Sep 29, 2013

Family Photographs

Last weekend we managed  to squeeze in a family photo session just before winter swooped in to Washington.  We spent about 45 minutes taking photos and then the wind started to blow, the gray clouds rolled in and the sky dumped rain in buckets.  We didn't get in as much as we wanted, but we got enough to document our family for the year.

The trend in family photos is moving away from studio shots and now are regularly shot on location.  The photographs take advantage of natural light, beautiful backgrounds, and the subjects are not restricted by studio size.  There is another trend in family photos . . . everyone is a photographer.

True, everyone with a camera can take a picture.  But there is a huge difference between someone simply taking a picture, a good photographer, and a talented photographer!  Especially, when it comes to family photography.

With auto-focus, photo-shop and pretty backgrounds, so many people think they can buy a fancy looking camera, start a facebook page and call themselves a photographer.  I guess they can call themselves anything but that doesn't make it true.  
Someone may be able to capture beautiful images of their child or landscapes or romantic couples but that doesn't mean that they can do the same with families.  It is easy to get a beautiful picture of a child. Children are cute!  It is probably even easier to get a great photo of an older child who can follow directions and pose beautifully against a tree or by a lake.  
But family photos bring a whole new dimension into photography.  There is a big issue of posing and also making sure that everyone in the photo is doing what they should be doing.
People that simply take pictures don't work out the details of how to make sure everyone looks good individually as well as as a group.  People that simply take pictures don't notice that feet sticking out in front of a body make the foot look larger than the head.  They don't know to tell clients not to all wear the same color pants and shirt because then the whole group looks like a four-headed monster.  They simply take someone to a pretty place, stand them in a group and take pictures...and charge for it!

A good photographer knows how to pose people, tries to catch things like floating fingers and awkward stances.  A good photographer will tell a subject to move this way or that, tuck in your fingers, move your elbow to the right, back away from someone else's face... whatever needs to be done.  A good photographer sees a thousand details in the lens before the photo is ever taken and tries to direct the clients to do what needs to be done to produce a great image.  A good photographer has a million ideas before coming to the photo shoot.  A good photographer is always trying new poses, and new locations so that all her/his clients aren't doing the same exact thing.  

If you are paying for family photography you should definitely use at least a good photographer!  Don't be enamored with a photographer's senior portraits, wedding shots, or little adorable baby shots.  Make sure you see family photo sessions before committing to paying someone for this service.

Every once in awhile you come across that last category of family photographers.  The true artist.  The photographer that was born to take pictures.  The talented photographer who isn't satisfied with lining people up in front of a water fountain and calling it good.  Nope.  This photographer pushes family photos over to the category of art.  This photographer takes photos from different angles, she/he lays on the ground, climbs trees, dangles on the edge of a cliff in order to capture beautiful images of the subject.  
I had the extremely awesome opportunity to know and be photographed by a truly awesomely talented photographer.  The good thing, is we have some really fabulous photographs from our time with her, the bad is the bar is high and so far, has not been met by another.

While I am satisfied with the photographs we had done last weekend, I was a little bummed that there were not any cool artsy shots.  In my photographer's defense I didn't specify "please climb on the roof so that you can get a super cool picture of us" or "I'm totally ok with my kids being out of focus so you can capture a really pretty romantic shot of my hubs and I".  And while she caught a lot of things to make sure the photos were great, there were a few that she missed.  Gabe's head should have been an inch or so back so that he didn't block Matt's face, or Matt's hand is around my waist but only his fingers show or the placement of my hand on my leg is weird.  Stuff like that.  Someone else may not notice but I know Angela would have!

If you are on the hunt for a family photographer do this:
Decide what you want.  Do you like traditionally posed photos?  Or are you looking to star in your very own art piece? 
Search through a million photographer's portfolios of family shots.  Don't look at weddings and babies at all.  Look at your friend's photos, get referrals.
When you narrow down your potential photographers, tell them exactly what you are looking for and ask if she/he feels they can provide it.

I told my photographer I wanted a disc with the rights so I could order Christmas cards, canvas prints, make photo albums or whatever else I wanted to do with the pictures.  I told her I wanted on location family photos somewhere unique.  I also told her I wanted some fun poses.
I should have given her more specifics of what my idea of fun poses would be.  If I would have, I know she would have been able to follow through. At the photo shoot she asked me to be specific about what I meant by "fun".  I hadn't thought it through and really wasn't able to really answer her.  In hindsight, I should have told her that I meant non-traditional poses.  Thankfully, she already had some of her own, so we got a little fun.

Tis the season for family photos.  Do your homework, don't settle, and make sure you send me one!!

Sep 28, 2013

There is a little girl in second grade at our school who is falling behind academically.
She was one of my students last year.  She came out to the learning center for extra help in math and reading.  She is slow.  Not developmentally, but as in her general speed is slow motion.  It takes her twice as long to walk out to my room, twice as long to do a math problem, and twice as long to write her name.  She takes so long - not because she cannot go faster but because she moves like molasses.  Super slow.
She has a sweet smile and dark eyes.  
I think she is definitely capable of learning and really knows quite a bit, she just chooses to move at a considerably slower pace than everyone else.
She misses breakfast sometimes because it takes her so long to walk the 100 feet from her bus to the cafeteria, she has missed her bus and is regularly late coming in from recess because she is so darn slow.
She's a dilly dallier and despite prodding her along, she continues to move at her own, very slow pace.

Before I knew her name I referred to her by her most dominate physical attribute.  
Her running nose.

I met her in May last year and inquired about her snotty nose.  The teachers I work with said she had a running nose all year.  In fact, the classroom rules for her were to blow her nose and sanitize her hands every single time she walked in the door.  Her running nose is that bad.
I know this is gross, but I feel I must share, her face always has dried snot on it.  
It is disgusting.  
And baffling.

This year as she started coming out to see us for extra help again, I asked the classroom teacher if anyone has ever addressed this nose issue.  I wondered if she has allergies.  Perhaps she can't breath well or isn't getting good sleep because of this sinus issue and that could effect her learning.

The teacher said she would ask at a coming meeting regarding the student.

Today the teacher told me what she found out.

The girl with the running nose is a foster child, in an over-full foster home and is not receiving much attention, let alone medical treatment.

As soon as the words fell upon my ears my heart began to break.

I've heard of foster kids, but I have never met one.
I've heard of kids with nobody to look out for them, love them, care for them, nurture them, protect them and encourage them, but I've never met one.
I've met kids who live with aunties or grandparents.  
But I didn't know that I knew any kids who were living among strangers.
As I picture this girl's face, with her nose all snotty and her smile covered in silver caps, I can't imagine what life is like for her.
And I realize that she is one of many.
One of thousands of kids who, for one reason or another, do not have a mommy, daddy, uncle, aunty, grandpa or grandma to snuggle up with at night.

I have room.
I could take care of her.
I know it isn't that simple, but I wish it were.
I think I may have just snatched her up today and changed the course of her life if it were that easy.

She is clothed, fed, educated, and housed - but she is missing the thing that a child needs more than any of that.  She is missing a person to love her.

And for that my heart breaks.

I can't get her off of my mind or my heart.
All I can do at this point is pray fervently for her, love on her when I can, and hope that one day she will know love, joy, and receive the attention that every little year old girl desires.

Sep 27, 2013

At this time I am pleased to announce that I have almost survived September without dying.  After all these death posts and then a long absence, I'm sure some may have started thinking that I may have in fact shot straight up to heaven.  Not true.  I'm still here.

I'm alive and mostly well, working, doing homework with kids, falling in love with and taking care of our neighbor's dog, not effectively making dinner on a regular basis and watching laundry pile up.  Things are great!  Sure I could be more on top of things but as long as the kids have one more pair of clean unders and weather appropriate clothes for school, I'm not stressing about the dust on the window ledges and pile of shoes in the hall.

A few nights ago at dinner I said to the boys " we have a pretty cool family don't you think?"  They both said "yes".  Eli laughed and said we were "funny, loving, and authentic".  I was giddy at his description of us.  I asked what do you think makes us authentic?  He said "I don't really know what authentic means, it just sounded good".  Darn.  I loved that description and I hope it is always true!

Sep 10, 2013

Death Lingers

So we are still on the topic of death around here.  By "we" I mean Gabe.  And because Gabe is on the topic, I'm having nightmares about me dying.

Leaving church on Sunday Gabe said "I'm sure excited about going to heaven".  He rambled on for a bit about why.  He is looking forward to meeting the angel Gabriel.  If the angel Gabriel is a boy, Gabe wants to become best friends.  If it is a girl... he never come up with a use for her.
After chatting all about heaven Gabe said "I'm not afraid to die.  When I die, I'm going to have a big ol smile on my face because I know I'm on my way to heaven".

As I lay in bed the other night I found my mind occupied with the thought of me dying.  Have I taught them enough?  Do they know how much I love them?  Does Matt have the passwords to all of our on-line accounts?  I pictured my boys home alone without a parent, because I was dead.  I pictured Gabe so sad that I wasn't here.  Eli wasn't so bothered about my absence because he's a big boy and dad is his favorite.
I found myself in tears.  I'm not ready to die.  I know I should be happy about going to heaven like Gabe, but the thought of me dying and leaving the boys without their mom, was crushing me.

In the wee morning hours I tried to bring rationale to my spinning brain.  I'm not sick, I'm not dying any time soon, it will be ok.  Then I thought about a car accident killing me or strike of lightening, burglar, school shooter, healthy person freak aneurism. There are so many causes of death that could strike at any time.
Back to rationale, well my 70 year old great grandma got hit by a bus and didn't die.  My grandma is 91. I have good old genes.  I'm going to be around longer than I want to be.

After sorting through all the ways I could die within the next 24 hours and trying to tell myself there was no reason to dwell on this, I decided I just needed to pray.

I asked God to please please not take me away from my kids until they are older.  I want them to have a mom at home until they are grown boys who don't really think they need me anymore.

Again I was crying.

Then a quiet thought came to me.  Perhaps my prayer should be that the boys be ready when it is time for me to die, or for something else bad to happen in their lives.
Not keep me alive until they are ready, but help them be ready for any adversity they may face.
And help me to live each moment with them the way I want them to remember me.  Help me to be the very best mom to them I can be for as long as they call me mom - which will hopefully be for quite a while longer.

I'm thinking of banishing all death talk.

In other news.  Today Gabe told me he is planning on his restaurant "Blue" only being open a few days a week because he wants to spend the rest of the week designing roller coasters.

Sep 5, 2013

Re: My Demise

Apparently my people think more about my death than I thought they did.

During our great clean sweep of '13 a few weeks ago, I came across the slippers I wore at our wedding.   I opted for flats given the height differential between Matt and I.  Is there a more comfortable "flat" than slippers?  I think not.  I bought a pair of white satin slippers with a little pearly business on the toe and was probably the most comfortable person on stage!  My little secret...until now.  Oops.
I figured there was no use for keeping these slippers in a box so I wore them that night.
Matt noticed them and said "you can't wear those"
To which I replied "why?"
His answer: "Because when you die I want something to remember you by."

So is he suggesting that without his dead wife's slippers he won't remember me?  Photo albums, digital pictures, memories, life experiences are lost if he doesn't have these slippers?
I put them in his closet.  I'd hate for him to forget me.

Gabe is not worried about forgetting me, but strategically planning his future around my death.

Gabe wants to live with me forever (as long as I buy him a bigger bed) and he wants me to give him my house when he dies.  His reasoning is not just because he wants to hang with his mama forever or get a free house, but because he wants to make sure he can find me in heaven when I die.

He explained that when you die you go "straight up" to heaven.
He doesn't want to live or work very far away from me because he wants to make sure when he dies, and goes straight up, he isn't very far from me.  He wants to ensure our entry points are close by so that he doesn't have to walk very far to reach me.

As we were driving home from school he picked out a plot of land that is about 2 miles from our house.  He decided he could buy that land to build his restaurant, called "Blue" because he loves the color blue, since it was still pretty close to my house.

That boys loves me so much!  He tells me so, in so many different ways!

Sep 3, 2013


I walked in to church last Sunday, pulled out my bulletin and noticed that thing that I hate to notice...a guest speaker.  Some guest speakers are great, others...not so much.
This guy is the community group pastor at our church and he was actually good.  He threw in some history lessons, some paraphrases for the really complicated Old Testament stuff, and delivered a message that everyone needs to hear!
The message was "make your comeback be greater than your setback".  For those evangelicals I expect to hear a little "amen" for those more conservative types a simple nod and "mm" is good here.

I think this phrase is so powerful because it simplifies the complicated issue of grace.  The reality is, we will all have setbacks, screw-ups, or huge mistakes, but we don't have to stay there, we can comeback and that comeback story may be far more powerful than the story of our setback.

I was reading a story the other day about a guy who was the bass drummer for two different rock bands in the 90's.  He was fired from each of the bands just before the band hit it big.  His former bands went on to make millions while he was left with a very sad story.  He decided not to stay stuck in that story of failure or setback and headed down to his local recruiter's office and joined the Army.  He became an Army Ranger, then became a member of the Special Forces.  He fought in battles in Iraq, Afghanistan and Asia.  He was honorably discharged after 12 years of service.  Upon the completion of his military service he was accepted into Columbia University and used his GI Bill toward earning his BA in Philosophy.  I don't know the man, I don't know his character but I can say this: I think his comeback was far greater than his setback.  He may have had more money if he had worked out the rockstar thing but I do believe he is a wealthier man today.

Grace means you don't have to live in the past, you can change your direction, you can have a comeback.  It is so easy to get frustrated with ourselves when we fail.  It is easy to convince ourselves that we can't do it, we can't reach it, we can't move on.  It takes courage and tenacity to make that change, but it also takes grace.  It takes forgiving ourselves for the mistakes of the past in order to move on and make a great comeback.

Sometimes I think it is a good idea to lose weight.  Ha!  I'll figure out what type of plan I want to pursue and then go for it.  I'll be fabulous at sticking to that plan for a few days, then I eat a piece of cake and don't make time to run.  Plan failure.
Sometimes, I move on.  I start over the next day.
Other times, I eat a second slice of cake.

Don't eat the second slice of cake.  Start tomorrow new.