Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Illinois - Rayleigh's first road trip!

As Mom and I drove to IL a couple weeks ago, I reflected in my mind without sharing with my Mom.  I thought I would keep those reflections to myself; but when you see the blessings of God in your life, why keep them to yourself?  So I would like to share about our road trip to IL! 

As I was riding with my mom in the car on our way to Illinois, I had a flashback of being around 10 or 11 riding in our huge conversion van with a cooler between Mom and Dad and a TV strapped, yes strapped, to the cooler.  I looked back at my sweet Rayleigh sitting in a "big girl" car seat and she was watching a small, portable DVD player and I chuckled to myself.  How times have changed.  

I can clearly remember the anticipation driving to IL throughout the years and being so excited to see my Grandparents.  I can remember the smell of Exclamation perfume as I walked into their house in Karnak.  I can remember the "little room" that had a fridge with Diet Rite and a freezer with pumpkin rolls (usually only in the Fall).  I can remember visiting my Grandparents' neighbors and how Ms Donna gave me shoes when I was younger (and had much smaller feet than now) and Ms Charlene giving me yogurt covered raisins.  I am so thankful to say that I have amazing Grandparents - they created so many wonderful memories for me growing up...and I am even more thankful to say that Rayleigh has amazing Great-Grandparents.  (Okay, enough sappy stuff!)

My grandma, Patsy, had some medical issues in the past several months - many prayed and they were definitely answered.  Mom and I felt that after her recent back surgery, we would go to Energy, IL and help my Grandma and Grandpa with household chores, cooking, take their minds off of so much that has gone on recently...and what better way than to bring the funniest one year old I know, Rayleigh Joy!  We started our journey to IL on a Sunday afternoon.  Rayleigh had never been on a trip longer than 2 hours and this would be almost 11.  We loaded the car with snacks, toys, DVDs, music, blankets, luggage and more.  Rayleigh was a CHAMP!  She sang along to music, waved at Mom and I every time we would look back to check on her, play with her babies, and when we stopped at the first gas station you would have thought she was in heaven.  She loved walking around and pulling chips and snacks of the shelves as Mom and I took turns going to the restroom.  In the 11 hours we drove, she slept about 2 and never had a meltdown.  Bless her heart :) 

We arrived in Energy late Sunday evening and crashed!  It was so nice to be at my Grandparents house - I had moments when I would reflect back to the times I mentioned above and my Grandma was extra loving this trip, so with each hug, I would embrace the moment and then smile at my Mom.  It was great to be there, 4 generations together again.  My Grandma, my Mom, Me, and Rayleigh.  

We sat on their back porch and enjoyed the hummingbirds and deer.  Rayleigh enjoyed playing in Grandpa's rocks.  Side note: when I was her age, I can remember Grandma and Grandpa both getting in to me for playing in their rocks and gravel but of course Rayleigh plays with them and Grandma smiled and thought it was cute....typical Grandparents :)  Here are some pics...

We were able to go to a Doctor's appointment with my Grandma and received great news that she is recovering very well, "better than most of my patients" in the words of the Doctor.  I then got to experience Culvers for the first time....Oh my word - the burger was great, onion rings amazing, but my favorite was the lemon ice with fresh strawberries.  We don't have Culvers in the South but boy oh boy, I wish we did!  Yummo! 

While we were at the Doctors' offices in Missouri, we left Rayleigh with Melissa at her daycare.  She had a blast, other than the mini melt down she had during lunchtime according to Melissa - here are a couple pics of her there playing with the other kiddos. 

Each evening we would go to the local Energy park so that Grandma could walk around the track - Rayleigh would swing with Grandpa or me.  We also discovered the amazingly beautiful acorns there, so Grandpa filled two coffee cans full for Mom and I to bring home for Fall decor. 

On Thursday, we all went to a public pool area with a kiddie pool and mini splash pad - we brought Brandyn along because he was still out of school.  Grandma and Grandpa enjoyed the shade while Mom, myself, Rayleigh, and Brandyn swam.  Brandyn talked me into even jumping off the big diving board and going down the water slide!  The things I will do to make my cousins smile ;) 

Friday morning we loaded up in the car and went to 11 yard sales - we had no intentions of loading the car with wonderful goodies but it just happened.  We actually would have gotten A LOT more but we quickly realized we had to drive it 11 hours home and fit it in with all the other stuff we had brought from home.  What is it about being out of town, you find amazing things?  And then you have no room to haul it...but at home, you find nothing?  A true dilemma for passionate yard sale goers like my Mom and myself.  After the yard sales, Grandpa treated Rayleigh to some hot cakes :)

Friday we went to lunch with some family and friends to celebrate my Grandpa's birthday.  We went to a BBQ restaurant, ate some cake, and then visited a peach orchard (but we couldn't get any because they were cash only).  Seriously, who carries cash these days?

We left Saturday morning and decided to stop at Graceland - by excuse was so that we can tell Rayleigh she went there on her first big road trip but really, I wanted to see it again (it was my third time!)  We didn't have time to take a tour of the mansion and didn't have a stroller for Rayleigh.  For those who know Rayleigh Joy knows that she would have probably escaped our arms and run into Elvis' living room and jump on his couch before we could even catch her.  She's a wild one.  So we explored the gift shops instead and did our own small tour by driving around the surrounding neighborhoods, stopped at a yard sale (yes, we did), and then we found Vernon's house (Elvis' dad).  That lead to about an hour of me reading to Mom while she drove all the facts and history of Vernon's house.  Never a dull moment. 

Rayleigh did wonderful on the way home - she was a little more aggravated on the way home but we knew she had a LONG week and just needed to be home, in her own bed.  She still did amazing for her first big road trip.  I enjoyed every moment with my Mom, we make memories every time we are together - we laughed a lot.   We also made a stop at Boomland in Missouri - we got some ice cream, snacks, and a crossword to keep us busy while we traveled.  

Overall, the trip was a success.  Excited for Rayleigh's next big road trip even though I don't know where or when - I'm sure it will be an adventure :) 

Friday, August 1, 2014

Back to School...again

And so another summer has come to a halting screech. I go through this every year, but it got SO much harder after I had Lyric. That boy has me wrapped around his finger(s), oh yes, every single one of them. It's dramatic, and probably way silly, but I almost grieve the end of my summer. I get excited about the new possibilities, the new students, the new adventures, and even seeing some of my favorite co-workers every day! But, I miss waking up to a tiny voice every morning, staying in my pajamas, watching Disney Junior, and sharing cereal with the cutest little boy on the planet. To top it all off, he starts daycare on Monday. I'm a nervous wreck, or worse, but I'm not sure what that's called. So what does an English teacher do when she's feeling blue? She writes!

I complain, yes. I'm also super dramatic. My dog could tell you that. I cry about everything, I laugh a whole lot, and I love hard. These are all reasons that I do my job well! I have heart, personality, and a little spunk. You have to be kind of spunky to teach high school kids. I am writing this blog to kind of remind myself of why it's not all that bad that my summer is coming to an end. Yes, I am venting out loud....very loud, actually. So, reasons I do what I do:

1. Lyric. That's it, sweet, and simple. I admire the stay at home mom, and would love to be her in moments like these. I often battle with thoughts in my head, guilt. I should be at home with him. I should be able to watch his every move until I have to give him up to school, right? Eh, easier said than done for most. In order to give my baby what he deserves and needs, I have to work. I have to contribute financially. I also want to lead by example. I want him to know that you have to work to see results, and that it's okay to go after your goals in life. Before Lyric, my passion became education. After Lyric, my passion became education and Lyric. So, I share them.

2. My Calling. I didn't even know it was something I was called to do until college. I changed my major, something clicked, and as soon as I walked into a classroom, it felt like magic. It's different every day, I get to change lives, and I make connections to hundreds of kids every year. What more could you ask for? Oh, and I get to decorate my classroom super cute. You can't always do that in a cubicle.

3. The Connections. This is tough. Last year, I experienced the loss of a student. It hit me much harder than I thought it would. It still hurts, and I think of her every. single. day. I thank God that I had the opportunity to reach out to her when I did, and I pray that a seed was planted. I have had the tough job of holding students in their darkest hour; praying and crying with them. I have had the privilege of rejoicing with them in their strenghts and improvements! I get to hear things like "Guess what, I made an A!", or "The cancer is gone!" I live for those moments. Those moments when your students turn into "My kids", as we usually refer to them. I cry with them, I pray with them, I laugh with them. It is the MOST rewarding job on the planet, no doubt about it.

4. It's a Ministry. I love Jesus. I might not be able to quote scripture or lead my class in prayer, but they see Jesus in me often, and it's in the way he has used me in his way, in my classroom. I have lots of weaknesses, I'm not perfect, but he's chosen me. That's pretty powerful. There is something that happens when a teenager sees light in a new way. It's a beautiful thing.

5. The Challenge. Teaching is crazy hard to do! So many skills, so many different ways to teach it, so many personalities. It keeps me on my toes! I get stressed, I fix problems, I'm challenged, and that's not always a bad thing. I think it makes me a better person every year, actually. No, please don't tell me how you really feel about that ;) I can look back on my first year of teaching and honestly say that I have grown tremendously because of my job alone.

Alright, I'm out of BIG reasons for now. I might be weeping Sunday night and have to pull this back out to remind me that what I do has purpose. I whine, but hey, I get holidays, including the summer, decent pay (for those of you who think teachers live on noodles), awesome benefits, and am home for dinner almost every night. Not so bad after all.

To my teacher friends, my co-workers who I'm sure feel some of the same things I do, we are gonna do just fine this year. I am already praying and believing for changes, transformations, better results, and awesome experiences. Enjoy your last weekend my friends! See you Monday!

Monday, June 2, 2014

portRAYals by brittany {update}

I've been a busy bee - taking photos with my newest toy that my dear hubby got me as a surprise gift at Christmas.  I had hinted to him for what seems like forever that I wanted a more "professional" camera so that I could take my hobby of photography more seriously.  He earned a ton of brownie points and completely surprised me.  Since December, I've practiced, practiced, practiced along with countless hours reading tutorials online and asking other photographers what their creative secrets were.  I think I finally hit my "sweet spot" and I've had so much fun doing it!  Here are some sessions I've done since I've gotten my new camera!  I hope you like (love) them as much as I do :)

1.)  Engagement Session with Haley and Cameron from my church.  They got engaged on Christmas Eve and immediately approached me about taking their engagement photos - what an honor and we had lots of fun doing it.  These were taken at a local park and public baseball field.

2.) Newborn Session with baby Aubrey Jane - my friend, Lauren, helped me through my pregnancy with Rayleigh and was a great voice of encouragement and advice.  Soon after Rayleigh was born she told me she was pregnant (with her second girl) and I was so excited for her - even more excited when she asked me to take Aubrey's newborn photos.  I had never done a newborn session with my new equipment and was giddy to see what magic I could capture; it helped that Aubrey is adorable and such a sweet, calm, and happy baby!  These were taken indoors at Aubrey's home.

3.)  Toddler Session with my favorite little boy EVER (I am a little biased) - Lyric Gabriel.  If I had money for every time someone told me how handsome my nephew was, I'd be a millionaire.  The trick to getting the perfect photos of a two (soon to be three) year old is bribe them with candy and be calm - I found that when I would scream "SMILE!",  he would look away but as soon as I would sing his favorite TV show theme song or tell him how much I loved him, he would turn to me and give me the best "Hi, I'm Lyric and I know I'm handsome" grin! :)   These were taken at a park in Waggaman (where my parents live near NOLA) and a public library porch.

4.) Model Session with one of my besties, Anna.  She is not technically a "model" but these were great practice shots for me and she's received several compliments since we've done these shoots that she should be a model.  I must say, she is pretty stinkin' cute :) We also joke that these are the "senior pictures" she never had.  Most of these were taken at the LA Capitol Park in downtown Baton Rouge.

5.) Friends Session with Anna and Rayleigh - we lovingly refer to Anna as "Nanny".  Anna and I become close when I was pregnant with Rayleigh and before she was even born I was already referring to her as Rayleigh's church aunt and put a "claim" on her as my go-to babysitter.  She was so excited about Rayleigh's birth and they hit it off from day one.  Anna often refers to Rayleigh as her BFF and it shows in these sweet photos.   These were taken a local public park.

(this melts my heart every time I see it!)

6.) Father/Daughter Session with my two favorite people - Justin and Rayleigh.  What better subjects to practice my skills with than my own family.  Love the way these turned out.  It helps that Rayleigh loves her Daddy a lot!  These were taken at a local public park.

7.) Toddler Session with the one and only, Rayleigh Joy! The first few were taken at a family friend's home in New Orleans - they have a beautiful garden and I just had to capture Rayleigh enjoying God's creation.  The next set were taken at a local park with nice greenery and a wide lake that made me a great background.

8.) Mommy/Daughter Session with Lauren, Addy, and Aubrey (from the newborn session).  We wanted to get some sibling shots when I did the newborn session but once we realized how tedious and time-consuming a newborn session was, we agreed to wait and do another session to capture the sisters.  Again, I was so proud of how these turned out.  Lauren was worried about how Addy, the toddler, would handle getting her picture taken but I think she was an angel and it helped that she was in love with a little white rocking chair I brought as a prop!  Its amazing what kids will cling to :) These were taken at the LA Capitol Park in downtown Baton Rouge.

I hope you enjoyed the update on my latest sessions - I have another mother/daughter session booked for this weekend and will do another blog update with pictures.  

If you have Facebook and are interested in following my photography on there, click here for the link to my "portRAYals by brittany" page.