The boys had some friends come over to play today and after they got bored of things to do inside, we decided to go and play in the snow.

When their dad arrived to pick them up, he decided to join in the fun:

I wanted to get a couple of action shots of Linkin this time, though I only really got two good ones. Maybe I'll try and photograph him playing in his yard sometime where he has more room to run and jump.

He loves his toys and he really enjoys playing with the kids.

Ready for me to throw it again.

I thought the color selection of the ball would be fun in this photo. I love to hear this ball squeaking as he gnaws on it.

Standing on tip toe for a doggie treat.

I had to get a shot of him laying down. I've never seen a dog lay like this with his back legs out flat against the ground. I think it's hillarious!
Over the holiday season our family attended two different Christmas parties. Here are some of my favorite shots from each.These first few pictures were taken during a white elephant party we attended.

I just love this little girls bright bold eyes and her mischievous glance. It's like she's thinking, "Does mommy know this is my fourth cookie?"

The lighting on this one isn't so great but I love the expressions on mother and sons face.

The following little dudes have the most gorgeous eyes and cute chubby cheeks!

These next pictures were taken at our Church Christmas party.

My daughter made sure I noticed the snowflake confetti sprinkled on the tables. She loved it!

This woman is one I see at church nearly every Sunday and I have always thought she had such a beautiful weathered face. When I walked by her I knew I wanted a picture. She was a bit reluctant but cracked a little smile for me.

I've tried to capture good pictures over the years with what I've had available. And I really believe that you can get good shots with the simplest of cameras; it's the human being behind the camera who has to come up with a good photo composition, after all. Obviously a really nice camera with interchangeable lenses has some fantastic advantages, but don't let that discourage you from learning the basics of photography and trying your hand with what you have.

I wanted to share with you some pics I'm proud of that I took with our 7 year old Kodak Easy Share last December on my sisters wedding day. A little bit of brightening and contrast in photoshop was all these photos needed to really make them pop:

The rain started last night and kept going all day. That's usually how it happens here in Maryland. When the rain comes, it's going to stay a bit. I decided I needed some pictures of the damp, overcast world.

Right now we are dog sitting for some friends. Isn't Linkin the cutest little Maltese?

My kids love to make 'gingerbread' houses every year. This year we started decorating after the sun went down so I was concerned about lighting. We have a chandelier over the table but it's not that bright so I cranked up the ISO on the camera. A little too much I think, as the pictures are fairly grainy. But I do like the natural warm glow of the photos.

Guess what? I don't own a genuine macro lens. So how did I get so close to those marshmallows you ask? A macro filter. I'll post more about it later.

I am particularly fond of the photo above. Maybe it's the composition/angle or the stray, blurry m&m's. Or perhaps it's because my adorable two year old just had to build a tower out of gum drops atop her house. I don't know. But I really like this photo.

Photo Credit: Dave Taylor

The above photograph is one of my all time favorites. It was taken by our good friend Dave Taylor at Christmas time a few years ago when our fourth child was two months old. This photo conveys so much about me and my life. Family is everything to me. My husband is just as good-natured and relaxed as he looks here. He is my other half, my very best friend. We of course, have our tiffs from time to time but he has set a good example to me of talking things through rationally and calmly. I have grown leaps and bounds since being married to him. I fall in love with him over and over again. He sets an incredible example for our children of hard work, self discipline, honesty, patience and acceptance.

We have four children and each of them began life with just as much wonder in their eyes as you see in the eyes of my son above. My goal as their mother has been to maintain that wonder far beyond their childhood years. Wonder is something that I am still filled with. Life is incredible! It is heart wrenching and turbulent but also miraculous and beautiful. The memory of difficult things I have gone through in my life serves to enhance the positive things I experience. Every day I'm alive in mortality is a gift! And I love sharing that gift with my little ones. Motherhood is certainly not easy but I cherish the souls I have been given. They teach me and bring love and laughter to my heart every single day.

I am humbled and amazed by the many beautiful things God has created to please the eye and mind. I've always had a love for animals and insects and the natural world. Camping and hiking is still a favorite activity of mine when we can manage it and butterflies dancing from flower to flower never cease to make me smile. I try to capture the beauty of my surroundings through the lens to share with others. Photography is just one of many creative outlets. I have always been driven to create in new ways. You might say I am a collector of hobbies. I enjoy crocheting, playing the piano, sculpting in polymer clay, wireworking, cake decorating, coding, graphic design, baking, woodworking, reading, writing and genealogical research. Not all done simultaneously of course. I rotate through these things as the mood strikes. I am very good at spontaneity. I am not very good at managing my time.

I have always dreamed of being a published author and maybe sometime I'll get really serious and give that a go. I have hundreds of characters and their conversations running around in my head at any given time. And believe me, that's not the worst of what I've got running around in my head. I have long struggled with Primarily Obsessional Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and for many years had no idea what was going on. It almost led to suicide and has often led to severe anxiety and depression. I can say now, that though I still deal with it and always will, I often feel peace in spite of it because of the gospel of Jesus Christ. I am thankful for the love and patience of God and of many good people, without whom I truly believe I would not be alive on earth right now.

We couldn’t find a sitter to watch Vanessa the other night so hubby opted to stay home from Monsters vs. Aliens with her. Therefore we invited one of my sons’ friends, Sam to join us.

We picked up Sam from his house, buckled him into the middle seat and began our 25 minute ride to the movie theater where the advanced screening was being shown. You may not believe me when I declare that I was entertained just as well prior to the movie by the bits of conversation going on in the back seat, as I was actually watching the movie, but it’s true. Children's conversations are often highly amusing and these three little dudes altogether were no exception:

Ethan: Do you know where we’re going Sam?
Sam: No. My mom didn’t tell me.
Ethan: We’re going to see MONSTERS VS. ALIENS!!!!!!
Sam: Cool!!
Ethan: Hey have you ever been to chocolate world? It’s so awesome!!
Caleb: I luuuuuuuuv Chocolate!! Mmmmmmmmm!!!!
Sam: No. Hey, have you ever been to a water park?
Ethan and Caleb: No.
Sam: We went to this way cool park up in Boston…
Ethan: Hey Boston is where Bill Pinkney is from!! 
Sam: Whos Bill Pinkie?
Ethan: Pink-NEE! He’s a guy I learned about for black history month
Sam: What did he do?
Ethan: I don’t remember.
Sam: Oh, well you know this other cool place I once went to, I think it was sorta near New Hampshire…
Caleb: New Hamster?!? *hysterical laughter* Hey! Hey! We hab a hamster! Her name is Honey!
Sam: No! New HAMP-SHEER!!

Caleb: I luuuuuuv hamsters!
That was just the most comical part that I committed to memory. Their 10 second attention spans combined with random facts and favorite past times made it very hard for me to contain my chuckles. The enjoyable moments of parenthood make the difficult moments all the more worthwhile.
What do you get when you cross a sick baby and her refusal to nap that day?
Yes, Vanessa has been a sick little girl. You know the illness, the one where gobs of snot can be seen dangling from her nose. You run for a tissue and as you emerge from the bathroom you dash forward in slow motion, watching in horror as the back of her chubby little hand wipes the snot clear across her cheekbone and into her hair.

Lovely mothering moments these.

So she’s been oozing snot and coughing and running a tiny fever and refusing to nap. Last evening at approximately 6 o’clock my husband was serving us dinner (for those of you not in the know, the darling man cooks every night for us) and Vanessa was very grumpy. We hoped that putting a little food into her belly would keep her quiet make her feel a little better. I put her in her high chair and gave her a bowl of rice. But, oh, the horror! I stirred it up and blew on it! Instant tears and shouts issued forth. It was obvious by the tone and rapidity of her baby babble that she was cussing me out for it. Hubby and I glanced at each other, both obviously inclined to ignore it. But ignoring it did not make it go away. The tears continued and in a moment Hubby wondered if she might prefer her rice on a plate. He dumped the bowl out onto the plate and all of the sudden we had a convulsing child hitting her head on the back of her chair. Oooooookay. Definitely not what she wanted.

“Do you want down?” I asked removing the tray and placing her on the floor.

Instant screamification, jumping up and down, then falling to the floor and writhing. Hubby and I were trying hard not to laugh but never before had we seen such a display. We obliged her by putting her back in her high chair and eating our meal in company of her tears and snot and angry noises. Finally she picked up the spoon, ate the rice (which was now back in her little purple bowl) and didn’t make another peep. We jammied her, she gave us kisses and we put her to bed hoping for her sakes and ours that she would get well soon.
I’ve seen quite a few sad news and blog stories lately. Death and murder is prevalent on news reports and it’s easy to feel discouraged at the state of human kind. As I read one story yesterday I was tempted to be depressed and angry at people in general but then I remembered an event my husband witnessed not too long ago.

As my husband was walking back to work from his lunch break he came to a busy intersection. He looked to his left and saw a woman in a wheelchair just starting across the intersection. She wasn’t moving very fast and may not have realized what a late start she was getting because at that moment the light turned green. The people in cars at the front of the light could see her and weren’t moving but some cars further back could not. Those few were getting impatient and after a couple honks and no movement, one car swerved out from behind the rear end of the line into the left turn lane intending to go around the stalled lane. The woman was now in front of a taxi cab and continuing to wheel along. In a moment she would be past the Taxi and directly in front of the turn lane. My husband watched in horror knowing she would be hit. In that instant he saw the driver side door of the taxi cab swing wide open, right as the woman emerged in front of the turn lane. The impatient driver screeched to a halt barely avoiding hitting the taxi cab door, and of course the woman he would most likely have killed. Thankfully the impatient driver realized he had just been saved from killing someone and did not look for an altercation. After the woman had passed, all drivers went on their way.

As my husband recounted this event he had witnessed we both marveled at how quick thinking that taxi driver was. I don’t know if I would have thought to throw my door open to stop that car. Whoever he was, he saved her life. There are still many good people out there.

The media doesn’t often focus on the positive, but we still can. We need too in order to keep our faith in humanity and to keep from becoming calloused ourselves.
As I cuddled with my husband late one night last week I was feeling particularly emotional. We chatted about this and that and suddenly, through the course of my chatting I had a realization,
“I don’t know who I am anymore,” I said frustratedly
“Oh stop being so dramatic,” came his reply, a smirk behind it.

I was being dramatic. Sometimes it’s fun to say things as though your lines are being read by someone in a book. But dramatic or no, it rang of truth.

Who was I? Who was this new person who had given her business card out to 4 strangers within the last two days? Who was this person who felt glum that she hadn’t had enough human interaction that day?

I suddenly realized that the words I’d always used to describe myself - introverted and shy, didn’t apply anymore. Sometimes I’m still reserved, but if I am it’s because I choose to be. Not because I’m afraid of people or of social situations.I use to prefer books to friends. While I still love books, I’d rather be with friends if the opportunity arises.

I use to sit as silent observer at social functions feeling awkward and unsure of myself. Now I’m unafraid to voice my opinions, start a new conversation or even make a joke.

I use to sit quietly at public play areas or in church waiting for others to introduce themselves to me. Now I’m the one introducing myself and seeking new friendships.

The change must have been gradual but the realization was sudden and stunning. The person I’d always defined myself as, scattered like sand and slipped through my fingers. The grains that still cling are only memories of her.
Valentine’s Day came and went. The boys had school parties the day before and on Saturday Hubby and I went out on a date. I didn’t think any more of it until today when Caleb said to me, ” Mom, you need to make me card wif a heart on it.”

I was tucking him into bed as he said this and I felt a little guilty as I realized that all his classmates had given him valentines but his own mother had not. I went out to the kitchen table and fashioned two little Valentine cards for both of my boys and delivered them to the sleepy heads soon after.

Caleb looked at the card with feigned curiosity, “What’s dis?” he said to himself opening the card.

“Dear Caleb, Happy Valentines Day. I love you! Mama,” he read and then the gushing began.

“Aw, fank you for my valentine’s card mom. You’re a Angel! Did is da best card in da whole world! “You’re da sweetest girl mama. I love you!”

I’m thinking my heart isn’t the only one this boy will melt as he gets older.
 I’m sure many of you have seen the previews for a movie currently playing in theaters called, Coraline. It looked a little Nightmare before Christmas-ish to me and it made me curious. I didn’t realize it was based on a book until I visited the library last week and happened to see the book on the shelf. I picked it up and flipped through the pages. It looked like a very short read so I checked it out thinking that maybe my husband would be interested in reading it aloud with me.

We read the first half Saturday night and finished the second half last night. Now don’t let my telling you that it is a dark and twisted tale scare you off. I highly recommend this book. Yes, it’s creepy and heart pounding but it’s a powerful example of doing the right thing in spite of the evil that’s threatening to crush you. And any author that can get my adrenaline rushing and visuals swirling through my head as I read a passage of story is a talented one indeed.

Now I come to what inspired this post in the first place, there is a part in this book when Coraline is making a decision to either face the evil or not and she recalls a memory. She and her father had gone on a walk one day. They went down a hill to the bottom of a gully where a stream was when Coraline’s father yelled at her to run away, up the hill that instant. Then Coraline continues:

“As I got to the top of the hill I heard somebody thundering up the hill behind me. It was my dad, charging like a rhino…The air was alive with yellow wasps. We must have stepped on a wasps nest in a rotten branch as we walked. And while I was running up the hill, my dad stayed and got stung to give me time to run away…He had thirty-nine stings all over him…He said that he wasn’t scared when he was standing there and the wasps were stinging him and hurting him and he was watching me run away. Because he knew he had to give me enough time to run, or the wasps would have come after both of us…”

As I read this passage I cried, hard. I laughed through my tears as I explained why to Tom. One time on a family camping trip my younger brother and sister went off into the wood to explore a bit. They were still within site, a bright piece of shirt here, the top of my brothers head there. Very soon we heard blood curdling cries. We glanced into the wood and saw hundreds of wasps swarming through the air not far from camp. In an instant my dad had dashed straight into the swarming wasps, hoisted my siblings up and came stampeding out of the woods with them, still batting off the wasps. I don’t remember much after that. All I remember was knowing how much my dad loved us because he went straight into what he knew would be agony to rescue his children.

It’s amazing how one little act like that lets you know so much about a person.