Spontaneous Shoot

Friends are important. 

I don't make that statement lightly...

I also don't put so much stock into it that I feel as though it will make it or break it for you with regards to LIFE in general...

However, even Jesus had a core group of friends...sure, he had tons of "followers"...if he would have had social media platforms, perhaps he'd have tons of IG followers and lots of "friends" on FB...but, I'm pretty confident that he'd have his core group (as he did back then...remember the 12?) and then he'd probably be extra close to less than a handful of those (i.e. Peter, John, James...probably more like BFFs)

My point is, I DO believe we were created for relationship...and therefore, I say it again:

Friends are important.

My husband spoke recently at a youth function and he mentioned a quote to the students:

"You are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with" ~Jim Rohn

If this is truly the case, then I want the people that my daughters choose to hang with on a consistent basis to be people that share similar values, that encourage and motivate, that choose kindness over popularity...

I don't think I'm speaking of impossibilities or grandiose dreams...

I know that it's true in my own life...

Obviously, my husband is one of my "five"...and I find myself approaching decisions or situations and trying to process it through his perspective at times...though I am a TALKER, I find myself motivated to listen a bit more, because that's what he is like...

This doesn't mean that I or my girls DON'T spend time with people that are different than us...

that would be ridiculous...

how can you learn about the world around you if you just shut yourself in???...this is why I drive them crazy introducing myself to strangers, and striking up conversations with interesting people...

BUT, the ones that you let into your inner circle...the ones that become a part of your tribe....these are the people that you choose purposefully :) 

All of my daughters have done such a great job with choosing friendships...each one of their girlfriends are unique and bring special encouragement to my girls...this isn't to say that there isn't "drama" from time to time...but (knock on wood) it hasn't been drastic, nor consistent...teenage life is challenging...and they are weathering it well so far!

All this to say...sometimes, it's fun to showcase those relationships and personalities and interactions...

During Spring break that is exactly what happened...

it was a spontaneous shoot...a bit chilly...and produced lots of laughing! 













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InstaLove

I really love Instagram.

Not a big fan of their new "algorithm" or whatever you want to call it...I liked it better when everything was just chronological instead of whatever they "think" I want to see...but, regardless, I'm addicted to all things pretty...and relational...and funny...

I follow a bazillion photographers because I like to keep hammering myself in the head with comparison  the inspiration :)

However, the sites that always get a smile on my face have to do with the things I mentioned above...things that are pretty, relational, funny...or a STORY :)

With that, I thought I'd share with you some of my favorites...the ones that, when I see them show up in my feed, I stop scrolling and savor...I read the comments, I laugh at their silly, I oooh and ahh over their spectaculars and I continue on my day with a smile...

I know we all already follow Magnolia and all things Joanna Gaines...and of course all the blue check mark ones of popularity, so I'm not going to highlight those...

I'll just share a few of my favorites and maybe they'll become some of your favorites too: )


I'll start out with @thedogist I like dogs...and this precious feed highlights the sweetest pups known to man...I can't even resist!


 I've mentioned before my love for journaling and doodling and sketching...I've found a few people that I just love their sketches and their inspiration... @doodleswithsteena @krystalwhitten and @sdionbakerdesign 



 I've never claimed to be a fashion guru...I honestly don't really know what I'm doing but I like to be comfortable and I like affordable!  More importantly, I like a REALLY great deal...however, as I've gotten older, I've been at a loss as to how to "put together" outfits.  @livinginyellow has been sooo helpful in this arena.  She is able to put together ensembles that not only look great, but, I can , in turn, recreate the outfits with either her own finds or deals of my own...at least NOW I know what I'm looking for! 


I like these next two just because... @fromwhereIdrone because he gets images of things that I can't...and they are unique and breathtaking and I get to imagine being a bird and flying over top of God's great landscape! 


I told you that I like a STORY... @childhoodunplugged has a story in every image...I love the collaboration of artists and photographers that contribute to their feed.  It's inspiring and heart-warming! 


Can I just be completely honest here...nearing my mid-40s, my body is giving me a run for my money...all the things I USED to do don't necessarily work any longer...I'm not trying to morph my body into a bikini...I just want to be able to safely squeeze my muffin top into the top of my jeans and still button them okay? 

I've also come to realize the greater importance of eating healthy.  I gave up all soda and I'm doing a better job of reading labels and I'm soooo thankful that summer is coming so that fruits & veggies are more plentiful and easily accessible as well. 

These two ladies keep me hopping...I love @beccabeschtafitness instastory highlights with workout ideas and food menus... @heatherbarritt makes me smile because her energy and hilarious sarcasm just peps me up!



And how could I end a blog post about people I follow without mentioning BOOKS...Oh sweet lord, we need MORE BOOKS in our lives!  The first one I found recently and I figured anyone with a love for Mr. Darcy is A-Okay in my book.  The second one is another recently found site that gives recommendations for kids and teens...BLESS!!!





OKAY NOW IT'S YOUR TURN...
Spam me with all your FAVES for Instagram LOVE...what are your favorite feeds...I'd love to see something NEW this Spring!!! 

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Spring Break

I only have two more years with our eldest daughter under our roof.  To say that I've been rather contemplative and reflective of late, would be an understatement.

I don't think I actually noticed the "parenting" seasons changing as the years passed...you sort of slide into each one in the frenzy of it all...

Oh sure, she had younger sisters, so there was a bit of lag time with Sesame Street into High School Musical...but, as with any family, there are ebbs and flows, and sometimes the youngest gets to do things wayyyy ahead of when the oldest was allowed.

Baby years were HARD...as in, lord-have-mercy-I-need-toothpicks-to-keep-my-eyes-open-because-my-darling-children-won't-sleep! Not to mention the CONSTANT of the discipline and guidance and "oh my lands, get away from that outlet"!

Each stage offers difference challenges and I assumed that as they grew more independent, that my "role" would lessen in a way...

I.WAS.WRONG.

It's gone from no sleep due to crying/colic to no sleep from emotionally-drained-worry...

The fact of the matter, parenting is a tough job...and there really isn't a specific rule book that gives you guaranteed results for all the bazillion different personalities and temperaments of each unique child!

That said, I DO know that above all else there is relationship!

Sometimes relationships are strained and sometimes things are awesome...I lived with toddlers at one point and the roller coaster doesn't necessarily change as they hit teen years either! #goodluck #callmeoptomistic  However, I think what has made some of the biggest impacts for me, as a mom and in relationship with my girls, is the fact that we stuck with it.  We don't give up, we practice patience and forgiveness...my husband and I took turns during those physically draining years, so that our kids knew that we were their "go-to" people above all else...and we know that we are "FOR" each other...we make the time to be with one another, amidst the busy.  It sometimes means saying no to good things, but it's definitely worth it in the end!

So, in honor of Spring Break this week and "what-in-the-world-am-i-going-to-do-with-the-children-its-not-summer-yet" I thought I'd bequest a few ideas for those of us staying home to enjoy the Midwest's definition of Spring: rain & cold...

1. Find the least expensive or FREE things.  We call this sort of thing Day O' Fun.  This is where we give the children a specific amount of money (i.e. $50) that has to feed and entertain all of us all day.  I typically give them a couple days heads up notice so they can research...often this consists of obtaining coupons or researching establishments (for example: what's the typical time of day that the Krispy Kreme light comes on? Which day is "kids eat free"? An example of our Day O Fun can be found HERE  Other ideas might be the Meijer Game (you can email me for details on that one) or scavenger hunts in the library. The idea is to see how long you can make the money last and how much fun you can have in a day for the least expenditure. If nothing else, it's a lesson in money management ;)

2. Have a READ IN:  This might work better with younger elementary kiddos, but my favorite times with my girls typically centered around stories...We LOVE a good read-a-loud or audiobook.  If you didn't catch my Book Nook #1 blog post about read alouds and book choices, you can read it HERE
But, here are some of my favorite Audiobook selections:
*Anything read by Jim Weiss: Fairytales, Animal Tales or American Tall Tales
*Novels by E.B.White: Trumpet of the Swan or Charlotte's Web (his novels are read by himself)
*American Girl Stories (our favorite is Felicity)
*Frog and Toad
*Classics (The Secret Garden or Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe)

Instead of having a movie "Drive In", do a Read In, where you pop popcorn, have blankets and pillows...provide coloring supplies for them to doodle or play with kinetic sand or playdoh while they listen.

If that doesn't suit, you can always get the CDs or reserve mp3s on Overdrive and play them in the car while on a long drive.  We listened to all 7 hours of Felicity on our way to Williamsburg one year.  It was glorious!

3. Make movies with iphones.  Kids already do this and are quite adept...they can't seem to keep their rooms clean or remember to change out toilet paper, but by golly, they can make pretty cool "mockumenteries" We typically have saved this for Christmas time where the kids dress up and recreate the Nativity story...but, why wait until then! Sit back in the evening and watch your kids perform on the big screen! HERE are some FREE movie making apps.


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Last but not least...our school district's Spring Break has lined up with Easter this year, so I started collecting fun ideas for Easter baskets (for those that do that sort of thing) along with a fun "gift" idea for littles that brought hours of enjoyment and relationship time during their younger years.

HERE is a pinterest board I put together with "basket" ideas such as Ball caps, Wellies, Beach towel bunnies, Tumblers/Water bottles, and even Umbrellas!

My last little "idea" has to do with something homemade, inexpensive and something that has stood the test of time...

If you are from my generation you will remember well the "flannel graph"...mostly seen in Sunday Schools across the Bible Belt of America...they were a JOY to the preschoolers that attended church each weekend.  Ohhh to be chosen to put the flannel character onto the board to represent the next part of the story...pure exhilaration and a sly smirk to all those that weren't chosen...apparently we were a tad pious back then...

Anyway, I recently uncovered the flannel board that I made back when my eldest was a toddler.  It is easily manufactured, by covering one foam core board with black felt and then covering another board with blue & green (for sky and grass).  You then glue the two board together so that you have a two-sided feature! (I'm cool like that!)

At your local craft store you can purchase all sorts of colored felt for nickels and dimes.  I started off with just cutting out my own shapes in all different colors.  We would have counting games or "find the color games", or just make colorful houses out of different sized geometric shapes.  I would even cut out leaves to count on trees, or ducks or birds...anything to count and name colors.


As my girls became more verbal, I found online stores that sold Flannel Bible stories that they could use in the same way I was taught "back in the day"

I found some that went along with the Beginner's Bible HERE, HERE, and HERE but, I'm sure there are many more!

My girls' favorite story was of Moses:



After awhile, as with all things, you may want to change things up a bit...that's when we started getting really creative.  Back in that local crafts store again, you can find stiff flannel with a sticky back.  I would make photo copies of book characters on cardstock, from my daughters' favorite books, cut them out, and adhere them to the stiff flannel...WALA, we had a brand new flannel graph story.

Below is a video of my youngest at age 3 retelling the story of The Gruffalo by Julianne Donaldson


However you spend your time this spring break, I hope you'll enjoy and remember to soak up the moments with your kiddos...whatever age!



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SENIOR SESSION: Megan...she's back :)

I met her last Fall...back during the hurry, scurry, hectic, crazy...

but now it's Spring (well, according to the calendar and not the weather persay) and of course the frenzy has calmed down...

Wait a second while I choke a little on that sentence...

of course things haven't slowed down...

if anything, things are speeding up...

this girl is on her way to graduation, diploma, college...

in less than 2 months!

Her momma is going to hate me for pointing that out...

this time for the slow goodbye...

the savoring of ALL the moments for the last time...

it's bittersweet...

It's what we train them to do, to "leave the nest", to venture out on their own as a confidence individual.

But the goodbye is hard.

It's during these Senior Sessions, when we are gathering all the facets of personality and passions together, that we recognize the STORY.

Megan had so many chapters of her story that she wanted to showcase, that we scheduled two separate Senior Sessions..one a complete focus on her personality, which you can see HERE...and this one to highlight her passions and her friendships.

What I love about Megan is her "down-to-earth" spirit.  She is comfortable in her own skin and therefore is able to be this generous, happy, thoughtful, fun-loving friend...it's that confidence that actually gives you humility, which draws people in. 

I can't wait to see what her future holds! 
















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Being Still

I need to preface all that I'm about to write with the fact that this is not a lament. This is what I signed up for when I chose to become a wife, a mom, a photographer, a friend...it's an understanding that the journey can sometimes be exhausting, but it's not impossible...just wanted to put it out there :) I also want to say that I know and fully comprehend that the "hardships" I may mention are minuscule in comparison to others...it doesn't make them any less important, but I do know that there is always something or someone that has a more difficult challenge than what I may or may not be facing...and vice versa...again, wanting to be transparent...

Monday started like any other beginning to a week...

it's a Monday, therefore I need the coffee to do the things...

we made it through the day...it was fine...it was good...

Although, oldest child came home from school with a massive headache and basically was out of commission for the remainder of the evening. She has a strong case of FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out), like her mother, and was devastated that she wouldn't be able to participate in the extended family dinner at Nana & Popi's that evening with cousins that were in town from Tennessee. But, we persevered...

The evening was filled with visits and stories and pasta...lots and lots of pasta...because this is what you do in an Italian family...you eat pasta and red sauce and you talk, and sometimes use your hands...voice levels elevate and laughter reverberates on the walls...prayers of thankfulness are said, hugs are shared, and cousins build forts and play videos games...

it's family...

And for some reason later that evening my brain would NOT shut off.  From time to time I have bouts of insomnia...or maybe better termed: anxiety that won't leave me alone!

I get consumed with "what ifs" and "worst case scenarios" of situations that are either so far into the future, or so far-fetched that it's ridiculous...

try explaining that to my brain at O'dark thirty in the morning.

And so it was that night...laying awake after 1am, willing my heart to give over the worry to One that had things under control.

You see, peers/friends recently discovered stage 4 brain cancer in the Dad of 10 children, AND
young leaders in my photography business world are waiting for their baby's heart to stop beating while still trying to soak up every moment that he's still alive in her tummy because of multiple life-threatening diseases he has in utero, AND
young students were murdered earlier this year in Florida and a walk out was staged in schools across America and in our personal, little world, lack of information & discussion turns into bullying of those that don't follow the masses...

my brain couldn't process everything and yet wouldn't stop trying...

Just as I lay there on the precipice of sleep...as my conscience reached for the string that would pull me into a slumber...

our bedroom door opened to my youngest complaining of a tummy ache...

In my semi-drifted state, I told her to climb in with us and maybe she'd feel better
(read: mommy's too tired and can't think straight so maybe if you lay here, it will all go away and I can escape into the nothingness)

About 5.2 seconds later, she decided the bathroom might be a better choice and it's at that moment that the sound coming from the bathroom jolts you from whatever semblance of sleep you may have attained and you sprint to hold back her hair and rub her back and realize that you are now going to carry out an all-nighter, the likes of which you haven't seen since college days!

Eleven vomiting episodes later, the fever finally reared it's ugly head and thus began more hours of cool compresses and soothing words. Let's just say I'm not quite sure how my noodle-loving Italian girl is going to move forward for future traditional meal gatherings.

Hubby was by our side as much as possible, regardless of the fact that his plane was leaving around 6am and he had a full day's worth of work ahead of him, not to mention planes, travel and hotel stays.

Zombie walking through the next 48 hours, with cup after cup of coffee, my tired brain took the lack of reasoning opportunity to plague me, once again, with fears and the whole "when is the shoe going to drop"mindset.

If you watched "This is Us" this week, you will understand how fully I relate to Randall's & his wife's game of "worst case scenario"...I can't begin to tell you how that resonated with me...and I also agree with his brother, Kevin, in one of the scenes, in that, "it doesn't make me feel better!"

I don't want to consider myself a pessimist...I like HAPPY...I like laughing and encouragement and victory and big hugs and goofing off...

which is what brings me to this:




I don't mean the "being still" part where I begin at bedtime and try to fall asleep...

I am a "keep busy" type of person.  I don't like conflict and I don't like feeling yucky...I want to avoid it, and so I keep busy...I work out, I read books, I eat, I move around...

Being still means I have to come face to face with what I hold True, what I truly believe and whether it can stand the test of my anxiety, my lack of control, my exhausting days, the injustice in the world, the unfair deck of cards dealt to friends...

And sometimes I have to force myself to face the stillness...

I have to deny the lies that plague my head...and sometimes I have to deny that even though reality is scary, even though awful circumstance "might" actually come to fruition...I have to cling to what is True...and not allow fear, regret, shame or any other condescending notion to take root and fester in my heart...because it paralyzes me...which is exactly what the enemy wants to happen!

Being Still IS actually still being active...it's still "moving", but not in a direction of avoidance...it's being willing to shut off the other noises, it's shifting direction and focusing hard on what is right & wise...

Because, "There's nothing better than being absolutely sure that the most powerful Being in the universe adores you as His own child." ~Francis Chan.

And so we've come to Friday in this week...and sleep still hasn't really caught up with me yet (I could perhaps attribute that to the plethora of coffee I have ingested, but let's not digress) and circumstances haven't changed for those around me...daughters all went back to school and they face the everyday and their own battles...and I'm here...and I'm trying to take time to be Still...

I'm doin' the things...still drinking the coffee...but, being purposeful on what my mind settles...doin' my own battles, in the midst of happy :)

I hope you take some time to be Still this weekend :)

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The best way to contact me is either through Facebook Messaging or emailing me at ctphotomemories@gmail.com

I can't wait to hear from you!
"Teach us to number our days, (savor the moments) so that we may gain a heart of wisdom" ~Psalm 90:12

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