Photos of late

It has been a busy season for all the hats I wear. Teaching, writing, photography – these things come in waves. Sometimes they all converge the same week and I wonder what I’ve done to myself.

I don’t advertise for photography outside of this blog and Facebook, mostly because I accomplish photo sessions during free time, so that means I’m not booked solid with one session after another. (Since it’s a hobby and not a career, this is key.) Yet, I still love doing them. I especially enjoy kids because they aren’t self-conscious, they mostly don’t care what they look like, and their smiles are so… pure, especially once I get them laughing. 

Newborns are my favorite, by far. This segment of time is so short and it passes too quickly. A yawn is still novel.

Engagements aren’t bad either, y’all. Particularly in autumn.

That tongue!

And at six months old, when babies can finally respond to your crazy sounds and hand-waving, you occasionally get a good snapshot of a real smile.

Clearly he gets eyelash extensions.

Let me know if you want some photos taken in December. I have a little time.

The flawless faces of beautiful children

I am a lucky girl. When “playing with my camera” takes me to a sprawling property, situated in front of these beautiful faces, I cannot complain.

It’s not hard, really. Engage the kiddos, chat with them, be silly. I’m not scary or overwhelming, so they don’t mind when I require a little of their time. For these siblings in particular, they are used to me and my lens in their faces.

And now, I’m getting to know their friends, which is a treat like none other! When a friend connects you to another friend, it is the dearest compliment.

I sit here with a ton of gratitude, not only because people trust me with their family’s photos, taking up their time and a little bit of their money, but because what started as a hobby (and continues to be a hobby) has turned into a gift I’m able to give others. I love it. My work doesn’t stand against the work of professional photographers whose creativity is their livelihood, but it’s good work. It’s beautiful. It’s honest.

Thank you again.

If you’d like to book a photo session, do let me know.

Then the garden exploded

We’ve been drenched with rain for a solid week, or so it felt, during which I ignored the garden. Last I saw the little baby plants were sprouting mightily and gaining some height. Then yesterday, on the first solidly dry day, I went outside to inspect the garden and found that it had doubled in size.

garden in early June 2016

Remind me next year not to put the zucchini (bottom left) next to the cucumbers (bottom right). Not wise plant placement!

Zucchini blooms:

zucchini bloom

Grow strong, little cucumber:

Grow strong little cucumber

My favorite! Next year, more Japanese Eggplant!

first japanese eggplant

Still don’t know what to expect out of this artichoke, but I’m keeping an eye out for something that looks familiar:

artichoke

Tiny garden spider makes himself at home:

Garden spider

And finally, the property manager, who would like to be left alone, thank you very much:

Salem in June

A Perfect Mother’s Day

First, a disclaimer: There was a time when I hated Mother’s Day. Specifically, 2002 and 2003 were the worst. When you struggle with infertility, Mother’s Day is a cruel reminder of what you cannot have. Equally, Mother’s Day can be unbearable when you’ve lost a child, lost your mother, or are grieving for other family related issues. So, this post is not made in vain. In fact, when Mother’s Day turned into a holiday I could indeed celebrate, it was not without a solemn reminder of those who are still waiting for a child of their own.


This year, Mother’s Day was exactly what I wanted and needed. After sleeping in and spending several hours in bed sipping coffee and watching reruns of The Golden Girls, I emerged from the bedroom and said, “Let’s go hiking!”

So we did.

Hiking on Mothers Day

Then we came home for lunch, dropped off the dog, and grabbed the canoe.

Canoeing on Mothers Day

I so dearly love East Tennessee.

Tennessee is beautiful

Chuck and Jeremy threw a few lines in the water. The fish were biting, but barely.

For dinner we grilled out and then I made a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I deflected all questions from the boys by referring them to their dad. I wanted to enjoy the company of my children but not be entirely responsible for them. They did their best not to argue with one another in my presence. I was impressed.

Their homemade Mother’s Day cards could not have been more accurate and in line with their personalities and relationship with me. Jeremy’s best line: “Also, always know when I’m in a bad mood it’s most likely that I’m just hungry and I don’t mean it.” 

Jeremy's Mothers Day card

Jackson’s best line: “I love you as much as God.” 

Jackson's Mothers Day card

Truly, Mother’s Day was a blessing. My cup overflows.

Like new little baby teeth

You know how exciting it is when those first few teeth pop through your precious baby’s tender gums? You knew it was coming, you saw all the signs. Then suddenly one morning, there’s a tiny white speck. Eureka!

That’s how excited I feel when my newly planted vegetables take root and grow twice their size in under a week.

It brings me such happiness to go in the backyard and see new life growing.

Okra – never grown okra before, but it’s darling:

okra

Sweet Georgia Onions. Can’t wait to sauté them:

onions

Surprise sprout of potatoes, left over from last year. I decided to leave it:

potatoes

Japanese eggplant, my favorite:

Japanese eggplant

Pickling cucumbers:

cucumbers

Sweet basil for a summer of pesto:

basil

Never-grown-before artichoke. No idea what this will look like:

artichoke

The pets are loving the warm sun as much as I am and always join me outside. Look at our gorgeous boy! Major is three years old and far more chilled out than he was a year ago. Thank goodness.

Major May 2016

Salem – God bless – looks completely stoned. But hey – he’s alive.

Salem May 2016

Napping in the sun

Jeremy and I took a moment to mourn this beautiful white moth. RIP pretty thing.

RIP white moth

Though there’s a cold snap this week with temperatures in the 50s and 60s, summer is indeed on its way. Three more days of school and then I’m off the hook for a while. Amen, and amen.

Getting Summer Ready

We are at the point now that we’re peeling ourselves out of bed, schlepping to the school room, and willing ourselves to do the minimum. We are done, done, done. Summer is officially now less than two weeks away. As a gift to myself, I decided that summer will start with Mother’s Day. Though Jeremy will continue with math until early July and Jackson will have weekly review sheets on myriad subjects, the blessed summer schedule will come into effect shortly. Lazy days are ahead, and thank the sweet Lord, because I’m done.

Yesterday the boys and I cleaned out the big toy box in the garage, discarding broken light sabers and cracked Frisbees. We purchased two new basketballs and a kickball and unearthed some outdoor toys they forgot they had. Though we allow video games (which we all enjoy), we place a lot of emphasis on going outside to play. Imagination, competition, creativity, all of it. Go outside, get sweaty. Thirsty? Get a drink from the hose. 

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This is my view from the kitchen sink. In this space, as well as in the front yard, summer happens. Neighborhood kids congregate here, and I love it. They are welcome to drink out of the hose too.

I finally, FINALLY got the garden prepped and planted. There were a few threats of freezing temps in early April, and then we got busy, but I got everything in the ground this morning. Special thanks to my husband with super-human strength for helping with the new soil. I’d like to think I could do this without him, but no.

Garden 2016

New this year is okra. I’ve never grown it before, so I don’t know what to expect. Also, artichoke. No clue there. The rest is old standbys – pickling cucumbers, zucchini, big fat sweet Georgia onions, basil, tomatoes, and so on. Here’s hoping the new soil makes a difference because last year’s garden was low yield and near flavorless.

So yeah. I’m counting the days, as are the boys. We’re making mental lists of things we want to do this summer, and aside from one out-of-town trip, the time off will be spent tooling around in town, having friends come to visit, and enjoying the freedom to do whatever comes to mind.

A couple of firsts

The past two weekends served as firsts for Jeremy. Instead of trick-or-treating (which was a first in itself), he went on his first official deer hunt. He and Chuck have been planning this season for months. Though they didn’t come home with meat for the freezer, they had a ball together and look forward to giving it another solid try in a couple of weeks.

Jeremy's first hunt

Yesterday Jeremy joined me on a 5K, something he’s been asking to do for a while. He ran hard much of the time, only stopping to walk on a few steep hills. We took Major along since the race was pet friendly, and though I wasn’t sure how this whole event would go, but I couldn’t have planned it any better. Major got a ton of attention from the crowd and pulled me down the road like a sled dog. The three of us crossed the finish line together.

Jeremy's first fivek

Me and Jeremy at his first 5k

Now he’s asking to do an 8K. Like mother, like son!

Also, Jeremy wrapped another soccer season this weekend and Jackson had evaluations for Upward Basketball. One sport for one kid at a time.

Though the weather has been drizzly and cold, the rain held off for the Tennessee-South Carolina game on Saturday, for which Jackson and I had tickets. It was stressful and emotional and we both had panic attacks in the third and fourth quarters, but the Vols pulled out a win so we drove home happy.

Me and Jackson at the UT SC game

We have been entirely too busy lately, and even though many of our plans and obligations have been worthwhile, it will do us well to take a step back for November and December. If we don’t slow down, it will be 2016 in no time.

Big group with big smiles

To say this session was a long time coming would be the truth. Scheduling ten people plus a photographer is already a challenge, but the weather has been a real bear. When we finally had a break from the rain, we went for it.

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East Tennessee Autumn

Despite the drizzle, we spent yesterday afternoon in the mountains. Chuck did a bit of fly fishing and the boys threw rocks in the Little River. We hiked a little. Mostly, we enjoyed the scenery. It won’t be like this for much longer.

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Autumnal Sunday Afternoon

We’ve gone to this corn maze every year since moving back to East Tennessee. I’m sure there are other good ones in the area, but we are creatures of habit.

It pains me to acknowledge that October is nearly over. It just flew by and I’m fighting a little sadness about it. To cope, I’m focusing on what’s coming down the road, namely the holidays, seeing my family, and NaNoWriMo.

Neighborhood foliage

Pumpkins

Wings

Problem solving in the maze

Bringing up the back

Cheater, cheater, pumpkin eater. Jeremy strayed off the path.

Cheater cheater pumpkin eater

bumble bee

fall colors 2015

Fall Break Guest No. 1

This is a week of house guests, starting with Ethan for four days. Love this boy so much! He and Jeremy have been friends since birth because Karin and I made sure of it. 

Today I took the boys bouldering.

Big cliff

Bouldering

Squeeze

The older boys in black and white

The view of Maryville

Major loved it, but he tuckered out after an hour and found a spot to rest. He could watch all of us from this point, which is an endearing quality he has. He’s noticeably happier when everyone is together.

Major goes bouldering

Group shot bouldering

Other than bouldering, the boys have played outside most of the time and binged on Minecraft at night. Ethan calls me his second mom, which is the best compliment ever. He’s already asked to stay an extra night. 

The sweetest little wedding

When a former high school classmate of mine mentioned on Facebook that she was looking for an inexpensive wedding photographer, I threw my name in the hat. Since I work alone, the small, intimate weddings are just right. I can dart around discreetly and tend to the details. Bigger events require two and three shooters, so as long as it was going to be small, I could do it.

So I did.

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I went nuts with my camera, so there are eight million more to edit, but it’s a good problem to have. I’m grateful. 

Nature Love

We’ve settled into a summer routine of sorts. Math drills in the morning, then chores, then sporadic times of electronics and playing outside. Meals whenever. I’m saying yes more than I’m saying no, which seems like a fair deal for summer break.

I woke up yesterday morning itching to go outside, so we loaded up and drove to a nearby nature center for hiking and exploring.

nature hike

Bertha Elizabeth

cemetery from the 1800s

paddle boarding

Whenever we reached an overlook, even Major was curious.

over the edge

taking his dog for a walk

quarry reflection

Cooling off

The hike was longer than the boys expected, but reaching the quarry at the end was worth it. Major especially enjoyed the water break.

Oh how my garden grows

The weeds are bad, but everything is growing beautifully. Having never grown potatoes before, I didn’t know what to expect. So far, so good!

potatoes

The Japanese eggplant doesn’t seem to be as strong this year, so I might need to give it a little boost.

japanese eggplant

Sweet onions:

sweet onions

Gorgeous romaine lettuce:

romaine

Sweet peas:

string peas

Cucumber:

cucumber grab

My gardening companion:

Major in May 2015

Hey Spring Break

My sinuses hate everything about right now, but the scenery is gorgeous.

bud pinky purpley white and pink

The boys are working double time on their school work today to ensure their spring break starts tomorrow instead of Monday. We have big plans for the coming week, specifically that Jeremy is going to Disney World. Just Jeremy, you ask? Yes, because Chuck and I are totally uncool and will not take our kids to Disney, so my sister is. They will swing down from Chicago, pick up our 11-year-old, and take him to the happiest place on earth. Two years from now, when Jackson is 11, they’ll do the same with him.

Chuck and I get off scot-free. We don’t have to wade through pools of loud children or stand in line for hours or hear It’s a Small World over and over and over again. We’re totally dancing a jig.

It sounds bad, but the honest part is that we’re a different sort of traveler. We’d rather camp or wander around a new city without a timetable. We prefer places where we’re not outnumbered by stranger kids and food isn’t outrageously over-priced. There is charm and magic at Disney World, but it’s not the kind of charm and magic we’re interested in. We’re very grateful to have family members who will do this great task for us and give our children a wonderful experience.

Meanwhile, we have our own plans to make Jackson’s spring break memorable. He’s pretty excited about being an only child for a week. His first request?

“Can I stay up ’til 10?”

You sure can, buddy. 

TBT March 2007: When Jeremy gave me a weed

Spring had finally arrived in our little corner of North Georgia and Jeremy, my three-and-a-half-year-old outdoorsman, couldn’t wait to pick me a flower.

Even though it was a weed. Bless him.

TBT March 2007

Spring is on the verge right now (or so my sinuses tell me), and we couldn’t be happier. It’s time to go back outside.

Ice, then snow, then cabin fever

What a week. Lost power, restored power, ice, ice, more ice. No internet, a quickie blizzard, serious cabin fever.

It’s been mostly fun for the boys since they could gather with the neighborhood kids and enjoy all the hills and slippery surfaces. The neighborhood kids were out of school all week but I was the mean mom who made her kids do school four out of the five days. It wasn’t without major pouting and arguing, which resulted in a day’s worth of grounding and restriction and more sulking. Homeschooled kids can do school in their PJs and sleep in and take a lot of breaks, but they don’t get snow days. This is not new information, so when I reminded them that they would at least do math and vocabulary, they lost their minds.

Did I mention cabin fever?

The ground is still frozen at single-digit degrees and there are solid sheets of ice where the afternoon sun doesn’t reach. We are eternally grateful that our power loss was short-lived and we didn’t lose the two weeks worth of groceries that I’d just purchased. We are also grateful for the gas fireplace that kept us warm in the dark.

Since our internet has been restored, we’ve felt a wave of rejuvenation and feel like no winter weather can keep us down. God bless the creator of WiFi.

Frozen grass

Ice storm 2015

Up the hill

Sledding

Jack on the sled

Tractor pull

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Skating in the driveway

Quick blizzard

Major in the snow

Plotting on a walk

This is our neighborhood. Well, sort of. It’s the space behind our actual neighborhood where I like to walk Major. Recently, it’s been in this space that I’ve created much of novel’s plot. It’s nearly four miles to the end and back, and the time it takes  to circle around depends on whether I’m walking or running, or if Major gets sidetracked by squirrels and curious cows.

East Tennessee is most beautiful right now, so I thought you should see it.    camera_20131107163836374_20131107171647368NaNoWriMo Word Count to date: 20,350 (out of 50,000)

I declare spring break.

The six-year-old is projectile vomiting. The nine-year-old has reached an impasse with triple-digit multiplication. The dog won’t stay out of the cat food.

I declare spring break.

Today will be a day of reading, writing, making sure my littlest is comfortable, and giving my oldest yard work to do so he can raise money to buy Skylanders. I might even go for a short run.

Warm weather is coming, and we couldn’t be more ready.

Sunray

What used to be home

I was in Chattanooga yesterday for a memorial service and found that I had a little extra time to drive around the city we used to call home. While still very nostalgic, this place isn’t home anymore. It’s where Chuck and I met, where we graduated high school, where we got married and where we started a family. It’s the city where so many of our major decisions were made. And while I can pinpoint a slew of little special spots in Chattanooga that hold a sweet memory for me, home is where we are now. This city, this house, these people. It feels good and right and long term.

Happy Weekend to you, and Go Vols!