Friday, December 20, 2013

letters to our sons | December 2013

I have great intentions, but without deadlines most of those don’t come to fruition. One of the reasons I created a blog was to capture this time when my sons are young. So I’m excited to join a group of friends, moms, and fellow photographers as we share about the boys in our lives on the third Friday of each month. We will be writing a letter to our sons each month. You can follow our blog circle to Leslie Norgren  of Loving What We Live Photography next, and continue all the way back here.

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Dear Nolan,

Just typing your name makes me smile. That’s you, above, in a passport photo at age 5 1/2. Hilarious. Happy. Alive. Full of enthusiasm and so full of love. That’s how I’d describe you.

I take a little pride in not having a favorite child, but five is definitely one of my favorite ages. Still unabashedly affectionate, and able to share all your ideas and stories, you delight me.


You recently carried a stack of board books to the couch, announcing that you were going to “reread all my favorites---from when I was little.” I’m including a 40-second video of you reading Brown Bear, because this is my blog and I can get away with it here.

I still think of you as little, but your body is growing. You’ve lost that Buddha belly I so loved. You started kindergarten this year, and you love it, despite the occasional complaint that you have to go “tomorrow, again?”

webNolan's first day at HMK

One of the highlights of my day is walking down to the bus stop with Duke to greet you. I love that you are home an hour earlier than your brothers and that we still have a little “mommy and me time” as you call it. I love that you are already mid-sentence, telling me the big news from Ms. Sheila’s class, before you finish stepping off the bus. I love that your coat is half on and half your backpack unpacked, even though I complain about both every time.

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You say “thank you” more than anyone else I know. I still remember when you weren’t yet talking (and you had us slightly worried you know, waiting until you were well past two to start), and you walked up to your dad, signing “thank you” and gesturing at the balloon you’d been playing with for days. When you learn I’m making pasta for dinner, you run to hug me and always say, “Thanks, Mom. You’re the best.” And I know you’re mostly relieved it isn’t the stew or soup you dread, but I soak it in all the same.

2013 11 26_Powershot_0766Photo taken by my mother-in-law, on my point & shoot, with flash, at the Walnut Room; i.e.: the best camera is the one you have with you!

You will forever be the great surprise of my life. We had just driven all our baby hand-me-downs to your Aunt Elizabeth in Texas when I started throwing up on the way home. I’m a lister and a planner, my boy, and you threw me for a loop, but the best things that have ever happened to me (falling for your dad my senior year, moving to Utah of all places) have all been unexpected. You balance our family in a way that we so needed. You lifted the pressure of comparison off your big brothers, and you gave me a chance to revisit mothering an infant with the full knowledge that it was my last time. So you might be indulged just a bit, okay, more than a bit, but really---we’re indulging ourselves in you.

Thank you, Nolie, for sharing your joy and laughter with all of us. Thank you for teaching us to be grateful and to see everyday things as adventures. May you continue to grow and explore, always knowing you are loved.

More than all the stars,


Sunday, December 15, 2013

Photo+Quote | December Blog Hop

"Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful." - Norman Vincent Peale

This marks the final Photo+Quote blog hop. On the 15th of every month we were challenged to pair a chosen quote with a photograph.You can see how the other photographers in the series interpreted this month’s quote by following the blog hop to Pam Parisi of P Squared Studios

A great big thank you to Pam who coordinated the blog hop all year and to all the great photographers who participated along the way!

You can see my past participation in the links below:

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Things I Learned in November

Aspen Grove at Warner Lake

Inspired by Emily Freeman’s series and a tradition in my besties’ annual letters, I’m sharing a few of the things I learned this month.

1. “Huh” means the same thing in every language.

Did you know this? Do you find it as amazing as I do? Because even “um” isn’t the same thing in several languages, and don’t even ask me about ‘blah’ (because I’m sure I’ve already told you that story).

2. I don’t shoot weddings, but I found this wedding photographer’s tumblr hilarious.

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A shot I took at my friend Natalie’s wedding in September. Love her daughter’s spontaneous reaction to their kiss!

3. I get more requests from brides than I do from new moms, even though I’m clearly a newborn photographer. Moab doesn’t need more photographers, in my opinion, but more of them need to get online.

4. DFTBA means Don’t Forget To Be Awesome.

You probably already knew that, but I did not. It’s the tag line/trademark of Nerd Fighters, though John Green explains here in his charming way why it isn’t officially trademarked.

We used to say “May the force be with you” in the mornings as part of our goodbye ritual. Then it became, “Have fun stormin da castle!” For a while I switched to: “Be careful out there among the English.” Now we’re saying “Don’t forget to be awesome”---unless I’m yelling, “Hurry, you’re gonna miss the bus!” instead.

5. I’ve learned more about comic books in the last four weeks than I ever imagined, thanks to our new Comic Creators Club. My sons are my main teachers, but Scott McCloud’s Making Comics: Storytelling Secrets of Comics, Manga and Graphic Novels has also been the most enjoyable guide.2013 11 11_1113A blurry shot with my niece Jane who lent me her bedroom for the weekend.

6. One of the highlights of the month---and the year---was visiting my sister Erin in California and, with her, attending a retreat led by Karen Maezen Miller. I can’t quite articulate what I learned there, but a little more “undistracted awareness” would have helped me make my connection on the flight out there.

7. I accepted the fact that I’m not getting a smart phone and finally upgraded my Tracfone. Thanks to Katherine’s post, I can finally text a single line in less than 10 minutes. I’m no longer the last person in the U.S. with a flip phone. Gotta say though, that flip phone served me well for nine years.

8. Tracfone required me to give the phone a nickname. True story. Sean came up with Passepartout. I liked the literary reference, though I doubt my non-smart phone could live up to the name and thought it best I be able to pronounce the nickname. So we’re going with Zhean, as in Jean Passepartout.

9. I got obsessed with the idea of habits this month. Not a new obsession but newly intensified after my friend & guru Lori linked to the TEDx talk, Tiny Habits. I’ve been listening to The Power of Habit in the car. It might take me six months to finish since everything is a five-minute drive here. More about this topic at the end of the year.

10. I learned that even though this blog is partly for work, I’m much more motivated to write if I let myself write about what I want. I’ll still be sharing newborn sneak peeks, but changing a few things around here in the new year.

Just for fun…if you read all this way, and can name the three movies quoted in #4, email the titles to dokphoto AT hotmail DOT com and I’ll award you a prize. Deadline is December 9th!

Don’t forget to be awesome!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Tuesdays Unwrapped: a child’s handmade card

There are so many stories from our road trip to Chicago. So many gifts to savor from our time in the city and with family. Today I want to unwrap just one small one.

When my dad pulled into his garage on the drive home from my brother’s house after Thanksgiving dinner, I was struck by the sight of my mom’s handwriting on a pair of plastic drawers. One drawer was labeled Maria and the other Elizabeth. In March it will have been two years since my mom died, and so I have become accustomed to grief’s unexpected, spontaneous strikes. Surely I’d seen those drawers before, and Mom’s handwriting everywhere in Dad’s house, but that night, the sight left me breathless and tear-stained.

One of the tasks that nagged at Mom during her illness was sorting through old papers and she often talked about wanting to give each of her children a box of their papers that she had kept. She often asked me to come home to help with this task, but then, once I was there, would have no interest in it. I assumed these two plastic storage drawers held old class photos and birthday cards of my two sisters. I assumed I reacted to their sight because they brought to mind how my mom would doodle while on the phone, and her favorite doodle---a list of her children’s names.

So I didn’t go out to the garage with them in mind. I was looking for a ladle. But I opened one and found all the letters I had written my mother while in Russia. I’d never even thought of asking for them, and didn’t realize just how much I wanted them until they were in my hands. Thank you, Mom, for keeping them.

I also found this card.

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I was in 2nd grade when I made it. My dad was in the hospital with an infection in his heart, the only time I can recall him ever missing work. I love so many things here---the random circle sticker, my rendering of him smiling in bed, my creative spelling, and the offering of a prayer (poor banished children of Eve, indeed) that I only half-knew so it concludes: the end.

Most of all, I love the back image:

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People joke about the messiness of parenting young children, the mundane tasks, the bedtime sagas and endless questions. It’s much harder to describe the love fest. As a young girl I was in love with my dad, as I assume all daughters are. I needed him to be perfect and so he was.

Each of my sons went through a phase when they would ask me to marry them. When they’d hold my face in their small hands and whisper how much they loved me. Nolan is in that phase now, pausing at random times in our dashing through the loop to take off his mitten and ask me to plant a kiss on his palm. Sitting on my dad’s couch, I held Nolan on my knee while he threw his arms around my neck and laughed in-between kissing my cheeks. My dad was sitting next to me and he smiled watching us. “He’s exactly like you,” he said, and I know he didn’t mean Nolan’s blue eyes or chubby cheeks.

To parent well means to soak in all that unconditional love children give you, to enjoy that brief time when you are the sun of their solar system, and to gracefully let it go. To know you’ve done your job well if you are no longer the center of their world. I am in awe of how my father managed to do that---I can’t fathom how hard it was---or will be---to move from the being the sun to one of many moons.


This post is inspired by Emily Freeman of Chatting at the Sky and her invitation to Unwrap Your Tuesdays during advent.

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