Embracing Winter.

IMG_0687As you probably know by now, I am not a fan of Winter. I can usually endure it for a minute when it’s Christmas time, but come December 26, I need it to be Spring again. I usually enjoy about the first twenty snowflakes before I need to find a sunny beach somewhere.

Yeah, weakling, I know. But I’ve never really enjoyed having my fingers stuck together by frozen particles of the Antartic or subzero icicles hanging from my nose. Ok, so maybe when I was TWO, but you get my ‘drift’. It’s been a while.

I’ve never been a fan of cold weather, and it seems no matter how positive I am about the situation, going into it, usually by the end of January, I end up hating myself and my knee high boots, and swearing that I will live in the tropics by next Winter. No matter how determined I am to stay happy and to rock my fabulous faux fur, usually by February, I am pretty much lying curled up in a fetal position somewhere in the corner of my house. The warmest corner, that is, aproximately three inches from the front of my little electric heater, which stays permanently attached to the wall in our master closet.

(Yep. If you ever can’t find me, and it’s February and my two year old hasn’t burned the house down, this is where I’ll be.)

Usually by Valentine’s day, I’m not even trying anymore. By then I’ve given up on every single positive mantra I’ve ever chanted to myself, and I’m just straight up bitching and moaning about my frozen state. By that point, the fabulous faux fur is stuck to my face and I’m feeling like a flattened-out pancake at the bottom of a snow drift, wishing for Spring.

Welll…except for…are you ready for this??? I really don’t know what’s happening with me, but somehow I think I might be enjoying Winter (go ahead and gasp, it’s ok) just a teensy tiny, weensy little bit this year. I don’t know why, but so far (fingers crossed) I have found a new appreciation-cough-I-mean-understanding for that ghastly sham of the four seasons and I’m actually a wee bit happy, amidst the icicles.

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So when my husband said he wanted to try out his new camera and it was the coldest day in history, I said “YES! Of course, we should do THAT!” Ok, so I wasn’t quite that excited, but I had recently changed my attitude and my hair color and I decided, “why not? Why not celebrate the things I don’t love and perhaps trick my brain into loving them? Why not just embrace the moment, accept what is, and find some value (aka FUN) in it?

And so I did. These photos are about that. This photo shoot, however impromptu, was not about me being some kind of weird alien human who just simply loves the cold. And yes, there ARE people like that! This was about focusing my energy on having fun, no matter what. It was about living life, wide open, no matter the obstacles, or the difficulties.

And you know what? It was actually kind of amazing! I had way more fun than I would have ever anticipated and my fingers didn’t even freeze together!

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At one point, I grabbed a handful of snow with my bare hands, threw it up into the air and then felt it softly land on my face, and for a moment, I actually thought I was Cinderella.

It was so beautiful and romantic.

Before long, I found myself laying in the snow, making snow angels, and remembering my childhood winters in Ohio, and how fun they were and how we would huddle together with the neighbor kids to warm up and watch our breath make shapes in the cold damp air.

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Suddenly I was that kid again.

The kid that always looked for the fun. The one that never missed an opportunity to get out into the middle of the ice and the friends and have a good time. I was that girl, and I was having a blast!

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So much so, that eventually I threw off my faux fur and began to waltz down the road, not even caring that the sun had gone down and it was zero degrees. I got so lost in the beauty and the magic of the moment, that I forgot all about my little electric heater and the hot chocolate that I would surely need immediately thereafter.

Isn’t that the way it goes when we throw off our fears and just simply get lost in the moment we’re in?

The older I get the more I realize that so much of my art depicts my life. This is probably why I love acting and modeling so much. There is always so much meaning to be found in the characters that I play, whether in front of the camera, or behind it. The camera of life, that is.

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I see the joy and the fun behind these pictures and it honestly makes me wonder why I haven’t embraced the Winter before? Why did it take me so long to accept it and appreciate-ahem-understand it?

But this is the process I’m in, and little by little, I’m letting go of my hang-ups about it. Little by little, I’m practicing what I preach and I’m truly finding beauty in everything. Even the fur that’s stuck to my face.

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This is why I say yes when it’s freezing and my husband wants to try out his new camera. And this why I have hope that perhaps someday I will fully enjoy Winter.

 

Celebrating M.O.M: Sarah, the Radiant Caregiver.

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Hello, my happy little peeps, meet Sarah! She could easily be the coolest, smartest, and kindest human you will ever meet.

She, along with her husband, and their kids, moved to our town from Alaska, two years ago, and boy, am I ever glad they did! Sarah and I met at church, and quickly got to know each other over tea, and playdates, and our love for healthy living. We’ve since bonded over wine, and walks, and weird cleanses, and my life just gets richer the more I get to know her.

Sarah is one of those happy spirits that I wish I could bottle up and give to you, when you’re having a bad day. I would send her to you and you would instantly feel the sunshine of her presence, and the warmth of her smile, when you need a bit of cheer.

She is grateful, thoughtful, and embraces life fully.

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Sarah is called Mother by two very busy boys, Sam, (7) and Andrew (4), and works from home as a financial consultant, so her life is a constant juggle of work and play, of calculators and basketballs. Her company keeps her busy and yet she manages to find plenty of playtime and building neighborhood soccer teams in her backyard, in between work.

She is the happiest when she is with her family and in nature, or when she is giggling with her girlfriends.

The best thing she has learned from Motherhood is “to be present in every moment…even the hard ones.” That there is always something to be grateful for, which she says, helps to “keep her heart where her hands are.”

What beautiful words! I am constantly inspired by her ability to do just that. I’m ever amazed at just how much she gives to the world, and yet how she never loses sight of the life and the calling in front of her. How far those hands reach, and yet how deeply they care for those next to her.

When I asked her for one word to describe her current life, it came as no surprise when she said: “present.” For that is Sarah. Present, in her mothering. Present, in her caring. Present, in her extravagant giving, and her practical love for the world.

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The most important thing she wants to teach her children is to love others, by practicing grace, compassion, and gratitude. And above all, that they would know how much they are loved.

I believe she is teaching them all of those things by the way she lives her life, and the way that she loves.

Sarah’s dream is to make a difference in the world, and I say that she already is! Her gracious heart and exquisite care for those around her, have made all the difference in the world to me, and to so many!

The world is already a whole lot better, simply because she is IN IT!

Thank you, Sarah, for your incredible, loving care for all of us. We are all the better for knowing you!

Note: All photo credits belong to Thalyta and Thalyta Swanson Photography, rights reserved. If you would like to share this, or any part of this content, please link back to this article, in its original entirety. Thank you! So we can all stay happy.:) -Ruthie

Celebrating M.O.M: Charissa, the Story of Hope.

In case you missed it, we are running a series here on Happy Little Surprises, where once a month, we feature an extraordinary Mom, holding up ordinary objects that represent the phases and the Moments of Motherhood that she finds herself in.

Last month, I wrote about Ashleigh, and the beautiful balancer that she is. It was such a pleasure to highlight her life, and to see the praise and the applause that came to her, from this community.

What a joy!

I am loving this series and I am equally delighted to bring you these photos of our next MOM.

Her name is Charissa, and she is called “Mama” by her two boys, Isaac, (4) and Andrew (1).

I’ve known her for less than two years, but she feels like an old friend, because she understands me so well, and she cares so deeply. In fact, she is one of the most selfless, caring people I know, and she gives of herself freely, every day, to her family, her friends, and to the world.

She is the happiest when she is in sunlight and in nature, in the mountains or at the beach.

When asked for one word to describe her life, she said it was : “hopeful.”

I think the word is super fitting, since “hopeful” is who she is and hope is what she gives.

Everywhere she goes, she tells the story of the impossible, and hope follows.

Her life itself tells the story of miraculous healing and breakthrough, and I think I can speak for many when I say that I instantly feel hopeful, as though ANYTHING is possible, when I am in her presence.

Her life tells many stories. Some funny, and others, rich with compassion, and deep truths. Some light and others, oozing of the mysteries of God.

Even the “bear” she brought to the photoshoot, tells a story.

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Charissa recalls the day they realized he wasn’t a bear at all, he was actually a puppy. But her son, Isaac, had already named him “Grey Bear,” so now, of course, he has no choice but to continue being a bear.

Grey Bear was a last-minute purchase for Charissa and her husband after they had left on a day trip, and accidently left Isaac’s other lovie at home. Lucky for all, it was love at first sight, and a good night of sleep, when they gave Grey Bear to Isaac. The two bonded deeply and went everywhere together, until his baby brother, Andrew, was born. Andrew did not yet have a lovie, and when Isaac realized this, he decided to give his beloved bear to Andrew, so that Andrew would also have a lovie to sleep with.

Isn’t that a beautiful thing?

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Needless to say, Grey Bear is in the family to stay, and Charissa brought him for good reason! He represents all the loves, cuddles, sleepless nights, and moments of sweet tenderness she has with her two beautiful boys.

She also brought two little cars that represent the daily adventures she has with them. She spends most of her days playing with, chasing, picking up, and searching for things that bring smiles to her boys.

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Things like these tiny cars.

They keep her busy, but she always has time to listen, and to help others. She pauses to hear the needs of those around her. And to tell stories. Those wonderful, miraculous, hope-filled, God stories.

I am always better for knowing them. And I am always amazed at her ability to use words, to encourage and inspire.

Charissa’s dream is to “learn to see the beauty that God has instilled into every moment.”

I see that beauty every time I am with her and I am grateful to be a small part of those moments, by bringing you these photos, and allowing you to have a peak into her life. I am honored to bring you a tiny glimpse of her soul.

For it is full of beauty, and of HOPE.

 

Note: All photo credits belong to Thalyta and Thalyta Swanson Photography, rights reserved. If you would like to share this, or any part of this content, please link back to this article, in its original entirety. Thank you! So we can all stay happy.:) -Ruthie

Celebrating M.O.M: Ashleigh, the Beautiful Balancer.

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I am thrilled to bring you the first of my friends in our Celebrating MOM photo series, here on this blog. In case you haven’t heard, we are celebrating Moms! Moms of all types, and phases, but for now, Moms of preschoolers.

Moms whose lives are traveling at the speed of light, and whose babies are growing out of phases as quickly as they are growing out of their jeans.

A few weeks ago, I hosted a photoshoot event, in which I invited several young Mothers that I knew to come and be models for a day. I asked them each to bring an item from their home that represented where they are in their lives. Something ordinary, something they touch every day, that speaks to where they’re at.

I wanted them to feel the beauty and the sacred-ness of what they do every day, the same way I felt it when Thalyta took pictures of me and my baby’s first six months, and the things I had held so tenderly and briefly along the way.

Ashleigh chose her daughter’s ballet skirt and shoes, and her son’s Superman backpack, because her kids are involved in school, superheroes, and ballet right now.

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This speaks to me of balance. The boy and the girl. The masculine and the feminine. Ashleigh ties them together so beautifully. I see her as strong, but tender. Firm, but sweet. Energetic, but calm.

She always seems centered, and has a way of juggling life’s imbalances with ease and pleasant-ness.

She is Mama to two little munchkins, Lizzie, (5) and Evan (4).

The best thing she has learned from Motherhood, is that “life is so much more fun when you stop trying to control, and when you just let go and live.”

(Amen to that, girl!)

She is joyful, passionate, and honest, and is the happiest when she is in nature and surrounded by the people she loves.

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Ashleigh’s dream is to help women, to mentor them and come alongside of them, doing life together, and helping them find freedom, in just “being.” That they would discover life as it really is, not as they think it should be.

I believe she is already doing that, and I, for one have been so blessed and changed by walking with her, in this.

She describes her life right now as: ‘beautiful chaos.’

But I say it’s all BEAUTIFUL.

I don’t see the chaos, I only see the beauty of a woman who has learned to stay present in all of it: the good, the bad, AND the mess.

One who knows how to stay grounded in God, in truth, and in honest relationships with people. And one who stays happy in the process!

Ashleigh, what a beautiful, balanced woman you are.

P.S. Keep being YOU!:)

 

 

Note: All photo credits belong to Thalyta and Thalyta Swanson Photography, rights reserved. If you would like to share this, or any part of this content, please link back to this article, in its original entirety. Thank you! So we can all stay happy.:) -Ruthie

 

 

 

 

Celebrating M.O.M. (and Me!): the First Six Months.

A few weeks ago, I kicked off my Celebrating MOM project, and so far, it’s been nothing but joy to watch this vision come to life. I’ve received such an incredible response and many wonderful people have lended their help and their services to make this thing happen.

We just wrapped up a photo shoot where we pampered and photographed five women, and I’m excited to bring you their stories, as well as a few others, in the coming months.

But first, here’s mine!

I must say, I am totally uncomfortable putting myself out there like this, and being the first woman whose life I “celebrate,” in this series.

I feel vulnerable. Exposed.

Perhaps there is still a part of me that wants to shrink back from the world? (Um. How long have I been sharing my life with the world on this very PUBLIC blog??!!)

Yeeeaahh. I realize it’s time.

And this is important. This is more about something and someone else, than it is about me, anyway.

These pictures are a culmination of the deep and powerful, frustrating and life-changing moments I have had with my second child, my son, Emerson.

I hope you see more than me, in them. I hope you see how amazing every moment has been. And how amazing your own life is, with the small souls you are raising.

My hope is that we, as women and Mothers, will see how beautiful our lives really are. That we will embrace even the most fleeting moments of our Motherhood and treat it as the gift that it is.

I accidently started this project when Emerson turned six months. I wanted to do something to commemorate the occasion, but I wanted to do it in a different way than maybe I would have done in the past.

I wanted to truly feel the beauty, the power, the gift of every single second I have had with him.

I looked and surprisingly, I found that gift and that power in the ordinary little pieces that lay, scattered around my life. Those seemingly meaningless objects that grace my days.

I began to pick them up, and hold them in my hands and remember with my heart, everything that had happened in these six months, and how it had changed me.

That’s when I realized. I had held bottle liners and baby wipes and ordinary pieces that had represented phases. Phases that had been used up and spent so feverishly and then grown out of.

Moments that had come so intense. And yet, passed so quickly.

So I brought them, heart and soul and hands to my photographer, Thalyta, who then captured them so beautifully on camera.

This is that story.

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This is the story of what happens, immediately after birth, when you’re allover wet with joy and relief and dilerious exhaustion. That moment when you’re drenched in blood, and pee, and night sweats, and you don’t even care, because you’ve just brought a human into the world.

I realize that to some, it might look awful, horrid, or even gross. But to me, and to a Mother, it is the most beautiful, transcendent moment I will ever experience.

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This is the story of those first few weeks, when it’s just you and that squishy blob of cuteness, and all you wanna do is lay around and cuddle. Actually, let me re-phrase that. All you are ABLE to do, is lay around and cuddle.

It’s a beautiful problem.

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And then he cries. And you try everything. You change his diaper, you try his belly, then his back. You bring him up to your breast and rock and bounce and stuff a ‘nibby’ in his mouth, and still he cries.

You get frustrated and then you cry, because well…you care. More than you’ve ever cared before.

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This is the story of how you make friends with your breast pump, just so someone else can feed your baby and so that you can possibly sleep through one of the twenty-five feedings that happen in a day.

How that awkward contraption is your ray of hope, your ONLY sliver of sleep, and how you love/hate it, but you do it gladly.

FOR YOUR SON.

Because he is worth it.

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And then, how he gets his first teeth and you make really good friends with Sophie, (that punk teether giraffe that likes to get lost more than it likes to be chewed!) and all her soft, pointy, odd-shaped little friends.

How you throw them all in the vicinity of your son’s mouth, and hope that something takes. You hope that something other than your nipples, (OUCH!!) will provide some relief from the distress of those chompers.

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Oh, and how somewhere along the line, you become a breast-feeding, burping, multi-tasking machine. You figure out how to eat, sleep, talk, feed your other child, and run errands, all while nursing your baby.

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And eventually, how you find your groove and your rhythm.

How you bathe and lotion and love every inch of that skin. How you eat up life and that little human. And how you find a little independence, a little freedom…again!

You might even think you got this.

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But then, how at six months, you realize you’re still spent, and lonely, and dilerious and tired. So you stay up late, reading books on how to get your little punk to sleep through the night.

Meanwhile, all you really gain is a deeper understanding of what it means to “sleep like a baby,” and you secretly hope that you don’t. 

Aaah, the illusion.

The grand oxymoron of this life we call “MOM.”

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And then one day, how you pick up his shoes, those tiny loafers he wore just a few weeks ago, and realize he’s already outgrown them.

This is that story.

The story of how you touch and affect every moment, however tiny it may be. How you carry memories, and souls in your hands and how rich and blessed your life is, because of them!

And you know then that these are not ordinary things. These are not just meaningless objects. For in them, lies that present, wild, and gloriously gut-wrenching moment of Motherhood that comes and transforms, and passes by us only once.

And then ends all too soon.

P.S. Don’t grow too fast, my son. I want to drink you in a little longer, sweet baby!

 

Note: All photo credits belong to Thalyta and Thalyta Swanson Photography, rights reserved. If you would like to share this, or any part of this content, please link back to this article, in its original entirety. Thank you! So we can all stay happy.:) -Ruthie

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

May and the Celebrating M.O.M. Project: It’s a Launch!

Hooray for May!

It’s getting to that middle time of the year when gardens flourish and the days grow long and I begin to LOVE life again.

Ok, so it’s been a major pain in my mouth so far, but hey. It doesn’t change the fact that a) it is a cool, or should I say, warm?? month, b) I adore it, and c) I’m pretty sure I’ve been living for it my whole life.

You might not have been able to tell, amidst the recent whining and moaning, but I’m actually really excited about this month! It might have gotten off on the wrong foot, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t lots of good and exciting things happening.

Because there ARE.

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One of those things is that I am launching my highly anticipated “Celebrating M.O.M” project, a series of photoshoots in which in which I, along with several other women get to celebrate our Moments Of Motherhood, in front of the camera!

We get to put on a little lipstick, and play!

That’s right, we get to leave behind our banana covered fingernails and oatmeal encrusted high chairs for a day and eat, drink, and be pampered like a supermodel!

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But mostly, we get to celebrate the small things, those under-appreciated objects of our daily lives that remind us that we are Mothers. And that there’s nothing greater or more beautiful than that.

I’ve teamed up with the talented and amazing Thalyta Swanson to bring you this exquisite photo experience and I am beyond ecstatic to have her on this project with me!

The great news for you my beloved readers, is that every month, starting with this one, I will be featuring one of these beautiful women as part of a pictorial blog series that will run for a whole year. That’s twelve months, my dearest peeps!

Twelve months. Twelve women.

It t’will (Is that even a word??) be UH-MAZING!

And that’s not to mention the other things that are happening this month!

Things like the best pancake recipe in the world, a new design, some healthy Mom tips, and if I’m feeling REALLY SPECIAL, maybe even a Mother’s Day giveaway… (woop, woop!!)

It’s the month of May, for Pete’s Sake.

It’s time for Mothers.

And…

it’s time to celebrate!

 

Note: All rights for photos reserved and belong to Thalyta Swanson, and Thalyta Swanson Photography. Copying, altering, using, or selling them in any way, without permission from the author is strictly prohibited. If you would like to share this, or any part of this content, please link back to this article, in its original entirety.  Thank you!  So we can all stay happy.:)  -Ruthie

 

 

Goodbye Deathly Cold. Hello Green!

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Is it just me or is the earth actually getting a little greener these days?

I caught a few glimpses of my favorite color, a few days ago, while I was on a walk with Beanstalk, so I think it might be true.

It might actually be the end of Winter, folks.

Whew.

Now can we all just breathe a huge sigh of relief, and run and jump and do a little happy dance together?!!

Cuz that’s what I did! I got downright giddy when I saw those lively splashes of green the other day.

I skipped over rocks, rolled down a hill, and did somersaults as if I was a limber child. For a moment, I thought I was my five-year-old and NOT her thirty-five year old Mother, I was so happy!

Found out later I wasn’t really a limber five-year-old at all, just a grown woman with a few muscles I hadn’t used SINCE I was five.

But who cares about that, right?! IT’S SPRING!

Who cares about sore muscles or not being able to move for three days, when it’s Spring time??

I took pictures, not of the somersaults, (sorry to disappoint you!) but of the grass and our feet and our feet in the grass. So I could prove to myself that the earth really is turning green.

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Hallelujah.

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AMEN.

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What do YOU think?

Is it getting any greener in your world?

Is it Spring where you live, yet?