our journey from the beginning - our family

(I wrote this post 2 months ago and was waiting to take a family pic to publish it. you know, one of those nice family pics where we all look normal… not all picking our noses and our wedgies! we haven’t done it yet so i’ve decided to post this as a picture-less post. if you follow me on instagram - you know what we look like ;). will update soon with updated family pics)

  • our journey - our family - this is a little blog journal of our family life and how we got to where we are today.

I (Melissa) am a southern girl - I love the warmth and sunshine and spending time outdoors and grew up mainly in Oklahoma but I call Texas my home as well. I have a twin sister and an older half brother and younger half brother. my mom was a single mom raising my sister and I, and worked her butt off to do it. Our family was all sorts of drama growing up as I know many families are and though it was tough at times, I don’t regret any of it as it is part of what made me who I am today.

my husband was born and raised in Mexico and has 11 brothers and sisters (and I thought raising 4 was tough!). he is seriously the best father to our kids and I enjoy watching his love pour out of his heart for those tiny humans. he is one of those guys that takes pride in his work and gives 110% every day when he is working. this past year he quit his good paying management job to pursue his dream of owning a food truck and I couldn’t be more proud. so if you’re ever in the area and are looking for some true Mexican style food - come see us 😀..

the hubs and I met while both working at a pub in Dallas. he was back there cooking and I was waitressing and all I remember is how dreamy his eyes looked back there behind the kitchen area. he says I flirted with him but HE flirted with me first.. as least that’s what I remember… we may never know the truth. next thing you know we were hard core dating and then a couple years later we got married. I know it’s cliche but my wedding day is one of the best days of my life. we had family come in that haven’t even spoken to each other in ages. we had grandparents dancing with each other who didn’t even speak the same language, everyone was just so happy.

married and living in Texas and overall just happily enjoying life. at this point I was a manager at a big corporate job and Ernesto was a manager for a restaurant. we both often came home late at night and one night my life forever changes. as I parked my car and got out, maybe about 2am, some guys came up and held me at gunpoint. the rest is quite a blur but I was able to get away and everything turned out to be ok. I was shooken up for quite awhile but my husband helped me get through it. I still get leery if I am out late for some reason, or really anytime I am out by myself and getting into or out of a car, especially at night. it’s just one of those things that makes me super aware of my surroundings.

so on a good note now, we find out we are expecting! I woke up one day and my boobs felt big and sore. my boobs never felt big or sore, even during my monthly visit, so this was eye opening to me. immediately I started trying to remember my last period and then that’s when I knew I must have been pregnant. took a test and sure enough, it was time for our first baby! I gave my hubs the pee stick and he may even still have it today 😂. my first pregnancy was pretty much a breeze except for the delivery. my son did not want to come out and after laboring for what seemed like forever, his heart rate went way down and gave us a bad scare so we rushed to a c-section. he had the biggest cone head when he was born! he also had his cord wrapped around his neck 3 times which they assume was the stress issue. he weighed 6lbs 6 oz and had the skinniest legs ever.

fast forward 2.5 years and we welcomed our 2nd baby boy. also an easy pregnancy but again delivery not so great. the anesthesiologist had to climb on top of me to help push him out during the c-section. he was stuck in there. why is it my babies don’t like to come out? all turned out well and he was my biggest baby at 7lbs 1 oz. i’ll never forget the moment him and brother met, sweetest scene.

when my 2nd was almost 2, we decided to make the move to Colorado. my husband had a brother here and we had visited many times and really loved the scenery. there was a job opening for a promotion at my company and it happen to be in colorado so I thought what the heck, lets apply. I didn’t think i’d get it but I did so it encouraged our move. funny thing is, less than a year after that, I quit that job to start doing newborn photography. it was just one of those moments where that big corporate job consumed me and I wanted to spend more time with my kids. the pay was so well and that’s all that kept me there but then money wasn’t a motivation for me anymore. it was a scary transition. but when you realize how you can have less material things in life to compensate for more family time and more things you love, it really all makes sense. and i’m very lucky and happy that in our situation it worked out well.

my newborn photography business grew pretty quick and I loved every moment of it. getting to hold and snuggle fresh new babies yet not have to do the late night feedings and such, such a dream job. I am often asked how I learned the art of photographing newborns and honestly it’s the passion that drove me to be successful. I studied and studied and studied photography (google and you-tube!) and then got to play with friends babies. thankful for friends that trusted me. then I offered some super low price sessions so that I could get my hands on some strangers babies and once I was able to get positive feedback on those, I gained the confidence to build my business. i’m just telling you all this because no matter what the new adventure is you’re interested in, if you have the passion and the desire to learn, you can make it yours! I am no longer doing the newborn photography now as my instagram influencer took off and that allowed me to be home with my kids even more. also with helping my hubs get his food truck off the ground, something had to give. I do hope to possibly do it again maybe when the kids are older as it was such a rewarding job.

after that newborn biz had started, 3rd baby boy came along..6lbs 6oz, same as 1st.. another seemingly easy pregnancy from what I remember (I know I am very lucky that my 3 first pregnancies were fairly easy and eventful and that there are many deserving ladies out there who deserve to have healthy pregnancies and hold their sweet babies and just haven’t gotten to do so yet. my heart goes out to you).

3 boys in a row, I was made to be a boy mom, I could feel it. I had so much fun raising these little munchkins. at the house we were in, we had a creek behind us that led to a big park. some of my favorite moments is taking them out there and letting them be boys and splash around and run and bike and just have a carefree time.

my 2nd boy had some stomach issues, nothing major but it made me do a lot of research into more healthy options for living. this is the moment in my life (and therefor families life) where we moved to more organic, less pesticides and toxics, more natural and healthy way of living. I would research day in and day out and just couldn’t believe some of the items that goes into our bodies. our big step for that was deciding to raise our own animals. so we moved out to some land and got started. it wasn’t just the animal aspect but having a place where my boys could be outside and run around absorbing vitamin D and building their immune system was important to me. so with the animals, I am one of those that just dives into and then learn what I can while in the process. I don’t mind doing some research beforehand but I guess you could say I am just better at hands on and being thrown into the moment. I looked up some goat breeders, went and selected our first 2 goats and then our farm life started. I picked goats cause they are easy to raise and would provide healthy milk for us. goat milk (specifically fresh from a farmer, not the stuff at the grocery store) has so many amazing benefits and luckily for many who are lactose intolerant, they can handle goat milk. and fyi, it takes just like regular cows milk when raised and milked correctly (unlike the nasty goat milk from the store, trust me!).

so now at this post of our story we are living in the country on 40 acres and just enjoying nature and sunshine and farm animal raising (along with sometimes high winds and super cold weather - but those are the things that keep us strong I suppose ;)). and here comes along pregnancy number 4! we thought we were done after 3 but alas did nothing to permanently stop that so we got pregnant. I didn’t even know until I was 12 weeks along, long story for another post maybe. I started to figure it out and we booked a private scan just to see if there was actually a baby in there. I still wasn’t quite sure and since I had miscarried the previous year, I was a little scared to find out I believe. hubs and I went together (older 2 boys were at school and youngest boy was at daycare) and not only did we see a little baby with a strong heartbeat but we found out it was a girl. A GIRL! not only did I not know I was pregnant, not expecting to get pregnant again, and a boy mom - now I was pregnant with a little princess. shocked is an understatement. so that pregnancy pretty much flew by. being 37 at the time, I was advanced maternal age but my doctor didn’t make me do any extra tests unless I wanted to (and I avoided all). towards the end we had lots of ultrasounds and non stress tests as her head was measuring too small and they were worried about overall growth. those 4-6 weeks were the worst pregnancy weeks of my life. those tests and doctor worries led me to be worried all the time at home. needless to say when she was born, all those worries subsided as she was perfectly fine. she weighed 6lbs 3oz and a headful of hair (and hairy arms and back!). bringing a girl into this world has been so fun. she is strong and fierce and sassy and stubborn and cute. all pretty pink things wrapped up into a wonderful busy package.

now at this point in our story, we are rounded out - a family of 6 - nice even number. still raising the goats and chickens and sometimes cows. when our daughter was almost 3, we ended up getting 2 cows. one will be our future milk cow and the other we are raising for meat. watching those cows grow up for being as small as our large dog to now towering over us has been a real treat. they are so cute and actually really easy to take care of. they are just about a year old currently. we hope to get the female pregnant sometime this year and then after she delivers, we will milk her for our milk needs as well.

now to current time, Feb 2019, we are waiting on 14 goats to deliver their babies. we have 6 due over the next 3 weeks and then the remaining 8 are due beginning of May. I am also due myself… AYE…. didn’t I just say we were well rounded as a family of 6 ….and I believe i’ve said twice that we were done previously! WELL, God had other plans and I have accepted that and now I am giddy to hold another baby in my arms. I am due this late August and still kind of in shock over the whole news. 7 confirmed pregnancies yet this is the 1st one that i’ve ever felt sick. it’s been horrible. I made sure the doctor looked around to make sure there wasn’t 2 in there. maybe it’s my age (40!) but this first trimester has kicked my butt. and again, I know there’s so many deserving ladies out there that are still waiting to hold their babies so I am thankful and blessed to be able to do this.

that’s where we are today! if you’ve stayed with reading this post to the end, I thank you and would love to hear from you. my goal this year is to share more about our everyday and our farm life here in this space. I want to help others with sharing mom hacks, funny stories, homeschooling, homesteading, and whatever is else happening in our lives. thanks for hanging out and God Bless!

fall princess - Lightroom edit and adding bokeh sparkles


I love how much fun Alejandra has when taking photos together. She still has her moments and I have just learned that there’s times when if she doesn’t want to take a photo, it’s not even worth trying. and when she is in the mood - it is so much freakin fun! we laugh and giggle and make memories all while making a cute photo. I hope we do the same her whole life, me and her together, photographing until we’re both old and grey.


I absolutely adore this Fall Princess photo we took today….

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I get asked a lot about editing photos so have starting sharing more in Instagram stories but I wanted to put something here as well. one thing I can say is learn the rules to photography and some simple editing tricks, and then forget the rules and do your own thing. I am sure that makes no sense at all but just smile back at me like you understand ;).

ok so I used Lightroom for this pic. I have been using Lightroom more and more because they’re phone app has grown quite a bit and covers so much of any editing you should need when in regards to Lightroom. because of that, it has really turned into my go-to. prior to that (and sometimes still) I used VSCO the most and then sometimes Afterlight. Facetune is another I love (I use their patch too often).

ok back to the edits. I screen shot the exact sliders I used on this photo and as you review them you’ll notice its not much. just a few tweaks to make it my own. my favorite sliders are the whites and shadows and blacks and playing with those. I also play with white balance a lot (I know there’s phone apps that get you white balance for the phone camera but I like to just snap and go). when I use my dlsr I just use auto white balance. for the longest time I did custom but nowadays the auto (at least on my canon) is really pretty good. and I am up for anything that makes things quick and easy! so much is up to preference as well so if you like cooler, your white balance goes to the left and if you like warmer - slide it to the right.

before and after

before and after

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I like to add a little razzle dazzle sometimes and some great apps to use (I have both android and apple) are android Insta bokeh, iOS bokehful, and android Glixel… it’s also easy to add bokeh and sparkle in photoshop when you know what you want and want to have full control yourself. people do sell bokeh and twinkle light overlays and such, just have to google it. as far as your own color and tone editing in Lightroom,.. just dive in and slide things around. when you find something you did that you like, you can save it as a preset.

something else the really makes a photo style is what you shoot - seems simple enough - but like in this photo, I wanted it kinda of dark and more moody and so I shot with just the light to one side and on a dark blanket. if I wanted the more bright and cheery I would turn her face a little more to the light and also use lighter tones, make sense?

and like always, this is just something I do and doesn’t mean it’s the right or wrong way. I taught myself photography and so if I can do it, anyone can do it. you just gotta spend the time to research and then play and then research and then play and play some more. have fun and let me know if you have questions on this edit or any other edits.

and an outtake because clearly taking photos is a tiring job…
you can see here where I am standing on a stool over her legs.

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milk bath recipe


pretty sure my kids are spoiled when it comes to pampering! I posted this photo on  instagram  the other day and you all loved it and then I got so many messages about what the recipe is. I started answering each individual but decided this would be better platformed.   you can pretty much do a milk bath however you want. I touched before on what we do  here  when I spoke about sensory baths but wanted to clarify more about milk / water rations.  so first, why milk bath? the benefits are amazing and if you try it for yourself, you'll notice how silky smooth you feel when you get out. theres an acid in milk that gently dissolves proteins to exfoliate dead skin cells. this acid ingredient can be found in some expensive exfoliating products so definitely try this before shopping for some of those!  - help soften and smooth rough flaky skin  - calm red and irritated skin  - moisturizes skin - milk contains fat and proteins that work together to help moisturize your skin  some things you can add for extra benefits are honey, oatmeal, lavender- so many options!  and now - ratio's  for just a few inches of water like above - I added a half gallon of milk. this is on the creamy side so you can start with a lot less, try one quart of milk.  for a pretty full bath - think adult laying in it or child sitting up and level going to chest - start with one gallon of milk. one gallon of full fat milk will do great for a full size bath but if you really want even creamier bath and maybe you're doing it for maternity photography or something like that, then go up to 2 gallons. I've never done more than 2 gallons and that was a full size large bath so I can't imagine the need for more.   how do I do it  I fill the tub with desired level of water first. depending on subject going in, I usually do as hot as I can. if you're adding honey, you'll want to run the honey under the hot running water into the bath. once tub level is reached with water, just add the milk and swoosh around with your hand/arm. it's really that simple. if you don't have much milk on hand or cost is an issue, start with a lot less milk and just check it out. a somewhat translucent milk bath still provides those great benefits for the skin!  a note on milks - full fat raw dairy is my first choice (we use goats milk cause thats what we raise here). I understand raw is not what some of you want or maybe you do but can't get your hands on any -  next best thing is just focus on it being full fat and preferably not ultra pasteurized.   I've received a lot of questions about powdered milk so I'll give it a try over the next 2 weeks and report back with my thoughts on powdered milk.   are you going to try a milk bath for your child? or maybe even for yourself? would love to hear how it goes!   

pretty sure my kids are spoiled when it comes to pampering! I posted this photo on instagram the other day and you all loved it and then I got so many messages about what the recipe is. I started answering each individual but decided this would be better platformed. 

you can pretty much do a milk bath however you want. I touched before on what we do here when I spoke about sensory baths but wanted to clarify more about milk / water rations.

so first, why milk bath? the benefits are amazing and if you try it for yourself, you'll notice how silky smooth you feel when you get out. theres an acid in milk that gently dissolves proteins to exfoliate dead skin cells. this acid ingredient can be found in some expensive exfoliating products so definitely try this before shopping for some of those!

- help soften and smooth rough flaky skin

- calm red and irritated skin

- moisturizes skin - milk contains fat and proteins that work together to help moisturize your skin

some things you can add for extra benefits are honey, oatmeal, lavender- so many options!

and now - ratio's

for just a few inches of water like above - I added a half gallon of milk. this is on the creamy side so you can start with a lot less, try one quart of milk.

for a pretty full bath - think adult laying in it or child sitting up and level going to chest - start with one gallon of milk. one gallon of full fat milk will do great for a full size bath but if you really want even creamier bath and maybe you're doing it for maternity photography or something like that, then go up to 2 gallons. I've never done more than 2 gallons and that was a full size large bath so I can't imagine the need for more. 

how do I do it

I fill the tub with desired level of water first. depending on subject going in, I usually do as hot as I can. if you're adding honey, you'll want to run the honey under the hot running water into the bath. once tub level is reached with water, just add the milk and swoosh around with your hand/arm. it's really that simple. if you don't have much milk on hand or cost is an issue, start with a lot less milk and just check it out. a somewhat translucent milk bath still provides those great benefits for the skin!

a note on milks - full fat raw dairy is my first choice (we use goats milk cause thats what we raise here). I understand raw is not what some of you want or maybe you do but can't get your hands on any -  next best thing is just focus on it being full fat and preferably not ultra pasteurized. 

I've received a lot of questions about powdered milk so I'll give it a try over the next 2 weeks and report back with my thoughts on powdered milk. 

are you going to try a milk bath for your child? or maybe even for yourself? would love to hear how it goes!

 

dried orange garland - a nature inspired decor DIY


I love crafting. I don't think I'm very good at it but I don't let that stop me, just don't laugh at my final pieces and we'll be good friends. crafting keeps our hands busy and helps our minds let loose. I also incorporate lots of crafting and handicrafts into our homeschool rhythm as this time is so well spent and can teach so much! the kids develop their hand and eye coordination and muscle memory and their nurturing their artistic self as well as learning stress relief and accomplishment. all good things. all good things. (name that movie? ).

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nature inspires us daily and I'm always trying to figure out how to bring even more nature into our home. if you've followed me on instagram for awhile you've seen all my barn wood headboards pulled directly from the barns, we have dried flowers and dried greenery strung in random places throughout the house, it's all so natural and homey, I love it.

we do't have an orange tree here on our land though I sure hope to one day. it's still a fruit of nature so I'm still saying this is nature inspired! with this crafty decor, I not only love the final product but smelling the oranges as they spent a few hours in the oven that day sure did make the whole house smell wonderful. and citrus has a way of lifting the spirits ya know? especially days like today where it's gloomy outdoors and my to do list is a mile long - that citrus uplifting is  A-OK.

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I hear some people have burned their oranges doing this but you just have to keep an eye on it. it's a very simple project that doesn't require a lot of work but you do want to keep checking on it during the oven drying time. 

here's how we did it..

dried orange garland -

* 3-4 oranges thinly sliced (we did 1/4 to 1/2 inch thickness). too thin and they seem more fragile but too thick and they'll take f-o-r-e-v-e-r to dry and possibly not dry enough. 

* pat dry

* place single layer on baking sheet and cook in oven at 250 degrees for 3 hours, flipping occasionally (again, ovens vary and also depends on the thickness of your slices. you want them dehydrated but not burnt.)

* turn off oven and leave in there for several hours. just don't forget about them and go preheat the oven at 500 degrees for that homemade pizza (possibly happened to a friend - not me, not me)

 (optional - you can pull out and place somewhere else to continue drying for 1-2 days if you need the oven).

* once completely dry (left alone a few days somewhere. they don't have to be all spread out, I stacked mine but I did rearrange the stack every day or so - mainly cause I wanted to look at their beauty =)), thread needle with yarn or jute or whatever string type material you want to use and sew it into a garland. you can also hot glue them to a wreath or use them as individual ornaments for the tree. I sew directly into the meat of the orange but you could also sew into the rind part. this looks pretty but seems much harder so I chose the lazy, errr, easy way. 

(the art of sewing is a fantastic handicraft to teach even at a very young age. you can find plastic safe needles so that even young kids can sew these oranges into a garland themselves.)

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a few notes -

thickness of the oranges matter for baking and drying times. I like not super thin but not too thick (ha, what kind of measurement is that??). if you want to make a decent size garland you'll want to double or triple the amount of oranges. I ended up with 2 batches and my garland is probably about 4 feet. this will make a great garland for the Christmas tree but can also be a decor that's held year round! cook them until they look nice and dehydrated and it's ok for a little browning on some (I like the look that gives) but be careful cause they can probably start buying quick once you see the browning. you can sprinkle cinnamon on them to enhance the smell. the oranges do still smell after drying but it is a very faint scent. if you want it stronger you could add orange essential oil!

enjoy and please let me know if you give this a try! they are beautiful! 

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sensory bath idea for toddlers


lets talk about sensory play...   I didn't know much about it (or really anything about it) before having kids. in fact, even after 4 kids, I'm still learning the importance and effect of stimulating sensory for children. basically sensory play is things or activities that stimulate your childs senses. it can be something that gets all the senses working or just one - like touch and feel or smell or even taste! remember back when your child was a baby and would mouth everything they could reach?... that's because from day one of birth, children are wired to learn the world through their senses. sensory play encourages neural pathways and helps grow those systems so essentially, in my words - so very unscientifically stated, it helps the brain develop and assists with continued and future learning for those later years. pretty neat stuff right?

I think it's safe to say every kid loves bath time and bath time is the perfect time to include sensory items. they've already got water for the touch and possibly the water running (and splashes) for the hearing and I like to include non toxic items that aren't plastic and flashy. yes there's some great bath toys out there but the chemicals they put in most those items make it really unsafe for our children. so.... bring forth things like organic (or local farm - pesticide free) flowers, organic (again raised without pesticides!) pumpkins (perfect for those fall months) and even things in nature like leaves and sticks. we've lived on our land for a few years and do not use any chemicals or pesticides so I feel comfortable bringing this nature into our home and bath. please make sure its safe whatever it is you decided to use and do use your imagination. as long as its safe (and you're there watching it all) then you'll know if its something good. 

our big things since my daughter has been born has been the flower baths. of course it makes for some super pretty photos which is a huge bonus for me but also the flowers are great for her to play with and use those senses. she doesn't get bored with them either! I have to be the one to beg her to get out as she'd stay in there until she was a wrinkly raisin if if was up to her, true story.

lastly, we add milk sometimes to the bath. milk is a really great moisturizer for your skin and provides all kinds of great benefits including that it exfoliates, cleans, softens, and hydrates! we use raw goat milk as we raise our own goats and have that available. if you must use store milk, organic and preferably not ultra pasteurized (that way you get all the full benefits). (I've updated with some milk / water ratios HERE).  we've never had a problem with milk baths (and do them pretty often actually) but ease into trying it as I imagine some people could have reactions possibly as with anything in life, you just don't know. 

so here's how we do it.. we use the sink, or the basin like this, or the big bath. kinda depends on the day but I love the basin lately because she can be in the kitchen with me while I'm cooking and I don't have to worry about her climbing out of the sink. I put in the water and milk (if using milk) into the bath. then cut the stems off the flowers (that way the flowers sit up better in the bath plus she's then not trying to poke her eye out with the stems! then enjoy =). I take it one step further in reusing and dump the milk for our farm animals or the garden or the compost. if we used nature items, they usually go out to the compost or sometimes they're reusable (like the pumpkins, we just dry off and put back on table). 

let me know if you give it a try! excite those senses =)