Blogging is fun, and serves as a wonderful time capsule for our family…..but to keep it real….it is also a pretty time consuming little hobby and it has slipped down the list of priorities on my to-do list. It’s been quite some time since I’ve posted, and there are a million reasons why, and I could get into them all but I’ll try to summarize the major reasons quickly.

1. We put our house on the market!
2. We sold our house!
3. We bought a new (old) house!
4. We are renovating the new house!

There’s a whole lot of other stuff, and I could clammer on about each one. But I am posting today because I really want to document THIS. For the last few months, the two little gremlins are wild. I mean, as for every parent, they are always a bit wild…but right now, for lack of a better description, they are WINNING. Their wild and crazy ways are beating me more days than not. They are nutballs. Talking back, questioning seemingly every statement we make. Lots of pushing back from her, lots of whining and dramatic tears from him. Not listening when we address them. Unaware (or simply not being concerned with) the feelings of those around them. And being so very, very loud. (Jeff and I have absolutely no idea where that last part came from….just saying.)

And to be fair, we’ve been a little distracted.  (Refer to my list above.)  I’ve never lived in a house we were trying to sell before, we’ve never moved with children, and we’ve never done any kind of renovations before.  I’ll get into more of that later, but just so you know, finding matte black fixtures on a budget is…..challenging.  But I digress. 

The point is, I am certain that our kids are just bouncing off the walls so that they can feel out their boundaries again since everything they’ve known has changed and our new home still isn’t settled quite yet.  However, as a “be-all-end-all-reign-supreme-decision-maker-my-word-is-final” kind of mama….it’s been brutal. I have been exhausted by repeating myself, feeling as though the majority of my communication with them is to tell them to “wait just a second” or “stop” or “no” or “don’t go in there” or “wait that will cut your hand off!”

I’ve been frustrated, they’ve been frustrated, and between this and the stress we all feel from being so out of sorts for close to six months, it’s felt like a bit of a roller coaster in our house. So fittingly, after a fairly intense week for all of us, we went to the fair.

Fair 2

Not surprisingly, they did not follow directions, sobbed over lost races, whined, and demanded stuffed animals, all while Jeff and I cringed at their touching EVERY surface and then realizing the hand sani was in the car. So gross. But in between all of that they grinned and laughed and carried on with each other. And they were wild.
Fair 3

Following a ton of turns on the mini-coaster, bumper cars, and down the big slide, there was a melt down involving a candy apple, and we left the fair. We went down to the beach for the remainder of the day, and they ran and explored and screamed and chased birds and poked dead jelly fish. They hollered and shreaked and laughed. And they were WILD.
And here’s the thing. They are wild…they are free little spirits.

I watch that light and excitement in her eyes as she picks the very front cart on the roller coaster, and throws her hands immediately in the air like the total thrill seeker she is. I watch her run tirelessly down the beach, as the idea of sitting still in the sand has never even occurred to her. She has this guttural scream she unleashes and she tears after a flock of birds just so she can watch as they dramatically fly away. She gracefully leaps and twirls one moment and in the next she’s waist deep in a hole she dug for herself. She refuses to let me tie her hair back, preferring it wild and wavy and crazy in the wind.

Beach Bean

I watch his mischievous little smirk take over his face as he buries Jeff’s feet. I watch his eyes smash up into crescent moons when he grins as he hopes that the cute-factor will save him from whatever trouble he has just gotten himself into. When he sees a dog or animal anywhere, he is compelled to talk to it, wrestle with it, and become it’s friend. I watch his awkward little shimmy as he tucks his elbows into chicken wings and wiggles his hips…just because running normally is too boring for him. I listen as he follows his sister wherever she goes, seeking her approval ending every statement he makes with “right, R****?”
Beach Boy

And when I’m not in the thick of it…when I’m not at my wits end due to their naughtiness, I remember…life is about balance right?

I remember I am not here to tame her. {But let’s not behave like a zoo animal at the dinner table.}  I am not here to bottle her up and demand that she be quieter. {But let’s use our inside voice when we’re inside.} I want her to remain confident, self-assured, and un-apologetically able to use her voice. {But be respectful and not talk back.}

I want her to be herself, comfortable in her own skin, to be wild.

I remember I am not here to stifle his feelings. {But please stop whining over EVERYYYYYTHING.} I am not here to keep his questions to a minimum. {But can we listen for an answer before asking the same question again?} I want him to explore and experience new things fully without being rushed. {But for the love of all things holy, WE’RE LATE!}

I want him to remain curious, full of himself, and to be wild.

So I wanted to document that reminder to myself. I want to be present, to empower them to be themselves, to allow them room to express their own wild and free little minds, yet still provide boundaries to guide and shape them, creating borders to respect others and themselves in the mean time.


I wanted to remember the crazy six months that has created so many unscheduled, uncontrolled, and unpredictable moments. We have been out of whack, out of our comfort zones, (and out of a master bathroom and closet), just flying by the seat of our pants. And guess what. We’re still here. Still imperfect. Still us. So here’s to sharing closets and bathrooms with four and six year olds, and cheers to the wild, to the crazy, and the loud. #YOLO, right?

Spa Themed Birthday Party

I’ve never had a birthday party….and I don’t say that in a sad, woe is me kind of way.  I say it so you could understand why having a special birthday moment for the people I love most is so important to me.  I want them to feel so so special, and to feel how important they are to me.  So in my first years of motherhood, I planned the little people’s birthday parties for weeks and sometimes months in advance.  Laboring over each of the smallest details.   I took so much time and care and pride in each of their special days, and I loved the final results, and the look on their faces….but I would be busy and sidelined with the production of it all, and I placed a lot of pressure on myself to do it ALL myself…as though the actual labor was the love.  The reality is that the details of the party truly don’t matter to either of them….and I started abandoning the BIG party last year by seriously shrinking both of their guest lists for her Tea Party Birthday and also by hosting his Lightning McQueen Birthday at an outside venue.  And I gotta tell ya, scaling back was….delightful.

This year, our little lady requested a spa themed birthday party…and I thought about putting it on at home…and then I pictured six little girls running around my house with wet nail polish and sparkly makeup all over the…..NO.  About that time, Whimsy and Wonder popped up in my Facebook feed.  I took R with me to check it out, and as she twirled and whirled around the absolutely precious space, I met with Kelly Catron, the owner of this venue as well as Gigi Noelle Events.  Within twenty minutes the entire party was planned.  BOOM.

Spa Birthday Party Decorations

All of that goodness right there…I took care of a small detail or two, a cake, and some snacks for our girl and her sweet friends….but the rest was all put together and provided by the Whimsy and Wonder staff.  In addition to the space, the beautiful decorations, favors, activities, and set up, the package included two party hosts to guide and entertain the girls, all while I roamed and snapped photos and Daddy watched the chaos in comfort.  They got mani’s and pedi’s and made their own chapstick…

Spa Party Manicures
They took their time getting their hair done, sparkly make up, and chocolate facials.

Spa Theme Birthday Party
And that’s when the sweetest part of the whole day happened.  These two have a bond like only a girl and her father can have, and when she declined the chocolate facial for herself, he offered to do it in her place if she was the one to apply it.  She was THRILLED.

Spa Birthday Party
After the girls were pampered, they sat together at the table giggling and laughing and blowing their noise makers.  A lot.

Spa Birthday Cake Time
It was the loudest “spa” I have ever been to.  And then it somehow became a dance/karaoke party.  These girls were “Let It Go”ing and “Whip and Nae Nae”ing all over that stage.

Spa Birthday Party
I am so tickled to have found Whimsy and Wonder, and had such an amazing experience.  A huge thank you to those lovely ladies!  Like their Facebook page, they have tons of events like Parents Night Out, Daddy Daughter Date Night, and Mommy and Me activities, as well as hosting several packaged parties.  The birthday girl and her girlfriends had an amazing afternoon.  The expense was comparable to what I spend on their celebrations when I have my hands on every detail, and I could not have been less stressed.  Which is actually getting MORE than I’m paying for….

It’s definitely our busiest time of the year now, and we’re adding lots of projects and excitement to an already crazy time.  I am hopeful to get some posts finalized for publishing, including a summer trip to New York City, the kids first football tail gate, Halloween, and a certain little boy’s fourth birthday party.  All while we prep for Thanksgiving travel and the Christmas season.  So until the next post….cheers!

Picture {Not} Perfect: Photography Tips

On occasion, people ask me for tips because I am “such a great photographer!”  Which is incredibly flattering, however completely inaccurate.  Maybe not completely….by definition a photographer is “one who takes photographs, or practices photography…”, and I certainly do that.  But I have way too much respect for the education, experience, and skill of professional photographers to lump myself into that crowd.

Summer Babes
Truly, I’m a picture taker.  I have invested in a DSLR and some lenses, and I have basic editing software, yes.  But I am just recently scratching the surface when it comes to really knowing how to use my equipment in its full capacity.  I’ve done some research on basic camera settings, on different techniques, I have pinned quick tips to improve this or that, but I struggle remembering on the fly exactly which settings are best for different situations.
Bed Snuggles
I usually have a grasp of what I want an image to catch already in my mind when I draw my camera up and look through the lens…I do my best to seek out that image….and then CLICK!  I do take composition into consideration, and I do occasionally screw around in manual mode, adjusting for aperture, ISO, and shutter speed.

But mostly, I’m just pulling out my camera A LOT.

Playing Outside

Beach Girl

Hilton Head Dinner
I take my camera outside when they play.  I take my camera when we go to the beach, when we go to dinner, when we stay home. Seriously…it’s in my bag when we go to the grocery store.
Grocery Store
I love the everyday. The messy hair. The stained shirt. The sleepy head. The dirty face.  The expressions that are so fleeting they are rarely caught with my cell phone, and certainly can’t be guaranteed in our annual family photo session with a professional.  I want to get their raw emotions, and their reality.  So I document our family in the everyday.
Messy Hair

Dirty Faces

Fall Beach Day
They aren’t perfect quality photos by any stretch, and occasionally Jeff will ask me (lovingly) to come out from behind the camera…but we both know how quickly life flies by, and having images that capture our life over time is something we care about.

Playground Boy
Dancing QueenThe thing is, I can tell you for each one of these photographs what I was feeling, what we were talking about, and what was going on just out of frame.  I can tell you what they were saying, and I remember what it sounded like.  Most importantly, I can remember what that moment FELT like.  It’s why I pull my camera out every single day.  I hadn’t thought about that trip to Hilton Head in a long time…but looking at the photos brought me right back to that trip, conjuring up memories that took place in the moments I snapped the photos AND all the moments in between.  And that is what I aim to do.

Hilton Head Pics

Painted Faces
My point with this particular post, is to say that I don’t have a ton of photography knowledge, but I do have some non-techy, non-professional things I personally take into account.  So here’s my eight cents:

1.  Pull out your camera, no matter what kind you have, and just start shooting!  Try to carry it with you.  They are more durable than you think.  The more you use it, the more comfortable you will get with it clunking around in your bag or around your neck.

2.  If it is capable, set your camera shooting mode to CONTINUOUS SHOOTING.  This will allow you to hold the trigger and take lots of frames super fast.  You end up with lots of duplicate or close to duplicate shots, but with a moving subject (kids tend to do that) one of those frames will capture that exact moment you were looking for!  Once you have more practice with your settings, you won’t need to do this as often.

3.  Take a second and play with the settings on your dial…  Get familiar with what they are there for.  You don’t even have to get into the “fancy” settings (P, Tv, Av, M) to get great photos….but getting off of Auto and getting a feel for what else your camera presets can offer you is helpful, and you’re more likely to produce an image you like a little more.  Everyyyybody loves Av though, subject is in focus and the background is blurry.

4. Try not to use flash, rely on natural light.  For me, flash tends to be….harsh.  (This is most likely an operator issue….I don’t hold anything against a flash, I just don’t know how to work with it well.)  So I prefer not to use it whenever possible.  Of course, in low light you will most likely need to, or your subjects may be blurry or soft.  In that case, editing can help to soften the photo, and pull up the shadows in the background to balance. (See number 8.)

5.  Find a cheat sheet that works for you, and save it on your phone.  Find my favorites here.

6.  Move.  Move yourself so that you see more of your subject at different angles.  Move your subject to face the sun, instead of you shooting into it.  Move your camera just off kilter, sometimes with the subject to the left or right, or hold your camera so the frame is diagonal.  For me, I like it when the photo isn’t always perfectly centered.

7.  Stay still.  I know, I just said MOVE, but reducing camera shake is the number one way to get cleaner, crisper images.  I mean keep your camera still when you pull the trigger.

8.  Edit.  Not a TON…okay, sometimes a ton.  I just recently purchased Adobe Photoshop CC, which includes Lightroom.  I use Photoshop to compile photo and product collages for this blog, but haven’t even attempted editing photos with it.  In my experience, Lightroom is much more user friendly.  But even before that, I used the basic Windows Photo Gallery tools to edit.  Super simple stuff, adding saturation or cooling down a photo temperature, correcting red eye, and cropping.  It may take a minute or two, but I almost always tweak a photo before I feel like it’s finished.

As for equipment, I am partial to Canon, only because it was touted as the most user friendly and had the best reviews for my price point.  I started with a Canon Rebel xsi about six years ago, and when I dropped it (whaaaaaaa?????) on the Thursday before Easter this year I went straight to the store and bought the same camera in it’s newest version, the Canon Rebel SL1.  In addition to the 18-55mm lens which comes with the camera, I have purchased a few lenses.  One for catching details at a distance (Canon 55-250mm), and one for super wide angles to catch interiors and architecture (Canon 10-22mm).  My go to purchase was a hood for each lens, they help to shield the light flooding into the lens, which tends to blow out images taken in broad day light.

I’m actually dedicating some time to improve my camera skillzzzz now that the school year is back in session.  I’m so grateful to some professional photographer friends who are pointing me in the right direction.  It’s amazing when someone wants to share their passion and skills with others!  I want to really focus on how to produce more clear shots INSIDE…where there is less light.  It’s a monster yall.  I fight to find balance between crisp photos that are bright and having too much grain (noise) degrading the quality.  But like with anything else worth doing, it will take time and practice.  If I ever get a good hang of it I’ll be sure to share!

There’s a million little stories that happen every day, some special days and some every days.  If you’re like me you’ll want to remember all of them.  The picture does not have to be perfect, it just has to be taken.  So go grab your camera and capture yours!  Cheers yall!

Back To School!

This was the first year since they started preschool that come mid-July I wasn’t counting the days until school started…ready for the two hour respite and the structure that comes from having a routine.  Not this year.  While I was excited for them to go to school, I enjoyed so very much this summer of leisure.  They are in this incredible sweet spot that I’m certain will end soon.  They are still young enough that they are still our little ones, they still love to snug, they still want to play with Jeff and I, they don’t shy away from holding my hand, but they are growing and developing more as individuals each day.

It is a big year for our girl, kindergarten!  There were no tears, no fear, no real trepidation for any of us.  We all knew since the end of last year that she was absolutely ready.  The only anxiousness came from the excitement and curiosity we felt when she was gone for seven hours, wondering….what is she doing???  We were all so excited to see her face, to hear all about her day, and to be reunited again that we all piled in the car to pick her up as a family!

Back To School
The boy didn’t start back to preschool until almost three weeks later.  Starting with our very first day at home “alone” together, two things happened.  We had about 75% less tantrums, and about 100% more talking.  Clearly without my attention divided in half, he calmed down enough to start communicating without losing his mind.  To the tune of about 7,000 words a minute.  The kid tells me EVERYTHING.  And I love to hear him chatter on.  Heaven help me though if he thinks I’m not listening, or if I try to finish a sentence for him (for the sake of time)…if I do I’m certain to get a big ‘ole “ohhhhhhhhhhhhhh mommy I was TALK.ING.” (Pictured below on the right.) While we loved all the one on one time, he was thrilled to get back to school, to see the teachers and the buddies he loves, and to have a break from the hovering mother who won’t let him jump off of allllll high things.

Back to School 2
It was a fantastic start back to the school year. Even in the weeks and days that they have been back, we are all gaining a little more independence. They are becoming such confident children, more assertive, more responsible, and they are constantly surprising us with the funny things they have to say. I’m learning that they don’t need me to put their shoes and socks on for them, even if it takes so long for them to do it that I know we are going to be late if I don’t help….I’m learning. They are taking their school days in with excitement and confidence, crushing their first days back.

Back to School 3
We are tickled with both of their schools, and we know they are loved by their teachers. We are super lucky. If you’re local to the Myrtle Beach area and you are looking for information on where they go, please let me know! I’m happy to share our experiences in their preschool and elementary school selections privately. Here’s some more first day photos.

Back to School 4
My kids have lots of big plans for dance parties, some beach time, and showing property with Daddy this weekend. I have a suspicion that some college football will be sprinkled in there somewhere too. I’m off to Charlotte to see my dearest and her family, meeting her newest addition. I just received a text that there is to be mimosas, bloody mary’s, a toddler, and a baby by the pool tomorrow. Baaahaaaaa….don’t you love the second kid?? Cheers to the weekend yall!