staying at home: homesteading

for the second installment of my staying at home project, i documented another longtime friend of mine who is near and dear to my heart. she and i met in our “previous lives”- which is what i often call my time as a teacher before i had kiddos, left the workforce, and picked up photography. she was my assistant teacher, but the truth is, she helped me do so much more than teach. she helped me rediscover the goodness in myself and the people around me. she helped me turn my bad attitude around. she reignited my love for teaching that had slowly started to burn out.

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this lady, right here? she is a fountain of strength and grace and humility. she has walked through the fire for her son and her family, and still she wakes up and tackles each day with determination and a steady joy. Even on the hard days, the days when she feels like she could just give up, she finds ways to make those around her feel valued, listened to, and loved.

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pam, her husband, and her son live with her mother on a beautiful piece of land that has space for more animals than i could count, a garden, a sprawling yard, and lots (and lots) of bugs for her kiddo to catch. while pam and her mom often care for the animals together, on the day i was there, pam was tackling the morning chores on her own. i watched and documented in awe as she completed her tasks with a steady, familiar rhythm as her son wove himself in and out of the scene. if she ever felt overwhelmed with his boundless energy (as i often feel with my own children when i’m trying to accomplish something), she never once showed it. she never faltered in her work, but instead found simple ways to include him, to teach and share with him, and to acknowledge him as an important part of their life and home.

the best part of my time there, though, was seeing the subtle evidence of how their lifestyle and pam’s loving demeanor has influenced her son. as she worked outside, he played outside- never once did he ask to go in or complain about the bright sun or hot air. as she showed loving care towards their animals, he showed loving care towards their animals. he greeted each of them, helped feed them, showed me where they slept and what they ate, told me their names, and shared stories about them. she moved from one task to another, he offered to help. she got dirt on her hands and mud on her boots, he got dirt and mud pretty much everywhere.

i think that one of the most challenging parts of parenthood is meeting your kids where they are. to acknowledge their interests and strengths and find a way to nurture and encourage them requires us to set aside our own expectations and desires. it takes patience and commitment to keep ourselves calm and steady as we allow our children to wander, explore, and expand their own understanding of the world. but pam, this beautiful friend of mine, has done this for her son and more. she has allowed him a childhood in which he can get his hands dirty, roam free throughout their yard, keep a bucket full of crickets and grasshoppers, and learn about life in a way that is meaningful to him. she has fought for him, lifted him up, and loved him through good moments and bad moments, quiet and loud, tears and smiles. she has shown him that real love is deep and beautiful, in its own messy and imperfect way.


staying at home: infusion day

not too very long ago, as i pushed my way through the daily grind of stay-at-home-momhood, it occurred to me that stay at home parents face a unique set of challenges and possess a unique set of strengths.

before i go further let me clarify- every type of parenting is hard. single parenting. working parenting. mixed family parenting. adoptive parenting. special needs parenting. it's not a contest or a competition. we're all in the trenches. 
parenting. is. hard.

all the kinds of parenting share some of the same hard things, but they all each have their own unique hard things, too. and since i'm a stay at home momma, i'm up close and personal with the uniquely hard things that go along with stay at home parenting.

so as i got to thinking about these unique challenges and strengths, i also got to thinking about some of the other stay at home parents i know, and how they handle not only the struggles that come with being at home all day, every day with their kiddos, but also how they handle their OWN stuff on top of that.

cause some of these women i know, they've got some big stuff to handle.

and when i couldn't stop thinking about all of these things, i decided i needed to stop trying to stop thinking about them and start documenting them instead.

so i’m starting a new long term project with no timeline and no agenda other than to capture the realities of what parents raising their kids at home face every day. because there are some days when i feel like i can’t do it anymore, and i simply need to know that i am not alone in order to keep pushing forward, and i’m guessing i’m not the only one who feels that way.

i’m kicking off the project with a woman who is, day after day, my inspiration. she has a heart for God, a heart for others, and a heart for her children that never fails to amaze me. she faces life with grace, poise, faith, and strength, even in the face of difficulty, heartbreak, and uncertainty.

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this is my best friend, meredith. 10 years ago, meredith was diagnosed with crohn’s disease. an autoimmune disorder that affects the GI system, crohn’s disease has no cure and involves pain, uncertainty, medication, and lifelong dietary and lifestyle changes.

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when meredith was first diagnosed, she was newly married and working as a teacher. she was started on IV medication infusions to control her symptoms and slow the progression of the disease. every 6 weeks she would have to take a day off of work to spend several hours in the hospital to receive treatment alongside others with chronic illnesses. as she and her husband started (and then grew) their family, meredith stopped working to stay at home to raise and homeschool their two children. after consulting with multiple doctors and spending weeks praying and researching, they decided that she would continue with the infusions throughout her pregnancies and while breastfeeding. this meant that she now had to find time for her infusions along with childcare for while she was gone. on several occasions she even had to take her infant daughter with her to the hospital.

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and then meredith found out about a program that would allow her to receive her infusions at home. after jumping through the hoops inevitably present with the doctors, the insurance company, and the nursing program, she was able to set it up to have a nurse come to her home every 6 weeks to administer her treatment. this allows her to not only receive her medication in the comfort of her own home, but it also removes the stress of finding and arranging childcare- and, now that she’s expecting another baby, keeps her trips to the doctor’s office to a minimum.

while this change has its obvious benefits, it also presents its own set of challenges as well. on top of inviting a nurse into her home for several hours every 6 weeks, meredith also needs to keep their daily routine going while hooked up to an IV pole. she has to deal with the immediate side effects of the medicine while she continues to be a mother and a housewife.

she plays, fixes hair, makes lunches, does potty runs, settles little bodies for naps, snuggles tears away, cleans up messes, and dances to goofy youtube videos, all with an IV in her arm and a smile on her face.

to add to the balancing act, the day i was there taking these photos, she was still in the process of unpacking and organizing after their move just a week prior, AND she was taking care of two extra kiddos for the day. still, she continued on unfazed, handling the day with a positivity i’m not sure i would have been able to muster even on a normal day.

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the truth is, being at home with your kids every day can be a lonely and never ending cycle of caring for others. laundry, dishes, meals, messes, dressing, pottying, teaching, playing, negotiating, refereeing, guiding, loving, the list continually grows as it repeats itself. to say that it is easy for your own needs to get lost in the shuffle is an understatement. there is a certain beauty in meredith’s situation- her children are learning compassion and understanding for what others are going through. she is teaching them by example how to persevere when circumstances become difficult to endure. she is showing them how to lean on the Lord and His strength when your own falls short of what you need. it is not easy, but in the end, it is so very worth the struggle.