There is nothing like a gorgeous ice-crystally snowfall to bring out the awestruck geek in me. Perfect convergence of nature, science, wonder, and photographic opportunity. I've created a gallery of photos from this year's images, with a few of last year's at the end. I recommend viewing it as a slideshow.
Am I the only one who finds the beginning of a new year really disorganized and stressful? It's not just the expectation to set resolutions (which I don't do on Jan 1, I'm an idealist 24/7/365) or looming tax dates, there's something about the sense of a new opportunity, the holiday decorations to be put away, the lack of light and vitamin D, the list of things to plan (spring activities, summer vacation, school events), and this nesting feeling I get once the tree is down. Ugh. I mean, exciting, but UGH.
So, sorry to go without updating for a while. I decided to undertake a 365 project - which is a creative project you do every day for a year - and Griff joins me on it most days. Finding time for it has been difficult. That is complicated further by a big career thing that I'll get to later.
First, January catch-up! (the links lead to 365 posts)
The kids and I finished up their winter break in a real do-nothing, go-nowhere mood. I guess that's good in some ways? I wouldn't mind it so much, except that I didn't cook enough breakfasts and read enough stories. Things to remember for next time. I'd like to remember stay-at-home days as snuggly instead of driving-eachother-crazy.
Oh, except we did do something productive. Griff and I hand-delivered birthday party invitations again this year. Part of me wants to swear that I'll be ahead of the game next year and mail them two weeks in advance, but I actually enjoy driving around and seeing where all of his friends live, maybe getting to say hello to a friend or two. (Hi, Pache!)
Xander shocked me by being the only one of my children ever to voluntarily wear a knit cap as a toddler. He's SO cute in it. He stopped wearing it two days later, though. Ah, well, at least he was warm for those two days.
Reese continues to want to wear no outerwear or only his grey jacket. He HATES wearing a coat. Our surprising compromise: grey jacket over coat. I dont' understand what part of this arrangement makes the coat acceptable to him, it looks awfully bulky to me, but hey, this is one winter during which I never have to worry about him being warm enough outdoors. He wears two shirts every day, too.
Occasionally I took a freezing-cold walk around the back alleys in our neighborhood, toting my new telephoto zoom lens and stalking hawks. I was lucky enough to find this one with a fresh kill.
We visited New York Deli at least once. We always bring a stack of quarters.
Luke spent a few Thursday mornings with me and Xander.
I learned how to do some really cool long exposure tricks.
A 1920s typewriter followed me home from a local antique shop and sparked much interest among the kids. How does it work? Why is there no #1?
We celebrated Griff's 7th birthday with a bowling party for him and his friends. Seven seven-year-olds are the perfect number and age for this kind of party!
I learned some PhotoShop tricks - textures and vignetting.
I also had a "Mom's Night Out" at the home of one of the NAP mamas, who is also one of the first friends I made after moving to Richmond.
We had some pajama days and a lot of screen time. Reese and Xander played better together than ever before.
We had an impromptu after-school playdate with Jack and Josiah, during which Dan took ALL FIVE KIDS to the grocery store. Voluntarily. Hokey Smokes! They had a great time, Josiah taught Griff some new jokes, and we all ate fabulous junk food (mmm, onion dip). I love these kids, they're so sweet and fun and polite and adorable! My boys all love them, too.
Griff had his first school dance and his first "date". You know those stories you hear about childhood sweethearts who fall in love when they're five years old and eventually marry each other and have this precious storybook romance? Those stories sound eerily like what's going on here. Griff and Mia have been sweethearts for a year or thereabouts. Not to jump the gun or anything...but the in-laws are awesome.
Ok, so back to the stressed-Jess thing. I was asked to be a photographer for the Sabot auction this year, which involves working with two lovely Sabot artists who are putting together a gallery of children's art. I count this as an honor. Then a friend referred me to friends of hers who were looking for a wedding photographer. I've been researching and deep-thinking and planning ever since. I'm arranging a meeting with the couple and there's a chance they may hire me (I believe they're also looking at one other photographer, maybe more). This would be an INCREDIBLE opportunity and honor, but it's also incredibly stressful. I had planned to take at least one paying client this year, but not until the fall and only for children's or family portraiture. This ups the stakes considerably and steps up my time frame for things like figuring out rates, contracts, insurance, model releases, and acquiring some new equipment, too. I would have four months between now and the wedding, and I need to spend that four months PERFECTING my photojournalistic event/human connection skills as well as learning flash. Yikes. This couple knows that this would be a first for me, and they have seen my Flickr; I need to address expectations with them even more before signing anything.
Scary, but sometimes you have to leap!
Phew. Writing out all of January (thus far) makes me feel like we've been far more productive than I had considered before! Here's to all the learning and living we'll do in the weeks and months to come.
1. By playing with the menus on my camera, I discovered how to take photos in black & white (rather than remove their color in post-processing).
2. Family trip to Starbucks. Not really a rare occurrence, but it happened, so I'm telling you.
3. Bowling. First time I've gone in...um...huh...not sure how long. A decade or more? Can't be possible, but I suspect that's the case. Kids' first time, obviously. Griff and Reese were both huge fans, Xander got in on the action, everybody was totally happy through 7 frames and were fine through the 10th, so it seems one game is the perfect length for us. Griff wants his birthday party there in January.
4. Ran into Griff's friend Logan and his family at the bowling alley. Happy birthday, Logan!
5. Lusted after bowling shoes. I'm not sure why they're cool. They're certainly not terribly comfortable. Yet I want to steal them every time. Why is that? (And no, I won't ever steal them, I have a super-sensitive ethical gag reflex.)
5. Ditched the black and white settings an went for VIVID COLOR at the illumination night of Lewis Ginter's GardenFest of Lights. The RVA Hoop Lovers put on a show before and after the countdown and we really enjoyed the effects of their LED hoops.
6. We froze our butts off at GardenFest! Why do we always go on the first truly freezing night of the year? Had a great time nevertheless.
7. All of these photos were taken on fully-manual. This could not have
happened at all a year ago or even half a year ago. I'm pretty proud.
And, erm, modest. Ha.
So, we were supposed to go to Sean & Jessa's house in Charlottesville today for a big family Thanksgiving dinner. I was in charge of most of the pies and half of the beer as well as the cut veggies/fruit for kids. Well, Sunday night Griff threw up, with repeat performances Monday morning and evening, and his stomach hurt through Wednesday morning. On Tuesday evening I had a horrible attack of nausea on my way home from my book group - that's really unusual for me outside of pregnancy and ONE stomach bug I've had in the last 30+ years.
I'm a stickler about full disclosure when it comes to contagious illness of any sort - or even allergies. I think people hanging out with us deserve to know what the score is, what the reason is for symptoms they can see as well as the nature of any concerning symptoms they can't see that might be spread to them. Then they can decide whether or not they want to keep company with us. A runny nose might not seem like a big deal, but it is to the mother of a child who's super-prone to respiratory infections, or a pregnant woman, or the mother of a newborn. When we get to big nasties like flu or stomach bugs, I take it to the next level and batten the hatches. Quarantine. Yay. Not much fun for us but I just plain don't think it's ok to expose people to that level of illness. So, were we safe for Thanksgiving dinner? I wouldn't want to hang out with us with that level of uncertainty. When might it strike again? Griff seemed fine by Thursday, but was I totally in the clear? Was somebody else brewing? I couldn't accept the possibility of exposing my one-year-old nephew and eight-week-old niece, and their mothers agreed, better to be safe than sorry.
The result: unexpected totally-alone Thanksgiving Day for our little family of 5. I think maybe Dan and I had one alone Turkey Day when he was in residency, but other than that and one or two years we hosted, we've always traveled. Dan and I put together a menu on Wednesday night and I had the pleasure (seriously, I enjoyed it) of being that last-minute cranberry sauce shopper. Thursday I brined a chicken - no need for a huge turkey, and hey, side bonus of quicker brine and cook time! - while we all went for a walk. I had been eyeing some beautyberries that were begging for macros and it was the most beautiful day we'd had in a long time. Gorgeous sun, short-sleeve or long-sleeve temperatures, yellow ginko leaves all over the ground and a few last red maple leaves clinging to their branches. The boys had a great time playing and biking in the lot next to the berry bush, I was content in my photo groove, we got a ton of family pictures, and everybody loved the walk. Back home, we put together pumpkin pie and a Thanksgiving tree with leaves we collected and a strip of paper for each of us naming one thing we're grateful for. Dinner proceded at its own pace, without need to accommodate anyone's schedule or tastes but our own. Everybody ate the foods and treats they liked and left the rest.
Honestly, I think it was the best Thanksgiving ever. And of course, I've made a flickr set for it. Sneak peek below.
This is my favorite shot from a session I attempted with Sean and Kyle's families. I had hoped to get one decent picture with all six kids in frame, facing generally toward the lens, nobody crying. FAIL. I believe it was Jessa who pointed out that I was only 1 for 3. Sigh.
Nevertheless, I did get a bunch of really beautiful pictures of these beautiful people! A few below, more in the cousins flickr set.
I had a lovely morning with Kyle, Johannah, Brody, and Stella, and managed to snap quite a few shots of my tiny six-day-old niece as well as a couple of shots of her big brother. She is such an alert and expressive baby! K&J also commented on what a difference homebirth and an older (gestationally-speaking) baby make. We found this to be true of her cousin Xander, as well - and like her, he was born in the water, at home, at 41 weeks and 5 days gestation.
6th annual trip to the State Fair of Virginia, now at a new location North of Richmond. We almost didn't go due to weather, increasing busy-ness, and the perception of inconvenience (it's actually probably just about as far as the old location was from the Short Pump house, <30 min drive), but pulled it out on the last day and wrung 8 hours of fairy goodness out of it before leaving the park at an unbelievably late-for-us 9pm.
Quote from Reese the following day: "I liked having stay-up time at the State Fair. I stayed up late like Griffin! And when I was cold I gotted carried."
Cotton candy, carnival games, dizzying rides, and colorful scenery in the 2009 State Fair Flickr set.
I've spent the past week-plus just feeling so full from our vacation that I couldn't even write about it! I still can't quite find the words.
Three families, one beach house. We were a little hesitant about this at first - we've had beach trips before during which nobody wanted to play in the sand, and we weren't sure if spending an entire week under the same roof as our friends was really a good idea. But it was awesome! Every commune-it-up day was just amazing, and the week went by much too quickly. Everybody played hard, the kids all enjoyed each other intensely and slept hard at night, worn out from so much fun. The adults stayed up way past our bedtimes and tag-teamed cooking and cleaning and child care. There was sun and sand and surf, nature galore, clam bakes and big breakfasts, gin and whiskey and beer, Shirley Temples for the kids, video gaming and light house climbing and hot tubbing, mermaid fantasies and bug biology lessons. Oh, it was so GOOD!
(...and so good that I took over a thousand pictures, and whittled them down to just over 200 that are waiting for you in a flickr set. Come see!)
Just a reminder that there is now a whole other side to this blog, the public "Spark" side, which has recently had a bunch of additions.
You can also get more glimpses of what's happening here on my flickr photostream. That's especially useful if you want something worth a thousand words, without actually having to read a thousand words (yeah, sorry, brevity is not my strong suit).