Sunday, March 29, 2015

Kyle & Samantha | Valentine's Wedding

Valentine's Day dawned so cold and crisp there was a 30 below windchill and icicle figments glittered in the face numbing air. But there was little this Winter Wisconsin weather could do to hinder the love and warmth that gathered everybody together in the small chapel nestled in fields just outside the 3,475 populace of Bloomer.

The bride, Samantha, was a sheer picture of beauty and grace. When wedding planning handed her some of the most gigantic lemons of the universe, she calmly stirred the sugar in to create lemonade because all she really cared about at the end of February 14, 2015 was the signed document that bound her lifetime to the Canadian boy who stole away her heart.

Her eyes sparkled the way they did last Fall when I sat across from her sipping coffee at a Caribou Coffee when she asked me to photograph her wedding. She told me about this Kyle. Someone she had known for some time, but never thought of him as husband potential. Until one day it clicked. It was so right. The gold and diamonds on her slender finger caught the sparkle in her eye. It hardly seemed a second thought for her to leave her life, her home, her family to go join his in Canada. Whatever it took to live side by side with the love of her life was hardly even a sacrifice.

And now here she was today. The day she had dreamed all her life about. Her dress had been a fiasco of a nightmare when it arrived. No returns, no money back. But she had full confidence in her mother and aunt's ingenuity to recreate it into a vintage style dream of a gown for her. It was perfect. She was so elegant in it. She covered herself in the veil her mother wore, in her hands she held a gorgeous bouquet she created with her sisters and friend. Her eyes danced, for today she would become the wife of Kyle and that was all that mattered. Yet selflessly she reached out to everybody joining her that day and loved and laughed with them.

Surrounded by their loved ones, we watched as Kyle and Samantha joined hands in matrimony. With earnestness they vowed their lives to each other til death. They laughed, they prayed, I saw a few tears, they kissed. She took his name and together they became husband and wife.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Boredom Buster Take Two

"Creativity is intelligence having fun." 

--Albert Einstein

 Wooden airplanes and acrylic paint. Best Valentine's Day gift from a Grandma to little grandsons. They loved this project!

Friday, February 27, 2015

See Crayon?

You have probably had a little too much of the Dick & Jane books when the only caption you can come up with for this shot is, "Oh look! Look and see! See crayon? See crayon roll? See crayon roll on the floor? Silly silly crayon."

Monday, February 23, 2015

Boredom Buster for 4 Year-Old Chefs

I have had it with Winter, I have had it with snow, I have had it with Windchillville, I have had it with Frozen, I have had it with February, I just want it to be June for the rest of the year.

The cold actually does bother me.

But no, that's not the way this game works. 

So with all this pent up energy pining away for Spring, some days we just gotta, you know, Let it go. (resorting to lane redundant cliches now.) 

So Jimmy. He's so easy going and relaxed, but cabin fever gets him too. And since there's not a vaccine for that, it has to run it's course and the best thing you can do is try and keep him stable. We were both kind of having an "off" day. Since playing in the sunshine (which we have vague memories of) wasn't an option, and since I had nearly a bushel of honey crisp apples going bad (which is a felony, right?), I thought well, why not let him have a little fun, miniature chef boy that he is? 

So I pulled out all the ingredients that would go good with apples and I let him take it away. 

He loved it. We all got to enjoy it. He's quite a chef. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Moist, Delicious, Whole Wheat Crazy Cake

...And how to make the best birthday cake ever for a little brother.

{scroll below for recipe}

Like most people, we love birthday cakes at our house. We also love birthday boys that come in the form of adorable 2 year-olds such as Colton.

Jimmy, being a lover of the kitchen and a huge fan of his little brother, was eager to make Colton's birthday cake himself. So I let him, and I managed to grab a few shots of the process in my poorly lit kitchen.
Step 1.
Mix together some crazy cake (recipe below), using your favorite whisk.

Step 2.
Keep mixing because it's a lot of fun.

Step 3.
Let your mom use some of the batter for cupcakes in cool football papers.

Step 4.
Bake it. Cool it. Make it into crumbs. If you wish to feel like a grown up chef with mad chopping skills, maybe your mom will allow you to use a butter knife.

Step 5. Cover the bottom of the platter your mom provides with cake crumbs, and then fill the tractor trailer heaping full with more crumbs. It looks like dirt. For fun, maybe your mom will let you scoop some of her leftover famous peanut butter frosting in with the crumbs (this is important: don't let her see you sneak tastes; somebody has to do it!). And if you ask nicely, maybe she will let you take hot fudge and drizzle it all over the top to make it look like mud. This is the best birthday cake ever.
Happy Birthday, Colton!


Moist, Delicious, Whole Wheat Crazy Cake

3 cups whole wheat flour 
1/2 cup cocoa
1 3/4 cups pure cane sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt 
3 tablespoons vinegar
2 teaspoons vanilla
3/4 cup apple sauce
2 cups water

Whisk dry ingredients together. Make 3 depressions in flour mixture. Measure vinegar in one, vanilla in the other, and apple sauce in the third. Pour water over all. Mix together. Pour in greased 9x13" pan (or 16 cupcakes) for 30-35 minutes (or 20-25 for cupcakes), or until tooth pick comes out clean.

Monday, February 16, 2015

My Little Camera Men

Silly boys, making me feel laughingly proud to see the way they copy me. They bring a whole new element to one of my favorite photography rules....

It's not the camera, 
but who's behind the camera. 

Sunday, February 15, 2015

How to Handle the Tantrums

I typically hesitate to speak of parenting techniques much, considering I'm still figuring this whole mom thing out, and I only have four years of experience under my belt. I'm not sure what exactly qualifies one to become an expert in the raising of children, since the longer I do this with the two I have, the more I realize I have so much to learn. However, when I discover something that works and makes sense, I want to share it with my fellow-mom friends because we're all kind of in this thing together, this imperfect parenting thing in an imperfect world with our beautiful imperfect children... 

I have this child. We call him Colton... Mostly because that's actually his name. He's a spirited one, that boy. Like a young colt, in fact. Energetic, vivacious, a strong-willed mind of his own. He's two years old now, but he's always been what one might label "challenging". He's got a big personality with a lot of determination that can tend to boil over into a big rebellious and stubborn mess. At least, those are the negative terms I come up with for him when I'm completely exasperated by his behavior.

Sometimes he goes through these phases where he screams a lot. He only communicates with tantrums. The kind that grate on your eardrums... and nerves. Constantly. I. Can. Not. Tolerate. Screaming.

So then my lovely friend, Mom Guilt, moves in because I just can't stand to be anywhere near the child.

But I have learned to realize when there's a disconnect between he and I. It is imperative to take everything that's on my life's plate and set it aside, because this boy needs me. 
His most unlovable behavior is a plea for love, attention, validation, assurance, and security. 
I'm his mom, I am the only person who can provide that for him.

So I get down on his short little level and I look directly into his eyes. I use words, calmly, and encourage him to do the same. I smile reassuringly. I give hugs, a lot of them. I ask him what is wrong, and I show sympathy for his many afflictions whether real or imagined. I scoop him up and bring him to the kitchen with me; I give him a few random ingredients along with a bowl and a spoon and let him think he's helping me as he's doing his thing and I'm doing mine, right beside him.

All of a sudden our world is peaceful again. He's smiling and calm. He's trying so very hard to use words and construct sentences because he really wants me to know what he thinks. And I listen. He feels useful and important. He's safe. He realizes that I'm not going to abandon him and leave him feeling lost in this big busy world that's towering over him. And as I make it a habit throughout my day to take time for him, the tantrums become nonexistent and his communication skills hit a new high.

Little ones don't have behavioral problems as much as we like to think, they have small-human problems. They very easily succumb to panic, fear and insecurity because their little hearts are so delicate. They can only grasp a very minimal reality of life and what is going on around them. Meanwhile their body and cognitive development is growing and changing at such a rapid rate. Pain confuses them, yet they experience it frequently as they clumsily discover the laws of gravity. They often have to suffer through brand new teeth slicing through swollen and painful gums, and it makes no sense to them. But what really takes the cake is there's this huge communication barrier between them and their mommy and daddy--the very people who are their complete life and love and security. Their desires, needs, pain and emotions all frustrate them, and they don't know how to calmly communicate them. It's no wonder they cry and scream and behave in all sorts of ugly manners.

Some of the experts like to tell young moms like me to train my babies to sleep, to teach them what "no" means, to get them on schedules so they can learn about self-discipline and quiet play, and tantrums, oh my goodness, the tantrums! those are bad, and if your child should throw one you should be embarrassed and ashamed of yourself. But I say no. How about we show them love and comfort. Let them experience the gift of selfless love so as they mature they are better equipped to give it. How about we nurture those big fiery spirits because God knows we need more gigantic hearts with strong wills to change the world. How about we be that safe space that shows love and teaches boundaries in a way they can understand. And when they scream and express frustration? How about we show them that it's okay... they're safe, and loved.

Kids aren't supposed to be convenient, they are supposed to be loved and nurtured and cherished. A child should never be given the opportunity to doubt that.

Your right hand has held me up,
Your gentleness has made me great.Psalm 18:35