Monday, December 7, 2015

It's beginning to FEEL a lot like Christmas!

Hello December!

Where did you come from?!!  Wasn't it just February!??

Alas, the holidays are among us, in full force!

Halloween has come and gone, we've been grateful over turkey for Thanksgiving, and now it's time for the grand finale: Christmas!

I love holidays, but I especially love Christmas:
cozy clothes
decorating trees
hot chocolate
lights, lights, and more lights,
giving gifts

But, what I love most about Christmas are the things you can't see: 
the spirit of Christmas
the joy of Christmas
the love and laughter
the bonds that are strengthened

It's such a magical time of year!

This year, I wanted to spread more than cookies and gifts, I wanted to spread Christmas cheer (ok, I promise, I'll cut back on watching the Elf...)  But really, I wanted to spread the spirit of Christmas.  I came up with this idea last year, but since we moved Dec 19th, December was just too crazy for me.  So I was SOOOO excited to get my Christmas-joy-spreading-jig on this year!

What was this idea that I've been obsessing over for a whole year you ask?


Forget the sneaky, naughty elf that sits on a shelf..

I bought 24 Helpful Elves. (on amazon, of course, here)

Each night, we choose an elf, name it, choose an act of service, and a family and deliver Christmas cheer!

So, far we've taken out trash, done dishes, swept, picked up dog poop, delivered dinner... the ideas are limitless!  And, at each house, we were greeted with smiles, love and laughter!

After doing the service, we leave the elf with the family, along with this note:

We ask that they take the elf to a new home the next day and give a new act of service to someone new!

We've calculated that if each family contributes 1 act of service and keeps the elf going, our 24 acts of service will turn to 300 acts of service through December!

While that sounds totally awesome, we thought we could do better!!

If you're touched at all by our #projecthelpfulelf, we ask YOU to start one in YOUR community!  Be sure and post pics with that hashtag, so we can see how far our idea has reached!  Find our project on Facebook and Instagram as we hashtag our way through December with small, loving acts of kindness!  

Spread the word and spread the love!

And, because this is a photography blog, I'll leave you with our family pictures this year!

Merry Christmas!

**If you're wondering why our precious girls have their faces blurred, we are currently at the end of a long adoption process, which has not quite finalized, so we must maintain their privacy!  ;)  But, I couldn't resist giving you a glimpse of what our WHOLE family looks like!

Thank you for taking the time to step into the world of Christmas with our family!

From our home to yours,
Have a Very Merry Christmas!


**Here's the poem in double version, in case you want to use it to print!  :)

Friday, October 9, 2015

It's A.... BABY!

The other day, my friend had a special request:

Come up with a creative and different gender reveal for her kids.


I started with cupcakes, moved onto m&ms and balloons- but everything had been done.  What could rain down in shades of pink or blue and announce the gender of their next child?  That hadn't been done 5 million times before?

I racked my brain, loving the challenge.

Then, I came up with this:

If you couldn't tell, they are bringing home another boy!

Final Score:
1 girl   4 boys
2 ecstatic parents!

It was SO fun to be apart of this joyous moment for this sweet family!!

I must say, boys are such a treasure, congratulations!!!

Did you have a special way to announce the gender to your other children or your family?  Ever done a gender reveal party??  I want to hear all about it!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Fostering Love

I haven't written anything personal in a while, so, why not today!

A few weeks ago, my husband and I had to turn in our Foster licenses.. don't worry, it wasn't a bad thing, we moved out of the county and have moved into the direction of adoption, so it's no longer valid.  I was surprised at the heart strings that were pulled as I sent it in, handed it over, and opened a new chapter in my life.  

In closing the foster chapter, I have spent these weeks pondering the last few years, contiplating our time spent with this title.  Foster parent.  I remember clearly the looks we got when we first brought this title into our home, when we first welcomed two small strangers through our door.  Some were of terror, others confusion, and some, very few, of awe.  But all had questions.  So, today, I want to give you a peek into what it was like, what and why we wandered into.

Having children is hard.  It's a 24-hour job with little credit and a lot of work.  Having a foster child is a whole other ballgame.  To be honest, I don't think anyone could ever possibly prepare themselves for what it entails.  We took the classes, we had our home invaded for months.  Then, one afternoon, two girls were brought into my home and my heart stopped in a way it had only done twice before.  I was a mother, again.  This time, however, was very different.

The moment you decide you are going to have a child, whether  you have been trying for years or just found out one day you were pregnant, it changes you.  Your thought process changes.  You brain dances with images of small pink and blue hearts.  Fostering is much the same.  My prayers for my children began the day we decided we would head down this path.  That very day.  These prayers have continued until today.  

The Seven Silent Prayers of a Foster Mom

1.  Please Protect My Future Child
In a normal situation, you may pray for the health and well-being of your next child.  In fostering, from the moment I decided to be a Foster mom, I had a pit in my stomach.  My next child would be the result of a bad decision, would come from a home that wasn't fit to house them.  I hit my knees hard, I begged for the safety and well-being of this child.  I saw a little girl in my mind and I held onto that image.  I prayed that she would feel my love for her, that she would know that she was loved, no matter what trials she was enduring.  This was the hardest prayer- the unknown hurt.  Where was she?  Had I seen her at the grocery store?  Was she ok?  Tears would flood my eyes each time I thought of her, so I did the only thing I could, I prayed.  God, protect my child

2.  Help My Children Understand
One of the many negative comments we got was, "you are really going to put your boys through this?"  Yes, we really are.  Sometimes things are hard.  Sometimes we get hurt.  We knew the risks we were taking, but, in the end, we felt that our children could only become stronger through it all.  Helping another person who cannot help themselves is a blessing not only to the persone receiving the help, but also to the person giving it.  It builds character.  I want to raise children that want to help others.  That don't see class, race, or any other difference, but just see love.  I prayed that they would understand this decision and be on board.  My prayers were immediately answered.  The boys began to pray each night for their sisters.  (We tried to tell them that it could be boys or girls, or one boy or one girl, but they insisted it was girls- funny how in-tune they can be!)  Dear God, bless my children with love and understanding.

3.  Let Me Be Enough
I have no background in child education, in psychology or anything that would be beneficial in this setting.  The children coming to us could have any number of things to overcome- was I really suited to this?  How much could accounting really help.  The truth of the matter is, it really was about numbers.  4+2=6.  The moment they walked into our home they were apart of our family.  We looked at them as one of us, though there were many moments where we weren't sure what the outcome would be.  This prayer has definitely been the most repeated.  As more issues popped up and we struggled to meet the needs of each child, I begged in prayer to be enough, to be the mom they needed.  I don't know if I will ever reach that point, but I think it's a worthy cause to try.  Dear God, help me be enough, help me mend these broken hearts.

4.  Send Me Patience
Hand in hand with being enough comes a plea for patience.  Patience with myself.  Patience with my children.  Patience with the system.  Patience with the parents.  When I entered the world of foster care I realised how naive I was about this world.  There were people enduring things I had never even imagined.  The world isn't as black and white as I once thought.  There are good people making awful decisions.  That was really hard.  I had no control over the outcome, no matter how well I took care of the kids, no matter what I could offer them.  I needed patience to accept what I couldn't control, to continue to do my best no matter what the outcome.  I had to endure and wait through so many hard things, and I believe it was because of these heartfelt pleas that I was able to.  Dear God, grant me patience.

5.  Let Them Be Little
The hardest part about this whole thing is to watch your tiny children be dragged through court houses, pulled around to visits, and put in the middle of the biggest battle of their life.  My daughters have seen the inside of a jail, they know all to well what happens when you visit a parent behind bars.  These are things I, myself, have never seen.  They've been escorted by policemen, they have been exposed to things I've only read about, all before the age of 4.  When people meet my older daughter, they say she has an "old soul."  I cringe.  This life has been so hard on her at such a tender age.  Let the scars of her past be erased from her memory.  We have literally had to do therapy to teach her to play.  Sometimes I get a glimpse of that carefree little girl inside dying to be free of this.  Let her out.  Dear God, let her regain her innocense, let her be little.

6.  Mend My Broken Heart
There were a few brief moments that it looked like the girls would be given back.  The risk.  We knew this going in.  The state's one main goal is to reunite the children with their birthparents.  I get it, if my kids were taken I would want every opportunity to get them back.  However, the mere thought of losing my girls made me physically ill, in a way I cannot even describe.  Where would life take them?  Would they remember me?  Would they know how much I love them?  I couldn't eat or sleep, I sobbed.  I knew this was a part of the deal when I signed up, but you cannot imagine how much helping someone can hurt.  Dear God, heal my broken heart.

7.  Bless The Parents
This prayer goes with number 6.  In those moments of grief where I thought I was losing my girls, I saw a glimpse of the pain the birth mother must have endured as she was notified her children were being taken from her home.  We don't have a lot in common, but one thing that we do share is love for these girls.  I can now begin to imagine her pain and heartache as she lost these precious girls.  "There goes my life."  With that empathy came a new love for her.  I saw her not as a disgusting person who put innocent lives at risk, but as a confused and hurting soul who was trying with all she had, and though it may not have been enough to get her children back, it was enough to earn respect.  Dear God, bless this mother, ease her pain and help her endure and grow stronger through this whole process.

I can't say that fostering is the best route, it's just our route to parenthood.  I cringe when people put us on a pedastal for this decision.  In all reality, no matter how your children have come to be in your home, if you are doing all  you can to provide a safe and loving environment for them, you are a hero.  We all have a different journey, none is any better than the other, just different.  I am ever grateful that my journey has led me to these two girls, they have brought so much joy and happiness into my life and filled a void I didn't even know existed.  My heart grew two sizes that day.  As I have said to many a listener, the day they came through my doors, the moment I laid eyed on these precious souls, the same feeling filled my heart as the moment they laid my boys on my chest after delivery.  Every child is precious, no matter how small.

Here are a few images of my little loves.  I am counting down the days until the images I share are blur-free.  For now, this will have to suffice!  


Monday, August 17, 2015

Ren&Miles // San Francisco Engagement

Some photoshoots end up being a total dream come true!

Dream couple

Dream location

Dream lighting

Add in a dream love story and this is the COMPLETE package!

They met in San Francisco with mutual friends.  She had a boyfriend at the time, but that did not stop him.  One look at her and he knew he had to get to know her more.  He got her number from a friend and from there their acquaintance grew to friendship.  His crush grew and her relationship ended.  She packed up her bags and moved to San Francisco, where their love grew.   

Years of love and laughter flew by in the big city.  But, their dreams led them in different directions.  She went on to New York to experience life in the city that never sleeps and he pursued a career in teaching- helping underprivileged kids.  From the outside, it looked like this love story was tragically coming to an end.

The heart has a way of holding onto what it truly wants, even if circumstances don't seem to add up in the brain.  Time and distance had had enough.  The two quickly found themselves back in each other's arms.  She made arrangements and made her way back to the west coast, and he welcomed her with open arms.  At last, all was right with the world again.

From the sidelines, it was no surprise when he popped the question, this couple was meant to be together.  Destined!

 They chose a beautiful San Francisco backdrop to showcase their love in their engagement session!  So beautiful!

I am SO excited to reunite with them next month in Santa Barbara as they exchange vows at the beautiful Bacara Resort!