Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

Well, if you live in Iowa, the big night of trick or treating is already said and done. We celebrate Beggar's night here. I will never understand it. It's not as if Halloween is some awesome holiday where there are all kinds of other things to look forward to. I mean, the trick or treating is it. So we do that the night before and then we're all, "now what?", on Halloween day. Although we have discovered one suburb in Des Moines that does it on actual Halloween night so now that Bennett's old enough to want to get enough candy to last him until next year (and so Mom & Dad can sneak plenty out without him noticing a big dent in his stash), he gets to go twice.

I love a good throwback (what's the point of taking all those pictures if you don't pull them out every once in a while?) so here's Halloween through the years.
Bennett was seriously the sweetest two year old on the planet. I almost cry whenever I watch videos of him at that age.
2011 (we were on vacation in '10): 
This was obviously BC (Before Channing). Ain't no way this mama of three boys would attempt all that face painting now.
Dawson's wearing the Max suit Judie made for Bennett for his 3rd birthday party
I have a personal rule that so far I've only broken once. I don't buy Halloween costumes. I have plenty of friends with boys that I can borrow from. It seemed crazy to me to spend any money on something they'll wear once. Now, I'm totally into freakin' adorable costumes. I'm just not into making them. So we take what we can get. (Although I'm sure there are some easy ones out there I could manage. I just need to start thinking about it before October 28th.) The only one I've purchased is the blue monster Bennett wore last year. I got it on clearance at PB Kids after Halloween. And technically since there aren't arms or legs, it'll fit forever. If any of you local mamas have adorable costumes and want to do some swapping, I'm happy to!

Last night on Beggar's night we went to my in-law's neighborhood. Jon was out of town (because he's not from Iowa either and forgot they do it the night before around here). The weather was AMAZING.  The boys were actually getting hot in those costumes! Bennett's costume was totally boring but we already owned it and at least I got to have fun with his hair.
 You know what I like? That no matter how much you pay (or don't pay) for a costume, babies always look so stinkin' cute. Channing didn't even try to take his hat off. He had so much fun riding around all night. I say it all the time but I'm so thankful I have one boy who's content to sit still for a while. The monkey is my nephew, Aben.
Aben definitely wears the pants in their relationship. He was tired of sitting so he climbed out and tried to pull Channing (Oh, and hi, cute little photobombing bat baby.):
 Did I get an adorable picture of all three of my boys sitting sweetly, next to the pumpkins? Of course not.
 I'm just proud I actually got a decent one of each of them!
I love watching my oldest two together. They fight like crazy at home but when we're out and they're around people they don't know, they always stick together and watch out for each other.
This little dude sucked on that Snickers, wrapper and all, until he'd managed to get all the candy out of it. Then he sucked on the wrapper for a while and threw a massive fit when I pulled it out of his mouth. Can't blame him. I'd probably scream too if somebody tried to steal my chocolate.
I love Aben's finger. He's like, "One more for me please!"
Both babies stuffing their faces with chocolate. They're smart. They know who to sit with.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sometimes I pretend to be a photographer...

....and sometimes people believe me. A couple of my friends recently asked me to take their family photos and I happily obliged. It's fun to play pretend. (If you don't care about photography, you may want to skip this post. And if you do, I would love constructive criticism from anybody who's been at this longer than me!) It's amazing how much I learn after I look back through photos. I'm talking about composition since I'm still using my camera on Auto. I got a lot of good advice from some of you about learning to use my camera in manual mode through YouTube videos. Which I think is great advice. But the problem is, I have such little free time (and when I do, I like to use it for reading or blogging) so I just haven't gotten around to it. Well then a very good friend of mine told me she signed up for a class with a photographer who she knows and who's work she really likes so I bit the bullet and signed up too! It's on November 30th. I'm really excited about it. I need concentrated time to learn and I'm just not going to carve out that time for myself.

I will preface this with, I know my editing skills are sorely lacking. I just use and do the best I can with my untrained eye.
This is a very good friend of mine. Her boys were a little tricky to photograph because her firstborn, Emmett, is quite serious so it was hard to get a natural smile from him and of course Porter is a wiggly little two year old. But I was very happy with the outcome! And by the end of it, Emmett was asking me to go out for ice cream with them. He was seriously disappointed when I told him I couldn't go. I won him over ;)

I'm in love with this next one. I should have had them turn around and walk back toward me so I could have gotten their faces in it.

This one took some serious convincing to get. Emmett did NOT want to lay down because there was a cricket in the grass. I'm glad he finally gave in after I flicked it far away because i think it's adorable.
I think this next one's my favorite, just because of the pose and all of their smiles. Too bad the sun had gone down and it was so dark.
This is my nephew, Grayson. My sis-in-law asked me to snap a few for his six month pictures. I think a baby in a box is my new favorite thing. Let's get rid of obnoxiously colored Bumbos and bouncy seats and just put our babies in vintage crates.

I took these next pictures two nights ago on the most gorgeous evening ever. I literally passed five other photographers downtown. It was slightly comical. These are the close friends of the first family I photographed. She's pregnant with twin boys (!!!) but I can see why God wanted her to have some more. They were insanely easy to photograph. They followed all my directions and just smiled on command like it was their job. I'm not used to boys like that!

Teag and Rhys:
At the end, Teag asked me to join them for ice cream too! It cracked me up. I'm glad the kiddos end up loving me in the end after all that bossing around I had to do for an hour!

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Midwest Living

This may very well be the most random blog I've ever written. As long as everybody's ok with that. Yeah? Ok...grab some we go.
I'm a little bit addicted to the old Instagram. (Facebook? What's Facebook??) I have to set rules for myself. The first one I made was to not get on it until I've spent some time with God in the morning (or sometimes not until the afternoon!). That made a big difference in my day. I forced myself to stay off of it for a full day a couple weeks ago and it was very freeing. I've been meaning to do that once a week but I've forgotten about it. I would love to hear from moms who have personal "rules" with your smartphone and what works for you. All that being said, Instagram is also a huge blessing to me. I'm building friendships with women across the country I never could have met otherwise (and I really hope someday I can meet some of these women!). I also get daily encouragement from cool, real, creative, inspiring women who are completely sold out for Christ. I get snippets of what it means to live out your faith in a daily way and it really has had a huge impact on my spiritual walk. It's also changed the way I photograph, just constantly seeing amazing pictures that others post. I think my photography has grown a lot over the last year and it's fun for me to experiment with light now.

I've talked about these two before. They are the BEST of friends. They don't fight. Ever. They just move in sync and play together as if they share a brain. I think Dawson's a little bit protective over Landon (he's about four months older and a LOT bigger!) and Landon knows Dawson's got his back.  
This past Sunday for a Colyer birthday lunch, Dawson says, "I didn't get any cake!" Landon says, "That's ok, Dawson. I'll feed you mine." And he did.   
Bennett is going to Awana on Wednesday nights at my in-law's church. It ends up being a highlight of our week. We head over to their house after school (most weeks), hang out for a bit, eat dinner together then Pop takes Bennett with him and brings him home for me later. (SO generous of him!) Bennett is loving it and I'm so proud of him for how well he's memorizing verses. He rarely even complains about doing it! It's really giving him confidence because he learns them quickly. I've been terrible about teaching them scripture at home so this has been great for all of us. This was last Wednesday after an IHOP dinner. Judie and I had both seen this old building on separate occasions and I happened to have my good camera in the car so we had a little adventure. (Don't you love how everything with preschoolers is an adventure if you call it that?? Like even running around in a gravel parking lot? It doesn't take much, folks.)
Dawson with his grandmother:
 And with his great-grandmother:

 My sweet baby. (Who now has a fierce stubborn streak but he's still mostly sweet.)

It was Embrace the Camera week on Instagram last week. Both Ashley and Emily were hosting the hashtag party and it was so wonderful to have an excuse to take a picture with my kiddos every day! I'm always behind the camera, rarely in a picture. So I'm the exact person they're talking to when they tell the mamas it's important to get in the shot sometimes. It ended up having a positive affect on our day. They gave us prompts to get our minds rolling and a few of the days we did things we normally wouldn't do and had a ton of fun. 
 Day 1: Smiles
I left the van doors open when we were exploring around the barn and ended up with about a million minuscule biting bugs inside. It was awful and Channing was swatting at his face and screaming at one point. Lesson learned. Windows and doors must remain closed when you're parked in the country. 

Day 2: Making Memories (After Day 1, I brought my DSLR along. Trying to prop up a smartphone and using the self-timer was ridiculous.)
(I bribed them with a cookie for this shot.) Jon was out of town so I wanted to think of somewhere we could bring a picnic dinner to that wouldn't be stressful. Chick-fil-a is our go-to but that's not exactly a spot that screams "making memories". Parks are great but not enjoyable at this stage with Channing still crawling. I finally remembered this spot really close to our house where there's just a small fenced in parking lot (always a plus with my boys who like to roam) with three army tanks they can climb on. It ended up being an absolutely perfect hour and half, killing time before bed. Bennett and Dawson climbed and played the whole time and Channing could crawl around without getting stuck or hurt or eating wood chips.
(I was trying to upload another picture of the boys on the tank--a silhouette shot with the sun behind them--but blogger kept automatically lightening the picture! Anyone ever experienced this before??)

Day 3: Everyday moments. Usually involving someone half naked.
Day 4: Creative. I embraced the camera with my most creative child. One of my most favorite parts of mothering him is watching him while he's completely immersed in imaginative play. He can go for hours (if there aren't any brothers around to interrupt him.) He is such a gift. 
 And speaking of his creativity, here are a few one-liners I've heard from him lately:

  • When I picked him up from preschool I asked him, "What was your favorite thing you played with today?" He says in a serious voice, "Everything. I love all the persons and the stuff. I even love my bag and babies."
  • In the car after a Target grocery run: "I have some good news and some bad news." He holds up the bunch of yellow bananas. "This is the good news." He holds up the bunch of green bananas. "This is the bad news."
  • He looks at a smushed raisin on the kitchen floor. "Was that my scab I took off last year??"
  • He was playing a harmonica soft and slowly. I said, "Dawson, that music is lovely." "It's comforting music," he says.
  • This morning after he lassoed a Beanie Baby zebra, he says to it, "You are my precious darling." 

Day 5: Faces. A last minute shot with my boy who likes to practice his silliest faces in the mirror, just like his daddy. (Seriously, I should show you a montage of my husband's silly faces sometime. He's got mad skills. Mine won't move that way. Believe me, I've tried.)
We made it to our first pumpkin patch of the year. It was a gorgeous evening (probably our last really warm day) and it made me happy that we were outside, soaking it in. Also, if you have really young kids, this is a great one. Because it's FREE! (Williamson's in Ankeny, IA) 
I don't think I could squeeze any more cuteness into one picture. Unless Channing was dressed up as a lamb or something.
 Sometimes my kids lick animal pens. No one died.

 (Blogger lightened most of these pictures too. What the heck?? I need to google that....)

And my two new favorite pics of these two: 

I always want to grab the camera when they're squished in this swing together. I don't know why they look so cute in there, but they do! Maybe because they're touching each other and still happy??

One last thing--I just wanted to share with you another devotional that's been blessing me in a huge way lately. I've sung the praises of Jesus Calling on here before. Well, recently a bible study group that I've been a part of for years started the Streams in the Desert daily devotional. I'd heard people talk about it a lot and now I know why. I have been loving it. It was first published in 1925, but since revised, so there is just a richness to it that I love. And here's the thing: my "quiet" times (that's a relative term because they're usually not at all quiet) are very brief. I'm a little ashamed to say they're usually only about 5 minutes long. But, they've been consistent. And that's what's been changing my life. Jon and I are walking through some dark days in our marriage. (Oh, you assumed we had a perfect marriage because we know how to smile for the camera? Yeah, no. Aren't we all catching onto the fact that things aren't usually what they seem in pictures?) But even though our marriage is looking ugly lately, I can say with a peaceful heart that these have been some of my most beautiful days. God is changing me. It's been small little baby steps over the last three years since I fully turned my heart over to Him but I am clinging to Him more tightly than I ever have. He's put a spiritual filter over my eyes and I see this world differently. I've been too concerned with gaining my confidence and self-worth through other people (including my husband) and in order to change that, He has to strip things away. 
I've been reading, No More Perfect Moms, by Jill Savage, in a moms bible study and its been such a great book. She quotes Gary Thomas in her chapter called, "no more perfect marriages", and it's stuck with me and is reverberating in my ear throughout the day, 

"What if God designed marriage to make us holy more than to make us happy?" 

Just let that one ruminate for a while. If you're like I was a couple of years ago and don't spend any purposeful time in God's word every day because you don't know what to read, pick up either one of the devotionals and it'll start changing your life. I'll leave you with some snippets from Streams in the Desert that I've been clinging to: 

"It is always safe to trust God's methods and to live by his clock." -Samuel Dickey Gordon

"God in His providence has a thousand keys to open a thousand different doors in order to deliver His own, no matter how desperate the situation may have become. May we be faithful to do our part, which is simply to suffer for Him, and to place Christ's part on Him and then leave it there." -George McDonald

"Trouble never comes to someone unless it brings a nugget of gold in its hand."