Thursday, December 29, 2011

Hope Floats

"Childhood is what you spend the rest of your life trying to overcome. That's what momma always says. She says that beginnings are scary, endings are usually sad, but it's the middle that counts the most. Try to remember that when you find yourself at a new beginning.
Just give hope a chance to float up. And it will..."
~Hope Floats, 1998


Dear Friends,
Thank you for all your prayers and kind words over the last several weeks.  I spent the last 8 days back home where I was in the care and company of family.  I was home where my Momma took care of me; she reminded me to eat, and to nap, and to get out of the house.  She hugged me when I cried so hard my shoulders shook.  She cried with me and she sat with me when I didn't feel like talking.  She gave me gifts wrapped in beautiful paper and reminded me that I am worth it.  She reminded me that I should feel beautiful and proud of who I am.  I am still who I am.  I may have lost 12 pounds, but I haven't lost me.

I stand here today amidst the rubble; chunks of concrete laden with miscommunication and lost intentions.  My choice is to pick up those blocks one by one and rebuild; build something that is bigger, and better, and stronger than what was there before.  I don't know how long that will take and there is no blueprint, but I'm going to start laying the foundation of a happier me.    

Any way I look at it, I will be happier. 

I have hope.

I won't be writing any more about these muddy waters, at least not until the water is clear again.  This space is mine, it's my life story, but I know I am not going to want to revisit or relive this part of it, so it has no place here.  Thank you for your prayers, your support, and the shoulders to cry on.  If you have any perils of wisdom please email me.

Thursday, December 15, 2011


Hearts are Breaking
Promises Broken
Doors are shutting
Where is the window?
I can't breathe
Shards of broken glass where a dream once stood
Big brown eyes and fear for the future
Betrayal and Lies and Selfishness
Where is my karma? 
Faith, healing, peace, the new objects of my dreams
There is a God and he will not foresake me
He will embrace me and lift me up
He will protect my children from callous decisions and unnecessary evils
I have faith

**In my absence from this space where I share my life and my creativity, please pray for me and for my family.  Although, I have no idea how God will answer these prayers, I know he will, and I know he has a plan for me.  He is my rock and my redeemer and he is a God of love and mercy, and most certainly he will get me through this.

Monday, December 5, 2011

There Will Be Plenty of Time for Tears....Later.

A few weeks ago we noticed that our dog didn't have much of an appetite. She would no longer finish the food in her bowl, and she started losing weight.  On the Sunday after Thanksgiving she wouldn't come out from under our bed, and when we did coax her out, her ears were flat against her head, her tail was down, and she looked scared.  I knew something was wrong.
So, I took her to the vet on Monday.  She'd lost 3 lbs.  They decided to draw blood.

Last Tuesday the vet called with the results...her kidneys are failing her.  At the most, she has 6 months, at the least 2 weeks.  It's day to day, really.   We've been telling our girls that Kenzie is sick, but I couldn't bring myself to elaborate.  We've been meaning to sit down and explain it to them...but it's one of those things that feels better to put off.  It feels better to avoid reality.

Fast forward to Sunday evening, and I decide that we should give Christmas photos a stab since December is fading and my to-do list is not getting shorter.  The hubs was running errands and I gathered the girls and the dog around the tree.  "Let's just get a few shots...Momma only needs a few."

It wasn't going so well...


The dog was cooperating but the kids were not.  So then I say, in my cheeriest voice,

"Come on girls!  We need just one photo with Kenzie.  This is her last Christmas!" 

As soon as the words escaped my mouth I knew I made a huge mistake.  Camdyn never misses a beat, nothing gets by her. 

"Why is this her last Chrismas Momma?" 
"Um, because she is sick, Cam, and she will probably be with Jesus next Christmas."
"But...I don't want her to die.  I don't want another dog.  I want Kenzie."

It's too late.  The conversation went in the total opposite direction of happy Christmas card.  She started to cry.  I started to cry.  And through heaving shoulders and her heavy sobs, I explained just how sick Kenzie is....and it wasn't easy. 


We hugged.  I encouraged her to love Kenzie every moment she can while she is still here.  Kenzie licked her tears and I explained that Kenzie doesn't want her to be sad.  There will be time for tears later.
I never did get another smile from my oldest girl that evening, but the doggie got a lot of love. 

There will be plenty of time for tears later.  She is going to be missed.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Session: Young Cowboys

We met at Myakka State Park on Sunday.  The weather was beautiful, the boys were in good spirits, and I was crossing my fingers that just a few shots would turn out.  It's been six months since I played photographer, and six months since I've done a mock session. 


We enthusiastically headed over to a tree to climb.  The boys hopped up and I snapped a few shots, but then decided I should be up on the limb too.  I attempted to jump up on the giant limb multiple times before requiring assistance.  It made the boys laugh, I got my shot, and also got some motivation to get back to the gym.

After hiking down a trail, and around a swamp, we changed location.  I knew there was this rustic "cabin" not too far down the road.  So, we drove there, climbed out and then discovered it's a bathroom.  Didn't matter...I just wanted the background.  I wanted the texture of the wood. 

It turned out to be a great spot for these young cowboys.

This hobby of mine is still relatively new to me.  I'm still trying to figure out what my "style" is.  I'm trying to figure out what I like and what I don't.  I know I'm not good at posing subjects.  Photos of forced smiles don't really speak to me....not the way that this one does, anyway.


If these were my children, I'd hang this one.  It's unscripted, it tells a story.  A story of a little brother who is looking up at his big brother for his next step.  In the photo, he's trying to figure out what big brother is doing with his hat, but in life, he's learning how to grow up by watching his big brother. 


And I think they'll figure it out together, side by side.


And I love this one too.  It's life with more than one child; kids going in different directions, momma trying to pull it all together, while keeping herself together.  It's one of those moments that just IS.

And it all comes together eventually, doesn't it.  That's the way life works.

So, we ventured down a trail to a real log cabin.  The boys had renewed energy to explore while I tried to keep up.


They broke my camera with their goofy faces and cuteness and then Big Brother tried on his somber face.  He's a stone-faced cowboy and he's mad that his horse ran off.  That's what we pretended anyway. 

Then, Little Brother did some rock climbing.  He seems so small compared to the big giant rock.  And I had the chance to nail my focus. 


As the sun was fading and the mosquitoes started biting, we decided to try one more location.  Down the road we drove to a wooden fence covering the entrance to a trail.  It was a good decision.  I think I took my best photos of the day in that spot.





I still don't know what my style is.  Different photos speak to me in different ways, I just can't pinpoint it, and that's okay.  Maybe my style is that I don't have one.  Regardless, I had a great time, and I hope that their momma got a Christmas card shot out of here somewhere.

Monday, November 28, 2011

Working On - Young Cowboys

Oh, what a 4 day weekend does for the soul!  We had a great time.  I had family in town and hosted Thanksgiving dinner for the very first time.  It was also the first time that my new dining room table was properly dined on, although the room looks just as naked as it did before.  Except, now our Christmas tree is up, and the room has been rearranged to make room for it.  I love how a beautiful tree changes the whole mood of a house and room.  This is, indeed, my favorite time of the year.

So, I have stories and photos to share this week, but first I'll share a few of these.  I had the pleasure of photographing my two favorite boys yesterday.  It was a gorgeous day, and the park yeilded a fabulous venue for this rustic/ranch style session.  It's been a long time since I've given this a shot, and I definitely had issues with my focus being off or just way too soft.  I think I took nearly 200 photos and came up with a handful of keepers.  I'm working my way through them, but here are a few of my favs.


Big Brother was dying to lay on a bench or table for me.  I love it when kids call the shot.  They are always so happy to smile for the camera when it's their idea.  These smiles are real!


One of my favorite photos of the day - who knew a giant stone BBQ could turn into a decent photo spot!


Y'all this room was dark, really dark.  I had to take my ISO up to 3200, and my shutter was dragging, and no tripod on hand.  I attempted to salvage the photo.  It's not perfect, but it's much improved from my original image, and I love the texture of the fireplace.  Next time, Carol, bring your dang tripod..oh, wait, I still need one.  Dear Santa, bring Carol a tripod for Xmas!

There was a mamoth rock across the street, and boys being boys, wanted to climb said rock.  It gave me the opportunity to change perspective a bit, since I was shooting up and toward the sun.  Sure I blew out the sky, but I managed to focus on his eyes in this one.  This photo is like a time machine....I can see exactly what he'll look like at 15, in this photo.


The softer side.
I lovey this one too, although my focus is on his knee, and not on his eyes...I still think it's sweet!  He looks like a lonesome lil cowboy. 

Happy Cyber Monday, Y'all!! 

Monday, November 21, 2011

A Miracle to be Thankful For

This is Mr. G.  He is the student teacher in Camdyn's Kindergarten classroom this year.  Mr. G decided to change careers and follow his true passions in life, learning and children.  He beams in the classroom and it shows, the children adore him, and he almost always has one, or five, glued to his side.

Just a few days after this photo was taken of Mr. G dressed as an M&M for Halloween, he suffered a massive stroke.  One so dehabilitating that the doctors said there was nothing they could do.  We were informed of this on Halloween night and told that his chances of survival were slim.  Our family began to pray.  Camdyn would pray for Mr. G every night.  Grief counselors were brought in to talk to the children about Mr. G, the hospital, and death (as frightening as that sounds). 

But, a miracle happened.  The swelling and bleeding in his brain subsided, he was moved out of ICU, and rehab therapists were bought in.  At this point he wanted to see children, so Camdyn and I made a trip to the hospital with one of her classmates.  They were shocked and overwhelmed, he didn't look the same, he could not speak, and he looked pale and frail.  His therapist asked the girls to sing "Happy Birthday" with him, and he would sing along.  He tried, but no sound came out.  The girls left the hospital that day talking about how much they love Mr. G.

A week later, and Camdyn is begging to see Mr. G again.  We make another visit with the same classmate and are astounded at his progress.  This week he is wheeling himself down the hallway.  He is holding the Potato Turkey that Cam made him in his hand, and he is grinning the biggest half grin we've seen; his color is back, his soul is shining.  This time when they sang "Happy Birthday" Mr. G sang along and LOUD too.  I was brought to tears.  What a miracle this man is!  He surely has more work left to do on this earth. 

Last Thursday, Camdyn's class had a Thanksgiving feast in their cafeteria.  Afterwards, the parents were invited to the classroom to watch the children perform their Thanksgiving songs and eat dessert.  It was then, that I saw this: 


A piece of artwork depicting what Camdyn is Thankful for.  1.  The Ranch  2. Natr (nature  - OMG cute!)  3:


Mr. G.  She drew him lying in his hospital bed.  When I saw this I had to blink away the tears, I pulled out my camera, my heart swelling with pride.  Her teacher saw me photographing her art and said, "She's the only one in the class that thought to put him on there" and then she began fanning away tears. 

My girl has a big heart. 

These are indeed great things to be thankful for, and now we are hoping that Mr. G., will be a walking and talking Christmas miracle. 

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Show

It's hard to believe it's been nearly a week since we went to the Taylor Swift concert.  We had been looking forward to this show and a night out on the town with the girls for weeks. 
We started off with a early dinner at the Cheesecake Factory.  I forgot to pack crayons and a coloring book for Cam, but she did well, and actually impressed with me with her ability to self-entertain.

Of course, we hit traffic on our way downtown, and when we finally got within sight distance of the St. Pete Times Forum, it was 7:00.  Camdyn was so afraid that we were going to miss it, and I was getting anxious too! 

But we arrived, and hadn't missed a beat!  The first stop was the restroom, where Camdyn took this photo with her ticket.  For whatever reason, she had her leg up in the air with her hand on her knee, like Captain Morgan.


And then we got really excited about all the giant Taylor Swift posters in the corridor.

We found our seats, which were pretty killer.  We had a great view of the stage.  Notice that Cam has on a yellow TS t-shirt.  I ordered it off her website for $5.  It's a really old shirt from her days opening for Rascal Flats.  I didn't care.  We avoided the T-shirt line and I saved some $$.  Score!

Here's the girls!  Thanks for coming with us and making our night so special!
TS_the girls

So Sweet!

During a ballad, Cam made the Heart on her own, while she was swaying to the music.  Girlfriend had no problem keeping up with TS.

This is where she came down off the stage and walked the perimeter of the arena and then sat on a small stage at the opposite side.  She was sooo close to us.  (she's blurry and in purple and glows like the angel she is).  We had such a great view at this point in the show, that we actually all sat down and rested our tired legs. 

This is the finale.  She flew on this balcony all around the arena, and ended up flying directly over top of us.  It's also the part where I screamed like a teen-age girl and Cam said "Ow, Mom.  That was right in my ear.  Quit it."  Sorry kiddo. 

And after 2 hours of solid, non stop, entertainment, it was over.  We took a very tired little girl home with us, who absolutely had the time of her life.  I'm sure she won't ever forget her first concert, and I just can't wait to do more mother/daughter things with her (and her sister) in the future. 

**all photos provided by Vanessa

Thursday, November 10, 2011

We are seeing Taylor Swift on Saturday

I am so excited to see this sold out show with my gal pals and my oldest girl on Saturday night.  She is a huge fan although she doesn't know it yet....or maybe she does.

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - Slide

If I could freeze this moment and the joy on their faces, I most certainly would.


Friday, November 4, 2011

Momma Bear Syndrome

When Camdyn was a toddler I found myself in Momma Bear mode a lot more often than I do these days.  It was easy, back then, to swoop her up and save her from danger, and to solve her problems for her.  I was that mother that would glance a judgemental eye at the woman who let her rambunctious 9 year old (who was violating the height restriction on the play place at the mall) bump into her and knock her over.  I'd get all "This isn't safe, we are leaving.  I'm Momma Bear and I'm protecting you!"   
But then time happens, and kids grow, and circumstances change, and suddenly I'm that woman with a rambunctious 5 year old who accidentally knocks over a toddler at the play place at the mall.  And much the same, the circumstances when I have to go in to Momma Bear mode have also changed. 

I don't protect her physically so much anymore.  Instead, I fight the urge to protect her emotionally, I fight the urge to save her self-esteem, the urge to protect her from a broken heart, or disappointment.  In some situations Momma Bear is warranted, but in most it does her a disservice. 

A few weeks back, Camdyn was taking her first semi-private riding lesson at the ranch.  There were two older girls in her lesson, twins, 8 years old.  In typical Cam fashion she began chatting them up.  The child makes fast friends everywhere she goes.  They went to the camp room and picked out helmets together and then returned to the area where I was sitting.  I asked Cam which horse she wanted to ride and she said, "I want to ride Molly.  I love Molly."  One of the older girls said, "I don't like Molly.  Molly is too easy.  I need a more difficult horse." 

I bit my tongue.  My urge was to say, "Well, Camdyn is only 5 years old.  She is a lot younger than you.  She needs an easy horse and she loves Molly."  But, I didn't.  I wanted to see how Camdyn would respond to the older girl's comment.   Cam didn't say a thing about it.  She just kept on talking about horses, and saddles, and the girls walked to the barn like the best of friends.  She wasn't the slightest bit offended or put down, although I kind of was.

It got me thinking, how often do parents project adult feelings on children?  As adults we forget the amount of innocence in children's conversations.  That little girl was simply trying to state that she likes a horse who provides a challenge.  She wasn't actually putting Camdyn down, she just lacked the maturity and eloquence to say it any other way.  I was the one who interpreted it negatively.  My mind whipped in to Momma Bear mode, and I almost made an bigger ordeal about the comment than necessary. 

As much as I want to protect Camdyn's self-esteem, her innocence, her feelings all the livelong time, I have learned that I can't and I shouldn't.  Remember the incident at Chick Fil A a few Junes ago?  I beat myself up over not saying squat to the kids who were blatantly being mean.  Yeah, part of it is that I have an aversion to conflict, but the other part of it is that I also know that I can not walk beside Camdyn her entire life, defend her every move, fight her every battle, and be her defender all the time.  I need to let her figure out how to handle life herself.  She needs to learn how to stand up for herself, how to properly respond to someone who says not-so-nice things, when to stand her ground, and when to compromise.  Coming from a woman who struggles with exactly that (not due to parenting, but just due to my genetic make-up) I consider the ability to resolve ones issues and stand up for one's self a gift. 

And the next time Cam is on the offending end of the situation, the next time she utters words that are misconstrued as being mean, when she simply didn't explain herself well, I'm not going to jump in to defend her, to declare her innocence, or rectify the wrongs.  I'm going to let her work it out, because conflict resolution is an important life skill....and because I'm going to save Momma Bear mode for when it really counts. 

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - The Unicorn

"A long time ago, when the earth was green
And there was more kinds of animals than you've ever seen,
And they run around free while the world was bein' born,
And the loveliest of all was the Unicorn.


There was green alligators and long-neck geese.
There was humpy bumpy camels and chimpanzees.
There was catsandratsandelephants, but sure as you're born
The loveliest of all was the Unicorn."

Poem written by Shel Silverstein, Where the Sidewalk Ends

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Wordless Wednesday (on a Thursday) - Love Her

Adore Her
The way she grabs my hand; The way her eyes shine
Her little high pitched voice
Her imagination
Her sweet side; Her fiery side
Love Her.

I also love my sudden ability to get the eyes in focus.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Chloe Sings the ABC's

I'm so much quicker with the video camera this 2nd time around. I realize that one day she'll wake up and the baby voice will be gone. One day, she'll belt out her ABC's perfectly as if she'd been doing it all her little life. So, I pick up my  Sony Bloggie (like the flip, only better - love that device) and I press Record...because a few years from now, this cuteness will be a long lost memory.

Monday, October 24, 2011

This is where she gets all Country-fied at the Pumpkin Patch

We went to the pumpkin patch on know the same one that I lost Cam at last year.  I couldn't help but think of that situation as we pulled in to the parking lot. I said to my girls, "Now, listen. This is the same place where I lost a kid last year. We are all going to stay together and hold hands. No running ahead." Cam piped in and said, "Yeah! You lost ME!!"

This year, I didn't lose any children and we had a great time. The weather was chilly and actually resembled true fall. I'll get a few photos up this week (I really didn't take many) but for now...I'll share this spectacle with you. After she was done, an elderly woman came up to her and said "God sure did grant you with rhythm my child."

Rhythm and buckets of personality.

Happy Monday!

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Wordless Wednesday - The Love of Horses

"The daughter who won't lift a finger in the house is the same child who cycles madly off in the pouring rain to spend all morning mucking out a stable."
~Samantha Armstrong

Monday, October 17, 2011

A Horse Named Molly - Riding Lessons at Laurel Valley Ranch

Back in August Camdyn attended horse camp at the ranch.  She loved every second of it and has been pining to go back ever since.  After having a solid week of "STAR" and "Double STAR"
behavior, we rewarded her with a semi-private horse back riding lesson. 

For her first lesson she chose to ride her best friend, Molly.  Camdyn loves this horse, and she talks about buying her one day.  It took the instructor, Camdyn, and the two other little girls in her lesson, the better part of 45 minutes to tack their horses.


Here Camdyn leads Molly into the lesson arena.  She leads the horse around as effortlessly as one would lead a puppy on a leash.  She seems so small to be guiding such a large animal.


Camdyn is learning to ride English.  This was not my choice for her.  I thought she would have a much easier time riding Western, although it was not my call to make.  Camdyn is interested in dressage and therefore riding English is necessary.  Amazing to me, that at 5 3/4 years old she is planning for the future.

Now, my knowledge of horse back riding is limited to several years of trail riding while camping, so feel free to correct my mistakes (LeeAnn).  Cowboys ride Western, their saddles have a horn, and they steer the horse by holding the reigns (which are knotted together) in one hand.  English saddles don't have a horn, and require the rider to hold the reigns in two hands and steer the horse more like a car, as Cam is doing below.


Cam thoroughly enjoyed her first lesson.  She sometimes gets frustrated with the terminology (which is also new to me) and figuring out her left from her right which for some reason is more difficult from the perspective of the saddle.  For example her instructor will say "Camdyn drop your right lead and move that horse to the rail."  What?  Yeah, I can barely figure out what that means, so for a five year old, it's a lot to process.  But, she'll get there and she's loving every moment of it.  Much to my surprise, she even enjoys the barn work (sweeping and mucking stalls) which she is required to do after her lesson. 

When I watch her lesson there is that piece of me that just can't get comfortable.  There's that nervous energy that I feel about the unpredictability of animals and the reasoning/judgment skills of a 5 year old.  But, there is also that swell in my heart, as I watch my little girl do something that she genuinely loves.  Her toothless smile is bigger when she's in that saddle, her energy level peeks as we head to the barn, I can see that this is her passion. 

What I once viewed as a fleeting fascination, that would dwindle just as her adoration for elephants and Shrek has, is now becoming a piece of who she is.  This is no longer a phase that she will out grow. 

Camdyn can not fathom a world without horses, especially a horse, named Molly

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: This Cake is Iced with Awesome

A few weeks back the Hubs celebrated a birthday.  I happened to order his cake on a day that Camdyn earned double stars for her behavior at school.  Her reward was that she got to pick out Daddy's cake.  We sifted through the book of options at the bakery and then she chose this:

Two days later the Baker snickered as she handed me the cake, and then said "That is the best cake I've ever frosted." 

What daddy wouldn't be over the moon happy about a unicorn cake?

He surely was.  He loved that unicorn cake because our little girl loved that unicorn cake.

This is one of the simple joys of raising children.