Mindy Leigh Photography – Grand Rapids & Holland Wedding & Portrait Photographer » Specializing in natural light wedding & portrait photography, serving West Michigan, Grand Rapids, Michigan, Lakeshore, Holland, Hudsonville, Grand Haven, Rockford, Ada, Zeeland, Ludington, Traverse City, and everywhere in between. Available for travel throughout the Midwest, Country, & World.

Mindy Leigh Photography – Grand Rapids & Holland Wedding & Portrait Photographer bio picture
  • Hello, my name is Mindy, and thank you so much for visiting MindyLeigh.com! Everything you need to know is right here on one website, so please take a look around, browse the categories and check out my work. You can learn even more about my photography, reviews, pricing, and even about me, by exploring the menu at the top of this page!

    My focus is on lifestyle photography, mainly of babies, children, families, and maternity, and in all my work I strive to capture real moments and genuine emotions, with a style that is creative yet timeless. While I have photographed numerous engagements and weddings, please note that after this season, I will be stepping away from this area of photography.

Walt Disney World 2014

This one is a departure from my professional work. In fact, all of these photos were taken with either my iPhone 5s, or with a Panasonic Lumix DMC-LX7 (which I am still figuring out). I decided not to bring my 5D Mark III and professional lenses to Florida, and I am so glad. It is so tiring walking around all of those parks, I can’t imagine carrying heavier camera gear or worrying about it during bumpy rides or water splashes.

We returned home Thursday from an unforgettable vacation to Walt Disney World. We brought our older two kids, Lucy and Henry (they are 7.5 and 5.5 years old), after surprising them with the news the afternoon that we left (I have a video, I may try to post it later, but I shared it on Facebook). Ever since we became parents, we have looked forward to bringing our children to Disney World. It always seemed like the Holy Grail of vacations, and for a long time I could not imagine how we would be able to do it. We have had a lot on our plate this past year, and a getaway was much needed. We left Alice back home with my parents, and it was hard to be away from her, but I am very happy that we were able to do that, and give the older kids our full attention. It also allowed us to make more of our time at the parks, go on more rides and see more attractions. We are already looking forward to going back to Disney in a few years, with all three kids!

In Louisville, Kentucky

The trip down (yes, we drove) went well. Our kids stayed entertained with their Nooks, and watching the scenery out the window. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? Actually the car ride was the hardest part of the vacation. For the most part, there was peace in the back seat, but there were plenty of times when Lucy and Henry simply got on each other’s nerves! I’m just being honest – it is a long drive, and we did not have a DVD player, and some bickering may have occurred! I like to focus on the happy memories, though, so we’ll just move on!  There were bathroom breaks and snack breaks, including a stop at Against the Grain Brewing Co. in Louisville, Kentucky.  Driving through Atlanta involved very heavy traffic, but it was short-lived, and once we were through the city things were smooth sailing. Our late-night hotel check-ins and early mornings hitting the road were my least favorite part of the trip. I can’t complain though, because our accommodations in Florida were so incredible, it more than made up for it! It felt great to finally reach our destination. I was so excited to see palm trees! The kids played in the sun… oh, hello sunshine! We have missed you!

Driving through Atlanta, Georgia

Our first day was not a full day, so we went to Downtown Disney before checking in to our hotel. The kids loved looking at the impressive Lego creations, and playing in the fountain. Downtown Disney is a great place to spend some time wandering or eating, but beware of all the shops. The huge Disney store in the heart of it all is full of amazing things that you can not get anywhere else, but we avoided the trap by purchasing Mickey and Minnie Mouse t-shirts for the kids from Kohl’s, and used that as part of their “Surprise, we’re going to Disney!” gift. They never asked for a shirt while we were there. We did stop by Downtown Disney on our last night, because we just had to buy them the classics: Minnie Mouse ears, and a Goofy hat. Oh, and I bought a really cute coffee mug. 

We had lunch at Rainforest Cafe, and although we had a reservation, our wait extended for quite a bit. We spent time wandering around the huge merchandise area (and saying “no” many times). We finally got our table, and had a fantastic lunch (or maybe it tasted so great because we were so hungry!). It was pretty chilly in the restaurant, which is a stark contrast from the 90 degree weather that day. I recommend packing a light layer if you plan on eating at any restaurant, because the air-conditioning is often cranked! 
Some photos from the resort:
Sunday morning we went to the Magic Kingdom! We arrived early, but there were already a lot of cars there. No surprise there! Also worth a mention, the parking system and direction at all the Disney parks was so impressive! I have never seen anything so well choreographed, so smooth, so quick, and the fact that I am even going on this much about the parking experience says a lot… for what that’s worth. You will be impressed. From there we rode a shuttle to a line.

We stood in line to board a monorail, which took us to the main front gates, where we had our bags checked and entered through onto Mainstreet, USA! We turned a slight corner, already anxious for the classic view of Cinderella’s Castle (complete with crowds)! It didn’t even seem real! What a gorgeous site, and a gorgeous day to be in the Happiest Place on Earth. If you go, take this photo right away, because you probably won’t be down to this part of the park again until the end of the day, and it will be too late!

The morning we went to the Magic Kingdom, we also surprised the kids with news that we would be having breakfast at Cinderella’s Royal Table! We also had a dress, shoes, and crown for Lucy to wear. Usually, reservations must be made for this restaurant six months in advance, but Ron scored a spot just a few weeks before our trip, when something opened up! She got to meet many princesses, and we had an elegant meal in a magical setting with incredible service! I have been asked, “was it worth it?” Well, yes and no. From a meal standpoint, NO. From a spoil your daughter standpoint, yes. We were looking at this experience through our kids’ eyes, and to them, everything is so much more grand and amazing. That castle is a real castle. Those are real princesses. It was definitely worth it. If you think this is something you’d like to do, please don’t spoil the fun by being mad when they don’t eat their entire meal! The options (for breakfast anyway) were very limited. The kids scarfed down a plate of pastries, and picked at their eggs and bacon, and frittata. Good thing we packed bananas in the backpack for later!
Oh, and if you have a boy who is not big into princesses, such as our son Henry, they have you covered. Girls all get magic wands, and boys get toy swords. Stereotypical maybe, but it made Henry happy after he was “forced” to get a photo with Cinderella (who, by the way, was so disarmingly beautiful and graceful). Everyone gets a photo with the Princess, a large print and a set of 4×6′s, included in the package.
Then it was time to change out of the fancy dress (Lucy was not happy to do that) and go on some rides!
The Main Street Electrical Parade – it was totally worth staying up super late. I am so glad we got a spot to sit early!
Here is the view as we rode the ferry to the parking lot. You can sort of see Cinderella’s castle. Goodbye, Magic Kingdom… until next time!

If you want a full recap of our day at Magic Kingdom, read this: If not, skip ahead to the Animal Kingdom…

Swiss Family Robinson’s Treehouse – We walked up and up and up… and then down, down down. It was neat, but felt a little pointless, to be honest! You don’t really stop moving.

Jungle Cruise – Boat ride on the “Nile”. We had a 40 min wait, a punny captain, and enjoyed great animatronic animals, which were very lifelike (enough that Henry asked, “is that real?”).

Pirates of the Caribbean – Super awesome and creepy, boat tour through pirate villages and dungeons, Jack Sparrow & friends. I loved this one! It was the perfect mix of dark and fun, just like the movies.

Splash Mountain - 70 min wait! Henry even liked it! We got a little wet, sat in the first two rows of our log car.

Took train to Fantasyland and walked to Tomorrowland.

Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin – this was a ton of fun for Henry! He loves Toy Story! You ride on a slow moving ship and shoot lasers at targets, racking up points.

Mad Tea Party – We had a lot of fun on this classic ride, and it was a lot faster than I expected it to be! The line was quick, too.

Ate our bananas

Enchanted Tales with Belle -  kid volunteers acted out a play with Belle. Lucy was Belle’s dad, Maurice!  Great for younger kids!

Goofy’s Barnstormer - Fun but short roller coaster. It was a quick line, so no big deal, but we only rode this once.

Slushes at the “Circus tent” – We were dying of heat and thirst, we took a timeout and enjoyed cold slushes and caramel corn.

Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid – Rode in a clam shell, *amazing* animatronics reinacting the basic plotline of the movie.

Dumbo the Flying Elephant - They are trying a new waiting line method where kids play in an indoor playhouse while parents keep a pager (like in restaurants). It is great if you can make your child(ren) understand they need to come out when it’s time. I saw parents wandering through the hamster tunnels… it’s for ages 2-12 or 3-12 or something, so sit down, relax, and be glad you aren’t standing in a line in the blazing sun!

WDW Railroad back at Frontierland – Have I mentioned how cool this railroad system is? You can save your legs (and lots of time) by hopping on the train, and it’s super cool looking.

Big Thunder Mountain Railroad - Our app told us a 90 minutes wait, but it dropped to 20 minutes, so we decided to go for it!  We sat in last two rows, Henry was a little nervous but liked it, Lucy smiled the whole time and screamed a lot! So did Mom.;)

Got a snack: carrots, celery, grapes. Cha-Ching $4 for like 20 grapes. Disney is crazy. Seriously, make someone wear a backpack and bring some snacks that do not require refrigeration. Also, bottles of frozen water, you will enjoy those all day long.

Haunted Mansion - Henry said he did not like it, but seemed to think it was neat during the ride. Brought back some memories! The dancing ghosts in the ballroom were my favorite. This one may frighten kids under 5.

Main Street Electrical Parade at 9pm WOW! WOW! WOW! I can’t even begin to describe the awesomeness of this Disney experience. It was beyond what I could have hoped for! Only advice, you better have a spot at least 45 minutes ahead of time. You’ll likely be sitting on the ground, so if you have the room for a couple small foam stadium pads, do it. Think cobblestone streets. Your body will be sore after a day at Magic Kingdom.

We watched some of the animation projected on the castle while making our way back down Main Street. We were about half way to the front gates, and stopped to watch more of the show. Because of the crowds, we had to hold the kids up on our hips, and they were exhausted and heavy. Actually, holding my child on my hip watching the castle “come to life” was a precious moment. I was so tired and ready to go, I didn’t realize that would be one of the best parts of our entire vacation.

We headed back and took the ferry boat to the parking lot.

Monday we visited Animal Kingdom. The weather was gorgeous (again), and the first thing we did was head straight to Kilimanjaro Safaris, where we got to see a lot of wild animals moving around before the temperatures got too hot. The road was bumpy and we had to go over “questionable” bridges. The sightings were great, although it was one time I truly missed my “big” camera and lens. My favorites were the giraffes and zebras. We also saw a cheetah, and according to our guide, that is one animal that is not always spotted. I just made up that joke. Ha. Seriously though, it was kind of far away and we didn’t get a good photo, but it was a really great time. I highly recommend this one, but go first thing or you may have a huge wait and fewer sightings.

The Animal Kingdom is full of detail and culture, and I loved the feeling of being in another part of the world.

Over at Rafiki’s Planet Watch the kids spotted an ice cream vendor and began to beg for a treat. We were trying to keep their appetite for our lunch reservation (and of course, what kid isn’t going to ask for ice cream), as we did our best to calmly tell our children “no”, their whining intensified. Before we even had a chance to lose our patience (side-note, aside from a few tough times in the car, we were a very happy family during our vacation), Gi-Tar Dan walked right up and asked the kids their names, and where we were from, and started to make up a song about them on the spot! The kids moods instantly shifted to happy, as he motioned for them to come over, and called all the other kids around to sing and dance the hokey-pokey with Chip & Dale! This was not the only time a cast-member made a magic moment occur when you least expected it. A turnstile attendant at Finding Nemo – the Musical asked Lucy who her favorite princess was. She replied Anna, and he began singing “For the First Time in Forever”, and we all stood in amazement at his beautiful voice and how he knew all the words. I looked at Lucy and I will never forget her expression! Anyway, back to the chipmunks…

We went inside the nearby building to the Conservation Station, where the kids were able to walk around and explore some more animal specimens. Lucy and Henry even touched a snake! We could talk to cast members in there, and I found out that almost all the animals are named. We even got an up-close look at a tarantula named Lori.
This guy is huge (I’d estimate a good 10 inches)!
We moved on to the Affection Section where the kids got to brush these goats. There was a nice hand-washing station right there.  It was like the cleanest petting zoo you’ve ever seen. Moving on…
Rafiki’s Planet Watch is a great place for young kids, you can escape the heat or rain, and it’s very educational. I love that Animal Kingdom has everything covered, from plants, animals, fun rides, interaction, conservation and education!
We headed back to Africa for our lunch reservation, but we were still a bit early. Luckily there was some entertainment, but the kids were very hungry, and it was pretty hot out! We wandered around a little more. This part of our trip was not the smoothest, as we had a big gap of time, and we had already done what we could within walking range of our restaurant.
Finally, it was time to eat! We had reservations at the Tusker House. It was a big buffet with a lot of options, even things the kids liked. Everything was incredible. We also got to meet some characters – Goofy, Donald, Daisy, and Mickey were all there, and we took a few pictures. Lucy even took a picture of me with Donald! This in-park dining was highly recommended by a friend, and it was a great option. Yes, these places are expensive, but if you’re going to spend big money on a restaurant in one of the parks, this is a great option – your kids will actually eat the food here, there are so many options!

A recap of the things we did at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Not interested? Skip to the next photo…

Explored plants and animals while walking in. We had met up with a friend of a friend who got us free passes in (great money saver) and he accompanied us for a short while. It was great, actually, because he was full of fascinating information and facts about all the plants and animals. He is a cast-member at Epcot, and was wonderful with our kids. We felt like we were on a private guided tour for a while. He even taught our kids how to suck nectar out of a certain kind of flower.

Kilimanjaro Safaris – We saw lots of animals & took photos. Very bumpy ride, kids loved it!

Pangani Forest Exploration Trail

Met Gi-Tar Dan and Chip and Dale -  this was a surprise, but ended up to be one of the highlights of the day.

Rafiki’s Planet Watch Conservation Station – Saw more animals and insects, brushed goats at the Affection Section.

Saw African drummers perform in marketplace

Lunch at Tusker House – Donald, Daisy, Goofy, & Mickey! We even ran into some friends from home. We all loved our lunch! Highly recommend eating here!

Ate Popsicles from a vendor

Expedition Everest – Legend of the Forbidden Mountain – Lucy loved it and smiled and screamed the whole time. She is a daredevil! She was not laughing nervously, she was giddy with excitement! As we walked toward this area of the park, you can hear the riders screaming. She said, “Those are the screams of JOY!” Henry tolerated it and was pale as a ghost when it was over.  He was so brave to go on a huge roller coaster, he does not like scary rides, but throughout our trip he was a great sport, and we are super proud of him! I could tell he was pushing himself beyond his comfort zone. We did not drag him onto this ride, or any other ride kicking, screaming, or crying.

TriceraTops Spin in DinoLand. While we waited for this ride, kids played in an indoor play area while we held a pager. That worked really well for us. This was essentially the Dumbo ride, but with a Triceratops. There was a lot at DinoLand but we did not do much there.

DINOSAUR – time-travel Jeep adventure, it was bumpy, very jolting ride with realistic scary dinosaurs & a meteor shower. It was terrifying and awesome! In my top-five of the whole vacation, probably! Kids under 4 might be terrified.

It’s Tough To Be A Bug – 3D show with some surprises! Great for young kids, but don’t sit too close to the screen, or it will be harder to see, and some of the effects will be better if you can see more of the theater.

Finding Nemo the Musical – This was great. Ah, this story always gets me. It was definitely a spectacle, and the kids loved it. The seating was not comfortable but the kids didn’t mind.

Tuesday we visited Epcot! It was cloudy, and rain was in the forecast. Silly me, I did not realize this. We were spoiled by gorgeous weather the first few days. We should have purchased cheap, clear ponchos like those Pinterest mavens suggested. Ponchos in the park shops are $8, so when the rain came, we decided to just deal with getting wet. Sigh. Oh, here’s a classic photo for you. I am not typically a “say cheese!” mom, so my kids are dysfunctional when it comes time to do these types of pictures. I was not about to yell at them to “smile nicer!” so I took the photo so we could get our booties over to Soarin’ before the line got too long!

We rode Soarin’ and then headed over to Journey Into Imagination. It was just what I remembered from my last visit in 1988!
Over at Mission: SPACE, stopping for a photo with Buzz Lightyear.
After part of World Showcase, we were ready to head back to Futureland, and the kids and I decided to jump on a boat to travel across the lake, while Ron walked around to a few more countries, including the United Kingdom. I just wanted to get out the rain, and did not want to spend money on souvenirs, or watch more informational videos about countries’ cultures. I suppose if the weather were better, it would have been a different story!
A recap of our day at Epcot:

Soarin’- We went right away, and I am glad we did, because the wait time went up to 80min after we got there! Our wait was maybe 30 minutes. You must go right away, this is a very popular ride right now. This attraction is a MUST! You will be awe-struck. Ask the attendant to sit you in the first row, so you don’t see other people’s feet hanging above you. I saw one lady ask for her group to sit in the front row, and the guy let them. Sounds bold, but now I see why she did that. If you don’t want to be that person, or you get told no, it’s still going to be amazing.

Living with the Land – Boat tour about sustainable agriculture technology, lots of unique ways to grow and feed plants, the kids actually liked this. Adults will find it fascinating, and it’s a slow-moving, relaxing tour, great for all ages.

Journey into Imagination with Figment – rode in a slow-moving red ship through the “Sensory Lab”, played in imagination room. It was fun for the kids, and I have fond memories of this place as well. Kids over 10 may be a little bored.

Mission: SPACE – Simulator, Mars landing with real g-forces, and a sensation of flying. We chose the Orange Team (more intense), although I was unsure how Henry would handle it. He loved it! I am so glad we chose the more intense level, but if you have a younger child, are prone to motion sickness, have any health conditions, are pregnant, etc. you can and should choose a less intense version, which will also mean a much shorter line!

Snack at Electric Umbrella – It was raining, and when it rains, people tend to congregate here. Although hugely crowded, this was a really good spot to grab lunch. Great options and reasonable prices. Cafeteria style service. We were lucky someone was finishing up and gave us their table, otherwise we would have had to eat on the floor!

World Showcase

Mexico: Gran Fiesta Tour Starring the Three Caballeros - this was a fun little ride, felt a little kitsch, in a good way, with the old cartoons clips. There were some “ooh” and “ahh” moments too, so go for it, great for really young kids, but I enjoyed it a lot!

Norway: Maelstrom - a ride in a Viking ship, with some short drops. It was only mildly thrilling, and we did not get wet. We followed this up with a video about Norway, it was beautiful but looked like it was made about 25 years ago! In one of the buildings in Norway, was Anna and Elsa from Frozen. The line was crazy and it was raining, so regrettably we could not meet them. We didn’t really tell Lucy because she would have been very disappointed, she is beyond obsessed with Frozen right now.

China: Big 360 degree culture video, Reflections of China, not a long video, a great view of Chinese culture, and I love that the kids got to see it.

Wandered through rain by World Showcase, then got on the ferry!

Captain EO - All the way from 1986! Oh my gosh this was a little weird by today’s standards. I have vague memories of seeing this in 1988. There was a Star Wars ripoff sci-fi feel, and of course, dancing! It was totally 80′s cheesy, yet we had to do it. Lucy asked if Captain EO was a girl. Oh no, Lucy, that is Michael Jackson. She has a lot to learn.;)Henry liked it, but took his 3-D glasses off during shooting or “scary” scenes. It was raining, so this was a good way to spend some more time indoors.

Spaceship Earth - great animatronic history of humanity, and where we’re headed! We were on our way out, and the line was short. I am so glad we did this one, it was awesome.

Overall, there are a lot of slow-moving, educational attractions at Epcot. I just wish the weather had been nicer! I was ready to head back to the resort, we were all drowned rats by this point.

We had reservations at Coral Reef at Epcot, but we had to go back and change our clothes. Since it was still raining, the thought of going back to Epcot, parking, and walking to an expensive restaurant did not appeal to us. We just wanted to save some money and go somewhere fun but easy, so we had dinner at Chuy’s!  It was perfect! It was not far from our hotel, the food was fantastic, it was not an over-priced, and it was a really fun place. From the kids’ standpoint, they did not miss out on a fun family dinner, but it was a smart switch, at the end of the vacation when we were simply tired of spending money. The reservation cancellation process for the other restaurant was smooth and simple over the phone.

Okay, I know this post was super indulgent, but I wanted to give my friends who have asked a little insight into what we did with our kids (based on our kids’ ages), as well as document everything! We did so much in these parks! There were a couple of attractions and rides that we did not make it to, but we plan to go back. We missed the Move it! Shake It Celebrate It! Street Party in Magic Kingdom, and we missed Mickey’s Jammin’ Jungle Parade in Animal Kingdom, probably because we were standing in lines for rides. Those were both things that would have been a lot of fun for the kids, and more character interaction. However, you can’t always make it to those locations at the scheduled times, and as it turned out, our kids were less interested in character interaction than they were in going on rides and checking out attractions. Hey, I remember feeling the same way when I was almost 7. We opted out of the autograph books, and I don’t regret it. We never had to worry about meeting all the characters and instead we were able to enjoy rides and attractions. We utilized FastPass, and in a few cases it saved us long waits in lines. If we had planned ahead better, we could have saved even more time, but depending on where you are and when, it might not work for you. The longest wait we had was about one hour, so it’s a good idea to get a sense of which rides have the longest waits and get to those ones first (or use FastPass)! I would recommend the smartphone app “My Disney Experience” which you can use to make reservations, get FastPasses, check wait times, and view maps. The rest of the time, just go with the flow, avoid the merchandise traps like the plague, and take advantage of restrooms before getting in any line, even if your kids (or you) don’t think it is necessary. There are few things worse than being in line for 30 minutes with 30 minutes to go, and having a small child announce that they need to pee!

We all avoided sunburns by applying sunscreen before we even got to the parks. I can’t imagine how awful it would have been for one of us to get a painful sunburn (even you grown-ups)!

One last but very important detail to mention: we were able to stay at a resort, not a hotel. We stayed off site (about a 5-10 minute drive to Disney), and we got a super good deal, thanks to a friend. It really wasn’t fair. Anyway, it made a huge difference to us to have a nice big place to return to at the end of the day. We had so much room, places to keep our stuff, and amenities. We stayed at the Wyndham Reunion Resort. We had a three bedroom, three bathroom villa, with a full kitchen, laundry, pools (even the cabinets were stocked with plates, glasses, everything). Our vacation was not just at the parks, we truly enjoyed our time at the resort (it was not merely a place to sleep and shower). I realize this is not in the cards for everyone, so we are still feeling kind of overwhelmed with gratitude that we had the chance to stay at such an amazing place. We plan on returning to the same resort in the future.

We had the best time, and we were able to relax and laugh with the kids, something that doesn’t happen often enough with our busy lives at home. We feel so fortunate to have gone on this trip! I hope you enjoyed this recap of what we did, and I am glad I took notes of everything while we were there, because I’m sure it would have been hard to remember it all!

Alice – 6 Months Old

I am a day late on this blog post… because I spent some of my free time yesterday photographing this lovely girl, who turned 6 months in the blink of an eye! She is such a fun, happy baby! Her giggles are rare, she just smiles bigger and bigger. She puts everything in her mouth, including her toes. She can sit up fairly well, but is a little wobbly. She kicks her legs and takes the skydiving position when she’s on her tummy, clearly frustrated that she can’t get the toy just out of reach. She loves her little birdie blankie and her crib.  She loves staring at whatever anybody is eating, and wants to grab it! She loves watching her big brother and sister play, and I love watching them play with her. She is starting to eat more baby food, so hopefully she will start sleeping through the night again. She has even had a few of those puff snacks, but I’m not in any hurry to turn her into a toddler. We visit the doctor next week to see how big she is, but she’s still wearing her 6 month clothes, making her relatively small compared to big brother and sister at this age. Much of her original baby hair has fallen out, except for her “bangs”. Her new hair seems finer, and I wonder if she’ll have a mop of curls like big sister…

And one photo in a dress that used to belong to my sister and to me:

Emmerson & Breckon | 4 Years & 6 Months Old

I am happy to be blogging a whole bunch of images from my most recent session with one of my all-time favorite and most photographed families! This time Breckon is 6 months old and Emmerson is 4! It is amazing to see these kids grow up right before my eyes, and to have the honor of documenting every milestone age. Emmerson is such a little smart, spunky beauty, and Breckon is so sweet (and I love his squishy little tummy and legs and cheeks)… and his fascination with his feet! I had a lot of fun capturing some cute expressions from these kiddos, and a few nice ones with Mom and Dad as well. Love you guys, enjoy the preview!

One Word 2014 | Strength

I have sat down to write so many personal posts, only to click “move to trash” and shut the laptop.  I always figure, meh, who cares?  Or I start to hate what I write.  Or I get distracted and lose my train of thought.  Well, not today!  I’ve wanted to transition my blog into one that includes more personal content, so now is as good a time as any to begin.

Last year was a heckuva year, and what got me through it was a word that I had decided, late in 2012 or early in 2013, was what I most needed in my life: Peace.  Around the same time, I became pregnant with our youngest.  It was no mistake that I wanted to reset, recenter, focus on what was most important, and just be calm.  I had spent too long feeling stressed, busy, angry, confused, and “failing” in every aspect of my life (I know I wasn’t failing, but if you know the feeling, you know how really difficult it is to break free). If it weren’t for the peace I was always seeking, I would have lost my mind!  It was the year that I most needed it.  It is still an idea that I hold close to my heart, dare I say: a mantra?  Can a mantra be one word?  Shows what I know!  Anyway, peace is something I could probably tattoo on my forehead, it is so essential every day.

I wasn’t even necessarily doing the One Word 365 Project, like my friend Katie has for a couple of years. However, this year I want to be more intentional about it, and pick another word!  Although, I feel like “peace” was a no-brainer in my case, I needed it so badly, and the idea was calling out to me.  Some say the word chooses you, as an epiphany, or a sign from wherever you think signs come from.  Well, the word itself didn’t show up as a vision in a dream or on a billboard or even in a Bible verse… but I have thought out what I need this year (and for the rest of my life), and that is strength.  So, I’m jumping on the One Word 365 bandwagon (22 days late).

Strength - noun \’stren(k)th, ‘stren(t)th

: the quality or state of being physically strong

: the ability to resist being moved or broken by a force

: the quality that allows someone to deal with problems in a determined and effective way

So, why strength?  Ever since Alice was born, I have been feeling like life is really good, but really tough!  My days aren’t easy (I’m not complaining, please), and my various roles as a wife, mother, daughter, friend, business owner, and everything in between really push me to my limits.  To deal with tough days, I need to be tough right back!  I am also realizing that this year I turn 33, and my body is starting to show signs of my complacency.  I have never struggled with my weight, and I am lucky also, that after each of my three children were born, all the baby weight and then some came off immediately, with zero effort – so I have never felt physically motivated.  In fact, there were times when my weight dropped so low with no diet or exercise, that I was worried about how far it would go, or if something was wrong. I have never had to work to stay (what I considered to be) in shape.  However, my calf muscles are nil, my abs are not defined, my butt is, well… you get the idea, and yesterday Henry squeezed the spot just above my knee and said, “Squishy!”  It really wouldn’t take much effort for me to see a big difference.  I could be stronger physically, and I can demonstrate strength and discipline to myself (and my loved ones) by taking better care of my body.  It’s easy to sit on the couch and be soft-skinny, it takes strength and will power to get up and do 50 squats and 100 jumping jacks.  Really, how long does that take?  A few minutes?  Go for a run, burn off some stress, build a stronger heart… Sounds like maybe my mind has been just as weak as my squishy legs!  I’m better than that.

I also need strength daily, to stop myself from losing patience with the kids.  To get out of bed earlier and be productive.  To be loving and kind even if I’m having a rough day.  I need strength to break bad habits.  I need strength to say no to another drink.  I need strength to skip the mid-afternoon chips and salsa binge.  I need strength to do more pushups than I ever have (because for the longest time I have resigned to the notion that “I just can’t do pushups”, but today I have done 50).  I need strength to be happy and healthy for myself and my family.  I want to be admirable and in control of my actions and emotions.  I want to be able to deal with the everyday assault of a very demanding life, without turning to the habitual escapes of social media, food, alcohol, yelling, laziness… quitting.  I want to be able wake up in the morning each day without wondering what is going to cause me to break down this time, because something always does.  I want to be able to stand strong in the face of stormy days to come, and there will be storms!  I spent a long time feeling stressed, then it stopped, and I found peace.  2013 was actually the year I felt the happiest I can remember in a long, long time, in spite of a lot of struggles and change.  Now it’s time to move forward, to grow, and to build.  Of all the little resolutions I tossed around in my mind over the past few weeks, the common thread among them in order to succeed is strength.  Inner strength, outer strength.  So, that’s the word I’m tucking under my soon-to-be toned arm.

What’s yours?

[there is a great amount of strength here]


Katie - This is great, Mindy! You are already a strong lady but I can see how this word will continue to carry you through. I love the practice because even when I’m totally overwhelmed, I am able to grab a hold of this one word and it instantly snaps me back to who I am and what I want to be about.

Alice – 4 months old

Hi! The blog has been a little quiet, I realize. It is a fairly slow time for my business, and I have been trying to focus more on my life at home. The big kids are doing great in school, the brewery is doing well, and Alice is growing like a weed. She is going to be four months old tomorrow, so I made a point of taking some photos of her with my real camera, although if you know me personally, you know I am always snapping pictures with my phone! She is a lovely child, an “easy” baby (I’m not counting on her to be an easy toddler, but for now I will take it!), and already fits well into her 6 month clothes (for how much longer, I wonder). Her 4-month checkup is next week, and I can’t wait to find out how much she has grown. Then again, it is a little bittersweet! The time has flown, and I often look back at her newborn pictures and marvel at how tiny she was. I am so glad I captured that time with pictures. We are very blessed with our three precious kids… now if the other two would be this cooperative for a session.  I hope to give my best shot at a group photo when Alice is six months old, so stay tuned!

Alice’s Hospital Photos

Our Kids Together

Alice at 6 Weeks

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