Friday, March 20, 2015

photography - winter pictures

Sometimes, I can let one critical comment or tough moment overshadow the one million good things about my day. I hate when I do that. Oh, to have the will power to not let words get me down. But, I don't always have that kind of strength. Sometimes positive thinking just ain't' enough and my heart gets buried underneath life's stress. It stinks. Somebody throw me a life line because these feelings of defeat need to set sail.  Like, hours ago.

Thank goodness for photography. Who knew I would love photography so much? Who knew that photography could help conquer discouraging moments and reduce stress? God knew. Just like He knows what moves all of us. He knows what to use in this life here on earth to speak directly to our hearts.  

For me, God knows that looking at my photography and especially playing with my pictures on Photoshop moves me. Playing with light, composition, exposure, and color is therapeutic. As I sort through my pictures - the good ones and even the bad ones - I see Jesus in my life. I see love, hope, joy, family, smiles, laughter, beauty and kindness. God so clearly points out my everyday blessings that I cannot deny His daily presence. The negative thoughts don't always completely go away, but they fade. In the quietness of working on my photography, God gently helps me gain perspective. I feel more gratitude. I love when God uses the ordinary to guide our hearts back home to Him.

I finally have had a chance to play with some of my winter photos. I was pretty proud of myself for figuring out how to add snow to a few on my pictures in Photoshop using  this fabulous tutorial. 

Look at all those beautiful people who my husband and I get to call our children. See ya life's stresses. You can keep coming back for me, but you will never overshadow these blessings. God always wins.

What about you?  What is your stress reliever?


Monday, March 9, 2015

You are Inspirational - My Guest Post on Moms Magazine

I love reading a good blog post, a good book, hearing an inspirational speech or watching an inspiring movie.

But most often those moments pass and I forget what I learned or what moved my heart.
Inspiration that sticks with me is what – or who – I see daily.

Like, my mom friend who meets me each week at the pool. We sit with our feet dangling in the water, admiring how much our kids have improved at swimming. We chat and laugh and declare each other the funniest people ever. Because we are.

Or the mom I sit with as we watch our sons play football. When my son gets hit in the face with a football and is weepy the rest of practice, she empathizes with me as I debate if I should pull him off the field or let him tough it out.

The mom who shares her real thoughts with me. Things that are hard about life... read the rest, it would be my honor if you would check out my post over on Moms Magazine.

Friday, March 6, 2015

Porch Remodel

About 4 1/2 years ago, we redid our porch. I wish I had some before pictures, but I wasn't a blogger then and we just didn't take any. The before was sad. The biggest issue was that the porch had settled on one side, so it was crooked. 

Here is what we did to make this place one of our favorite spaces to hang out:

1.  Raised the sagging side of the porch with a carjack and added supports to make it even.
2.  Reframed the porch and tightened the screens. 
3. Tore off the old roof and put a new one on.
4.  New outdoor carpet.  (To keep the mosquitoes from coming in underneath.)
5.  Paint.  (This is my favorite story. The weekend before we were going to have our youngest son, we weren't quite done with the porch. We still needed to paint and lay the carpet. So, my husband's family came in full force and helped us paint inside and outside of this porch. Painting that ceiling was tedious and it was so hot out. God bless them. I remember being 6 days away from having my baby and wiping down all the wood so it was clean and ready for them to paint. Oh my goodness.  What we do to get things done. But, it was wonderful to sit on that beautiful porch and rock my baby and watch my older two boys play. Such small joys create such defining memories.)

Here is what we did for furniture:
1.  Table - bought off of Craig's list for $40. I put about 10 coats of black paint on it.
2.  The rocker was my husband's grandmas. I painted that as well. (Then rocked her great-grandbaby in her chair. Sniff. Love that.)
2.  The bench is from Target.
3.  The rug we already had. (Target)
4.  I recovered old pillows with new material.
5.  The wicker chairs are from a garage sale. We already had the other two chairs.
6.  The side tables, I got for free from a neighbor who put them at the end of his driveway for anyone to take. A lucky find for me. I painted the bottom part white and sanded and stained the tops. 

Here are some pictures:
Linked to: Remodelaholic

Friday, February 27, 2015

8 Reasons Why Alone Time for YOU is Good FOR YOUR KIDS

The other day I did it again.

I took time for myself.


When I rejoined the family, my husband asked me if I enjoyed my alone time.
Me: Yes. (Pause.) But now I feel guilty.
Husband: Why?
Me: I don't know. It just seems like there's so much else I really should be doing. Alone time seems like a waste of my time...and kind of selfish.
Husband: (With more passion than I would have anticipated.) So, you really think you should never take time for yourself? No. Everyone needs time to refuel. You should take time for yourself. It's good for our kids to see you take care of yourself.

Hmm. “Good for our kids.” I didn't think of it like that. Taking time for myself is a mental battlefield. I suspect it is for many moms. We know we need it. We know it's good for us. But life is demanding - so it is sometimes hard to give ourselves permission to take time away. Or when we do sneak away to refuel, we might feel guilty, which makes it hard to fully enjoy our break.

But my husband is right: rejuvenating time for mothers (and fathers) is good – no, even great – for our kids. Here are eight reasons why:

1. Your kids learn to also take care of themselves. What if your children grew up and never took time to do something they love like hiking, photography, gardening, or reading? If my kids never saw me take time to refuel and rest, often through pursuing my hobbies and passions, would they grow up thinking they always have be working, serving and doing?

2. Your kids learn coping strategies. It doesn't matter how old you are, at some point everyone needs a time out. One of the best coping strategies we can teach our kids is to step out of a situation, breathe deep, refuel (often through doing something they enjoy), and gain a healthy perspective before they jump back into life. Let's show our kids through our actions that a time out for adults is okay, too.

3. Your kids learn ways to unselfishly love their future spouses. One of the biggest ways my husband loves me is by declaring it a "boys only" evening and giving me a little time off. My boys love their special time with dad and are always excited to see me when I return. My kids watch my husband consider my needs and treat me with kindness. He is teaching our children to someday do the same thing for their future spouses.

4. Your kids learn that community is important. In order to have alone time, we sometimes need someone's help: grandparents, an aunt, a spouse, a friend or a babysitter. When we build a community of friends and family who are willing to support each other, sometimes by taking each other's kids, we teach our children that we all need each other.

5. Your kids learn to ask for help. There are moments in life that can be stressful and maybe even dangerous if we do not ask for help. Our kids should grow up seeing us ask for help, so when they need to, they will also have the confidence to reach out for support.

6. Your kids learn to be brave and dream. Sometimes, what we pursue in our alone time teaches our kids courage. For example, my favorite way to refuel is through writing and photography. It takes courage for me to let others read what I write or to look at my pictures. My kids see me being brave as I pursue my dreams. Teach your kids to be brave and dream big. They will learn if mom could do it, so can they.

7. Your kids learn a little bit about who you are. What we choose to do in the limited time we get to ourselves often lets our children peer into our hearts and see a different side of us. They learn a little more about what interests us and what we enjoy doing. (And maybe, if we’re lucky, one of our interests might someday also interest them. At some point, it could be a place for us to connect.)

8. It gives you more quality time with your kids. What? How is this so? If I haven't had time alone, then during the time I spend with my kids I will sometimes be thinking of other stuff I want to do or should be doing. When I schedule my time a little better and include space for my kids and space for me, I can better focus fully on my kids when I am with them.

Mama who is reading this, are you like me? Do you need convincing to value your own needs? Know that your family works best when you are healthy. Spending time doing things you love is good for your soul. What is good for your soul is good for the whole family. I hope this helps. And I hope the next time you get a chance for some alone time you enjoy it, 100% guilt-free.

Just in case you are wondering what my kiddos are doing in this photo, the one on the left is Iron Man and the one on the right is Spiderman. Now, can you see it? :) They were so little. The years go by too fast! (Thank you to our friend Jessi who took this photo for us.  We love it!)
Grateful to be linked to Christian Mommy Blogger and these blogs.

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Photography - Valentine's Day

Some day another woman will hold these boys heart, but today...
 I get to be their valentine.
You boys remind me how very blessed I am. You each are a miracle and a gift. When I look at you I remember how big God is. Without even knowing it, you help me look up. You remind me that God intentionally creates each human being with such beauty and uniqueness. My heart knows that God can do big things in and through your lives. God can use your gifts and talents to point others to Him. It gives me confidence that God can also use me. You and your dad surround me with your love and through it I feel God's love. You help me better understand "how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ." (Ephesians 3: 18). I cherish you and am grateful for you.
I hope everyone has a beautiful day filled with love.  Happy Valentines Day. 
And speaking of love.  I felt BIG LOVE through Skipping Sideways Blog. Tia featured my blog post on "What to when life gets frustrating..."  I hope you get a chance to take a look at my featured post here.  Thank you, Tia!

Grateful to link to these blogs and Christian Mommy Blogger.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Two amazing things about my day:

1. One of my best friends and her family are here visiting us. To sit and talk to someone I have known for so long and who knows me so well...just lovely. Her and her husband have three boys who match up exactly in age with our boys - it is so cool. Good friends who are willing to pack up their whole family and drive to come see us. Priceless. 

2. The amazing Remodelaholic Blog just featured our DIY bathroom remodel in their 12 Inspiring White Projects blog post.  My husband worked so hard on this project, I was beyond excited to say to him: "You know that blog that I love and look at all the time. They featured your bathroom.  YOUR BATHROOM!" He debated about the built in shelf he made, so it was fun to see that highlighted in the post. 
Thank you, Remodelaholic!

I am going to bed tonight with a happy heart. God is good. All the time.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Beautiful Everyday Life

Here was my day.
I got ready for work, then found out my oldest had a fever and sore throat. It was already late, so I quickly requested a sub online to give the school as much notice as possible. I then took all three boys to the high school to get my lesson plans together. This took way longer than I planned, so I was late dropping my middle son off at his school. My youngest was now complaining... that his throat hurt too, so we all went to the Minute Clinic for strep throat tests. During the appointment, I realized I left my wallet at home, so only my oldest son (who was already in the system) could get a strep test. I drove home to get my youngest son's insurance card and couldn't find it. I realized my husband had it at work. I called my husband and he texted me a picture of the card. Hoping that was good enough, I drove back to the Minute Clinic and waited in line again for my youngest to be seen. While waiting for our turn, I picked up my oldest son's prescription (he tested positive for strep) and bought my kids Gatorade to drink. When it was finally my youngest son's turn, the doctor took one look at my son downing his Gatorade and told us the test would not work if he just drank any liquids. (Who knew?) So we had to wait another 15-20 minutes. He tested negative - thank goodness. 
Finally, we drove home. In the car, I took deep breaths and told myself just because my day WAS crazy, didn't mean I had to let myself FEEL like it was crazy. It worked. My heart relaxed and the rest of the day I enjoyed lots of snuggles and hang out time with my littles.
Life is crazy, but life IS GOOD