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Tuesday, December 1, 2015

We're celebrating today.

A year ago today, my nephew, Ryan, was born.  I was praying for a woman at church not too long ago.  Her daughter is experiencing infertility, and the mother was heartbroken and helpless.  I told her after we prayed that babies born after a war with infertility are that much more fun to celebrate.  Each birthday is a moment to remember the longing and prayers that were answered.

My sister called me in March 2014.  Stephen and I had taken our older kids to Washington, D.C..  Connie was actually watching a couple of our kids for the weekend.  She called mid morning and she said, "Melissa, are the kids around you?"  I knew then that something was up because she didn't want me to have a reaction that the kids would question me about.  

She had taken a pregnancy test that morning.  They were about to start their third fresh IVF cycle, and she was required to verify that she wasn't pregnant before she begin taking medicine.  

She has an older son, Gabriel, who was born in 2004, but then she just didn't get pregnant again.  By the fall of 2009, they had decided that IVF would be the only way to have more kids.  IVF has brought them expense and heartbreak and ultimately, two heathy twins.  Connie had always wanted a big family and so they were going to go through it again. She begrudgingly took this formality of a test, and to her great surprise, it was positive. 

She called me and we sat there shocked, and she told me she couldn't believe it until he was here.  But he is here, and he has big cheeks and white blond hair and he waves and he is an expert crawler.  
When I think about Ryan turning one, I remember the day my sister called me to tell me that two of the triplets she became pregnant with on their first round of IVF had twin to twin syndrome.  I remember how devastated Connie was and how I tried to convince her it wasn't hopeless.  I remember the moment she called me to tell me she had delivered all of them and they hadn't survived.  I fell to the floor in my bedroom.  I cried all day long.  I also remember the day in August just five months later when I delivered my healthy daughter, my fourth child.  Connie showed up that morning and gave Maggie her first bath on the bathroom floor.  

I remember her being on bed rest with her twins and only being able to go upstairs once a week to shower.  I remember Connie wishing she could just have kept Eowyn and Tessa in utero just a few more weeks because each day benefits their brain and organ developement.  I remember so many conversations with her wrestling with whether she should do it again, the money and the timing and the implications for her and the baby's  health.  

I'm remembering and it makes the celebration just a little bit sweeter.  Happy birthday Ryan Padraic.  May you continue to surprise your mother in only the best ways.  

Julian is nine!

Julian turned nine two months ago.  I love him as an elementary aged kid.

In a strange twist, he has the same teacher for a third year in a row.  This is the same teacher who made me angry because she expected more from me and Julian than mediocrity.  She is the same teacher who I happily dunked in the dunk tank at the end of that first year at the school social. Julian loves her.  I think it's lovely that this strong woman who expects excellence from him as a writer and mathematician has been such a presence in his life.   

She is teaching him cursive.  I don't have a strong opinion about whether cursive continues to be taught in school.  But, oh,  those pages of nine year old boy cursive make me really joyous.  I want to frame them.  

Julian has this hair.  It's not all that long, but sometimes he gets mistaken for a girl.  He still isn't tempted to cut it, though.  It was originally my choice, but  he has decided that this is his hair and his style.  He likes his hair a lot. 

He also likes sweat pants.

He's been reading. He read the Phantom Tollbooth and the second Harry Potter this year.  His cousin suggested he read The Lorien Legacies series.  We've been reserving them through the library online system.  He'll arrive home and ask, "Have you gotten an email from the library?"

He's been facing his fears this year. He went on his first roller coaster in Las Vegas.  He is swimming in deep water.  His fears won't always be coasters and slides and water, but I hope he continues to choose bravery.  Be brave Julian.  

He holds my hand when we walk...on vacation, on field trips at school.  He'll run next to me and grab my hand.  He's affectionate.  

He loves Penelope a lot.  He comes home from school and asks to run up and wake her from her nap.  She was wearing a shirt yesterday that said I la la love you.  He told her, "Penelope, I la la love you."  She said, "I don't la la love you."  He laughed really hard because she's two and everything she says is funny.

"Whatever" and "I don't care" are his favorite phrases when he feels out of control and has to do something he doesn't like.   It's been our challenge to help him translate that into something help him understand, manage, and communicate his feelings.  We are battling this view of life that he is tempted to have that he begrudgingly does what he is told even if he doesn't see value in it.  We are helping him build values beyond the things that bring him immediate joy.  

Julian surprised me one day when he asked his friend to be more reverent to God.  I can't remember exactly what his friend was saying, but, this child of mine who doesn't drink the Kool-aid, suggested he be more respectful.  Julian has a clear sense that he comes for a family that values faith.  His faith is coming softly.  

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Kids say the darnedest things...

History according to Maggie.  I'm not sure where she was introduced to the idea of the 1960's as a time period, but in her mind the 1960's and the Jurassic Period are interchangeable.

Friday, September 25, 2015

Kids say the darndest things...

The other day, I played Ryan Adams cover of Taylor Swift's Album 1989.  If you were considering taking a listen, here is Maggie Lu's review of his cover album.

"Taylor Swift uses different voices on each of her songs.  I like to do that, too.  Taylor Swift and I are, really, a lot alike.  That guy uses the same voice on every song which I do not like."

"I bet that if Taylor Swift was looking for a boyfriend, she wouldn't choose him."

Friday, September 18, 2015

Maggie is five!!!

Maggie Lu just turned five.

Maggie has this exuberant flourish to the way she speaks. She starts every sentence off with, Well...  and throws in words like precisely, exactly, and technically.   We bought a pillow at Frozen on Ice, and she gushed about how it would be the "perfect finishing touch for her bed."  She is a gusher.  Many times a day I am told that "I'm the best Mommy ever" or "D'arcy is the best big sister a girl can have" or "I just love ______".  She adds drama with her hands, head tilts, and eye flutters.

She has a bit of a temper and that tongue full of honey can be quick to lash out, too.  When she can't find a skirt she wants to wear, she'll let me know that if I wasn't so slow to get the laundry done, she would have it in her drawer.  I know where she gets that temper.  In some ways, her temper is easier to deal with than the sad tears that always seem to well up in D'arcy's eyes when she gets mad or upset.

She's back in preschool this year.  Officially, you have to be five by August 1st to go to kindergarten.  I probably could have pushed the point and got her in.  D'arcy, whose birthday is only three days earlier, started kindergarten the year she turned five.  We were living in Texas and the rules were different.  I'm glad to have her home with me and Penelope for one more year.  I'm glad that Schroeder and her won't graduate high school and leave me with a mostly empty nest in back to back years.

When I pick her up from preschool, she and Penelope hug and kiss like they haven't seen each other in weeks.  It's seriously cute.  I think this stems from that gushing she is so prone to.  She didn't get that from me.

Maggie has been voluntarily cleaning lately.  When we have people coming over, she'll rush around and say, "Oh, we just need to get this all picked up.  I want it to look just perfect for them."  I've never ever had a child suggest that we clean before.

She likes this show called Yugioh.  She found it when she was perusing Netflix kids on the iPad.  It's this Japanese anime show.  Stephen says it reminds him of Dragon Ball Z.  Whatever, I don't know.  But, Maggie seriously loves this show and talks about Yugi a lot.

So, she's an anime girl.  Oh, and also, she is the self-proclaimed best dancer in the world.

For her birthday, we invited just a few people over for cake and a pinata.  She got the idea of a pinata from her friend, Charlie.  In an attempt to save some money, I decided to make our own.  I used a balloon, strips of paper, flour and water mixture, paint, and tissue paper.  It turned out pretty well, and held up to two rounds of hitting.  I would definitely make another one.

She asked me to invite a handful of four and five year olds to her party, but also insisted I invite her favorite thirty-something year old friend, Laura, who goes to church with us.  Thanks Laura for being such a lovely friend to her!  Sorry, if she bosses you around and tells you to keep your studio clean!

Maggie got a scooter for her birthday which is a tradition here at the Williams' house.  All new five year olds get initiated into the wild scooter gang.

Tuesday, September 15, 2015


I thought I would start to show, state by state, some of my photos from our roadtrip.  Here we are in South Dakota.  We stopped in Sioux Falls, the Badlands, Mt Rushmore, and Deadwood.  

D'arcy turned eleven.

D'arcy turned eleven in late August.

She is the kind of girl who wants more.  More adventures.  More knowledge.  More great food.  More people.  She's hungry for life, and I know from personal experience the road ahead will include learning to savor, to be content, to be intentional, and to rest.  I'm excited to see her walk and find balance.

Sometime this year, we decided we would take her to Kings Island for her birthday.  Stephen and I haven't been since before she was born, but now D'arcy is tall enough and brave enough to ride most of the roller coasters.  My head didn't handle it well, but D'arcy had a great time riding everything she was tall enough for with Stephen and her Aunt Connie.

D'arcy spent a good part of this past year learning to solve her Rubix Cube.  These days, that means watching a bunch of Youtube videos to learn the algorithms, and then practicing, practicing, practicing to get faster.  She would carry around a paper to record her times.  At the end of last school year, she and her friend, Aria, entered the school talent show to show off their rubix cube skillz.

A ten dollar toy kept her busy for an entire year.  I was wracking my brain for what I could buy her that would entertain and challenge her in a similar way.  I decided on a Ukulele.  She is already playing the piano and trumpet.  I thought the Ukulele would be easy and fun and put her Youtube searching and watching skills to good use.

When the opportunity presents itself, either at our community yard sale of block party, she has started busking.  She'll play Louis Louis on her trumpet hoping someone will drop a dollar into her case.  This year, she can add to her repertoire.

D'arcy also spent the last year....

jumping on her trampoline.

growing a bunch of tomato saplings with her fifth grade teacher, and selling them at their year end picnic.

party planning with her friend Mike.  They started a for profit party planning business for all those top priority parties.  The one party they planned had a guacamole contest with a pretty snazzy trophy, a homemade pinata, and bobbing for blueberries (which was pretty disgusting).

During the summer, she woke up many a day and made her own french toast or omelette.  She would cook up a couple pieces of bacon, and grab some basil and tomatoes from our garden to throw in her eggs.  Our other kids are eating cold english muffins.  

D'arcy, Maggie, and Penelope share a room.  Unlike other older sibling tyrants I've encountered, she doesn't bug her sister to turn the light off.  Instead, she turns it off herself long before the official "lights out" call and yells at her sisters if the complain or try to turn them back on.  I figured out that she needed the room dark so she could watch Netflix on her iTouch screen.  She hates turning up that screen brightness because it really kills her battery life.

Tonight, I just walked by their room and heard her telling her sister, "Don't ever say I don't love you or I don't like you.  I love you very much.  Just because I'm telling you you're annoying doesn't mean I don't love you."

She started sixth grade this year.  She told me a couple times she was nervous about all the homework she will have.  But, really, it was a feigned nervousness.  I believe it was more of an excitement to take on a new challenge.

Year twelve, she's ready for you.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Penelope turned two (90 days ago).

Penelope is two.  She's twenty three pounds dripping wet.  If I'm determined to worry about something, I worry about her weight.

She is still a big Daniel Tiger fan.  She can sing the choruses of a few of her favorite songs, "Shut up and Dance with Me", "Uptown Funk", and "Girls Chase Boys".  During our trip, she started adding a -y to the end of some of her words.  "Can I sit on your wappy?"  "I can do it my selfy."  She thinks she can do a lot of things her selfy like fastening her carseat or walking across the street.  She gets angry if you try to help her out.

On our trip, she spent most of the time in the Ergo carrier while hiking.  We let her out for a bit when we were on Antelope Island on the Great Salt Lake.  I suggested she walk around the big rocks, and she decided instead to step on each one.  Because she's big and independent and two.

But, really, she was such an awesome traveller.  She spent time coloring, but mostly just chilled.  We did keep her pacifier in commission so we could pacify her on the road if needed.  Someday soon we'll take her out of a crib and take the pacifier away at bedtime.  There just isn't another baby on the way to need them.

One right of passage that she's eager to get under way is potty training.  She asks daily to sit on the potty, and lets me know when she is going in her diaper.  A diaper free home is in our near future.

Her big sisters and brothers have taught her a few things.  She can count to twenty pretty well.  It's a game.  I'll say one and she'll say two and we'll count together.  Then she'll ask to do it again and again.  She'll also give you a fist bump if you ask.  She follows the bump with a "fa la la la la" as she pulls her fist back and wiggles her fingers.

When she doesn't think she's being listened to, she'll grab my face, put her head up against mine, and whisper her request in the most infuriating and adorable way.  She is quite persistent.  When we were in South Dakota, we watched a little movie in the Badlands.  She was having trouble sitting still, and I promised her a Swedish fish if she would watch quietly.  Less than a minute later, she asks, "I have fish?"  And on and on it went until we headed to the car to get the fish.

In May, we were out shopping, and as we were going into Kohl's she started naming her family...Schroe Schroe, JuJu, D'arcy, Maggie.  I said, "Who else is in your family?"  She looked at me and said, "Daddy!!"  It was this first moment of verbal recognition of who her core people were.  She belonged to us and we belonged to her.  And, I had this rush of joy knowing that she had all these great brothers and sisters to love and care and teach her.  How cool is it to be a fifth baby!

Stephen and I were out of town on her birthday.  We celebrated a week earlier with a little party at our house.  I made her a birthday cake that was collapsing and falling apart.  I topped it with two plastic princesses we have in the house.  She kept asking to look at her cake.  She would sit at the table and just look at the wobbling mess.

Happy Birthday Penelope!

Saturday, July 25, 2015

I blogged a family session!

A client emailed me recently and asked if I still was photographing families.  I am!  Although, this fall, I'm only booking returning clients because I have a tight schedule.  I'm trying harder than ever to walk into a session with no preconceived ideas of what I have to capture.  I'm trying to throw that mental checklist away and capture the beauty unfolding before me.  Tonight, I got to follow these sweet kids around their grandparents big yard.  The oldest asked how I knew her name.  I told her that I knew her name before she did because her mom is an old friend of mine.  The youngest two are twins, and it's fun to remember a conversation I had with Leslie when she was newly pregnant.  She told me her belly was growing much faster than she had expected, and I sort of shrugged it off as a normal second pregnancy symptom.  A couple weeks later she texted with news that she was expecting twins!