photograph by Elizabeth Wendland, lifeasasportsmom.com
I’m thrilled to be featured today over at the new “Life as a Sports Mom” blog, with a detailed interview with my dear friend, Elizabeth Wendland. You’ll recognize Beth from our 10-on-10 posts, but today she did something much different, as I share my thoughts and experiences on a variety of photography topics! Beth and I have been friends now for a number of years, since we originally met through a photography workshop. Since then, we have both taken slightly different paths with our photography, and it was an honor to chat with her about my experiences and passions as a marriage and family photographer.
I’ve shared a lot on my own blog before, but never quite like this. You won’t want to miss Beth’s post today!
Please head over and leave a comment to tell her I sent you!
Today my 5-year-old showed courage I didn’t know she had.
I have three kids, 5, 3, and 1, and they all have very different personalities. And while Grace is a nurturer, sensitive to others, and smart as a whip, well… she’s not the bravest girl by nature. She sees danger in a lot of things, and often lets fear rule her. This is just one of the things that makes her a very close facsimile of her mother.
I never knew fear the way I know it now as a mother. The responsibility of protecting, nurturing, and loving my littles in the best way possible is a tremendous one, and I often fear I am not worthy of this privilege. I admit to being a worrier by nature; the fact that I ended up with kids with potentially life-threatening allergies and one has asthma seems an almost cruel twist of fate. I have many fears for my children, and too often I fixate on them, literally letting them keep me up at night.
But today Grace was my teacher, and I her student. After weeks of having her new bike sitting in the garage and finding various excuses not to ride it (“I can’t find my helmet,” “today I’ll just ride my scooter”), she finally got on (“on flat ground though, mama, if I am going downhill it will be too scary”). It wasn’t that her fears were gone. She just managed to power through them. And isn’t that what courage is? Not the absence of fear, but the deliberate choice to take action, to take back the reins from fear.
I was so proud to see her riding down the street on a “big girl” bike, her trike now happily inherited by her brother.
I pray that I can be a more courageous mother to these little ones… for Grace, who needs to see a strong mama moving past the fear; for Eli, whose health issues have caused my hair to grey at age 34; and for Seth, now so little and indeed needing to be held close… but who even still needs space to grow and learn and skin his knees. May I find the courage to balance loving, protecting, and nurturing them, while still realizing that the training wheels must one day come off in order for them to thrive.
This post has been long in the making. As much as I desire to celebrate the everyday lives of everyday families, I realize that not everyday is full of sunshine and roses; many times–especially for us moms–the everyday doesn’t feel blessed. Harried, frustrating, monotonous… motherhood can be all of these things, and sometimes the last word that even I remember to use when describing my everyday is “blessed.”
So what do we do, on those days that feel less than stellar? When our mood is dragging? And what about when those days seem more frequent than not?
Because some days, we all feel like falling apart…
I have no easy answers. Motherhood is tough. We love our little ones, of course. That goes without saying. But we can also feel drained, overwhelmed and frustrated at times. There are no quick fixes for any of the hardships of motherhood, but I do believe that with some intentionality, and refocusing our attention a bit, we can at least bear them a bit easier. These are just some things I have noticed from my life.
When the everyday doesn’t feel blessed…
- Don’t think so long-term, and focus on today’s blessings. I’ve realized that for me, much of my “today” struggle is generated from worries about tomorrow, or next week, next month, or next year. It never ends. I am especially prone to this as a planner, type A, control freak. All that worrying can rob today of its joy. I get so wrapped up in what *might* be coming down the pipe that I miss the fact that there’s some pretty darn amazing stuff happening NOW! And one thing I’ve learned is that much of what we worry about most for the future never happens, while the things that really knock us down are things we never saw coming, that blindsided us. The past year has been tough for me in this respect, but I try to remember the words in the gospel of Matthew: “Can any one of you by worrying add a single hour to his life? … Therefore, do not worry about tomorrow,for tomorrow worry about itself. Each day has trouble enough of its own” (Matthew 6).
- Take a break from social media. It’s hard. For many of us, Facebook may be the only link we have to adult interaction during the day. But I’m convinced that in many ways, social media is, if not the root of discontent, at least a pretty effective fertilizer. If you’re not seeing your second cousin twice removed on their vacation in Hawaii, then you’re reading about your neighbor’s 3-year-old who is already reading Tolstoy, or checking out the latest pics from an old college friend who just lost 30 pounds in 2 months on the latest fad diet. In Facebook-land, sometimes it can seem like nobody else has problems. You see the highlight reel of everyone’s life, but not the gritty parts, and it can oddly seem more isolating than uniting at times. Plus, I find it definitely spurs me to start comparing my life/job/house/kid/body/cleaning habits/whatever to other people’s, which just isn’t healthy. Try checking in just once or twice a day, if that.
- Make a date to see a friend in person (or at least a phone call if in person isn’t possible). Even an hour of hanging out with someone in real life can suddenly make us realize we aren’t alone. There are other people out there who value you as a person, and their lives aren’t perfect either. I know, I know… immediately the “but I can’t ever get away from the kids” excuse pops up. But you can get creative. Here in the Seattle area, Fred Meyer stores offer one hour of free childcare if you’re in the store… and they just happen to almost all have a coffee shop area, too. One friend and I will check our kids in, go park at the coffee stand for an hour and chat, and then do our grocery shopping after. It’s cheap and convenient, and we both feel better after.
- Get moving. I have neglected physical activity myself for too long, never prioritizing it because life seems so busy with the kids. But I’m slowly realizing that physical inertia only exacerbates feelings of what I call “situational inertia.” It is so frustrating when you are hoping for changes that don’t happen, or life seems to be moving too slowly without a lot of hope for the future. But one way to instantly inject some positive energy into your life is to physically start moving your body more. Whether inside or out, find some way to incorporate physical activity into your routine.
- Start a gratitude project of some kind. Seeing beauty and love is partly a trained skill; we all have things to be grateful for, even in dark times… and learning to see it is a valuable, cultivated practice. Some people journal one sentence a day detailing what they are grateful for. Some people take a picture a day. However you choose to celebrate it, taking the time to consistently acknowledge the good things in life is valuable. My Project 365 this year has done wonders for me…and it’s not that I’m just naturally a “rose-colored glasses” kind of person; it has taken intentionality to see the good everyday, but I am the better for it.
- Cultivate, celebrate, or share the skills or traits that make YOU special. I’m convinced that part of the reason us moms can get discontented is because often with the birth of our children, we are thrust immediately into a whole new world, and somehow the “old” person falls away and is replaced by someone who seems to exist only to keep little ones alive and well. But there is more to us as people than “just” being a mom; we all have talents, hobbies, skills, or traits that make us special or that we enjoyed prior to having kids. Take some time to honor that part of yourself. Maybe you enjoy sketching but haven’t picked up your pencils in ages; maybe you are an avid reader, but the last thing you read was What to Expect While You’re Expecting; maybe you enjoy singing and miss participating in the church choir. Whatever it is, nurture those parts of yourself; it’s good for you, good for the world, and even good for your kids to see that mama is pretty awesome at other things.
- Realize that your feelings are normal, and give yourself (and your families) grace. Even the moms who seem to have it all together feel really at odds sometimes. We aren’t perfect. Our kids aren’t perfect. Our spouses aren’t perfect. And all that imperfection can sometimes add up to hard feelings and hard times. Give yourself grace. Forgive yourself for the mistakes you make as a parent. Give your families grace. We are all learning together. And our homes are training ground for the big world; it is healthy and good for your kids to learn that love is about forgiveness, sacrifice, and dusting ourselves off from today’s messes and loving one another better tomorrow.
I’m sure we’ll revisit this again in the future, but what are some things YOU do when your days are less than stellar? How do you change your attitude? I would love to hear some thoughts from other moms as well–please comment and discuss. After all, it helps to know we’re not alone, right?
A sneak peek at my first 100 days of Project 365, as captured on Instagram.
I can scarcely believe it, but today marks day 100 of my Project 365! I’m pretty excited about this milestone, and I’ve also learned a few things along the way…
In previous years, I have attempted one Project 365 (which lasted about four days before I went down in a ball of flames) and one Project 52 (a picture a week). Both times were failures, and yet this time I’m succeeding! What changed?
This time I am committed; I am going to do this. And I have found a few strategies that help me…
Five Things I’ve Learned in the First 100 Days of Project 365:
1. Accountability is key!
I forced myself to be more accountable this time by joining Instagram and posting daily. Knowing that I have told other people that am participating in Project 365 and that I will have people to answer to if I don’t post has really helped me along. There have even been a few 10 p.m. text messages asking, “Where’s your pic for today?” that saved me from forgetting a day!
2. An iPhone picture can be a worthy way to capture your life.
Very few of my Project 365 photos have been taken with my DSLR. At this stage in my life, I don’t take out my DSLR often, for a variety of reasons (I don’t want my kids getting “camera fatigue,” I don’t want to have to worry about it with three kids getting into everything; the phone is nearly always with me). And even with just my phone, I have captured some precious memories.
3. Choosing a theme or particular challenge can provide inspiration.
There are a variety of photo “challenges” out there that offer prompts for your Project 365. Some people find these really help. @ClickinMoms on Instagram has a weekly post listing your prompts for the week. I haven’t done the prompts, but I have decided to challenge myself with certain areas of my photography (i.e. a meaningful “headless” photo, or use negative space creatively) to make my Project 365 more than just a series of snapshots.
4. Embrace the imperfections and even the “boring” days.
Not every day is going to be one that you deem photo-worthy, but that’s sort of the point. Project 365 isn’t a highlight reel; it’s a documentary of a year in your life, boring moments and all. Accept that not every photo is going to be a prize-winner, and not every day will be full of exciting moments. Embrace your reality.
5. Project 365 is really a project of gratitude and celebration.
Most importantly, recognize that Project 365 is really about celebrating the little things (and little ones perhaps!) in your life and honoring them, and about reminding even yourself that there are details and moments worth noticing everyday. Project 365 is awesome because it is helping to train me to look at the world with more gratitude, respect, and love.
Are you following my Project 365? Tomorrow I’ll post 10 of my favorite photos, but if you want a sneak peek, go follow me @theblessedeveryday on Instagram, where I share my daily photos, and search #365blessedeveryday.
(And please link up with your Project 365 if you are participating, too!)
I’m so excited to share today about this mama’s new favorite way to shop for clothes: Stitchfix!
Stitchfix is a simple premise: an online stylist picks out five items for you based on your answers to a short questionnaire. You receive your “fix” in the mail, try on the items, and have three days to decide which items, if any, you keep.
I had seen some buzz about Stitchfix, and when my sister-in-law asked me to give it a try with her, I decided it was worth a shot, in spite of my reservations.
Let’s just say that since I had my third baby, shopping is NOT fun. My body is shaped differently than before, carting around three kids ages 5 and under to stores is pretty much a disaster waiting to happen, and frankly, any shopping experiences I’ve had have been exhausting and demoralizing.
So it was with some amount of nerves that I signed up, sure that I was going to waste my stylist “fee” ($20, which can be redeemed toward any item in your box), but wanting to be a good sport for my sister-in-law so we could share the experience together.
We timed our orders to arrive on the same day (you get to select the arrival date, which currently is about a month out), and then we had a “box opening” together. It was exciting–and a bit nerve-wracking–to open our boxes and have no idea what we would find.
Much to our surprise, all of the items, for both me and my sister-in-law Laura, fit well! I was not too surprised at this for Laura, who is one of those people who looks great in everything (5’10”, no flabby parts needing camouflage, overall fabulous), but I was shocked for me! I am *not* a skinny minnie at all and am definitely carrying some extra baby weight these days. But Stitchfix fit me perfectly!
As for the style of the items, Stitchfix sent each of us items that definitely looked like “us” and then a couple items that were “stretches” for us. Prior to being styled, you fill out a style and size questionnaire, and you rate certain outfits as well. I’d say I would describe my general “style”–if I have one at all–as casual, sporty, and maybe bordering on a bit of preppy. As you’ll see below, Stitchfix matched me with items that fit my desires for a cute “mom on the go” look but that could also be appropriate for my photography work, where I want to look professional as befitting someone in a visual/artistic industry, but also be able to move around.
Both Laura and I had one “airball” each in our shipment; for me, the drapey apricot cardigan hit me at the widest part of my hips and didn’t do me any favors. For her, a layered off-the-shoulder sweater was a little too “Flashdance” for her conservative preferences.
However, we both also ended up loving items that we wouldn’t have normally tried on our own, but that we really embraced once we saw them on.
Here’s a look at the items in my Stitchfix shipment… (apologies for the less-than-stellar pics; these were taken late at night with a cell phone in my bathroom. Also, nobody make fun of me for my granny’s crocheted hangers 😉
item 1: chevron shirt. I never would have selected this myself, but Laura and I both agreed it was the hit of the box. Flattering and a big departure from my norm.
item 2: white henley. This is much more flattering on. I probably wouldn’t have tried this either, but it is so soft and hangs nicely. Not the most practical choice for a mom of littles, but very comfortable, and the ruching and details feminize it.
item 3: basic denim jacket. Fit well. I’m sure many people would already have something like this in their wardrobe though.
item 4: drapey apricot sweater. Overall my least favorite item, as it did nothing for my figure. It did improve a lot when belted, however.
item 5: this one battles with the chevron as a favorite. As a photographer, I try to look “pulled together” but I also need to be able to move. This is a perfect choice. With leggings and the denim jacket, it looks cute and on-trend, but I don’t sacrifice movement. Also, it’s easily washable… a definite must!
So would I recommend Stitchfix? Absolutely, but I don’t think it’s for everyone.
Here are some types of people who are most likely to enjoy Stitchfix:
1. People who don’t enjoy the “thrill of the hunt” or bargain shopping.
The Stitchfix clothes are no bargain. They average about $50-60 each, though you do get a 25% discount if you buy an entire box (be prepared to spend about $210-230 out of pocket if you like everything and want to keep the box). They do include some “higher value” items like jackets, dresses, and jeans and then some cheaper items, like accessories or tops. These are definitely a step above Gap/Old Navy/Target in quality (Laura’s box had a pair of Anthropologie jeans as well as a J. Crew lookalike vest)… but still definitely not cheap. For me, I honestly do not enjoy shopping, digging through racks of clothes, or trying lots of things on…so the fact that I can get clothes without the hassle is a definite plus (and one that is worth the extra money for me). As my only big clothes splurge since Seth was born a year ago, I didn’t feel too bad for such high-quality items.
2. People who enjoy stores such as Anthropologie, J. Crew, Banana Republic, and Macy’s.
Stitchfix items are priced similarly (maybe a little cheaper) than the stores I listed above, so if you typically shop at those stores, you will probably be happy with the value and quality of the clothing you receive in your boxes.
3. People who are open to new styles and seeing themselves in a new way.
If you have a very rigid sense of what your style is, Stitchfix may not be for you. Part of the fun for me is trying something I never would have picked for myself, and seeing if it works.
4. Mamas with young kids or other extenuating circumstances that make shopping a chore, or those who live far from a mall.
Again, I am sure you *can* find similar items at a mall, but for those of us who have young kids and mall shopping is a
total nightmare chore, Stitchfix is a great alternative. Again, by the time I factor in gas, the fact that I live 45 minutes one-way (on a good day) from the nearest mall, I found Stitchfix to be a great alternative.
5. People who are style-challenged.
I am certainly no stylist. My husband is surely tired of seeing me in the same three black Gap Maternity shirts that are still a holdover from the last time I went clothes shopping. I am pretty sure wearing black solid shirts isn’t even really a definable style. So for me, receiving the Stitchfix box with new items *and* the handy “cheat sheet” of outfits was really great! It helped me to see things I already owned in a new light as well.
6. People who don’t have a huge wardrobe.
I wouldn’t say any of the Stitchfix choices were earth-shatteringly unique items. For instance, the denim jacket is a staple that many people may have already had (but which I did not). If you are a big shopper or already have a big wardrobe, Stitchfix may not be for you…but if you get by with a few basics, it’s a great option to liven up your options. By adding very basic items like tights, a pair of jeans, and a couple of different shoes to my mix, I am able to get a variety of looks.
7. People who are interested in a unique experience.
It is a ton of fun to get a box full of surprises in the mail! I can’t say enough how much fun it was. And if you have a friend or friends who are interested in making it a box opening party, then it’s really great! Laura and I had a wonderful time sharing the experience together, trying on each other’s things, helping each other design outfits with our items, etc.
8. Mamas looking for a boost in self-confidence and mood.
Since having kids, it has been all too easy when visiting stores to focus on what *isn’t*… that my body isn’t the same as it used to be, that I can’t as readily pull clothes off the rack and have them fit, that my time to myself isn’t as plentiful. And that can get really discouraging. For the first time since having Seth, getting some new clothes really felt like a boost and a happy event, instead of a chore because I “had” to get jeans that fit or I “had” to buy clothes in a bigger size than I would like. Honestly, I think wearing sad, blah clothes even became a form of penance or self-loathing… like I didnt *deserve* to look cute because I can’t fit into all my pre-pregnancy clothes. It was a big booster to my mood and self-confidence to feel like I ended up with items that are trendy and stylish, and I don’t have to look dumpy as I go around town.
Overall, I love Stitchfix and am definitely planning on doing another box in a few months!
* Disclaimer: this ad is not sponsored and all opinions are mine but does contain an affiliate link to Stitchfix, and I do receive a store credit for each person that signs up using my link.
If you are thinking about giving Stitchfix a try, please use this link to sign up!
Welcome, and thank you for joining me here! I’m part crazy, part nervous, but 100% excited to start coming alongside couples and families to help them capture the images that freeze a beautiful moment in time. This blog will be the space where you see my latest work, and also where we can dialogue about photography, family, love, and maybe even chocolate. I look forward to sharing beauty, joy, and life with you.