November 24. Oh hey. There it is. Silly me. How could I have ever gotten in the Christmas mood before I pulled out the twinkle lights?
November 26. I'm a sherpa who gets paid in fingerpaintings. Luckily, I really love hand turkeys.
During the weekends of November and December, I can often be found ducking out to take family photos for my friends. This year, instead of photographing every one on seperate days, I decided to have one big ole' "Christmas Card Picture Day" and invite all the "regulars".
It was a long day, but a fun one. I had 12 families scheduled--at my friend Jen's event facility, the Little White Schoolhouse--in half hour increments. With a couple of backdrops and my Christmas play-list cued up on itunes, it was a very merry space for a photo shoot.
Notes to self for next year: Half an hour is perfect. No green icing on the sugar cookies. Hot cocoa and kids in dress clothes? Seriously, what were you thinking? Have them all pretend to drink from the Santa mugs. For reals.
;) Thanks to everyone who came out!
November 17. I had a lot of fun, but I could never be that "on" every day.
November 21. Sometimes you can't get to the real camera fast enough, but it was their first father-son home improvement project so--grainy as it is--it's a keeper.
November 22. Friday donut date! Such a nice bit of fun that we could all squeeze in together.
A few of the fun families I've had the honor of photographing lately....
Up top: As I was taking photos of these two, it occurred to me, "Isn't this about the time you got married last year?" In fact, it was the exact same day. They're making a tradition of doing photos on their anniversary each year. Talk about ideas I wish I'd had nine years ago!
In the middling area: One of my college roomies with her family and kids. All three of her children are darling, but I could have taken the baby home with me, he was such a sweetie-pea.
Down low: A Christmas gift from daughter (in the blue) to mom (in the red)--pictures of the entire family. All told, it was three good puppies, two pretty ladies, one tolerant boyfriend, and a very patient cat.
It all got me thinking that I really must do some pictures of Moe-moe soon. It's been far too long since the last time I tortured...er, um, photographed him.
November 12. Apparently not a single musical instrument in our house is in tune. We play on anyway.
November 13. I'm so tired of writing mad, but there's no end in sight. Good thing I stopped for coffee, at least.
November 15. As she walked us back to the cells, she said she knew a prisoner who said he had forgotten what tree trunks look like. I never feel so blessed as when I get home from there.
We painted and stenciled and duct taped until it was reasonably held together. Then I wrestled the Kid into a pair of overalls so we could test our Thomas out.
Just as we pulled out the back gate though, Sweet Husband noticed, "Ah! We forgot to put a stack on him!"
Gosh darn it.
Fortunately, we have a spare oatmeal canister, some extra paint, and a few days still to recitify the problem. Also, the Kid has no clue, so even if we don't get around to it, it's no biggie.
Also, I think we may need some hot glue. Because, despite these pictures, we discovered that our Thomas could use some structural reinforcements. But isn't that half the fun of Halloween?
This little doll-face's costume, on the other hand, is perfect in every way. Her mama--a friend of mine who asked me to take these pictures--made every bit of it, except for the wings. I am informed that her antenae may need repairs after our romp in the park, but isn't that tutu adorable?
She's not just any butterfly, as she would proudly tell you, she's a monarch butterfly.
Can you tell I like this Halloween costuming bit? Just a little?
And, all of a sudden, this little girl is getting such personality!
Her parents are good friends of our good friends, so--while we're certainly friendly--I don't see this family a ton outside of taking pictures of them. With 3 or 4 months between sessions, I really notice the changes in a way that you don't when you see a kiddo everyday.
For example--hello teeth! And giggles! And walking in that adorable toddle-y way!
How do they do it all so fast?
At this child's first birthday party, he toddled right up to me, looked up beseechingly with his baby blue eyes, and raised his hands to be picked up. That was about a month ago, but, let me tell you, it takes awhile to forget how your heart melts when a little guy picks you out of a crowd like that.
Turns out that he just wanted bites of my cupcake, but, still, I can't think of him without wanting to gush with love and baby talk. He's such a mellow, happy wittle chap. I blame his parents.
Obvious admission: I love photo sessions where I show up and the baby is happy and the kids are all in good moods and everything goes like clockwork. How could I not, right?
Teensy bit of a secret: I like the ones that don't go like clockwork, too. The ones where the baby cries for her mama when she's put down for even an instant, and big brothers are a little tired from last night's slumber party with grandma...and then it starts raining! I know it may not seem like that would be fun, but I love it because the pictures always end up so real.
And I hesitate to use the word "real", because all families who love each other are that, of course. But, you know what I mean--it's a real moment.
It's the shot they'll flash up on the screen when little brother is giving the toast at big brother's wedding. It's the photographic evidence--that she'll point to with mock seriousness at Thanksgiving when she's 25--that her big brothers have always picked on her.
I know that opinions differ on whether it's appropriate for the mantle above the fireplace--my grandma, for example, is pretty strict about the looking at the camera, smiling thing--but, gosh darn it, I'll take the real ones any day!
In addition to fresh notebooks and sharpened pencils, for parents of pre-schoolers and grade schoolers, back-to-school also means that a flood of artwork, projects and papers will shortly begin anew.
If you believe the mom blogosphere, there are some parents who have adopted elaborate filing systems to keep track of what would otherwise be a mountain of clutter. A box for each kid, a folder for each grade — you get the idea.
While I can appreciate that level of organization, I couldn’t keep it up and I wouldn’t want to. For one, most children’s artwork isn’t made to be archived. The paint crackles with time, and the colors fade.
For two, I’m not sure what my child would do with that box in 20 years. It would be fun to look through once, I suppose, but then what?
Nope, meticulously filing away my child’s artwork is not for me. Instead, I prefer to use and enjoy it now. Here are three of my favorite ways.
Put it in a frame gallery
In our dining room, we have a grouping of empty black frames with no glass in them. They house a rotation of my son’s artwork, favorite photographs of mine, and other bits and bobs that I think are pretty.
When a particularly fun paper comes home from school, with just a few nubs of ticky-tacky I can have it on the wall in seconds.
Pinterest abounds with similar ideas. Perhaps a clothesline or picture wire would work better in your house? Or maybe some vintage-looking clipboards attached to the wall?
Whatever system you choose, the key is to make it finite. To use my gallery as an example, we have eight frames. Once those are full, something must come down for something new to go up.
Use it as wrapping paper or cards
I don’t ever buy wrapping paper. In addition to using brown paper sacks and fabric scraps to wrap presents, I also like to use my son’s artwork. Even a letter-sized piece of paper will wrap a small gift, and you can patch larger art together for big boxes. With the addition of some funky ribbon or leftover yarn, you can quickly and easily make fun packages.
Likewise, leftover artwork makes great cards. Just cut the paper to the size you need it to be and fold it in half. Voila — a handmade greeting card, just waiting for you to write something inside.
Take a picture
I love to take pictures of my son’s artwork and work them into our family photo albums. This is bordering on storage-y, I know, but it takes care of most of the cons associated with putting your child’s artwork in a box somewhere.
With a picture, you don’t have to worry about the artwork fading or tearing with age. That finger-painting will always be as vibrant as the day your little Picasso painted it.
Also, taking pictures lets me group the artwork in meaningful ways. One finger-paint smudge by itself is pretty, but three together, painted over the course of a month, can show something about a child’s growth and development, too. A painted rock paperweight is nice, but a picture that shows the size of your child’s hand as he holds the rock tells even more of the story.
Which brings me to the last “pro” — taking pictures is great for 3-D objects that may not lend themselves to easy storage. That intricate, fragile diorama made for the science fair? Take a picture. That Play-Doh sculpture that will crumble to dust in a few months? Take a picture. And again, by putting some thought into how you group or frame the object, you can make the photo more relevant than just the object itself.
Taking pictures even helps for you folks who must still catalog all of your child’s work. Once you have the shot, apps like ArtKive will let you tag your photos with your child’s name, age and the date. Then you can print them off into books or even onto coffee mugs for the grandparents.
Less clutter and easy Christmas presents? Now that’s the kind of organization I can get behind!
Earlier this summer, the Kid's Dear Manga and Grammy ganged-up on me.
I'm joking, but both of them did make it clear that they were wanting for some new photos of their grandson.
Sadly, it wasn't an unnecessary reminder. I have no trouble remembering that these two and this one will need birthday photos this month, but somehow the Kid's dates slip past. I think that--because I'm always taking pictures of him--I just assume I've taken some "official" ones for the milestone birthdays and such....but then I never really do it.
If you've ever tried to take photos of a wriggling two-and-a-half year old boy, you'll know that sometimes it's best to give them something to do, rather than try to get them to pose. Since we were going fishing anyway, I decided to make that our theme.
The suspenders took about 3 minutes to sew (following this tutorial), the too-short jeans were rescued from our "donate" basket, and the fishing pole was in Nice In-Laws' stash from when Cutie Niece was small. I would have loved to lose the Crocs, but the rocks were too sharp for bare toes, so.
Looking at the result, I'm glad the grandmas put their oar in when they did. That little fat belly that I love is growing leaner and longer every day; I'm glad to have captured it before it's completely gone.
It was the answer to an age old question: What the heck are we going to do with this zucchini?
For the record, he did not come from our garden. No, Zucchini Bebe arrived, along with a sack of tomatoes, in our CSA bag last Friday night. As I pulled him out, my eyes widened. We had already eaten zucchini cakes every week for a month, and--while zucchini bread is delicious--I knew that this squash would make enough bread to feed the 5000.
"Oh my gawd, it's like a club!" I wielded it towards Sweet Husband. "Or maybe," as it settled into the crook of my arm like a newborn, "It's a baby."
"We should just take weird pictures of it all weekend." Sweet Husband jokingly suggested.
Of course, I took his joke and ran with it. Thus, Zucchini Bebe was born.
While he only lived a few days, Zucchini Bebe packed in a lot of life between Friday night and Sunday afternoon. We read books together, had a play-date with the other squash at the farmers' market, practiced using the potty with the Kid, went for a run.
Unfortunately, on Sunday afternoon, Zucchini Bebe got a little too curious about the chickens. Parched from the heat, they quickly jumped at the chance to peck and eat Zucchini Bebe's cool-as-a-cucumber innards.
So perished a worthy vegetable.
In his memory, please share your favorite zucchini dish or story (I read one the other day about secret zucchini burials) in the comments today.
Sunflowers are heliotropes, did you know that? In the bud stage, their heads track the course of the sun across the sky. Once they open they become stationary again, facing East. That's why, when you see a field of them, they're generally all turned in the same direction.
That trivia tidbit--along with their obvious sun-like shape and color--has always made me imagine that sunflowers are the little earthbound daughters of summer itself. Heat and light turned into blossoms that are beautiful for a few weeks and then fade with the fall.
Once again, last weekend it was time for us to go pay homage to the huge field of sunflowers that a wonderful farmer plants just outside of town. This year it was mostly a photography event. I took pictures of two beautiful little girls and their families, which I hope to show you all soon.
I also managed to snap a few of a little boy I'm quite fond of.
His "smile" face these days is to open his mouth as wide as he can and give a big, fake laugh. While it's not, perhaps, a perfect portrait-type grin, standing in the sunflower field the over-exaggerated joy felt just right.
[For more outdoor-type fun, our backyard was featured on Apartment Therapy today! Please head over and see.]
If you had told me three years ago that boys are fundamentally different than girls, I would have raised my eyebrow and--within my own head, not out loud--called you a bit sexist.
I'm not saying it's always true. Certainly, everyone can and should be allowed to fall wherever they will on that continum, without judgement from the rest of us. And I'm perfectly willing to concede that part of the issue may be the lens I view things through rather than the subject matter.
But still, in looking at my boy and the boys of my friends, there's just a different energy there. Where another friend's beautiful daughter is happy to pose for my camera, these guys wanted to run and make me catch them. They were willing to sit still if their mothers insisted, but only for as long as necessary and not a second more.
I love the girls too, but even back into my school days--most of my best friends were always guys--I think I just relate to boys better. Which made these two photo shoots of very boyish boys a lot of fun, indeed!
I do a lot of family photographs between November 1st and the middle of December (we'll call it the Christmas season, even though that's a bit of a stretch for purists). And, while I do love it and intend to continue with it, there are a lot of logistical difficulties that time of year. It gets dark super early. I'm often rescheduling because of the weather or left feeling like I'm torturing small children by having them out in the yucky cold.
Which is why it's been fun to take photographs of some of my "regulars" these past few weeks in the nicer weather.
The little miss up top there had a delightful time splashing in the South Park fountain--something that's not even possible in December. And the sweet family below enjoyed an air conditioned shoot at my friend's new event space, the Little White Schoolhouse.
Aside: My friend doesn't entirely know it yet, but I'm doing all those Christmas season pictures there this year. Inside. Out of the cold. In her beautiful, beautiful, naturally lit space. And we're having all our future big family dinners there too. Heck, maybe I'll even have my next child there, just for fun!
In any event, the relative ease of taking photos in the summer has got me interested in doing more of it. So, if you happen to be local and happen to have been thinking, "We should get some family pictures taken soon," shoot me an email (firstname.lastname@example.org). I'd love to set up a few more of these fun, summer-y photo shoots!