Don’t neglect the time you have with your family. In the end, we only have 18 summers with our children. 18 memorable summer holidays to explore, grow together and invest in the people they will become someday.
Here are a few ideas to help you reconnect with your loved ones this summer…
1. Celebrate Experiences
As an adult, I can hardly recall the toys and gifts bestowed to me as a child. I do however remember the laughs shared with my family; the moments spent building forts out of cardboard boxes and playing hop-scotch in the driveway. After all, life is about cherishing moments and experiences with our loved ones – and not things.
Take some time out this summer to celebrate experiences with your family. This doesn't have to be as big & grand as a trip to Disney. It can be as simple as finding a new park you have never been to. Go for a summer hike outdoors, plan that overdue camp out under the stars – and enjoy a carefree summer of adventures with your children.
2. Spend Time One-On-One
It’s great to bond as one big happy family and celebrate the summer together. However, it is just as important to connect with your kids and spouse one-on-one. This alone time will help cement your relationship.
Plan one-on-one time this summer with each member of your family. Perhaps it is a pamper session with your pre-teen daughter or an afternoon of biking with your son. Have a backyard picnic with your significant other. Do something special that you know they will love and build memories that will last a lifetime.
3. Disconnect For A Day
“Sometimes you have to disconnect to stay connected. Remember the old days when you had eye contact during a conversation? When everyone wasn't looking down at a device in their hands? We've become so focused on that tiny screen that we forget the big picture, the people right in front of us,”
– Regina Brett.
Pack away the phones, tablets and more – even just for a few hours. Decide on a set day or weekend this summer where you will pack up the car and venture away from home with your family to spend some quality time together – disconnected completely from technology. Can't be away for a whole day? Set aside certain hours of the evening to be electronic free.
4. Start a Family Tradition
Start something new! From the moment you wake up until the moment you lay back down - find new & creative ways to make a whole new experience together. It may be an annual weekend at the lake or a visit to the zoo, but whatever it is, schedule a special family event that will be the start of your own family traditions over the summer holidays. This will help you reconnect as a family and build your bond for generations to come.
I hope that you take a moment to step back and find new ways to connect with each member of your family.
Have some other great ideas or something you love to do together? Share with us in the comments.
BJ & Deidre at Oakes Quarry, Huber Heights
Photography: Elisabeth Ashliegh / Elisabeth Ashliegh Photography
Being stuck at home because of the Coronavirus can be overwhelming and it can be just plain boring - especially if you are an extrovert like myself. Annoying as it can be, lounging around at home does have its upsides – you can finally indulge in all those things you never made time for, whether it be cleaning out your closets, getting creative with the kiddos, tending to your cracked heels or getting through that book you’ve been ignoring.
So despair not - I have put together a list of 45 things that you could try to fill some time with! I know we will be trying to mark off as many as we can in my family during this time.
Whether its just you or you have a bunch of kiddos running around, I hope that you find this list helpful! Please add in some of your awesome ideas in the comments - we would love to hear them!
Remember to take care of yourself during these times.
Stay Healthy. Be kind.
*** I did something I have never done before on my own blog posts and added photos from other artists. Typically, I like to correlate my own imagery in with the articles I post. Since I am mainly a portrait family photographer, I just didn't find anything in my own collection that fit perfectly with this. If anything it increased my desire to do more in-home type photo sessions to capture that daily magic. You can find all of these artists and more on unsplash.com and hope to share more of my work with you in the future! ***
Guest Blog Written by Mariah McIntyre / Photography by Elisabeth Ashliegh Photography
Over two instances of fighting cancer in my twenty one years, I’ve learned a lot about my own personal trauma that’s stemmed from these challenging situations. Chemo is no joke, and after round two of fighting against this disease, I’d say it’s left me with more physical and emotional scars than my first go around. This isn’t to say that I haven’t gained strength and endurance for the things that we never expect life to throw at us; relapse for me was a reminder that as humans, we're never too good to be thrown into the wringer for a second time. It’s shown me that there’s always more to learn from a hard situation- always a new view point that can be taken on as the tables are slightly turned. In fact, I like to say that as time passes, the more I can personally see all the wisdom I’ve gained in a clearer light. It’s wisdom you have to work for, cry for, and mentally exhaust yourself for. But in the end, your armor is stronger and brighter, making the chinks in the metal that much less visible.
One of the biggest wisdom's I’ve learned from my relapse with cancer- and one that I was only dipping my toes into as a fourteen year old fighting the disease- is that trauma is both connective and isolating, all wrapped into one very complicated package. Let me elaborate on that thought:
The widowed parent is relearning everyday life without their other half there; relearning holidays and anniversaries that will never quite feel the same. Yet there’s a sense that these three people are struggling, growing, and surviving as one.
Trauma Doesn’t End After The Initial Traumatic Incident. The way I often like to convey this idea is to put it into perspective using a situation that many have been blessed to go through: Having a baby. The birth of a child is the gateway into a brand new chapter in the lives of a family. If it’s their first, they're learning how to be a new parent which includes the in’s and out’s of 24/7 child care. If it’s their second addition to the family, it’s learning how to navigate the care of two tiny humans instead of one. Each addition is a whole new ball game with its own challenges to be faced.
That first month after a child is born can be filled with visitors, family members staying over to help with the transition, gifts, and meals being delivered to the new parent’s home. It’s a challenging and amazing introduction of new life, all guided by friends and family easing you into parenthood. But oftentimes, once that excitement has died down, you’re left navigating the transition period of raising a baby on your own. Things aren’t any easier then what they were in that first month- in fact, sometimes they can get harder as new challenges present themselves. Yet the visits are less frequent along with the texts asking how things are going, and the help that was there in the very beginning slowly becomes nowhere to be found.
This same concept can be applied to the cancer patient, the gun violence survivor, and the widowed parent. Once those first few months of initial shock, pain, and grief wear off for everyone else, it's all still there aching inside of the people who are navigating their trauma. In my own words, this process can be described as living in a bubble filled with constant noise. Once the initial trauma came to an end, that being the end of treatment for myself, the bubble pops, and the silence screams in both of my ears. The “How are you doing’s?” become much less, the social media encouragement fades away, and you get the sense that the whole world is ready for you to move on.
This isn’t being said to shame people for getting on with their everyday lives, or trying to put out an expectation that people should forever be coddling those who have sustained trauma. It’s a PSA that we’re still here, and we’re still going through it long after the world has deemed that we should be fine.
As someone who has always made it a point to learn from my trials and to move past them as soon as I feel I’m ready, I’ve always had a particularly hard time navigating my way through the ‘silence’ stage of my journey. The words and encouragement of others do not define me and they don’t make me who I am. But as I’ve struggled through the after effects of treating cancer that still present themselves to me on a daily basis, I find it a great deal more lonely and challenging then when I was in the thick of chemo.
This leads me to suggest small ways that you can be there for someone who has endured trauma in their life.
When we first become parents, we are overcome with a powerful urge to protect and nurture. However, we can’t keep our precious children sheltered under our wings forever.
Soon enough they will need to stand on their own two feet and I have hopes that they will be standing on a cloud of positivity. How can we prepare them for this transition?
Helping our children choose positivity in as many circumstances as possible is a great first step to boost their confidence and help them cope with all the crazy life will throw in their face.
I believe that it often begins with the mind and how we are trained to think in different situations.
When kids learn how to think positively from a young age, they just might have a greater chance of leading happier, healthier lives as adults.
How can we teach our kids positivity? Here are a few ways I think can help!
· Be a role model. Practice positive thoughts daily and let this set the tone in your home.
· Let them fail. Share not only your successes with your children but also failures. Focus on the good so that they learn to focus on the good, but recognize the bad, how it is ok to see it and feel it but then also ok to pick up and look forward to something better. They may learn to take a positive stance themselves, despite hardship.
· Create an uplifting environment. Surround your kids with positive people and influences that can uplift and motivate your children to succeed. If someone in their life does not emit that same thinking and you cannot remove them from their life, teach them how to battle within themselves that negativity in an uplifting manner.
· Impart family values and morals at home. Help your children adopt kindness, respect and forgiveness as a way of life. Kindly help them find a new way to think or approach a situation in which they may not have been thinking positively, respectful or kind.
· Share positive experiences. Make a point of sharing the highlights of your day as a family every night. This is a great way to develop a mindset of gratitude at home!
· Help your kids deal with their emotions. When we are overcome with emotion, it is often a good idea to simply breathe, calm down and respond when we feel level-headed. Choosing to respond out of kindness and positivity can impact how your child deals with difficult people and situations. Show them empathy and try to remember what it felt like to be that age, that they are people with real feelings that they may not understand.
· Laugh more. Laughter is medicine to the soul and can help to change a negative experience into a fun, light-hearted and encouraging atmosphere.
George Rodgers Clark Park, Springfield, Ohio
Photography: Elisabeth Ashliegh / Elisabeth Ashliegh Photography
What’s on your bucket list? Adventure, travel, extreme sports?
Whatever it may be, commit your bucket list to paper and you’ll be one step closer to tracking and achieving your life’s goals.
Without clear vision, we can easily get sucked into the mundane routines of everyday life. Wake up. Rush to work. Rush home. Spend time with family. Eat. Sleep. Repeat.
Before we know it, weeks and even months have passed us by. Without direction and goals for our future, we may begin to lose our sense of wonder and exploration for life.
It’s important to set aside time and create a bucket list of our goals and dreams. No matter how crazy or outrageous these plans may be, setting goals on paper will help you reach higher, dig deeper and work harder to make your dreams come true.
With a new year on the horizon... THIS is the TIME!
If you don’t know where to start, www.bucketlist.org is a fantastic free resource with over 5 million ideas to help you create a bucket list and track your goals online. You can also read about how others are achieving their goals and be inspired to accomplish your own.
Here are some ideas to help you get started and add to your bucket list:
· Learn a new language.
· Climb a mountain or go on a hiking trip.
· Swim with dolphins.
· Travel solo or work abroad.
· Take an art class.
· Go skydiving.
· Visit a different continent.
Even if you cannot make grand plans, start with little ones like these:
· Read a new book.
· Start a gratitude journal.
· Make one new friend.
· Learn Yoga from YouTube.
· Check out a local wine/beer/bourbon/coffee trail.
· Try one new thing every week.
Remember, it was Earl Nightingale who said, “People with goals succeed because they know where they're going”.
It’s never too late to set a goal, so start now, create a bucket list and watch your dreams turn into reality.
Tulum, Mexico and Bacalar, Mexico
Photography: Elisabeth Ashliegh / Elisabeth Ashliegh Photography
“If I had my child to raise all over again, I'd build self-esteem first, and the house later. I'd finger-paint more, and point the finger less. I would do less correcting and more connecting. I'd take my eyes off my watch, and watch with my eyes. I'd take more hikes and fly more kites. I'd stop playing serious, and seriously play. I would run through more fields and gaze at more stars. I'd do more hugging and less tugging.”
― Diane Loomans
As a parent, my hope is that I can build a lasting relationship with each of my kids and watch them flourish into beautiful souls.
However, when I’m right in the thick of it all – building a family, career and relationships – I often need to remind myself to step back and become more invested in the details of these young, impressionable lives I have been called to raise.
Our children are only with us for a short while before they will embark on their own journeys.
So, let’s make every moment count.
A few years back, I decided to start intentionally dating my children. What started as a few one-on-one outings has since developed into a very special time of bonding where I am able give each child my undivided and personalized attention.
It’s been a fun and interesting season of discovery and unravelling the many mysteries that make each of my children tick. I’ve learned so much in the process…
I’ve found that my youngest loves to be on the move, whether hiking or a hands-on museum or the playground. She wants to see and do as much as she can as quickly as she can.
One of her favorite spots to check out, Carriage Hills Metropark – there is so much to do here and perfect for toddler-tots! See the farm animals, take a hike down the little paths or even visit the visitor center which has a playhouse, playschool and playbarn inside.
My oldest daughter loves to shop, have her nails painted or see a movie. She is all about being a princess and eating popcorn while she is at it. Our favorite one-stop-shop is The Greene. Movie theater, nail salon, giant book store and food is all she needs for a day of pampering.
My step-son is most content spending time together at the movies, having dinner at his favorite place or being outdoors on an adventure. I like to take him to Yellow Springs where we can grab some pizza and hit the many trails at Glen Helen.
I am learning so much about them as individuals and showing them that who they are as an individual is important. My kids now look forward to that time together and ask when we are going to have our next date. They know that the time is special and just for them.
In turn, I am also learning more about myself as a mother and the legacy I wish to leave behind someday.
Together we are creating beautiful memories and a bond that will hopefully keep us cemented for the rest of our lives. I hope that this will also build them up mentally and emotionally, teach them about positive relationships, communication and life balance. I hope it will also teach them that I am here for them for the rest of my life.
So, date your kids – if you dare!
You may be surprised to find that each one has a special gift to offer this world. We need only step back, show up and listen to those that matter most.
Together, let’s make the effort because our kids are certainly worth it!
Cox Arboretum Metropark, Springboro, Ohio
Photography: Elisabeth Ashliegh / Elisabeth Ashliegh Photography
When you look in the mirror, what do you see?
Are you looking beyond the imperfections to recognize the woman you are on the inside? If not, perhaps it is time to celebrate being you – "flaws" and all.
Studies suggest that over 90% of women wish to change something about their physical appearance.
This dissatisfaction with our self-image often affects generations of women, even down to the youngest girls in society who may feel that they must constantly strive to meet unattainable goals of beauty. Our self criticism makes our children question their own appearance and continues the cycle on.
In the end, when we realize that we cannot achieve these far-fetched ideals of a flawless image, we are left disappointed, de-valued, and unhappy about who we really are.
The truth, my beautiful friends is that we all have imperfections and the very notion of ‘flawless beauty’ is a flawed concept. If we remain unhappy with what we see in the mirror, constantly trying to fix and conceal our own appearances, we will never truly be happy or free.
You see, real women face real challenges and true beauty often has nothing to do with physical appearance but everything to do with the condition of our hearts.
“Whole life is a search for beauty. But, when the beauty is found inside,
the search ends and a beautiful journey begins,”
― Harshit Walia.
Next time you look in the mirror, don’t fret about those laughter lines, grey hairs and wrinkles around your eyes. When you see a photo of yourself don't just pick yourself apart, your children apart, your spouse apart. These flaws that only you see through your own tainted lens do not make you ‘less than’ or not worthy of capturing those moments. Because each day we grow a bit older, a bit bigger or smaller, a bit wrinklier. That is life. That is the beauty of it.
What the world calls "imperfections" or what you think are "imperfections" are actually the signs of a life well lived and they tell our stories to the world. They are a part of us, a part of our story.
If we celebrate our "flaws" instead of concealing them, we will learn to embrace and honor the journey that has brought us to where we are today. If we learn to speak positivity towards ourselves daily, we will see a change in our head and in our hearts.
Let’s teach our young girls that they are beautiful, loved, accepted and celebrated in every shape and form. Let's teach ourselves the same thing.
Something I like to ask... If a friend talked to me the way that I talked to myself, would I truly consider her a friend? I want that answer to be a resounding YES YES YES for you and for me!
Outer beauty is fleeting... one day we will look back on the photographs of today and wish we would have appreciated ourselves or worse, look back in our life and wish we did not let our lack of love for our own self-image be the thing that kept us from documenting the important times in our lives, from enjoying the moments that pass us by.
In the end, it is our attitudes, our self-belief and our moral compasses that will set the tone for a happy and content life.
& as far as my girls are concerned... I think I am the most beautiful person in the world and so are they. I hope that this confidence radiates through them so that they never wish they look different than they are.
Ellasyn G. Gelhar, Beloved Daughter, Conover, Ohio
Photography: Elisabeth Ashliegh / Elisabeth Ashliegh Photography
We all express love and desire a level of intimacy in different ways. For some, receiving a gift can mean that your partner has taken extra special care to consider you.
For others, like me, a simple act of service helps us feel appreciated and loved.
When my husband cleans out my car or runs an errand I did not expect him to, my love levels for him increase. When I validate or appreciate something my husband does for me or for others, he lights up.
In marriage, I’ve found it so very beneficial to identify my spouse’s primary love languages to help deepen our marriage in a meaningful way.
Here I want to highlight each of the five love languages with a few tips to help you find new ways to express your affection for the love of your life.
1. Words of Affirmation
If this is your boo's primary love language, they long to be affirmed and appreciated through words. Choose your words wisely. Aim to acknowledge their strengths, encourage them through words daily and express how you feel about them often.
Your lover may feel truly loved and appreciated through the receiving of gifts. Gifts do not have to be something expensive or large either. Gifts, big or small are appreciate by the ones who speak this language.
3. Acts of Service
This love language is all about actions before words. Many people believe that an act of service has to be a grand gesture in order to be appreciated but that is not always the case.
4. Quality Time
Give your significant other your undivided attention and intentionally set aside time with them. Those who seek this love language are all about being together. Free up any distractions that can take away from cementing your bond (turn off the cell phone and get away from work).
5. Physical Touch
Intimacy is an important part of any relationship, but if physical touch is your spouse’s primary love language, they may need to feel connected to you as often as possible.
Traveling, for me can be exhausting sometimes, stressful even. Do not get me wrong... I absolutely love to do it.
I love to see new things, experience new places and document the whole thing. BUT occasionally I forget all about just enjoying the time I have and turn it more in to a burden, a check mark, a hurry-through-it so I can move on to the next thing.
But, I have been learning a new perspective about life lately and this week it hit me all of a sudden that traveling can be so much more satisfying.
I am in a new part of the country for an extended period of time, to work on my education in Mass Communications through basic photojournalism.
One of our assignments for the week is to take 100-150 photos on a Nikon D750 camera with various criteria to meet, including photographing complete strangers.
(Side note: I have been a Canon shooter for my entire professional career so this in itself is a challenge, don't judge.)
So off to the nearby public spaces we go...
Go me for thinking that the Northern East Coast would be a great time of year in January!
I realized something as I am standing on the pier freezing my tushy off.
I am faced with a choice.
I could either complain about the cold, the wind & the assignment. Rush out there, grab as many shots as I can, doing a poor overall job. Then run back to the car while traveling the shortest distance possible - grumbling and consumed by the fact that my face and fingers felt like they were about to fall off.
I can take my time. I can sit back and recognize the cold but not let it overwhelm my moments. I could breathe in the crisp air with intention and feel how fills up my lungs. I could look around at the lights lighting the harbor, watch the bustle of people as they hurriedly race from warm store to warm store, enjoy the sunset fall on the gentle waves of the harbor and then disappear in to the night. I could work with purpose and be filled with the awe of it all.
It is so easy to go with the first one. Not that long ago I would be totally on board with that.
But that is no longer the life I want to live... even on the coldest day I have ever experienced in my life.
And so, I saw the choice come before me and I consciously made my decision.
I choose to dance to the sounds of a drummer in the streets, I choose to capture the beauty around me and take in the sounds of the wind and waves, the smell of the crisp air.
I choose to do my best to be in awe every day of this adventure. And I will continue to work on making that choice every time it presents itself until it becomes part of my nature.
Will you choose to do the same?
Bringing a bundle of joy home is an exciting and overwhelming season in any parent’s life. Those first few months are often filled with expectation and wonder, yet the joy of this season may become overshadowed by our own fears and doubts.
Are we doing a good job?
Are we providing all that our child needs?
Take heart, dear soul. Sometimes we simply need to sit back and enjoy the present.
Here’s what I think you need to know, from one parent to another…
1. You are enough!
Let no-one undermine or question your worth. You are valued, you are worthy, and you are more than capable of raising a remarkable child. You are enough for that sweet little one.
2. You are all your baby needs.
The shops may be lined with stimulation toys and baby accessories. Everyone has an opinion on what are the must haves and what you should do with your babe. However, in those first few months, you are all that your infant needs to thrive and grow. Be present and invested and watch your child flourish.
3. It’s not selfish to take time out.
Sure, your babe needs you... but you need you too. Self care is so important, especially when raising little ones. Don’t feel guilty if you need to take time out to clear your head and look after yourself. Sometimes in order to be the best version of yourself – for you and your child. you need some time to decompress, reset and rest.
4. Find peace and remember to breathe.
We can quickly become stressed and unsettled when we’re wholeheartedly invested in a new baby, but it’s important to embrace those quiet moments to simply breathe and find tranquility in our everyday routines or even in the chaos. Sometimes you need to step out to collect yourself and go back in. Remember... babies feel your vibes and feed off of them. (Check out Insight Timer for some great breathing meditations to help you take a time out).
5. Follow your gut.
Learn to rely on your parental instinct. Every person in this world has an opinion about your babe. But your intuition is a powerful thing. When in doubt, follow it.
6. It’s okay to ask for help.
You don’t have to do it all alone. Remember, it takes a village to raise a child. Do not be afraid or too prideful to ask for help where you need it.
Also in another aspect if you feel "different" or "off" after having your little babe, do not be afraid to talk to your doctor. Postpartum depression is a sneaky little beast and your body just went through a big change. It can come in many different forms and variations including anger, sadness, detachment, depression, anxiety and more. Seek medical attention if you have any of those feelings. And do not be afraid to seek alternative doctors if yours is not being helpful.
7. Choose joy over worry.
We can choose to become anxious about every single detail that may impact our children. Or we can choose what is the most important things to focus on and what we can let slide. Say no to anxiety where and when you can. Replace negative with positive thoughts. Make an argument for happiness.
Elisabeth Ashliegh Gelhar