Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Pumpkin Picking

Over the years, pumpkin picking has changed for us.  When we just had Aaron, we went to a large farm about an hour away and had our pumpkin patch experience there.  When Emma came around, we found a smaller and closer farm and enjoyed many years there until they unexpectedly closed.  We found many small transplant farms on-line (pre-picked pumpkins in a line), then last year, we found an actual patch that we got to have a great experience at.

This year, very last minute, we realized if we didn't push some things around, pumpkin patch time wasn't going to happen.  Emma's school had gone on their field trip a few weeks ago and the weather was terrible.  I felt like she got cheated, and with so little time to make a decision and get there before sunset, we headed back.  Before we even pulled in, I could tell we were going to have such a better experience.

My girl and her doll are a pretty typical duo.  This was her first doll from many year ago and the carrier is actually mine from when I was a kid.  Sometimes I am frustrated that my girl seems to need to always have something with her, but this day, I am thankful for the constant doll that came along for the ride.

Pumpkin picking is so personal.  While we all began to wonder, none of us were looking for the same type of pumpkin.  My husband's top priority is a strong stem, while my care is for the general roundness and smoothness of the pumpkin.  And of course, my kids fall somewhere in between.

 After spending some time searching, and searching some more, we hauled in our loot and weighed our finds.  There was so much more to do and no time to waste!

How a pool of corn can entertain kids so easily (and adults?) is beyond me, but it sure does.  I liken it to how kids can be more happy with the big empty box than the actual toy.

There was pumpkin shooting for the big kid - because who doesn't love that - and funnel cake for the bellies.  Yum.

We polished off our afternoon with some goat feeding, face painting, a photo opp, and one last swing.

At the end, I leaned my head on my husband's shoulder and we were both so thankful we said yes to this one.  Amidst the busy, an afternoon on the farm was such a sweet retreat for us.  Maybe next year, I'll remember to block out the weekend at least a month out.  But probably not.

Until next time,

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Growing Sunflowers

Sometimes, a story takes some time to grow and develop.  Last summer, we took our daughter to a field of sunflowers to explore them in real life.  When spring arrived this year, my daughter was excited to see sunflower seeds to plant, and my husband, never one to back away from trying something new, decided to grab three bags of seeds and see what they could do.  I was so hesitant because I knew we were getting a late start, but with a bit of effort, my two got to work protecting those delicate seeds and checking on their progress.

Sunflower prime season (typically early July) came and we didn't have much to check out.  I called around our area to try and go exploring like last year only to find out that all the water and flooding in our area had washed out several fields.  So we just continued to check in on our little guys and by the end of August, we had blooms!

It was pretty neat to see my daughter get to check on them as often as she could.  It was obviously a very different experience than visiting a field a single time and exploring.  She could go first thing in the morning (in her pj's!) or late in the afternoon after school.

 We got to see flowers grow taller and blooms get bigger.

We got to watch leaves slowly grow stronger and see how bees and bugs were at most of the blooms.  We even got to share our excitement and flowers with Grandma, and this encouraged her to try at home as well.

Of course, at the end of the season, we got to see our flowers begin to wilt.  And that wasn't nearly as exciting.  It's often so bitter sweet, the end.  No matter how or when it comes.

We did some research into getting those seeds out, so hopefully that is successful (if you have tips, send them my way!).  Then my duo has already decided on an earlier start and a larger garden for next year - and I can't wait!

Until next time,

Thursday, June 27, 2019

The Playoff Beard

Let's talk superstitions.  Hockey playoff superstitions - in the form of a certain facial hair collection of sorts.  According to Wikipedia, the tradition started in the 1980's with NHL players and has transitioned to fans - specifically to my husband.  My lovely husband whom I adore, but whose beard I could certainly do without.

So when the Blues were in the playoffs, and then WON THE STANLEY CUP, that beard coming off felt like it might never happen.  Seriously.  And THEN.  Then, my husband informed me that the beard can't come off until after the Championship Parade.  Of course.  Let me just say, the excitement I had over the shots I got at that parade came pretty close to how I felt that night when my husband told me he was going to shave.

Even more exciting - or maybe adorable - is that my daughter was excited too.  And so she asked if she could help.   And how do you say no to that?

While maybe not an everyday occurance for my girl to shave my husband's playoff beard off, certainly something as simple as shaving IS.  I see the little details that I want to remember about today - my daughter's sweet smile and the way her hair falls around her still young face; the gray hair that is mixed in with my husband's beard.

There's a lot of trust in a situation like this, at least from my point of view.  My husband certainly guided my daughter, but at 6, her experience with shaving off a 2 month old beard is zilch.  My husband never seems to mind those sorts of things that make me cringe.

She was pretty adorable and excited about not only what she was able to do, but about getting to see Daddy's face again.  I'm right there with you sister.

And when the shaving cream came out, the giggles did too.  It might have been my husband's most favorite part.

Everyday life is too boring for professional photos?  Not a chance.  Every day spent engaging with those you love has beautiful moments that are totally worth it.

Until next  time,

Thursday, June 20, 2019

St. Louis Blues Stanley Cup Championship Parade

A picture is said to be worth a thousand words.  I certainly hope that is true of this set, because this experience felt beyond words.  When the St. Louis Blues recently won the 2019 Stanley Cup after a long 52 year wait, the city parade was sure to be one for the books. The last official estimate I saw for the crowd this day was 390,000.  The sidewalks were jammed packed, sometimes 40 people deep.  My family stayed the night in a hotel downtown and my boys were on Market at 6:15 am to have a spot for us to experience it all.  The media was everywhere, including on a rooftop behind me when the crowd was yelling for them.  While I secretly wished I too had a press pass, after this, I realized experiencing it with the crowd and my family was the better story.

This celebration wasn't just about the team that won The Cup; it was about the people that supported them getting there.  Key players like Laila, our infamous "Towel Man", alumni players and more.

I needed more than just shots of players.  I needed shots of us too, and I made sure to even grab a selfie thanks to my sister-in-law.  This day was one for the history books in more ways than one.

The players excitement and willingness to be a part of the celebration is what made the experience what it was.  Many players came right up to the barricades to celebrate with the fans.  And my son wasn't shy about requesting selfies with players.

Many of them stopped to sign memorabilia, give high fives, and ramp up the crowd along the parade route.  Most of them were out of their cars walking for the bulk of the parade.  My sister-in-law even got a necklace off Edmunson for a friend's daughter.

Our group got the attention of Tyler Bozak's wife, Molly, and she was pretty sweet with their little one.  She set her down where she took a string of steps and it was clear that their excitement was about more than just our city winning the Stanley Cup.

It was fun watching Parayko with the media's camera getting selfies with the crowd and Bennington (in our house, known as Mr. Do-I-Look-Nervous) as he walked with a local high school band.   Then local player, Pat Maroon, surrounded by media at every step, brought the Stanley Cup to our section and held it up for all to see.

The selfie below, while not the best, is my absolute favorite.  Petrangelo's crew smiling over his shoulder and his hand on my boy's shoulder was worth a million bucks to this Momma.

And as a final wave out, Conn Smythe MVP winner Ryan O'Reilly's speech from the float left my husband knowing exactly which player's jersey was going to be his Father's Day request.

This was certainly a once in a lifetime experience and truly unbelievable.  And even though this was out of my element, I am so thankful I said yes to getting to be a part of experiencing it with my family!

Until next time,

Friday, April 26, 2019

2019 Rest & Retreat

Once year, each April, I take time to retreat.  While I am still learning about all the labels the world has tried to adhere to me, I know in my soul that when life is ... well, life, I feel the need to retreat.  So, this yearly chance to get away and recenter is always a sweet space for me and helps to bring me peace.

While in the same area, this year's retreat was in a new space and brought me the opportunity to photograph new things.  As we all began to settle our first night, God was out back showing off, so I slipped away to shoot.  I was amazed at how the clouds had so much tone and depth and such fantastic color to them.  And how the water was like an enormous glass mirror for the color and light.

As storm clouds rolled in and the light disappeared, I returned to the house for the evening.  Our first morning always gives us two hours of solitude after breakfast.  This is the highlight of the weekend for many of us.  It seems silly that I need permission to be silent.  Or that I need someone else to tell others to be silent.  But as a person who feels the need to retreat in order to gain rest, I do.  Like other years, I spend my two hours of silence walking and talking with God.

Walking or hiking on trails isn't always as simple as you might envision.  After all, the whole point is that you feel like you are IN the woods.  Of course, if you have no idea where you are, or where you are going, then getting lost and having no way back would deter a lot of people.  So, there are lots of signs that show you you are on the right path, even when there are two paths to choose.  Physical signs, like trail signs and the blue rhombus to mark your path, as well as visual signs, like carved out spaces or the new grass under foot.

As I continued on the trail, I was so excited to hear a small stream and I loved being able to feel like God had come closer.

When I first started the hike, there was a map (similar to the one above, but at a different starting point).  I choose not to take a close look and instead followed what looked like the clear path (of course I did).  Only, as I started it, I couldn't quite tell which direction to go, so I went back.  I decided to go the opposite direction because there were more signs and I felt I would have clearer guidance coming from the other side.  Yet, as I walked, I began to find it harder and harder to find my way.  I kept looking for the signs, but I was struggling.  I came to the map above and took a picture, thinking only about the story I was shooting and that signs would be a part of it.  Wanting to talk about how we all want God to show us we are on the right trail; to give us signs and show us a map of the big picture - and even point to the place we are to say, look, YOU ARE HERE.  The thought to use it as my own guide didn't cross my mind.

Once I was on the other side of where I had turned around before, the direction wasn't any clearer.  I again searched for signs.  Typically, the signs work together.  You will see a clear cut path, with a sign with a hiker, and a blue rhombus in the distance.  I wasn't seeing them together.  Particularly the blue rhombus.  What I saw instead was a very steep path that was easy to see, but certainly difficult to walk, and didn't feel right.  Then I remembered the picture I had taken.  So I checked the map and decided that perhaps I was too close.  Low and behold, when I moved to change how I was seeing things, there in the distance was a blue rhombus - hardly noticeable in the center picture below.

And the path designed for me was, well, designed for me.  No steep hills, no tall weeds to fight through, and a lovely view.  There was even a marker at the end to show me that my path, while difficult, was straight ahead.

We want life to be like this: signs everywhere to tell us we are on the right path and easier trails when things are hard or don't look right.  And sometimes, it is.  There are clear cut signs: maps we design, paths someone has laid before us, a person we meet on the trail.  Sometimes God tells us we are on the trail with a unmistakable blue rhombus.  Other times, not so much.  We may feel lost, even when we are on the right path, because we don't see the signs right away, if at all.   We are discouraged and question where God is and why we even got on the path in the first place.  We have all been there, some of us in darker places than others.  And there are no easy answers.

But God reminds us that He is always with us, even when He is silent - even if we have ended up on a different path or that things are painful or hard where we are.  He reminds us to take heart.  He is there - He is with us.  He hasn't left.  

Pray for Him to help you see as He does.  To be able to step back and change your perspective.  
Pray that you will feel Him sitting beside you.  Because it doesn't matter if we are on the path designed for us or not, He is surely there.  He never leaves.

"In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world."  ~ John 16:33

"And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” ~ Matthew 28:20

~ Until next time,

Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Hello Spring! Wanna Play in the Rain?

As Spring FINALLY makes her debut, I decided to polish off this set from last year in honor of the (hopeful) end to the winter blues.  I have done pictures of my daughter playing in the rain every year since she was little and I have loved them all.  This set got me thinking about how playing in the rain for me, unlike my girl who runs out to embrace it, used to be a struggle.

 Of course, there was that ONE time in college that a dear friend convinced me to play in the rain and I got DRENCHED (and I even have the picture to prove it).  But typically, I had a hard time feeling free in the rain; it was heavy and cold and I just didn't love it.  And then I met my husband.  He got out in the rain with our son when he was so little and they had the best time ... and I saw all I was missing and decided to join in.

 My girl obviously has no problem.  She loves the running and splashing and jumping.  She giggles and smiles and seems to never tire of it.  When it rains, with a big grin on her face, she says, "Momma, can we go play in the rain?!"

And while I certainly don't have my daughter's excitement and joy about it, I do love to watch her and I love that I am invited to be a part of her joy.

And yes, to even get drenched from our head to our toes.

I hope you have someone in your life that gets excited when they see the rain drops coming and invites you to let go and play with them in the rain.  And if you don't, then let me be that person.  The next time it rains, think of me and my girl, and grab your rain boots.

Until next time,