San Francisco 49ers v Carolina Panthers

How Family Photos Fell Apart. Again.

Every year, around Christmas time, we attempt family pictures. And every year, I wonder what the heck we were thinking.

Like seriously. Whether it’s a photo shoot with a photographer, or using the timer on an iPhone, one of the kids always breaks. Always.

At first glance, the pictures usually turn out OK, but if you look closer, Chris and I are smiling with angry eyes. Or we’re holding a kid’s hand down. Or a child’s cheeks are red from crying. Or the only reason they’re smiling is because we’re tickling their ribs.

Every year, I swear we’ll never do it again. But by next Christmas, the allure of casually matched outfits and the hope of smiling children’s faces does me in again.

This past Thursday, we decided to give it another go. I was optimistic.

Except, the babies wouldn’t nap. And we needed to meet the photographer at the park by 4:00.

At 2:00, they were  jumping around in their beds and I felt a bit concerned. By 2:45, I was basically panicking. At 3:00, they both fell asleep. And at 3:15, I had to wake them up to get ready. However, Enoch usually does OK with very little nap, so I thought we might still make this time the one to remember.

I had prepared so well, guys. I had extra outfits. I had stern talks with the big kids, which may have involved some guilt that they’ll need to process as adults. (“If you love me, you’ll smile in these pictures!”) I packed toys the babies could play with, that would look OK if they ended up in the pictures. I picked the big kids up early from school so we wouldn’t be rushing. We even asked our beloved babysitter to come along and help control the chaos.

But I could not have accounted for the real problem we faced. Never, in a million years, would I have guessed that Enoch would fall in love with the Ohio River.

He got out of the car, saw the sun glistening on those muddy banks and he had to have it. He needed to hold it and love it and no one was going to stop him. But because he is two, he didn’t say it like that. Instead, he refused to walk, his body went limp, and he wailed at the top of his lungs.

We tried to convince him to explore fallen logs and handed him sticks that would normally have thrilled his soul. But all he could do was cry, “Wa’er! Wa’er!”

Our photographer was great at figuring out how to make it work and suggested we let him have that river. So she snapped candid pictures of our family frolicking along the craggy edges of the water, like we were super-outdoorsy people who put on our nicest clothes to do fun stuff like that.

And listen. When we’re taking family photos, it’s not about parenting. It’s about doing whatever it takes to make that kid happy. Parenting is for when there’s no camera.

Which is why our next effort was to try to bribe him (with raisins) to sit on a blanket next to his little sister. It worked pretty good for the 2.5 seconds that he was fisting the raisins into his mouth. And then he was crying for the “wa’er” again.

But our photographer kept telling us, “These are turning out great!” and I believe her. Especially because, look at the preview she posted!:


Years from now, I won’t remember which kid was freaking out in this set of photos. I probably won’t even be able to tell that I’m internally praying that someone will pull it together so we can all look HAPPY.

I’ll just see the cute little faces and I’ll want to book another family photo shoot.


Previous years’ attempts at family pictures. Some professional, some not. But all very stressful at the time, and now treasured forever.

family00 family01 family02 family05 family06 family07 family08 family09

Thanks to Michael Will Photographers, Dalila of 1986 Photography, Matthew of 1979 Photography, and Anna May Photography for helping us capture some of these moments!


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San Francisco 49ers v Carolina Panthers

Valentine’s Blues

Another Valentine’s Day has come and gone and Chris and I have kept true to our tradition… a tradition of lousy Valentine’s Days.

Chris asked me to marry him the day before our first Valentine’s, so I wasn’t expecting a huge blowout. I mean, it’s pretty hard to top a proposal and sparkley ring, next to a waterfall. Still, it was an interesting Valentine’s, and definitely what started our bad V-day luck.

Chris’ parents had graciously gotten us tickets to a romantic Valentine’s dinner at Old Washington, a historical village/inn in their town. Unfortunately the place had kind of overbooked, so they had multiple couples at each table. We sat with a sweet old couple, who were Christians. The husband had been a Gideon (you know, Bibles in hotels). They were thrilled to have a nice young couple to talk with all night, but somehow it lacked the romantic evening feel for us. The food was excellent though!

The next year, our first Valentine’s as a married couple was proceeded by a week in Mexico City, where we were checking out an opportunity to take on a Missionary position there. I cried the whole week. That is, until Chris told me he didn’t think God wanted us to move there… then I perked right up! Well, in retrospect, it’s good I cried all week, because God has us right where He wants us and it isn’t Mexico City.

So we spent the actual holiday flying home from Mexico. Not an ideal romantic time, especially when we got stuck in Chicago because the windshield wiper on the plane was broken. We actually succeeded in ruining someone else’s Valentine’s that year, because our friend Heather, who was supposed to pick us up in Milwaukee, was so nice as to drive down to Chicago to get us. Chad still asked her to marry him later, and hopefully they’ve had better Valentine’s since then.

Isaiah was only about 2 weeks old for our 3rd Valentines. Chris’ parents were visiting us and offered to babysit so we could go to dinner. The thing was I only had a 2 hour window until Isaiah needed to eat again. We didn’t count on everyone else wanting to go to dinner that evening too (What, did they think it was Valentine’s or something?!). After discovering that every restaurant in town had an hour wait, and with my 2 hour window shrinking rapidly, we settled for a coffee shop and picked up some Wendy’s on the way home.

We were starting to discover that Valentine’s Day just didn’t work for us, so the next year we decided to beat the crowds and celebrate the Sunday before. Chris is a huge roller coaster fan and I had never been on one. He decided the perfect romantic outing would be my introduction to the Giant Dipper at the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. I hated it. He made me ride it 6 times, thinking if I rode it enough I’d come around. I still hated it. Somehow, the fear of immanent death by flying out of a roller coaster was not my idea of a romantic afternoon, even if it was right by the ocean. Still, I got cotton candy, so it wasn’t all a waste.

Last year, Valentine’s landed on a Wednesday. We had church on Wednesday nights, so we weren’t able to go out for dinner then either. I think we just went out another night, but the actual V-day was still unromantic.

So this year, we had everything set. We had the lovely Vic scheduled to watch our kids. Chris’ mom had sent us money to go out to dinner. But you can’t fight nature. My Grandpa passed away (he was 90!) so the kids and I left on Wednesday for Wisconsin. I spent Valentine’s Day at a funeral and Chris spent it sick in bed from a cold he’d picked up somewhere. I think this year tops them all, especially as we weren’t even together.

So we’ll go out for dinner a week late. I told Chris, “Our hearts don’t know the date.” In spite of all our Valentine’s Day woes, I’m the happiest woman alive… because I’m married to the man of my dreams. That makes every day Valentine’s Day!

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San Francisco 49ers v Carolina Panthers

Dog Daze

The back door of our basement opens onto the woods, so we always have a steady stream of bug and spider visitors. Apparently the bugs have told the mice that our house is a nice place to visit. Chris and I were sitting on the couch watching TV the other night, when I saw something scurry between our not-unpacked boxes (hey, we’ve only lived in this house 6 months!). I pointed it out to Chris just as another little furry object came into view. At first we tried to keep Chester from noticing them, since I didn’t want a battle zone in our basement. But these little mice were determined to be noticed. Instead of wisely staying hidden behind a box, they persisted in leaping and bounding along our basement walls, trying out all the hiding spots we had to offer.

Eventually Chester spotted them and wouldn’t take no for an answer. He took off after the pests, but of course they were too fast and too smart for him. When he was busily sniffing behind one box, the mice were freely jumping around on the other side of the basement.

At one point, a mouse decided to sit underneath the legs of the computer chair. He must have felt invincible, because this was not a good hiding spot as he was in plain view of all of us. Chester must have got an extra good whiff of mouse, because he began hunting in earnest. We sat on the couch in breathless anticipation of a mouse’s demise as Chester came closer and closer to his prey. He sniffed close to the computer chair. He sniffed the computer chair. He sniffed the mouse’s butt. And he didn’t see it!!! How dumb can a dog be? He was sniffing halfway across the basement again, by the time the mouse decided he needed a better hiding spot.

So much for having a guard dog! We aren’t too impressed with his skills. But Leah is…

Awhile back I told you that Leah had learned to bark. She hasn’t done it in a while, but Chester is still her hero. She really likes Chester’s toys, which concerns him a lot, since he knows they are his. Recently I saw her actually playing with Chester. She would wave his toy in his face, trying to give it to him, and then flop it on the floor. He’s very careful around her, so she had plenty of time to grab it back before he could gingerly extract it from her presence.

During their little play session, I noticed Leah was acting strange. She kept bobbing her head down towards her chest as she was crawling. And it seemed like she was panting and hanging her tongue out of her mouth. I thought, “she’s trying to act like Chester!” But I doubted my own senses until Chris saw her doing the same thing a few nights later. “Look at her! She’s acting like Chester!” he exclaimed. It was so funny.

Oh, and as for the mice? No, we are not going to let them run free to provide us with evening entertainment. We’ve got some traps discreetly set, but so far no takers. Maybe, in spite of his incompetence, Chester scared them off!

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