Charity Water | Mini Sessions
Charity Water | Mini Sessions

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The past 5 years our family has gone on mission/humanitarian trips overseas. The thing with going to these places is that you always go intending to help someone and the reality is that you come back changed. Little by little, year by year, OUR hearts have changed. They have grown more and more open towards others and specifically towards those less fortunate.

One of the things we decided to do this year was not spend money heading “over there” but instead look for ways to help right from where we are. We’ve found ways to serve, give, and grow our hearts without having to take a plane ride. One of the ways we are doing that this year is by partnering with Charity Water.

Charity Water is an AMAZING organization that just celebrated 10 years. Every single dollar you give goes towards clean water. Not one penny goes towards payroll, paying rent, maintaining a website, or donuts for their break room.

To understand just how important water is watch either of these videos.

If you have 2 minutes, watch this one.

If you have 20 minutes and a box of kleenex watch this one.

So today is my birthday and I am turning 39. And here is what I’m asking you to do:

I’m asking you to give.

It’s that simple. I’m asking you to give a one time donation of 39 bucks. (That’s like buying two Blu-rays.)

39 bucks gives someone clean drinking water for 1 year.

39 bucks give a woman her dignity back.

39 bucks gives a young boy a chance to go to school.

39 bucks gives a young girl her future.

All of these things and so much more happen when people have access to clean water.

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It literally takes less than a minute to go online and give.

I’m convinced every single person reading this has 39 bucks they can spare.

Maybe you wait another month on that grill you’ve been eyeing.

Maybe you don’t buy those “essential” oils.

Maybe you don’t go out to eat this week.

Maybe you dip into that wedding account.
(Trust me, you can’t buy anything wedding related for 39 bucks, you ain’t gonna miss it.)

Maybe you are a college kid and your parents gave you a credit card.
Use that bad boy without even asking!!!! (I’m looking at you Beckie.)

I’m daring you to give.

I’m daring you to change a life.

I’m daring you to do the one thing this week you can look back on and be absolutely sure it was the best thing you could have done with 39 bucks.

Go give. I dare you. https://donate.charitywater.org/alexm/best-birthday-ever

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Oh yeah… about those mini sessions…

Anyone who donates $150 bucks or more gets a mini session. You can’t beat that.
(Once you donate, send me a copy of your receipt and you’ll be signed up.)
Donate here: https://donate.charitywater.org/alexm/best-birthday-ever

You get amazing photos of you and your people…

5 people get clean water because you decided to get your picture taken.

Mini Session locations & dates:
Austin: October 8th
Dallas: October 15th
Tyler: October 16th

One more thing…
My beautiful bride has a birthday coming up 2 days from now. All of you people who are always telling me how amazing and how wonderful she is… this is your chance to let her know that… by donating 74 dollars.

Nothing would fill her heart more to see this campaign reach our goal of $5,000 bucks.

Give 39 bucks. Change a life. It’s that simple.

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Why did Sara shave her head?
Why did Sara shave her head?

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The story of Sara’s recent haircut actually starts back when she was 7. When I would take the boys outside for their haircuts, I would often ask Sara if she wanted me to buzz her’s as well. She never really went for it. (Surprise)

From time to time through the years, I would bring it up and ask her if she would shave her head for 100 bucks. Again, no. How about 500? Nope.

Fast forward to earlier this month, when it hit me. I knew what magic carrot I could dangle in front of her. Back in 2013, Sara saved up her money to go on a cruise and LOVED it. She’s been wanting to go back ever since. :)

“Sara, I’ll make you a deal: If you shave your head, I’ll take you on a cruise.”

Her eyes lit up. I had her.

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She spent the next few days thinking about it. Should she do it? Would she like it? Would she regret it? Would people think she was a boy? She made a list of pros and cons which included items like “faster showers”.

We also encouraged her to talk to other people and get their advice.

After doing all this, she was pretty set on moving forward. But still was not 100%.

The last time Danielle and I talked to her the conversation went something like this:

Danielle: So what are you thinking?
Sara: I really, really want to do it but every time I think about what other people will say, I get nervous.
Danielle: (Silence)
Sara: But that’s not really a good reason not to do something. Is it?

What Sara didn’t not know is that right then and there I would have taken her on that cruise.

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You see, the point was not for her to cut her hair. The point was for her to be willing to try something different. Something unconventional. Something that might make her feel left out. Think back to when you were in 11 years old. 5th grade. When all you wanted to do was NOT stand out. Danielle and I wanted to push her towards her strengths.

I know Sara is strong. I know she is fearless. I know she is a leader.

But I also know those muscles need to be stretched. They need to be worked.

I wanted her to learn at this younger age that she decides who she is. And start living it out now. It’s only hair. She is still herself.

She is not defined by a haircut.

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Sara will spend the next 10 years learning and discovering who she is, but that journey should be built on the foundation of confidence in herself and her identity.

The sooner she learns and grasps that, the better off she will be.

It’s a concept we all need to learn.

You are not defined by a haircut.
You are not defined by how pretty your wedding is.
You are not defined by a job.
You are not defined by how well your kids behave.
You are not defined by your GPA.
You are not defined by how many likes you get. (Follow me on Instagram here.)
You are not defined by how big your house is.
You are not defined by if your newborn sleeps through the night.
You are not defined by a ring.

You have value and worth regardless of what your circumstances or what others may say about you.

This idea is one that I need to be reminded of daily. And it’s a truth that Danielle and I want Sara to lock onto as early in life as possible. Even if that means I need to take her on a cruise.

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Snake Attack Day (10 Year Anniversary)
Snake Attack Day (10 Year Anniversary)

It’s that time of year again, as we flip the calendar and look towards April and all things spring, it’s the time of year when our little house celebrates one of our favorite holidays.  I’m talking of course about Snake Attack Day.

10 years ago while sitting at my desk working I heard Danielle let out a blood curdling scream.  Being someone who likes to document events I grabbed my camera and headed her way.  The following video is the result.

So now each year we celebrate our victory over the slithery beast.  We partake in gummy worms and crushed oreos to remind us of how close we came to defeat.  We tell tells of battles won against the serpents of yesteryear.  We share theses stories to remind the young that one day their time will come.  They will have a family and house of their own to defend.  And just when all hope seams lost they will think back on April 5,  2006 and remember how their father conquered the carnivorous reptile and protected his legacy and linage.

Happy Snake Attack Day everyone.

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How to Stay Married 5,000 Days
How to Stay Married 5,000 Days

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I’m sure we have all done the thing where we view our photo list in a big giant grid of thumbnails. It’s kinda fun to look back and see the blur that was the past few months or years. But we know that the never ending view of tiny thumbnails are not the important moments or photos. Those have their own album. Their own special gallery. That’s where we keep the BIG moments.

It’s ironic how we so often look for big moments to mark our progress in life and in marriage. Anniversaries are how we count our commitment to a relationship. It’s like they become this giant event that must be declared.

ATTENTION EVERYONE TODAY IS OUR ANNIVERSARY. WE ARE STILL MARRIED AND IN LOVE.

But, at the same time, the longer you are married, the more we realize that you don’t suddenly go from year 1 to year 2 to year 3. There are millions of tiny moments that fill up between those years.

Today Danielle and I have been married 5,000 days.

That’s kinda great. But honestly, I doubt TODAY will actually be any more special than yesterday or tomorrow. The thing is, we don’t really know when the “special” days will come. But, looking back, it’s easy for me to remember moments that did stand out. Days that bubble up to the surface when viewed with a little bit of perspective and history behind them.

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Day 1: Kinda obvious.

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Day 264: This was taken when our firstborn Joseph was less than a week old.  Little did I realize then just how much time Danielle would spend holding and loving on babies over the next 4,800 days.

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Day 653: We spent about 1 week in the hospital with Joseph.  I think it was the first truly hard thing we went through in our marriage.  Learning to trust, learning to stay calm and not let the moment overwhelm you, and learning to lean on each other even more when a season of life become hard.

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Day 1,103: I love this photo.  I’m not sure how many seagulls have carried off and eaten a human but Danielle was convinced that they were a very real threat.  Even so, she braved the birds and the beach and lived to tell of it.

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Day 1,273: I kept getting frustrated because Sara would not look at the camera.  To say we got into a fight over it might be a stretch… but it also might not. :)   Danielle assured me that it would be fine regardless of what Sara was doing.  I disagreed.  I eventually just photoshopped another shot of her looking towards the camera to make a “good” family photo.  Years later as I look back on that shoot, this is my favorite image.

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Day 1,457: Remember that time my office flooded and we ripped up carpet and soaked up water and were so broke we tried to put back down the wet carpet and hoped that it didn’t smell, but it did?
Those were good times.

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Day 1,833:  Little by little Danielle has come to understand my love for technology and things that go blinky blink.  So, even though she didn’t camp out with me for that first iPhone… She did let me do it.
(Even though that meant she was at home with two kids and 8 months pregnant with our third.)

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Day 2,229: Danielle and I always look back on Luke as being when we really started to get the hang of parenting.  Maybe it’s because “third time’s the charm” or something, but by the time this kiddo got here we had learned how to not sweat the small stuff and Danielle had learned how to make a killer birthday cake.

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Day 2,500:  It’s funny how things work out.  Just out of curiosity I decided to check back and see what the half way point of our little journey was.  When I did the math, day 2,500 was the day I photographed Danielle’s college roommate’s wedding.  It’s one of like 3 weddings I’ve shot that Danielle and the kids have attended and having Sara & Yan be a part of our timeline is extra fun.

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Day 2,629:  We had just started homeschooling the kids and I still remember how scary that idea was at times.  I’ve seen her reading and helping these kids learn to read countless times over the years and looking back on this moment fills me with so much pride in what she has taught our kids.  The little guy who was learning to read a Curious George book right there just wrote a 34 page short story of his own last month. (Just for fun.)

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Day 2,864:  As great as she is at teaching our kids, she’s even better at playing and connecting with them.  This is one of my all time favorites.

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Day 2,968:  Somewhere someone decided that minivans are not cool.  I disagree.  They have doors that open when you push a button, kids can get in and out without help, and they hold a whole basketball team.  Anyway, the day we sold this van was bittersweet.  She had served us well, but her time was done.  Before we sold her, we took one last family photo.

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Day 3,144: Our last kiddo had just turned 1 a few days before this photo.  Danielle held Eli every chance she had.  We knew were were entering a new season of life but leaving this one was also hard.

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Day 3,225: I’m always amazed at what Danielle will let the kids do to her.

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Day 3,261: We had wanted a fence for a while and finally saved up enough cash to build one…. but not enough to pay someone to build it.  :)

So, board by board, Danielle walked them over to where I was nailing them up.  AND, since she knows I’m a words of affirmation guy, she even wrote me little encouraging notes on some of them.

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Day 3,654: On our 10 year anniversary we went back out to Elmwood Gardens and had some cookies and told the kids about the time their Mom and Dad were married.  We talked about how marriage is hard, but even when it’s hard, we are committed to it and to each other.  They kinda looked at us like what are you talking about and asked if they could have another cookie.

(Fun Fact: Every year on our anniversary we dress back up in our wedding close and have a vow renewal ceremony at home.)

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Day 3,892:  This is the day that we learned that if your daughter falls on her two front teeth, they might break off.
This is the day we learned that staying calm helps.
Even if you are freaking out on the inside.

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Day 3,963: Remember how we homeschool?  Well, when we started I think we had like 1 kid…. Today Danielle is teaching 7th, 5th, 3rd, and 1st grade.

THAT’S INSANE!!!

This little photo was after her first year teaching all 4 of the kiddos.  (Looking back on it I realize maybe I should have printed out an award for her.)

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Day 4,507: We decided that it was time to move.  We had outgrown our house and were ready for something a bit bigger.
We packed it all up, and put our house on the market.

Thought this process we realized something, we didn’t need a bigger house.  We didn’t want another house.  We needed to find contentment where we were.

Little by little we did that.  Together.

And then… we moved back into our house. :)

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Day 4,632: Every now and then you get one of those perfect days.  Days where school gets canceled and it snows in Texas, days filled with uncles and friends and laughter and kids on sleds.  You soak up those days, you remember those days, because you never know how many you have.

1 week after this day, Danielle’s brother and his friend were in a car wreck.  Her brother survived but our sweet friend Pasha did not.  This hit us hard and our family went through a dark season.  A season of mourning and sadness, a season of questions unanswered.  But little by little we came through it.  Together.  And we came out on the other side stronger.  Again, we realized that when the hard times comes.  Lean into each other.

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Day 4,842:  Remember that time that Mickey Mouse said “I would like you to be the family of the day and help me open the Magic Kingdom”?  Because you should.  Because it was one of the best days ever.

The best thing about these days is that they were not planed for back when we were married.

They are little markers along the way that remind us that marriage is about growth.

Marriage is about changing and continuing to love each other.

Marriage is not just about those big epic moments.

Your love story is not only written when you are dancing together in the rain, it’s written every day.

Little by little, one snapshot at a time.

The reality is there is no trick to staying married 5,000 days.  You choose to stay married one day at a time.

One diaper at a time.

One lightsaber

snow cone

basketball practice

house repair

spilled goldfish

fight on the way to church

at a time.

It’s in the common, the mundane, the beautiful holiness that is the everyday.

And, as much as I’ve loved these 5,000 days, I can’t wait of the next ones.

I’m already looking forward to November 7, 2029.  When I can look into my brides eyes and say I’ve loved being married to you ten thousand days.

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Disney World 2015
Disney World 2015

So, after a few years of saving and planning and saving, we took a little trip to Disney World. This post is not for the faint of heart. So grab a sandwich, have a seat, and get ready for a billion photos.

We sat the kids down a week before we were going to leave and surprised them with the news.

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Those photos don’t really do it justice. (This little instagram clip is kinda a better look at their reaction.)

The first step on any successful Disney trip is driving.  Lots of it.  Enter iOS devices and headphones.

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17 hours later.  We arrive.  The lines to meet Anna & Elsa are typically up to 2-3 hours.  We settled on meeting these two plants instead.

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One of the perks of homeschooling and going to Disney in September is the parks are less crowded.  (As in, parts of it are empty at times.)

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The last time we went, Eli was not a fan of meeting any of the characters, this trip he was all in on the process.

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Hey look, it’s Aunt Gabby!

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The step-sisters and I have a special relationship.

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Eli managed to lose a tooth on the Haunted Mansion ride.

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If you have ever stood around waiting for a parade, you know it’s a super magical time for everyone.

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Later that day Eli lost another tooth. :)

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Each morning they pick a few families to help them “open” Hollywood Studios.  You get to hold a clap board and get some fast passes.  We soon realized, if you get there early and smile hard enough, you might get picked.  We managed to pull this off for all three of our Studios days.

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Luke was slightly terrified of the Tower of Terror.

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Sara and I not so much.

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Wanna save a million dollars on your Disney trip?  Pack your meals.

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Luke was chosen to drive a full sized “remote controlled” car at the Stunt Show.

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Things Disney is great at selling:

1. Yummy food.

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2. Lego blocks.

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3. Plushes.

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We felt like we would be bad homeschoolers if we did not visit the Hall of Presidents and American Adventure Pavilion.

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Jo kinda fell in love with Captain EO.

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Russell would not get out of my face ’til I saluted him.  We are now best friends.

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Festival of the Lion King may be our favorite thing ever.

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Finding Nemo the Musical may be my favorite thing ever.

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Kilimanjaro Safaris may not be Eli’s favorite thing ever.

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Things we learned:
1. Danielle is creepy. 2. We all fit in a phone booth. 3. Lists are better if there are three funny items.

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Danielle almost used the barf bag on Mission Space.

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Me channeling my inner Fast and Furious.

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Joseph has mastered the art of the ride photo.

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Hey, remember how they pick a few families to open Hollywood Studios?  Turns out they pick one family to open the Magic Kingdom each day.  It’s kinda a big deal.

You get in early, when no one else is around.

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They take your name so you can be introduced to everyone.

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You get to go around the park posing for photos wherever you want, all alone.

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You get to meet the opening number performers.

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They flirt with your son.

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You are backstage when the train comes out.

(This may have been my favorite moment.  As the train pulls in all the characters are waving at the hundreds of families waiting in line.  For one brief moment though, Alice turned and waved to our family.  It was just a little nod to the fact that we were back there, too.  We were in on the secret.  It kinda made the magical moment even more fun.)

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Then you, Mickey, and his friends get to open the park.

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You know what else you get?  A Fast Pass to meet any character you want.  Remember how Anna & Elsa had a 2 hour wait?  BOOM!  Front of the line!

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We adore the Swiss Family Robinson Treehouse.

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DOUBLE RAINBOW!!

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Sara challenged Gaston to a reading contest.  Without hesitation, he took the book out of her hands, put it up on a ledge and said “Good luck reading it now.”  I love that guy.

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Of course they each should eat a cinnamon roll the size of their head.  Why not?

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I do like a good parade. But even more than the parade, I like watching my kids watch the parade.

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One more shout to Cindy from St. Charles, IL.  She totally made our trip when she asked us to be the Family of the Day.  You rock.

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Of course I didn’t just take photos, by the time I edited our home movie of the trip, it came in at about an hour.  I won’t ask you to sit through that, but you might enjoy this little 2 minute trailer.

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