Fresh start

Fresh start

I love a new year. I think for most people, the new year gives us a blank slate. I guess it’s the idea of hitting the reset button. No matter how great or how challenging life was the previous year, a new year gives me the feeling I get a second chance. A fresh start.

One of the toughest things for me about January is the winter. I really, really do not like cold weather. I often feel like I “waste” a good chunk of my life just waiting for the temperature to warm up so I can get outside and enjoy life! That is one of the first things I’m planning to change about this year.

I started off my New Year’s Day by bundling up in my snow pants, hat, gloves and scarf and taking a walk, despite the 21 degree temp, swirling snow and blowing wind. I took my camera along to look for some images out in the wintery wonderland. And at the last minute, the hubs announced that he was coming along.


That two-mile walk through the snowy streets was a bit symbolic of some of the changes I hope to make this year.


I plan to spend more time enjoying the moments. Being with the people I love. Soaking in the time.


I’m going to be focusing a little more on my health. Walk more. Move more. Drink more water.


Be braver. I’ve noticed this past year that I’ve had a greater fear of failure than usual. I’m going to be trying some new things, and I’m getting excited about it!


Do something creative everyday. My soul longs to be creative. Whether it’s taking a photo or doodling or making labels for my organization projects or playing with washi tape or redesigning my blog or writing on my blog, I love it all. I plan to make time to do one thing creative everyday.


Breathe more. I plan to worry less about what other people might think, and focus more on becoming the unique person I was created to be. We each have unique talents and abilities that make us who we are. I want to discover more of mine and use them to do what God put me on this earth to do.


How about you? What’s on your blank slate for 2014?

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Highlights of 2013

Highlights of 2013

As we say good-bye to 2013, I have been going through all of my photos from the year and remembering the highlights. 2013 was definitely a year of personal growth for me and our entire family! I’m kind of amazed, actually, to think about what we’ve accomplished, where we’ve been and how we’ve grown.

Here are my top ten highlights from 2013.


I had two major personal accomplishments in 2013. First I completely organized our entire home. I went through every drawer, closet and room and purged, donated and organized. Our life is majorly different because of it! I still can’t say I’m a neat and clean person, but I am a lot more organized! I’ve really gotten into a rhythm of knowing how to organized a space, and I continue to do this on a routine basis! I’m looking forward to lots more organizing in 2014!






My second personal accomplishment is that I worked hard on improving my photography skills. I learned to use my camera, I took tons of photos for other families and I even took a day-long photography workshop. I feel way more confident in my ability to use my camera than I did a year ago!




We had some amazing travel experiences in 2013. The first one was to Baton Rouge to visit our friends who moved away nearly two years ago. I’m so thankful we took the time to make this trip. It was wonderful to see our friends and let these boys reconnect. We also loved experiencing Louisiana, and we had some fun memories both on the trip there and the trip home of our time in Mississippi and Springfield.





In July, we made our annual trip to see Kent’s family at the farm in Southern Illinois. This is always a great time to slow down and enjoy hanging out with relatives. The farm is full of adventure and memories!






Later in July, we drove out to South Carolina for our family vacation. I think we all agree this was our favorite family vacation. We simply loved having a place right on the beach and spending each day just hanging out and relaxing. We didn’t rush around to see the sights. We just enjoyed being together.





Watching all of our kids’ accomplishments this year was so fun. It’s hard to see them grow up, but it’s also a great experience to walk with them as they develop their own interests, talents and abilities.

We were completely amazed to watch Alayna unleash her diving talent. We knew that she loved to jump in the water, but we couldn’t believe how quickly her skill developed when we enrolled her in a diving class.




Matthew continued to develop his baseball skills. That kid is amazing to watch on the baseball field. He is super aggressive, which drove me nuts at first! But now that I’m used to watching him taunt other players and steal bases, it is really fun to see! He made some major improvements in his ability to hit, pitch and catch. He was one of the top players on his spring team and then got to play on a summer All-Star team. The fall was a blast because he had an amazing coach, who really worked with him and encouraged him.



Andrew decided to play basketball on his school team this fall, which has brought lots of excitement to his life! Matthew also is playing basketball, but since Andrew hasn’t been involved in a sport for a while, I’m focusing more on him! Andrew has developed a great group of friends at his school, and it’s really fun to watch them play basketball together. He was a little nervous at first, but it was fun to see him come out of his shell during a tournament for seventh graders during Christmas break! He had some great shots, and he plays awesome defense!


Jayda absolutely loves gymnastics! She also tried ballet and swimming this year, but we quickly learned that gymnastics is definitely HER sport! Just look at her joy in being part of her exhibition in the spring! Alayna also made huge progress in gymnastics. After years of trying, she finally made her goal of graduating to level 4. The next step for her is to make the gymnastics team, which I am sure she will do in 2014!




It also brings me so much joy to see how well the kids are doing in school. They finished their first year at a new school with great friends, wonderful teachers and fantastic memories. This is a photo of Alayna getting a Superior in her speech meet.


The kids went off to school in the fall feeling confident and anxious to be with their friends again!


And little Jayda started preschool in the fall! She is blessed to be in class with two good friends, which makes the experience that much more exciting! She absolutely loves being in preschool three mornings a week!




Moving into our new church facility was a major accomplishment both personally and work wise. Personally, I devoted a ton of time to updating our logo and colors, creating signs and banners, putting together direct mail, editing video, and lots of other jobs on the communications end to move into the building. Our family also gave lots of hours on Saturdays to help finish construction and do clean up at the building. Moving in to the building in September was a huge blessing, and we are all so thankful!!




One of our memories of 2013 is the huge flood that swept through our area and even closed school for a few days!





And we have some wonderful memories of family from 2013. We got to be with Kent’s side of the family for his grandmother’s 90th birthday. During our trip, we loved remembering Kent’s great uncle by finding his flag on the town square. Later in the fall, I was able to spend a day with my two sisters to celebrate a milestone birthday! We took a train into Chicago and saw the musical Wicked. It was a fun day I will always remember!




So, that was our 2013. I hope you are able to take some time to look back at your favorite memories. Happy New Year!

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Family photo shoot

Family photo shoot

I love getting the family together in the fall and going somewhere beautiful to take our family photos.

The kids? Well, not so much. One of the reason our family photo shoots are typically not super enjoyable is that I insist on trying to take our photos with the timer and the tripod.

I’m sure you know the drill. Get everyone perfectly positioned. Set the timer. Mom runs around from behind the camera, plants a big smile on her face and tries to stop sweating before the timer stops beeping.

This year, it was such a joy that my dear friend, Beth, was willing to snap some photos for us. Beth and I have lots in common, but one of our biggest shared interests is photography. We have both been diving into the world of photography big time during the last year. She is super talented and takes some absolutely amazing photos, which you can check out on her blog.

We were so blessed that she was willing to give up part of her Saturday to go to one of our favorite places, Cantigny gardens, and take these photos. I think we chose THE most popular weekend of the year to take our photos at Cantigny because we practically had to wait in line at each of the preferred photo spots behind families and wedding parties all vying for the perfect backdrop. The tripod/running method would NOT have been popular if I had attempted to do these on my own!

I’ve taken so many photos of other families this past year, that I could barely believe it when I took my camera home and imported all of the photos. There WE were! Beth did such a great job!

We had a few minutes of good light left after the family photos, so I snapped some shots of just the kids. Yay! Fall photos are done, and without nearly as much stress as years past. 🙂


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Mind. Blown.

Mind. Blown.

Some people gotta learn the hard way, and I guess I’m the kinda girl who has to find out for myself…

In one sense, that is pretty much the theme song of my life. OK… not in the way the song writer meant it.

But when it comes to learning pretty much anything, I’m the kind of person who actually prefers to teach myself by trying to do something on my own. I get bored by reading instructions or listening to someone explain things.

This is both a good thing and a bad thing. I’ve been able to teach myself a lot about computers and web site design and creating images in Photoshop and video editing and photography. When I get to a point that I can’t figure it out myself, I turn to the Internet to start watching tutorials and then test out new tips and tricks.

But sometimes, I reach a point of such complete frustration that I want to give up and quit trying, rather than asking for help.

So a few weeks ago, my husband and I were talking about some struggles I was having with photography, and he said a few magic words. “I really think you should take some kind of a class.”

Well, he uttered those words just at the right moment. I had been secretly wishing I could take a workshop from two amazing photographers in my area I had learned about through a friend. I had put the workshop out of my mind because it was too expensive and too much of an indulgence (in my mind) to spend an entire day and evening away from my family, focused completely on something I wanted to do just for ME!!

Within hours of hearing my husband’s words, I noticed on Facebook that they still had openings in the class that was coming up in a couple of weeks. I sent him all of the info, and before I had time to talk myself out of it, I signed up.

I attended the work shop on Saturday, and I am so incredibly thankful I was able to go. To sum up the day in two words: Mind. Blown.

I was part of a small group of photographers who got to follow these two women around as they worked through four real photo shoots. They would pose our subjects, help us set up our cameras, and then we got to shoot away. There were so many amazing things I learned through this process that are all of the little things I could never teach myself.

I loved watching them interact with a super shy toddler to make her feel comfortable. I loved seeing how they could make a whole family burst into laughter. We got to watch as they set up poses for a set of siblings. And we got to shoot along on a photoshoot for a beautiful senior.

As if that wasn’t enough, they then walked us through their editing process. I learned so many tips and tricks in Photoshop that my brain was on overload. By the end of the day, I felt like my eyes had been opened to so many things that had puzzled me before about photography.

It was an amazing day, and I’m so thankful I got to be part of it.

Here are a few of the more than 1,000 photos I took on Saturday! Oh, and if you would like to let me test out some of my new skills on your family, send me an e-mail! I would be happy to send you all the details about setting up a photo shoot.




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Back to school photo shoot

Back to school photo shoot

I knew the first day of school was going to be very rushed, so I took the kids to St. James Farm for a photo shoot in their uniforms. Jayda was being a little stinker, as you can tell in the photos! The time is getting close now… And have I mentioned lately how much I LOVE school uniforms?!

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