Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Bowdenisms: The Movie

I am an idea person.

Now, I don't say that to brag, oooooooooh, look at how creAtive I am, it's just kind of...a fact. It's how I'm wired. I just...have a lot of ideas. Not all of them are good (OH no no no) but what I may lack in quality sometimes, I make up for in quantity. Partly I was just born this way (seriously, ask my mom about my trademark toddler quip: "I have a better idea") but part of it is also from studying and working in a creative field for so many years. I learned to ideate- taking in information, hearing the thoughts of others, and building, building, building up on them (yes, AND...)  

I've learned that good ideas and bad ideas are all a part of the process. I'm not afraid to throw something wild out there just in case it leads to something awesome. And when it doesn't? Well..they can't all be winners. (a phrase that is high on the list of life mottos these days. See also: Well...can't be good at everything.) Shrug. Shake it off. On to the next.

At this point, Dustin is accustom to the idea factory. No, he doesn't exactly adore the steady stream of could we's, should we's, what if we's, and I've been thinking's that are constantly flying out of my brain and my mouth, but...he sure does humor me. There's a bit of a now what? eye-roll at times, but for the most part, he's gotten on board with the ordeal/adventure that is being married to me.

And while I give Dustin a hard time sometimes for not being 100% behind my creative vision (I am an artist! A tortured soul! No one understands me!) the truth is, a lot of the time, I actually find myself in over my head. I can't tell you how many times I've found myself waist deep in my latest harebrained scheme looking around wondering Who got us into this mess? ( So even when I'm following through on my own (possible) stroke of genius, there's no shortage of second guessing along the way.

And the latest case in point: our recent family photoshoot.

We hadn't gotten pictures taken as a family since Miller was born, so now that he's less of a squishy-lump-of-newborn-scented love (sob!), and more of a movin'-shakin'- chunk-of-mini-man love I thought it was time to immortalize our family in film (again). But this time...I had a crazy idea: What if instead of photos, we did a video?

You know I'm digging video these days, so I thought it'd be super fun to be able to capture some of this wild and crazy season of life, in all of its wild and crazy (jumping/yelling/hugging/crying) glory. And lucky for me- I have a wild and crazy (generous/talented) friend, Mark Batke, who was up for the challenge of shooting us Bowdens. I pitched my idea to him: spending an evening at a park, running around just...being us while he got footage of it all...and he was in.

But then...I started to doubt myself. It didn't help that every time we set aside a date, the weather refused to cooperate (oh Ohio, do I need to teach you what Spring means?) so the anticipation phase was drawn out much more than intended. As I prepped, I started to feel self-conscious about the idea. After all, who does this? Plenty of people have professional pictures taken, but video? Isn't that a little weird? And maybe narcissistic? I told a few people, and got some confused responses (few people = my mom, and Dustin): what would we do with a video? Videography is becoming more and more commonplace at big events like weddings, but just the five of us goofing around with no real purpose? we really need footage of that?

When rain date #3 finally rolled around, I was still questioning my idea. I knew it could be cool, but I still worried that I'd feel/look awkward, and the whole thing would be a giant, embarrassing hassle. But then I remembered...I have three kids four and under. My whole life is a giant, embarrassing hassle. I forced Dustin to pep-talk me into my own idea, with both of us finally agreeing it would be fun. Or maybe terrible, but it would at least at some point be over, so...let's roll. So I piled on the bracelets, Dustin plastered on a smile, and we set out to make movie magic.

Well, spoiler alert: it ended up so not weird. And actually completely awesome.

All told, we spent a little over an hour at the park, just playing and running around, with refreshingly little forced smiling/posing. In fact- I didn't even have to use fruit snack bribery until the last five minutes, and even that was due to being out past bedtime, rather than any frustration with the process. That, my friends, is a win.

Mark was awesome- just completely relaxed and willing to roll with whatever. He's crazy good with video, but this was his first time doing a family shoot, so I warned him he'd likely be splicing together non-stop tantrums. But it was honestly the most painless of any of our photoshoots...I wasn't worried about getting the perfect shot, I didn't have to force anyone to cooperate, or smile, or even look at the camera. There was no wrangling, or lecturing...we just got to be. Us.

We wandered, ran, explored...took emergency potty breaks, got our shoes wet...picked flowers, chased balls...lost our bubbles container, yelled at imaginary sewer alligators...You know, the usual.

I was worried that this idea was silly...that I'd be self-conscious of the process, or critical of the result. But that couldn't have ended up farther for the truth. In the end, Mark created a perfect montage of our family- a silly, simple, happy little snippet, of a silly, simple, happy little family. 

The Bowden Family // Summer 2016 from Mark Batke on Vimeo.

Annnnnnnd tears.

I know I'm biased...but it's kind of amazing, right? I've watched it 1,003 times already, and I for real get a little teary every time. I'm just so thankful to have a keepsake like this- especially of this crazy (crazy good/crazy crazy) time in our lives that goes by entirely too fast (though it sometimes feels just the opposite). I just cherish this video, and am already counting down the days until we get to do it again (I may have roped him into one shoot per season this year...or maybe until the end of time.)

If you're intrigued by the idea too, I seriously can't recommend it enough. Even Dustin, who can bit of a curmudgeon about these things, agreed he would absolutely do it again, even saying he preferred it hands down it to a photoshoot. (though don't kid yourself; I'm still going to force a few of those on him as well. Documentarians gotta document). I told Mark he needed to prepare himself for all the moms calling him wanting a family video, because in my (humble) opinion- this is pretty much the best idea of all time.

Mark- We're so grateful for your vision and your talent, but mostly your friendship. Thanks for showing up, and saying yes...for videoshoots, and in life. 

P.S. More photo/video/general creative awesomeness of Mark's: website // instagram

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Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Happy 2nd House-iversary!

Today marks the second anniversary of moving into our house. I suppose I could have to baked a cake, or bought something special, but instead we just trekked out in the rain-soaked grass for a (not-so) quick family selfie to mark the occasion. 
(nailed it. As always.)

In so many ways this house is nothing special...but in total it's actually something incredible.

It's more than a crowded garage, a messy basement, and chipping baseboards (though it is most definitely all of that). But it's also more than a picture-perfect view, spacious rooms and what seems like (comparatively speaking) an obscene number of bathrooms. 

In all the good, and the bad, and the just plain ordinary, this house is our safe haven, a spot for our family to grow, play, laugh, and rest. It's an imperfect and lovely backdrop for our imperfect and lovely lives.

I know we may not always live here, but I also know that wherever we may go next, we will always look back on this as the place we were when
...When Fin turned one and we had a giant party on the deck...When we all got the stomach flu at the same time, and lived to tell about it...When Dustin took a risk and decided to be a stay-at-home dad (temporarily anyway)...When Miller was born and we brought him home. 

It's only been two years, but this house has already seen a thousand PBS kids shows, a million tears, a and about a jillion macaroni noodles. I can't imagine what the next year holds for us, but no matter what, I couldn't be more thankful for this place, these people, or this house. 

Happy anniversary, you beautiful chunk of home, you

Oh- and just for giggles...I thought I'd share the video version of this morning's celebration. (Further) proof we should never be vloggers. 

(Bonus: Dustin recites our new family motto: "attitude is the difference between an ordeal and an adventure". Oh how true.)

P.S. Last year's house-iversary.
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Monday, May 16, 2016

Mighty Nine

Nine things I love about these pictures of nine month Miller:

  1. That funny little blonde patch of hair 
  2. Those eyebrows
  3. His two tiny teeth
  4. The dimples at the top of his cheeks
  5. Little baby armpits
  6. His crooked jaw
  7. That perfect nose
  8. The sparkle in his eyes
  9. Who are we kidding? Everything. I love everything. Everything about his face, about his body, about his personality...I'm just madly in love with this little guy. 

If I could add another hour to the day strictly for smooching his face, I would. Actually...if I were in charge, I might add a month to the year, so I could have at least 30 more days of baby cuddles. His big birthday is coming up a little too fast for my liking...Can't we just pause here for a little bit? "One" is ok, but nine is mighty fine. (So for now...and the foreseeable future...I'll be snuggling/devouring his delicious little neck, while trying to memorize every detail of his perfect little face. Man, he's going to be so embarrassed of me someday.) 

Previous months: 1234567, 8.
And if you want to go in the way, way back machine: Fin, and Piper at nine months.
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Friday, May 6, 2016


Well, it's been quiet around here lately. But don't get "here" I just mean this blog, not our actual lives. No, life isn't quiet at all. In fact, I'm not sure I could find a word to less accurately describe our lives right now. Maybe orderly. Or relaxing. Or anything in the thesaurus next to calm.

Don't worry- I'm not going to go on a rant about how busy we are, it's just that life right now is pretty hectic, pretty loud, and pretty full. It's all very good stuff ('s a lot of very good stuff, with some tantrums, messes and exhaustion layered on top) but it's not been very compatible with blogging. I love creating, and I still have the urge to spend time in this space, but lately it's been all I can do just to keep up with regular life, let alone the documentation traditions I've started (most notably: monthly updates for Miller, and periodic quips from the girls). Then there's my commitment to Thrive Moms, plus my one second everyday project. So there is still some creative expression and memory keeping happening, but there hasn't been quite as much time or space for "written processing" as I'd like.

It's easy for me to get down on myself, frustrated that I'm not being more productive, or better at prioritizing time to for creative pursuits. I mean, I seem to find plenty of time for Netflix binging so I can't really use a "too busy" excuse in good conscience. But at the same time, it's also fair to say that while I've been neglecting the writing recently, I actually have been focusing on the doing (and even more important: the being.) I've talked about this before- the struggle with feeling that I have to choose between making the memories or recording them. Our kids are so small, and so active, and seem to change by the minute. Sometimes that makes me feel manic, striving to document every second before it slips by. But sometimes I'm better at settling in, and soaking it up, taking opportunities to just be with my people, and rely on my memory to preserve the moment. 

Beyond just the documenting though, I miss creating...I'm sad about all the writing, photography, crafting and quilting I'm not doing. Creative expression brings me so much fulfillment, so it's hard to be content when that area is lacking. There's no shortage of busyness, it's a lot of busy-work, that doesn't come with the same sense of pride and satisfaction that makership does. (that's not technically a word. But I think it should be. So I made it. It's what we makers do.) I'm doing a lot these days, but still I look back and feel frustrated that I don't have more to show for it all. 

But I came across a quote recently that seemed to speak right to me, right where I am; So much so that I've been repeating it to myself ever since:  

Be patient with yourself. Nothing in nature blooms all year. 

OH, how I long to always be in bloom. Who doesn't?! I want to be full of color, a thing of beauty. I want to be open and lovely, basking in the sun, feeling proud to be on display.

But that's just not realistic. Nothing in nature blooms all year. Before the flowers, there must be buds. Stems. Leaves. Roots. And of course, even once the flowers come, they aren't forever.  Between blooms, there is withering, and dormancy, and rest.

And as a gardener (a topic I'm only qualified to speak about metaphorically), there are times to water, and times to prune. Times to fertilize, and wait.

So while I long to be always blooming- to feel the constant joy of creation, celebration, and big, showy radiance- I know that life isn't contained to that season alone. Even perennials- known for their brilliant blooming- go through cycles of change. There are seasons of budding and growth; and of wilting and hardening off.

I may be frustrated that I'm not blooming in exactly the way I'd like to be right now, but if I'm patient with myself I realize that I'm still in a rich- and necessary- season. We're becoming rooted: getting entrenched with family, establishing deep connections with friends and spreading wide, complex relationship pathways. We're growing: working on a solid marriage- the trunk to our family tree, adding branches of children and nurturing their growth. We're pruning: cutting out the things that are too much to sustain, and threaten to take away from what matters most. We're drinking in the nourishment that God is providing, we're preparing protection for storms, and we're fanning our leaves out to soak up as much sunlight as we possibly can.

So right now, I'm not in bloom every day. I'm not show-ready all the time. My energy isn't being funneled into beautiful petals made for admiration. But that doesn't mean this season isn't worthwhile, and good, and full. I need to be patient with myself, and settle into all that right now holds for me, knowing the blooming will come again, soon enough.

P.s. More about "seasons" of motherhood, and the doing/being balance.

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Monday, April 18, 2016

Magic Eight Ball

There are a lot of things I love about babies. I love the smell of their heads, how snuggly they are, how sweet they look when they're sleeping, how excited they get when they learn something new. I could go on forever with things I love...even though I could simultaneously list off just as many things that wear me out. Babies are the hardest of work, but they're also pretty much magic. I don't think for one second that God didn't have a plan when he made babies so dang irresistible. I'm pretty sure He knew that anything this demanding, better be intoxicatingly cute.

I actually used to think that the cuteness was designed in direct proportion to how difficult the baby was. Like you might be bestowed with some extra adorableness to counter act a more *ahem* challenging temperament. Lucky for us though, Miller somehow arrived low on the maintenance scale, and high on the adorableness scale...and has been holding steady on both ever since.

He's not a perfect baby. He has his quirks, and trails. But OH, is he a dream baby. And a dreamboat. Honestly, I could just smooch his face all day. And pretty much do. (Can you blame me? And can he stop me? Nope. And nnnnnnope.)

Happy eight months, Miller, you magic ball of love.

Previous months: 123456. 7.
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Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Little Pip-Speaks: Volume 24

Basically...the know it all edition.
(This apple doesn't fall far from this tree, folks. I deserve this and so much more, I'm afraid.)

Pip-speak #1: 
Piper: Fin- I'm the big sister. And big sisters know things about little sisters. 

Pip-speak #2: 
Piper: If you leave pop in your car in Winter it explodes your car.

Pip-speak #3: 
Piper: You know, Mommy, I'm better at taking care of babies than you. 

Pip-speak #4: 
Fin: Piper! Turn it down!! {"it" meaning Piper's voice}
Piper: Keep it up, Fin, and I'm going to do it even louder. 

Pip-speak #5: 
Fin: {corrects how Piper is playing the piano} 
Piper: Finney, you are not allowed to tell me how to play the piano. When you get to be an expert like me you can. Until then you just have to dance. That's all. 

Pip-speak #6: 
Piper: When I grow up I'm going to be a fixer. It's a good job. What are you gonna be when you growed up?
Mama: Well, I have a job. I work for the cats. {a cat product client}
Piper: That's not a real job, Mommy!

Pip-speak #7: 
Piper: When I'm big, my job is going to at the grocery store. Wait, NO! Target! 
Mama: What will you do there? 
Piper: Pay for groceries! 
Mama: Like, be a cashier?
Piper: YeahAnd give you stickers if you're still little. 

Pip-speak #8: 
Piper {about Miller}: His eyes are so beautiful. He almost looks like a girl baby. I wish we had a girl baby. 

Pip-speak #9: 
Mama: Piper, do you think we should have more babies? 
Fin: YES!
Piper: No.
Mama: Why? 
Piper: Can you imagine? Eight babies?!
Mama: Well, Pipes, we have three kids, so one more would be four.
Piper: Yeah, mama. And eight is more than four. 
Mama: {?}

Pip-speak #10: 
Piper: I am vigilant. 
G'mi: What is vigilant?
Piper: Vigilant is when you go to a farm and the farmer picks his corn and blades it.
Me: Then how are you vigilant, Piper?
Piper: {shrugs} I don't know, I just am!

And some little quips from the little one...

Finnish #1:
Fin: Where is my Daniel Tiger?
Mama: Your dandelion? 
Fin: Yeah. My Daniel Lion.

Finnish #2:
Fin: Everyone! Criss-cross apple sauce for story time. This story is Jack Up the Beanstauf. 

Finnish #3:
Fin: Don't call me sweetie pie. I a children!

Finnish #4:
Katelyn {Fin's teacher at kids' church, speaking to the whole class}: So you can follow Jesus just like the fishermen. You can do things like listen to your parents...
Fin {interjects}: I don't listen to my parents. 
Katelyn: Oh, you don't listen to your parents? 
Fin: Nope.
Katelyn: Well...that's a way you could follow Jesus.
Fin: {just stares blankly}

And both of them...pretty much every day...
{Hollering at each other}
Piper: Finney, you are messing up my imagination. I do not like what you're doing to my imagination!
Fin: Piper you are hurting my ears! Stop hurting my ears!
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Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Silly Rabbits

On Saturday, the kids were greeted with a post-nap surprise: The Easter Bunny had visited!

Turns out that clever little rabbit knew that Sunday was going to be a little hectic, so he popped in early to drop off some treats. There were toys, snacks and candy for the kiddos, but nestled in the baskets was a little gift for mama too: matching bunny jammies! (The bunny's no dummy...stashing some Gap clearance rack goodies from last year) Sure, they were technically for the kids, but the photo-op they lead to? That was for me.

So post-bath, our little thumpers suited up, and I attempted to bribe them into taking one decent sister picture. Fin flat out refused to participate, so Piper volunteered to go first, to try to convince her to join. I plopped her on the bed, asking her to wear some ears, and give me a smile.  Instead...she gave me...well...this:
I have no idea what came over her. She's typically pretty silly, especially for pictures, so that wasn't a shock, but the full out commitment just about slayed me. She was a little rodent Zoolander, striking pose after pose. She hit each one hard, waiting to hear my shutter snap before moving on. I just kept clicking (and giggling) and Dustin shot a video to capture the madness. Fin immediately changed her tune, and wanted in on the action, so naturally Piper coached her: "Put your leg up! Now put your hands up!" Witness:
Silly Rabbits from Courtney Bowden on Vimeo.

We finally managed to get them both in the frame, but the silliness was far from over (despite additional bribes, and eventually even some "no bedtime books" threats). They were taking no instruction from me, preferring to direct the action themselves:

I had a vision for what I wanted, and it didn't end up like I pictured...

It turned out way better. 

Watching the two of these wild hares together is one of my greatest joys. It's just pure love, pure silliness...pure sisterhood. Sometimes when they're goofing off (or bickering, or goofing off and bickering) I step away, picturing them as grown ups; road tripping in college, giving toasts at each other's weddings, or squabbling as old ladies, and I'm overwhelmed by the messy perfection of it all.

I love these bunnies, and all of their spunky, sassy, sweetness. I'm so grateful to have each of them...but also both of them. I'm a pretty lucky rabbit.
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