January 31, 2012

Best of 2011

So, I've been meaning to finish this end-of-year project for awhile now. But it was really just too daunting. How am I supposed to pick my top ten favorite photos from 2011? Some pictures I like for their photographic qualities. Some I like for their emotional resonance. Some I like for their true capture of life.

So I thought about just posting my top 10 faves of pictures I had never posted here.

I thought about picking my top 10 faves of each of my kids.

I thought about doing a tribute to feet (you'll get it when you see the photos below).

I thought about posting 10 photos that corresponded to my 10 favorite blog posts of last year.

And now since it's the last day of January, I just did it. I picked the photos that struck a certain chord with me and just went with it. If I had done this yesterday or if I were to do this again tomorrow, I'm sure a lot of these photos would be different. But it is what it is.

So, here they are, in no particular order, and in no particular number (ahem, don't count them), my favorite photos of 2011. As always, these are SOOC because that's still how I roll.

One of the best photos I've ever taken with my old Sony point and shoot. I had just mastered that thing, and then my Jack-Jack broke it. I jimmy-rigged it with a tack and a piece of tape and shot with it for another 3 weeks. This photo was taken with all the jimmy-riggin.

I chose this photo despite the chipped toenail polish partly because someone requested it (you know who you are) and partly because I love the composition. I used to be such a "fill the frame" girl, but I've learned to really appreciate photos with empty space like this one. Another point and shoot favorite.

Not much to say here other than I love how he loves the water. I love how he can croutch down like that. I love his bony back. I love how happy he is at the lake. This is one more fave from the point and shoot. Some days I really miss that thing. It was limited in many ways, but I never struggled with focusing issues like I do with the Rebel, as much as I've come to love that thing.

Those fat little feet of his are out of focus. But I had to post this one anyway. I love how blonde his hair gets in the summer, I love how his cheeks hang like my dad's when he's relaxed, and I love how still and quiet he gets when he looks at books.

Basically all of these photos are from summer. Which makes me wonder if my main motivation behind picking these photos was for their photographic qualities or for the way they make me feel. But it's not worth wondering - the way these photos make me feel trumps everything else. My no-napping 3 1/2 year old would find a spot to curl up every day this past summer and take a nap all on his own. I love the light in this one and the composition and the depth of field.

We have 2 birch trees here, and I love them. I would love to have this photo on a large convas on my wall.

Again, not much to say other than I love how she loves to play at the beach. I love how happy she is at the lake. I love how she asked for braids almost every day this past summer, and I love how I finally perfected them.

Jack-Hammer has 2 pairs of boots like these - one set he got as a gift, the other as hand-me downs. He wore those boots as often as I let him - even on hot summer days. And he's always been my climber. I chose this photo for those reasons and the angle.

This one makes me ache for summer. Look at all that morning sunlight streaming through our east facing living room windows. The kids loved to play half-clothed in the living room in all that morning glory.....and I loved to photograph them. This one I picked for the light, the angle, and the way I managed to get his eye in focus.

I want to reach into this one and stroke her skinny little arm and kiss her perfect little lips. How did she get so pretty?  I chose this one because of Daddy and the pretty little girl and for the color and lines.

More country fair fun. I love this one for his cute face and all the circles. But shooting with a 50 mm prime lens can be exhausting.  I think the way I framed this one works, but I would have loved to not cut off his feet while still retaining the amount of the wheel I did.

Yet another point and shoot favorite. He caught his first fish this day. I love how his feet are always dirty.

I have to be honest. I may have chosen this one because of the huge success I had with my first circle braid. More summertime morning quiet fun in the living room. I love the light in this one and the two little legos at the top of the frame.

I needed at least one more of my little girl. Oddly enough I have more photos here of the boy than of her. And this one just stuck out to me from the past year. I love the focus on this one - something I took for granted with the point and shoot, and this is another favorite from the Sony.

This year did indeed end up being the year of the dslr for me. And I already have some specific photography goals for myself this year....and one I'm already making progress on.

Just think. Next year when I attempt to do this, I'll have 6 months worth of photos of our new baby to add to the mix.

January 30, 2012

Winter Confession

I'm a bad mom in January. I am.

It's not right, and "January" certainly isn't an excuse for it.

But maybe facing the music of this fact will help me change...?

I don't know if it's the short days, the less-than-normal to do, the cold, the lack of sunshine or just some volatile combination of all of the above, but I am at hair-pulling-out status from shortly after I wake up to shortly after the kids finally go to sleep (which, in case you were wondering, is in no way synonymous with when the kids go to bed). That's another winter-time gripe of mine - bedtimes that stretch on forever......

But now that there's a growing light at the end of this tunnel called "January," I'm again making some parenting realizations that are not new to me but that I seem to forget way too often.


How can I expect my kids to stop whining when the voice I am using with them is striking a similar chord?

How can I expect my kids to show respect for me when my tone and actions with them are rude?

If the day is falling apart, it's likely my fault, not their's. After all, I always tell them, "Momma's the boss."

Their first vision and understanding of God, life, respect, authority, work ethic, etc, etc come through me - mostly my actions, my real-life actions, not just what I say - and I've been painting a pretty poor picture this past month.

I could look at myself as a victim....of hormones or lack of sunshine or the loneliness that comes with the knowledge that Daddy won't be home tonight.

I could fall into guilt for being such a horrible person.

I could beat myself up.

But I'm not gonna do any of that. It would be a waste of my time.

Each day is a new day, February is a new month. So I'm just gonna take a new grip with these tired hands and mark out a better, straighter path for tomorrow so that the ones who follow me will not stumble and fall but will become strong. (Hebrews 12:12-13)

And I'm gonna take some time right now to list some gratitude. It's the face-lift that every day needs.

#375. beginning to see shreds of daylight before 8:00 am

#376. 5:00 pm beginning to look a bit lighter, too

#377. this week's forecast of 35-43 degree temps and lots of sun

#378. winter days worthy of playing outside for hours

#379. just enough snow to make pre-schoolers happy

#380. Doggie kisses

(We love our dog, really. She's just the devil quite naughty sometimes, not mean, just naughty.  Don't judge us because we have a shock collar on her. It's helping us train her, and even just putting it around her neck seems to be enough some days.)

January 18, 2012

Virtuous and Capable

A Wife of Noble Character
 10 [a]Who can find a virtuous and capable wife?
      She is more precious than rubies.
 11 Her husband can trust her,
      and she will greatly enrich his life.
 12 She brings him good, not harm,
      all the days of her life.
 13 She finds wool and flax
      and busily spins it.
 14 She is like a merchant’s ship,
      bringing her food from afar.
 15 She gets up before dawn to prepare breakfast for her household
      and plan the day’s work for her servant girls.
 16 She goes to inspect a field and buys it;
      with her earnings she plants a vineyard.
 17 She is energetic and strong,
      a hard worker.
 18 She makes sure her dealings are profitable;
      her lamp burns late into the night.
 19 Her hands are busy spinning thread,
      her fingers twisting fiber.
 20 She extends a helping hand to the poor
      and opens her arms to the needy.
 21 She has no fear of winter for her household,
      for everyone has warm[b] clothes.
 22 She makes her own bedspreads.
      She dresses in fine linen and purple gowns.
 23 Her husband is well known at the city gates,
      where he sits with the other civic leaders.
 24 She makes belted linen garments
      and sashes to sell to the merchants.
 25 She is clothed with strength and dignity,
      and she laughs without fear of the future.
 26 When she speaks, her words are wise,
      and she gives instructions with kindness.
 27 She carefully watches everything in her household
      and suffers nothing from laziness.
 28 Her children stand and bless her.
      Her husband praises her:
 29 “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world,
      but you surpass them all!”
 30 Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last;
      but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised.
 31 Reward her for all she has done.
      Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.

Proverbs 31:10-31

Right now you should go check out this blog post by a certain virtuous and capable brunette that I know. You can find the post HERE, and not only will you find this post inspirational, but you will also want to read the rest of this family's story. This particular post is great because it features a giveaway to a very cute Thirty-One thermal tote that I am hoping beyond hope to win for myself. Go check it out!

January 12, 2012

Lead of Hettuce

Everybody needs good friends in their life. Friends that just hear you out, let you interrupt, don't get mad when you announce "We're staying for lunch and I brought the food!" and friends that pretend not to know that you are pregnant when you yourself don't even officially know yet.

And when you happen to be describing a beautiful arrangement of fruit ka-bobs in a head of lettuce, but instead it comes out of your mouth as a "lead of hettuce," the only thing better than one friend not even hearing your mistake and completely understanding what you just said is another friend looking at you like you're both cross-eyed and calling you out for talking like an idiot.

Friends like that are a blessing.

Friends who meet you in the hospital parking lot to dismantle a free and rather large double-sided rotating chalkboard on wheels and cram the parts into your vehicle.  They just go with the flow when you struggle to loosen a stubborn wing-nut and repeatedly whisper to yourself "righty-tighty, lefty-loosy." And they don't drop their end of the chalk board when your comment of "It's always about the positioning, isn't it?" is just a bit ill-timed.

Friends you meet you for a supper date and know that you are pregnant before you are even ready to face that music yourself.  They know you so well that it wasn't the skipping of the glass of wine with the Italian meal that tipped them off but rather that you were not able to polish off the Italian enchiladas and look for more as you usually would.

And in the 21st century, you can't forget the other kind of friends. The friends you may never meet in person. The friends that send a message to say they miss reading your words when your blogging absence is over-extended. The friends that say they appreciate your honest words in the return post you were afraid to publish for fear of sounding like you needed to be committed. Friends that comment "I'm giving you empathy anyway" when you specifically stated that you didn't want it but will take it anyway.

When a month of feeling sick and dealing with your mom's cancer and making a pregnancy discovery take you away from all these friends, the reunion is that much sweeter.

Thanks guys. It feels good to be back.

January 11, 2012

If a Picture is Worth a Thousand Words...

...then I have a lot to say here.

Yesterday my toddlers officially became preschoolers. We had celebrated with family on Sunday, and the day of their birthday was also the day of my morning Bible study where we brought cupcakes and party favors to celebrate with the other kids who are watched by volunteers at the church.

We then spent the afternoon outside. We ended up on the deck after romping around and the kids spent hours just playing and coloring and reading on the deck while I sat in a chair soaking up the sun and planning for the first two Pollyanna rehearsals. It was the second near 60 degree day in a week, and it was a.maz.ing. Just what this pregnant, self-diagnosed borderline seasonal affective disorder mommy needed.

But this part makes me cringe. I didn't take a single picture. Not one of them playing outside. Not one of them reading on the deck in sweatshirts on their birthday in January in Minnesota when it should have been 20 below zero. It never even crossed my mind. And moments are fleeting. I couldn't even attempt to re-create that magic today because we woke up to snow and windchill this morning.

Really what was I thinking? Or not thinking? And can someone please just slap me?

And of course it doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things or in the light of eternity. But in the light of my day to day life and in the light of not wanting to let life just slip through my fingers, I'm really mad at myself.

So, math is not my strong suit, but let's say that if I had been thinking clearly, I would have taken at least 20 photos of the fun on the deck on the January birthday. About 10 of them would have eventually made it into albums. Ten pictures of my adorable blondies happily playing oustide in fall clothes in the winter multiplied by 1,000 words per picture means that in order to attempt to make up for my short coming, I need to write 10,000 words about the afternoon.

And those of you who know me well, know that that is completely feasible.

But I'll spare you all and attempt to forgive myself.

January 10, 2012


So, is there, like, some sort of protocol for re-entering the blogosphere after an absence of over a month?

Because it feels weird to just jump right back in. In fact, it almost feels intimidating to be typing here again.

I felt guilty for awhile about my silence here, but then I realized that the silence itself speaks volumes about the past month that words or photos simply couldn't.

There's been drama....ummm, both literally and figuratively.

I've taken shockingly few photos, all of them mediocre at best.

I've felt at a loss for words.

I didn't feel myself. I don't want to say I was depressed because many people actually experience depression and I don't want to cheapen what they go through, but I felt..... low.

And I really, really, really don't want to make my blogging comeback with a depressing post, because everything really is okay. Life is a continual mixture of percieved good things and perceived bad things, and I say "perceived" because God is wholly and completely good all of the time, I'm just too earthly minded to always understand His good. And I don't want sympathy.....or even empathy. And is that prideful? If anything, I'll just take the silent solidarity of everyone else in this world who knows that life is not always peachy (even for a peachy person like me)......and even more than that, the silent solidarity of knowing that it's okay to not feel okay.

December felt long. Very, very long. And there's no use chronologizing it. But the moments that stand out are when the "sickness" hit me, one hour into my moms' Bible study Christmas party that I was hosting. I felt physically awful, I knew why, and in my mind, the party was a flop because I was a dud.

Then there was the breast cancer diagnosis my mom received right before Thanksgiving that ended in a mastectomy in the middle of December. I did not want to drive the 2 hours to see her after her surgery. I knew it was selfish, but I didn't want to go and I didn't know why. But I packed enough snacks to get through the drive while still feeling "sick," made a noticeable amount of food stops (even my 11 year old brother noticed) during the day, and perched at the end of her bed after surgery.

Then there was Christmas, which really was great, and a week later, I found myself sitting in an oncology office with my mom. Both she and I were younger than everyone else in the room by decades, and the reason for my selfishness hit me. My reason for feeling "sick," that I had known all along, had been officially announced to everyone over Christmas, and I honestly did not want to sit in an oncology office while I was young and pregnant with 2 preschoolers at home and discuss cancer treatment options for my mom. I didn't want to see her scar. I didn't want to see advertisements for wigs. I didn't want every ounce of her remaining energy to go into the never-ending activities of my pre-adolescent brother and listen to her every attempt to help me be shrowded with his impossibly needy schedule. But I swallowed my selfishness with a root beer and a greasy burger that made me feel both satisfied and guilty at the same time, and I drew pictures on restaurant napkins of the differences between tamoxifen and aromatase inhibitors in an attempt to help her better understand her options.

And that paragraph? That should all be deleted, never to be read again. But I'm not gonna do it. I'm gonna keep it, because half of that I didn't even realize 'til now. I've forgotten how half of my realizations come through pecking away at this filthy keyboard.

And people, again with all the really's. Things really, really, really are okay. Mom doesn't need radiation. All the cancer was removed. She will likely not need chemo. Just an oral pill for the next five years. If anyone has to go down the breast cancer route, this was the way to do it. Praise God.

And yes (I'm starting another paragraph with a conjunction. For shame.), I'm pregnant. It wasn't a surprise. We've adjusted to the idea for the most part and are getting excited. This was something I've wanted for awhile. But sometimes for me, even a good change is a bit scary. And you know what? That's okay, too.

So for all you people out there that need details and have found my past cryptic posts a bit confusing, I'm eleven weeks along and due to deliver this baby right in the midst of green bean canning season. Yes, a summer pregnancy.....and a summer birthday! After a string of 4+ around-Christmas birthdays, I am happy for a birthday that will land smack dab in the middle of my glory days - sweet summertime.

And yes, I will have a garden.

Yes, I will make homemade baby food with stuff from my garden.

Yes, I will attempt to make an effort to try to maybe do some canning this summer.

Yes, I will continue to go to all my mom's appointments.

Yes, I will co-direct and act in a large theatrical production of Pollyanna.

Because it's all okay.

And yes, I'm feeling so.much.better. Physically and mentally.

Yes, I did sprawl out on the deck in shorts in January in Minnesota on a 60 degree day. (No, I did not get a tan).

That is more than okay.

And today is my firstborns' birthday. I couldn't say it better than I do here.