Thursday, July 31, 2014

the Taj

The Taj did not disappoint y'all! It only took 4 months for me to finally finish posting about my time in India. My last stop was Agra to see one of the most well known buildings full of legend and history; the Taj Mahal.  Check out more images and info from my last two days in India today on Hawa Images.

photo by Tricia Lombardi. (thanks girl!!)
I photographed this group and then they insisted I join them...have I mentioned how welcoming and amazing the people of India were to us?
Capturing images from one of the most photographed buildings in the world was daunting but I quickly realized the real story for me was the people there to visit the Taj.
I count it all blessing I was able to travel to India and see this corner of God's amazing creation. The world is too vast and beautiful not to explore.
Happy travels, 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

happy campers

We may be a little cray planning a family vacation a week before we pack up our lives and move (and leaving camp the last day and driving straight to our house closing added a lil excitement too!) but you would too for this awesome camp!! We went 2 years ago but last year I was too sick to survive the car ride so this year we were all over it. And lots of family and friends made it a fabulous week! Add that to the yummy food you do not have to plan or cook or clean up, the awesome activities, great teaching, and the "magical" family helpers each family is assigned to help you with your kids it is our favorite family time of the year. Highlights included a night zipline ride, a kayak trip WITH my husband (seriously when does that ever happen in my real life), Anni's arena lessons, and Evy climbing all the way to the top of the tree climb (see video).   Seriously join us next year!! Warning: TONS of pictures of the fabulous-nes follow...

bungee trampoline

Evy tried to flip over but ended up hanging upside-down and loving it. I love this picture of her cousins laughing

Abishai wasn't quite old enough for ziplining and tree climbing but he loved the food. Clearly.

Evy, Emma, and Claire killed it in their Little Dudes horse class everyday.

During the first class the counselors asked "what is really important to do when approaching the horses?" and Evy SCREAMED "to be really quiet!" Yep, my child for sure.

Anni got to take Arena lessons this year and ride by herself on a trail ride the last day.

Both girls made it to the top of the tree climb!

Evy listening to how to climb and deciding "that is easy mama!" I seriously could not believe she did it!

Auntie Jorie and Claire cheering everyone on

Between naps Abishai enjoying flirting with the family helpers

and he LOVED the beach although you can not tell from this picture (it was too funny not to post)

cannon ball!

and of course there was blobbing!!

and lots of cousin time

frog catchin' was BIG y'all!

One night there is even a date night where kids hang out, eat dinner, and watch a movie with the family helpers and parents get to go out!! I'm saying!! This camp thinks of everything and knows how to bless families with young kids!

our date night crew enjoyed

archery with papa and although I hate to admit it and despite my ONE warm up round Jason kicked my butt this year in our archery contest.  And since we take this VERY seriously (umm, since we ONLY do archery once a year at this camp) he now has bragging rights until I reclaim my rightful position as winner!

I was trying channel Katniss but...alas...J killed it! (oh how it pains me to admit that)

The kids also enjoyed ice blocking and mountain boarding this year. I think the best part is watching them!!! Seriously hilarious!

Check out some of the fun: Our family will definitely make this a summer tradition so please feel free to join us where there is no cell service but there IS fun, amazing people, great food, challenging teaching, and an abundance of new activities!  The last night during worship Anni came over with tears in her eyes for hugs and told me she was so sad camp had to end and that the words in the song about Jesus made her so happy she cried, "you can cry because you are happy right mama?" Totally. I'm so grateful we got the opportunity to get away as a family before this new chapter of our lives begins. Speaking of that I should probably be packing or something....

Friday, July 18, 2014

ladies night on Devon

It is hard to describe how much I love the smell of curry or the bright colors of saris or the buzz of different languages being spoken in conversations of people as they walk past me.  I just feel alive and full of questions and the need to seek answers.  This week I joined some lovely friends to explore Devon. These women inspire and encourage me! They are real and fierce and fabulous.

This area of Chicago is so interesting and you can easily forget you are in Chicago when shopping in a back room of a small textile shop.  The area has been settled by many immigrant groups ranging from Pakistani Americans and Indian Americans to Assyrian Americans to Orthodox Jews.  It is such an interesting place and combined with it being Ramadan it made for a fabulous night of activity and girl time.  
first stop was henna with the lovely ladies at Kanza'a Salon
Next was browsing the beautiful and vibrant fabrics in the shops. The beautiful and amazing Ginny showed us around and bargained for the best deals. It helps that she speaks Hindi! We got the hook up!
I finally got a petticoat to wear under my sari from India!


And of course we ended the evening with laughter, girl talk, and lots of Indian food. The restaurants and streets soon filled up with folks enjoying the Iftar meal.  The world is a vast place and we can experience so much of it right here. I am grateful for friends, food, culture, and the time to soak it all in. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Spring Hill

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Last week the girls attended a day camp next door at First Free called Spring Hill and it was an awesome week!
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Since it was in the alley behind our place I was able to sneak out our back door at least once of twice a day to see the girls and their friends having a blast (and take some images of course)! When I think about one of my favorite things about motherhood it has got to be watching your kids takes risks, experience new things, and embrace life.  I was behind my lens tearing up at my girls sliding down water slides, climbing a rope ladder and rock climbing wall, and singing with their new and old friends.
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It is amazing to see how the camp uses the limited space in the city to pull off the camp!
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A water slide in the alley...why not?
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Skittle Skattle Battle day (and that is my open back door on the right so yes, it was a noisy week butI loved hearing the kids scream and laugh all week!!)
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Can you spot Abishai in the crowd for lunch time skit?
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Evy was one of the youngest at camp this year and although she had a bit of a weepy first morning she loved the week.
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Evy and one of her awesome leaders Kerrielle getting ready to attack the climbing wall
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Ummm, serious cuteness.
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and she made it all the way to the top (in a tutu dress I might add) to ring the bell!!
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Anni made some great new friends at camp.
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Anni trying to be serious cracks my stuff up!!
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and this year she nailed the back flip that eluded her last year
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When did Annikah get so big? sniff.

Each child gets an award at the end of the week and Evy got the "Joy" award "because she always is full of energy and approaches every new thing with joy." Annikah got the "Listener" award "because she really engaged and listened well to her leaders and other kids."  We were so proud of them I may or may not have hollered like an idiot and cried.
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The best part of the week was closing rally and a picnic afterwards! It was so awesome to see the alleyway so alive with color, noise, and families!
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cheetoh faced friends
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And my absolute FAVORITE images of the week are the pictures we tried to take with the counselors that were staying with our family all week. We seriously LOVED Ellyn and Natalie and wanted them to live here forevs.
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Miss Evy was so distraught they were leaving she had a boo-boo face until she gave a small smile with the promise of candy.
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And Joy captured this pic on her phone while we were praying for the ladies before they left our home.
I know, right. Presh. It was hard for the girls to say goodbye but at least they love fiercely right?
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We will miss these ladies!
Praying God was glorified and I know He did amazing things in kids and families and the staff last week! The planning team set a CRAZY goal of having 120 campers there this year and half way through the week the director Laura texted me with the final number: 120. I am consistently amazed at how awesome God is. Happy Summer!!

Here is a video of some of the girls fav songs form the closing rally:

Sunday, July 13, 2014

what I learned ignoring Facebook for a week

I was absent from FB and other social media sites for this past week or so.  It was a long time coming.  There is too much noise in my life right now.  Too much change that has me itchy and feeling insecure and emotional and weepy.  I was using it as an escape from actually thinking about my present. The little phone in my back pocket was being used to sneak away from my reality into people's perfect summer meals, vacations, and funny stories. I also had a couple friends make comments like "WOW! you all do so much!" and "you are always busy aren't you?" in reference to my social media postings. I felt like maybe I was actually making other Mamas feel smaller and that is in no way ever my intent.  I feel like I also post my struggles (and sometimes have been accused of being too open with those) but maybe my postings sometimes cause others to compare instead of laugh or be encouraged.  So to be clear: friends, I struggle. EVERY DAY. I am trying to follow Jesus with all that I am but know that I fall short. ALL THE TIME.  And I have not figured life out, not even a little bit.  I have doubts and worries that can often choke the joy from my life.  I am trying to find my place in this journey of motherhood and life.  This gig I simultaneously love and loathe on some days. I am flawed and sinful and hurt people intentionally and unintentionally.  And I love to be out, that is my personalty.  I actually struggle the most with just being at home and being content with that part of motherhood. So truth be told sometimes I drag my kids out for my sanity!

So I needed the space to just think. And shocker....when I wasn't attached to my phone I had more time.  I did not feel as rushed.  I felt like I could focus more on the important rather than the immediate.  Instead of seeing what "friends" were up to I actually played with my kids at the park.  I did not immediately grab my phone every moment I was waiting for something to fill the perceived void. I people watched.  I sat with silence more without the itch to fill it. I noticed and talked to the people around me more.  I made new friends at the park and the store. I asked my girls more questions about their day. I did not feel a constant need to comment, reply, or keep up with much besides dinner which; let's be honest, can be enough some days.
And here is what else I know is true: many of the mamas I can trick myself into thinking "have it all together" just don't.  They struggle, they lose it with their kids, they drink a green smoothie for breakfast and by dinner are shoving fistfuls of Doritoes in their mouth (ok, maybe that is just me), their kids kick each other in the car (yep, that totally happened this week), they snap at their husbands, they complain, and they don't look like that when they wake up.  And I know this because that is me and I make it a goal in my life to be in community with REAL, awesome, and flawed women that support and love me and allow me to return the favor. Social media has its place.  It is fun and can help us stay connected, in a small way, to people we might not see day to day.  When we lived in Africa it served as a window to this time and place that I struggled to believe coexisted with my new everyday experiences and somehow allowed me to feel not forgotten.  But time for some truth telling:  I also know I can use it as a false way to fight the loneliness I can feel day to day in the mundane moments of mama-hood. If I am honest I really think my people pleasing tendencies prompt me to post some things to try validate the choice I made to be a stay at home Mama; a choice I struggle with often.  A choice I affirm as so important and brave in others but find hard to believe for myself.  I want a "record" that my days aren't wasted.  That I somehow have proof that I am doing this mama gig with everything I am but in the silence over these days I realized the "result" of my mothering is not a sum of the fun things we've done or the lessons I've taught. It is not even in the children we raise, with God's grace.  It is only in being faithful to what God has called me to do, regardless of outcome.  I learned that what I do in my day is not validated just because someone 'liked it.'  Other's approval does and always will leave us empty if we don't have the internal peace with our choices and our life. The tasks of Mama-hood are valuable and difficult and sacred. And we need to gather together and remind each other of this because I am fairly certain I am not the only one who struggles to believe it in the everyday.

I also discovered I feel truly blessed to have this life God has given me and it is ok to want to share and celebrate it.  Annikah and I were just crying last night remembering and looking at images from the day God rescued my family. That experience forever changed how I live.  And if we can post about a new shirt or a baseball game I should not hide the amazing kids God has blessed me with or the deep convictions I feel about justice and love or the complete fail I attempted or the joy I feel at pursuing my passion or the perfect avocado.  Because it has been a hard fight to follow those dreams.  And the older I get the more I realize there is no separation between sacred and "everything else." It is all life!! And when I see others living out their purpose I want to cheer them on!  We all need cheerleaders. And when I see other's complete fails or ridiculous situations it enables me to laugh more at mine. We are all great at some stuff and horrible at other stuff. Let's just be real with it. I love capturing images that speak about experience, I take a zillion pictures because it makes me happy.  So although I am far from great at it that is my thing but please do not open any of my drawers or closets or ask me to plan something or follow through on any of the crazy ideas I suggest because I completely SUCK at all of that and so much more.  We are different and we need each other.  I love seeing other Mamas and their kid's celebrating and making the most of life, even a life that is hard and speckled with disappointment and challenge.  I celebrate you because I am you!  I am inspired by so many friends and I hope that our family's adventures in some small way inspire and encourage others.  And please do not be impressed.  EVER. All you need to do is stop by and actually hang out with my chaotic, emotional, irresponsible, mess of a self any day of the week and; trust me, you will be thoroughly un-impressed (consider that an invite!). 

For me the bottom line is social media can not ever be a replacement for having a coffee with friends and asking "how are you REALLY doing?"  Real, live, flawed, but awesome and amazing friends who are your people.  We all need "people" who tell us the truth, even when we don't want to hear it.  We need friends who put up with us,  who rejoice with us, celebrate with us, ask us hard questions, seek to understand us, and cheer us on.  And I'm making it a priority to be that for others in hopes that living that will knit me into the community my soul yearns for and so desperately needs.  But we also need to know that our faithfulness to God's call is not measured in other people's cheers but in quiet moments of our everyday and I am asking for more peace in those spaces. 
So I will continue to use FB but I will also take periodic breaks from posting and reading it just for the heck of it. And if you see me all up in my phone and ignoring my kids remind me of this!! I just need to constantly remember who my center is and how that changes everything in and around me. And I need to close my eyes and breath deep and focus on what is right in front of me more. Because what is right in front of me is pretty fabulous....even on the rough days. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Celebrating the 4th in Iowa

Attempting family pictures with a tripod and a remote was just one of the adventures we had this weekend in Iowa! Seriously trying to get 9 kids and 8 adults to look in the same direction and not cry or look crazy or get their hair pulled by one feisty little baby boy that shall remain nameless is an exercise in pure chaos but nonetheless we attempted it and THIS is my favorite shot.  The last "ok everyone make a silly face!" shot! Still editing and hopefully with some head swapping magic we will get at least one that works.  That is how family pictures with small kids work...take 100 get 2.  I also have a special place in my heart for the one below with Jason holding a screaming Abishai in a precarious position. Seriously, the lengths we go to to capture these memories.
The Dill boys are experts in silly...LOVE it!
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There was lots or girly cousin time and for the 4th we went to downtown Cedar Rapids to watch the fireworks and kept way too many kids up WAY past any normal bedtime!
It takes a lot of cousins to complete one hole of mini-golf y'all!
Best part..I picked the background and just said to pose. These girls have it down!
There may also have been WAY too much sugar involved.
Being the brilliant Bibi she is Jason's Mom bought all the kids glow sticks to celebrate (and kill time) while we waited for the fireworks.
And Auntie Jorie figured out they made a pretty cool pattern on Claire! Seriously these girls and their beautiful eyes...I could not stop taking pictures!
The best part is watching the kid's reactions.
 a little loud though
And you would be correct to assume there was dancing until the wee hours!
Celebrating the 4th with family was awesome!
decisions, decisions.....
Even though the farmer's market was rained out on Saturday we had to stop in to Newbo for some gourmet cupcakes and breakfast burritos!
One morning these adorable girls planned a treasure hunt and I totally was dying laughing at their excitement! They decided to put candy, fake money, little notes for everyone, and K-cups of coffee ("cuz grownups like coffee") So fun!
Shhhh, the first clue!!
All the cousins together always makes for a mess (sorry Bibi and Babu) but it is also such sweet times and great memories!
Before hitting the road we met everyone at a local splash park! These two crack me up- the "E's" are two peas in a pod!

The ride home involved some serious car dancing to stay sane, girls sobbing because they will miss the cousins so much, Evy falling asleep and peeing herself thus meaning changing in a McD's parking lot (yes, we are keeping it classy), Abishai pooping through his pants, and by the time we hit Chicago traffic Jason was asking Siri "Siri, where is the nearest funny farm where I can check my wife into?"  Seriously. Luckily we laugh more than we actually go insane which is why I LOVE my husband and today marks 13 years of crazy chaos that I would sign up for again even on the hard days. Good stuff I tell you.

Hope you all had a great weekend celebrating the 4th!!!