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Thursday, April 11, 2019

Schroeder is TEN.

In the car the other day, Stephen and I listened to a podcast about the enneagram.  Maggie asked me what number she was.  I told her I wasn't sure.  We are still getting to know each of you.  You are still getting to know yourselves.  The enneagram has given me a new way of observing my kids, though.  For example, certain numbers have more energy than others.  Schroeder has energy.  He's up for a walk or a bike ride.  He's gets excited about a fun project or Littlest Pet Shop role playing game with his two younger sisters.  He wants to help cook dinner.  He's eager to join soccer and volleyball.

Schroeder is in fourth grade.  His teacher was Julian's fourth grade teacher, too.  At the beginning of the year, we went to a parent teacher conference ready to tell her all the ways these two boys are NOT the same.  She already knew.  She knew that he always needs a task or job.  She knew that he sometimes needs help staying focused.  She knew that he was curious and eager and impulsive.  She knew he was kind and funny.  It's always, always a gift to have another adult see your child for who they are...the beauty, potential, and problems.

Schroe has worked hard on making good choices at school this year.  On Valentine's Day, he was eager to start his party and became frustrated with a kid who was goofing off.  He made an offhanded threatening comment to the kid and got himself suspended for the day.  Every comment is taken seriously in today's culture.  I came home and wrote this.

"Schroeder threatened a kid today.  He uses inflammatory speech to gain power.  I want to help him gain power in other ways.  He has power when he believes in himself.  He gains power when he can sit with the truth that he isn't good at everything.  He gains power when he can speak what he means without inflating it.
He was so beautiful to me today.  He was humbled and remorseful.  He was eager to help around the house and thanked me for dinner."

He asked for a nerf gun for his birthday.  We told him no after the Valentine's Day incident.  If you can't respect the power of violence in how you communicate, we are going to limit fake guns.  I caught myself saying, "If you get through the rest of the year without any other calls home, maybe we can get you a new, big nerf gun."  Stephen looked at me like I was crazy.  Yeah, never mind.  Bad idea.

Schroeder has a friend who was recently diagnosed with diabetes.  It's such a scary diagnosis.  He has to go down to the nurse to check his blood sugar around lunchtime.  Sometimes Schroeder goes with him.  He can now tell you what levels are normal or elevated.  I can see his tender heart as he talks about his friend.  

He's also so sweet when he plays with the toddlers at church.  

A friend guessed that Schroeder was my favorite kid.  Ha!  My relationship with each of my kids is different.  They are different people.  There is an Avett Brothers lyric that says, "I wonder which brother is better, Which one our parents love the most?"  and the response to the question is "He said I love you, And I'm proud of you both, in so many different ways".  This is truth.  I'm going to make a print of it and put it in the kids' bathroom.  

I love Schroeder for his energy, his curiosity, his hugs, his dimple, his freckles.   I love that his favorite color is purple.  I'm proud of him for his determination.  I connect with him because we're both middle kids.  Plus, it looks like I gave him all my height genes.  I'm just now coming to terms with how my height has affected my life in a million subtle ways so I'm aware of the subtle ways it might affect him.  That impulsiveness was all from me, too.  You're welcome, kid. 

Happy first decade, my beautiful boy.  



Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Baby Noel is here.

She came a few days early, and labor was REAL quick.  My kids says she is named after me because my maiden name was Melissa Ann Clark and her name is Noel Ann Clark.  Sure, why not?!


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Birthday posts from the flip side.

D'arcy is fourteen.  She's basically raised.  She gets herself up and out the door.  She makes her own money.  She eats all the vegetables.

She has her own calendar.  She's going to Model UN next weekend, a forum on school community over spring break, camping with her freshman class in May.  Four of her seven weeks of summer are already full of service and adventure.  She came home the other day and asked if she could go to Mexico with her youth group this summer.  How about you schedule a couple weeks to breath, girl?

One of the reasons we sent her to Shortridge High was it seemed academically focused without constantly referencing college.  We wanted her to be present and learn just because she loves to learn.  But D'arcy is planning her future. She asked me a month ago, "What do you think the requirements are to get into Notre Dame?"  She is in it to win it.  Which is fine until you feel that anxiety creep up, and you have to release some of the pressure of expectation just to be healthy.

She's finding joy in musicals these days.  First Hamilton, then Dear Evan Hanson, and Mama Mia.  She asked me over Christmas break to put on the soundtrack of Funny Girl.  
Here is our funny girl.




Maggie Lu is eight.  She is tumbling her way through her year; one handed and two handed cartwheels, round-offs, hand stands, and front walk overs.

Her bed is made even when she's sleeping in it.  Her clothes are always neatly rolled in her drawers.  She lays out her clothes for the next day, and is highly committed to being fashionable.  She comes to me asking, "What can I organize next, mom?"  or "Can I help you cook?".

We are trying to read every day together.  Reading has not come free to her.  Every word is worked for and earned.  I've only made her cry three times due to my horrible lack of patience.  But she gave me a card the other day thanking me for my help which made me cry.  Does that make us even?

She is articulate and deeply insightful, though.  Well, at least when her thoughts catch up to her mouth.  She is like me in that she often speaks before her thought is fully formed. 

She has a dear friend in her little sister.  They are partners in play, dance, and YouTube watching. But Maggie can't handle Penelope's inefficiency in picking up their room.





Julian is twelve.  He's taller than me, and any minute he'll be taller than D'arcy.  I just bought him a size up in pants, and already I can see his ankles.  Our friends are noticing his voice getting deeper.

Any non-scheduled moments at home are spent playing Fortnight or watching YouTube videos.  He and his friends can play together, each of them from the comfort of their own homes.  He has a head set that he talks to them through.  When I yell at him to clean his room, empty the dishwasher, or take out the trash, I'm sure that Leo and Nigel can hear me.

He joined the robotics team this year.  His group was excited because he "knows how to code".  He was invited to join 6th grade pre-algebra, and he's coasting through school.  There is a saying, "I can do hard things".  I'm worried Julian hasn't been able to practice that.

Girls write him love songs.  D'arcy played a song in the car and Julian says, "Wait, this is the song that girl wrote me."  He thought it was original, but discovered it was plagiarized.  He comes home often with tales of sixth grade romantic drama.   I get the scoop on who likes who.  He has consistently liked one girl, though.  He hates it when people ask if he's dating her.  "No, they are just friends."

On Sunday, Julian was sitting on the couch wearing a sweatshirt and shorts.  I told him to go put some pants on for church.  "I can't. This was the only thing in my drawer."  This is my biggest issue with Julian the twelve year old.  He seems to think his clothes just disappear if they aren't in his drawer or on his body.  I have to remind him that after he wears them, they go to the dirty clothes,  to the washer, to the drying line in my bathroom, and then into a clean pile.  Has he looked in any of those places for a pair of pants?  No.

He's a funny kid.  Always eager and willing to laugh, talk, and listen.  He's a real person now...not a half little kid person.

Something challenging happened to eleven year old Julian.  A trusted adult was accused of sexual misconduct.  Julian was asked to speak to the police about anything he knew.  Since Julian was involved in the case, a no contact order was put in place which interrupted Julian's close relationship with the man's son.  We had to have hard conversations and I believe the situation robbed him of some innocence.  I guess I should take my previous comment back.  He has had to handle some tough situations.










Thursday, May 31, 2018

Schroeder and Penelope are a year older.

Schroeder turned nine in March. 

The boy loves a good video game.  He and his brother sold all their Nintendo Wii and Wii U items and earned just enough money to buy a Nintendo Switch last spring.  Six weeks later, Schroeder dropped it in the toilet.  Nintendo magically fixed it for us without question, but it was traumatic enough to inspire the creation of a whole picture book at school. 

He loves a good book, both fiction and non fiction.  He kept bringing home a guide to Indiana birds from the library so I bought him a copy for Christmas.  He played soccer this spring and seems competitive and strategic.  He has been learning some coding, and is a half-hearted boy scout.

He's the creamy center of the oreo...right in the middle. He can hang in a game of Risk with the older two kids, or spend hours in imaginative play with his younger two siblings.  He and his little sisters still wake up on certain days and share what I will call "excited talk".  They are so full of anticipation for whatever is going to happen that day that they skip being groggy and go straight into the pleasant, upbeat chatter.  D'arcy and Julian have almost outgrown this stage.  They're able to anticipate exciting days with a coolness and nonchalance.  But Schroeder hasn't outgrown it quite yet and hearing him be swept up in the joy of life is so so sweet.

This has been a challenging winter at school for Schroe.  His teacher casually dropped the term ADHD at the beginning of the year.  I've done some leg work to see if this describes him and what we might do about it.  Here's something I've learned.  There is no definitive way to diagnose ADHD.  You can't take a scan of his brain and find the problem.  ADHD is diagnosed by observing behaviors, and if a kid is demonstrating enough behaviors tied to ADHD, they can be labeled.  Observing behavior is subjective.  So it's important to know your kid, and to invite people who know your kid to share their observations.

Schroeder made some super impulsive, poor decisions which made me pretty angry.  You would think that would strain our relationship.  But, we've been in this season of Stephen and I really trying to study and know him, and it feels a little like when he was first born.  It feels like bonding, and that bond makes my heart so tender for him.  I think he can feel my tenderness even amid my frustration.

What is so lovely to see is that Schroeder is leaning into us during this time.  He is trusting us, and working hard. We don't have a lot of answers.  We are falling back on two thoughts.  He needs firm expectations and lots of love.  We are trying to give space for those expectations to be influenced by him.  Schroeder, what kind of person do YOU want to be?

And he is leaning in for lots of hugs.  All the hugs.



Penelope turns five today.  We celebrated quietly by awaking to presents on her bed, breakfast with dad, and a playdate with cousins.  Late May is a busy time of year.

Her preschool teacher described her as an ambivert.  There is something so encouraging when other adults spend time with your kids and begin to know them well.  This observation rang so true.  She is happy to play on her own for long stretches of time.  She is generally shy and uncomfortable around a group of people she doesn't know, but she becomes quite social when around friends.  Her nervousness about preschool at the beginning of the year dissolved and by November she proclaimed that she had "made a friend!"  By February, she had more than three friends and was telling me how much she liked going each day.

Her teachers predicted she would be a fashion designer someday because she is always serious about her clothing choices...dresses and tights and boots and the color golden.  When they asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up, she simply said, "a mom."

She likes very much to watch these shows on YouTube where little toy figures go on adventures.  They have sort of taught her a new way of play.  It seems backwards to learn how to play from watching, essentially, a homemade TV show, but unlike regular cartoons, these shows seem to make her more interested in playing. She has collected all of her My Little Ponies, LEGO girls, Little People Princesses, Daniel Tiger characters, LPS (5 year old code for Littlest Pet Shop), and LOL dolls and she sets up a world for them to play and interact in.  For her birthday, she asked for more "places" for them to adventure in.  So she got a Callico Critters lodge and treehouse.  She'll take her characters outside, collect sticks for a pretend campfire, and once asked me if she could have a match to make it a real fire. 

She loves a good bike ride around the city on her tagalong bike.  She likes to spot all the dogs out for walks.  On our last ride, she saw several people with two dogs and has suggested several times that we should get a second.

These days, I typically have to bribe her to get a picture or video of her.  These were achieved by way of a chocolate chip cookie.












Friday, January 12, 2018

D'arcy and Julian had birthdays a long time ago.

It's January.  Julian turned eleven in October.  D'arcy turned thirteen in August.  And since then, I've had it on my to do list to write their birthday blogs.  I've had sick kids this week so I've slowed down.  I'm using the extra time to follow through with some things.

 Whew!

D'arcy is THIRTEEN.



This year has been a lot about new responsibilities and independence.  She ventured to Savannah with her art club and to camp with her brother.   She is a certified babysitter now (which means newfound freedom for Stephen and I).  D'arcy has entered the world of social media on Snapchat and Instagram.  She's in eighth grade in a K-8 school so her class has, after many years, earned their spot at the top.  There have been special trips made and she's been able to lead the school wide Community Meetings.

She's taller than me with a bigger shoe size.  We are shopping for her in the women's department.  She's experimenting with makeup.  Her hair is longer than it's ever been. 

She loves Hamilton and Unicorns and, recently, The Office.  I'm so proud.  Stephen and I took her to see Hamilton in Chicago as a birthday gift.  She started playing volleyball on her school team.  She still loves to create and cook and play music.  Julian brought home a Saxophone that D'arcy immediately began to learn.  She performed songs on her ukulele at our Christmas Cantata, the school talent show, a couple of women's retreats, and at my mom's gravesite.

She loves our dog, Georgia, and campaigned to get her own hamster to no avail.  We did let her babysit one, though.  And, also, some rats.

We worked together to make a decision about a high school for next year.

She's trying on adulthood to see how it fits.  It's still a little big for her, but, surprisingly, not by much.

Okay.  Now Julian.

Julian is eleven.



He loves to read.  Lord of the Rings.  Wonder.  Eragon.  Wings of Fire.  A Wrinkle in Time.  Harry Potter.  As he was reading the last book, he made a list of everyone who died.  He's a big fan of Stranger Things and video games and YouTube.  He played loads of Zelda this year.  He is interested in coding, robotics, and computers.  Legos are still pretty great, too.

He's a great student.  His teacher pushed for him to be reevaluated for high ability status.  At home, though, he can be as challenging as any of the other kids.

He's made some new friends this year.  He asked a girl to the dance.  He started making sure his hair looked good every morning, sweeping it to the side.

He likes to camp and went to camp.  He's challenging himself to appreciate adventure and heights.

This fall, we had a challenging situation arise in our neighborhood.  There have been accusations of child abuse against a neighbor.  Julian was asked to be interviewed by police.  He was not a victim, but the situation has been quite challenging and sad.  There is so much collateral damage to relationships and to innocence.  He has handled it with grace and maturity and empathy.  I feel like I've gotten a little glimpse of a man being formed.

These tween and young teenage years have proven to be really fun.  I'm don't need them to be small again.  There becoming more interesting by the minute.  

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Marissa and Matthew are married!

This is the third wedding that I've been invited back to San Antonio to photograph.  Such a fun getaway to see old friends and celebrate such a joyous occasion.  Marissa and Matt's wedding was so lovely!