Wednesday, November 30, 2011

She's Gonna Blow!

Lucy in my bed in the morning.  She has turned herself completely upside down.
My parents are back in town with us, and will be staying for awhile.  I don't know how long.  I wish I could keep them forever, but they do have to go back sometime before Christmas.

I had my 32 week checkup yesterday.  Three weeks past the appendix nightmare, she talked to me about the test results.  Apparently, it was pretty nasty.  We got it out just in time.

All the fever and the food-poisoning-like symptoms that had kept me unable to hold down anything, even water, for 5-6 days?  That was not the tummy bug that Ben & Lucy had.  That was the appendix getting ready to rupture.  It was a coincidence that I got sick at the same time.

I still hurt, some.  I can't seem to force myself to stay rested.  Even though I hurt, I still find work to do.  I was cleaning up my mess from indoor product shot on Monday, and the pain was so bad that I had to sit down for awhile.  I asked my doctor about it, and she said that while my incisions are almost 100% healed, I need to remember that I am pregnant and surgery takes a lot of time to get complete healing from.  I need to slow down.  To stop and really get rest.  I'll only be pregnant for less than two months more, and this is the only time we ever plan on me being pregnant again... so I really do need to take this time for myself and rest.

It's a blessing that I don't deal with pre-eclampsia or placenta previa or anything life-threatening.  Besides that stupid appendix, anyway.  But it's been a non-stop drama fest of one thing after another since two little lines appeared on that stick.  I've been at the hospital a lot this time... taking lots of medications... my doctor told me that the nurses, looking at my chart, called to ask her before admitting me, and I quote, "Is she a whiner, or is there something really wrong?"  Dr S. told them that if I was at the hospital, that if I was crying from pain, then there was definitely some sort of emergency because I was one of her toughest patients and wouldn't be there unless there was something really bad going on.

It's wonderful that I have been through four pregnancies with the same OB.  She knows me pretty well.  I'm going to miss her!

Anyway, like I was saying... I don't deal with life-threatening complications.  But there have just been so many of them, that I am exhausted.  I feel so overwhelmed and sad all the time!  Battle fatigue.  It does make me sad to think of this baby as being my last, last, last, for-real-this-time last.  But each pregnancy has gotten more difficult, and I am only 30... I am pretty sure it gets harder and more complicated as a woman ages.  I would love to be a fully-functioning member of my family again.  I want to be the best mom to my five that I can be... not on bed rest for 9 months every couple of years.  I just can't do it anymore.  I miss my family.

On the bright side, it is almost over AND I get a baby out of it.  This time, I have absolutely no inkling as to who this baby is.  No intuition, no ultrasound tech slip.  ;)  I really don't know, and it is making it that much more exciting to see who I have been carrying around through all the bumps in the road.  Baby has been amazing... I've been in some really bad spots this pregnancy, but thanks to the power of prayer, Baby and his/her growth and fluid levels and movements and everything have been perfectly on track!  It really is a miracle when you stop to think about it.

6-7 weeks from now, I will get to kiss that little miracle's cheeks.  :)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Our First (just-us-at-home) Thanksgiving

Did you catch Lucy's face reflected in the oven?  She looks so happy!  ;)

When I first realized we would be "home alone" on Thanksgiving for the very first time, I was truly sad.  I thought about how unfair it is that I can't travel right now, and thought the holiday would seem quiet and lonely without being surrounded in our massive crowd of parents, siblings & nieces/nephews. 

And then, the day came and it was perfect.  It was anything BUT quiet and lonely with my four little hooligans running around, Adam cooking an entire Thanksgiving spread from scratch, and watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade.  We stuffed ourselves silly and everyone dozed on and off while we watched Christmas movies and made ornaments.  It was absolutely perfect.

Thanksgiving isn't a religious holiday where we have to plan around services.  There are not a million things on the to-do list.  There's no shopping except the grocery store.  ;)  It was just a simple celebration of loving our family and basking in the glow of our blessings.

It was perfect!

And the funny of the day... Ben was rather enchanted watching the cheerleaders on TV during the parade.  Adam and I were laughing when we noticed.  Finally, he turns and says, "My favorite is the one with the yellow hair."

Oh boy.  We have a boy.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

We Need a Vacation!

Adam & Bella cuddling before the show

After nearly two weeks at home (aside from a doctor's appointment) I had the pleasure of seeing my sweet little Sophie perform at school. It was a really cute show! She had her very first speaking part, and she nailed her lines. :) She is so cute and expressive, and I just love her to pieces.

Sophie is the cutest one on stage. Or if you need more detail, she is the "Mom" with glasses, a bob haircut, and a light blue shirt over on the left.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

One Week Post-Op


Today, I am 30 weeks pregnant. I am also one week post-op. It's just been a really crazy pregnancy.

I've nicknamed this baby "Boosey." Rhymes with Lucy. As in, the CABOOSE-y. It makes me really sad to talk about ,but I am 100% sure that this is our last pregnancy. This has been the most difficult 30 weeks in my life thus far, with complication after complication... just think my body can't handle another pregnancy.

The good news is, I have FIVE beautiful precious perfect children already, and I am lacking nothing. More good news... I'm only 30. So in about 10 years, Adam and I will no longer have "little" children, but will still be young enough to take on our ultimate dream... foster-to-adopting a child or two out of the system and into a forever family.

It feels a lot better to focus on that part. That's the happy part! :)

For now, I am still healing from the appendectomy. I am very sore still, like I've done a million crunches and then possibly been punched in the stomach a few times. I haven't really felt hungry since the surgery, and am still having phantom pains in my side. I spend most of my days sleeping, and my nights awake & lonely. It's hard for me to NOT pick up my children, to not drive, to not be very helpful around the house. I am ready for this modified bedrest to be over, and let me have a few more weeks of normalcy before sweet baby arrives.

I don't have a lot to say, just want to update you on my general progress. I miss blogging.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Baby Mama Drama


Where to even begin? This pregnancy has been the most difficult by far. I was telling a friend that I wouldn't believe it, had I not lived it. I've been in and out of the hospital with HG, dehydration, pneumonia, severe tummy bug, gestational diabetes, chronic bronchitis, swollen kidney and most recently... an emergency appendectomy.

Yes, folks, I had surgery three days ago to remove my appendix.

It was the most terrifying experience of my life so far. After checking out of the hospital on Saturday for a tummy bug, Sunday I was feeling very funny. Just plain weird. Then the pain started. At first is was a mild aching that I attributed to being so sick and possibly pulling a muscle when throwing up for the 10,371st time this pregnancy. It got worse and worse. I tried to lay down, to take a bath, everything. Then, it became so unbearable that I began to cry and shiver. Adam took me right back to the hospital. I got an ultrasound of the baby first, then of my entire abdomen and kidneys. Finally, they decided my appendix needed to come out before it ruptured.

I'd never had surgery before. I was so afraid of what anesthesia would do to the baby, but they told me that 1 in 5 babies DIE if their mom's appendix ruptures while they are pregnant... the risks were much smaller to have the operation. I thought I was handling it stoically enough, but I could feel myself on the brink of a breakdown. My mom-in-law called Father K, and he said he'd come right away to pray with me and do anointing of the sick. Before he made it though, the nurses put me on a bed and wheeled me away. I barely got to kiss Adam.

On the way to the surgery, I tried to think about happy things. I thought about how much I love Adam & our kids, the friends who were praying for us, and the God that I believe in. I tried to push away the fears of worst-case scenarios, but they were just not easy to push away.

That was the most difficult hour of my life. Waking up from surgery, I had a full-blown panic attack. I can't even talk about it without crying, still, three days later. They broke the rules and let Adam come back to see me in the PACU, because my heart rate and breathing were so erratic. They let him stay with me, seeing as his presence brought my vital signs back to where they needed to be better than any medicine could.

Over the last week, I've been surrounded in love and prayers. I've felt lonely a lot in my life, especially after losing some close friendships last year, but I feel as though I have my forever friends. These ladies prayed for me, brought food to Adam in the hospital, and are feeding my family now. I'm on modified bedrest for 2 weeks, and my friends just keep calling, texting, emailing and dropping by. My parents are here and my mom has been my saving grace. Adam's mom is also taking care of all our errands and giving Adam moral support.

As awful as this whole thing is (and the recovery just plain sucks, too)... I feel emotionally and spiritually better than ever. We are loved. I am loved. I have family, friends, and God who will never let me be alone & afraid.

Funny how the worst thing that can happen, sometimes turns out to be one of the best things to happen in the end.

Please pray that the remaining 9-ish weeks of this pregnancy will be uneventful. I just need to stay well, and need baby to be healthy. My children are such brave little ones, and are handling this with a maturity that amazes and humbles me... but my Lucy is still very much a baby who needs her Mommy, and she is having a hard time having me away at the hospital so much and then unable to hold her when I get home. Please pray for Adam, that he can stay encouraged and not become too overwhelmed with his own fears and burdens.

Thank you so much. I literally FELT prayers while I was waiting to go under, and I still feel them now. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. We are very blessed to have your prayers and love.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Quote

"Abuse victims are always the best actors. They have to be, to live their whole lives with the pain and shame, pretending there is nothing wrong. It's the greatest performance of all."

(Richard Dreyfuss)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

The Latest


It's late, and I can't sleep. The house is quiet and my babies are sleeping... which gives me lots of time to think. When I think too much, I know it is time for a blog update, to get it all out of my mind and "on paper" somewhere.

First, my Bella is 6 as of October 10th. I didn't get to do a lot for her, because I was really ill (more on that in a second!) but I think she had a special day anyway. Can not believe she is 6. Just can't.

So where have I been? Oh, you know me... I vanished for a month again. I'm fine now... just couldn't breathe for awhile! To make a long story short, the wildfires last month sent my allergies into overdrive, and I can't take the good stuff to kick it out when I'm pregnant. So it turned into a sinus infection... and again, I can't take the good stuff when I am pregnant to knock it out. Add that to a renewed surge of vomiting 3-4 times a day, and the dehydration and exhaustion didn't help me fight it off. That nasty infection turned into bronchitis, which after a couple of weeks, turned into pneumonia. I had a turning point on Sunday, and am not coughing as much right now AND can only sometimes hear the wheezy-rattle in my lungs. I call that progress. :)

Thanks to the latest round of unpleasantness, I finally hit my breaking point. I did a lot of crying and feeling sorry for myself. Really, truly... I was beyond depressed. I felt lonely and overwhelmed and just terrible. I felt like this illness, this nausea, and this pregnancy would NEVER end.

I tried to clear my plate a bit, to help with these feelings... and because I physically could NOT do everything I was doing before.

I did either refund, refer, or defer all photo sessions until the Spring. That has been difficult for a lot of reasons, not the least of which, financial! I absolutely cannot believe how much we've come to rely on the photography money for all the "extras." And since this summer, I've been continuing to do the "extras" without having the extra money to pay for it. I feel like an irresponsible child! We have a lot of cuts to make (again) and it's going to hurt.

My mom is basically taking over most of my duties of the house to help me rest as much as I can. I still insist on being the one to take the kids to all of their various places and to do the shopping, etc. I know she is here to help and constantly reminds me, but, like I do with even my closest friends,... I just withdraw and try to carry my burdens alone.

Boundaries... it's always about boundaries.

Not only do I keep the bad stuff "in", but I refuse to let the good stuff "in" too. I don't even talk about it when I am having a hard time, until it is over and I am explaining why I was so distant. I try to stay cheerful and engaging even when I am going through a hard time, because... um... I don't know. I don't know why I am afraid to need a shoulder to cry on, or to ask my girlfriends to help me... or simply accept when they offer. I am surrounded by people who love me and genuinely care, but I can't seem to let them. I am afraid of putting anyone out, or being a bother, or losing a friend. I lost the best friend I ever had during my last rough spot, and I am just too afraid to let that happen again. It's just the most pathetic thing in the world when I see it all written out like this, but I can't candy coat it!

(I know... I obviously need therapy. I don't think a public blog is the place to put all of this stuff. But when do I have the time for therapy?)

Anyway... all that said... I try to think about people who really DO have a hard life. Those who are hungry, or unloved, or unwanted. Those who suffer burdens I can't begin to imagine. I try to remember that my life IS very good. Even when I can't breathe and am throwing up and have too much on my mind... my life is very, very good. I live in a safe and comfortable home. My husband adores me and I love him back. He has a good job. My children are healthy, gorgeous, and happy. My children go to excellent schools. I don't have to worry about providing them with everything they NEED... food, clothing, shelter, and lots of love & attention. I have a wonderful support system of family and friends, who for whatever reason, still love me. I have excellent medical care and while things are bumpy with this pregnancy (pun intended!), I also have faith that everything will be fine in the end.

All of this is going to be worth it, when I see my sweet little Alice Caroline. Or Leo James. We'll get through it as a family and the reward will be great.

In the meantime, I do plan to use my blog as a little steam vent. If it bothers you to hear me whine or makes you worry about an impending nervous breakdown, please do us both a favor and don't read here! Stick to my Facebook status updates and pray for me, instead. :) I promise if there is anything seriously wrong, Adam will get help for me.

Thanks for listening, even when I am a hard person to love! I feel a lot better getting all of this out and having a good cry over it. :)

Monday, September 19, 2011

I'm Happy, Because...


I love lists. So today, I'm going to make one.

I'm happy because...

1. I have a wonderful, wonderful husband. He has helped me keep this house running while struggling through our fifth pregnancy. He makes me a better person by reminding me to love more, forgive freely and regret less.

2. That wonderful husband of mine does NOT have cancer. Yes, we were quite terrified for a few weeks, but we can breathe a sigh of relief now and focus on the much less scary health issues that can be changed with a healthier lifestyle.

3. I listened to my heart, and took Lucy out of preschool. I'll tell you the whole long story in person if you want to hear it, but on the blog... suffice to say, she wasn't ready. And I'm not either.

4. Sophie, Bella & Ben are doing great in school. They all have caring, loving, and patient teachers who clearly enjoy children. I love to hear their stories from their day. While there is always a part of me that will ache for our homeschooling days, I truly believe that this is the best choice for our family.

5. I am going on a hiatus of undetermined length from professional photography. This is a HUGE relief and also, a huge fear. Right now, the choice is easy. My health simply will not allow me to do it. Once baby arrives, it will be harder because it will still be a conscious choice I have to make for my family. Money concerns worry me sick. But, I have faith that we will all pull together to do what needs doing for the sake of our FIVE babies. We have a lot of help, and prayers, and love constantly coming our way.

6. My Facebook prop sale went so well that I was able to raise all of the money I needed to pay my photographer friend Chyrshelle to take over my Fall/Holiday calendar for me. I gave refunds to those who asked. My business account is empty, but my family's personal accounts & savings are untouched. That is a HUGE stressor off of my shoulders.

7. While life is certainly never easy, it is very very very good.

There are some things I am struggling with that I would love to talk about here in effort to reach out to friends and prayerful bloggers to help me through. I don't have time today, because I've got to make a much-needed trip to the post office and Lucy is waking up. But I will be back when I can! In the meantime, thank you for being my friends.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Getting Better


We have a glowing "first week" report. Already on the second day, Bella was ready to go back and assured me that she wasn't afraid anymore. In fact, she insisted on riding the bus rather than having Mama drive over and walk her in. ;) That's my girl! She is making friends and seems to love her teacher & all the new activities/routines.

As for me, I was knocked flat on my back again for a few days this week with recurring HG. All I can do is be the best Mama I can be and try to get through the next 20-ish weeks with as much grace as possible.

I've been doing a lot of soul-searching over the last few weeks, and I will share my thoughts here soon.

Thanks for thinking of and praying for my baby girl!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Bella's First Day of Kindergarten


Something has changed.

It started when we got her hair cut last week.

Suddenly, those big blue eyes that she has grown into became GIANT eyes that I remember peering from her tiny face as a sick baby. She seemed so fragile then. She was just so little and helpless.

The haircut completely changes how I perceive her. Those eyes stand out again, no longer eclipsed by long brown curls.

Last night around midnight, Bella was crying inconsolably and I had to take her back to bed. When she woke up, she was giggling with Sophie again but as the morning went on, she got quieter and quieter.

When we parked on a neighborhood side street to walk into the school together, she said one thing: "I'm scared."

Her hand clutched mine tightly, and she didn't say anything else until we got to her classroom. Not even goodbye to Sophie. I walked her over to her name, and she sat down. I tried to get some "smiley" photos and stay upbeat, but her hands were in little nervous fists and she only gave my half-grins.

I squatted next to her chair for the next ten minutes, just rubbing her back. The bell chimed, and the principal urged us to leave the classroom and let our babies start their day. Mrs. J, the kindergarten teacher, came over to Bella and told her it is okay to be scared. She said that Bella could hold Peter Rabbit and give him squeezes when she felt afraid. I kissed her and told her I would see her soon.

It took EVERY ounce of strength I had to hold my own tears in until I had a private moment.

Before I walked down the long hall, I turned one last time and snapped this photo of my tiny girl.

My baby... my little tiny fragile baby who needed her Mommy so much... today, I had to let go a little bit.

I don't know that either one of us were ready for this day.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Word to the Wise: "Private" Facebook Profiles are NOT Private

Lesson learned this morning: When you have 600+ friends, a "private" Facebook account isn't private. I've had one of my status updates submitted to a page that one of my 628 "friends" likes, doing an article that pokes fun at people. However, there are real people with real feelings associated with those sites, and the name "Lerin" wasn't blurred out. Sorry everyone... there is a slash & burn coming on my Facebook friends list. Please don't take it personally.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Baby Shower Ettiquette for the Fifth Time Around


As of this afternoon, three people have asked me... "Is anyone throwing you a shower?" And I honestly don't know what to say!

So, I have to ask the whole wide bloggin' world:

When you have 4 adorable children (one boy and three girls) and a fifth one on the way (whose gender will not be "peeked" at before birth)... is it appropriate to have another baby shower? I've had showers for each baby, and it has always been fun. But honestly, there isn't much that I "need" that we don't have. And for a lot of my friends, this would be the third time around on the baby shower thing with me. I guess we could always use diapers, since I failed miserably at the cloth diapering thing with Ben & Lucy. We will definitely need a new carseat and a new baby swing, but those are rather big ticket items and I would feel odd about putting them on a registry.

And another issue... When would we even do it? I'm due in January. Normally, I'd say November or December, but that is a really tough time for a lot of people... juggling multiple commitments and family events and physically/mentally/financially recovering from the holidays. I don't even know when I would want to have the party! I'd hate to feel like I was stressing anyone out with planning and/or trying to fit in my gathering at a busy time.

Please, help a mama out. What do I say? Should I just throw myself a "sprinkle" with pedicures and cupcakes and no gifts necessary? Honestly, I just want to get together with my girlfriends and take pictures for the scrapbook and get excited about the baby! But I don't want to answer with a nervous giggle and a "Why, do you want to throw me one?" anymore. It's awkward. ;)

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Back-to-School Fun


There is always a moment before I leave the house where I ask myself: should I bring my big fancy camera or just use the cellphone one? There was a time when I always brought my big fancy camera, but it proved to be a big distraction for me. It was like being there, but not really. I can't just snap a photo... I have to MAKE a picture. So I've started going with the cellphone camera more and more for all my snapshot needs. It leaves a little (okay, a LOT) to be desired in the image quality department, but the quality of time I spend actually with my kids instead of playing with settings and DOF is a good trade off in the end. ;)

This photo makes me laugh so hard every time I see it. I am excited to share it with you. It's just such an authentic representation of exactly who they are. I love it.

I snapped this one last night at the back-to-school ice cream party. It was lots of fun. We saw all of our friends, and even had a reunion of sorts with some old neighbors... Lindsay, you may remember the family. :D It turns out we will be at the same school for this year, at least until our neighborhood school is complete. It's set to open for next year, and I can't wait until we can walk to school every day just as I did as an elementary-schooler.

I still can't believe that Bella starts kindergarten on Monday.

Today completely wore me out. I woke up feeling nauseated but somehow dragged myself out of bed and got everyone ready for the day. Lucy screamed and kicked for a good ten minutes while I wrestled her into clothes, brushed her hair & teeth, and got her shoes buckled. My baby girl was screaming, 'NO SCHOOL! NO SCHOOL!' I bribed her into the car with a lollipop. Yes, I did.

Pretty sure that there would be a nuclear meltdown upon dropping her off at preschool, I called Adam to see what he thought. I was ready to forget the whole thing. However, he talked me into giving it a try. The funny thing is, when I took her in to class, she started to whimper and then she reached for her teacher. I passed her over and she waved bye to me. I was amazed.

I guess she got it out of her system at home? Anyway, she did have a fun day and stayed all the way until noon. She even ate some yogurt for snacktime. She never eats yogurt. I am duly impressed.


While she was at preschool, I took the kids to spend three hours at Chuck E Cheese. No, it wasn't the smartest thing for a nauseated pregnant lady to do, but I had to think of something to do indoors that was close enough to the school in case I was called to pick up a screaming Lucy. Did you know it is possible to amass 708 tickets with three kids in three hours? Again, I was impressed. They spent it all on cotton candy and Nerds candy. Which probably explains why my sugar-high children were crazy little monkeys at lunch.

After we picked up a NOT CRYING Lucy, we headed to Double Dave's for some GOOD pizza. ;) I even ate 2 pieces of it. It wasn't easy managing a buffet with four children on my own, but I did it.

Of course, now I am so tired that I can hardly keep my eyes open. I think it was worth it though. I think Lucy is going to be okay after all, and the big kids got a fun day of playing and pizza before school is back in.

And best of all? I didn't throw up.

Monday, August 15, 2011

How It's Going


We tried again on Friday to take Lucy to school for an hour, and she cried through the first twenty minutes. When I came to get her, she was doing just fine! She was sitting at a table eating some cereal for snack time.

As part of the continuing effort to ease her in, we took her again this morning for an hour, and she cried for ten minutes. When I came to get her, she was sitting in her teacher's lap as happy as could be.

I will try her for a few hours tomorrow to see if it works, but told her teachers to call me if she started crying again. I will be sticking close by so I can come get her as soon as she needs me.

Lucy likes to TALK about preschool... but it's when I leave that the fear sets in. I hate it! I know she is getting used to it, but I am definitely questioning whether it is the right time to start her. I'll let her go at least this week, and then we'll see what happens. I know she is fine after awhile, but that SAD heartbroken face when I leave is too much for this Mommy's heart! I told Adam I can't bear it much more. It makes ME cry too! It sure is reassuring to see her smiling and playing when I come to get her though. :)

In other news, we are running around like crazy people trying to get all of our errands and shopping and appointments and paperwork done before school starts on Monday. I have been down and out for so long, that it is a nightmare trying to play catch-up at this point. The lines are long with fellow last-minute mommies. It will be different next year... I'm determined! ;)

Thursday, August 11, 2011

The "First Day" Report


As you can see from the pictures, the morning was PERFECT! She was so excited to go to school. The first image is a snapshot next to the front door. The second image was taken in front of the school doors, where she is saying "SCHOOL!" The last one shows how she immediately ran inside to get busy playing, with a fast "Bye Mommy!"

I was so shocked by how well it went. There was a little boy who was not willing to separate from Dad, as you can probably see from the third photo. I cropped out of respect, naturally.

The big kids and I left and headed to Pump It Up for a pop-in playtime. The kids LOVE that place, and we haven't been since the infamous birthday party when Lucy broke her arm coming down the bouncy slide.

My phone rang at 10:30... Lucy was hysterical. Apparently, all was fine until one of the kids start crying for their Mommy. Lucy remembered she wanted Mommy too. He calmed down; Lucy didn't. After thirty minutes of inconsolable crying, they asked me if I wanted to pick her up and try to ease her in an hour at a time over the next week. I agreed and herded the big kids into the car.

When I got to the school, the kids were outside. Lucy was being held by Miss Amy. The moment she saw me, she started crying again and reaching for me. Her voice sounded hoarse. She kept saying, "Mommy back soon! Mommy back soon!" so I knew she was remembering what I said in our practice. However, I think Mommy wasn't back soon enough! ;) Poor baby said "No no preschool. Want Mommy and go nigh-night." While I was debriefing with Amy, Lucy started saying she wanted her ponytails off, shirt off, dress off, shoes off. She was DONE.

After a good lunch and a good nap, all was well again.

We are going to try for just an hour tomorrow morning. I feel so sorry for her! It started so well and ended so sadly! While I would LOVE for her to enjoy preschool and stay to play, I honestly have no reason to force it. I told her teachers that I'm not going back to work and I really don't need to push her... I don't care if she wants to be with me 24/7 for the next year or more, until she's ready! She is only this little once, and if she isn't having fun there, I would be more than happy to keep her home with me. This is for HER, not for me. Amy asked me to give it some time. She said they love Lucy and don't want to lose her just yet. I said we'll see how the week goes! ;)

So, that's the report! Wish us luck for tomorrow morning!!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Practice Makes Perfect


(This is what her hair looks like every morning before we spray it down with the water bottle and use her frizz-fighting creme.)

Lucy is growing up, and she understands so much more than I think she does!

When we had our appointment at Texas Children's Hospital to cut off her cast, I was warned that the noise is very loud and most children will cry. Lucy kicked, cried, and screamed getting it put on (two weeks after the initial break and soft cast) so I was expecting the worst. About a week before, I started practicing with her. I felt a little silly, but thought it certainly couldn't hurt to try.

I had her sit on the coffee table and used a little pretend tool, and mimicked cutting it off. I made really loud noises, saying: "Now I am going to cut off your cast. BRRRR! REALLY LOUD! All done. It's off!" I did this over and over with her, and she thought of it like a game.

When we finally had the appointment, I talked her through it just as we had played. When the saw came on and the noise started, I said: "BRRRRR! REALLY LOUD!" just like at home. She didn't cry or try to pull away at all. Once they opened it up ad took it off, she said, "All done." I knew then that she remembered our game and had made the connection.

We are practicing for something huge, this week.

Lucy is going to preschool for the very first time. She will be in a two-day program for three hours at a time at first, then once Ben starts in September, she will stay through lunch and nap too.

We've been talking and practicing, and she asks "More prackiss" about fifty times a day. ;) I walk her to the office room door and say, "Bye, Lucy! Have fun at school!" At first, she would say, "I cwy." Now she says, "Bye Mommy!" Then I come back and say, "Lucy, I'm back! Let's go home!" as she runs to my waiting arms.

She is going to have so much fun. She loves playing with other children her age. They do art projects, messy sensory fun, outdoor play, and story time every day. I can't wait to give her these fun and special experiences. Sophie started two-day preschool at 2 as well, but both Ben and Bella waited until they were 3. I hope she is ready! We just stopped nursing this month, and that was the only thing that I thought may be rough about preschool for her. Now, we've made that transition and I think she is ready to play.

My hope is that her first day goes off just as we practiced. I will let you know tomorrow.

Monday, August 8, 2011

My Summer Reading List


My summer reading list is quite small. It consists of exactly one book. However, I've been working on it all summer! I remember when I used to devour a whole book in a day or two. Mothers of almost-5 don't have that luxury anymore, at least in my experience.

The book is "Boundaries" by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend. Getting through this book is going to be life-changing for me. I'm already getting a drastic makeover on my perception of who I am and what it means to be a "giver" without being taken. ;) Really, though, I think this book is as important & necessary for me to read now as "Co-Dependent No More" was back in 2003.

I will share more when I finish.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mr. Fantastic!


Adam celebrated his 32nd birthday in true Wheeless style... with "birthday week." We've gone out to eat, celebrated with swimming and a cookout and cupcakes, gone to finally see the last Harry Potter at the theater, rented a movie with the kids, watched a Dynamo game together, and wrapped it all up with a trip to Ooh La La.

We sure do love you, Adam!

Monday, August 1, 2011

All you need is LOVE... in ACTION!


All you need is love.  But that love should motivate you to ACTION.  Love without action, like faith without works, is not worth a whole lot.

In my previous post, I urged my followers to donate to UNICEF by text to help relieve suffering in East Africa due to the famine.  Eleven MILLION people are affected by the famine... it is a staggering number.

After reading so many heart-wrenching accounts and seeing photos from the BBC news, I couldn't help but respond to one person's call to donate to UNICEF.  However, I jumped right in and donated without doing any fact-checking and then urged you to do the same.  For that, I am sorry.

As a Catholic, I cannot donate my money to charities that promote abortion.  I was directed to a few informative webpages this morning.  The official position of UNICEF is that they have not and do not promote abortion, stated clearly here.   But then there are some documented discrepancies with that position found many places, such as this one.   In fact, the Vatican defunded UNICEF in 1996 because of it.

This is just to say, please do your reseach when deciding where to donate.  Don't jump in based on your emotional response to a crisis or based on your favorite blogger's plea.  ;)  Instead, take a bit of time and really make a wise decision about which charities you are comfortable supporting.

I'd like to direct you to Catholic Relief Services today.  They too are doing important work all over the world, and their policies align with my Catholic faith.  You can even click this link to donate directly to their emergency fund for East Africa.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

On Clogged Toilets and Clogged Inboxes

Lucy and her eyelashes



HG Updates:  After several days without a problem, I'm back to square one.  I have been unable to keep my food (and sometimes, even drink) down, and it is extremely unpleasant.  My throat is raw.  And my toilet?  It's clogged.  Apparently, it is possible to throw up so much that you break your toilet.  I think I need to start alternating which one I use.  Just a little PSA.

At 15 weeks pregnant, I really expected to be over this by now.  However, it is very reassuring to see a new baby bump poking out and to know that my body is reacting to hormones that are keeping that baby healthy.  I wish it were easier, but my life is still wonderful.

As for the business side of things, it has been very difficult lately.  I can't keep up with my inbox.  I really am completely and totally booked for the rest of 2011.  And except for those with outstanding gift cards/promotional sessions to redeem, I am not scheduling anything else for 2012.  I really feel defeated lately.  I'm still trying to carry too much.  If I can get through the next 12 weeks, I will be okay.  I just need to get through the next 12 weeks... then I will be in my third trimester & I will "just" be a full-time mom and photography will go back to being a wonderful hobby. 

Finally and most importantly, being on bedrest most of the time gives me hours to kill.  I kill those hours with the TV or browsing the internet on my phone.  I have been completely overwhelmed by the stories and images of the famine happening in East Africa right now.  I can't imagine the suffering.  As a mother, my heart naturally goes to the women who are trying to save their babies from starvation.  We have so much.  SO, so much.  Please consider donating $10 to UNICEF.  That will feed a starving child for 10 days.  Text “FOOD” to 864233 and confirm your donation by texting "YES" to the automated reply.  For those of us lucky enough to have the internet and phones, $10 is a very small amount.  But if all 211 of my blog followers sent $10, it really would make a real difference.  Thank you.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

And in happier news...

Baby Five!  Yes, the quality leaves a lot to be desired, but I'll have some MUCH better ones in January.  :) 


There is in fact a beautiful baby (that looks more like a gummy-bear) growing inside of me!  I'm so thankful for all of your prayers.  This has been a really difficult time, between worrying about the baby and dealing with another bout of HG... but I am so unbelievably happy.

We can't wait to welcome out newest little one!  Due date is January 25th.  Baby names are being kept relatively on the down-low this time, and NO... we're not finding out if baby is pink or blue until his/her birthday!

Thank you again for your prayers, and I ask your continued prayers for our health over the next 28-ish weeks.

WARNING: DO NOT STEAL FROM ME

I have had the honor, privilege, and joy to work with many reputable boutique owners over the last five years.  It is so much fun to find the right models for each shoot, and to see the end result proudly displayed in their advertising materials or on their websites.  I have established many positive relationships with other creative women who put their talents to work, to help provide for their families.  There is definitely a sense of pride in helping another entrepreneurial mother!

That being said, I am extremely frustrated and appalled by the actions of less-than-reputable "boutique" owners.  I'm talking about the ones who troll the internet, looking at the websites of women who have LEGITIMATELY made the items that they are selling and LEGITIMATELY purchased my images for commercial use.  These THIEVES have the audacity to steal the images I have created for the TRUE creator of these beautiful products, and set up their own webpages with MY stolen images.  They have NOT made the items that are pictured, much less paid for the use of my images.

The rest of this blog post is directed at these thieving frauds:

I don't know about you, but when I work, I like to get paid for it.  You do not have the right to steal my images and post them on your page, in order to sell whatever you're selling.  This is true even if you DID make the item pictured.  But it is especially sickening when you fool shoppers... they think they're getting a certain quality of product, and instead, receive your shoddy replica.  Doubly devious.


I used to send "Cease and Desist" letters & contact the website owner with an invoice.  I don't do that anymore.  You didn't warn me before you stole my images... I'm not warning you before I file suit.  I've got an agency working RIGHT NOW on a case of image theft on my behalf. They get half of what I collect, and trust me... they want to collect as much as possible. 

If you didn't purchase a commercial-use license for my image or if we do not already have another agreement, you are STEALING from me.  If I find out, you will not only be paying the fee I would have asked for originally... I will seek punitive damages as well.  I will also contact every other photographer I can identify from their watermarks & ask them if you're using THEIR images legally.  Why?  Because this happens to me every couple of months and I am SO sick of it. 


This is for MY protection and the protection of my clients.  Stealing is wrong.  Using images of someone else's beautiful couture clothing to sell your crappy remake is wrong.  Using images of MY KIDS or those of MY CLIENTS on a website without a model release and/or express permission is wrong.


This is the only warning you're getting.  You'd better heed it.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Rumor Has It...

Ridiculously gorgeous, amazing work by Melissa Zihlman Photography.  Many thanks to all of you who voted for us!


Another thank you to all of my family, friends, blog-buddies and foto-followers for all of the kind messages surrounding our worries about Baby Five.  We have just three more days (which all are, thankfully, very busy with fun things) until we get to see if there is still an empty sac or if there is a beating heart.  We are, as of today, still pregnant.  And I will celebrate that until I have rock-solid evidence to the contrary!

So... there's been a rumor floating around about the future of Lerin Photography.  Rumor has it that I'm taking off November through  March to enjoy my (likely last) pregnancy and (please, God) newborn baby.  That is not the complete truth.

Actually, Lerin Photography will be closing down for the most part.

I will still photograph the clients-turned-friends that I have built relationships with over the years.  It is fun, and it helps finance my camera/lens/photography class addiction.  And it allows me to have some time away, so I can remember who I am in addition to being a wife and mom.  Basically, if I have worked with you in 2008, 2009, 2010 or 2011... you're in the "in crowd."  I can do up to one "session" per Saturday, as it works with my family's schedule.  But new clients?  I'm so sorry... I just won't be able to be your photographer.

I'll still honor all of the gift certificates and pre-paid sessions floating around out there, and will even extend expiration dates by at least 6 months due to the unforeseen need to take those 5 months off.  

One thing I do have to put on the back burner completely for the next several years... birth photography.  OH how I love it... love, love, love it!  But nursing/pregnant moms who practice attachment parenting just can't be on call 24/7.  Grandparents are great, my loving hands-on husband is a hero, but my kids need their mom.


The good news is, Chryshelle Spurgeon is a talented and close friend of mine.  I trust her with anything... including YOU.  That girl is oozing with creativity, and has the technical skills to back it up, and you will love her as much as I do.

MORE good news... my darling Kelly Garvey has officially "retired" from teaching and gone FULL TIME with her photography business.  I'm excited to send you her way!

I'm focusing the "business" side on Lucycake Boutique.  It's super-flexible, allows me to schedule things on the fly, enables me to hand-pick who I work with (i.e. no more difficult clients for me!), and gives me a bit of PayPal cash to buy boutique clothing items for my cute kids.

Where did all of this come from?  It's no secret to anyone that I struggle with balance.  I'm quite the over-achiever, always extraordinarily "driven" to a fault. 

But everything clicked into place when we did NOT hear Baby Five's heartbeat, or see a tiny little belly-bean gummy-bear.

There is nothing in the world that I want more, nothing in the world that matters more, than being proud of who I am as a mother.  Women who have five children do not have time to be a devoted wife, an attachment-parenting mother, to successfully run a 40+ hour a week business, to get enough sleep, to keep a clean and peaceful home, AND enjoy life too.  I've tried for years, with fewer children too, and failed.  And failed again.  I've tried every scheduling method, spent ridiculous amounts of money on time-saving and organizing methods... and failed.  It doesn't matter how well you organize 24 hours in a day... you're still limited to 24 hours.  I just don't buy into the SuperWoman thing.  Whether we're honest about it or not, something will give.  For far too long, I've ignored my health and need for rest... my relationships with family & friends have suffered because I simply don't have the time.

If Baby Five was only here for a few short weeks to show me what I REALLY WANT with my life, that was an angel who delivered a message from God straight to my heart.  But I am praying that Baby Five will get to reap the benefits of this lesson I took so long to learn.

Now if only I could learn to say what I want to say in fewer words.  Then, we'd be all set, wouldn't we?  ;)

Friday, June 10, 2011

I'm Not "Fine," Really


We went in for our ultrasound on Monday, and there was no heartbeat... no baby.  There was a yolk sac.  From my count, I should have been 7.5 weeks along.  I was measuring at 5 weeks.  
My hope is, the calendar was wrong and it was just too early.  My fear is, the baby stopped growing at 5 weeks.

We have another ultrasound on Monday, June 20th.

I've never had a miscarriage, and am trying NOT to give in to fear but it is probably the hardest thing ever.

And how ironic is it that my tests for the BIG SCARY DIAGNOSIS we feared were negative.  Praise God for that.  Now, I just need to hold onto faith and hope and peace that my baby is okay and that we really will be fine.

I don't expect to have much to say before then, here.  Now it is just time to wait and breathe.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lucy has BIG NEWS.

Lucy wants you to know that she'll be a BIG SISTER in January.

Her parents want you to know that we are surprised, delighted, and very overwhelmed too.  

I think it is truly ironic that I was already pregnant when writing my heartbroken blog about worrying I couldn't have another baby.

BUT because you already know all of that, it frees me to ask for prayers for health for both of us.

This baby is a blessing, and we welcome Baby FIVE with open arms... and perhaps, a little bit of jumping up and down and squealing too.  ;)

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Lacking Nothing



"Be content with what you have;
rejoice in the way things are. 
When you realize there is nothing lacking,
the whole world belongs to you."
--LAO TZU

Thank you for this quote.  It is exactly, precisely what I needed to hear today.

My oldest child, Madeleine Sophie, turned 9-years-old last Saturday.  We had a slumber party with 8 of her BFF's.  It was loud and happy and silly... and perfect.  Great kids attract great friends.  What good girls my daughter runs with!

I can't even begin to express how much this darling girl means to me, and how much I want to GIVE her.  Sophie and I share a lot of the same weaknesses, faults, and struggles.  I empathize with her high highs and low lows.  It warms my mother's heart to see her thriving in school and in life.  I love her energy, exuberance, her desire to learn and BE everything.  I just hope she can learn before I did at 30... sometimes, being "everything" is impossible.  Sometimes, being exceptionally gifted at and devoted to being ONE thing is actually better.

Do you know what I want to be exceptionally talented and gifted at?  Motherhood.

I'm glad I've already made changes to Lerin Photography... I now have two friends who have completely "retired" from the photography business.  While I'm not able to do that at this time, it sure feels great to have much less "work" on my plate.  I have been sleeping 7-8 hours per night for several weeks now instead of staying up and working... it has made such a HUGE difference in my health issues and my overall happiness.

I have a monthly financial goal to reach that benefits my family, and I have an AMAZING time getting paid to do something I love.  However, I've earned the hard way (and was reminded just this morning, actually!) that going past that point is not good for me or my family.  I'm a hopeless people-pleaser, and it absolutely exhausts me to be in the people-pleasing service oriented business.  I love, love, love photography... I hate the paperwork, taxes, and dealing with people who don't understand that I'm a wife, mother, and person first... or don't understand the actual value of the service I provide. 

I don't get my self-worth from my blog or my business... I find my worth in being a child of God and a wife & mom.  

Ever since my last very raw and real post, I have been inundated with love from everyone.  My friends who've forgiven me for saying things in a blog that I can't talk about face-to-face... to those I have never met, sharing similar stories and offering prayers.  I haven't had time to respond individually, and I hope you can understand why... but I did read them all, and they all DID touch my heart.  I definitely do not feel alone in this.

Today, I attended Bella's end-of-the-year preschool show and art gallery.  She will begin kindergarten at our public school in August... she will never be a preschooler again.  As we prepare to celebrate Lucy Cate's 2nd Birthday this Sunday, knowing that it is actually possible that my "last" baby is losing her babyhood day-by-day... I can't help but cry.  While I know that my children will grow up whether I want them to or not, I do look forward to seeing the people they will become. 

I want to be there to see it.  All of it.

I have four beautiful blessings.  I would love to have more, but... my family is lacking nothing.  My heart is full of love for these darling little faces.  More would be icing on the cake.  But what I have now... oh, it is just heaven.

I feel such a sense of peace and purpose... putting my focus (time, money, and even the camera) back on the people who I love with my entire heart and who will love me for all of my life.

Monday, April 25, 2011

The End is the Beginning

It's hard to know what to say publicly and what to keep private.  I don't want to worry people, but at the same time, I owe it to myself to be able to speak openly about what I'm going through without having to carry the burden of a painful secret too.

It hasn't been any secret at all that Adam & I have wanted to welcome as many as God gives us.  We always thought that would happen in the natural course of things... while my pregnancies have been notoriously difficult with HG and SPD, we were willing to go through the pain to bring another darling baby into the world.  I'd do it again, and again, and again... it was always, always worth it.

I'm speaking in past-tense already... it was always worth it.

I've been struggling a lot with many things, but my health has been the one I don't share too much about.  I have a serious condition, but not life-threatening or anything.  It's just that for me to function normally and be as healthy as I can be, I have to do some drastic things.  First, I have to do things that are probably best for everyone: be careful to eat very healthy, avoid alcohol and caffeine, and get regular exercise.  Secondly, like a child, I will have to be careful about going to bed at the same time every night to get enough sleep and to avoid stress in my life as much as possible.  But most of all... I may have to start a medication that I will be on for the rest of my life.  This medication causes fetal heart defects (among other things) in most babies whose mothers have to take it in pregnancy... and, I'm just obviously not willing to do that. 

But not having another baby?  Never feeling another little foot kicking for the first time INSIDE of me?  Not hearing "it's a boy!" or "it's a girl!" from Dr. S again?  Not telling the nurses to go away because THIS mama isn't sending her baby in the nursery, and I don't care how late it is?  Never, ever watching my belly grow and waiting for the signs that labor is impending?  Not ever getting to study a new little face and talk about who he or she looks like?

It is probably the most painful thing I've ever had to consider.

I know that confuses a lot of people.  After all, how could I possibly want it all over again when I already have four beautiful, healthy, darling children?  I've been so blessed.  I've never had a miscarriage or an emergency c-section.  I've never had a baby in the NICU, or even anyone overnight in a hospital bed.

But maybe, if you know my heart, you can understand why I am absolutely wracked with grief.  I start to cry at the most random moments. 

Adam wasn't sure I should start telling people that I'm worried we won't be able to have baby five in the way we expected, since I'm definitely not ready to talk about the specifics. and won't be diagnosed for awhile yet.  I feel like I've been carrying this burden of secret sadness, though, for the last few months... and I just want you to know, so that I don't have to explain why we're not already waving around a positive pregnancy test as we've always had the joy of doing before by the time all three of our oldest children have reached age 2.  Lucy turns 2 in less than a month.  Everyone asks us, meaning no harm at all, when baby five is coming.  I don't know what to say.

This is all still very new to me.  And I'm hoping we can find another way to treat my illness so that I can have another baby.  I feel selfish for wanting another baby, but I do. We've always talked about adopting an older child and/or sibling group in the future, and I'm sure we will when all of my little ones are in school, so that I can devote my time to the inevitably difficult transition and bonding period, when a child who has been hurt will need to learn to trust me and my love.  But for now, I do want to have another tiny little baby to be all mine. I didn't ever think Lucy would be my "last" baby, and it hurts so much to think she very well may be.


I know I do have to trust God and be patient, but it is really hard right now.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Clutter



I crave peace.  Does everyone feel this way?  I'm sure they do.

I don't know how it happened, but somehow, my life has become very cluttered.  My home, especially my office, has become a dumping ground of stacked paperwork and photography props and magazines and... just, stuff.  Lots of stuff.

When I sit here editing photos in the wee hours of morning when I can't sleep... it's because my mind is cluttered. I have so much anxiety and worry.  My email inbox is cluttered, and so is my Facebook "news" feed.  I am bombarded with so much information and bad news.

I think a time of serious purging is at hand!  I expect I will get rid of many things, unsubscribe to emails, and clean up my Facebook.  I've restructured my photography packages, and I expect that my business will decrease by at least 50%, if not more.

I've struggled with prayer on and off for most of my life, but never as much as I have in the last year or so.  I just can't get my mind to be quiet and still.  My mind is always racing and my days are long & busy.  I close my eyes to pray, and instead... a to-do list pops in my mind.  Or a health worry.  Any number of things... but He said:

Be still, and know that I am God.

God, as the last week of Lent begins, please help me to be still, and to know that you are God.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Spring "Break"

 



My darling little Batman turned 4 on March 13th.  I didn't take these photos.  If it weren't for my precious friends Chryshelle and Dee Dee, I wouldn't have seen my sweet boy enjoy his presents and cake at all.

We had a party at Pump-It-Up, per the birthday boy's request.  This is a photo of Lucy, just a few minutes into the party, getting ready to climb up the big bouncy slide.



Just as she reached the bottom, she sort of fell forward on her face.  I ran over, thinking she'd scared herself as she started to wail.  When I picked her up, her arm flopped... but not bending at the elbow.  The two bones in her forearm had completely broken, and her arm was at a strange angle. 

I will never forget holding her as she screamed, holding her arm and feeling the bones just beneath the skin in a place they shouldn't be.  I ran to the parking lot with her, calling over my shoulder that I was taking her to the ER.  When I got into the parking lot, I started shaking so badly I felt I couldn't walk.  Chryshelle had gone back for my keys and purse, but by that time it was obvious that I wasn't driving anywhere.  We called the ambulance, and I held my hysterically screaming baby as they loaded us on. 





Photos by Chryshelle

My tiny little girl has so much fight in her.  She absolutely would not let anyone do ANYthing to her... not take her vitals, not put on a bracelet on her ankle... nothing.  It was a very long and difficult trip to the emergency room.  Thankfully, my baby had not quite weaned yet, and was able to nurse herself to sleep between exams.  She finally received pain medications, and they were able to set hr bones without surgery.



My parents took the 3 big kids back to Tulsa for Spring Break, so that I could spend the week focusing exclusively on my Lucy.  I held her for seven days straight, giving pain medication by the clock, and watching hours upon hours of Yo Gabba Gabba and Dora the Explorer and Sesame Street.  I didn't touch my phone or Photoshop.  It was entirely about her.

A few days later, we went to Texas Children's for a hard cast.  They left the temporary soft cast on, after x-rays showed that the bones were still not knit together enough to risk removing it first.  This has left our Lucycake with a very big, bulky, heavy arm.  She cried and closed her eyes the whole time that the doctors put on her new pink cast.  It didn't hurt, but it did scare her.



Since she is still unable to move her arm much in the full-arm cast, we've been hiding out at home for three weeks now.  She cannot climb or pick things up for herself.  I worry when she runs.  And my sweet little one is also now terrified of slides.  In two more days, we return to TCH and will get a short-arm cast.  This one will be waterproof, and she will be able to bend her elbow again.

A complete freak accident changed everything.  I just keep thinking how lucky I am that it was only her arm.  It could have been worse.  I tell you without any exaggeration... that was the most traumatic event of MY life.  I've never ever seen any of my babies in so much pain, and it took me several days to recover from the shock.  Lucy will not remember this, but I always will.

I've struggled publicly this year with many things... faith, depression, balance, work.  This terrible incident did give me one gift: Perspective.  As I lay on my deathbed, I'm not going to wish I had taken on one more photography client.  I'm going to be glad that I was a mother and a wife, and at the same time, I will wish I had been even better at it.  My time and attention need to be with my family first.  I'm totally comfortable with saying no to other opportunities that take me away from them.  Yes, I will still work as a photographer.  But no... I won't let it take over my life.  My family IS my life.  My clients could easily find another photographer.  But to my children and husband... I'm irreplaceable.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

30!!!

Celebrating at Sherlock's with one of my BFF's Dee Dee.

So...

I'm 30.

My 30th Birthday was March 7th.  I'm getting teased by some of my friends about the BIG THREE-OH, but honestly, I love it.

Being 30 means that I'm old enough to "officially" be an adult BUT I'm still too young to have any wrinkles.

Being 30 means that I'm young enough to still enjoy dancing until midnight BUT old enough to not care what anyone thinks about it.  ;)

I fully welcome and embrace my 30's.  I've already decided that they are totally my favorite.  I'm less insecure, more content, and truly living out my "happily ever after."  Every morning, I wake up to my wonderful husband and four cuter-than-all-get-out babies.  I get paid to take pretty pictures with my fancy camera, but I love it so much I would do it for free (and do, often... shhhh!).  I'm much more financially secure and emotionally stable. And while I don't have my faith life figured out, I think I am getting closer to finding what I am looking for.

I really felt loved this year.  Thank you all so much for my birthday messages and phone calls and cards and gifts and flowers.

My 20's were difficult.  I'm ready to close that chapter and move on to a new phase in life.  Life still isn't easy, but it is so wonderful anyway.  I know how blessed I am that this life is mine.  It was a long road to this happiness, but I truly would not change a single thing. Everything I have been through thus far has made me what I am today...

And you know what?  I actually like the woman I've grown up to be.  I have a lot more growing to do, but I think I'm on the right track, baby.  :)

Saturday, March 5, 2011

I Hate This Part

Thank you, Wendy L. White Photography, for allowing me to share.

I am not a business woman.  I play at photography because I love it.  I'm truly obsessed.  It is always on my mind.  I voraciously read everything I can get my hands on.  I've spent thousands (!!) of dollars on continuing education, better equipment, webpages, and more.  It is just the most fun I've ever had in my life.  I love being a mother, I do.  But photography is something creative.  It is entirely separate from my role as Mom... something JUST for me. 

When it comes to the business side, I just feel so torn about the whole thing. I keep prices low and offer digital images because I actually WANT to "work" (truthfully, PLAY) and love what I do. I seriously just plain LOVE doing photo sessions. 

But there are a couple of things wrong with my pricing: 
  1. There are families of actual professionals who DEPEND on the income. My low-balling hurts the photography community as a whole. Two of my BEST FRIENDS in the whole wide world (Kelly and Chryshelle!) are trying to actually make a real income.  Kelly can't quit her day job until she replaces her salary.  People like me make that really difficult.  :(
  2. I don't make money. I just don't. I spend everything I make on more photography equipment or buy templates for announcements or new websites... I mean, this is truly not a business but a hobby.  I listen to Dave Ramsey, and he makes fun of people like me!
  3. I spend a whole lot of time away from the family doing this wonderful thing.  While I am perfectly content to "work" (PLAY) for free, it causes dissension in my marriage.  It isn't fair to my family.  Adam doesn't want to work for free, and he does work when he is home alone with the four kids all day and helping maintain the house/cooking/etc on his own. 
  4. Yes, my husband supports us with his income. But I know I could be contributing more. I have student loans that I need to pay off. I want to adopt in 5-7 years. Money doesn't motivate me the way it does some other people, but it is necessary. I could really use it.
But I am afraid. 

I've changed my pricing structure too many time, and I am afraid of alienating clients.  When I tried changing my pricing at the beginning of 2011, I got a whopping total of ONE booking in 2 months. I was so sad. It really broke my heart to see clients going for the cheaper shoot-and-burners. 

I try not to be snobby, because I started somewhere too. Those photos will never see the light of day again.  But UGH. Everyone with a DSLR thinks that they're a photographer, even when shooting in AUTO and with horrible Photoshop actions run on 100% opacity on EVERYthing. So price-wise, I can't compete. And I really don't even want to compete.

So now I've talked myself in a circle. This is just really hard.


I really don't think the average person understands the work behind  custom photography session.  And I don't think the average person understands the difference in print quality between a professional lab and a retail store's one-hour printing shop.  I reposted this yesterday on my page, thanks to Wendy in hopes of providing a great visual.

So the eternal question and struggle and source of much angst and conflict in my life.... what is the purpose of Lerin Photography?  Am I a content hobbyist or is this a profession?


What do you think?

Monday, February 28, 2011

Faith

Blogging is a funny thing.  I began writing in 2003, during a very difficult period in my life.  I was completely open and raw and uncensored.  Basically, writing became my therapeutic path to healing.

Goodness... how everything has changed!

I have so many family members, friends, clients, and acquaintances who read my blogs now.  I have to be so much more careful about what I say and how I say it.  I've had things misinterpreted or blown out of proportion more times this year than I care to remember.  I want my blog to be a blessing, and not a source of stress.

I want to be able to be honest and open with what I am thinking and feeling.  I love to write.  I love to be heard and responded to.  I like having a record of exactly whats happening in my life, to look back on.  Writing helps me sort out my feelings, too.

I have, apparently, failed at my second 365 attempt.  It is just too much for me at this point in life.  I do take photos everyday, but I don't have time to post and write about them every day... or even once a week.  I'm glad I started it, as it reminded me how important blogging is to me.  But I can just honestly say, a 365 project isn't for me.

I want to talk about some things here that may be difficult topics.  I want your feedback and prayers, and your understanding.  I want to be able to live my life openly without fear of being misunderstood.

I'm just going to write honestly again and see how it goes.

I'm struggling a lot with faith.  While I can tell you (thanks be to GOD!) that I finally have a calm surety that there is a God and He loves us very much, that He sent His son Jesus Christ to save us, and that the greatest command He gives us is to LOVE one another... my understanding of it all is shifting.

I'm having a difficult time coming to terms with the Catholic Church leadership and authority.  Since I converted to Catholicism based on this very issue, it is a painful thing to struggle with.  I am not leaving the Catholic Church, please don't misunderstand.  But so many things have changed within my heart.  I think it is a good thing... there is a lot of peace in my heart & mind.

I'm trying to work out for myself (with LOTS of help from God, studying and reading) just how far Church authority extends.  It isn't an easy thing to navigate.  I can't do anything halfway.  I am not the kind of person who can "fake it til I make it" and I am certain that I obsessively over-analyze just about everything.

Anyway, I guess I'm just asking for your continued friendship and prayers as I figure it all out.  :)

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Ain't Too Proud to Beg: Exactly 24 Hours Left!!!

Adam and *his* baby girl, Sophie.  Waiting outside of a Tulsa Courtroom on Sophie's Adoption Day!

I'm not asking for anything extraordinary.  Just two clicks.

First click here: http://melissazihlman.com/Blog/2011/02/07/all-you-need-is-love-continental-giveaway-voting-melissa-zihlman/

Then vote on the survey at the bottom by clicking #2 Lerin.

There are no tricks, no requirements to become a "fan", nothing to download... just two clicks.  Only one vote per IP address will count, so just once is enough.


As of this second we're just a few votes away from first place, and voting ends tomorrow at 8PM CST.  This is our last chance!

Adam and I have been selected as finalists in a contest to win a professional photography session. We've never had professional photos as a couple, not even for our engagement and I would love to win them to celebrate our anniversary in May.  The awesome photographer will actually fly here to us and give us a complimentary session with digital files. There are many beautiful stories on this page, but I'm asking you to scroll down and vote for #2 on the survey at the bottom of the page.

I'm begging you to please click here http://melissazihlman.com/Blog/2011/02/07/all-you-need-is-love-continental-giveaway-voting-melissa-zihlman/ and vote for us.  It is a small thing for you, just 30 seconds out of your day, but it will be the gift of a lifetime for us.

Thank you!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Please, help!



Adam and I have been selected as finalists in a contest to win a professional photography session. We have never had Engagement Photos and I would love to win them to celebrate our anniversary in May.

There are many beautiful stories on this page, but I'm asking you to scroll down and vote for #2 on the survey at the bottom of the page.

Please click here and vote for us.

Comment below letting me know that you did, so I can thank you!

Here was the full entry... I'm wordy, so she had to edit! ;)

The love of my life? My husband, Adam.

I came from a difficult background. I got married right out of high school to my boyfriend, and we had the textbook definition of a co-dependent relationship. It was a very hard life. When I was 21, I gave birth to my first baby... a little girl called Sophie. Sophie gave me the courage & strength to end the cycle of abuse, and make a safe and happy life for the two of us. Divorce was never something I planned for myself. Single parenting was the loneliest time of my life, and I shed many tears over the broken dream of having what I considered to be a "whole" family.

At 21, I was adamant that I would never date again... much less marry. I knew I would never be able to trust a man enough to let him into my daughter's life or into my heart. I threw all of my energy into finishing my bachelor's degree. I nannied for a college professor during the day, where I could bring my own baby along, and went to school at night, while my mother helped me with Sophie. It was a lot of work, but I had accepted that it would be Sophie & me against the world. I was determined to make a happy life for her, and to provide her with everything she needed.

Then, I met Adam.

He was speaking at a religious youth retreat. His talk touched my walled-up heart so deeply. For the first time in years, I let myself cry in public. I told him afterward that his story was moving and that I appreciated him sharing. He gave me a big hug, and I was surprised enough to allow it. Over the next few months, Adam and I got to know each other via AOL instant messenger. I was Mommy during the day, and a student at night... I was up until 2 and 3 in the morning doing homework. Adam was an insomniac, and kept me company with funny little one-liners.

Our friendship naturally bloomed into a romance, thanks to one of my girlfriends expressing an interest in Adam. I was FURIOUS! I realized that I must have deep feelings for him that I wasn't ready to admit to myself. When Adam asked me on our first real date, I found myself saying yes. And we lived relatively happily ever after.

Adam is a beautiful, loyal, faithful person. I've never known anyone so dedicated to his wife and family. He has helped me grow so much as a person, healing wounds I didn't know that I had. He has helped me learn to trust, to love, to express vulnerability without fear. He has shown me that two people can disagree without an argument or violence. He has given me nothing but respect, and taught me to walk with my head up again. I just can't even begin to put into words what a special person he is. When he kisses me almost seven years into "us", I still feel like I'm flying!

The most wonderful thing of all that he has done for me... he not only legally adopted my Sophie, but we've gone on to have three more children, so far! I always wanted to be a mother to many, and he has given me that too.

Adam and I have never had a professional photography session for just the two of us. Our "engagement" stage was full of planning for our transfer to Houston and of jumping through legal hoops for his adoption of our Sophie. Photos are extremely important to me. I would love to have an "engagement" style photography session, even though we have been married for more than 6 years now.

Please consider us for your giveaway. We would treasure these images more than you can imagine. I promise, we'll have a HUGE print on display as we dance at our 50th Anniversary party... surrounded by our children, grandchildren, and dear friends who've shared the life we made together. I say with complete sincerity: my life is truly a dream come true.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Another Catching Up Post: 024-032/365

These images truly express this last week. We've had sick kids, then nice weather, then more sick kids. So here, without any fancy bloggery or templates...

First, the best cake smash photo in the history of ever. :)



Next, we had another sick day. Even Adam had to stay home from work. Sophie and Adam were quarantined to the Man Room to watch TV and keep their germs away from the rest of us. ;)



And then, it was Bella's turn.



As if round one wasn't bad enough, the tummy bug hit her on day two. She had her first taste of 7Up, the medicine of choice for sickies. Or at least, that's what my mom gave me.





Once she was well (for a few days, anyway) Lucy was happy to finally get outside and play!



On the 29th, I did some Mini-Sessions for Valentine's Day. While I'm not sure her Mom will appreciate this as much as I do... well... this made me laugh out loud in post-processing. ;)



On Sunday, only Adam and Sophie went to Mass with my brother, who was in town. Ben got to paint!



Monday was the last day of January, already. I was thrilled to get my first package from The Girly Tutu, a fabulous Etsy vendor. I threw Lulu in the car as fast as I could and we took 10 minutes worth of photos at Heritage Park before the cold weather rolled in. I love this picture so much I want to cry when I see it for joy at the beauty of my baby!



On February 1st, I forgot to snap a photo during the day. Instead, I photographed Ben as he was VERY UNHAPPILY in his bed. Bedtime is always such a huge disappointment for my babies. They never want the fun to end.



Today, Lucy's fever spiked again. We had an appointment to review her bloodwork and are happy to say she is NOT immunodeficient! But, we have a lot of test results to wait for. I'm hopeful that she will get better soon. I hate it that my family is always sick, but Lucy gets the worst of it.

The only thing that makes her feel better? Yo Gabba Gabba videos.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Where are the Archives?

Not that I especially think anyone will care, but just so you know...

I'm moving my archives somewhere else. I do enjoy sharing my thoughts and struggles on my blog, but the reason I write is for ME. I want to remember the good, bad, and ugly. This season of my life will be gone before I know it, and I want to be able to look back and remember it for what it was.

However, I've been a blogger for 8 years now. 8 years! I've gone through a WHOLE lot in those 8 years, and I've grown up a lot too. I just don't think I want all of that out there anymore. I'm ready to lock it away, and keep it just for me.

I think I'll make it a standard practice to only keep the current year posted publicly. That sounds good to me. :)

Thanks for keeping up with me all of these years! It's been a really positive experience for me, overall.