Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Future Photographer

Well... I'm admitting it. I thought that by getting a nice new fancy schmancy DSLR camera, I would instantly (and magically!!) be a better photographer. HA. HA. HA. After like 1 day, I realized that's not even close to the truth... and that being a good photographer is a lot harder than it looks!

It's coming up on a year since I got my D90... and I really should be taking better pictures than I currently am. I have spent the last few weeks super FRUSTRATED at the photos I'm producing... and have resolved to actually saddle up and get on the horse. No more standing on the fence, or occasionally feeding the critter... I need to "cowgirl up" and go for a good long gallop.

That being said... I have two kids. And a house to take care of. And laundry to fold. And meals to make. And a big ole pile of dishes that just NEVER seems to go away! And upcoming Bible studies and... yeah, ya'll know how life goes! So I'm not exactly sure what this whole "riding" thing will look like... but my desire is to put more energy into becoming a "photographer" than I have up to this point.

That being said... I am NOT willing to spend ALL my time editing photos. I am simply choosing to NOT make room for that in my day! My aim is to take a decent picture (correct exposure, correctly balanced, good composition) and then edit as little as possible (the same goal as I'm sure every other photographer has!!). If it's not perfect... than c'est la vie... my goal is to simply improve. I am realizing that I will not (magically!) get better overnight. But... I'm willing and wanting to learn... a lot!

So... I think this is going to be really hard. And I'm tempted to never post a picture on here again. BUT I'm remembering why I do this whole blog thing... it's not to "showcase my work"... it's to keep our family and friends connected with us. Simple as that!

Thank you (in advance, maybe!) for your encouragement... and for journeying with me in this huge learning curve!

OKAY! Now on to the REAL STORY!

If I can't learn to take a good picture, than at least Alia's got my back!

Let me give you a glimpse of her new prized "camera!"

She has a studio and everything... and a model who's more than willing to cooperate, for say... at LEAST a good 5 seconds or so!

"Say CHEESE!!!!!!" ... she's heard that a time or two in her little life! And, in her mind, no shutter button can be pressed without those two words!

Looking into her camera to see if the picture is okay!

Apart from getting a huge kick out of watching our "future photographer"... I'm pleased that my tripod is getting way more use than I've ever given it! I have no doubts that Alia will be showing me a thing or two in this little journey I'm on!

Friday, February 18, 2011

Our "Free" Morning in a Nutshell

Today we were planning to head to a wonderful friend's house for the morning/afternoon... but they were a bit under the weather, so some rescheduling was in order. Thus... we ended up with a "free day" on our hands. And yes, I realize that as a stay at home mom most days have the potential to be "free days"... but the reality is... they seldom are! There's always a big ole' to do list that needs to be plunked away at.

But, not today. Today is about having fun. That's it. The only item on the to do list. Maybe we'll sprinkle in some laundry and some kitchen work for good measure... but just a dash!

Our "free" morning... in a nut shell.

- Breakfast.

- A swift dance around the kitchen to one of the girls favorite praise/worship CD's.

- A trip to the basement for some swinging / teeter tottering / car racing / tricycle riding fun... with a sprinkle of laundry and a hint of folding!

- Bedtime for the little one & movie time for the big one...

- Larren and I's attempt at matching the self portraits that Alia and I took the other day...

I can't say ANY of them are worthy of... well, anything... but were entertaining none the less!

- A little lunch of requested mac and cheese followed by some sisterly lovin'...

mac and cheese just brings out the love in everyone, I tell ya! ;)

- Off to the "lidig woom" for some play time...

- First up... "2nd lunch" prep and delivery!

- A balloon toss

- Alia's first up do with short hair...

with a bit of help from little sister!

- A train race (with a dramatic opening song from a talented little musician!)

and the inevitable road block!

- A new game I made up called "Couch Crouch", where we see how many toys we can find under the sofa... :)

- A little spinning action on the Sit and Spin...

- An easel raid... though the striped pants are a dead giveaway as to who the "lone raider" might be!

- A quick horse ride to the mountains and back...

- and a little story (or two!) to cap off the morning before nap time.

The girls are officially sawwing logs as I type... I'm having some down time... and we're all super excited that daddy will be joining the fun in a couple of hours.

*Sigh* I am SO blessed to be here, warm at home, with my girls, just doing what we do... Tinkerbell PJ's (til supper time) and all!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Percy with a P

So... I am NOT a stuffed animal person. Not. Not. Not. They're okay in moderation... but moderation is the very key factor here! I have a history of slipping unused stuffed animals into the Thrift store pile when the girls aren't looking... and then pretending I'm just as confused as they are when we can't seem to find them. Just bein' an honest mom here!

That being said... our girls each have night time stuffed animal friends that CAN NOT disappear. I tell ya... those little friends are both a blessing and a curse! Alia and Larren look SO forward to cuddling with their little dudes at bedtime... BUT if they aren't there, well... there's tears!

I'm sure most of you are acquainted with Alia's "Lukey" by now...

**here's Lukey on a VERY special outing to the zoo... considering he rarely sees the light of day, this is momentous indeed!*

...but Larren too has a new BFF.

So... without further ado... let me introduce to our newest feathered family member!


That's him. He's quite on the... uhh... "homely" side, isn't he? I can't say he's what I would have chosen... at all... but that's okay, because Larren chose him and she loves him to the moon and back... sad yellow eyes and all!

He came into our lives quite by accident!

We were walking through Kohl's... okay, clarification... I was shopping and JON and the GIRLS were walking through Kohl's... trying to stay entertained for "just one more minute!"... when Jon spotted a display of these little green suckers. He thought, "Why not... desperate times call for desperate measures (clothes shopping is definitely in Jon's "desperate times" list!!)... I'll just let Larren carry him around for a couple minutes!"

I should mention that Larren has not been attached to ANYTHING up to this point in her life... so it seemed relatively harmless. But... she lo-o-o-o-o-ved the thing. Loved it. And since the price tag was a measly $2, and since we still had another 4 1/2 hours to travel, and since it would at least keep Larren entertained to some degree... we thought it was a good purchase!

Well... the rest is history. Percy has been by her side every night since. And I have to tell ya... it gets a little R rated sometimes. When Larren gives Percy a kiss/kisses.... I almost feel like I'm seeing something I shouldn't be! Like I should turn away or give them some privacy or leave the room... I dunno!!

She was THRILLED when Percy was able to come downstairs on Valentine's day... she introduced him to the family, they shared their first meal together, Larren was able to see him dressed up a bit... it really made their relationship even stronger!

So... he's here to stay it seems. And I'm just glad we were able to get our hands on 3 more of those cheap little discontinued suckers. Let's just say that Percy has a much needed "bird bath" coming up next week and I'm not 100% sure how that's gonna pan out!


Our Valentine's day was looking a little on the low key side, due to Larren's party planning and all. I had several ideas in mind... but time after time something came up that made those plans move to the bottom of the list.

For example... I was almost done making little "love coupons" for a scavenger hunt when they were all lost due to our computer updating... move on down to bottom of the list please.
Or the heart garland that I had looked forward to making with Alia... sadly, bottom of the list.
Or the "I heart it all food spree" where breakfast, lunch and supper were going to be served in the shape of a heart... supper got pushed to the bottom of the list, and never did quite move back up in time.

SO - plan B consisted of WINGING IT!

For breakfast we made pink heart shaped pancakes... original, I know! Probably half of the population did this, but the girls were pretty pumped, so it was a success!

Then Jon surprised me with a whopper of a gift after breakfast... and REALLY upped the anty!! A gift card for Tim Horton's and a little note that said something along the lines of... go out, kid free, with a friend. "Well now, that's sweet..." I thought! THEN... I read the next part. Two gift certificates for a massage, manicure, and pedicure... why two you ask? For me to take a friend along, of course!!! That guy... he knows me absolutely SO WELL! I was SUPER blessed and oh so giddy with excitement!

Now... my wheels were really turning with how I could make the evening more fun for our whole family. The original "I heart it all food spree" just wasn't taking shape (Ha!). Heart shaped pizzas have already been done in our family... so I decided to simply have a "best friends supper".

Alia decorated with some window clings she had been given...

and made Daddy a special valentine card.

Then we both ran upstairs to pick out dresses and get all prettied up. Alia chose a bright pink dress that she insisted on wearing backwards, and I chose the only red dress I own... simple enough! Larren wasn't thrilled with the dress idea and requested to wear jeans to the event. We graciously acknowledged her request!

Alia and I wanted to get a couple pictures of us together... but after like the third try she was getting a little sick of it! Can ya tell? :)

I even let Alia put on lipstick for the night... which made her little heart VERY happy!

Since we were having a "best friends supper" Alia and Larren were allowed to bring their buddies down from upstairs. A rare treat, indeed! Both Lukey and Percy were given a red ribbon to dress them up for dinner... and were allowed to sit beside their respective lovey girl!

**We'll be officially introducing Percy in his very own post here shortly so stay tuned! :) **

Supper was super simple (don't forget, we're winging it here!) and consisted of traditional lasagna (that I had in the freezer!), salad (bagged, I might add!), garlic bread...

and a glass of white wine for me.

We'd like to shout out a big "THANKS!" to Jeannette for the yummy chocolate truffles... those made for an excellent dessert! :)

The girls had fun and Jon was blessed that we made the extra effort to have a "Valentiney" supper! And since he walked in with a bouquet of flowers... I was glad we did SOMETHING out of the ordinary, even if it was just putting on a dress and a little lipstick!

My gift for Jon didn't quite top the gift certificates he gave me, but he was excited none the less! It didn't even matter to him that Alia spilled the beans long before the bag was opened! :)

Was it the "love day of all love days?!" Maybe not to some. But did each member of our family feel extra loved and appreciated for who they are? Absolutely!

So... mission accomplished!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Cupcake Central

Cupcakes were the theme for Larren's very first birthday party. There was just SO MUCH more I could have done with this idea... but I kept things quite simple and went for the "clearly homemade" look!

We decided to hold Larren's party at a nearby hotel for several reasons:
1. We have a very "quaint" house... and the thought of fitting 25-30 people in our home would be a FAR stretch indeed!
2. Our garage is a little on the chilly side at the moment... so moving the party in there might have been a good recipe for frost bite!
3. It's winter and we thought the kiddos would love to take a dip in the pool while the snow flies around outside!
4. It was super cheap to rent the facility for the whole afternoon/evening...
so all in all it worked out quite nicely!

We started the party off with some swim time. The kids were thrilled, and a handful of adults even donned their suits and jumped in as well!!

Larren is no stranger to pool life, and couldn't wait to get her little piggies in the water!

Though Jon did mention that her grip was a little on the tight side of the spectrum!

It never fails... "water gulps" are sure to happen a time or two...

but our birthday girl didn't let that keep her down!

Our little Larren love!

Enjoying some pool time with Nana and Pops!

Her little "HEY, it's YOU again!" face just makes me smile!

Alia is a huge fan of the water, and had been looking forward to swimming ALL week! Between Jon, Uncle Brad, and Nana and Pops she had many opportunities to practice her swimming!

Here are two of Alia and Larren's good friends enjoying the water too!

The "non-swimming" party guests, chatting it up pool side!

Speaking of party guests... check out this little cutey patootie! I tell ya... those cheeks just get me every time!

After the kiddos were all wrinkled and pruney, we went to the meeting room for the rest of the shin dig.

Here's the homemade banner that I made for Larren. I gathered some old scrapbook paper one evening, made a template, went on a cutting and glueing spree... then voila! My mother in law helped string the cupcakes together - and I honestly think that was the hardest part!! Sorry, and thanks again, Mom!

Since the theme was cupcakes we had... well... cupcakes for dessert! We kept it low key and just added three different sprinkle options for interest... rainbow, chocolate and clear sugar sprinkles- though the rainbow ones were clearly the winner with the youngsters!
...the cupcakes before transport...

... all safe and sound at the party...

For Larren's special cake I made a giant chocolate cupcake with chocolate sprinkles. Again... think HOMEMADE!! :)
...the cake before transport... one piece :) at the party...

For favors, we continued on with our birthday tradition of sugar cookies that coordinate with the party theme. We "matched" the cupcake shaped cookies to the real cupcakes and again went with three different sprinkles options.

Alia and I made the cookies ahead of time... and then we had an "icing party" when Jon's mom was here! Jon and Jeannette sure can bust a move with the royal icing, I tell ya! I really enjoyed this time together... just chatting and laughing at each persons mistakes! As Mom said... our mistakes keep us from feeling superior... and well... our cookies sure were proof of that! Thanks again J and J... I really appreciated you help and our fun evening together!

We had a simple "faspa" meal consisting of buns, jam, butter, cheese, pickles, chips and veggies.

**For those of you who don't know what faspa is, it is basically a Sunday meal consisting of food that doesn't need to be cooked and/or can be prepared the day before. The tradition stems back from the old Mennonite days when there was no meal prep allowed on Sundays... so buns, cold meat, cheese, veggies, etc. etc. were usually on the menu. Just a little piece of Canadian trivia for ya!**

Larren really enjoyed the meal... can ya tell?!

Okay, so the original plan was for Larren to dive into the massive cupcake... BUT... from the very moment she layed eyes on the cake, she was skeptical!

Some serious coaxing had to be done before she would even touch the thing!

We thought frosting would just be aflyin' from the get go, so we suited her up from "head to toe"... but in the end the massive mound of frosting was a no go, and she simple preferred a regular sized cupcake instead!

The other kids would have GLADLY dove into the large cake on Larren's behalf... but they too settled for little ones... with rainbow sprinkles of course!

On to present opening! Now, let me just explain that we ALWAYS write "No gifts please!!" on our invitations! We feel that our friends already have enough stuff to worry about, and buying for/spending money on our kids shouldn't be one of them! We still want the girls to have something to open at the party, so we bring our gifts along, BUT... there's usually a rebel or two in the group who just can't help but do a little spoiling! :) And the girls are happy to oblige!

This was the scene for a large part of gift opening time!!! It's just so hard for the other kids to sit back and watch when there are perfectly good presents to open! :)

Alia took it upon herself to make sure there was never a halt in production... she knows that the sooner the gifts are opened, the sooner she can play with them too!

By the last couple of gifts Larren was really starting to get in the groove... literally! The new guitar/violin that Alia gave Larren sent her little hips a-wiggling and her arms a-waving!

She went home with a couple worship CD's, a new book, a new puzzle, a sock monkey, a bath toy, a guitar/violin, some snacks, and some gift cards/money! We are just so blessed by people's generosity... even when we tell them NOT to be generous!! :)

And since we have very FEW pictures of the four of us together... here's a couple of us as a family.

Thanks again for snapping a couple pics Tanya!

As I looked around the party room, I couldn't help but tear up! Every single one of the people there have made us feel like family and have welcomed our girls with opened arms! I couldn't help but feel overwhelmed with gratitude, joy, and love as family/friends came together to celebrate this lovely gift of a girl that the Lord has given us!

It's been a roller coaster year since Larren arrived... but my oh my, we are beyond thankful that she is in our lives! Every. single. day. we are blessed by her and her big sister! Kids are proof that our God is good and we'll celebrate that any chance we get!