Invaluable Some Days | Personal

Some day I would like to travel around Europe with my husband, drive on the wrong side of the road and drink proper tea, again, with locals. Maybe even have some mushy peas. Some day I would like to learn a second language and speak it fluently. I used to know a lot of Spanish. The older I get the harder it seems to find time to learn things. The harder it is, also, to remember things. Though, the older I get, the more knowledge I crave. I care more about history as an adult than I ever did as a child. I care more about understanding the way the world works. I am a part of this world and I want to contribute. That's why I love creating. I love creating things that speak to the heart of those who come across it. Something that is meaningful. Some day I would love to be published, for either my words or my photos, or maybe even both. Who knows. Some day I would love to visit Napa Valley, drink wine, walk around or swing in a hammock, in the shade. Some day I would love to eat cheese and a hard baguette in France, ride a bike through the markets and find things to buy to carry around in my bicycle basket. Some day I would love to go with my girlfriends on a girls-only trip, to a secluded beach, pretend to be a little kid again and build a giant castle in the sand. Some day I would love to take each of my children on a special trip, just the two of us, wherever they want to go. (My son asked me just last week if I could take him to Paris and we could take photos, together. My heart nearly leapt out of my chest at the mere possibility.) Spend time getting to know them, letting them get to know me. The real me. Not just the mom, with the structure and the routine and the rules that keep them safe, blah, blah, blah. 

Some day, I might get to do all of those things.

But for now, some day is today. When I look back on my life, and the days that I spent doing whatever it is I was doing, I know I'll feel nostalgic about it all. I'll be old and wrinkly, and I'll look at photos and tell the same stories over and over, forgetting that you've heard it a hundred times, you'll tell me you have heard it but somehow I'll further delude myself into thinking you really want to hear it, one more time. I'll remember the wildly attractive things, that were on my list to do, if I did them. I'll feel warm and fuzzy about them. I'm sure I'll document them and take plenty of photos to tell my stories. I'll also look back and remember the terribly mundane and painfully boring or just plain painful days. The times that felt like they would never end. When I'm old, it'll feel like "it was just yesterday that it happened" and I'll miss it all.

The bulk of my life is not so fun. It's not glamorous. It's mundane and can some days feel like pure drudgery. I juggle a lot, physically, mentally, emotionally. With 3 children, all with some wonderfully, unique and special needs, and myself, balancing work and parenting while living with an autoimmune disorder, often, the world feels like one giant elephant, waiting. Staring me down. That damn elephant just sits and looks at me. It's waiting to be eaten. Almost daring me to try. Except I'm not hungry. I'm rarely hungry. Why is it so big? Who ordered this elephant?! 

Some days, I just want to send it back. But there is no kitchen to return it to. No manager to call and complain. It's just here.

Waiting.

 I don't feel prepared. I don't feel capable. Little by little. I nibble. Some days, few and far between, I feel a tenacious hunger well up inside of me and I tear through a portion. I devour it. I feel accomplished. I feel tired. But I feel good about it. I should earn a reward for that, right?! I tell myself as I pat myself on the back. There's no reward, however. No prize. It's just a regular day, like any other to everyone else. A day when I did what I was supposed to do and I felt capable. My work feels insignificant. I had a small victory but no one knows. We all deal with something, so, I don't really want people to notice, I just don't want to feel alone. I love when I have these productive days, I no longer feel isolated. I feel useful. I feel capable. I feel joy in my accomplishments and happy to share my good news with whoever wants to hear it. My excitement is short lived. My accomplishment has carried me through a few days and bolstered me to last a while. Though, soon, my glory fades. I return to my normal days when I'm not so capable. On those days, I can't get the food down. So, I nibble. Is there another way to survive?

I keep going.

I look forward to the exciting things that life has to offer and I continue to document the mundane, in the meantime. You know why? Because when I look back at my photos of either, they're all the same. They all make me feel something. That's really all that I want out of photography. To look at photos and feel something.

Why do I feel the same, whether I am out of the country or in my backyard, in my photos? Emotionally, it's all connected. Our emotional wires all plug into the same circuit.

I remember how much fun I had when I was in Puerto Rico, shooting on the beach with my friend or when I was shooting in the Snowy Mountain Range of Wyoming with my husband and then visiting family with our kids. I look at photos and I remember all of the fun we had. I feel good about my memories. Nevermind that in Puerto Rico I had strep throat and between my fever and the 95% humidity I couldn't stay hydrated or energized. Or that in Wyoming, my back went out, and we had to find a chiropractor before I could fly home. Somehow, the negative memories fade out to the background. Photos don't show those parts our trips. Similarly, I look back at photos of when we were in our living room or at the park down the street. I forget that it was the day I was running on 2 hours of sleep because my daughter has a mysterious stomach illness that comes and goes whenever it pleases, and keeps us awake throughout the night while she cries in pain and we try to bathe her, massage her, do anything we can to comfort her back to sleep. I forget that it was the evening that I had a panic attack just an hour before when my son followed his bouncy ball into the road and was almost hit by a car, because he often becomes so engrossed in what he is doing to the point that he doesn't hear you when you're screaming his name and you can't get to him fast enough to save his life. How scary it is that he forgets to be cautious of dangerous things the way that it comes so naturally to the rest of us. When I look back, at photos of my youngest, I'm not thinking about the fact that I constantly have to keep my eyes on her and know where she is because she will put almost anything on her face, in her mouth, nose, or ear, just because. She doesn't know or care that she can choke or damage her ear drum or seem to be able to remember that she hates having permanent marker rubbed off of her cheeks and forehead. She just wants to see how these things feel.

You see, the wonderful disadvantage of photographs is that you don't see the negatives (no pun intended). Photographs are like icebergs. You only see a fragment of the story in one photograph. There is a whole lot more under the surface. The truth is somewhere in the back. Hidden away, covered with cobwebs, in places you don't often go. With things you don't like to feel or often remember. You can't get rid of them so you just store them away for when you can handle thinking about them, again. 

I know I can't be the only one who feels this way. Especially on the bad days. I crave relation. I want someone, somewhere, to be able to relate to me. (Misery loves company, right?) But seriously, don't we all love a little solidarity in our struggles? Doesn't it make us feel normal? Someone who can say, "Man, I feel for you. I know what that feels like. I have been there." 

When I take photos, I look for those things which are real. Anything emotional that is tangible. Moments that make you feel something.  

 You see, in that place, somewhere in the back, hidden away, covered with cobwebs, the place where you keep the hurts, the anxieties, the griefs, the fears, the traumas, you keep all of your memories there. The memories of those you care about most and any memories of that which has affected you deeply. It's the emotional circuit box. We keep the real emotions there. That means it also stores memories of times when we felt or shared our love, our compassion, our empathy, our relat-ability, our vulnerability, it's all there. That's where our story is. Where the truth rests. But it's guarded. Under lock and key. You don't let just anyone go in. It's too raw. Too honest. It's messy. It's not always beautiful. Some of it might be downright ugly. But it's real. It's true. 

I know what's in mine. I don't know what is in yours but when I am photographing, it's what I am thinking about. That place is what inspires me to create the kind of images I love.

My heart longs for authenticity. Genuine truth, told the way it is, transparency without worry of judgement or appearance.

Just being who we were made to be. Sharing our struggles, sharing our small victories. Encouraging one another so we don't have to feel alone. Life is about more than photos but photos are how I find that I can most easily relate to people and communicate my emotions with them.

So, I share my heart and I share my some days. Because all of our some days are worth something. The good, the bad, the wildly attractive and the terribly mundane. 

(If this sounds like a bunch of ramblings with too many metaphors, just scroll past the words and enjoy the pictures. It's cool. ;)

 

Enjoy. <3

(Ely Asylum in) Florida | Personal

 

Every year we take our family vacation in October.

This was our 3rd annual family trip to southern Florida. It's hard to believe that Rilo was only 6 months old on our first trip down, as a family of 5. And it has become the highlight of the year for all of us. My sister travels with us, (so that we can have at least one date sans kids while vacationing) and this year, Levi's mom had the opportunity to travel with us, as well. Double bonus!

Every year we have something crazy that happens from flat tires, to misplaced baggage, viruses and this year, Levi's back went out for a good portion of the trip. Though, we found a chiropractor in the area and an adjustment did the trick for him. We still managed to enjoy ourselves and had the most fun, yet, for one of our family trips.

Every day we got to enjoy a mostly deserted beach and the kids will never forget how many different kinds of wildlife that we encountered on the island.

It was incredible. 

I am so far behind blogging. Between work and all of the responsibilities of raising 3 kiddos, this post has been back burnered for months. Not to mention, I had over 4,000 photos to sift through and it was really difficult for me to narrow them down, as it always is. A lot of people think that shooting on vacation, when photography is my full-time job would not be actually enjoying my vacation. Trust me, I put the camera down at times and definitely relax and even take turns, sharing the camera with Levi.

Though, truly, it never feels like work to shoot on our vacations, especially when I'm taking photos of my kids. They have always been my primary inspiration for my work and probably always will be. I love them to death. The way they play, explore, interact with us and with each other. Their little, ever-growing, ever-developing bodies are so precious and they literally are changing every day. Documenting these special and rare trips that we get to take as a family is part of my inheritance for them.

My kids are bold, daring, quirky, curious, adventurous, passionate, full of wonder and zest, not only for life's mysteries and but also for it's blatant existence. That which is there but maybe has not been questioned. They see the world differently. They challenge it. They challenge me. I am so thankful for each one of them and the blessing of being they are to our family. 

Document your kids, guys. On vacation. At the park. Hell, document them tinkering around with crap they aren't supposed to touch in the garage, in the basement, in the kitchen. They are going to do it anyway. Embrace their desire to learn and to be who they are, and use your camera all the time. You won't regret it. I promise.

One day, I know my little amigos will look back at the many treasures I have created for them and they will cherish being able to relive it with each other. They will appreciate it as much as I do. At least, that's always my hope.

Florida, we miss you so much. Don't ever change. We'll see you soon. ;)

 

Enjoy. <3

 

Part II

 

Gus | Birth

This is the second time I've had the privilege and honor of photographing and blogging one of my sweet SIL's, Hannah, births; though it is the third birth that I have had the privilege to be present for.

As the due date approached, Hannah became more and more uncomfortable, more and more ready, more and more certain that birth was eminent. 

As is common with subsequent pregnancies, your body breaks up your laboring into segments and can do so across many days. For some it can be hours and hours of real labor contractions that simply start and then without warning...stop. I know how frustrating this process can feel, as I have been through it myself. Though, the frustration has been felt by Hannah more times than she would care to recall. You see, all four of her labors have progressed this way. Lots of contractions, painful, uncomfortable, exhausting, confusing, over DAYS until finally, she would feel pretty certain that it was time. (Isn't it funny how, no matter how many children you have had, once you know that it's time, you still aren't 100% sure that you know?) Yeah. You're right. It's not funny at all.

 I came to their house 2 days before, when Hannah was contracting and feeling like this could be it. Just in case it wasn't quite time, yet, I knew if she wasn't ready that it would be disappointing for Hannah, I brought some flowers, red raspberry tea, and my whole kit of DoTerra oils (You all know I don't leave home without them.). I made her some tea and offered to wash her feet and massage them with some clary sage (to strengthen the contractions), white fir & lavender (to calm and soothe achey muslces).

As it turns out, her contractions did stop through the night and I went home early the next morning. But I got to return the next day, late afternoon, as it was finally time to go.

With baby #4, Hannah and Caleb felt confident that they could have a birth that they wanted with minimally invasive care, at the hospital, and decided to do so. (I typically prefer to document births at home, exclusively; though, I do make exceptions. Especially for family.)

Augustine (Gus) Binder Ely was delivered only a few hours after arriving at the hospital. Hannah's contractions were so strong once we arrived to the hospital, that her water broke in the waiting area, while they were preparing a room for her to labor in. She had to be on the monitor, to check on baby, once per hour, but was able to move around as much as she wanted, though, she was encouraged to rest some, as things progressed. It wasn't long before our sweet little Gus was among us, breathing and screaming, filling the room with the unspeakable joy that only new life can provoke.

I have an amazing SIL, one of the most supportive BIL's and another adorable nephew.

 

Enjoy. <3

 

Summer Days

I mean, for sure, it's December and this is a summer post from a day back in July, when I took my kids out at 7:30am on a Saturday morning, but hey, it's my blog. I can make the rules of my blogging timeline, right?

Right.

This summer was so busy, I had found the time to edit these photos but never to publish my blogpost. Now, as I scroll through these photos, I feel so nostalgic for Summer. Not for the heat. I mean, you all know how much I hate being cold. I get goosebumps when it's 75 degrees in my house. But really, I miss the sun. I miss how happy it makes me feel. Living in the midwest, we just kind of forget that we don't see it, as often as we need it, and sometimes, it's more than one-third of the year until we see it on the reg! I love the variety that changing seasons offer but I always miss the sun. My kids love to be outside and, of course, they can go outside when it's 40 degrees (that's my cutoff guys) I notch it down to 32 for short snow breaks but it's VERY SHORT. (Sorry, not sorry. It hurts to be cold.)

But summer...you know, it's just so easy to leave the doors open, the windows open, not have to worry about hats, or coats, gloves, or shoes. Just be outside in the sun. Soak it up. Take it in. Play wildly and freely without the weight of all that get-up.

I don't feel energized.

This year, for more reasons than just the season, I feel drained. I feel lethargic. I feel like my creative juices have been unplugged. Wrung out from a busy summer with the kids, wedding season, school and all that it requires, then slam-bang we are into the holidays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, soon Christmas, then New Years...

Plop. You're done. It's cold. It's grey. It's wet. It's gross. You with me? Ready to move, yet? 

Nah.

I just go to my hard drive and pull up the sun. I look for my warm photos. I daydream about my favorite warm weather things. I look at photos of my children feeling happy and healthy and I'm content. I can make it through.

Because as much as I hate the downer of Winter, there isn't much that compares to a care-free, laid-back, no-plans, soak-up-the-sun, freedom of a warm, sunny Summer day. 

I live for it.

 

Enjoy. <3

Piper | 5 Years

5 Years, guys. 

This fantastically colorful, quirky, energetic, spirited, hilarious, curious, wonderfully spunky, tenacious and quite courageous, little girl has been in our lives for 5 years. She loves salads, eggs,  raw peppers, cucumbers, beans, guacamole, tortilla chips, and peanut butter. She doesn't like carrots, broccoli, corn or pizza. She loves flowers, gardening, playing in dirt, catching bugs, letting them crawl on her, her favorites are stink bugs, ladybugs, and ants. She likes to play in the rain, ride her bike, paint, color and to make cards by hand for her loved ones. She loves her aunts and uncles and grandmas and grandpas. She loves cooking and being everyone's helper. She loves back scratches and having her nails painted. She doesn't always understand why certain things might hurt someone's feelings. She doesn't always know why certain things are inappropriate. She hates pants and any types of clothing that are "too tight", "too itchy", and "too hot". She even hates underwear but is learning that sometimes we have to figure out how to do things we are really uncomfortable doing, if there isn't another option. She loves spinning. She loves swinging as high as you will push her. She knocks things over a lot but never means to do it. She loves asking questions and getting long answers that lead into opportunities to ask more questions. She loves singing. She loves animals and constantly asks for a "real" pet. (Apparently, a fish is not a real pet.) She doesn't like to be teased. She wants to be taken seriously. She takes the world very literally and will hold you to your promises. She's fiery and giggly. And oh, so lovable.

I had great intentions to post this back in August when she actually turned the big five, however, this year has been one of delayed best intentions. One of shocking incidents, thrilling adventures & unexpected circumstances. 

In the Spring, we fought the school district for educational rights, for our son who has high functioning Autism, that were being violated, six ways to Sunday. In the Summer, we prayed for God to spare the life and limbs of my younger brother (He did! Though some were broken and may never be quite the same, he has all of them and is alive and well), who was in a severe motorcycle accident, when he wasn't seen by a driver who turned right in front of him. In the fall, we moved, started new schools, traveled a ton for work, and received the second high functioning Autism diagnosis, for our second child, Miss Piper June Elizabeth. We kind of already knew. It's not really surprising, yet, really? Does this happen to other people? Do we just have really good odds? Should we play the lottery? Who knows...Apparently, these things run in families.

I'm still processing it.

I'm still learning how to be a mom. How to be a good mom. Is that even possible for me? Trying to figure out what to read. Who to ask. Who to listen to. In a world where everyone has opinions, whether they know what they are talking about or not, I'm finding it more and more difficult to find answers to my questions. In a world where there are millions of books, thousands on parenting, hundreds on special needs kids, and even less on high functioning special needs kids, it's often VERY difficult to know what in the hell I am supposed to be doing, on a day-to-day basis, as a mom. The mold never fits. People in this world are constantly trying to cram me into. They are constantly trying to cram my kids into it. They try to convince us why the mold is so important. That we need it for the success of our children. That if we don't fit into it then we must not matter to society. We are failures. Our kids our failures. Our kids are fakes. They are bullies. They are playing the system. The outcasts. The weirds. The misfits. The unacceptables...

I took the mold and I threw it away. It's stupid and pointless. The mold is not welcome in my house.

Maybe it's welcome in some homes because it works there. But for the last 7 years that I have been a parent, I have followed (more like tried to follow) the path that is prescribed to the masses, yet I always find myself at the end of the road, a brick wall in my face and all I want to do is head-butt it; kick it down; take a sledgehammer to it; set it on fire; do SOMETHING that makes it feel like all of my efforts weren't for naught.

I'm learning, however, that parenting really isn't about MY efforts as much as it is about my children's needs. What if their needs have nothing to do with everything I have tried? Time to try something different.

My children are what matter. For some reason, God knew that I would be the mom that my kids needed. I still, sometimes, don't know how to be what they need but I know that actively trying to figure it out is, at least, helping. I know that if they feel loved and valued by Levi and I, and by those whom we allow them to be around, then they will be healthy. Part of what they need is for me to keep asking questions, to keep checking on them, to be present so that they are getting what they need from the other people, in their lives, who are not their parents.

I can't explain the toll that it takes on a parent to keep up. I do not have it all. I do not have it all together. I do not even care about things that I used to care about. I no longer want to have it all. I no longer want to have it all together. I no longer care about not caring about the things that I used to.

I care about my husband. I care about my kids. I care about my family. We have been told that we have a much higher rate of divorce because of having special needs' kids. Well, screw that. At the end of the day, I'm going to come up short of all that was expected of me because I'm human. I will always make mistakes. But at the end of the day, if I have made my husband feel loved, if I have made my children feel loved, if I have put my family first, the rest of the world will either be here for me, or they won't. I am ok with that.

Many of you know that we do something a little different for our kids' birthdays. As they have gotten older, over the years, it's been increasingly more difficult for them to be at birthday parties and/or to have birthday parties thrown for them. We have to keep it small. Alongside that thought, we felt that, because we know our life is chaotic, we desire to have 1:1 time with our children. Out of those thoughts was born the idea that we allow each child to choose what they want to do for their birthday and we would take them to do it. (Within reason.)

This year, Piper J, as I sometimes call her, really wanted to go somewhere. She always wants to go somewhere. "Mom, can we go to the store?" "Mom, can we go to the park?" "Mom, can we go to the library?" "Mom, can we go do something fun, somewhere?" She asked if she could go see "mommy & daddy's office" which was downtown, at the time. She also asked if we could take the city bus. We have never taken the city bus, here. I guess we just haven't needed to, at any point, in the 5 years that we have lived in Columbus. We decided to take her to get a gluten-free dessert at our favorite bakery, she chose two treats and had her first root beer, (It was a little too "spicy" for her taste.) caught the bus at a nearby stop, she got to open her present from us, and the bus dropped us off downtown, within walking distance of our office. We made a potty break stop inside the office and she pulled out one of my lipsticks that she had smuggled; and was applying it before I realized what she was doing. We left the office and headed over to the surprise part of our evening. I had packed her swimsuit and cape so that she could play in the water fountains at Scioto Mile, after we ate dinner, next door. She was so happy with her surprise. It took some clever distractions to get her to be patient enough to eat after she found out that she would get to play in water. But she did well. We always have an incident or two in public but with only one child in tow, it's a little easier to keep it under wraps.

She was pretty sad when she asked a few girls to play with her and asked their names. They told her she was weird, after she tried squatting down like a puppy to lap up some water. I'm used to the stares but it's really difficult for a little girl to be told that she is different, by her peers. Especially, in an unkind way when she is trying to make a friend with them. Kids just call it like they see it but it doesn't hurt any less knowing that they don't know that what they are saying is mean or rude. I told Piper that, in life, some people will like the things that we do and some people won't. That when someone says they don't want to play with us, we move on to the next friend and try not to let mean things make us sad, but that it's hard.

Man, is it hard. Even as an adult, I have difficulty with this. Why do people say mean things? (There, see, another one of those unanswerable questions.)

At any rate, for now, she has mommy and daddy to pour more love in than the hate that the world feeds us. She really enjoyed her birthday. As we were walking to the bus stop, we realized that we were probably going to miss the bus that was coming and would have to wait a bit for the next. Pipes was clearly spent. So, we called an Uber, and got on our way. Even though she was deliriously tired by the end of the night, she did say that it was the best birthday ever.

Totally worth it.

Enjoy. <3

 

She | Boudoir

Many of you know that I love to photograph, in the home. 

That's kind of the point of this whole site. Sharing my love for documenting life in the home, with the world. It's no surprise that I would be totally on board with documenting some truly beautiful moments for this lovely lady to gift her husband with. Boudoir imagery has gotten a bad rap and has a large history of photographers trying some really ridiculous things, at their client's expense.

For me, Boudoir Photography is so much simpler. Beauty in a relationship is about more than just sex. Of course, we are sexual beings. It's how we were created. Meant for each other. Meant to be attracted. Meant to join in this fantastic dance of romance, dating, marriage, more dating, hopefully, and a lifetime of intimacy, together.

So, when I set out to do this, I wanted to document this wife/momma's beauty in a way that may not have been captured by a camera, before. The images below are of movements that occur on any given day. She's lounging around the house in her husband's shirt, twisting her hair into a bun while she sits at her computer finishing up her work for the day, she plays with a strand of hair while daydreaming of what she wants to cook for dinner, brushing curls away from her face after she's just fixed it for a night out with her hubby, she's laughing at something funny he always does that is goofy and childish but so endearing, she checks her reflection in the mirror after she's freshly applied her makeup for the day, she asks him for help to clasp the necklace she wears everyday (that he bought her for their anniversary, long ago).

All of these movements are everyday things. We don't take notice of our habitual movements and patterns of behavior but we all have them. I didn't know ahead of time what these photos would look like. I just knew that I wanted them to feel realistic. I came in and helped her feel at ease enough to show me what they were. I wanted to capture who she is in a way that would make her feel good about herself; and capture who he sees on a daily basis.

Real beauty is always there.

Sometimes it takes a little polishing but it's there; waiting to be captured and admired.

 

Enjoy. <3

Shades Of Nurture (Volunteers Still Needed) | Personal {2014 Breastfeeding Project}

Hey Friends & Followers!

Here is another installment from two lovely mommas who have volunteered to be a part of our collaborative breastfeeding project, Shades of Nurture (SON), this year!

We would still love to have some more mommas that are breastfeeding, volunteer for our project. All volunteers will receive images of themselves nursing their babies, free of charge.

Images from each mini session will be combined and displayed for an exhibit during the month of August (Location TBD) which is National Breastfeeding awareness month!

We are looking for mommas from Africa, Asia, Mexico, East Asia, Ethiopia, Somalia, & other areas of the world, who breastfeed their babies. We are highlighting mommas from ethnicities around the world who have diverse heritages and differences to share but are united in the choice to breastfeed their babies.

If you want to know more, feel free to read about the inspiration behind this project on my previous blogpost here.

Please tell your friends or share on your blogs, walls, and friend spaces. I would love to have at least a dozen more volunteers.

 

Thanks to everyone involved & inspired by our project!

 

Enjoy. <3

 

Nikki & Oliver

 

 

Kristen & Jonathan

Rilo | Personal

My "baby" turned 2 years old on St. Patrick's Day!

I can't believe how fast time has flown by, how much she has developed. She talks so much. We have no idea, half the time, what she is even saying but she is passionate about it and it is hilarious. She is so fun. I can't imagine life without her.

We were really back and forth with calling it at two children. But we went ahead threw a third in for fun, just make it an odd number.

We like it odd.

It fits us. ;)

People have asked us, maybe a little too often, "Did you want 3 kids?"

What an odd question for someone who already has three kids.

"No, actually we are looking to pawn off one or two of them, what can you offer us for a trade? We LOVE to barter."

I understand what they mean, though. I think.

Levi is one of three children and I am one of five! So, we've always talked about having multiple kids. Maybe because of how young we were when we had our first, then second, then third...the responsibility and chaos crept up on us. 

What did we do?!

How did this happen?! (Well, that question, at least, does have an answer.)

What are we doing?!

Does anyone know what they're doing?!

Probably. But most of the time, we don't.

I call parenting, "Looking for the light switch in the dark." Sometimes I make it smoothly and painlessly through the dark, flip the light on and it all makes sense. Then other times, I trip over a toy, stub my toe on a chair, step on the wrong end of an electrical plug, fall to the floor crying, bump my head on the corner of the dresser, knocking a picture frame off which shatters on the floor and THEN I just give up; never making it to the light switch. I call it a day and try again tomorrow. Ya feel me?

Did we want all 3 of our kids?

Yes.

We were unprepared for what life would look like with them?

Without a doubt.

Are we so incredibly grateful for the joy that they bring us?

Overwhelmingly so.

Would we trade any one of them or their personalities?

Hell no.

I know there is purpose and blessing within the chaos of life, raising a family. Our kids are the way they are for a reason. I can't wait to see what they will become and what they will be capable of achieving.

As Rilo's birthday was rolling around the corner, I realized that we hadn't scheduled her dedication. Jude and Piper were both dedicated around their first birthdays, unintentionally, but even still, it was a pattern and I had dropped the ball.

I thought to myself, "Well. Crap. I almost forgot to give her back to God. I bet he'll forgive me. If anyone knows I'm scatter-brained, it's Him. We just won't tell her we let her wait an extra year."

Ha!

For those of you who aren't familiar with what a Dedication is, it's basically, where the parents, Levi and I, stand in front of our church community agreeing that we believe our child is a gift from God. We commit to raising them with moral integrity, teaching them to love God, respect others, and to serve the needy, in the way that Jesus taught before his sacrifice was made to give us unlimited access to grace for any mistake that we will ever make.

You've probably heard the phrase, "It takes a village to raise a child." It truly does. Our community of friends, at the end of the dedication, come forward and pray a blessing over our family and commit to stand by our family and support us through prayer, resources, advice, meals if we are sick, a ride if our car breaks down, butter if we run out while we are baking, ;) or anything else we could ever think of to ask for, they would give it if they could.

My neighborhood is Clintonville but my Village is Central Vineyard and I can't imagine living life and raising my kids without them.

Our prayer and hope for Rilo (and our other two) is that she will live her life learning how to love others and knowing that she is loved, well, because of our efforts in teaching her unconditional love, as modeled to us by Jesus and those people in our community who are constantly investing in us.

I can't be thankful enough.

A very happy 2nd birthday to my sweet & spunky, Rilo Imogen Rose.

 

Enjoy. <3

Hickman Twins | Birth

I don't even think I have the words to do this justice but here goes my best effort:

This momma courageously and informatively chose a home birth for the delivery of her twin baby boys.

Laura is a sweet friend of mine and I was overjoyed to hear, last summer, that she would be having twins. When she told me that she had consulted with Kathy Mitchell (My home birth midwife whom I adore.) about having the twins at home, I leapt with excitement! Knowing, that typically, when you deliver twins, vaginally, the first baby will be head down and during delivery, baby A almost always flips baby B into a breech position. (That and the fact that they have so much space to temporarily hang out in and get crazy until momma's uterus decides to kick in for the second time and get back to work. (So freaking crazy how that works. I'm still processing it and impressed by it.)

Knowing this all along, Laura wasn't even worried. She had hopes for particular things but because Kathy has extensive training and experience in delivering breech babies & twins, safely, that was never one of her concerns. Then lo and behold, statistics were correct and she delivered sweet little Oswald first, in a typical head down position and about 45 minutes later, there came Gunnar, FEET first!

Incredible....I just can't. even.

Our entire conversation, when discussing documenting this very special event, was so exciting for me. It's so few the number of moms who are given the opportunity to deliver twins, or at least both babies, vaginally, (Mainly because of the huge liability restraints on doctors which plays into the lack of knowledge on how to deliver breech babies in their training, you just don't see it happening, almost ever. Twins pregnancies are typically considered high risk and are delivered via cesarean section, in hospitals. 

(Of course, some multiples' pregnancies are high risk for actual medical reasons and so home birth would not always be the ideal choice for every mom and family, if cesarean becomes necessary for the health of mom and/or the babies.)

I love that her lead midwife, Kathy, (and I'm sure most home birth midwives do, as well. At least the ones I encounter, regularly.) pays very close attention to the health, medical history, risk factors of the mother, as well as the level of confidence and also the knowledge and desire of the mother and father to commit to this method of delivery. When pursuing not just a multiples' home birth but any singleton pregnancy/labor/delivery, these are factors that she considers before she agrees to provide for these patients.

In the 9 home births and 5 hospital births that I have attended, each one has been very different. I can always tell a difference in the room of those patients who are using a midwife vs. a doctor. And also a difference between those choosing to be at home vs. at the hospital. There is an ere of peace and of confidence, lacking chaos. It's subtle. Slow. Manageable. Most people won't notice unless they have experienced both.

There is a remarkable level trust observed. It's usually unspoken but at the same time, it's almost tangible. A trust of the delivering mother of her midwives, doulas and birth team. A trust of the momma toward her own body and it's ability to work together, mind, body & spirit, to produce a safe and successful delivery of the world's most perfect gift: a precious baby. In this case: two precious babies. 

Of course, every person is different. Interventions are sometimes necessary. Not everyone who attempts a home birth is able to have one, successfully. But our world is imperfect; our bodies imperfect. As mothers, we blame ourselves when we feel like we haven't measured up. You should never expect less of your body's ability to carry out what it was made to do, until you are given proof of it being otherwise. And in those circumstances, take pride and joy in being cared well for. In having the opportunity to utilize healthcare that many nations in this world do not have access to. Do not compare or shame one another for our differences. Encourage, empower and believe in one another.

Comparison is the thief of joy.

Always believe in yourself and your ability to advocate for yourself. Don't do what the world says, just because it's mainstream. Always choose based on your desires, your knowledge of what you believe is best for you and for your family. And then act accordingly.

 

I believe in you!

 

As is included in my Birth Documentation package, I attend the 36-wk home visit for my home births moms. This usually takes place around 36 weeks but I think was around 35 for Laura since they thought she may go early. The midwives and team come to the patient's home and do prenatal check ups, weigh ins, blood pressures, listen to the heart rate, you know, all the usual stuff.  They check the position of the baby (In this case, babies.) and they also make sure momma has everything she needs to be prepared for labor to start. Then they finalize any and all important details relating to the moment of knowing that birth is eminent.

I attend to ask questions about what my client wants out of their documentation. What they may not want. What their level of comfortability is with me documenting this time and to assure them that my interactions during labor are solely prompted by the mother's desire to engage with me or to not, to aid the birth team in any tasks I can, and that my presence is minimally felt, my goal is always to allow mom and dad and/or birth team to do everything they need for comfort and safety, throughout labor and delivery. It's very easy, typically, for me to remain on the sidelines and get everything I need from there.

At the visit, I share what the experience may look like with a photographer in the room (which can be helpful for parents who have delivered without photographers present, to compare.) and to discuss the variables with lighting during labor. I also like to get a visual of the home so that I know ahead of time where things are, and what I may need to bring with me to be most efficient, once I get the call.

 

The first few photos are from Laura's home visit with her midwives. They lead right into the evening of labor, which began at 38 weeks; 4 days. Technically, delivering at 38 weeks; 5 days, I believe. Which is also pretty remarkable, I might add for a momma of twins to make it so far into full term with no complications.

She was so happy for the day to finally come.

I arrived in the middle of the night to the sweet smell of DoTerra's Lavender, Clary Sage and Wild Orange, which only added to the alluring ambiance of peace, in the room. You will notice how dark it is when I arrived and as the progression of photos during both labors takes place, the room gradually fills with light. As the sun rises and the day breaks forth with bright light through the tiny cracks of the blinds, it's almost as if the day is welcoming these sweet boys to their first hours in the real world.

Gratitude. Empowerment. Tears. Joy. Elation. Exhaustion.

The emotion overtook the room.

The whole world (maybe just the room) was welcoming these brand new little people, with open arms!

 

I included, as a special gift to them, a post-natal visit, 2 weeks out from delivery, selfishly, so that I could check back in on the twins, hold them and take a few more shots of them, their physical changes, stare in awe of the task of constantly nursing TWO babies, and just take in their overall squishy cuteness.

I'm so proud of Laura, her amazingly supportive husband, her best friend who held her hand, got her chap stick, water, a wash cloth and cried along with her, her awesome birth team: Mandy, Audra, Kathy & Hannah, and finally but not least of all: Clementine, who is a sweetheart of a big sister to these little dudes and the "most" excited member of their family. ;)

I don't feel like these words are powerful enough to convey the affect of this very intimate and extraordinary event, that has changed their lives, (and my life, for that matter) forever.

 

Thank you, Hickmans, so, so much, for what I truly believe was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me.

 

Who knows? Maybe there are more mommas out there who are or will become pregnant with twins, and may desire to birth them at home; and they will because you have given them the confidence to pursue it.

 

You're my hero.

 

May great health and many blessings be forever graced upon your family!

 

Enjoy. <3

Shades Of Nurture | Personal {2014 Breastfeeding Project}

Many of you, who have been my followers over the last couple of years, are aware of a breastfeeding project that I embarked upon, in 2012, entitled Nursing Mommas Project. My project took the summer to complete and was shared in August of 2012, to celebrate and encourage Breastfeeding Awareness Month.

For this project, I chose to highlight and support moms from all over Columbus who were willing to let me come into their home and photograph them nursing their various aged, babes.  

My focus was to share and help normalize the fact that these were moms, who ranged from full-time working outside the home, full-time working inside the home and other moms who do a variety of both, who were all different in various ways but were alike in the fact that they were able to nurse their babies lengths of time, ranging from a couple days old all the way up to 34 months old.

My goal was not then nor is it now to elevate these women above those who bottle feed or use formula for their child's nutrition. At the time, there was a lot of media controversy over breastfeeding, mainly extended breastfeeding (which is defined by some, breastfeeding beyond 6 months, and by others as, breastfeeding beyond 12 months.) There was a lot of negative opinions and ideas shared and I felt inspired to put something exclusively positive out there. I think it's important that you know that, I believe, a mother's experiences and choices are very intimate and made with great consideration. Every choice we make as a caregiver has a reason and validation. So, please don't misunderstand. This is a positive thing!

There are, honestly, so many women who desire to breastfeed but have encountered so many difficulties and challenges that they felt that it just wasn't possible to continue. So, our hope in publicizing projects like this is to not only raise awareness that there is help out there but that it actually is quite common for mommas to struggle with latch, supply, pain, and lots of other issues BUT there is hope and there is help. AND it's almost always free!

We raised a lot of awareness in our community and awareness that has spanned cities across the midwest. Since that time, the idea has encouraged many photographers, breastfeeding coalitions, & lactation counselors to partner for action, in supporting such a great thing, that often lacks the support and education needed for success.

After all of that being said, I was approached recently by a Certified Lactation Counselor (CLC) and friend, Kelli Blinn, with an idea to take our encouragement and awareness to another level.

I will be working with her over the next several months to photograph a project we are calling Shades Of Nurture. Read below for details regarding the project and how you may be able to get involved. Participation is completely free. You may contact either of us, if you're interested and we will give you more details and set up a short nursing session with you.

We plan to host an exhibit of this project to launch Breastfeeding Awareness Month in early August, 2014. So, read below what this is all about and stay tuned...

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Shades of Nurture

Images of mothers from Columbus's Latina, African, and Asian communities.

 

Our desire is to share the beauty that motherhood brings, especially through the art of breastfeeding. Having noticed that supporting images of mothers and infants primarily feature Caucasian women, we have chosen our models to feature a wider range of ethnic backgrounds. Our goal is to encourage and support all mothers and we hope that these images of intimate beauty tell a compelling story that unites all women.

 

Enjoy. <3

 

P.S. The tagline: "Images from Columbus's Latina, African and Asian communities." Is subject to change based on who comes forward to participate. If you don't fit that category but feel that you would be a great fit for this "Shades Of Nurture" idea, please, definitely contact us. We want to include as many backgrounds as possible!