Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hazel’s Book Themed Birthday Bash

Invitation created on Paperless Post. 

As promised, here are some photos from Hazel’s 10th birthday party.  We only do parties on even years, so Hazel had two years to debate and think and plan and set high expectations.  This seemed like a recipe for disaster, this girl has high hopes for things like birthday parties.  But, she planned pretty much all of it on her own and never second guessed any of her ideas or decisions.  This she did NOT inherit this ability from me! At the end of the day she was all smiles saying that it was the best birthday party ever (even though of course there were some glitches, and lots of imperfections).  She then asked me if I wanted to know her secret --- “you just have to lower your expectations and then you’re always happy.”  Old, wise soul. 

Anyway, the party was perfectly imperfect.  Mostly because she really did call the shots and was cool with me ratcheting some of her elaborate ideas down.   We had a good time pulling this off together.  Nothing was perfectly pinterest, but I’m realizing more and more how much kids don’t care about that.  They care about ownership, about having ideas and building on them.  They’re not trying to create something out of competition, but out of that creative spark that’s bursting out of them.  I hate it that part of that dies as we move away from childhood. 

Anyway, I’m digressing (are you noticing a theme here on my blog lately?  Letting kids take over, simplifying, taking a back seat parenting approach?  Where is this all coming from?  Maybe more on that later.)

Hazel’s chosen theme was books.  Of course this made me smile.  I love that she loves books and reading, that she is a little bookworm. 

She asked her friends to come dressed as a favorite character from a book.  She was Anne of Green Gables.  We had the white rabbit from Alice in Wonderland there, Calvin and Hobbs, Hermione and some other folks I wasn’t as familiar with.   IMG_6299 IMG_6293Oh, and we had Ralph S. Mouse from the Mouse and the Motorcycle (not much resemblance, but Peter grasps any opportunity to look like a cool biker dude).  IMG_6300 As friends arrived we made this cool book art.  This is an addicting (and very aesthetically pleasing) thing to do with some down time.  The kids all got pretty creative.   We just used an old book from one of my Wellesley Women’s Studies classes and sliced it up with an x-acto knife.  IMG_6303 IMG_6307 The kids played some improve games where they had to introduce each other’s characters (in their own character).  And one where they had to act like their character might act in a certain setting or scenario while others watched to guess what the scenario/setting was.  As soon as you thought you knew the setting you could jump in and start doing what you thought your character might do in that situation.  It was pretty funny. IMG_6311  IMG_6316 IMG_6317 We had a Yankee book swap.  Great way to pass around some already read books. 

Jeff also lead a game where the kids had to guess which books certain passages came from.  I was off getting pizza, so no photos of this….but I heard it was a hit.  IMG_6322 And then the real hit….Hazel’s traditional piñata.  She’s had a piñata for every birthday party.  This book one she and I made out of an amazon box.  It was pretty darn strong and took some serious whacking to break open.  IMG_6327   IMG_6338  IMG_6345 IMG_6349 And then, of course, presents and cake.  I love the present opening part of parties.  I love seeing how excited the giver is to give and the birthday girl is to receive.  And I love that it gives them a chance to thank the giver in person.  IMG_6350 IMG_6351  We always play “Heavy Heavy Hang over” as we open gifts.  This is a British(?) tradition where the giver says a little rhyme:  Heavy Heavy Hangover thy poor head.  What do you wish with a bump on the head.  They then give the receiver a little bump with the gift and the birthday girl tells them one nice thing they wish for the giver.  Hazel’s default wish is that the giver will get a swimming pool in their back yard.  I just love that it slows things down a bit and helps the gift receiver to think a little about the giver before tearing into their loot.  IMG_6357 IMG_6361

And the girl always picks blondies over birthday cake. That’s as easy as it gets. IMG_6369

Even with all of her involvement, pulling that party off was exhausting.   But I’m pretty sure it was worth it, judging from the constant smile on her face. 

She’s already thinking about her 12th birthday party. 

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Do-it-yourself Halloween

On Saturday I was working frantically on my computer trying to finish up some editing for a client when Emmeline came up to me, vying for my attention.  Her shockingly calm tone (she is not normally a calm girl) drew me out of my photo editing zone.  I could tell she was really trying hard to get this request right.   I looked right into her big brown eyes as she pleaded (for the umpteenth time that day) for me to help her figure out her Halloween costume.  

I started to feel a little frantic inside, thinking of all the expectations I had for myself for this Halloween. I wanted to ‘get it right’ -- delight my kids with effortful costumes, spooky decor, crafty pumpkins.  But then I remembered Halloween from 2011 and this post (see below) that I wrote.  It reminded me that too often we mothers take over holidays.  We worry about how they reflect on who we are as mothers.  We demand so much perfection from them that suddenly our kids get lost in the shuffle and the season becomes more of a display than a true holiday celebration.  I think because Halloween falls during such a crazy time for me, I actually do ‘get it right’.  And by that I mean I don’t do much.  I hand it over.  The kids take total ownership.  And while it’s not in the least bit picture perfect, it’s theirs.  And since they’ve never laid eyes on anything on Pinterest they are delighted by what they create.

So I trashed all my Halloween expectations right there, stopped my picture editing for a few minutes and told the kids how to find the Halloween box.  I edited for the rest of the afternoon, interrupted only by squeals of delight coming from the basement as the kids all tried on and assembled their Halloween costumes and put up their own version of spooky decor. 

Not sure if anyone will top the space squid from 2011…..but we’ve got some good stuff going on here.

So, I’m slacking off again this Halloween.  Please join me!  Let your kids take on some of your load.  I’m pretty sure that’s one of the secrets to being able to enjoy the holidays as a mom.  Things might not look so picture perfect, but we’ll all be smiling and that’s really the point. 

Here’s my repost from 2011. 

We had a do-it-yourself Halloween last year.

Now, you’re probably thinking I mean one of those Halloweens where the mother gets all crafty with Pinterest-inspired homemade decorations and costumes for each child that perfectly fit their current obsessions or go with a very cute overall family theme.  But that’s not at all what I mean.

When I say we had a do-it-yourself Halloween I mean that the kids did it themselves.

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Life has been a blur around here, and when I realized how quickly Halloween was approaching and how many things I had on my plate, I just sort of let Halloween come.  I really didn’t do a thing.  No fancy costumes, no fancy decorations.  I bought three pumpkins and two bags of candy and dragged out the Halloween box from the basement.  That’s it.  The kids took over from there.

The kids put out the spooky snake wreath and smothered our dead mums with cotton cobwebs and fake spiders and were very pleased with the effect.  They even cleaned and carved and decorated their own pumpkins without any supervision.  I was sad not to do it as a family, but I was really behind on some projects and boy, that carving provided me with a whole afternoon of quiet time to get things done while the kids were happily engaged with their safe little pumpkin carving saws.

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Charlie spent a whole day making his costume.  He was a space squid.  His costume consisted of his old astronaut suit from last year, a paper grocery bag, a tomato box, some other cardboard from the recycle bin and all the scotch tape in the house.  He looked a little more like some kind of space recycling activist or something.  We got some funny looks out trick-or-treating, but he was pleased as punch with his creation.  He went around the house singing, “Who you gonna call?  SPACE SQUID!!!”

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Hazel dressed as Anne of Green Gables (with suspiciously brown hair).  We recently listened to the book on tape and Hazel has found her bosom friend.  She and Anne are the most kindred of spirits.  So, she felt it was only natural to dress like Anne for Halloween.  She knew exactly what she wanted to wear (a certain dress from her closet). I guess it does kind of look like something Anne Shirley would wear (before Matthew was so kind to get her her puffed sleeves).  The fact that I never got around to finding some red hair dye and a straw hat for her didn’t seem to bother her one bit.  She thought the dress and basket and braids would do the trick and everyone would know what she was going for.  And it worked out great.  Most people didn’t ask who she was, but those kind souls who did ask responded with such recognition and delight when she revealed her identity that she felt extra great about her costume.

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Emmeline resurrected Hazel’s old Lady Bug costume from the costume box.  She knew she was the cutest lady bug around and strutted her stuff all over the neighborhood gathering candy. And Peter was a very cute pumpkin (Hazel’s idea the the neighbors had costume we could borrow).

After a dinner of black bean soup (thanks to my sister’s easy peasy Halloween dinner idea here) we met up with some friends and went in search of candy.  For the first year, my kids were all really excited about Trick-or-Treating and all the neighbors were so kind to them. We just did a few blocks and then their candy bags felt sufficiently heavy and we happily headed home with our loot.

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At first, I felt pretty lame that I was so hands-off this year with Halloween. Maybe I could have at least helped Charlie find some better materials to make his costume. Maybe I could have squeezed in some time to find a hat or hair dye for Hazel. Maybe I should have helped the kids carve their pumpkins or make our house extra spooky and festive.  But, this year it just wasn’t in the cards.  And you know what?  Halloween was a big hit. The kids were perfectly happy – in fact they were delighted that I let them do everything their way this year. And because I wasn’t stressed out of my mind trying to pull something elaborate off, I was able to really enjoy it all as I stood back and applauded the kids’ efforts.

One of these years I’ll delight my children and have a do it MYSELF Halloween.  I promise.  But, I can’t promise I can improve on that space squid.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

childhood.

I loved photographing little Alice and her family again.  That little spark in her eyes as a baby is still there.  She was full of life and energy and childhood magic.   And her parents were full of love for who she is.  I just can’t get over how much I loved her art and her room and her books, her ballet and tea party, her blonde hair and painted nails.  This is what every childhood should be.  IMG_7710IMG_7750IMG_7757  IMG_7787IMG_7913  IMG_7834 IMG_7855 IMG_7916 IMG_7989  IMG_8007   IMG_7923IMG_8288       IMG_8023 IMG_8036 IMG_8134IMG_8056  IMG_8148 IMG_8152 IMG_8194 IMG_8211 IMG_8311

Hooray for childhood.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

A Decade of Hazel.

Copy of Feb 2005 Cruise 075Dear Hazel,

Happy Birthday!

For a decade now you have made me a mother.  Your old, wise soul has shaped me as it has stretched me, softened me as it has strengthened me.  You, as the first, have carved out my motherhood path.  I’m sure you came first for a reason, actually for lots of reasons.  You’re strong and resilient enough to withstand (with grace) all my oh-so-imperfect attempts at getting this all right. (I’m sorry about that).  You’re wise and trustworthy and duty bound and obedient and all of those qualities (along with lots more) make you such a good example to your younger siblings.  And, you’re bossy and kind.  Just what our family needs.  You’re an incredible big sister.

Of course I have always loved you, but you know as well as anyone that sometimes things have been a little rough between us.  Being first is a hard job.  And raising your first is a hard job.  We’re both learning as we go.  There have been so many times over the years where we’ve talked (or yelled) past each other, butted heads, slammed doors.   I’ve always known that as an adult you would be a stellar person, one I would trust and respect and like.  But I’ve worried a lot over the years about how my relationship was going to be with that stellar person.  Was she going to like me after all of this trial and error?  All this yelling and slamming doors?  To be honest, Haze, I was scared to death when you decided that home based schooling was right for you this year.  I thought it had a pretty good chance of being a disaster.  But you were sure, full of that determination that comes when you just know, deep in your soul, that something is right for you.  And you were right, it has been amazing.  You have been amazing.  I think for so many years you were giving a lot of your best self at school.  Now I get that best self, and really, I am blown away.  And I’m feeling more and more confident that that stellar person and I are going to get along just fine. 

So, since your ten, here are ten things I’m loving about you lately:

1. You are incredible with children.  This is a gift.  Not everyone has it.  I don’t have it.  You know how to grasp onto the wonder and magic that’s a part of children.  You wake up their imaginations, show them all the adventure and beauty in the magical and make believe.  I love watching you do that.  For your siblings, for their friends, for your cousins. 

2. You are smart.  Not just book smart, but you get life.  You get things that lots of 40 year olds don’t get.  Like this for example.

3. You are generous and a good gift giver.  This has been part of who you are from the beginning, certainly nothing that Dad or I gave you.  Remember when you helped me pay for a new iphone when mine broke?  And when you asked Santa to bring your present early, $100 to spend on your Christmas gifts for others?  Wow.

4. You are funny.  I’m trying to let you be funny more often….because when I give you room and stop nagging you, you’re one of the funniest people I know.

5. You’re an artist.  You can see beauty in the ordinary.  And you’ve got a sensor for all that is aesthetically pleasing.

6. You’re a musician.  You can feel the music of life.  And when it comes out of you it is beautiful.

7. You are trustworthy.  I always know you are going to tell me the truth. Always. 

8. You have a strong conscience.  You know what is right.  The right way to behave, to talk, to treat people.  Your actions don’t always fall in line with what you know in your soul….but that’s the work of mortality. 

9.  You know what you need.  And you fight for it. 

10. You feel alive.  You really live your life, feel all the depths, both the sorrow and the joy.  This is a hard way to live, but a beautiful, full, rich way to live too.

I love you Hazel.  Thanks for training me in this motherhood job. 

Love,

mom

ps. more about your oh-so-hazel birthday party soon.

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Thursday, September 25, 2014

the quintessence of life

IMG_6642This time of year is packed with photo shoots for me.  It’s busy, I’m up late editing, gone most Saturdays and always feeling a bit frazzled. Sometimes as I make my way to meet a family I wonder if it’s worth it.  And always when the session is over I’m sure that it is.  I really love meeting so many great families and getting the chance to witness and capture such intimate and beautiful connections.  Unhappy families don’t usually ask you to take family pictures.  I think I’m generally meeting families at a point where, although things might be crazy and hectic, things are happy and full. 

I always leave a session wishing I could know these families beyond the little bit of time I spend with them.  And then, somehow through editing their pictures, I feel like I do sort of get to know them.  When they look through the finished images I’m not sure they even see all the beauty that I do while working with them.  I spend so much time looking at each face and expression, the lights in their eyes, the organic joy beaming though a child’s face, the way they look at each other.  And something about looking for so long at an image transforms it, helps me to see beyond the light and composition into the real life that it’s capturing.  And it’s inspiring.

I’m sure I’m reading a lot into images as I go through and edit them.  I’m sure life in these families isn’t always as beautiful and perfect as it looks.  But I’m also sure that some of the things that I get to capture with my camera are little bits of the true essence of their family life.  The quintessence (as Sean O’Connor might put it:)).  And those are the bits that we don’t always see as we’re moving through family life.  They get buried under all the stress and commotion.  Sometimes it’s only through pictures that we see it.  And that, my friends is why I love photography.

So take a step back when you look at pictures.  Stop looking for flaws or little things you’d like to change.  Look at all the life and love captured.  It’s all there.  Snapped into a picture.  And one day, those little pictures will bring back floods of memories and we might just wish we could see all the joy right then in the moment.

Ok.  Enough.  Why can’t I just put up a little sneak peak post without waxing philosophical?  I really do love this job.

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