Raising a Girl

Ruby's 3-year-old photos-76

After having four boys I was resigned to the fact that I may never raise a daughter. And I was all right with that. I love my boys. Honestly after Luca died I didn’t care either way. As long as they made it here safely, I’d take anything!

So when I got the results back from my round of genetics testing with my fifth baby I was in complete shock when the chromosomes read girl. Girl!?!?!? What?

Honestly I was terrified.

I had been raising ninjas for so many years I had forgotten all about princesses.

But these past three years have been magical. They’ve been filled with unicorns, baby dolls and pink.

I count myself lucky to be raising a daughter – I know there are women out there who are never given the chance.

All of my kids are different but I didn’t realize how different boys and girls were until our little princess arrived.

She truly is a caretaker. She loves to help me around the house and she loves to care for her dolls and stuffed animals. Her favorite thing to play right now is “house.” She’s the mom and I’m the kid. Sometimes, if I’m lucky, she’ll let me lay in her toddler bed while she serenades me with piano playing and lullabies.

This contrasts the warrior/hunting games my boys and I played at her same age. Of course we still had animals and friends we took care of, but instead of peaceful music, our games usually ended up with something scary trying to kill us and us having to fight for our lives.

She is definitely a fashionista. From the moment she could talk she started dictating her fashion sense.  “Not that shirt!” “I want those tights!” While my boys couldn’t care less what they wear, she has to be in a dress that “twirls” – and no matter how fancy the dress, she usually tops of the ensemble with a pair of pink and grey tennis shoes.

She gets embarrassed. Normally when my boys do something wrong they have an excuse or a reason for it. Instead of feeling bad or guilty they shout out the reasons why whoever or whatever deserved what was coming to them.

Not my baby girl. She accidentally tossed a ball at a baby at playgroup yesterday and she cried and cried that she just wanted to go home. She was so embarrassed. Even when she fell in downtown Salt Lake City and cut her head open she was more worried about people “seeing her” than the pain from the cut. She cried into my husband’s shoulder because she was nervous. Bless my heart. It was the saddest, cutest thing.

She loves her daddy. My boys were mamas boys. They followed me around the house and wanted to be with me all … the… time… It has been so fun to see the relationship between my husband and daughter. She prefers her dad. While sometimes I feel sad that she mostly wants her dad, I can’t blame her. After all, I married him, right? I love that she loves him like that.

She loves lipstick – so much that I had to hide it because she was using it as body paint.

She loves to dance and sing. You should see her hula! It’s completely different than the wild, run around, head banging, sword swinging her brothers did. It’s calm, it’s full of hip sway and it’s only performed on a “stage” of pillows.

I could go on and on about why she is different than my boys. She fills my life with ponies, blushes and twirls – things I thought I’d never care about as an adult.

I love everything about her. I am so grateful I get to raise a girl!

Ruby's 3-year-old photos-10 copy

Newborn Studio Makeover

Studio remodel-1

It’s finished!!!

All I wanted for Christmas this year was a makeover in my mini studio. My husband and I finished it up last weekend and I am thrilled.

Merry Christmas!!!

The studio space in my home is small and cozy – perfect for newborns, babies or toddlers.

A year ago it was our home’s office – an office that no one really used. Slowly, over the past 12 months, I have transformed it into a studio space.

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Here’s what things looked like a month ago. 

I’ve used it several times for newborn photos before the makeover and it has worked well, but I wanted something more clean, more fresh and more modern.

So we ditched the bookshelves, put up paneling and trim on the walls and I transformed the bifold closet doors into french doors.

Thank heavens for Pinterest. I couldn’t have done it without tutorials from a handful of online’s creative geniuses.

For the paneling we used this tutorial. My kids helped for a little while, but let’s be honest, they hate family projects. If I were to do it again I would space the boards farther apart. It was a nightmare trying to paint between the slats.

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For the square wall I used this tutorial. This wall was a lot easier than the faux shiplap wall.

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There were a bunch of door designs I thought about using for the closet, but I decided to use up all my scraps in this design. I used this blogpost as a guide for turning them into french doors. I still have to add handles to them, but I love how the doors turned out.

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I put down a couple of vinyl flooring remnants that I picked up from the local carpet store. I can move them around and use the different colors depending on what shot I’m doing.

It was more work than I think we imagined but I am so happy with how everything turned out. I still need to mount my backdrop roller but other than that it’s finished. Now I’m ready for all the babies!!!

If you know anyone who is expecting, I am giving away a free newborn session to celebrate my new space. Check out my Instagram this week for more information: https://www.instagram.com/neverland.photo/

Here are a few more pics of the space.

Here’s to 2018

It’s almost 2018. The thought of a new year just blows my mind.

2017 was really good to me and my family.

It was a year I finally started to adjust the balance in my life and add some “me” weights to the scale. I started figuring out how to be myself again while still loving motherhood.

I decided to get some professional help and have finally been able to chill out lol.

My family rallied around me this spring while I studied hard and took a million photos during photography school – OK maybe not a million, but this year I’ve snapped about 50,000.

I launched my photography business in May and absolutely love having it.

This year we’ve celebrated Luca despite disapproval from local authorities. I sat in a field surrounded by thousands of floating lanterns as I dreamed of my baby boy. I told stories about him to my youngest two kids and I held him close to my heart when he felt too far away.

We visited another country in 2017 and spent a week on a golden-sand beach in Mexico. Sometimes I dream my toes are still in the sand.

And we bought another home in 2017. My husband’s grandpa’s farm house in a quiet, peaceful city in northern Utah. It’s a place where my kids can run around and explore. A place where I can sit still.

As 2017 comes to a close I am happy. Happy for the things I have learned this year. Happy for the fun I’ve had. Happy for those I get to spend my life with.

Here’s to 2018. Here’s to finding more balance, more peace. Here’s to more outdoor adventures and less backyard drama. Here’s to enjoying the little things. Here’s to doing more of what I love while surrounded by those that I love. And here’s to snapping more pictures of it all along the way.

Sometimes the Holidays Still Hurt


I was jamming out to Pandora yesterday while cleaning my house, getting it ready for Christmas Break when a song came on that reminds me of Luca.

It’s about a break-up, but the first verse always strikes me to the core. There are different types of broken hearts, but they all have something in common – they are broken.

The song, “Broken Heart” by John Meyer, goes like this:

“When you’re dreaming with a broken heart, the waking up is the hardest part. You roll out of bed and down on your knees and for a moment you can hardly breathe.

Wondering was she really here? Is she standing in my room?

No she’s not. ‘Cause she’s gone, gone, gone, gone, gone.”

When I hear it I flash back to the first few months my baby was gone. The sting, the sorrow, the anguish.

These days life keeps me busy. I run around chasing my four other children and try to keep up on my housework and photo editing, etc. I am happy.

But deep down, my heart still hurts sometimes.

And the holidays seem to make it hurt a little more than normal.

This time of year there is such an emphasis on family. It’s a time to spend together. A time for making memories.

It’s a hard time for someone who doesn’t get to make any with someone they love.

As I sat and listened to that song yesterday I couldn’t help but think of all the things I haven’t been able to do with my son who would be seven this Christmas season.

I’ve never helped him build a gingerbread house. He’s never made an ornament in school to hang on my tree. We’ve never rolled together a snowman or sledded down a snowy slope.

I hate that he’s never made it to our family’s Christmas-weekend getaway and I’ve never seen him sit on Santa’s knee.

There are so many things I wanted to and still want to do with him.

But I can’t.

For some reason he was taken from me far too soon.

So instead of bundling him up in snow pants and moon boots for a family snowball fight, I’ll take my other kids with a small stocking to the cemetery. I’ll light a couple battery-operated candles and place them at the top corners of his headstone.

I’ll push snow from his grave and stand in the cold thinking about our missing family member.

And then I’ll move on with my holiday. Because that’s the hard part. Life moves on without him.

Sure I’ll still think of him.

I’ll think of him Christmas morning when we’re all huddled together opening gifts.

I’ll think of him when we take our token Christmas-Day picture by our tree.

And I’ll think of him in the quiet that comes in the evening – at the end of all the festivities. When all my kids are tucked in bed.

All except one.

I’ll think of that sweet little baby boy. And my heart will hurt.

To a degree it will always hurt.

Kennedy Ranch

Randolph -7

I’ve always been a city girl. I grew up going to the movies, eating at restaurants and shopping at the mall with my mom and sisters.

Sure, there was a stint where I went country dancing every week and I have always loved Garth Brooks, but that’s about it.

My husband on the other hand is a country boy. He didn’t grow up on a farm with animals and horses, but he did grow up in a small town with a country feel.

A place where there were less than 200 people in his high school graduating class and he told me everyone waves to everyone when driving by.

And he spent time in his summers in an even more remote, country place – Randolph, Utah – helping his grandpa move sprinkler pipe on his ranch.

You could say opposites attracted when it came to me and him.

For the past 14 years we’ve satisfied my city heart by living in suburbia. It wasn’t until this fall that we were able to tie his roots back to the country. Back to Randolph.

How? My husband and his brother bought his grandpa’s Randolph home.

It’s a cute, small country home on an acre of land in what I would say is the middle of nowhere.

My husband couldn’t be happier.

It’s been an adventure. We’ve spent some time cleaning out the place and helping his grandpa sort through his belongings. My kids and I took a Saturday and cleaned out the small barn in the back yard.


I have never shoveled that much pooh. Never. And no amount of county line dancing could have prepared me for scooping out the two cat skeletons we found trapped in there. It was horrifying.


But on the other hand it was really rewarding.

Buying the house has been a great experience for my family.

Randolph is a different world. A world where we can escape from our busy, hectic city lives.

My boys think they are cowboys. My oldest now blares country music. They all want cowboy boots for Christmas. And they spend more time outside in that small town then they EVER do at home.

They run around our field looking for hidden treasures. They shoot arrows into hay bales in the back yard. They walk to the creek down the street and head to the neighboring arena to watch friends rope cattle. And my oldest would live at the reservoir if we let him.

We’ve got some remodeling work to do, but most of the time heading to our “ranch” house will be a well-appreciated break. I’m sure you’ll all hear about it on here and I’m dying to blog about our renovation projects. Life is so good.

When I see my kids running, exploring, laughing in the country, I’m glad they are going to get to live in both worlds. We are truly blessed.

Here are some pictures from our exploring adventures:

Step it Up


I used to joke that I didn’t need to workout because I got enough exercise chasing around my kids and keeping house. This month I have realized that it’s really not a joke.

Sure I should make it a point to set aside regular exercise time, but I started tracking my steps a month ago and it has been eye opening. I take a lot more steps than I thought. Those steps must be good for something!

In fact I walk so much sometimes that my legs are tired and sore the next day. Like last week. I went on a walk in the morning, then spent the majority of my day walking up and down the stairs of my house and back and forth from bedroom to bedroom cleaning out toys and books. Finally, I walked in and out of the beautiful displays at the Festival of Trees. I racked up more than 22,000 steps. A new record for me!

That’s like 10 miles! (Depending on how you measure it or what website you check.) TEN MILES!?!?!?

I know I am not the only mom who runs around like this. I am sure there are many, many of you walking miles and miles each day while taking care of your family.

Why does it matter?

For me it makes me feel better about “staying home.” I’m not just chilling on the couch eating bonbons watching soap operas.

I’ve known that for a long time but now I have something to quantify how much I’m moving.

I started tracking because our new insurance will give me $1 into my HSA each day that I walk more than 8,000 steps up to $20 a month. It’s awesome! I can now turn my motherhood activity into a monetary investment.

But more than than just money, it’s an investment into my health. I know it sounds cheesy, but getting up and getting moving is good for my body and soul.

So, if there are any moms out there feeling bummed for not getting to the gym or having time to formally workout each day, STOP. Being a mom is hard work and requires a lot out of a woman – mentally and physically. Download a fitness tracker app and start paying attention to all the ways you are moving and grooving. You may be surprised like I was.

Holding out for Hope


18 months ago I took a small little mum from Luca’s grave after Memorial Day weekend. I can’t even remember who left it – my mom, my in laws or my husband’s grandpa. I brought it to my front flower bed and planted it next to a small angel statue and “Hope” rock.

I watched it grow all summer. It grew and grew and grew but then fizzled out, never blossoming. Last fall I nearly ripped it out. But decided to leave it and just trim it back. It was free, I didn’t have anything to replace it with and so I decided to just wait it out and see what happened.

This spring it sprouted once again. I watched it grow and grow and grow. At the end of summer it was tall and wild. The stems stretched out past my flower bed and onto the grass.

I probably should have trimmed it. But I didn’t have the time or energy. I let it grow wild.

I watched it this fall as I saw other mums in the neighborhood bloom colorful. But there it stood wild and green – no blooms in sight.

Then, just when I thought I was going to rip it out again, I caught sight of a tiny bud. Then the next week several more.

I held out.

This past week it bloomed. Little maroon pedals burst from the buds and stretched forth from their yellow centers. They are small, they are late, but they are beautiful.

I remember thinking about the plant and my hope for it blooming when I glanced over to it one day a couple months ago while working in my yard.

There it stood next to my “hope” rock. I smiled at the irony. I set that stone as a reminder of my hope for my baby. Hope that his life won’t be in vain. Hope that I won’t ever forget him. Hope that I will see him again. Yet the stone stood as a reminder of hope for another item – the plant. For more than a year I hoped it would bloom. I wanted it to, I waited for it, I thought it would never come, yet through all the waiting and wondering my “hope” rock was right beside the plant. It kept reminding me that it could happen.

And it did.

Sometimes the things we hope for are hard to find. Sometimes it seems like they are going to bloom but they fizzle out. Sometimes our hopes and dreams just grow and grow and grow but prove wild. Sometimes we don’t have the time or energy to prune them. Then sometimes when it feels like we are going to give up and rip out all our chances, we catch sight of a tiny bud.

That’s how I feel about my hope for Luca. Sometimes it feels lost. Sometimes it feels wild. Sometimes it feels like I want to rip it out and rid my life of it all. Sometimes I feel like I don’t have time or energy for it all. Then I catch a tiny bud of hope – a memory, a thought, a feeling, a connection with someone else who I would not have known without having Luca.

Those moments remind me of the hope I can still have. They remind me that sometimes my plant may seem dead and bare, but if I hold on the flower will come. It may take what feels like forever and the flowers may be small and stringy. But, they will come.

If I hold out.

I’m holding out. Out for hope that there must be some reason that I buried my baby boy. Hope that I’ll get to hold him again.

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