how do i do what i do?

I get a lot of comments and emails from other moms wondering how i get so much done during the day. Or how I balance it all. Or how I can survive on no sleep.

And I wish there was a secret potion b/c I would gladly give you the recipe! Or I wish I could say I was always productive, which I most certainly am NOT. Or that I never fell behind in anything, which I do ALL THE TIME. Or that I had my life organized and mastered and running like a well oiled machine, which is so far from the truth it is scary. But I do tend to get a lot done during the day so who knows.

So instead of sharing some kind of trade secret (which if you know of one please share it with ME), I thought I would tell you about my last three hours!

We got home from my mom's at 4pm and it is now 7pm as I type this, just to give you a reference point.

In list form…

- put Enchanted on for the kids
- give Gray a snack in high chair
- make chocolate milks for the girls
- wipe a bottom
- change the laundry
- vacuum four rooms downstairs
- pick-up morning toys
- get out baby toys for gray, put him in living room with girls
- clean table
- make dinner
- check emails
- twitter
- serve dinner
- eat dinner, kind of
- do dishes
- give kids bath
- mop upstairs bathroom floor
- clean toilet
- lotion+diaper+jammies three kids
- play with gray
- get blocks out for girls to play with
- organize kid's kitchen area
- pick-up playroom in general
- read books
- nurse grayson
- say prayers
- hugs and kisses
- mop family room
- clear table
- chat with angie
- check email
- organize DVR for tonight
- BLOG

And let's say that from 7pm-midnight I will be watching my shows and working.

So there is absolutely NO secret. Let's just say that I don't sit down much, and when I do I am working. I also don't give my kids unlimited time from me, unfortunately. I play with them and do art projects and go on walks and go to the park but inbetween all of that the tv is on or they are playing and i am running the house and working. Work during the day though is nearly impossible so I mainly try to keep up with emails and do most work at night.

I also drink a LOT of soda!

AND speaking of SODA…

WHO IS MY MOUNTAIN DEW FAIRY???

I was on the phone with my friend, Angie, and I hear Chris talking to someone in the front room so I go to investigate. It's the Imo's Pizza guy, who we love, with two fountain Mnt Dews. I went in there and asked C if he ordered sodas, which he didn't, and so I am guessing that one AMAZING blog reader sent me them???

If so… YOU ARE MY NEW BEST FRIEND b/c OH MAN OH MAN did I NEED this tonight!!!

Let's be BFF Mnt Dew Fairy!

Will you come forward so I can thank you??? PLEASE?

What a GREAT gift! Seriously! It was such a FUN surprise and SO perfect!!!

It made my entire day! THANK YOU!

Also, in keeping with HOW I DO WHAT I DO I thought I would share the three PS things I did to THIS photo:

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To get it to look like THIS:

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You all were SO close. SO CLOSE!

First I used CURVES to get the people to look the way I wanted.

Then I added a duplicate layer.

On the duplicate layer I adjusted the curves again to get the background the way I wanted it.

Then I used a LAYER MASK to erase the people so the original color would come through.

Then I used an UNSHARP MASK.

And done.

Three things. CURVES, LAYER MASK, UNSHARP MASK.

Usually I use a combo of simple edits like that and some of my favorite actions, but sometimes all you need is a simple edit and NO actions. I find it is SO easy to get lazy and only use actions OR get unexperimental and never use actions, so I try to mix it up all the time. Keeps it interesting you know?

Alright people and my new favorite person. Mnt Dew Fairy, I am talking to you. It is officially 7:30pm, time to call blogging done for today and move on to editing. And burning disks. And answering emails. And watching all my favorite shows!

I hope you all watch Grey's! You know it will be GOOD! GO!

what in the world do i post today?

Thanks for the response to yesterday's post. The comments and emails have been so encouraging and there have been several photographers that signed up today!

YEAH! Thank you.

I wish I had time to email everyone personally, but I don't right now, so please know that I read the comments and got your emails. And thank you.

Thanks for hearing that baby boy's story and letting it settle into your heart. Allowing you to appreciate what you have a bit more today. Encouraging you to hug your kids a little tighter.

But now I am stuck in this funny place of what in the world could I post today that will come close to matching that story?

And the answer?

Nothing.

So to step away from the tears that post caused so many of you, I present…

Wacky Wednesday!
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Today was Wacky Wednesday at Bailey's preschool and they were encouraged to dress themselves as wacky as they could!

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Everything was her idea, even the hair!

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She had on two different pairs of shoes but as we were walking out the door she stopped, ran back, put on the same pair and said, "that was just TOO wacky mommy!"

HA!

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I asked her to look at the camera and she did this pose! I almost died. She is so funny!

And of course Miss Parker had to get in on the action!

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That kid. Steadily she is becoming simply awesome.

I think Gray was inside which means that maybe tomorrow I will yank him outside for some photos… he is long overdue!

Other favorites from today…

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Hello spring!

20090429_0039b 20090429_0044b 20090429_0042b I am in LOVE with this photo! I was trying to get a photo of the "blower" when Parker came over and held up the flower! I love that her little hand is in there and it's sort of like the before and after of the dandelion world!

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And last but not least I wanted to share this one with you.

My friend Tracy is selling some AMAZING things… she's not selling online yet but I bet soon she will be (I keep encouraging her to start an etsy shop!)… she does have a new blog though and GUESS WHO created her logo?

Bluebird Creations and Produce

Go check them out!

She made that SWEET little pillowcase dress for me from one of my Grandma's hand stitched pillow cases I've been hoarding here! I just am in love with it! I can't wait to get Parker's back from her (no pressure Tracy! I swear!)

Could Bailey look any cuter? I mean really.

And that's all I have for this Wacky Wednesday. It has been a long day and I am calling it a night!

Good night.

NILMDTS

I have mentioned before that I volunteer for Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. One of the rules is that we aren't supposed to blog about our work. For very obvious reasons.

And as much as I understand why we can't show you the images we take, I think it's a shame we can't just talk about it. Our experiences. Our grief. Our joy. Our work. Because talking about it teaches. And it spreads the word about the incredible organization that NILMDTS is to both families that may someday be in need and photographers who may someday decide to give of their time.

So today I am breaking the rules a bit. And ONLY because I have direct permission from the family to do so. Although I will not name names or show faces. At all. And I will only share one image. But I will tell the story.

—————–

Last Wednesday I was getting things ready to head to the park when I got a call from our area coordinator about a call down at Children's Hospital. A baby boy in the NICU not doing well. Could I take the call?

"Yes."

"Yes" is always my answer. I have never said "no" and pray I don't have to.

I immediately called my mom, emailed my client who's session was going to be moved back, packed up the kids, my camera and ran out the door. I dropped all three kids off at my mom's, nursed Grayson one more time and hit the road. It was 11am. No time for lunch or the Mnt Dew I desperately wanted.

I arrived at Children's and was told that the idea to take the baby up to the roof-top garden was nixed by the doctors so instead I waited a little while and then was escorted back to the little man's NICU room.

There I met his mom, who was holding him, all 4 pounds 10 ounces of him. Dad was taking a shower down the hall so I started by photographing her and her son. Just the simple moments. Her looking at him, his sweet face, his hands, his feet, etc. He was so beautiful. Perfect. He was so cute that it was easy to ignore the wires he was hooked up to. Helping him breath. Monitoring his heart. Nourishing him.

Easy to ignore but hard to see. Hard to know he was so sick. That is the moment I started praying. For him and his family. His momma.

Dad came back in and we all laughed about thetube socks his mom packed for him. Snapped a photo of the socks so they could remember the laughter that filled the room. Laughter is so important.

Shot for a while longer while dad held him before leaving to go to my already scheduled session with promises to come back right afterward in hopes we could get permission to go to the garden.

On my way to my next session I stopped at a gas station in downtown St. Louis for my soda and started laughing out loud when on the wall next to the bullet-proof glass protected cashier they sold socks. Ankle socks. So I bought a pair and stuffed them in my camera bag.

Two hours later I was on my way back to the hospital. A bit engorged and starving. Called to check on the kids and thank my mom again and again for keeping them so long. All day is hard with them.

As I stepped off the elevator and into the waiting room of the NICU I was greeted by a dozen or so family members of the sweet little man. Grandparents, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins and friends all filled the tiny space. I introduced myself as we all followed behind the team of doctors and nurses it took to get this little guy up to the roof-top garden. His bed, the machines and monitors all accompanied us also. It was quite the caravan. I photographed the whole way up.

And never stopped once we were up there.

(Except to pause and silently touch Dad's arm to get his attention. When he turned I just handed him the socks as he smiled. Humor is ok. Laughter is good.)

The garden was gorgeous. They sat together on a porch swing rocking him, singing to him, smiling with him and showing him the world. A world he had never seen before. His first moments outside.

Because of the bright sun, the time of day, the location, etc. I needed help creating good shade and didn't hesitate to boss around the doctors and nurses. I had at least 10 people at a time holding little hospital blankets up shading them from the direct sun so I could get good portraits of the baby boy with everyone in his family. If I had stopped to think about who exactly I was ordering to hold a blanket a little higher I would have shut up immediately, but at that moment all I cared about was getting good photos for this mom and dad. And truly, the photos I took of all those doctors and nurses laughing while holding those blankets show the joy of the moment.

The joy was also captured in the smiles and laughs mom and dad shared.

Not to say it wasn't sad. Because there were also tears. But when looking, later, through all of those images the overwhelming sense of joy is what resonated with me. And love. Oh my goodness the love for this baby was incredible.

Normally on a NILMDTS session we go once. I've never gone twice. But I did b/c it was what this family needed. And this family was more important than my family or anything else in that moment. (And luckily the hospital had nursing pads I could use since Grayson hadn't nursed all day!)

I left that night telling them that if they needed me, for anything, to not hesitate to call me. I gave them all my info, the family and the nurses, so I could be reached by anyone.

I got the call the next day to please come back.

"Yes."

Found a sitter, sped down there.

I greeted the family once again in the waiting room and headed back to his room. Where I stayed in the corner, shooting, while each person came in to say goodbye.

For the first time ever I broke down in front of the family. Mom handed me a kleenex and Dad told me it was ok. They comforted me.

You can't help but put yourself in their shoes. Imagining your mom saying goodbye to your son.

It is not easy.

But you are not there for yourself. You are there to serve that family. To capture the moments they want to remember. And it's ok to be sad. You are going to be sad. It's a child. Of course you will be sad. But just keep shooting.

After the goodbyes we walked, once again, up to the garden. This time the caravan was smaller as the family stood by the elevators and watched us pass. Steadfast in their love and support.

Mom and Dad took him to their favorite spot that overlooked the park. They read to him and sang to him. They talked to him. Hugged him. Said goodbye.

The nurses unhooked him.

The machines stopped breathing for him.

He smiled.

And died.

———————–

It was the hardest moment in my life thus far, but again, it was not about me. Not one small iota was about me and so I captured the moments to the best of my ability. Capturing moments the family wasn't there to see, moments mom and dad wanted to remember.

Because this was his life. His beautiful and amazing life that in 7 and a half short weeks changed the lives of countless others. And it needed to be documented. Recorded. Remembered.

——————–

Each NILMDTS session is different. Each baby has its own story to tell. Each family has different needs. This family wanted every moment photographed. Some don't even understand why they are allowing us to come in at the suggestion of hospital staff or family members they are so bogged down in grief and exhaustion. And that's ok. Because no family, to my knowledge, has regretted having these images later.

Is it easy? No.

Is it worth it?

YES.

The photographs we give families are the best and maybe the only photos they will have of their baby. Thi
s is a gift that is priceless. And only trained and professional photographers can give it to them in a way that is right. Professional photos not snap shots. Fully edited. And free.

Everything is completely free.

If nothing else I want to encourage all of you pro-photogs out there to consider giving of your time to Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep. I promise you, you will never regret your decision to give back in this way. It will be hard and sad and challenging. But God gave us each this gift for a reason and I believe that the reason is not just to feed our families, it is to give back too.

And for those reading this that are not photographers I just want to spread the word. Everyone knows someone who has suffered the loss of a child. The more people that know about NILMDTS the more families we can touch.

——————

The one image I am going to share with you is this. Mom and Dad are holding their son as he is preparing to greet the Lord. And as I was shooting I was in constant prayer that God would guide my hand. When this image came into my lens I felt God so strongly I burst into tears. He was there that day.

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And the quote that they used at the funeral made this photo even more important:

"Preach the gospel always and if necessary use words."

you know me.

And you know I love a good before and after!

So I thought I would share what I'm working on right now. This session has the most amazing BEFORE and AFTER photos ever.

QUESTION to PRO-PHOTOGRAPHERS: Is it just an issue that I have or do your pre-processed photos look a bit muddy? I almost always do a little something. Is it just me?

NOW.

Just in case it is NOT just me who doesn't get the most vivid BEFORE images…

BEFORE:

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Minus the paci that Cale insisted on having it is a cute family shot!

BUT.

Of course I couldn't leave it just like that!

AFTER:

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Much better if you ask me.

Now, I used three tools in photoshop and NO actions on this edit. Simple, quick, easy. Any guesses on what I used? Maybe I'll give the winner something if they guess ALL of them correctly!

Blog

Back to work!

yep. it’s tuesday.

Something is going on with Grayson… either more teeth (he's popped SIX in the last two weeks) or a new ear infection or something b/c he was up off and on all night. He's fussy and spitting up all of a sudden, something he hasn't done since infancy (he's 10.5 months now). Who knows.

What I do know is that between his rough night and Bailey sleeping in our room after a terribly bad dream about Swiper the Fox, I got NO sleep. None. Kids all over me, fussing, crying, nursing, etc.

So at 5:30am when everyone seemed to be up for the day and I was near tears from exhaustion, my sweet husband said he would stay home today to help me. Thanks Chris.

I think the emotions of last weeks NILMDTS session being final with the baby's funeral yesterday, which I video taped for the family, finally took it's toll. I've never grieved like this for a family I barely know. I've never felt like I know a family this well after meeting them for the first time less than a week ago. And all of the work I did and the emotion I held back caught up with me.

So that, coupled with NO sleep last night has me sleepy and sensitive this morning. But the mnt dew C went to get me should kick in soon. And the fact that I'm sitting here alone while Gray naps and the girls watch Enchanted with Daddy is so nice. I'm already half-way done with editing a session and it's not even 9am. Nice.

Equally as nice is the sweet baby's photos I finished editing last night!

Meet Charlie.

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Isn't he the cutest? Those blue eyes!

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His mom said she didn't have many photos of just the two of them, and since he was almost 8 weeks we needed to remedy that!

Talk about cute… isn't she gorgeous?

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She looks amazing! And you would NEVER guess she had a baby less than two months prior!

Kind of ticks me off to be honest with you! I look like I delivered twins yesterday! HA!

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I love this. Something we moms do a MILLION times a day but an act that is rarely photographed. Some of my sweetest times was changing diapers. Tickling their tummies, kissing their toes, talking to them, singing, pinching the baby leg chub, giggling. My kids always loved being changed and weren't big squirmers so it was a nice moment in each crazy day to reconnect with them!

And how much do you love the mural?

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This one too! Don't you LOVE that monkey?

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Neither of us believed we could get Charlie to sleep soundly enough to be moved, positioned, posed, etc. But after a little while he was putty in my hands! Look at those little lips!

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And OH MY TOES. I know I have an obsession but seriously!

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Such a sweet little man.

Thanks Samantha for having me over to your beautiful home!

And now I am off to finish more edits, maybe take a NAP, work on laundry and enjoy this cozy, rainy Tuesday with my family.

Thanks Tuesday. We WILL enjoy you!

ok monday.

I woke up to a spring day.

Which is nice because we sort of went from late winter with temps in the 40's to summer with temps hitting the high 80's.

And truly it might still be hot outside and I have no idea b/c I don't step out until I at least have a bra on (sorry to give you that image in your brain so early) but it just LOOKS like spring. It's overcast and the whole world has a bit of a green tint to it, do you know what I mean?

I love warm spring thunderstorms. Rain. The smell of warm asphalt. Puddles. Dripping trees.

Not even sure it's supposed to rain today, it just FEELS like it could.

Anyway.

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This little beauty was baptized yesterday at our church and Saturday we had a photo session with her entire family to remember this special time in her life. Both of her parents are in the ministry, they had her dress made from mom's wedding gown and the Bishop was coming to do the baptism, since he also married them it was one big gigantic SPECIAL weekend for them. And I was so glad to be a part of it.

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As a photographer you are welcomed into lives during the absolute most important times. It's amazing really. Weddings, births, birthdays, death.

You see people at their happiest, their saddest, their most vulnerable and real. Real. Real life. I love capturing real life. The good the bad and the ugly. It is truly a pleasure.

TODAY: Me and my troop are heading out to Target as early as possible so I can buy something to wear today. Something simple and cute. Or at least something that fits. Because right now my clothes are getting a bit tight due to my mnt dew consumption and late night editing/eating fests I'm afraid. And although I've been running when I can I DO NOT have it in me to diet right now. Working around the clock, not sleeping and running a family is about all the sacrifice I can handle. Take away my soda and pretzels and I might bite your hand off. SO. A new outfit for a sweet little baby's funeral today. As I am documenting it for the family. A family I have fallen in love with and wish I could take away all the hurt they are experiencing right now.

Then the kids and I will hang out this afternoon. I have a few home schooling projects in the works to complete and then share with you. I have floors that are actually STICKY and are screaming for a mop. And although I finished a session last night I am still about 700 photos in the hole. Yikes! So editing is on the block too.

It's green out this morning. And for some reason I am in love with it. Have a great one. You'll never get this day back so ENJOY IT!

black and white can tell such a story.

I love color. I really do.

When clients show up in crazy cool+colorful outfits and we head to a grungy urban location with grafitti and peeling paint and awesome texture I get beyond excited. BEYOND excited. And after those sessions I rush home not able to wait to see what I captured.

I also love the color in people's homes. How they decorate, their yards, the toys, the kids, all of it.

And ok, sometimes, SOMETIMES I love the color in parks. Sometimes people. HA!

I really just love color.

So as I was editing this session tonight, or finishing the edits on this session as I've shared a sneak peek on here already, and I came across great colored photos I was excited.

Like this one:

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And this one:

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And this one:

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But as I kept editing I found that I was loving the black and white ones even more. They just tell such a story. And for the first time, in a while at least, I realized that I love black and white photos just as much, if not MORE, than I love the color ones.

I love it when art takes on new meaning, your mind is changed by a simples series of images and you fall in love with your craft even deeper then you were already.

20090415_0387b 20090415_0422b 20090415_0429b Newborn fuzz. Is there anything as sweet?

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Hello not-yet-formed belly button. Four days old. Love it.

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Do you see that little mark from the heel stick? I love how that is just SO a part of a newborn that is gone so so fast.

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So any thoughts?

Color or black and white?

baby #4.

Is NOT on its way.

Come on people.

If I were going to mention life-changing news you think I would have mentioned it so CASUALLY if I were pregnant again?

COME ON!

If I were pregnant I would be in full freak out mode and NOT blogging. Or I would be blogging all the time freaking out to all of you!

Either way, NOPE, no baby. Thank you Lord, but we have enough!

And we do have big news but nothing I can share yet.

SORRY!

Just hold your horses and I will share it when the time is right. But don't worry, it does not in any way effect my business and NO we're not moving (I had people worry we were leaving town!).

But thanks for even wondering a bit b/c it means you care. Or are just plain old curious. Or just bored. But whatever, the emails and tweets and comments were fun today! HA!

And tonight I am sifting through some sweet and heart warming photos. And watching Supernatural. Which does not fit together at all but it's helping keep my mind off of what I'm editing and that's good. I think.

Hope you had a great Friday and HALLELUIA for the weekend!

BTW… check out THESE frames. Seriously. They are the COOLEST frames for kid artwork I've ever seen. And I actually saw them with my own eyes at little Trevi's house. They are amazing and they are having a SALE so go check them out!
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today is friday.

Hello Friday. Welcome.

Be gentle Friday as Thursday gave me the roller coaster of a lifetime.

In the end, God is good. And that's what matters.

But I need a rest today Friday. Good kids, good friends, quiet moments, prayerful moments, finished work and maybe a meal or two. Since in the last two days I've had two meals. Total.

And I'm kind of hungry.

Yesterday included news that will change our life, for the good, and another six hours at the hospital for NILMDTS. It's amazing how one single day can hold so much.

Today. Friday. Bailey is at school and Parker is on her way home from errand running with Grandma. Grayson is napping and will wake soon. Then we're off to help my friend Angie find some cute decorations for her home and maybe lunch out with the kiddos. I have a soccer practice to photograph this afternoon and maybe dinner with my husband. So we can digest our life changing news. And digest some good food. I have calls to make and emails to return and a million photos to edit. Lots to do and the day is already slipping through my fingers.

Without going into too much detail, I want to ask my current clients that are waiting on images or disks or previews or sneak peeks to please be patient. I have over 300 photos to work on for the NILMDTS family and I would like to get them done in time for their son's service. I am asking you for patience please. Please. I really appreciate it and hope you understand that when you hire me you are hiring a mom with three young kids who can get sick and put me behind in my work b/c my kids come first. You are also hiring a volunteer for NILMDTS who puts those families first also. It's a lot to ask but I'm doing it and will appreciate your understanding.

I hear the man so we're off! Happy Friday!

sweet trevi. one year old.

In the midst of a hard day yesterday I got to meet sweet little Trevi!

Today hasn't gone as planned and so in a rush I will leave you (for once) with little words and just a few photos for their sneak peek! Hopefully tomorrow I will be back to bombard you once again with my rambling posts and millions of photos!

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