Easter 2013

Happy Easter!  One of my new Easter favorites over the past few years has been waking up early to go to the Sunrise Service.  Well, maybe not so much the waking up early part, if I’m being honest.  Besides that, there is just something so amazing about spending Easter morning, watching the sun rise over the water and reflecting on the resurrection of my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.


A pretty great crowd of our church family and friends gathered together this morning at Newport Beach.


We sang songs


And listened to a pretty amazing message from our new friend, Eric.  He is a pastor from Zambia and we were so blessed to hear him share this morning.


Afterwards, we drove back to our church to enjoy a delicious Easter breakfast cooked up by some of the men from our church.  Everything was delicious and we really enjoyed it all.  After we ate, I asked my friend Olivia to take a quick picture of our family.


Then, I took a quick picture of her and her beautiful friend.


And then I proceeded to take a few cute pictures of her brother and his amazing girl friend, who was here visiting this past week.


As friends were trickling in for the Sunday Service, I grabbed a few more quick shots.


We have so many wonderful friends in our church family and we are so, so thankful for all of them.


The Sunday Easter Service was wonderful.  It was good to be surrounded by amazing people and to focus on the Jesus’ resurrection being the reason why we celebrate Easter.


After the service, we headed home.  We don’t have any more activities today, which makes this Sunday unique for our family.  Usually we would have Sunday School, Bible Study and College Group.  The kids had fun finding their Easter eggs, which held a few yummy pieces of candy and lots of quarters.  The rest of our day has been spent resting and relaxing.  I hope that you all had a wonderful Easter!


When a Bad Friday becomes a Good Friday

A Bad Friday, becomes a Good Friday when you remember that Jesus loved you so much that He died on the cross for your sins.  Dying on the cross seems pretty bad.  But giving humanity a chance for a right relationship with God in heaven?  That’s pretty good if you ask me.

It’s Easter Weekend.  And for many, that means egg hunts, candies and chocolates.  We are finally getting some “warmer” weather here and it looks like it’s going to be an amazing weekend.  I personally don’t mind the extra hype of the weekend.  My childhood memories always included a focus on celebrating Jesus’ death and resurrection, but also being super excited to color eggs and find the big Easter baskets that my Mom would create and hide for me and my sisters.

However, I know that for me, this weekend is so incredibly significant.  I want to embrace the love and the grace that flowed down from the cross, when Jesus died to pay for my sins.  I want to celebrate the joy of the resurrection, and fact that I can have a right relationship with God, because of what Jesus sacrificed.  It’s powerful and true, and it stirs up my hearts emotions when I think of it.

So tonight.  We will celebrate a Good Friday at 7:00pm at Eastport Bible Church (386 Montauk Highway, Eastport, NY).  My amazing husband will be sharing the message and I know for fact that it is going to be awesome.  If you are local, we would love to have you join us.  Then, on Sunday, we will wake up early, for our church’s Sunrise Service at 7:00am out at Newport Beach in East Moriches.  We will sing and celebrate Jesus’s resurrection, while watching the sun come up over the water.  Afterwards, we will enjoy an Easter breakfast, with our church family and then the Easter Service which will start at 9:30am.  Again, everyone is welcome to join us for this wonderful day.

Afterwards, we’ll do a little celebration with our kids.  There will probably be hidden eggs (the plastic ones, though, not the dyed ones, because I can’t figure for the life of me what to do with perfectly good eggs that have been hard boiled, but then colored on) and a smidgen of candy.  I won’t go overboard on the candy though, because with Christian having his first cavity, we are trying to be reasonable in that area.  We’ll probably eat something, though I’m just realizing that I should probably figure that out.  Granted, I have all the yummy sides planned, because those are my favorites, it’s just trying to figure out that elusive “meat dish” that would work out best.    And then we will relax.  And bask in the magnitude and glory of a weekend well spent.  I know that I’m really looking forward to it and hope that you enjoy this amazing weekend as well.


My New Friend, Estrella

With my photography business, my sessions are primarily with children and families.  However, this past week, I had the privilege of working one on one with a beautiful woman, my new friend Estrella.  We met through the Facebook ESM Community page and she contacted me recently to set up a session.


We had a lovely time.  We met up at a friend’s home for our session.  March has been so cold here, which makes things a touch more challenging when you work on location and with natural light.  The home was beautiful and the setting was perfect though.


It was a wonderful experience for me to work one on one with Estrella.  In my photography business thus far, I’m more familiar chasing around toddlers and working to get older children and teens to smile naturally.  However, I really enjoyed working with someone who just smiled so easily and followed suggestions readily.  I also just loved the confidence and beauty that Estrella presented as we worked through our session.


I wish the very best to my new friend Estrella as she works to put her book together.  She is smart and has overcome so much.  Her book shares her story and her advice to others.  Thank you Estrella for a wonderful session and I am so excited to see the great things that will come with your new book!



He’s Back

He’s back.  After spending last week at a Pastor’s Conference in Michigan and then the weekend at our church’s Men’s Retreat, I’m happy, so happy to say that my amazing husband is back home.  Granted, we most certainly missed him.  But at the same time, I was really happy that he was able to get away for a bit, after having spent the past seven weeks recuperating from surgery on his broken ankle.  At both the conference and the retreat, he was able to spend some good quality time with some pretty amazing people.  However, as I mentioned before, we are incredibly happy to have him back home with us.


The kids were so excited to have Daddy home.  I snapped a few shots tonight as they were all catching up over a game of Pokemon.  Christian claims that he finally knows how to play “for real” and has been having quite a bit of fun teaching our family all about it.  Yes, it’s most certainly good to be all together again.  Oh, and I probably should mention that Jer’s ankle is doing really well.  He’s finally able to walk in a walking boot and has been making improvements every day.  His physical therapist was super impressed with how far he’s come in just over a week.  We totally praise God for his great recovery and are continuing to trust him through this healing process.


In other news, this is a picture of my Rite Aid haul from Sunday.  At one point yesterday, I had figured out how much I had spent and saved, but somehow lost the receipt.  UPDATE:  Found the receipt.  Thanks to a $20 reward that I had from the previous week, I’m pretty sure that I only paid $2.70, and then earned another $21 in rewards, making it all free with a bit of a profit.  There are definitely some pretty good deals this week, and I think that you should stop by my favorite money saving website, Hip2Save and see if there are any deals that might fit your needs.  I actually stopped in again today, when Jer was at physical therapy and picked up some Clear Men’s Shampoo (expensive, but so good), two more razors and two more shaving creams.  I used coupons, paid $3.34 for about $40 worth of products and got another $12 in rewards for my next visit.


I’ll be honest.  It’s a fun game for me, but sometimes I do worry that I might become an extreme-couponing hoarder.  So I try my best, to make sure that I only buy things that we will use.  I also have fun sharing my good finds with our friends.  For instance, last week, when I came home with 30 bottles of Finesse hair products, I happily passed them out to a few unsuspecting friends that I thought my like a bottle, or four, of shampoos.

Anyhow, the couch, the Miami Heat game and my handsome husband are beckoning.  Thanks for stopping by and hope you all enjoyed a wonderful Monday!

Sweet Sixteen

Tonight we celebrated the Sweet Sixteenth birthday of our dear friend Victoria.  We’ve known her for practically forever and she is an incredibly amazing and beautiful girl.  She is an active and important part of our youth group and she adores our Ellee girl (the feeling is quite mutual on Ellee’s end).


I’ll be honest.  Before we moved to New York, I had never really heard of people throwing big Sweet Sixteen parties.  I figured it was merely the age right after fifteen and before the slightly less exciting age of seventeen.


However, in the past ten years, I’ve had the privilege of attending a good number of Sweet Sixteens.  I’ve photographed some and considering the fact that we continually work with teenagers, we have been invited to quite a few as well.


Victoria’s party was fantastic.  I knew most of the kids because most of them are a part of our youth group.


It was so fun to see them all dressed up and having a great time.


Ellee played shy for awhile, but it didn’t take long before she was all in.


Victoria is such a wonderful girl.  She also has wonderful friends as well.  Friends are such an important thing when you’re a teenager, and it always makes me so happy, when our students surround themselves by good friends.


It was so good to see Victoria’s mom and when she introduced me to her sister, I figured I’d better take a quick picture.  I love sister shots and it always reminds me of how much I love and miss my own sisters.


Later on in the evening, everyone gathered around as Victoria did her candle lighting.


This is by far my favorite tradition of most Sweet Sixteens.  I love hearing the stories and memories and what makes her friends and family so special.  Victoria was so sweet too, as she shared a candle with Jer, Christian, Ellee and I.  It definitely made me tear up to hear the kind words of our dear friend.


Victoria had many special candles and many friends to share them with.


Ellee loved watching the candle lighting.


More Candle Lighting fun.



After her candles were all lit,


it was time to make a wish and then blow them all out.


Victoria then shared the sweetest dance with her Dad.


Followed by lots more dancing.  We all had a great time celebrating Victoria’s big day.


I’ll finish up with one more shot.  How amazing is this cake?  Since it was late, we had to leave before they cut it, but it was so incredible that I can’t imagine eating it after admiring it all in one piece.  Happy, happy birthday Dear Victoria!  We love you so much and are so thankful for your special day!


Movie Night

Yesterday, I ended my birthday by hanging out with some pretty awesome kids at our Youth Group Movie Night.


Their awesomeness looked a little bit like this…


And this.


Before we started the movie, the students sang a rousing rendition of “Happy Birthday,” led by the great Jack Hatton.  It was kind and melodious and definitely made me feel quite loved.


We had a great turnout of leaders and students.


It may have been that they were just all so excited to see Napoleon Dynamite.  Or it may have been because we just have an amazing youth group.  After watching the movie, although quite funny, I’m guessing it was the later.


Christian had fun helping out with the popcorn machine.


And Ellee had fun eating the popcorn.


It was great to have a few of our college students home on their Spring Break.



All I’m saying, is you gotta love a picture of the pre-movie texting checks.


And you gotta love this picture of these awesome guys.


And this picture was pretty nice as well.


Movie night was a great success.  A huge thanks to Jack for handling the popcorn machine like a Pro.


And a huge, huge thanks to my dear friend Emily for making this amazing birthday cake for me.  It was a beautiful and delicous way to end a busy 32nd birthday.


32 Years, Fully Lived

Life is a gift.  And tomorrow, I will be blessed to celebrate 32 years of it.  So, in honor of 32 years, fully lived, I thought I would make a list of 32 things that I’ve been thankful for over the years.  For the most part, they are in no particular order.

1.  I am incredibly thankful for Jer.  He is my very best friend and I adore him.  He is so amazing and so wonderful and I am so thankful for the incredible ways that God has blessed us over these past ten years of marriage.  I love my husband so, so much.


2.  I am thankful for my son, Christian.  He was the very best surprise that I could have imagined.  He is strong-willed and stubborn, but I’m pretty sure that he is destined for greatness.  He loves God and knows so much about the Bible.  He is also very good at math.  I am incredibly thankful that he is mine.


3.  I am so, so thankful for our sweet Ellee girl.  She makes the world a better place, just by being herself.  She cries and laughs easily.  She is a precious girl and I absolutely adore being her Mama.


4.  I’m thankful that we life in New York.  It’s a great state, with the most wonderful city and I’m thankful for the ten years that we have had here.


5.  I’m thankful for my parents, for all they’ve done to raise me well.  In this stage of life, I’m thankful for their role as grandparents.  I love seeing them love my kids and love that my kids love them back.  I’m thankful for the time and trips that they take to come out to see us and for the memories that we make each time we are together.


6.  Speaking of family, I’m very thankful for my in-laws.  Jeremy’s parents are absolutely wonderful and I love and appreciate them so very much.  Though we are pretty much separated by an entire country, we cherish the times that we have with them and are thankful for their love and support.


7.  I’m thankful for my Sisters and for Skype.  I’m thankful that they for the most part, have forgiven me for being awful to them in high school and that we are able to have good relationships now that we are grown.  I’m thankful for the beautiful examples that they set as mothers to their large families.  I’m thankful too that they can always amaze me with their perfect house keeping skills.  They are seriously both, like housekeeping gurus.  It’s something that people like me admire and are amazed by.  Most of all though, I’m thankful for their love for God and the ways that they show it by how they live their lives.


8.  I’m thankful for Eastport Bible Church.  I’m thankful that they hired my husband as their youth pastor, almost 10 years ago.  I’m thankful for the love and support that they give us.  I’m thankful for the youth ministry that we have had here.  I’m thankful for old pictures of students that are now young adults.


9.  I’m thankful for Grammy Joy and for our church family here.  I’m thankful for the love that our church shows to my family.  I’m thankful for the beautiful friends that we have made here and for the ways that they love us.


10.  I’m thankful for my kids’ friends.  They have some pretty close ones here and they love them very much.


11.  I’m thankful for family get togethers.  I’m thankful for the amazing trip that we were able to take this past year with most of Jer’s family.  I’m thankful for time and energy and money well spent.


12.  I’m thankful for games like Just Dance for the Wii.  I love watching my kids play it, because they just look so cute.


13.  I’m thankful for art.  And for crayons pictures, drawn by a kindergartener, that depict pure love.


14.  I’m thankful for good friends.  The kinds that know the good and the bad, but still love you no matter what.  I’m thankful for prayers lifted up over the years, for knowing that I can be open and honest and for laughter and tears.


15.  I’m thankful for couponing.  Because it’s just a tremendously fun way to save money and get good things.


16.  I’m thankful for good teachers.  I’m thankful for beautiful people that I can entrust the care and education of my children too.


17.  I’m thankful for Ellee and Daddy and their matching Duke pants.  I’m thankful for Duke and hope that they will do as well as my bracket says they should.


18.  I’m thankful for opportunities to serve others.  I’m thankful that my life is more than just my life.  I’m thankful for the people that have come along side of us over the years to do good things for God.


19.  I’m thankful for her silly faces.


20.  I’m thankful for comfort.


21.  Though I am not really materialistic, I’m super thankful for my Hunter boots.  These boots seriously got me through a snowy winter and kept my feet warm and cozy.  Rainy days are a little more fun because of them as well.


22.  I’m thankful that God healed Zack Skarka’s cancer.  Every time I see him, it’s a testimony to the amazing ways that God works.


23.  I’m thankful for my Mom.  My Dad too, of course, but definitely my Mom.  I’m thankful that I can call her up at any time, for the important things and the not so important things.  I’m thankful for the trip to the city that we were able to take last time she visited and for the fun memories that we made.


24.  I’m thankful for summer.  Especially on Long Island.  We live on the south shore and it’s a blessing to be able to have access to some pretty beautiful beaches right on the Atlantic Ocean.


25.  I’m thankful for our College and Career Group.  I’m thankful the the amazing friends that we have had attend over the years.


26.  I’m thankful for the beautiful flowers that bloom on this tree which is right by our church.


27.  I’m thankful that God has blessed my photography business.  I’m thankful that I get to do something that I absolutely love as my “job.”  I’m thankful for the wonderful clients that I have met and worked with and for them allowing me to capture the beautiful and important moments of their lives.


28.  I’m thankful that most broken things in life can be fixed.  I’m thankful that Jer’s broken ankle is healed and that we are headed in the direction back to wellness.  I’m thankful that God has given us the strength that we have needed through this time.


29.  I’m thankful for friends that love my kids and that join my gym.  I’m thankful for the gym.  I’m thankful for the classes that I take each week with wonderful people who are awesome and strong.


30.  I’m thankful that I get to work with kids through our church’s Kids Club ministry.  I’m thankful for all of the wonderful kids that came this year and for the amazing leaders that helped out.  I’m thankful that in a crazy world, we can teach our children that they are loved by God and that he made them special and unique and that He has a plan for their lives.


31.  I’m thankful for the people that teach my children good things about God.  I’m thankful that they are also willing to help them out in so many other ways.


32.  I’m thankful, so thankful for the countless blessings that God has given me.  I’m thankful for 32 years of life, well lived.  I’m thankful for the good times, and for the tough times.  I’m thankful that I’ve learned and grown and that I will continue to learn and grow.  I’m thankful for the family that I have and for the love that they have given me.  I’m thankful that God has a plan and purpose for my life and for the joy that I get trying to live that out.


Thanks for stopping in and for sharing in my life.  I’m excited for tomorrow and for what the days and months and years will bring.  Most of all, I thank and praise God for the great things that He has done and that He will hopefully continue to do in my life.

Bella Smiles

My childhood memories of the dentist’s office include the cool fish tank in the waiting room, the taste of the fluoride rinse, and getting to choose a prize from the treasure box at the end of each visit.  My dentist Dr. Mark was a wonderful man and I’m so thankful that my parents were able to get us good dental care.

My adult memories of the dentist have not been as pleasant.  When we moved to Long Island ten years ago, Jer and I both spent quite a bit of time trying out different dentists and having some pretty awful experiences.  Thankfully, just over a year ago, we finally found a wonderful dentist, Dr. Sal at Bella Smiles.  He currently has two offices, one in Nesconset and one in Riverhead.  We visit the Riverhead location.  It’s such a nice, clean and beautiful office and just has a warm and inviting feel to it.


The kids and I came right after school so Christian worked on his homework while we waited.


The sweet receptionist offered us coffee or tea while we waited.  If I were a coffee or tea drinker, I would have totally had one.  It’s just nice little touches like this that make me enjoy this office so much.  On that note, the bathroom was really cool as well and had a fun basket of toothbrushes and mouth rinse.  I would have taken a picture, but thought it might be a bit strange to take my camera to the bathroom, so you’ll just have to take my word for it.


Melissa, our friend and dental hygienist called us in shortly after we arrived.  She is just so sweet and friendly and is absolutely amazing with the kids too.  She told them everything that she was doing and made the visit fun.  Ellee loves the dentist and I know that Melissa is a big part of the reason why.


The other part might be the television with the kids shows that she gets to watch while she gets her teeth cleaned.


And the final part of that might be when Melissa has her “kiss” the suction tool which clears all of the water in her mouth.  It’s a fun and she giggled each time.


We all had cleanings and check ups today.  Thankfully Christian was willing to wait patiently while his sister had her turn.


Once the cleaning and fluoride treatments were finished, Dr. Sal came in to do the exams.  He is just so kind and has such a calming presence.  If you have ever had a fear of the dentist, Dr. Sal is certainly someone that you would want to see.  I’ve definitely been there and for me, I have much less anxiety about dentists since we’ve been gone to Dr. Sal at Bella Smiles.


Bella Smiles also has a treasure box and when we were all done, the kids got to pick out a prize.  Melissa also threw in a pair of gloves which Ellee was absolutely delighted about.  If you are local and in need of an amazing dentist, I would highly, highly recommend Dr. Sal at Bella Smiles.  His office is so friendly and every member of his staff is wonderful and so helpful.  I know that our family is very thankful that we are able to go there.


Another perk with Bella Smiles is that it is located right behind the Panera Bread in Riverhead.  So, after our visit, we headed there for an early dinner.  Oh, and in case you were wondering, most all of us received a good bill of health.  Christian has a small cavity that we will get filled in a few weeks.  I’m thankful for a good visit and again, if you are in the area and looking for a great dentist, give Dr. Sal a call!


Trying Something New…

This past weekend, I learned that Facebook would no longer allow me to share my blog posts.  It was some something to do with some strange feud they had going with Google (who runs Blogger).  I was a bit frustrated, because Facebook is the primary way that I share my posts with friends and family.  I started blogging two years ago as a way to share my life and photography.  It’s been a great experience and something that I definitely want to continue.  That being said, I’m working on creating something new and here it is.  It’s still me, it’s still a blog, but I’m using WordPress.  To my knowledge, they don’t have any issues with Facebook and I think it’s going to be good.  Because change is good.  And trying new things is also good.  And I’m ready to embrace good.  Even though it’s new, and a little different.

So here goes.  My first WordPress post will look something a little like this.


This afternoon, after picking the kids up from school, Christian finished his homework, grabbed a snack and then we headed over to Nathan Tuttle’s workshop so that he could work on this:


This is Christian’s first year of Stockade, a program for boys in Third through Sixth grade.  He’s absolutely loved it.  We have some pretty amazing men in our church that run the program.  He goes each week to play games, learn good things about God and have a great time with a wonderful group of guys.  They do all sorts of guy things, and they always finish up the year with a Shape and Race Derby.  They basically start off with a block of wood, shape it and then race it.


There’s actually a few steps in between there, that involve sanding and painting, and that is what he worked on today.  One of Nathan’s sons, Jonathan was there to help him out.


It was really fun for Christian to be able to spend time with Nathan Tuttle and Jonathan.  When I went to pick him up, Nathan took some time to show us some of the amazing machines in his woodworking shop.


Nathan Tuttle is known around our town for his incredible craftsmanship with woodworking.


It’s kind of funny, because we’ve known him for ten years.  He and his family are a key part of our church.  He is an elder on our church board and we really loved having his three boys in youth group throughout the years.  That being said, I never thought about the fact that he makes a living crafting and creating amazing pieces of woodworking.


It was really fun seeing some of the things that he does and the machines that he uses to create great pieces.


It’s good to create.  It’s good to take something ordinary and craft it into something meaningful and new.  I’m hoping that I can do this with my new blog.  As I continue into another year of sharing and writing and creating, I’m looking forward to the new things that will come.  I thank you for stopping by and for sharing this journey with me.