Sunday, October 02, 2016

capturing life

I’ve been horrible at capturing life lately here on the blog. But that doesn’t mean it’s not happening.  Life is happening, and I’m actually capturing it, just in different ways. 

I’m big into documenting life.  I’m driven to make the present stick inside of me.  Not sure if it’s the (very real) worry of forgetting that’s driving this or just that it’s been a part of my value system for so long.  But I do believe there is power in keeping records.  Records help us to create our narrative.  To tell ourselves a story about our lives.  To give what we’re doing meaning.  And there is something in the act of documentation that helps me to cherish and savor the present a little more.  In the recording I feel like I live more fully. 

So, since blogging is so darn hard to keep up with, here’s some things I’ve been doing to satiate my need to document:  I’m trying to write in Evernote before checking Instagram…just a little note about the day, what’s been happening, the cute thing Peter said etc.  I’m trying to post enough to Instagram so that my kids and grandparents will have a record of the everyday happenings around here.  I’ve signed up for Chatbooks (google it, it’s awesome) so we get a little printed out Instagram book every six weeks or so.  And, just since my birthday in August I’ve decided to make quick little 2 minute video of our lives month to month.

I’m loving this video thing.  I use two apps to make them: iMovie and Motion Stills.  It takes me about 3 min every couple days to add the newest live photos to the movie and then I grab a song (from our awesomely talented friend Ricky Valadez) to stick with it and boom, it’s done. 

It’s magical to see your life in short little seconds set to music.  All the yuck edited out. Life isn’t always so rosy as it looks through the lens, but I firmly believe that cameras can capture the tiniest bit of life's uncontainable beauty.

The little individual minutes and days and parts aren’t always so nice.  But the whole does glisten.

So, here are the nice bits of our August and September:

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Say Cheese for Refugees Part 2

IMG_4823It may appear from this blog that we’re dedicating our whole lives to refugees lately, I wish we were THAT altruistic.  I’m not blogging much since I’ve just been swamped with end of the year stuff that is not super blog-interesting.  I always have some things cooking in my head, maybe some updates are coming soon, but I’m not promising anything. 
In the mean time, check out what my friend Liz is up to this summer.  She’s taking her whole family to Greece to set up an education center in a refuge camp!  Isn’t that amazing?  Wish I could go, but since I can’t I am determined to do something to help with her cause. 
My Go Jane Give fundraiser was so fulfilling, I loved connecting with so many big hearted people to take their photos.  And together we’ve raised nearly $2500!  Thanks so much to all who have spread the word and made donations. 
To help with the education center I’ve decided to do a “Say Cheese for Refugees Part 2.” I would love for you to get involved!  Here are some things you can do right now to make a big difference:
  • Follow this link to make a direct donation.   Donations of ANY AMOUNT will make a difference.  And every donation comes with a gift – either a portrait session or access to my top ten portrait photo tips.  100% of all donations will go directly to funding a new education center at the Oinofyta Refugee Camp in Greece.  I can’t think of a more concrete way to help tackle this refugee crisis. 
  • Create your own fundraiser. Go Jane Give makes it so easy to find an idea, make a page and start raising money.  When you’re creating your page just type “Do Your Part, Inc” when it asks you to pick your cause.  All donations from your page will be earmarked specifically to help create the Education Center. 
  • Share my Go Jane Give page (or this blog post) with friends and family via email, instagram, twitter etc.
Read below to learn more, I’m pretty sure you’ll feel inspired and compelled to want to jump in and do something.  image005 (1)
Many of us have been moved by the heart-wrenching images of refugees pouring into Greece, arriving in over-packed boats, homeless and possessionless--but not hopeless. After much searching for a small way to help, our family will be heading to Greece to work in the Oinofyta Refugee Camp this summer.
Oinofyta (pronounced “ee naw fee tah”) is a brand new family camp, housing about 700 refugees. About 50% of those refugees are kids and they and their families have been forced from their homes by threats or acts of violence. Many have lost family members and children and now face a reality of living in camps for an average of three years. From our vantage point, they all have unbelievable stories.
The project manager of this camp is doing an amazing job organizing this camp around the concept of self-sufficiency and it is clean and very well run. There are no locked gates and refugees are free to come and go as they please. The refugees provide their own security, food distribution, teachers, etc. and while there are classrooms and teachers for the younger kids, there is no space or computers for online schooling for the 12-18 year-olds which leaves them at a distinct disadvantage as they struggle to restart their lives in a new country.
The Edwards family will be holding a GIGANTIC YARD SALE, Saturday July 9, from 9-3 at 94 Golden Run Road in Bolton to raise money for a new Education Center in the camp, including a mobile classroom, 20 computers, printers, desks, and chairs so the youth in the camp can continue their education by enrolling in online schooling during this time of crisis.
1) Clean out your basements, garages and sheds and donate items to the yard sale. You can drop off donations on July 6, 7, and 8 from 6-8pm at 94 Golden Run Road, Bolton, Massachusetts.  Or contact us if you need to make other arrangements.
2) Come to the yard sale! Mark your calendars for July 9 to get a great deal for a great cause!
3) Join us by creating your own fundraiser with your family or friends to make this Education Center a reality for these refugees!  If you need ideas, Go Jane Give can help.  Just be sure to type in Do Your Part, Inc. when it asks for your cause.  All funds from Go Jane Give will be earmarked for the education center.
4) Make a donation! If you'd prefer to make a financial contribution to the Refugee Relief 2016 project, that's great, too!  Just go to Any little bit will help!  And you’ll get some photo tips or a portrait session as a thank you!
100% of every dollar will go to the Education Center.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at or call Hannah Edwards at (978) 875 1048.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

Thoughts on mother’s day. And my mom.


Happy Mothering Day to ALL you women out there!  In England Mother’s Day doesn’t exist, instead they have “Mothering Sunday.”  A Sunday where people honor and acknowledge all the women in their lives who have mothered them, all the women who help them mother others.  It’s just a small difference in syntax, but I think it’s such a better way to celebrate. 

I have had so many thoughts swirl through my mind today as I’ve been pampered by my family and as I’ve thought about all who have mothered me and helped me mother my children.  I wish I could write them all down, but that will have to wait since it’s late and I need to sleep.

I wanted to post a quick picture on Instagram of my own incredible mother, as a tribute so I started looking through old family pictures…and now, an hour later, here I am at the computer, a mess of emotions, full of love and gratitude for this, most amazing woman and the fact that I get to call her mother.  s_9acqy2vl31081_z

Photos are magical.  The shutter freezes one tiny little moment in time, strips away all the clutter of the present and preserves a glorious part of our story.  As I went through these photos I found myself in awe of what my mother did.  It’s easy as a child, even an adult child, to not really see your mom for who she is outside of you.  But sitting here tonight, looking through my childhood, I  cracked open a whole new appreciation for mothering and the importance my mother gave to it.  She threw her whole heart into the game….and has never taken it out.

It makes me want to pinch that little me girl in the photos, holler to her, don’t you get it?  Don’t you get how much of her life she is giving?  How her bones ache at the end of the night?  And her heart?  But that’s the nature of mothering.  It is selfless.  It is mostly unacknowledged by its recipients.  It is paid in slobbery kisses (and lanyards – see poem below).  The work is back and heart breaking, but the harvest is miraculous.  Mothers build lives. 

I love this quote, it’s one of my mom’s favorites:

Every mother is like Moses. She does not enter the promised land. She prepares a world she will not see.  -  Pope Paul VI

And this talk about cathedrals, and the invisible woman. 

We don’t do this work for the same reasons we do other things in life.  It is motivated by love.  And love is good at delayed gratification.  My mom has perfected that kind of love.  I’m working on it.

So quick, before it gets too late I’m going to zoom through these photos, let them tell the story and just write a bit about some of the things I love about this astounding woman and reflect a little on how these little frozen moments are what the real magic of motherhood is made of.


Here my mom is with her mom.  Not sure I’ve ever seen a picture of them together at this age.  I love seeing my mom in my shoes with her mom.  I follow after a great legacy of mothering.  s_9acqy2vl30802

I love this shot of my mother with me on my first birthday.  I can’t help but think if that was me my face wouldn’t look quite so calm.  I think I'd be giving that big brother of mine the stink eye for climbing on the table and trying to blow out the candle.  My mom has always been amazing at being the eye of the storm. 


And again, here.  How in the world did my mom sit through so much practicing with so many children?  I’m sure she didn’t always have this smile on her face….I know I was a snotty practicer just like my kids are….but I’m so thankful she stuck it out with me.  She gave me an incredible love for music and it’s trickling through me to my kids and I’m so so thankful for that.



Not sure which baby this is, maybe Josh?  I love seeing that she took a nap at least once.  s_9acqy2vl30170_zThis face! ^^

s_9acqy2vl30323This is exactly how it looks when I brush Emmeline’s hair.  (except I don’t wear such cool pants)s_9acqy2vl30369I like seeing all the details in this picture.  The left over stuff from a birthday dinner, the clutter in the background.  The charts (?) taped onto the wall behind us. That adorable home made birthday cake. And I think I’m blowing a snot bubble.  s_9acqy2vl30384s_9acqy2vl30493I know how much work that is for the mom, to put together all those Easter outfits, to do that hair, to get myself looking presentable (love the pink dress mom!)  to fill those baskets.  And I love my grandma peering through the door.  I wish I could see a video of this Easter morning.  Something in my mom’s face in this picture tells me that she wasn’t feeling totally at peace.  Maybe I’m projecting my own holiday morning mothering onto her, but that face looks like how I feel most Sunday mornings.  It’s a “I'm making it through this face.”s_9acqy2vl30529_z

Here she is with baby me.  I wonder if it was easier for her to be in the present more than I am.  No smart phones, no pinterest, no instagram.  I’m sure there were other ways moms compared themselves and got distracted, I’m sure lots of moms felt disconnected with no facebook to fill some void.  But it also seems that there weren’t quite as many distractions.  Not quite as much comparing.  Just making it through each day the best she knew how. 

s_9acqy2vl30558_zThis one might be one of my favorites.  Saren’s birthday party.  I love how calm my mom is back there urging those girls to raise their hands.  Those little girls, not aware in the slightest of the work it took to get that spread of things all lined up on the table or the herculean effort it must have taken to get so many kids there, happy, fed.  My sister Saren is there just waving, like, “no big deal.” Oh, we don’t know what our moms do for us until it’s only frozen in photos.   s_9acqy2vl30588And this one?  It’s my mom and dad in London.  My mom was 31 and a mission president’s wife.  For three years living in London, away from family, started with 4 kids, went home with 6, managed to mother her own as well as all those hundreds of missionaries and my dad. She is a wonder. s_9acqy2vl30701And a beauty. s_9acqy2vl30726

And here she is after the birth of her sixth child.  She looks exhausted, but content.  Ready to rally again and learn to live expanded.  s_9acqy2vl30815Here we are in Mexico.  She and my dad took us all to live in this tiny town in central Mexico for a summer.  We ran around with the street kids and tried to learn Spanish and ate lots of quesadillas.   That was the summer my mom helped me to memorize my times tables, among a few other things she had going on.  What a spirit of adventure. s_9acqy2vl30904s_9acqy2vl30921Again, another favorite.  Not sure where these guys are, but love those wind blown faces.  That mother in the middle of it all.  Mothering.  s_9acqy2vl30924s_9acqy2vl31084

I think this might be a baby doll?  Who is this?  Hopefully one of my siblings can tell me….don’t think my mom ever had a baby with that kind of hair. I’m thinking this might be a picture of my mom practicing mothering before she ever mothered a child of her own.  She was born to mother.  s_9acqy2vl30969When I was in jr high my mom decided she didn’t have enough people to mother and that we didn’t have enough grandparents around so she adopted this Mr. Boyle.  An old widower who she took us to visit every week.  Her heart is as big as an ocean. s_9acqy2vl31070She always wanted ten, but here she is, content with her 9th and last. 

I wish I could take those kids up there aside and give them a little talking to.  Help them to understand in the moment their mother’s heart and the miraculous work it is doing.  And I wish I could somehow spell that out to my kids in a way they’d get.  A way that would make them stop and wonder at the work my heart and body and brain are doing each day.  But that’s not the way it’s set up.  We don’t appreciate what our mother’s do for us until they are through the war and basking in results. Until we are doing all the same things for our own children.  It’s really delayed gratification at it’s finest.

For some reason it’s so comforting for me to see my mom frozen in time, doing these mothering tasks that feel so never ending to me.  All of them stacked up together to create my childhood.   All these little moments of hair brushing and hustling and birthday parties and holidays and cooking dinner and practicing and new babies.  Surely they felt like an eternity to live through them as the mom….but to me they are my childhood. 

Childhood is a beautiful gift composed of lots of monotonous days and hard mothering work. It is powerful to look through these shutter click moments and see them all squish together into a such a glistening whole.  It gives me hope that the same magic is at work around here, even though most of the time it feels so far from anything magical. 

Last, I’ve got to leave with my favorite mother’s day poem.  I think I've posted it every mother’s day, but to me this powerful and hilarious thought never gets old.

The Lanyard

by Billy Collins

The other day I was ricocheting slowly
off the blue walls of this room,
moving as if underwater from typewriter to piano,
from bookshelf to an envelope lying on the floor,
when I found myself in the L section of the dictionary
where my eyes fell upon the word lanyard.

No cookie nibbled by a French novelist
could send one into the past more suddenly—
a past where I sat at a workbench at a camp
by a deep Adirondack lake
learning how to braid long thin plastic strips
into a lanyard, a gift for my mother.

I had never seen anyone use a lanyard
or wear one, if that's what you did with them,
but that did not keep me from crossing
strand over strand again and again
until I had made a boxy
red and white lanyard for my mother.

She gave me life and milk from her breasts,
and I gave her a lanyard.
She nursed me in many a sick room,
lifted spoons of medicine to my lips,
laid cold face-cloths on my forehead,
and then led me out into the airy light

and taught me to walk and swim,
and I , in turn, presented her with a lanyard.
Here are thousands of meals, she said,
and here is clothing and a good education.
And here is your lanyard, I replied,
which I made with a little help from a counselor.

Here is a breathing body and a beating heart,
strong legs, bones and teeth,
and two clear eyes to read the world, she whispered,
and here, I said, is the lanyard I made at camp.
And here, I wish to say to her now,
is a smaller gift—not the worn truth

that you can never repay your mother,
but the rueful admission that when she took
the two-tone lanyard from my hand,
I was as sure as a boy could be
that this useless, worthless thing I wove
out of boredom would be enough to make us even.


Mom, thanks eternally for the breathing body, the beating heart and for giving me eyes to read the world.  And for building my childhood through all those little everyday not so fun tasks.  You taught me the immense value and joy of mothering others.

I know I can never repay you, the thought is laughable.  But I hope you know that with every passing day as a mother I realize more and more what a gift your hard mothering work is in my life.     

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Humanity tugging at me.



The world has been tugging at me lately.  I move through my packed life often complaining about all my busy woes.  And then I come across an image or a story or a thought that squashes all those worries with sudden gratitude and brings things into focus.  It is in these moments of clarity that I realize that most of the things I dread, most of the reasons I drag my feet, most of my complaints are rooted in the fact that I have a full life.  Full of food that needs preparing, a house that needs cleaning, relationships that need tending, clothes that need folding.  Basically luxuries that need maintaining and blessings that need managing.  It’s the stability of my life that enables me to worry about little details, notice small headaches, feel wearied by my to do list.  This impossibly long list of things to work through each day exists BECAUSE my life is FULL of good things and the security to pursue them.

Lately most of these moments of clarity have come from thinking about the plight of SO many people in the world seeking refuge right now.  At our most recent church general conference this talk urging us to reach out to refugees struck me hard, had me in tears.  In the fall we had a great lesson at church about finding refuge and how we all need different kinds of refuge at different times in our lives for different reasons.    And over the past 6 weeks I’ve been working on interviewing women in our congregation to make a video of how they have needed and found refuge in their lives.  It’s had me thinking about the refuge I’ve personally received during turbulent times in my life and what a balm it has been to be succored by others, by my faith, by my savior.  The refuge I’ve needed has been mostly emotional and it has been manageable.  I can’t imagine living through the to-do list of so many mothers right now: stay alive, keep my children alive, don’t get shot, get on the boat, get through the barbed wire, find food, find shelter, build a new life in a strange often unwelcoming place.  I can’t imagine having the safety and security stripped away that enables me to work through my little day to day worries.18-lens-reuters-pulitz-slide-Q4WT-superJumbo18-lens-refugees-slide-8UWR-superJumbo216890135342e1257fb5115a986a20b6
It’s tricky sitting in my cushy life, knowing what to do. I’ve had so many conversations with sisters and friends about how sad this refugee crisis is but we always leave the conversation uneasy, not sure what it is we can actually do.  And then life gets busy again and those feelings get swept up with the laundry and errands.
Enter Go Jane Give.  I’ve been serving as a board member of this brilliant new non profit that is targeting women just like me.  Women who want to do something to alleviate suffering but don’t know where to start.  Women who have felt the tug of humanity but feel they are so small compared with the big problems of the world.  And so far away.  And so consumed with their every day lives.  Go Jane Give aims to help women like us know where to start.  To help us turn our talents and interests into simple fundraisers to get money to some of the most effective non-profits addressing the world’s biggest challenges.

So I went through their platform (here) and viola! within minutes I had my page all ready to go.  It’s super simple and is packed with inspiring (and easy) ideas that will help us become activists for change just by doing what we do day to day.

Click through to my fund raising page, Say Cheese for Refugees!  I'm offering mini-portrait sessions in four different cities this spring/summer for anyone who donates to RefugePoint, an amazing organization that helps the worlds most vulnerable refugees.  And if you can't make a portrait session still donate!  I'll send you a list of my top ten tips for taking your own portraits. 

Also, go explore Go Jane Give, and thank me later.  You can be among the first to use the platform and create your own fund-raising page.  The site is just lovely and you'll be tickled by how easy it is to start making a difference, there are even ideas for 'no effort' efforts (my favorites). You’ll also feel super motivated to start making a difference in the larger world if you read Josie’s article here, it’ll give you a clear vision for the unique mission of GJG.  You'll find an awesome new community of women who are serious about doing our parts, within our spheres, with the time and talents we have to change the world for good.  This idea of lifestyle giving is going to take off like wildfire, I'm sure of it.  I’d also love to hear your reactions to this new space in social media.  I think it’s super refreshing!



But by the Grace of God there go I.

(images all Photography Pulitzer for Coverage of Refugee Crisis, NYTimes)



Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Some of winter 2016 that I don’t want to forget

It’s so easy to forget the everyday little things that really make up a life.  And, to be honest, there are parts of the winter that I’m always happy to forget.  But, for family history sake, here are some little things I found on my phone from January and February that I don’t want to be lost forever. IMG_2654First, Jeff had a birthday!  And he got a great cake made of twinkies.  I think maybe he thinks if he keeps asking for twinkies for his birthday it means he’s not actually growing up.  IMG_2667We had a little party for him at home and then sent him on an errand on his way to church for bishoping/mutual stuff so that we could rush ahead of him and pull off a little surprise party. IMG_2693 Bless those dear youth of the church and their leaders who participated in some crazy birthday games meant mostly to embarrass the bishop.  We played the never-fail-to-laugh-make-you-laugh dress up game and …IMG_2679[4] THROW THE WIG ON THE BISHOP! It was pretty epic.  I’m sure the best birthday ever for poor Jeff who went along with our crazy plans and even seemed to enjoy them.  IMG_2590We did some Joy School.  Peter has a cute little group of three and we meet once a week, rotating houses.  If you don’t know much about Joy School, check it out.  It is, hands down, my favorite mothering activity (oh, maybe not, maybe reading aloud is).  Either way, I love how Joy School forces me to do all these fun mothering/teaching things that I might not do otherwise.  It has give me a language with which to talk to my pre-schoolers about the most important things and has helped me to re-discover so many joys in life….joys these little ones feel so naturally. IMG_3251 I got to go out to dinner with these women.  Two of the most incredible women it the world, doing really pretty miraculous things with their lives, and I get to call them my friends.  They’re an inspiration.  And, since it was Karaoke night at our favorite Indian place we requested, and got, our own private room.  That was good for the soul.IMG_2715IMG_2663Peter started piano lessons!  He has been SUPER eager to start.  I love watching him during his lessons, he can hardly sit still with all that excitement bubbling up inside of him.  I love our busy with music lesson Wednesday afternoons.  I love watching my kids work hard for their teachers.  I feel all this love swelling up for them that isn’t around when I’m practicing with them.   IMG_2735We got to go up to New Hampshire to stay with a former work colleague of Jeff’s before he gave a presentation at Dartmouth.  This couple was so kind to us, so gracious to our kids, and, miracle of miracle, our kids were pretty civilized!  They had me sweating up a storm, wondering what follies they might commit, but all went smoothly.  It amazes me how good they are at stepping up to the plate when the stakes are high.  My kids know how to be polite!  How to carry on a conversation with an adult!  How to look them in the eye!  Yeah! IMG_2740We had our first big snow of the season while we were up there.  It was so magical to wake up in such a beautiful old farm house with snow all around. 

IMG_2758After sledding we were famished so we decided to take the kids to the Dartmouth Collage dining hall for dinner.  I highly recommend this kind of excursion for college motivation.  After all that all you can eat pizza, soda, ice cream, Mexican food, cookies etc etc etc our kids are SOLD on going to college.  IMG_2933I got to go to a little women’s retreat, out to Western MA to stay in a beautiful house with some pretty stellar women.  About 10 women, all incredible thinkers, talented in so many unique ways.  This is where my obsession for planets was born, inspired by the incredible Leslie Graff.    IMG_2947More Joy School. IMG_3002More selifies (at the Rock Climbing gym….we really wore out that three month membership!)IMG_3191IMG_3096Convinced these kids to go on a total of two family Sunday walks.  Still trying on that one.  IMG_3118IMG_3131IMG_3135These two celebrated a DECADE of friendship. Yes, their friendship began in utero.  I’m so happy that they have each other.  People at school all think they are brothers.  Friends like that are treasures.  Rare as rubies.    IMG_3193Our cousin Max left on a mission.  The first cousin to go.  The kids were so excited about this, and so sad to miss his farewell.  We poured all our energy into letters and a package the Sunday after he left.  I’m so thankful for Max’s example to my kids.  They’ve always thought he was the coolest person ever and are hanging on every bit of news we get from his mission.  IMG_3210IMG_8640This amazing family got baptized into our ward in February.  We are growing to really love them.  We’ve been praying for friends Hazel and Charlie’s ages at church and bam, here we go! SMKQ8760

Santa pretty much nailed it with the roller skates for Em for Christmas.  This girl doesn’t take these things off.  Every day she goes back and forth down the little stretch of open wood floor between our entry way and kitchen.  IMG_3528Over February break we got to go to the MFA to partake of all their totally awesome kid friendly school vacation week stuff.  I love that our friend Stacy is always willing to come along with us…makes us all a lot happier about being out and about.  Here (above) they are with the instruments they made. IMG_3558

IMG_3572We also got to go up to our friends Lake House for a few really relaxing, snowed in days.  I love being together without a single place to go or person to see.  We played lots of games, read lots, watched some movies, did some painting, ate way too much rich food and went for two short outside walks.  We were gluttons, feasting on family time.  It was great.  IMG_3579IMG_3595

Jeff took Hazel and Charlie skiing one of the days as their Christmas present from him.  They had the time of their lives.  IMG_3610

We also played a lot of foosball and Legos.  I love these Lego games Em sets up with Peter.  All those poor lego guys waiting in line for their pizza and ice cream.  That girl at the counter did not understand customer service.

IMG_3775  Saturday morning cuddles with these two.  IMG_3762

And I stole away a few times this winter to the Public Library to try to work on some mind and soul enriching projects (more on these projects later).  It feels good to start to use my brain in different ways again.  But boy is it hard to make that happen.  I thought I’d do this once a week starting in September.  It amazes me how quickly my time is sucked up by just getting life done around here. 

Oh, normal day.  Please, help me be aware of the treasure you are.  These days are feeling slippery.  They’ll be gone before I know it. 


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