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Welcome to Let Why Lead, a place for the purposeful wife and mom. I’m Erica, and I'm passionate about living fully and filling my family with love and belonging. For regular reminders of the whys of your life, I hope you’ll keep coming back.
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A Happier, Healthier Way to Celebrate Your Birthday

Not long ago, an article on Scary Mommy caught my attention: Dear Husband: Here Are the Only Things I Want for My Birthday. Because what we all apparently want is—

“An entire day of love and doing everything I ask. If this is talking over dinner about the intricacies of The Bachelor, so be it. If I want you to clean out the garage, avail yourself of the cleaning supplies. Do NOT ask me where they are. That ruins it.

Here’s the fine print: I am not supposed to be aware of you doing any of these things. Get off my computer and don’t ask my Etsy log in. Write the card at work. You’re smart. Figure it out.”

If there is anything I’ve learned in the last decade, it’s that expectations put a BIG FAT DAMPER on everything.

Granted, that Scary Mommy piece was likely satirical. I sure hope it was! (Otherwise, watch out for one SCARY MOMMY every year on her birthday!) Regardless of any intended satire, I somehow doubt that the 127,000 people who shared it, shared it in irony. In fact, the comments show that a LOT of women are unsatisfied on their birthdays.

After experiencing my share of disappointing holidays (why do babies refuse to nap on our birthdays??), I finally discovered a deceptively simple fix.

Use the day to celebrate your life.

The same goes for Mother’s Day, Valentine’s Day, and any other day of the year where your brain tells you people should be celebrating YOU. Instead, do the celebrating yourself.

Celebrate the big, small, scary, joyful, chaotic, calm life you’re living. 

Take the kids to play in the local creek. Order pizza for dinner so you don’t have to cook. Go easy on yourself, but try to leave your fingers uncrossed. No more hoping that the kids will be angels and that the Mr. will show up early from work and send you out to get a pedicure.

Life is too short to be disappointed on your birthday. But it’s just long enough to appreciate the good in every season.

I’m sure you all caught on to this ages ago, but I thought I’d pass it on just in case. Here’s to happier, healthier, more satisfying celebrating, ladies!


Beautiful images from Simplicity Photography

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Photographers Share—How to Coax Genuine Expressions Out of Your Kids

If you are familiar with any of these—glazed eyes, fleeing toddlers, and (my personal favorite) barred teeth in lieu of an actual smile… You’ve landed in the right place!

As soon as a camera comes out, it can be really hard to get natural expressions out of kids!

Because there’s nothing I love more than photos that really capture the way I see my children on our best days (the way I want to see them all the time), I asked my photographer friends to give us their BEST tips and tricks on how to coax genuine expressions out of our kids. SO, let’s let the pros do the talking, shall we?

How to Coax Genuine Expressions Out of Your Kids

Need some help avoiding glazed eyes and fake smiles? 3 photographers share their best tips on coaxing genuine smiles out of kids. (There are some keepers in here!)

From Jen Jacobsen 

of Jen J. Photography

For kids 3 and under, I usually get great smiles by singing songs like “the itsy-bitsy spider” or “if you’re happy and you know it” in an exaggerated way. Moms: try having Dad or Grandma do the song and dance while you snap away. :)

I also keep bubbles in my camera bag since kids love them and bubbles look fun and playful if they end up in the frame.

Of course, tickling is always a win.

jenjphoto

For boys especially, I like to give them physical challenges, like “I wonder if you can jump off that chair/stump/(whatever object is around)?” or challenge them to a race with their sibling.

For girls, straight-up direction: twirl for me, sit like a princess, sing “Let It Go,” pick flowers, etc.

With older kids, I like to create banter between siblings, like “tell me who Max’s girlfriend is,” and then I can use that information throughout the session—”All right, let’s have a nice smile for (girlfriend’s name).” The embarrassed laugh that results? It’s the perfect opportunity. :)

Relate: How to Choose a Photographer that Fits Your Personal Style

From Beryl Ayn Young 

of berylaynyoung.com

I like to first put the camera down and engage in conversations with kids to encourage natural expressions. Asking questions, telling jokes, singing songs. From there I really try to anticipate what they’ll do next. When I sense a laugh or a smile is coming, that’s when I’ll put the camera to my face and start snapping.

(LOVE these shots from Beryl’s recent pillow fort with her girl!)

natural-expressions

From Jen Fairbanks

of Fairbanks Photography

As a mother of four boys, I have to admit that I rely on good old kid humor and even sometimes potty humor with the boys (I’m so embarrassed to admit that publicly!).

fairbanks photography

I try to get some good family secrets out of the kids that I can use throughout the session. Things like Dad snores, baby brother has stinky feet, big brother has a crush on so-an-so.

I talk about birds landing on my head or spiders crawling up my back. Sometimes by the end of the session my skin is crawling, but kids are fascinated by the idea of critters on the photographer!

Coax Genuine Expressions from Kids

For shy kids, I ask them their favorite super hero/princess and talk about that for a while. Or I have them show me their favorite app on the phone.

One key with kids is taking turns. If they let me choose a spot for a picture, then I let them choose one. Overall, I try to let them feel like they are in control of the photo shoot.

Last thing—Kids are really good at reading adults, so you’ve got to jump in with both feet! Don’t be shy!


I hope you got a few new ideas to try—I know I did! I especially love the concept that taking photos of our kids can be a great time to get silly and really bond with them.

For the common good (ha!), here are a few potty jokes to commit to memory!

What did little William Shakespeare ponder when he was potty training?
“To pee or not to pee…that is the question.”

What do you call a little one who fills his diaper at a birthday celebration?
A party pooper :)

Some crooks broke into the police station and stole all of their toilets.  
The police are investigating, but for now they have nothing to go on!

Good luck to us all!

Related: Capturing the Heart of Your Family through Honest, Authentic Photography

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Life Lately + A Mini-Review of Scary Close by Donald Miller

Hi y’all! Have you see that Buzzfeed post about parents at the beginning of the year versus parents at the end of the year? That is totally me right now. But summer is coming! It’s nice and warm here in our little oasis at the end of the Bay. Life hums along as my husband and I take care of the kiddos, volunteer at church, pursue…

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8 Printable Mantras for Moms

I really believe in the power of the words we tell ourselves. Our inner monologues have so much influence over how we feel and what we’re projecting to the people closest to us. I’m often scrawling sayings or quotes on our family chalkboard, and usually, without me even realizing it, the words I write are a direct effort to stifle the ugly…

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When Simple Living is Anything But

The truth is, sometimes I watch my children with envy. They eat popsicles on sunny days and drink hot cocoa on cold ones. They explore muddy orchards after rainstorms and build Roxaboxen-style homes while they keep one eye out for Indians. Their biggest problems are remembering to flush the toilet so Mom doesn’t bust them and finding all the darts they…

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