Why I am “Just a Mom” and thats OK.

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I was pregnant. Again. It was the third baby and we had planned, so we were by no means “surprised”, but grateful for such a wonderful blessing we did not deserve. To God be the glory, we did not struggle to get pregnant like we had with our first. And even that time of struggle was not hard, compared to the road some walk on their way to parenthood. I pretty much looked at my husband and I was with child (convenient when there are two other children around). I was sitting in the OB-GYN office in Palm Springs, California awaiting my new doctor. She walked in. She was young…like younger than me. She was a DOCTOR. The first words out of my mouth to her was asking her, her age like any well meaning patient… obviously. Not for fear that she couldn’t deliver my baby, but because I was really hoping that she was just one of those people who looked young, but wasn’t really. “40…shes going to say she’s 40 and then I won’t feel so bad” I thought to myself. Her answer confirmed my initial observation and I was officially a TOTAL LOSER. Here I was just good at making babies (and only OK at mothering them) and in front of me was a well accomplished doctor, who had done more in her life and at a younger age. I had done nothing with my life. Why hadn’t I finished college? Why was I one of those who always struggled with my purpose instead of having that moment where you know what you wanted to do. At five years old I proudly announced I was going to be a singing-doctor-nurse. I have clearly always had confusing aspirations. Don’t get me wrong, I was always Ok at a lot of things. I always wanted to do-do-do and go-go-go and I never stuck with anything. Thank goodness my Mom didnt buy me that flute. I was the kid that went from interest to interest. Even now when I long for a life beyond motherhood, my interests in real estate and nutritional and holistic education. People say to be “successful” you have to find your niche, but I am pretty sure Singing-Doctor-Nurse or Nutritional Real Estate Agent are not trending careers.

At first, I questioned myself and then, when I had exhausted that idea, the next rational person to blame my loser-life on was my husband. It was obviously his fault. If he hadn’t been so dag on handsome. If he would have been a better jerk or the super, self absorbed guy who over our first date boldy declared that he never wanted babies and wanted “to explore the Greek Islands” with just me by his side…(Ok well that might be little creepy on our first date, but it gives you the right visual) I wouldn’t be sitting here, basically naked, on an exam table waiting for the doctor to tell me what I already knew. Unfortunately, romance novels are not real life. Apparently I was not mean to explore the swiss alps or the French countryside. Bummer.

It sounds rediculous that the success of another woman made me question my worth, but lets be real, as women we do it everyday. Comparison. The thief of all joy. There are times I put my big girl panties on and mentally pat a well accomplished lady on the shoulder in a completely selfless act of feminism. You go girl. Look at you slaying those defense lawyers…or in my doctors case-pap smears. And then there are times that it makes me question why I am not more. Why don’t I go to Africa and hug on some orphans or raise a 1,000,000 for Cancer patients?! Why didnt I pursue that singing career I dreamt of (just ask my Mom about my “Shania Twain video”) or go under cover as a secret agent in a country far away (Ok, I am realllllly reaching with those last few-ha). My life seems SO small and SO insignificant. I always thought I was going to do “Big Things” with my life, but here I am. “Just a Mom.”

And yet, I love my babies. How terrible I feel when the world screams at me that I have to do more than motherhood, to be important and successful, and even if only for a brief moment I let that thought seep in my heart. What a loss to devalue a calling so great. What a gift my children are and admittedly, I often mistreat it. What a great opportunity that I often miss to be what God called me to be at this very time in my life to be “Just a Mom”. My “big life” is right in front of me in those big brown eyes and messy hair begging me to dance and sing with her. My important job is talking my 6 year old through an experience with mean girls at school. My “Grammy” is serving God in my local church on the worship team. My ministry to orphans is in loving my 19 year old sister. My big “brave job” is being a Mom when I don’t know how. Or when I don’t want to. When I am sick and tired of being puked on, pooped on, walked all over, a short order cook, disciplinarian and hearing my name at least 283747583739 times a day. My negotiating a hostage situation might be Me- as a hostage in my own bathroom negotiating how much to eat of a chocolate bar, but thats where God has called me today. And probably tomorrow. And at least for the next 16 years, 6 months and 14 days.

I am a Mom still stuck in that “needy” phase. Everyone needs me. ALL THE TIME. They need their socks and their shoes. They can’t find the toothpaste. And If I find it for them I will spend all morning removing it from the sink.#allthemomssayWORD. Eventually it won’t be like this. Eventually my home will be empty. And while I would be lying if I said there weren’t times I daydream about my kids moving on and the things I will have time to accomplish (like cleaning the whole house in a day or taking a shower without someone coming in to do #2)  I also realize that God has BLESSED me with four precious babies to guide and raise. Four lights I get to send out in the world. Two wives and two husbands one day. Fathers and Mothers. What an injustice I do them when I think about all I could do if I wasn’t a Mom. How empty my life would be if I looked back and all I had was a paper framed on the wall. But what a legacy I can leave by entrusting and guiding these four precious souls to Jesus. This is my mission. This is my calling. Lord, help me to live it out and live it out well.

 

 

Printing Your Pro-Photos (and saving your sanity!)

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Yesterday I got a message from a client. She had just received her photos on a disc, but when she opened the file, it was a washed out version of the photo previews she had seen on Facebook. She was obviously concerned and apologized for any inconvenience…which she was not AT ALL! My goal as a photographer is not just to capture great shots for you, but to get you quality photos that you will love and RETAIN you as a customer that comes back for all their photo needs…every year!

Thankfully, there is an easy explanation for this. And thankfully, I had printed directly from her disc at random at a 1 hour photo to check color and the check the disc, from my last batch of photos, as I do every set of photos I hand to a client because I don’t always trust technology. I would try and call it quality control, but really I just wanted to make sure the files were there and showing on the selection screen the way I processed them! I knew nothing was wrong with the photos, or the disc, so I easily set her mind at ease. (Im about to contradict myself on the 1 hour photo thing!)

Here is the deal. I edit all my photos in Lightroom and Photoshop on a high-graphics computer. Windows viewers (in particular) do not always properly read the files colors and will show a washed out photo. It will NOT print that way! Its just your computers ability to preview the colors.

Now, having said that it will NOT print that way…it CAN print that way. I know that may make no sense, but let me explain. If you have ever gone to, say….SEARS (heaven forbid) for photos- it takes two weeks or more to get your photos back. Why don’t they print them in the store?! Well…because the photo printers in places like target, Walmart, Walgreens and even by online printers like snapfish.com, shutterfly.com are NOT REAL photo printers AND they compress the files when you upload them, loosing both color integrity and a lot of the processing I have done. Its like writing a paper for college and leaving the summary, but not including the details your professor asked you for. You can feel AND see the difference in the paper your photos come on and the quality difference is pretty astounding. The ink is different, the rate the ink absorbs, the time it takes to print, the printing “paper” is all completely NOT the real deal. Its not entirely the printers fault though. Lots of online “printers” download the file, as mentioned earlier without all of the data of the photo, shooting your photo in its proverbial phoot (see what I did there!) before it even went to the printer! There is a reason instant prints are so popular. People want what they want, when they want it. And thats fine, but not at the compromise of a completely crystal clear image that you are disappointed in! There is nothing worse than having a great photo that you are excited to share, rush off to the store and you get either a washed out version or your face looks digitized because of the above issues in printing! Its enough to make you loose your sanity!

So what do you do with your photos? You love them, but you don’t want to print out less than quality photos. If you have access to a camera shop like Ritz Camera or another local photo store- go there. Camera stores usually have the capability to give you the real deal prints. Don’t have access to a store like that? There are a few options on line to save the day. I have personally printed from www.mpix.com and had a good experience with the quality of the photos and integrity of how I formatted the photos still being part of the photo! They also have good options for Christmas photos collages for Christmas cards or whatever special photo needs you have outside of individual prints. Always make sure if you use an online printer that you UN-CHECK the option for “color correction” or you may end up unhappy with your results as it will override any color corrections I have done to your photos during processing.

Here is a great link with a diagram of some online printing options and how they rate. http://improvephotography.com/7756/test-results-best-online-print-lab/

I hope this post helps to clarify any questions you may have about printing your photos. If you EVER have any problems with your photos, your disc or just need some clarification on ANY of this, please DO NOT EVER hesitate to contact me!

Jen’s Famous Sweet Pecan Rolls

Blog, Recipes
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Its sweater weather and my favorite time of year. With the cool fall breeze, comes all sorts of delicious goodies, including my famous Sweet Pecan Rolls.

This is a recipe I adapted from an old Amish Cookbook I got right after Nate and I got married. I changed it to our liking and its pretty much one of my favorite recipes and everyone is ALWAYS asking me for it. Its super easy because you make it the night before, let it sit on the counter covered overnight and stick it in the oven in the AM. Its gooey, its sticky, its DELICIOUS.

 

Sweet Pecan Roll’s

2 loaves frozen bread dough (found in the freezer isle, usually by whipped cream, frozen fruit)

1 small box of butterscotch pudding (NON INSTANT)

1  1/2 sticks butter

1  1/2 cups brown sugar

3 TBSP milk

3 TSP cinnamon

1 cup of pecans

 

Let bread thaw 1-2 hours (or until you are able to slice), then cut into 20-25 pieces. Grease a 9×13 pan and sprinkle nuts on the bottom then place bread slices on top. *Sprinkle the entire box of butterscotch pudding on over bread slices. In a sauce pan,melt the butter, add the brown sugar, milk and cinnamon. Bring to a boil, then drizzle over the bread dough. Cover with aluminum foil and let sit overnight. Bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.

*I have laid out my bread before and fallen asleep to find my bread busted out of the bag. I ended up pulling apart the dough and putting it in the pan, letting it rise again for 30 minutes and then doing the rest of the steps and resting again until the bread had risen to the top of the pan (additional 10-15 minutes) and was ready to be placed in the oven. It still turned out perfectly!

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Our First Predators

Blog, The Homestead
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A few months back, during the heat of summer our “original” rooster, “Fabio, Mr. Pickle Pants” (Yes, that was seriously his name) disappeared in the light of day. Like, gone. No feathers, no squaking, no noise to let me know something was going on, he was just gone. It left us perplexed, but we were only disappointed as it was culling time and we missed out on the benefit of feeding him out and trying our first chicken. That sounds a little barbaric to say it that way, as if we don’t care about our animals, but its just how life goes when you are raising your own livestock. Back when small family farms were essential for survival, it was part of life and we have tried to help our kids have a healthy understanding of what our livestock is for. We respect our animals, we care for them and tend to their needs, we enjoy them but eventually its probably going to be our dinner. Don’t get me wrong, we love our animals. The kids often ask to “play with the chickens” and we lift them up over the fence to do so. The littlest of our children both love to sit outside the fence and watch and giggle at them scratching and pecking at one another. We all enjoy letting them out early in the AM and see them on their roost at sunset as we close them up for the night. Even the hard work of cleaning out the coop and getting fresh bedding in, is a chore that no one complains about.

Unfortunately, we had what I feel was our first real loss a few weeks ago when we found one of our hens “Dolly”, with its neck half pulled through our fence and our rooster “Michael Bolton” gone. It was right after sunset and my husband had gone out to close them up for the night. He called me from outside and said “We have dead chickens, I need your help.” I threw a coat on and ran outside. I couldn’t believe it. I had been home all evening, but busy with the kids and the house, but i hadn’t heard anything to let me know that an epic battle had taken place. The feathers scattered everywhere told a different story. Originally, when I got arrived to the scene and it looked like all our chickens were dead. Their bodies strewn along the fence in a complete wipe-out of our flock. As we checked each one, we realized we had only lost one. The others were scared and trying to hide. One was so terrified and desperate for safety, she was hiding under the body of the hen that was dead. It was so sad. It had been raining for the first time in about a month and the weather was just nasty. It was windy and cold. They were soaking wet and shaking. I felt so bad for them. They were seemingly terrified as we picked them up, checked them over and placed them in their coop. Once we gathered them all, we realized our rooster was missing. We looked everywhere. We followed feathers and analyzed the crime scene (CSI- farm style) but couldn’t find him anywhere. We decided to set a trap with the chicken we had lost and hope our rooster was hiding out somewhere and would appear in the AM.

Nate and I were both so high strung when we came back inside that we couldn’t sleep. I think I got about 3 hours of sleep that night and woke early listening for that all familiar crow of “Michael Bolton” (ROFL at that sentence). But it never came. I can’t say I was sad over loosing him. Just the day before we had decided he needed to be culled. He was attacking our kids and generally, was so aggressive you couldn’t even touch one of the hens without the consequence of his terror. He had attacked me one morning from behind and I couldn’t get him off of me. I screamed so loud you would have thought I was being attacked by a bear. My husband had heard my shrieking and came running to see me finally getting myself out of their enclosure, crying and cursing at the stupid bird. I seriously laugh overtime I think about it. I cried over a rooster-a BIRD attacking me. Im obviously a rookie. He had scared me more than hurt me. I had just let them out and was walking out of their enclosure when he came flying across the yard and just WENT FOR IT. He got me with his spurs and no amount of me fighting back, kicking back or yelling back would make him relent. Only the sight of the big bird got him to quit. Literally as soon as he saw my husband he was like “ohhhh crap” and he high tailed it (I’ve got some good zingers this morning!) back to the coop. So needless to say, i was perfectly happy that i never heard his crow again. I’m sure all our neighbors were too.

The loss of our hen however, was really disappointing. We left the trap out with her in it for several days but caught nothing. Recently, we found the chicken feeder knocked over and dragged to where a predator had made an entryway into the run by pulling up the chicken wire, in an attempt to get away with some loot. Little thief. Our trap has gone off, multiple times since then as we have tried to draw in the predator with bread, chicken feed, poison and any other things our farming friends have told us to use.  We are assuming that whatever it was that set it off was large enough that when the trap went off, its rear end was able to catch the trap before it closed completely. The bait is always gone, but the cage is always empty.

A few weeks back we heard the birds making a ton of noise and discovered a red fox just sitting, watching them from over the fence. This happened two mornings in a row and about a week before we lost our hen and rooster. So, we KNOW we have a fox, but we are pretty sure that what got in their run was a raccoon. With no success trapping the chickens nightly visitor, we installed a trail cam to figure out what we are fighting, so we can decide how to get rid of it. We heard from someone on a Facebook forum for farmers in our area that they have used marshmallows and have trapped over 50 raccoons. So we decided to try it out last night. And wouldn’t you know.

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The first picture is obviously a raccoon. The second a opossum (that word is NOT spelled right. I just don’t get it!)

The morning after we set the trap we woke up to go out to let the chickens out and I took out my 22 just in case. I got close enough to see a dark SOMETHING in the cage and sent the kids back inside to investigate on my own. I was a little excited to see we had actually FINALLY caught the little bugger. It was “the thrill of the chase” more than anything.

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I ran across to my parents house to get my younger sister. I knew she would want to see it. She thought it was cute- until it hissed at her. I let the kids come back out and see it too and they were pretty impressed. I don’t think I have ever seen a raccoon up close like that, so it was a cool experience for them to see it up close and personal. My husband came home and took care of it and we plan to continue to use the marshmallows and trap if we continue to have any more problems!

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Nate and Jen: 1

In using a point system, we are still a bit behind, but my how the tide is going to turn. I can feel it.

 

Friday Favorites- Young Living Oils

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I am super excited about this post for the Friday Favorites series. I was introduced to Young Living Oils by this super sweet lady a few years back when I met her in California. Beth is the sister of one of my closest dearest friends and mentors, Bridget. We were doing a present wrapping party at Bridget’s house and Beth and her family were visiting for the holidays. I learned a bit about the oils during the party and the time we spent together during her holiday visit, but she and I have continued to correspond for the last couple of years at various times about them. She wasn’t trying to sell me on them and was so great at educating me and sharing information with me on ways they could help my family. However, I was a bit of a skeptic and THAT combined with being a cheapskate, kept me from making me take the plunge and try them myself.

A little over a month ago, my kids were at their first homeschool program meet at a local horse rescue. My 5 year old immediately started having an allergic reaction after being exposed to the horses. His eyes were watering, red and swollen. His nose was stuffy. He was miserable. I brought him in the car and realized I had nothing to help him. I put a post out on Facebook asking if anyone had any oils on hand that could help me because I figured this was the perfect time to see if these “babies” really work.  Almost immediately I had a response from one of MY sisters closest friends, Rachel, who met me and gave me roller to try. She instructed me on how to use it on him and we applied it right away. We talked for a few minutes and I realized I should check him. I was SHOCKED. The swelling had gone down, his eyes were no longer NEARLY as red and he could breathe through his nose! I knew right away that our family could benefit and that day I ordered my oils.

Since then, I have seen the many benefits and use the oils daily in a diffuser to help me with mood/energy and on my kids, for sleep and allergies. I used a combo oil on my two year old Karleigh, after the dreaded “fifteen minute nap in the car that destroys all ideas of a nap” and put her right in bed. I hoped for the best, crossed my fingers and toes and set a desperate prayer up to my heavenly Father. She slept for 4 hours. Done.

I am now a distributor for Young Living Oils, but I am not nearly as educated as Rachel, the distributor I purchased through, or Beth, who took so much time and energy to educate me when I was just looking for information! I wanted to give Beth (who is also a military wife!) a platform here as a thank you for all of her time and energy. I was so very impressed with her article when she submitted it! She is hilarious, a great story teller and I am so happy she is here!

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From Beth:

Oils and Minivans and Skeptical Husbands

It wasn’t an impulse buy. Not that I haven’t made my share of impulse buys, because I have. Large and small. I’ve purchased a vehicle- an Oldsmobile sedan in my 20s, at that- on what I confidently stated was a “just looking” day. And I once bought a salmon-colored prom dress because it was on clearance for $13, never mind the fact that I was well past prom age, didn’t look good in salmon, and had zero formal events to attend. I donated it to a thrift store, tags still on, five years later.

By 2014, I was a military spouse with two children and seldom made a purchase without thinking it through (except for Chick-Fil-A sweet tea, my weakness). I learned about essential oils from a family photographer that June and decided soon after that I wanted to get the starter kit. She had me at “immunity boosting” since my kids were, as my mom had put it on more than one occasion, “sick way too often.” However, I waited over two months to make the purchase, hoping to convince my husband that these oils were worth trying, while also doing some research on ways to use essential oils, wanting to ensure that the diffuser and 11 oils in the $160 kit would not meet the same fate as the salmon dress.

When September rolled around, I knew that our seasons of sickness were approaching, so I went ahead and ordered that Premium Starter Kit from Young Living. My husband was skeptical at first. He watched in amusement at me “playing with oils”. In those first days, I made a roller bottle that included Thieves to support our children’s immune systems, diffused Lavender to help us rest well at night, rubbed highly diluted Panaway on our growing preschooler’s legs when they bothered him, and applied Purification to itchy bug bites. I rolled Stress Away on my wrists to keep me from freaking out about my dirty floors and  ever-growing laundry piles, used Lemon to clean red and green Sharpie off the two year old’s legs, rubbed Digize on the hubby’s stomach after too much football food, and made a face cream with Lavender and Frankincense. At some point in those first weeks, the husband became less skeptical. When he asked me to make face cream that he could keep in his gym bag and a roller of Digize for his office, I knew he was hooked, too. Meanwhile, I’d found my passion. The business side of this is totally, fully optional… yet, once I fell in love with these oils, I couldn’t keep my mouth shut about them. If something changes your life, how can you keep that to yourself?

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It’s been two years this month since my starter kit arrived. Not a day goes by that my family doesn’t use our oils and our oil-infused products (cleaners, toothpastes, and more). The children each have their favorites. My son is 5 and calls Lavender “the superstar of all the oils,” while our daughter currently likes Joy the best, partially because it’s her “happy oil” and partially because she likes the character Joy on Inside Out. These kiddos, by the way, have had only a week of minor illness in each of the last two winters, a HUGE improvement from previous years. That’s just one of many ways these oils have been game changers for my little family.

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It is an absolute blessing to be able to help my family and others through oils, all while being a homeschooling mommy and moving around with the military. I’m not shy; I tell my friends they need oils. The majority listen and then agree that Young Living oils are no-joke Amazing (yep, with a capital A). I don’t say “you need oils” to make a buck. I say it because these oils have changed the way we do life and I know they can do the same for you. That starter kit was the best money we spent in 2014. Well, that and the minivan I swore I’d never own. I love my minivan, but that’s another post for another day.

 

If you want to learn more about Young Living Essential Oils, check out www.distillery9.com. Our motto there is “Essential Oils Simplified”. If you like what you see and want to become a member (ie: buy a Premium Starter Kit and get wholesale pricing on future orders), here’s my sign up link: http://bit.ly/YLoilsBV. I’ll send you some welcome goodies, including a roller bottle, a “150 Fast and Fabulous uses” booklet and – an exclusive for Life On Cherry Lane readers this month – a bottle of Orange Essential Oil, one of my favorites outside of the starter kit oils! I’ll also add you to a fantastic members-only oil chat group on Facebook and will be your personal oil lady.

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Moral of the story? Skip the salmon prom dress even if it’s on clearance, but buy a starter kit from Young Living as soon as you can, and maybe even buy a minivan at some point, too. You can thank me later, new friends.

Photoshoot Tips (from a Pro, with 4 kids!)

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As we gear up for our first season doing shoots in Maryland, I thought it would be a great idea to post some tips and tricks to help prepare you for photoshoots. Here’s my ten rules for a great photoshoot

  1. Communicate with your photographer. He or she wants you to enjoy your shoot and wants to give you exactly what you envisioned for your family photos. Outside of “Make my teenager look like she loves me!” I am happy and able to accommodate most all requests! If you are with me for a photoshoot and are new to the Cherry Lane family, I want you to enjoy your photos and I want you to keep coming back each year! Do not be shy about a certain pose or idea you have, either as you approach your photoshoot or during your session!
  2. Pre-plan your outfits the night before (at the very least!) and have them ALL set aside in a safe place so nothing gets misplaced when you are getting ready, especially if you have little ones who tend to get into everything or misplace their things! This will save a lot of frustration on the day of, so there is no rushing around looking for Jenny’s coordinating tights or hair bow!
  3. When coordinating a families outfits, choose the family member that will be the hardest to find an outfit for and start there! If you have a baby or teen girl, those are usually my “go to” for suggestions on where to start! Babies clothing can be limited and teen girls are…well…teen girls! (read:can be difficult!) For my own photos and as a suggestion I start with one outfit and build from there. When it comes to color scheme, pick ONE central color and one or two coordinating colors for variation. For specific color schemes that I love, click on the Pinterest icon above and view some great color schemes on my “Coordinating the Family Photo” board.
  4. Get dressed and BE READY a half hour before having to leave for the venue. Dress yourself first and the babies last. This ensure you have time for that last minute diaper change for your little one or time to argue with your 9 year old on his or her choice of shoes or to scream, at least ten times “EVERYONE GET IN THE CAR!!” Because everyone seems to loose complete sense of direction or focus when you are trying to get somewhere on time! And because this is real life and one of 10,000 different things could happen the slow everyone down- including your toddler throwing a temper tantrum over the idea of underwear.
  5. Eat within an hour of the shoot, especially if you have little ones! Do not bring them to get their photos done hungry! It just will NOT go well! Bring a snack in the car that is packed with protein. Cheese sticks or other solid foods that are not messy and will keep them full are great options!
  6. Bring Rewards!!! Kids, both young and small are always happy when they have a little incentive. Things like Cherrios, Gerber Puffs and Teddy Grahams, are all great for incentives. They are small enough to give one at a time, beg for a smile and do it again. And Again. And as many times as necessary! Stay away from chocolates, m&m’s and any other candy item. Most candies have dyes and they will run right down their face and onto their outfits. Stick with hard, chewable foods your child loves and he or she will happily oblige you with a smile! If you have older children, ice cream or some Frozen Yogurt are great ways to put some big smiles, on their pretty little mugs.
  7. Do not threaten children in order to get good photos. Honestly, Ive seen it happen and heard the thunderous words spoken from a Mom or Dad when a child is just not feeling the photoshoot. It never ends well and the only thing you will think about when you look back on those photos, is the fight you had, just to get them to smile. Your job is to have them there, dressed and ready. MY job is to make them smile! I’ve got plenty of tools up my sleeve- and I’m not afraid to use them!
  8. Just keep looking at the camera! If you have little ones, literally just KEEP SMILING AT THE LENS. I can’t tell you how many times I will have THE PERFECT SHOT. The kids are smiling naturally and looking right at the lens, but mom is giving the teenager side eye or Dad’s eyes are down on the toddler in his lap that is picking her nose! Its my job to get their attention and when the moment is right and I have their attention, I want to be sure I don’t have to worry about anyone over the age of 12 looking at the lens!
  9. Don’t talk! I know that completely goes against me saying to communicate, but if you hear me encouraging your child to look at me and smile and you chime in, the child will often get overwhelmed and feel overpowered and not cooperate. Talk in between poses and encourage your child. “Your hair is so pretty today”, “Wow you did a great job on brushing your teeth, they are SOO sparkly, can you show the camera- I bet you will blind her!!” (thats usually toddler boys favorite!), “I know you don’t want to be here and photos are the last thing you want to do, but I am so proud of your good attitude and willingness to do something that is important to me!” (ahem, teenagers!). Even if its NOT going well, or perfect like you imagined and someone isn’t cooperating, speaking positive words can honestly change the course of the shoot and the attitudes of everyone involved.
  10. Have fun! Don’t stress! Even if we DONT get every picture we wanted or struggled through the shoot with a little (or big) one, believe me when I say, it will be OK! I have four kids. I have seen IT ALL and there is no amount of meltdowns or time-outs (that need to be taken to regroup), that will stress me out! I am excited to capture memories for you of your family and I enjoy the challenge that comes with family portraits! It is so rewarding when I get to deliver photos that my families are excited about. And if we don’t get a perfect shot. Thats what photoshop is for. 🙂

 

Friday Favorites- Rodan and Fields

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Continuing my Friday Favorites series, meet Nichole Williams. I met Nichole, back in 2008 when both our husbands were stationed at the Marine Corps Air and Ground Combat Center, in 29 Palms, California. Nichole and I met at a MOPS meeting held on base. I complimented her on her daughters adorable smocked dress and we bonded over South Carolina (her home state and my husbands too!) and her sweet southern accent! I actually have a lot of regrets over not getting to know her better, but I am so glad to have this opportunity to support and work with her again!

Nichole had been posting on social media about some skincare products that I knew could probably help me get the skin I wanted and after a long internal struggle with myself (and my wallet), I finally decided to JUST DO IT. Honestly, for me, it is expensive. After all, I am the girl whose husband just bought me bras and underwear for my 30th birthday because I wouldn’t spend the money on it. Cause you know, its not like an ESSENTIAL or anything. *eye roll*

One of my closest friends here in Maryland has BEAUTIFUL skin (ahem…Jenn). Like, FLAWLESS. Irritated at her ability to have the perfect, glowing summer skin, I finally asked her what she uses and wouldn’t you know….Rodan and Fields! She offered me her reps info, but I knew if I was going to try it, I wanted to go through Nichole. She was a Marine Wife and well….we stick together. I knew I could trust her and I also know the financial struggle of being a military family, so she was my girl. I am so, SO glad I did! I have used Rodan+Fields for a couple months and am seeing a huge difference in the brightness, clarity and firmness of my skin!

 

From Nichole:

Do you ever open your favorite social media site and think to yourself “Ugh, not another person selling some type of network marketing garbage”?  I felt that same way time and time again when someone would try to sell me something at a party they were having or at an event we were attending.  Something in me changed however, after I kept seeing my friend Lindsey post before & after photos of customers using Rodan+Fields skincare.  I was currently using another top of the line skincare brand that I had been buying for the past 6 years! Why change?  I mean, my skin looked fine….with make-up on.  As I looked closer, I realized my skin had stopped changing a long time ago and you know what?! I really did not love the way my skin looked without make-up!

I decided to do my own research and see what Rodan+Fields was all about and I found out that they are the real deal!  Their products are not just approved by dermatologists, but created by two of the best in skincare!  Drs Katie Rodan and Kathy Fields both attended Stanford University and have very successful dermatology practices in California.  They saw the need for dermatological skincare in the everyday market; one where consumers could get the best skincare possible without a prescription.

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My friend (you know the one who kept trying to sell me on Rodan+Fields!) believed I would love the products so much she sent me a regimen for free. Sure enough, after 60 days of using their “Reverse” regimen I was hooked! I loved the products and my results so much, that I decided to starting selling their products! Wait, WHAT? Network marketing?! I said I would never do that!

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My skin, before and after!

I am a stay at home mom and wife of a Marine.  Before my life as a wife and mother, I was a successful real estate agent.  When my husband and I got married and started our journey together, my career faded.  Add two babies 16 months apart into the mix and you can only imagine what my life had become.  This once successful, career driven gal became a mom, covered in spit up with one infant over her shoulder and the other crawling up her leg!

Staying home with my kids has been the best blessing God has given me, but I felt my days of independence and financial opportunity had all but disappeared, when I became a stay at home Mom. But when I realized that I could work, selling an amazing skincare line that I loved AND be with my kids, I jumped in with both feet and took off running! I was excited to share the products that had helped me, with other women (and beyond!) that I knew would love them and benefit from them, just like I had! I experienced that not only could Rodan+Fields deliver beautiful skin, but it could also help a woman who had a scar from her thyroid cancer removal. It could help a child suffering from eczema and painful red skin! It could help an adult who has suffered a lifetime of acne and the horrible scars it can leave behind! I knew the products could help so many and I could help so many! Rodan+Fields offers regimens that can help with everything from wrinkles, uneven skintone, large pores, sagging skin, sun/age spots, acne, scaring and almost any sensitive skin issue (adult or child). I am still in love with my skin today! In fact, I NEVER wear make-up anymore! My confidence has changed because of my skin and my family has changed from the financial opportunity I have by selling Rodan+Fields! Had I not said yes to God I would have missed this amazing opportunity! Maybe you find yourself in a similar situation as I did?! Maybe your skin could use a fresh change or your family could use more of an income?!  I would love to help you! If the cost makes you skeptical, there’s really no need to be! Rodan+ Fields offers a 60-day, empty bottle, money-back guarantee. So if for any reason after using the product for 60 days you are not happy, I will happily help you get your money refunded and see if we can find a better regimen to help!

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I am SO excited to team up with Life on Cherry Lane that I am offering an exclusive deal just to Life on Cherry Lane readers through the end of October, 2016!! If you place an order in October and become a Preferred customer with me, I will completely reimburse you the cost ($20) through a Target gift card or cash!  What does becoming a Preferred Customer get you?  It is a one-time fee that allows you 10% off all of our products and free shipping on your monthly order! Just let me know you heard about Rodan+Fields on Life On Cherry Lane and I will hook you up!

One Grateful Mamma!

Nichole Williams

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For more information on Rodan+Fields :

https://nicwilliams.myrandf.com

https://facebook.com/transformationalskincare

 

Life With 4 Kids (6 and under)

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The last time I checked, stats for families were 2.5 kids per family. So we are like five times that. Especially if you count the dog, cat, chickens, bunny rabbits.

I remember long ago when I had my first kid. She was an angel. I remember thinking that I didn’t understand what all the “This is SO hard” hoopla was. “Um, this is so easy…I could do this again…and again….and again”. Then came #2. He had colic, a milk sensitivity and didn’t sleep for more than 20 minutes at a time. He didn’t follow “Babywise” no matter what I did….like… AT ALL. Oh, and my husband was deployed when he was 4 weeks old, so theres that. I had been the PERFECT parent (in case you were wondering) with #1. #2 made me feel like I knew nothing, about anything. A total failure. Even after we worked through all those issues and we made it past his first birthday, I had a yardsale and told everyone “WE ARE SO DONE”. I sold what I could of their old clothes, bedding and toys. Everything. I WAS SO DONE.

After a couple years, I decided I wanted to go down that crazy, messy road again. So along came #3 and then #4, fourteen months later. People thought we were nuts. It was actually hysterical how people’s reactions to my pregnancy announcements grew less and less enthusiastic. We had obviously crossed over into the “pyscho” category. And if we thought people who knew us thought we were crazy…well you should see the looks I (we) get when we go out together and have all four kids with us. I get a lot of comments, even to this day. My kids can be behaving perfectly, but I will still get strangers commenting on our number of kids. I used to get really offended, mostly because I don’t want my kids to feel like a bother, or an inconvenience to me, but Ive come up with a few responses that usually make people who, clearly are trying to be mean or share an unwanted opinion:

My favorites:

“OH no, these two aren’t mine, they are my sister wives”

“We decided we would stop when they got ugly, but by golly, they just keep getting cuter”

“Yea, I was really sheltered as a kid and so was my husband. We finally figured out what keeps causing this…”

“Yea, they are all mine. My husband and I have no self control” *wink*

Drop. Mic.

On a serious note though, four kids is ALOT. 4 kids that are 6 and under is ALOT. I totally get why people react the way they do. We are a lot to handle. I hear very often from people that have 1/2 the number of kids we have that they understand. No, no you don’t. Im sorry if that hurts your feelings, but you don’t get it. It simple math. If you have two kids, multiply everything that happens in your day by 2. So if you are up 2 times at night with two kids….you are now up 4 times a night. If you make 2 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches everyday and then clean up from lunch, multiply that by 2. If your two children get the flu. …just add two more beds to change, puke to clean up, The laundry. Oh the laundry. Being late EVERYWHERE. ALL THE TIME. If you thought that cleaning your house with 2 sets of hands is hard…I giggle. I just giggle.

Cause the thing is, moms of 2…..you can UNITE. You get each other. You understand the struggle of having two children who need your attention. You have ALL THE PLAYDATES. You have ALL THE LITTLE GYM CLASSES AND LIBRARY STORYTIME. When you get to four, there is so much chaos, you can’t even talk to your friend who you are having a “playdate” with, because you are too busy telling Tommy to stop picking his nose, Sally to sit in time out, giving a baby a bottle and making sure #3 isn’t hopping in someones car who “has free puppies”. Packing for a picnic?! It will only take you 40 minutes to make sandwiches, snacks, drinks, bandaid, hand sanitizer, waters and anything you MAY POSSIBLY NEED during said outing, for four kids and thats without interruptions. It is so much work to go anywhere, that I would really rather just stay home where I can send my kids to run around outside on our 5 acres. Thats much less stressful than trying to figure out how to take child #2 to the bathroom when we have just sat down to have lunch at chick-fila. Taking one extra child with to the bathroom? No big deal. Four?!: “Don’t touch that!” “Don’t sit down” “Ewwww, that is not a trashcan!” “No, don’t look in it!!!” “No, don’t touch that with your hands”, “Keep your hands out of your mouth!”, “Ummm, are you going to go potty, or did we come in here for fun?!”, “No, don’t pick that up!”, “Why did you bring your food in here?!” “DONT TOUCH ANYTHING!”, “Are you done?”, “Can we be done please?”

amiright?

Do you get it? Cause see, I think theres a lot of mom-shaming out there and I get it if this came across condescending to anyone that has less than four kids. I, of anyone (who did life with two kids 14 months and under, alone for 7 months) get that its not all rainbows and giggles for Moms of less than 4. In fact, I think I was at top working order as a Mom of two. I think when you have two moms you are probably a better Mom than I am to my four. Honestly, Moms that aren’t out numbered are probably more likely to be PRESENT and AVAILABLE and can spread their love in a way that makes them feel like they are doing ok. Moms with more kids than hands, well, I am pretty sure we feel like we didn’t hug and love and read enough and do ANYTHING well enough! Mom’s of two, you have it together! You are my savior at the park when I forget my wipes. I wish I was you. Honestly, I do. I didn’t have four kids in order to be the “mother martyr,” but Momma of two…sweet Mama, you will be met with more understanding when you stop with trying to relate (cause really can’t right now) and admit that you have NO IDEA HOW WE DO IT.  In all honesty, WE DONT KNOW HOW WE DO IT. But by the grace of God. Listen to our advice, our regrets, our mistakes. Cause Lord knows, I have plenty. Its not from being better than you or being more qualified than you, its that having more kids come with more experiences, more personalities, exposure to different medical issues and challenges. We’ve also googled IT ALL, looked on pinterest and asked all our girlfriends. We understand that being a new momma with no experience with handling a toddler and a baby at the same time is overwhelming, but we have also been there and done that. Whether you want to hear that or not. Its just the truth.

To the family and friends of families with more kids than hands: Be kind. Don’t judge. Be gracious. If we look overwhelmed, we probably are, even if we are smiling. If we seem tense at a party, its because we are waiting for someone to stick their finger in the cake or knock over the pasta salad…or pull down their pants in public because they didn’t know where the potty is. If we commit to doing something and realize that WE JUST CANT, be understanding. Or if we just keep saying “No, I can’t…sorry!” Its not that we don’t want to. Its that doing that thing will cost us more sanity and family harmony than is worth it. If our house is a mess, its because we took some time to sit down today. If we function differently than you in our style of parenting, its because we just cannot possibly do IT ALL for EVERYONE. If leaving a child(ren) strapped in the car while bringing in the groceries from the van stresses you out, I’m sorry, don’t come to my house after I have just STRUGGLED through a shopping experience with four children. If me leaving my child in their seat at dinner, while I get the other started on a bath, stresses you because “they might choke”, teach me to be in two places at once at dinner/bedtime and we can fix that. Because here in this house, there are four kids that need to eat and four kids that need baths each night and I just cannot be with every child at every minute. If you think I am a bad parent because I forgot one of my kids that is normally sleeping, is actually awake and crawling around in the house while I take the trash to the end of the driveway or check the chicken coop for eggs, or water the dying, wilting plants on the porch…I’m not a bad mom. I’m an overwhelmed mom. And Im not afraid to admit it. I just don’t need you to point it out. Any of it. We also don’t need you to step in. Unless we ask. And If we ask, don’t shame us for it. Its already a hit to our pride that we can’t do it all. Even if we wanted to. Also, we are always late. Even if we give you a half hour window “just to be safe”.

Living so close to my Mom and Dad has been quite an experience for them. When we lived away, I think they thought I had it all together. My house was always clean (because I worked like a slave to get it that way and I only had two kids at the time), the kids were well behaved (because they were on their best behavior) and we appeared to just have it all figured out. Living right across the driveway from them, they have seen our house a wreck more times than they would like to. They see me, nearly never dressed in “real clothes”. And they have seen our kids misbehave enough that I am embarrassed. A couple weeks ago, I asked my Dad to watch the kids for an hour and half before bed. Admittedly I wasn’t as prepared to leave as I should have been, but in my mind all he had to do was get them dressed for bed and make sure they ate. Lets just say when my husband and I got home, he looked exhausted, like he had just run a 5k or gone to war. He even had backup, when my Mom came up to bring him his dinner and stayed to help him out. Its not that the kids were or are bad. They stayed in bed, they ate their food, they got dressed and did what they were supposed to. They are actually really well behaved kids for the most part, outside of normal kid stuff. Its just that they are just kids and there is a lot of them. And it is just CHAOS for everyone, including Me and my husband who deal with it on a regular basis. Except we are dealing with it after being up all night with one who has a fever or an earache, or skipped their afternoon nap. We are exhausted and spent. And this is all with kids that are pretty well behaved and all on a schedule.

To those that have won the race (I say this, because I will NOT BE JOINING YOU!) with more than 4 kids. God. Bless. You. You are my hero. Also, how the heck were you able to get dressed today? Or on the internet to read this, where you laughed at me for saying 4 was hard…and compared it to your 6…or 7…or 8? 😉

To the mamas that are in the trenches with me… I hear it gets easier. But then I think about having four teenagers and my left arm starts to tingle soooooo…. #maytheforcebewithyou #wecandothis

 

 

How We Do It…Four Kids In One Room

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When my husband and I decided to move across country, we knew we would be in much smaller quarters when we got to my home state of Maryland. At that time we only had 3 kids, but our kids had never shared a room. We knew the older two would probably do just fine (outside of #2’s night terrors), but #3 was our….shall we say spirited child. We lovingly refer to her as Chucky on a really bad day, if that gives you any insight. She’s just a spitfire. That was obvious from the moment we put her in the car for the first time and she screamed the entire way home…it was only an hour drive…

Anyways, the transition to having three in one room was off and on rough. We would do well for a week and then have a rough week. I just had to keep saying it was part of the transition and that it was only a phase. And it was. One we got through that, its really been smooth sailing. The kids usually sleep through any noise from siblings and during times where one is sick, we usually bring them to the couch so they don’t disturb the others or pass along germs.

When our angel baby, Levi came along, he stayed in our room for the first 6 months due to reflux and lack of space. Once we moved rooms around (so that we could have a dining room table to eat at together instead of a bar with room for 3) and #3 was old enough for a real bed, we then had the space to add him into the room with the others. Within a week, we were golden. He is seriously the easiest baby. Even if a sibling wakes him up, he goes right back to sleep with barely a whimper.

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I was able to score two bunkbeds from Wayfair for $59 each. And then they did not ship everything and boxes got lost…and reshipped and then not delivered… it got a little messy and I ended up only getting charged for 1 of the beds! Ya can’t beat that! Ill take a free bunkbed for some delays!!

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As you can tell in the picture, we decided to not put in the rails on one of the bottom bunks and slip a pack play underneath until #4 is old enough to be in a regular bed. That was a real space saver. Since I took the photo I have updated the color of the bins (I say this because it kills me that I am posting a picture of the room where the boxes under the bed don’t match the bedding) to a light blue color to match the patterns in both girls beds.

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The closet in the kids room is small, but efficient. It works for us, as I only have hanging clothes and dress up clothes in there. There are also some toys on shelves that my husband and dad built for me for toys that are too big to in their toy bins.

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If you are considering combining kids in rooms who have never had to share space before, my advice is honestly to bite the bullet. If its rough, it will only be a phase. My kids love sharing their space now and when we have talked about separating them in the future when we get into a bigger space they all say “No Way!”. I am sure this might change as they get bigger and need more privacy, but for now, I am grateful for the close relationships my kids are enjoying, in part from sharing their rooms and quiet giggles they share over doing things they think Mom and Dad can’t see on the video monitor….. 😉 I also, highly recommend a white noise maker, like this one found on amazon. They are great for drowning out siblings coughs and other noises that might disturb little ones slumber.

Friday Favorites: My Favorite Antique Store in Pennsylvania

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A little off topic here for my blog, but I had to do this little post. I have planned to do it for a while and haven’t gotten the chance. Ive been pretty busy keeping up with the 7364748577 things I have to do each day!

From the moment my girlfriends walk in my house, the questions start on where I got this or that furniture (or on photo shoots-props for my photography). I usually smile sweetly, while internally, a storm rages on. Do I tell them? Do I keep it to myself? I get slightly dramatic in my mind, imagining them getting in their car and buying the entire store. Because, lets be honest, I want to buy the entire store. Every. Time. I. Go. Its a battle. I love my friends. I want them to enjoy this place, but I also want to keep it to myself. Its like a good recipe you want to keep to yourself. If you tell someone they will steal all your glory when THEY bring it to the family party or church cook-out. I get a little selfish and think about all the pieces I could be missing out on if I give up this sacred place. But, my conscious takes over and I decide its just too good to keep a secret. Of course, my conscious won’t be outdone however, as I make them swear in solidarity to not tell (or go ahead of me and take all I want for myself…obviously). They agree, but I can only make myself whisper the name… “Koony’s”. I choke and stutter as they ask me again. I finally, confidently reply “Koony’s”. Then we walk around the house and I show them all my beautiful vintage furniture and they in turn, fall in love with a place they have never been.

Not only does Koony’s have tons of unique, beautiful pieces, but they also have tons of furniture that they have painted and refinished. And their prices are incredible. My friends don’t believe me when I tell them how little I payed for a BEAUTIFUL buffet and hutch that I use in my kids room. They have large and small furniture for every room, knickknacks, wall decor and table top decor. They display it all in an old barn- as if thats not nostalgic enough and in such a unique way. I still am kicking myself for not scooping up a vintage chicken feeder to use as I saw it displayed there as a centerpiece for our farmhouse table. I literally look for one every time I am there. As if thats not enough to make you run there this weekend, the owners are friendly, genuine and kind. They have always offered to help us with large pieces or when they see I have my hands full with my four kids. Unlike some places, where I have been followed around as if my kids will TOUCH and BREAK everything, they have always been friendly and welcoming to my kids and I. They also have tons of special events and sales, as well as a little stand with snowballs (um…yes, I think I will bribe my kids with good behavior!) and hot dogs, etc.

Here are just a few pieces I have purchased from Koony’s:

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Kids bedroom. Buffet with hutch repurposed as a dresser.

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My sweet little coffee spot in my kitchen (notice the watering hole sign on top I haven’t changed back yet from my littlest birthday party this weekend.)

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I realized after posting this photo that my decor on top of the milk crate had been used and never put back by little hands. I’ll have to update the photo later! #momlife #missinglantern #missingpumpkins #missingcorn #thisiswhywecanthavenicethings

 

Koony’s Vintage Picks can be found on Facebook here.

 

Koony’s Vintage Picks

1295 Frederick Pike

Littlestown, PA 17340