/Letters to My Children 2015/ August


Dear Emma,

Summer break with you sure flew by this year! Even though it's only 2 weeks, we always pack so much fun into that short time together. From the backyard to the creamery and many adventures in between, we spent our days being silly and carefree. I think my favorite day was when you and Jonah turned a simple art project into a full on body painting extravaganza. I hope I never forget the sound of your laughter as I hosed you off afterward. :)


As you head back to school this week, I want you to know how very proud of you I am. You have one of the kindest, most thoughtful hearts I've ever known, and that's no more apparent than in your love for Jonah. It's his first week at your school, and while you're very excited that he's finally in the same school as you, he's naturally having a lot of anxiety as he adjusts to new people and new routines. I can't even tell you how proud it made me to hear from his teacher that you went over to his room yesterday to help him feel better, and that his special treat after nap was to go see his big sister. It was your first day back, too, and you had every right to want to spend it playing with your friends. But instead you were there for your little brother when he needed you. That's a big job you took on, and you did it with the grace and generosity of someone well beyond your 4 years. They say our children are our greatest teachers, and you my girl make me certain that's true.




I'm joined in this letter writing project by some very talented photographers. I encourage you to head over to Melissa's blog to read her letter, then follow the links until you land back here!

/10 on 10/ July 2015

Another great 4th of July at the cabin! The highlight of the weekend was Emma finally fishing on her own (she's been building up to it for the past two summers). She was fearless, persistent, and hilarious. She named each worm, named each fish, and comforted the fish as Jared removed the hook. She probably caught 10 fish all on her own by the time the weekend was over, and was so thrilled to be a "real fishergirl!" :) /1/ Taking this big sister thing to a new level


/2/ Perfectly capable of doing it on his own2015-07-09_0002

/3/ My favorite old door in all the land2015-07-09_0003

/5/ Got a bite!2015-07-09_0004

/6/ Back to wandering2015-07-09_0005

/7/ Time to cool down2015-07-09_0006

/8/ I believe this one was "Slimy Joe"2015-07-09_0007

/9/ Reel 'em in!2015-07-09_0009

/10/ My guys <32015-07-09_0010

Please head over to Dominique's blog to check out her incredible 10 on 10!

/Letters to My Children 2015/ June

2015-06-24_0001 Dear Emma,

Happy 4th Birthday, my sweet girl. People have been assuming you're 5 for a while now, so it's about time you finally turned 4! That assumption mostly comes from the fact that you're so tall for your age (91st percentile!), but also from your independence and maturity. It's been awesome to watch you blossom into this sweet, thoughtful, silly, creative little girl over the past year. It's like we can see the older you taking shape right before our eyes.

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Don't get me wrong - you still have your toddler moments! Those moments can serve as (sometimes much needed) reminders that you've only just turned 4... there's so much you're still figuring out. You're just starting to navigate the social world - discovering both the joys and challenges of friendships. You've been asking hard questions about love, death, and what things mean. Daddy and I aren't always ready to tackle these topics, but we always try to answer you with respect, empathy, and honesty.

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For your birthday this year, it felt like we celebrated all week long! We kicked things off with a princess party at the Little Gym where you celebrated with all your school friends. From the games to the Disney tunes to the Rapunzel cupcakes, you had a blast. After that, we headed home where our family was waiting to keep the celebration going. Your favorite gifts were your princess dresses and a book of Disney bedtime stories.2015-06-24_0006 2015-06-24_0007

For your actual birthday, I took the day off of work so we could hang out. It started with you finally getting your big present from me and Daddy - a new dress up cart! We built it from scratch just for you, and I even spray painted knobs bright pink for you to hang your bracelets and necklaces. If someone had told me when you were a baby that 4 short years later I'd be immersed in all things princess I would have told them they were crazy. But what can I say? It makes you so happy, and I'm learning to embrace the fact that our house is permanently covered in glitter.


Before meeting up with Nana, we stopped at the Frederick Rescue Mission to drop off the Backpack Drive donations you collected at your birthday party. Daddy and I were so very proud of you for thinking of others on your big day. One of the things that makes you so unique and wonderful is how innately thoughtful you are. You are always thinking of others' needs and feelings, even if it's something small like sharing with Jonah or bringing me an ice pack if I stub my toe. Daddy and I are hoping to teach you different ways you can use that gift to help others, because the world so desperately needs more people like you. 2015-06-24_0008

After that, we met up with Nana at Build A Bear where you - of course - built an Elsa bear. It even sings "Let It Go" which Daddy and I are super thrilled about. ;) We capped off the day with a family dinner at your favorite restaurant, Cafe Bueno. All in all, a perfect day and a great way to kick off age 4. As much as you want to skip ahead to being 5 like your older friends, I know this year will be filled with wonderful discoveries, important lessons learned, and happy, carefree times with family and friends.



Please head over to Ally’s blog to read her letter, then continue around the circle until you land back here!

/10 on 10/ June 2015

We were in North Carolina this past weekend, and despite 15 hours in the car with 2 toddlers over 2 days, we had a great time. The kids were especially excited about their first hotel stay (that they remember). /1, 2/ morning cartoons


/3, 4, 5/ when in Rome2015-06-09_0002

/6, 7, 8/ back in the car2015-06-09_0003

/9, 10/ big kid cups are the best2015-06-09_0004

Click here to check out Carri's stellar 10 on 10!

/Letters to My Children 2015/ May

2015-05-24_0001 Dear Jonah,

Oh my guy... you must be the cutest, sweetest little wrecking ball that ever was. If it can be dumped out, poured out, crushed, mashed, or deconstructed in any way, you'll find a way to do it - with a huge smile on your face, of course.


Eating with you lately is particularly entertaining. You've become very opinionated about what you want, and even more so about what you don't want. Meals are a contact sport full of charm, equal parts laughing and yelling, and big messes.




But for all your Bam Bam ways, you still melt my heart every single day with that sweet smile, your huge hugs, and fierce love. You are adamant about the family all being together, Rocco included. If someone's not there, you say their name Stanley Kowalski-style until they appear (or you get distracted by food). Emma has become your partner in crime, your biggest annoyance, and very best friend. And Daddy? Daddy's your superhero, rockstar, apple of your eye, center of your universe, best dad in the history of all dads. There is no one on the planet you adore more than him, and getting to watch you two together is one of the great joys of my life.




Here's to a summer filled with grand adventures, long weekends, less Super Glue, more patience all around, and lots of snuggles and sloppy kisses. I love you to pieces and pieces and pieces, my JoJo.



Please head over to Melissa’s blog to read her letter, then continue around the circle until you land back here!

/10 on 10/ May 2015

/1/ breakfast antics 2015-05-10_0001

/2/ riding the "bus" to school2015-05-10_0002

/3/ a different perspective2015-05-10_0003

/4/ who needs gymnastics when there's mama and daddy's bed?2015-05-10_0004

/5/ school picnic face painting2015-05-10_0005

/6/ Time to wake up!2015-05-10_0006

/7/ waiting for her polish to dry2015-05-10_0007

/8/ she named him John and brought him grass to eat2015-05-10_0008

/9/ it's amazing how one tiny brownie can multiply in volume and mess making potential when in the hands of a toddler2015-05-10_0009

/10/ story time2015-05-10_0010

I'm joined in this project by a group of super talented photographer friends. Please head over to Jodie's blog to see her entry for this month, then follow the circle around until you end up back here!

/Letters to My Children 2015/ April

2015-04-24_0001 Dear Emma,

My darling girl... my almost 4 year old. What a joy it is to be your mama. I get a front row seat to the sweet, hilarious, fierce, thoughtful, creative wonder that is YOU. Spring has brought on a new, more mature phase for you... morning goodbyes at school are easier, you're taking on new responsibilities, and you've become so observant and curious about the world and people around you. We even have a special time before bed dedicated to you asking me whatever questions you want. Which always leads to more questions, and more questions after that. I think you'd stay up all night asking me questions if you could.



Your obsession with all things princess continues to intensify, and I'm slowly coming around to being okay with it. I always try to remind you that what makes the princesses we learn about most special is how kind, brave, and caring they are - not how pretty they are or how fancy their outfits may be. I don't know how much of that is sticking, but a mama's gotta try.


More than anything, what's best about this phase is how incredibly sweet you are with your brother and what an awesome big sister you're becoming. You've always been a great big sister, but now that Jonah is bigger and you can really play together it's clear what an important role you're going to play in each other's lives. You are so quick to show him things, share your food and toys, and comfort him when he's sad. He's still learning and not always the best at reciprocating your desire to share, but you're pretty understanding.





Nearly every night at bedtime, you say goodnight to Jonah by singing a song you learned from Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood. You just randomly started singing it to him a few months ago and we had no idea that you even knew the words, but it was pretty much the sweetest thing we'd ever heard. It goes:

"The moment I first held you, you seemed to me / The most wonderful gift to our family / Goodnight, sleep tight / Dream dreams as sweet as you"

Emma's goodnight song for Jonah from Allison Shellaway on Vimeo.

He'll learn to love it. ;)

We love you so much, my sweet girl, and are always so proud to be your parents.



Please head over to Melissa’s blog to read her letter, then continue around the circle until you land back here!

/Letters to My Children/ March 2015

2015-03-24_0001 Dear Jonah,

What an awesome couple of months it's been since I last wrote to you! You are becoming a little boy right before our eyes, cute as can be and keeping us on our toes. You are eating constantly and have recently discovered how to get into the pantry. We have to be super diligent about putting the child lock on so as not to find you arm deep in a container of puffs and about to move on to the raisins. (Not that that happened or anything.)


Your curiosity knows no limits these days, and you're rapidly discovering all the new places you can reach, things you can turn on and off, doors you can open and close. Daddy and I are trying to pacify this desire by putting more Jonah-friendly things within reach, but that stuff is apparently quite boring compared to everything else just out of reach.


What I love most about this stage with you is how much you're talking and how excited you get when you can say a new word. You've put a great priority on learning all the food words (shocker), but you've also started saying "love you!" which is the best thing ever to hear at the end of a long work day. Just this week you finally got a handle on "Emma" (you used to call her Mama, which was rather confusing for all of us), and have been saying her name constantly for the past several days. You two have your sibling moments, but I know she so loves hearing you saying her name and asking for her.


When all is said and done - or eaten in your case - you're still our ever sweet little Jo... a snuggle bug who gives the best sloppy kisses and has one of the world's truly great smiles. We love you so much and can't wait to see what the next couple of months have in store for you.






Please head over to my very sweet friend Ally’s blog to read her letter, then continue around the circle until you land back here!

/10 on 10/ March 2015

We busted the Learning Tower back out last weekend and Jonah is a wee bit obsessed with it. As soon as he got up there we couldn't get him to come back down. Half an hour later, I had my 10 on 10 for this month... /1/ 2015-03-09_0001










Please head over to Christine’s blog to see her 10 on 10 for this month!

/Letters to My Children/ February 2015

2015-02-27_0001 Dear Emma,

I've been so drawn to taking portraits of you lately... You're growing into your personality more every day and I so love capturing all the many sides of you. You're oh so silly, and astoundingly smart, and most of all incredibly sweet and thoughtful. You're also emerging as a bit of an introvert, which isn't surprising since you hail from a looooong line of introverts. We're working on helping you be more social around people you don't know, but daddy and I are so proud of your maturity and independence. Even when you're in a new situation where you don't know the other kids, you happily find your own way.

2015-02-27_0003In school news, you've been making awesome progress with your moveable alphabet, and just this week started writing words! With no help from me, you sounded out and spelled "hat" all by yourself. You were so proud and excited. "Mama! I spelled a real word!!"  It's like it all clicked for you and after that you wanted to write every three letter word you know. Dad, cat, bat... You were on fire and it was truly awesome to watch. Not too shabby for three and a half. (Thanks, Montessori!)

2015-02-27_0005We love you so much, bubba, and are so proud to be your parents. 



2015-02-27_0007Please head over to my very sweet friend Ally’s blog to read her letter, then continue around the circle until you land back here!

/Letters to My Children/ January 2015

2015-01-31_0001 My sweet Jonah,

What a wild ride this month has been with you! Injuries, illnesses, and your newfound desire to get into everything that isn't nailed down. There's no taking our eyes off of you right now, that's for sure. But for as mischievous as you've become, you're also getting sweeter - and smarter - by the day. You're at this awesome stage right now where every day you have a new word or a new trick and everything is starting to come together for you. As a parent, it's a pretty incredible thing to witness. I can see the baby in you diminishing by the day, so I'm trying to enjoy every single  "wovey," "nnnack!," "tank you," and "buppy." I know all too soon they'll turn into "lovey," "snack," "thank you," and "up" and that bittersweet feeling of my baby turning into a toddler will wash over me. Not too fast, my sweet boy... not too fast.



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Please head over to my immensely talented friend Ally's blog to read her letter, then continue around the circle until you land back here!

/Letters to My Children/ December

Dear Emma and Jonah, What a fun-filled month we've had! Christmas prep, Mommy & Me Princess Tea Party, cookie making... all capped off with an awesome Christmas. I saw something a few weeks ago that said people always say the best feeling in the world is being a little kid at Christmas, but really the best feeling in the world is being the parent of a little kid at Christmas, and that couldn't be more true. Getting to experience the holidays through your eyes and seeing you love our family traditions as much as Daddy and I do filled me with more joy than I can adequately describe.

We kicked off Christmas Eve morning with a new tradition - Christmas donuts! Emma, you of course had your usual pink frosted with rainbow sprinkles, and Jonah had fruit because donuts don't exactly make for healthy baby food... so maybe one of those traditions that was better in theory. ;)


Next we had our annual bowling trip, and everyone had a great time. Jonah, you weren't quite big enough to roll the balls but you had a blast running around the bowling alley while Daddy and I chased after you to ensure you didn't stick carpet food in your mouth. 2014-12-28_0002

The next morning it was time for the Big Show! Emma, you were so excited to see that Santa and his reindeer had eaten your cookies and carrots and even left you a little thank you note. Jonah, in true fashion, you were far more concerned with your blueberries than with opening presents but eventually got on board. 2014-12-28_0003 2014-12-28_0004 2014-12-28_0005

After a great morning just the 4 of us, it was time to head off to the grandparents' houses! First up was Papa's house, where you guys loved his train and got even more wonderful new toys.2014-12-28_0006

Then we went to Nana's for more Christmas fun and the final batch of presents! We had a wonderful dinner together followed by some super yummy cake. 2014-12-28_0007 2014-12-28_0008

The next day was of course spent playing with your new toys. Emma, you started to get the hang of your new big girl bike and continued your obsession with the Jack-in-the-box, while Jonah strutted around the neighborhood in his baby Carhartts.2014-12-28_0009 2014-12-28_0010 2014-12-28_0011

All-in-all it was another great Christmas, the best part of which was spending time together as a family... without a doubt the greatest gift of all.




/10 on 10/ December

It's my last 10 on 10 post of the year! Instead of sharing my usual 10 photos from a single day, I thought I'd do a year-end recap of my 10 favorite photos from 2014. I'm a little relieved that these were much harder to narrow down than I thought - a sign that I should feel really happy with my photography this year. In past years I had many technically good photos, or photos that were personally meaningful, but not many that accomplished both. This year was different. I discovered my vision, I captured what I wanted to remember, I took photos that made my heart sing. So without further adieu, my top 10 for 2014 (in chronological order)... /1/ Oh, this face. This photo is just so her... girly, but messy, sweet but a little mischievous. Every cup of hot cocoa after sledding was an event unto itself last winter, and I reveled in watching her enjoy every last drop.2014-12-10_0001

/2/ This photo... this photo is every photographer mom's holy grail. Both kids smiling and looking at the camera in good light. It happens once in a blue moon, and I'm so happy it happened by chance because it makes this photo that much more meaningful for me. Both still in their PJs, Emma's hair a mess, Jonah snuggling with Emma's lovey. Had I tried to plan this, it wouldn't have worked nearly as well or meant nearly as much. I will love this photo forever and ever.2014-12-10_0002

/3/ This photo makes my heart so happy... I hope I can always make her feel this content and secure.2014-12-10_0003

/4/ This photo means so much more to me than meets the eye. This was taken at the cabin and it was one of her very first times having french braids. She looked so grown up. But just under the braid you can see the tick bite on her neck - a traumatic experience for all involved and juxtaposed with the braid it was a reminder to me that she's still so vulnerable. She was laying on her daddy's lap here and I remember feeling in that moment how this photo still makes me feel... in awe of her beauty, her fragility, the ache of a mama's heart who can't stop time.2014-12-10_0004

/5/ As much as I want to remember the good stuff, it's important to remember the struggle, too. So many nights after work and daycare were spent just like this. All Jonah wanted was to be held by his mama, but dinner had to get made. I was already so tired, but couldn't say no to that face, those eyes. So this was our beautiful compromise.2014-12-10_0005

/6/ My favorite shots of Emma are always the ones where I feel like I thoroughly capture her personality. This kid has energy for days and jumping on the bed is one of her all-time favorite things to do.2014-12-10_0006

/7/ This is my second favorite image of the two of them. Every morning they would stand at that window and watch their dad walking Rocco. They'd knock and wave and it was the cutest thing ever. I just love their connection here.2014-12-10_0007

/8/ I love this one for two reasons... 1) Jonah is just so stinking cute and I vividly remember this stage of constantly chewing on everything. And 2) because it reminds me of what an unsung hero my husband is.2014-12-10_0008

/9/ This is probably one of the best photos I've ever taken and I'm so grateful I happened to be standing in the right place at the right time so I could capture this moment between Jonah and my dad.2014-12-10_0009

/10/ Not the best photo from a technical standpoint, but one I love dearly because of my mom's expression. She's so silly with my kids, so free. She wasn't always like this and it makes me so happy to see her this way now. My kids are immensely lucky to have her for their Nana.2014-12-10_0010

I encourage you to head over to Felicia's blog for some more 10 on 10 fun, then continue around the circle until you end up back here!

/Letters to My Children/ November

2014-12-01_0008 MySweetJonah

Oh, my little guy. What a couple months you've had since turning 1! You got your tubes in, your hearing vastly improved, and you decided you were done with this whole easy going, unflappable baby business. You are still the happiest, smiley little guy, but man - when you want something, you REALLY want it and you get quite frustrated when you don't get your way. In other words, you're a toddler now! I wasn't quite ready for that development, but along with the emotional roller coaster has come some pretty awesome stuff... like talking and walking! You took your first steps around 13 months, and have slowly but surely getting that whole balance thing down. Every day you walk out a little further, and your confident cruising has all but replaced crawling.


You have also become quite the little climber! We can't seem to keep you off the furniture, and while this makes me and Daddy pretty nervous, you're always so careful getting up and coming down.

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I think my favorite thing about you at this age is how silly and playful you are. You love playing with your sister (even when she smothers you) and we're already getting glimpses of the trouble you two are going to get into when you get a little older. You still love playing peek-a-boo, and have found a new love in taking things apart while making as much noise as possible.


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From toddler to teenager, and even when you're old like me and Daddy, we'll always love you no matter what. But, you know, if you could slow down time between now and then, that would be super. :)


I encourage you to head over to my dear friend Christine’s blog to read her letter to her children.

/10 on 10/ November

/1/ He's a climber, alright2014-11-10_0001

/2/ Bounce house fun2014-11-10_0002

/3/ Jonah was a big fan2014-11-10_0003

/4/ Kicking back with Phonics Island


/5/ Always so happy when he wakes up from a nap2014-11-10_0010

/6/ Rollin', rollin', rollin'...2014-11-10_0008

/7/ Asleep at the wheel2014-11-10_0004

/8/ Look at me, mama!2014-11-10_0005

/9/ Love that smile2014-11-10_0006

/10/ Golden girl2014-11-10_0007

I’m joined in this project by a group of crazy talented photographers. I urge you to click over to Sherry’s blog to check out her 10 on 10.

/Letters to My Children/ October

dearemma Whew! What a month October was for us! We usually try to avoid throwing a ton of change at you all at once, but this month it was pretty unavoidable. We kicked off the month by moving into our new house, and while Daddy and I were super worried about how you'd react to the move, you handled everything with patience and understanding well beyond your 3 years. You really seem to love the new house, having more space, and you especially love having a playroom.


Only a few days after moving, we left for our long awaited beach vacation. You were SO excited to spend a whole week at the beach and couldn't wait to dig your toes into the sand. We ate lots of Kohr's ice cream and we even bought you your very own kite. You loved running with Daddy to get it up in the air, then you'd take over the string and fly it all by yourself!


You and Zachary ran each other ragged each day, laughing one minute and bickering the next (like typical toddlers!) And you got lots of special time with Nana and Grandpa Ed.2014-11-03_0003 2014-11-03_0004 2014-11-03_0005

I'll never forget you feeding the seagulls on one of our last days there. You were completely fearless, holding up the bread and letting them snatch it out of your hand. You were in heaven and could have spent all afternoon running around feeding those birds.2014-11-03_0006


Not long after we got home from the beach, you had a school closure and we got to spend a special day just the two of us. While it's often hard for me to manage work and play on those days, I always look forward to them because spending time with you is one of my all time favorite things to do!


We finally trekked out to the pumpkin patch at Gaver Farm, and you had a blast. I think you tried every single activity they had, but your favorite was the cow train. (Which of course I didn't get a picture of!) You also had a school field trip to Mayne's and got to pick out even more pumpkins. It was so fun getting to see you with all your little school friends. 2014-11-03_0010 2014-11-03_0011

Lastly, the day you'd been waiting for most of all - HALLOWEEN! There is no article of clothing you've been more excited to wear than your Rapunzel dress. (Even now that Halloween is over you like to go into your closet and touch it, and your whole face lights up!) You looked perfect, and having Jonah as your Pascal made it even more fantastic. Once it was time for trick-or-treating you were super shy at first, but after a few houses you really got the hang of it and were running up ringing doorbells all by yourself. We were very proud of you, and it was impossible not to stand back and feel like you were growing up right before our eyes.2014-11-03_0012

It was a month for the record books, my little love, filled with memories that I hope will last a lifetime. <3


I encourage you to head over to my super talented friend Renee’s blog to read her letter to her children.

/10 on 10/ October

We're at the beach this week and this has been one of my favorite days so far... /1/ morning train 2014-10-09_0001

/2/ and she's off2014-10-09_0002

/3/ races2014-10-09_0003

/4/ practicing her "guh-mastics"2014-10-09_0004

/5/ focused2014-10-09_0005

/6/ wedgie2014-10-09_0006

/7/ building Arendelle (of course)2014-10-09_0007

/8/ hide and seek with Nana2014-10-09_0008

/9/ found you!! 2014-10-09_0009

/10/ tickle time2014-10-09_0010

I'm joined in this project by a group of crazy talented photographers. I urge you to click over to Felicia's blog to check out a day in her life.