Here’s to More Exploring!

If you know us, you know we’re homebodies and as a rule we’re kind of unadventurous. We truly enjoy spending time working on projects and usually use our spare time checking off our home’s to-do list (which is forever long)! But as we’re feeling more and more settled in our home and the pressing projects are getting done, our goal is to get out and enjoy our beautiful state more!

Utah has FIVE national parks (Arches, Bryce Canyon, Canyonlands, Capital Reef, and Zion) with the north rim of Arizona’s Grand Canyon, the Grand Tetons, and Yellowstone National Park each approximately six hours away. We live near so many gorgeous sites! Even closer to home are Big Cottonwood Canyon, Little Cottonwood Canyon, Park City, and Heber City (where my husband works), all of which have so much to offer!

This past Saturday evening after a full day, we ignored the rest of our to-do list and drove up Big Cottonwood Canyon. It takes about thirty minutes to get to the top of the canyon from our home. We parked and walked around Silver Lake with all the other Utahans trying to escape the intense heat in the valley! The highs were over 100 degrees all last week so the 70-degree canyon temperature was quite welcomed! I brought my Canon and snapped away while we followed the boardwalk-style path around the lake. We even saw a moose!

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Keeping a Daily Schedule + What’s Working For Me

If you know me personally, you know that I am by nature a schedule-ly individual. The survival of my brain cells + emotions depends on following a routine. I truly thrive on a schedule – always have. But it is surprising how crucial (vital!) routine has been for my life as a stay-at-home mom.

I worked part-time (twenty-one hours) outside the home for the first four years of our marriage. I resigned at 18 weeks pregnant to stay home and prepare for the baby. I joined the SAHM mom ranks two years ago and while I became busier in some senses, there was more flexibility. I intentionally took the first three months of Kya’s life slowly, not committing myself to much of anything as I adjusted to being a mom. Those low-key months were restful, joyful, and life-giving as I learned how my new role intersected with my existing roles as a wife and homemaker. But I quickly found myself desiring more structure. So after those three months I started adding back responsibilities – outings, meet-ups, volunteering, photography, and ministry. I stayed quite busy but still lacked the daily and weekly structure I needed to be fully productive in the ways I envisioned.

Our lives took quite a turn in the spring of 2016 when we announced that we would be uprooting our family from Oregon and moving to Salt Lake City, Utah. The whole idea of structure went out the window as we were frantically preparing our home to go on the market, finishing up and handing off responsibilities at our church, job searching in Utah, and spending time with family and friends. Life was in upheaval! We moved to Utah in the fall of 2016 and I continued in my role as stay-at-home mom as I began to build my photography business in a more focused way.

My days with Kya got really long really fast, especially during the winter. Daniel was gone 12 hours a day at his new job and I felt like Kya and I needed more structure to keep us from going stir crazy. She was sixteen months old at the time and was transitioning down to one, early afternoon nap. It was exciting because one nap meant more freedom. Utah winters are pretty cold and there is snow on the ground for weeks on end so outdoor activities are limited. But we ended up working out a pretty good schedule for our weekly grocery trips, errands, play dates, library days, children’s museum visits, and occasional trips to the park (on the rare mild days).

As the warmer (aka HOT) weather has moved in, we’re getting outside more and feel good about our summer routine. Mondays are our catch all day – usually means lots of laundry, meal planning, reading, maybe a nap for me, and just an all-around reset day. Tuesdays are for grocery shopping (and housework). We like to hit a couple of grocery stores (Sprouts + Trader Joe’s) in the late morning hours before lunch. Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday mornings are more flexible – we run, play at the park, go to the pool, meet up with friends, work on house projects, clean, or take care of errands. I have recently started dedicating most (early) afternoons to photography + blog work. Kya naps from 1:00-3:00 PM so that gives me some time to get a few things done on the computer and work through my goals list. Some days are more productive than others, but overall there is good forward motion being made.

But one thing that has always frustrated me about our daily schedule is that I never got into the habit of waking up before Kya. I knew that the morning hours are the most productive and that I should take advantage of them, but making that happen has taken me a while. Kya has been an early riser from her earliest days, so I guess that’s been my excuse. She even went through a phase between 15-18 months when she would wake consistently around 5:00 AM every day – In the dead of winter. Those were long days. Getting up before her was just not an option at that point.

I’ve assumed that getting up with my child would always work well. But as she gets older, I’m finding myself needing a truly quiet start to my day – for coffee, Bible study, and prayer. In addition, I need some extra hours each day to pursue personal + business projects. I’ve realized that waiting for my child to wake me up puts me in the wrong state of mind as I enter my day. I’ve been reacting to the day instead of responding to the day. Over the last six months, Kya has settled into a 6:15 – 7:00 AM wake up time (sometimes a pinch earlier). I’ve finally bit the bullet and my alarm is set for 5:30 AM, Monday – Friday.

These last eight days of early rising have been the best thing for me! The extra time (up to an hour depending on when she wakes) seems to yield several hours in return because of the jump I get on the day. Instead of stumbling into Kya’s room half asleep + half awake, I go in and happily greet her as she wakes up. Instead of being annoyed that she wants breakfast so urgently, I’m able to promptly and cheerfully attend to her. Instead of struggling to get us ready by 10:00 AM, we can be ready to head out the door much earlier if need be! The shift in my wake time has paved the way for a less reactionary and more responsive way of living. I truly have quiet time and I’m a much more attentive mom. I don’t know why it took me so long to incorporate this practice into my routine!

Early rising is not an earth-shattering or novel idea by any stretch of the imagination and it’s not one that will for sure follow me into every stage of life, but right now it’s what I need to help me maximize my twenty-four hours and be all that I am meant to be in this season.

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Mueller Park Family Session – US!

It’s pretty embarrassing that even as a photographer, I haven’t been too good at scheduling photography sessions for our family! It’s an easy thing to do – it seems like those working in a particular craft are often the ones who lack implementing that craft in their own lives consistently. I’ve been busy photographing clients but I don’t ever want to be too busy to prioritize my own family’s photos!

Last Friday, we met up with an area photographer that I met through a photography Facebook group and we did a photo session swap! It was a great experience meeting Kallie and her sweet family. We exchanged SD cards and got to edit our own sessions, which was quite fun!

Oh how I love these two loves of my life!!!

Stay tuned for some exciting changes coming to my website over the summer! I have a million ideas floating around in my head and I can’t wait to share!

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To My Not-So-Baby Girl on Her Second Birthday

Girl, you’re too cute. You make us laugh 100 times a day. Your stilly antics, adorable giggle, and cheesy grin fill our world with color. I love the way you call “moooooommy” when you wake up in the morning and how you ask me to open the blinds so you can see “Mr. Sun.” Breakfast can’t come fast enough for you. I usually can’t even brew a cup of coffee before you’re begging for oatmeal or yogurt or (yes) chocolate. Silly girl – you know you don’t get chocolate for breakfast! You ask for milk when I have coffee and while I do my Bible study and pray and read you slurp milk, play with toys, and beg me to watch a cartoon. Sometimes I give in and have my “quiet” time with Daniel Tiger, Curious George, or Caillou playing in the background.

You’re the best little errands buddy – we go everywhere together. You love weekly Trader Joe’s and Target trips. Actually, we go to Target so often that you think that’s where we’re going every time we leave the house! That’s what happens when it’s two blocks away! You love to push the child-sized carts at Trader Joe’s and you try to fill it with random items off the shelf. You’re very friendly to fellow shoppers, always giving them a loud “HELLO” and a princess wave. They always comment on your cute clothes and pretty eyes. Your favorite part about shopping is the stickers you’re rewarded with at the checkout. Somehow you always end up with ten at a time! Must be that cute voice saying “a sticker, please?”

You’ve recently started begging me to get down on the floor and play with you and I’m getting better about saying yes. I’m an on-the-go kind of mom who often forgets about playing, so don’t quit asking! I need that play time just as much as you do! You mostly want me to chase you and tickle you but occasionally you ask me to play blocks or dollhouse and proceed to tell me I’m doing it wrong. WELCOME TO TODDLERHOOD. You’re obsessed with the movie Frozen (even though you’ve only seen it twice). You sing, “Let it Go” and dance like Princess Elsa and build princess castles with your blocks. You sing the last line of “In Summer” just like Olaf with that low, vibrato voice. CRACKS US UP. You love to sing. But your #1 tune is “The Wheels on the Bus.”

You’re fantastic at memorizing! You know the entire alphabet song and can recognize most letters by sight. We’re starting to work on sounding out letters. You can count 1-10 perfectly and sometimes even 1-15! You’ve recently gotten much better at recognizing colors though you get mixed up here and there. But you always get pink correct! We started working on Bible verses and you now know a few by heart. You often get confused with Psalm 23 and say, “He makes me lie down in purple pastures” – can’t get over how adorable that is.

You’ve started going on the potty a little bit over the last few weeks but mommy doesn’t feel quite ready for full-on potty training. Diapers are so easy! You’ve done a great job, but I’ve also cleaned up waaaay too much pee this week. You mostly just love reading books on the potty and wearing princess panties – big girl perks.

You ask for Chick-fil-a several times a week (but we definitely don’t go that often). You love dipping nuggets in sauce and drinking milk out of a plastic bottle. And this week you got really brave and climbed up the CFA play place all by yourself and went down the “scary” slide. I love seeing you face your fears! We frequent the nearby park and you often want to skip the toddler section and play on the big kid play set. It makes mommy a little nervous but I should be grateful because it’s a far cry from even six months ago when you were scared of everything. Mommy is so proud!

You can be whiny and a little intense at times and I don’t always react with patience. But you just grab me around the neck, say “I’m sorry mom” and make me melt into a puddle. You’re such a sensitive soul (a trait you most certainly got from your dad). You are keenly aware of others’ needs and are always there to help. You sometimes get this goofy grin when you’re in trouble and I have to turn away and laugh. You little stinker, you! You say “please” and “thank you” incessantly and sometimes for no reason at all – but I’m not complaining! You silly girl.

I could write an entire book about your first two years of life, but I need to stop now. We stayed up late putting together your birthday gift – a play kitchen! I’m tired and may not make much sense as I’m writing these words, but I want you to know you mean the world to us! I could never put into words the joy you bring us, Kya girl. Your name’s meaning sums it up well – you’re our “diamond in the sky.” Happy second birthday, baby!

Photoshoot Location: Cactus & Tropicals

A Surprising Pain – Infertility the Second Time Around

I desperately never wanted to be here again – ONE YEAR of unsuccessful attempts at pregnancy. The one year – at the end of which – the medical world pronounces you infertile. It’s a sentencing no one ever expects to hear, a label that morphs into a stigma. A proclamation that tears hope right out of your gut. A diagnosis that rocks you to your core.

We’ve been here before. Thirty-two months of infertility. What I always thought of as natural became very unnatural with the increase in doctors visits, lab testing, medication, and procedures followed by negative pregnancy test after negative pregnancy test. Inquiries started pouring in about the state of my uterus. People informed me that it’s time for children. I offered a composed response but inside I was falling apart. Mother’s Day became a bold reminder of an unfulfilled dream. Every social media pregnancy announcement stung. I had no idea if my lifelong dream of becoming a mother would ever come true.

Then, out of nowhere, those two, bold blue lines showed up. Shock, disbelief, joy, trembling, and tears. Miracle of miracles – I was pregnant! There was sickness I could have done without. Cravings and aversions galore. That rounded belly I’d always imagined. The wakeful nights and countless trips to the bathroom. I cherished every piece of that pregnancy. I’d waited too long, faced too much disappointment, and been on too many emotional roller coasters to make a complaint about the exhaustion, lack of appetite, or weight gain. I was the happiest I’d ever been. Until the day our daughter made her entrance into our world. And then happiness didn’t even begin to describe it.

Now here we are again – desiring to grow our family but faced with the reality that it may be just as hard the second time around. We have been assured by doctors that fertility increases after giving birth and I’ve clung to that hope, believing it would be true for me. I’m very aware of the time that is passing by as I watch my little girl turn into a big girl. The pain of this unmet desire is surprisingly different. The one-year mark is hitting me like a sucker punch just like last time, but in a whole new way.

This new version of pain is leaving me a bit baffled. The emotional lostness isn’t present yet. I feel a sense of hope for my body because a healthy and successful pregnancy is on my record. There is the promise of possibility. I’m turning 30 this summer and feel rushed to know the answer of how our story will continue to unfold. While friends continue to conceive baby after baby with seeming ease I wonder if I’ll ever get another chance.

Watching my daughter move away from the baby years is both thrilling and depressing. My heart aches for a chance to do it all again. I want to feel those baby kicks and punches on the inside wall of my basketball-of-a-belly. I want to repeat the exhilarating joy of birth after grueling labor. I want to hold a sweet-smelling newborn in my arms. I want to nurse again. I want to watch a tiny baby grow. I want to reiterate the sweet stages of that first year. I want another little human to love. And I want the chance to cherish each moment just a little bit better the second time around. If there ever is a second time around. While I don’t yet feel that all-too-familiar dread of negative pregnancy tests, and I’m not yet facing the month-by-month roller coasters of emotion, I do sense a stark emptiness in our family. There is an extra room in our new home beckoning for a new, tiny inhabitant. There is a big sister who prays for her mommy to have another baby in her tummy. I know we’re not complete.

While we wait again for those two blue lines, another life to add to ours, I cling to truths that were eroded in my heart through the waves of prior grief and disappointment. Truths that were my lifeline through years of confusion. God’s grace is turning up for me daily. The gift of life I enjoy every day in my daughter still makes my heart sing. Her twinkling eyes and bright smile light up my world. But hope-deferred is not a place I wanted to revisit. But I’m here. We’re here. We feel an emptiness but have no power to fill it. So we wait, but not in vain. We wait expectantly, knowing that in our waiting we find strengthened faith, deepened love, and great joy in God’s present gifts. And we look forward to the day when our hope-deferred is no longer deferred.

Two Cute Cousins in Their Easter Best

I’ve been dying to share this session with you all! When Kya and I were in Greenville late March/early April my brother’s wife and son from NYC overlapped with us for a couple of days! It sure was a treat to see them since it doesn’t happen often!

We spent some late afternoon time in downtown Greenville at Falls Park taking some Easter photos of the kids! My sister-in-law was super organized and had my nephew’s detailed outfit all ready when she arrived from NYC. I left for the trip a bit frazzled having moved into our new home 10 days prior and having been dealing with major plumbing issues up until the night before I left. I ended up finding Kya’s Easter dress at the Gap outlet in Charlotte a few days prior to this shoot. Nothing like last minute!

Chasing two dressed-up toddlers around a busy downtown was challenging but fun! Here are some of my favorite images from our time! I know we’ll cherish these for years to come.

Spring House Update

Our bodies are tired and our heads are spinning from quite the last few months. We closed on our new home in Salt Lake City on January 23, but didn’t start the real work on it until the end of February. My husband’s brother and sister came from out of state to help us and they did soooooo much work! We are incredibly grateful for their sacrifice of time and effort (and sanity) to get us through the beginning stage of our first big renovation project.

The biggest job so far was installing 17 new windows. We ordered our windows from Milgard (through Home Depot). The house was built in 1960 and has many custom-sized, large windows. We loooove the sizes and shapes! We obviously included the required egress windows where needed, but wherever we could we chose picture windows. They really make a statement! We spent an extra $1,300 to upgrade to black windows. It’s something we’ve wanted for years and with the style and coloring of the house they’re perfect. Because many of the windows were installed into brick,  a lot of extra time was spent framing the surround of the window to get them just right. It was intense, backbreaking work for my husband, brother-in-law, and sister-in-law! I just got to watch and laugh at their goofy antics. We could have easily had snow but instead, the weekend of the window install in early March was gorgeous – in the mid 60s and sunny. Along with the actual windows, all of the trim (both inside and outside) had to be replaced. My husband is a talented carpenter so he trimmed most of the windows himself. The outside trim still needs to be painted white. We can’t wait to see what the white trim will look like around those black windows! We also plan to paint our front door, garage door, and shutters black!

Another big project we completed was building a wall in the basement. Initially, our basement was one giant room. Instead of leaving the large, nondescript room, we broke it into two spaces by putting up a wall. Now we have a large fourth bedroom/guest room (that already had a large closet) and a good-sized office! We only spent $1,000 to build the wall and redirect HVAC and electrical but adding a fourth bedroom and office will pay huge dividends when we eventually sell the house! We haven’t had a dedicated office for five years. We mostly work at the kitchen table or on the couch. We’re really looking forward to the office serving as our household hub, library, and office for my photography business! My vision for the office is a clean, well-organized and functional space with styled bookshelves, a desk (or two), comfortable chairs, warm lamp lighting, and some plants.

The basement is currently a mess but we are starting the process of going through the mounds of stuff. I foresee a large Goodwill donation run in the near future! Most of the mess is in the guest room. We bought a new guest bed a couple months ago and it’s sitting there begging to be put together! There are quite a few purchases that need to be made for the guest room – sheets, bedding, side tables, lamps, and decor. I’m excited to have a purposeful and dedicated guest space!

The guest bath/laundry room in the basement is tiiiiiny. It’s the most tricky room in the house for me. The stand up shower is functioning, but not beautiful. There is a itty bitty sink with no counter space and the washer and dryer are squished along the left wall. There is little room to move around and basically no storage. I’m brainstorming about how all of my laundry and cleaning supplies will fit into that space. Open shelving is probably the way to go. I’m also thinking I need to be a bit more minimalist about my supplies and stop frequenting those back aisles at Costco!

Our main living space is functional and organized enough for now. We purchased new furniture and sold our old set and I’m looooving the change! I’m starting to map out where I want decor hung. I want to hang ceiling height curtains on our big front windows for sure. I would also love to find a console or buffet to go to the right of the door along the big, blank wall. It would serve as extra storage and warm up that side of the room.

The biggest project we want to save for is a complete kitchen renovation. The cabinets are original to the house and look decent because they’ve been painted white. But trust me, they’re not in good shape. The people who sold us the house had installed new countertops and backsplash and they’re fine, but not our preferred style. We plan to change out the cabinets, countertops, and backsplash whenever we can save up enough to do so! Thankfully, my husband is a cabinet designer/engineer/builder so we can tackle that part ourselves.

I love the style and layout of the main floor, but the biggest eye sore is the slate flooring and fireplace surround. I never knew how much I hated slate until living here! It’s dark, uneven, falling apart in places, and never feels clean no matter how much I scrub it by hand! But it’s something we’ll have to live with until we can afford to renovate the kitchen. The slate starts at the front door and continues through the dining area and kitchen. We want to install cohesive wood flooring in our entire main floor when we redo the kitchen. It will likely be 3-5 years before we can tackle that project.

The upstairs rooms are partially done, but definitely not complete. Kya’s room is the most put together in the house. All that’s left is to put up her mirror and hang some curtains. The room across from hers is an extra bedroom that is serving as her play room right now. It still has piles of boxes in the corner that need to be unpacked and is a pretty plain room. I’d love to make it a more colorful space that could be easily changed over to a bedroom when it comes time to have another child. One of those play tepees would be a fun addition!

Our master bedroom totally has the wow factor going on! The wall behind the bed is Sherwin Williams’ Anchors Aweigh (a deep, deep navy blue). We both can’t stop talking about how much we love it! For the first time in our marriage, we feel like we’re going to have a truly beautiful master bedroom when it’s all said and done. We have yet to add decor and we need a dresser and some plants, but I am loving the process of dreaming about how this space will turn out! We especially love the 80-inch wide window over our bed. Stunning! A master bathroom is attached to the bedroom. It was “upgraded” before we moved in but we’re realizing how cheaply it was done. A week into living here, the bathtub started to peel. We found out that the flipper used a quick fix to cover up the poor condition of the tub, so our tub will need reglazing or replacing. Though it’s on the bottom of our list, I would love to eventually re-do the master bath. The layout is nice and even though it’s not huge, it’s very functional and spacious enough for us. I imagine a walk-in shower, new flooring, a custom cabinet, a unique sink, a beautiful countertop, more taste specific hardware, a gorgeous mirror, and a new light fixture. That’s all in the waaaay down the road category! The hall bath is a full bathroom that functions as Kya’s bathroom and a bathroom for guests. It doesn’t have any windows because it’s in the center of the house, so it feels a bit drab to me. It will eventually need an upgrade but it functions for now.

The outside of the house needs a lot of TLC. This past weekend we got rid of a dump trailer full of renovation garbage, limbs, bushes, etc. It’s looking more cleaned up but far from how we want it to look. We’ll see what finances allow for this summer. We may only be able to weed, get the grass looking nice, and mulch for now then wait on building raised garden beds and planting veggies, bushes, and flowers. I personally love yard work and can’t wait to spruce things up better once we’re completely past the possibility of snow!

We have really enjoyed meeting many of our neighbors. Our street is quite multicultural and we love it! We have been told our neighborhood families gather for summer picnics, Fourth of July celebrations, etc.! Neighborliness is super important to me, especially because I come from the south and that’s just the norm down there. There are a lot of kids in our area too! I can’t wait to get outside and mingle with our neighbors more as the weather continues to warm up. One neighbor family brought us Tillamook ice cream this week after seeing our Oregon license plates (which still need to be changed). We can tell we’re going to like it here!

The last few months have taken a toll on us physically, mentally, emotionally, and definitely financially. Our home here in Salt Lake is 50 years older and only 500 square feet larger than what we had in Oregon and it was nearly DOUBLE the cost. We’ve already put in nearly $20,000 in renovations into it since purchasing and are pinching pennies to get back on track. We went a little over budget because of unforeseen problems (we should have learned that lesson from all those HGTV shows). We’re so thankful for how God has provided for every single element of our move here and now for the opportunity to be homeowners again. We honestly don’t know how it’s possible to be where we’re at and in no debt (except our mortgage)! We’re focusing on free projects over the next few months to get our bank account built back up. It took us longer than we anticipated and cost us more than we expected but we’re here and loving putting our blood, sweat, and tears into this little piece of the valley. Remembering why we moved here and how God has provided gives us motivation to keep going!