A Year in the Life June- Documentary Photography at the Pet Store

Once again I completely forgot to post my A Year in the Life pictures from last month. As usual the littlest ones were the stars of the show! I must admit right around 1.5 is my favorite age. Learning to walk and talk, but not quite into the temper tantrum stage yet. Even with a new baby around Wally once again was the main subject of my camera lens this month.  DSC06481   DSC06493 DSC06496

The best shot of the month is this one of Wally with Hannah. Wally is absolutely IN LOVE with his sock monkey. He is also over the moon for his new baby sister. When Grandma sent Hannah a sock monkey outfit I knew I needed a picture of him holding the both of them. As you can see Hannah wasn’t too fond of the idea. Wally was unperturbed. He just shoved that paci in her mouth, positive that losing it was the only reason she was sad. Poor girl didn’t stop crying till mommy rescued her, after getting the picture first of course lol. DSC06491

The older kids managed to sneak into a few pictures by holding the very photogenic new baby. Maddy especially loves to help take care of Hannah. I have  feeling these two are going to be best buds.

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Ben likes to love on her too, but not quite as much as Maddy. He gets bored pretty fast adn is ready to pass her on.

One fun thing I did this month was take the camera with me when we went to the pet store. I’ve always been a little too self conscious to bust out the camera in an unusual spot like that before. This time I just went for it. I had a TON of fun. I love that I was able to capture so much of my kids personalities in an everyday situation. I even remembered to hand the camera off to the hubs and get in the pictures myself!

Would you like to preserve these types of memories as well? I can teach you how. Stay tuned for my workshop announcement, coming soon! If you’d like to hire me for a documentary session please contact me for more details and to schedule your date.

A Year in My Life May- Allowing Others to serve

Wow, with all the chaos having an eighth baby brings I completely forgot to share my photos from my “A Year in My Life” project for the month of May. My goal with this project is to get the real camera out every day and document something. I would say May was not the biggest success. With Hannah being born in the middle of the month I wasn’t exactly full of motivation to take photos. Exhausted moms don’t go for the camera very regularly.

39 week pregnant belly shot |smithsquad.com| exist in photos | lifestlye maternity photography
Final belly shot of this pregnancy

On Mother’s Day after a gloriously long nap we went to a friend’s house for dinner. The dads made dinner while the moms sat and chatted. It was a really fun time. I passed off my camera to their teen daughter for a while and got what is now my final pre-baby belly shot.

newborn baby number eight |smithsquad.com| Fresh 48 photography |Newborn hospital photography | large family
Final belly shot of this pregnancy

Miss Hannah arrived on May 14th after only 2 hours of labor, her birth story is here if you care to read it. For some reason the recovery from this birth was much harder than my previous births. I usually feel pretty good physically by 3-4 days post-partum. With Hannah I still didn’t want to get off the couch after a week and didn’t feel like I was really myself till about two weeks.

a little boy and his sock monkey |smithsquad.com | Large family |Documentary family photography | Lifestlye child photographer

a little boy and his sock monkey |smithsquad.com | Large family |Documentary family photography | Lifestlye child photographer
Wally did a lot of sock monkey cuddling while mommy was baby cuddling.

They say that every birth is different, but honestly I never really expected for recovery to ever be all that different. I know that two weeks of recovery really isn’t that bad, but compared to my normal 3-4 days it was a real downer. I’ve also struggled a LOT more with the hormones this time around. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m getting older or because I’m just completely worn out, but boy have my mood swings been crazy! I’m pretty much over it now, but there were a few rough weeks there when I just couldn’t really function. It didn’t help at all that Cameron had to go back to work 2 days after Hannah was born.

Large family play time at the park |smithsquad.com | post partum depression Large family play time at the park |smithsquad.com | post partum depression

Large family play time at the park |smithsquad.com | post partum depression
Spending time outside at the park helps me to ward off post-partum depression.

So what’s a mom to do when there are seven very little people to take care of, but she is dealing with the baby blues? Ask for help. Sounds pretty easy, but boy is it hard! Somewhere in our history large families have ceased to be the norm. As such there is a lot of judgement that can come upon those of us who choose to have one when we don’t have everything 100% under control. I’ve heard it said to me or others more than once that if we can’t handle it then we shouldn’t have so many. IF I admit I need help I know I am risking negative judgment from others about my choice to allow another little person to join our family. While I am confident in my choices and know that I can not possibly escape judgment no matter what I do, it is still hard to risk opening myself up to that criticism from people who just don’t understand. I am naturally pretty independent. It is difficult to be vulnerable and admit I need help caring for all these monkeys.

It's ok to ask for help |Smithsquad.com | post partum recovery | Large Family |documentary photographer | Lifestyle photography
A local homeschool teen came over and helped out. Wally had a blast making cornbread with her help.

Luckily for me my husband does not suffer from the same insecurities. He asked the church ladies for help  and thankfully some really amazing friends jumped at the chance to serve. A fellow homeschooling family sent their teen daughter over to keep kids entertained so I could get some rest. Another friend came over later that week and brought food for a few days as well as spent the morning helping me with kiddos and laundry. People also brought us meals big enough to give me leftovers for over a week. My husband of course did his best to pick up as much slack as he could in the evenings when he was here as well.

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Amongst all the chaos of our new baby our goat, Alice, also had a new baby. Flora arrived a few months before we were expecting her, which means Alice was likely pregnant when we brought her home and we just didn’t know it yet. Flora was the cutest thing. I love how baby goats prance around the yard. Sadly we lost her when she was only a few days old. We’re not sure why. One morning the was hopping around cute as a button and that afternoon I found her hidden behind a large rock no longer breathing. Poor Alice took it pretty hard and kept bleating for her baby for about two days.

A new baby goat| Smithsquad.com| homesteading | Large Family
Alice loved her new baby as much as I love mine! I’m so sad we lost her.

Overall it was a pretty awesome month, and with everything that was going on I’m glad I got as many photos as I did. A huge thank you to all those who helped us make it through the month.

What was your post-partum recovery like? Did you allow others to help you? What was the most helpful thing anyone did for you after baby arrived?

Motherhood is Beautiful- Loving My Mom Body

When I first saw this family photo it was a small thumbnail in our gallery of birth photography images, and I loved it. It was a lovely real life moment of our family. Something I’ve never had captured before. Even though the moment is so beautiful I almost didn’t share it with anyone.

birth photography | Smithsquad.com | meeting baby number eight | all natural hospital birth
Photograph courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography

When I made the image large the first thing I thought was “wow, I look fat! No makeup, messy hair, and I’m in my pajamas. I don’t think everyone needs to see me that way.” I even considered for a moment whether I could possibly liquefy myself a bit smaller in Photoshop. Then I stopped. “What on earth is wrong with me?!?! This is less than 24 hours after giving birth to my eighth child. I can’t believe that I am being so hard on myself! I’m Super Womb-an.”

I now believe that this image is even more beautiful because of my appearance. This is a body that has carried and fed eight little humans. This is a body that has given birth naturally eight times. This is a body that has been pregnant, nursing, or both for the last nine years. This is the body that allows me to read, play, and laugh with my children. This is the body that cooks, cleans, teaches, and so much more. This is the body that my husband loves. Most importantly my body is an amazing temple of God and I need to show it more respect.

I am beautiful. My body is amazing. I will share this image with pride knowing that it is a truly beautiful moment that my children and their children can treasure for generations.

motherhood is beautiful| smithsquad.com | love your mom body | Exist in photographs
Photograph courtesy of Elsa Shaw Photography

Mom’s please love yourselves. Love your bodies for the amazing things that they do. Don’t hide from the camera or hide away the photos because you are ashamed. There is no shame in motherhood. You are beautiful even with 20 extra pounds, no make-up and messy hair. Motherhood is beautiful in every shape and size. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to celebrate it. Show your children the beauty that created them. Give them something to treasure for the rest of their lives. Exist in photographs, it is the best gift you can give after giving them life.

I would love to document these moments for you. Whether it’s a birth, newborn, or family life session I promise you we will walk away with a treasured memory. Contact me for more information.

Have you ever had a photo of yourself that you judged too harshly? What amazing things has your mom body done? I’d love to see your favorite documentary images of yourself! Share links in the comments so I can check them out. 

Why I Hired a Birth Photographer

When I had my first child the idea of photographing the occasion never even entered my mind. I don’t think I had ever heard of a birth photographer at that point. I didn’t own a camera and this was before the days of decent quality cell phone cameras. I do not have one single picture of him in the hospital. By the time baby number two made her appearance 5 years later Cameron at least managed to get a few cell phone photos. They are tiny and bad quality, but at least I have a few images of her sweet little face.

Each subsequent child has been the same. I few photos taken in the hospital after birth by Daddy. Maybe 1-2 of me holding the baby looking awful. All of them poor quality. As much as dad tries he just isn’t a photographer. His composition often leaves much to be desired, and the auto setting on the camera can’t capture the moment in the way that I want to see it.

Then with baby #6, and my first homebirth, we didn’t get one single picture on the day of his birth. After almost two hours of start and stop labor when he decided to come it was fast, and neither one of us even thought about picking up a camera! The first pictures I have of Jack are the next day when we were visiting with Grandpa and Grandma. I am so angry at myself!

I was determined not to let that happen with the next baby. When I was in labor with Wally I got out my camera, set all the settings where I wanted them, and placed it on the counter. We were not going to forget again! Cameron snapped a few pictures of me in labor and after he delivered the baby he grabbed the camera and snapped a few more. I LOVE those pictures. Seeing myself in those precious moments is such an amazing gift, but like The Little Mermaid “I want more!”

With my most recent birth I determined that I was going to have a birth photographer. I was incredibly fortunate to find Elsa Shaw, a wonderful photographer and person. We met before hand and really clicked. When I was in labor I called her up and she rushed right on over. Unfortunately Miss Hannah decided that she was quite eager to enter the world and arrived just a few minutes before Elsa did. Elsa still got some amazing photos of those precious moments right after birth. Since she wasn’t there very long that night she offered to come back the next day when the siblings came to meet baby. I have NEVER had any pictures with the entire family in them meeting the baby. There has always been a parent or older child missing from them because someone has to hold the camera.

These photographs are completely priceless to me. They show me my own strength. They tell Hannah the story of her amazing birth. They remind me of the nobility in motherhood. They tell a story to others about the value of motherhood. They will exist long after I am gone to remind Hannah and her children that they are part of a family that loves them dearly.

Thank you Elsa! You have given me the most amazing gift that I have ever received by documenting these moments for me.

5 Easy Steps to Reclaiming Your Muchness

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My last post was about my feelings as I lost and then reclaimed my muchness. Today’s post is all about how I got my muchness back. Each person has a unique journey ahead of them, but here are a few simple steps anyone can take to help them create their own new path.

5 Easy Steps to Reclaim Your Muchness | Smithsquad.com | Alice in Wonderland quote | Mad Hatter | Finding your life's purpose

Recognize What You Have Lost

I knew I wasn’t happy, but it took me a while to figure out that it was because I had changed. It was so easy to blame things on my circumstances and relationships. It was much harder to look inward and take responsibility for my own happiness in life. Instead of saying if only I had more money, if only I had a better relationship with my spouse, if only I didn’t have an ex, if only… I started looking back on my childhood and asked myself what about me has changed? What things am I doing differently? What things did I love that I have now given up? What talents have I buried instead of growing? Identifying what exactly it was about me that had changed, and whether those changes were good or bad led me to then ask myself. What can I change?

Identify What You Need

As you look at the changes that you’ve made for the worse you can identify what you need to change about yourself to find more fulfillment in life. Maybe you need to speak up for yourself more. Maybe you need to pursue a talent or passion that you once had. Maybe you need to leave an abusive situation. Maybe you need to work more hours, or less. Only you know what exactly it is that you need. Ask yourself is there anything that I used to love as a kid that I no longer do? Are there any specific character traits I had as a child that I wish I hadn’t lost? Is there any knowledge that I wish I had pursued? What did I want to be when I grew up and do I still want that?

Find a Great Mentor and Support System

Change is hard for anyone. When you are suffering from a lost of muchness you often find that your gumption for making change has been completely eradicated. This is when it is crucial to surround yourself with those who can lift you up and keep you going. Find someone who will ask the hard questions and not let you make excuses. Sure a good rant to a supportive friend is great and necessary, but you also need someone who is going to give you a swift kick to the rear when needed. Use mental health professionals, friends, online groups, life coaches, or any other resource you can. The more support you have the better.

My first steps into discovering who I am were prodded along by Jeff Jochum. He is the king of the question why? Dig deeper, why do you want/feel/need that? He can be quite aggravating at times, but that’s exactly what I needed at that point. Someone who didn’t put up with any excuses and made me ask myself the hard questions. At that point I knew I needed to make changes, but I was still afraid. I continued to build up my support base with an AMAZING church leader, a few close supportive friends, and a weekly women’s support group at church. About a year after working with Jeff I had the opportunity to attend a class at the CreativeLive studio with Julia Kelleher called The Creative Newborn Studio. At the beginning of the class she gave each of us some clay and told us to just create something. It didn’t matter what it was just create. It was such a freeing experience. I was right back in childhood and having a blast. I was proud of my cute little creations. As her class continued the focus on being artistic really opened up a desire I had stuffed down for far too long. I wanted to create. I needed to create. I was then given an amazing opportunity work with Christine Tremoulet in her Blogging Brilliantly course. I thought I was in for a great course on using blogging to help build my business. What I got was so much more. She really focused on making your brand YOU and that meant that I had to find me. She has been an amazingly supportive mentor and cheerleader and still pushes me to keep digging deeper and doing better. She is also the one who helped me create a clearly defined purpose for my life.

Define Your Purpose

I believe that everyone needs to have a purpose in life. That is where the true joy is found, in having and working towards a good and deep purpose. I’m not talking about a specific goal like making 100,000 a year or creating 100 art pieces. I’m talking about a deep and never ending purpose that motivates you throughout your entire life. When you have a purpose and you are working it suddenly so many little things in life just don’t seem to matter as much. Just as every person is unique so are our life purposes. What really helped me refine my purpose was creating a manifesto. This was something I did as a part of Christine’s Blogging Brilliantly class. She had me write down hundreds of statements in different forms and answering different questions. I then cut out all of those statements onto wordstrips and sorted them to decide what were my top thoughts and ideas that had to be included. My manifesto is below and you can read Christine’s manifesto here.

What is my purpose? I celebrate the nobility in motherhood through writing, photography, and art as I care for my own large family. This isn’t just a one time achieve it and I’m done goal. This is a purpose that can and does drive me in everything I do.

My manifesto| SmithSquad.com| I Believe in the nobility of motherhood
Creating a series of I Believe statements can help you to identify your purpose in life.

Take Action

This is usually the hardest part of the entire process. It’s easy to know we need a change adn dream about a change. It’s also very easy to come up with a million reasons why we can’t do it. It’s scary, it’s hard, and sometimes it looks near impossible. This is, once again, where an amazing support system comes into play. I clearly remember the conference call with Christine where she suggested I back away form being a full time photographer and focus on my blog. As she talked to me she had been able to hear the passion in my voice for motherhood. She could feel my frustration that the needs of my large family, which are very important to me, were hampering my ability to make my business a real success. As we talked about the possibility of focusing on the things I could do from home, blogging adn art, and keeping photography and a fun hobby rather than a business it all clicked into place. That didn’t make it any easier to take action, however, even though I knew it was the right action to take. It was very hard to give up that dream of being a full time birth and family photographer. Because I know and embrace my life’s purpose, however, I am able to refocus and accept that maybe that will happen at a later season in my life. I still fear that no one will want to read what I have to write. There are days when I suffer from some major imposter syndrome as I write. There are sometimes days on end where I look at my art supplies and just walk away because the thought of creating something from my heart and having it rejected is terrifying. As I become “much more…muchier” it becomes easier and easier.

 

You Can Find Your Muchness

Muchness isn’t something that we lose and never get back. It is somethign that we can strive to achieve and build upon every day. It is knowing that we have a divine purpose and that we are creating the path that will help us fulfill it. It is taking responsibility for yourself and your happiness. It is the process of shedding the pressure of living up to someone else’s standards and instead creating our own ideals.

Muchness is where the true happiness and joy in life are found.

Have you lost your muchness? Will you commit here and now to seek it out? Have you reclaimed your muchness? Have you found your purpose in life? What is it?

Memorial Day- The Dark Side of Military Service

As I have seen all the media hullabaloo leading up to Memorial day this year it has caused me to reflect on my own military service as well as that of my husband. I joined the Marine Corps straight out of high school and served for eight years. My husband waited a little longer to join, he was a few years out of school, and served for 7.5 years. We met while serving and had our first two children together while on active duty. My husband is now currently serving in the National Guard.

We are both proud of our service. We did hard things. We deployed. We were part of something bigger than ourselves. We were willing to die for our country. This is what you hear from most active duty and veterans. What you don’t hear, and what you probably don’t want to hear, is that there is a dark side to service.

The military is one of the most emotionally sick places that I have ever been in my life. It was a dark time for me emotionally and spiritually. The worst mistakes I made in my life were a result of trying to fit in and be a part of a culture that was the polar opposite of the values I had been raised with. The incongruity between my actions and what I knew to be right caused me to struggle with depression, anxiety, and even suicidal thoughts.

veteran suicide awareness| SmithSquad.com | 22 too many | Marine Corps | military suicide | Mental Health

Did you know that roughly 22 veterans commit suicide every day? Some articles will try to tell you that this is a trumped-up statistic as the majority of veterans are older. They say these veterans shouldn’t count because their reasons for suicide are the same as any other civilian of that age. I don’t buy it. Military service affects you in a way that never leaves your mind, especially if you have been in active combat. Sure many of these vets may fight their demons off for years, but that doesn’t mean that it affected them any less, or that their suicide is unrelated to their service.

Why is it that mental issues like depression, anxiety, and even suicide are so common among military members? Well I can’t say it any better than my husband did on a recent Facebook post where he accepted a challenge to do 22 push-ups to raise awareness for veteran suicide:

I wanted to accept this challenge because what I can do to raise awareness is to talk about my experience in the active duty ranks of the military. If we want to see a reduction in suicides, we need to address the culture of the military that pressures service members to be supermen and women without feelings. We need to hold military leaders’ feet to the fire with the claim that they care about families. To the military, caring about families means spending money on them when it should mean creating an environment in which the family member who serves is not destroyed by the pressures of the job. We need to transform the culture that celebrates pornography, promiscuity, and alcoholism into one in which service members can feel it’s normal, okay, and healthy to seek help in overcoming problem behaviors. While service members do have access to chaplains and mental health professionals, they are often called names and counseled that their careers will suffer if they use those resources. Leaders don’t want their people to have problems, be weak, or discuss poor leadership with anyone outside the chain of command.

If you think military suicides are a problem, they are just the tip of the iceberg. The real problem is that the American military is the most mentally unhealthy, destructive place on the planet. Going after suicides can and should only lead to the discovery that the problem is much deeper, much bigger than gets reported in the news. If you want to solve this problem, you have to be committed to going all the way. So called “suicide awareness” campaigns are only a last-ditch effort to prevent the consummation of a tragedy that has been building for months and years in the minds of affected service members. Our young people suddenly leave families and friends, endure the pressures of basic training, and enter a world in which power-hungry, ego-tripping maniacal senior leaders bark orders ad nauseam with no (or feigned) regard for the well-being of their subordinates—to say nothing of the horrors of war many of them experience. After work, these young people live in a world where sex and alcohol are easy to find and seemingly limitless. With young people beginning their lives away from home this way—essentially living like college students with the added dangers of a high-stress job, less supervision, more freedom, and more money to spend—it is no wonder so many of them can’t handle it. I’m proud of my military service and what my brothers and sisters in arms have accomplished for this country, but there is much work to be done. Yes, suicides are a problem, but at the root of that problem is the destructive culture. The problem will continue until the root is cut.

About 3 years into my service I went to see a counselor to address my depression. I had one appointment. When requesting further appointments I was told I had to schedule them during non-work hours, they would not excuse my absence from work for a 1 hour counseling appointment. The counselors on base are only available during work hours. When my husband once sought some anger management classes he was advised against it because it could negatively impact his career. When a young marine I was in charge of took rat poisoning trying to end his life the SSgt over me made the comment “If he really meant it he would have succeeded. Don’t worry about him. I’ll straighten him out.” He was then moved to another direct supervisor because the SSgt thought I was babying him by showing concern. I spent many hours sitting and talking with those who had nowhere else to turn with their problems. When I left the Corps a few marines commented that I should be called Mama Smith instead of SSgt Smith. I was an oddity because of the level of true compassion I showed towards my Marines. “They’re tough, they don’t need you treating them like sissies” was once said to me by my top enlisted leader. When a fellow Marine asked those sharing his changing area to remove a pornographic poster that was on the wall he was ignored and ridiculed for the rest of his time in the unit. I could go on and on.

The fact is that the Military is a dark place full of unhealthy attitudes and behaviors. If you don’t conform to their beliefs then you are an outcast, often ridiculed and unjustly persecuted. Add in the pressures of war and the effects of PTSD and it’s no surprise that so many veterans, especially those who were raised with much higher moral standards, are struggling with mental illness and suicide.

 

So what can we do about it. Unfortunately I haven’t found a way to influence a culture change. What I can do is support those organizations who try to assist veterans overcome the problems that their service has created. At the top of my list is The Valhalla Project. The Valhalla Project is a 200-acre pilot property in the Ozark mountains with homesteading programs for post-9/11 military veterans. It is a retreat and reintegration facility for post-911 combat veterans and war zone civilian workers transitioning back into the civilian world. They work the land as a form of therapy to help deal with the trauma that they have experienced. One of the best ways to help them is to check out their critical needs wishlist on Amazon and send them a gift. You can also follow them on Facebook to be updated on any needs, and share their message with others. Direct donation via Paypal is also available on their blog.

Here are some other organizations who are fighting the mental health battle against veteran suicide:

Do you know a veteran or are you a veteran with mental health issues related to your service? Do you know of any additional resources for those who want to be part of the solution? Please share your stories and resources in the comments below. 

Talking About Pornography With Your Loved Ones

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Talking to those you love about pornography | Smithsquad.com | Porn harms | Fight the New Drug | Dangers of Pornography Let’s face it, the birds and bees sex talk is hard enough. Talking about pornography is even harder. The sad fact is, however, that it is something that is absolutely necessary. In our day and age pornographic images and movies are easily accessible online and children are being exposed to them at a ridiculously young age. A recent study showed that 10% of 12-year-old respondents SELF-REPORTED that they thought they were addicted to porn. 12-year-old addicts. We have to start young reaching out to our children and warning them of the dangers of pornography use.

Why do we Need to Talk About Pornography?

What are those dangers? Check out Fight the New Drug to read in-depth about the many dangers they have identified and studied:

  1. Changes the Brain
  2. Kills Love
  3. Warps Ideas About Sex
  4. Acts Like a Drug
  5. Ruins Sex Life
  6. Leads to Violence
  7. Addictive, Leaves You Lonely
  8. Porn is Based on a Thriving Sex Slave Industry
  9. Affects your Behavior
  10. Hurts Your Partner
  11. Destroys Marriages
  12. Addiction Escalates
  13. Porn is created From Lies

Talking to those you love about pornography | Smithsquad.com | Porn harms | Fight the New Drug | Dangers of Pornography

It is crucial that parents have open honest conversations with themselves and their kids about the damaging effects of pornography. Fact is that many of us don’t initially recognize the dangers of pornography and once we do we don’t know how to talk about it with those we love. Here are some resources that will help:

Resources for Educating Kids

The Guideline– a free e-book created by Fight the New Drug

How to Talk to Your Kids about Pornography by Dina Alexander

Good Pictures Bad Pictures by Kristen A Jensen

Fight the New Drug blog, and Facebook Page

Resources for Those Struggling With Addiction

Fortify is a video based online recovery program

12 Step recovery groups; SA, SAA, SLAA, SCA, and SRA

Healing the Wounds of Sexual Addiction by Mark Lasser

Out of the Shadows by Patrick J. Carnes

Certified Sex Addiction Therapists

LDS addiction Recovery Program

Resources for Those With Addicted Loved Ones

12 Step Programs S-Anon, COSA, PoSARC

Mending a Shattered Heart by Stefanie Carnes

Shattered Vows by Debra Lasser

Boundaries and Boundaries in Marriage by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

LDS Spouse and Family Support Guide and Groups 

 

Have you been affected by pornography addiction in yourself or a loved one? Have you struggled to talk about the dangers of pornography with those you love? What resources have you found to help?

It’s OK to Cry Over Spilled Milk

We live in a world where the adage “don’t cry over spilled milk” is well-known and religiously lived by. Put on your pretty smile, hold back those tears, and make sure the world knows that your life is perfect. Whether it be Facebook, Pinterest, or Instagram we all put forth these beautiful perfect lives for everyone to ooohh and aaahh over while we hide the truth behind closed doors.

It's OK to Cry over Spilled Milk | SmithSquad.com | stuffing your feelings is not healthy

We stuff our feelings, and then feel guilty for ever feeling them in the first place. Well I’m here to give you permission to cry over spilled milk, especially when it is the third cup to be spilled during one meal. Sometimes life is hard and the little things are the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Sometimes a good cry, a listening ear, and an understanding shoulder are exactly what we need.

You see I used to be a chronic stuffer of feelings. I was always cheerful. I was fine. Other people mattered. I didn’t. If my husband wanted to take a family trip to Home Depot, but I was exhausted, I put on my smile and gritted my teeth and was miserable for the next two hours. He never knew. He thought I was enjoying it as much as he was. When he wanted to invite friends over at the last-minute instead of telling him “I’ve had a long hard day and don’t want to entertain” I would simply ask “What should I make for dinner?” When people asked me for favors I always said yes, ALWAYS, even if it was terribly inconvenient or completely ruined my plans. I was building up mountains of resentments every time my needs went unmet, and my poor husband had no idea. He was completely blindsided when I would explode once in a blue moon and just overflow with everything that I had been stuffing down for months, including things that weren’t even remotely his fault. Unspoken expectations are premeditated resentments, and boy did I have a lot of them!

Unspoken expectations are premeditated resentments | SmithSquad.com | Stuffing your feelings is not healthy

As my frustration and complete burnout from the daily duties of being a mom would overwhelm me I would turn inward. I would eat myself up with mom guilt because I shouldn’t feel this way. The world tells us that we chose this and should love every moment because they grow so fast. I love my kids dearly, and I will do anything for them, but I don’t love changing the 6th poopy diaper for the day, wiping up the tenth cup of spilled milk, dealing with the 1-year-old who once again bit his brother, or having to help referee the three thousandth fight. Instead of getting it out and letting it go I was letting it build up into a boiling pit of lava in my gut. Then a simple whine would set me off and I would be roaring at the children that they must hate me to treat me so horribly and shut myself in my room for a few hours.

Stuffing emotions isn’t healthy. It isn’t right. I don’t care what society says. Life is hard, spilled milk sucks, and it’s ok to cry about it! I have made a commitment to myself to be honest. Now this doesn’t mean I whine and complain all the time and turn into a negative Nelly. That isn’t healthy either. What it means is when my husband proposes a family trip to Home Depot I say “Hun I’m really just too tired and need a break right now.” When I’m having a bad day with the kids I talk to my mom or good friends about my frustrations. I attend a weekly women’s group where we focus on how to truly address and heal our feelings as well as just share with each other and get everything out in the open. I’ve attended Emotionally Focused Therapy sessions with my husband so that we could learn to connect intimately about our feelings without feeling threatened or defensive. I’ve started being honest with my kids and calmly telling them how much their actions hurt my feelings and asking them respectfully to do something different. When people at church or the grocery store ask me how I’m feeling instead of saying “Wonderful!” with a huge smile I give myself permission to say “tired, but doing ok.” When a friend asks me to babysit and it’s just not a good day I’ve learned to say “I’m sorry, but I’ve got other plans.”

Lead me, guide me parenting | SmithSquad.com |

I’m not perfect, I still catch myself stuffing and then exploding. I’m a work in progress, but that’s ok. I can feel my emotional health getting better. I don’t have anywhere near as many resentments towards my husband or others because I don’t have as many unspoken expectations. I’m learning to let go of the mom guilt over not being perfectly cheerful all the time and accept my own full range of emotions. This gives me the power to be more accepting of the emotions of others, especially my own children. I’m learning to accept and even ask for help BEFORE I get burned out and want to explode.

It’s OK to cry over spilled milk. It’s ok to feel. It’s ok to expect love and understanding when we are struggling. It’s ok to seek out help and support because life is hard. You don’t have to do this alone.

What are you doing to create healthy emotional boundaries in your life? Have you been guilty of chronic emotional stuffing like me? What can we do as a society to make emotions more acceptable?

Mothers- You are Amazing!

Mothers, when was the last time someone told you how incredible you are?

I see it every day, posts about how we are failing. My baby isn’t nursing, I had to supplement. My baby hasn’t learned to walk yet. How many words does your baby say? My four-year old can’t read! My eight year old won’t listen to me. My 10-year-old is refusing to do housework. I lost my temper today and I feel awful.

Help, what do I do, I feel like a failure.

You Are Not Failing!

Dear sweet mom, you are not failing. You are doing your best, and that is all your child expects from you. Just as every adult has their strengths and weaknesses, so does every child. My son, who turns 7 in a few weeks, struggles to read, but he can do multiplication problems in his head. My 8-year-old daughter is halfway through the Harry Potter series and an amazing artist. She struggles to do addition. They don’t struggle because I am a failure. They struggle because their brains work differently. It isn’t a competition, and I don’t need to be comparing them to each other or anyone else.

I’ll let you in on a little secret; very few people are actually judging you, and those who are don’t matter.

As Elder Jeffrey R. Holland, member of the Quorum of the twelve Apostles in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints said:

The work of a mother is hard, too often unheralded work…Do the best you can through these years, but whatever else you do, cherish that role that is so uniquely yours and for which heaven itself sends angels to watch over you and your little ones…Please know that it is worth it then, now, and forever.

One young mother wrote to me recently that…she worried because she felt she didn’t measure up or somehow wasn’t going to be equal to the task…But one thing, she said, keeps her going: “Through the thick and the thin of this, and through the occasional tears of it all, I know deep down inside I am doing God’s work. I know that in my motherhood I am in an eternal partnership with Him.”

Yours is the work of salvation, and therefore you will be magnified, compensated, made more than you are and better than you have ever been as you try to make honest effort, however feeble you may sometimes feel that to be…You are doing God’s work. You are doing it wonderfully well. He is blessing you and He will bless you, even—no, especially—when your days and your nights may be the most challenging.

*Read the full talk here

Motherhood: An Eternal Partnership With God| SmithSquad.com | You are not a failure | Are We not all motehrs? | Elder Jeffrey R. Holland

Mom’s please don’t be so hard on yourselves. The perfect mother doesn’t exist. No one can do it all, all the time, without any mistakes. Some of us may hide it better than others, but the truth of the matter is we’re all just making it up as we go! I am having baby number eight in a few weeks, and I still struggle with how to teach and discipline number seven. They’re all different, and each time I add another the rules change. My mom had six. She often doesn’t know what advice to give me when I call her in tears because I don’t’ know what to do with one of my children. “I never did figure that out.” She says.

Mom’s please love, respect, and forgive yourselves. You are amazing in every way. You stumble, you fall, you fail, but you get up and you keep going because what you are doing is the most important job in the world. It is an eternal partnership with God. He gave you his children and he will hold your hand and lead you as you attempt to do the best you can at raising them.

Are We Not all Mothers?

Are we not all mothers?| SmithSquad.com | You don't have to give birth to be a mother | Happy mother's Day to all the aunts, sisters, and friends who mother children in need

On this special weekend where we celebrate all mothers let us not forget the grandmothers, aunts, friends, and all women everywhere who love , support, and lift up our children. Motherhood does not have to begin with birth. All to often the best mothers in this life do not ever bear their own children. Motherhood is not about being pregnant and giving birth. Motherhood is that divine calling that we as women feel to love and nurture those around us. All too often children are left alone, unloved, misunderstood. To all those who step in to love and encourage them, thank you, you are their mothers and their heroes.

If you can’t celebrate your own mother then take the time to celebrate those women in your life who were there for you, who made a difference in your life. If you can’t celebrate your own genetic children then celebrate those little ones in your life whom you love so deeply. If this day is a day of pain or sadness for you then embrace it, let it in, let it carry you away. It is ok to mourn that which we did not have, or have not been given. Then pick up tomorrow and be the amazing woman who you are.

A few years ago I asked children “What is a Mother?” and created a video with their responses. I decided it was time to create a new version. I hope you enjoy the beautiful, and funny, responses from the mouths of babes.

A Year in My Life |Project 366|February

I have loved the results that have come from being more conscious of documenting my every day life. So many great memories that would have gone forgotten if not captured. Even just a few weeks later while editing I was surprised by a few photos that I had forgotten I had taken!

mother daughter art|emilyjphoto.com|artist|Athens newborn photographer|atlanta birth photographer|documentary in home family photography sessions
I love this photo my husband grabbed of me and my oldest daughter working on our art together.

What has really made this project so possible for me is my camera. I am currently shooting with a Sony A6000. I switched to this mirrorless camera because of its compact size. I have all of the same control and image quality as a full size DSLR in a little package that fits in my purse. When you have 6 kids ages 7 and under and another on the way you don’t carry a bulky camera bag along with the diaper bag and purse. It just isn’t reasonable.

Using a hammer at the Home Depot kids workshop|emilyjphoto.com|artist|Athens newborn photographer|atlanta birth photographer|documentary in home family photography sessions
We love going to the monthly Home Depot Kids Workshop.

In addition to being a great purse camera its small size allows me to easily carry it around the house. Rather than packed up I try to keep it out on a shelf, on my bed, on the desk etc. That way when I see a great moment happening I can easily grab it and take a few pictures. With easy to use control dials for shutter, ISO, and Aperture on the exterior it is easy to quickly alter my settings and always shoot in my favorite full manual mode.

Baby doing yoga with daddy|emilyjphoto.com|artist|Athens newborn photographer|atlanta birth photographer|documentary in home family photography sessions
When I saw Wally join dad for yoga I was able to quickly grab the camera off the desk, change my settings to adjust for the drastic lighting difference, and capture this picture in just a few seconds.

When I have the 16-50 lens on this little camera isn’t any bigger than most of your point and shoot cameras! When I am at home or out with the hubs who can be my sherpa I have the option of bringing along the 55-210 lens, which is quite a bit larger, to get a greater variety in my shots. I call it my sniper lens. I love sitting far away and capturing the real true moments that happen when people don’t know that my camera is focusing on them.

a little boy with his dog|emilyjphoto.com|artist|Athens newborn photographer|atlanta birth photographer|documentary in home family photography sessions
Wally was desperately trying to get Boris to get up and play with him. This is when the long lens comes in handy, because anytime Wally notices I am photographing him he runs at me to try and get the camera!

I am looking forward to adding an A7ii to my bag, hopefully soon, as well as a few prime lenses. If you’re looking for a mirrorless camera of your own, and don’t quite need the full pro capabilities, I would highly recommend the Sony A5100 or Sony A3000. I have also heard great things about the Olympus and Fuji mirrorless cameras, though I do not have any personal experience with them.

reading in a hospital waiting room|emilyjphoto.com|artist|Athens newborn photographer|atlanta birth photographer|documentary in home family photography sessions
Ben is working on his reading while waiting with me for my Midwife appointment.

What camera do you shoot with and why do you love (or hate) it? Are you doing any photography projects this year? I would love to hear about them in the comments!