Are you Mom to a teenage daughter?  

Are you looking for connection, encouragement, and tips on how to navigate these crazy teen girl years?

Then grab your camera and your coffee, and join us! 




By Jennifer Lebo
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“Mom, would you stop loving me if I told you about something bad that I did?”


My breath caught in my throat as my daughter hesitantly asked me this question, and two thoughts quickly came to mind.  First, “Could she actually believe that I would stop loving her for any reason?  Is this actually a legitimate concern of her?”


Followed closely by, “What in the world did she do???”


I quickly caught my breath and reassured her that nothing could ever cause me to stop loving her.  I then asked her to share her confession with me, and tried to remain calm as I waited.  Turns out, she had been using some “less than becoming” language on the school bus in an attempt to fit in.  We talked about it, and I told her that this kind of language doesn’t really make a kid look cool, and that she now had the difficult task of breaking a bad habit.  But then I told her how happy I was that she felt she could tell me what was bothering her, that she could always tell me anything.  And that I would help her break this habit.


Ten minutes later, I was standing outside her bedroom, breathing through the anxiety, and feeling yet another gray hair sprout from my head.  Yes, I actually felt it!  And in that moment, I was reminded for the umpteenth time that this “raising a teen girl” thing was NOT going to be a walk in the park.  In fact, my daughter is still just a “tween”, and I’ve already learned more lessons than I could have imagined.


Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned so far.


1. Clothes shopping for her is not the super fun, cutie patootie experience it once was.

When Brady was a baby, I envisioned our future together, complete with afternoon shopping dates and shared clothes.  I remember having a friend in high school who shared all of her clothes with her sister and her mom, and I totally thought that would be us.  We are not even the same size yet, and I am already seeing my mistake.  


No matter what I choose for this girl, she doesn’t like it.  I can choose leggings and she’ll pick jeans.  I choose jeans.  She’ll prefer a dress.  I can’t figure it out except for this.  It seems that this girl is in a rush to “look grown up” and I might be fixed on “keeping her a little girl”.  So be it.  I’m learning to pick my battles.  No to the 2 inch wedges.  But absolutely to the cowboy boots.  We meet in the middle with the yoga pants.  I mean, really.  What girl doesn’t love yoga pants!


2. Gray hairs start earlier than I had once thought.

Seriously, I am too young for all this gray hair.  But man, it was like one day that sweet little girl who loved American Girl Dolls and Barbies vanished from our house, and was replaced by this sassy, eye-rolling, “why can’t I have a phone?” complaining tween.  I’m exhausted on a daily basis, and not the way I used to be when the kids wouldn’t nap, or when one of them smeared poop all over her crib (oh yeah, that happened in your house too?).  No this is a different kind of exhaustion.  Now I worry about whether she’s ok at school.  Does she have friends?  Is she being bullied?  Is SHE a bully?  Does she hate me?  Will she always hate me?  Am I doing this “mom thing” wrong?  I’m mentally and emotionally drained by her.  I love her to a million pieces, but the girl wears me down.  So I buy another box of hair color.  And another.  And another.


3. Insecurity and self-esteem issues start early.

I was dreading this one.  I knew the minute that ultrasound technician said “It’s a girl!” that someday I’d be reliving those hellish years of insecurity, of struggles with body image, of all the “girl stuff”.  I just had no idea it would be starting so soon.


I know I’m biased, and I know you probably feel this same way about your own daughter, but I look at my daughter and I see the most beautiful girl.  I love everything about her. (when she’s not sassing me and rolling her eyes at me!)  But then I walk into her room and find her without her glasses on.  When I press her on it, she says she looks prettier without them.  Or I’ll notice her looking at her waist, asking if she needs to lose weight.  Oh my goodness, I’m not ready for this.  But I know I need to get ready, because I have to be that inner voice in her head- the one she hears whenever she doubts her beauty, or her value, or her worth.  I want to be that voice that she hears say, “No.  You are so beautiful.  So exceptional.  You are enough.  You are amazing.”  I will teach her that she is beautiful, that she is enough.


Can you relate?  Are you in it, too?


4. It’s ALWAYS OK to ask for a “Do Over”.

Remember the days of “do overs”?  I still hear my youngest begging for them when he’s playing with his older brother.  Ah, the “do over”.  Give me another chance!  That one doesn’t count.  I made a mistake.  I’ll do it better next time!


This relates so much to my mothering, especially with my daughter.  How many times have you walked out of your daughter’s room and thought, “ugh, I totally screwed that up!”?  I think that way almost daily.  But I try to remember the “do over”.  I may have messed up, or made a mistake, but I always get to try again when it comes to helping my kids.  


And the same goes for them.  I’ve been trying to encourage my daughter with this idea.  Sure, she’ll make mistakes (a LOT of them, and the best ones are yet to come, good gracious, help me!).  But there’s always room for a  “do over”.  It’s never EVER too late to turn around and choose the better path.


5. Listening can be such a powerful tool.

Lately, I’ve been feeling so helpless when it comes to my daughter.  How do I fix this?  Her struggles are no longer fixed with a kiss and a bandaid.  I often don’t know what to do.  I don’t have the right words.  Heck, most days I don’t have ANY words.  But I’m learning that most of the time, it’s ok to not have words.  So often, listening is my most powerful tool.


Our presence can be so helpful.  Giving our daughters our shoulders to cry on, our ears and hearts to hear them, our presence just to show them they’re not alone, and that we care.  Most of the time, they don’t need us to fix things.  They just need someone to go through it with them.


I’m learning to listen, to just be present, and to use another tool in my belt.  I use my camera.  


There are times when I know that something is on my daughter’s mind, but I don’t want to pry, or “nag” as she might see it.  I just want to connect, to reach out without asking, and maybe let her share without being asked.  So I take out my camera, head to her room, and ask if I can play around and shoot a bit while she’s not too busy.  This allows me to be with her, to create an opportunity for connection, for maybe laughter, for comfort and ease, where she might initiate some conversation.


My camera is quickly becoming my “go to” tool for connecting with my girl, and I strongly encourage you to use your camera the same way.


In a nutshell, raising a teen daughter is a million times harder than I thought it would be!  Stating the obvious, I know.  I’m also realizing that it is often more about what she has to teach me than about what I have to teach her.  It’s like she and I are growing together, and it’s scary, but it’s pretty awesome too.


What about you?  Are you finding this journey through “teen daughterhood” as challenging as I am?  What are you learning?  I’d love it if you’d share one lesson YOU’VE learned in the comments below.


We’ve got this mom thing!



By Jennifer Lebo
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The other day, as I was walking out of my teenage son’s room, I noticed some index cards taped to the back of his bedroom door.  A closer look revealed that he had set athletic goals for his entire high school career (which does not begin for another 5 months).  There were also college goals.  And beyond.  I laughed to myself and realized (yet again) that the apple had not fallen far from the tree.


Our house is a house of goal setters.  My husband has been setting and tracking running goals for the entire 20 years I have known him.  Ask him what workout he did on September 15, 2007 and he can go back and find it.  The same goes for me.  Well, maybe not to that obsessive extent, but my office walls are covered with goal cards for work, for health and fitness, for life.


But what about mothering?  


After leaving my son’s room and considering the insane amount of goal setting this family does, the thought struck me.  Why don’t I set goals on mothering?  Isn’t it just as important- if not more- as my work, or my health and fitness?  Isn’t mothering the part of my life where I really need to be intentional?  How have I not set Mom goals?


I mulled these questions over for about 30 seconds, and decided to set some Mom goals.  Then I decided to bring you along for the ride.  So let’s do this together.


Let’s set some Mom goals.



1. Consider your WHY

We shouldn’t just go setting goals for the sake of setting goals.  We need to slow down and consider our why.  Remember in my last blog post, I shared my WHY with you, and the process that I used to break down my WHYs into several layers.  


I want you to do this with your Mom goals.  What’s the reason behind your wanting to do this?  Are you wanting to connect more with your daughter?  Do you want to create a safe place for her to share her thoughts and fears?  Do you want to instill a sense of self worth in her?  Are you worried about her interactions with mean girls?  Whatever the reasons, think about them.  You should be sure of your WHY before anything else.


2. Write Down Your WHY

Grab yourself a pen and paper, or go to your computer, and start writing.  Remember that process from my last post.  Write down your why.  (For example, “I want my daughter to feel that she can always come and talk to me about anything.”)  Then take it a step further and answer it again.  Why?  (Why do I want my daughter to feel she can come and talk to me about anything?  I may write, “I want her to know she can come to me, because I know that she is about to start high school and she is going to encounter a lot of hard stuff.”)  Go another layer deeper.  Why do you believe she’s going to encounter this?  Why?  Why?  Keep going until you’ve exhausted your WHYs.  Then print that paper out, or take that handwritten sheet, and put it up somewhere where you’ll see it often.  Be reminded of your WHYs.


3. Write Goals That Compliment Your WHY

Now you’re ready to write down some goals.  You know the WHY behind your goals, so you know what you’re striving for.  You want to instill in your daughter that she can always come and talk to you.  So your goal might be to open up lines of communication.  Well, that’s a great idea, but we have to make this a goal, rather than just a nice idea.  So we need to make it SMART.


Specific- You’ve got to get specific with your goal.  Beyond just opening up lines of communication, perhaps your goal could be to initiate conversation with her once every day.  Now that’s specific.


Measurable- You’ve got to set a goal that you can measure.  Opening lines of communication- how do we measure that?  Initiating conversation once a day.  That once a day piece we can measure.


Achievable- You’ve got to consider steps that you know are achievable in reaching your goal.  Do you drive her to school each morning?  Perhaps you can make that the time you chat.  Take time to consider the steps you can take to achieve your goal.


Realistic- Your goal is probably going to be challenging, and that’s great.  (Initiating conversation with my daughter every single day sounds challenging to me.  Will she want to talk to me?  What would I say that could get her attention and get her talking?  Should I keep it light?)  A challenge is good, but we need to stay realistic.  Perhaps in our example, we realistically say that any conversation works, not just deep conversation.  (Could you imagine trying to have deep conversations with ANYONE everyday?  Exhausting!)


Timely- Finally we have to make these goals timely.  Do you need a month of daily initiation to achieve this goal?  Longer?  Put your goal to the test.  Set a deadline to measure your progress.


One “must” to point out.  When writing out your goals, don’t write them out as wishes, but as definitive statements.  Don’t say, “I want to initiate conversation with my daughter”.  Say “I will initiate conversation with my daughter at least once a day, for the next 30 days.”  This way you’ve already put in your mind that this WILL happen.  If you believe it, you can achieve it.


4. Consider Creating a Visual (or Audio) Reminder

Just like writing out your WHYs and placing them where you’ll see them, a visual reminder of your goals, perhaps listed simply as statements on an index card, can help you stay on track each day.  Or maybe you are an alarm setter.  I’ve become one since I started setting my Mom goals.  For example, one of my goals is to take more photos at least one photo of my daughter every single day (see how I got more specific there?), so I now have a daily alarm on my phone.  Every day at 4pm (after she’s come home from school), my phone goes off, playing one of her favorite songs, displaying the simple reminder, “Brady Pics”.  I’m still struggling with every day, but without that reminder, I’d have given up on that goal long ago.


5. Put Your Reminder Where You’ll See It Everyday

This is a MUST, but it’s also a bit tricky.  Do you want your daughter to know you have these Mom goals?  Will it unnerve her to know that you’re setting out to talk to her everyday?  (Did you see those eyes just roll?  Mmm hmm!)  If you want to keep your goals private, that makes sense, but you still need to keep them somewhere where you’ll see them everyday.  Perhaps that means tucking your index card into your pants pocket each morning.  This way, every time your hand goes into that pocket, you’ll feel the card and be reminded.  Perhaps your phone reminder is in “mom code”.  Consider whether you’d prefer your daughter not to know and not to see your goals.  On the other hand, consider what it might mean to her that you make her such a priority.  



A wonderful way to make your goals more visually inspiring is to attach them TO THE ACTUAL INSPIRATION!  Why not superimpose your goals right onto an image of your daughter?  This way you’ve got both your goals AND your WHY in one beautiful place.


Now you can’t just superimpose these goals onto any old picture of your daughter.  For this, you’ll need something special, a portrait.  And I can give you the guide to create that portrait.


Are you ready to set some Mom goals with me?  Let’s do this together.  I’m sharing my Mom goals here with you, superimposed on one of my favorite portraits of my girl.  Hold me accountable, friends!  Make sure I’m working toward my goals.

And let me do the same for you.  In the comment section below, share with me ONE Mom goal that you have.  We can encourage each other, and hold each other accountable.  


We can do this!  Our girls are so worth it!


By Jennifer Lebo
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About five months ago, I hit rock bottom, healthwise.  I was overweight, out of shape, exhausted, and just plain old sad over having lost the athlete I once was.  I knew I had to do something to get strong and healthy again, but the thought of trying again was daunting.  I’d climbed this mountain so many times before.  Self doubt and fear loomed.  Why try again?  Wouldn’t I just fail… again?

I decided that I needed to try a new way, so I sought the help of a professional.  I called a trainer who I’d found online, one who specialized in health and fitness for those of us in the “over forty” club.  One phone call with Dave McGarry and I knew I had found a gem.  He helped me set goals, and then he helped me crush them!

I think the most important thing that I learned from Dave was the very first lesson he taught me.  He had me sit down and write out my “why”.  Even beyond that, he had me write down several layers of “whys” so that every reason I had for wanting to get healthy had a deeper “why”.  I would consider a goal, say to lose 20 lbs, and I would write down why I wanted to lose that weight.  I wanted to be able to spend a day at the pool with my kids and be comfortable in my swimsuit.  But why?  I would continue to write, contemplating that I didn’t want to miss out on any more pool days with my kids.  But why?  Because my time with the kids was too important to waste.  Layer upon layer upon layer.  


He had me continue this several times over.  Then he had me print out my “whys” and put them up somewhere where I would see them everyday.  


Four months later, they’re still up.  And I’ve crushed every one of my goals.  Because of those “whys”.


So why am I sharing this story?  (you see what I did there?!)



With this recent health and fitness journey, I stayed focused on those “whys”, and I reached my goals with purpose and passion.  So I started to use this same method for other areas of my life, including my business life.  As I stated in my last post, I had come to a fork in the road concerning my work life, and had realized that it was time to put my dreams and plans first again.  


But then came the daunting task of setting business goals, and of staring up at the mountain of self-doubt, of fear, of uncertainty.  I wrote out some concrete goals, and then remembered Dave’s advice, and started writing out my whys.


Why do I want to try again?  Why do I want to crush these goals?  What is my purpose?  What is my why?


Turns out in this case, my WHY is a WHO.


I want to try again because there are too many women out there who struggle with seeing their beauty, and I want to show it to them.  I want to teach moms how to take photos because we moms need concrete skills to connect with and empower our daughters.  I know this because I am that mom.  I know this because I’ve been that daughter.  Because I now have that daughter.  Perhaps we’ve all been that daughter, or have that daughter now.


Simply put, she’s my WHY.


I have a tween daughter.  I have a skill set that is allowing me to capture her beauty and pour my attention and love into her.  I can teach YOU how to do the same thing.


You’re my WHY, too.



My goals are centered around you, your daughters, and my own daughter.  My goals are to create blog posts that guide you through photography and help us navigate the world of teen daughters together.  Online courses are coming.  Workshops, both online and in person, are coming.  Community, encouragement, and empowerment are coming.  


Next time, I’ll be sharing about how to set mom goals, and how to write out your own WHY.


See you soon!


PS- if you’re in the “over 40 club” too, and want to know more about my gem of a trainer, Dave McGarry, visit him at or  


By Jennifer Lebo
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Ever have a moment where everything around you just seems to freeze, and you hear the voice of your heart speaking as clear as day to you?  I had that moment early last month, and it’s the reason why I’m back here blogging.


Let me back up a bit.  To the week when everything came to a head.  The week when my 12 year old daughter shared with me some of the struggles she’s been having at school.  (isn’t middle school just the best???)  The same week my teaching contract came up for next year, and the question of whether to continue in the classroom or return to my passion resurfaced.  The week when all three of my worlds collided, and then settled into a peaceful clarity.


I’m sure many of you can relate to the truth that being a mom is insanely hard!  From the moment our kids arrive, we are a basket of emotions, in love with them in a way we’ve never known, exhausted to a degree we’ve never experienced, worried like we never knew we could worry.  But this.  This tween and teenage phase, particularly with a daughter.  Well, this is a whole different kind of beast!



My mother warned me about this (a story for another post), but I really had no idea.  Raising a young lady is hard!  One minute my heart is aching over whether she is happy or lonely or afraid, and the next minute I’m doing everything in my power not to lose it on her as she sasses me for absolutely no reason!  Who is this girl?  Where did my sweet baby go?  Why does she hate me?  Oh, wait, now she loves me?  Why does she think she’s ugly?  Who told her that?  Why doesn’t she see what I see?  


The questions, the uncertainties, they are endless.


I know you know what I’m talking about.

So during that week, when the perfect storm of parenting, passion, and profession erupted, I was able to see it for the gift that it was.  Earlier in the week, when my mind swirled around the question of whether to continue teaching or not, I had jotted these thoughts onto a Post It note: “Had no plans to teach.  What’s changed?  Is this an opportunity?  Am I afraid of business or of trying?”

Not one day later, my daughter stood crying in my arms sharing her experience of loneliness at school.  I stood in our kitchen, holding her, and crying with her, and I felt so thankful that I could at least just be there in that moment.  Then I remembered that I was free from teaching the next day, and suggested I take her out for lunch.  The relief on her face, and relaxing of her body in my arms was instant.  I was able to rescue her, even just for a moment, and we were both grateful.


It was just a brief rescue, but it was precious.  We grabbed a quick lunch the next day, smiled and laughed a lot, and I was able to bring her back to school fill with love, and the assurance that I’d be waiting for her after school.  We hugged and she hurried off, knowing this would not be an everyday thing, but that it was in perfect timing.  It reminded me of how much my kids still need me, and how much I want to be there for them.




While organizing past business files, I came across some brainstorming I had done less than one year ago, titled “Fifty Questions to Find My Passion”.  About halfway through the list, I found it.  The answer to a question about what I dislike doing.  It said, “I don’t like staying up late for dorm duty, although I like the girls.  I hate teaching English, never want to do it again.”  


Woah.  When did I forget this?  


In that moment, it all sort of fell together, my passions, my purposes, my plans.  Somehow I had found myself doing something I never intended to do again.  I knew why I had accepted the job, agreed to help out my community when they needed help.  But why was I going to pursue it further?  I don’t care for the subject I teach.  No, what draws me to teaching is always the students.  I don’t love teaching English.  But I do love teaching.


This revelation, coming on the heels of time spent with my daughter, following the hesitation over walking away from my business, was peaceful yet powerful.  I knew I was ready to try again.



Which brings me here with you, today.  Thomas Edison once said, “Our greatest weakness lies in giving up.  The most certain way to succeed is always to just try one more time.”  That’s what I’m doing, with my business, with my parenting, with my life.  I’m just trying again.  


My passions in life are simple.  I love my family, and my sweet sassy daughter.  I love taking pictures of people.  And I love teaching.  I do.  I don’t love teaching English, but I love teaching.  I love sharing what I know, what I don’t know, what I’m learning myself.  So here I am, doing all three.


Trying each day to be a mom, a photographer, a teacher, a woman, a friend.


If that resonates with any part of who you are, then come take this walk with me.  Let’s learn about parenting our daughters.  Let me teach you how to use photography to empower your daughter (and yourself!).  Be encouraged to try along with me.


Let’s never be afraid to fail.  Let’s just be afraid to not try.


Looking forward to our journey together.



By Jennifer Lebo
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I used to think self-compassion was a joke.  Actually, it used to anger me.  The first time I read Brene´ Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection, it actually made me furious.  I can still go back and read the notes I sprinkled in the margins: “how ridiculous!”, “this is NOT true”, “what a selfish pity party”, and so on. Self-compassion was not only  unnecessary, it was hypocrisy.  I would think, “ Who really needs a lesson in how to love themselves?  For real!  We all love ourselves most of all.  Loving ourselves comes easiest.  It’s loving others that trips us up!”


Now that last part may still be true about loving others, but I’m no longer sure about how easy it is for us to love ourselves.  The more self-aware I try to become, the more I realize that I do NOT only struggle to love myself, I don’t even like myself on some days.  


And it’s not selfish to set out toward self-compassion.  In fact, it might actually be the opposite.  How can I show kindness to others if I can’t even show it to myself?  How can I teach my children to value themselves and others if I’m modeling self-loathing right in front of them?  Can we really love others if we don’t even love ourselves?  


What’s so wrong with self-compassion?  Or was I actually reading a book about embracing imperfections, and chastising myself (and Brown) for even considering it?


It’s been a few years since that first reading, and I am on my own journey toward self-compassion.  The more I read about it, and the more self-aware I become, the more I realize the effort I need to put in here- not just for me, but for my family, my friends, and those around me who deserve my love.  Self-compassion is not selfishness.  It’s living the way I want my children to live.  It’s loving myself the way I want to love others.  It’s learning how to be compassionate with the woman in the mirror, so I can do the same for anyone and everyone else.

I wanted to share with you a few tips I learned about how to be more self-compassionate, and so I created a little workbook.  I want to share it with you here today, but first, I want to be clear about what it is and what it isn’t- and about who I am and who I am not.



This workbook is not a clinical study, nor is it a proven prescription for healing.  It’s a compilation of ideas collected by one flawed woman to share with others.  It’s a hodge podge of ingredients that have helped me, and that might help you.  It’s a bit of a love letter, but it’s NOT a proven method.  Please remember that.


I am not a doctor.  I have no fancy letters after my name, and I have not studied medicine, or psychology, or psychiatry.  I am not a clinician, nor am I a therapist of any kind.


What I am is a flawed but beautiful woman.  I am a mother, a daughter, a friend.  I am your friend, even if we’ve never met, because if you’re reading this, or any of my recent blog posts, and they’re resonating with you, then we are connected.  I’m a woman being vulnerable, inviting other women to do the same.  Perhaps that makes me some kind of activist.  Perhaps today I’m just a guide.  Or just a friend.  I’m ok with that.


Please keep this in mind as you read through this blog post, and the workbook.  Friend to friend, I’m just offering my heart.



1. Recognize Reality

I am starting to think that the first step toward self-compassion is recognizing the new reality around me.  For this, I need look no further than Facebook.  For you, it might be Instagram, or Pinterest, or your favorite blog, but my guess is that it’s some social media platform.  Social media is part of our everyday lives.  It’s our new reality, and if we’re not careful, we can fall prey to believing that what we see on social media is really how it is.


This couldn’t be further from the truth.  We need to recognize social media for what it is- a record of everyone’s best days, best pictures, best stories- and stop comparing our actual realities to these artificial ones.  I go into more depth about this subject in the workbook.

2. Self-Reflect

I’ve spent the last few blog posts discussing what I’ve been reading about shame, and how shame can only grow in silence.  When we start to reflect on our own stories, and even consider sharing them, shame has nowhere to thrive, and it dies.  


Self-reflection is a safe way to begin telling your story, because it’s just between you and your heart.  In The Self-Compassion Startup, I offer a brainstorming worksheet to help guide your toward discovering your own unique and beautiful story through self-reflection.

3. The Power of Writing or Journaling

The writer in me loves this step, but you might hear the words “journaling” and cringe.  I know many women who hate the idea of journaling.  That’s ok.  It doesn’t mean you’re getting out of this step, but I appreciate and respect your discomfort.  And now I’m going to gently try and prod you out of it.

Ernest Hemingway once said, “Write hard and clear about what hurts.”  That’s all I’m suggesting here.  This isn’t about beautiful flowy words, or about publishing this for anyone.  This is simply about getting that story of yours out of your head and onto paper.  Journaling can be so therapeutic, another way to kill the shame.

These are just a few quick ideas to get you a step closer to self-compassion.  But I’ve spent the last season considering this in my own life, working through these steps, and more, and putting them together for you in a workbook.  It’s a simple book, not quite 20 pages long, with simple steps.  But it’s NOT easy.  It’s challenging.  It’s difficult.  And I think it’s so worth it.

If this blog post has been helpful, and you know someone who might enjoy it, then please share it.  Wouldn't it be great to connect with women everywhere who could use a little more self-compassion in their lives?