Monday, November 29, 2010

Double the Blessings

Thanksgiving 2010: bigger and better!  This year we celebrated with both sides of the family in the same weekend, something we haven't done in the past.  It was nice to get a double dose of loved ones, food, laughter and memories.

Thanksgiving Day was spent at my "aunt" Julie's, who has hosted the past few years.  It's cozy and warm, and the entire family settles right in, sinking back on the plush couch to watch football, nibbling at crackers and cheese, sipping glasses of wine all while waiting for the feast to finish cooking...which, this year, took much longer than usual due to a faulty oven.  The darn dressing just would.not.bake!  We waited it out, caught up with everyone and finally sat down to dinner at 3pm.

For this side of the family, I am thankful for:
*A small, close-knit group of relatives
*Great Aunt Florence's yeast rolls and the annual holiday punch
*Recoveries from illnesses and surgeries
*My cousin Megan's engagement to an awesome guy
*The jokes, the laughter and good conversations

Saturday was Thanksgiving #2, this time with the Stacys, and we were the hosts - our first time ever!  Everyone pitched in, carting loads of sides, rolls, appetizers, desserts and extra chairs from their cars as they arrived.  Mom and Matt came too, and it was very nice to have both sides of the family present in our home.  Jeremy fried the turkey, which turned out to be a fairly easy process despite having to brine it in a cooler the night before.  We loaded our plates and settled in for an afternoon of eating, chatting and relaxing.  It's hard work to host, but also very satisfying to look around your kitchen and no matter where you turn, there's someone pitching in to cut up veggies, stir a bubbling pot, wash dishes, or take out the trash.  Ava was passed from one person to the next, refusing to get down and play by herself - she enjoyed being in the arms of her extended family!  As our first time hosting a holiday feast, I'd give it two thumbs up.

For this side of the family, I am thankful for:
*A large, close-knit group of relatives
*Aunt Rita's decadent desserts
*The generosity of everyone
*The fact that they all traveled to Indy this time instead of us driving to North Manchester!
*Loud laughter, caring questions and lots of hugs

I've never appreciated this feeling of cozy family warmth as much as I do now that I have Ava.  I yearn to give her a stockpile of memories and traditions that she can someday pass on to her own children, and I hope that very soon she realizes the double blessings she has in her life: two families who love and care about her very much.  It was a happy Thanksgiving indeed!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


Isn't it great when you've just finished watching a hilarious movie and you're about to exit the theater when suddenly a new scene pops up on the screen?  Only it isn't's the outtakes.  And they never last long enough!  The outtakes are sometimes the best part of a movie, not just because they're funny...but because they're real.  They are the moments most movies don't even show because for some reason, the director doesn't want the public to see the mistakes of the actors.  But who is perfect?  No one!  The outtakes are part of reality, and when we regular folks get to see them, we get a glimpse into a day in the life on set of a movie...well, the better, funnier parts of the day anyway. 

In my attempts to coerce Ava into a photo shoot to get a few pictures I could use for holiday cards, there were moments of frustration, moments of "I got it!" - only to find out the camera wasn't quite focused, and moments where I finally had to give up and try later due to Ava's lack of compliance.  I was worried that I wasn't going to get any shots that would be holiday card "worthy," but after three sessions over the span of two days and the help of Uncle Matt and Dada, I finally did.  Not that I'm going to show the final product here!  This is a post about outtakes!  What do you think I'm going to share?  :)  All of the not-hilarious-at-the-time-but-pretty-funny-now moments during our photo shoots.

Could I get a smile, Ava?  No?

She was obsessed with my lighting equipment...

Uh oh...abort mission, abort mission!

Nevermind...back to staring at the lights.

Oh yes, had to take time out to feed the sippy cup to the bear.  He was thirsty!

How does this look if I lie on the floor, Mom?

Okay, we're sitting in the chair...background is good...aaaaand not looking at the camera.

Leaning tower of Ava? 

Try not to smile, kid.  Try REALLY hard.
And the last outtake from Day 1 Photo Shoot Attempt...
Hmm.  It's actually kinda cute.  But I am a perfectionist, and by my standards, this was not card-worthy.  Outtake-worthy, yes.  Artistic?  Sure.  However, I had a vision in mind...and this wasn't it!

Day 2 Photo Shoot Attempt yielded even more outtakes.  

That darn wind!  And uh, nice sippy cup...

Mid-chew.  Nice. 

I have a feeling I'm going to be getting this look a lot when she's a teenager.

Still no smiles?  Really?  Eh, poor background anyway!

One lone tear.  Don't you feel sorry for her that I'm always up in her face taking pictures?

Ava, look at the camera.  Ava!  Ava!  Ava, look at Mama!  Ava...AVA!

Hmm, maybe if we go back outside.  No?

There's that darn wind again!
I have no idea what she's doing...

Okay, looking up at the camera, but what's with the facial expression?!

The last three are highly edited, which gives them some pizazz, but again, I will reiterate: NOT CARD-WORTHY!

Thankfully, Day Two ended with some winners.  But these outtakes show real life and are winners too, just in a different realm.  They may not be perfect for a holiday card, but they are perfect for conveying Ava's personality and Mama's attempts at a photo shoot with her own toddler.  I have accepted these pictures for what they are, and have come to embrace a few of them for not being perfect.  Let's face it, life is imperfect.  We're not always going to get what we want, we're not going to feel happy 24/7, and there will be many moments where we wish we could have a do-over.  Instead of putting our heads down in defeat when we have an "outtake" moment in life...perhaps instead we should look at the bright side and embrace mistakes, because after all, we do learn from them!  

So what did I learn, you ask?  I've learned that shooting pictures of your own kid for fun  But shooting pictures of your own kid for a purpose is stressful and requires patience - and more than one attempt!  The outcome, however, is worth it! 

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dreary Days

I've noticed lately that the weather is getting dreary...gray skies, a cold wind that nips at your nose, and total darkness by dinnertime.  Normally this would seem depressing, but I'm sort of enjoying it.  It means mugs of hot sweet tea each morning, pots of soup bubbling away on the stove, brightly colored hats and scarves, and...the promise of the holidays in the near future.  And who knows, maybe even some snow flurries.  I wouldn't mind that!

Around here, cloudy days end with laughter, playtime...and fuzzy pink slippers.

I can't get enough of Ava in those slippers.  She loves to take her socks off around the house, but the tile floors in our entryway and kitchen are downright freezing for bare little feet.  Thankfully I have a girl who loves her shoes, slippers included.  I wish I had some similar ones for myself!

A dreary day ends well with a hot bubble bath.  I think someone can't wait to hop in.

Bath time is a sudsy ordeal, especially when Dada is the one giving it.  Bubbles abound in the steaming water and Ava wallows in it until the warmth is gone and the water becomes tepid.  She loves her baths.

Tonight's cure-the-dreary-day-blues was a 10 minute teeth brushing session...that Ava asked for.  You want to brush your teeth?  Of course I'll let you do that, kid!  And all by herself, she wet the brush, made the appropriate "aaaahhh" noises, and scrubbed her tiny teeth.

Of course a tooth-brushing session can't end without making faces in the mirror.  This is a daily ritual for Ava.  She loves to watch herself make all kinds of expressions.  She'll throw her head back and laugh, yell at the top of her lungs, scold herself or just jabber away at her reflection.

As for me, I ended this dreary day by taking pictures...what else would you expect?  I am in love with my new 24-70mm lens and since I don't have a photo shoot until the weekend, I had to take full advantage of it now!

I know it doesn't look like much from the front, but you should see this bad boy.  It's large and in charge...and quite heavy.  Did I mention I love it? 

Cloudy, dreary days are among us.  The weather outside is frightful, indeed.  But inside, we have fires to warm up to, blankets to cuddle under, festive holiday decorations, and cups of hot cocoa topped with marshmallows.  Bring it on, winter.  I'm ready!