Subconsciously, I think I had these glowing ideals when they were little, this belief that I would do it better, that I had learned from what I believed were the mistakes of my parents.  That I wouldn’t make those same mistakes.  I’d get it right.  Yeah, right.  There was a turning point somewhere in these last few years when I woke up and realized that I was going to make bigger parenting mistakes than, say,  starting solids too soon, with greater consequences.  When I realized that I would have to accept both my flaws and theirs.  The tricky part is refusing to stop trying to get it right, in the face of the knowledge that you won’t.

Three boys in the house between the ages of twelve and fifteen is proving rough, at the very least it can be intense.  I’m wondering just how growing up in a house of sisters was supposed to prepare me for this.  It didn’t.  Around the table the other night I sighed that this was just too hard, the parenting, the schooling, the everything.  Jonny, who is on a camping kick, said, “Can’t we just all go live in tents somewhere?”  You know, forget about all the rest of this stuff.  I replied, “No!  We have to prepare these kids for the real world!”  Seth chimed in, “I’m prepared for the real world.”  I thought to myself, “You have no idea,” just as Gabe told him with his classic Gabe grin, “Actually, I think you’re the least prepared.” And that time, we laughed.

There’s no point in worrying, I’ve proven to myself again and again that I always worry about the wrong things anyway.  These kids are full of surprises.  Sometimes it’s important to be able to say, “Enough.”  To say, we’re getting outside tonight, away from the house, from the mess, from school.  Away from the Real World.



  1. Oh my gosh please sell those sunset pics as prints on etsy!!!!!!!!!!!! I want one!! (Along with the children’s book of pictures of animals that I always ask about…)

  2. you have a beautiful family, and such a wonderfuk eye to capture them in such lovely pictures. I am sure everyone who reads this wll agree that everyone makes mistakes, and I always admire your honesty coupled with your writing and pictures. You will look back andbe proud of everything you and they have done\acheived 🙂 jenny xx

  3. Are those Mangoes?

  4. What ist “the real world” anyway? I mean it looks different for everyone and everyone also deals with it in hier own unique way.
    I find that trusting my kids helps me letting go of that fear. They will be just fine. Just as I was fine. I don’t think my parents even thought about preparing me for the real world – we just lived life as it presented it to ourselves and also made our own choices of how we want to live.

    I think closeness, trust, security and a big portion of freedom all help to turn kids into strong individuals. People who can deal with things and know where to go for answers or help.

    I think you are doing a great job, Ginny. We all make mistakes. Every child ist so different – we can’t parent perfectly for every one of them.

    p.s. I love Jonny’s suggestion to just live in tents somewhere. 🙂

  5. As we parent, we turn our children over to their heavenly father-in His hands-in His care. We pray for them. We feed and nurture them. God molds them-turning them into the person He wants them to be. He knows what lies ahead for each of them and how to prepare them for that future. We pray and do what God has prepared us to do-to love and embrace and stand with open hands to give back to him what he has given to us. All is well in His time, in His way.

  6. Wow, I just really can’t believe how much your little ones are growing! Really beautiful photography, as always x

  7. Oh, I hear ya Ginny. I’m not the parent I always wanted to be. I’ve had huge expectations for myself and have been WAY too hard on myself, so I need to lighten up on myself a bit.

    I’ve been going crazy when I’m in the house for too long. I need to get outdoors for longer periods of time. There’s so much more peace in our household when we do so.

    Taking off and living in tents somewhere? I like the way Jonny is thinking. 🙂

  8. Ah Ginny! Isn’t it wonderful to watch them be their own people? If they’re at their worst at home and their best in the real world-kind, thoughtful and respectful- then it’s a complement to you that they can let go and show it all in the home. They feel safe. I loved the teen years so much!! Hang in there for the fun ride and embrace those kayak moments!! You need more of them 🙂

  9. Oh Ginny,
    You are doing great – I always worried that we weren’t (and still do) doing enough for our children – that they aren’t being exposed to enough, etc…
    Well, our two oldest sons are in college (even though we never stressed college or even academics really) and the next one is so far advanced in the tech/computer world, our oldest daughter has created an income stream from her youtube channel, and you know what is so neat? God has been so gracious and merciful to work through these children of ours despite our sooooo obvious flaws….
    We love being parents, my husband and I – but we sure feel like failures much of the time – but through God’s grace, and our love for them, they are blossoming into the people God intended them to be.

    Your children are wonderful! And you and Johnny – amazing parents that provide love and stability.
    Enjoy your weekend.

  10. clémentine says:

    Ginny, tes enfants vont aller a l’interieur du monde réel, et ils pourront le rendre meilleur.
    Tu est leur exemple pour une belle vie, dans une autre réalité .
    Tu as fais ton travail de mère, a eut de faire leur travail.
    Bien du courage et bon baisers de france

  11. “There was a turning point somewhere in these last few years when I woke up and realized that I was going to make bigger parenting mistakes than, say, starting solids too soon, with greater consequences.”

    This is both the scariest and most reassuring realization of parenting. At least we’re narrowing it down, right? And refusing to focus on the small, not so important stuff, right? And we care about the big stuff, right?

    At least we care. And we try. And we love.

    Peace be with you. 🙂

  12. Ginny, truly they are God’s children.

    As parents we are (at best) like well-meaning yet terribly ill equipped babysitters during a dark stormy night.

    I have eight children, seven of them boys, with one beautiful-wild-enchanting-exasperating girl child in the middle to brighten the laundry pile a bit. I read your blog because you are honest about the mess and the struggle, and because your hang ups seem eerily familiar. Heck, your baby even looks a bit like mine!

    Its always messy when we involve ourselves with people (and yes children are people too). Never easy, never smooth, never fully pleasant. Its not the tidy route we’ve taken and there will be no awards or honors from those watching on the sidelines. But every honest mother feels the terror you hold and dare to speak aloud.

    Yes. There will be gaps in the education, gaps in the character, gaps in the work ethic, gaps in the world view, gaps in the love, and gaps in the understanding of the Grace for the gaps.

    A prayer for you my sister as we struggle forward together. Never stop being real.

  13. Oh, right to my soul! I am weighted down so often with the responsibility of raising these blessings God has given me. My husband is the type to take us all out fishing and escape it all. Praise God for those little respites! I also was raised with two sisters and the three boys God has given me so far are little foreigners to me. I pray everyday God will equip me to raise them!

  14. I’m so with you on this. Growing up it was just my sister and me. Now I have 4 kids ages 16, 15, 13, and 10. The 15 is my girl. I wasn’t use to having boys around either. :).

    Also I love the last photo and the other with the sunset and the children silhouetted against it. Those would make great Christmas cards to send out or definitely pictures to hang on a wall. So pretty!!!

  15. erin hellar says:

    worrying about the wrong things: check!

  16. I hear ya sister! I might have mentioned to Nate the other night that I’m “sick of teenagers ” 😇 And I am right with Jonny (although I hate tent living) I just want to move to Maine. Far out on the coast. On those little slivers of land. Far, far away. I may or may not take the teenagers with me!
    And I hate to break this to you.. but because of how we have spaced out our kids, we are going to have teens for a long time!

  17. Yes, it is important to get away together. I hope you have more chances to do this!

  18. I’m so with you. And I only have three kids ages four and under. I’m tempted to worry about the teen years but i just can’t go there yet, or I won’t survive the toddler years! But I’m already being majorly humbled in these early years of parenting, realizing my parents did a way better job than I previously thought and that it’s really hard not to become crippled by my failures, which would be maybe a greater failure. I’m so thankful for a God who forgives and gives us strength afresh each day and who sees us as righteous because He sees us in Christ. I hope He encourages and strengthens you today in all the ways you need Him to. Much love from NC!

  19. LifeSheWrote says:

    So beautiful! Such an inspiration! I love reading about your family and the (to me) in-congruence of these picture perfect moments followed by your description of the struggle, the effort, the complicated feelings going on behind-the-scenes. It’s so cool to hear about – you just gotta keep doing the work every day and good things result!

  20. I think Jonny is on to something. Space and time away. A lifesaver with teenagers is their own space – not necessarily their own bedroom, but somewhere they can go to be by themselves and think and grow. Sometimes they need to get away from the little ones. It’s really hard to read life-changing novels or just do algebra in the midst of a kindergarten atmosphere. You know how you need a certain amount of cage-free space for chickens for them to thrive? I think it’s the same with teenagers, especially for introverts who “recharge” by being alone and who are cranky if they don’t get it. We don’t have a huge house for nine people (about 1900sqft and most of that is the living room and kitchen), but we do have a smaller house on our property where my husband had his office and we used for storage. We fixed up one of the rooms there for the older boys to play music, study, store their junk, read and eventually sleep (they still had to go to the main house to use the bathroom). It wasn’t luxury, but it suited them. The boys became much more pleasant and easier to deal with when they could get some time away from the large family chaos. Some boys are super social, so they won’t need that much time alone time. For my gregarious 13yo sleeping in a tent at night is enough for him right now. My oldest daughter used to take all her books and writing materials to the back of our property where we have an old cistern and read and write for hours there. Some friends bought a smaller trailer to put on their property for guests, but their oldest son ended up using it as his get-away place. You do what you can.

    I hate to tell you this, but teenage boys are much easier than teenage girls. Be thankful you only have two of them!

  21. The teen years are very taxing. I loved them more than toddler years . Im odd that way. I always wanted to ask friends who wanted another baby and another baby if they wanted another teenager and another teenager!
    From the looks of things, you’ve got this!

  22. That last picture, your family, your life – it’s beautiful. Imperfection is beautiful.

  23. Wow what a beautiful place, is this near fredericksburg or elsewhere? I live in fredericksburg and was wondering! Love your photos, absolutely beautiful

  24. I was 1 of 3 girls too and am mum to 4 boys and a girl. Someone just recommended ‘Manhood’ by Steve Biddulph. I think you would love it. He recommended for women who grew up without brothers, now raising men. It’s brilliant! Much love

  25. just love your photos. you’re such a blessing

  26. Ginny – i’ve been reading for awhile, but rarly comment. This post hit home and that last picture is completely stunning. I love how your pictures (and words) are always so raw and un-edited. It’s refreshing. Thank you for this.

  27. oh my goodness, YES! there is no getting it right, i think. i think it is just doing your best at that moment. and i think the kids seeing that, it will help them be better able to deal with life because they will see no one is perfect, that life is just what it is. have a wonderful weekend. <3

  28. You always hear that if you worry that you are not doing a good enough job as a parent then you are doing it right. You care, you get up every day and put your all into this beautifully imperfect life. Some days are better than others.
    Your kids will look back and remember animals, mud kitchens, fossil hunting, snake catching, and going out on the water with you. As they become adults they will understand the less than fun times better, sometimes enough is enough and tents in the middle of nowhere sounds like a reasonable solution.
    Thank you for opening up and sharing

  29. Sunset pictures are my favorite! You captured a vibrancy that I don’t seem to be able to get tho.. May I ask if you used a specific setting? Or just played with it in the moment?
    Soli Deo Gloria

    • I struggle to capture sunsets too! They always end up being washed out! I wasn’t having luck on this night, and switched over to auto to see what the camera would do itself. It stopped down to 7.1 with a shutter speed around 160. So after that I switched it back to manual and played around with numbers in that range. I hope that helps a little!

  30. Oh Ginny, I admire your’s and Jonny’s parenting skills, you guys are doing great and your children are very fortunate. The best parenting comment I have ever read was from you, how you stop what your doing when your children are talking to you-look them in the eye and listen! Listening and keeping the communication open no matter how difficult will always pay off. Keep on keeping on, you have an amazing family!

  31. I had 3 kids, 2 girls and a boy. They were all 2 years apart. I think the hardest years for all of them were between 16 and 19. Not only for them but for their dad and I. They are all grown up now. Been to college , I have one Doctor and the other 2 are doing great in their careers. I am sooo proud of all of them.

    You and your husband are doing a wonderful job and never doubt yourself. Kids will be kids! Its just too bad they have to grow up.

    Take care and also thank you so much for the hat pattern.

  32. I will never forget hearing the president and founder of the small Catholic college I attended say, “This is the real world,” referring to studying great ideas in a beautiful setting surrounded by the glory of God’s creation. You left the “real world” and escaped to the REAL WORLD. God’s beauty and creation are the real world, not the man made craziness we’ve created and come to term the “real world.” I need to find my family a real world to escape to. Yours looks wonderful.

  33. I have an 18, 16 and 14 year old, a few years ago I realized that teenagers need their parents even more than when they were babies and toddlers.

    I am enjoying them so much, they are shockingly smart and at times laugh out loud funny but they need me to be paying attention more than ever before.

    It can be a struggle balancing their needs along with the needs of my eleven and five year old.

  34. Oh how I can relate! Sometimes parenting is so, so hard. And the way it changes you is an often painful gift from God. Beautiful photos of your evening together. God bless!

  35. Your family is great! Your kids will be fine. I only had two and in the beginning had two bad marriages and then some more rough times. I loved them through it all. Taught them to be kind and helpful. Made a mess of homeschooling! They turned out great! They may have gotten off to rocky starts but now they are fabulous kids. And yours already are so they will be great adults. Just be patient, loving and kind. Discipline to the situation and not beyond. Be fair, open and honest. Teach with kindness. Teach empathy. Teach them how much the Lord loves them. Memorize helpful scriptures. Everything will be good. 🙂 Hugs.

  36. Hmmm….my boys will be between 12 & 15 in three short years. And I grew up with only a sister. I’m going to keep this post for future reference. 😉

  37. Steph Hamrick says:

    Beautiful post! Thank you for being so open and honest.

  38. Everyone’s a perfect parent, until they have kids. Oh yes, I remember well my superiority that has, as kids increase and get older, gotten replaced by the drowning feeling. And my oldest is only 9.

    “The tricky part is refusing to stop trying to get it right, in the face of the knowledge that you won’t.” Wise words of wisdom, in everything from getting it all organized to dealing with children’s breakdowns.

    Let’s all go live in tents. The real world is overrated anyway.

  39. Ginny, I understand your feelings completely. I am from a family of three girls so when I had a house
    full of boys I was a little shocked, but you know what? While it’s hard to see the finish line, in the end
    they do grow up to be productive, well adjusted men. Just hang in there, stay strong and remember
    it’s all Grace.

  40. Debby Nygaard says:

    Ginny, Your words are true. This is all just trial and error on this planet, and we do the best we can in the time we have. And that is what we do.
    I always, always love your photos and I think these are the some of the most contemplative and beautiful that I have seen. The light is amazing.

I love to hear from you!