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The days are long but the years are short.

Now that my youngest is four and 55 lbs of muscle and lingering baby chub, this old expression cannot be any truer for me. When you’re in the thick of the sleepless nights, endless diaper changes, and anxiously awaiting every next milestone, it seems like the chaotic pace will never end. But yet, inevitably, one day you look up and your little bundle is a (mostly) self-reliant walking and talking human being.  Where does the time go?

It has been a few years since I’ve had the opportunity to photograph a newborn. What a joy it was to pick up where I left off.  Especially with Baby J, who was long awaited and then arrived in a rush. It seems impossible that she was welcomed into the world one month ago. Congrats, Barr Family! I can’t wait to watch this little girl grow alongside her awesome big sister!

newborn, family, portrait

I love this family to pieces. Holly and I have been close friends since we were five years old and it’s so nice to live near each other again – our kids are growing up together, we can lean on one another for essential stay at home mom support, and we get to just plain hang out again! I’ve been wanting to document a family during their Christmas preparations, including decorating their tree.  Creating traditions has always been important for me and my husband, even in the early years of our relationship. In fact, as we were putting the finishing touches on our own tree last night, it occurred to me that after 18 years of collecting together, we finally have enough personalized ornaments to fill all the spots without needing any additional bulbs.  Our collection includes several from our childhood, homemade creations from our first years of dating when we were crafty and on an extremely limited budget, a few from trips and travels over the years, and of course a large selection from Bronner’s Christmas Wonderland in Frankenmuth.  I’ve also started choosing one ornament for each of my children which represents their interests for that particular year. For 2019, Layla received a rainbow unicorn while Owen received Daniel Tiger (which has been on a constant loop at our house for the past several months).  I’m excited to pass their own collections on to them to continue the tradition for their own families in the future.

So this being said, of course I was very excited that the Barrs invited me to tag along for their morning Christmas tree hunt.  We visited Middle Road Tree Farm in Highland, which is owned by some really wonderful people and is just a few minutes from Hartland.  I can attest to their customer service because last year, they were a blessing to us when we were in a rush to decorate after closing on our home in early December.  We visited a week or so before Christmas, and many of the larger trees had been picked and toted home.  I can be rather picky when it comes to my trees, and after searching for quite a while, I finally found ‘The One’.  Two young workers put forth a tremendous effort to help us cut it down (and tied it to the roof of our SUV), despite having two conjoined trunks and being a beast of a thing to manage.  We were so grateful for their kind help!

I can’t wait to do more sessions like these in the future.  What family traditions do you practice? Whether it’s baking cookies, ice skating on a local pond, packing meals or care packages for those in need… I want to hear about them.  Do you celebrate a holiday other than Christmas?  I’m eager to learn more about other cultures and family dynamics which differ from mine.

Thanks again, Barr Family! I love your tall, majestic tree, especially with your special ornaments to adorn it.  I hope you enjoy these memories for many years to come.

I guess habits can be hard to break.  I couldn’t help but grab a few photos of our fun activities this week for #documentfamilyfriday.

The first few images are from last Sunday morning, when the kids played with the hose in the driveway while I got some gardening done. But it didn’t start out as happy go-lucky fun.  Originally, we had pulled out the hose to water the vegetables, and I was hesitant to let them play with it.  We hadn’t planned for water games and I didn’t want them getting soaking wet.  Layla had just gotten dressed for the day and Owen was still wearing his pajamas.  I did my fair share of yelling and scolding them for spraying each other, telling them to aim it at the ground and be more gentle.  Then after seeing their frustrated and disappointed faces, I took a minute to reevaluate.  Why was I yelling at them? We didn’t have any afternoon plans, they were entertaining themselves while I got other chores done, and it was a nice hot and sunny day.  I decided that I was being unreasonably harsh and apologized to them.  I don’t do that too often, because most of the time if I’m getting upset it’s for good reason… but I try to keep things in perspective and check myself occasionally.  Sometimes I think it’s easy to fall into the habit of saying no to things, when in reality it’s just as easy to say yes and allow them some freedom.  After all, they were just having fun, being kids, and enjoying the summer day!  They ended up laughing and having a blast right up until lunchtime.

It’s interesting to see some of the changes in how Layla plays since starting kindergarten.  She often creates her own classroom now and takes every opportunity to teach lessons to her stuffed animals.  She’s also been doing an amazing job making clean up time more fun for her little brother, which means he is more apt to participate and helps her to not have the bulk of the responsibility! Smart girl.

The last few images are from yesterday, when my mom found an enormous tomato hornworm in the garden. She brought it in, placed it in a glass jar with a breathable parchment paper lid, and waited for the kids to discover it.  It was a fun surprise for them when Layla got home from school!

Yesterday was the first #documentfamilyfriday where I was so busy, I completely forgot to post! I guess it’s a good thing I’m going to be slowing down for a while.  This past week was Layla’s first day of Kindergarten! Not only were we busy attending her Open House, getting her ready with all of her paperwork and supplies, but Mike was called out of town for training.  So while he was away working hard, the three of us were working hard to handle things here!  I have to say I was so pleasantly surprised at how smooth things went overall.  Super busy and chaotic for sure – but the kids behaved remarkably well and it really helped me to get through the days without pulling my hair out or wanting to drown my sorrows in nightly glasses of wine, haha. We celebrated her last day of summer vacation by spending the day at the beach with our best friends, going out for dinner, and capping the day off with delicious Hawaiian style shaved ice.  (For the record, I highly recommend the creamy coconut.) Couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend it!

The extra quality time I’ve spent with Owen this past week has been so nice.  I knew that I was looking forward to some one-on-one time with him, but even so, I’ve been surprised by some of his unexpected behaviors. For one, he’s spent the last few days singing quietly to himself… almost all day long.  I knew he loved to sing, but he does it even more now that his sister isn’t here to entertain him.  He even made up his own song for the first time. “If you want a flower, pick a flower…” It’s the most adorable sight to see even more of his personality emerge – not quite as flamboyant as his sister, but smart and sweet just the same.

This week’s #documentfamilyfriday sums up pretty acutely our last few weeks…

Since hurting my back, I’ve been spending a lot of time at Duncan Chiropractic Group over the past three weeks.  They’ve been amazing – getting me in immediately for my first ’emergency’ appointment and before long, greeting me by name when I arrive.  I’ve been seeing Dr. Solverson and he’s been so helpful and kind while getting me back to my normal pain-free routine! Mike has also been very busy with work and house projects.  He worked all last weekend to get the new wall of our half bathroom put up and mudded. He took a rare few minutes to himself this week to relax, so I had to be sure to include them in this week’s post. We’ve also been hurrying to finish Layla’s goal of reading 100 books over the summer.  We were on track and ahead of schedule in June… then our schedule got crazy!  When we got started, I was a little ambitious and decided we should only include each book the first time we read them.  So, rereads don’t count.  Now that we are in the last final days before school, this decision is starting to come back to haunt me!  But we are determined to finish her first goal for school and proud that we’ve read over and above the requirement.

We also spent an impromptu afternoon at the splash pad yesterday, because well, summer is almost over.  Anyone who has spent time with Owen over the last couple of months knows he’s been obsessed with snacking on yogurt raisins. When my sister and brother-in-law headed home a few weeks ago, they left him with a large stash as a parting gift, ha!

My initial goal for this project was until Layla started school.  I’m not entirely sure if I’ll keep it up through this fall.  There’s been a lot of things I’ve loved about documenting these little yahoos on a regular basis, but it hasn’t been without its challenges and I’m open to some other ideas. We shall see.

Today ‘s #documentfamilyfriday is the Back to School / End of Summer edition! I can’t believe our baby girl is off to kindergarten in less than two short weeks.  How is this even possible? I don’t feel ready in the least but I’m putting on a brave face for her.  I know she’s more than ready for this next step and I’m really looking forward to seeing her make new friends and blossom in her new classroom.

In the meantime, we are trying to work on as many summer bucket list items as possible. Yesterday we went on a sunflower hunting adventure at Spicer Orchards with our besties, Holly and Grace. It was complete with tractor hay ride, treats, and fresh apple cider. Yum! Forgive the inclusion of a few images below that are clearly not documentary… I try to keep things consistent but today I just can’t help myself. 🙂

This week has been exceptionally limited due to being out of town in PA last weekend to help shoot a wedding, followed by me throwing my back out randomly on Monday and still being largely incapacitated. My poor kids have had way more screen time than they should and they’ve barely made it out of their pajamas on most days, but I haven’t had much of a choice.  The struggle of getting them in and out of car seats, let alone shopping carts or playing at the park has been too excruciating to attempt.  I can’t even tie my own shoes… as documented below.  That combined with Mike’s exceptionally busy work week and his own stressors he’s been dealing with, it’s been a bit of a rough week.  I’ve started seeing a chiropractor and am really hoping that with the daily exercises and upcoming adjustments things will be back to normal soon! Really grateful that my parents are nearby and are willing to help out. That being said, hope you enjoy this week’s #documentfamilyfriday.

The cool morning breezes and this melodic wind chime have been my saving grace this week. We’ve had a lot of ‘visitors’ this week in our yard.  Thank goodness our vegetables are safely contained. Can you spot her in the distance?

I’ll admit, this week’s #documentfamilyfriday is a bit lazy.  I decided to enjoy my family time as much as possible and be present rather than constantly looking through the lens while my sister and brother-in-law were in town this week.  We had so much fun, lots of adventures, and some good relaxation time.  They left to return to Arizona yesterday afternoon and the kids (and us!) are already missing them.  Layla has been extra introspective over the past 24 hours talking about family and the importance of loving others and Owen keeps reciting “Aunt Amy… Uncle Wes…” over and over.  Safe to say it was a successful visit with lots of quality time! I can’t believe we are only a few short weeks away from Layla’s first day of school.  Where has the summer gone?!

My first late #documentfamilyfriday post, but for good reason.  Yesterday was spent celebrating my cousin Lexi and her new husband, Christian on their wedding day! Despite some light rain during the first part of the ceremony, (they say that’s good luck anyway!) the day went beautifully.  The venue was gorgeous with hundreds of handmade papel picado strung from above and lovely pink flower arrangements, the cozy furniture and handmade mantels and bars for serving drinks, the vegan meal was absolutely delicious, the mariachi band and DJ kept us dancing all night, the hilarious photo booth, and the delicious candy and hot sauce souvenirs are scattered around my computer as I type. I only took a couple of photos the entire day because I wanted to experience it and enjoy the festivities, but it was definitely candy for the eyes!

Now without further ado, here’s last week’s images.  Layla and Owen are really starting to enjoy playing together, and this week includes a lot of bonding time between them.  I love that! I also turned on the live-stream of the Apollo 11 takeoff in real time on Youtube for the 50th anniversary on Tuessday.  She watched for a few minutes and then decided she was no longer impressed… but I thought it was pretty neat.  Looking forward to watching the coverage of the moon landing again today. Last, my sister and brother-in-law are here for the week and we’ve had lots of fun! Wes treated us to a clean house and dinner on the table on Thursday while we were out, and they’ve both been doing lots of playing and hide and go seek with the kids. Summer is the best!