Thursday, March 6, 2014

Actions Speak

I began this post this morning with tears streaming down my face.  It's taken me, literally, all day to write it.  I always want to be cautious that I don't come across as offensive because that's never my intention, so I've read, re-read, edited and edited more than I've ever done on any other post.  So, up front, I want you all to know my heart.  This was written from the perspective of a mother with a child who wears glasses and how this fun "Nerd Day" at many public schools today, absolutely, wreaked havoc on my heart.  Some may think I'm crazy or being overly sensitive and I'm ok with that because the truth is, I might be a little extra sensitive about this.  But please try to read through it with an open mind and through the innocent mind of a child...your child, perhaps?  As I, myself, have tried to place myself in my daughter's mind....  

Our children are shaped by us and their surroundings.  More-so than we would like at times.  I am NOT a perfect parent and feel I fall far short by any standards.  I feel more challenged on a daily basis in my parenting of Ava because of the way God knit her together.  She's sweet and tender-hearted.  She's got sass and a silly personality.  She loves to boss lead others.  She's a rule follower when there are rules and boundaries.  But she's a negotiator and a really good one.  When she has her heart set on something, she can rationalize and negotiate to where you sit dumbfounded and go "well, yes, that does make sense".  She's amazing!  She's smart and artistic.  And she's beautiful...but buried deep inside this perfect gift God gave us, is the tiniest desire to be loved and accepted by everyone around her.  We all have that desire within us to some degree.  And it's challenging to parent a child who is so strong in her will yet so tender in her heart.  Five and a half years and we're still trying to figure it out.  Always praying for God to help us and when we fail we ask God to be merciful and help her not be screwed up from our shortcomings.  (Can I get an "Amen!" from anyone?!)

It was just before Thanksgiving when we noticed that Ava's right eye was drifting inward a lot.  I, immediately, called the eye doctor's office to schedule an appointment.  Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, we had to wait almost a full week before being seen.  As a parent, it felt like an eternity when you know something is not right and you feel like the longer you have to wait the worse the situation is becoming.  The exam revealed that Ava's right eye just has a more difficult time focusing (possibly due to school and having to focus much more intently in front of her or due to the day in which we live with so many electronic devices that children get to play with -- iPhones and iPads that they hold close to their faces to play.  Guilty parent here.) so when Ava's eyes become more relaxed, that eye just drifts inward.  Her vision in both eyes is perfect so there's really nothing they need to do for her vision.  She has a prescription/glasses to help her right eye to focus and not drift.

As many of you have seen, she is stinking C.U.T.E. in her little purple glasses.  But what you don't see and what you didn't hear were the tears and the questions from a little girl who knew she would look different than the other kids in her class.  "What if they laugh at me?"  "Do I have to wear them forever?"  "I like me better without glasses."  Every tear she cried, I, secretly, cried, too.  Each question a dagger to my heart.  Because every question she was asking was the same question that flooded my mind and gripped me with panic.

What IF the kids laugh at her?
How do I protect her heart from this?
I can't.
It's a part of life but why does it have to be?
Kids can be cruel out of ignorance.  It's not going to change how it affects Ava.  It will crush her.
Dear God.
Help her.
Help me.
Help me help her.
What do I do?
What do I say?

I cannot tell you how many times we have affirmed and continue to affirm her.  I cannot tell you how, desperately, I want OUR affirmation to be ENOUGH.  But we all know it's not enough.  We still want those around us to speak positive things about us.  It is no different in the heart of a 5 year old little girl.  To God be the glory that after Ava's first day at school with her glasses not a single kid made fun of her.  One of her sweet little friends even told her that she liked her new glasses.  We have less issues with the glasses now than we did, but she'd still rather not wear them.  And....if I'm being honest, I miss looking straight into those big blue eyes without dodging frames or seeing through reflective glare.  But it is what it is right now.  We continually pray that God would restore focus to that eye, strength to the muscles around that eye and we believe that day is coming.  But until then, we continue to affirm her because we never know when the stupid devil might rear his ugly head.  Like today.  But not with her. With me.

This week has been Dr. Seuss week at school for Ava.  She attends a private Christian school nearby, for those who may not know.  I wanted to fix her hair like Cindy Leu Who on Tuesday but Ava refused because it was "different" than "normal".  Remember that 5 year old who cares what others think about her??  So, we did a normal hairstyle.  Yesterday, Wednesday, was Wacky Wednesday.  I assured her that EVERYONE was dressing silly for school.  She was game then!  So, she dressed silly and loved it!  I even saw that the public schools were doing Wacky Wednesday, too.  Today, some public schools are doing "Hat Day" and others are having "Nerd Day". And just typing that word, "nerd", makes my stomach curl.  Not because I've had a previous bad experience with candy "nerds" and ate too many once.  But because all of the pictures I've seen of kids dressed up as "nerds", they're all wearing glasses.  Believe me.  They're ALL ADORABLE and I love them!!  I love your kids!  So, please don't get me wrong.  I get the stereotype.  I went to school once.  Many years ago...But many of these kids that I've seen, they're all kindergarteners.  Do they even know what the term "nerd" means?  Have they ever heard that word before?  I'd venture out on a limb here and say no, they probably haven't.  It's not a term we use in our household on a regular basis (haven't ever) so my hope is that other families aren't tossing the word around either.  I couldn't help but wonder what may have been conveyed to these little 5 and 6 year old minds regarding what a nerd is....someone who wears glasses?  Someone who doesn't dress "cool"?   Have you looked up the term "nerd" in a dictionary?  I did and it's not actually what I had originally thought. defines "nerd" as the following:

  1.  a stupid, irritating, ineffectual, or unattractive person.
  2.  an intelligent but single-minded person obsessed with a nonsocial hobby or pursuit: a computer nerd.

I'm confident that no one would have intended that their child portray these characteristics today.  At least, I hope not.  My fear is that children are learning way too young to label someone based on what they see on the outside.  My daughter is not a "nerd", period.  But I, certainly, don't want ANYONE to label her as one because she wears glasses.  An observation made on the outside does not reflect the nature of one on the inside. If only we could all be more like the Lord in this respect (myself included):

"The Lord does not look at the things man looks at.  Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart."  1 Samuel 16:7 NIV

I want to raise my children to see the good in others, even if the outward appearance or behavior is not what we always view as "normal".  Because regardless of what we see, God's hand was at work when each and every individual was made.  "For You created my inmost being; You knit me together in my mother's womb."  Psalm 139:13.  Are we quick to judge by what we see?  Yes.  I'm convinced its the sinful nature within us that we have to crucify daily.  I've even had to remind myself and Jordan to be careful of our judgements when simply watching American Idol.  Because there are little eyes watching and ears listening to the singers perform and hearing what we say in regards to their performance and she's gathering all that information and processing it in her 5 year old little mind.  They learn.  From US.  I've never wanted to be more careful of my words and actions than now.  Our behavior towards a child with special needs is picked up on by our children.  That child with an extra chromosome or a unique genetic "makeup" didn't happen by mistake.  GOD'S HAND created that child.  Scientists gave "it" a name.  God just calls them HIS.  A child who wears glasses is no different than a child without.  It's just an extra accessory they get to sport.  But the tender heart of a child can't comprehend this.  My 5 year old's little heart can't comprehend this.  So, I'm thankful today that it was "Green Eggs and Ham Day" at her school and not "Nerd Day".  Because she's smart.  If I told Ava that it was "Nerd Day" at school and she had to dress up (how would we dress her up, by the way?!)....and she walked into her classroom and saw that EVERY SINGLE KID was wearing glasses just like her???  She'd put two and two together.  And then I can hear the barrage of questions as I wipe the tears..."Am I a nerd, Mommy?"  "Then why did all the kids wear glasses like me today?"  I know it's all in fun for the kids and I hope they did have fun.  But what about the one like Ava?  The one who wears glasses EVERY DAY?  The one who put on their glasses this morning and went to school to see their peers wearing glasses and dressed up in an "unfashionable" way all in the name of fun??!!  How did they feel today?  What happened in the deepest parts of their heart today?

So, this post is for that one kid that sat in a public classroom today wearing glasses because they have to, who already knows their outward appearance is different than the rest and had to witness the stereotype of society that "nerds" wear glasses.  May their lives never be defined by their peers.  May they never be defined by society.  But may they always be defined as the special and unique person that God created them to be from the beginning of time.  And may we, as parents, strive to teach our children to love others.  Truly love others.  And to be aware of what we "say" without saying a word.  And for any mommies and daddies who will wipe tears from their baby's eyes after school today, keep affirming them.  Don't be too tired of saying the same thing over and over and over and over again.  They need to hear their worth and value from you...endlessly.

And lastly, is there a petition that can be signed to end "Nerd Day" in school?!

There's NOTHING "nerdy" about this incredible daughter of the Most High God who will help change the world one day!


Monday, January 6, 2014

And Landon Makes FOUR!

New life.  A beautiful gift.  The family entrusted with such a gift?  Blessed. 
And I know this family could not be more grateful for this gift.  
Precious Landon was worth the heartache, worth the tears, and worth the wait.  
Intricately knit together for such a time as this.  
When we don't understand, God ALWAYS has a PERFECT plan.  
And this sweet boy is PERFECT in every way.

I had a difficult time choosing images to share because there were so many sweet moments.  These are some of my favorites.  I hope they warm your heart on this super chilly Alabama night!!

(click image for larger view)

*In awe of this sweet moment!*

**I mean, seriously?!?!  If that's not a poser shot, I don't know what is!!  And I couldn't decide if I liked the color or black and white best, so I just kept one of each.  Which do you like better?**

Stay warm!


Saturday, December 21, 2013

Where's My Christmas Card?

As we are quickly approaching Christmas Day, my mailbox continues to flood with the loveliest of Christmas cards from so many of our dearest friends.  Receiving Christmas cards each year is one of the things I look forward to most.  I love seeing the creativity behind a Christmas photo shoot and seeing how families and kids have grown each year.  And I absolutely LOVE having my own photo shoot and designing our personal Christmas card each year!  Throughout the entire Fall season I've been dreaming up and envisioning what our card would look like this year and I was so excited to proudly display BOTH of my babies on the card....last year we were just a family of 3 and now we are 4!!  Yay!!!!

It's amazing how much can change in just 1 year.  It's been an exciting year for us with sweet Pierce joining our family.  It's also been a challenging year between having a rough pregnancy, his miraculous delivery, adjusting to being a mommy of 2, Ava starting kindergarten and having homework and spelling tests every week, being a wife and stay at home mom who also happens to have a photography business and some amazing clients that have kept my schedule joyfully packed.  I just wrapped up my last pre-Christmas photo session last weekend and rushed to get it edited so I could try to coast into Christmas with a clean slate and the hope of being pressure-free.  Yet, all the while, a photo shoot with Ava and Pierce and the designing of our Christmas card still loomed over my head.

I've been doing a quick photo shoot with Pierce every month for his baby book (don't ask if I've printed any!) and he turned 6 months old on December 15th so I dropped everything else on my "to do" list and did a quick session with him and Ava last week.  That may sound easy enough to you....but.....when you're a perfectionist of a human being/photographer, it's never quite so simple.  Session completed but there's still the culling process and then the editing process and while one thing gets accomplished there's always something else, somewhere, that falls behind.  Laundry.  Dishes.  A clean house.  Grocery shopping.  Christmas shopping.  And so on.

Could I have gotten a Christmas card designed with a quick snapshot of the kids and a sweet little Christmas wish perfectly centered in a pretty font on the back?  Yes.  Could I have gotten them ordered and delivered to my doorstep this week?  Yes.  Could I have gotten them addressed, stamped and dropped in the mailbox by today?  Yes.  Would I have missed out on doing Christmas crafts with Ava?  Yes.  Would I have missed extra snuggles and giggles with Pierce?  Yes.  Would I have missed Ava's Christmas party at school?  Yes.  Would I have missed Christmas shopping with Jordan?  Yes.  Would I have missed these memories in order to send all of our precious family and friends a Christmas card that you would have only enjoyed for maybe 3 days?  Yes.  And every time I pondered what mattered most to me in this season, right now, the hustle and bustle and stress to follow tradition fell short.  Way, way, way, way short.

As I type this, I glance around my living room to find a half decorated mantle that is nowhere near what I wanted it to be because I never had the time to make the pretty burlap banner I had wanted to or make a pretty garland from fresh Frasier Fir branches.  The very top portion of our Christmas lights on the tree went out a few days ago and we haven't changed them out and won't at this point.  Pierce has a stocking that doesn't match the rest of ours because I never got around to making new ones like I wanted.  But in this very moment, there is peace and stillness, not only in my house and not just because the babies are asleep, but it's nestled down inside me because I've chosen to not fret over things I can't change or things that matter less than what I cherish and value most in my life.  My family.  I would rather Ava remember that I sat down in a tiny little chair right next to hers in her classroom.  I'd rather remember the excitement on her face when I made it to her party on time.  I'd rather remember all the fun of our first Christmas as a family of four than fill my heart and my home with anxiety and tension over what I "thought" this Christmas should "look" like.  And I'd rather share my love with all of you here, in this blog post, just so you know that you weren't forgotten or wonder how you didn't make my "card cut" this year.  No one did.  But it wasn't because you weren't loved or that we didn't think of you.  We've thought of EACH one of you and we want YOUR Christmas to be filled with what matters MOST, too - the ones you love most!

I'll cross my fingers and challenge myself to be ahead of the game next year because I do want to share in the card giving again!  It just didn't happen this year and I'm thankful that I know you understand.  :o)

I wouldn't dare leave you without some cuteness so please enjoy a few of my favorites from the photo shoot last week.  :o)

From our happy little family of 4 to your precious family...

(and Jordan, Ava and Pierce, too)

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Barger ~ And Then There Were Three

As a woman, you can dream about starting a family of your own and anticipate the joy and excitement of having a new life growing within you.  However, sometimes, the reality of that experience can be overwhelming and challenging; especially when its marked by months of extreme nausea, sickness and discomfort.  In the light of 5+ months, it may not seem like a long time.  But when you break that down into days and hours, when you're sick, it can seem like an eternity.  You can only pray that the worst will be over and you can't bring that sweet life into the world soon enough.  

But once that miraculous life is in your arms, you know it was worth every single struggle and discomfort.  And when you hold that precious gift in your arms and you know what a blessing you've been entrusted with, you're emotionally overwhelmed.  And a priceless moment that brought this photographer to tears happens.  
Butch and Tara, I am beyond thankful and blessed to have captured sweet Luke's newborn session.  He is blessed to have such a wonderful mommy and daddy to love him and steward his precious life well!

There are so many more from this session to share with you but I have to wait until after Christmas.  :op  Until then, I introduce to you, Mr. Luke Barger and his sweet family!

(click image for larger view)   

*I melted over this one!!*

*He grinned and we all melted!*

*There's nothing like a father and his son.*


Saturday, December 7, 2013

Malone Family

I LOVE watching my clients children grow.  I've been photographing this little sassy thing since she was born.  She's 2 years old now and such a cute little diva.  She melted my heart when she reached up to me and said "hold you".  I couldn't tell that sweet face no so I loved on her quite a bit during our session.  This is such a precious family!  

I hope you enjoy your sneak peek!!!  :o)

(click image for larger view)


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Pickens ~ Newborn

This sweet couple drove all the way from Hueytown on a cold, wet and rainy day so I could capture the newest addition to their family.  Baby Ashton was P.R.E.C.I.O.U.S.  Do you see all that gorgeous, thick, dark hair??!!  Oh my.  And, although he didn't show them off too much during the session, he has some sweet little dimples in those cheeks!  Swoon.  

MeKeisha, Reggie, thanks for taking on such a nasty day to come for your newborn session.  I hope you love your sneak peek!  Can't wait for you to see the rest!!  :o)

(click image for larger view)


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Leonard ~ 1 Year

You know that cute, contagious, full giggling that you can get babies to do if you get their "tickle spot" really good?  That laugh that makes you laugh and turns you into a puddle of mush because its the sweetest sound on the planet?  Well, this A.D.O.R.A.B.L.E. little boy, who is about to turn 1 year old (where did the last 12 months go?!), did that belly laugh on his own, without tickles or silly faces, the W H O L E session.  I wanted to just scoop him up and take him home with me.  He couldn't get any cuter and I couldn't adore his precious family any more than I do.  It's been an absolute joy watching baby Jack grow this year.  I know God has B I G plans for him already and he is blessed to have some amazing parents to steward his precious life well.  

Happy Birthday Jack!!  We love and adore you!!!  

(click image for larger view)