Corbin’s turning the big 5 this year. Now, admittedly, we have been skimping on the birthday parties the last couple of years. We had some big blowouts and then we just kind of faded on our party planning skills. Oh, and by ‘we’ I mean me of course. This year is different. This year is a big birthday – a whole hand worth of fingers. That’s something to celebrate. When I “consulted” my son about his birthday party he said he wanted a bike party where everyone brought their bikes over and rode them. I had to remind him his birthday is in March…and that he lives in Minnesota. So, we brainstormed about what else he might like at his party. He listed every superhero I know of and then some. To be honest, he could have totally been making them up and I’d have no idea. A superhero birthday it is!
I didn’t want napkins and plates plastered with The Avengers so I’m lucky I have one of the LEAST picky kids I’ve ever encountered. He’s super chill and could really care less about the aesthetics of his party. He just can’t wait to have everyone over. This is perfect for me because I can make it look like whatever I want it to. I’ve decided on a color scheme and am going from there. Here is the palette I came up with for the big day. It took me a couple of hours to finally pick these colors. I first narrowed it down from several color combos and then tweaked and tweaked until I came up with something I loved.
Here’s the invite:
I’m still in the planning stages with a lot of the details but I will update as I go. How do you handle birthdays in your home? Do certain birthdays hold more weight than others or are all created equal?
Oh yes, I’m that mom. You see, I have been contemplating all these cool Valentines I’ve seen on Pinterest and trying to decide which ones to do. Now, it’s the weekend before the big day and I’ve got nada. Well, I had nada. I must have had some good karma saved up because my boys were oh-so-excellent in Target today. They even let me *gasp* browse. While I was there I found some crayon rings in the dollar section ($3.00).
I was going to use these for both boys but then came across some bouncy balls (24 for $3.00) and decided Corbin could use those. Hudson was momentarily devastated but there are lots of 2 year olds in his class and I felt like the balls were way more of a choking hazard. I also got some sour gummy worms for Corbin to give at daycare since, again, there are little ones. Oh yes, did I mention I was shopping for two preschool classes and a daycare? That also includes a total of nine teachers. I came home and whipped up some Valentine’s during naptime. Here they are:
They fit snack sized zipper bags. Easy, inexpensive and some candy-free options. I haven’t had the boys write their names on them yet. I’m going to do that tonight as we wind down for bed. After a crazy day of sledding and hot chocolate creations, they are a little wired.
Oh, what’s that you say? You are a procrastinator like me, need something fast, and don’t have time to whip these up yourself? Just click on the image to download them for yourself. I printed them on 8.5 x 11 heavy cardstock, 3 per page. Enjoy!
So, my mother-in-law borrowed me her sewing machine. She got a new “fancy” one and I had a sewing machine on my Christmas list. She gave me hers to use to see if I would actually like sewing. As soon as I got home with it I took it out, put it on my desk, read the manual-which seemingly was in another language, and then promptly put it back in the case. I imagine this is what my grandparents felt like when they got their first computer. I mean, I have NO background information in sewing. I knew what the thread, needle, foot pedal and bobbin were. That literally was the extent of my knowledge. I thought I was pretty good remembering bobbin! Apparently whatever my middle school home economics teacher taught me did not stick. I even called me ever-so-tech savvy husband over. His super tech powers were no match for a machine that was strictly mechanical.
A month later my mother-in-law came to stay at our house the night before she flew out from Minneapolis. She taught me to fill the bobbin, how to thread the machine, and sew. She then told me I had to do a project before she returned in 10 days. Oy. I had pinned these mats from Pinterest and ran to Ikea for their uber-cheap pillows and some pillowcases. It took me a whole nap time (and let’s be honest that is some precious, precious time) to get it to work. I would sew, it’d get all bunched up underneath and I’d take a deep breath. By the time the boys woke up from their 2 hour nap, I was ready to throw the whole machine in our fireplace. Seriously. Of course, as soon as they woke, the machine magically worked. I’m not even quite sure what had gone wrong. My mother-in-law chalked it up to maybe having thread stuck somewhere by the bobbin. The sewing part was actually not too bad. Not beautiful stitching, but for my first project they work and totally serve their purpose. In fact, my children have even come up with all new purposes for them.
Snuggled up. Hudson folds up the ends of his to use as his “snack tray” Perfect for popcorn during the movie!
Corbin folds his end up to use as a blanket.
I used this tutorial. Simple, right? HA, I say. HA. Because I’m an uber-beginner there were a lot of things I didn’t even know that I didn’t even know. For example I tried setting the two pillowcases side by side (that’s what one tutorial said to do) and just overlap a little bit and then sew. Okay, well this worked but ended up with the crookedest line you ever did see. Okay, so if you are not a beginner, laugh away. If you are let me give you a few things I learned from this project.
1) Don’t thread your tension knobber thing before your thread take up. Seriously. It doesn’t work and you could end up with your sewing machine in the fireplace if you don’t realize what you’ve done.
2) Put your two pillowcases evenly on top of each other to sew them together.
3) Have you noticed those little lines to the right of your needle? Those are helpful for keeping your fabric straight–in case you suck at pinning like me. Ignored my number two hint (like I did for the first whole mat )? Good luck, sweetie, your lines are now buried under the second pillowcase. I’m sure they have a real name. I don’t know what it is.
4) Apparently everyone says you should iron and wash first. I didn’t do that either. I did end up washing one of the movie mats and everything held and looks great like it did before I washed it.
I used five pillowcases for each movie mat. I like that they are as long as a bed this way. Plus, the boys can fold two pillows on top of each other for some extra cushion on their little heads and still fit their whole bodies on them. This will come in handy when we take them camping this summer!
My first adventure in sewing turned out usable. I’ll take that for the win. I’ve started another project that will take a while so I’m not going to go ruin the surprise. I will tell you it involves a pattern which I don’t even know how to read or use….. More adventures to come!
Honesty check. So, as you all know or have noticed, I took an extended break from portraits. I am struggling with that work-life balance thing. Being a Pre-K teacher 4 days a week and a full time momma to my two awesome littles, leaves hardly any time to enjoy photography. I love doing sessions here and there but it really started to feel like another job and that’s not why I fell in love with it. I fell in love with capturing connections and being able to immerse myself in the love I was editing. I burned out. I wasn’t feeling the love. I felt like I was taking too much time away from my children and (oh-so-understanding) husband. It became work because I worried so much about my style fitting my clients’ wants and needs instead of just doing what I loved and recognizing they hired me because of my style. Oh, and there’s all of this in my life: Hushed No More. While all that happens over at HNM is a real part of my life right now it is such a minute slice. HNM is helping other survivors and helping parents protect their own kiddos and I’m not willing to give that up. However, what’s happening over there is not what defines my life. Despite it, my life is amazing. AH-MAY-ZING and I want to share all that amazingness too!
So, here I am. Raw, honest and feeling like a failure in the business of photography. Even as I write that, I realize I didn’t set out to make this a business. I did this for myself. Being paid for doing something I loved somehow justified the time away from my family (only in my head of course). So, what’s next you may be wondering? Well you have tuned in at just the right moment.
I will not let this blog sit empty for months again. I was pigeon holding myself when it came to the blog. I worried about putting i-phone pictures up because I didn’t want future clients to think that was what my professional photos looked like. I worried about putting too many personal photos or activities up because I this was my photography site after all. “No more!” I say! No more rules for this little blog. I will post whatever makes my heart sing.
But, Jennifer- why don’t you just start a new blog with a new address? Well, quite frankly, I don’t want to. Maybe when I come up with some super incredible blog name that hasn’t already been taken? For now, I’m quite content here.
What can you expect? Well that is certainly a good question and one that I can’t answer fully. I will tell you I’ll be posting some adventures in parenting, adventures in pretending to be crafty, adventures in marriage and adventures in photographing beautiful people. That’s all you get for now! Well, almost all. I feel like I’ve left you all hanging and so here are some highlights of life since my last blog post - stolen from my yearly digital scrapbook.
Sidenote: the last blog post was about our Happy Family Movement summer bucket list challenge. We are already plotting planning this summer’s adventures and you are not going to want to miss it!
Oh what a busy two weeks! We had house guests for the bulk of last week so I apologize for not getting a blog post off for that week. Lucky you! Now you get a double dose of our bucket list adventures. One thing I’ve added to some of the photos is a little “iphoneography” watermark if photos were taken with my iPhone. Here’s the thing, I love sharing all our adventures with all of you but this blog is also visited by future clients so I want to be clear that some of these photos are indeed from a camera phone.
So, about our houseguests: “Auntie Becky” and “Baby Joe/Baby Cuz” came to stay with us last week. On our bucket list we had something along the lines of showing Joe the city. However, this week was soccer camp week and super hot so we didn’t exactly get out and about too much. Good thing the real goal of this adventure was to have them stay with us. The boys loved snuggling their cousin every morning and it was so sweet to see them around the baby. We’re looking forward to hanging out on Joe’s turf next month!
Next up was mini-golf. Love. The boys had so much fun and since we did it at the Science Museum of Minnesota, we got to talk about all sorts of fun stuff. Check out all the lessons here. Corbin got a hole in one on the first hole. Lucky kid. Hudson didn’t really get the putter. He would try once and a while to hit the ball, but ultimately, he just would kick it into the hole.
We headed to the Linden Hills neighborhood of Minneapolis to check out Wild Rumpus bookstore and eat at Sebastian Joe’s. The bookstore was so fun. They have all sorts of animals and a great selection of books. Hudson liked the parakeets while Corbin preferred to “read” all about baseball dads. At Sebastian Joe’s we had the most delicious ice cream. It was so yummy. The boys liked that they got sprinkle cones. You can see Hudson’s mad face below. There was a little bird hopping under our table picking up dropped sprinkles and waffle cone pieces. This did not please Huds at all and he took every opportunity to scold that bird.
While we were walking around we headed in to Creative Kidstuff and I picked up a tie dye kit. During our 10 minute look around the store I was told by two different employees that it was the best kit ever. I was skeptical but went ahead and bought it even though I had picked up a cheaper one earlier in the week. I am so glad I listened. The boys’ jammie shirts turned out so cute. I don’t have many pictures of the actual process because I was trying to manage the mess but they boys had fun. Even though the kit listed 8+ as the appropriate age, I would recommend it for littles with their parents’ help. Here’s the link to the tie dye kit.
It was so. darn. hot this week. Welcome to Minnesota! I decided it would be a good week to make our piñata. Again, I did it during the week so the process doesn’t have many pictures but I tried to get some shots once my hands were flour/water free. First of all, the boys didn’t like the mess but did help me paper mache one of the balloons. I tried to be all fancy and that totally failed. My little fish scales started falling off once I got about half way up. It’s too bad because it could have been cute. The boys didn’t want to decorate their piñata so white tissue paper it was. We, of course, picked a ridiculously hot day to smack that thing open. Oh, and we have a black drive way so literally the candy started melting the instant it hit the drive way. Good thing “it’s the process not the product” because we ended up with two ugly piñatas and candy that needed to go in the fridge to reharden plus two very happy little boys.
Half way through the week I remembered berry picking. I looked at every pick-your-own berry place to see where we could go get some strawberries (the preferred berry in this house). Wouldn’t you know strawberry season ended early this year . We headed to Berry Hill Farm to pick raspberries instead. It was a small but really nice place and the boys had fun. Well, Hudson had fun. Corbin had fun when he wasn’t running from every bug buzzing around his face. To his credit he had just been stung by a bee two days earlier so that was pretty fresh in his mind but it made picking berries quite challenging for him. Every time he got his little pint filled up it’d end up being thrown on the ground as he ran. It was quite amusing. Hudson gave me a report on every berry he touched. He ‘d tell me if it came off easy and was ready or if it needed more time.
With Brandon home on Saturday we headed to the 5-8 Club to have a real Juicy Lucy. Meh. I’m glad it was on our bucket list. I’m glad we did that very “Minneapolis” thing but I won’ t be running back anytime soon. A Juicy Lucy is cheese tucked inside two quarter pound beef patties. It’s a cheesy volcanic mess when you bite it. There’s some discrepancy as to who really invented the Juicy Lucy (Matt’s Bar also claims to be the original) and it’s been on the TV shows Food Wars and Man vs. Food. Like I said, I’m glad we did it but really was not overly impressed. The restaurant was cute, staff was great and everyone’s food tasted great I just didn’t care for the Juicy Lucy. Please don’t send me hate mail.
That night we headed down to Hastings for their weekly car show. It was so hot but there were a lot of cool cars and the boys really liked to analyze the engines when the cars’ hoods were up. Of course Brandon was in heaven and I enjoyed the people watching. All were happy. The boys were referred to as twins twice in five minutes. I guess when they are sitting in a side by side stroller and it’s hard to see the height difference I could see how someone would say that. Actually, not really. I can’t see it but I’m trying to not call those people crazy.
So there’s our bucket list update. Hope the rest of you are checking things off of yours and enjoying your summer!
We had many adventures this week. Now, we did not plan on doing so many bucket list activities in a one week span; it just kind of happened. However, though tiring, it was so nice to spend time with family and friends that feel like family.
We had fun at a new beach and playground on Saturday and then headed to the Minnesota Air Spectacular on Sunday. It was seriously like 100 degrees….at an airport…zero clouds. We all managed to stick around until the end of the show when the Blue Angels performed and it was pretty amazing. Plus, the clouds started to roll in at that point and there was some relief from the sun. We used A LOT of sunscreen and the boys managed to stay sunburn free. Brandon and me? Not so much. My sister-in-heart (side note: I love that, I heard a woman refer to her daughter-in-laws this way and it’s so fitting) and her family met us there and it was wonderful to spend the day with them. I wish we all lived closer. My boys adore their “baby cuz”.
Monday night we headed to Cottage View Drive-In in Cottage Grove. Oh my goodness, it was a blast! Again, we got to spend it with people we adore and miss so it was extra special. We brought tons of popcorn and snacks and the kids munched all night. Oh, and those cute little plastic popcorn containers? Thank you Target dollar section! It actually started to get chilly so we headed out after the first movie but the kiddos enjoyed Madagascar 3. We found out that this drive-in will be closing after the season because a large chain not worth mentioning bought the land. Sad…so go check it out this summer if you are in the area. We went on a Monday night and got there about 7:15 ( gates open at 8 ) and we were PLENTY early and got our choice of spots.
I’m not sure how many bucket list adventures we’ll fit in this week. We have adventure hang over today but Baby Joe (and his awesome Momma) is coming to stay with us next week so I’m sure we’ll have some things to share.
We had many adventures this week. Now, we did not plan on doing so many bucket list activities in a one week span; it just kind of happened. However, though tiring, it was so nice to spend time with family.
Wondering what all this bucket list talk is about? Check out info here
I only have two days left with students and two days of clean up before it’s officially my summer. We are signed up for summer activities and are continuing to plan when we are going to complete bucket list items! My favorite part of planning is that we are making plans with so many friends and family to complete the list. It’s a good way to get time together on the calendar so summer doesn’t slip away without seeing them all.
This week we somehow completed three more! We headed to the Minneapolis Farmer’s Market and scored some yummy grass-fed beef and pork. The boys’ favorite part was by far watching kettle corn being made! There was a clown, which terrified Hudson. Only after we started walking away did he want to try to walk up to him.
After that we drove a couple blocks to the sculpture garden and let the boys run loose. Corbin is most definitely a rule follower so he made sure to tell everyone that they were not supposed to be climbing on the sculptures. The Walker was hosting it’s free Saturday so they had outside activities like looking at tadpoles from the pond and rolling down hills in play tunnels. The boys had a blast.
After all that we went home and made popsicles which were a hit, except for the seeds. Next time, I’m trying peaches. Hudson is not a fan of loud noises so there’s a picture of him huddled under his blanket while Corbin and I were pureeing everything. I’m looking forward to many more rocket pops with different recipes.
Wondering what all this bucket list talk is about? Check out info here
This has been a busy week for us and I’m not even out of school yet! We planted our garden, which is our first official completed bucket list item. It was an adventure. Since we live in a townhome, we decided to rent a plot at our community garden. Wow. Let’s just say there are some serious gardeners out there. There’s nothing wrong with that, we are just totally not. I’m hoping to get a few veggies and not kill them all. We planted tomatoes, sweet peppers, carrots, cauliflower, sweet corn, cucumbers, and sugar peas. Since it’s our first garden, I’m not holding out for a huge harvest but it will be fun for the boys and hopefully we’ll get some fresh veggies without heading to the farmer’s market.
I was in Winona (and various other small river towns) yesterday checking out wineries with friends. Delicious. Brandon was home with the boys and it was a yucky day. Showers on and off, but at least it was warm. Brandon took the boys to play out in the rain and texted me “Playing in the rain! Another bucket list item.” I had my camera so he was left with his phone but he snapped away and told me he took lots of pictures so we could cross it off the list. They are not the most high quality photos but they capture the moment. I’m sure we’ll play in the rain again and get better pictures. Who says you can’t do a bucket list item more than once? Not this family!
Today was our first 90+ day of summer and of course that means heading to the nearest body of water…or splash pad! I am so happy it opened this weekend. The boys had a blast and I’m sure we’ll head back many more times. While we were there Corbin kept saying “This is on our bucket list right, Mom?” Half way through, Hudson decided he did NOT want to be wearing wet swim trunks and begged to have them taken off. I tried to persuade him to keep them on but he wasn’t having it. So, off they came. I guess a plus of not being potty trained yet is that at least he had a swim diaper on.
Here are the pictures of our bucket list adventures from the week and an updated list with the completed items crossed off. Looking forward to crossing more off the list soon!
Summer is almost here! Things are winding down in the classroom, the weather is warmer and it’s single-digit work days before school is out for summer. I am super excited to spend summer with the boys and have been thinking of all the things we want to do. Then I remembered The Happy Family Movement Summer Bucket List Challenge. Truth time: I was a happy family flop last year. I signed up for the challenge and didn’t even make the list.
This year is different, my friends. Last Friday during lunch the boys and I brainstormed some ideas for our list. With a 4 and a 2.5 year old, this looked more like them giving me a few ideas and me coming up with the rest BUT they do have some ownership in it and were excited about the other ideas I came up with. We read it over with Brandon when he got home from work and he had nothing to add. I like to think this is because I’m such an awesome wife that I included everything he would have wanted—I mean I even had Elko Speedway on the list. There are a few things we’ve done before and want to make sure to do again, but mostly its new stuff. We’ve lived in the Minneapolis area for 6 years and are reminded often of all the quintessential Minneapolis activities/attractions that we have yet to see and do. I kept that in mind while making our list and we ended up with the 60 you see below. Most of these we’ll do as a family but I’m sure there will be some that just me and the boys do as I’m off all summer and Brandon is stuck in his stuffy office. We are giving ourselves a little wiggle room to complete our list because there are a few things (State Fair and Renaissance Festival for example) that back up dangerously close to the end of August.
I took our brainstorming/scribbles and whipped up that cute little list but decided that though that was great for me, I wanted the boys to have more of a visual. Cue my Spotify “design” playlist, some chevron, and a summer color palette and you have our bucket list cards. Here’s a before shot of our picture wall and then the after with our bucket list cards strung across the kitchen/dining room wall. The plan is to replace the cards with a picture from the bucket list adventure. If we manage to remember to keep all the cards, we’ll put the cards and photos in a photo album at the end of our summer and of course, the photos will all make our annual family scrapbook. This is a good thing because I have seriously been lacking on taking photos of my own family these first six months of 2012.
So there you have it. The HFM Summer Bucket List Challenge is underway in our household. I’m looking forward to blogging about all our adventures and checking out the other participants adventures too! Want to participate? Head over to The Happy Family Movement and sign up!
Mother’s Day weekend I got to capture a beautiful family in a beautiful place. It made for a beautiful morning! Well, it was beautiful once the Doolans were there. Before that I was scouting the place and not one, not even two, but three garter snakes came out to visit me on the path. I was not excited about that and was somewhat frozen but managed to snap a picture with my phone. I’m not even sure why I took the picture because just looking at it gives me shivers.
Anyway, back to this beautiful family. I have been lucky enough to have Isis in my preschool classroom this year. She is stinkin’ adorable and so funny. I learned a bit about Isis’ family during their home visit and at conferences. Isis and her older brother, Rowan, both have special needs. Rowan was diagnosed at 2 years old on the Autism Spectrum with a diagnosis of PDD-NOS; Pervasive Developmental Delay-not otherwise specified, and ADHD. Isis has Sensory Processing Disorder as well as behavioral problems due to pre-birth trauma.
Why does that bit of info matter? Well, I happened to be talking to a dear (out of state) friend who has a child with autism. She talked about the fact that she was afraid to hire a photographer to photograph her son. She was concerned about how the photographer would react if he started to tic, or perseverate, or be his quirky self. She didn’t want to make a photographer uncomfortable, she didn’t want someone who would press her son to be posed or push him over the edge into a puddle of a meltdown. It broke.my.momma.heart. Seriously, I know how much I treasure the photographs that we have taken each year. They are of who our family is at that moment and I love them, even if my kids are being goofy—it’s who they are and I want to remember that. So, when Shannon came in to drop Isis off at school a couple days later, I asked to photograph them. It started with, “Um…I hope this isn’t weird….” I went on to explain about my friend and that every family should have photos of themselves just being a family. She agreed! Phew! I was a little nervous; I mean it is a little random.
I met the family at Wood Lake Nature Center, a place where they visit a lot (read: the kids are in their element). Isis didn’t even flinch when she saw me out of the school context. For the first part of the walk, I really only saw the back of Isis since she was running so far ahead of us and enjoying the gorgeous day. The photos I took of her surprised me and her parents. She is stunning. I mean, of course you can see she is a cute kid, there is no denying that. However, on film (okay, technically not film but you know what I mean), she is simply stunning. I believe they could pad that college fund with some modeling gigs if they so desired.
When we got the nature center, Rowan instantly started telling and showing me all about prehistoric men, how they sounded, how they moved and pounded their chest. He even acted out how an animal might sound after it was speared. He was so excited and having so much fun with it. I felt so good that he trusted me enough to teach me about his favorite things. During our time together he also sang opera and rocked out. I told him not to forget me when he’s famous.
I noticed, at the very beginning of Rowan’s show and tell, that his mom nervously laughed and I let Peter and Shannon know that nothing fazed me. All I could think of in that moment was my friend and showing them that any behavior the kiddos threw at me, I could roll with. With that said, the kiddos were great. They played and ran and fought (hey, they’re siblings right?) and when I sensed they were “done”, we were done. Well, except one last family photo that turned out to be my favorite. It’s hard for me to explain how I worked with the kids because, quite frankly, it’s second nature to me so I’ll let Peter and Shannon give their opinion:
“At first we couldn’t believe that Jennifer had offered to do a photo session for us. We only knew her as Isis’ pre-school teacher. We were cautiously optimistic about doing it, and a little nervous after previous encounters with the “studio experience.” Jennifer put us at ease right away with a warm greeting and she immediately connected with our children. Her calm and loving demeanor let the kids know they were safe with her. Jennifer’s ability to allow herself to become part of the event, and not just a bystander, made everyone feel relaxed. We think it shows in the work. For us this turned out to be a truly enjoyable experience, and we feel blessed that we have these beautiful pictures to remind us of that day, and of that moment in our lives.”
Let me say, this photo session was as much for me as it was for this sweet family. Every family should have photos of themselves just being who they are…just being a family. My hope with this session, this post, is that if there is anyone reading who may be having the same fears as my friend, that they realize that there are photographers out there who are experienced with children outside of the photography setting; children with special needs or children who think outside the box.
When I asked Peter and Shannon if I could mention the special needs topic in this post, Peter responded, “Loud and proud.” I couldn’t help but smile about that response the whole way home. THAT is what I want families to believe when they are thinking of getting photos taken. That statement said to me, “This is who we are. We are an amazing family. We have awesome kids and we are blessed.”