Merry Christmas!!!

I really enjoy blogging but haven't found the time to write in awhile... hence the need for a Merry Christmas post.  Above was our Christmas card this year (the photo was taken by my talented friend Alyssa Alig- such a gift to us!).  Alyssa dropped by to take some pictures at our house, and towards the end of our time I pulled out some of our fun holiday hats.  All the sudden Andy turned on the smile (and it helped that Alyssa had one on too!).  I went through the pictures after the session and literally cried.  I must have been feeling extra sentimental but as I saw these pictures I was reminded of what a gift my family was.  Days can be hard with kiddos who need your help with every bite of food or activity and it seems like this stage will never end (and you'll never get to sleep in again!).  But I hear it will, and for a moment when I saw these pictures I saw it not as the most stressful time of my life but as one of the sweetest and most profound gifts I'd ever been given.  I sent a text to Alyssa thanking her for taking these.  And I felt the weight of my job in documenting other people's lives.  My hope in photography is to somehow give someone else an image that might make them more grateful and realize what gifts have been given to them.  A side note to photographers: I realized in picking out my favorite pictures that it wasn't the most artistic shots or best lighting that I loved most, but the ones that really caught my family in joy.  That reminded me to remember the person, the family, the couple as the main subject in my portraits and not to obsess over getting the most artistic or original angle (although those have there place, too!)  Here is the back of our card for some quick specs on our year:

We spent the holiday at my parent's house with special trips to the Puppetry Arts Show, Tea time with the ladies (and Ethan since he wanted to see what it was all about), and birthday celebrations for all the December birthdays.  

I also took some pictures in my parent's garage of some of the kiddos with Mimi (my mom:).  My brother and his family live in California so we don't get to see them very much- I wanted to document this age and stage of their lives so we could look at it when Ethan asks about them!

Ethan fell on the pavement at the park while pushing one of his cars along the sidewalk- so his nose is actually looking better but poor guy! no photoshop on this:)

My little niece Frances is quite the active lil' 4 year old... so this picture below is perfect!

and here is Oliver, 2 years old.... and my brother, Dan, with his little guy.

My brother Dan is quite the character (for that matter BOTH of my brothers are talented characters; you just never know what to expect with them!)  Dan came in the kitchen with this US military helicopter suit on.  Apparently my dad had brought it home from my grandparents house, and we made sure to get a picture of Dan in it.  You know, just normal holiday stuff.

Another fun activity we did this year was a white elephant gift exchange with hats.  My mom has a love for hats that she passed down to me, and this hat game was SUPER fun with the kiddos.  Jared got a Coonskin cap and looked like a UT Volunteer.

ps: look at all the stockings above Ethan and my Dad's head- that's right, 14 stockings handmade by my Grandmother and a friend of hers, all with our names and children's names on them.  They are really special to us, partly because they stretch to great lengths when filled with goodies:)

Ethan's gift that he really wanted was a Cars 2 World Grand Prix racetrack.  And boom: he got.  But shortly after we put it together he said, "This is a lot smaller than it looks like in the commercials!"  And Jared let him know that is true in most of life;) It has been such a struggle figuring out how to give our children gifts while still teaching them to not be demanding but grateful.  Ethan wonders why we can't give him gifts or buy toys for him everyday... But I secretly heard him tell someone else that he needed to be happy for what he does have.  It's such a difficult challenge we face living in such a rich country!

and here's me with lil' Andy, giving him some kisses.  He really makes me smile.

Final thoughts on Christmas- I want to say a big thank you to my mom (aka Mother Christmas) for making the holidays so special and fun.  I know it may not feel fun or special when 6 kids who are 4 and under are screaming or marching around your kitchen with drums and shakers enacting a parade, or even when your own grown children are going a little crazy from all the noise and wildness of family time, but you have always made this time of year a magical time.  My children will remember Christmas stories, Christmas plays, yummy treats, overflowing stockings, fun hats, making crafts, and wildly loud dinners because of all the time and love you put into this season.  I love you Mother Christmas and am grateful for you!!!