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Monday, April 30, 2012

The closest I get to scrap booking.

I've mentioned several times in my task list posts that I'm working on a first year book for Maggie Lu. It took me longer to complete than I had hoped mostly due to the fact that I thought I had all my pictures organized but then kept realizing that there were holes in my story. Then I had to go searching through my archives looking for missing shots. So if you attempt a book, my suggestion is to have your pictures truly organized before starting the process.
My first year books read like a little storybook. I keep it sweet and simple so that I can read it to my little ones before bedtime. Julian and Schroeder have taken a lot of joy in reading their stories. D'arcy unfortunately has one of those old fashioned photo albums. You know, the ones where you slip single pictures into plastic pockets. This is because she was born prior to us owning a digital camera. She is officially ancient, and I'm 23 years older than ancient. I'm hoping to one day scan her pictures in, though.
Shutterfly has way to many options for backgrounds and themes. I try to keep it simple with using only two backgrounds that repeat and the same size and type of font. You'll also notice that many of my spreads have my favorite photo featured on one side and the mirage of supporting pictures on the other. I don't overlap photos (something I've finally decided I agree with Joy on :)).
I thought I would share and maybe it will inspire.

Build your own high-quality photo books at

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Melissa + Joy : AT HOME | Bed Time

You might remember that my friend Joy and I had a series last year entitled "Saturated".  We had a color each month that we tried to capture in some form.  It was a blessing to me in many ways.  I got a chance to stay connected with my dear friend who is living so far away, and it pushed me to both be creative and take photos of something other than people.  
Joy and I wanted to do another series this year.  We had some great ideas that we will hopefully get to do in the future, BUT Joy became a mom in March.  Can I say how happy this makes me.  Just typing that makes me tear up.  SO Joy has a lot to adjust to and much to savor this year.  I wanted our photo series to help her do that instead of distract her from it.  
I've also been wanting to take pictures of my kids in our daily routines.  You know, I pick up my camera on a special occasions or amazing feats.  I don't have my camera with me when something beautiful happens in the midst of the ordinary like when Maggie holds her Tessa baby close when I put her to bed.  Well, I do have my iphone which is helping me treasure some of those moments.  So I asked Joy if maybe we could do a photo series of us documenting the most mundane of tasks as moms in an attempt to capture bits of beauty. 
This month we start with bedtime.  With every pregnancy, I've been the most nervous about the idea of having another person to put to bed.  My kids go to sleep well.  Ok, Schoreder has been a little difficult as of late but nothing crazy difficult.  BUT before they fall hard they speed up.  There is manic motion and noise and by that point of the day I'M DONE BEING A MOM.  Please notice documentation of chaos in picture three where Schroeder has toothpaste in his hair.  And yet amid the chaos there is beauty.  Note picture four where Schroeder is flying away, and picture seven where D'arcy is dancing to a tape by Tchaikovsky that she purchased from the second hand store this past weekend.  
Joy has her own beauty on display here.   

Baby Samuel has arrived.

Just a few from my session with little Samuel and his parents.  I walked into his room and started tearing up when I read the scripture that adorns his wall.  It reads "I prayed for this child and the Lord has granted me what I asked of him."  It comes from 1st Samuel, and I'm assuming his name does as well.  I can relate to this as a mother, but I'm sure it has even deeper meaning to mothers who have struggled with infertility or infant loss.  Please take note of how sweet this very wanted child is.  Check out a few more pictures here.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

I'm trying to let priorities rule my list instead of letting my list rule me.

I need to say that there is a reason why my goal is not a clean house. If that was my goal, I would never, ever sit down. Instead, I'm trying to achieve a house that runs. That means that dinner gets made at which point there are a clean dishes to put it on. That also means that there are clean clothes available to those getting dressed in the morning. My success equals a functioning house.
So here is how I did on finishing what I started.

Finish painting dining room.
Finish sewing skirts with D'arcy.
Finish sending AJ and Sarah's album for design now that I finally got access to FTP server.
Follow up with Tad (our realtor) about his recommendation of who should come look at our sagging dining room floor.
Write blog post update on my mom.
Make & send out one WGP cd a day.
Edit, edit, edit all those pictures I took over the last ten days.
Go back to working out each day with wii dance. (I did work out a few times. It wasn't a total fail)
Read 1 Samuel 25&26.
LAUNDRY & bathrooms!

Here are a few of the things planned for this week.

Read 1 Samuel 28 & 29.
Finish sewing skirts with D'arcy. (I'm concerned they are going to be too short! Crossing my fingers.)
Gather my courage, get up in the attic, and check to see if small discolored spots on upstairs ceiling are old or new.
Work out each day with wii dance.
Purchase a birthday present for Stephen.
Order CDs, CD mailer envelopes, business cards (sticking with an old design for now), and canvases (looking forward to making some art with my photos) online.
Touch up paint in dining room.
Submit change requests for AJ & Sarah's album design & finish editing photos from March's wedding.
Take photos for Joy and I's new photo series.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Easter came and went.

Easter snuck up on me this year. I made plenty of plans for Spring Break, but Easter was neglected. Thankfully, our mothers got Easter clothes in order. The kids asked on Sunday night, "Mom, can we color Easter Eggs." and "Mom, can we go on an Easter Egg Hunt." I told them they should remind me before bedtime on Easter evening next year. We did go to church and celebrate Christ's Resurrection (which I'm going to continue to celebrate throughout the year), we did eat ham, and we did take a few pictures.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Still Standing ↑ 2 Cancer

Last August, I shared that my mom had been diagnosed with stage 4 edometrial cancer.  It was in her uterus, cervix, hip bone, and lymph nodes.  There were lymph nodes even in her chest that were showing signs of cancer.  It seemed sudden and down right scary, but my mom is a woman of action.  If you know my parents that won't surprise you as they are hard working, service oriented, execute a plan kind of people.  Her and her doctors came up with a plan and shortly after her diagnosis she was getting chemotherapy.  That's the point that I wrote this blog post in August.  That was almost eight months ago.
So what's happened? Until about a month ago, things were moving really smoothly. She had several months of chemotherapy that effectively contained the cancer to her abdominal region where it had begun. She had very minimal side effects from the treatment. Only once at thanksgiving did she look sick and wane. Otherwise the only indicator she was going through treatment was her bald head that she covered in cute hats.
After Christmas, she started radiation targeted at her abdomen and a lighter regimen of chemotherapy to assist with ridding her uterus of cancer. It worked.
About a month ago, I got a call from my mom saying that a lump had formed behind her ear. The doctors had ruled out a blood clot so they were planning to biopsy it. The first biopsy came back benign, but then despite antibiotics it got bigger. Another doctor suggested it should be biopsied again and that one came back malignant.
I'll stop here and say that it's awful for me, let alone my mom, to wait for these test results to come back. Fighting cancer is as much mental as physical. It requires you to push fear and anxiety to the side every day in order to function normally. My mom seems to be doing this well. She is taking one day, one obstacle at a time, and trying hard not to be overrun by fear and anxiety. I know I had some nightmares and difficulty sleeping the weekend we were waiting for the first biopsy. I had to photograph a wedding the weekend we were waiting for the second biopsy and kept getting choked up when I would see the bride's grandmothers. I really want my mom to see D'arcy and Maggie Lu get married.
My mom was scheduled for a hysterectomy but that had to be put on hold in light of this new tumor in her neck. The first step was to get a PET scan to see where else the cancer had spread besides this very visible spot. We were scared it would be dire. Thankfully, those test results came the same day and allowed us to have a less stressful Easter weekend. The scan showed that she was otherwise cancer free, and so they made plans to remove the tumor at once.
So here we are at the hospital. This is the hospital that D'arcy and Gabriel and Tessa and Eowyn and Jillian and... were born at. I think this is the first time I've been here and not on the labor and delivery floor. Hopefully they'll be able to remove the tumor and protect her ability to raise her eyebrows, pucker her lips, and shrug her shoulders. Hopefully she'll be cancer free tonight, and then she'll have some additional chemotherapy and a hysterectomy to HOPEFULLY keep her that way.

I'm finishing what I started this week.

I'm Fantastic at starting projects and less fantastic at finishing them up. I'm also less than fantastic at deciding how much is too much to take on in a given amount of time. I think that's called time management. So not only did I not fully complete the projects I was working on several weeks ago like finishing up Maggie Lu's first year book and putting finishing touches on D'arcy and Julian's room, I spent the last two weeks starting different projects that I didn't finish. So the next several weeks I'll be trying to finish what I started and trying not to start.
Finish painting dining room.
Finish sewing skirts with D'arcy.
Finish sending AJ and Sarah's album for design now that I finally got access to FTP server.
Follow up with Tad (our realtor) about his recommendation of who should come look at our sagging dining room floor.
Write blog post update on my mom.
Make & send out one WGP cd a day.
Edit, edit, edit all those pictures I took over the last ten days.
Go back to working out each day with wii dance. (spring break is over)
Read 1 Samuel 25&26.
LAUNDRY & bathrooms!

One thing I really needed to start this week but felt overwhelmed by got done with only about five minutes of my time. We have an extremely large pine tree (i think) in our front yard. It is taller than our house, and some of it's branches were dangerously close to falling on us. I needed to call a tree trimmer, but was first going to have to research and find one. I noticed a tree trimming truck show up down the street yesterday and decided that I should ask them if they wanted some add on business. Twenty minutes and thirty bucks later our tree was effectively trimmed. I count this as a small miracle.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Nick is graduating.

I have a lot of cousins. Twenty-eight first cousins to be exact ranging in age from 43ish to 11. Stephen has one, who effectively became my cousin when we got married so let's make that twenty-nine. A lot of them have spouses, and I think my cousins have 18 children so far. I'm super glad that many of my cousins call me up when they need their pictures taken. You might remember Emily, Briana, Corie, or AJ & Sarah. Last year, I had two female cousins graduate from high school and this year have have two male cousins. I took Nick's pictures this week, and I'll take Mark's next week. This is truthfully the first guy I've taken senior pictures for. I had Corie twirl in her photos last year, but I didn't think nick was up to it.


Monday, April 2, 2012

Canada, California, and Chicago all start with C, but we only went to one.

I counted them up. There are fifteen relationships that require work in our little household. Stephen and I have a marriage that takes time and care. We have relationships with each of our kids and our kids have relationships with each other. Stephen and I are attempting to know and shepherd our kids' hearts which, with four, can be overwhelming.
I find it super easy to appreciate my babies. Everything they do, even when they are naughty, is cute. And they require so much carrying and holding that it's simple to stay connected. It's a lot more challenging for me to stay in tune with my big kids. They are away at school learning. They come home and play together, and I spend a lot of my time with them instructing them in various life endeavors. It's hard for me to turn the coach off and be affectionate and friendly.
So my goal is to find time to nurture the relationships I have with my little family. I don't want to put rules on how to accomplish this goal like we have to take each kid out individually once a month or something. I just want to be intentional about my time and put my relationships with my kids close to the top of my priority list.
When I went to Texas in February, we did a girls and boys weekend. For spring break, we took the big kids to Chicago. Without the babies in tow we got to enjoy our kids that don't require strollers and diapers and who could actually remember what we experienced.
Chicago is full of awesome museums . Museums aren't for the faint of heart. They require lots of walking, reading, and learning. This can be a bit exhausting. Oh, and did I mention they cost a lot of money? Yikes! We went to the Field Museum of natural history and spent $50 for four general admission tickets which did not include any special exhibitions. We could have easily spent several hundred dollars in in museum tickets, but Chicago is just up the road and we'll be back.
So, instead, we spent our time enjoying all kinds of big city charm. We went to millennium park and enjoyed art and the spring time weather, we took the L train up to the residential (still urban) north side. We found a lovely park to play in full of yuppie moms with $350 strollers. We ate Chicago style pizza with friends.  We did some shopping at the American girl store and the LEGO store. We went to the beach and dipped our feet in the lake, and went back to the hotel and put our whole bodies in the much warmer hotel pool. It was relaxed and easy and much enjoyed.
We probably got less awes from passerby's.  Well, I guess a couple people noticed how blond our kids were.  I kept wanting to mention that I had two more at home, but I didn't because it was another opportunity to just focus on the beauty of D'arcy and Julian.
Here are a few of my favorite comments from those two.  D'arcy noticed that the posts at the bottom of the stairs looked like chess pawns, and so upon returning to the hotel Julian would always say "Hello Pawns!"

Julian liked riding the train and kept asking if this was his first ride on one.  I thirty something man who presumably rides the L train frequently got a little kick out of that.

D'arcy had a hard time remembering where we were headed, and kept asking when we were headed to Canada or California.  She got teased about that one a bit.

They both kept thanking us for taking them to Chicago and said they never wanted to go back.  After a while though, Julian said he missed Maggie.  I asked them candidly how they would feel if we had stopped at two and didn't have a Maggie or a Schroeder.  Would they like that?  They both immediately said no that they wanted to have a younger sister and brother.  They also mentioned that they would like another one.  Julian has a name picked out if he gets another brother...Bucky.  He has been so adamant about this name for the last year that it is actually growing on me.

Photo credit goes to D'arcy.  I've never been to Chicago in springtime.  It was lovely.

Photo credit to D'arcy Williams.  I like how you can see one piece of art by looking through the other.  

Thanks again to Aunt Meagan for giving D'arcy Kirsten.  Kirsten is retired, but D'arcy was still able to get a book about her and happened upon a bathing suit and roller girl outfit complete with roller skates for her.
Stephen says Chicago beaches are apocalyptic.