[clever title]

Things have been busy but fun. We spent the weekend in San Diego, and I have hundreds of pictures to go through, edit, and blog. It was a much-needed vacation, but now it's back to work (busy season for me) and time to really start cracking down on getting things ready for baby boy. 

Speaking of baby boy here's a little picture update to leave you with. This was last night. I've been asked if it's multiples. The answer is no, just one healthy, active baby boy with only room to grow outward because his mama's got a short torso.
[28 weeks | 3 days]

Hope you had a fun Memorial Day weekend!

how I gained self-esteem | part 2

[Part one here.]

The pre-teen/early teen stage. Possibly the worst period of time in anybody's life regardless of external factors. It's an age when bodies are changing, hormones are a new thing, and making friends is life or death.

I had the friend part down alright. I wasn't exceptionally outgoing, but I was lucky to always find people who were welcoming and accepting. But I was an awkward girl. I was still smaller than most of my classmates. I had long arms and legs, but I was short. I wasn't developing at the same rate as most of the girls my age. I wore t-shirts and boy's shorts, and jeans that didn't fit well. I had a passion for books and horses. Boys were actually kind of cute. I started junior high and found some true friends. I was finally at the same school as my best friend, Aubree, and we loved having girls nights nearly every weekend.

And I wore a body brace. It was uncomfortable, it was bulky, and I hated it.

I hated that I couldn't just bend over to pick something up; I was ever-aware that it gave my rear a perfect 90 degree angle when I did. I hated that I couldn't wear shirts that actually fit without being constantly self-conscious about the large Velcro straps that went across the front to keep it on. I hated that I could hear the hinges on those straps creaking when I breathed, after my body had adjusted since I put it on in the morning. I hated the big duffle bag that I carried it in after school, after I had taken it off before PE. I hated it all. I knew that it was a necessary evil, but I viewed it mostly as an evil nonetheless.

I remember countless times, crying to Mom and asking, "Why me?? Why would God make me go through this?" But those times got fewer and fewer as I grew. During this time, I learned that a small, skinny girl can feel just as insecure about her body as somebody larger than her. I'll be honest, I had this weird thing about boobs for a while, because I sure as heck didn't have any. Not only did I have crooked shoulders and hips, but I was still "waiting for normal female body parts to arrive."

Even with these deep insecurities, I learned that my deep desire to be accepted for who I was, not how I looked, was fulfilled. I became close to some of the most amazing girls in the world. Girls who didn't care how I looked, and who didn't pressure me to fit a specific mold. They encouraged me to be myself, and we were probably some of the craziest, goofiest, and happiest 13, then 14, 15, 16,17-year-olds you ever met. We did, thankfully, grow out of the awkward junior high stage, but we never wore the "cool-kid" badge. We did things our own way, and we were completely happy.

During this time in my life, I learned that I loved music and singing (even if I wasn't the best at it) and I joined choir. I loved to dance, and I continued with that same small ballet company. I loved to create, and I had a sketchbook full of random pencil drawings, some that I bestowed as gifts to my beloved friends. My projects for English class always involved some sort of scrap-book-y or crafty element. I learned that I loved t-shirts, and I wore plenty of them, even venturing into the little boy's section at Target for super-hero ones. When I see pictures of myself wearing said fashion atrocities, I don't even regret it in the least....because I was happy being myself. My friends and I had a love for making films as class projects, and we spent hours goofing off and creating masterpieces, one involving barbies (in 9th grade), and another involving wigs and mermaid costumes (as juniors).

My friends and I carried our friendship on to high school, each of us a little more confident, a little more secure. We liked boys, we liked to be friends with boys, we liked going on dates with boys. We liked making fun of boys. None of us had boyfriends, but we were content with that.

During this time in my life, I learned what it meant to be a Daughter of God. I was taught that I had great worth as an individual, and that I was precious in God's eyes. I attended seminary and the youth program for teenage girls at my church. I thirsted to know that I had individual worth. I thirsted after spiritual knowledge, to know who I really was and where I came from and what my purpose was in life. I think most teenagers go through that period of figuring out who they are...and I did in the best of ways. Through my own study, the help and care of countless adults, and by the grace of God, I came to a knowledge of these things. I knew that I was a Daughter of a loving and caring Heavenly Father. I knew that I came from His presence, to learn and grow on this earth and eventually return to live with Him. I knew that I wanted to go to the temple, and that I wanted to eventually raise a family. I knew who I was and I knew where I was going. I didn't have all the answers, but I had enough.

Later on in high school, I faced some pretty difficult challenges (you know, for a teenager). When I had stopped growing, I stopped wearing my brace. I had learned to move past much of that awkwardness, and although I wasn't always thrilled with my body and I still had low moments, I had gained self-esteem and a sense of self-worth. The knowledge that I gained through my experiences, and the trials that I went through, only prepared me for what I would face in college and young-adulthood.

[to be continued]

two whole years.

I don't know why it's taken me so long to blog about this, because it's really important.
My "little" brother left on his mission for our church a couple weeks...almost a month ago.
Before he left, he had the opportunity to speak to my family's congregation, and we of course were present for that. He gave such a good talk, and I was so impressed with how much he's grown up, and how strong his testimony of the gospel is. The statement that he reiterated from his mission-prep teacher really hit home with me: "The gospel is true, therefore, nothing else matters."

I made it until we were about 30 minutes from Flagstaff in our journey home before I broke down in silent sobs. TJ held me as best he could while driving, and eventually I calmed down. I'm sad that he won't be here for my baby's birth, but we'll make sure his first nephew knows his name and face by the time he gets back.
Elder Sheldon Hassell has been called to serve the people of the Oregon Eugene Mission, and I know that's where he's supposed to be for the next two years. And I know that he will grow in so many ways, and be a great instrument in the Lord's hands. He's going to bring true happiness and joy into the lives of others.

His letters so far are so full of maturity and humility. He is truly striving to come to the Lord to help him learn a new language, and he's holding strong to his motto: "The gospel is true; then, nothing else matters."

I think I'll be learning a lot from my little brother.

Dear Husband,

I realize that I've been writing little letters to our son for a while now. And today it struck me that I should write one to you. Even though we talk in person, by phone, by email, and by sweet handwritten notes, I wanted to write to you in this way as well.

We've been on quite the adventure so far, haven't we? Our story began exactly 2 years and 9 months ago. But really, I suppose our story began long before that. It began as we each grew up, experiencing different things that would lead to our eventual meeting. Our lives often intertwined, though we never actually crossed paths. The irony of the mutual friends we share, the neighborhoods we grew up in, and in contrast the vastly different experiences we've had only solidifies that it was not mere coincidence that we were brought together. I don't believe in happenstance.

From the first time I met you, I fell for you, hard and fast. I was strong, I was independent, and I had just decided that I didn't need or want a boyfriend in my life. I was going to have fun being single, go on lots of dates, focus on my education, and then probably go on a mission for our church. That was my plan. It was a good plan, and I'm sure it would have been full of good experiences, but I'm grateful that God knows my heart better than I do. The truth is, once I met you, I needed you. And I've needed you every day since.

Sweetheart, nobody has ever held my heart so captive from the very start. No other boy I'd liked made me feel so safe, so incredible, as did you. From the beginning, I was myself and it wasn't awkward. It's strange to think back to that girl I was when we first started dating. Now, after 2 years of marriage, it's strange to think of who I was on our wedding day. It's interesting to see how I've grown as a person, and the leading role you've played in that.

I loved you, I think, from early on. And now that love has blossomed into something greater than I could ever have imagined. You are no longer just part of my life...you are my life.  I'm so blessed to have a good man, one who treats me right, and treasures me above all else; one who is strong and has a heart of pure gold. I'm so blessed to have a man like you. Happy 24th birthday sweetheart. I hope that you enjoy this birthday with me, and many more to come.

love always,

Dear Baby Boy,

Can you tell when I'm eating? I almost swear you can, because you get so wiggly when I eat after being hungry for a stretch. Today you wiggled all around when I ate some french fries. I knew you liked them. I think you're going to like food, but don't worry, we eat healthy stuff too.

My favorite pass-time is watching you. That might sound a little odd, since I can't actually see you, but I can see you moving! You've discovered my ribs, which isn't the most comfortable thing, but it's okay, I just love feeling you move all the time. It's crazy to watch you roll one of your limbs across my belly, or kick the same spot over and over so it jumps. Daddy might have thought you were an alien the other night (we were watching Men in Black) but he's just not used to feeling you so much! Sometimes you respond to when I put pressure where you're pushing, and you push back more. It's precious, these little moments.

I've also been getting some mild heartburn lately, which is a fairly new experience for me. I heard a rumor that the more heartburn mommy has, the more hair baby has. I'd love it if you were born with a full head of hair! Anything would be better than the baldness of baby mommy and daddy. Of course, I'll love you so much regardless, I just think it would be fun to style it all stud-like when you're tiny.

Little one, I'm not going to lie, sometimes I get so worried and afraid. I'm afraid I'm not doing enough to try to be healthy for you. I'm afraid I won't get everything done for your arrival. I'm afraid I'm not going to be a natural at this whole mom thing. I'm afraid I might not be able to balance it all. It's a little overwhelming. Sometimes I just get so afraid that I cry, and Daddy doesn't like it when I cry. But he takes me in his arms, and he tells me I'm amazing and I'm going to be amazing, and I feel a lot better after that. I think those arms will comfort you too...they're strong and safe and secure. Daddy gives great hugs, and he will love snuggling you (I just know it).

Sweetheart, I read a lot about mommies and babies online, and it seems like so much work. They talk about stresses and heartache and just how exhausting being a mommy is. But you know what else they say? It's worth it. I believe that, wholeheartedly. I believe being a mommy is going to be my very favorite; right up there by being a wife. I just don't think anyone really knows how to adequately describe a mother's love. I think it's something I'll just have to experience for myself. And I'm so grateful I get to experience it with you.

I can hardly wait to meet you, but at the same time, it's fine by me for you to just keep on growing safe and sound inside of me. I love you...so much. And I know Daddy does too. I want you to know, that even though I know I'll make mistakes, I'm going to be doing my best to be a good mom to you. Sleep well, my baby boy.

love always,


a good day.

Today was one of those "putyourpajamasonwhenyougethomefromwork-chipsandsalsaplusafewcookiesfordinner"
kind of days.

And you know what?
It was a good day.

TJ took the hardest final of his life in the hardest class of his life. And found out he passed!
And I, I took a step closer to conquering my fear of the sewing machine and finished a little refashion.
I also received my Send Something Good package.
We read and laughed and nearly cried over my brother's letter from the MTC.

And now, at 9:30 pm, I'm having second-dinner of reheated enchiladas.

Life is muy bien amigos. Muy bien.

the m family.

We happened to schedule this shoot for the hottest weekend in Mesa in the month of April. It was literally over 100 degrees, but thankfully we found lots of shade.

It was during this shoot that I had an epiphany of sorts: I found my favorite subject to photograph. I love capturing children. I suppose it makes sense, considering I majored in Elementary Education, that my favorite subject would be children.
[his eyes really are that color...I didn't do any re-touching to them.] 

I struggle the most with posing, and with kids....that's not really necessary. I love capturing them doing what they do and being themselves. The younger they are, the less they seem to care about a camera being in their face, and just interact with you as a person. I love that. Getting down on their level, and asking them to show me their world brings me so much joy.

TJ said, "You're not very good at posing, but you're good at getting the in-between moments." And to be honest, that's what I strive for...to capture the real moments of loved ones interacting with one another. I strive to capture life as it is, not as I pose it to be.

I know that I have so much more to learn, and so I am grateful for each opportunity I have to improve and to learn more about myself as....a photographer (amateur, beginner, and rough-around-the-edges, though I am). I'm grateful to those that trust me enough to create images that just might mean something to them. It feels good to do something I love, and something that benefits others.

random thoughts.

1. I love getting my hair cut. I love the way it feels after a trim. I rarely change up the style much, but I totally appreciate a stylist that I can just let do what they want and know it'll look great (especially since I'm picky). I just got it trimmed the other day, and the stylist did my bangs just slightly different, but I loved the subtle change.

2. I'm terrible at making a big deal out of birthdays, and TJ is amazing at it. He's only been with me for 2 birthdays so far, and he's made me feel special each time. His birthday is coming up in 2 weeks, and it's coming faster than I thought! But, hopefully I can pull off my plans and give him a little surprise, too. (And I can't give anything away here because he reads my blog. Cute, I know.)

3. Our 2nd anniversary is 2 days before his birthday (what was I thinking?). We're going on our anniversary trip the week after, but I still have no idea what to do, and TJ is being all secretive saying he has plans for that day. I have to work, so I think I'm just going to do a small, thoughtful gift.

4. Three weeks left until vacation!!!! I can't tell you how excited I am to get out of town, hit up a beach or two, and relax. My work isn't particularly stressful, but I feel like I've been going non-stop. Hopefully this will be the perfect escape, especially since my next "vacation" will be six weeks long and involve a newborn, so I'm not sure that really counts (though I'm super excited for that, too).

5. I love receiving packages in the mail, even when it's something I ordered. I get so excited and I'm pretty sure TJ secretly or not-so-secretly laughs at me. I'm expecting *three* packages in the next couple of weeks, one of which I'm thinking comes TODAY and I can't wait to show you guys. It's beautiful.

6. I really try not to complain about pregnancy woes, but sometimes I am human and sometimes being pregnant is just uncomfortable. Currently, I am on the lookout for some amazing maternity pants, because dudes, the whole hair-tie thing is getting old. I have a Be-Band, which helps a lot (thanks Mom-in-law!), but I do want some pants I can just put on and not worry about. The one pair of maternity pants I bought are slightly too short and need to be fixed (this way). I'm considering buying these on Emma's recommendation. I'm cheap frugal, so the price is right. Plus, I like that the band is under-belly. If you suggest thrift stores, I've tried. Flagstaff just doesn't have a lot of options (which is why most of my shopping has been done online).

7. Seven is a magical number, so we'll end here. This weekend, we're going on two fun dates (one with friends) and I'm hoping to get a lot done around the apartment and hopefully a project or two! Happy Friday!

oh boy.

[24 weeks exactly | April 28, 2012 | like my new shades and $5 slip-ons?]

In case nobody on the planet knew, I'm very excited to be a mom.
There are so many things I can hardly wait to do with our little boy, and the list grows daily:

Well, the creative in me is also screaming to be let loose on baby boy's room,
and it needs to happen soon, because he'll be here before I know it
and I have a tendency to procrastinate.
(First I need to actually clear out the guest/junk room and make room for baby.)

That being said, I have so many ideas for a baby boy room, that I kind of don't know where to start.
(That's the problem with my head...too much going on in there.)
Do I pick:
a color scheme (I like blue|orange|gray or green|gray...just no baby blue please)?
a boyish theme (vintage disney heroes, sports, monsters)?
or eclectic/random things that make me think "boy"?

It's a small room, so I definitely don't want it to be overwhelmed with "stuff,"
but I do want it to be cute, boyish, and simple.

Here's some of my inspiration from my nursery pinboard.
Of course, TJ really wants sports incorporated somehow, but we'll see.
Any ideas I should totally check out?