G-Man is a super helpful model. He loves seeing himself in finished pictures, and tries to think of things to do in front of the camera that will make me laugh. He was helping me practice a set up in my studio the other day, and as I was editing the photos later, I just stopped to marvel at this little six year old of mine. He's developing a hilarious sense of humor. He loves family. He loves his friends. He always has a little joyful twinkle in his eye. He's learning how to work hard at things he cares about. He's becoming his own person. It's terrifying and wonderful and humbling all at once.
Time is just going by way too quickly.
Little L has recently decided that she loves to have her photo taken. She sees me in the studio with my camera, and climbs up on the platform and says, "Take picture?" "Cheese!" "Candy!" After so much time trying to trick her into getting her photo taken, I always take at least one photo of her. Even if the light isn't plugged in, or her hair isn't combed, or she has food on her face. After so many months of hardly any interaction with her, I treasure these little interactions. And hearing her sing. And hearing her talk to her brother or run from upstairs when she hears her dad come home from work.
The best thing of all is seeing these two together. They have little games they play and conversations throughout the day. L misses G-Man so much when he is at school and is so excited to go pick him up at the end of the school day. They annoy each other and fight, but they love each other and stick together. It's a marvelous thing to witness.
And so these test shots give me an opportunity to freeze a little moment in their lives. Photographs are such a blessing.
We've had a wonderful summer, as you may have guessed by my relative absence around here. In an effort to be more deliberate about the time I spend with my kids and taking care of chores around the house, my computer time took a huge dive over the summer. Which was good, but I'm glad that I'll be around these parts a bit more frequently. Today was the big day. Our first grader started school. And the best part about all of it is he has the same teacher as last year! She was asked to move up to first grade, so we (and 95% of the class) chose to loop up with her. They're in a new classroom and have a few new students, but instead of being nervous about school starting, he's just been thrilled.
We were organized enough to walk to school this morning, and I got started on a project I worked on with his class last year - personal yearbooks. (more on that here) I did them last year with G-Man's class, and they were a lot of fun. I was able to spend time in his classroom and work with the kids, and at the end of the year, we had a photographic and written record of their progress over the course of the year. Because I knew the teacher and most of the kids, I thought we might as well get started on the yearbook project today! I was able to buy this awesome background from the amazingly talented ladies at Caravan Shoppe, and used it to take photos of all the kids today. Here is G-Man's:
Here's to a great year!
I'm a huge Valentine's Day fan. Since I was little, my dad has always made it a special day by giving us a huge sugar cookie (sometimes the size of a pizza box) with our name in frosting. He still sends them every year. It's such a fun tradition, and I love getting a cookie every year, but I really appreciate that Valentine's Day has always been a fun day of love in our family. I also love taking pictures of my kids and making valentines. Here's what we ended up with this year. L had a card with candy. I like the way the card turned out.
For G-Man's valentine, we packaged these cute pencils, notepad, and stamp I found at Target with his card.
I made valentines for my friends too. My friend Natalie had a Galentine's Day Brunch the night before Valentines Day, and I made a little valentine for all the ladies there with this cute printable from Caravan Shoppe and some delicious chocolate.
My favorite valentine this year was the one I made for Diggity. We agreed this year that we would make a valentine for each other this year. I followed this tutorial and made him a scratch off card with prizes (foot rub, garbage duty, etc.) underneath each heart.
I was excited that it turned out! Diggity made this fantastic video for me.
Hope you had a fabulous Valentine's day!
L turned 2 at the beginning of January, and I was finally able to take a few minutes and take some birthday pictures a couple days ago.
We love our little L. Some days, it's our love that keeps us from going completely insane. *grin*
I have been super excited to take these photos. I found the outfit at Target months ago, and had all these fun ideas. But, she was in a MOOD that morning. I did get one cute picture:
The rest of them were full-on tantrum pictures. But, because of her age and because we see that sort of thing from her quite regularly, I just kept taking pictures. (Sorry if pictures of crying children make you uncomfortable...)
Here's a little bit about our little L at age 2:
With all crying and screaming and hysterics, she's a true delight most of the time and we sure love her and are glad she's part of our family. I know this stage will pass and that I'll miss our little two year old darling.
And most of the time, she really does look like this.
But looks can be deceiving...
Meet Iron Man and Captain America's daughter. They're taking the planet by storm.
Though I've been a Halloween grinch in the past, I'm definitely recovering, and this Halloween costume photo shoot tradition is the main reason.
Have a Happy Halloween!!
I sure love Diggity. And I love when his birthday comes around, because we were just starting to date (eight years ago!) right around the time of his birthday. And this time of year reminds me of that time in our lives and how lucky and blessed I felt to have met him. One of the things I've always loved most about him is how much he loves family - especially his kids. And rather than spend a whole lot of words talking about that, I just want you to look how happy he is in these pictures we took when all the kids (except our son-in-law D) were able to be at the house over Labor Day at the beginning of this month.
(Diggity isn't in the next two pictures, but you need to see them so you can see how cute these kids are. *grin*)
Happy birthday, sweetheart! Sure love you!
The first morning went really well. He woke up super excited to get out the door and was so excited to go to school. He even posed quickly and willingly for pictures as we were heading out.
Such a happy face!
Diggity shot a quick video before we headed out. I so appreciate that he always thinks to get video of stuff like this. I never remember...
The school is about 3/4 of a mile from our house, so we've been walking to and from school. He was thrilled to have dad along on his first day. I couldn't resist an iPhone shot as I was following behind them with L in the stroller.
No tears (from him or I) that morning. He walked in, found his seat and said, "Bye, guys!" We left quickly, but not before getting one more shot on the iPhone.
What a great kid.
The report at the end of the day was that he loved school, he had a lot of fun, he loved his teacher, the playground was too small, and he couldn't find anything to play out on the playground. He's been really excited both yesterday and today, and really seems to be taking to the schedule and the length of the day (it's a full day kindergarten) really, really well. I'm sure proud.
And since it was 98 degrees or so when we picked him up at the end of the day on Monday, we decided to go swimming for our after school tradition instead of baking cookies in a hot oven. *grin*
I've been thinking a lot about G-Man starting kindergarten. Ever since we went to registration on my birthday. Would I be excited for him? Would I cry? Would he cry? Would he like it? Would he want to go back the next day? What would I do all day without him home?
That was about the extent of my pondering on the start of school until a few back-to-school blog posts triggered a memory of something I wrote down at the Power of Moms retreat I attended this past spring. At the retreat, we were discussing the idea of being more deliberate mothers, and something Richard Eyre said really jumped out at me. He said that even if we think we don't have a family identity or economy or family traditions, that we actually do. Patterns and behaviors can spring up unbidden - so we can let those patterns become part of our family culture, or we can be deliberate about our family culture, family economy and our family traditions. And by doing so, we can shape our family units into the kind of communities we want them to be.
Suddenly, the start of school wasn't about how I was going to react, but what I could do to be proactive. I had the opportunity to craft some traditions that might be helpful in getting G-Man through this transition and would knit our family closer together in the process. I'd always admired Stephanie Nielson and her back to school feasts, and my friend Allison and her tradition of having fresh-baked cookies for her boys when they get home from school on the first day. So, I decided I should start there. A special dinner and a "cookie talk" after he got home from school.
(I'm kind of terrible about starting traditions, because I am not sure I want to COMMIT to keeping them going forward. But my new attitude is - if we like them, we keep them. If we don't like them, we lose them.)
And so, our night-before-school-starts-special-dinner was born!
I'd been wanting to have a family theme for quite some time, so this was the perfect opportunity. As Diggity and I discussed what we wanted G-Man to work on and do this year, I came up with the theme "Be a Builder." I made a little centerpiece using G-Man's old building blocks, and we talked about how he loved to build things with them when he was L's age. But now that he is older, there are other ways we can be a builder. We can build people up with our words, we can build strong bodies by eating right and exercising, we can build our brains by working hard at school. He understood, and he was excited about it. And he was thrilled to have a dinner filled with food that he picked.
After dinner, we gathered together and Diggity gave G-Man a special father's blessing to start the new school year. He was so excited to go to bed so he could wake up the next morning for school. He mentioned ways he was going to try and be a builder at school the next day, and how excited he was to go and learn and make new friends. It did my little mother-heart proud.
I think we found a tradition that we're going to keep.
What are your favorite back-to-school traditions? How did you spend "back-to-school eve"?
G-Man has been teaching me a great lesson this summer, even while I've been trying to teach him. Though G-Man really loves swimming in our pool, as of the beginning of the summer, we couldn't get G-Man to get his face wet, jump off the side, or even think of swimming without his "floatie."
It's been making me a little crazy. He's been taking classes at The Little Gym, and his favorite thing to do is to climb things and jump off of them. I have been telling him all summer (in truth, I've been telling him this since he was 2) that jumping off a balance beam is the same as jumping off the side of a pool and that he would love it.
No dice. He wasn't interested.
And that can be so frustrating as a parent. I just want him to LISTEN TO ME, trust that I KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT, and DO WHAT I SAY.
But sometimes, you just have to experience things to know.*
So, instead of forcing G-Man to try the different aspects of swimming (full disclosure - I actually tried to make him jump off the side of the pool and teach him to swim. Not so successful...), I decided I'd better find a way to shape his swimming experience differently. That, or I was going to end up with a 12 year old who still had to swim with a floatie while his little sister swam circles around him. (L has no fear in the pool. That's a different challenge for another day.)
We were lucky enough to hear about an amazing swimming teacher from my friend Natalie. This teacher lives around the corner from us and teaches in her backyard pool. And then we were lucky enough to get a few lessons scheduled with her. (Which took a while to get scheduled. Because she's that awesome.) There were some major tears during the first lesson, but after his teacher promised him several times that she would NEVER push his head under and would NEVER force him to do anything that he couldn't do, his trust in her and his confidence slowly started to grow.
The first few lessons were still filled with tears, but then all of a sudden...
He was still hesitant in our pool, but after swimming with some friends one afternoon at the end of June, he realized jumping off the side of the pool was fun. After our friends left, he kept jumping and quickly progressed from jumping off the small wall into the shallow end to this:
We just returned from a vacation to Utah and had another swimming lesson with his teacher. Monday afternoon, for the first time ever, he wanted to take his floatie off and swim without it.
I'm amazed by it. Watching kids figure things out was the greatest joy I had as a teacher, but it's on a whole new level watching my child figure something out. He earned that confidence. He earned the joy he feels when he jumps in the pool or tries a new trick. No one can take that away from him.
And as I'm facing down some challenges that I need to just push through, I'm watching and learning from my little swimming buddy.
Sure proud of you, G-Man.
* I swear, this is the most frustrating part of parenting. I understand that agency and choice are something I signed up for on this adventure here on the planet, and I understand that means other people have free will and the right to exercise it, but it's different watching someone you gave birth to exercise their free will. It's actually kind of awful to watch. I'm trying to get better about calmly guiding my little people instead of seizing control of their lives, but it's so hard...
To my awesome, amazing, hard-working, fun dad...
(ever the good sport on Christmas Eve - reprising his thrilling portrayal of the angel)
...who taught me what to look for in a partner so that my kids would have an awesome, amazing, hard-working, fun dad.
We had an Octo-stravaganza for G-Man a couple weeks ago. When we started talking about birthday parties, he only gave us one option: Kwazii from the Octonauts. (If you don't have a 3-5 year old child and haven't heard of the Octonauts, you can get yourself some education on them here and here.) I was slow coming up with party ideas, but I knew from the start that I had to have an awesome cake.
And I knew I'd never be able to make an awesome cake.
And when you can't do something yourself, outsource to someone who is awesome. Right?
Thank goodness for my friend Jo Ann of SoCal Sweets. (She made L's amazing birthday cake as well.) I sent Jo Ann a link to my Pinterest board with ideas for G-Man's birthday, and she came up with this:
That's Kwazii Cat in the Gup B. Both of G-Man's requests. So awesome.
(It's kind of hard to read in the light, but it says "Garrett's Party" on the sign.)
G-Man invited friends from school and church, and we started off making each of them an official Octonauts hat:
And we sent them on a creature rescue mission using some printable cards from the Disney Junior website:
They played "Pin the Patch on Kwazii," we did a ring toss with an inflatable starfish I found at the party store, we had a decorator crab relay where they dressed up in some of our dress up stuff and then crab walked across the yard, and we had a pinata - all with clips from the show where I sounded the "Octoalert" and had them report to the HQ to get their orders for their next "mission."
But the best mission was when they had to defend the HQ from the terrifying Silly Sea Squid.
Is Diggity the best, or what?
Not sure about that, but definitely one year older. 38.
Not in a bad way. I've never worried about getting older - I am grateful for everything that has happened to me up to this point in my life that has led me to where I am now. And I certainly wouldn't wish myself back to my 20's. Not my best decade for a variety of reasons.
I just never pictured myself at this age.
I remember my mom turning 38. That's a weird thing to remember. To be aware of how old your parents are, and how old I was when she turned that age. My kids won't remember me turning 38.
Though, G-Man did make me feel old and sad today because of this:
Does he really have to go for the entire day? I love our afternoons together when L is asleep. We get to read and play and swim and work on our computers together.
Now I'm crying again.
I've been really weepy today.
This cheered me up though.
We're big Octonauts fans around here. More on that tomorrow.
The other thing that cheered me up? Facebook. You guys are the absolute best.
I'm trying to write blogs and the blogs aren't coming. So, I've been concentrating my energy in other places. It's been good. I'm recharging and feeling like I'm accomplishing stuff and I'm taking time to really spend time with and play with my kids. One of my very favorite photographers said this on Twitter a couple weeks ago, and again in a blog post tonight:
If I am being quiet online you know I am being loud somewhere else.
I love that.
Here's where I'm choosing to be loud in my life right now.
It feels good.
The Birth Day...
G-Man, You are a delight. I truly can't imagine a better son and oldest child than you. You wake up happy, you go to bed without giving us problems - I know we don't deserve to have it so easy, but we certainly don't take it for granted. You are one of the friendliest kids I've ever seen. To you, a new friend is just someone you haven't met yet. It's remarkable.
You love playing on the iPod, reading books, playing with your Imaginext guys, and watching TV. Some of your favorite shows right now are Super Hero Squad, The Octonauts, and Doc McStuffins, but you'll watch Baby Einstein with L too. You love playing with L, and with daddy. You love playing with me too, but you're usually good enough to me to let me get away with reading books with you instead of playing super heroes. But I'm going to work on playing super heroes more often.
I love that you have your own interests. And I'm really loving how much you enjoy taking pictures. You take pictures all the time with the iPod (even of complete strangers as they sleep next to you on airplanes - we'll work on our manners with that one), and you have even asked to take pictures with my big camera and have been helping me find locations and poses for some of your pictures like these:
You love your pre-K class and all of your friends, and your favorite things at school right now are your art projects and recess. Daddy and I wish you'd choose something to eat besides chicken nuggets and grilled cheese sandwiches, but we've heard that other children have grown to full adulthood on more limited diets, so we are hoping you'll come around and get some more variety in your diet at some point. You are a world-champion traveler, and the best helper a mom could ever have. L adores you, and so do the rest of us.
We are so glad you are in our family. And I'm so glad you're my little boy.
I've been thinking about this article by April Perry from Power of Moms all week. I've been reading it and re-reading it to remind me of the kind of person I'm striving to be. The article has been all over Facebook and Twitter over the past few days, but if you haven't read it, you should. You might like it too. :)
And if you haven't checked out The Power of Moms website, it's fantastic. So inspirational, and I'm really looking forward to performing at their upcoming retreat in Park City next month. If your hubby needs a good idea for a Mother's Day present, you can send him this link for the retreat! What a great way to kick off Mother's Day weekend!
P.S. Here's another favorite post of mine from April (which appears in Whitney's new book). I actually said, "Mommy is a person and needs to fix her own dinner" to my son tonight. I was kind of proud of myself. :)
P.P.S. The picture of the kids above has nothing to do with anything other than them being cute.
P.P.P.S I also want the record to show that I have a picture of myself with L. I look hideous, and she has her binkie in her mouth, but it's a start. :) (Note to self: squatting down in pictures is NOT flattering. Please don't do it in the future.)
Thanks, Allison for the pictures! And for letting us stay at your house, and eat your food, and for babysitting my kids, and for basically being awesome.
As much as I love Massachusetts, I was really missing Texas today as I was looking at these pictures we took near our home in Austin a couple weeks ago: