What made my year

The year is almost over (seriously?!), but the memories of 2017 will stay with me far into the coming days. I try to make it a habit to look back at the good, the bad and the ugly of each year and make a Top 10 list of sorts. It is a blessing of an exercise just to sort through all the memories, acheivements, battles, failures and wins.

In compiling these lists, I came to the conclusion that anything that sounded good at the end of this sentence should make the cut:
“2017 was the year that such and such happened (Such and such of course being my memorable event).”

Please enjoy my Oh, That Was the Year [THAT] Happened List
(in no particular order):

#1:  My youngest child turned ONE. Cameron, aka Scooby, already lived one full year of her astonishing life. How could it have passed so quickly?

#2:  I became more church involved. I used to feel like such an outsider at my church, and I used to blame that feeling on my church community, staff, etc. I realized over time that it was me choosing to not connect that was causing the distance. I decided to commit more of myself through volunteering in the nursery, volunteering with church needs, teaching Sunday school, joining Women’s Bible Study, joining church-based Facebook groups, and taking road trips with other church moms. It has made all the difference. I now feel like it is MY church.

#3:  Hubby and I looked at one another and said, “Oh crap, we want another kid, don’t we?!” We decided to go crazy and attempt a fourth Busbee nugget. We got very, very lucky and were blessed with a beating heart growing in my belly. I want the world to know that I do not take this budding life lightly. The struggle that I know other hopeful parents face in trying to start a family is one I think about on a daily basis. I just try to do my very best to trust God’s plan for my life and be immensely grateful for it.

#4:  I lost my dearest kitty, Pinto. He was an indoor/outdoor kitty and he went on a hike one day and never came back. He was 15 years old and was notably sick. I think he made the process easy on me by not allowing me to see him suffer. Pinto just went away to rest peacefully, and that’s the best a cat mama can hope for.

#5:  I went surfing in Hawaii, crushing my fear of deep water. This was pretty huge for me. Okay, I was a really bad surfer. But the attempt was real!

#6:  Hubby and I put our faith to the test as I transitioned from the workforce into being a stay-at-home mom and full-time freelance photographer. It is terrifying to leave something comfortable, something that pays a consistent salary, something where I have adult coworkers. Part of that big change of course is living off one salary, giving up office benefits and healthcare, and paying for my own office supplies. It’s been an incredible adjustment!

#7:  We took a cruise with our closest friends. Six days at sea and island hopping. I honestly can’t even remember the destination. It’s the company that counts. We had an absolute blast traveling with our kiddos and the Bowen family.

#8:  I got a new job and I struggled with it. Staying at home full time with my children is hard work. I swear, there are times when I feel not nearly enough for them, like I’m just not built for this job. But I spent the past six months learning to balance life at home, learning to cook eggs to order, learning how to be the sole disciplinarian and home manager. Coupled with freelance, I feel as if I work double the hours as I did when I went to the office.

#9:  Both big kids went to elementary school. My two eldest kiddos are now in school, Caleb in third grade and Natalie in kindergarten. It feels immense. It feels like it all happened overnight.

#10:  We spent a bliss-filled weekend in a mountain cabin. I love the mountains and I love cozying up with family and friends. 

So that was my year. And how quickly it passed!

Print those cell phone photos

I know, I know. It’s such a pain to store, sort, save and print photos. Especially when we now take an exhaustive number of mobile photos each day. There are just too many to sort through. It’s so daunting most of us ignore it.

But, when it comes to photo printing, this is where I preach. I’ll try to preach gently.

Please, pretty please, start printing your photos and putting them in albums. Viewing them on a screen can never replace the weight of an album in your lap, or the emotional magnitude of flipping through glossy page after page of family memories. Hubby and I will often spend an evening – after the kids are fast asleep – going through our albums. It makes a cheap date night!

Everyone says, oh time flies, oh these days will be over before you know it. And I believe it. But I’m comforted by the fact that I’ve got the moments preserved on paper. I have albums that date back to the moment my son Caleb was born through Halloween of last year. And I’m ordering prints of all my current photos as I write this.

I’m not saying you have to go back through your entire history of photos, back to beginning of time. Don’t overload yourself or feel like you have to catch up. Just start with the present. Print those photos moving forward (and clear up some space on your phone). You will be so grateful you did.

Okay, rant complete.


Here are the simple steps I use to create my albums:

  • I print photos twice yearly. It’s a lot of photos each time. Maybe 200? I typically print 4×6-inch prints, which can be done affordably through mpix, Shutterfly or Walgreens. I also occasionally order canvas wall art and I have an entire wall of my house dedicated to those masterpieces. Those I order from Artsy Couture, Miller’s Lab or Collage.com.

  • To retrieve photos from my phone I plug the phone directly into my computer and use Mac’s Image Capture app to import the images. You can select all or individual images to import and save them directly to a folder of your choosing. I save all of my photos to an external hard drive (because I am old school and have no clue how to use iCloud). Additionally I have a cloud-based Pixieset account, which is reserved for my professional work.

  • Once photos are selected and imported I sort them into folders organized by month and year.

  • I then crop photos and reduce them down to 4×6 inches. This takes time and is not required. I do it because it saves time when uploading to a photo printing site, which is the next step.

mpix offers professional quality prints with one-day turnaround, shipped directly to you. The cost is 19¢ a print (economy 4×6 inch prints).

Walgreens offers fast service (one hour!) and costs 19¢ per print. They run specials often that bring the price way down. The quality is not nearly as good (cheaper ink, cheaper paper), but is totally acceptable for a 4×6-inch print. If you want it shipped to your house, that is also an option, but adds time to the process.

Shutterfly offers matte and glossy at 15¢ a print. They also offer free, unlimited online photo storage. Many times the site will offer free shipping once you’ve met a minimum order.

With all three vendors you must create an account and spend a little bit of time uploading your prints. Then just push that beloved “Place Order” button and await those glorious memories.

When the giant stack of photos arrives in the mail, oh I can hardly contain myself. Hubby and I pour through them. The kids love them too.

I purchase hardcover albums in which to store and display the prints from multiple places, mostly T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, Homegoods, Kohl’s and A.C. Moore. I prefer 12×12 or 10×10-sized albums that hold five photos (of both horizontal and vertical orientation) per page.

  • The last step – sliding those gorgeous photos into the album sleeves. This part is its own reward. Oh so satisfying!

Of course alternative options are available. I have used a mobile app called Chatbooks – which I reserve mostly for gifts or themed albums. Within the app, you pull photos directly from your phone to create nice-quality, soft-cover and hard-cover books. This is an easy, affordable option that is less time consuming than my process. For me, I still find value in pulling photos off my phone and organizing and storing them on a hard drive. 

Hubby expresses gratitude for his many blessings, one of the most vocal being just this: the preservation of our families memories. He doesn’t often mention my meticulous cleaning of the toilets or my daily packing the kids’ lunches. He does however, thank me constantly for capturing, organizing and displaying these albums. If our house were to catch on fire (you know, natural anxiety-filled things I think about), I’d first save the kids/pets, then the albums.

It matters not that most of the photos came from my cell phone. They are precious to me. And yours are to you.