Showing posts with label Photos. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Photos. Show all posts

A Rocky Start To A New Decade



A lot of people like to start off their new year with goals or resolutions, reflection on the year that has just past, or planning for the year ahead.  We started our new year with a cold.

On New Year's Day I started to cough a little, and by the 2nd I was sprawled out on the couch and miserable.  It took me about a week to finally feel completely better - which means I felt better yesterday.  Just in time for my kids to catch it.  Clyde started coughing last night (I'm hoping whatever this is more shorter-lived for them).

I've always liked the new year season, though not because I'm a particularly goal-oriented person or a planner.  I'm not really either of those things.  But the new year always feels fresh, and I ride on that feeling of freshness though cold, brown winter days.  When things could start to feel stale, the new year makes them feel...well, new.

Since I was too miserable for the first week of this decade to enjoy any of that newness, my new-year-mode is going to be extended.  I actually prefer it this way.  For me, the whole month of January is a time of reflection and gentle planning anyway.  So the new year in this house starts now.

I felt a lot of pressure to start off the year with a significant post, but this is shaping up to be a regular old chatty post instead.  I've decided I'm okay with it.  I don't think much on this blog is meant to be significant anyway, not in that way.  Ordinary days are significant in themselves, I think more than we know.

Our Start To The 2020's

The last day of the 2010's I spent filling up the last of the petition I've been working on (to stop late-term abortion in my state).  I had run out of people I know to ask for signatures, so I texted my sister-in-law, and she graciously set up a time for me to meet her extended family so they could sign my petition.  The last line was signed.  So a few days into the new year, I headed down to a notary event to get my petitions notarized and turned in.  Even though I had been sick, I was feeling functional - but barely, and I had lost my voice.  I tried to avoid breathing on anyone or shaking anyone's hands while I handed over my petitions, just in case I was still contagious.

Then I had to stop at the grocery store, because by this time we were basically out of food after the holidays.  I wanted it to be a short trip out of the house so I could go home and continue to rest and recover, but we just plain needed a few things.  So I did a little shopping trip at Walmart, and then headed back out to my car.

As I was pushing my full cart across the parking lot, I noticed a flutter of wings overhead, and then a flash of white in front of my eyes, and I looked down and realized a bird had pooped on me.  I was completely grossed out.  Do you know how many germs birds carry?

I'm admittedly very slightly germaphobic.

I went straight to my car, parked the cart on the sidewalk, and set my purse down on the front seat while I rummaged around looking for hand sanitizer.  As if hand-sanitizer would be effective against bird poop, but it was better than nothing.  After I finished dousing my pants in it, I turned toward my cart full of groceries and closed the door.

Then I heard a click.

And my keys were still in my purse.  On the front seat of the car.

Thankfully my phone was in my pocket, not in my purse, so I called Derek and squeaked out what happened (remember, my voice was gone).  He called my parents, and they came to rescue me about 40 minutes later.  Not too bad of a situation overall, but a little embarrassing.  I haven't locked myself out of my car since I was 18.

So yeah, that was a good start to the new decade.

New Year's Day Though

I actually take that back, the true start to the new year was a good day.  My cough had barely started, so I didn't realize yet that I was getting sick yet, and we decided to take a trip to Rocky Mountain National Park on New Year's Day.

Unfortunately, the last couple times we have visited the park there ends up being a storm rolling in, and we can't see any of the mountains.  The weather was clear and bright, right up until we entered the park, and within five minutes we could see nothing.  Cars were stuck in the snow on the mountain roads.  And we forgot to bring snow pants, because we thought it was going to be a beautiful, bright day.













We made the best of it though, and we still enjoyed the wintery beauty and saw some wildlife.  We piled the kids out of the car, walked for five minutes in the snow, piled back in.  Then we stopped at a taffy shop on the way home.  I've decided I'm not really a fan of saltwater taffy unless it's fresh.  This was the fresh stuff, and it was so tasty.

Ten Years Ago

Between signature gathering and being sick, I haven't had much time to truly reflect on the fact that 2020 is not just the marking of a new year, but a new decade.  I didn't look through the last ten years of pictures (that thought overwhelms me), or find old journal entries, or anything like that.  But I can remember where I was in life and how I felt ten years ago.

We were living in our first home, with three rambunctious dogs.  I was working as a dental hygienist a few days a week, and it was the heyday of blogging.  Derek was working for our county, and we were scraping together any extra income we had into saving for a ten-year anniversary trip to Italy.  We had been married for two years, and had decided we wanted to start trying for a family, but things weren't exactly working.  I wondered when, or maybe if, we'd have kids.  It was a little premature to worry too much, but worry I did.  My biggest prayer for the new decade was a houseful of children.

And here we are ten years later, in a different house, only one of those dogs still laying at my feet, and five tiny pairs of shoes pounding on the second floor over my head.  We never took that trip to Italy.  And we were okay with that, because dreams change over time.  I've received more than I ever thought to ask for ten years ago.

When I think back over the last ten years, I think of the faithfulness of God in our lives over this past decade.  There have been stresses and joys and sorrows and triumphs, and the Lord has been our anchor through it all.

I don't like to think about where I'll be in the next ten years.  I know my oldest will be graduated from high school, and my youngest will be right in the middle of middle school.  That thought alone is overwhelming to me.  Ten years is too far in the future for me to think about.  I don't know where we'll be living, or what exactly our lives will look like.  But I imagine that in ten years, when I look back again on the previous decade, I'll still see how God is faithful to us through it all.

So yes.  I'm ready to start the 2020's.

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I want to write more about my plans for the upcoming year, or changes I'm already trying to make, but I think I'll wrap up this post here for now.  The kids are awake, and this is our first week back to school in 2020, despite being sick, so I have alot to catch up on this week!  The house is slowly being disinfected of whatever bug we caught, and I'm working with the kids and myself on developing good habits - one of those habits is that blogging has to happen first thing in the morning, so we can start school on time!  So I'm off to pour some cereal bowls and crack open some books.

How was the start to the new decade for you all?

Hopefully smoother than ours, ha!

When You Can't Find Christmas Peace



Peace is a theme of the Christmas season, and I've been mulling over the idea lately.

On the night that Jesus was born, angels lit up quiet skies and declared "on earth, peace among men!"  But the world still doesn't feel peaceful, does it?  Our attempts to drum up some peace around Christmas time feel artificial and hollow.  Around this globe, war and atrocities never truly end.  Maybe that's why the song "I Heard The Bells On Christmas Day" has resonated with me in my adult life.

"There is no peace on earth," I said.  For hate is strong, and mocks the song, of Peace on earth, goodwill to men..."




I think we understand peace all wrong.  We think quiet, or a brief ceasing of strife, or a fleeting feeling, or one happy day is Christmas peace.  But that's not the peace the angels were talking about.  The peace Christ brought when he was born in that stable is not the temporary, fading peace of one Christmas morning.

"But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.  For He Himself is our peace..." 
Ephesians 2:13-14a



Christ Himself is our peace.

We are a rebellious, sinful people.  We have broken God's laws, we are lost, deserving death as the penalty for the crimes we have committed against a holy God.  But instead of giving us the punishment we deserve, God in His mercy stretched out His hands, and offered us peace by offering Himself.

Peace on earth, goodwill to men. 



That baby, born in a manger that night, was God Himself.  He who had no sin, took the death we deserved by dying on the cross in our place.  He rose again, securing His victory over death and our sin. And He still stretches out His hands to us now, offering us peace with God, if we will just believe and trust in Christ to save us.  The truest peace of God can be ours forever.









"Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ."
Romans 5:1

Someday Jesus will return again, and put all things right, and then His people will have peace in every sense of the word.  Until then, my prayer for you, my friends, is that you will know His peace in your heart this Christmas and always.  That you may reach out and grasp the hand of peace that God has offered to you in Jesus Christ, and find Him while He may be found.

"May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope."
Romans 15:13

"Because of the tender mercy of our God, with which the Sunrise from on high will visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet in the way of peace."
Luke 1:78-79

He Himself is our peace.  May you know that truly, my friends. And the merriest of Christmases to you!


Nuts And Bolts Of Memory-Keeping







Now that my month of memory-keeping is nearing an end, let's discuss that actual nuts and bolts of memory-keeping, specifically as moms, shall we?  I am still trying to figure out the best way to keep memories for my kids.  It's hard for me to find something that I can consistently do for each kid individually and our family as a whole, at least without letting it take over my life.

These are a few of the things I've tried so far.  As you'll see, many of my attempts have been less than stellar.  I'd love to hear any tips you all have in any of these sections!

(Note: This post contains an affiliate link.)

Baby Books

I got each of my kids a baby book and was relatively good about filling them out - but to be honest, I totally dropped the ball for my last two kids.  I was not going to be that mom that keeps meticulous records for her first child and then doesn't do anything for subsequent kids.  I made a valiant effort, and yet, here we are.

In my defense, I did keep meticulous records for all of my kids here on this blog, which serves in the function of a baby book as well.  I just need to sit down and transfer the information I typed up here into my kids' actual baby books.  I still have my baby book that my mom filled out for me, and I think there is something special about seeing her words about me as a baby, written in her own handwriting.

Photo Albums

Once upon a time, before my third child, I printed up pictures from the first two years of my first baby's life.

And that's it.

I have alot of guilt related photo albums.  There are just so many pictures, I finally realized I can't possibly print them all.  Not only would it cost a fortune, but I don't have enough room in my house for that many photo albums. In addition, it's a huge chore choosing which pictures to print, and I just haven't made time for it yet.

However, currently the only child who has baby pictures to look through is Wyatt, and this is also unacceptable to me.  I remember loving to look through my baby pictures when I was a kid, and hearing my mom tell me stories about each photo.  So a big priority for the next few months is getting some pictures printed up!

More on my strategy in another post soon maybe, but I'd love to hear if you print pictures, and if so, how you choose and organize them.

This Blog

One reason I'm glad this blog never grew too much and I never tried to go too professional with it is that it not only serves as an outlet for my thoughts, but also as a record of our family's lives.  I recorded the kids' birth stories, month-by-month updates for the first year, yearly birthday letters, and a bunch of other random memories on here.

I would like to get caught up on printing my blog into a book.  There used to be a service for this (a very basic service called Blog2Print) which I used for the first few years, but I discovered a couple years ago that they raised their prices to ridiculous levels.  So I'm on the hunt for a better way to print everything here into a book, but at the very least I can print the posts I wrote for each kid and stick them in their baby books, like I mentioned above.  That gives me alot of comfort when I'm feeling like a memory-keeping failure.  The blog is the one area in which I haven't yet dropped the ball.

(If you've printed up blog posts recently and bound them in any way, I'd love to hear what you did!)

A Memory-Keeper Book





This is my latest endeavor.  Several months ago I realized that I would really like to have a better system for writing down cute things the kids say or do.  I have been recording things in my bullet journal off and on, but I wanted something a little more polished that my kids could also look through when they get older.

I purchased a Happy Memory-Keeper on sale, and I'm giving it a try.  The pages are pretty all by themselves and rather inspiring.  The boxes make me feel organized, and I can also easily add pictures or stickers to dress it up a little.

Most of the sections look like this:








I know myself, and I know I'm not going to write something down every day, so I'm just leaving the pages undated.  I'll fill in a box whenever something cute happens, and just make a note of the date until the whole page is full.  One page might last me a month this way, because I'm not going to slap stickers in all the spaces just to fill them up in a week.

The book also has some pages for special days:




So far I'm liking how it's going!  I make a note when something about our day stands out, and I will probably add pictures in some of the boxes eventually.



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As you can see, I have alot to figure out still when it comes to memory-keeping!  But I think the main thing is that I'm trying.  It may not be pretty or very organized, but I know eventually my kids will see the different way that I have tried to capture their growing-up years, and I hope when they do they can see how much I adored them.

How do you keep memories as a mom?

Stay tuned, I might do a more in-depth post about photo-keeping strategies I have tried! Some have worked, some not, but I'm slowly coming up with a plan.

My Tips For Taking Your Own Family Photos

(Photos in today's post are from last year - I haven't been able to bring myself to sort through yesterday's disastrous photo attempts yet!)


Photos play a huge part in memory-keeping for me.  As I mentioned before, I am not great at remembering the smaller events of my life, but if I have a photo, I am able to immediately remember details that would otherwise be lost to me.

When I was pregnant with my firstborn, I realized how critical photos would be for me in my memory-keeping.  My babies all have grown too fast, and I am so glad I made sure we got some really good photos together to mark the passing of each year.  

For really big events, like maternity or newborn pictures, I've always outsourced and got my amazing photographer and dear friend to do some photos for me!  But for regular, run-of-the-mill family photos, I usually do them myself.

(Proof that I can sometimes take a good family photo with the tripod!)

Despite yesterday's photo struggles, I usually am able to get some pretty good photos each year, and I thought I would give you my best tips for taking your own family photos - or basically just tell you how I manage it.  I am still really just an amateur, hobby photographer, so your mileage may vary with these suggestions, but this is how I take our family photos.

(If you want tips for taking photos of yourself with a tripod - I can't help you, ha!  That's one tripod skill I've never mastered.  If I'm the lone adult in the picture, then it's most likely one I had Derek take for me!)

What I use:

My DSLR (I have a Nikon D5200 and a 50mm f/1.5 lens)
A tripod (this one)
A remote shutter release (this one)
My iPhone 7+



1. Scout out a spot to take photos ahead of time.  

Every time I've taken photos that have gone smoothly, it's been because I found a spot I liked ahead of time and started putting the photo together in my head.  I think about where I'll put the tripod, how I'll arrange the family, where I'll run in to join, etc.  I try to think about light and shadows and whether morning or evening would be the best.  The couple hours right after sunrise or right before sunset are best, and try to stay out of direct or dappled sunlight!  Good lighting is everything.


2. Pack an emergency photo bag.  

I usually pack a bag with things like a blanket to sit on, extra memory cards and camera batteries, candy to keep the kids happy, hairbrush, makeup, extra diapers, etc.  I've been burned before when I didn't think things through, so I try to plan ahead for problems that might arise so I'm prepared.


3. Be meticulous about getting set up.  

When we arrive at the spot I've (hopefully) scouted out, I take a couple test shots first to make sure my settings are proper and the light is good (I didn't pay enough attention to this yesterday, hence why a lot of our photos are junk).  I get my camera and tripod set up and fidget with it until it's directed right where I want the family to stand, then I have my husband go stand where I want him.  My husband is usually my focus point, because he is the only one in the family I can trust to stand still!  I get the kids arranged around him, and keep in mind to leave a space for me to stand.  

Once everyone is arranged, I go back to my camera, set the focus point on my husband, and ask him not to move his head.  Then I switch the shutter setting to the remote, go over and rearrange children if necessary, stand in my spot, and start clicking with the remote!


4. Check the photos!  

I usually have to repeat this process a few times to make sure everyone is looking good in the actual photos and everything is in focus.  I'm always sorry later when I don't take breaks and double-check the photos in the back of my camera!  I've taken a whole group of photos before, only to realize later they were all out of focus.

5.  Take a lot of shots.  

Most likely most of the shots you take with a remote are going to be just okay, but if you take a ton, you are more likely to get one that might work.

6. Be a little silly.  

In the photos where everyone is smiling, it's usually because we all just got finished yelling "chocolate cake!".  Seriously, instead of telling my kids to say "cheese", I tell them to say other foods they like.  Usually there is more giggling and general enthusiasm that way, which translates well in photos!  This is my favorite strategy for when I'm trying to get a good shot of just the kids too.  My best trick is to be a goofball, balance a pinecone on my head and then let it fall off, throw some leaves, peek out from behind a tree and make a funny face...all with my camera at the ready to catch the laughs!  It helps that my kids are quick-laughers too.


7. Tell everyone to look at one person.  

I really like a good "candid" shot, so after we try a few smiling at the camera, I usually pick a person and tell everyone else to look at them!  It turns out well when everyone is looking at one of the parents, but you have to make sure you are not just smiling blankly at the camera.  Look at everyone else as they are looking at you, or laugh a little, and it turns into a great fake-candid shot!



8.  Try tickling someone.  

When we have a child (especially a baby or toddler) who is crying, we tickle that kid.  We could be really obvious about the tickling and get more of those fake-candid shots while the kid is being tickled, like I talked about above.  Or sometimes we are really subtle about the tickling, so it doesn't cause a ruckus but leads to some good smiles.  There is a blurry line between crying and laughing, especially in photos, and sometimes tickling is the best way to save the photo session!

9.  Take it slow, and bring candy.  

When a photo session is devolving, I try to let the kids have a break to explore a little.  Often if they have time to get some energy out, they are ready to try taking another photo.   I try to take a breaks too so that we can also enjoy the experience, instead of being stressed about getting the photos done!  (Note: It's best if you start earlier than you think you need to so time is allowed for this sort of thing before you lose the light - another mistake I made yesterday.)  This can also be a good time to get more casual shots, or wider-angle shots of your kids exploring nature (I use my iPhone for this - maybe someday I'll get a better lens for scenery shots).




I have also been known to break out the candy to improve moods.  This is not normal parenting...this is parenting while trying to take photos.  Normal rules surrounding bribery do not apply.

10.  Know when to let it go.  

As I shared yesterday, sometimes photos just don't work.  I've been known to break our family photo sessions up into two shorter attempts, because little kids only last so long before they are ready to be done.  I've tried before to persevere when I could tell everyone was losing focus, and it's never gone well.  If everyone is crying and miserable, it's better just to call it quits.  You can always try again another day.  

Or you can do what I'm doing this year, and resort to getting your photographer friend to help, ha!  Some stages are just hard (ex: when you have an almost two year old), and reinforcements may be in order.  But don't let a bad attempt make you think you can't take your own family photos - it happens.  Just try again another day.


Have you ever tried to take your own family photos?  How did it go?






And A Merry Christmas To You!



Confession time: Christmas break has not exactly gone as I planned.

I had so many ideas for advent readings and crafts to do with the kids.  We were going to bake, and learn new Christmas carols and Bible verses.  I was going to continue waking up before the kids and get in a rich, meaningful personal Bible study leading up to Christmas Day.

And then the king of all colds struck us last week.  I tell you, if I ever needed a non-serious reminder of the sinful, fallen state of the world, this cold was it.  Even though we are well past being contagious, we still are struggling with scratchy voices and irritating remnants of a cough.  Derek took time off from work, and I rolled out of bed too late every morning for the past week.  Needless to say, my plans did not come to fruition. 

However, I finally felt well enough to get back to my new morning routine again this morning.  I grabbed the Christmas present I bought myself, an illuminated Scripture journal for the book of Hebrews.  I figured I'd just start by checking out the cross-references, and I stumbled across two passages that have helped set my heart back on Christ amidst the Christmas-Eve craziness this morning. (The first one is kind of long, try to take time to read through the whole thing - it's so good!).

"He has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom of the Son of His love, in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins.  He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.  For by Him all things were created that are in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions, or principalities, or powers.  All things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.  And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have preeminence.  For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in Heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross."
Colossians 1:13-20

"For it is God who commanded light to shine out of darkness who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
2 Corinthians 4:6


I just love how these passages talk about the light of Christ.  We are lost in darkness, in our sin, without Him - but when we were stumbling around in the dark, God sent us the light of Christ, the light of Himself.  He was born to make peace for us through the blood of His cross.  We are the ones who deserve darkness and death forever because of our sin, but He bore that penalty for us on the cross.  And now if we will merely raise our faces to His light, trusting in His sacrifice and what He has done to save us, we need never be lost in darkness again.





















Merry Christmas, friends.  I pray that the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ is shining bright in your hearts this Christmas (and that you have more joy than Georgie in that last picture)!
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