Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Christmas Card Pictures 2013

I have to say that getting the pictures for this year's Christmas card didn't go too badly compared to years past. But. Holy moly. Trying to make a card out of them or get a blog header that isn't blurry (fail) has been quite another story. Websites don't work…my internet connection stinks…things don't fit…you name it, I've had issues with it. Should have known it was too good to be true! :)

So here's the story. The pictures I ended up taking were NOT the ones I had originally intended for our Christmas card this year. My original plan was to do our pictures outside in these super cute outfits I've had for over a YEAR just waiting for Christmas time. Next year, remind me to take our Christmas card picture in September, haha. Because that idea flew out the window when our temps dropped overnight. I've done this enough times now to know not to make the rookie mistake of taking my kids out in the cold and expecting them to cooperate.

So plan B. Find a way to take pictures indoors. I am not a professional, so the whole point of having the pictures outside was for the lighting. Anyone can take pictures outside. But inside. That's a whole other ballgame.

I turned to google and learned a few tricks for getting the right lighting in those pretty christmas light pictures that you see everywhere. Since our tree isn't up yet, I had to think of an easy backdrop.

If you would like to try this out, too, here are some tips from an amateur. (Hey, it worked for me! Haha.)

1. Find a very neutral wall and tack up some Christmas lights at varying levels - icicle lights are by far the best choice.

2. Find a natural light source (like a window) that is positioned in front of your subject's face, so that their face will be nicely illuminated with natural light. Our window had a white roller shade pulled down over it, which was a perfect filter.

3. In order to get that dreamy bokeh effect from the lights, your subject must be positioned at least 6 feet away from them. When you zoom in on your subject, the lights will blur out nicely.

Here's Gracie pre photo-shoot helping me out with all of this….


We were taking our pictures in my bedroom on the bed, so that meant in order to be six feet away from the lights the kids had to be on the veeeery edge, and to get the lighting on their faces just right, they had to be on the corner of the bed facing the window.

One guess how easy it was getting a one year old to cooperate on that one. :)

So we grabbed a Santa hat, threw on some Christmas PJ's, and Gracie took her turn first. It's so funny how things change. Gracie is now the easiest of my children to take pictures of. Say what? Gracie?? It's true. She's so easy going about this kind of stuff, and super funny. She's still a pistol, but I'm loving her little personality.

This was the very first picture that we took, and it ended up being my favorite of the whole day. It's so her. I love it.

It's blurry, but it still cracks me up. :) That's another unfortunate thing about taking pictures indoors with lower lighting. One little movement from you or them, and you won't get as crisp of a picture.  (Tripods are a great idea for taking pictures in low light…we didn't have room for one.)

She did great!

Evelyn was up next.

Evie is at that wonderful kid stage where picture taking is a game. Making faces is the best idea. Bunny ears are awesome. Doing the exact opposite of what your mama tells you to do is great. Haha, I still managed to get a few good ones of her. :) 

Couldn't get the stinker to keep her feet down. Adds character though, right? :)

Those round Charlie Brown cheeks. Hehe, she slays me.

 This girl made me a mama. My first born. Love her!

Now Mr. Reagan…oh boy….

First, my son had no regard for the "six foot away" rule. Tossed that one right out the window, just like he tossed the Santa hat onto the floor every single time I stuck it on his head.

Off of his head, onto the floor. Twenty times.

I thought it was a lost cause. And then…I got an idea. I put a mirror in front of him in hopes that it would buy me two seconds of him staring at himself so I could get a picture. He wasn't positioned just right, but the trick worked!

Not for long, but just long enough! Babies love themselves, what can I say? :)

His double chin action makes me giggle!

I encourage any of you to try out some Christmas light pictures this year, too. It's kind of fun to set up and play around with. :) A sleeping baby or a lazy pet would be perfect for this type of thing, because they would likely be very still for you. And how adorable would a sleeping baby be? Aw…I want a little baby again….

In a while….

Can I just borrow one of yours? :)

This will probably be the last blog post of the week, with the Thanksgiving holiday tomorrow. I truly hope that you all have a wonderful and blessed Thanksgiving. I'll be thinking of my sister, whom I pray will have a great day even if she isn't home with family. There are so many serving our country who won't be home tomorrow. I am very thankful for them. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"Holiday Happenings" Vlog 3

We had a week of hanging out indoors as the temperature plummeted, and then spending lots of time doing festive, Christmassy things! :) Join us for some shopping, the lighted parade, Thanksgiving, the Christmas Walk and more. 

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Festive Weekend

It took an hour for my fingers to defrost so that I could start typing this post today. Brrrr…it is stinkin COLD outside! Bone-chilling cold.

Of course that didn't stop us from dragging ourselves out at every possible chance we got to enjoy the "Holiday Happenings" around Red Bud this weekend. The lighted parade, the Christmas Walk…we even celebrated Thanksgiving on Saturday. I'm not going to lie and say that it was all an amazing, happy occasion. Eric's words as we were leaving the parade after standing outside for an hour with three little kids: "Never. Again."

And honestly, I didn't disagree, haha. If it's this cold next year, we'll keep our hineys at home with a Christmas movie and some hot chocolate. :) Still, I thought it was super neat, and I am really glad we had the chance to go this year!

It isn't a parade if it doesn't start with a firetruck! And this one's horn scared the crap out of poor Reagan. He didn't leave his daddy's arms for the rest of the night. :) As for me, I was fumbling back and forth between taking video and taking pictures…with ungloved hands in the freezing cold. I literally couldn't move my fingers to buckle the kids into their carseats when it was over.

There were so many beautiful and creative floats. I mean…we're not a big city here, folks. We're talking population 3800. So the fact that there's an event like this at all makes our town…uhmazing.

Who doesn't love fake snow? 

If you made a float and don't see it here, that's probably because I was too busy getting video of it at the time. (Check back tomorrow!)

In Evelyn's words, this was the "BEST PARADE EVER!!!" So there ya go. The kids didn't mind the cold at all. :)

We had been looking forward to Saturday for quite a while, because it was the day we celebrated Thanksgiving with my family. Hooray! But before we did that, the kids and I took a few pictures for our Christmas card. 

I think I'll wait and share more on how that went later this week. ;)

It was a quiet Thanksgiving with just us…no Shannon…and my brother Roger had to work. But we definitely made the best of it. My mom made a delicious meal!

Wait until you hear what the kids were thankful for…oh my goodness…so glad I got it on camera. Baha!

We ended the evening with a new game. It was really fun! We highly recommend "Guesstures" for a fun time with any group. It's trivia-based, but it's trivia that no one actually knows…which makes it totally fair. :) It's all about guessing and getting the closest…my kind of trivia game.

Our Sunday was packed full with church in the morning and the annual Christmas Walk. Eric led a class at church last night, leaving me with the kiddos…and I might have fallen asleep on the couch for a few minutes there. Just enough time for Evelyn to dump out the entire contents of the toy bins in her bedroom and make a train in the living room out of them. Note to parents: don't ever fall asleep on the couch!

Haha, it was a super fun weekend, which would have only been made better by about 20 degrees or more, but hey…it's that time of the year! For lots of video of all of the Holiday Happenings and more, check back here tomorrow. See ya, friends!

Friday, November 22, 2013

Confession Friday 11-22

I confess that I am so excited for tonight! WOOHOO LIGHTED PARADE AHHH!!! I have been stuck at home for two years. Let's do this thing.

I confess that just because I won't put our tree up until after Thanksgiving, that doesn't mean I won't start decorating the rest of the house, haha….

We are now a hodgepodge of fall AND winter…just keeping it classy.

I confess that I almost hit submit on our fancy shmancy personalized stockings this year, but I couldn't bring myself to do it. Fact is, we're not done having kids, and my slight holiday OCD would cause me to twitch if all of the stockings didn't match exactly. (In style, haha, I realize those stockings don't match.) 

I confess that I really don't understand all of the pre-Thanksgiving Christmas angst. Simmer down. We can listen to Christmas music AND eat turkey…it's going to be okay. ;)

I confess that I am going to continue blogging while entertaining my children and making pancakes simultaneously. I am stay at home woman hear me roar.

I confess that I am really, ridiculously glad that my husband is not a hunter. BUT. It warmed my heart to see all of the well-wishes for our hunters on Facebook this morning. City folk will just never understand….

I confess that when I see something I've done pinned on pinterest…I actually feel…violated. Like, hey! That's mine! Haha. I realize this is the opposite reaction I'm supposed to have. :D

I confess that my child is SO smart, she even makes words in apples!

Haha, never mind that she was trying to spell something else, it still makes a word to me! Can you see it?

I confess that the best entertainment I got all week was when the local Dairy Queen announced on Facebook that it was switching from Pepsi to Coke products. Can we say, first world problems? Hahaha. Though, some of us don't find that a problem at all. :D

I confess that I left the house on a Thursday night, and I felt like a rebel. Watch out world! I'm going places now.

I confess that we sing so much in this house, even my 12 month old knows what a microphone is for.

Speaking of my 12 month old…I confess that Reagan still doesn't have ONE SINGLE TOOTH in his mouth. Not one. He is all gums, and I'm not sad about it. Stay a baby, baby! :)

I confess that I stayed up until 2am trying to learn how to take pictures of Christmas lights for the LIGHT PARADE WOOOHOOO! Did I mention the parade yet?

I confess that the natives are getting restless. It's time to dunk my kids in a bubble bath and get this show on the road. Hope you all have a great weekend! Stay safe and have FUN!!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Thursday Check In!

If you are reading this, it's a miracle! Blogger is not my friend. And speaking of friends, I don't see most of your updates at the moment, either. What's the deal, blogger? What? I promise I'm not ignoring anyone, I'm being sabotaged….

Last night Evelyn came running into the kitchen yelling, "Mom, you have to come check out this Pampers commercial! Do you know what Pampers are? They are soft and they keep babies dry. Come on, you have to look! PAMPERS, MOM!"

Eric and I were cracking up. She was so genuinely excited about Pampers, though she insists that they are not actually diapers. They are better than diapers. I watched the commercial with her on the computer, and she made sure to point out how Pampers help babies sleep comfortably ALL night long.

Later when I was trying to put Reagan to sleep for the night, out of the blue she sat by me and said, "The reason why he isn't going to bed for you, because he needs Pampers."

I don't know what kind of hypnotic powers the marketing people at Pampers put into their commercials, but they have Evelyn sold. Her children will probably never be caught dead in anything other than Pampers. :) And it's pretty obvious my kids don't watch a lot of commercials on a regular basis, haha.

So we are going to be trying to take pictures for our Christmas card sometime in the next few days. The weather is another foe on our non-friends list at the moment. The kids and I jimmied up a little something in our bedroom yesterday to test some ideas out…we'll see how this goes. Every time I purposely try to take pictures for a Christmas card, things seem to go horribly wrong.

I think I've finally got my camera setting right. Now we just need some sunshine. Er…this could be interesting!

By the way, does anyone know of any good public pine trees in the area? We are ISO some pine trees. :D

Hope you all are having a good week! We're trying to make the best out of being stuck inside. Crossing my fingers and toes and saying prayers that the weather is nice for all of the holiday happenings in town this weekend! For the first time in three years none of us are sick.

Now let's see if I can get this thing to post. Happy Thursday!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Deck the Halls - VLOG

What happens when you have a four year old who acts fourteen with a huge imagination and who has seen every recent kid movie under the sun? You overhear conversations like this while she plays with dolls:

"The world is coming to an END. We are really in a world between worlds…and we are all…going…to DIE!"

What in the world? Baha. I'm blaming this one on The Croods.

(Or I'm raising the next Tolkien. Time will tell.)

Alrighty, it's vlog time! As I mentioned before, gosh darn is it hard to capture video footage at home when my kids are constantly disrobing to change into dress up clothes. I tried my best, but I wasn't always 100% successful with my camera angles, haha. Join us for a week of hanging out and prepping for Christmas!

Happy Tuesday!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Windy Weekend!

Whew, that's some weather we've been having, huh? If you're not from our area then you may not know that Illinois got rocked with some pretty bad storms and even a few tornados over the weekend. We are praying for the communities devastated by the damage from the storms and for the families who lost loved ones yesterday. You know, it is never easy to pick up the pieces from any tragedy, but it is especially hard to do at this time of the year - the holiday season. Prayers that these families can get back on their feet and find some peace soon.

Two viewer-submitted photos to a local news station. You can see more storm photos here

My mom and I were serving in the church nursery yesterday morning when the storms rolled through our area. We were able to look out of the window and see the whole thing. It was so bizarre. I could see terrible, dark clouds and heavy rain in the distance all around us, but we weren't being touched. It was windy, but much of the time the sun was shining brightly right overhead. We waited for the downpour, and it never came.

Eric said that he was keeping a watch on the radar the entire time, and it was as if the storms forked right before they hit our town and passed us by in all directions. I don't know what it is about our little community, but we often seem to get spared the really bad weather. Even when one town over is getting pummeled, it's like we are in some kind of protective bubble or something. Blessed, I'd say. (Man, I hope I don't jinx it!)

So...our weekend was very, very chill. There is some sickness going around our immediate family, so we didn't have babysitters for the kids like we usually do. This translated into lots of evenings at home with ice cream sundaes and movies. My children discovered "The Croods" and in less than 24 hours they could quote the entire movie. :)

We now interrupt regularly scheduled programming to give a shout out to our local Dairy Queen - woop!

I've gotta tell you friends, I've been pretty impressed with them lately. This weekend our DQ ran a special that if you brought in a bag of canned goods, you would get your order for half price. Whoa! We got four cheeseburgers, two orders of fries, a six piece chicken strip basket and dessert for the whole family, and the ENTIRE order was half price!!

(They actually run a lot of awesome daily deals, and if you are friends with them on Facebook, you'll be in the know!)

Anyway, I just thought it was really cool that not only were they giving back to the community by doing a can drive in the first place, but they were offering a great deal to their costumers for participating, too. And they aren't the only restaurant franchise in our town that has really been awesome to this community. Our local Pizza Hut donates TONS of pizza to our church's food pantry, which is greatly utitlized. Thank you, Pizza Hut! Both Dairy Queen and McDonalds do fundraiser nights for our schools, and I believe Pizza Hut is still doing the "Book It" program for our schools, too. Do they get some business from this? Sure! But the point is that they are an active part of their community and are giving back - sometimes silently so. So yay - support your local fast food places. :D

Alright, back to the show.

Where were we? The part that I switched positions on the couch, or the part that I walked into the kitchen for some iced tea? Haha. Yeah….

We did have some holiday fun this weekend - you'll be seeing lots of that tomorrow! We decked the halls at church, and we had a lovely Sunday evening trimming trees and hanging out with great friends.

It was a wonderful way to end the weekend, I must say. 

I hope you'll come back tomorrow for Vlogging Tuesday, or whatever I named it. Ha, I really don't remember. It's a look back into our past week, all wrapped up in about ten minutes. :) I am enjoying making the vlogs, so I hope you will enjoy watching them. See you tomorrow!

Friday, November 15, 2013

Confession Friday 11-15!

"Hello my name is Adrien Robert!"
So, this is how my child chooses to dress when she's pretending to be me. 

Haha, I confess that sometimes I think back to my own childhood and how I thought my parents were always so old...they were younger then than I am now! Nothing like a little prospective. 

I confess that I never realized how undressed our family was around the house until I started trying to film parts of our lives. In Eric's words, "Does this mean I have to wear pants??"

I confess that each of the kids' bigger Christmas gifts are now bought and I am SO relieved. I really didn't want to have to spend the next month stressing about "getting the best deal" and tracking things down. I love shopping and bargain hunting, but that is NOT what I want Christmas to be about.

I confess that I've had about 10 favors asked of me in the past few days, and I'm pretty sure I'm forgetting half of them. If you've asked me to do something for you and I haven't done it, ask again. Haha.

I confess that I've been drinking enough sweet tea lately to rival Uncle Si, and if you don't know who that is, I am very sorry.

Here ya go, I couldn't resist. 

I wish I had my very own Uncle Si around to bequeath his vast his knowledge to me. Ha.

I confess that Evie and Grace have officially reached the sibling rivalry/ constant fighting / I beat you! phase of their relationship...aaaand the next 15 years are gonna suck.

I confess that I've said it before, but I'm saying it again: I LOVE kids, but I'm not actually a little kid person. No one believes me. There is a reason why I went to school to teach high schoolers. My personality just yearns for mature conversation. We'll get there someday!

I confess that I have the most vivid, realistic dreams ever, and sometimes I have a hard time differentiating dreams from reality. "Did they say that in real life, or did I dream it last night?" Haha. It's a legit problem.

I confess that my child will not stop writing all over herself...please tell me this is a phase. A short one!

I confess that Gracie keeps asking me to come and play with her, and I really can't resist that. Going to have to cut this one short.

But not without first saying that our family is praying for many of our friends. There are several families we know saying goodbye to loved ones today. While it is just another Friday for us, I know it is a hard day for so many. It serves as a reminder to me to be kind with my words and careful with others' feelings no matter what, and in spite of the day that I am having. Hugs to you, friends!

And for the rest of my lovelies, I hope you have a great weekend! We'll see you on Monday. :)

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Christmas Tailgating

So I totally get the sentiments behind keeping the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays as their own separate thing. According to the stores, one day it's Halloween and then presto chango - Merry Christmas! It's frustrating for thankful turkey lovers everywhere.

I love Thanksgiving, myself. What's not to love? But…I also love Christmas. And I will be the first to admit that 25 days of it just isn't enough for me. The only thing keeping me from hauling out the holly right this very second is my annoying need deep inside to keep traditions alive and wait until the day after Thanksgiving (which comes entirely too late this year!) And my husband…don't think Eric would go for the Christmas tree up just yet, haha.

When I wake up on November 1st it's the "holiday season" in my world. Thanksgiving, Christmas - it's all good and it's all fair game. I would love to have more Thanksgiving traditions to keep, so if you have any ideas, let me know! We already do thankfulness stuff…after that I'm stumped. :)

All of that is so I can admit, we've been listening to Christmas music and watching Christmas movies since the beginning of the month, and we're not really sorry about that. I am in the holiday spirit. There is holly in my heart. And I love Jesus all year long, so we are already SO there. :D

This week has only intensified my feelings as we've had a few pre-Christmas tasks to complete. I am on the interior decorating committee at church, and it's already time to begin decorating for the holidays there. The Christmas Walk is coming up in our little town, and we are one of the trolley stops. That means we have to have the place decked out by next weekend!

The bulk of what has to be done will take place this Saturday and Sunday, but I am so thankful to a few guys who came in early this week to erect three 12 FOOT Christmas trees around the church. That's not an easy job to do! There are even more trees to put up and many more decorations…which I'm sure you'll be seeing. ;)

Thanks Eric, Todd, and Jeremy for doing the heavy lifting! Can't wait to fluff and decorate with church family this weekend. Haha.

We've also been doing a little gift buying and wrapping up this week. If you saw the vlog from yesterday then you know we went shopping for an Operation Christmas Child box, which the girls and I put together last night. Do you have any idea how hard it is to wrap a box with an attached lid so that it can still open and close?

While I wrapped the girls worked on pictures to put inside of the shoebox. We chose to make a box for a little boy aged 2-4.  Evelyn drew herself with the boy who will receive the box, hehe.

We managed to get it all to fit! One of the suggestions is to put some things that a child can quickly embrace as soon as they open the box - that's why we packed the teddy bear and a few toys right at the top. Both of the girls gave the bear a big hug before we put him inside so that they could "send a hug" to the friend we will probably never get to meet. :)

After that it was definitely one of these kind of nights:

Evelyn set up a brownie stand in the living room and Eric and I forked over plenty of pretend nickels for way too many brownies. :)

Reagan's too cutie for his PJ's, too cutie for his PJ's…baha.

That child. I don't know what to do with his hair. Half of the population approaches me and says, "Isn't it about time for him to be getting his haircut? It's getting a little…long." The other half says, "No, you can't cut his little curls yet!!" Haha. That is parenthood, folks. No pleasing everyone. (Don't try!) :D

So anyway, that's our story. We're at the Christmas tailgate party. The pre-show pep rally. But…everyone knows that part of the fun is in the anticipation, anyway…and in the midst of all of that there is another awesome holiday. Hey, tailgate parties are all about the food, right? Does that mean Thanksgiving is like the tailgate party of Christmas?? I think I'm on to something. 

And while we're at it, if there's such a thing as "trunk-or-treat" can we have a "trunk-and-eat?" Everyone could pull their cars together with trunks full of Thanksgiving food and drink, and we could just graze all day long. Heck yes, I think I've found my new Thanksgiving tradition! Who's game?? Haha. 

Have a great day!


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