Monday, October 28, 2013

She's One Wildflower

Our lovely little lady turned one last week! I can hardly believe it, but the bitter comes with sweet as I get to learn more about her each day. She's definitely the love and joy of the family, we all dote upon her, even Mama's Boy. 

In addition to reminiscing about the past year with our little girl I also realized that this year I have officially lost my mind. In years past it was only probable, this year it's definite. I now stand in the grocery store, list in hand, for two hours, trying to figure out if I should buy the bottle of ranch dressing or the snack size cups. Of course cheaper usually wins out, but I still stand there for far too long thinking about it. 

So, what do you do when you've lost your mind?! Plan a party, of course! Heh. 

In the midst of my insane list of "must dos" and "shouldn't, but will anyway", I decided to try to make this birthday party lovely. Because, well, *she* is lovely, and I had realized how truly lame I've been about making the kids parties special. I know, I know, they're toddlers and will never remember, but I will and they'll see the pictured proof.

In my attempts to make things simple, I made them rather complex and ended up putting half my guests to work chopping veggies and frosting cupcakes. Thankfully, most were family and understand my poor state of mind and party throwing execution.

Despite my lack of picture preparation, I managed to get a few decent shots of the whole birthday event. The sun was setting faster than I could grab my tripod or my flash, so I made do with my 50 mm 1.4 and missed out on some perfectly crisp shots. *sigh* But this is what this blog is about, challenging myself to think before I shoot, even when I can barely think at all. 

Luckily, on her actual birthday we made it out for a relaxed photoshoot, where I was much more in control of myself and my camera. 

All in all, it was a special day for a special little wildflower.

The finger food spread.

Favors were little packets of wildflower seeds.

Mommy's girl.

This girl was lovin' the cake!

Getting some help and joyfully sharing with her favorite boys.

Thus begins the photoshoot from her *actual* birthday...

Happy Birthday Mylie!

Dress: Made by my friend Kelsey. Felt Flowers: Handmade Colectibles. Chalkboard Art: My talented, *almost* brother-in-law, Stephen. Pretty Paper Straws (aka, by my 3-year-old, "different kind of straws"): Target. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Love Shows

Since we decided to adopt #4, I've been praying and wondering how God will work it all out. We haven't even pursued any options yet, because we're not sure where we'll be living in the next few years. However, I have already been feeling excited and at peace about it all. 

Gradually my heart and eyes for adoption, foster care, and the unborn has been opened. 

(Taken by our friend Matthew Priestley several years ago, before he blossomed into an incredible fashion photographer for the likes of Vogue.)

I'm no stranger to adoption, my sister was adopted and many families I know have adopted. I've always wanted to adopt, but wasn't sure that we'd be "cut out for it". I'm learning that there's no such thing as that, if we have love to give we should share it. 

My love language is giving and right now giving myself towards adoption for us and others, is where I'm at. That's why I'm working on a little project to help adoptive parents and maybe even birth moms. I'm in the early stages of figuring it all out, but I want to do more than just watch the brave souls, who are out showing their love to others, I want to be a part of it.

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Yesterday's Instagram challenge was Show Me The Love. I believe that love is a choice and not just a feeling. However, lovely feelings are nice too... 

(iPhone 5)

He is proof of our love, as is this symbol, a trinity love knot, on my back that matches one on my husbands shoulder. Love Shows.

If you want to follow my Instagram challenge you can follow the directives below and hashtag #picturemarriage under your photo.

Day 4 (Today): Laughs
Day 5 (Friday): Flashback


Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Food Matters

Oh people! I have way too many ideas, dreams, goals, and plans, but sometimes all those things have to be put on hold for something bigger. Right now that thing is food. 

My youngest son has struggled more with his health than his siblings, he has eczema and up until recently has had high mystery fevers or illness at least once a month. Doctors have said it's "normal" and don't give us much else, unless there's a bacterial infection. I feel that there is something deeper there that we're not seeing. 

Currently the poor kid is getting over a cold, has oral thrush, and has a mild ear infection. No wonder his already sensitive spirit has been hyper sensitive these last few weeks!

We took him off of gluten over the Summer, but put him back on to get a gluten test, which came back negative. I was happy to put him back on a "normal" diet, because feeding everyone different things was tiresome and expensive. However, after the thrush popped up I started thinking about trying the diet again, not just because gluten isn't good for yeast overgrowth, but because gluten is associated with a lot of things that just aren't good for you. 

My husband and I talked about it and decided to have our whole family try a low carb, low sugar, low/no gluten diet for at least 3-6 months. We need more time for his body to detox off the sugars and gluten we've been devouring to know for certain if it's the cause of his problems. I'm praying we'll find that his immune system is better, that he's happier and more able to control his emotions, and that his eczema clears up.

If you think of it, pray that we would have wisdom, that I'd have the willpower to feed my family well, and that I would be able to get my kids to stop craving so much sugar!! 

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Today's Instagram challenge was it Starts in the Kitchen. We know that saying, "Romance begins in the kitchen", and it's a great reminder that romancing your husband starts before the bedroom. I know, for myself, that watching my husband care for our kids, working hard, or supporting me in my endeavors gives me the most desire for him. It's true for him too. When I've cared for and thought about him, despite the overwhelming needs of the house and children, he appreciates me, loves me, and desires me all the more.

There are so many things I could do to romance my husband outside of the bedroom, but if we're talking food, we're talking bacon and peanut butter. 

(Almond Meal, Peanut Butter, Maple Syrup)

Since I try not to buy too much bacon, it's fatty and way too salty (not good for my kidneys), I decided to try out a paleo peanut butter cookie recipe today

The recipe rocks, in my opinion, 3 ingredients later and you have a gluten free, sugar free, cookie that actually tastes like a cookie, oh yes! 

Here's the deal though, my dear husband is not a lover of substitutions, so he was not this cookie's biggest fan. I hope he was happy I tried, because I love him and would really like to win his peanut butter cookie award someday! In the end, *I* got to eat some humble... cookie, and be thankful that I'm not valued based on my peanut butter cookie baking skills. ;)

If you want to join my Instagram challenge just follow the directives below and hashtag #picturemarriage with your photos.

Day 2 (Today): Starts in the Kitchen
Day 3 (Wednesday): Show Me the Love

Monday, October 14, 2013

Maybe One Isn't So Lonely Afterall

After last weeks Instagram challenge, I decided to come up with my own Instagram challenge. This week I'm focusing on my marriage. It will be a whole lot of fun to spend some concentrated time thinking about my husband and how I can serve him better.

My husband and I are pretty unemotional people, for the most part, but last night we had some fantastic time reading the Bible and talking through some very important things. Let's just say he opened a can of worms with a few questions, but kindly and gently led me through my emotional strife. It's times like those that I am most grateful for him. He is smart, honest, and yet totally tender and gracious with me. 

When I thought about today's challenge, Just Two, I started wondering if *we* are really "Just Two". We both believe we're *one* in the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12) and the Bible says we're one with each other (Ephesians 5:31-32), so maybe it's really "Just One". It's comforting to think that I'll never be alone and that *we* will never be alone. 

If you'd like to join my challenge on Instagram simply follow the below directives and hashtag #picturemarriage under your photo so that we can see your photos and be encouraged. Check back here for my daily challenge post and feel free to follow my Instagram feed!


Day 1 (Today) Directive: Just Two
Day 2 (Tuesday) Directive : Starts In The Kitchen

Friday, October 11, 2013

Embrace the Camera and a Challenge

My favorite photographer, blogger, and idol, Ashley, from Under the Sycamore, gave us Mommy's a good challenge this week. To include ourselves in our Instagram photos, to embrace the camera.

If you're a photographer and especially a Mommy one, you know how difficult getting into a picture can be. Especially if you're not asked to just take a bunch of stretched armed selfies, not that those are all bad. 

I love that women, and people in general, are encouraged these days to embrace themselves and not be afraid to stand in front of a camera, which can be a very vulnerable place. Giving our children photos of themselves and photos of us and them is a priceless gift, at least, that's how I feel. This challenge was just what I needed during a week of illness and little sleep. It allowed me to think creatively, have fun, and capture some precious moments even on some dreary days. 

These were all shot with my iPhone 5.

Day 1 (Monday): 

Despite my "rule" of not going out on Mondays, because my week never goes well if I don't clean up the tornado that happened over the weekend, we went out. My sister is off on Mondays and her daughter, the kids' only cousin, is their best friend. We decided to go to the nearby fall festival, which is loads of fun. It's easy to catch smiles when there are train rides, big bouncy pillows, and slides so slick they give you butterflies.

Day 2 (Tuesday):
Making Memories

The kids were just starting their colds and we were going through the "I'm sick", "Do you want to stay home from going to Grandma's house?", "Oh, no, I'm not sick anymore" bit. You know toddlers, so indecisive. ;) So, we went ahead to Gram's house and spent a lovely morning eating fruit, playing cards and cars, and chasing my very quick squirt around. I swear that my kids get smarter any time they're around my Grandma. Making Memories indeed.

Day 3 (Wednesday): 
Everyday Moment

I caught this beauty at about 3 am on Wednesday morning. It was the first night the kids felt really cruddy, and shouldn't there be Baby Breathe Right Strips already!? Needless to say, we got little sleep. 

When I crawled into bed, far too late in the evening, I prayed for just a couple hours of sleep before someone started crying. My prayers were answered, but instead of being awoken by my kids, my husband flicked on the bathroom light and started looking around the room warily. "I think something bit me", he said. After a quick scan with the blacklight we saw the culprit, a scorpion. Yay.

I nursed his wound and two of the three did wake up to join our couch party. This was out of the ordinary, praise God, but the sacrifice of sleep and frequent snuggles are a daily occurrence for me.

Day 4 (Thursday):

It just so happens my creative juices have been flowing like mad lately. Probably to my detriment, but I'm so excited to feel *excited* again, that I'm rolling with it. I was sitting at my computer contemplating the challenge and then I decided that I wanted to do something fun with the kids. We had a ton of cardboard laying on the floor in our dining room just waiting to be turned into something awesome. I gave the kids each a drawing tool and we scribbled, I cut, and eventually we came up with this. I must admit, it took me way too long, and I was nearing the exasperating your children point, but we got the picture and maybe someday my kids will thank me... I hope!

Day 5 (Friday):

Well, this seemed relatively easy. I could snap a picture of me and one, some, or all the kids. Nah. I could do a quick photo collage. Nah. This was the last day, I needed a finale piece. It wasn't until about 4 pm that I searched for a way to make a slideshow video in Instagram. Turns out there's an app for such a thing, of course! It's called Flipagram and it rocks! So easy to use and well worth the $1.99. You can even put music to it. 

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I had so much fun with this project, I decided to come up with my own challenge, for you/me/us!

How about this, #picturemarriage!?

Let's embrace our marriages and think outside the box this week when it comes to our very special spouse and Instagram. 

If you've been married for over 2 years or have any number of children, you may be lacking in photos of the two of you. I know we are! While there must be at least one photo of the two of you, not every day has to include your faces. Just be sure to tell a story with your photo!

I'll post my Instagram once a day (starting Monday) and give you direction for the following day. If you are so inclined, please join along and hashtag #picturemarriage so we can see your photos too!

Day 1 Directive (Monday): Just Two

See you Monday!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Faux Chalkboard Art

With Pinterest, Instagram, and the Internet in general, it's hard not to follow creative fads. Right now chalkboard art is *in*. I love typography and contrast, chalkboard art is the best of both those worlds. I haven't actually tried drawing on a chalkboard myself, though I intend to. What I have done is fake it on Photoshop.

Up until recently I've managed to snag the latest Student/Teacher Photoshop Creative Suites. Unfortunately I also switched from a Windows laptop to a Mac and Adobe's products aren't interchangeable. I would have had to spend at least $600 to get the Mac version of Photoshop on my new laptop. Bummer, I know.

After thinking it over, I decided to try out Photoshop Elements. It doesn't have as many bells and whistles, but digital art is a hobby and I thought I could handle less. It turns out I was right, for only $70 I can do pretty much everything I was able to do previously. In fact, I can do even more now because I'm still upgrading to a newer version.

All this to say, that you can do this tutorial, even if you have lesser software. I was actually surprised by how insanely easy it is to achieve this look!

In the past I have used fonts to do Photoshop chalkboard art. I still love fonts, it's a slight obsession of mine, but I found another way to get a more authentic look. I can't take credit either, Foolish Fire is where I found it first. 

Now, on to the tutorial. 

1. You need a chalkboard background. You can achieve this look anyway you like, taking a photo yourself, doing it on Photoshop, or the easiest way, which is to download one from somewhere like How to Nest for Less Blog.

2. Get out a good ol' piece of white paper, a pencil, an eraser (if you're like me), and draw to your hearts content. Sometimes I search through my font collection, browse, or Pinterest to gather inspiration. 

3. Scan your image. 

 4. Open the scanned image into Photoshop.

5. Then simply invert the image by going to Layers > New Adjustment Layer > Invert. 

6. Click back to your main layer and make get ready to enhance it a bit. You can use layers or brightness/contrast by going to your Enhance > Adjust Lighting > Brightness/Contrast. In this case I used a brightness of -45 and contrast of +62. 

7. Now, you need to delete your solid black background. To do this you're going to use the magic eraser tool. Move the tolerance to 40 and *uncheck* sample all layers and contiguous. 

8. Flatten the image. Select your adjustment and main layers, then do Command + E. 

9. Drag your image to your chalkboard background. Annnd...

10. VOILA! Have fun!