Thursday, December 7, 2017

Continuing Traditions: Cutting Down Our Tree

This year, as we came closer to the weekend for us to get our Christmas tree, I had the chance to look back over the last two years that we went out to cut her down (2016 & 2015).  You would think that I would have been prepared for how much these pictures would mean to me.  I talk about the importance of documentary photography regularly, and for Pete's sake, I shot the pictures.  But I really can't tell you how unprepared I was to look over those stories.  You see, the writer in me does my best to make my posts more than just pretty pictures.  I try to talk about the memories that I experienced too.  And it was exactly that, those feelings and emotions that were locked away in both visual cues and written word, that I wasn't fully ready for.  I wasn't ready for how different my kids would be or some of the little things that would have changed.  And I was so thankful to be able to look back at them and know that when my children have their own kids, I can do more than just tell them the stories of when we went to get our tree - I can show them.

So, this time, I went in with a different perspective.  I knew that these pictures will matter not as much today as they will in a few years.  In a few years, when I have no idea which farm we want to try, these pictures will jog my memory.

 In a few years when my daughter has stopped holding hands and having a gleeful joy about each tree she thinks might work, I will look back and smile.  And when my son has outgrown me and is inching closer to my husband's height, I'll be thankful for these.

When we reach the stage that my son no longer offers for my daughter to climb up on his shoulders to test the height of our tree, I'll have these moments locked away to look back on and remind me.

 I'll recall with a laugh the way I shake my head at my husband's devilish grin when he finds "the tree".  The one that is towering far over his head, but he still tries to convince me will fit in our 7ft. space.

 I'll chuckle as I remember how my son tried so hard to find a "little" tree for my daughter to have one more her size.  And I'll remember the stage of life that we used our girl to measure our tree and see if reaching the top was possible before we officially cut it down.

 I'll remember how my husband gave my son the perfect place to trim her down to, and the way we all worked together to help make it happen.

 How the boys hauled her through the lot and my girl tagged right along behind.  And how my son made waiting more fun by letting his little sister sit up high on his shoulders once more.

I'll recall the cuddles in the tractor for fear my girl would fall out, and how we spent a little time checking in on animals while at the tree farm.

And of course, I'll remember the final stop as the tree was loaded on top of the car, and we got ready for the drive home to decorate her for the season.  Plus, I'll have these images to help me with all the little details in between.

Until next time,

Monday, November 27, 2017

Hawaii #4: Backyard Beaches & Waimea Valley

If you had the chance to check out my last post, you might remember that accidental shot of our girl getting stung by a Portuguese man o' war.  Of course, we actually had no idea until the next day exactly what had happen.  By the grace of God, some Google research, and dumb luck, we did just want we were supposed to do in treating it and were lucky to have no issues come from it.  The next morning while exploring the beach with my camera and looking for some shots to share what our backyard looked like, I saw several on the beach and began to put two and two together.

Needless to say, we quickly realized that spending time on the beach in our backyard, with 30 foot waves and stinging sea creatures, simply wasn't an option.  We went exploring to other beaches close by and my crew was amazing to tag along while I looked for more shots of our view.

After some debating over what activities everyone would enjoy, we decided to split up for a little bit.  This allowed me to wander a close by botanical area with a waterfall, while my husband and kiddos found a spot on a beach to play in some calmer waves and sand.

The area was so quiet and lush.  The trees were crazy tall and wide, which was so incredible.  And while the flowers only popped up occasionally, they were still fun to discover.

The end goal was being able to find and photograph the waterfall.  Once there, I was surprised to see it be more of an open swim area, but it was beautiful none the less.

 I headed back over to the beach as sun began to set and we were able to stand and watch the waves crash while the sun drew closer to the horizon.  The craziest thing was that even though there were lifeguards with megaphones telling surfers they might want to come in because of the waves, there were still people willingly getting into (and crushed by) the water.  If you look closely, you can even see a person in one of the waves in both of the bottom pictures.  Crazy.

Those colors became more and more varied and vibrant as the sun bowed out.  Truly amazing.  It was like watching God paint the sky.

 And even after the sun was gone, I feel like we could have sat and listened to the waves for hours (but we had some hungry bellies to feed).  We had just one last day on the North Shore before heading to Maui and my husband was on a hunt for a beach to boogie board and castle build on.  Looking forward to sharing those with you!

Until next time,

Friday, November 17, 2017

Hawaii #3: Hanauma Bay & The North Shore

On my first trip to Hawaii, my very favorite stop was Hanauma Bay.  I remember vividly how amazing I thought it was to look down from the cliff side and see the coral that covered the ocean floor.  I wanted to make sure that my family got to see that same view.

We spent a big portion of the afternoon here and enjoyed our time so much.  My boys got to do their first round of snorkeling and I even got to spend some time doing it too!

With Emma being too small to understand snorkeling, we spent a lot of time playing in the sand and wading in the water.  Check out my girl's imagination at work as she channels her inner mermaid.

Once we were all finished in the Waikiki area, we headed to our next stop at the North Shore, getting to see sunset as we drove.  We took a few stops along the way to awe at all that God made.  I am truly left speechless so often by the beauty He creates.

The weather the next day wasn't quite as sunny and magical as our first couple of days.  Something we were not prepared for was the difference in Waikiki and the North Shore, specifically the massive waves and rocks that lined many of the beaches there (something to be expected for the time of year we were visiting).  The waves were easily 20 feet or higher most days and with signs posted all over, swimming wasn't an option.  So my husband made sure to at least take our girl for walks on the beach and I made sure to catch it.

Not being natives to the area, we didn't know about various things to watch out for.  At the sunset stop on the way in, we returned to our car with shoes covered in biting ants.  After the first morning on the beach, we learned that sea urchins had been spotted on the beach (and Googled to find out what they looked like).  And if you look closely, you'll see where I unknowingly caught our girl right after we believe she got stung by a Portuguese man o' war (more on that to come in the next post).

With a cloudy and rainy day in store for our first day in the North Shore, we made sure to take it easy, catch up on homework and laundry (yep, boring stuff still has to be done in paradise), and do a little exploring. My crew made a stop at Shark's Cove (that last shot above), and my pictures stopped there for the day when our girl took a misstep and sliced open her ankle on some lava rocks. Definitely not her day, but we made sure to get her checked out and bandaged up and it didn't stop us from still having tons of fun as the trip unfolded.

I'm excited to share more of our adventures soon!  I sometimes turn on ocean waves sounds, close my eyes and can imagine I am still there; my hope is that you might too.

Until next time,

Monday, November 13, 2017

Hawaii #2: Pearl Harbor

Although this trip was my family's first chance to see Hawaii, for me, it was a second chance at paradise.  Due to the generosity of an amazing family (a cousin stationed there and my unbelievable parents), I was able to have a week's stay in Hawaii for a graduation gift.  However, because I was a teenager and always struggled to love history, when it rained the day we had slotted to go to Pearl Harbor, I voted to skip it.  It is a decision I have regretted every time I think about that trip.

This time, with a husband that has taught me a better appreciation for history, and a chance to have a do-over, I knew that wouldn't happen.  Pearl Harbor has so much to explore and learn about, and so we chose to take advantage of it all by spending the full day there and getting an audio tour that would fill us in as we walked (I always recommend these).  We spent the beginning of our time on the USS Arizona Memorial.  Words are a struggle to give the true feel for a place like this, but I will do my best as I go.

 While the ocean has begun to take over and create life out of loss, oil from the ship continues to slowly escape into the water each day.  Sometimes dubbed as black tears, it is said to be the tears of the crew lost that day.

The memorial and wall is both beautiful and breath taking all at one time.  Although you might have a size in your mind that you think it is, in person, it is so much bigger.

After exploring the Arizona Memorial, we headed back to wonder the rest of the Pearl Harbor Memorials and continue on our audio tour.

It was surreal to walk around.  We saw and heard about so many artifacts and models from our country's forced entry into war.  It was neat to see it all through the eyes of a teenager who is still learning about so much of our country's history.

Of course, as a photographer, the images are breath taking to me and are such a valuable piece of history.

After learning all the memorial had to share with us about the Arizona, we spent some time visiting the USS Bowfin Submarine and museum.  My family agreed that being able to walk around and see all the Bowfin had inside was a pretty surprising stop.

We also got to explore the Battleship Missouri and hear about her many missions.  My boys enjoyed this the most, getting to walk around the decks and have the guide tell them details they would never have known on their own. 

We spent our final bit of remaining time checking out the Pacific Aviation Museum.  I loved the images they use to welcome you!  Their space was a neat environment and had so many different planes on display with combat stories.

This stop was an incredible piece of our trip and I am so glad to be able to share it!  If you missed Stop #1 at Waikiki Beach & Diamond Head, you can head over here to read about it. Get ready for some beach hopping coming your way soon!

Until next time,

Thursday, November 9, 2017

Hawaii Stop # 1: Waikiki Beach & Diamond Head

If you really know me, you know that when it comes to the fight or flight of life, I flight.  If I am feeling overwhelmed, I need new air and the best way to get that is to leave where I am.  This year, we have had our fair share of things that have made me want to fly away, including 3 very close deaths.  In addition, I turned the big 4-0 this year, and although I have found that every new decade of my life has brought on something beautiful that I love even more than the last one, change is something I always approach with a nervous heart.  So, with a long list of things to take a break from, and a good excuse to celebrate, we boarded a jet plane and took our family on a beautiful ten day trip to Hawaii.

We decided that our first stop on the agenda would be Waikiki.  Many people warned us that the city is very touristy and busy, but the reality is that some major points of interest are located in Waikiki, so avoiding it means more time to travel in your car - and who wants that on vacation?  We opted to find a hotel close enough to walk across the street to the beach and get to those highly desired places quickly for the first few days.

After over 11 hours of travel in two different planes, and getting up at 4 am, it was vital that we head straight to the beach before filling our starving bellies.  My crew traded in their gym shoes for sandals and skipped over to squish the sand between their toes.

After soaking in some sweet sunshine and doing a little wave crashing, our girl switched out clothes and we took a stroll to a beachfront restaurant for dinner.  The restaurant had the most amazing burgers and you could hear and see the ocean from our table (talk about a dream).  That streaming light from behind my kids certainly took my breath away and made me take pause and thank God not just for being where we were, but for the blessings that I sometimes take for granted.

And as sun was setting, my husband encouraged me to sneak away for a sunset picture.  Of course, finding a clear shot I love wasn't actually as easy as stumbling out the front door (I walked two blocks to try and get rid of those signs, only to have more in my way later).

The next morning, with our bodies still set on Central time, we rose early and headed for a morning hike of Diamond Head State Monument.  Let's be clear, even though I love nature and have a trail hiking Boy Scout, hiking is not really my thing.  But, photos are, so I trekked some SERIOUSLY small spaces and steep inclines (DO YOU SEE THOSE TEENIE TINY ANT SIZED PEOPLE) for these shots.  I also get the honor badge that I hiked to the top of Diamond Head the year I turned 40.  =)

In the midst of everything, it was a magnificent view of the island and allowed you to see so much of how God touches the land and the seas.

While we didn't make it to the top before sunrise officially began (ok, and maybe we didn't even start before it), we still got to see some pretty amazing light shows.  And we stuck around a bit to watch the skies turn a beautiful shade of blue and those clouds begin to grow big and fluffy.  I DID make sure to take a picture of how far we had walked to get to the top (yep, that patch of green below is the center of the crater and is in front of the parking lot).  And then I stopped for a few shots of the surrounding area on our way back down.

Such a great start for our first full day!  In fact, we might have all gone back and taken a mid morning nap to help us re-coop from all the fun.  Can't wait to share more with you!  Next up?  The amazing Pearl Harbor!

Until next time,

Sunday, November 5, 2017

November 5-on-5: Halloween Traditions Changed

This year, for a list of various reasons, our family vacation took place the weeks preceding Halloween.  In some ways, this was a welcome change.  We had less crowds, our travel expenses were lower, and the weather was neither hot nor freezing.  On the downside, we weren't able to participate in a lot of our typical Midwest traditions, like pumpkin patches, jack-o-lanterns, or corn mazes.  Leave it to my family to find a way to sneak those things in someway.

Enter the 2008 Guinness Book of World Record's Largest Maze, located at the Dole Plantation in Wahiawa, HI.   While not made of leftover corn husks, this maze gave us a serious run for our money.  Not only a maze, but also a bit of a scavenger hunt (with a timed card to boot), the point of the maze is to "collect" all the various stencil markings available at 8 different spots with the maze.

It has been neat to see how my kids are beginning to fight for being in charge now that little miss is getting bigger.  For the biggest portion of the maze, we allowed our Life Scout to lead the way.

Once we were down to only one remaining stencil, we let our girl lead the line.  It was a HOOT to watch her be large and in charge.

Of course, if you know anything about my husband, you know that really, he's always in charge.  And so, taking shortcuts (or cheating) to beat the kids was his MO more than once.

In the end, we all had a lot of fun and were able to collect all 8 stencils.  We definitely didn't do it in record time, but then again, no one else had a 4 year old on their course.

Of course, there is much more to be seen from our trip that I look forward to sharing (so I hope you come back)!  In the meantime, I'm always excited and honored to share the work of the ladies I am lucky enough to be in this circle with.  Up next is Margaret Albaugh, Spokane Photographer.  Make sure to show her some love.

Until next time,

Monday, October 16, 2017

Miami University - For Love and Honor

When I look back and think about different times in my life that were a turning point for me, outside of marriage and becoming a parent, my last years of college were the biggest shift.  Something about being on campus at Miami University in Ohio changed me.  It made me work harder than I ever had and step out of who I was, to become a newer version of myself I didn't even know was there.  I've never known if it was Miami and the friendships I made during that time, or just me getting to a point in my life that I was ready for change.  Either way, being back fills me in a way that other things simply don't - and it's very difficult to explain that to those who didn't live there (my fellow Miamians are all shaking their heads in agreement right now).

So, when I turned 40 this year, and my best friend wanted to know what I wanted for my birthday, we determined that a trip back to Miami together was the very best gift she could give me.  My love language is quality time - so it wasn't just about being back at the place our friendship began together, but also simply about uninterrupted time with my best friend while on the road.

While the landscape of Miami is amazing, and shooting it was definitely on the list, the bigger goal was to both experience and photograph the places that made my memories come alive.  Annie and I came to understand during our visit that the things that represented Miami to each of us were so different.  For me, it was Central Quad and the Sundial.  I walked by this piece of campus many times a day and rubbed those little turtle heads more than I can tell you.  That space is Miami to me.

Of course, there are tons of other iconic pieces of campus.  A visit to Miami DEFINITELY means lunch at Bagel and Deli.  And friends, it hasn't changed in almost 20 years; it's still as amazing as ever.

Another uptown stop I was dying for was You're Fired, a paint-your-own pottery shop that opened up my final semester on campus.  I took a creative writing course my last semester and our entire class painted pottery as a part of our creative expression.  The owner gave the first customers the option to paint a tile to go around the checkout desk and our class was a part of that.  Eighteen years later, my tile is still there and the store was even more busy than I remember it!  To top it off, we got to meet  and talk with the owner (how cool is God?) about our trip and my tile.

After our uptown adventures, we explored more of campus by car, heading first to the stadiums.  The clouds that day were incredible and made taking these shots so fantastic.  Having been Miami Redskins during the first half of our college career, there is not much on campus that holds that symbol anymore, so getting something with that in it was a must.

Our next stops were towards The Hub for more Miami Symbols: Upham Hall, The Seal, and a walk over to hear and see the glorious Beta Bells up close.  

As we continued, we stopped at the new student center, which had an amazing sitting room (thanks to my friend's family) with the most beautiful words: "To think that in such a place, I led such a life."  *sigh*

We went for a ride through the ever beautiful Western Campus and I was able to get some more shots there, before we headed back around to Bishop Woods.  And even though it was so very different than a couple of decades back, it was still a sweet spot of nature, with a new entrance as a nice touch.

After a little more driving, our final stop for the night was a picnic dinner in Central Quad, where I got one last look at the Sundial and the chance to remember my shady study spot in the quad.

I found on our trip that it was the simple things of this place that refueled me.  Time with a trusted friend, wind rustling through the trees and birds singing in the air.  It was a beautiful reminder to me to set aside time for myself with no real agenda, so that God can use the simple things in life to speak into my soul.  I hope you're able to do the same.

Until next time,

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

The Way He Works (The Crisp Family)

There's something about the way God works.  I have seen it a million times, but it doesn't seem to matter.  Every time, He leaves me in awe.  This is my new friend Grant and his family.  It is no accident that we have met; God made sure of it.  Grant and Keira were friends.  They met as Keira's journey was winding down and Grant's journey was just beginning (you can follow their journey here).  So, when I learned that Grant's family was interested in spending a day of fun together so I could take pictures, we moved quickly to make it happen.

We spent an afternoon doing things that sort of encapsulate Grant and his family right now.  First on the agenda was spending time in the kitchen, where Grant played both chef and adorable photographer.

 With four males under one roof, I feel like you have to always be ready for impromptu physical play.  Introduce monsters in the halls.  But really - I'm not sure who had more fun - Mom and Dad or the boys.

After that, the great outdoors seemed to be calling, so everyone got their shoes on and headed out to the swing-set.

 I really loved to watch everyone play and interact.  It's not always easy to find something everyone is interested in because of their ages, but this one worked!

After tons of play, we headed back indoors for some down time.  My son loved the movie Cars about this age, and this family can totally relate.  In fact, if you are a Cars fanatic, maybe you can see the scene playing out right before your eyes.

 After some fun times with the blocks and at the trains, everyone piled upstairs to have a dance party, because a life well lived involves some great dancing.

 And as Dad got in his work out for the day, and Mom showed off her killer dance moves, things started winding down.  We took this time to snag one "official" portrait and then let my friend Grant have some snuggle time in his favorite spot, with his favorite lovey.

I loved to watch this family come together for the afternoon, and how they are relying on God through this journey.  I hope it encourages you to press in to God when life takes unexpected turns.  To take the time to play on your swing set, crawl on the floor with your kids, and have a dance party in your living room.

Until next time,

Thursday, October 5, 2017

October 5-on-5: Learning with Letters

Since my son is in school and my daughter still stays at home with me, official first day of school pictures are really limited to just him (for now).  Of course, just because my daughter isn't in a school building doesn't mean she can't still be learning.  In fact, she loves to practice her reading and writing, which is just what she did when her new glasses appeared on the scene.

She started with drawing a line through the alphabet and making sure to hit them all in order (with a little help on that l-m-n section).

Beginning letter sounds are a new skill, so the next page was perfect for her to sit and work through.  Lots of slowly sounding words out to hear that first letter.

 And pushing back her hair so she could stay fully focused on her task at hand.

 Got it!  I love her excitement when she shows she understands!

And a final look over to make sure she's done them all right!

I love being able to watch her think and learn. It's one of the cool bonuses of staying home and getting to be her 1-on-1 teacher.  And then I even get to take pictures and share them with you!

Speaking of sharing, I know it's so much easier to stop right here, but it's not nearly as rewarding.  The photographers in my circle are a talented bunch and I would love to know that their work is being seen by YOU.  Hop on over to see Margaret Albaugh, Spokane Photographer.

Until next time,