Notes for my Girl

When you were littler every night when I’d tuck you in, I’d whisper in your ear “You are fearfully and wonderfully made and a daughter of the Most High.”

Somewhere along the way I stopped doing that. Not sure why. Honestly when your brother showed up, bed time started to feel like a chore and I probably got lazy.

But it’s still my prayer. That you’d grow up confident in who you are both on the inside and the outside. I hope you always smile when you look in a mirror and that the voice of the world would be silenced by the truth that you know in Jesus. That you won’t spend years throwing yourself at different boys hoping one of them would find you beautiful.

But instead that you fall so in love with the Lord, even as a little girl, that you’d never once doubt your self worth. I hope your laughter always comes from somewhere deep and that your eyes always sparkle when someone tells you that you’re pretty. That you are always as confident in who you are as you are today.

When I shout “remember who you are” as you get out of the car for school every morning, you always turn back with a smile and giggle as you say, “Yeahhh mommy, I know I know.”

You are a gift, little girl. I’m so thankful that you’re mine.

The Details

Do you ever take time to study the details of your kids’ faces? I remember back when they were itty bitty babies. Hours of nursing led to hours of staring at their tiny faces. Noticing eyelashes, eyebrow patterns, dimples, birthmarks, and so on.

But as they have gotten older, maybe it’s just me, but it’s rare that I just stare at their faces for long periods of time. Partly because these days it’s rare that they sit still long enough. And when I do stare for longer than a couple seconds I get, “Uhh... Mommy... Are you okay?” But as I was editing a few pictures I took of them the other day, it felt like I was seeing them in a new light.

Ever since she was a baby, Raegan has always crinkled her nose when she laughs. Somewhere along the way I stopped appreciating those sweet little wrinkles. And those freckles. She’s got just a sprinkle of my freckles. But they are there and summer brings them out, just like it does mine. She’s always begging me to let her wear lipstick (she loves makeup) but she doesn’t realize her lips are so perfectly pink, she doesn’t need it. And those lashes. They might not be the longest, but they are thick and full, like her daddy’s.

There’s not a hint if baby left in that face. I remember staring at her as she slept in my arms and wondering what she’d look like as she got older. And now that’s she’s older I look into her face and I wonder if those crinkles and freckles will follow her into adulthood. One thing’s for sure though, she is beautiful and the joy in her heart radiates in her smile. And I hope that’s something she takes with her through every part of her life.

Notes for my Boy

My son.

You have an awareness of the world, a burden in your heart for the hurting and broken, and you are only 4 years old.

Ever since you were a tiny baby, people would tell me that you had peace and light in your eyes. Knowing eyes. Gentle eyes. Kind eyes.

You came into our world when we were our most broken. You were the laughter and peace in our home through many months of pain and dissension.

My prayer is that you never lose your love for and trust in people. All people.

That your first instinct is to always hug the stranger, and that you never stop asking why when you see people without a home or a family.

Sometimes we are called to be loud and to speak boldly, and sometimes strength comes in silence. Though I know you are capable of both, I pray that you're never tempted to be something you're not in an attempt to please others.

The world will want to define your manhood. Convince you that who you are isn't enough. Trust your gut. Lean into Jesus and let his voice be louder than the rest. You are enough. Your gentleness is a gift. Your ability to find the good in anyone and every situation is not ignorance, it's grace.

You're only 4 years old, but in that short time you've taught me so much. I get excited when I think about your future and when I contemplate the plans that the Lord has for you.

My son. My sweet boy. May you always be a safe place for those around you. May you always love big, despite disappointments. And may the light in your eyes never dim, but only burn brighter.

The Way You Love Us

I remember the first time I held your hand. I got butterflies. Cheesy as that may be, no one had ever made me feel like that before. Anyone who knows me knows I’m not a touchy person in the least. Except for when it came to you. Holding your hand. Being wrapped in your embrace. It feels like home.

There was a moment while I was in labor with each of our kids where the only position that felt safe, the only way I was comfortable, the only place where I knew the pain wouldn’t completely swallow me, was leaning against you and wrapped in your arms.

And I’ve seen it, over and over again. I’ve seen others lean on you in times of trouble. I’ve watched your friends find peace in your company. But the moments that bring me the most joy are watching our kids find safety in your presence. Being willing to try new things, because you’re watching. Getting up and trying again because you picked them up after they fell down. Enduring high fevers and painful coughs because you held them until they fell asleep. Believing in how big God is and how much He loves them because of the strength you claim in Jesus and how you love without limits.

The way you love us. Push us to be everything we were created to be. Hold us when we’re hurting. Make us laugh. I always knew you’d be an incredible father. They may not realize it today, but I hope someday they know how lucky they are to have you.

Happy Father’s day handsome. We love you.


Growing Up

Today was her last day of kindergarten and his last day of pre-school.

I just... How? I know many of you have kiddos graduating high school, some even college. I cannot even image how you must be feeling.

She's reading, writing, adding, and eager to learn more and more every day. Her questions have gone from, "...but why?" To these deep, well thought out, critical thinker kind of questions. And while all those things are important and exciting, I asked her last week if there was anything that she learned about herself. And the answer, in short, was confidence and the power of her words.

He's... Sitting in his seat and keeping his pants on his body. And today I witnessed him gather his friends to play tag and duck-duck-goose. He eagerly pulled more in and cleverly tagged everyone as the goose so he would have the entire class chasing him. He's a good friend. He loves people. Oh and he knows the letter "H." He says it's "his letter."

I have been a mother for over 6 years now. I can hardly believe it. I remember when my husband and I used to spend evenings chatting about what kind of school our kids would go to, and which subject we thought they'd flourish in. And all of those conversations were just "what ifs" and distant dreams. And now here we are, one headed into 1st grade and the other into pre-k.

Hold those babies close, friends. It really is a blink.

Then You Were FOUR

Happy birthday to our sweet boy!

I often tell people that Harvey is exactly what I pictured when I imagined having a little boy. From his blue eyes to his dimple chin. The way he deeply cares for those around him and destroys all the "nice" things we own. His crazy, neverending energy and how he can't sleep without his "special song."

He is all boy. Dirty, smelly, with energy that's often misunderstood. But he's also one of the sweetest little humans I have ever met. Brave, kind, empathetic beyond his years, strong and gentle, just like his daddy.

He doesn't know a stranger, and will hug just about anyone who will let him. He finds such joy in telling me and his sister that "we look beautiful today" even when we've just rolled out of bed. Really, he loves to hand out compliments and lights up when he sees others light up.

He's made us laugh harder than I ever knew possible, and has taught us so much about what it means to love without limits.

He came at the perfect time. And is often the peace in our home. I am so thankful that I get to be his mommy. He is such a gift.

Happy birthday stinks, you're our favorite boy.

Seemingly Mundane

Breakfast time.

Something that I see every single day. Raegan decided a long time ago that she was "big enough" to make her own breakfast, so most mornings consist of her getting up to her alarm, getting her uniform on, making sure her homework is ready, and then "making breakfast" for her and her brother.

AKA, she toasts some waffles, microwaves oatmeal, or pours a couple bowls of cereal. Nothing too fancy, I wouldn't let her use the stove unsupervised yet. And don't worry, there's always fruit or something too.

Anyway. I had a thought this morning, while I watched them eating. Someday all too soon, my breakfast table will be empty. I have at least 16 years you say? I already cannot believe that I'll have a 7 year old & 4 year old this year. It really was a blink, as cliche as it may sound.

I'm so thankful for my camera. Capturing the big moments are important, sure. But it's these moments. The everyday. The stuff we often take for granted. 25 years from now when my house is quiet and my kiddos are feeding babies of their own, I know my heart will ache for this scene. So today I made sure to capture it. Distracted by cartoons and grumpy from only being awake for 20 minutes, I wouldn't trade these moments for the world.

You Make Me Happy When Skies are Gray

Ever since the kids were tiny little babies, whenever they were upset, sick, restless at night, hurt, sad, scared of the monster under the bed, you name it, there has always been one thing that is able to calm them almost instantly.

Josh scoops them up, talks them through whatever they are feeling, and then he sings "You Are My Sunshine" to them until the tears are gone and there is peace in their eyes. Often times they even join in towards the end, or ask to sing it again so that they can sing too. That and some chats with Jesus, and they fall right back to sleep, wipe away the tears, or get back on their bikes ready and willing to fall again if that's what it takes to learn.

It's been a hard week, and I think the kids could sense it. Right before bed last night, they both came running into my office and asked me if I could learn "The Sunshine Song" on my guitar so we could go sing it to daddy.

After about 5 minutes, they came back in, both with their toy guitars in hand, and we went to find daddy. They strummed their guitars along with me and sang with such big smiles on their faces.

And like magic, we laughed and danced and everything felt a little lighter.

To my babies,

YOU are our sunshine. You make us so happy, even when skies seem gray. I hope one day you come to know just how much we love you. How loved you are by Jesus. And the joy that you bring to those around you. My sunshines. My only sunshines.

Health Update

You guys remember that long long LONG post a couple months back about my health and where I'm at in life recently?

Well, just like I shared the tough stuff, I'm here right now to share something awesome!

After over a year of feeling like junk 90% of the time, after 5 doctors and so many tests, after many sleepless anxiety filled nights, I finally found a doctor who is listening to me.

I walked into the exam room fully prepared to have to put up a fight like I have many times before. Ready to give it my all and have him dismiss me, like the rest. But instead, I start to speak, and he looks in my eyes and says, "Why don't you start from the very beginning?"

I was a little bit caught off guard. "Are you sure? It's a really long story." He leaned back in his chair and said, "I have time."

It took everything in me not to start crying in that moment. If you know me, you know I'm not a crier. It takes a lot to get me going. But to have someone willing to listen and not just look at my labs and send me out the door, this was HUGE.

So I tell him my whole story. The journey of all the testing and so many doctors who I left because I didn't feel heard or understood. I tell him about my exhaustion, my weight gain, my emotions, my infertility, all the specialists I've seen, everything. And I say, "But every doctor I have seen just tells me that my levels are all normal. But I know myself, I know my body, I know I'm not healthy."

He types some stuff on his laptop and then closes it and says, "Samantha, I am so sorry you've slipped through the cracks in our medical system. Unfortunately many of us doctors, sometimes myself included, are quick to treat what the paperwork says instead of the patient themselves. Instead of just sending you to another specialist, will you let me help you get healthy and feel good again? Because it sounds like you've had enough of this."

Cue the tears. All the tears. A year and a half of frustration and confusion unloaded in that exam room. Poor guy. He had no idea what he was walking into.

After I composed myself, he orders some new bloodwork, the nurse comes in and draws it, and tells me that in 5 days or so we will have a plan.

You guys. It took 30 minutes. A 30 minute conversation and one SPECIFIC blood test to confirm what I had suspected for a while, but that no doctor would be willing to agree on.

I walked out of that exam room, got in my car, and just sat there for 10 minutes completely overwhelmed. Thanking God for that doctor. Thanking God for a sweet client/friend who reached out to me and told me to fight for my health. Shocked that it took so long to get to that point, but thankful that I got someone to pay attention before my illness progressed into something worse.

I got the call yesterday from my doctor's office confirming my own suspicion as well as the doctor's. He sent some new meds to my pharmacy and gave me a list of foods to avoid. And just like that, there is hope again. Not to say that my life was hopeless before this point. I love my life and have so much to be thankful for on a daily basis. But waking up every morning and having to psych yourself out just to get out of bed, not exactly fun.

I had gotten to the point where I was starting to accept this as my new reality. That I'd live at 50% for the rest of my life and just learn to adapt. And then a phone call, and hope.

Hashimoto's Hypothyroidism. Aka, my body is attacking my thyroid, causing all the symptoms of Hypothyroidism, as well as all of the issues that come with autoimmune disease.

So what happens now? Not much changes for the time being. I'm on a higher dosage of medicine that should help me start to feel more like myself again as my body starts to regulate. I get seen every 6-8 weeks to make sure that my dosage is sufficient, I cut out a bunch of foods that aren't good for people with autoimmune diseases, and I start to feel better. Maybe even get pregnant!

I am so thankful for the Lord's protection in my life. Even though the last year has been SO hard, things could have gotten a lot worse. Often time people who suffer from Hashimoto's aren't properly diagnosed until their immune system implodes and leaves them with a host of other autoimmune diseases. I am just so grateful that I finally have a doctor who is working hard and quickly to make sure that doesn't happen.

So anyway. There's a quick (well, sort of) update on how things are going over here! It'll likely take a while for these new meds to really kick in, and there's still a bit of a journey ahead, but there's so much hope now. And right now, that's more than enough!


Spring Break 2018

Anyone else's kiddos on Spring Break? Any other work-from-home parents struggling this week?

Lol I always tell myself that I'm going to take the week BEFORE Spring Break off every year so that I don't have any editing or extra work to do the week of so I don't have to try to juggle keeping the kids entertained while trying to pump out a bunch of sessions.

And then I forget. Every year.

It's a hard balance. Trying to get all of my editing and emailing done while also trying to be present for them. We don't usually do anything huge for Spring Break, but I also don't want to take advantage of the gift that it is to be home with my babies. So I try to sneak in some fun stuff here and there. So Monday we took a trip to the Science Center, and today I think I am going to take them location scouting with me once they wake up from naps and call it "exploring."

Hopefully they buy it and don't just fight in the backseat the entire time.

Hope you're having a fantastic week friends!



Learning to Create for Me

As my business has grown and I've gotten more busy, it's been difficult for me to carve out time to capture my own kids. I would start to feel guilty when I'd have endless files full of clients' children, and hadn't picked up my camera at home in weeks.

Then it hit me one day. I didn't need to set up some sort of special scenario every time I wanted to take pictures of my kids. I first picked up my camera to capture their childhood. And childhood doesn't just live in the special outfits and the grand locations. Infact it really doesn't even happen there at all.

It's the every day, day to day that matters most. The little moments that I know I'm going to forget all too quickly. So I began a journey over the last year to really up my photography game at home. It's part of the reason that I started this blog. To have a space to share all of the big and little things that I create with my children and everything in between.

And now picking up my camera at home is like a breath of fresh air. It's not something I feel guilty about when I don't do it enough or something that causes stress to any of us. It's fun. It brings me peace. It helps me learn. And some days, it's exactly what I need.

When I find myself knee deep in client work (which I love, don't get me wrong) and struggling to continue staring at a screen for another 2 hours, I pick up my camera and follow my kids into their world to escape for a while.

And what we create, no matter how simple or silly, always makes my heart sing.

Notes for my Girl

I don’t get you. Especially recently. The way you think. The moments you act out. Your daddy says it’s because you’re 6 and you’re still learning life. He gets you. He always has.

And I think it’s because you are me. And all the things that rub me wrong are the things in my own heart that could use some work. Like your impatience. That’s me. Your need for perfection and the total meltdown that happens if you don’t achieve it. Yep, me too. The way you ask for every detail of a story or event, and how you get really frustrated when people aren’t specific. Sorry kid, that’s me too.

It’s amazing how children are such a bright reflection of the things we need to work on. I remember before having you and your brother, I was afraid, and even unsure if I wanted kids. Mostly because I knew how screwed up I was and how I desperately didn’t want to pass along my junk to my kids. But I’ve learned some things. And even though I still fail (often), there has also been growth.

My hope, my prayer, is that we can take these rough traits and smooth the edges in you. That I can learn to take my time. To embrace each moment. To let life flow without a pressing agenda. And that you’ll see that. And you’ll follow.

That I’ll continue to learn grace for myself, and gentleness. That perfection to me, would be peace in a situation, rather than what the world would define as perfect. And that you’ll see that in me too, and maybe be even better at it than me someday.

Years from now, I don’t want you to be worried of how your children will mirror you, but proud of how patient they are, how brave they love, the grace they give, and how they bring such peace to those around them. As many have said, I want my ceiling to be your floor. I want my weaknesses to be your greatest strengths.

Notes for my Boy

Oh my sweet, sweet boy. My heart aches knowing that someday you’ll look at another woman with those kind and gentle eyes.

But I’m also so excited for whoever she will be. Because every girl deserves to feel the peace and joy that live in your eyes. You’re going to be a catch, just like your daddy. You already love with your whole heart, without limits, without fear.

Whoever she is, she’s a lucky lady. And I just pray that she loves you more than I ever dreamed. That she nurtures that peace and that joy. And that she completes you the same way you’ve completed us.

Daddy Daughter Dance

We spent the entire day together. We went to multiple stores looking for the perfect dress. And she was determined to find some "amazing high heels."

We found the dress and some hair clips to match, then headed to the shoe store. She laid eyes on a pair of little pink heels and she gasped. Tossed off her boots and slipped on her dream shoes. Then she took a few steps. Her excitement turned to confusion. "These aren't very comfortable... How do people dance in these?"

Cue my sigh of relief. Don't get me wrong, I don't think there is anything wrong with heels, but I've literally worn them for a total of MAYBE 5 hours the entirety of my life.

I got married in Chuck Taylors. So... you do the math.

So we came up with a new plan: find the shiniest, most sparkly pair of sneakers that they had. She tried them on, and I knew they were the ones. "I think I'll be able to dance forever in these."

As we were about to head home to start getting ready, she said in such a sweet voice, "Mommy, I know YOU don't really like makeup, but would it be okay, just this once, if I wore some lipstick?" So back to Target we went, because big shocker, I don't own a single tube.

She picked, "So Berry Pink." How I produced such a girly little girl, I'll never know. But I love her excitement.

When we got home, she tried to nap, but was too excited to really settle. So as soon as 4:00 hit, she hopped in the shower, put on her dress, wrestled on her new shoes, and insisted on applying her lipstick all on her own.

Daddy rang the doorbell and took her to dinner. Last I heard, they were dancing the night away.

I love that man. I love that girl. And I love how they love each other.

Be a Man

The world will try to define your manhood.

They will tell you that a men don't cry. That men are meant to be tough and rugged. That you are supposed to be good at sports. That your pride is attractive. That you have certain rights, simply because you are a man. That you don't have to apologize for your behavior. They will try to excuse poor choices.

Your daddy is one of the greatest men that I have ever met. He cries at the sad part in movies. His hands are gentle and his words are kind. He will always put himself last and lifts up those around him, leaving his own successes at the door and joyfully celebrating the success of those around him.

He never hesitates to tell others of my accomplishments, even when I pretend that they aren't a big deal. He is the first to apologize, even when he isn't wrong. In moments of weakness, when he makes mistakes or his mouth gets ahead of his heart, he takes ownership.

He asks for help when he knows he is in over his head. He is a good friend. He loves you and your sister deeply and gets excited for the chance to tell others about you. He'd shout his love for me from the rooftops if I'd let him. He takes care of us, even when it requires sacrifice.

You're one lucky little boy, to have the daddy that you do. He is a good man. A great man. And one day my son, you will be too.


Notes for my Girl

I danced around the living room of our tiny apartment. I didn’t know how badly I wanted you until those two pink lines showed up.

You brought the joy to the surface. Joy I had buried deep inside after losing your older brother or sister just a couple months before. So I danced. And I laughed. And I thanked Jesus for your life.

I didn’t even know you and I loved you.

I hadn’t seen your nose scrunch when you smile. I hadn’t seen the way your hair glows in the sunlight. I hadn’t fought you to brush your teeth. Didn't know your favorite color would be "basically the whole rainbow." Or that your favorite animal would be a toss up between an ostrich and a unicorn. I hadn’t watched you shed tears over which direction the number 3 was really supposed to face while doing your homework. Hadn’t heard your belly laugh. Never stared into your brown eyes.

I hope you feel it. I pray you feel my love grow for you every single day. With every silly dance and tickle fight. In the moments I raise my voice when trying to protect you. In the way I smile at you every morning I drop you off at school. In the big moments and our seemingly mundane day to day

You, sweet girl, have brought a kind of joy to my life that I used to only dream of. I know you and I love you. And I’m so thankful that I get to spend the rest of my days getting to know you more and more.

Hidden Treasure

A few weeks ago, while digging through some old folders I found this shot of my babies. It was in an unedited folder.

It’s a little blurry, since I was still figuring out my camera back then. Which is probably why I didn’t bother editing it. But as soon as I laid eyes on it, my heart skipped a beat.

This might be one of my favorite pictures ever. Because even though my skills might not have been there, my heart was. Back when I was learning photography for them. Back when my deepest desire was simply to capture them as they grew. When Raegan still had a baby face and Harvey’s hair was blonde.


Blankets and Babies

False advertising. No actual babies here. Just my babies. Inside of blankets. Because I saw someone do it on Instagram, then I saw someone else, and then another person, and I figured I'd give it a shot because I love how the light peeks through the holes.

I have no doubts that I looked mighty silly in my front yard, under a blanket with each child, squawking directions.

Totally worth it though.

Their Favorite Place

Growing up as an only child, all of this sibling stuff is basically totally new to me. I didn't have someone at home who constantly wanted to play with my toys. I didn't have to compromise on a TV show that everyone would enjoy. There was no rock, paper, scissors to decide who got the last juice box in the fridge.

I know lots of only children aren't a huge fan of when people who grow up with siblings peg them as "spoiled," but I'm not ashamed to admit it. I know I was spoiled. I know I was lucky to get all the time an attention to myself. And I know my parents would have really liked for me to have a sibling, but it just never ended up working out.

SO, when my kiddos argue or fight, sometimes it's a struggle for me to figure out how to resolve the situation in a way that leaves both kids feeling heard and not short changed. I'm not saying that only children don't know how to deal with stuff like this, I'm just saying that having not grown up around it, it's not something that comes as naturally to me as it does to my husband. Often times I let them work it out on their own and more often than not, everyone says sorry and they move on. There's lots of "I'm sorry for....." and "Thank you. I forgive you." As well as plenty of opportunities to explain feelings and listen when others are speaking their mind.

Then some days, some days it doesn't matter how many time-outs or apologies are given. No amount of teaching or privileges getting taken away will fix it.

But for SOME reason, when I toss these two in the bathtub, they are immediately best friends again. They play happily. They share without question. They compromise. They even encourage each other and ask about their days. It's been this way since the beginning. Even when Raegan was a toddler and Harvey was a tiny baby. They'd both scream at me all day for one reason or another and I'd get them both into the bath and it was nothing but splashing and giggles.

So I knew I wanted to capture this time before they got too old. And truth be told, I know this time is quickly coming to an end. But hey, at least I'll have these memories, right?

Notes for my Boy

Before you were born, people kept telling me that my love for you would be different than my love for your sister. They’d say I’d love both the same amount, but differently. I thought, “Well yeah, obviously.” But I didn’t get it. I was having a hard enough time wrapping my brain around giving enough love to two kids, I couldn’t think about how my love for you would be different.

And then you were born. I’m sure it helped that you were a happy, easy baby (unlike your sister who screamed through the first 5 months of her life, poor thing). But there was something else too. Something that to this day, I still can’t put into words.

I always used to tell your daddy, “I just want him to stay THIS age, forever. Because right now, he fits so perfectly in my arms. His hugs are like completing a puzzle.” But I said that at 6 months, and 9 months, and 1 year, and 2 years, and here you are, creeping your way towards 4 years old, and somehow. By some little boy magic, you still fit. Perfectly.

You are everything I ever hoped and dreamed when I used to imagine what a son would be. Always covered in dirt, a little smelly, in love with all the usual little boy things, tender, kind, a defender, a cuddler.

I sure don’t know what I did to deserve you. But boy oh boy, I am so glad you’re mine.