Sunday, September 25, 2011

Fitting it all in....

We've had such a lovely fall weekend. Perfect cool-but-not-cold weather. Perfect motivation to pull out the light jackets and jeans and boots. And with Autumn officially here, its clear that these days won't last. The pressure is on to get outside and enjoy the sunshine while we've still got it.

So the kids and I ventured out on an all-afternoon outing.

Our first stop was a local orchard to pick our own apples. Honey Crisp, Cortland and Haralson apples were all ripe for the picking.




The light was so beautiful at the orchard, filtering in between the leaves.  I could have stayed all afternoon to take pictures, but of course, I was lucky that the kids allowed me to get a precious few.  "Mom, our bags are full. Let's go. What's next? C'mon mom...."

I guess I'll take what I can get!



Anna was happy to pick every apple she could reach and fill her bag to the very top.  But when I asked her to help carry her bag back to the car, she flopped in protest.  Then she threw her arms out, and landed her hand right in a patch of itch weed.  So, with my poor dear in tears, guess who carried the bag of apples and Anna back to the car?? 

(thankfully, she recovered quickly!  Darn that itch weed!)



Then, we were off to the best pumpkin patch around.  Barten's Pumpkins.  It's a family run business just down the road from us. And clearly, the entire family is involved in the operation. We arrived just as everyone was heading into the field to pick more pumpkins. But I have no idea where they were going to put them.  We've never seen so many pumpkins.  All shapes and sizes and colors. Of course, Henry and Anna were thrilled, searching for just the right one (or dozen!) We filled our trunk, and my guess is that we'll be back another few times before Halloween.  (FYI: Best prices too - all on your honor. Totally worth the trip!)




(Hmmmm, guess who got tired of having her picture taken?  But Henry was offering me perma-grin, just as instructed.  :)

And finally as we headed back towards home, with both pumpkins and apples rolling around in my truck, the kids asked for one more stop.  "Mom, can we pleeeeeaaaaase go to the park?  It's so nice outside." 

How could I resist?


(Notice the concentration on sister's face.  She recently learned to "pump" on her own as she swings, and so she puts all her effort into it. Yet another "big girl" milestone.)



Finally home.  The kids headed downstairs to watch a movie, and I jumped at the chance to have the kitchen all to myself.  Normally, I would have invited everyone up to help peel and slice and toss and smother the apples in sugar and cinnamon and butter.  But tonight, I was ready for a little baking therapy solitude......

The sun was getting low, and warming up my kitchen with even more gorgeous light.



It was a perfect autumn day. With the exception of the itch weed, I'm hoping for another month (or two - I'm the eternal optimist) of weekends like this.

There is just so much more to fit in before the snow flies.....

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Celebrating with the chickens.....

Earlier this month, Ray (my dear husband) celebrated his 40th birthday. He’s never been into the whole birthday fanfare thing, but we couldn’t just let the day go by without something....

Earlier this summer at the end of July, Ray and I also celebrated our wedding anniversary. Incidentally, it was the same day I got a call from someone who I had taken engagement pictures for just a few weeks prior. Jennifer asked if she could fly Ray and I to Jamaica later this winter, so I could take photos at her wedding.

Um, YES!!

I was more than a little happy to report back to Ray, “Guess what honey….. we're going to Jamaica. Happy tropical anniversary!”

But for Ray’s birthday, we didn’t get a single phone call like that....Nope, the day was closer to “It’s my 40th birthday, and all I got was this lousy pizza.”


But, really - - it wasn't lousy pizza at all. In fact, it was about the coolest pizza we've had in a long time.

For his birthday dinner, the kids and I took Ray to the Red Barn Farm in Northfield. Red Barn is a sustainable, organic farm that offers CSA shares and sells produce at farmer’s markets. Plus, every Wednesday evening, the farm invites visitors to join them for pizza baked in their outdoor brick oven. You simply bring your own blanket, your own beverages and accompaniments, order up a pizza, and enjoy the festivities.


It was fabulous!! There were dozens of people having pizza picnics under shade trees. Kids laughing, wine flowing (byob), and chickens running loose. (Yes, chickens!) We had a beautifully warm evening that couldn’t have been any more perfect. And to top it off, the pizza was great.




(Henry and Anna out-voted us on toppings – funny how when it's two kids vs. mom and dad, somehow the kids seem to get the majority vote - but I guess that is another story for another blog post.)

Regardless, even pepperoni tasted great with this view....


Henry and Anna were particularly taken with the free-roaming chickens. And, even more exciting was when Henry found a freshly-laid egg just lying in the grass near our picnic blanket.

Oddly enough, it felt perfectly ordinary and wonderful to be eating pizza, outside, next to chickens and eggs and strangers. It must have been all that farm-fresh air!



Now, I must admit (and as Ray couldn’t resist mentioning during our pizza adventure) that the Red Barn Farm was probably closer to my kind of 40th birthday dinner than his….All communal and crunchy and such. But, I’m grateful that Ray was gracious enough to indulge the rest of us and celebrate.


And one of my favorite parts of the evening - - no surprise here - - a chance to get some sweet shots of Ray with the kids.

Henry and Ray are giving me their "smolder." Clearly, Anna has been watching Tangled a little too much, and it's rubbed off on my boys....







I’m not sure how much longer the Red Barn Farm will be open this fall, but to those in the area, I highly recommend this dinner-time adventure.

And of course, happy birthday to my dear husband! Thanks for sticking it out with me - - for this adventure, and for all the other adventures yet to come. I love you.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Dream list....

It's Sunday night. The kiddos are tucked into bed, sound asleep.

Henry is on the top bunk. Anna is on the bottom. Truth be told, Anna hasn't slept in her own room since we bought Henry's bunk beds nearly 2 years ago. And really, I don't mind a bit. It's good to have them in close proximity. These days at bedtime, the kids crawl under their blankets to snuggle in, and I sit on the edge of Anna's bunk, until they are both fast asleep.

I know, I know....bad habit. I should give my last kiss, turn off the lights, and walk out the door. And, I certainly admit, given our bedtime routine, there are times when I am trying to will the kids into instant sleep (using my telepathic mommy-brain powers) so I can go downstairs and finish dishes or pack lunches or pay the phone bill. (The telepathic thing hasn't worked so far, but I'll keep you posted.....)

But mostly, these few minutes at bedtime, as the kids fade off to sleep - - well, they are often the sweetest part of my entire day. In soft voices, we recount the day that is ending, and talk about what may come tomorrow. I hear their sleepy yawns and the usual "just one more thing, mom" after I've said "good-night and no more talking" for the 4th time. And lately, I get another request:

"Mom, tell us good things to dream about."


It started a few months ago. Henry was waking up in the middle of the night with bad dreams. I guess they were just your run-of-the-mill 7 year old nightmares, but they shook him - and they shook me too. And as a result, when Henry was falling asleep at bedtime, he worried that the bad dreams would come again. So, to ward off the nightmares - or at least the worry about them - we started something new. I began listing all of the good things Henry and Anna could think about as they drifted off to sleep. All the things that they could build their dreams on for the night ahead.....

Sleeping outside and counting the stars.
Picking all the good things growing in our garden: pumpkins, tomatoes, peas, cucumbers.
Cotton candy. (enough said).
Feeling the the crazy wind blowing our hair as we ride in the car with all the windows rolled down.
Raking up the leaves and jumping through them, over and over.
Having a sleep-over with friends - - for two nights in a row.
Tree-houses and forts and snow igloos.
Dancing and singing all day long.
Eating big stacks of pancakes, with butter and syrup dripping off the sides.
Stomping around in huge puddles left by a rain storm.
Riding bikes to get the mail and then taking the really long way home.
Finding the first snowflakes of the season floating through the air.
Dreaming about the snowballs and sledding soon to come.
Picking flowers and drawing pictures.
Riding the ferris wheel and stopping at the tippy-top, to see as far away as we can. Maybe we'd see all the way to Africa.
Cuddling up on the couch and reading a good book out loud on a cool rainy day.
Eating homemade caramel popcorn and hot chocolate while we read.
Going to the library and the park. On the same day.
Writing a long, long letter to Aunt Annie and telling her about everything.

On and on the list goes. And usually, by the time I finish, I hear big, heavy, sleepy breaths from both Henry and Anna.

"Good night my dear ones...."


Now, the kids request a "dream list" almost every night. And I'm happy to oblige.

Funny thing is, when I look at the dream list above - just random things, typical of what I usually say - well it really is just a sweet reflection of our days with one another. This list reminded me of a quote I recently read and scribbled down so I'd remember:

The happiest people don't have the best of everything....they just make the best of everything.

In some ways, I guess that is what we're doing - - making the best of what is right in front of us....even as we dream the night away.

Monday, September 12, 2011

What I've learned....

It has been such an amazing year for me and my camera.... Twelve months ago, I never imagined what I might be able to see through my lens…..I’ve spent time with dear friends, and I’ve met lots of new ones.  I took pictures in back yards, in old familiar places, and in fabulous spots I had never visited before.  And I had a blast!

But now, with autumn in the air, I’ve decided to take a bit of a break from photo sessions.  I’m not quite sure what is next with all my picture stuff, but I figure I need to take the time to find out.  So, other than a smattering of sessions already scheduled (including a wedding in December - - in Jamaica!!), you’ll be seeing a lot more pictures of my own little ones in the coming months…..

In looking back at this past year, I am astounded by all I’ve learned.  And, well - you know me. - I had to share....

To quote one of my favorite movies, Love Actually IS all around….


Asking a kid to jump is a sure way to get a real smile.  



Blurry is beautiful.


A black and white photo provides a glimpse into something real and true.







The eyes definitely have it….


Okay - - so do the hands and legs and eyelashes and tummies.






Nothing - nothing - beats a mama kiss or squeeze.






The everyday really is extraordinary.






Beauty.  Everywhere.






Clearly, our best memories are so connected to the images we keep.  This past year only re-affirms my reasons for making photographs such an important part of my life.  This past year has been a gift. 

I'm am so grateful to everyone who has helped me along the way.

I can’t wait to see what is next.