Jul 15, 2015

I promised a summer bucket list post awhile back, and here it is, July 15, and I’m finally getting around to it!  (It’s amazing what DOESN’T get done when the kids are home for the summer, but we are having all kinds of beautiful adventures.  I’m so grateful to have this season with them!)

A couple of years ago, I realized that our summer had just sort of slid by, without much intentionality about how we would spend our days.  Being a working mom, I can’t bring my business to a grinding halt just because my kids are out of school (although I do take on fewer clients during the summer months), but I also don’t want the summer to pass by, not having accomplished much or created lasting memories.  Enter the Summer Bucket List.

Last summer, our family made a list of all the things we wanted to do before school started back up.  I’ve learned it’s one thing to “want” to do something fun, but unless it’s staring me in the face in form of a written reminder, chances are it just won’t happen.  (Weird, I know.)  So we made our list, prettied it up with individual scrapbook pages for each activity, and posted everything on the wall.  Our den was plastered with all of the fun we wanted to enjoy together, and it was really motivating to make sure we scheduled each item at some point during the summer.  And we got it all done!

This year’s list is a bit more relaxed.  Rather than wallpaper the den with gorgeous scrapbook pages (as fun as that was), this year’s list lives in my Midori Traveler’s Notebook (which I’m seldom without).  The reminder isn’t as constant, but our list is simpler this year.  (I found that including a lot of stuff on last year’s list produced a bit of anxiety because I felt I *had* to do it all.)  So here’s what we’re up to this summer:

1.  Family vacation to Wimberley, TX (check!)  Our vacation happened just a couple of weeks after the devastating flood that roared through the Blanco River, carrying houses off their foundations, ripping one-hundred-year-old cypress trees out of their banks as if they were twigs, and killing several people.  It was a bit more somber trip than usual.  But we still managed to enjoy Cypress Creek (our accommodations offer lots of private, creekfront land), some amazing food (our faves:  The Leaning Pear – a MUST, The Salt Lick, The Grismtmill), and relaxing family time in a simple, natural setting.


2.  Schiltterbahn – we had hoped to visit the New Braunfels location while in Wimberley,  but Tropical Storm Bill had other plans, so we’ll go to Galveston in August.

3.  San Antonio – we’re going next week!

4. Family Camp at Lutherhill – our annual tradition the week of July 4th.  The kids always have an incredible time (so do I), and this year was even better with the addition of my sister and nephew!


5.  Blue Bell Tour in Brenham, TX.  Obviously, our list was created was before their operations were shut down.  We are hoping they will be back up and running before the summer is out – I miss me some Blue Bell!

6.  “The Farm” – friends of ours have property in Hempstead, TX, and no trip to the farm is complete without a dip in the pool and a ride on the 4-wheelers.  Check!

7.  Finish summer reading challenge from the library.  We’re working on it.


8.  Swimming.  Check, check, check!  They are in one pool or another almost every day.


9.  Go to the beach.  Coming in August!

10.  Go to Mountasia.  (Putt-putt golf and go kart place.)  I’ll be honest, I don’t look forward to this one in the summer.  But it’s part of their summer reading rewards, so OK!

11.  Take a drawing class.  We took advantage of a great opportunity at our library this summer for a free drawing class.  Jacob has really been enjoying it.  Julianne and I hang out and read while he’s sketching.

12.  Eat cookies.  Every day!  Our daily read-aloud time is called “Cookie Time”.  We all pile on the couch with cookies, glasses of milk and great books.  The den is a bit messier than usual but the kids do not want to miss a day!

13.  Throw a party.  I’m not sure what they have in mind for this one, but sounds fun to me!

14.  All-day movie marathon.  Sounds like a great post-San Antonio activity.

So that’s it!  In addition to these “fun” things, I also developed a flexible daily schedule that includes chores, quiet time (for naps and/or personal reading time), read-aloud time (aka Cookie Time), and limited screen time, plus a long list of “I’m bored” activities that they can do by themselves.  It’s been a great summer so far; I’ll be sad to see it come to an end.

What’s on YOUR summer bucket list?  Let me know in the comments – I may need to start my 2016 list early!

Dec 31, 2014

This post is a little different from what I usually write on this blog, but I thought it was worth sharing.  As the year winds down, I like to reflect on a couple of questions:

1.  What worked last year?  And

2.  What didn’t?


Doing this for my business and personal life helps me restore some semblance of control at the end of a busy season and realign my goals and everyday actions with what I value most for the upcoming year.  Here are a few of the things that worked for me in 2014:


1.  The Midori Traveler’s Notebook

Ever since ditching my Franklin Covey planner for the world of digital calendars, I’ve floundered with a good system for keeping my calendar and tasks organized.  This quest has only become more difficult as children have entered the picture.  This year I decided to return to the paper planner method and couldn’t be happier.  While I still keep a Google calendar for my appointments (and kids’ activities), the Midori has become almost like my personal assistant for everything that runs through my brain.  I love that it holds three small notebooks plus the current month of daily calendar pages.

Midori Triptych-2


2.  Podcasts

I’m totally behind the times, I know.  But it’s just been this year that I’ve harnessed the power of listening and learning while folding laundry, doing dishes, and driving.  Some of my faves:  After the Jump, Books on the Nightstand, Beyond the To-Do List, The Art of Simple, Read-aloud Revival, and The Accidental Creative.


3.  Getting Things Done

Published in 2002, this book is now a classic among productivity geeks.  I’ve found that as life gets more complex with more schedules to juggle and a growing photography business to run, I struggle with feeling on top of all my “open loops”.  Reading this book this fall gave me hope that I can get my stuff under control and stay that way.  The Weekly Review, while common sense, has really helped me face the week proactively.  (A new edition is coming out this spring.)













4.  Switching from daily to weekly weigh-ins

We have a scale in our bathroom, and part of my daily morning ritual has been to weigh myself every morning before my shower.  It wasn’t until the battery in the scale died that I realized how this habit was affecting me. Every time the number would move up (even if only a couple of ounces), I’d start the day off feeling defeated and had a constant sense of worry (or guilt) about what was passing between my lips.  Once the batteries got replaced a couple of weeks later, I discovered I’d actually LOST a couple of pounds!  Not thinking about my weight every day has been surprisingly freeing – and has resulted in lower numbers.


5. Meal planning

I’ll confess I’m not as consistent at this as I’d like to be, but when I take the time to plan two weeks’ worth of meals (and the corresponding grocery lists), AND get the food into the house, there is such a sense of calm in the late afternoon and evening.  I LOVE having a plan for what we’re going to eat each day and feeling good about feeding my family healthy foods.  I’m loving the new Barefoot Contessa Make It Ahead cookbook for this purpose!















6.  Getting crafty at home

After Reading The Nesting Place, I was inspired to add a bit of texture and whimsy to our den.  This book pages wreath was the perfect thing to fill the empty spot over the TV.  (She says it took about an hour to do hers.  It took me five hours.  Just sayin’.)


7.  Subscriptions for Staples

Running out of basics like paper towels or toilet paper makes me feel like a total failure – so I put them on auto-ship with Amazon’s Subscribe & Save programePantry.com is another great subscription site that focuses on good-for-you-and-your-home products in the realm of home care, bath & shower, and more.  Amazon automatically ships your desired items (and quantities) on your specified schedule, and ePantry sends a reminder email before your shipment so you can make any changes you want.  You do NOT have to receive items every month.  Now I never have to thing about buying paper towels, dish or laundry detergent, shampoo. soap, feminine products or household cleaners.  LOVE!


8.  Using the library

I’ve used the library before, of course, but I really relied on it a lot this year.  Since there is a branch close to my photography studio in northwest Houston, it’s really easy to request a book to be delivered to my local branch and pick it up when it arrives. I also started using the e-book borrowing service for the first time – SO handy!  And since I’m visiting so often, late fines have all but disappeared.




9.  Implementing two inboxes in my home

This one is an offshoot of #3 above.  I discovered I need an inbox for both the downstairs kitchen area (where I receive mail and school papers from the kids that need attention) and in my upstairs office.  I chose a six-tray box for items that need attention downstairs, for filing, reading and a place for my meal planning items.  I selected a three-tray box for upstairs.  Now bills, notices, etc. aren’t slipping through the cracks like they were.


10.  Tidying Up

I read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up just before Christmas and have been inspired to get my house in order.  This simple concept makes the decluttering process so much easier:  if it doesn’t inspire joy, toss it!  I’ve also converted our drawers to the author’s folding method (folding clothes into bundles and placing them on end in drawers, rather than stacking) and it truly has freed up space and made it easier to find clothes.


So what’s worked for YOU this year?  Leave your wisdom in the comments!

May 10, 2014

Sometimes the simplest slices of life are the most profound.

Her little feet treading not-so-quietly down then stairs as the day is new and pregnant with promise.

His slender form curled up in bed, the quilt tucked over his head as the eastern light spills through the window.

My husband home before 9 on a weeknight.

A rainy afternoon with nowhere to go, snuggled on the couch with popcorn and The Princess Bride.


The degree to which we allow ourselves to experience gratitude is, I believe, the key to relishing life through all its mountaintops and valleys.  And what could be simpler, or more satisfying, than journeying through life with a full heart and content soul?


(This post is part of a blog circle I’m participating in with several other lovely photographers…be sure to check out Rebecca Keller Photography for the next link and follow the circle around!  And check here for my first post in the series if you haven’t seen it yet…Real Life.)


Real Simple

May 12, 2013

A boy and a girl

My perfect duo

Best of both worlds

Racecars, superheros, fire trucks, vehicles of any kind, football, music, Wii, daredevil stunts, water, sticks, always on the go

Princesses, Barbies, baby dolls, PINK, tutus, coloring, more pink, tons of snuggles, butterfly kisses, yet more pink

Each yet so different, yet both MINE

He is his daddy’s son, in so many ways

She is a carbon copy of me, in so many ways

He made me a mommy, and she completed our family

Thank you God for giving me these two to love, to teach, to learn from, to mother.


Houston TX children's photographer

PS a special thanks to my hubby for snapping these sweet shots.  Our second annual Mother’s Day mini shoot, lasting all of 5 minutes.  🙂

Mar 08, 2013

It’s fun to participate in photo challenges, and as soon as I saw this week’s challenge on I Heart Faces (theme:  Framed), I knew exactly which image I would enter.


Framed entry I Heart Faces


Photo Challenge Submission

Jul 07, 2012

This past spring, I had the privilege of attending a photography workshop hosted by the lovely Michele Anderson of Pinkle Toes Photography.  Since then, I’ve also had the privilege of connecting with some pretty incredible photographers through Michele’s online photography community.  A few of us decided we’d like to try six months of themed shoots, each working from the same theme idea, and sharing the resulting images in a blog “circle”.  I was having quite a bit of trouble coming up with an idea for “Perfectly Imperfect” – until my daughter ran face-first into a door that was opening from the outside.  So off we went to capture that big black eye in all its glory!

But of course, in keeping with the theme, once we got out there the bugs, heat and “itchies” were pretty distracting…

Houston Child Photographer

However, the promise of an Icee when we were through helped her perk up a bit…

Tomball TX Child Photographer

A few little details from the afternoon…

Cypress TX Child Photographer

And to wrap it up…this face, whether laughing, crying, bruised or perfectly unblemished, never fails to melt my heart…

And last, my fave from the afternoon:

The Woodlands TX Child Photographer


Check out Melissa West’s take on Perfectly Imperfect, she has a perfectly adorable session up on her blog!    Be sure to follow the circle around to check out all the fun interpretations of Perfectly Imperfect!  And don’t forget to leave a little comment below if you enjoyed this post!  🙂

Jun 05, 2012

This spring, I had the wonderful experience of attending a workshop hosted by the lovely Michele Anderson of Pinkle Toes Photography.  In addition to learning some valuable business tips and watching her conduct not one but TWO in-home sessions (and a model session), I’ve also gained a community of others who have attended her workshops and become part of her online community for photographers.  A few of us thought it would be a fun creative exercise to take six months and shoot a different themed session each month.  We’re all working on the same theme, so it will be interesting to see how we all interpret that theme!


This month’s theme – Perfectly Imperfect.  I’ll confess, I had trouble imagining what I would do for this one from the beginning – but two weeks ago, my sweet little girl walked into a door as it was being opened.  As the bruises continued to bloom and turn ever-more-interesting colors each day, I knew I had my subject.  (Confession:  I probably should have taken these photos 2 days earlier, but you’ll still get the idea).  The sight of your child’s face will never be anything other than perfect, but in addition to the bruising, you’ll also notice messy hair and even some uncooperation (unbelievable from a 3-year-old, I know!) – all adding up to a Perfectly Imperfect evening of photo taking.  🙂

Getting distracted by the “itchies” and not terribly interested in playing along:


Getting a little happier with the promise of an Icee when we’re done…

Houston Child Photographer


A few little perfectly imperfect details…


And that face that melts my heart every time…

And my favorite from the day…

Houston Child Photographer

Don’t forget to leave some blog love below and then head on over to Tamara’s (of Bump Meets Baby Photography) take on Perfectly Imperfect!

Feb 09, 2012

Some days, it hits me just how lucky I am.  When our son was born six years ago, I desperately wanted to stay home with him, but like many families, it just wasn’t financially possible for us.  I was fortunate enough to work at the church where I had been a lifelong member, and had a wonderful then-college student (Hi, Nanny Katie!) taking care of him part-time and I was able to work part-time from home.  I had kind of set myself up to accept the fact that I would be working full-time throughout our kids’ childhoods.  But somehow, we managed to arrange things so that just after he turned two, I moved into a part-time role with the Lutheran bishop’s office doing Event Planning – working part-time, mostly from home, with much fewer nights and weekends spent working.  I am so grateful to do meaningful work with fantastic people while being able to spend some mornings doing little things like going to the library.  Although when combined with the photography business, I think I am pretty much back to working full time – my hours are just structured a little differently!  🙂

So here’s to appreciating the little things in life – which sometimes turn out to be life’s biggest things.


Jan 02, 2012

Today, you are six.

You, the one who made me a mother.

You, the one who turned life as we knew it upside down and inside out.

You, the one who sat up, pulled up, and took your first steps, all between 7 and 8 months – and haven’t slowed down since.

You, who knows just which buttons to push – and have finally figured out how to use your charm to try to get yourself out of trouble. (By the way, your sister figured that out well before she was 2.)

You, who have never met a stranger and who impresses everyone you meet with your extensive vocabulary and wise-beyond-your-years comments.

You, who loves Star Wars, Transformers, anything with wheels or wings, Wii, and playing outside – but will still sit next to your little sister on the couch and watch Dora with her.

You, who are grumpy as anything when you get off the bus after school because you ate lunch at 11 a.m. (yep, you got that from me).

You, who asks more questions than I can answer.

You, who looks just like me on the outside but who is just like your father on the inside.

You, who are persistent as anything – except when it comes to reading.  🙂

You, who after your grandfather’s funeral a couple of months ago, wrote a book (in your own way, of course) about what you had experienced over those few days.  You titled it Cold Winter Book.

You, who melts my heart on a daily basis.

Today, you are six – and I could not be more grateful for you, my first baby, my world.  I love you.


Jul 01, 2011

What a whirlwind week – up at 6:30 a.m., in bed after midnight, go, go, go…all in the name of teaching and learning with high school students and adults at the Disciple Project this week.  Held two out of every three years, the Disciple Project is a diverse, cross-generational, outwardly-focused Christian leadership school that offers students and adults alike the opportunity to explore and expand  their gifts and passions in the context of ministry for the benefit of others.  I co-taught a learning track titled Photography 101 in which participants learned how to control their cameras to achieve the shots THEY wanted to take, rather than letting the camera make all the decisions.  They also learned some of the basic principles of design.  One participant said “I am seeing the world in a whole new way now, seeing things I never saw before!”  Our week wrapped up with our track participants writing a plan for a Photography Mission Project to execute once they return home – they were invited to consider some issue or situation in their community that they may be able to call attention to through their photography.  I can’t wait to hear back from these awesome folks to find out how their projects turn out.


We had large prints made – one image for each person in the track – to share with the larger community at our closing worship service on Thursday afternoon.  Here are the photos chosen by the participants to print.  Each person really made huge strides during the week and I could not be more proud of their accomplishments.  I should also mention that we had participants from three states –  two students who just completed 7th grade, two who just finished 8th,  three who just completed 9th grade, one who just completed 11th grade, and four adults.  It was awesome.  🙂


By J., just finished 7th grade


By A., just finished 9th grade


By S., just finished 7th grade


By A., just finished 11th grade


By C., just finished 9th grade


By D., adult


By A., adult


By M., just finished 8th grade


By B., just finished 9th grade


By M., just finished 8th grade


By D., Adult


By M., just finished 9th grade


By me  🙂