Wednesday, February 26, 2014

sunny, happy days

the weather here in utah has been super unseasonably warm. we're talking low 60's and sunshine. i can't believe how happy it's making me feel!

on sunday afternoon, i laid out on a blanket in our front yard and was soon joined by a good friend who lives across the street. we chatted and waved to families on bike rides and listened to the classical music her husband was playing on their car stereo as he cleaned out the trunk.

on monday morning, hero and i went outside for a bit. this quickly turned into three other moms with kids (2 of which are hero's exact same age) coming out and playing as well.

on tuesday, i got my hair done and hero played allll day with her best neighbor friend, kaya, and a few other neighborhood kids.

this morning, we ventured out once more and walked around the block. i gave hero a little bucket to carry so she could put all her rock/twig/leaf treasures she finds along the way in it. she held onto my finger almost the whole time, waved to "puppies," practiced our best bird sounds, and my mama heart bursted with love each and every time something new would catch her eye for her treasure bucket.

basically, our neighborhood and this weather is the best thing ever. i was telling chas the other night how amazing it is to be able to walk outside, send out a text to some moms, and within minutes, 3-5 other moms are outside with us- all living either across the street or a few houses away. it's complete mommy paradise. this little area of utah may not be the most posh or hip but who the heck cares when there are so many young families with girls the same age as hero (and some other pregnant moms too!). unless you're a stay-at-home mama, i think it might be hard to understand how vitally important it is to have a good support group of moms nearby. and what's more- it's never ever a fashion show, if that makes sense. i go out almost every day in my jammies and no-makeup and bed head and don't give a second thought about it. it's so refreshing and calming knowing that no one cares one bit about what you look like or what you're wearing. only genuine love and goodness 'round these parts.


a fresh cut and color is also adding a little bounce to my step. fun springtime hair is here! (excuse the lame instagram photo. like i said, i'm trying to focus more on writing and less on photo quality lately with this blog...)

Thursday, February 20, 2014

in the dark

friends and family often ask how my book sales are going. it's been officially published for about two months now but, the strange thing is, i have absolutely no idea how many people have purchased it and read it. truly. all the various distributors (amazon, barnes & noble, ibookstore, etc) only report their sales back to my "publisher" ( every few months. so, until then, i'm almost completely in the dark. 

i do know that at least 10 people have read it because that's how many reviews i have on amazon. so that's something. haha. 

when i do find out the sales, whenever that is, it will be such a fun surprise! at least, that's how i'm trying to look at it so i don't drive myself crazy with anticipation. and honestly, for the most part, i kinda just don't think about it lots. it's out and available and that's all there is to it. feels nice to have a break from it all after that last long, hard push to finish it. 

if you haven't checked out my book, you can purchase it on amazon here (or through most any other ebook distributor). and remember, you don't have to own a fancy kindle, ipad, or anything like that. a free ereader can be downloaded through sony if you have a pc or, if you have a mac, ibookstore is the ereader that's automatically on your computer and iphone. easy peasey. 

if you HAVE read the book, i'd SO love if you took a moment or two and wrote a review on amazon.

that's all for now. 
happy thursday. 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

feeling confident in your parenting

when i was pregnant with hero, chas and i talked a lot about different parenting techniques. i knew that there would be guaranteed times where we'd feel lost, confused, and helpless as newbie parents but i also knew that if we searched and studied and researched, we could step into this parenting gig with as much preparation and knowledge beforehand which would hopefully help us feel more confident in the difficult moments.

we were so lucky to find "the aware baby" by aletha solter really early on in this journey. i wrote about the book and premise here and an early experience with implementing the "method" here when hero was only a few weeks old. i cover in detail what the book entails in both those posts so i won't repeat it here. if you're curious, check out those two posts.

lately, chas and i have been talking about how much we STILL love the teachings and ideas in this book and how helpful it's been for us and our daughter. i thought it'd be interesting to write a little follow-up post of how the principles in "the aware baby" have been a positive influence on our parenting experience now that hero is almost 21 months old (crazy!).

firstly, let me just say that i am not writing this post to try and convince anyone that this is how they should parent. nor am i suggesting that other methods of parenting are bad or wrong. as mothers and fathers, we, of course, are all just trying our best and we each need to be given the freedom to do what we feel works best for our own family without judgement or criticism. this is just what we've found to work wonders for us. if it sounds at all interesting, give it a try. or don't. either way, we are happy and confident in our parenting and hope you are too!


one of the greatest aspects about solter's approach, is that after 21 months of being parents, chas and i can probably count on one hand the times when we've felt completely lost and clueless as to what hero needs and how to help her. whenever she's having a hard time, all we have to do is ask ourselves a few quick questions: 1. are all her basic needs met (hunger, safety, sleep, etc.)? If she's not hungry, tired, or in physical pain or sick, then...she needs to cry. that's it. it's seriously that simple. we never have to feel frazzled or frustrated because we just don't know how to help or why she's upset or struggling behaviorally. and, let me tell you, having that kind of confidence and peace throughout our entire parenting experience has been so amazing.

we don't let her "cry it out" alone. we hold her and listen to her while she cries. we tell her she's doing a great job and how important it is for her to get out all the "sads" so she can feel happy again. we talk to her about her day and any potential upsetting moments that may have occurred.

when she's done crying, she's ready to go back to whatever we were doing and be totally happy and content instead of agitated, frustrated, or upset. and, what's more, when we ask her about her experience "crying with us" she will always say that "yes" she does feel better after she "gets her cries out."

hero has always been a happy, charming, independent girl. she sleeps like a rockstar: 13-14 hours a night with two 2-hour naps during the day.

it's been really fun to read what solter writes in her books about the personality traits of babies who are allowed to cry freely in their parents arms and how closely it describes hero.

out of any parenting method i've researched, "the aware baby" is the only book i've found that is in perfect harmony with everything i know as a clinical therapist. i love how solter's principles are the exact same principles that i'd try to teach in any therapy group i've led- whether it be with children, teenagers, or adults. namely, solter treats babies and toddlers just like the rest of us should be treated: as humans with a wide range of emotions. when we experience a difficult emotion such as anger, fear, sadness, or stress, we need to be taught how to deal with and EXPRESS those emotions in a healthy way with the positive support of those who love us. and that's exactly what "the aware baby" does.

because we've allowed hero to express her emotions through crying and/or raging in our arms while calmly listening to, accepting, and validating her experience, she's been able to live her life without tons of built up and suppressed stress. babies and toddlers experience stress everyday- just like we do. and when that stress builds up, if it's not properly addressed or released, it can manifest itself in the way they behave, difficulty sleeping, etc. the same holds true for all of us! but when we're allowed the time and space to safely express how we feel and have our emotions listened to and validated, we are given a release from the stress so we can move on and be happy! i just love knowing that i am teaching my daughter how to deal with her difficult emotions in a positive, healthy way- a skill that will help her be a happier toddler, child, teenager, and adult!

i think the most difficult part about "the aware baby" is having to deal with other people's reactions and responses to our parenting choices. for whatever reason, we've had to confront a fair share of raised eyebrows- no matter how well-meaning. we've tried again and again to explain the reasoning behind letting hero simply cry in our arms as opposed to "crying it out" but i think our families still think we're a little nuts. and that's ok. like i've said, we are 110% satisfied and confident in the way we're raising our daughter and it's alright if others don't understand or agree. the proof is in the pudding! we may be a little biased, but our kid is AMAZING. i'm sure part of her amazing-ness is just how she came but i'm going to be as bold as to say that part of her amazing-ness is the way we've chosen to parent her and help her deal with her emotions proactively.

sure there will be hard times in our future experience as parents. things aren't perfect and never will be. but i love feeling secure in being equipped with the proper tools to effectively deal with whatever is down the road for us.

i could probably write an entire 3-volume novel on how much we love "the aware baby" but i think i'll stop here.

moral of the story: being a new parent doesn't have to be fraught with feeling lost and helpless. there ARE great alternatives to "sleep training." and feeling confident and like a GREAT parent with a happy child is totally within reach for anyone.

Friday, February 14, 2014

my first all-film photo shoot

got my scans back yesterday from my first shoot with all-film. i'm obsessed. completely hooked.

you can see all the photos here.

let me explain a little bit about why i've fallen so hard for film so quickly.

first, the process of shooting with film is entirely different than with digital. when i'm shooting digital, i can take hundreds and hundreds of photos- and i do. with film, every single time i push that shutter button, it's costing me money. a roll of professional grade film costs me about $9 (and $16 to develop). that's $9 for 36 exposures, or images. unless i want to break the bank, i have to be so much more intentional, thoughtful, and mindful of the shots i'm composing. shooting film makes me slow way down and patiently wait for that exact right moment to click the shutter. and speaking of shutter- the sound of a film shutter is so fun to hear. it's kinda loud and it sounds like it's telling me that "yup! you just sealed the deal with that shot- for better or for worse!" the drama of it all is exciting.

there's also an element of trust and almost faith that goes along with shooting film. when i'm testing for proper exposure with a digital camera, i take my best guess at what the settings need to be, take a test shot, look at the back to see how close i was, and then continue to adjust accordingly until it's just right. but there's no lcd screen on the back of a film slr. so the way i get my settings right for lighting is with the light meter. i'm still learning how to use it and how it responds in every different lighting situation but, for the most part, it's pretty simple. once i take a reading with the meter, i enter into my camera what it says (usually over-exposing), take a deep breath, and trust that i've done it right and the photo will be exposed correctly. in short, with film, you can't just take a stab in the dark again and again and have it all work out perfectly in the end. you really have to know your stuff or else nothing will turn out right. i like knowing that i know how to not only shoot manually well but can do it even when i can't check the back of the camera screen. let's be honest- it's an ego thing.

and then there's the post-processing and editing- or almost complete lack thereof. i've actually never spent tons of time editing photos i've shot digitally. for a full family shoot, there's probably 2-3 hours of time sitting at the computer afterwards which, compared with lots of photographers, isn't too bad. i'll maybe take 400 photos during a family shoot, go through them all, and select the best 50-60 to edit for the client. that's the most time-consuming part. but 50 keepers out of 400 isn't a great percentage. in contrast, i only shot one roll (which actually already had some shots taken) for my film session. i took 33 photos and ended up keeping 25. and the other 8 didn't cut it only because i was manually focusing and so the focus was a bit soft and not sharp enough. 25 out of 33 is pretty dang good, i'd say! again, it's because of how much more focused and intentional film is that gives me such better percentages of keepers :)

so i received my scans from alpine film lab, discarded the 8 that weren't awesome and....DONE-ZO! film is just so rich and beautiful all on it's own that there's nothing i needed to do to edit them! NOTHING. that means almost zero time spent sitting behind the computer sorting through hundreds of images, correcting color, exposure, and white balance, etc, etc, etc. and let me tell ya- getting those images back and seeing them for the first time felt like christmas morning! it was so fun to view the results of the shoot after waiting a few days and being so pleasantly surprised with how it all turned out.

i definitely need to keep practicing and have a few more shoots lined up to do just that but i think this may be a real game-changer for me. i've got the film bug and can't wait to keep shooting and experimenting!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

needing and finding

my little sister's husband is a programmer. he is probably one of the top programmers in the state and loves what he does. he's able to change jobs on a whim because companies are lining up outside his door. they will never have to worry about money. ever. they go on extravagant vacations around the world, have a beautiful home, and talk of living abroad someday. they are also amazing examples of being generous and giving with their resources. i'm sure there are plenty of ways that i don't even know about in which they've given their money but, just as an example, they are the youngest couple to be consistent scholarship donors for BYU. pretty amazing. i love them and am so proud of them both.

but sometimes it's hard. it's hard to not compare our financial situation to theirs and know that we will never have many of those luxuries. it's hard knowing that instead of abundance, we have to carefully watch our bank accounts every month to make sure we can make ends meet while also trying our best to get out of debt. it's hard knowing that if we don't bring in additional, supplemental income each month via freelance work and/or photography, then we'll have to dip into savings.

i for sure don't mean to sound ungrateful or make our situation out to be some dire, awful circumstance. because it's not at all. we work hard and we are greatly blessed. we've had the opportunity to exercise our faith more than once in this area and are always surprised at how things have worked out so well. we live very comfortable lives and have enough for our needs and wants. it's just interesting how so much can suddenly seem like so, so little when compared to another.

the other day, chas jokingly said to me, "wulp. i'm sorry that i'm not a programmer."
i quickly responded, "i'm so glad you aren't a programmer. because of you and your work in film, i've discovered my love for photography. and i wouldn't give up the creative drive, fulfillment, and happiness that photography gives me for any amount of trips to paris or nicer cars. my life is better because of it."

and it's true!

throughout my life, i've always needed to be doing art. for years and years, i did painting and drawing- even got my BA in it. but then, after hero came, i found it more and more difficult to find the time to get out my paints and get to work. and then my desire to paint began to wane slowly. and then i just stopped painting altogether. and it was alright because i knew that i didn't want to paint solely because i felt like it was something i "should" do. i wanted to do it purely for the love of doing it. and that love had gone.

instead, focusing all my attention on my new baby was bliss but also unsatisfying in some ways. i discovered that i needed more than one dimension to fill my days. i yearned to be working towards something creative for myself but wasn't sure of what that was. eventually, our little film company, kelly arts films, was born from this desire to DO something and to work from home while being creative.

about 9 months after we started making our films together, i was asked to shoot some high school senior photos. i'd been operating a camera for 9 months but that was video- could i also do photography? i somewhat nervously gave it a go, and LOVED it. not only did i love the experience of shooting the photos but was also pleasantly surprised at how good they actually came out! i was hooked. i immediately did a mentorship with a local photographer so i could learn how to edit in lightroom and then began shooting as much and as often as i could. first, just friends and family who were willing to let me practice on them briefly. and, as i did so, i continued to be surprised at how naturally it all came and how very happy every one was with their photos. win win!

i've worked my bum off the last year and have managed to build up a good-sized portfolio of images that i am immensely proud of. and- what's more- i'm continue to try to learn and grow as a photographer. there's so much more to know and so many ways i can improve. i'm participating in a small all-day workshop with my photographer idol in april and have bought a film camera and even had my first all-film shoot a few days ago.

photography has been such a fun and unexpected blessing. it's given me an outlet for my creativity and drive to work while also providing us with some great extra cash flow. in fact, my photography work played a huge role in allowing us to purchase our house!

so while we'll likely always have to be "worrying" about money to some extent, i'm glad for it. out of the need has sprung a wealth of amazing opportunities for chas and i to work hard together and grow together- both individually and as a team.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014


i've been thinking a lot lately about being happy, comfortable, satisfied, and grateful in the life i've been given. chas and i are truly blessed. we have so much.

i remember our first tiny apartment in the avenues in salt lake city. we'd often lay in bed and just talk about how lucky we felt to live in such a fun and charming little spot in utah. how we loved taking long walks around our neighborhood and enjoying the amazing, historical houses all around us. how we adored the unique victorian-style church building we attended just across the street from the cemetery in which many prophets of our church are buried. how we'd go for rides on our little scooter in the fall and it felt like a page inside a fairy tale as we whizzed past the swirling autumn leaves and underneath canopies of tree-lined streets.

all of this, and yet, there were many times that i just yearned for more- different things than what we had been given.

and now we are owners of our first home. it's a beautiful, perfect house for us right now. and, just as before, we often lay in bed and just talk about how lucky we feel to have found such a nice place in such a wonderful neighborhood. how we love getting to know so many kind young families all around us. how we can see the bountiful temple from our living room window and how beautiful it is all lit up and glowing on the mountainside at night. how there are a gazillion little girls exactly hero's age and the elementary school is two blocks down the street. how we love being close to our families and don't have to miss out on fun get-togethers ever. how happy it's made me to be able to finally have a place to really call our own as i've painted, decorated, and dreamed up plans for future improvements.

all of this, and yet, there have been times that i still wanted more- different things than what we have been given.

last night, there chas and i were once again, laying in bed and talking. talking about our life and our future. we talked about how we don't want our life to pass us by without ever having been adventurous together. and although we love this house, this place, and this time in our lives, it's hard for us to think of living in utah- and only utah- for the entirety of our lives.

we decided if there's anywhere we'd want to live or raise a family outside of utah, it would be portland, oregon. i lived in oregon for three years during my time in grad school and then, a few years ago, chas and i took a trip to oregon together. during that trip, i fell in love with that wonderful state for the millionth time and chas was right there with me, head over heels for it all.

so what if...what if, in five years or so, we just decided to find a job in portland and move? daydreams of family weekend drives to the coast, exploring portland, and the beautiful, vibrant green everywhere quickly ensued. and, i'll have to admit, it was definitely fun to talk about all that with chas. we even started looking up production companies and real estate. simply thinking about the possibilities felt exciting and adventurous. we made a pinky promise that we'd be adventurous in our life together, turned out the lights, and fell asleep.

i kept thinking about it all this morning. and i've come to some conclusions.

i don't think it's bad to make plans for the future or have goals, hopes, and dreams. i'm a huge goal-setter and need to have things i'm working towards in order to feel fulfilled. but i also don't want to be the kind of person that's blinded by my future plans so that i can't ever fully LIVE in the moment and LOVE every bit of my present moment.

and, truth be told, i've truly never been more completely happy and satisfied than i am at this stage in our lives. really. we have a beautiful home in a dream neighborhood with family close by. chas has a good, steady job. my book is published. i'm learning more and more about photography and seeing my own creative goals come to fruition which is exhilarating. we have an amazing, crazy, darling little girl and another baby on the way. life is so, so good.

it'll be fun to see what the future holds and it's equally fun soaking up all the goodness of the here-and-now. there is goodness to be found wherever you are, whatever stage of life you're in. let's open our eyes, really SEE it, and don't miss it.

Monday, February 3, 2014

since i've been sick...

last sunday night, the worst stomach flu bug in the world struck both chas and i down- within hours of each other. good thing we have two bathrooms now. sheesh. so gross. i'm the type of person who always, always, always catches whatever it is that's going around so i knew it was simply a matter of time before i got hit. getting it exactly two days after recovering from that horrible head cold AND at the exact same time as my husband WHILE pregnant? so awful. i'm just glad it's over now.

so then i get better from my two-week stint of illness and, like a crazy person, decide to throw chas a last-minute surprise birthday party for his 30th birthday on saturday. SO glad i did. for a guy who's always saying how much he doesn't care for big parties and only wants to see a movie...maybe...for his birthday, he sure did LOVE his birthday party. having both our families there, his best buddy from childhood, and lots and lots of pizza, donuts, and root beer turned out to be the perfect evening for my guy. i also surprised him with the gender of our baby (but my midwife was only about 90% sure so we'll wait until the official 20 week ultrasound to make the big announcement)! and, because he has a bunch of family living back east, i asked everyone (on both sides of the family) to write a little letter to chas about why they love him. i compiled them all together and made them into a little book of love letters for him. we even spent a few minutes reading some of them aloud together. that was really special. you could just feel the love bursting from the room.

that evening, after we got home, and the two of us were relaxing in bed, chas did something that i've only seen him do a handful of times in our four years of marriage: cried. he told me how much that party meant to him, how much love and appreciation he felt for me and our families, and how special it all had made him feel. and then i just held him and he wept. i never want to forget that tender moment because, in that moment, i learned how vitally important selfless service is in a healthy, thriving marriage. i'm grateful to chas for allowing himself to be vulnerable and open enough to truly share how it all had affected him so strongly. and i'm grateful that i listened to that quiet little prompting i had a few days earlier to just go for it and give him the party that he deserves not only this birthday but every single birthday.