• Photography

    Cameras: Which One Should I Buy?

    Around Christmas time, people come to me wondering what camera they should buy? Before telling them what I recommend, I always ask them why they want a camera. Usually people will answer in a few different ways: “I want to take pictures of my kids.” “I want to take pictures of the places I travel to.” “I want to pursue professional photography.”

    Based on their answer, I give them my recommendation. The question I’m going to answer is, “What kind of camera should I buy if I want to take pictures of my kids?”


    The Camera Body

    My first camera was a Canon Rebel. It was nothing super fancy, but it was all I needed. Before getting into photography, my main goal was to take great pictures of my kids. I wanted to preserve our heritage through photography. I wanted to capture memories. My personal experience with the Canon Rebel won me over completely. I learned how the camera worked, and how to shoot in manual mode. I learned to love photography. Funny thing is that almost 10 years later, I still have it. I gave it to my daughter to learn photography. In all that time, it has never let me down. That’s why I’ll always recommend a Canon Rebel camera.  It’s easy to use and not too overwhelming to learn. But this is only the body.  I prefer to choose my own lens.

    The Lens

    Different lenses are used for different reasons.  That is an entirely different blog post for a different time. But since we’re talking about portraits of kids, my go-to lens is this fixed lens. It’s important to know what a fixed lens is. A fixed lens doesn’t have the ability to zoom.  You have to use your feet.  Some people aren’t interested in a lens that has no zoom.  It’s a preference.  But I think the inconvenience of having no zoom is worth it when you look at the image. Also, the more you practice using a fixed lens the more you get used to moving around instead using zoom.

    In closing, I’d encourage you to remember why you want to buy a camera. The one you choose has everything to do with what you want to photograph. Keep that in mind when you go shopping. And have fun!! Buying a new camera is so exciting! Let me know what you bought in the comments below! Also if you just bought a camera, go and check out this blog post about posing children.

  • Bathroom,  Fixer Upper

    Fixer Upper Bathroom

    The Temporary Shower

    The bathroom demo has begun. It’s only 3 days until Christmas. I hesitated starting the demo over the holidays. Since we only have one shower, we had to improvise and make a temporary shower in the basement. This shower is primitive. Some of you will wonder if I’ve gone completely crazy. But I’ve learned through this fixer upper journey to be flexible and willing to do things most people wouldn’t do.

    Temporary Shower

    This 1956 mid century bathroom was exactly the same as when it was built. The pink tiles, floral wall paper, and the pink fixtures reminded me of what it may be like to travel through time. And while I love some design elements of the 50’s, I’m glad to say goodbye to the pink toilet and bathtub.

    1956 mid century bathroom

    The Demolition

    In the bathroom, we had to take the walls and ceiling down to the studs. We removed the floor because of water damage. The toilet had been leaking through the bathroom floor to the garage ceiling below it. Yes, it was disgusting. EWW! We are replacing the floor in the bathroom, but because of the leak, we’ll also be replacing the basement ceiling in the future.

    Bathroom Demolition

    When we started this demo, we knew that the bathroom would be one of our biggest obstacles in our fixer upper journey. We decided to hire out a lot of the work because of time and our limited knowledge of plumbing. We hired out the demo, the installation of the fixtures, and all the tile work. I’m going to do the painting, and Josh is doing the electrical. As I sit here typing, someone is working in the bathroom. You can imagine the smile on my face. I’d rather be typing than in that bathroom. Ha!

    Shower Space Bathroom Demo
    Toilet Space Fixer Upper Bathroom
    Vanity Space Fixer Upper Bathroom

    The Design

    For the new design of the bathroom, my goal is to make sure it compliments the rest of the house. Throughout the house there is wood texture and color, a mixture of different metals, and white walls (I love white walls!). I’m aiming for mixture of mid century modern with a little bit of boho. I’m excited to see what it will look like! We are hoping to be finished with the entire bathroom in about a month and half. We’ll see how it goes.

  • Fixer Upper

    Fixer Upper Update: A Basement Demo

    Basement demolition started last week full force. Everyone-including the four kiddos joined the hammering, ripping, bashing, and breaking.  All of us have enjoyed the adventure so far. We decided we would do the basement because the last 2 summers we’ve been without air conditioning.

    Basement Before Photos

    In these photos, you can see the asbestos tiles.  We had those removed before we moved into the home. The basement is actually sectioned off by that large orangey wood wall.  The man who built it took pride in how he put it together.  It was tough taking that wall down!  When we first moved into the house we found some treasures hidden in the cupboards of that wall. 

    Basement Demo Mid Century

    Basement Demo Mid Century

    Demolition Photos

    In this photo, the boys are standing where the wood wall was.  It’s gone now!  Most of it. We still have a few studs standing near the fireplace, but you can’t even tell it was there.

    Boy Demo Time

    In the photo below, the light cement on the ground shows you where the orangey wall was. Taking the wall out opened up the space. We gutted the closet space under the stairs, too.  Our plan is to move the washer and dryer into the space under the stairs.

    Here is a better look at the closet space underneath the stairs.  We still have to decide on whether we want to do a stackable washer and dryer or a side by side. I think I’d prefer a side by side washer and dryer.

    Basement Demo Mid Century Basement Demo Mid Century

    In order to get the air installed, we have to relocate our water heater and move some pipes around. I’m excited to see how much space we gain after the air conditioning is installed.  The unit we have now is huge and I know that once we replace it with a smaller more compact system, it will open up the space even more. You can see in the photos below where the original owners installed the venting for heat/air into the wall.  It covers part of the fireplace.  Since we have a fireplace upstairs, we plan on getting rid of this fireplace altogether.

    Basement Demo Mid Century

    Basement Demo Mid Century

    Basement Demo Mid Century

    And finally our pile in the garage-proof that we worked hard.  😉  I know a lot of people find this kind of thing crazy. Some people would never dream of living in a space like this while fixing it up.  But I love it.  It’s an adventure. My house is a wreck, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Both Josh and I, along with kids, have learned so much already.  And we’ve made so many great memories together. I keep telling Josh that after this house is finished, we’re going to get another fixer upper.  Ha!  I think he’s good with it.

    Basement Demo Mid Century

  • My Book

    The Illustrations Reveal

    Well, it’s finally the day.  Almost a year ago, I asked Sara over at Bryarton Farm to illustrate my book.  And now, for the first time, I held the paintings in my hands.  It seems surreal.  And so incredibly satisfying. There really are no words.  But I have to give credit where credit is due. Credit doesn’t belong to me; it belongs to the Savior.  He alone gives me the ability to weave words into pictures. It isn’t about me, it’s all Him.

    Enjoy the video.  Hope you are encouraged today.


    Posted by Rae Dawn on Tuesday, March 13, 2018

  • My Book

    A Story About My Book


    Sitting at my desk, I mindlessly scrolled through my Facebook feed when my eyes caught her name-Kristin Schmucker. A friend slash acquaintance, Kristin and her husband had recently lost their daughter Sophia in stillbirth.  Kristin’s Facebook post stopped me in my endless scrolling: “Losing Sophia has taught me to go out and try all those things I’ve always wanted to do.” I paused.  It was a long pause…

    I thought, what have I always wanted to do?  Life is short. Of all the gifts in the world, the gift of life often falls unnoticed. What am I doing with this gift? The answers muddled together.  I thought, I’m too old for this.  Ha!  No really, I felt old. My fourth child was just one month. As a wife and homeschool mom, I had to do things like laundry and make dinner (have I mentioned how much I detest cooking?). But now there was this big, bold question flashing against my messy reality, “What does God want me to do?”

    The answer: Write a book.

    I had always wanted to write.  Ever since I was a little girl, I’ve loved making stories with words.  After reading Kristin’s post, I knew that’s what I was going to do.

    flowers and books


    We were living with my in-laws because of our recent move from Alabama to Michigan. I was still writing.  The “chasing your dreams” craze occupied most of my thoughts. When I finished the book, I anxiously awaited my husband’s critique. But his honest opinion crushed me. (I was incredibly immature). He said the book was missing something.  He said it didn’t make sense!

    What?  Discouragement settled in and regrettably I ended up stuffing the book in a drawer. The book stayed in that drawer for about six months. During that time, I struggled with my health. Lots of tests, but never any answers. I also struggled with panic attacks and extreme anxiety. But we grow the most when we walk through the valley with Jesus. In that valley, the Lord taught me about fear.  Fear can paralyze you-if you allow it, or it can chase you to the arms of the all knowing Savior. I learned to trust and fear God.  I learned that my health did not have to determine my happiness.  True joy is knowing Jesus.


    Eventually, God moved me to open that drawer. The “chasing your dreams” mentality changed to “chasing Jesus”.   When I wrote, I worshipped. I prayed and labored because I wanted every word I wrote to be full of Him.  When I finished, I nervously gave the new edited version to my husband. My heart pounded as I waited for the verdict. I’ll never forget when he read it for the second time.  I was sitting in our 1970’s Ethan Allen retro green chair when he came over to me and laid the book in my lap. Then he bent down to kiss my forehead and said, “That’s it.” His voice rang with approval.

    I later sent the book to Kristin. After reading it, she emailed me, “…This is beautiful. Sitting at my desk in tears because it is so simple and powerful and such a beautiful display of the gospel.  I love it…This will touch so many hearts.”

    Afterward,  I sent my work out to a Christian Publishing Company. When I recognized their number on my phone, my heart literally skipped a beat. What would they say?  Would my book be rejected? I answered the phone and waited. “I have good news for you, Rachel.” The rest of what she said is a blur.  My head buzzed with excitement. That is until I got the other news.  I had to pay between $3,000-$4,000 in order for this company to publish the book. What?  I thought they would be paying me? My limited publishing knowledge discouraged me. I didn’t expect the excitement of my manuscript being accepted to end so abruptly. But I was hopeful, and so I decided to turn down their offer.

    I realized I needed to educate myself about the publishing world. After talking with someone who had years of experience in publishing, I came face to face with the facts.  Traditional publishing has it’s challenges. Apparently, you need to be a people-person. He called it a “platform”.  But honestly, it sounded like a popularity contest. You also need to hire an agent.  He even mentioned that publishing companies can spend up to $500,000 on a single book and author. The conversation left me feeling small and extremely inadequate. Why in the world would a publishing company invest that much in me?

    I’m not popular. I never have been.  Ha!  Ever since 2nd grade when I told Meredith that she was a jerk because she talked smack about a someone, I knew that popularity wasn’t for me.   In public school, I sat at THAT table-you know the one where no one really fits into a mold?  Introverted, with a quiet confidence-that was me.

    Socialization gets me all awkward inside. In large groups, I tend to blur into the background. But in order to make friends, you have to be friendly, right?  Friendliness is a choice. But being friendly doesn’t come easy for me.  How is this going to work? The honest answer.  I have no idea.


    After praying about it, I decided to look for an illustrator.   I found Sara through a mutual friend and paid her to do the illustrations.


    She just finished the last painting. What’s next? A whole lot of prayer.  I don’t know what will happen with this book.  Will it get published traditionally?  Will everyone hate it? What if I fall flat on my face? But not knowing is part of the journey. That’s what faith is-jumping without seeing where you’ll land. I’m not sure what God’s plan is for this book.  But I know His plan is always for my growth and his glory.  And that is what I pray for.


  • Fixer Upper

    Our 1956 Fixer Upper

    The journey you take when you embark in renovating a fixer upper is bittersweet. They eventually become what you dream about, but the journey to get there is long. I’ll be the first to admit that fixer uppers are hard work. But the stories these walls could tell, well, it makes all that hard work worth the effort. Just imagining the history gets me all nostalgic inside.Fixer Upper Blueprints

    It’s almost been two years since we purchased our fixer upper. It’s our first one and although it has it’s challenges, I wouldn’t change it for the world. We were meant for this house, and this house was meant for us.

    She (because this house is a she) was built in 1956. Dwight D. Eisenhower was president and Nixon served as Vice President when the original owners built her for only $15,000. Yup, that’s right. Only $15,000. And let me tell ya, they made quite a profit. Ha! But the renovations have proved to be an adventure. We’ve found treasures under the floor and deep inside cabinets. So far we’ve found an old letter mailed all the way from Amsterdam, a puzzle from the 50’s, original retro packaging for the tile used in the bathroom, and the original blueprints for the home.Fixer Upper Puzzle

    I can’t help but imagine the couple who first had this house built. She must have loved the beams in the ceiling, and that pink bathroom must have been incredibly chic in her day. I imagine her choosing the wallpaper and getting all giddy when she saw the finished look. And that retro car wallpaper!! Y’all, the man of the house had style.

    As my husband and I do the grunt work and slowly begin to change what the original owners took so much pride in making, it reminds me to be thankful. Life is short and only God knows the number our days. Someday, sooner than I realize, a couple will move in after us. They’ll change the paint, maybe remodel the basement. And as they move in, we’ll move on. Time stops for no one.

    But until then, I’m excited to share our fixer upper journey with you. We’ll be sharing a little bit of everything. Painting the fireplace, tiling the kitchen back splash, and removing some walls are just a few projects that are coming soon. Can’t wait to show them to you!

    [WG id=143]

  • Personal,  Photography

    Fireflies and Wonder

    His eyes light up. No words, but you can tell his heart is beating faster.

    You watch him hunch over, close to the ground.  He’s in his own little world. A perfect world where there is adventure and happy endings happen every day.

    Then you see him capture something in his hands.  He’s careful. In fact, you’ve never seen him move with the care he is showing now.  He turns toward you slowly. Again, you see the light in his eyes.

    Holding up his clasped hands, he says, “Look, I caught a firefly.”  His voice is barely above a whisper.  You smile at the awe and wonder in his eyes.

    You know this isn’t a perfect world, but you pray he’ll take his wonder with him everywhere he goes.  You pray they all do.





  • Personal,  Photography

    Fourth of July

    This Fourth of July, our friends from Alabama came to visit us.  We’re so thankful for them.  These are the times my kids will remember forever.  Good stuff, ya’ll. Good stuff. There’s nothing like hanging out with good friends.  Ya know?  Hope you had a wonderful Fourth of July.

  • Homeschool

    Homeschool Scheduling Tips: What to do when you feel like it’s too much

    I’ve been there.  That place where you find it hard to juggle all the “homeschool scheduling stuff”.  I mean, seriously, how do you fit it all in?  Why is it so hard?  What can you do to make it all fit!?

    Right now, I have a fourth grader, second grader, first grader, and also a preschooler.  As I’m writing this down, I’m sitting here thinking, “Whoa, I’m crazy. For real, I must be insane, right!?” Well, I’m not going to make this sound prettier than it is. As much as I love to teach my kids, sometimes they drive me nuts, and sometimes I feel like I’m on the edge about to fall into the abyss of insanity.

    Homeschool Scheduling Tips

    When I’m at the edge, it’s then I review our homeschool schedule.  As I go through the schedule, I remind myself of what I’ve learned in the past.  These tips help me gather myself again.  It forces me to chill out and not freak out.

    Tip #1 is to be flexible.

    I cannot tell you how many times I’ve changed our homeschool schedule-it’s too many to count.  Why? Because our lives are constantly changing.  We went through the newborn phase, the potty training phase, and also the wretched terrible threes (they say it’s the terrible twos-they’re wrong!).  In those times of life, it’s good to be flexible.  Babies need diapers changed.  Potty training doesn’t happen magically, unfortunately. Those moments when your three year old chooses to go crazy with a temper tantrum-well, those are opportunities to train them in character. (Also, remember education without character is worthless.)  Be flexible when the obstacles come.  Be willing to veer off course in order to catch your breath.  Ask yourself these questions: What are our homeschool priorities? What is overwhelming me about homeschool?  Do I need to be more flexible in this area?

    Tip #2 is to train yourself to be a morning/ night person (whatever floats your boat).

    I hate mornings, but God gave me four little monsters that rise at the crack of dawn.  I had to train myself to become a morning person.  It was that or become insane – just kidding (well, half kidding).  Get a friend to keep you accountable.  I asked a friend if we could text each other every morning for a certain amount of time.  The accountability helped me train myself to be a morning person (Beth! You are awesome!!).     I also recommend getting a Bible Study.  I love waking up knowing that I get to dig into God’s Word. It gives me something to look forward to. Another suggestion is to make a routine checklist. I’ve mentioned it before, but I LOVE LISTS!  Write it down and stick to it! Ask yourself these questions: Do I need to train myself to be a morning or a night person?  What do I want to get done at this time?  How much time do I need to get it done?

    Tip #3 is to set a timer as you teach each subject.

    In others words, budget your time. This tip changed my life.  I tend to talk, talk, and talk some more.  It drives me crazy, so I know it has to drive my kids crazy.  I used to think that I couldn’t stop the math lesson until my kids understood the lesson for that day.  But kids learn differently.  The time it takes one child to learn a concept may be different for another child. Not every child learns the same way or at the same speed. A timer helps me to focus more on the quality of what I teach.  Ask yourself these questions:  Do I tend to over-teach a certain subject?  Would setting a timer help?  If yes, how much time do I need for this subject?


    Tip #4 is to focus on quality over quantity.

    The goal is to have my children understand the material so well that they are able to teach it to me. Don’t misunderstand me – quantity matters, but not at the cost of quality.  Ask yourself these questions: Am I rushing to get through the book? In what ways can I balance the quality and quantity of the material? ( For us, this meant going to a year-round homeschool schedule.  But every family is different.  Find what helps you balance quality and quantity.)

    Tip #5 is to spend time with Jesus.

    If we want to be great teachers, then it makes sense to follow the greatest teacher of all.  Without Jesus, my days explode.  Teaching becomes empty and worthless.  My homeschool fails when I fail to live in His grace and power. The days I spend in God’s Word are full of Him and His hope. His Word keeps me grounded, His Word is my hope in homeschooling. His word is your hope, too.   Fill yourself with Jesus.  The more we learn from Christ, the more we will teach like Him.