Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Give Me My Flowers...

Give me my flowers before I die.
Say all those things you've been meaning to say but you're holding inside.
Don't wait till it's too late and the parade has gone by.
- Opening Lyrics of Give Me My Flowers by Pat Murphy and Tim Clark
which I had the privilege of hearing sung by "Up with People" in Richmond, IN, Fall 1991

When I was in high school, we had the opportunity to host a student traveling with the musical group "Up With People" for a few days.  We saw their show and I still remember part of the lyrics to their opening song - and the song quoted above.  

I don't know why that song stuck with me.  The words might not seem uplifting to some people - but to me - they always have been.  The words are, to me, about showing gratitude and kindness and telling people what they mean to you and saying the things to them that you want to make sure they know and hear - directly from you.  

I have a lot of flowers in the house right now - between Ashley's wedding centerpieces - a few of which made it home with me, the flowers I got from my friend Jill on my birthday or my orchids - of which two are currently blooming nicely - so I knew last night was going to have to include a floral photo shoot.

But then yesterday afternoon I was working on my brainstorming list for Me: The Abridged Version - a memory keeping class I'm taking (and vowing to complete) over at Big Picture Classes - and something came to me.  Before I can tell you what that was, I should tell you a little about the class.  The goal of the class is to create a scrapbook with entries about yourself for every letter of the alphabet. You can also do the album about another person or a couple...the themes are Me, You, and Us...I just decided it would be a good marker here as I start my 40th year to create, as our teacher - the amazing Cathy Zielske calls it - "a time capsule of who I am right now".  

So, if I'm creating a time capsule of who I am right now, that should include one or two - or ten - or twenty stories from my friends, my family, or perhaps a friend I haven't yet met who happens to stumble on and read my blog.  So - and if you've made it this far - you must love me - what came to me is to ask you for input. I'm asking you my readers to share a quote, a word, a phrase, a story, or a moment that makes you think of me  or that you think describes me - starting with any letter of the alsphabet.  In short - what would you put in a time capsule about me right now?  If you have something to share you can put it in the comments below or on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram - or you can even drop a note in email - or dare I even say snail mail still gets delivered to my house nearly every day.

If you don't know me well enough to offer me insight - or just can't think of anything you want to share - that's okay too.  I encourage you instead to take this as a nudge from the universe to share something special with someone else who isn't expecting it (or asking in a public plea for inspiration ;-)  I always think of fall as a time for gratitude and kindness so give someone the flowers (literal or figurative) you've been thinking about giving them!

Big Picture Classes

P.S: If you want to join me in Cathy's class the link in the text above is a referral link. You can also use referral code 49E317F3 at check out.  If you do - we both get 10% off our next class after you sign up.  If you don't like referral links that's completely okay - just head over to www.bigpictureclasses.com - the class is called Me: The Abridged Version.  Registration is open until October 15.  If now isn't a good time, the great thing about Big Picture is you get forever access so you can purchase the class now while it's available and then come back and do the album at any time that works for you.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

I have a new nephew!

I have a new nephew!  He's in his 30's and is now, officially, the tallest member of our family.  But, as of yesterday afternoon at about 4:15, Matt Bailey is now officially a member of the family.  "My babies" now number 8 in total (Taylor and Dustin aren't pictured).  From left, Steve and Amanda, Andrew, Matt, Ashley, and Aaron.

I've never been blessed with kids of my own, but being an Aunt is the next best thing - and may be the very best thing - since I didn't have to pay for their tuition and I could hype them up on sugar and send them home (You're welcome siblings!)  I can't tell you how much I love each and every one of them.  Each of you holds a little piece of my heart - and Matt that now includes you too.

And now for a wedding story...

I had the privilege of serving as rehearsal day photographer and, as Matt's aunts from New York called it, the "day of" coordinator.  No wedding run up or day of is perfect, but Ashley and Matt's came blissfully close.

Several of the girls got their nails done in Richmond on Friday afternoon.  Ashley and her lifetime BFF (and by lifetime...I mean literally as they share a birthday) Audrey Alice shared a few laughs as Ashley got some of the last stress and tension out.

That evening we had the rehearsal followed by a beautiful dinner hosted by Matt's parents Cliff and Dianne at Olde Richmond Inn.

One of those "not so perfects" - we have no idea where Ashley's bow bouquet went so she's carrying a flower from her mama.  My guess...we'll find that bow bouquet about midweek ;-)  As I reminded Ashley a couple of times - the only thing that really mattered was that she and Matt actually got married and that they made their flight for their honeymoon.  Both were accomplished absolutely successfully!

She cried her first time down the aisle with her dad but held it together for their brief second run through.  Wedding day - there were a few more tears.

Amanda did a beautiful job reading 1 Corinthians 13 and Andrew read a beautiful poem.

A pic of Ashley's new family and their friends - it was great to get to know the Bailey's better.  What a wonderful family!

Another of my favorite shots from my camera this weekend - Ashley with her Grandma and Grandpa.

And, of course, the Lewis family.

After the dinner, we all slept for a few minutes (or at least that's what it felt like) and then it was time for wedding day. Their reception was held at beautiful J & J Winery in Richmond. And, for nearly mid October, it was an absolutely perfect day! I had the pleasure of setting up with much of Ashley's new family and a few of the guys and remembered to grab a few shots before I left.

All done and just waiting for the "twig vases".

Ash's father-in-law, Cliff, made awesome place card holders for the receiving table as well as cornhole games (which were set out in the photo below, but I forgot to get a close up of) and her cupcake stands.


A coworker of Matt's produced the honey that served as their guest favors - so cute!

One of my favorite parts of weddings - and all the family time they provide - are the little things that each person does to make them special.  Some of the twigs for the vases were gathered one Saturday by me and several friends at a volunteer event here in Indy and then several more were just picked up at random from mom and dad's yard at the Meadow.

And the little baby pumpkins were grown by Ashley's grandpa Frank from seeds I bought the day they moved into their new house all the way back in March when Ashley and Matt were talking about their fall themed wedding which seemed so far away then.  Takes a while to grow sweet little pumpkins to sit all around the reception - as well as some bigger white pumpkins that added even more decoration.

How cute! (The table number pumpkins were provided by the florist since they were all a standard size and a little easier for her to work with - cute! - and we had the privilege today of sharing many of those with a local nursing home to help brighten it up and bring in some pretty fall colors!)

After all the setup - it was time for the wedding and the reception.  Ashley and Matt had a wonderful photographer and videographer for the wedding so I just grabbed a few shots with my cell phone. Can't wait to see the thousands of frames they shot!

The rings!

Lucas was an absolute angel during the ceremony and seemed to love both flipping through the hymnal and watching all the happenings at the front of the church.  He's been feeling under the weather all week so it was so good to get to see him - even if only for a little while as he went off to his Grandma and Grandpa Stout following the ceremony so his mommy and daddy could relax at the reception.

The kiss! 

The reception "guest book" - a tree hand drawn by Ashley's dad Jim - that folks stamped their thumb print on and then signed.  So cute.

Weddings aren't completely about the bride and groom - they are also about all the family time and time to reconnect with friends.  My nephew Aaron grabbed this three generation selfie - which I think is adorable!

What a beautiful day!  This group keeps getting bigger and they're having babies of their own now. I still love them more every single second that they are in my life.

Ashley and Matt - I hope your wedding day was everything you dreamed.  I'm so happy for you!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Baby Stout is a...

Around here, it's a big week, no matter how you slice it.  By the end of this week, we know the gender of Baby Stout, I'll be 40, and Ashley and Matt will be married.  Let's just say there is going to be a lot of cake this week.

Speaking of cake, we started with one that looked like this last night for the Baby Stout Gender Reveal Party.

We all gathered at Steve's parents house to find out if our newest family member was a girl or a boy.

And, our new baby is a...

GIRL!  Lauren Olivia Stout will make her way officially into our world sometime in February.  For now, we'll shop for pink bows, cute dresses, frilly panties, and loads of Minnie Mouse gear.

Amanda's reaction when she cut into the cake and saw the pink icing says how elated our baby girl is to be having her own baby girl.

As for Lucas, I gotta tell you that this kid has willpower.  Despite an entire room full of all the people he loves most in the world telling him to go ahead and lick the cake, slap it with his hand, or even do a face plant, this was as close as he got.  I'm not sure why all of us were egging him on, but luckily the smart little boy - who is going to make a fabulous big brother - knew better than to listen to his grown ups.

Stout family - sorry for fuzzy pictures.  I love you all so much!  Congrats!

Baby Lauren - you are already loved more than you can know.  You are a joyous addition to our world.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

#30Lists Blog Hop

I like to make lists.  I make shopping lists, to do lists, lists of books I want to read, movies I want to see, and recipes I want to make.  Lists help me organize and be more productive (when I don't lose the list or just simply ignore it ;-).  So, it's no wonder that one of my favorite crafting/memory keeping classes is 30 Days of lists, or #30Lists.  There is a round of #30Lists of March and September and I've been, as one other blogger put it, a frequent joiner but not a frequent completer.  So, I thought I'd participate in the blog hop before we get started with the September version to build in a little extra accountability.  

Our challenge was to go to the original list (all the way back from March 2011), pick a prompt and post a list.  Naturally, I chose Vacations to Take.  

Naturally, I chose Vacations to Take.  I'm excited that three of those are actually in the planning/prep stages (although, to be fair two of those are lumped in one trip).  I get antsy when there is no trip on the calendar so knowing there are two out there is a good thing.

I did this one digitally using the kit from Alexandra Rae Designs that was included in the class this time. When I looked at the kit, I wasn't in love because the color scheme wasn't my jam.  However, I remembered I could change that in Photoshop.  I went simple this morning and just did the plain block but I'll figure out how to change the colors on the others and may just go all digital this time.

Wanna join in for 30 days of listing fun?  Register before 9/1.  I'd love to play along with you. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Lucas's 18 Month Photo Shoot - There's a Surprise Inside!


If you follow me on Flickr and/or Facebook, you might have thought that I was a little stingy with the photos from Lucas's 18 month photo shoot - and you would be right.  But, there was good reason.  First, I like his mommy to have the first real look and get to pick out her faves and share them first, but second - and more importantly - there was a secret message hidden in a bunch of the photos - so I couldn't reveal many of them.  But now that the news is out, I can proudly share that Lucas is going to be a big brother!

Now that his mommy and daddy have gone public with that announcement I'll share a few more of my favorite shots from the day - and the joy over the way Amanda and Steve surprised me.


Amanda had asked me to take Lucas's 18 month photos and we set the Sunday after July 4th as the date - just a couple of days before his actual 18 month date.

I didn't attend the family July 4th event (when, I now know everyone else in the immediate family found out our Amanda and Steve were going to have their second baby) but did want to see everyone so drove over to mom and dad's and dropped off Lindsay then headed to Johnny and Donna's.  Amanda and I had talked about setting and what she wanted pictures of and we decided to highlight all of Lucas's favorite toys and things to do which involve tractors of all shapes and sizes, the dune buggy (a.k.a. the rail) and the "ninga-ninga" (that's a lawnmower to those who don't speak Lucas). Sidewalk chalk, bubbles, and if we were lucky, a train might factor in as well.

So, I arrived and we walked out to the barn and Lucas started playing and I started shooting.  I caught this pic within the first 10 shots and it has become one of my favorites.

Let's go!

And this one...

See you later guys!

He coaxed his daddy into getting the lawn mower out and after a bit of a ride around and a small amount of fussing because it wasn't running anymore, I got this awesome smile.  Seriously - this kid is ADORABLE!


During the day, I also got a good number of looks like this one. I'm pretty sure he's thinking, "You're nice and all and I like smiling for the camera, but I've got places to Go!"


Then, his mommy decided it was time to do a t-shirt change and she wanted to grab some "family" shots.  I shot about 10 like this before my eyes focused in on what his shirt actually said.  Then for about the next fifteen shots there was a whole lot of "Lucas - what does your shirt say!"


Photo shoot on pause...hugging ensued!

I shot loads more shots with the "big brother" shirt on and he had a grand time playing but I couldn't reveal most of those until Amanda and Steve shared their big news more widely.

These three are probably my absolute favorites from the day.




As I processed photos the following weekend, I posted this one on Facebook that it was making my heart all squishy.  It still does.  And seeing how much love Amanda, Steve, Donna, and Johnny shower on Lucas and how amazing he is - I can't wait to meet new Baby Stout in February and see how that little life blossoms in all this love.

An "outtake" from Lucas's 18 Month Photo Shoot

Congratulations you guys! I'm so happy for you.

P.S.  I know I haven't blogged in a while, but maybe with school starting back up, I'll get back in a rhythm again.  If not, I'll at least keep hitting some of the highlights here every once in a while.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Hanging Out With Lucas

I had the privilege of spending the afternoon with my great nephew Lucas today.  His mommy and nana were supposed to take a shopping trip to Ikea over in Cincinnati today.  I was in earshot when they were talking about the trip so I volunteered to baby sit since my work calendar wasn't booked yet and I was planning to be in the area to pick up Lindsay (Because of a work thing I'm spending my Friday's in Muncie this month so Lindsay is spending her weekends at Grandma and Grandpa's new place.)  

Unfortunately Donna and Amanda's original plan fell through because his mommy had to work today - but he still needed a sitter so I got to hang out with him for the afternoon.  

At just over 14 months old, this little man has a good solid schedule of napping, eating, and playing. He pretty much can get around all on his own, but is still contained by closed doors and baby gates - as long as you latch them completely. He's a totally fun bundle of activity and energy - mixed with just the right amount of cool, laid back kid.      

His nana watched him this morning.  I arrived during his nap.  So he woke up to a strange person in his house.  He adapted pretty fast though and nana was able to sneak out while I fed him lunch.  From there, we were off and ready for some adventure.

We had a great time watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse re-runs off of the DVR - which included a showing of Partysaurus Rex (from Toy Story) which had us both dancing.  Lucas loves to dance and sing - and he's got his own set of moves to the Diggety Dog song at the end of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse. There was a lot of tractor riding too.

His nana awesomely prepped his afternoon snack and got everything ready so all I had to do was warm up his bottle this afternoon so definite thanks to her for making sure I knew where everything was and how everything worked. She watches him several days a week and I love seeing how close he is to both she and my brother.  All her work and hints made my afternoon with Lucas go really smoothly.

My favorite activity, of course, was reading some books.  We read some Dr. Seuss and I learned several things about trucks and tractors.  Just like his mommy did when she was little, there are a few pages of books that you know he knows the words to by heart - he just hasn't started saying all of them quite yet.  He's getting great at animal sounds and is really good with some of the car and truck sounds.

The biggest difference from spending time many years ago with his mommy and her brother and cousins - a difference I'm glad his nana clued me in to before she left - is that this kid is a climber - and this blue chair is his personal jungle gym.  If you blink and aren't standing right there, he's trying to stand up and do a little jig in the chair.  The boy has no fear.  I have healthy fear for both of us so luckily there were no injuries on Aunt Nicki's watch today.

So, it was smiles all around today as Lucas and I had an awesome time playing and I loved getting to visit with his mommy for a little while when she got home from work.  I so love watching her as a mom and seeing how calm and relaxed she is about the whole parenting thing.  

It was a great way to spend a Monday and capped off an excellent weekend with Gayle followed by a nice visit with my folks last night which included a surprise dinner with Johnny and Donna and Susie.  Being surrounded by family and friends is always an awesome way to spend your time and getting to spend extra time with this adorable little guy was a truly fabulous way to spend a Monday.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

The Auction

The Auction Gets Started

It took more than 70 years to collect it all.
It's taken dad about six months to go through it all and trash, sort, and pack it all - and decide what would go in the auction.
It took about eight days to set it all up in the community center in Williamsburg.
In just three hours and thirty-one minutes it was all sold, we'd cleaned the building, and everyone headed home.

This year, 2014, is going to be a year of huge change both professionally and personally.  But, the focus of my next few weeks will definitely be on the personal as we say good-bye, as a family, to our family farm and help mom and dad make a new home in a great new house in town.  Today was sort of an official kick-off for moving as mom and dad held their auction today at the community center in Williamsburg.  While they closed on the farm and on their new house at the end of January, it's the physical events you can see that seem to always make things real and this was very, very real.

We had worried some about whether there would be a decent crowd, but, as you can see from the photo there was no shortage of people.  We think there were about 300 people there.  Lots of old friends, tons of family, and a bunch of people probably just happy to have a snow free day where they could get out of their homes as this winter has been brutal and we were blessed with fantastic weather today.

As I said to a friend yesterday, today was going to be a lot about visiting and probably a little about crying and that was pretty much how it was.  It was great to be surrounded by family and friends.  We marveled at what some of the little items that had been tucked away in the barn or the attic sold for and we bought a few things for ourselves.  I bought three things - a pair of apple crates, an old stool, and a pair of chairs - that I split with my sister-in-law.  I'll write more about them as I get them settled in here at my house in the weeks to come.

There were a few tears (or at least a bit of emotion in the day - we're not really a family known for tears). The morning started out for me by watching dad drive the tractor out for the very last time.  My post of the photo to instragram said it best - it's served many generations of our family well.  My grandpa bought it, we learned about driving on it, and it's plowed more snow and tilled more acres than any of us care to think about.  I'm glad I captured the pic, even though just with a cell phone.  I know this experience has to be most emotional for my dad as he's lived on this farm nearly his entire life.  He's handling it all really well, but as I shared that I'd caught a shot of him driving the tractor out for the last time and he asked to see it, I caught the emotion is his voice.  We all know it's not about the things - it's about the people - but these things and this place holds so many memories and it seems we're all trying to soak them up as deeply as we can in these last moments.

The visiting of course was the most wonderful part.  And, as we go forward we're preparing to create new memories...standing around at the auction planning food for next weekend's big move and deciding on the plan of attack for what we want to get accomplished on moving day. Mom and dad have done pretty much everything themselves - and mostly dad.  My brothers and nephew helped get some things to the community center yesterday.  My sister and I have helped a little off and on with a load here to the storage shed or packing a few boxes, but most has been on dad.  It was nice to come together today and recognize next weekend is a family event - not for mom and dad to do alone but for all of us to do together...to make a new start at their new place.  As mom and I were talking today about furnishing the new place we were talking about how Easter and all the holidays after will be great in their new family room/kitchen that are connected together.

As always, a highlight of my day was enjoying young Lucas who was an amazingly good sport for the entirety of the auction.  

Snuggling with Grandpa
Snuggling with his grandpa

Playing with mommy's keys and grinning for the camera

Hanging out with Uncle Aaron

It's going to be a busy next couple of weeks and I hope that everything goes really smoothly with the move and getting mom and dad settled.  

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