Motherhood

Daddy’s and Daughters

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When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.
— Wendell Berry

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A Christmas gift that lives on

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Before our move to Uganda 4 years ago, I wanted to do something memorable for the children. A way for them to remember our home and friends here. In an age of digital media I wanted something they could hold in their hands and cherish. That’s when I decided to make a photo book ever year for each child.

I turned to Snapfish because they have the best prices, especially during the holidays, but there are several good photo book printing services (I used Paper Coterie one year when their prices beat Snapfish). Here’s how I do it:

On a day when Adam can watch the children, I sit down with my laptop and go through our year of photos (every year I kick myself for not being more organized). If I was smart I’d start a folder with their names and monthly add to it. Instead I cram. every. year. Will I ever learn!?

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Anyhoo, back to it: I make a folder with each child’s name and the year on it; I also make a folder titled “family” for our family book. After I’ve made the folders, I make sure the photos are edited as I see fit in Lightroom. You can use whatever editing software you have; if you’re an iPhone photographer, I’ve found VSCOCAM to be a wonderful editing tool.

After my photos are in folders and edited, I upload them to Snapfish one folder at a time. This keeps the photos I want to use in each book together and makes it easier to sort through while making the books. I make sure to upload them at the highest quality (even though it takes more time) because I want the pictures to look their best when they print.

Now it’s time for the fun part: making the photo books! I like to include special events and memories from the year and I let the photos do the talking with very little text. Snapfish’s embellishments look promising this year and I’m planning to try them out. But again, I don’t add much text as I do believe the photos speak for themselves.

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One thing I do add is encouragement for my kids about who they are. I want them to be able to look back at these books and know exactly how I feel about them. How much I love them and cherish them. I want them to remember to believe in themselves and to like themselves! Sometimes we need hope reminders–that’s what I’m making. Reminding them of the beauty of life. Photos do that for me.

Whatever you choose to do, have fun and make it meaningful for you and your family. These are treasures that live on and often times I will find my children poring over our albums. They love to remember. To see how they’ve grown.

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Just a few weeks until Christmas but you’ve got time still to make a lasting memory and meaningful gift.

Grace and Peace.

Yes, Constance

In total, our time at the cabin was just 23 hours, but we feel like we were able to do so much and really enjoyed the short getaway. We were so thankful to our friend Melissa for suggesting Petra Field Camps to us and we’re sure to return.

It was sweet to celebrate our love and these last 17 years together with our children. When you are a freelance artist and have five children, it’s tough to get away alone (or at all), but we truly enjoyed having our complete family there (we did miss  having our dogs, but Petra doesn’t allow them in the cabin, though they do have a smaller house that is pet-friendly).

Wanted to close out this little series with the hilarious reality of having a feisty toddler.

No, Constance, you can’t color on the cabin floors:

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No, Constance, you can’t have marshmallows and chocolate for breakfast:

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No, Constance, you don’t play miniature golf by picking up each person’s ball and placing it into the hole:

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No, Constance, we can’t stay forever:

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Yes, Constance, you are loved and adored a gift to our family.

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The hike, the cave, and the brave (independent) girl

After lunch we ventured out on a hike. Constance had the privilege of riding on my back in the Ergo. It was supposed to be a simple hike with waterfalls and a cave amongst the glorious autumn colors.

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But somewhere along the way we got a bit, er, sidetracked. Lost in the woods with a baby on my back is not my idea of fun and relaxation, but nevertheless, grumbling under my breath, I pressed on. Down the steep, leaf-covered trails.

There was a moment when I was too afraid and wanted to turn back (balancing with a baby on my back isn’t the easiest and I’m not the most fit I’ve ever been), but what happened in that moment was so beautiful. I’m still stunned by it.

The tiny one on my back began cheering me on. “You can do it, mama. You can be brave. It’s okay.” Then she yelled out to the waiting others, “Mama’s coming, guys. She can do it.” I just don’t know. Sometimes we need each other.

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The guys found the cave and though we missed the waterfall, this was well worth the effort.

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I had to let Charlotte go on her own during the hike, my inclination to hold onto her surpassing my ability. Wings spread, she soared.

Mothers and children both grow in the letting go, taking flight.

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We loved the river so much we had to return one last time before leaving. So we ventured off a little farther down the way.

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This is Emma asking if it’s okay to let Charlotte climb up:

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This is Emma telling Charlotte that it’s a big fall and she should let her help her down, and Charlotte refusing that help:

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This is Charlotte sitting her independent self down in protest:

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Emma climbs down after I tell her to let go. Big sisters have to do this sometimes, too. Charlotte told me later, “I was a little scared when Emma got down and left me up there alone.”

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She climbs down. Safely. Stronger.
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Because though she is small, she is fierce.
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Surprise! A story in pictures.

Saturday was our seventeenth wedding anniversary and we decided to celebrate in style with our five kids at a log cabin in the foothills of the ozark mountains. We surprised the kids with the news this week and they were all like…


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But seriously it was awe inspiring and beautiful. We drove to the cabin after lunch and just the views on the drive alone would have been enough. But then this. We arrived just in time for the sun to begin setting on the bluff. So to the bluff we headed.

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Then we hopped, skipped and jumped, errr,  I mean drove to the water. Oh my stars it was gorgeous.

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It is always divine to touch beauty. To be still and know. More from our little get away tomorrow….stay tuned. Or just click the tiny link to follow this blog for updates. Thanks, friends.

 

Double Digits

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Well it’s happened. Three out of five of our darlings are now double digits and I’m not handling this as well as I should be, this defining life-time achievement. They say time flies when you’re having fun but guess what: it also flies when you’re barely hanging on. Or so I’ve learned.

These last ten years have been an adventure to put it lightly. And I’m looking back thinking of so many things I wish I could undo. That’s the melancholy-depressive me talking, the you’re-not-good-enough me, the you’ve-really-done-a-number-on-these-FIVE-kids, ugly-voice me.

That one.

She’s all up in my business right now telling me what I didn’t do, what I should do, and what I can’t undo. The crazy spin she puts me on.

Dear. God. Help.

And I just want to tell our Dot that I’ve done the best I could with what I’ve had. Cop out? Nah, truth. I’m doing the best I can and grace, grace, grace, when I get it wrong and fail and miss the everything beautiful that is today, and this breath, and this one, and this. God, I wish I could get it right all the time.

Love.

To love regardless and flawless and not this damn busted-up kind of love, the broke kind. And time doesn’t give do-overs, no call-backs on these last ten years. It won’t wait for all the shoulds to be in place. It just rolls on like a river, sometimes raging, sometimes calm, but always moving.

Onward.

So I tell “ugly voice” to shut up and the voice of the real me gets a little louder and says: cheers to your double digits, darling. Here’s to many more. Roll on, baby. Roll on.

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