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Decorating with Portraits at Crap I’ve Made

Hey there! It’s Char from Crap I’ve Made.

(Kristen totally took that picture Open-mouthed smile)

When Kristen asked me to post about decorating with portraits I was all:

My 5 year old has Asperger’s. Because of that, he FREAKS out about pictures and we have literally no family pictures worth displaying from the last 5 years or so. Any pictures I display are mom taken snapshot type pictures because at least he’s not rolling around on the ground/chewing on his shirt/screaming/giving a thumbs down/hiding behind someone/etc.

So, anything I could contribute would be using non professional quality photos/portraits.

How do you feel about that?

Kristen said:

I think that is an excellent perspective that is completely worthy to share! This series isn’t just about displaying professional photos, but snapshots, too. Anything that shows your children they are loved! I know there are other mothers out there that are experiencing something similar.

I’m going to be super honest with you here…there are many days that Asperger’s kicks my trash. It’s been a long 5.5 years. It’s not easy for me to talk about, because I love my kid and I’m emotional and protective. Plus, HOLY VULNERABILITY when I lay it all out like this. BUT, Kristen’s right. There are many, many of us in the autism club, so here I am.

Let me show you a little bit of what I meant in my initial response. Here’s the last batch of family photos we had taken by my insanely talented friend Leilani.

Coester 1
Note the lack of willingness to make eye contact/look at the camera and him smashing his face up against me.

Coester 8
Oh, hey…how about I look sideways?

Pictures that emphasize Campbell’s problems (that word’s not sitting right with me, but I can’t think of a better one right now) make me sad. I’ve come home from a photo session and sobbed more than once. There’s a yearning for “normal” that I can’t put into words. And there’s a want, maybe even a NEED, to document and display the happy times and not let autism define him. How would I feel if all the pictures in my home documented my bad temper or my cursing habit? Winking smile

So, if you come to my house, you won’t find any blown up canvas prints or a giant framed photo above the mantel…you’ll find lots and lots of pictures taken by me. And I’m definitely not a photographer…just a mom that wants to remember the good stuff.

Welcome to my living room.


This display is a whole bunch of cheap-o IKEA frames duct taped together on the back. You can read more about it here, if you’re interested. I swap the pictures as often as the mood strikes (because 39 cents for a 5X7 doesn’t exactly persuade me not to).

On the other side of that wall, in my family room, you’ll find this:


I saw the clipboard treatment online several years ago and have been meaning to do my own version. This guest post was just the push I needed. (If you really want to hear about how I laid out the clipboards, you can come on over to my place on Tuesday.)


And so, instead of remembering tears and anxiety (me, not the Asperger’s Winking smile), we remember birthdays with our best friends, karate kicks above our heads, football coaches with no kids of their own, first days of school, stuffed animals can be our best friends, and that smiling will NOT get you off time out any quicker.


Celebrate the ordinary. Be thankful for those moments.

{Char!  I love EVERYTHING about this post!  Thank you so much for sharing your heart with us.  You said it beautifully, and mom taken images are important (especially the “time out smile”)! I am LOVING the duct taped frames, seriously rocks.  And the clipboards?  How cool!  I love a little added texture and dimension to a display and this does just that.  And let me veer off of the portrait track for a second and drool over your turquoise piano!  I know that your son looking sideways (emphasizing “xyz”) is not what you wanted that day, but I love that image of him.  Though I have never met him,  I can see a cute little smirk, a twinkle in his eyes, and something sweet that you just don’t always see from “mug shot pics” looking at the camera.  But I do get that that is what you wanted then.  And goodness, your photography is beautiful!  Keep saying NO to auto and stand tall, girl.}

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  1. Thank you.

  2. Char, I read your blog every time you post but I rarely comment (I know…I’m one of *those* readers…) but this guest post really touched me. I love the photos you take of your family that you have posted and I’ve often scolded myself for not being as diligent on recording the good stuff. The love for your family is always crystal clear when you talk about them and it shows in your photos. I think that’s what photography is all about.


    p.s. I’m totally using the clipboard idea. It’ll irritate the hell outta my mother-in-law. :)

  3. Love it Char. The clipboards rock:)

    And the first word that popped in my mind when you were struggling with word “problems” were “challenges”. :) That is the word I use when describing my struggles with my two dyslexic boys.

    Thanks for sharing your heart to all!!!!

    And I still can’t get over the fact that you have a blue piano! Kills me every time I see it on your blog!!!

  4. Love those clipboards! What a great idea. I blogged today because I had some pictures taken and I’m really pleased them. It was part of another blogger’s project. I’d love if you would come check it out :)

  5. Char, you really did lay it out there. and I know that’s hard. My ASD kiddo doesn’t have the same photo issues, but getting a decent photo of him is still HARD. It was a true tender mercy that he stayed still and smiled perfectly nicely for all of his baptism day shots. ??! I couldn’t believe it. But I think I needed it. We really should meet at the park one of these days…

  6. Can’t say enough wonderful things about the pictures and the story…it took some bravery to step out Char and I thank you for it! Wonderful displays,very creative and heartwarming!!!!

  7. i love that profile shot of your boy! you said it wasn’t your favorite, but i think it’s darling. love the colors! love those ikea frames … might need to do something like that in my house!

  8. PS how do you get the pictures in an out of the frames without taking the whole thing apart? love it!

  9. Oh! I really love the clip boards. They add a little visual interest to the snap shots, plus they’d be so easy to change out! Great idea. :)

  10. These are things I love:
    The photo of your boy with the blue background.
    The clipboards.
    Your painted piano.
    Your vulnerability. As hard as that must have been to lay it all out there, you wrote with grace.
    Instead of problems, how about “quirks”? I have a quirky kid myself – though much of it seems to have been side effects from asthma steroids. A lot of her issues lessened once she was able to go off meds. At any rate, I get what you are saying about not letting that one part of who your child is define him. Great post.

  11. So well written and inspiring. I think it is important to capture all the everyday moments to…good and bad as I imagine those will be the things we will want to remember when they are all grown up. Char is an amazing mom and is someone that I really look up to in blog land and in real life. She is one of the most real and authentic people I know and I love that!

  12. One of the reasons I follow your blog is that you are so honest. Writing with integrity is the most admirable thing I can say about a blogger, and that would be you. I love the things you do as much as the things you say. I really love the clipboards; I have so many pictures I love to see, and that would make them so easy to switch in and out.

    Oh, watch out; I just sent about 1,000 people to your blog from the forum that I belong to – Silhouette Plus. They want a copy of your Silhouette dust cover pattern! Come see us!

    Barbara, aka bdjeepers

  13. Char, I love and admire you more than ever! Love this post!!!

  14. Char, you are one of my favorite people. I am so happy that I have met you in real life. My husband loves you to by the way :) Your kids are darling. And you are the best mom ever. There is a reason he was sent to you. I loved this post so much! I am loving both your ideas! I want to do the clip board one and spray paint them different colors!!!

  15. Char – first I really love your blog, and your ideas here. Secondly, your strong love for your family, and your son, shine through everything you do. I admire and honor your courage, your love and your sense of humor, which, I imagine, helps you get through a lot! :)
    Hugs Laura

  16. Char, what a beautiful post about the power of a mom to bring out the beauty and individuality of her children. I LOVE that you don’t have professional photos. I LOVE how your photos capture the daily life with your children in all their glory, not just a cute smile in a pretty field or something. This is the FIRST post (of the thousands I’ve seen) that makes me want to make a wall of family portraits. And I want to fill it with photos of our daily life. Although I do think I will try NOT to capture the moments where I’m yelling at kids and cursing. :)

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I’m sure it was hard.

  17. Char – you take beautiful photos!
    I love this post.
    Love displaying shots of everyday, real life, action & personality.
    Love HOW they’re displayed!
    And I also love that piano!!!

  18. I love how you write about your beautiful son. The fact that you struggle and still manage to keep such an up-beat and positive attitude as well as all the humor you project into your blog says so much about you as a person. Plus your ideas are awesome. Bad temper and cursing habit? Pshhh~who cares?! You rock! :)

  19. Your post brought tears to my eyes. My son has an anxiety disorder, and so I can relate to some of what you’re going through. It’s heartbraking to watch him shut out so much of what is otherwise good about life, because he is afraid. And the isolation that has come because of my tendency to circle the wagons and not talk very much about our struggles–that was a killer. I’m getting better, but it is so HARD! Thanks for being brave and sharing. And for the record, I think your professional family photo is beautiful. You see his reaction to the photographer for what it is, but without your words, it looks for all the world like a little boy snuggling up to his much loved mama.

  20. I absolutely love the photo of your son in the blue shirt. It is gorgeous. And he looks perfect to me. Going to put up a photo wall this weekend!

  21. Hey…Char here again. Just wanted to thank all of you for being gentle on me and Kristen for pushing me.


  22. Hello! My name is Robin and I am in the autism club too! I can SO relate to the emotions Char shared in this post. Two of our three kids are autistic, so taking a good family photo is a serious challenge. Just getting everyone to look at the camera at the same time is impossible! So, thanks for the inspiration. I’m about to go through my candid shots and quit yearning for the perfect, posed photo on canvas. :0)


  1. [...] a direct reflection of the things that occupy your mind and your heart.” I simply LOVED what Char from Crap I’ve made posted about, and this is how she starts, “My 5 year old has Asperger’s. Because of that, he FREAKS [...]