for the mouse. This was no small feat in which the man of the house was heavily involved.

-The mouse was not captured, but the master bedroom got a face lift and a better cleaning than what it has had in 2 years.


just a peek at the one corner of the room


throw pillows I made out of an old blanket

-Family trip to a local farm to buy our weekly 5 gallons of unpasteurized, creamy milk. {We LOVE it this way!!!}

- 2 mile family walk/run at Woodcock at dusk. I love walking with the family for a number of reasons, but one is that my husband insists on me getting my exercise while he takes care of the boy who falls and scrapes his knee and the bike chain that continually falls off.

-Home. Bed time snack.

-We all fell into bed happily exhausted.

-Sometimes it is wise to take back big statements made in stressful situations. I slept like a baby in my own bed even though there was a mouse on the loose.

I think we fulfilled my mantra for the first day.

And it really was more fun than I expected.


Must add:

In my first waking moments of this morning, a mouse slipped under the door of the bathroom as I was upon the great white throne. Staying calm, I exited the room quietly and turned the matter over to my brave husband who is so much better at conquering mice than Yours Truly. But to give myself just a bit of credit: Not one little scream or squeak escaped my lips.


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

of birthday cakes

Just this past week week we celebrated Nicholas' 9th birthday. 

Yeah, It's hard to believe that my son is 9 years old.

It's hard to believe that I have made 9 birthday cakes for this young man.

But. Truly. I have. 

Here is this year's creation. A hunter green robot. 
























Pretty cool, eh....except for that odd dusty hunter/camo/sage green. 

I actually like the color but I couldn't recreate it again over my dead body. 

I was trying to make grey icing. {Hee-Hee}

It didn't work. {no kidding}

This was a fun cake to put together.

I used my own homemade fondant. {Easy to make. Super fun to work with}

The coloring part was a bit trickier than regular icing. {no kidding}

It would have helped if I had black food coloring on hand.


And then we added fun candy and whatever else we could find around the house to add some character to our very square man.


















I have been thinking of doing a birthday cake post for a while, but I keep shying away from it for fear that I will appear to be a proud cocky mom who has everything put together down to the last detail of the 5 yearly birthday cakes I create.

The truth is, I am proud.

In fact, too proud to want to display my humble attempts at birthday cake decorating.

So I am sharing these cake ideas not to intimidate or pressure you into yet another overwhelming project, but to encourage you to start where you are, with what you have to create something meaningful for your child.

In other words, if I can do it, you can too!!!

I am not a cake decorator by nature.

I do not like detail work.

I do not have a steady hand.

Food detail just isn't my thing.

I'm not a perfectionist.

BUT.

I am a party animal and I love celebrating the birthdays of my darling babies.

Birthday celebrations usually include a cake, which they choose and help me make.

Here is my all time favorite 1st birthday cake for boys:

















Brownies in a dump truck. I have repeated this idea 3 times since I have 3 boys.


I am also a fan of decorating cakes by creating scenes from small things like legos, matchbox cars or animals.









The following cake was probably the most time consuming, tedious cake I ever produced!!! I had fun making it, but I have NO plans of reproducing it in the near future.

I borrowed  chess piece molds from a friend and used melted chocolate to create the playing pieces.  Dove chocolates shoved into an ice cream cake base created the chess board.

This was also probably one of the tastiest cakes I have made in the last 9 years since it included lots of chocolate on top of an ice cream cake!!! (instead of mounds of disgusting frosting on top of a dry cake)



























This next cake also was a time consuming project, but it was one of my most favorite cakes to create. Thankfully, I had a creative and very capable niece with me for the day to help juggle kids and cake prep.

can't help but mention the darling little girls on this picture!!!
















This was my first attempt at making and using fondant. I can see many imperfections, but I was happy with the over all results of my first experience. I am thinking of repeating this idea for Cassie sometime and trying to iron out a few of the wrinkles.

For this next cake I traced a tractor from a coloring book and then filled in the details with colored icing applied with a star tip. I printed a picture of him to put in the cab....that made his day!!!





















On this cake I tried to create a soccer field scene with blue sky and green grass and a goalie net. I cut a chunk out of the cake and inserted a real miniature soccer ball.























Then there was the year that I had a crabby baby and I made cupcakes. Josh has been our soccer boy. I printed out soccer toppers for the cupcakes and then arranged them in the shape of a six.




















I have done cupcakes otherwise, even when I didn't have a crabby baby


















This idea is very quick and easy even though it appears otherwise. I used this technique for both of my girl's birthdays last year. Besides stars, this is about the only thing I have been able to successfully pull off with an icing bag.


































This treasure chest cake was a huge hit with Nicholas and his party guests. This picture doesn't show the details very well, but it is a treasure chest full of rare jewels, aka candy. We did a treasure/scavenger hunt in the woods to go along with the theme of the cake.

















I obviously didn't give you a peek at nearly all the cakes I have made in the past 10 years, but what I did share is a fair representation of what has been created and enjoyed in our household.

I could tell lots of funny stories about my cakes....

Like the time I tried to create a baseball field with real baseball players and how I painted army men white because I couldn't find anything like small plastic baseball players at any local stores.

Like the time Angeline had to end up making her own birthday cake. I manipulated her into it.

Like the time I put real flowers around Angeline's ice cream cake roll and popped it back in the freezer and the flowers turned an ugly shade of brown.

Like the time I sat on the rocker and cried because my kids were trying to bake a birthday cake for me and instead they were making a huge mess in the kitchen and were fighting their heads off.

Or the time I repeated the same cake idea for Josh 2 years in a row!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
yup, a snowman cake for his 2nd birthday and another one for his 3rd birthday. 























The thing I really noticed as I was looking through these pictures was the happy faces of my children.

 I have made more decorating boo-boos than I can count.

But my kids have always been thrilled with their birthday cakes.

I have had to lay down my pride a number of times and be thrilled along side them, even though inwardly I was wishing that we could throw the cake in the trash and start over. (and why had we invited guests over for this party....!!!???!!)

Who would have thought that the Lord might used birthday cakes to grow me up in Him!!!??!

Friday, April 24, 2015

"Yeah...there's gonna be a great big change!!!"

I'm delighted to announce that we're planning for another little set of feet to join the pitty-pitty-patter symphony at our house.




Even though Country music certainly isn't my choice of genre, I find this song to fit the emotions of our household almost perfectly. There's a lot of upbeat, happy dancing going on around here over the thought of a brand new person joining us this fall.

However, there is a heavy dose of reality that comes along with baby #6. There's no pulling any wool over my eyes this time.

I am quite familiar with the pains of pregnancy.

I'm not fond of all the emotional upheaval of changing hormones.

I really like to sleep. My last child taught me an awful lot about living with a long term deficit in this area.

I know that I must face a deep and dark and very painful valley before I get to experience the joy of a precious baby.

The responsibility of caring for 6 children feels very weighty at times.

But I am familiar with the miracle of life and the deep joy that comes to me as a woman as I am permitted to participate in this miracle.

I'm both  honored and humbled to have been chosen again to be a bearer of life here on earth.

As Christopher says "Yeah, there's gonna be a great big change!!!" (direct quote from the song above)

practicing

moving from baby status to BIG Sis

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Of Florida and Suburbans

So. What in the world do the words Florida and Suburban even have in common?? I mean, truly. Have you ever used those two words in the same sentence??

Well. I have. More times that I can possibly count in the last 3 weeks. These are two of my current pet words.



 Vehicles occasionally need to be replaced. 

For some of us, this replacement doesn't happen very often.

We have been driving a trusty 1997 Dodge Caravan for the past 9 + years. This particular van has been an unusually good friend to us.  Faithful. Dependable. Steady.

There were a number of reasons that pushed us in the search for a new vehicle. One being that our family is bursting the seams of the Caravan and another being that Amos' work vehicle is hopelessly beyond repair.

Our thought was to buy a new family vehicle and keep the trusty van for Amos to use for work.

Thus the search began.

The next size van is a 12 passenger!!!!!!! (she shudders at the thought of backing one of those beasts into the driveway)


I never dreamed or even thought of owning an SUV, but my husband slowly and surely convinced me that maybe a Suburban would the perfect upgrade for our family at this particular time.

So began the search. Craig's list and Auto Trader became my bosom buddies for a while.

One fine evening I found what I thought seemed to be the perfect vehicle. It passed by husband's criteria : 9 passenger, 4 wheel drive, southern vehicle, within our price range.

I'll just skip a ton of details and say that within a week after numerous phone calls and research, we had purchased one way tickets to Florida with the hope of driving this Suburban home.

Because the tickets ended up being insanely cheap we decided to both make the trip and squeeze a tiny bit of vacation out of the ordeal.

I was over the top excited to think of a 48 hour vacation in February in FLORIDA. (*we actually spent a little less than 24 hours of our vacation in FL, the rest of was spent traveling)

Risky? yes!!!

Impulsive? maybe...

Crazy? probably...

Faith- filled? we hope!!!

Exciting? you bet!!!

The 24 hours in Florida were absolutely therapeutic for my sun starved soul and body.  I will never regret those few precious hours on the beach.

I'm pretty sure that heaven will include a good dose of this









And indeed we did come driving home in our new great white beast. Yes. It's beastly. I got broken in with the beast rather quickly since I had to drive it through a totally unfamiliar city so that we could return the rental car to the airport.  Then Amos was overcome with fatigue in the hills and curves of West Virginia. Yours truly took over the wheel. I felt certain that if I could handle the streets of Jacksonville, Florida and the mountains of West Virginia that surely I would be capable of navigating the beast in our small hometown.

I still occasionally grip the wheel and shut my eyes and hope for the best while gadding about town.

We're enjoying the extra space. We are trusting that the Lord has blessed us with another faithful vehicle.

 If you need your mobile home moved across town, let us know. The Suburban has a monster engine and a towing package.

Even though I'm not a fan of big rigs, I will have to admit that there is a feeling of power in driving one of the bigger vehicles on the road.

The kids call it our Monster Truck.

I don't think it would actually qualify as a monster truck, but I do feel like a Monster Mom when I'm driving it.


Go ahead and try butting into me you compact-energy-efficient car....you'll find out who is boss!

Signing off,
The Soccer Mom