The Christmas Card Picture Quiz

30 11 2009

Having Rock star photographers as good friends is one of the greatest things for someone like me. It’s true. Sadly, I can hardly operate a point and shoot camera. The advent of the lifestyle photographer’s blog has done wonders for standards in photography for weddings and even family photos. Gone are the days of Olen Mills, fake backgrounds and sketchy photographers that you’re scared to leave your children in a room with. Checking the photo blogs has also become a fun part of my day.  I’m embarrassed to say that a day never goes by that I don’t visit Hope Bray Photography, Jen Hunt Photography and Smitten Photography. At some point I’ll do a post on why I believe we’re all so obsessed with images of friends, ourselves and our families…we ALL are, aren’t we?  Since I do Christmas cards I usually don’t have much time to spend on our family’s card so I depend on one of our talented photographer friends to provide me with a photo that can stand alone without much help from additional design elements. Last year I couldn’t pick just one so I did 4 separate cards. If you didn’t get this one then don’t be surprised or offended.

One of our 2008 Christmas Cards

This year I let the time slip by.  I wanted to have a relatively recent picture since Dexter is so young and literally changes his look from one day to the next. It got so late in the season and I had been a part of so many “I am so over-booked” conversations with the aforementioned Rock-star-photografriends that I was too scared to ask one of them to do a shoot for us. (I will be reprimanded for this). I started to freak out that we didn’t have a picture and I knew there was no way I could produce a decent photo but God intervened and we had the priviledge of being a part of a mass christmas photo shoot last night. From what I’ve heard about military showers I think it was sort of like that. It was crazy and fun and chaotic and maddening and getting dark oh so fast. Also, I am the queen of coordinating (but not matching) outfits so I always make things harder than they ought to be and each child we add makes it more and more difficult. More movement, more faces, more accessories, more moods : ) Who knows what kind of picture we’ll end up with this year or how many hours I’ll spend editing it in Photoshop.  Before we left to take our pictures last night I asked myself “would it take longer to brush my teeth or Photoshop them?”  Two minutes or 5 seconds? I opted for Photoshop.

So I made up this little quiz to see what kind of Christmas photo you might have this year. At the end add up your points and we’ll see what kind of situation you might be in.

Give yourself:

5 points if you have a husband who dreads taking the christmas picture more than putting up the christmas lights.

5 points if you have one child.

10 points if you have 2 children.

20 points if you have 3 or more children (at this point it’s no longer one on one so you get more for the third child).

2 additional points for each boy (including the man).

5 points if any of your children have had sugar within the hour prior to the photo.

2 points for each child that has a runny nose.

3 points for each child that needs a nap or just woke up from a nap.

5 points if you have a child that can not sit on his own.

1 point for each animal (I can not give too many points for animals because, well you know, and they’re not worth as much as children because they don’t really need to look at the camera-they look the same from every angle)

1 point for each degree the temperature is below 50 degrees or above 80 degrees.

1 point  for each prop you are using (like a chair, toy or decoration)

1 point for each accessory being worn by an adult (hats, glasses,scarves, gloves or earrings)

2 points for each accessory being worn by a child (hats, scarves, gloves or even a coat or vest, actually shoes count too)

5 points if there is a distraction within sight that is more appealing than posing for a photo (such as an animal, other children playing, a pile of leaves or the photographer’s camera)

2 points if the light is quickly fading.

Time to tally up.

0-10 points: As long as your photographer is decent, your photo will be perfect. No worries.

10-25 points: You may need to use two pictures to make sure that everyone looks good in at least one of them.

25-50 points: You’ll definitely need some Photoshop work but there is hope for a decent picture. Hopefully next year you’ll remember the accessories aren’t worth it.

50-100 points: You have several options. 1) schedule another shoot and settle for separate photos, one of the adults and one of each child, 2) make light of the chaos that is presented and remind Aunt Rose that she’ll get a chance to see little Johnny’s face next year

More than 100 points: You may decide to send a card without a picture but DON’T go that route. We want to see it. You probably don’t have time, but you should write a commentary on your photo. I’m sure it would be hilarious to hear about your experience.

So it’s definitely too late to get on the books with a photographer for this year’s Christmas card but take a look at this post on my friend Emily’s blog. Tips for the lazy photographer. I think it might even help me!

Hope everyone is enjoying the Holidays this year. Make light of the frustrations and enjoy the now.


Grateful for the unexpected.

26 11 2009

Several evenings ago I had the privilege of dining and sharing with a dear group a girls that I meet with on a monthly basis. We spent the night reflecting on how the life we are living now differs from the life we expected to live when we were children or young adults and how that has affected our view of God.

As you might expect, not a single one of us had experienced the life we had planned.  We never CHOOSE to deal with sickness and death or PLAN for deep disappointment or devastating circumstances in life.  I think that’s ok. I think hoping for good and planning for the best is fine, but we live in a fallen world and our definitions of GOOD and BEST may need to be re-evaluated.  I never expected that I would experience culture shock in my marriage or that I would have to work so hard to develop unity with my husband or that it could be good.  I was also surprised to find how closed minded I was. Today I can not even begin to imagine my life without the man who was the west coast boy and the freedom he brings to our family. I also never imagined myself as a mother.  My goals for life were lofty and unrealistic and didn’t include much logical forethought. My hope to become the president of the united states was really no different than Bradley’s hope to be a pirate or a knight.

All that to say I am grateful that my life didn’t turn out as I expected. I am grateful for the hard times I’ve passed through in my marriage. They have made me love more deeply, with more passion and understanding. I’m grateful for the struggles that I’ve had in relationships. They have made me more aware of my own insecurities and weaknesses and have led to opportunities for maturity and growth. I’m grateful for the chaos that my boys bring to my life. It has made me realize that I am not in control. It is helping me learn to surrender, but I’m not there yet.  I am grateful for each new stage in life. While I miss some of the ones I’ve passed through I’m learning to be present in the present and to hold the future with an open hand.

What are you grateful for today? Can you be thankful for the unexpected twists and turns your life has taken? Do you believe that God is in control, that He is good? Do you believe that He has plans and that His plans are good? What is your definition of good? I’m beginning to understand that many of my struggles and frustrations in life have revolved around my misunderstanding of “good”.

One thing I do know, is that gratitude is currently transforming my life. It’s power to turn suffering into victory, complacency into delight and fear into trust is amazing. It is so powerful that I almost feel addicted to dwelling on the “good” in my life and practicing gratitude as a lifestyle.  I am grateful for the stories of redemption, and hope for redemption, that we shared on Monday night and I’m grateful for friends who are willing to do the work that meaningful relationships require.

Now this may ruin the post for some of you but I had to include this.  I’ll warn you that it’s offensive. Disclaimer: I’m NOT a PETA girl. Anyone who knows me well knows I’m not an animal lover and my vegan tendencies have nothing to do with my love for animals.  Also, I did eat Turkey today but it was Free-range and Organic.

Take a look if you care to: Thanksgiving Grace.

Landing on a moment.

24 11 2009

Just over two weeks ago my Grandfather celebrated his 85th birthday and I promised a post about him and the celebration.  There’s so much I want to share but I have to accept the reality that a blog is just a place for snapshots. His life would be a spectacular series of films but today I bring you a single scene from his life.

My Grandpa seemed to be obsessed with teaching us things.  The man never tried anything he didn’t master (artist, dentist, landscaper, musician, athlete) and he tried to make sure his children and grandchildren had as many opportunities to learn as he could give them. I never took to music or golf (though I tried) but of all the things he did impart to me the one thing I will never forget is how he loved my Grandmother.  He loved her like I have never seen another man love a woman. It was a love that was covered in respect, romance, loyalty, commitment, awe and dedication to the end. I don’t necessarily understand or appreciate the roles and social norms that created the framework for the rules of their life and marriage but I think they were probably inconsequential when it came down to core of their love for each other. Maybe I’m wrong about that but I think not. You would have a greater appreciation of the significance of their relationship if I had time to tell you about his childhood. The reason I struggle with not being able to share complete back-stories is because context is so important.  If I was a good writer I could give you just enough so you could go there with me but that’s a skill I haven’t mastered. Let’s just say it would devastate you and I can’t really think about it without disengaging.  Only a few times have I let myself feel the deep, deep sadness where his story began.

So here’s a little story: When the war broke out – World War II, Grandpa enlisted in the Army and was assigned to the 501st Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division and left the north to travel south to train at Camp Toccoa, GA. I don’t really know what all that means but it’s important to him so it’s important to me. When jump training was over, the regiment was assigned to the Airborne Command at Camp MacKall  in North Carolina, until their deployment to England in 1944. It was while he was assigned to NC that he met my Grandma, Mary – a little southern girl – on a blind date in Lakeview. Mary Abbott Smith was born into a North Carolina Tobacco farming family – one of seven sisters and brothers from Lemon Springs, NC. Their romance developed, but the war prevented their getting married until Grandpa returned.

Training in England was difficult as the regiment prepared for the secret allied plan Operation Overlord which was to begin on D-Day, June 6, 1944. The 501st parachuted into Holland where they would fight for 72 days before being moved to France. Looking forward to some well deserved R&R, the word came that Hitler had launched a major offensive through the Ardennes in Belgium. The troops were trucked into Bastogne where they would fight the infamous “Battle of the Bulge”, a battle where 580 of their men were killed, wounded or captured. Grandpa was fortunate to survive this cruel ordeal.

So here’s the good part:

Just as the war was over the following article appeared in The Sanford Herald newspaper in December of 1945:

When Miss Mary Abbott Smith, daughter of R. E Smith of Lemon Springs, is married on Saturday afternoon to Eugene Carl Deibler of Bradford, Pa., She will be wearing a wedding dress made from a silk parachute which her husband-to-be carried as a reserve ‘chute when he jumped over Normandy on D-day, June 6, 1944. Portions of the parachute were sent by the sergeant to his future bride before he himself returned to the United States last week . . .

Maybe it’s just me and my sentimentality but I love this story and I hope you do too.

Bradley and the dress

Here’s to you Grandpa. We love you.

Bradley and Great-Grandpa on his 85th Birthday

She beat me to it.

20 11 2009

Take a look at this cute entry on Lindsay’s Blog.  We haven’t taken nearly as many photos of our thirds as we did our firsts when they were babies but it’s uncanny how our family has a look and their family has a look. Sorry Coleman & Bennett you guys aren’t close enough to compare but you guys win the “eat you with a spoon” awards. I’m so grateful for each of these sweet boys. They’re all so special!

In this collage, the corners and the center are Bradley & Keller and the rest are Dexter & Porter.

Less mess today.

16 11 2009

Today will be a cleaner day at the Pay dining room table. (see the youtube link in yesterday’s post) The boys really wanted to eat their waffles frozen this morning (at least they were flax-plus).  Not a crumb in site as far as I can see. Of course I did let them eat outside while running around in the yard.  We will dine on Costco samples for lunch and I’ll have to head out this evening for a seminar before the evening mess gets underway. A day’s break always make the mundane seem less mundane. Mess, I’ll be ready to greet you tomorrow!

Donna Reed, how did you do it?

16 11 2009

This blog comes with a warning…if you have a weak stomach do not watch this. It will totally gross you out.

When Bradley first started eating solids I was nearly obsessed with his diet. The Super Baby Foods book by Ruth Yaron was my Bible and I only fed him commercial baby food when it was an emergency.  4 years later, I’ve loosened up a bit.  Still not a big fan of over processed artificial foods and I do feel anxious when my kids go days without eating a single serving of vegetables but other than that pretty much anything goes.  If it’s not moldy it’s fair game. Sometimes the boys eat well but I would say on the whole none of them eat very much (unless it’s cookies or dessert) and it’s always a mess.  When it comes to meals I often jump at an opportunity to eat outside of the house. We really can’t take them to a nice restaurant so we usually have to opt for places like Jason’s Deli or Chick-fil-A. I’m also perfectly happy to pack a picnic lunch or go to Costco and make a meal of samples.  Take a look at this and you’ll see why: Dinner at the Pays

I know this is not normal for the average family but for some reason our boys are exceptionally messy.  I’d love to be posting a video to showcase their perfect behavior or their exceptional skills but this is our reality and while I’m always cleaning up a mess I love these boys and the beautiful mess that they are.  I do plan to work on their manners I just haven’t had time lately. I need to reference the old Donna Reed shows to see how she did it.

Another chance to shop…

13 11 2009

If you missed the Sugar & Spice Show today there’s still another opportunity to shop the Brella Baby clearance items (nothing over $6…seriously we’re giving this stuff away) and order Christmas Cards. Tomorrow is officially the last day to receive the 20% discount on cards but if you saw me at one of the shows I’ll honor the discount if you reference the show.

Happy Shopping!