We had a very wonderful early Christmas celebration with the Charlebois side of the family this past weekend. Unfortunately, I haven't uploaded or edited my photos from our time with them yet, so that post will have to wait. I love Christmas time. I love getting Christmas cards in the mail. I love wrapping gifts. I love that even the secular radio stations play songs about Jesus. I love seasonal baking and candy making (even if I did burn the caramels this year). And even though this time of year is always very slow for work and things can get tight, I count it as a blessing that we get to have JP home with us more than usual.
I recently had the very fun privilege of doing some Christmas photos of my high school friend's daughter, little Makena. You may remember that I photographed Makena over the summer when she turned two. She was as spunky as ever, and we had a lot of fun trying to catch her on camera before she zipped away to the other side of the room!
So far, SIX of the 27 Christmas cards I have received were made with photos I took over the course of the past year. I can't begin to describe how FUN and REWARDING it has been! Thanks to all of my "guinea pig" friends!!! :)
The girls and I have had a lot of fun doing various Christmas/winter crafts this year. My favorite so far is this cardboard Christmas tree they painted and decorated (Idea from Disney's Family Fun Magazine.).
For the past three or four days, the entire family has been working on getting a nice, big wood pile stacked up before the first big snow hits the ground. JP has a wood burning stove in his workshop, and he uses it during the cold winter months when he has to work from home, fix cars, etc. We have a number of downed trees on our property, so we used the tractor to pull them out, then JP bucked them with the chainsaw. The girls and I drove the golf cart around with a trailer on the back, filling it with smaller logs and timber. Once JP got the bigger trees bucked, the girls and I stacked the logs into piles.
It was hard, hard work -- the kind of work that leaves you exhausted at the end of the day -- which is why JP and I were so surprised by our up-and-coming lumberjack, Rae.
This girl was seriously unbelievable. She worked her little 4-year-old butt of all day long, picking up full-sized logs, NOT just the little ones, loading them into the trailer, unloading them and stacking them higher than her head..neatly! (She probably stacked 55% of the logs in that front pile she's sitting on in these pictures by herself. Plus more in the stacks behind her.) She gathered timber, swept up the scraps of bark and other kindling and loaded it all into buckets.
She worked straight through her nap, and when Ruby (who had napped) was too tired to keep going and went to bed, Rae stayed up working and working and working until after 10:00 pm. When all the work was done and she had swept the patio clean, she begged us to keep going though we tried to convince her we probably had enough wood for now.
She kept going on and on about how outdoor work was so much fun, and the next day she pleaded to go find more logs to stack. JP and I told her she should consider being a lumberjack as a career, and she was intrigued. Could there really be a job where you got to cut down trees and stack them up...and get paid to do it?!!?
Perhaps the best part of all was watching JP and Rae work together. They definitely bonded even more over this experience. JP talked to her about the verses in Ecclesiastes:
"Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:If either of them falls down, one can help the other up." Ecc 4:9-10
We talked about having a hard work ethic, building character, and how the Bible tells us to look at the ant, who stores up and prepares for winter. We talked about the importance of every job and how every job has to be done diligently, not just the fun ones.
I was so impressed with our hard-working peanut, and I pray that this was an experience she'll retain in her mind and spirit for a long time. I know I will.
I got to take photos of my sister Amber's family yesterday. We met at the Elm Creek Park Chalet and had fun watching the skiers glide by as we attempted to get all four kids to look and smile at the same time. Or maybe just look. :)
...and my favorite of the day:
Today we cut down our Christmas tree from a local tree farm owned by a family in our church. The experience was so much fun, especially for the kids. The tree smells wonderful, and I love pulling each of the ornaments out of the box for the first time each year. Each one holds a special memory.
I was really impressed with what a difference one year has made in the girls' decorating skills. Last year all of the ornaments were huddled in one section around the bottom of the tree. This year, they pulled out the step stool from the bathroom to reach higher places, or asked me to place it where they wanted it (if it was out of their reach). We watched The Grinch and sang "Oh Christmas Tree," then sat back and soaked in the beauty.
Rae at bedtime: "Mom, may I please have a sip of ice water?"
Me: "Didn't you just have a sip of water when you brushed your teeth?"
Rae: "No, those were gulps."
Rae (eating an apple): "It's amazing how just by eating an apple, you can turn it into a core."
Rae to Gammy: "My poop stinks."
Gammy: "That's ok, everybody's poop stinks."
Rae: "Not my mom's."
It's been animal month in the Charlebois home, starting with the long-awaited and highly-anticipated ladybug cake-making day. Our friend Etta had promised Ruby a ladybug cake for her birthday back in September. Being an avid hunter, September was a busy time for Etta, so we finally got around to doing it now.
The ladybug was looking really cute...
...and then we let Ruby do the sprinkles. :)
The other day I realized the girls had been playing in their room quietly for a suspiciously long time. When I went to check on them this is what I found.
Every single stuffed animal was tucked neatly into bed, the lights were out, and the fan was on for "white noise."
Then I looked down at my feet and realized they had dumped every toy out of their cubby boxes in order to create those beds for said animals. :)
Yes, they did clean this mess up themselves. They are actually pretty good at that. :)
We had a wonderful Thanksgiving celebrating with the Charlebois clan. Thanksgiving really is my favorite holiday, I think. As quoted from Blue Bloods (the TV show) the other day, "There's no gifts, no pressure, just family and good food." The girls made super cute turkey crafts using their hand and foot prints. Ruby had help with hers, but Rae did hers all by herself, even the cutting.
JP did finally get a deer on the second-to-the-last day of the rifle hunting season. You may not believe this, but Rae was very, very excited to be a part of the butchering process. I promise you, I chose the mildest of the photos to post here tonight. :)
Rae got to hold and use a real knife for the first time. She was very cautious about it, and did very well. Just look at her face when she finished her first cut!
Etta came over again yesterday and today to help us prepare all of the cuts, and now our freezers are full of lean, fresh, hard-earned venison.
Yesterday I walked out of the bedroom and found this scene in front of me:
JP had set them up this way while I was folding laundry. I guess we are living in the digital age.
Today Ruby was playing Tic-Tac-Toe on my iPhone, but it was set to a 2-person game, which means she was both "x's" and "o's." Every time she won (which, clearly, was every game), she would scream and laugh, "I WON! I WON!" It was hilarious.
Rosie is so big right now, and she knows it. In fact, she thinks she's as big as Rae and Ruby and should be able to do everything they do. Like her biggest sister, she loves to climb on anything and stand triumphantly on top with a huge, chubby grin on her face. She is talking a lot more, too, and communicating her needs very well with words like, cup, num-num, up, all done, night- night and outside. She can fetch me her shoes and hat when she wants to go out and looooooves to read. The other night she kept bringing me a square cardboard coaster and pleading, "Book, book!" She's sneaky and stubborn and unbearably cute, and I love her to pieces. :)
I'm so excited for Christmas this year, especially for the surprises we have planned for the girls. We are not huge on buying gifts, but this year there are a number of small things we've found and picked up for them, and I just can't wait to see their faces. I'm hoping to get Christmas decorations up tomorrow after church, and hopefully we'll get our tree soon.
Today Ruby turned to Rae and randomly asked, "Rae, do you still love me?" Rae's response melted my heart: "You don't ever have to ask that. I'll always love you." These girls are the sweetest things ever.
I've been thinking more and more about which direction I'd like to take my photography. I've had a little taste of everything now -- weddings, families, children, newborns, seniors, events -- and while they are all fun in their own way, some I enjoy more than others. And even though I feel like it's supposed to be the epitome of having reached full photographer status, weddings are coming up at the bottom of the list for me.
Ah, weddings. Weddings are fun, but quite stressful for me. I really don't have the equipment I need to do a wedding properly. Ideally I would have a backup camera. If my wimpy little Canon Rebel crapped out on me during their wedding day, it's not like I can reschedule another shoot. The whole day would be lost. I also need better lighting equipment, better quality lenses with a wider range of focal lengths, and more/bigger memory cards. I also have to find an all-day (or most-day) babysitter every time, and every nap time and evening is filled with editing for at least a month.
What's more enjoyable to me are short, active photo shoots with families & children that only take a few days to edit. And I LOVE newborn photography. Newborns are perfect. They are so tiny and sweet. You can't go wrong with them! I would love to specialize in newborn photography. All I need is this. And this. And maybe a couple of these. *sigh* Will I ever get there?
It would be fun to set up a little studio in our house, especially for newborns and winter-time photography. My friend Dena and her kids Zion and Jelani Jr. came to our house last week and we set up a fake little backdrop. It didn't work great, but I got a couple decent shots.
Hopefully you all don't get sick of me talking about photography so much. I don't want to come off as self-consumed, but it is on my mind quite a bit. Stay tuned for a post about the girls soon. :)
Today was one of those hair-in-a-pony-tail-because-I'm-feeling-frumpy kind of days. I felt chubby and gross as I pulled my dry-on-the-bottom, greasy-on-the-top hair back out of my face, revealing what to me were impossible pores and puffy eyes. No amount of makeup would help today. I flipped of the bathroom and walked out into the living room when Ruby said, "Mom, you look like Cinderella with your hair like that."
Sometimes they know just what to say to make things better. :)
Not much is new around here. JP was gone all weekend for deer rifle season opener. He didn't get anything, though. The girls and I had a busy weekend while he was gone, including my third wedding gig and another family photo shoot. The wedding was...ok. I left feeling a little discouraged, and I'm not super happy with the pictures. That said, I don't think the couple was looking for anything super artsy or creative; just traditional photos, which is what they are getting. The lighting situation was very challenging for me, and I'm just not set up for that. I'm thinking about stepping away from wedding gigs for now until I get more of the equipment I would need to do the job properly.
The girls are all doing great. Rae is so smart and helpful. I've been doing some pre-school stuff with her, which she loves. She and Ruby are both in AWANA at our church, and Rae is excelling in it. She has made lots of friends at our new church and loves getting to go to her "class." We've been at Cross Pointe Church in Cambridge for about a year now, and it's been such a blessing. It has made living way out here so much better.
Ruby is in a strange phase right now where she eats paper all the time. I'll find bills with a bite taken out of the corner, cardboard books with the bindings chewed off, and at dinner she'll have her food right in front of her, yet she'll be eating the napkin! She says it tastes good. I'm at a loss.
Rosie is going to give me gray hairs before I even turn 30. She is a handful and a half. She's a very happy and smiley baby, but she's constantly getting into things she's not supposed to touch, like the dog water bowl, the remote controls, or daddy's deodorant. She has also recently learned how to climb up the dining room chairs, and the other day I found her standing in the middle of the dining room table. The poor thing has countless bonks and bruises from falling off of things, stumbling or getting knocked over.
I know it's late, but we did carve pumpkins again this year. The girls were so excited. Rosie was already in bed by the time we finished, but you can see how giddy Rae & Ruby were.
I'm slowly preparing myself for the long, cold winter months in Princeton. The dark evenings are already getting to me. I've made a lot of new friends out here since last winter, so I'm hoping I won't feel so cooped up and isolated this time around. I really do love it more and more out here every day.
I'll leave you with some funny quotes from the girls. :)
Me: "You're one smart cookie!"
Rae: "I am NOT a cookie, and cookies are NOT smart."
Ruby: "Mom, is that your wedding dress?"
Ruby: "And is that Dad's wedding dress?"
Rae: "Ruby! Only the brides wear wedding dresses! Not the bucks!"
Me: "Little pig, little pig, let me in!"
Ruby: "No, no, no, chin, chin, chin, NO!"
I've been super busy with photography lately! Everybody wants family pictures for Christmas, it seems. Here are some more examples of what I've been doing. Practice makes perfect, right? I'm far from perfect, but I love practicing!
The Lind Family