L-O-V-E In Real Life: The Ilardi Family

Okay, so a lot of you know by now that I’m offering family portrait sessions this fall/winter. I’ve got eleven different families signed up, so expect to see a lot of photos. Anyway, this is the first family I photographed, the Ilardis! Nadia is my “Russian piano teacher” that a lot of you have heard me rave about. She is just the prettiest, happiest, most wonderful teacher ever. 🙂 And her family is equally sweet.

Nadia and Jeff got married a little over a year ago, and they now have a beautiful new baby (Katherine) to add to the family. They also have an older daughter Stepha, who is the sweetest thing and is so happy about her new dad and sister.

You can’t tell from the pictures, but there was a looming thunderstorm clouding up Colonial Williamsburg and we only had about thirty minutes to get the photos and get out of there. 😉

Oh, and by the way, they are all seriously this cute and in love. The smiles and kisses were not prompted. Talk about a wonderful family.




A Humorous Life

 I was riding in the car with a friend the other day, retelling one of our family’s infamous tales (I think it was the Hannah pumpkin story–I have to remember to tell you guys that one around Thanksgiving :)), when she said something that took me by surprise. “Your family is so funny,” she said. “Nothing like that ever happens in our family.”

I paused for a minute. “Don’t be silly. You’ve got five little brothers and sisters. They must do crazy stuff sometime or another.” She thought for a while, then told a pretty funny story about her little brother flushing a toothbrush down the toilet and nearly ruining their plumbing system. We all laughed, and the topic was soon changed.

But I thought some more about what she said later. And the more thought I gave it, the more I realized: My family is really funny. I mean, it’s not like anything extremely crazy or paranormal happens all that often, but our everyday life is filled with a lot of humor. We know how to laugh at ourselves. We can find something funny in the most normal, commonplace little incident.

I think it has to do with how you view life. Whether or not you adopt the “the glass is half-full” mentality. My personal opinion is always that “the glass is half-empty, but it can always be refilled”. My sister thinks this is the weirdest philosophical statement in existence (thanks, Hannah), but for me it kind of works. It acknowledges that life is full of bumpy moments. Bad things happen. Mistakes, accidents, and tragedies. But life goes on despite of it. For every dark moment, there’s a flicker of light behind it. Something humorous, even. And it’s not until you can find that little piece of sunshine that you can turn something disastrous into something funny.

Our family has a lot of tragic/funny stories. Just ask us. Sometimes, it seems like everything that can go wrong will. And we may not even be smiling about it immediately. We may be really mad, or frustrated. But my prayer is that we will always come out of bad situations stronger, smiling together and looking back on it with nothing but good memories. And we may be banned from Taco Bells and IHOPS forever (long, long stories ;)), but that sure won’t stop us from cracking a joke about it as we drive by. We live a humorous life, and I am thankful every day for it. 🙂


Never Going to Grow Up

Saturday night I had one of those eye-opening, Peter Pan-inspired “Goodness gracious, I never want to grow up!” moments. They tend to happen when I am least expecting. One moment I’m feeling very adult-like and mature, and the next minute I am seriously freaking out, wanting to rewind at least five years and put off growing old forever.

It happened like this:

Saturday night, Hannah and I went ballroom dancing with a lot of our friends. My parents had heard of a concert taking place about ten minutes from our house by one of their old favorite artists. So they arranged for Ruthie to spend the night at a friends house so we wouldn’t have to stay home and babysit. They told us they probably wouldn’t be home until near midnight, so they set everything up for us to come home and go to bed by ourselves. Well, Hannah and I got home and made it into the house allright. We ate something, and sat on my bed to talk for a few minutes before going to sleep. That’s when things took a turn for the worse.

We were in the middle of a good laugh when, all of the sudden, my bedroom went black. We both jumped. I thought maybe Hannah had accidentally sat on the remote for my light, but when she tried pushing it again, nothing happened. That’s when I noticed that my electric clock was black, and everything in the house was silent. Hannah and I both looked at each other. “Rachel,” she whispered, “It’s not even storming outside.”

We both gave a little squeal and grabbed each others’ arms as we ran down the dark hallway into her bedroom, where she keeps a flashlight. (She claims it’s to hit an intruder in the head should she ever get attacked in the middle of the night) Then we called Mom and Dad where I patiently explained, “Dad, the power is out. And there’s no storm.” Now, I don’t know what I was expecting in reply. Maybe something like “Oh, my goodness, you must be so scared. Don’t worry, sweetie, everything’s going to be okay. We’ll be home as soon as we can. Just be brave, okay?” Although, in retrospect, knowing my Dad, I should NOT have expected this. Anyway, instead I got: “Really? Well, make sure you get the flashlights. One’s by the phone. Oh, and don’t open the fridge. The icecream will melt. It’s almost over, so we’ll be leaving soon, anyway.”

I hung up and looked at Hannah. Her eyes were big, and she was clutching the flashlight. “What did he say?” she whispered. I shook my head. “Not to open the fridge.” This did not seem sufficient to us, so we made the decision to venture into the kitchen and grab a knife. Just in case. We remembered a horror film we’d seen a while back where some psycho cut off the power and phone lines at this house on an island before proceeding to break inside and kill everyone. We wondered if this was possibly like that scenario.

Eventually, our attempts at bravery wore down and Hannah called Mom again. She was slightly more sympathetic toward us and stayed on the line until they got home, giving us blow by blows of what road they were on and how many more miles to go. Yes, I felt very pathetic standing by the window and watching Hannah talk to Mom, but I also felt strangely comforted, too.

Well, long story short, we survived the night and the power was back on when we woke up the next morning. Neither of our parents gave us a hard time and we all sort of let it drop. But, when I was thinking about it this morning, it kind of made me smile. Everyone who knows me knows that I am not the “afraid of burglars or murders” type. I watch scary movies and TV shows without blinking. And yet, I’m still weak enough to get scared when the power shuts off in the middle of the night and my parents are away from home.

It made me think about all the young adults and single people I know out there, only a few years older than me, who live alone and deal this kind of thing somewhat frequently. And you know what? I kind of feel sorry for them. I am not the type who is longing for independence—to live by myself and be free and make my own decisions. No, I am the type who sits in the dark with a flashlight and a butcher knife, glad to have my sister by my side, and longing instead for my parents to come home and be with me.

And I hope that one day, even when I’m married and independent and making my own decisions, I still have a little bit of that type in me. To need my family’s love and support to help get me through the scary spots of life.


P.S. The best part of this story? I didn’t open the fridge, so all the icecream survived! 🙂

Belated Birthday Post

Sorry to hit you with two photo posts right after each other, but I promised my little sister I’d post some birthday photos of her on my blog. 🙂 Ruthie’s birthday was actually yesterday, but she informed me that she did not wish to take pictures on her birthday and that I would have to wait until this morning instead. Of course I decided she was worth the wait. 🙂

We baked mini cupcakes to celebrate with lots of sprinkles! And yes, that is how Ruthie actually bites into cupcakes. The way she cringes is so cute! Like she just can’t bear the utter sweetness.

I can’t believe our little girl is nine. Where do the years go?





















































I learned something new this morning: Ruthie informed me that fairies use these flowers as flying discs. Who would have guessed? 😉

You Make Me Smile :)

This morning marked the start of one of those happy days. Where, even if everything doesn’t always go right, you know that things will be fine. I worked out and listened to good music and got all my school work done without any major drama.

I was thinking through what I wanted to post today, and I thought to myself: “Today, I want to make people smile.” Everyone I know who reads my blog means so much to me, and you always put a smile on my face when I log in my see how many views I’ve been getting. 🙂

So, the best way to spread a smile? Show one! I have taken heaven knows how many photos in the past several months, but today I’m going to share with you some old but unpublished photos of great smiles. I don’t know why I’ve never published these photos, come to think of it. They are some of my absolute favorites. Because even if they’re not super fancy or artistic or anything, the smiles on everyone’s faces are just gorgeous.

Hopefully this will brighten your day and put a smile on your face! 🙂


The Classic “Hannah” Smile: Flawless 🙂









Best Friends Smiles = Stunning x 2













Radiant Inner Beauty…







“As long as a woman has twinkles in her eyes, no man notices whether she has wrinkles under them.” – Dolores Del Rio

That’s you, Mom! 🙂









Crazy little boy smiles…

















Laughing with your sister makes the best smiles!









Another Hannah with a very sweet smile 🙂

Musings of an “Upper Classman”

When I was in middle school, I could never remember what the different years of high school were called. Maybe it was my unsocialized, homeschooled existence that prevented me from such knowledge, but I seriously had no clue. When I entered ninth grade, I decided to memorize them, so that I could easily spit out “freshman!” as an answer whenever someone asked what grade I was in. It seemed so much more grown-up than “ninth grade”.

Anyway, one thing I didn’t know until this year is that students in their last two years of highschool are often referred to as “upper classmen”. My mouth literally dropped open when I heard this. Upper classman? When did I get to be an upper anything???

The more I thought about it, though, the more my chest began to swell. Why shouldn’t I be an upper classman? Haven’t I had eleven years of schooling under my belt? Come to think of it, I have learned a lot of things these past eleven years. Henceforth, I am going to share some of my “upper classman” knowledge with the rest of you.


Here is what eleven years of a homeschool education has taught me:

– When you’re nine years old and some random non-homeschooler asks you what grade you’re going into, shrugging and saying “I have no idea–I just do school” is mostly likely only going to freak them out. They will probably not even laugh.

– You can get away with doing almost anything on a school day if you claim it’s for a field trip.

– Don’t even attempt to spell “acrobat” at a spelling bee in front of all of your friends and peers. Because, no matter how good a speller you are, you will inevitably add an “e” at the end, get kicked out the first round, and then wish you’d never signed up for a spelling bee in the first place. Homeschool moms are merciless.

– Never tell someone your name is “Mildred” or “Helga ” when they ask because, since you are a homeschooler, they will probably just believe you and then you will feel awkward when you tell them you were joking

– Learn what kinds of things five to seven year olds like discussing. That way, when you go on a field trip and find out you’re the only teenager who’s mom signed them up, you won’t find yourself at a lack for conversation.

– Get an active imagination. Those afternoons when you’re finished with school before your siblings and are sitting alone with nothing to do? You now have an escape! A really cool hobby like scrapbooking or knitting will also do. 😉


I should totally write a book with all these gems of wisdom. Lower classmen would definitely read it. 😉


The Editing Process

Been kind of burnt out lately because I’ve been doing a lot of editing on my latest book! I’ve been working on this story for about six months now, and I’m finally on my second round of revisions. I haven’t shown it to Zondervan yet, but I’ve been doing a lot of work with my agent Bill, going over it little by little.

It’s a funny thing–being a writer. And I think drafts are the funniest part of it. Because no book (at least none of mine) looks the same when its finished as it did when it was started. Because they go through so many drafts and edits. Seriously–editors and agents, wonderful as they are, can be pretty tough when it comes to critiquing an author’s work. I’m really thankful for it, since a lot of times others will poing out to me stuff that I didn’t realize, but it can also be a little overwhelming to scroll through three whole pages of notes meant to remind you everything you’re supposed to change about your latest book.

When it comes to the actual writing, every word is the author’s own. But sometimes it’s a little hard to put all the overall pieces of the story together. That’s when it’s a really good thing to have a great editor or agent working with you, helping you figure stuff out. Would this character really do this? How could we add more depth to this scene? Is this particular scene really neccessary or could we move it here instead? That sort of thing.

I’m really excited about the story I’m weaving right now. It was great fun to write, and I feel like I’m pretty satisfied with how the first draft went. But it also really excites me to look over all the notes my agent gave me about ways to make it even better. Yes, it means hours and hours more of work, but it is definitely worth it!


Some Enchanted Evening

I’m turning sixteen next month. But, because of a lot of different circumstances, I decided to have my birthday party in August instead. So last night I celebrated my “Sweet Sixteen” with seventeen of my closest friends. It was absolutely enchanting–we decorated my friend’s house like an outside wonderland with lights and lanterns. Everyone dressed up and (I hope!) had a wonderful time. 🙂



























These were the raspberry filled cupcakes I made for dessert. I thought they were so cute! It seems that everytime I bake something that turns out I have to blog about it, lol. 🙂









One idea I had was to create a photo-booth area out of a sheet. We all got our photos taken as guests were arriving. It was a lot of fun–think lots of jumping and laughing.



























One game we played involved dividing up the guests and giving each team fifteen minutes to put together an outfit out of a bag of crazy stuff. Everyone was so creative–I was shocked!

























In the end, it was a magical evening, and one that I will always remember. A big thank you to everyone who helped me put it together–My mom, sisters, Mrs. Janet and her grandaughter Victoria–all who worked tirelessly and showed true servants hearts. 🙂

Thanks to everyone who came! I encourage you to comment once you’ve seen the photos, so I know everyone’s seen them. I love you all! ❤


























Est. 1776: Part Two

More photos from our trip to D.C.!!!! Probably the best part of the first day for me was going to the art museum. We didn’t stay very long–I’m really the only art geek in my family and I only had two paintings I wanted to see. The first was Lavender Mist by Jackson Pollock, which is my favorite painting. Then I dragged my family to the Impressionist section so we could see a Monet I really liked and check out some paintings by Renoir and Degas. It was AMAZING to see the paintings up close–an entirely different sensation altogether than seeing it in a book. Very unreal for me. 🙂

After trudging through the Archives, National Art Gallery, and Ford Theater, there was really only one more thing we girls wanted to do…. SHOP!!!! We spent the second morning (Tuesday) checking out all the local shopping centers. Ruthie finally got to visit an American Girl Place (Heaven for an eight year old), and I searched all my favorite stores for something perfect to wear for my upcoming birthday party! 🙂 In the end, we wound up blowing all of our money and then some, but we had a great time doing it! 🙂

And that’s what you get when you send four females to the nation’s capital. They look at a few museums, blow all their money, and then go crazy at a Taylor Swift concert. And then wonder why it’s so hard for them to get out of bed and drive home the next morning…


A sneak peek of my birthday dress! 🙂


Est. 1776: Part One

So, like I mentioned in my last post, I spent the last few days in Washington D.C. with my mom and sisters. We were originally only going to visit for the day, but at the last minute we decided to make a mini vacation out of it. So we booked a hotel for a couple of days and threw together some sightseeing plans.

Monday was our first day in D.C. and the day we spent doing the most sight-seeing. We visited the National Archives, the National Art Gallery, and Ford’s Theater (where Lincoln was shot). It was very nice–the heat, though oppressing at times, kept a lot of the crowds away so we didn’t have to wait in line for anything. We studied the history around us and goofed around, having a lot of fun.

We rode the subway who-knows-how-many times over the few days we were in the capital. I’m pretty sure I’m going to catch swine flu or something any day now, lol. 🙂