Memories of Montana – Camping With Family

posted in: Notes | 0

I have many fond memories of Montana.  Growing up, we would take trips almost every summer to visit my aunt and cousin.  My mom, brother, and I were the frequent travelers; my dad would often stay behind due to work obligations.  We would spend several days at my aunt’s house, enjoying the outdoor hot tub and getting the RV ready.

Then, we would load up. Pack everything into the RV: food, clothes, toys, games… you name it.  We were ready for our adventure.  Buckled into the bench seats at the table, we would play cards, color, or often people watch out the rear window.  We would stop when we needed, or if stopping wasn’t an option, there was always the choice to use the facilities enroute. Food was always a few steps away, in the kitchen; although opening the refrigerator door while rattling down the road was a little hairy.

Campgrounds were our destination, sometimes KOAs, sometimes pristine wilderness areas.  Once, we parked in a campground during the pitch black of night.  We’d been on the road all night, and didn’t even hook up when we pulled in for the night. That morning, when we woke, we found ourselves in the charred remains of a forest.  My mother has vivid memories of driving the RV around hairpin curves, steep drop-offs.

55 mph was our speed limit (if that).  But didn’t matter. We loved every minute of our travels.  We visited the “must-see” places, Yellowstone, Glacier, and the like.  We stopped at indiscriminate sites too.  Colored pencils let us document our trip in drawing pads, or stones from one of the rivers that we gathered to paint.

We rafted down rivers, once being dropped off by the adults, to meet at the pick-up point a mile or two down the river.  We had campfires, watched wildlife, and enjoyed late nights whispering under the covers in the “loft” bed above the cab.  Self-sufficiency was ours, we could go wherever, whenever.  As long as we monitored the gray and black water tanks.

We stayed in bear country. We saw bears. Black bear cubs climbing over fences, many yards away.  Grizzly bears, brown bears.  Bears that came up to our RV while we were on the road — my cousin’s bicycle handle had the teeth marks to prove it.

We always came back from Montana with many fond memories, eager to return again.  We would always bemoan the fact our families lived so far apart.

But even today, we still have the memories.

Family Trip to Montana

My First Car (Grandma’s Car) – Snapshot Story

posted in: Notes | 2

Snapshots tell so many stories, they take us back to a particular time and place. This snapshot is of me, my brother, and his friend as we were about to leave for school one day. In my car — my first car, my grandma’s car.

My First Car - Grandma's Car - BPhotoArt.com

My First Car

My first car was nothing spectacular, but it was special to me. My grandmother had gotten it years before. I remembered riding in it when younger, and now I was driving it. A Chrysler LeBaron, it was the epitome of luxury, with velvety blue seats and upholstery inside of its white exterior. It was small, but a perfect fit. I drove that car for several years, until it was time to take a car to college and my parents decided it wasn’t “young” enough to handle the long distance driving. A fine car for around town — but not for across state.

My grandfather “sold” me the car for $1 after my grandmother had passed away. He had no use for it, and wanted it to stay in the family to be used. And that it was. Used and cared for. I was and still am grateful for that gift-that-was-not-technically-a-gift.

Grandma’s Car

A bittersweet acquisition,
my grandma’s car
came to me through loss.
It was luxurious and fine,
my own chariot of the road.

My grandma’s car, now mine,
gave me freedom and responsibility.
Freedom to manage my own schedule
but with the expectation to
get my younger brother
safely to and from school.

We drove through town most days,
the highway being an unpredictable
route to get to school on time.
Rush hour traffic dominated
the roads during our daily drives.

In the early morning light one day,
my mother documented our departure.
We were ready to leave, and
reluctantly waited while she
took a snapshot of us — and my car.

Years later, the car is gone.
No longer in my possession,
I have only photographs to
remember my first car.
I no longer begrudge the delay
of a single snapshot.

Rather, I treasure this moment,
A captured memory from everyday.
The ordinary no longer,
but a piece of history.
My life history.
My grandma’s car
…now mine.

What was your first car like?

I’d love to hear memories of your first car, whether you had to save money to buy it yourself, or if a gracious family member passed an older car on to you.

What was it like? Did it drive well? Do you have a snapshot of you with your first car?

I’d love to hear your stories.

Surviving Hyperemesis Gravidarum

posted in: Parenting | 2
Today I’m welcoming Emma from Adventures of Adam! The snapshot below has special meaning to Emma because of what she had to go through to have her son. In a moment, she’ll be sharing her story with you.

After a very difficult pregnancy, during which she suffered from Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG), Emma vowed to make every day an adventure. Her blog is the outcome of completing a 100 day play challenge with her toddler as part of that promise. On her blog, you’ll find HG-friendly play activities that require no preparation, do not involve smells or food, and are easy to clean up. These activities to allow moms suffering from HG during pregnancy to still enjoy playing with their children.

— Betsy

Surviving Hyperemesis Gravidarum

39 weeks and 4 days of pregnancy
35 weeks suffering from Hyperemesis Gravidarum
245 days of vomiting and suffering from nausea
Over 2,200 tablets taken
1 month in hospital
Countless medical tests
Pre-eclampsia

This is what it took to get this photo of my son, Adam.

Adventures of Adam - Surviving Hyperemesis Gravidarum - BPhotoArt.com

I had never heard of Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG) until I was 7 weeks pregnant and found myself unable to function. I was vomiting 20-40 times a day and unable to go about my day-to-day life. Nothing would stay down. I would eat an ice cube and seconds later bring it right back up again. Even the mention of food made me vomit.

HG completely took over my life and has changed my view on so many things. It is such a debilitating and all consuming condition; it robbed me of everything. I was unable to have any type of life, lost my independence due to needing full time care, and became dependent on my family and medication to keep me alive.

As if that wasn’t enough the isolation and misunderstanding of the condition made the vomiting harder to deal with.

My Breaking Point

Eleven weeks into the pregnancy, I was at my breaking point. It was weeks since I had eaten anything substantial and it was a constant battle to keep any fluid down.  After talking to a midwife, I was introduced to the world of “ketones” – a word that every HG sufferer dreads. Excessive ketones in the urine indicate that the body is not using carbohydrates from food as fuel and is subsequently trying to break down fat as fuel. Having ketones is a sign that the body is beginning to operate in starvation mode. I was severely dehydrated and admitted to hospital where I spent an entire week on an IV drip.

It took several lengthy hospitalizations to reduce my ketone levels and find a combination of medicines that reduced my vomiting. I was still sick frequently, but I was starting to retain some fluid.   Despite the improvement, Hyperemesis never leaves you; even when the sickness was controlled the condition still took over my life.

I felt dizzy all the time, was left confined to my couch with no energy and unable to prepare food myself. The nausea was unrelenting and felt worse than the sickness. My sense of smell was heightened so much that I could not stand the smell of my own husband and couldn’t go near him without vomiting. I couldn’t go into our kitchen due to the smell and I was unable to wash myself due to exhaustion. I couldn’t cope with noise, light, heat or movement. The only thing I could do was lay still and wait. This state continued on for me, week after week, month after month.

Adam’s Birth – And Relief from Hyperemesis Gravidarum

As soon as Adam was born the May 2nd, 2012, the vomiting stopped. I no longer felt nauseous and wasn’t reaching for the sick bowl. Still, recovery has been a long process. Because I was bed ridden for so long, my muscles didn’t  work well; oedema worsened the problem. The emotional impact of my condition resulted in my having Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Hyperemesis Gravidarum Support Networks

When Adam was 7 weeks old, I found out about the Pregnancy Sickness Support (a UK charity). It’s unfortunate I didn’t learn of it sooner.  The UK charity is the only one supporting women with nausea and vomiting in pregnancy (NVP) and Hyperemesis Gravidarum; it provides a telephone helpline, a national peer support network and educates healthcare professionals treating the conditions.

I have volunteered for the charity for two years.  I now administrate their online forum for sufferers and survivors, and have recently become a trustee.

For International Hyperemesis Gravidarum Awareness Day I created this video (mobile version):

For those in the United States, the Hyperemesis Education and Research (HER) Foundation is a worldwide network of HG survivors, and a great resource for information on HG. The Hyperemisis Education and Research Foundation is dedicated to helping hyperemesis sufferers (and surivors!) and to finding a cure for HG. and its complications.

— Emma

Other Articles on Hyperemesis Gravidarum

What About You?

The last article listed above, by the Syndey Morning Herald, mentioned 70% of pregnant women are affected by nausea and vomiting — and up to 3% of pregnant women experience HG. It also discusses how Charlotte Bronte suffered from HG and did die from the condition according to The Life of Charlotte Bronte (#afflink) by Elizabeth Gaskell.

Have you had acute morning sickness?  Do you know someone who survived HG?  I’ve love to hear your stories in the comments below.

Freedom Ignites a Love of Learning

posted in: Parenting | 4
I love the title of today’s snapshot series – freedom really does ignite a love of learning! Join me in welcoming Andrea of Waldorf Salad and Cottage Fries. She is married with two kids, two dogs, and two cats. Andrea is also a certified Aromatherapist, Herbalist and has a B.S. in Natural Health Sciences; she homeschools, cooks and gardens in the foothills of Western North Carolina.

Thank you Andrea for sharing this wonderful memory that displays the love of learning you’ve cultured in your children!

— Betsy

Freedom Ignites a Love of Learning - Waldorf Salad and Cottage Fries @ BPhotoArt.com

Freedom Ignites a Love of Learning

Every time I look at this picture I smile; I think about how lucky we are that our children have the freedom to learn without countless constraints. Now, that does not mean there aren’t rules and expectations, but they are given the chance to “let go” and to see where the day may take them.

This happened more often than not when we lived high up in the mountains of Western North Carolina.  Since we homeschool, we thought our five acre tract of land that housed many animals (for instance bears, snakes, raccoon, bobcats and several species of birds) would be a special place to educate them.

Mud Alert

The day this photo was taken, we were in the midst of a study on weather. Each morning the children would take out their weather journals, document temperature, wind velocity, snow fall etc.

On this particular day the rain was falling especially hard.  We decided to collect water in several types of vessels to see how quickly each would fill up and to measure how much water we could capture. The containers filled rapidly and the yard began to look like a muddy pond. That’s when the decision was made to throw on winter garb and slide down the hill in our yard!

Granting Freedom to Learn

Now most mothers would be apprehensive about their children sliding downhill into the woods, let alone allowing them to put on ski wear to do so, but I was all for it. I helped them suit up and off they went — for hours.

Sliding down the hill turned into mud pie making, dredging the yard to construct streams, digging a hole that swiftly turned into a small pool, and of course the day would not have been complete without a good mud fight!

After several hours of fun it was time to come in, clean up and have a hot cup of tea. I sat there watching the two of them measure the water they collected and laughing continually as they discussed the day’s adventures. I beamed with satisfaction at the thought that this day would be one they would remember forever!

— Andrea

Have you cultivated a love of learning?

Are there times you’ve been intentional about letting your kids think outside the box in order to cultivate a love of learning?  Did you cringe inwardly or was your inner child thrilled at the prospect of engendering freedom?

I’d love to hear your stories, to know if you have a memory like Andrea’s that sticks out in your mind as one your kids will remember fondly in years to come.

Living Life To The Fullest: Silliness Is A Must

posted in: Parenting | 14
Today I’m welcoming Michelle from Divas With A Purpose. She’s here to share about living life to the fullest and how silliness is a must. You’ll also learn some simple ways for embracing your divatude (read on for more explanation).Michelle blogs regularly about inspiring and encouraging women in their personal and professional lives. You can connect with her on Facebook or sharing glimpses of her world on Instagram.

— Betsy

Living Life To The Fullest: Silliness Is A Must

This little bugger is my youngest son. I have this snapshot posted on my vision board as a reminder to smile and remember the fun, silly moments of life.

Living Life To The Fullest: Silliness A Must - Divas With a Purpose @ BPhotoArt.com

My pregnancy with him was rough – emotionally and physically. I was miserable and depressed the majority of my pregnancy. It hurts to say that now but there were many a nights that I cried myself to sleep. There was so much turmoil going on in my marriage, my career and my overall outlook of life. The moment I first laid eyes on him – I was overcome with emotion. I am sure I am not the only mother who wondered throughout their second pregnancy how her heart could possibly love a second child as much as their first. I quickly learned it was very much possible and came quite naturally.

While I was home on maternity leave with my son, my passion for writing returned. It had been years since I had truly been motivated and inspired to write anything. I had let life bog me down and extinguish the passion that I had for the written word.

“What is it that you stand for? When your name comes to mind, what do others think of? Is it something positive or negative? Is it what you’d want your legacy to be? Is it what you’d want your children to pass on to their children’s children? If not, what are you doing to change that?”

I believe in living life to the fullest. Life happens – the good, the bad, and the in between. Some of it we can control and some we just have to roll with the punches, regroup and continue to press forward. The silliness that you see in this photo – it brings a smile to my face many a day. It reminds me to not let life pass me by.

As a mother, I strive to embrace my divatude on a daily basis and encourage my children to do the same. Divatude? For many that may be a new concept. I believe that we all should strive to be driven, inspiring, victorious and called to action – our divatude! Sometimes when I share that it sounds quite grandiose and time-consuming, but it is really a simple concept to embrace:

Divatude - exactly what is it? - Divas With a Purpose @ BPhotoArt.com

Simple Ways To Embrace Your Divatude

  • Believe in yourself. Tell yourself regularly how awesome you are. It’s not cockiness – it’s self-confidence
  • Encourage others. Tell your children what they do well and support their endeavors.
  • Give back in your community – donate your time, talents and/or tangibles.
  • Support others with their endeavors, when possible. Your presence, alone, makes a difference.
  • Be positive and uplifting. It makes a difference.
  • Set goals for yourself personally and professionally. Strive to continue growing and learning.
  • Be the friend you want to have.
  • Share your story with someone that can be encouraged or motivated by it.
  • Practice gratitude regularly.

— Michelle

How Do You Live Life to the Fullest?

I love how Michelle challenges us to make sure we’re living life to the fullest.

So, what do you think? Are these ideas practical for you? What are you going to try first? Have you already found ways to remember the silly moments in life? I’d love to hear your stories and thoughts.

A Mother’s Love: That Face

posted in: Parenting | 3
I’m honored to share another snapshot story with you today, one about motherhood, how quickly the time passes, and just how important it is to keep photos on display that remind us of how quickly our little ones grow into their own.Suzette Ladouceur is a former elementary school teacher turned stay at home mom. She blogs at The Joy of Homemaking about marriage, motherhood, homeschooling, and making the most of the life God has given her.

Thank you Suzette for reminding us of the importance of a mother’s love!

— Betsy

That Face... Love. Joy. Sentiment. - The Joy Of Homemaking @ BPhotoArt.com

That Face

When my son was just under a year old, we went to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for Memorial Day weekend to spend time with some family. While there, one of our activities was spending time in their community pool. After a hearty swim, as we sat around to dry off, I looked over at my son who he had fallen asleep on my cousin. I took a quick picture, not realizing how precious the finished photo would be.

Every time I see this photo, it conjures up a whole host of emotions from my heart, but here are the three dearest to me.

Love.

I cannot believe how much I love my children. I never knew that I could love someone so much that even on my most tired nights, I would willingly wake up to care for the needs of that small person.

My love for them has caused me to evaluate my purpose as a mother and my goals for each child, spiritually and emotionally. My love for them causes me to pray and think about each decision I make because I know that my children will be affected by my choices in some way.

Joy.

I am so thankful that this little boy (and my daughter) is mine. He was a gift from God to me. Instead of looking at the blocks scattered across the house, hearing the noise he makes, or finding the negative in his 2 year old behavior, I choose to see the sky scraper he tried to build, hear the laughter in his play, and appreciate the point in time we are living in right now. I choose to experience the joy my children bring.

Childhood itself brings joy. Sadly, as we leave our childhood and enter the world of adulthood, we forget the joy of catching bugs outside, how easy laughter can come, and that the sounds of happy play and noise are two completely different things.

Sentiment.

He is growing so fast. It has been two years since that picture was taken, yet the time seems to have gone by so quickly. In two more years, he will be a four and a half year old on his way to Kindergarten.

I continually remind myself that time stops for no “mom”, and my babies will not stop growing. As much as I wish I could keep them where they are, each day is another step towards the growth that they must make. Each day takes me closer to the time when I will have to let them go. Looking at this photo of my son reminds me to appreciate each moment I have with my children.

Do you have a photo of your child(ren) that can serve as a reminder that our time spent as “mommy” is short? Can I encourage you to pull it out and keep it front and center? It will help in those moments when you forget what a gift you have been given.

— Suzette

Are you intentional in cultivating a mother’s love?

Do you find the days, weeks, and even months flying by far too quickly? How have you been intentional about cultivating and displaying a mother’s love to your children?

Do you have photographs on display, as Suzette suggested, that remind you of the brevity of childhood, and the importance of a mother’s love?

I’ve love to hear your stories, thoughts, and comments below.

Daddy Daughter Duo – A Snapshot Story

posted in: Parenting | 5
I love how the simplest of snapshots can tell an amazing story.  More than “a thousand words,” pictures bring us back to the moment — they let us re-experience the sounds and smells that are so strongly linked to a particular memory.

Today I want to welcome Cassandra of Raising Up Stones! She’s the mom of three kids, and has graciously provided me with this lovely memory to share with you from her childhood.  This daddy daughter childhood snapshot brings many wonderful memories to mind for Cassandra — as you’ll read below.

— Betsy

Daddy Daughter Duo - Raising Up Stones @ BPhotoArt.com

Daddy Daughter Duo

Every time I see this picture, I smile from ear to ear. That is me, in the red shirt and black shorts…no, not the salt and pepper haired stud, the little cutie with the black bobbed hair! It’s as if I am saying “this is MY daddy”! In fact, I know I was thinking that.

If you couldn’t tell by our ridiculously fabulous matching outfits, I was pretty mesmerized by my daddy and I’m pretty sure he thought I was something awfully special.

My dad owned a body shop and I loved going to work with him. I remember all the mechanics and body men treating me like royalty. They would buy me candy from the candy machines, bring me fun trinkets and give me “jobs” so they could pay me money.  I was a princess in real form but my best memories were when my dad was home from work and he was all ours.

Being Outdoors in the Yard

We had a nice, large yard most of my life and my dad always took good care of it.  My family and I spent many spring and summer evenings in the yard, picking up sticks, mowing, pulling weeds and playing in the sprinklers!

I can’t be for sure but I figure this was one of those times. I can still smell the scent of freshly cut grass and hear the sounds of the lawn mower as I watched daddy ride past me.

This picture was before my brother came along to steal the show, so it was just me, my sister and mom and dad. I’m betting some time before or after this picture I sat on my dad’s lap as we made each turn through the grass cutting those perfect lines that make every home owner proud! He would let me steer but I had no idea he was really doing the steering.

I’m sure after this picture dad grilled some steaks and chicken, and of course we had corn freshly shucked by mom! My daddy loved steak, and I loved steak because he loved steak! Just like I loved my red shirt and black shorts …just like daddy’s! I was a girly girl to the max, but who needs a fancy dress when you can match your #1 hero?

Countless MemoriesWhat About You?

Do you have an all time favorite family snapshot? Maybe a similar daddy daughter photo even? One that brings many fond memories flooding back, like Cassandra’s daddy daughter duo does for her?

I know I have a few daddy daughter snapshots from my own childhood that bring back many fond memories. Every girl, every woman, has a special place in her heart for her daddy.

What is your favorite daddy daughter memory? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

What Makes An Exceptional Teacher?

posted in: Notes | 6
Today I’m welcoming Sue Lively of One Time Through as she shares a snapshot from her childhood, and the wonderful story about how her teacher, Mr. Smith, inspired her to learn, grow, and ultimately, become a teacher herself. What a wonderful tribute to an exceptional teacher!

Sue is an elementary school teacher on extended parental leave to stay at home full time with her son. She is passionate about all things related to arts and-crafts, language, and science! Thank you Sue, for sharing these musings on what makes an exceptional teacher. I can think of a few such teachers from my own childhood.

— Betsy

What Makes An Exceptional Teacher - One Time Through @ BPhotoArt.com

What Makes An Exceptional Teacher?

What do you think makes an exceptional teacher? Is it that unique ability to put oneself into a student’s shoes and see things through their point of view? Is it having a mastery of one’s subject or exceptional communication skills? Is it about seeing a student as more than just a sum of their parts?

Everyone has a favourite teacher that they can remember from early school years. Probably your favourite teacher had a few, if not all, of the qualities listed above. My favorite teacher certainly did.

Mr. Smith

He was a little unusual for an elementary school teacher, because he was a man. Also, it was widely known that teaching wasn’t his only gig. Mr. Smith not only taught full-time, but he wrote the drama critiques and reviews column for the large newspaper in the city close to where I grew up. He was highly involved in theatre himself and brought that love to his students.

I was lucky enough to have Mr. Smith for my teacher in grades 1 and 2 and later when I was in grades 4, 5, and 6; I was involved in school musicals that he directed.

What I remember most about Mr. Smith from the early grades was that he was FUN. Isn’t it always those teachers that stand out in your memory? Our classroom was full of laughter, poetry, art and drama.

I remember that he used to keep exceptional artwork up on his walls, long after those students had moved into higher grades. I was always proud to return to his class as a “big grade 5 or 6er” and see one of my art pieces still there! He just had a way of making kids feel good.

Teaching Through Discipline

He also treated his students exceptionally fair. There was one time when I was given the privilege of staying inside at recess on my own to finish an art piece. For some reason, only God knows why, I went around the room and tore a small corner off the page of everyone else’s work. I can remember clearly doing this, but to this day, have no idea why I did it!
When the kids came back in from recess, Mr. Smith easily figured out who the art culprit had been, as my piece was the only one without a missing corner!

I remember being quietly pulled into the hallway and firmly but gently confronted about my behavior. There was no scolding or shaming, just a very serious discussion about my actions and how they had affected others.

I think I remember that episode so much because I felt very deep remorse about my actions, and I was grateful my favorite teacher still liked and cared about me, even though I had been quite naughty!

Committed to Excellence

Later on, in grades 4-6, Mr. Smith directed me in the school musicals. He encouraged me to try out the first year, and really took me under his wing.

These musicals that he directed were not just “kid-stuff” either – they were big productions. We had amazing costumes rented from a theater company, professional lighting, and performed for large audiences. We rehearsed for months and really felt like we were a part of something important. They were a source of self-esteem and positive memories.

The time commitment from Mr. Smith, and the other teachers involved, must have been huge. It’s hard to see that as a kid, and although we all loved Mr. Smith, I don’t think any of us really appreciated how much work and time he must have put in to do these shows with us…and really, FOR us.

As a teacher and a parent now, I can see all the amazing things he did…and was. Mr. Smith was such a huge positive influence on me.

Encouragement Into Adulthood

He encouraged me to pursue singing and acting, which has been a source of incredible enjoyment in my life. Even into adulthood, he followed my “career” and supported me by interviewing me for his newspaper column, even giving me great reviews for my performances in several musicals.

He has become a positive mental teaching template for me. I often think about how Mr. Smith would deal with certain situations when I am challenged by a student.

He has also inspired me to direct musicals with my own students over the years and hopefully I can make a difference for some of them as he did for me. This has been one of my favorite, and the most rewarding, parts of being a teacher.

Lifelong Positive Influence

The photograph above shows Mr. Smith and me after I had received the grade 6 Drama Award. You can tell by my face that I was thrilled, and especially honored to receive this award from my favorite teacher.

When I look at it now, tears fill my eyes, and I send a hearty thank you to this special man who had such a positive influence on me as a child, and as an adult.

Thank you, Mr. Smith.

– Sue Lively

What About You?

Do you have an all time favorite snapshot from your childhood? Maybe a photo from your school years? I have memories of my favorite teachers, and seeing snapshots of their classrooms can bring so many memories to mind.

Do you have an exceptional teacher who inspired you like Mr. Smith inspired Sue? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

Close-Knit Family – Long Distance Grandparenting

posted in: Parenting | 4

As the weeks wind down and my second son’s birth looms ever nearer, I thought it was fitting to share this image from my family archives. It’s of me as a newborn in the hospital, with both my grandmothers. I’ve written about one of them so far (Legacy of a Truly Excellent Woman), but both were a big part of my life while I was growing up.

Betsy with her grandmothers as a newborn

Proud Grandmothers

This photo is meaningful for me even though I don’t remember that moment. I see my grandmothers as I remember them in childhood — loving, caring, warm and comforting.

I remember the soft texture of my paternal grandmother’s hands, the silky smooth wrinkled fingers that floated over piano keys. I recall the vibrant smiles that both grandmothers frequently flashed — a conveyance of their inner joy.

I wasn’t the first grandchild for either of my grandmothers. But still I was loved. They were proud of all their grandchildren, eager to hear our stories and listen to our childlike chatter.

Both teachers, my grandmothers instructed me when I was older — one piano, the other English.

My paternal grandmother’s favorite hymn was “The Old Rugged Cross.”
My maternal grandmother’s favorite book was “To Kill A Mockingbird.”

It’s interesting what things you recall when looking at a simple snapshot.

How the memories flow, disjointed at times, but all the while bringing back fond memories that make the distance of time seem less far.

The Importance of Close-Knit Family

We were, and still are, blessed to have most of our family nearby. And by that, I mean within 10 minutes by car. Both sets of my grandparents lived 10 minutes away from my childhood home.

And now that I’m married with kid(s), we are likewise blessed to have both sets of parents within 10 minutes of our house. And then when you add in aunts, uncles, and cousins, the map of nearby relatives gets ever more crowded.

But crowded in a good way.

Family is important to us; my husband and I were very intentional in settling down near family. We didn’t want our future children to grow up not knowing their extended family. And I can say that so far, we’ve managed to fulfill that desire for family bonding.

Our son knows the street names where his grandparents live, he talks about his cousins all the time, and loves to call on the phone to “invite” family members over to play with him.

We are a close-knit family.

Long Distance Grandparenting

One of my nieces, though, lives multiple states away. I haven’t met her yet, even though she is almost a year old. My parents are long-distance grandparents to their second grandchild.

It’s different.

It’s tough being distant when you want to be close.

I often hear a tinge of sorrow in my mom’s voice when she talks, excitedly, about her granddaughter — my niece.

Thankfully, technology has helped somewhat with long distance grandparenting. There are video conferencing options like skype and facetime. Facebook allows distant family members to keep up to date with the daily antics of little ones as they grow.

Tips for Long Distance Grandparenting

  • Video Chat – use video calls to chat with your grandkids.  You could even set a weekly phone date!
  • Send postcards – kids of all ages love to get real, old-fashioned mail.  My toddler is thrilled to receive simple postcards when his grandparents are on vacation.
  • Compile care packages – even if the goodies aren’t all that fancy, kids love to get packages.  You could probably acquire some finds at the dollar store for younger kids.  You could do care packages seasonally, or make themed holiday care packages!
  • Share photos – even a toddler can recognize their grandparents in photos.  Send them pictures of you so that your grandkids can talk about what you’re doing and “relate” to you.  It doesn’t matter whether you choose to send cell phone pictures or prints.
  • Visit ….but respect boundaries – it’s important to respect your child’s wishes, so make sure to ask and approve any trips before planning an impromptu vacation to visit your grandkids.
  • Celebrate birthdays – even if you can’t be there in person, you can always send a card (or if you’re more ambitious, a present).  Again, back to the whole “kids love getting stuff in the mail” thing.
  • Make audiotapes – read your favorite stories aloud so that your grandchildren can listen to the recordings whenever they need grandma or grandpa time.

And this next tip is for parents.  Talk about distant relatives with your children!  Repetition and visual references will help your children to be familiar with their long distance grandparents, great-grandparents, or other far-off relatives.  Even though my grandfather (memories of painting with Grandpa) lives a plane flight away, our son knows his great-grandfather, and recognizes him through photos, and fondly remembers the activities they did together two Christmases ago.

Resources on Long Distance Grandparenting

Here are some resources for those faced with long distance grandparenting.  Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

How Do You Cultivate Closeness?

What tips do you have for those with relatives who live out of state? Are there ways you’ve managed to encourage close relationships between your immediate family and your far-off family?

Memories of Painting With Grandpa

posted in: Notes | 10

I may be a bit biased since it’s my line of work, but for me, photographs are an integral part of preserving family memories. There’s a time and a place to document family portraits professionally, but there’s also a soft spot in my heart for snapshots — they capture candid moments from life that are totally unplanned and spontaneous. Both types of photos are different. But both kinds are important for creating a lasting family legacy.

While I’ve written about being inspired by my paternal grandparents (My Photographic Inspiration + The Legacy of a Truly Excellent Woman), I have to confess there are many relatives who have encouraged and supported me along my life’s journey. So today, I wanted to share this picture from my personal archives — it’s of me and my maternal grandpa when I was a toddler.

Betsy Painting with Grandpa - Family Snapshot - Memories

I love this photograph! It was taken when I was a toddler, in my childhood home.  We were painting Christmas candles (well, one of us was!).  I loved helping turn white tapered candles into advent calendars.  We would paint red and green elves around the base of the taper (bottom 3″ or so), and then the rest would be evenly divided into 24 sections — numbered 1-24 for each day of December.  Then came the fun part!  Remembering to light the candle at dinner every day so that we could melt the elves by Christmas day.

Over the years, my grandpa has explored many different media in addition to painting (watercolor, oil, acrylic).  He used to have a woodworking “shop” in his basement (later it moved to the garage). In addition to making utilitarian items, he was quite skilled at wood marquetry, wood carving, and pretty much anything that required tinkering (that comes from being an engineer, I think).  My favorite wedding gift was from my grandfather — a marquetry panel of a ship. It’s framed and hangs at the top of our stairs, so I get to enjoy it every time I climb the steps.

I have many fond memories of painting and creating with my grandfather. He had drawers and bins of interesting do-dads and whatchamacallits that my brother and I would use to make things. We helped make a castle (think dollhouse, but bigger) with a plexiglass moat able to hold real fish. There was an oscilloscope in his workshop that we loved to play with too.  My favorite cookies are Springerles — his specialty.  These German cookies may be an aquired taste, but I loved helping select which hand carved mold to press into the dough.  My grandfather even made some molds especially for us grandkids!  The best part, though, was eating a freshly cooked Springerle (first dipped in milk).

Isn’t it amazing what stories can come from just reminiscing over one snapshot from your past?  That’s why I love photographs.  They open the floodgates, revive memories which have long faded into subconscious.  Pictures take us back to that moment, remind us of the things we truly value in life.

I am so grateful that my son has had the opportunity to know my grandpa, or as he is called: “Great Grandpa Rebeck with the broken cane.” Even though he lives many states away now, my son still remembers when my grandpa visited — and Toby was allowed to help “fix” great grandpa’s “broken” cane (one of those nifty collapsible ones).

It’s so hard to attribute any one thing to my grandpa, because he really did help expand my way of thinking.  I’m one of those people who always asks “why,” who loves to know how things work, and who enjoys taking apart or putting back together little do-dads.  My comfort with adapting new technology probably comes from my grandpa too — while an engineer he worked on the Apollo Lunar Scientific Experiment project (ALSEP).  After the moon landing, he eventually went into the computer technology field — I grew up familiar with that blue and red DOS screen, and even learned how to write simple DOS computer programs from him as well.

Important of Snapshots + Memories (Resources)

Here are a few links about the importance of snapshots and memories. You may also want to check out my Family History + Genealogy Pinterest board. Links will open in a new window for your convenience.

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board Family History + Genealogy on Pinterest.

What Memories Do Your Snapshots Bring To Mind?

Even if you don’t have an extensive collection of family photos, I’m sure you have a few snapshots that bring back many memories.  Maybe tearful ones rather than joyful, but important memories nevertheless. We are defined, in part, by our past experiences.  We don’t have to let ourselves be bound or limited by those memories, but we can learn and grow from them.

What about your favorite photo?  Does looking at it bring a slew of memories to the forefront of your mind?

My Engagement Story

posted in: Notes | 0

Working with engaged and married couples allows me to enjoy hearing about many wonderful proposal stories. And while I haven’t heard everything, I have heard quite a bit. From the more typical romantic flowers + tux proposal to a more adventurous underwater scuba diving proposal, I find it extremely interesting to see how each engagement story is different. And then there’s my own engagement story. Nothing extraordinary, you might think, but it’s special to me. It seems so long ago, but of course I can still remember the details.

My Engagement Story - Just Engaged - bphotoart.com

Before We Begin

Before I get into the full story of how Steven and I got engaged, let me start by explaining something. I have an uncanny knack of ruining surprises. Steven has planned numerous exciting and thoughtful surprises, most of which I’ve somehow stumbled across before their due time. I promise that I’ve never intentionally ruined a surprise — I like surprises! But, no matter how hard I try, the surprise aspect often remains elusive.

I can imagine that most guys dream of surprising their fiance-to-be with the perfect proposal. Part of Steven’s goal was to surprise me (yes, tricky!). I won’t ruin the story yet, but keep reading to find out if that happened.

Like any couple, we discussed our future — and the possible timing for the big events of engagement and marriage. Steven and I didn’t set a date or anything like that before becoming engaged, but we had definitely talked these plans and how they would work into our future. Of course I had to have a “timeline” of sorts to share with my girlfriends, because they were asking all sorts of questions, so we settled on planning to get engaged sometime during the summer of 2004.

To make a long story short, a friend one weekend said she’d heard I was getting engaged soon. This was in March of 2004, so I still had a ways to go until the “timeline.” So I set that thought aside, and went about things as usual.

My Engagement Story

A weekend or two later, Steven and I were in town to spend time with the parents (neither of us were in Ann Arbor at the time). We were planning on grabbing dinner at our favorite restaurant (Knight’s Steakhouse), and then going with his parents to Saturday Mass. Our plans for Sunday were still up in the air. We got dressed for church, and then went to Knight’s Steakhouse for dinner. We sat upstairs, and had an uneventful dinner. After dinner, lo and behold, a lovely heart-shaped cake with roses arrived on our table. Can you guess what was on it? Yup, this was it! An engagement ring was nestled in a silk rose and the cake was iced with the words “Will You Marry Me?”

I have to admit I was so extremely surprised that I was speechless! Steven (who was all nerves at this point), took the ring, asked me “Will you marry me?” and put the ring on my hand as I nodded and said yes (finally, right? I’m sure my stunned silence wasn’t too reassuring at first!).

So after that, we enjoyed some of the scrumptious carrot cake that had been handmade for us. It was very delicious, and we left some for the wait staff (it was a decent-sized cake!). While we were celebrating during dessert, an older couple congratulated us and bought us a drink. It was their anniversary!

Finally, there was another element of surprise. Steven let me know that both sets of parents were waiting at Barton Hills Country Club to celebrate with us. On the drive over, some phone calls were made to spill the news. Once we arrived, a champagne toast was in order, and we let some of the excitement unwind as we sat with them.

It really was an exciting day. Steven succeeded in creating a wonderful and memorable engagement story for us to enjoy sharing with others. In case you’re wondering why he picked this particular restaurant, it was because he went to college for Hospitality Business (restaurant management), and during that point in time Steven spent many busy hours at Knight’s Steakhouse working the various positions. While it’s not an exotic engagement location, Knight’s was (and is) a special place for us.

What’s Your Story?

So, there you have it! That’s my engagement story, and I look forward to hearing yours soon. I’ve found as I work with engaged couples, the more you share of your story, the more unique and meaningful we can make your engagement session. Whether we do so by choosing the location of your first date, where you got engaged, or something more subtle, you will be able to fondly look back on your engagement images and remember some wonderful memories. I know I wish we had done our engagement session in such a way to evoke the excitement and surprise of the evening we got engaged!