Saturday, July 26, 2014

Chubby kid

I was about 8 years old when I remember first developing any sort of insecurity about my body.  I was at a church party in Chile when a friend of my parents approached us and mentioned what a cute chubby kid I was.

Chubby kid?  Was he talking about me?  He patted me on the head and smiled kindly down at me. Oh my gosh... he was.  I was mortified.

From that one small comment coming from a man I barely knew, I never saw myself the same again.  I was the chubby kid. And just like that, gone were the days of going swimming without a pair of shorts over my swim suit.  And with it came a host of other insecurities that I heaped upon myself.

As a senior in high school living in Brazil, a woman approached me with a huge smile and complimented me on how "gordinha" I had become since moving to Brazil.  Again, mortified.  I soon found out that Brazilians consider this is a sincere compliment, but for me, she had just re-cemented every insecurity I ever had about my body.

Last night Dennis pulled an all-nighter working on the house.  That crazy man worked for over 29 hours straight.  He started at the break of day yesterday, worked through the day and then through the night.  He is amazing.... and slightly insane, I think.  I call it his "mad man mode."

I couldn't sleep knowing that he was working through the night so I started browsing through some old pictures.  I saw myself in 2007, holding Luke just days after he was born.  In 2008, finishing my first marathon.  In 2009, on the beach in Indonesia with Dennis.  As I combed through picture after picture, I was shocked as I looked at those images.  Was I really ever so thin? There I was in those pictures at a size 2, yet I still remember feeling a little like that "chubby kid" who was holding on to my parents hand in that church house in Chile, 25 years ago.

I've long since given away all of my size 2 clothing.  Not so much out of resignation, but more in a gesture of self-acceptance.  It was an act of self-kindness that was long in the making.  I could no longer hold on to that woman in the pictures.  I had to let her go and discover a new person- one that had something better to fill her life with other than exercising and calorie counting.  Yes, that new woman has something much, much better.  And they came in the form of 5 little rugrats.

Now my closet is filled with clothing from "the other side of the aisle."  You know, the side of clothing stores that is designed for wider bums and poochy tummies.  But ironically, I'm more at peace with my body now than I ever have been before.  Of course, I would love to lose the baby weight, and am actively trying to do so, but finally my goals are born less from vanity and more from wellness.

Body image is something that I think will always be a challenge for many of us, regardless of our size.  But when we take a moment to think of what brought our bodies to this point, it's hard not to do so without a sense of awe and gratitude towards God.  Five beautiful human lives, more precious to me than anything else, were carried within this jiggly tummy for a total of 50 months!  Any level of self-acceptance for me will never come in a dress size, but more from a feeling of gratitude for life.

Friday, July 11, 2014


This morning I was so tired.  Not sleepy, just tired.  I shared my bed with a ten pound little sleep bandit that insisted all night on hogging our bed, not to mention the milk producing parts of my body as well.  Dennis has been working almost round-the-clock on our new house, and the past few weeks have been as hot as Dante's ninth circle of hell.

Camden turned 10 yesterday, and maybe it was realizing that I've done this same thing for the past 10 years that made me so tired.  I know.  Cry me a river and call the waaaahmbulence.  How can I complain when I work outside the home only one day a week, have five great kids, and a husband that most sappy romance novelists have to make up in their minds?  I know so many women have it harder, but it doesn't change the fact that I'm just tired.

I've ran a few marathons in my day and have decided that motherhood is a lot like running a marathon.  A really, really long one.  It's not running that's the hard part, it's the fact that you have to do it for 26.2 miles that's hard.  Sometimes you feel like you're on mile one- energized and starry-eyed at the noble feat you're embarking on in raising tiny cavepeople into functioning members of society.  Oh, the places we'll go and the crafts we'll do along the way.

And sometimes you're stuck for days on mile 20- that sucky mile that makes you want to stop alongside the road and cry at the thought that you still have so far to go.

Yesterday I had to run some errands with my five kids, plus one of Camden's friends, and was complimented by an elderly gentleman on my cat herding skills.  Yup, that pretty much sums it up. "Been herding em' cats for over a decade now," I wanted to say.

This morning I was having one of those mile 20 days.  I was sorely tempted to crawl back into bed and let the little anarchists rule the roost.  But the refrigerator had been barren for days and for some crazy reason I can't feed leftover birthday cake to a family of seven for the next week.

So, I loaded up the circus and headed to the store.  As I drove on the freeway, I was far away with my mind in a fog.  The kids chattered at me from the backseat as I gave them the occassional absent-minded "mmm-hmm" and "yes, that would be silly if houses could fly."

When I got to the store, I continued on with my disconnectedness, walking the aisles, filling the grocery cart.  And then it happened.  I don't even remember what she said, but Calista said something that made me stop and laugh outloud.  That little nymph with wide eyes and a lisp were enough to bring even the most distracted mom out of oblivion and back to what was right in front of her.  I was finally seeing her for the first time that day.  Really seeing her.  And my gosh, that girl is adorable. How did I ever get so lucky?

Words I had read long ago from President Hinckley came to my mind, "The best antidote I know for worry is work. The best medicine for despair is service. The best cure for weariness is the challenge of helping someone who is even more tired.  ... Forget yourself and get to work."

To forget myself...  That goes against every natural grain and inclination in me. My brother shared a clip on his blog that said, "Life breaks us all."  Normally we fight against or flee from whatever it is that's breaking us.  And motherhood has in a sense broken me.  But ironically, it hasn't broken me from something better into something worse.  It has broken me from someone who once thought I knew everything, into someone who realizes I have so much to learn- to become. Similar to a wild horse that needs broken to become usable to it's master, motherhood breaks me constantly.  And ironically, I like the "broken" me so much better.

To remember to turn into- not away from- the very thing that's breaking me.  That is the challenge to remember.  And when I do, mile 20 becomes one of accomplishment, rather than one of discouragment.  And the view becomes so much sweeter.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Mixed Labels

Over the past few months I've been trying to narrow down the many areas that I seem to have spread myself thin.  One of those includes my photography and shooting for clients.  As part of that narrowing down effort, I'm turning down clients and shooting only for family and close friends as well as closing down my photography blog.  For the next several posts I'll be pulling some of the posts over from my photography blog that I wanted to keep as part of my family blog since the pictures are more personal in their nature.


I created this image several months ago but have never gotten to a point where I feel like it fully expresses what I want it to.  I still don’t feel like it’s quite there yet…

As I sat on my computer creating it, my 9 year old came up behind me and asked what I was doing.
“Take a look at this,” I said to him.  “What do you think this picture is trying to say?”

He cocked his head to a side and looked thoughtfully at the picture for several seconds.  

“I think it’s trying to say that everyone has a good, or a pretty side- and a bad, or ugly side to them.  But there is more good than there is bad,” he said.

“Yes,” I said as I wrapped my arm around him.  That’s exactly what I had been pondering over the past few days.

So often I struggle with my own judgments of people- particularly when I feel terribly let down and disappointed by them at one moment, and then surprised at their goodness and compassion in what seems like the very next moment.  It would be so much easier to put people in little boxes labeled “dangerous” or “unreliable,” and then to judge every future interaction based on what the label reads on their box.  Where it becomes tricky is when their labels read, “untrustworthy but compassionate” or “selfish but loving.”  So much disappointment and frustration comes from these “mixed labels” as we try to navigate among the people we love the most.  

But I think how often I am grateful for my own mixed labels.  “Short-tempered but well-intended,” “impulsive but thoughtful.”  How grateful I am that people haven’t written me off, or put me in a little box that bears only the label of my faults.  

I think when it all comes down to it, this is what I find the most difficult in knowing how to love people… to love them fully despite a dark side- a dark side that is a common thread among all of humanity.

Stump Me

When I was first dabbling with my camera, I felt discouraged with how far I felt I needed to go to capture any sort of image that was satisfying to me.  I tried talking to several photographers but found out quickly that most of them stay mum when it comes to disclosing any sort of helpful knowledge or tips.  It was incredibly frustrating.  One day at work, Dennis was telling one of his co-workers, who is the photographer for the company he works for, about the trouble I was having finding people who would answer my questions.  Graciously, he offered to meet with me one evening and answer any and every question that popped into my head regarding photography, which were many.  I was so grateful to him for his time and encouragment.  Gems like him are few and far between in the photography industry, I've discovered.

He encouraged me to set challenges for myself and gave me my first challenge- to photograph 10 common household items but to make them as unindentifiable as possible.  But they had to be lit and in focus.  If I could stump him, he said, I passed the challenge.

The answers are below.

2- collander
3- dryer sheet
4- hair gel
5- pages of a phone book
6- plastic grocery store bag
7- forks
8- drinking glass
9- ice
10-aluminum foil (that one was too easy, I think)

Stress reliever

One of my favorite things to do, especially at the end of a stressful day, is to take out my camera and try to learn a new photography technique.  This has proven to be one of the most effective stress relievers for me.


Panning: two ducks flying across the sky on a cold winter day

Rembrandt lighting again

Playing with shadows


For Camden's baptism announcement a couple of years ago, I wanted to try Rembrandt lighting.  With this technique, the light and dark create a contrast, or chiaroscuro.  The darker side of the face is favored and an inverted triangle of light is created under the eye.  Sounded complicated when I read about it, but was actually kind of fun to try to capture.


On a cold and frosty night in early January, Dennis and I were out on a date to dinner.  As we sat in the parking lot, I noticed how the steam coming off the people could be seen as they walked out of the restaurant and in front of the headlights of the cars in the parking lot.  

I tried to duplicate it when I got home by dipping is clothes in hot water and having him stand outside in the snow in 0 degree temperature with a light shining behind him.  What a good sport.  Seriously, how many husbands would do that for their wives?  

Broken Glass

The older I get, the more I realize how much of a visual person I am.  As I read books or participate in conversations, my mind constantly draws up vivid imagery.  The idea for this picture came after a conversation with a dear friend.

My friend told me of something she had once read, describing our lives as a sort of window from which we look out.  As we sit behind this glass, we are granted a view of our world and the people and experiences in it.  With each blow that comes our way- be it painful words or experiences, divorce, or the death of a loved one- our glass takes a hit.  At times it leaves a tiny ding-hardly distinguishable- but at other times, the blow can leave behind terrible damage, permanently distorting our view.

She spoke with heart-felt tenderness of someone who she holds very dear, who by no fault of her own views life through a tragically cracked and damaged window.

We all know and love people who suffer likewise.  ...And standing by and watching them suffer because of those long-ago damages, sometimes for an entire lifetime, can be almost as painful as the blows themselves.

As my friend spoke, I thought of those people who I hold dear to my heart who suffer similarly and my heart ached.


The morning after completing three days of jury duty, I woke up at 6:30am with an insatiable urge to take my camera out into the fog.  One of the hardest parts about completing my jury duty was  knowing I would be stuck in a courtroom all day, missing out on the amazing fog and frost we were getting.  Knowing that the fog would burn off by 9am and considering that it was a whopping 0 degrees outside, I didn't feel right about asking anyone to come with me on such short notice-  but I needed someone to be in my pictures!!!

I asked my husband if he would consider taking the pictures for me if I adjusted the settings beforehand and stood in as the subject.  With some quick instruction on the kind of composition I was looking for, he began clicking away.  He did a pretty good job, I think!

But he has no power here

Several months ago I had a gruesome dream in the middle of the night.  In it, Satan and his minions were torturing and mutilating women and children and I was forced to watch in horror.  In my dream, I remember sobbing and begging them to stop. 

I was awakened from my dream by my baby daughter crying, wanting to be comforted.  The dream had seemed so real that as I picked her up out of her crib, I was still shaken.  With heart still pounding and my trembling hands I rocked her back and forth, willing myself to push the images from my dream out of my head and the fear from my heart.

As she quieted down and fell back to sleep in my arms, a simple but almost audible phrase slipped into my mind, “…but he has no power here.” 

That simple phrase brought me great comfort not only in the quiet of my daughter’s bedroom that night, but also as terrible tragedies unfolded around the world in the months to come. 

I remind myself of that phrase often when the atrocities of humanity seem too terrible to bear.

“…but he has no power here.”

Little Magician

As we drove to the store to pick up his cake on his sixth birthday, I watched him from the rearview mirror.  He sat in the backseat of the car staring out the window absent-mindedly with a small smile on his face.  No doubt he was imagining the upcoming adventures of the day.  As I watched him, I had a wave of nostalgia come over me.  I grew up hearing parents lament over their children's vanishing youth, but I never realized how quickly it really does fly by.  What I would do to freeze time at this moment and keep him six years old forever.

He wanted a magician theme this year for his party and his yearly pictures.  While it's likely just the flavor of the month as far as obsessions go, I don't think he could have picked a more fitting theme.  Not a day has gone by since the day he was born that he hasn't made me laugh.  Oh, how I love this little boy!

Little Angel

For Calista's birthday pictures last year, we did an angel themed birthday.  I've always felt that she is closer to heaven than most.  What a sweet and calming influence she has brought into our home.

I love these two pictures.  The moment of distress followed by the man she adores.