2015 Best of 10-on-10

Another year is almost in the books, and that means another batch of 10-on-10s is done! Today I continue the annual tradition of my best of 10-on-10, my personal favorites from all the 10-on-10 photos I’ve posted this year. I’m teaming up with my usual 10-on-10 partner in crime, my dear friend Elizabeth Wendland.

2015 was a year of loss, love, and new life, too. It wasn’t an easy year by any means, but it is still good to look back and see that in the midst of some hard times, there was a lot of joy as well. The kids grew a lot, and my husband and I grew a lot (in different ways, of course), too. And then there was the new baby, who continues to bring us so much joy and is a constant reminder of how blessed we are.

Here are some of my favorites from my 10-on-10 photos. You don’t even want to see what my personal archives from the year look like! I finished with a restrained 2200 images. Ha!

photo of toddler football fan

my lil Hawks fan! S grew the most over the course of the year

photo of laughing girl

my happy girl

photo of three kids

the kids… before there were 4!

photo of toddler boy

he usually isn’t one to sit for photos, but oddly enough I ended up with more of him than any other child!

photo of toddler

mischievous little guy

photo of child on dad's shoulders

One of my favorites: two of my guys just looking happy

photo of kids gazing at divers in aquarium

gazing at the divers at the aquarium

portrait of girl

portrait of my girl

photo of gap-toothed girl

gap-toothed grin

photo of toddler in shadow

dark and light

silly husband

my hubby acting silly

photo of sleeping girl

still some glimpses of babyhood

photo of hospital bag contents

four days before the littlest came, all the things I packed in my bag… and then I barely made it to the hospital in time!

photo of boy pouting


photo of girl

on her 7th birthday

photo of dad and son

another imperfect photo of a perfect moment

photo of baby

more mischief lurking beneath the surface

photo of homeschooling children

a very typical scene at our house

photo of baby

And of course, there was baby E….

Will you think about participating in 10-on-10 next year with me? Are you doing another photo challenge instead? Let me know in the comments!

And in the meantime, let’s visit Beth’s blog to see her favorites from the year, too!

What to Pack in the Hospital Bag…and What to Leave Behind

One question every mom faces is what to pack in the hospital bag for her birth. On my fourth-time around now, I can now consider myself fairly experienced at prepping for a hospital birth. Over the years, I’ve streamlined what I take along to the hospital and also made a few adjustments based on the type of birth I tend to have (quick, hard, unmedicated). So what to take along to the hospital, and perhaps more importantly, what should be left behind? Here are my favorites… and the good news is that almost all of the items would be right at home in your diaper bag AFTER baby’s birth, too!

photo of essential hospital birth bag items

A few of my hospital birth bag essentials… some are fairly typical and some may be new to you! Most also find their way into my diaper bag after birth, too. (iPhone photo)


I’m skipping a few of the obvious items (toothbrush, clothes for mama, nursing bra–nobody needs to see my “unmentionables” but here are some essentials I can’t live without:

  • what to pack for baby: Most hospitals provide a little t-shirt and the ubiquitous pink and blue striped blanket for swaddling. For clothes *in* the hospital, I prefer the newborn gowns with an open bottom, which makes access for heel pokes and diaper changes easy. For the ride home, I like something easy to wear in the carseat (and easy to put on), like this zippered sleeper. I prefer zippers to snaps. A NICU nurse friend of mine pointed out that for NICU babies where access for monitors and leads is necessary, snaps are needed, but fortunately we haven’t faced that with any of our kids.
  • bath wash for baby, and a few sample-sized toiletries for mom: hospitals usually have Johnson & Johnson baby wash, and I just prefer to use something tailored for sensitive skin. My favorite bath wash for my kids is California Baby Super Sensitive body wash. Target has some gift sets with sample sizes that make lovely baby shower gifts for a new mom. The 2-oz. bottle pictured above is perfect to take along to the hospital. I also scrounge up a couple sample-sized toiletry items of my favorites so that I can feel refreshed after birth. Nobody wants to feel grungy and gross. And yes, I know some people prefer not to wash baby for several days after birth, but after my second child was born and was the cheesiest, most vernix-y child you’ve ever seen, I’ve learned sometimes a bath is just a must!
  • lip balm: the hard work of labor can dry out lips. I am a lip balm snob, and EcoLips is my absolute favorite. Usually available in the “natural foods” section of grocery stores, or at places like Whole Foods.
  • phone chargers and spare camera battery: easy to forget in the heat of running out the door, but very inconvenient not to have
  • essential oils: this time around I’m taking along a few essential oils. Test them beforehand and make sure you have no smell aversion to them, as smells that are only slightly annoying when not in labor can become REALLY annoying when laboring. For me, I’m taking along citrus bliss and spearmint (a lovely invigorating mix), deep blue (designed to ease muscle tension and pain), and some peppermint beadlets (I am really sensitive to funky breath tastes/smells when laboring). I have been fortunate not to have really prolonged labors in the past, so I’m able to take a fairly minimal oil selection. This isn’t a must-have, but is a definite “nice to have.”
  • Bible and birth affirmations/verses: I love my small ESV journaling Bible for portability and church, and it’s coming along with me to the hospital. This time around I also copied some of my favorite verses and inspiring quotes onto some Project Life cards and hole-punched them for quick reference during labor if I need a boost.
  • swaddle blanket: hospitals will provide the usual pink & blue striped blanket, but I also like to take along a white swaddle blanket (the bamboo Aden & Anais brand is ultra-soft and big enough to make swaddling easy). The white blanket also acts as a beautiful natural reflector for photos of baby in the hospital, and of course as a photographer I have to consider these things 😉
  • ring sling: I’m a babywearing addict, even in the hospital. I find ring slings my favorite choice for newborns, so I’m taking along a Sakura Bloom ring sling.
  • wet bag: the orange bag above is a “wet bag,” a bag designed to hold wet items and prevent leakage. These have become indispensable for any trip I take, and the hospital is no exception. I fully expect to have some dirty baby clothes to pack up, clothes from me from laboring, and more, and the wet bag is an awesome way to segregate your dirties. And really, every mom needs one… great for swimming, potty accidents, and more.

Now, what to leave behind?  I am basing these recommendations on my own experiences at two different local hospitals. Independent birth centers and hospitals out of the US may provide different items, so you may want to ask your care provider ahead of time. But here are items I have found are best left at home.

  • diapers (yes, cloth AND disposable): the hospital will provide diapers. I love using cloth, but really, you are best leaving the cloth at home. You will likely only be at the hospital 1-3 days, and it is just one less thing to keep track of… and nurses are often NOT used to cloth diapers and that can be an issue, too. I’ve found it best just to leave the cloth at home, where I know it’s safe and no chance of being mixed in with other laundry.
  • tons of baby clothes: again, you likely won’t be there long (and if you are, someone can bring more clothing). Most of the time baby is swaddled and close to you. This is not the time for a fashion show. Minimize the luggage and leave lots of outfits at home. Focus on a couple things that are easy to dress baby in.
  • birth balls: check ahead of time, but most hospitals (at least in the Seattle area) do provide access to the big exercise balls for use in labor.
  • pre-pregnancy jeans: seriously, just don’t. You don’t need that kind of pressure (or possible “downer”). Wear comfy clothes home: a maxi skirt or maternity yoga pants are a good choice.

What are some other items that you found were must-haves during your hospital stay? Leave a comment below to let me know, and let’s chat! 

2014 Best of 10-on-10

Oh, what a year! Today I continue the annual tradition of my best of 10-on-10, my personal favorites from all the 10-on-10 photos I’ve posted this year. I’m teaming up with my usual 10-on-10 partner in crime, Beth from Life as a Sports Mom.

If 2013 was a year of birth, change and feeling somewhat off-kilter all year, then 2014 brought a bit of stability and (relative) calm. Life with three kids found me at home much of the time, so it’s no surprise that the focus of my 10-on-10 favorites tended to be my kids.

I have always advocated people do 10-on-10 because it’s a fairly “doable” photo challenge, a lot less daunting than a Project 365 or even a Project 52 (a picture a week), and yet over the course of the year it does succeed in capturing a glimpse of life, even if along the way I am grumbling to myself, “These pictures stink; nothing even *happened* this month.”

And yet, a lot happens when you are standing so close to a situation you are almost blinded by its proximity. Over the course of a year, the baby morphed from a crawling 8-month-old to a full-fledged toddler, my middle son from a crazy 3-year-old to a slightly-less-crazy 4-year-old, and my daughter into what now seems like a “real” kid, full of humor, insight and fun.

Without further adieu *drumroll*, my personal favorites from this year’s 10-on-10 collection…

sleeping child in father's arms

Evenings like this are long past now. Our baby would never fall asleep like this anymore!


The sweetest baby face.


Just lounging around… bedtime shenanigans.


E. I love how his personality shines in this one.


The little miss.


A rare serious look at E. Usually he hams it up the moment a camera appears.


The only 10-on-10 picture NOT taken by me, image by my then-5-year-old.


Summertime fun!


The birthday girl.


Just an everyday image, but I like it.


Which 10-on-10 image is your favorite? Are there any that didn’t make the cut that were particularly memorable for you? Let me know in the comments!

And in the meantime, let’s visit Beth’s blog to see her favorites from the year, too!


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.

blog collage featuring babywearing imagesyoung girl rides big bike

When the Everyday Doesn’t Feel Blessed

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?

picture of crying baby

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?