Just add a Filter

For the past few years I have oogled over photographic images posted on blogs I follow.  Pictures capturing so much of a family in one still frame.  I have been an avid blog  devour-er and began to see a common denominator on many….the work of Wendy and Tyler of Blue Lily Photography.  Some of my favorites are linked below:

Meg Duerksen (1, 2 and 3)

Nie Nie Dialogues (1, 2, 3, 4, and 5)

Design Mom (1 and 2)

Wendy and Tyler work as a team, but “double book” for most sessions so they are each capturing a separate family at the same time.  Shortly after our move to Oregon, I started noticing lots of blog posts saying that the Blue Lily calendar/schedule was up.  Wendy and Tyler travel the world, year round, with their two kids, photographing as they go.  From Hong Kong to Australia to Spain to most states across the U.S….they travel spreading immense joy and clicking picture after picture.

For our session, we worked with Wendy and man alive, she earned her money with our boys.  Drew was like a little puppy, running off down various paths and after every distractable option possible.  Alex was climbing trees and rock walls and going a mile a minute.  Just an hour prior to the session we had been sitting in horrendous traffic, trying to grab a quick dinner and checking into our hotel.  Matt dared to suggest we just call and cancel.  I exploded like a volcano, this session being something I had wanted for my 40th birthday—-photographs with me in them with our family since I am usually the one behind the camera.

After apologizing and deep breaths, we drove along the unparalleled Columbia River Gorge towards Multnomah Falls.  It was raining on and off and my Burgerville dinner in a bag was threatening to drip all over my clothes.  But we made it in time and Wendy put us at ease right away, joking, keeping the kids on their toes and taking the time and energy to learn and know our names and part of our story.  She is truly a master at her craft, oozing out love and joy.

All this to say….photographs are only a moment in time.  They may tell or give off a story that isn’t quite accurate.  You can’t hear what was going on prior, during or after these pictures.  The bargaining for ice cream.  The gritting of teeth.  The hole Alex put in the knee of his pants earlier in the day.  Sometimes the images we put up for others to see are filtered.  We shield eyes, even our own, from the truth.  Make it appear perfect.  And yet, despite the imperfections—-the pounds I wish I’d shed, the discipline and frustrations uttered to the boys, the difficulty figuring out the clothing, etc—I feel like every single cent was worth it.

For me, photography is a deep passion.  I feel completely off kilter when I find myself without a camera in hand.  Capturing life through my lens, even my phone, is like breathing.  It helps me look for, see, and document beauty in the world.  And while I may add a filter to soften, tone down or even amp up an image, it is more about a sharing beauty than perfection.

In an attempt to set the record straight…if you think our family is perfect.  Docile.  Calm.  Pulled together.  Loving 24/7.  You are dead wrong.  No matter what the photos might suggest or the filters might hide, rest assured, underneath it all—it’s a bit of a circus.  So grateful that we were able to have some still frames of our family in July of 2014, though, as it might be the only STILL we experience for the next 15 years.

Thanks so much, Wendy, for working with us.  We truly had a blast!

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All I Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten….


A week from today, my son finishes his first year of school.  Kindergarten will be complete.  Many times the days seem long, but the years truly short.  When given a chance to sit back and reflect on the year that just was, it can be a shock how many emotions, events and memories were packed within. School is wrapping up for the year.

It is a time of closure.  Tattered supplies are sent home.  Yearbooks signed.  Graduations attended.  Teacher gifts purchased.  Field days and field trips enjoyed.  Last lessons learned or endured.  Report cards loom. A chance to wrap up an experience, a year, a season and move into the next phase:  Summer swim lessons?  Camp?  Football practices?  Vacations?  Visits to Grandparents?  As a teacher for many years, I loved the closure the profession allowed.  I could pour my heart and soul into students each year, and yet come mid-June, we finished work, shared about the times that were and locked the classroom door, and took a breather until fall.

This past week, my eldest and I both embarked on similar journeys—tasks to be completed that forced us both to slow down, reflect, remember and mark something special.  For class, he was asked to create a display which showed in pictures and words the many things he learned, remembered and experienced.  As we sat down and looked at each area—-reading, math, writing, science, friendships, field trips, routines and rituals of the classroom—he rattled off memory after memory.  He had so many.    {I’m blogging once a month at Practicing Families.  Please check out the rest of the post there!}



I’m blogging once a month at Practicing Families.  Please check out the rest of the post there!

You Hold Your Truth So Purely

Everyday life has seemed charged.  Maybe it’s the excitement of the Giants and their World Series dreams.  Perhaps the coming of Halloween in a week, cookies to bake & decorate.  Potentially it’s the first rain of the season & connections to Ramona Quimbey’s frustrations with rainboots.  The newness of the school year has worn off.  The routines are in place, and thus excuses to not abide by the routines are happening—making lunches each night CAN be seen as spiritual practice, but that’s HARD, people!!.

I see my life through the camera lens.  I just can’t help myself.  I feel naked and unprepared if I leave the house without some device to document life.  Having just finished Drew’s One-Two Year scrapbook, it became apparent how much this “addiction” is the case.  Too many pictures to sift through.  It may sound weird or unorthodox, but I think God uses my camera and its effect to help me see God’s gifts and handiwork more clearly.  And most of the time, I just can’t help but share it.  Some, (many, no doubt?!?) call it OVERSHARING.  Be it as it may, here I find myself.

The past few weeks have seen our schedule normalizing a bit without tons of travel or big events and day-to-day life is unfolding.  Garbage trucks loudly doing their thing.  Chances to makes trains come to life with chairs.  The impossible excitement of UPS AND Fed Ex trucks crossing paths, AT THE SAME MOMENT, in front of our house. Learning how to operate light switches, “ON!” and “OFF!”.   Still pictures don’t convey the non-stop movement, volume & loud emotions that overflowed during Halloween cookie making (Drew’s first induction to this world).  After the whole “brew ha ha”, Alex looked at me and reflected, “Mom, I think we learned something today.  Doing cookies with a two year old is a bad idea.”  I’m thinking there’s some wisdom in that 5 year old observation.  As Mumford & Sons professes on the song “Whispers in the Dark”, “You hold your truth so purely….”.  I can’t help but see that truth in my kids.  Maybe you can see it too in children around you or others that just manage to cling to simplicity.  So, here’s a little visual of the truth of life around here—pure and complicated as it may be.  Here’s to hoping we can conquer the pumpkin patch with a little less drama than the cookies!  (these two posts made me worry….here & here)


Our **little** Drewske turned 23 months yesterday. As each month ticks by, I look into his eyes deeper and deeper, wondering to myself, “What is your story, Drew? What will you be about as your life unfolds?” Will you be the listener and observer, a faithful friend?  The energizer, a comedian that keeps everyone on their toes, laughing?  A creative mind, expressing itself through words and art?  A linebacker, holding your place but committed to your band of brothers, your team?

I’m not fully sure, but I do so love watching and wondering. Some might call it “PROJECTING”.

Rather than getting too deep and philosophical, I want to share something that is uniquely TWENTY-THREE months. At least uniquely “DREW” at 23 months. The impetus for Drew’s smiles these days, while varied, has one sure motivator, especially when taking photos. Burping.

We happened upon this truth as Alex accidentally let one rip right as I was trying to get a smiling picture of Drew one night.  And since then, Alex’s ability to burp on cue has been utilized “on occasion” to get a good smile and laugh out of his brother (see photos below captured yesterday).

It is rather horrifying, or potentially amusing if I’ve had a glass of wine first, to realize that such an inappropriate thing would get a consistent smile and laugh. But hey, I’m living with three boys, this truth was bound to be revealed sooner or later.  Tonight, while reading our continuing bedtime novel, Danny, the Champion of the World, it all was validated or verified, thanks to Roald Dahl. Listen up as Danny’s dad talks about the infamous “dewlap”.

On this particular walk to school, there was an old frog croaking in the stream behind the hedge as we went by. ‘Can you hear him, Danny?’
‘Yes,’ I said.
‘That is a bullfrong calling to his wife. He does it by blowing out his dewlap and letting it go with a burp.’
‘What is a dewlap?’ I asked.
‘It’s the loose skin on his throat. He can blow it up just like a little balloon.’
‘What happens when his wife hears him?’
‘She goes hopping over to him. She is very happy to have been invited. But I’ll tell you something very funny about the old bullfrog. He often becomes so pleased with the sound of his own voice that his wife has to nudge him several times before he’ll stop his burping and turn around to hug her.’
That made me laugh.
‘Don’t laugh too loud,’ he said, twinkling at me with his eyes. ‘We men are not so very different from the bullfrog.'”

I am afraid we are just 23 months in on this fact—-my boys can get so distracted with these antics that one wonders if the original impetus for the smile will end.  No clue how these scenarios will build and continue over the years to come, but I must admit, I made myself burp to get that picture up on top this morning after Alex had left for school, and Matt for work.  What is this world coming too?!?  I’m figuring, if you can’t beat them, then join them?!

Happy 23 Months, Drew…

A Weekend Unplanned

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!  We had blessed nothingness on our calendar (except for a chiropractor appointment and church commitments).  That meant lots of room for angst in my mind over days with nothing planned.  Matt and I slogged our way through Friday with low grade fevers, **impossible to swallow, insanely painful sore throat** yuckiness, busy work days and collapsed on the couch after getting the boys to bed.  I was so grateful that nothing was planned.  For once, this type a, need to have everything scheduled girl appreciated the lack of planning and open-endedness of three days off with all of our family home!

We did the basics….laundry, farmer’s market veggie shopping, LEGO building, room sorting/purging {the one MUST do was to locate a lost library book of Alex’s–happy to report, Fred and Ted Go Camping was FOUND!!!!}, painting, cooking, back care, swinging on the swingset, lots of alfresco dining, CAMPING!!! & classic movie watching, Sunday School teaching….and amazingly feel rested, healthier and didn’t have to deal with lots of traffic.  Can’t beat that!

Time and space and maybe…{SCARY!}….GROWING UP!?!?…..has helped me let go of my grasp on the perfectly planned, chalk-full schedule.  To see the value of time spent together, letting go of the need to program and craft a perfect get away.  This week I plan on posting some thoughts from Lauren Winner’s new book Still.  There is so much to unpack from this book–my poor husband had to suffer from me continuously reading quotes to him over the last two days as I devoured it.  It truly is THAT good.  Despite working in the classroom, battling a nasty bug that has left me only wanting to sleep, and with two boys needing our attention, I couldn’t put it down.  It even won out over mindless TV!  Miracles of miracles.  This quote from Saul Bellow that she shared hit me as I was thinking about our schedule, or lack thereof, this weekend.

Look how cute he is….gotta love Nobel Prize Winners!

Isn’t he WISE, though?!?!  “They labor because rest terrifies them.”  Did you catch that?  “They labor because rest terrifies them.”  I’m trying to sit with that truth.  That rest terrifies.  That sloth isn’t about lying around doing NOTHING, necessarily, but rather it truly is a “busy condition”.

I don’t have the answers.  I will always struggle with a deep need for control.  But, I’m choosing to keep it “simple” this weekend.  A first step at “resting”–stepping into the “terror” of rest, if you will.  To allow for time in the sun, sprinklers being directed at me by our 19 month old, no-cook meals {this girl attempting vegan, gluten free eating had baguette, brie and dry salami–and pears!!–for dinner}.  More to follow about Lauren Winner and her new book.  For today, though, lots to chew on thanks to Saul Bellow.  Tough truth, but a good one.

Hope you had a great Memorial Day weekend…

off to find flags to photograph for my step-mother-in-law!

Memory Is An Extraordinary Thing

Almost a year and a half ago I started writing in this space, trying to find an outlet for processing the world I was inhabiting.  I shared here about why I chose the name These Stones for this place.  And as this week perfectly exemplifies, sometimes I use this blog as a space to share recipes.  Other times, daily antics of my children are the focus.  Some days I process my faith journey, my questions and thoughts about following God.

For me, though, I so easily forget.  And I want so desperately NOT to.  To remember.  As the quote shares so eloquently, much more clearly than I ever could, “God instructed His people on their journey to erect physical markers ‘along the way as aids to their memory.  The idea was that they were to remember His gracious provision and protection for them in the past, so that they might be encouraged to trust Him in the present.”  

So today, I’m sharing two incidents that happened yesterday.  I managed to see them and capture them on my camera.  I was actually looking for a way to “erect a physical marker”…an opportunity to keep these two moments as something more than a fleeting happening.

My children push my buttons REGULARLY, as I’m sure my neighbors can attest to.  I can’t even imagine what they think of our household as they hear my RAISED, TEACHER VOICE or Drew’s sobbing or Alex’s temper tantrums raging.  That aside, today, two little miracles happened.

First, Drew’s.  Matt’s Dad does some printwork.  (aka MODELING).  I like to give him a hard time about it.  Here’s one of the latest ads he was in.  Go, Lipitor!

When I was taking some photographs for him, “head shots”!, he brought his last page of pictures so I’d have an idea of what he needed.  Alex, my eldest, quickly snatched it up after our photoshoot for his own special papers collection.  Well today, Drew came across it.  Drew is only 18 months and can’t talk, per se, but it was CLEAR he knew who those photos were showcasing—-MACHO POP!  Check out this sequence and sorry, in advance, for the blur.

Did you catch that?  Those adoring looks of love for Grandpa?  The kissing of the photographs?  I mean, geez, Louise!, you seriously can’t script that.  And I will shout it from the rooftops again and again, WE ARE SO LUCKY TO HAVE FIVE PHENOMENAL GRANDPARENTS IN OUR KIDS’ LIVES.  SO  SO SO SO LUCKY.  I am so glad Drew “gets it” too.

And the next moment today, number two on “Memory List”?  This one’s Alex’s.  My dear friend, Julie, did something Pinterest worthy and amazing a month ago.  Alex’s preschool class was having a St. Patrick’s Day party and she made a rainbow fruit plate/concoction of amazingness.  I didn’t see it as I was teaching that day and not at drop off or pick up, but Alex has been going on and on about it for the last 4 weeks.  He took matters into his own hands and declared that we needed to recreate Julie’s rainbow platter for dinner.

Trying to curtail and contain Alex’s never-ending STORM of ideas is a full time job for me.  Last night, some dam broke and I just gave in and let him go for it.  It seemed the lesser of two evils.  I mean, how destructive can an almost five year old be with FRUIT and VEGETABLES!?!?  He was also quite convincing in that it was a perfect vegan-friendly meal for Matt and me too.  How thoughtful….especially with those dirt and sand covered hands we forgot to wash until we were 80% of the way into the project.  Yum.

Here’s what he came up with.  And you’ll see Drew’s delight over it all.  The blue food coloring in the cream cheese on the bagels….???? Weak, I know.  And a HUGE mess.  Oh, well.  You win some.  You lose some.

Of course the rainbow-filled sky would not be complete without helicopters, airplanes and birds….thus, markers were fetched and additions were made.

These two moments weren’t life-changing by any means.  But they both were, for me, reminders of the gift these two boys are.  Markers I can look back to, to remember when I’m pulling my hair out.  Lines drawn in the sand to say, “Don’t forget when….”  I could chalk it up to fruit, vegetables and a piece of paper with some photographs, but today, I’m clinging to these things, seeing them as the reminders they are of God’s extreme goodness in my life.  The ways in which God seeks to love me and show me himself in the world that surrounds me.

“What do these stones mean?

He did this so that all the people

of the earth might know that the

hand of the Lord is powerful and

so that you might always fear the Lord your God.”

Joshua 4:22b,24

Postscript:  Today, Micha Boyett Hohorst at mama::monk writes about Dishes and Litany and all that Beauty.  Go there and read her post.  SO eloquent and hits on the same notes I was talking about today.  And secondly, thank you so much for your generosity, love, support and encouragement after my words here yesterday.  So much love.  Thank you. 

“Wink From God”

My friend via the blogosphere (and my husband’s friend in real life), Tracey Morris, is a phenomenal photographer and writer.  I eat up her posts, both for the stunning visual images and pictures painted with words.  Yesterday, she posted some gorgeous shots of poppies.  And yes, as a 4th grade teacher in California, California Golden Poppies, the state flower, make my heart pitter patter a bit.  She wrote in her post yesterday, “They are one of the first signs of spring here and they announce her arrival with their bursts of golden tangerine blooms. I am not kidding, they truly bring joy to my heart when I spot my first one.”  

So today, as my friend and I set out on our bi-weekly, crack-of-dawn walk, I decided to keep my eyes open for spotting a poppy patch.  Needless to say, the sun hadn’t even risen, and in the darkness, I never spied any of the florescent blooms along the route.

Weird thing happened, though.  Right as I hugged her goodbye after we finished our walk, I looked down and saw my own little poppy.  Embedded into my shoelaces.  WHAT?!?!  How in the world did that even happen??  We didn’t walk on a trail.  We were on concrete sidewalks.  No clue.  But there it was.

Craaaaaazy.  As as Tracey wisely replied when I wrote to tell her about the odd happening, “That is a total wink from God!”

And so, this response, and my dumbfoundedness, begs the question, “does God have a sense of humor?!”  Who knows, but as Anne Lamott writes, “laughter is carbonated holiness”.  (Taken from Katherine Willis Pershey’s guest post on Emmerging Mummy today.)  And sometimes, when things “come together” in an unexpected, and seemingly impossible way, you just have to laugh.  Some might call it strange.  Or weird.  Or perhaps, an odd coincidence.  For me, I think it boils down to looking for God in the circumstances we find ourselves in.  Looking and being intentional about seeing coincidences through a different lens. And listening for God’s laughter and watching for his wink, even in a California Golden Poppy and a stinky hiking shoe.

California Golden Poppy, Point Bonita, Marin Headlands, May 2006

Beach Poppies, Ano Nuevo near Pescadero, May 2011

Measure in Love

When I was teaching in Albany, we used to do a monthly “Community Sing” and the 4th graders were often responsible for February.  So why not make 9 and 10 year olds sing LOVE songs!?!  We did a fun version of “L-O-V-E” (Nat King Cole’s song) and yet my favorite of all was “525,600 Minutes:  Seasons of Love” from the musical, Rent.  It still makes me belt and get a little sappy and goose bumpy when I hear it.

So today, in honor of the one day we “officially” focus on love, I wanted to post the lyrics to that song and a video of the cast singing it.  A reminder that even though it IS Valentine’s Day, today…each day…the year…should be measured in love.  Measured in the small moments.  Measured in cups of coffee and lessons learned.

Alex was in charge of “red fruit” for his class party on Monday….and he never needs an excuse to use a cookie cutter.  So, we popped it out and attacked the strawberries and watermelon.

We used the trusty camera to get some shots to use for their Valentines for school….

And my favorite thing was using coupon codes at 3 spots to get cards for free or $1 a piece.  Shutterfly, Tiny Prints, and Julie Ann (sold on etsy).  I love getting to create personal cards with pictures.  And for $2 total for ALL THREE cards!??!  LOVE IT.

With two young children and a budget to keep in mind, we will no doubt cash in on the 2 for 1 Peet’s Coffee special for a family outing and then cook some indulgent, rich and mouth-watering vegan/gluten-free/sugar-free dinner after the kids crash.  Maybe add in a movie?  Or Glee/New Girl/Parenthood marathon?  To me, though, as the song from Rent reminds, it really is about the minutes, moments we share.  Not the big, flashy bouquets of red roses (GAG!!!!!!!!!!!) or fancy, uncomfortable, indigestion-inducing meals out.  {Christine Edit post first publish of this post…..I LOVE flowers, folks.  I just tend to be the more bright, crazy colored odd flowers. I know I’m weird.)

Hope your day is filled with lots of love.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes,
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Moments so dear.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights
In cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife.

In five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure
A year in the life?

How about love?
How about love?
How about love? Measure in love

Seasons of love. Seasons of love

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes!
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Journeys to plan.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure the life
Of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned,
Or in times that he cried.
In bridges he burned,
Or the way that she died.

It’s time now to sing out,
Tho’ the story never ends
Let’s celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends
Remember the love!
Remember the love!
Seasons of love!

Oh you got to got to
Remember the love!
You know that love is a gift from up above
Share love, give love spread love
Measure measure your life in love.

Seasons of Love.  Seasons of Love.

New Routines

Some nights, I crawl into bed, looking forward to a few blissful minutes with my current book (right now it’s 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker).  Usually I fall asleep within a page or two–or a screen or two as I’m now reading books on my ipad…I feel so 2012!).

But I also spend moments thinking through my list, almost a checklist similar to ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.  I make sure that the lunch bags are all packed and snugly tucked into the fridge.  The waterbottles are filled.  The coffee beans are in the grinder.  The plastic cups and straws are lined up, single file next to the blender awaiting spinach, frozen blueberries, bananas, soy milk and pomegranate juice in the morning.  The bottles are filled with milk.  Alex’s sharing is in a bag by the door.  Drew’s diaper bag is packed.  My school bag is prepared and set by the door.  My clothes are set out in the hall so I can dress in the dark and not wake up the sleeping family….which is rarely still sleeping after 6am, sigh. Continue reading