How We Take Family Photos

say what?

Whenever I grab my Nikon to take pictures when people are involved, Greg knows that I need his help. It’s unspoken now.

He gathers the group to be photographed, directs them where to stand & then he gives the cues. I click & hide behind the camera. We both play the part we know well. {This time, the kids picked where they wanted to stand. They said, let’s take the picture by the “family tree”. Greg & I gave each other a raised eyebrow look that said “We have a family tree??”}.

I’d be lost without Greg & the kids do not dread having their picture taken because they know their dad & uncle {yes, that’s my nephew, Dakota on the far left} will make it fun.

Can you tell where Greg was standing when these pictures were taken? Follow the eyes of his two youngest in a few of the photographs. Who knows what he was saying but it always turns into memorable photos.

Stone loves the family tree…

…not sure how to caption this one…

surprised? confused? what?

silly face? Gunnar must not have heard the cue…

angry? poker face?

you can hear the laughter, right?


And somewhere in the midst of the fun & crazy we find the one that brings them all together, gathered around our family tree.

Summer 2014 = Whoa!

This summer has been amazing & exhausting & jam-packed & full of highs & lows – memories that we hope our kids will take with them for a long time.

I have shared a little bit about our beach & lake reunions and the R.O.C. Race but there was so much more. I want to tell you all about the “so much more” and maybe one day my internal processor brain will punch out the words. For now, enjoy the video & see the pictures which speak the words that I cannot today.


Now I’m ready for a vacation. Just kidding. Kinda.

If you have a bunch of time on your hands and you’d like to scroll through 350+ pictures from the summer, here’s the whole album on Flickr.

{Reading this in an email? Click HERE or on Vimeo to see the video}.

What I Learned :: R.O.C. Race Edition

hashtag whoaSummer officially started at our house on June 5th.

I have slept in my own bed 28 of the 56 days of summer, half of the summer so far. 4 weeks. Greg has been able to join us for two of those weeks & it has been an amazing summer, full of lifelong memories. The main focus has been two family reunions – one at the beach and one at the lake.

Jammed between those two trips was something ridiculous. The R.O.C. {Ridiculous Obstacle Course} Race on July 12 in Chicago.

ROC courseGreg, Gunnar & I signed up for this race months ago. The obstacles are inspired by the television game show Wipeout and it’s one of our favorite shows to watch as a family. Some of our friends participated in the R.O.C. Race last year when it was in Charlotte & we knew we wanted to sign up for it when it came to Chicago.

The morning of the race came and we were ready! We made t-shirts! #WHOA {our word of the year!}

The most disappointing thing about the day? The weather. The forecast said 30% chance of rain. By the time we arrived to check in, it was RAINING. 100% DOWNPOUR RAIN. I’m using ALL CAPS to emphasize that this was the most rain I have ever had the privilege to stand, run, walk, sit in during my entire 42 years of life on this beautiful earth. RAIN. And later on during the race, THUNDER & LIGHTNING.

We tried to wear ponchos…

roc race ponchoThe poncho lasted 2 minutes once we stepped out of the car.

We threw them away & changed our mental focus to know we were going to be wet. We knew once we ran the obstacle course we were going to be wet but we were not expecting to be wet before the race even started.

Here are a few things That I Learned – R.O.C. Race Edition ::

1. The R.O.C Race is ridiculous. The weather that day made it the most ridiculous thing I have ever done, but it was so much fun!

2. Eyebrows & eyelashes are VERY important when you’re standing, running & doing crazy obstacles in the pouring rain. Did I tell you yet it was pouring rain?

3. It’s fun to do things with your kids even if you think it’s crazy & inconvenient. We made lifelong memories that day.

4. Dollar store ponchos do not work. At all. Don’t buy them. Just let yourself get wet.

5. My husband is and will forever be a kid at heart. He attacked those obstacles like he was 20 years younger even though at any moment he could snap an ankle or a knee or a shoulder or a…well, you get the idea.

6. Even though I suck at exercising on a regular basis, I still have some strength in my arms & legs to do those ridiculous obstacles. {I still suck at running though & had a hard time running from obstacle to obstacle….see #7}

7. I can pee my pants standing up surrounded by strangers in the pouring rain {that’s a sentence I never thought I’d type!}.

Let me back up a bit. Our start time for the race was supposed to be 9am. We arrived around 8am & stood in the pouring rain for 2 hours to get our bib numbers. The race was obviously on a time delay because of the weather. When we finally got our bib numbers, the R.O.C. volunteer asked if we wanted to move up our start time to 7:30 and we said yes! As we were dropping off our stuff at bag check, they announced the race was starting and they called for the 7:30 start time. We raced to the front of the crowd & made it through to the starting gate just in time. One big problem. My bladder was full. It had been on the brink of full for an hour but I thought I would have time to use the porta-potty before our race started. Nope. We started the race & I tried to jog to keep up with Gunnar & Greg but my bladder {that was ruined by giving birth to 4 babies in 7 years} was screaming at me. By the time we got to the 4th obstacle, The Drop, I was standing in line & waiting for my turn, surrounded by strangers in the POURING rain {picture yourself standing in the shower, that’s how hard it was raining}, I took a deep breath & made my 42 year old screaming bladder happy. The downpour-standing-in-the-shower-rain washed it away immediately. {Some of you may be wondering why I didn’t just use the porta-potty, am I right? Two reasons: 1) they are gross & 2) I would still be in the porta-potty today trying to get my twisted & tangled, soaking wet shorts pulled back up!}.

Um, are we still friends?

8. I scream like a mad woman being chased by a killer when I’m having fun. Too bad we do not have a video…

roc race finished9. We will never forget this day. Yes, it was ridiculous & my hair is plastered to the side of my face & my tu-tu is soaking wet {um, that’s another sentence I never thought I’d type!} & we were a little bummed that we couldn’t finish the rest of the obstacles because of the thunderstorm – but look at those smiles! So much fun! If the R.O.C. Race ever comes to your town, you must do it!

Thanks for stopping by to read the latest edition of What I Learned {and please say we’re still friends!}. Be sure to read more What I Learned posts from Emily & her community over at Chatting at the Sky.

TeSelle Reunion 2014

cousins 2

All the cousins!


The crazy cousins!

dad & gunnar

Gunnar & Greg


Tygar & Ana


Cynthia & Lily

eden & geese

Eden & a gaggle of geese


A TeSelle reunion tradition – the family hike

fun with glow sticks

Glow stick fun!


Gunnar relaxing

joan & cynthia

Joan & Cynthia – mother & daughter beauties

stone splash

Stone “rain”


Lake Anna sunset

teselle reunion 2014

The TeSelle Family

the boys



Tygar & Stone tubing with grandpa

shellfish allergy

Gunnar discovered an allergy to shellfish…


Tygar loved the paddleboard



boat relaxing

Lily, Canon & Gunnar enjoying the shade with Grandpa

chef eric

Chef Eric!

ct & eden

My first time to drive a jet ski!

nail party

Nail painting party with Lily & Eden


Before the “scream/laugh omg slow down Darrin but we can’t go any slower!” tube ride with Joan & Cynthia. Unfortunately, we do not have an after photograph. ;)

tygar swing

Swingin’ Tygar

shocked sons

“What? Mom just won?”

the "grandma"

“I won!” & from now on we will refer to this move as “The Grandma!”

Greg leading the kayak train doing "The Grandma"

Greg leading the kayak train doing “The Grandma”


Alaina & Ana

cousins on the wow

Fun on the WOW


Cynthia & Eric lakeside chat

lake anna sunrise

Lake Anna sunrise

It was a beautiful week as you can tell from the photographs. We are extremely thankful to Greg’s family for providing the house & the boat & the jet ski & the kayaks & all the lake toys! We showed up with our swim suits & sunscreen & loved every minute.

Thank you Gale, Joan, Darrin, Peggy, Ana, Alaina Canon, Eric, Cynthia & Lily! Looking forward to the next time we can be together!

Confessions of An Affiliate Flop

affiliate flop 4

Have you ever participated in an affiliate program? Or maybe you have no idea what I’m talking about. I’m over at Allume today sharing some lessons I’ve learned from my less than favorable experiences with affiliates.

I’d love for you to hop over & join in on the conversation.

A Picnic on the Beach

beach picnic cousins

If you follow me on Instagram, you probably noticed that our family spent some time together at the beach last week. Once a year, we make the trek to South Carolina to spend time with some family, relax & enjoy the ocean air. My parents generously provide the accommodations and we provide the chaos!

beach picnic cousins_2

beach picnic tygar

beach picnic oldest boys

beach picinic wave watching

During the day we do our own thing. We spend some time at the beach & the pool & sometimes participate in a random activity offered by the resort. But we always meet up together for dinner & the adults take turns making the menu & preparing the meal.

This year I had a grand idea – let’s have a picnic dinner on the beach! Hot dogs & chips & carrot sticks & lemonade & s’mores.  Easy, right? I guess the meal itself wasn’t grand, just the location. It was something we hadn’t done before in all our years of gathering at the beach.

beach picnic hotdogs

Here’s why it seemed like a grand idea at the time, at least in my mind:

1. The grandparents can spend time with the kids without the crazy midday beach crowd & overwhelming heat.

2. For me, the photography nerd, it’s twilight hour – the perfect time for photos.

3. Eden & Stone could fly their kites that they have been saving since they received them as Christmas gifts without the fear of crashing them into someone sunbathing.

4. The relaxing ocean breeze & cool sand.

beach picnic kite

beach picnic watching

beach picnic family pic

beach picnic crazy family

beach picnic crazy eden

What I didn’t take into consideration when I had my grand idea to have a picnic dinner on the beach:

1. The amount of stuff you need to trek down for a picnic on the beach for all 9 of us – chairs, blankets, beverages, condiments for hot dogs, a hammer {to crack a coconut, of course!} a camera & a tripod {for the family group pictures & twilight hour photos, of course!}

2. The wind – yes, the wind was PERFECT for flying kites! but not so perfect for trying to spread condiments on hot dogs.

3. Even though I’ve done this before & I’ve read about the perfect settings for my camera during twilight hour, I still manage to forget all I’ve learned when I start clicking. I decided to not let it fluster me this time and just take pictures. Some came out with the right exposure, some didn’t. Oh well.

beach picnic G&C
beach picnic tygar laugh

The kids didn’t care that they had to eat their dinner in stages because there was no possible way to eat off of a paper plate in that crazy wind. They grabbed the hot dog bun, slapped on a hot dog & their favorite condiment and walked around in the sand and the wind and enjoyed every bite of that hot dog! Even if it had a few grains of sand in there.

beach picnic full moon

When the week comes to an end, to help ease the pain of driving away from the beach, we talk about our favorite things that happened that week.

Guess what? This year, the hot dog picnic dinner on the beach was one of their favorite things.

Sometimes, as adults, what we perceive as an inconvenience can become a lifelong memory for your kid.

Here’s to more “inconveniences” this summer!

Pass the mustard!




forever grateful_2

Have you read The Fault in Our Stars by John Green?

I finished it in a weekend so obviously it is a quick read, but the content is not quick.

Skimming back through the pages, I realized that I had highlighted several sentences & even paragraphs. This is a novel that I will return to & savor the words.

As I read TFIOS, I found myself wishing I could be as articulate with my spoken words {& even how I write sometimes} as the main characters in this book. For as long as I can remember, I have always wanted to be one who was quick witted. My witty come back comments come to me the next day, way to late to mean anything except maybe to me. Sidebar :: Makes me think of a line from the Pride & Prejudice movie {2005} when Elizabeth {Keira Knightley} says to Mr. Darcy {Matthew MacFadyen}, “Perhaps you should take your aunt’s advice and practice?”. Touché Caroline.

I had to remind myself {several times} that I was reading the words of teenagers thoughtfully brought to life through the written word of John Green {the 36 year old author}. Hazel Grace Lancaster {16} & Augustus Waters {17} are mature beyond their years because of their present circumstances.

A few examples of their thoughtfully eloquent words that I highlighted:

Hazel Grace – “The weird thing about houses is that they almost always look like nothing is happening inside of them, even though they contain most of our lives.”

Hazel Grace – “You gave me a forever within the numbered days and I’m grateful.”

Gus – “My thoughts are stars I can’t fathom into constellations.”

Van Houten – “Grief does not change you, Hazel. It reveals you.” {technically, this character is not a teenager, but he acts like a spoiled rotten one!}

Gus – “The real heroes anyway aren’t the people doing things; the real heroes are the people NOTICING things, paying attention.”

Gus – “You don’t get to choose if you get hurt in this world, old man, but you do have some say in who hurts you. I like my choices. I hope she likes hers.”

With just a few examples you can see why so many young adult fiction fans have been swooned. Those of us who love fiction {myself included} tend to allow some unrealistic expectations seep into our daily lives looking for the swoon.

As with any fictional writing, allow yourself be drawn into TFIOS story. Be swooned.

Fall in love with Hazel Grace Lancaster & Augustus Waters.



Gasp out loud & grab the tissue box for extra tissues or to throw it across the room, depending on how you feel about the way it ended…

Then put the book down & take a walk.

Savor the words & moments that spoke to you.

Leave the unrealistic expectations inside the pages of the book {or inside the movie theater}.

“Okay? Okay.”

If you read the book or will see the movie, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below {let’s try to keep them spoiler-free for those that haven’t read/seen it yet}.

Let’s Talk About Blog Ads


Today I have the opportunity to share a few things that I have learned about Blog Ads with the Allume community. I’d love for you to stop by!

Have a great Wednesday!


psalm 145_4

Commend :: praise formally or officially; entrust someone or something to;

What does the next generation hear you saying?

What I Learned in May

what i learned in may

1. The month of May went by incredibly TOO FAST. It was April. I blinked & today is May 30. Goodness gracious. Anyone else?

peonie bud

2. The winter lasted so long here that my peonies haven’t bloomed yet. Come on beauties!

3. This one may scare some of you away and you may never come back again. I learned that sleep study tests are not glamorous. At all. I found out last month that I may have sleep apnea so my doctor told me to see a pulmonary doctor & have a sleep study test. After talking to a friend who had a sleep study test, I felt somewhat prepared for what was about to happen but I was fairly certain I was going to be able to fall asleep just fine in a bed all to myself for one night. Oh boy, was I wrong.

Ready for my 2am sleep study selfie?

sleep study selfie

I can’t believe I’m sharing this with the internet forever.

It was part of my month of May and it was incredibly humbling and I may be the first person in the history of sleep study tests to fail because I COULDN’T SLEEP.  I was there from 8:45 pm until 6:00 am. It took at least 45 minutes for me to get hooked up so I was finally ready to fall asleep by maybe 10:00 pm. The facility & the technician were great. The room was nice & comfy, like a nice hotel room.

3 reasons I couldn’t sleep: 1) see the picture above {sorry I made you look at that again!}  2) the room was too quiet. I am a mother of four and I am married so I am normally sleeping next to Greg. I’m used to the night noises that come with my house & neighborhood. I’m not used to complete silence. Maybe I should have brought a recording of Greg breathing to help me fall asleep? 3) I was on camera. Every sound & movement was being recorded. I tried to push that out of my mind. I tried to push it all out of my mind.

Enough about my sleep test. Maybe next month I’ll be able to tell you if you can fail a sleep test after I get my results in a few weeks. To be continued…


5. Joon {our 1984 CJ7} is sick. She has a crack in her engine block because of the harsh winter we had here in Chicagoland & she needs a new engine. {insert a sad face or my sleep test selfie – they’re one in the same for me} To be continued…

6. I love grilling season! I marinade, Greg grills. If the weather is nice, we’re grilling. Our favorites: smoked salmon, ginger & cilantro grilled chicken, filet mignon, grilled pineapple slices, roasted red potatoes, shrimp kabobs…I could go on & on. We love to grill. Have a favorite grilling recipe? Please share it with us!


7. Driving home from the sleep study test {sorry to bring that up again} I had to stop on the side of the road and make sure I captured this scene & to double check that I wasn’t asleep even though the scene was dreamlike. I am partial to sunsets but this sunrise was stunning. How often do you get a chance to catch the sunrise and really pay attention to the day dawning? I know for the most part it’s an accident that I see the sunrise. I’m always looking for the sunset but I should always be looking for the sunrise as well.

teselle kids may 2014

8. Greg and I are extremely proud of our kids & how they have finished strong this school year. As their mom, the emotions are high as I look at these pictures. I would love to bottle them up and freeze time because I know I’ll blink and it will be 11 years from now & Eden will be graduating from high school. 11 years. Whoa.

What did you learn in May?

Be sure to read more What I Learned in May posts from Emily & her community over at Chatting at the Sky.