A Year in My Life- April- Meet My Mentors

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Well would you look at me. It’s the BEGINNING of the month and I remembered to post my “A Year in my Life” photos! The April weather has been gorgeous, and as you can see we’ve spent a LOT of time outside. I hope you enjoy this little behind the scenes peek into our life.

A year in My Life- April | SmithSquad.com | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Our new lady goat, Alice. She’s now pregnant and we are expecting kid(s) late summer/early fall.

This month I’d like to talk about some of my mentors that have really encouraged me and taught me as I have worked on perfecting my documentary images. First up is Kirsten Lewis Bethmann. I first “met” her while watching her class on CreativeLive “Family Photography: Modern Storytelling”.  Kirsten specializes in Day in the Life Family Photography. Rather than posed images she captures the real everyday story of the families that she photographs. Her class walked through things like how to see the moments, how to use the available light, and included a behind the scenes of her shooting a session.

A year in My Life- April | SmithSquad.com | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Making faces at his reflection while watching the rain through the window.

After watching Kirsten’s class I was inspired to take more documentary images of my own family, and also felt the desire to provide this for clients. I was already moving away from super posed images and into more lifestyle images, but Kirsten made me want to go even further! I purchased her first class so that I could re-watch it as often as I wanted to refresh my mind on things I had already learned as well as hopefully learn something new each time. When she did her second class, “Family Photography: Photojournalism in the Home” I watched as much as I could live, and learned even more.

A year in My Life- April | SmithSquad.com | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Poor baby was NOT feeling well at all. He was sick for almost a week!

My next big mentor I also discovered thanks to CreativeLive. I first saw Julia Kelleher when she presented the class “Family Photography: Capturing Connection“. I absolutely loved her passion for what she was doing, photographing newborns and their families, as well as her open honesty about her experiences with postpartum depression. I could also tell that she had a true love for teaching and really wanted her students to succeed.

A year in My Life- April | SmithSquad.com | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
We had a lot of fun watching these little birdies grow up. Their parents are beautiful red Cardinals and we love having them in our yard.

Then I saw a call for studio audience members for her second class, “The Creative Newborn Photography Studio“, and I decided to apply. Boy am I glad I did! I was accepted and given the opportunity to attend her three-day class live in the CreativeLive studio in San Francisco. It was an AMAZING experience! I not only got to spend three days learning from Julia, but I was able to build relationships with the other photographers that were in the studio audience. Julia really helped me build my own passion for exploring my why. Why am I a photographer? Why am I an artist? What message do I have to share with the world? She really launched me into me journey of digging deeper and rediscovering my own identity outside that of wife and mother.

A year in My Life- April | SmithSquad.com | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Check out how this guy is holding the pencil! Only 1.5, but has to be like the big kids. Maddy, is the best big sister and always willing to help him out and cheer him on.

While those two instructors have influenced me the most, CreativeLive has been such a wealth of knowledge and motivation for me. I’ve watched classes on pricing, photography, Photoshop editing, marketing, branding, watercolors and so much more. I try to check out their offerings each morning and tune in to the live classes whenever I can.

A year in My Life- April | SmithSquad.com | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Picnicking on the front porch after a morning of working hard in the yard.

Last, but certainly not least, this list would not be complete without the amazing Christine Tremoulet! I first met her in Jeff Jochum’s Team-X Facebook group. Jeff Jochum is an amazing coach, who I have also worked with, and you should definitely check out his book “Work Happily Ever After” if you are a photographer. Jeff really helped me start digging into who I am and why, but Christine is the one who really cracked the nut wide open for me and helped me become clearly focused in my business goals and direction.

A year in My Life- April | SmithSquad.com | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Hard work, when done with the family, is fun. Stay tuned for a future blog post on how we use family work instead of chores to build relationship and teach good habits.

After talking with Christine on Facebook quite a bit I signed up for her email list “Blogging Brilliantly” which is now an amazing book. Blogging Brilliantly give daily actionable steps that you can take to improve your message, attract your target audience, and blog with more clarity. I have to admit, that while the advice was amazing, I failed to implement most of it. I think more than anything I was unclear in the direction I wanted my blog and business to go. I desperately want to be a full-time birth/newborn/family life photographer. Unfortunately with baby #8 due in just a few days it really isn’t a season of my life where I can focus as much time, energy, and money, into that business as I would like. I was pretty lost and floundering trying to figure out how to be true to myself and my needs while still honoring the responsibilities that come with being the mom of a large family.

A year in My Life- April | SmithSquad.com | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
The kids all love working together to help Dad out. This time shoveling up wood chips to be placed under the fence where the neighbor’s dog keeps getting into our yard.

Christine then invited me to be a part of her first group coaching class “Business Brilliantly“, and I jumped at the opportunity. I knew I needed help and I knew that I trusted her knowledge and mentorship. I was not disappointed! Through her class I was able to really focus on what I wanted out of my life. I was able to weed out the distractions and create a clear message of who I am as a person and a business. I was able to create a sense of peace with the direction I am going with my businesses and excitement about where they will take me in the future.

A year in My Life- April | SmithSquad.com | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Getting a ride in the wheelbarrow as a reward for hard work well done

Thanks to these three mentors I am in a really good place right now with my work life balance. I have given myself permission to step back from the photography and art without completely giving it up. I have come to a place where I truly enjoy and look forward to writing in my blog. I have a clear message of what I stand for, who I am talking to, and am able to focus more time on my children in the process. It’s been quite the journey, and taken several years, but I am eternally thankful to the mentors who have gotten me to where I am.

A year in My Life- April | SmithSquad.com | Project 52 | Project 365 | Documenting the everyday moments of motherhood | Childhood Unscripted
Hector really is a butthead, but Leah is the animal whisperer and can be buddies with even the most ornery of animals. I love how this image captures her sweet, sensitive personality juxtaposed with his look of devilishness.

I love sharing these everyday moments with my readers each month. I hope they not only give you a peek into my behind the scenes life, but somehow the experiences and knowledge I share in each post can also help you to find the same sense of purpose and clarity that I have been privileged to enjoy!

If you would like to have documentary images of your family I would love to help you out! While I am not full timing the photography business I am still taking on a few clients each month for birth, newborn, and family life sessions. If you are interested in scheduling a session within ~1 hour of Winder Georgia please contact me!

Who are your mentors either in personal life or business? What have they taught you?

Are you doing a 52/365 project this year? I’d love to see your images so please share your links in the comments and I’ll come visit.

Sheep to Shawl Festival- A Sheep Shearing Demonstration

Face Painting | SmithSquad.com | Sheep to Shawl Festival | Ladies Homestead Gathering of Statham

On Saturday we attended the “Sheep to Shawl” Festival hosted by the Ladies Homestead Gathering of Statham, Georgia. It was a ton of fun! When we got there we headed to the kids area where we got to make bubble wands out of pipe cleaners and rings out of wire and beads. They also had some fun games set up, like rope the rocking horse, some baby animals in pens that the kids could feed and a photo booth with a VERY fluffy bunny.

pipe cleaner bubble wands | SmithSquad.com | Sheep to Shawl Festival | Ladies Homestead Gathering of Statham

 

pipe cleaner bubble wands | SmithSquad.com | Sheep to Shawl Festival | Ladies Homestead Gathering of StathamThey also had several people demonstrating different skills such as blacksmithing, pottery making, and wool spinning. The highlight of the day was the live sheep shearing demonstration. We learned a ton about sheep from the presenter as we watched the sheep getting sheared. For example I didn’t know that sheep were born with long tails that had to be docked for cleanliness reasons. We also learned a lot about different kinds of wool and what they were used for. It was a very interesting and educational experience.

Sheep Shearing | SmithSquad.com | Sheep to Shawl Festival | Ladies Homestead Gathering of Statham

When the sheep shearing was done we went to check out the vendor booths. There were several people selling some great homemade items such as herb tinctures, teas from home grown herbs, pottery, wind chimes, and much more. We had some delicious granola and Cameron got some herbal tea to help clear out some congestion he’s had. Overall it was an awesome day and I can’t wait till they do it again next year.

Taking a break | SmithSquad.com | Sheep to Shawl Festival | Ladies Homestead Gathering of Statham

Time to Plant a Garden

I’ve been wanting to plant a garden for a few years now, but never quite got past the talking about it phase. We’ve had gardens in the past, but they were always planned, planted and cared for by Cameron (Dad). He hasn’t had the time lately, so it’s up to me! I talked about wanting to do this with another homeschooled family. They are renting their house, and putting in a garden would take a LOT of work as they would have to clear out a grassy area to do it. Cyndy (mom of their family) has a lot more knowledge of gardening than I do as well. We decided that they would come over to our house and we would plant one together.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Wally insisted on wearing a pair of gardening gloves, then used them to slap Abbe in the face.

About 3 years ago Cameron cut down and burned a huge pile of branches. The mound has been sitting in the yard ever since collecting debris, worms, bugs and all sort of natural material. About 6-8 months ago he covered this pile in a layer of mulch and then a layer of cardboard. The dirt in this pile is now rich, black, and perfect for a garden! We didn’t’ want to interfere with the natural ecosystem that has formed on this hill, so we just planted right into it.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
One thing I love about homeschooling is the opportunity for older and younger children to work together and build relationships. Jack just ADORES his Gillian!

Cyndy and I both really like the principles taught in the book “Square Foot Gardening“. With such an irregular shaped plot of land to plant on, however, it wasn’t really doable to measure out precise squares. We used many of the principles of how to plant things, but did it in a more freeform layout.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Boris will be losing one of his favorite sunning spots. Sorry buddy.

In case you were wondering 36 weeks pregnant is NOT a great time to be squatting and planting, especially on a hill with slightly precarious footing. Cyndy took charge of most of the educating and planting while I hovered and took pictures.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Discussing the purpose of mulch

First Cyndy talked to all the kids about mulch and what it did for the ground. We told them how we were going to clear away just enough to get to the dirt, then once we saw sprouts coming up we would put the mulch back down around them. This would help to keep moisture in the ground and stop weeds from growing in the soil around the plant.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Reading a seed packet

She then taught them how to read the seed packets and figure out how close together seeds should be as well as how deep to plant them. They then each measured their fingers so they could learn to feel how deep 1″ or 2″ was.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Leah chose to plant carrots

Now it was time to get planting! Each child had chosen a packet of seeds from the stash I’ve had in the freezer for a few years now. The plan was that each of them would plant their selection. It didn’t quite work out that way as many of the smaller ones had reached their attention span limit and wandered off. This was ok, learning is fun and if they were bored they weren’t learning anyway. Plus it was a bit easier to work with less little feet climbing all over the hill.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Is this a good rock?

The kids and Cyndy worked together to carefully scrape away the mulch and plant the seeds. We planted corn, squash, melons, carrots, lettuces and more. We had a few seeds that needed to be started indoors, then transplanted. We cleared away spots for each of those plants and had the kids find some medium-sized rocks to place in them. This way we know exactly where they go in our plan and we wouldn’t accidentally over plant and not leave room.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Our broken blind plant markers written by Maddy

Maddy (8) took charge of making the markers for each plant. We used the slats from a set of broken blinds. They should stand up to the weather great and are nice and visible.

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
We found a worm!

I’m excited to see how our garden turns out! If nothing else I’m sure we’ll learn things that we can apply to net year when the area that has been mulched and covered in cardboard is even larger!

Plant a garden | SmithSquad.com | Homeschooling math and science | Family Work | Square Foot gradening
Rachel decided she needed to take a break and just supervise, what better place to do so than Sam’s lap?

Did you plant a garden this year? What did you plant? What methods do you use? Do your kids help? I’d love to hear all about it. If you have a blog about it please share in the comments so we can read and follow your journey too!