Frank. And only Frank. Thanks, Kid. I’m now sick of Frank.

Every night and every nap for the last two years my daughter has had to listen to Frank Sinatra’s “In The Wee Small Hours” album while she’s falling asleep.

I’ve tried to change the music without her knowing but as young as two she would look at me and say “no. I want frank.” In the beginning she called him “Frank Satra,” but as she grew she knew how to pronounce his name clearly and she let me know no one else would do – no Nat King Cole or Diana Krall or even a different album by Frank.

I finally slipped in some Dean Martin from his “Sleep Warm” album, skipping over the slightly faster songs thrown in the middle of the more gentle and melodic tunes, and she accepted it.

Last night I decided to try some Sarah Vaughn, who I’ve never actually listened to that much, but we only got two songs in before I heard an exasperated sigh in the dark.

“What’s wrong?” I asked, hoping to God she did not ask me for the snack she’d tried to tell me she needed a few moments earlier, even though it was way past her bedtime.

“It’s the music,” she said with exasperation dripping off each word. “It’s just not working.”

Now it was my turn for a sigh. I switched the Apple Music on my phone to the playlist of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

She relaxed in the darkness, obviously content, and in less than five minutes she was fast asleep to the smooth, soothing baritone of Dean Martin and Frank Sinatra.

Someday we’ll find another artist who lulls her into a state of pure relaxation but for now Dean and Frank remain our close and repetitive friends.

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She’s quite fond of the slimy creatures. 10 on 10 for June

My 3-year old daughter is a caretaker.

She takes care of her stuffed animals and our pets and other people’s pets. Sometimes she takes care of me and once in awhile her brother (though she’s usually bossing him around). What she really enjoys taking care of, though, are worms and bugs. I don’t get it, but she likes rolly pollies and worms and wants to put them in containers to keep them safe whenever she finds them. I try to explain that they are safe outside because that’s their home, but it doesn’t always work.

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We had filled the pool in our backyard one night this week and for some reason the water on the grass drew a huge worm, one we country folk call a “nightcrawler” right out of the mud. My toddler was delighted. DSC_0104DSC_0101She was delighted to show it to her brother and make a video for her dad, who was at work, and she was delighted when I said she could keep the worm in a plastic container from the kitchen if we added some wet soil to it for it to live in for awhile.

She most likely wouldn’t be delighted that yesterday she couldn’t find the worm so I took it all outside to look myself and discovered the worm was indeed gone. My closest guess is that our very large, moody cat ate it.

I think we’ll have to be a little more careful about taking care of our worms in the future.

This post is part of a monthly blog circle that publishes the 10th day of the month and features 10 photos from the previous month on either one day or throughout the month. To continue the circle please click over to Shea Kleundler’s blog

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Are you a blogger, advertiser, or have you been put in charge of advertising at your church or another organization? Maybe you are in need of some faith-focused images for your project, whatever that project is. If so, you can find some great images at Lightstock.com. I’m a photographer contributor and simply a supporter of the site. While I am a contributing photographer I wouldn’t expect you to feel obligated to use my photos from the site because there are some amazing artists who you support when you purchase from Lightstock. *disclaimer: by clicking on the link you are supporting me as an affiliate and I will receive a small payment for that referral.

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Creative funks smell and feel funky

It isn’t unusual for me to hit a creative funk in the winter. Days are short, the sun hides behind clouds and it’s too cold to take the kids anywhere to explore.

I still try my best to take photographs inside the house, or whichever building we have sought shelter in from the nasty cold of winter, but honestly my heart usually isn’t in it until the warmth comes back.

This winter has seemed particularly long, probably because of the loss of my aunt in December and some stress my son was facing, but also the blasted cold weather and gloomy clouds.

DSC_7860With that Daylight Savings Time thing we do here in the States, we now have longer days (which simply means more daylight hours). This is a wonderful thing if you have sun and less exciting if it’s simply a gloomy, rainy or snowy day.

Last week marked the official  first day of Spring, but our weather hasn’t realized that yet and has remained cold, for the most part. This week we are supposed to have an upward trend and I’m hoping that will mean an upward trend in our moods too.

DSC_8308-2Despite the cold we have had sun and the sun makes the cold slightly less oppressive. It also creates some pretty lighting opportunities in some of the rooms of our house.

DSC_8313This week we are looking forward to mild, but still warmer, temperatures that will hopefully afford some more opportunities to escape the house and breathe in some fresh air.

So how about you, fellow creatives, or even you non-creative folk? What’s the weather like for you and what do you do when you find yourself in a creative funk?

Thank you Doc Mcstuffins for making my toddler a paranoid germaphobe

We were picking my son up from an overnight camping trip with his school when my 3-year old tripped and fell. My son’s friend helped her up and told me she was saying there were worms on her hands and she couldn’t get them off.

“Worms! Worms!” she told me holding her hands out to me, palms up.

All I could see were a couple specks of dirt. I brushed her palms off, kissed her hand, put her on my hip and walked to get my son’s sleeping bag for the ride home. Before we got to our car, though, she was crying again with her palms up toward me.

“Worms! I can’t get them off!” she said. “They everywhere!!”

Now I was starting to worry my daughter was sick, having a fever induced hallucination. I assured her there were no worms, but asked if she wanted me to wash her hands just to be sure. For all I knew she had fallen on squished worms earlier and now imagined she had worm guts on her hands.

As I poured water over her hands from my water bottle I asked if that was better.

“It still on my thumb” she told me, inspecting her hands and trying to shove her one thumb in the water bottle.

That’s when my son said “are you saying germs?”

It was a light bulb moment.

My daughter has developed a somewhat annoying obsession lately with Doc McStuffins; to the point she asks to watch it every day and pretends to “treat” her stuffed animals. We even bought her a little toy Doc Mcstuffins bag and medical kit for her birthday last week. Now she asks for me to play the check up song on my phone while she gives check ups to her stuffed pets.

Incidentally she requires me to pretend I’m the toy patient and usually tells me I have to pretend I’m scared so she can comfort them like Doc Mcstuffins does her toy patients. Of course, as someone who is moving away from the constant care of doctors because they often seem more interested in pushing than pills than helping patients, it does bother me that this show has given my daughter the impression that doctors are infallible and God-like but that’s another post for another day.

Apparently I should have been watching the episodes a little closer when she watched them (I’m usually sitting next to her editing photos and vaguely paying attention, I won’t lie) because I’m guessing the good ole’ Doc told her viewers on a recent episode thatthey needed to clean their hands because of germs.

Unfortunately my toddler has the same vivid imagination her brother has always had so she apparently imagined the germs everywhere on her hands.

“Did you say germs?” I asked her.

“Yes!” She sniffed her little cheeks streaked with dirt and tears.

“Honey, it’s ok. Even if the germs are there, not all germs are bad. Some germs help build up our immunity so it’s not a bad thing to have some germs on your skin.”

She accepted this explanation quickly but then sniffed a little and said she didn’t want to sit in her car seat to go home. She whimpered against my shoulder until I told her I could pick her up some fries on the way home.

Her head snapped up off my shoulder and she looked at me.

There was no hint of the sadness from before when she said “fries? Did you say fries?”

Don’t stop asking if you can hug me

There we were driving over the back roads to the small Christian school my son attends and just like that summer was over.

Sure we had one more day before school officially began but on that humid summer night I felt a tight feeling in my chest and knew it was because the carefree days when I could hug him on a whim anytime throughout the day had come to an end for another year.

Here we were – his fifth grade year.

Fifth grade.

 

I felt a catch in my spirit. I mentally reached out for an imaginary lever to slow it all down but like usual the lever wouldn’t work.

I was sure it had only been a few weeks since I’d walked him into that school for the first time, him frightened and crying because he didn’t want me to leave. I cried too, all the way home, and at home.

At the end of each day I picked him up and he ran fast to me across the gym with his arms wide open and the widest, most excited smile on his face.

His hair was soft against my cheek and I loved the way he leaned into me, his comfort at the end of a long day.

On this night, a parents night to learn more about the new year and meet new staff, he ran away from me to see what was new. He’s independent now, excited for a new year and in some ways he doesn’t need Mom anymore.

But then there are those nights I hear him at my bedroom door and he tiptoes into the darkness and I ask what’s wrong.

“Can I have a hug?” he’ll ask, like he often does throughout the day, no matter where we are.

 “I just need a hug,” he says, and I know he wants to sleep next to me for the rest of the night.

I give him the hug and let him sleep next to me because I know one day he won’t want me to hug him or hold him, at least not very often .

I kiss his head on those nights and I feel his hair soft against my cheek and I close my eyes.

I breathe it all in because for these few moments, maybe a few hours, he needs me to be his comfort again.

Because why not? How children remind us we are free

She is drawn to mud puddles like a moth to flame.

Like a horse to water.

Like a fly to poop.

Like me to chocolate.

 

She was drawn that day and I let her – even though she was wearing a new cute, light pink dress and I had a feeling it would end up splattered with brown within a matter of seconds.

Still, I love the idea of children being allowed to be children and of me being able to photograph it.

She started by stepping in the water in one part of the gravel parking lot, standing with the the murky brown liquid covering both her ruby red slippers with the sparkles – the slippers she had picked out six months ago on a shopping trip for basketball shoes for her brother.

She’d been drawn to those slippers too. She put them on and said “these mine,” and left her old shoes in the floor and walked toward the exit.

When those slippers were covered in water on this day she smiled, or rather smirked, and started to step in each little pool of muddy water with a low chuckle of delight. Soon she was running through the puddles and asking me to do the same.

It was a familiar scene. She’d done the same two days earlier and we had run in the ankle deep water in another parking lot and laughed as we ran.

People smiled at us as they walked by on their way to the local clinic. I think they wanted to run in puddles too.

On this day I ran again with her because that’s why God gives us children – to remind us how be free, that we are free in Him.

Free to splash in puddles.

Free to not care what anyone else thinks.

Free to remember who we really are.

Children remind us that sometimes we need to stop and feel the water squish into our shoes and between our toes and then we need to giggle and see how much mud we can splatter up out of the puddle and all over our clothes.

Children remind us to climb a tree because – why not?

Children remind us that pushing a cart across a parking lot as fast as you can and then jumping on the back of it and riding it to your car is – well – really fun.

Children remind us to be distracted by the way the sun hits the sunflowers in the fields and the butterfly fluttering among the cattails by the pond.

Children remind us how nice it is to hold someone’s hand when you walk across the street.

Children remind us that sometimes we need to let go and simply be alive.

Her brother jumped across the puddle and landed on his feet.

She jumped across the puddle and landed on her rear in the middle of the puddle.

And she laughed and I had a good feeling she flopped in the water on purpose.

Who will show me to stop and laugh in the puddles when my children are older?

Who will remind me it’s ok to not be serious all the time?

Who will hold my hand when I cross the street?

Who will whisper as I walk across a park “I love you, mama?” leaving me with that funny feeling you get in your chest right before you cry?

Why do we forget how to laugh, to splash, to play as we grow?

Why do we forget to live instead of just exist?

Because sometimes it’s okay to not be happy your kids are growing up so fast

You know what’s really annoying?

Having to say what a blessing it is to watch our children grow up.

I see it all the time in the photography world. A mom-tog (not a bad term in my mind though it is to some) posts a photo of her oldest on instagram and writes a beautiful piece of prose about how much they miss when this growing child was young and innocent and liked to cuddle. Inevitably some other mom writes “but it’s such a blessing to see them grow, isn’t it?”

I have this suspicion that the other mom writes this because she herself knows the dark, ugly truth of parenting: yes, watching them grow is a blessing but yes, it also sucks raw, rotten eggs.

You know what?

I’m tired of us moms thinking we are horrible human beings if we admit there are days we can’t stand that our children are growing older and aren’t as sweet and cuddly as they once were.

We need to embrace our feelings even if it doesn’t fit our Pinterest list of perfect motherisms (yes, I know it isn’t a word,  but you can pretend it is).

Does it mean we love our children less as they grow out of our arms and into independence? Of course not, but we need to stop feeling less than because sometimes we cry when we see how much they’ve changed over the years.

We all know what’s behind our tears.

Nostalgia.

Joy. 

Sweet memories.

Selfishness.

Yes, selfishness.

We don’t want them to grow up and move on. Why? Because moms, deep down, feel very strongly that once their children grow up and move out they will no longer need them and worse yet? That we moms will no longer have worth, purpose, a reason to live.

Don’t get me wrong – our lives don’t completely revolve around our children’s to the point they are our only identity but then again – maybe it does for some of us.

And when we have to think about what our lives will be when they grow up and move on?

It’s hard.

It’s gut wrenching.

It’s scary.

It’s time for introspection we don’t want to face.

Yes, it’s necessary to accept our children are growing, not live in the past.

But it’s also hard and it’s ok to say that.

It is not only ok but it is healthy to honor how we feel in the moment let those emotions roll around and over and through us so we can deal with them in the open and not deep down in the dark caverns of our suppressed sensibilities

 Too often we let the opinions of others, those who tell us how we should feel, should act and react, rule us and guide us and drag us through life.

We’re not bad mothers if we cry in the darkness of the night, aching for the younger days. We’re not even bad mothers if we live there for a little while – but only for a little while.

It’s not wrong to weep about the days gone by but if we do it for too long we’ll miss out on the now.

We will miss out on who our children are now and who they are becoming.

 

There is no rule that says a mom, or a father, can’t say they are dreading their children growing older while also enjoying watching them grow.

The alternative to not seeing them grow up? It’s unthinkable and is a million times worse than watching them go from cuddly toddler to stand offish teen.

But, yes, mama, you are allowed to say “I miss my baby.”

“I miss my little boy.”

“I miss my little girl.”

“This is hard. “

There are a lot of other moms and dads who are right where you are, even if they don’t say it.

They have those hard moments.

You have those hard moments.

But, yes, they, you and I know it is a blessing and a gift to watch them grow, develop, and bloom even as we lament how fast it’s all going.

Mud, leg bruises and fun

I picked up my 10 year old son  the last day of camp and found him covered in mud and smiling – just the way I like to see him.

He attends a day camp about 45 minutes from our house in rural Bradford County, Pa. for a week each June.

Stoney Point Camp is literally in the middle  of nowhere, or at least it would be considered the middle of nowhere to anyone not originally from Northern Pennsylvania.

Someone from this county is used to dirt roads that lead to camps deep in the woods or sometimes to another dirt road and sometimes to an empty field.

The camp is full of Christian-based adventure and the day camp offers activities related to Christ and wildlife. They also offer horsemanship and teen camps throughout the summer.

Each day my son learned about wildlife, nature and God, which sounds like a good way to spend a summer day to me.

He spent two nights away from us at his  friend’s house because our friends live less than ten minutes from the camp and it was easier on those days to have them take him with them. My friend is also one of the art instructors at the camp.

I won’t lie, we missed him terribly while he was gone. 

We missed his laughter and the way he can make even the gloomiest day seem brighter.

He’s never been big on sleep overs, taking after his mom and preferring to spend his evenings home in the familiar so he was ready to come home on that final day, he said, even though he’d had fun with his friend.

We weren’t sure how Little Miss would handle her brother not being home since she’s so used to him being there every night. She handled his absence better than I thought, but did ask each night before bed where he was. The day we were ready to pick him up after his sleep over, I asked if she was excited to go get him, expecting a “yes!” but instead she said “No. I’m not excited anymore.” 

I guess the process of preparing to head out the door to pick him up had eroded her anticipation.

But she was excited when we finally had him in our van and headed home for the day, stopping by an ice cream stand, complete with a climbable wooden pirate ship and a small playground, on our way home.

Real life parenting moments

I’m in the kitchen trying to perfect a Ree Drummond recipe but every few moments my oldest is shouting that the cat is on his Lego table knocking pieces off to smack around on the floor or the youngest is holding an empty bowl and asking me when she can have “port top” (pork chop).

She’s looking up at me like a child from Oliver Twist, big green eyes, pitiful and pleading. One would think she hadn’t eaten in days, instead of five minutes before when her cheeks were full of apples.

Let’s be honest, I know I’m no Ree Drummond, whose children aren’t under foot when she cooks, or at least when she films for her show, but it would be nice to have at least twenty minutes uninterrupted to try to complete a new recipe (incidentally one of the Pioneer Woman’s. I had to leave out the grits because I’m allergic to corn.).

If I only have two children and a cat interrupting me then I have no idea how parents with more than two children cook, although they might have the benefit of an extra parent to help out. Extra help is rarely a luxury here thanks to my husband’s late afternoon to late night schedule and most of the time I really don’t mind.

On this day the ultimate interruption came between cooking the apple part of the recipe and browning the pork chops.

I heard the footsteps and the words before I even looked away from the cast iron pan the chops were sizzling in.

“Mama. I jus’ poop!”

I remember at that moment how Jonathan told me earlier his sister had stripped down naked. And sure enough she’s standing before me in her natural state pointing toward – not the bathroom – but the dining room.

“What do you mean you pooped? In the potty? You pooped in the potty?”

I knew she didn’t poop in the potty. Call it a intuition. Call it a horrible dreading feeling in the pit of my stomach.

“No. Right der. ” She was still pointing in the dining room.

“Where?” I asked, somewhat frantic to find “it” before my or my son’s feet did.

“Der! Under table!”

And indeed it was there.

Under the table.

Looking much different than it does squished in against her little tush in her diaper.

Yes, be thankful this is one of those life moments I didn’t photograph.

Unlike other similar events in the past (though this was the first pooping on the floor incident) I was able to stay calm and instead of asking “what were you thinking?!”because she wasn’t, because she’s two, I kept myself calm and used this as a learning experience for us both.

I ushered her into the bathroom and reminded her that was where we went when we had to poop, not under the dining room table.

She sat on the potty but let me know she didn’t have anymore poop left so I suggested she pee, which she did.

We celebrated and then I made sure she was instantly clad in a diaper before I let her loose in the house again.

I mentally committed to quickly respond with running to her with a diaper if I ever heard again, “Gracie just took all her clothes off.”

And despite all the interruptions, I managed not to burn dinner.