What We’ve Been Up To
What We’ve Been Up To

Hey hey hey!!!  Long time no personal updates.  Sorry.  I know you all have been dying to know what’s going on with my little herd of people.  Well, here is the rundown since the beginning of 2014.  (Many of these have been pulled from Instagram.  You should follow me there.)

The boys all enjoyed playing a bit of basketball.  Jo was given the nickname J-Money and Luke & Eli loved being teammates.

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That one time it almost snowed the kids tried to make snow angles.

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2014 is really shaping up to be Eli’s year.  He turned 5 and finally was able to sign Eli Maldonado and thus was granted his very first library card.

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One of our favorite parts about homeschooling is all the random field trips.  Our kids love museums and zoos, so we visit them often. :)

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Eli thinks he could take on anything.

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Jo turned 11 which means birthday parties have transitioned from cake and silly games to going and getting pizza while dad sits at another table.  (This is me crying on the inside.)

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Other cool things that happened were Sara’s first dance and Jo getting his baptism on.

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Basketball is our favorite sport.  We like the way they dribble up and down the court.  Jo & I made our annual trip to the Texas high school state tournament as well as a Rockets game with young Luke.

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Eli is now building Lego sets and trying to sell them to other people.
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When the school year came to an end, everyone received their diploma.  Boring diplomas are for public school. ;)

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On to some of our Summer Adventures.  1st up was Box Day.  The kids had a blast with this one.  The massive box fort actually stayed up about 5-6 days, too.  Crawling through and in there, totally made me feel like a little kid again.

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Danielle left for 2 days and I managed to chip Luke’s tooth and get a new high score on Flappy Bird.  All in all, a good weekend.

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We were lucky enough to spend a couple of days out at Lake Tyler Petroleum Club.  It’s super fun out there.  You can also get married out there. (Give them a call ladies.)

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May the Fourth.  Big day at our place.

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Danielle and I surprised Jo with this double feature.  She took him to see Captain America. Then when they pulled in, I got in and took him to see Spider-man.  By far the hardest part about having this many kids is making sure we carve out time for each of them on their own.  Our kids love hanging out as a family, but when we give them one on one time, it’s like this other side of them shows up and it’s great to just soak it all in.

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Sara turned 9 and busted out this new t-shirt.  “My brother has the best sister. (Me!)”  She then made all of them take a photo with her.  Because you know… she’s totally in charge.

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Another Summer Adventure.  Beach!!!!

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We took this first photo back when Jo was 2; right after Sara had been born.  Anytime we are in Galveston, we try and recreate it. (Photo credit: Sara)  I hope that one day he can wheel Danielle & I up there and sit between our chairs.

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I am so proud of Sara.  For just about a year now, she has been saving and earning as much money as she can.  She wants to go on a cruise and has a chart she has been filling in along the way.  Every other month, we have “spending day”  where the kids can spend their salary on what they have been saving for.  Every other month, Sara watches them all come home with new toys/books/games, and she sticks her money in a jar, colors in some squares and inches that much closer to her 5 day dream vacation.

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Eli lost his first tooth just last week.  It was kinda of a HUGE deal.

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This shot is one of my favorites.  It’s Eli being a little bit sad because it hurt when he pulled his tooth, but it’s Danielle being a lot of bit sad when she realized we’ll never have another kid lose their first tooth.

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This is where this post gets kinda creepy but good.  So get ready. :)

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When your kid loses their first tooth, you keep it.  Because that’s what you are supposed to do.  Because…. it’s what you do.  Then they lose another one and you keep it to.  Why not.  We have a little baggie.  Just toss it in.  Then one day you look up and you’ve had 4 kids and 3 of them have been losing teeth and you have 3 bags full of teeth.  So Danielle and I looked at each other and thought.  This is strange.  Why would they ever want these?  We should chunk them.  But then in a stroke of creepy brilliance, I decided to wait ’til Eli lost his first tooth.  I had this image in my mind of Eli’s tooth next to all the others he’s had to endure.

You see, Eli has been around to see all these other teeth pop out.  And, as the youngest, he’s always wanted to lose a tooth.  Not for the dollar under the pillow, but more for the status symbol.  I, too, am one of you guys.  I can lose a tooth.  I’m just as big as you.

So month after month, year after year, teeth would come out and Eli would continue to long for his day.  His day when he would also be a “big boy”.

Well, last week, that day finally came.  He ripped that bad boy out just as he’d seen his brothers and sister do 42 other times.

He was now just like them.  He could lose a tooth.

He was excited.  Jo, Sara, and Luke were excited.  Danielle and I were excited.

But then it started to set in.

He’s growing up.

As parents we are always aware of it.  But every now and then moments happen where you can’t avoid seeing it.

That first time they don’t laugh at your dumb joke.

The first time they don’t want to hold your hand when walking into the store.

The first time they are not interested in your fashion advice.

The first time they lose a tooth.

As much as it’s tempting to feel your heart sink just a little, this is when we most need to take heart.

This is our job.

This is what we have been called to do.

Raising these tiny humans is our greatest challenge and doing that job well, means little milestones along the way.

Our family loves to play together.  We are around each other so much, and Danielle and I can’t imagine any other life.  At the same time, part of this life is growing and teaching these kids.

Teaching Jo to understand that being the biggest does not mean he can’t also be the most tender.

Teaching Sara that boys who don’t open doors are not worth opening your heart for.

Teaching Luke that being a good listener is more valuable than being a good dribbler.

Teaching Eli that patience is important.

That there is a time and season for everything.  Even losing your first tooth.

 

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Justine & Karl
Justine & Karl

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This is the story of how I met Justine & Karl.  He lived in Dallas and she lived in North Carolina, and when she was in town visiting, they were trying to also get some engagement photos done.  She found me online and contacted me about the engagement session.  They were still not sure who they were going to get for the wedding since it would be back in North Carolina, but I knew 5 minutes into their session I needed to be there.  I was thrilled when they invited me to come out there for the weekend of their wedding. It really was an honor to be there.

These two are amazing.  (You should read their story here.)

In brief though… everything you need to know about them can be found in this photo.  When I asked for her jewelry, Justine went on and on about how her bracelet contained a ring Karl’s grandmother had given her.

She was beaming.

Not in an “I’m getting married and these are the fancy new shoes I just bought” kinda way.  It was more of an “I’m joining this man and family and we can’t wait to do life together for a long, long time” kinda way.  It was the reason I fell in love with them during their engagement session and that approach burst through the whole day.

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The more excited your friends are when you are getting ready… the more likely they are to tear up when you ARE ready. :)

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Nephews make the best ring bearers.

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Nieces make the best flower girls.

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Every bit of training that Karl underwent in the Army and medical school applied here.  The man was completely focused and aware during every detail throughout the day.  Especially this moment. :)

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I LOVE when kids sit by their great grand parents.  I also love it when couples trade little comments during their ceremony.

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The Raleigh Little Theater was the perfect setting for their day.

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Here is what I know.  Wedding trends come and go.  Dresses don’t have pockets, then they do, then they don’t.  Mason jars are tacky, then they are trendy, then they are tacky.  If Pinterest is around in 5 years, wedding boards will look very different.

But THESE images never get old.

Images of parents with their daughter are forever.

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Photos of your family.  Your tribe.  Your people.  They are the ones you frame.  They are the ones you look back on in 15 years.

These are the photos we pull out and say….

“I can’t believe she was 2 years old.”
“Mom was so beautiful.”
“Oh that’s right, she had just been born.”

These photos never go out of style.

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I was so disappointed in this runner guy.  I saw him in the distance and could not wait for him to jog by.  He came down the hill, and once he spotted us turned around to not be in the photo.  I wanted him closer.  I wanted him bigger.  He didn’t want to ruin the photo.  Little did he know, the photo was about him.

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Of course Justine’s cake had an X-wing, Millennium Falcon, and the Death Star on it.  Why wouldn’t it?

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I love these next shots.  Great speech by their friend, which led to hugs, which led to Karl spilling drink.

(So much for my theory about Karl being an on-point, hyper aware army doctor.)

I love Karl’s expression after he spilled the drink on the table.

I also love Justine reacting before either of them could and placing the glass upright again.

Because that’s what marriage is.  Marriage is cleaning up the mess your spouse just made. :)

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Karl’s best man was out of the country and could not make it, but he still delivered a killer speech that had everyone laughing.

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Justine and Karl met at Harvard.  They wanted a photo of all their college friends.

Most Expensive. Photo. Ever.

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The reception was full of dancing, and other random things.

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I loved seeing them all gathered around the table.  Sharing new stories and remembering old ones.

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Eventually everyone got tired and we all went home.

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It was a full day.  Thank you two so much for trusting me and sharing your day with me.

 

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Ashley & Blake | 365 Days of Marriage!!!
Ashley & Blake | 365 Days of Marriage!!!

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Weddings are great.  Sure.  I like them.  Let me tell you a secret though.  Even more than I like being there when a couple starts their life together…. I love creeping on them as they journey together those first few years.  That’s when it starts to get really good.  That’s when they start to realize that had no idea how much they could love each other.  They had no idea how fun it would be.  They had no idea how hard it would be.  Ashley & Blake were married a little over  year ago and they were kind enough to pull back the curtain and fill us in on what their first year together has been like.

What do you miss most about the single life?

The freedom to do whatever YOU want.

What was the the thing you stressed out most about in planning your wedding that now you look back on and laugh about?

We kind of put a lot of effort into figuring out which Bible verses we wanted read during the ceremony and who would read them, but then our pastor completely skipped that part.

Give us your best cheapo/fun married date idea.

Well, we LOVE ice cream. So to make us feel okay with it, we’ll go on a hike, grab some lunch, go check out the local succulent/gardening shops, and then discover one of the many amazing ice cream places of Los Angeles. And then spend 40 minutes trying to find the best free movie online. P.S. It’s LA, so cheap is relative.

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What have you liked most about your first year being married?

A: Being in the same city/apartment as Blake. (2.5 years long distance before)

B: Practical jokes are way easier to do when she lives with me and not 1,500 miles away.

What’s been the hardest part about being married?

A: Realizing how selfish we both are.

B: Samesies. Marriage isn’t about MY wants and needs. You have to be willing to serve your spouse on a daily basis.

What surprised you the most? (Either good or bad.)

A: Blake leaves used paper towels everywhere he goes. Bedroom, Bathroom, Living Room, Dining Room…. Literally everywhere.

B: Apparently women don’t poop rose petals. But seriously, you think you have figured her out and everything’s going great — then BLAMMO — back to the drawing board.

 

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What have you fought about most and why?

Trying to find time for guy-time/girl-time while still making quality time for each other – especially since Blake has really long work hours during the week.

Do you have any advice for couples about to take the plunge?

A: Marry someone you have complete trust in and can really open up to when you have something you want to talk about. It’s very difficult to make yourself vulnerable enough to speak your heart even when you do trust that person. Also, be honest and genuine, while still loving, when you talk about the hard things.

B: You HAVE to discuss the important issues in life before tying the knot: religion, family/kids, money, politics, moral issues, etc. It’s terrible to see married people get a divorce over issues that should have been discussed while dating or engaged. Also, remember that love is not just a feeling, it’s a daily decision.

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Hilary & Kirk
Hilary & Kirk

I met Hilary last year at her brother’s wedding.  (Shout out to Ashley & Blake!!!)  I was so thrilled when Hilary contacted me to be her photographer.  Then I was bummed because I was already booked for her date.  Then I was thrilled again when she changed her date just so I could be their photographer.  (Shout out to Hilary & Kirk!!!)

Much like her brother and his wife, I loved these two front he get go.  So so fun to be around.  These two were kinda set up by Hilary’s mom and friend.  They kinda hit it off right away and dated for a little while but then Kirk just didn’t bother calling her back for a couple of months.  :)

Then one day out of the blue he called her back and invited her to go to the Muppet movie. (You can’t make this stuff up.)  Hillary hung up the phone, called her mom and had the “You won’t believe who just had the nerve to call me.” talk.  And now, a year or so later… they are getting married. :)

Oh, and they have a fur child named Marlo.

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My favorite thing in the whole wide world about Hilary is her laugh.  It’s infectious.  It fills a room and makes you smile just hearing it.

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Come November these two lovebirds are getting married at the Trinity River Audubon Center.

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My favorite thing about Kirk is how he seems to notice the smallest things.  Hilary is this force of nature  with her loud bubbly personality and he is her quiet rock.  Her constant who may appear to just be sitting quietly day dreaming but in reality he is taking in every detail of the moment.  (Bonus points to him for being the first to spot these ants that were creeping on their engagement session.)

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Thank you guys for trusting me enough to tell your story that you were willing to wait an extra 14 days just to start it. :)

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We Are Family
We Are Family

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I have looked forward to Jeff & Julie’s wedding since their awesome engagement session.  I knew it would be a chill day full of family and laughter.  (As every wedding should be.)

When I arrived Von Criswell (and bump) were getting Julie all dolled up.  Von does amazing make up work.  If you want your face to look better.  Book her.

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Jeff has twin daughter’s.  They like to read.  They are smarter than men.

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Julie & Jeff love to travel.  She gave him this great map with their date on it.  She also pinned where they were getting married.  Many more pins will follow in the years to come.  She also gave him a journal.  He may or may not have teared up.

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Of we went to Roseland Wedding Chapel.  The perfect setting for their day.

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Their First Look consisted of excitement and cheering.  Followed by lots of laughter.

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A Touch of Nature did so great on all the florals.

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Teenage girls doing what they do best.

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This is where you stop and look at the explosion of awesomeness brought to you by the fine folks of Event & Company.  They helped with the planning leading up to the day as well as ran the whole day.  Good wedding coordinators are worth every penny.  If you are getting married.  You should book Even & Company.

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I love that Jeff walked his girls in.  I love even more that his brother leaned over and cracked a joke when Julie was coming towards him.

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Jeff may or may not have had to stop and bite his lip to be able to finish his vows.

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Jeff’s father married them.  He is a preacher.  Jeff’s mother may or may not have ignored the preacher’s request for everyone to bow their head because wanted to take a photo.  (I don’t think she trusted my work.)

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Mucho fun was had at the reception.  Fun props, couches, and games from Pursuing Eden as well as yummy treats from Steel City Pops.

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How to kick off your reception in 3 easy steps.
1. Put on comfortable shoes.
2. Execute a successful twirl during your first dance.
3. Stuff your face.

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I’ve started jogging lately.  The main reason I run is to be able to eat more wedding cake.  Thanks Luscious Crumb for make my work out worth it.

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So many little kids at this wedding.  So many families.  It was like a scene out of a movie.  (A movie where CMB DJs provided a killer soundtrack.)

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I can’t even begin to tell you guys how full my heart was when I left your wedding.  Thank you for sharing your day and the beginning of your story with me.  It was an honor.

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