June Newsletter – Keeping up with Kaia



My head is spinning!  Truthfully, I’m having some trouble coordinating all these amazing things I get to be a part of while working around my husbands also crazy schedule and still ensuring I’m not missing out on any quality time with my family.  It looks a lot like this… 50 hour work week with day care, 10-20 hour work week with photo sessions and editing, stubbornly refusing to miss out on the bedtime ritual ever, and keeping the Sabbath VERY holy and doing as little as possible so I can just BE with my family and recharge for the week ahead.

June is a crazy and blessed month!

  • I’m now freelancing for Madison Magazine and the Madison Children’s Museum
  • Still photographing 2 – 5 pieces for BRAVA Magazine per month
  • Back to freelancing for Houzz.  Photographed the wonderful Sarah‘s house and excited to share that link once the post is up – she’s an interior stylist… check out her website and HIRE HER!
  • We have some more awesome kids joining our day care crew for the summer.
  • Photographed Julia‘s amazing birth and baby boy and I can’t wait to share some of those images with you lovely friends.
  • I’m in the thick of wedding photography season and I’m photographing portraits right and left.  My schedule still has some gaps but is nearly full so if you need photography you’d better snatch me up quickly!
  • My gorgeous Maisy is turning three in a couple of weeks!  Excited to share pictures of this party with you too!
  • My garden is all in and we’re waiting to see seedlings from the latest round of seeds!  Tried a new approach this year and I’m very excited to share pictures and successes (crossing my fingers) from all of it!
  • Chickens also have a new set up.  And I still need to officially get portraits of my lovely ladies up on the blog.  Chickens are the coolest.  Seriously.  I’ll take a chicken over a dog any day.  Crazy thing for this dog-lover to say!

It’s BUSY here, but so awesome!

A Letter to Maisy: Snuggles Always


Dear Maisy,

As I was nursing Penny to sleep tonight I felt a pang of sadness for the snuggling you and I used to do.  Not because I feel like I missed it.  Quite the opposite – I clung to those moments knowing they weren’t going to last nearly as long as I’d choose.

We would cuddle up in your twin bed together.  My elbow would be your pillow, we’d nestle in forehead to forehead with your face somewhat shoved into my armpit and you’d curl your legs into my belly, tug your toes in-between my legs and we’d snuggle like that sometimes for a half an hour each nap and bed time.  All the while I’d be thinking, just one more minute.  And one more minute.  And one more minute.  Until sometimes I fell asleep there.

Now we still snuggle, but the embrace is much less intimate and intertwined and the duration keeps getting shorter.  Though logic and other folk may tell me any second of snuggling is numbered, that one day we will snuggle no more, I am in pursuit of snuggling your whole life long.  I can picture us spooning in your bed at bedtime as a teenager – perhaps after story time together.  I can picture us on the couch well after you’ve moved out, you nestled in to the crook of my arm laughing.

I love you Maisy and fully intend to pursue these dreams into a reality.

With all my heart,


A Guide to Self-Sufficient Toddlers


When I tell friends some of the systems I have in place to enable toddlers to be responsible little humans I’m nearly always met with a tone of surprise.  I’m very passionate about enabling toddlers to conquer anything they are setting their mind to.

Toddlers naturally want to be little helpers.  Toddlers love learning by observing and asking lots of questions.  Toddlers stubbornly desire independence so long as you’re right there to hold them when they fail.

It would be silly not to encourage that helpfulness at as young an age as possible. If you’re lucky it’ll seamlessly transition into the helpful teenager who does their chores and cleans up after herself.  Whenever I see Maisy looking to do something herself, I love trying to come up with a way to enable her to make that happen. Now…

How to set your house up to enable the independence your toddler so desires.

Create a drink station.

I keep a water bottle for each kid at the ready in a kitchen cabinet designated just for kid things (kid plates, utensils, cups, and kitchen play food).  This way, instead of having to serve them any of the dozens of times they request water each day they can, and love to, go fetch it themselves.


Create a coat hanging station.

Something within reach so they can hang up coats, hats, and mittens all by themselves. Ours is set up with sweatshirts right now since it’s spring.

Store their clothes at their level.

One of my favorite things is that when my daughter was even less than 2 years old, she started dressing herself.  She goes over to her dresser, picks out her clothes, and puts them on all by herself.  Her style is eccentric and sometimes backwards, upside down or inside out but it is always adorable.


Create a shoe station.

We have a boot mat that we stash one pair of shoes for each of us on.  The others go in the coat closet for rotating with the seasons as needed.  With this set up, all the toddlers in my care can grab and put on their own footwear.

Set up the bathroom so they can go potty by themselves.

  • Stool for the toilet, check.
  • Tall, two-step stool for the sink, check.
  • Automatic foam soap dispenser, check (side note: automatic is key because even a one year old can operate it, foam is key because it aids the scrubbing process and rinses off faster and more completely.)
  • Hand towel just for kids, check (I recommend the Norwex Pet to Dry towels.)


Then all you need to do is teach them the steps.  This is my potty time mantra:  “Go potty, wipe, and wash your hands with soap.”  If I don’t list off all these steps every time someone, intentionally or unintentionally, skips one of the steps.

  1. Go potty.  With the stool in reach kiddos adjust it as needed so they can climb onto the toilet all by themselves.
  2. Wipe. Wiping they can do well on their own, I promise, all you have to do is give them a little lesson and let them watch you wipe. Show them how to help themselves to a small portion of toilet paper. I find it helpful to explain wiping like this:  “If you don’t wipe well enough then you will get owies.”  No kid wants owies.  Learning by error is the best way your kid can learn. When they don’t wipe well, things get uncomfortable fast.  If it worries you that they aren’t wiping well enough, try to restrain yourself from wiping for them. Instead, wait until you see they’ve reached an uncomfortable state from their lack of thorough wiping. That is good news for you!  In that moment you have an opportunity to explain why their butt or crotch doesn’t feel good and how to fix it.  Vwala!  Light bulb for them! While Maisy was learning I would also use a wipe or two at the end of the day, or give her a bath, to clean her up well to avoid any infection.
  3. Wash your hands with soap. Teach them how not to waste water during the hand washing process by shutting the water off while they scrub their hands and turning it back on to rinse.  I find the easiest way to teach is to guide their hands with yours (you know, kind of like romantic scenes in movies when a guy is teaching a girl to shoot a bow or a gun or something.)

Bottom line, the best way for kids to learn is by watching.  We have an open door bathroom policy with toddlers so they can learn by watching and not feel trapped in the bathroom when it’s their turn.

Face washing solo.

Keep a Norwex washcloth somewhere to use for this purpose and make sure the kids know it’s only for face washing.  Norwex is important because the microfiber cleans thoroughly with one swipe across the face and all the kids can use the same one because the interwoven silver kills all the germs. Super great for after meal times or if someone gets marker or dirt on his or her face.

Nose wiping solo.

All you have to do is teach them to grab a small portion of toilet paper and they learn the rest with a short lesson and watching you blow your nose.  We use flannel wipes for diaper changes so I just send Maisy to the dry wipes drawer whenever she needs to blow her nose.  I use them like hankies myself!

Keep a baby potty and wipes in your toddler’s room at night or nap time.

Again, we use flannel wipes to avoid waste and so that Maisy can just toss soiled wipes in her hamper. By having this set up we enable her to take care of potty needs during sleep times and avoid accidents. Some toddlers go potty before they fall asleep even though they went on the big potty before laying down for sleep.  Other toddlers wake in the middle of a nap, pee quick, then lay back down and go back to sleep.  And in the mornings toddlers can pee in this little potty first thing. This first morning pee option also allows us to sleep in a bit in the morning. Thanks to keeping a little potty in her room and our OK to Wake! clock we’ve been able to coach Maisy not to come out of her room to wake us until 6:30 – the little potty enables her to take care of her morning pee and the clock lights up to indicate to Maisy it’s time to come out and play.


Keep a kid broom and dust pan around.

Our toddlers love using the broom and the dust pan to play but they love it even more when they actually get to clean up with it!  When they come in from outside and track in dirt they often go for the broom and dust pan unprompted.  When they leave play dough droppings all around under the table, they are more than happy to take a broom to the mess.


Keep a kitchen hand towel within reach.

When a toddler spills, you’re doing them a big favor (and yourself) by enabling them to clean the mess up themselves.  Teach them a little responsibility.

Keep chapstick handy.

After the dry, cold winter struck, so did the epidemic of cracked and bleeding lips.  I was repeatedly lubing Maisy’s lips so, instead, I realized I could give her some chapstick of her very own (which she thought was awesome) to keep in her purse.  After a little bit of coaching she’s stopped using it excessively.

Organize toys.

Besides the obvious benefit of enabling your child to dig in and play by having the toys within easy reach and put together in a way to inspire creativity it also enables them to clean up by themselves. We have a lego bin, an art bin, a baby bin, an animals bin, a blocks bin, a dress up bin, and a miscellaneous bin.  Any larger toys like our Noah’s ark set, the shapes sorter, or our little play house live on an open shelf all lined up.  The largest of toys like push carts and riders all have their place too.  If toys have a place, kids put them back in that place when prompted to clean up.  This does take coaching of course but it’s so worth requiring them to clean up after themselves!  Clean up songs help.  Teach them one and, next thing you know, you say the words “clean up” and they are singing and cleaning all by themselves.


Create an art station.

Remember that art bin I just mentioned above?  It’s awesome.  I love when kids want to create!  We have crayons, markers, homemade play dough, paints, and beads.  By keeping things in plain sight I enable kids to want to art. Out of sight, out of mind right?  When it comes to art I was in sight, in mind… or something like that.  So we have the art bin but I also have art supplies set up on our dining room table (the only place kids are allowed to do art) and coloring books stacked in an easy to reach place.  The rules are simple:  keep all art tasks at the dining room table, ask for help to tear out the picture you want to color (we always tear them out otherwise the kids will make small marks on each page, thus using up the whole coloring book in one sitting), and clean up after yourself.  We also have chalk walls with colored chalk to play with in the basement and an easel for markers, chalk, and painting that’s also worth noting.

Toddlers can clean up after themselves at meal time too.

Teach them where to dispose of any meal scraps (trash, give it to the dog, compost, save it for later in the fridge, etc), where to put their plates and silverware (dishwasher, counter, sink, etc), and to put their cup back in that drink station you have set up.

Is there anything you do with your toddler self-sufficiency style you could share with the group via commenting below?

Life Without a Microwave


Josh and I remodeled our kitchen almost two years ago now.  When we were planning the layout I struggled with the microwave.  Ever the visual artist I couldn’t feel good about making a permanent place for one in my home due to simply just how anesthetically pleasing they are; ever the nutritionalist I couldn’t feel good about making a permanent place for one in my home due to the nutrient zapping and radiation contribution they are known for.  Besides, food from the microwaves just doesn’t taste as good and doesn’t stay hot for more than five seconds!  So, we chose to ditch the microwave completely.  And I’ll tell you what, it was a no brainer switch.


Behold the Bad Microwave

  1. Zap nutrients out of your food
  2. Radiation
  3. Kitchen eye sore


Living Without a Microwave 101

  1. Reheat using the stove.  Yes this dirties another dish but it’s often a faster reheat.  The food stays hot like it should too!
  2. Reheat using the oven.  Do yourself a favor and store any leftover is pyrex, also healthier for you  and better for the environment than storing in plastic.  That way, when you go to reheat you can simply turn your oven on and pop the whole pyrex in!
  3. Tea kettle.  Whenever we have leftover oatmeal I usually reheat with the tea kettle because it naturally dries out a bit in refrigerator storage anyways.
  4. Toaster.  Pop leftover waffles, pancakes, breadsticks, or dinner rolls in the toaster!  You know how when you reheat these items in the microwave they turn tough and bland?  You get the opposite effect when reheating breads in the toaster!
  5. Other reheating alternatives could be a pressure cooker, crock pot… or basically any other kitchen appliance.  I’ve personally never used these but they are options!


Do any of you lovely readers live without a microwave too?  What tips and tricks to you have to share about reheating your food?


A Letter to Maisy: You are My Treasure

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Dear Maisy,

Tonight we read two long books and prayed together.  But I could delay my depart no longer as I could hear your sister freaking out crying.  I promised to return as soon as she was in bed for the night.

When I came back in you were near zzz’s, but still offered up a sleepy and oh so pure smile as I snuggled in to spoon you.  I lay there wishing I could stay and thinking about how beautiful that smile is.  You are the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.  And Penny is the most beautiful thing I have ever seen.  How is that possible?  I look at you and can’t imagine seeing anything more beautiful.  And then I look at Penny and I can’t imagine setting my eyes on anything more gorgeous. And then I look back at you and I’m back where I started.

When I look at you I feel I am looking at an indescribably breathtaking sunrise over the steadily lapping ocean as dolphins leap into the air while drinking the most delicious cup of coffee and eating a cake Jesus made Himself.  I can’t believe I get to experience that daily, hourly… every minute of every day.  I don’t get that feeling because of your looks alone, though that likely would be enough to elicit those feelings.  What I love most about you is that you are so drop dead gorgeous yet you are also the sweetest girl I have ever known and you’re a legit goofball to boot.  I love that along with your beauty comes an ever present sing-song voice with a little lisp to it.  I love that with your goofy sense of humor comes this wholehearted compassion.  I love that you freely offer me as many hugs and kisses as I want.  I picture you to be the girl at school that turns all the heads and, as you do, puts a smile on those faces and a laugh in those bellies as you pass.

I’m so proud of who you are, so excited to see who you become, and so honored to be a part of the sculpting process.  I love you Maisy.

With all my heart,


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