Kellee+Paul: A Washington Park Botanical Garden Wedding

May 12, 2018

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Kellee and Paul’s wedding day was full of fun and laughter. Paul was not afraid to show his emotions and it was incredibly heartwarming to witness. He continually made his beautiful bride smile from ear to ear and laugh from beginning to end. Their wedding celebration was a joy to be a part of.

Wedding Details:

ceremony • Washington Park Botanical Gardens

reception • Artisan Building

justice of the peace  • Judge John “Mo” Madonia

florist • Petals and Company

hair • BJ Grand Salon & Spa

make-up • BJ Grand Salon & Spa

transportation • 1Upn Limos

dj • Troy Armstong

cake • Specialty Cakes

caterer • Hamilton’s Catering

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Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Phillips!

What a privilege and joy it was to document your wedding day. We wish you many blessings in the years ahead of married life.

– Jen and Jonathan

 

Samantha+Connor: Springfield, IL Sunrise Engagement Photography

We met early as the sun was coming up. The sky was beginning to show its colors and nature was singing its songs. The setting was beautiful as we walked around the lake and got to know each other during their engagement session.

They both played sports at Lincoln Land and met through mutual friends/roommates and spent the majority of their college days together. They both knew together they wanted to be together forever and she thought she had a good idea of when the proposal would fall on the timeline of their story. He was able to surprise her and proposed earlier than she expected.

She loves art and had really been wanting  a “Bob Ross” day. He called upon his sister to help him plan such a day. They both worked on their own paintings and when he turned his around to reveal it to her, she was surprised to see his proposal painted on the canvas!

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We couldn’t have asked for a more beautiful morning or setting. I’m so looking forward to capturing their wedding celebration next year.

Here’s to many more beautiful sunrises together!

~ Jen

Road Trippin Out West {Our 2017 Summer Vacation to Mount Rushmore}

In less than two weeks we are headed out for our 2nd annual family road trip. I thought maybe I should blog our trip that started all the fun. Last year we decided we really wanted to take the kids to see Mount Rushmore and ended up planning a 2 week road trip out west. We loved it so much, we decided we might just make road tripping a yearly thing.

Here is a recap of our trip that took place last summer from May 28th to June 9th, 2017.

We headed out with the longest stretch of our trip from Springfield, IL to Omaha, NE. Downtown Omaha was adorable and we enjoyed the big metal slides and exploring down by the riverfront the first night we got into town. The next day we were up early to beat the crowd at the Henry Doorly Zoo and Aquarium.  After a long day at the zoo, we enjoyed dinner in an old train car at the Old Market Spaghetti Works. The place was fun for the kids and they ate free because it was a Monday. Score! This fun telephone booth was outside so of course we had to take pictures. Untitled

We continued walking around downtown and tried out Ted and Wally’s Ice Cream. The line for ice cream was quite long, but there were so many fun origami cranes in celebration of the Peace Crane Project to enjoy as we passed the time.

vaca2017-007vaca2017-008After ice cream we spent a good amount of time exploring Hollywood Candy. The trinkets and areas to explore are endless.vaca2017-027hcvaca2017-013

The next morning we headed off to Sioux Falls, SD. Our first adventure was to find the re-creations of Michelangelo’s David and Moses around town. We then headed to Falls Park where we spent most of our time. We got to catch tadpoles, climb, and enjoy the waterfalls.

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Before heading out of town we stopped and did a self-guided tour of St. Joseph Cathedral It was beautiful.vaca2017-083stjoe

Our next destination was a hotel halfway between Sioux Falls and The Badlands. We made a quick stop at the Corn Palace in Mitchell, S.D. It was a fun little stop, but certainly don’t go out of your way to visit. 😉

One of the highlights of our trip was our adventure at Badlands National Park. The Badlands are breathtaking and you can hike the easiest to most challenging of trails. I also had one of my first panic attacks as I watched my husband and children walk to the edge of a cliff while I stayed back to photograph. I had a hard time letting them out of my reach for the rest of the day.

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And no adventure to the Badlands is complete without a pit stop at Wall Drugwalldrug

We rented an Airbnb for the next few days in Keystone, SD. We loved the location as well as having a washer/dryer and kitchen in the middle of our trip. The Wild Wild West Experience was a the perfect place for us to settle in for a bit and get a good view of the nighttime stars.

While we were in the area we visited Mount Rushmore National Park. I highly recommend going to during the day to hike around, trying some of Thomas Jefferson’s ice cream and going back at night for the light show. vaca2017-230-lowresvaca2017-238-lowresvaca2017-239-lowresvaca2017-243-lowresvaca2017-249-lowres

Custer State Park was probably my favorite experience while staying in Keystone because I loved all the wildlife. The kids loved all the prairie dogs! Also, we highly recommend Black Hills Burger & Bun Co. for delicious burgers in Custer, S.D. Order the Hot Granny–you will not be disappointed.

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Because we were so close to Wyoming, we decided to take a day to drive over to Devil’s Tower. We loved watching the landscape change as we drove into Wyoming. I don’t have a lot of pictures from Devil’s Tower because it was hot and I did not want to lug a bunch of stuff while we were hiking. On our way home we stopped to see the falls at Spearfish Canyon and ate gourmet liquid nitrogen ice cream from Get the Scoop food truck in Deadwood.devilstvaca2017-329-lowres

Wind Cave National Park and Reptile Gardens were two other fun stops the kids really enjoyed. The crocodile show at the Reptile Gardens was our favorite show from our visit.

vaca2017-309-lowresvaca2017-310-lowres*Tip: If you have a 4th grader, you should definitely check out the jr. ranger program, which helps get you into almost any national park for free.

Also, it might not look like much, but we absolutely loved stopping at dusk for the bison crossing.

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Some other highlights from our 4 days in the Keystone area: Downton Rapid City Splash Pad, Dinosaur Park, Rushmore Tramway Adventures Alpine Slides, Storybook Island, and Indian Tacos (they are made on fry bread and it’s a lot of food so we recommend sharing).

On our way home we stopped at Chadron State Park and went horseback riding and took a dip in the pool. We then headed on toward North Platte, NE with a stop at Carhenge in Alliance, and then enjoyed dinner at Penny’s Diner before tucking in for the night.

The next morning we headed to Lincoln, NE and enjoyed a picnic lunch at Pioneer Park Nature Center, viewing the exhibits, as well as some bison and an elk. We also managed to get a tick crawling on Nolan’s leg before it decided to dig in. In the evening we enjoyed a delicious dinner at Honest Abe’s Burgers & Freedom and then headed to the Sunken Gardens...where Jonathan found a tick on himself. Yes, I was paranoid after two ticks in one day. We closed out our day and the trip with a dip in the hotel pool before heading back to Springfield. This trip taught us that:

  1. Two weeks is a great amount of time for vacation.
  2. Our kids are great car riders.
  3. There are so many beautiful places to explore in the U.S.
  4. We can’t wait for another Road Trip!

What are your favorite Road Trips or family destinations within the United States? Stay tuned for our Road Trip South East coming in the next couple of weeks. If you made it this far in the blog post, thanks for reading and to see our daily adventures follow along on Instagram.

Happy Adventuring!

Jen

 

 

Kaitlyn+Peter|Engagement|Springfield, IL

This IT guy knew the way to his librarian’s heart by incorporating their shared love for Harry Potter in his proposal. Not only did he have custom wands made, but he also designed her a custom ring. Kaitlyn’s father passed away a couple years ago, so Peter used the stones from her dad’s ring to create hers. I absolutely love the thoughtfulness and meaning behind her ring and I loved watching these two interact even more. Peter put Kaitlyn at ease and made her laugh all throughout their session. I can’t wait to photograph all the smiles and laughter on their wedding day this coming fall.

And because…Harry Potter.

“Dumbledore would have been happier than anybody to think that there was a little more love in the world”

— Professor McGonagall, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince

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Quinn Sophia|Lifeyle+Newborn|Springfield, IL

Bringing home a new baby is full of so many emotions. As a parent, the love you have for your children can be overwhelming. Sometimes you might feel as though your heart might explode as you watch your children grow in their love for one another. Parenting is not always easy as you wade through life with a new exhaustion. Life with two does not allow for as many adult naps as it did with one. Toddlers have an excess amount of energy and curiosity for life that you are still responsible for. These moments though, sitting together as a family, relishing those incredible snippets of joy and laughter, sweet kisses and hugs, these are the moments that make it worth it. Combine these moments with the sheer determination and endurance of a parent’s love and desire to give their children the world and you have the makings of a pretty sweet life.quinn-249quinn2quinn-267quinn-074quinn-009quinn-230quinn-089quinn-098quinn3quinn-152

GIVEAWAY from jclaytor designs

Hi Friends! Recently I added a design portion to my business. I have been making leather earrings and while they have been such a fun accessory to my outfits, it has been even more fun to see my friends wearing them around. To kick off the launch of jclaytor designs, I’m hosting an Instagram GIVEAWAY. One lucky winner will get to choose a pair of earrings from the shop for free.

To enter, all you have to do is follow @jenclaytor on Instagram and tag two friends in the comment section. It’s super easy!

If you are into bonus entries, share the image above on Instagram with the rules and the hashtag #jclaytordesigns. You’ll get an additional entry each day you share and for each additional person you tag.

I’ll be sharing more about the mission behind my business soon, so stay tuned!

The Jett Pack Adoption Campaign|2 Adoption stories in 1

Today’s post is by my friend, Tandra. We work together at Black Hawk Elementary and she is an incredible teacher. We share a love for Jesus and I know without a doubt our paths were meant to cross. Today she is sharing her story of how God lead her to adoption in more than one way. Because adoption is so expensive, I would love for us to come together to help her raise the $22,545 to bring home her next baby.  At the end of her story, I will share a couple links of ways in which you all can help.

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Tandra’s story:

Being a mother is one of the highest callings in life.   Even as a young girl, I knew that I wanted to be a mother when I grew up.  

Like many young women, I thought that I would find someone, get married and have children during or soon after graduating from college.  Around the age of 31, I realized that marriage may not be in my future and started considering the possibility of adoption.  I felt that my single status should not hinder my chances of becoming a mother.  At that time in my life, it was something that I was considering, but not actively pursuing, because I still thought that I would have time to have children.  

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Four years later, as a result of a medical issue, I learned that I would not be able to have biological children.  I was devastated, and angry with God for not giving me the desires that I had wanted all of my life.  In my eyes, I felt like my life was over or simply a waste. What good was I as a woman if I could not have children?  I scoured the Bible for answers and prayed relentlessly that God would miraculously heal my body and this would all just be a bad nightmare that wouldn’t last forever.  

Physical healing never came, but God pressed even harder on my heart that adoption was no longer just a thought that I should be entertaining.  It was His will for my life, and became my desire.

I was nervous to tell my family about my plans, and secretly looked on line at different agencies and different adoption possibilities.  I knew my parents and siblings would support me in any decision that I made, but speaking it out loud would make everything so real and also meant that I had to admit to myself that conventionally becoming a mother was no longer an option for me.

There were many sleepless nights filled with prayer, scripture reading, searching the internet, and mostly crying.  Something led me to one particular agency that specialized in connecting birth mothers with prospective families.  The name of the company also helped.

Angel Adoptions Inc. was a very selective company that only chose 5 new prospective adoptive families a month.  When I applied, it was already near the end of the month and I was told that there was only one more spot left to fill.   

Three days seemed like an eternity, but I was confident that this was where God was leading me.  I was elated when I received the call that I was selected to be the final prospective parent, out of over 200 applicants, that was allowed into the program that month.

As the first 2-3 months passed, I excitedly waited for that call that would change my life forever.  I carefully watched the website, decorated and set up a nursery.  I even made my new favorite verse into a decal and stuck it on my future child’s wall.

1 Samuel 1:27:  For this child I have prayed, and God has granted the desires of my heart.

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I knew that if God had granted Hannah’s desire, He would also grant mine.  I had so much to offer. I just knew that a birthmother would pick me.  In my mind, I had great answers to my profile questions. I picked only the best pictures of me that showed what a fun and loving mother I would be.  Angel Adoptions Inc. had such a great success rate in placing babies with adoptive parents.  I knew that it wouldn’t be long before I too would be chosen.  

Boy, was I WRONG!  A few months turned into half a year.  Half a year turned into a year.  A year turned into a year and a half.  I only had a two year contract with the agency before I would have to reapply and pay that mountain of fees all over again.  The mountain of fees that both my parents and I had taken out loans to pay for.  Meanwhile, I watched the monthly newsletters that came out celebrating the new families that were created from the sacrifice of birthmothers.

What was wrong with me?  What did these people have that I didn’t?  What made them a better pick than me?  Once again, I spiraled down into a pity party. All the while, watching my sister bring a new baby into her family, a sister-in-law bring a baby into theirs, and two cousins bring new babies into our ever growing extended family.  I wondered if maybe I had only thought I had heard God’s voice telling me that I would become a mother through adoption.

It wasn’t until late August of 2014, that I finally got my call.  A birthmother had picked me and wanted to talk to me.  I immediately called her back, and once again felt God reassuring me that becoming a mother was still one of His many plans for me.

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After many conversations, I learned that originally, the birthmother as well as the birthfather, did not want to look at any profiles that did not include both a mother and a father.  A single parent was out of the question for this baby.  She took her stack of prospective parents and started separating them into 2 piles.  A pile of “two parent” homes, and a pile of “single parent” homes that would not be read.  She told me she didn’t know why, but when my profile came up, she put it in the same pile as the two- parent homes.  She saw something in my picture and, on a whim, decided to keep my profile.  It was placed on the top of the stack and left to be read later.   When she finally returned to the stack, my profile was still on top and she decided to read it.  That was it for her.  After reading my profile, she knew definitely that I was to be the mother of this baby.  She did not read any other profiles.  The birthfather also agreed.  That circumstance couldn’t be anything other than the hand of God.

I knew that God had planned this child for me.  She had been designed to be my daughter from the very start, even before she was thought into being.  

The next few months were not the smooth sailing, “little to no worries” months that some mothers experience through their pregnancies.  It was full of ups and downs, doubts and fears that many adoptive parents experience.  One such time was when we learned that the baby, that was soon to be my child, was a girl.  I was excited!  My sister had three girls and I could imagine all of the fun things we would do together with our daughters.  My daughter’s birthmother had a completely different emotion.  Hers was one of pain and doubt.  She was already a mother to two boys and had always wanted a daughter.  She had gone back and forth with her decision several times, while I lived in a constant state of fear, before finally deciding to go ahead and proceed with the adoption.

On April 7, 2015, my daughter, Katelynn was born, three days late.  She was already showing me her stubborn and independent character.  God had finally given me the chance to become a mother.  A mother to a daughter who has the same personality and defiant streak I had as a child.  A daughter whose face lights up when I walk in the door from being at work all day.  A constant source of the words, “I love you, Mommy.”  Those are the 4 most precious words that I will never tire of hearing.

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Being a mother has been one of the most fulfilling jobs I have ever had.  My daughter is the light of my world.  For the 2 ½ years that she has been a part of my life she has been my world.

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Recently, this past summer, I once again felt the strong desire to have another child.  I didn’t want Katelynn to grow up an only child.  I loved having siblings and I wanted Katelynn to have that same experience.  Deep down I told myself that another child would not be a possibility for me.  I would never have enough money to pay for Angel Adoptions services again, plus the agency in Texas, as well as the agency here in Illinois.  Every time the thought would enter my mind, I would suck back the pain and tell God that she was enough.  And she is.  She is everything I ever wanted, but that still didn’t stop the nagging feelings that I wanted her to grow up and have a brother or sister to fight with, learn valuable lessons with, and to lean on for support when life gets hard.  Everything I had with my siblings.  It never entered my mind that I would have the real possibility and opportunity to become a mother again.  It was impossible!

By now, I should know that nothing is impossible with God.

Once again in late August of this year, I got an email from the adoption agency in Texas. Katelynn’s birthmother was pregnant again and wanted to know if I wanted this child. She asked them to ask me first before pursuing other prospective parents.  I leaped at the chance!  My impossibility had become possible.  Katelynn could have a sibling.  A real, full biological sibling.

Many would think that this adoption would be so much easier having already gone through an adoption and with the same birthmother.  Boy, would they be wrong!  There have still been many obstacles and hurdles that I’ve had to jump over.  For instance, would I be able to get another loan while still paying off the loan from Katelynn’s adoption?  If I did get a loan, would it be enough to pay for all of the new expenses?

God has shown me in so many ways that this baby has also been planned for my life.  He has used a deep desire in my heart, a stranger with a wooden cross outside of the credit union, and a friend who has felt God telling her to pray for and help a family adopt a baby, without evening knowing my situation, as a confirmation that I am indeed to be this baby’s mother.

Once again, Hannah’s words from  1 Samuel echo in my mind:  “For this child I have prayed, and God has granted the desires of my heart.”jettgirls-231Ways YOU can help!

  1. If you would like to follow along with Tandra’s story you can do so over at the Jett Pack Adoption Facebook Page.
  2. For the months of October and November, a portion from every family session booked with jclaytor photography will go toward the Jett Pack adoption.
  3. Support this adoption by purchasing a Jett Pack shirt. Our goal is to sell 100 shirts by October 21, 2017.
  4. Give Financially at Go Fund Me.
  5. Pray- Pray for the funds to cover this adoption, for the health of the and baby and for the whole Jett family as they anxiously await the newest member of their family.
  6. Share this post, so that others may here Tandra’s story and urge others to help where they can.

From the bottom of my heart, thank you for taking the time to read my friend’s story and for helping where you can.

Grateful,

Jen

 

 

Pokemon Party: Nolan’s 6th Birthday

This past weekend we celebrated Nolan’s 6th birthday with a Pokemon party. He was so excited before everyone arrived. All week long he asked, “How many days until my party?!” The party was so much fun, but my sweet, fun-loving boy deals with some serious social anxieties. As soon as we were gathered around a table and the focus was on him, he shut down. Now, I could still see glimpses of grins to know he was having fun, but he did not say a word to anyone.

You can see further down in the picture with his cupcakes that he turned around when everyone started singing. His friends had to blow his candles out for him. Some people may think my son is just being rude and that is ok because they don’t know him. And if I’m being honest, I’m still marveling in the miracle of him willingly walking into kindergarten every day without tears. He is comfortable with consistency and by consistency I mean he needs the same “constant” people in his every day life, such as the same Sunday school teacher each week or the same friends to play with etc.

As soon as we got outside and everyone dispersed for games, Nolan could breath again and he enjoyed moments with friends in smaller groups. Everyone had a blast hunting for Pokemon characters, doing a poke ball egg hunt and playing red-light, green-light while acting like a specific Pokemon character that was called out. Red-light, green-light was a hit so we came back out after dinner and cupcakes and played for 20 more minutes until all the parents arrived to pick everyone up. By this time, Nolan had warmed up to the party and was acting like his goofy self, which always helps me to relax and makes my heart smile.

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Nolan, these past six years of life with you have been amazing. I love being your mom! I pray you will grow into a confident young man who knows there is a God who loves you no matter what, is with you always and is SO much BIGGER than your fears and anxieties. I can see your soul come to life when you are smiling and sharing your sweet personality with those around you. And let’s not forget your incredible laugh, the world needs to hear more of it. Happy Birthday, my sweet 6-year-old!

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Washington Park Botanical Garden Engagement: Abigail+John

They both attended the same university, but it wasn’t until after they graduated that their romantic relationship began. John eventually moved up to Springfield and stated his intentions for Abigail and the rest is history. Washington Park was where he popped the question, so naturally it seemed like a great place to take engagement photos. We even took some photos on the very bench the proposal happened. Also, can you tell they are big Old Miss fans? These two made their session fun with their laughter, smiles and kisses and I am really looking forward to their wedding this upcoming December!abigailjohn-008abigailjohn-027-lowres1abigailjohn-302-lowresabigailjohn-212-lowresabigailjohn-208-lowres3abigailjohn-104-lowresabigailjohn-066-lowresabigailjohn-251-lowresabigailjohn-266-lowresabigailjohn-418-lowres2abigailjohn-349-lowresabigailjohn-352-lowresabigailjohn-363-lowres

Firestone Country Club: Leah+Mike {Illinois Wedding Photographer}

They have loved each other since they were in the sixth grade and have been each other’s biggest fans ever since. It wasn’t long before I realized that all who surrounded the couple on their wedding were their biggest fans as well.

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Their wedding day was HOT and there were a few minor hiccups as we approached the wedding ceremony. For instance, after Leah stepped into her wedding gown, her bridesmaids soon realized the latch on the back had fallen off. Not too mention, when they bent down to put her shoes on they noticed the bottom of her dress was still pinned. The bridal shop forgot to finish hemming. No big deal! They found some scissors and started cutting away. The mother-of-the-bride’s reaction was priceless! The bride was unfazed and remained calm and laughed through it all.

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I love when a bride does a first look with her father.

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When we arrived at the church, we soon found out the air conditioning in the bridal suite was broken, so everyone fanned the bride down as she sat patiently as someone sewed a latch onto the back of her dress. Meanwhile, they guys were chilling in the air conditioning without a care in the world.

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I love Mike’s huge grin when he sees his gorgeous bride for the first time.

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Everyone wants a picture of the bride and groom…

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The ceremony was beautiful and it wasn’t long before we were in a caravan of golf carts driving around Firestone golf course. The breeze helped cool everyone off and pictures couldn’t have gone smoother. It wasn’t long and we were back at the club to get the party started.

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Gahhhh! I love her dress so much. Pockets. Who doesn’t love a dress with pockets?! You absolutely are stunning, Leah.

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The reception was beautiful, but the cake table was something to behold. The bride’s father, grandfather and uncle (they own a family business) worked tirelessly on the wedding cake and wow was it incredible!

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Time to party!

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Leah and Mike, I so loved being a part of your day and capturing all the special moments. Congratulations to you both and many, many blessings!

~Jen