Thursday, July 29, 2010


When you come to visit my grandma, the first thing you'll notice is an old iron dinner bell at the front of her yard, rising twenty feet in the air, still standing strong though its task of calling the family in for supper has long since been relinquished.

The dinner bell has always signaled the hubbub of family coming together in the kitchen to share good food, good stories, and simple love.

As children, it called us in from our explorations of the farm, fishing escapades, and games of house in the tree grove. We would kick off our shoes on the way into the crowd and weave a path toward the line already forming at the buffet style meal. Cheesy potatoes, pasta, meatloaf, homemade rolls, corn and green beans fresh from the garden awaited.

As teens, the bell interrupted conversations with cousins on yard swings, walks down to dusty road to the creek, and quiet reflecting. We piled plates with slightly more sensible food choices and headed to the back bedroom where extra tables sat on the blue shag carpet.

As parents, it urged us to fill plates for little ones. We settled bibbed babies into high chairs and left aunts or husbands to tend them while we joined the back of the line to fill our own plates.

The dinner bell was never to be rang without permission, and only a few times can I remember watching the result of a child sounding a false alarm. But many tempted hands reached for the heavy chain that hung almost out of arms' reach, wanting to see what muscle was needed to pull it. Once or twice, it was my turn to ring the bell. I remember grabbing the chain as high up as I could reach and hanging with all my weight... once, twice, three times to create the clang that delighted my ears.

It's been years since I've heard the hollow dong of that bell. It stands now as a yard ornament, and my children will not share my memories of it. Now, holidays are celebrated at the homes of aunts and uncles, and a quick shout out the front door or call on a cell phone is all that is needed for dinner to begin.

For now, my grandma's house stands lonely, hopeful for her return from her extended hospital stay... eager to wrap her once again in the memories of happy marriage, family love, and joyous blessings created within the walls of that old house. And rest assured, the first Sunday meal shared after her return will most definitely start with the dong of that old dinner bell.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Seeking Direction

Laying beside my sleeping husband a couple nights ago, my mind was wandering aimlessly, noting the to-do's of the next day, wondering about the changes ahead of us, and finally mulling over what on earth to do about our son. Abruptly, I remembered unpacking books from the final moving boxes the week before, in particular, The Power of a Praying Parent. I felt compelled to retrieve the book right then, but the fear of being too tired to mother in the morning kept me under the covers, as if that's a valid reason to resist the nudging of God.

Tonight, I sat down in the midst of the day's aftermath and opened the cover for the first time since Big Sister was a toddler. I dredged through the typical first chapter introduction, wondering if I'd be able to focus long enough to get to the meat of it. After pages of preparation scattered with scripture, I prayed the chapter's concluding prayer and meditated momentarily over the words.

Then my worries, guilt, frustrations, anger, ignorance, and lack of direction came pouring out jumbled and precise, beautiful and disgusting. I prayed for my son in a way that I never have, adding another guilt to unload through my prayer. I sat by his bed with my hand on his back, offering my son's life and my parenting for the glory of God. I cried a storm of silent tears sitting there with my hand on his little back.

Almost instantaneously, God directed me back to His path. The path that was familiar not so long ago seems so uncomfortable in this moment. Where I was wandering aimlessly through our days, our life, my son was following diligently. Oh, how I pray that he follows me as I struggle to get back on God's track with my mothering!

Pour our your heart like water in the presence of the Lord; Lift up your hands to him for the lives of your little ones. (Lamentations 2:19)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Shopper's Club

I'm officially in the Etsy shoppers' club! My first purchase: laundry room decor...

I scored these 1920-30's child hangers for $22. Judge if you like, but it was a steal compared to the 1 not-so-cute one I managed to find at the local antique mall for $15.

I have grand plans to hang some vintage children's clothing on these hangers and pair the set with the antique washboard I brought home and the wooden vintage-inspired laundry sign I picked up at Hobby Lobby. I know decorating a laundry room isn't on everyone's priority list, but mine happens to be doorless and wide open to the most socialized room in our house-- the kitchen!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Photographing Yours

Originally posted last year...

6 Practical Tips for Photographing Your Kids

  • Get way above him or down on his level. Find a chair to boost yourself, lay on your stomach, put him on a couch and kneel. Getting above him makes for bigger eyes, but in general, seeing eye to lens with your kid is a great angle.
  • Lower your expectations. Don't expect a 2 year old to pose like a teenager. Go with the flow, and keep snapping. You never know what might look amazing once it's off the camera. That said...
  • Have lots of ideas. Be prepared to present a high-energy, engaging experience, and your child is more likely to think of pictures as a game rather than an obligation. Just don't forget to let her be in charge so long as she's safe.
  • Up the frequency, not the duration. Simply cutting time in front of your camera will do wonders for a munchkin. I find it very effective to shoot 15 minutes at a time or less, but I take portrait potential shots every couple weeks.
  • Timing is Everything. Spontaneity is priceless. Notice she's in a particularly happy mood? Grab the opportunity. Love the outfit you put together, or is he having a good hair day for once? Maybe she's just miraculously stain free. Take advantage! Make sure that your child has napped and is fed if you do plan ahead.
  • Appearance is (almost) everything. There is a big difference between a picture of him in jeans/solid shirt/styled hair and his underwear/favorite stained spongebob tee/bed head. Stick with simple, tastefully trendy, or bold and bright. Generally, avoid images, obvious logos, and words. Don't forget about shoes. None to match? Bare feet are better! Accessories can be a great plus too. Hats for boys or girls, belts for boys, bracelets, purses, hair bows, or rings. Just be careful not to overdo it-- unless you're going for the "found mommy's jewelry box" angle!
  • Group shots-- It doesn't have to be a screaming match to get them all together. Make it a contest, game, or adventure- whatever gets them close and looking at you. Who cares if they think they're pirates? All the "Arrrg, Mateys!" are bound to make them crack a smile eventually.
  • BE PATIENT. And not just for the duration of a "shoot." Getting a picture you want to hang in your house can take several tries. Just treat it like playing with your kid, and you'll end up capturing something priceless!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Sweet Summertime

Little Miss is at my FAVORITE photography age... the age where you can easily capture those natural smiles, the age where there's an abundance of silliness, the age where they're still able to ignore a camera and just play.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Independence Day Reflections

I can't begin to describe how it felt to have my family of 5 all under the same roof again this weekend. Big Sister had been at her dad's for three weeks and returned tonight for another stretch of visit, but for a brief 36 hours, we were complete again! For a day and a half, the younger two got a tiny taste of the life they're used to, the one with a big sister to direct the games... For a day and a half, I was able to listen to the theories of an almost-ten-year-old, the bizarre and the insightful. For a while, I was able to coax the laughter and silliness from a girl who has seemed out of sorts during our phone conversations.

Independence Day is always a bit of an oxymoron in my life. The years when I get to spend the holiday with Big Sister are like tiny islands in the midst of a sea of six weeks without her, and I am reminded of how much I long for independence from custody arrangements. Each year on Independence Day, I revel in being another year closer to a time when custody arrangements will be mute, when Big Sister will be an adult, fully able to make her own decisions, able to live by a visitation schedule that she chooses.

I can't blame anyone but myself, of course. After all, my decisions led her and I straight to the lives we're living... good lives, but not ones free from the scars of my poor decisions, decisions with outcomes made glorious through God's grace. Tonight, while the countryside explodes with the sparkle and glow of the celebration of freedom, I sit thinking of the empty bed upstairs and pray for God's continued hand in Big Sister's life and trust that she will continue to grow in faith, confidence, and wisdom.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Dipping My Toes Back In...

Well... an unintentional blogging break- have to admit, it's felt great not to bother with my computer past my email account for the last month! My break from the world wide web really started on our family vacation to Colorado the first of June. Having misplaced my car charger, I found myself without a cell phone for the majority of the trip. I checked my messages periodically, but that was it- no ringing potential, no clock, no option to text or call anyone.


It made me wish we could cancel our cell service and set up the old land line answering machine. Life is just simpler without the expectation that you'll be available at everyone's beck and call.

And so I decided to let myself neglect the internet in exchange for time with the kids, time to catch up on business, time with family, and most importantly time with God. It's been a peaceful month, one full of craziness, vehicle problems, weddings, and too many day trips, but so much peace through it all. I think we should all soak up a stretch of old-fashioned simplicity once in a while and take the time to enjoy the life around us that God created... not Microsoft or Apple.