Tag Archives: Reed

6/365: Eight

Eight years ago, Reed was born on Christmas Eve. Ukraine follows the Orthodox calendar, so January 7 is Christmas there.

His birthday was pretty laid back. On Sunday, Aaron took him to Science City in Kansas City for the day. Today, he had a friend over after school for about an hour. We most just opened presents and hung out. He got a nerf gun from us and Walkie Talkies from my parents, along with a few other gifts. He loved playing with both of those.2015-01-06_0006

He also got his Olaf hat and a book called Ninja!

Of course, we had cake.

Happy Birthday to my smart, funny and energetic eight year old! Just eight more years until you can get that driver’s license you’re ready for.

The Tree Hunt

I’ve always been on the side of real Christmas trees. As a child, we’d go out to a tree farm and cut down a tree. My love for real trees isn’t entirely the tree itself, but the whole experience.

At the same time, when we adopted Reed and Lena, some lovely people decorated our house for Christmas and put up an artificial tree. Now, I get why they’re so popular, too. Easy and convenient. Plus, I’ve hated the idea of buying a tree when we have this one sitting in our basement.

Enter in the “Cedar Tree Event” where you go out an chop down an invasive red cedar for a small donation. Win/win. The fact that we found someone who could use the artificial tree sitting in our basement? That’s one more win.

If this invasive species Christmas tree thing sounds familiar, that’s because we also did it two years ago.


This year it was out at Mildale Farm, a property typically used for events like weddings. Totally gorgeous and I’d only seen it from the road before.

Pretty quickly, I can see the appeal of tree farms for those who like a real tree. This is not an easy task, finding a tree out here in nature.

Reed and Lena kept saying “this one?” and “what about this one?”


The thing is, we’d already had a busy day, with the Christmas parade and we stopped by the school Christmas shops for the kids to do their shopping before we came. So, some people (cough Gus cough) were already feeling a bit cranky.

At some point, it was very clear to just pick a tree or spend out here all day.

We picked a tree.

Reed actually helped with the cutting this year, too. He doesn’t quite have it figured out yet, but he’s curious.

Reed also did almost all of the dragging the tree back to the spot where they drive it to the parking lot. It hurt his hands after awhile, but he didn’t want to hand it over.

When we got back to where you tag your tree for them to drive it back, Reed did everything. It’s completely him to be able to go find a tree, chop it down and drag it back almost entirely himself by age 7, but it still surprises me to see him actually do it.

So, after we dropped off our tree, there was this on our walk back to the car. Cider, hot chocolate, cookies and a fire.

The volunteers at this event are so hospitable. The couple serving the snacks and tending to the fire was a pleasure to talk to. And, all of the volunteers we interacted with were very friendly and welcoming.


I just love this– chopping down a wild tree, then sitting by a fire.


Picking an invasive wild tree does not get you the prettiest Christmas tree by any means. However, it is quite a fun experience!

365 Photos

My Project 365 is finished. One photo, each day for a year, done.

I am somewhere in the mix of proud and relieved. I’m great at starting things, but I struggle to finish them. So, this feels like an accomplishment.

A lot of people said, “How do you complete a Project 365?” Of course, the instructions are simple: take a photo every day. But, the challenge is actually doing it every day for a year. I know, because I’ve started it before and stopped just a few months in.

However, completing it this time, I came away with two big things that I think made it possible to keep this up every day:

I took my camera everywhere. It was pretty much always in my bag. In the few times that I didn’t have my camera, I used my phone. I have photos in McDonalds and Target and the doctor’s office and a whole lot from the school playground. I definitely got a few odd looks. I even had one woman who works at my kids’ school tell me that she wondered why I always had my camera with me, until she mentioned it to Lena’s teacher, who knew about my blog. There were definitely funny looks or eye rolls throughout the project as I toted my camera everywhere, but perhaps a little hidden benefit of the project is that you stop caring what people think of you after awhile. 🙂

I didn’t try to take the perfect photo every day. Most days, I just tried to be done! This sounds silly, but I think if you do something every day for a year, you’re bound to learn something, probably quite a bit of somethings. But, you’re not always going to get it perfect or get what you want. I got sick twice in my first few months of the Project 365, once with the stomach flu and once with strep. What I was able to accomplish either time wasn’t impressive, but I’m glad I kept going. I think that it would have been easy to give up on those days, but I probably would have missed dozens of photos in future day if I had given up.

Some of you might be wondering what the point of this sort of project is. For some people, it’s the act of documenting every day. That is part of it for me. But, the larger part is that I want to improve my photography skills and the best way to do that is by lots of practice. Committing to take a photo a day will naturally cause improvement.

I made two goals for myself this year.

  • Practice composition, particularly in candid shots
  • Focus on getting images right SOOC (straight out of camera)

Let’s talk about how I did with those goals.

Practice composition, particularly in candid shots

This is still a bit challenging for me, but I feel like I’ve made some improvements in this area in the last year. It feels like baby steps over huge strides. I think I’ve gotten a lot better about “chopping limbs”, meaning that I cut off a foot or hand when it should have been included. I still find slowing down long enough to really focus on composition to be a challenge. I’m also starting a mentorship with another photographer and this is something that we will work on.

Focus on getting images right SOOC (straight out of camera)

This is one area when I feel like I’ve improved a lot. I shoot entirely in manual mode, for the complete control over my settings. I’m spending a lot less time editing than I was a year ago, doing basic corrections. I think it’s still a bit of a challenge sometimes to change my settings fast enough if I’m chasing kids around, but I think that’s just because my kids move fast!

Here are some of my favorite photos from the past year.  There are a ton and it was still hard to pick!


I love the way that these photos help me remember these moments. I also love how they remind me of what is important. Photography helps me see the beauty in moments I might have overlooked. 365 days of beautiful moments.

August Photo Recap

Each month, I share how I did the previous month with my 365 goals and also share upcoming goals for the next month. I’m down to my last month of my 365. WHEW.



August Goals

  • Reconnecting with friends
  • End of Summer Fun
  • Start of School
  • Saying Goodbye to Big L

So, how did I do?

Reconnecting with friends

After visiting my family for a long period of time this summer, it was nice to see our friends again! However, August was still a pretty jam-packed month and we didn’t spend a ton of time with friends. But, the few times and few friends we did see, were well documented instances. Like Busker Fest.



End of Summer Fun

Yes, we had it! We had so much fun this summer, and one of my favorite memories towards the end of the summer was our silly string fights. It was a great way to laugh as a family and have fun!

Start of School

August marked the start of the school year for us. I am continuing my tradition of having the kids pose by the gate for their first day of school. This is an easy way notice their growth!

Saying Goodbye to Big L

I took so many photos in Big L’s last few days with us. And, I’m glad to have all of them.


September Must-Capture List:

  • Gus’s start of school
  • My birthday 🙂

Silver linings

Gus was sick last week. An ear infection in both ears.

As any mom knows, having a sick kid is not a fun thing. But, lots of my fellow adoptive moms have mentioned how it can be a healing thing. I first noticed this when Reed broke his leg. Not something I’d want to go through again, of course, but it was the only time he ever had to rely on me for everything. All of a sudden, he was taken back to the stage before walking, where he required a parent to carry him all places and help him with lots of tasks that had been routine– getting dressed, going potty, etc..
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By the time his cast came off, our relationship was much better for it. Silver linings.

So, back to the recent past and Gus. He spends some afternoons with Amanda, our babysitter. Last week, she brought me a very unhappy child and told me he’d been saying “I want mama” for a half hour. Poor Gus… and poor Amanda.

But, as an adoptive parent, those words are so nice to hear. Amanda is wonderful and all of the kids adore her, no question. So, the fact that, in his time of feeling really crummy, he turns to me, tells me that no matter how much he loves her and enjoys his time with her, I’m still his number one, the one he needs. This seems like simple stuff for most parents– for a three year old, his mom hung the moon. But as an adoptive parent, a strong, healthy attachment is a valid concern. And, this little sign is huge.

He spent the rest of the evening not letting me out of his sight. And the next day, until his antibiotics kicked in, glued to my side.

So, while I won’t ever enjoy him being sick, it’s nice to be reminded that he’s still my baby. Love that kid.