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Wednesday, November 26, 2014

A little birthday present for Sunny

Sunny was born on Thanksgiving Day.

Before hospital guidelines  about how long new moms should stay in the hospital after giving birth, I delivered her just after midnight and after begging and bribing the doctor and nurses with a large pizza, I was home by noon with my first child, our sweet Sunny.  All my family came to our home that Thanksgiving.  I never lifted a finger, and in fact I don't think I ever left my comfy chair in the middle of the living room, cradling and falling in love with my new daughter.  My family brought the turkey, the stuffing, the green beans, the pie, all the fixin's and cleaned up when it was over.
And I brought the brand new baby.

This is the first birthday and Thanksgiving that she's not with us.  It is a bitter sweet turning of seasons.

So this is for you sweet, wonderful, amazing, birthday girl!  Tess, Mimi and Jude picked out this song because it was only that they all knew and could sing without help.  And now that I think about it, it is kinda appropriate seeing as how I'm back here at home without you!

I am still in love and in awe of you just like I was that first Thanksgiving day.

Missing you, Sunny, and HAPPY BIRTHDAY!

ps-video sure does give you a glimpse into their personalities!

Monday, November 24, 2014

The world's best, fast & easy Thanksgiving cranberries

If you haven't made your cranberries for Thanksgiving or were planning on opening a can instead of cooking, let me recommend this recipe.  Because they are THAT yummy and they rock my Thanksgiving with the combo tart sweet flavor!  And because you KNOW it's me, it's also super fast and super easy to prepare, AND the bonus is that you make it a few days ahead of time.
Truth be told, I used to pop open the can too.  I mean as bad as it is, I kinda liked the canned cranberries and even that canned cranberry jelly goo stuff that you slice with a knife!  Don't tell.  But it was as much a part of Thanksgiving as little kids putting olives on their fingers!   Until... my mother-in-law made this recipe one year and I swiped the recipe from her and it's been on our Thanksgiving table ever since!  Thank you, Granna!  Cause like I said it's fast, easy, made ahead of time (and those things cannot be underrated for busy mama's) and really really yummy!

So if you haven't done it already try it out and I promise you won't be disappointed. Re the dried cherries, I get mine at Sprouts in bulk.  It only calls for a cup.  But you can try Whole Foods, Trader Joe's... Re why stores now seem to sell cranberries in 12 oz bags instead of a full pound is beyond me!  That kinda of thing happens all the time and really messes up my recipes. 'Cause now what am I suppose to do with 8 oz extra of fresh cranberries from the remaining bag!

Thanksgiving Cranberries

1 lb of fresh cranberries, rinsed
2 c sugar
1/2 c. orange juice
1/2 c. cranberry juice
zest of 1 orange
1 c dried cherries

In pot combine cranberries, sugar, juices and orange zest.  Cook over medium heat till slow boil until berries pop open, about 10 minutes.  Stir in cherries.  Remove from heat and cool to room temperature.  Cover and refrigerate.  
Throw it all in a pot, minus the dried cherries
Boil till the cranberries pop.  You can see them starting to pop here.
Plop in the dried cherry and cool.
Yep, that's it!
Easy peasy!

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Stealthy ninja mobile phone stealers

Surely this happens to all the other mama's out there, right?

Me and technology don't get along.  I have a love hate relationship with it.  Mostly it just hates me and lets me know that at every opportunity.  So carrying around my cell phone all the time isn't something that I like to do or that comes easily.   But if I don't keep a very close eye on my phone, suddenly the little ones get very quiet.  In fact they disappear altogether and I usually have no idea that the phone has even disappeared at that point.  And at first it feels so peaceful.  And calm.  And quiet!  But if it stays quiet too long, then the mama radar goes off indicating that something is definitely wrong.  Something that must be looked into.

And without even looking too hard, that's when I find them, this time tucked away in a hall bathroom, as quiet as 3 little mice.
Yes there's a lock/code on the phone. But sometimes I'll be on my phone and set it down before the lock has a chance to activate and that's when the stealthy,ninja, mobile-phone stealers do there thing.   One of these 3 is especially stealthy.  The head ninja of the bunch! Thankfully, they haven't discovered purchasing new games yet.  I keep a couple games loaded on there just in case. Maybe that's the problem in the first place; they know there are games on there!  But after a certain incident by a certain bigger kiddo who shall remain nameless who charged up a great deal at the ap store, I'm just SO grateful that these littles haven't figured out my pin numbers and how to order anything!

And at least they're sharing.
And that's saying something, right?

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Are you slowing down long enough to see the loveliness?

So I added another class to the online photography courses that I teach.  It's a composition class for any skill level that shows what makes one photo more interesting than another, and then helps photographers take their own photographs from blah to wow.   I'm always a bit nervous when I offer a new class, not knowing how it's going to go over and knowing that there will be kinks to work out the first time through.  But I can honestly say that this class has been so so rewarding for me!  I am just luvin' it so much!  Luving seeing the images that my students produce and being a part of their photography journey!

So here's where I'm going with this...

This is a photo that Jodi took recently took for an assignment in the class.  She's one of my students and has a pretty good eye to begin with if I don't say so myself!
The colors against that clean white snow and the contrasting fence behind her!  I really was draw to and loved Jodi's image as soon as she posted it!
But what I love loved loved even more was what she said about her photo...
I have passed this fence a million times, but never noticed its loveliness until this assignment.
And those words DID ME IN!  
In a nut shell, that's what photography is about to me!  She got it!  She saw a little bit of loveliness that she wouldn't have noticed otherwise.  That's why I love teaching photography... and I mean LOVE passing on everything I can about cameras and shutters and depth of field, and focus and composition and let's get real here folks... talking about LIFE!  Photography is about seeing life through a lens.  And reluctantly speaking as a mama who now has a grown daughter,  I'll tell you first hand that life moves by at the speed of a tornado, and it's way too easy to miss things.  I don't want to miss all loveliness as life spins by.  I want to see the little things.
my daughter's itty bitty hand in mine
the way my 6'1" tall son takes pride in my job 
the way the wild flowers bloom in November in the desert
how the sky is so blue
the smell of spaghetti sauce simmering on a cold fall afternoon. 

Unless I'm very intentional about seeing the little ordinary miracles and savoring their sweetness, then I'm just a gal spinning in a hurricane as life passes me by.  I have to be intentional about it cause everything seems to try to sweep me away from seeing the Lord's blessing and keeping me from slowing down for a moment to appreciate them.  Phone calls, doctor appointments, traffic, demands, stress, money... they're a necessary part of my reality, yet they try to rob me of the joy of my ordinary miracles!  For me, my camera helps alleviate that.  Photography condenses all the world down to a single frame and a single moment to be captured and savored forever. Jodi saw that in this scene.  This lovely little fence line contrasting against the snow, and how together they make a wonderful backdrop for her gorgeous daughter.  This moment will never come back, but the beauty of it is captured in a photo. 

So here's my question to you... are you slowing down long enough to see the loveliness around you?  Or are you spinning in the tornado?  Maybe you have something else that helps you see your ordinary miracles all around you.  Mine is photography, but maybe you paint. Or take long drives or Saturday afternoons.  Maybe it's gardening.  Or playing the piano.  Maybe writing showing you how precious life is.  Or knitting.  Or yoga. Or who knows!  But I hope everyone out there not only has a vice (or two or three) that slows the world and us busy mamas down and shows us how glorious the ordinary can be but also regularly practices it.  If you don't have one, find one.  Scratch out some time and invest in yourself.  Your world will be sweeter because of it.

If you didn't hear anything about my new Composition 101 class, (click HERE for more info) you didn't miss anything.  Before I even had a chance to advertise, I offered the class to my past students, and they filled it up quite quickly. But I'm excited to and definitely going to offer it again... probably in the spring of 2015.

And ps-thank you Jodi for not only taking my class and sharing your picture, but getting it.

Saturday, November 15, 2014

Crazy me tried her hand at wedding photography

A dear friend and fellow photographer, Kate over at Songs Kate Sang, asked me if I wanted to be a second shooter at a wedding a few weeks ago.  Or rather I begged her to tag along, and she finally got tired of me pestering her so she caved said yes. The thing is I've never actually had a desire to shoot a wedding.
They scare me.  The whole part where you get no do-overs if something goes horribly wrong has me quaking in my boots!  But... I have wondered what it would be like to shrug the responsibilities of contract signing and money collection, leaving that to a primary photographers, and just be a back-up shooter... that idea intrigued me.

So like I said, I pleaded my case with Kate, and she allowed me the honor of tagging along.  And I have to say, I had so much fun! This was my first wedding shoot so I can't wait to practice some more. And both Kate and I came away with a definite feeling that not only do we work quite well together, but this is something we definitely want to do again!

Here's a sampling of the pics I took for this gorgeous couple, Dawn and Allen.  Really she was such a stunning bride and it was a beautiful day and celebration all the way around!
In all, we presented the bride with over 300 frames of her special day.
Some posed.
Some candids.
Some shots of the whole scene.
Some close ups.
All of them hopefully will help them preserve the memory of their special day!

Long story short, as suspected I'm not going to be getting into the wedding photography business.  So you won't find it anywhere on my photography site. But I am willing to be a second shooter!  If you're interested in wedding photos, contact Kate here.  But be sure and tell you that you want the crazy lady with all the kids to tag along and take pics too!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

National Adoption Month - Emma

So I told you about Red Thread Sessions, and through this amazing organization the Lafevre family contacted me. They just moved to the Phoenix area, had also very recently adopted a new son, (and a gorgeous, smile-all-the-time new son at that!) and were looking to get some photos taken of their newly expanded family.  I was more than happy to donate my time to do just that!
All I can say is oh my!!!  This family was not only pretty on the outside, (and totally color coordinated without being all matchy matchy, which is a HUGE skill I tell you!) but they were just so sweet and kindhearted. The kind of people you want to ask over for dinner and swap stories with around a camp fire even though you JUST met them.  I just fell in love with them!
So this is Emma.  That's short for Emmanuel.
I mean that's a pretty amazing name, right?!  And the name was pretty appropriate because  not only is he one of the most beautiful children ever, he is an amazing boy!  His first home is in Uganda.  Laura, his mom, said his adoption is going along better than they had even hoped for. First hand, I know that's a big ol' deal and not to be taken for granted. I asked Emma's new big brother if he likes having a younger brother, and without hesitation he said it's what he has always wanted... a brother.  And look at them!
Perfectly knit together.
My first wish for Emma is that he could stay with his first family in his birth country, and that we do all we can to try and make that happen for all the orphans in the world. But sometimes that can't happen. And when it can't, my second wish for Emma is that he is embraced with everything a  second family has to give him.
A new home.
I love love love the photo above.  It's the whole reason that I volunteer my photography for Red Thread Sessions.  You know, maybe it was just a blink of his eyes, but I don't think so.  I think Emma nestled right in to his new father's arms, closed his eyes, and felt peace.  I feel it in this image. I don't normally give families photos with someone's eyes closed, but I adore this photo so much.

November is national adoption awareness month.
Look into your hearts.
See how you can help.
Adoption isn't something that is for everyone.
But everyone can do something to help.

Monday, November 10, 2014

She surprised me!

Forgive me if I disappear for a bit.  She surprised me by flying over for a visit home over a long weekend.  I'm soaking her in.  I'm hugging and kissing and pretending she doesn't have to leave tomorrow.  We're talking about the big important stuff like school, makeup, marriage, cars and transitioning from a mother-daughter relationship to an adult friendship.  
For all the moms out there, I implore you to treasure every single moment your children are home.  Treasure the sand piles and Legos on the floor and spaghetti stains on their clothes. Treasure the early days when they still reach for your hand, and the later ones when you can ground them because you can still make a difference. Treasure every hug that you get and every sigh you hear you sneak in to see them sleep at night.  Because in a proverbial blink of an eye, they are gone and the time you have together is reduced to surprise visit over a long weekend.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Cheuffering and my crazy wonderful life

5:55 am - Try to wake up while simultaneously counting how many days it will be till Papa comes home from his business trip

7:10 am - Drive Boo to the bus stop

7:20 am - Drive Patch to high school, then return home and finish loading Tess, Jude, and Mimi's backpack and getting them ready for school

8:15 am - Take Jude and Tess to School

8:45 am - Take Mimi to preschool

9:30 am - Get an urgent call from Boo and take his forgotten notebook to school

11:20 am - Pick up Patch from high school since he gets out early today for testing

11:30 am - Pick up Mimi from preschool

12:05 pm - Pick up Boo from the bus stop who also has a half day

1:00 pm - Pick Tess and Jude up from school (early release every Wednesday)

3:00 pm - Take Patch back to school for wrestling practice and a choir event after that.

9:45 pm - Pick up Patch from high school

10:30 pm - Crawl back in bed and count how many days till Papa comes home from his business trip

Yep, there's an insane amount of chauffeuring  going on this year.  Yesterday was a little busier than usual, but not really.  On days that don't have early release or half days, there are golf and karate lessons to go to and with 6 kids it's not uncommon to drop everything and pick a sick kid up from school.  It's actually just plain ol' life around here.

To the sweet personal that commented on Facebook, (and those of you who didn't but might have gotten the same idea) I think I may have done something wrong. I might have given you the wrong impression.  In my attempts to keep it real, I may have led you to believe that I'm not happy.  If I did that, I was wrong.  Sometimes in attempt to not be alone, it's so easy to focus on the stressors of life.  But it's quite the opposite.  Things aren't perfect, but I want you to know that I am hook line and sinker, without a doubt, over the moon in love with my life!   I am happy and blessed and grateful and thrilled to pieces that I get to live the life that I have.

Yes, life is hard.  The coming and goings is crazy busy and thus the laundry pile is tall and the sink constantly has dirty dishes in it.   I worry about money a lot.  Eye rolling is not an uncommon occurrence, and this morning someone who shall remain nameless may or may not have told me to shut up.  Getting up early is hard and my aging body is sagging and creaking in ways it never has before.  I've been known to blow my stack... regularly.  I miss Sunny so so much every single day.  Another piece fell off my car this morning.  I long for things I can't have like quiet time and vacations.  The house needs continual maintenance, and for the life of me I cannot train our dog to not jump up and eat the food of the counter!  I forget appointments that are clearly written in my calendar, on many days my second half, my sounding board, my shoulder to cry on and my best friend is thousands of miles away trying to make a better life for us.

But that being said and with all that isn't perfect, I absolutely adore my life.  We are blessed beyond belief.  We are all healthy, happy and have so much to be thankful for.  Laughter comes easily here.  We sing.  We dance.  We joke with each other and I love the company of my family above anyone else.  There is no place on earth that I'd rather be than in my home in the middle of the hustle with their company around me.  My children are growing strong and straight, and even though I love them always, most of the time I really like them as well.  Photography is my bliss and makes me continually reflect how sweet our lives are.  After decades to either grow together or grow apart, my marriage has never been stronger.  My husband makes (and has always made me) feel safe, special, treasured, provided for, and like the highest priority in his life.  I have a roof over my head (a pretty roof at that!) and food in the fridge.  As my life has progressed sometimes I'm shocked that it just seems to get better year after year after year.  Don't get me wrong.  It's not easy, and it's not always fun, but we have a firm realization that because of the challenges life is that much sweeter.  I'm not sure what tomorrow will bring, but the right here and the right now is pretty stinkin' wonderful as is!

Yesterday will always have things you would change.  Tomorrow always has the hopes and dreams of making things better.  But in the end, all we have is today.  All we have is the right here and the right now, and that's all we ever will have!   Are you happy today?  Are you savoring all that you've been given?  Or are you stuck in the past, regretting mistakes and all the what if's. Are you so busy planning for tomorrow that you miss the ordinary miracles right in front of you now.  It's important to learn from mistakes and try to make the path smoother, but it's more important savor the journey instead of the destination.

And folks, my journey is crazy wonderful!  I hope you're enjoying the ride as much as I am!

I challenge you... in the midst of the chaos, imperfection and business that consumes us, comment with 1 amazing wonderful thing that went so right yesterday.  One thing that made you smile or is good and might even be sign that today is gonna be so sweet as well!

PS - The shoes are in order, with squeaky Mimi's shoe from China on the left going to Papa's work shoe on the right.  Each shoe was picked to represent the person it belongs to.  The idea of the shoe pic is compliments of the amazing Ashlee Ann who is even more lovely in person that she is on her blog... if that's even possible.

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