Copyright © Devon Shanor Photography | All rights reserved
I love that my little ones are growing up so fast! Mr. Jack is nine months old now!!! Wow, time is flying. Soon we’ll be celebrating walking and turing one!! Check out some of my favorites from his session.
Copyright © Devon Shanor Photography | All rights reserved
Every year my family takes a camping trip the week school lets out. It’s a “Welcome to Summer” “School’s out” “Time to de-stress” “Let’s reconnect” time that we look forward to all year! We’ve been doing this for years, and I think we’ve found our favorite place in Pennsylvania: The River’s Edge in Connellsville. It has lots to do right on the campground (pool, fishing, bike riding, kayaking and tubing) but the mountains with waterfalls, hiking tails and natural waterslides are just miles away. This year was our second time at this camp ground, but I think it’ll be “our” place from now on.
I have so been looking forward to our trip. With Brett finishing school, Olivia becoming a teenager, Logan finishing middle school, Messay growing up and becoming less and less my “baby”, and me working nonstop… we’ve needed this time to reconnect! We were all a bit stressed and disconnected. We NEEDED time to laugh with eachother, away from the TV, the computer, the e-mails and phones. Sadly, Brett couldn’t join us for the whole trip- he still has the state boards to pass and a week of vacation just wasn’t possible. So my mom and my two nieces joined us and I also allowed Logan and Messay to bring a mutual friend, Nico. (He was such a great addition to our group!!!)
Yes, you counted right, that’s six kids and 2 adults (three when Brett arrived) which to some may sounds like a nightmare and not a vacation! But to me it was fun chaos… the three girls and three boys split well when some wanted to fish and others wanted to go swimming. Sometimes three is a bad number… but for this group they did a pretty good job of getting along (six kids of course means there was occasional whining and fighting, but hey, I have learned to tune it out!)
As busy working parents, it so important to take time out to enjoy your family. Yes, I know the tasks seem never ending (my e-mail currently has over 100 messages unread!) and you feel you CAN’T take a break. But I have learned, if you put it on hold- yes, it means the week you get back might be a bit more hectic than normal, but it WILL GET DONE and your business won’t implode without you working it for a week! Take your calendar and pencil in REAL family time!!
Be prepared, you WILL feel stressed before you go… trying to get it all done. Cleaning the house, packing everything, doing your checklists, preparing your businesses or jobs to work without y four a week… it’ll feel stressful and choatic! But just remember you will also be creating memories that will last FOREVER! We have some awesome “inside jokes” from our past few years of camping, that always make us crack up when we recall them around the campfire! Memories that would never have come from the family time we carve out in between work, school, wrestling and soccer practice, dinner and environmental club! We needed sole family time devoted just to having fun.
I hope you have planned some time this summer to do just that! Go camping, go stay a weekend at an inexpensive hotel with a pool, go visit family… schedule some time to do something DIFFERENT! Honestly, your kids won’t care if it isn’t “5 star” or expensive, they’ll just care if you’re involved and present! Put away the phones, computers, televisions and e-mails.
I LOVE that we had horrible reception at our campsite…. it meant even if I wanted to check my messages or e-mail, I couldn’t! I had no choice! Instead, I swam more, fished more, hiked more and spent MORE time with my awesome family creating memories. Memories that hopefully will be carved into my kids brains, so that as adults, they remember them over the stressed out mom in front of the computer, yelling at them to do homework or clean their rooms!
Here are some of my images from my trip… taken with my cheap Canon point and shoot camera. Yep, I told you I left work at home… which means my big cameras stayed home too. So yeah, some of the pictures aren’t that great. I decided NOT to be a photographer on this trip.. to just be mom! 🙂 So enjoy some of my memories of our trip… and then let me know what YOU are going to do this summer to plan some “reconnection time?”
Visiting “Cucumber Falls” and the natural waterslides. This was a favorite… we went back three times! 🙂
I can’t believe we didn’t take more pictures of these AH-MAY-ZING fried pickles we found in this random town called “Normalville” that was on our way to the falls. We got 4-5 orders everytime we stopped… I think it ended up being around 18 orders!!! We got them a few times last year and they became a “I can’t wait to find that little place again with the fried pickles!” YUMMMM!!!!
While the girls swam, the boys went on a peddle cart ride. These little bikes could MOVE! We road on the Youghiogheny River Bike Trail for awhile (I road my bike) that runs right through our camp site.
Dive in Night!!!! We love that there is a drive in right by the campground and we had such a great time this year seeing “How to Train Your Dragon 2” on the big screen. And to make SURE we didn’t forget this evening, my car battery decided to die and we had to get it jumped by the attendants!! Oh, the memories! 🙂
Another favorite is the zipline course. I did it last year, but this year decided to take pictures instead! My kids are so fearless! 🙂
After all that hiking and ziplining, the kids enjoyed sifting for arrowheads and gems. What great finds!
More of the Youghiogheny River! Someday maybe we will white water raft it!!
The natural waterfalls were a blast! No man made waterfall here, this is God’s playground! We let Logan go down the BIG one, but after he almost went over a waterfall, I nixed that idea! (Hey, at least I had him wear a helmet!!) They had so much fun in the river, jumping off the rocks and sliding down the mini waterfalls. I thought after seeing a snake enjoy the waterfall with them, the kids would run screaming from the water, but they just let him pass and went back to playing!! (They are braver than me!)
Back to Cucumber Falls to show it to Dad!
Most nights I left the camera in the tent, but on our last night, we got some campfire pictures!
Brett and I celebrated 14 years of marriage this week. We are going to go out sometimes this week to truly celebrate, but I LOVED the roses he brought me! Even after all the heat and two thunderstorms, they still looked and smelled amazing. Love you honey. These pictures of our family remind me why we work so hard… at life and in our marriage. It is so worth it to continue to make these memories with you. I love our life and I love that I get to spend it with you! 🙂
Copyright © Devon Shanor Photography | All rights reserved
It’s June! Which means two things for this family… Fathers Day and GRADUATION for my husband!!!!!
Yes, I am SOOOOOOOO (yes I that that is a lot of o’s!) excited to announce that my husband is officially a GRADUATE and a Registered Nurse!!!! I am SO proud of him and the long journey to get here!
Today I want to talk about goals and changing your life. So many times we say we aren’t happy or fulfilled in our life, our jobs, our relationships… and, we feel there is not a way to change that. You feel “stuck” and frustrated in that place because the only way to get “unstuck” just doesn’t seem possible. For Brett and I, we lived “stuck” for WAY to many years!
Brett LOVED being a Marine. The camaraderie, the “brotherhood,” the travel, the hard workouts, the striving for excellence… he loved it all. Then, he had a family and the travel, the separation, the risk and danger and saying goodbye to fallen comrades all became too much. He decided to leave the Marine Corps after 10 years and try a new road. However, without a college degree it is difficult to forge a new path in life when your talents are best suited for warfare. Our plan was to leave the military world altogether and find a new path where friends dying and learning better ways to kill your enemy weren’t a part of his job description. BUT we felt “stuck” as I was a stay-at-home mom and he was the only one providing for our family.
He took jobs over the next 9 years working for the military as an intelligence instructor. It was hard. Brett suffered issues related to his own trauma and the guilt he felt teaching young men who ended up going over seas only to die in war. People would often stop and thank him for his service, call him a “hero”, but he simply wanted to “change his stars” and do a job where he felt GOOD about what he had done that day. He wanted to help people. BUT HOW? As a contractor, he was making a very nice living, but after Messay’s adoption and a horrible real estate investment, we had zero savings.
If Brett went to school, how would we survive financially? Four years ago I started this amazing business that I love, but if you know anything about owning your own business… it often takes a few years before you “break even” and start making any money! (The first two years of business EVERY dollar I earned went right back into the business!)
Our marriage was struggling. He was depressed and unhappy. I was feeling neglected and overwhelmed. We wanted to make so many changes but how???
I know you’ve been there! I talked with so many of you who have told me your struggles: how you want a new job but are afraid to walk away from the one you have; you want to go back to school, but what about the two kids you support; you want to change your relationship, but how will you ever fit in marriage counseling or break up with your emotionally abusive boyfriend who helps pay your bills… Simply, you feel “stuck” and have no idea how to get out!
Let me tell you that you CAN DO IT!! And let me also tell you it won’t be easy! It’s hard work… but often the most difficult work is simply making the DECISION to change your life: to go back to school, to quit your job and walk on faith, to set up the marriage counseling… Living out that decision is not quite as difficult.
Brett and I sought help from some amazing counselors for our marriage. We actually separated for a while so Brett could deal with some of the symptoms he was having related to PTSD. It was a difficult time for us both. My business suffered as I emotionally dealt with a separation, a hurting husband, hurting children and a damaged heart. But God got us through, we all did the work and we came back together stronger.
**And then we lived happily ever after. NO… not quite!!! Life isn’t a fairy tale… it’s hard work!**
We felt like we had done enough change for awhile; we were ready for some “normal” and quiet. But God hadother plans! After Brett’s diagnosis and recovery, he had trouble finding work. We lived off unemployment for awhile and I began to push my business as hard as I could. But it still wasn’t enough. (Thank God for wonderful parents who helped us on the tough months just to pay the basic bills!)
In November of 2012, Brett enrolled in MCI to get his RN degree. At the time, we weren’t making enough pay our bills; tuition was $48,000, my business was about to hit it’s VERY slow time (Jan-March), unemployment was about to run out, and we didn’t have healthcare. Brett heading back to school seemed like a great way for him to change his life, but HOW were we ever going to financially make it though the 18-month school?
We decided to walk on faith. God had just healed a marriage that few thought would be able to survive and He was going to help us though the next year and a half.
And here we are landing on the other side. My husband is a GRADUATE! He’s a nurse!!! My business is flourishing and we made it! I learned so very much; here’s the top 10 lessons:
1. Asking for help isn’t something to be ashamed of! People were inspired by what we were doing and often wanted to help! But we had to ask! Sometimes you need to suck up your pride and ASK someone to help you repair your car, cook you a meal or help with carpool! (Remember though, if you ASK for help, you should also make sure you GIVE help, when you can!)
2. Kids are just as happy playing with a found tennis ball as they are with all the newest expensive toys! My kids learned that for awhile, we wouldn’t be able to afford the same gadgets their friends owned. Yes, I have a happy teenager and NO she does not have an IPAD, an IPOD, or a phone.
3. If you communicate with your kids about your financial situation, they will understand! We’ve had lots of discussions in this house about “The Budget” and how we could and could not spend our money while Daddy was in school! Now, they are kids so they will still ask, “Can I get…”, “Can we go to…”, etc. But with lots of communication on “The Budget” before hand, the whining did not last long!
4. Going to a “Food Pantry” is a blessing! Yes, the first time we went, I was slightly embarrassed… until I got in line and realized that on the whole, we’re all in the same boat: hard working men, women and families just needing a little help to get through the month!
5. Discover all the “Kids eat FREE” places in Virginia Beach! We didn’t eat out much this year, but when we did it was almost always a deal!!! Our favorite place was Qdoba in Hilltop where kids eat free on Sundays. Practically every Sunday after church you’d find us there! We could feed our whole family for $20!!
6. If your marriage is strong, you can get through anything!!! Sure, there were times we were more like roommates or ships passing in the night. Just seeing enough of each other to ask how the other was doing and to check on the kids… but since our marriage was strong… we could handle it!
7. My husband is SMART!!!! Wow, do nurses have to know ALOT of information! I didn’t know that before and I know I could never have done this program. So proud of my smarty-pants-hubby for pushing through, getting 2-4 hrs of sleep on average and passing ALL his classes!
8. Prayer works. We asked God to get us through this time and he did! We didn’t pray together EVERY night but we tried. The kids prayed for us, we prayed as a family and we prayed for each other. My business grew, Brett passed his classes, the bills got paid and we MADE IT!
9. I have the BEST clients! A HUGE part of us getting through this year was because of you and your referrals!
10. Faith, Hope and Love. Life’s difficulties can be overcome by these three things! Have Faith God will provide. Hope and believe that the future CAN change… even when it feels in the moment like it can’t. And love. Love at all times. Understand that love isn’t always hugs and kisses, sometimes it’s tough and sometimes it means sticking it out when you don’t even like the other person… but love can overcome all. Learn how to love each other in the tough times and in the good times it will be even stronger and more deep. God says “Three things will last forever–faith, hope, and love–and the greatest of these is love.” So obviously, Love is pretty important. I can attest that loving someone through really tough times is HARD but I can also attest that being loved during your tough times is so wonderful. And that the love you have AFTER the tough times is so much stronger, deeper and cherished!
I share all this not to gloat! I share it to encourage you. My marriage was over, my husband was lost, we were about to get kicked off unemployment, we had no health care, we hated the house we were $80K upside down in… we were STUCK. Going to school felt impossible, changing our life felt impossible. But we prayed, we unified together and we took a leap.
YOU CAN DO IT TOO! Even if it seems impossible, it isn’t. If you are unhappy, you CAN do something about it! It is HARD work, but in the end, it’s totally worth it. To see it in action check out these pictures… For those that know my family well… you know Brett doesn’t smile much for pictures and for a few years didn’t smile much AT ALL… but take a look at this… my husband SMILING on his graduation day! 🙂