Wednesday, December 30, 2009

One Day Left

There is one day left to 2009. This year will soon be a memory, mixed in with the other 33 years I have lived on this earth. So many moments I wish could just stand still, so that I wouldn't forget them as I get older.   Don't you just wish you could freeze time occasionally?  If I had a super-power, I think that would be it!  :)  This year had some amazing moments.  Moments like:

(January) My grandfather's funeral, and finding out I have a cousin who I had never met, who is an amazing photographer and has 2 young children just like me!

(February) Photographing my first wedding,and making some amazing new friends who became my prayer partners this year (the bride is one of them):

(March) The boys first trip to the snow this year:

(April) Going to the Catalyst Conference in Irvine, where I got to pursue my love of church leadership and be inspired to do great things for God.

(May) Holding Micah's hand as he went through surgery, holding him as he recovered, and marveling at the progress he has made.

Also, celebrating Jaden's 2nd birthday:

(June) Took Micah to Disneyland for the first time to celebrate his 4th birthday.

(July) MOVED!!! (Here we are on the last day at our old house)

(August) Martin's 6 week sabbatical started, and we spend a weekend being discipled by Anne Ortlund. This was also the month we took our annual trip to Morro Bay with our amazing friends Kurt & Anna and their two girls.

(September) The MOPS Convention in Nashville, where I was also able to re-unite with my best friend from high school who I had not seen in 18 years!

(October)  Hmmm.... not much happened here, but we did go to Disneyland with our BFF's Mark & Heather and their son Emerson!

(November) Potty Trained Jaden! (Still working on that binky, though)

(December) Took on the crazy task of entertaining 75 people in our home within 2 weeks time for Christmas. As my mom said, I guess I was making up for not being able to entertain in our old home! Oh- and I cooked a record number of dishes in those two weeks, more than I have probably ever cooked in our 10 years of marriage!  I will honestly never forget this Christmas!

One of my favorite quotes that I heard this year was when Micah recently said to me "Mommy, sometimes big boys still need their mommies to hold them." My heart just melted.  Another was "Mommy, I want to show this to Googy (Jaden's nickname).  Googy is my best friend!"   Martin replied with "that's why we had them so close together!"

2010 will hold some more important milestones for us:  Jaden will go off to preschool in the Fall, and Micah will enter Kindergarten.  That's about all we know for now - we trust that God has great things in store for us.

Tomorrow we are heading to Knott's Berry Farm to celebrate New Year's Eve with those good friends who you saw above (in the Disneyland picture). I hope you have a blessed and amazing New Year!!

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christmas Eve Meltdowns

Don't let these pictures fool you. We actually had a PERFECT Christmas. Christmas Eve, on the other hand, was a little harder. A few meltdowns, a comment of "I don't want to go to church. I don't like Jesus," some discipline before the service, loud talking during the quiet readings (comments like "is the movie starting yet?!" and "is the movie over now?!" and "can we go home now?!") which caused some heads to turn and people to laugh, a quick exit during a Christmas carol into the nursing mother's room, me leaving the boys in there for 2 minutes so I could grab some toys from the nursery so they could play in there, which turned out NOT to be quiet play, and then another quick exit during a loud Christmas carol into the nursery, where we spend the remainder of the service. I, sitting on a kiddie chair that was about to break, finally watching my kids playing and having fun, instead of sitting in the Christmas Eve service with our church family. Oh well. At least I got to see a few people I love, give them hugs, give out a few gifts, and BE with my church family on Christmas Eve. I knew I was worshipping in my heart. (It was still a bit of a bummer, though). Maybe next year! :)

(Yes, that is Micah plugging his ears because he did not like the music on Christmas Eve. "Hi Everyone!! Pastor's son over HERE!!!") :)

Did I mention that I like to dress my kids alike? Yes, I'm one of THOSE moms. At MOPS one day I heard some ladies making fun of moms like me (all in good fun, of course). I do think they are ever so cute when they are coordinating. Hey, I can dress my kids cute since I don't have a girl, okay? :) But trying to get a picture of them together, dressed in their cute coordinating outfits? Don't even think about it. That tantrum in the first photo is all because I wanted to take a picture of my cute & coordinated boys. Oh well.

Oh, and before I forget, here's our Christmas card (where I did manage to get a picture of my boys in different coordinating outfits!) Merry Christmas!!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

A Mexican Christmas Eve!

Today I woke up feeling so thankful! It's like Thanksgiving on Christmas Eve! :) Although I am tired, have a sore throat and stuffy nose, this whole past week was worth it. I remember telling God that if He opened up a new house for us to live in, we would want to give it back to Him, to honor Him through our home, and let this be a place where people could come and feel welcome and ministered to. That was able to happen this week. In addition to hosting 3 parties this week, we also decided that on Christmas Eve (today), I would cook up a Mexican fiesta since Martin wants to celebrate his Mexican heritage every Christmas. Since I was already going to be cooking up a storm, we decided to invite our church friends who live in the neighborhood. Just about an hour ago, our home was filled with 12 good friends who all live within a few blocks of our house. We partook in beef & chicken enchiladas, spanish rice, home cooked beans, salad and cookies for dessert. I don't know what was fuller: our hearts, our stomachs or our house!

With all this entertaining going on, it took a very large chunk out of our budget. I was not looking forward to having to cook a meal on Christmas Day, since we decided to stay home this year. Just yesterday we were given a card with a gift in it, which allowed us to go get a Christmas dinner from the Honeybaked Ham store. My favorite!!! So tomorrow I will not have to cook and still get to have a traditional ham & turkey dinner, with almost no preparation. As I was driving to the store I felt like God had given me a Christmas present!!

Not to mention, in one of my last posts (about things I want but have to wait for), one of the things I mentioned was a Wii Fit. Well, another gift allowed us to get a Wii Fit!! It has been so much fun, and also a way to keep all the teenagers entertained when they are visiting us with their parents (okay, it really just keeps the parents entertained while we make all the kids watch us) ;)

Tonight we are heading out to 2 Christmas Eve services at church. I hope your Christmas Eve is beautiful and full of love & joy!

Monday, December 21, 2009

Christmas Recipes!

If you read my post yesterday, you know that we've been doing a lot of entertaining around here this week. Tonight we are (almost) all feeling the effects, with 3 of us having sore throats and coughs. Martin is a trooper though and is taking care of all of us.

I tried out some new recipes this year and wanted to share them with you. They were all AMAZING! No kidding - if you need any recipes, try these- they work and they are delicious!! (The pictures are not mine - they are from the site I got the recipe from). The funny thing is, while writing this post I realized how much cooking I've done this year, and I don't even really like to cook. But when you have recipes you know are going to be good, it is more fun!

Turkey Brine (You soak your turkey in this overnight and it makes for the most moist, delicious turkey after you cook it the next day!)

Green Bean Casserole (this one is not made with the traditional cream of mushroom soup, but a homemade sour cream base- even Martin loved this and he's not a fan of this casserole normally)

Potato Casserole

Homemade Pumpkin Pie

Homemade Crust

(No Bake) Peanut Butter Cup Pie (This pie practically has made me famous around here lately. I got it from a Kraft magazine that I receive and it was to DIE for!)

Sugar Cookies (Hands down the BEST Sugar Cookie recipe I have ever used. Be sure to refrigerate the dough for at least an hour before cooking, or at least stick it in the freezer for 30 min.)

Buttercream Frosting

Cranberry Scones (You can give this mix out in a jar as a gift! Each batch makes 2 gifts)

Holiday Jam (this one is challenging but the jam turned out beautifully!)

Do you have a favorite holiday recipe? Share it with us by leaving a comment and connect back to your blog. Have a great Christmas week!!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Entertaining

This past week we have held 3 Christmas parties and it has been so much fun. In our old house we could not host a lot of parties because it was too small and would cause tons of stress for us. Here, our living room is still not that big, but there's more house to spread out into, as well as a great patio in our backyard.

The living room all ready to go...

On Sunday, we had our worship team and youth leadership over for a total of 27 people, who ALL very joyfully crammed into our living room for a fun white elephant gift exchange. We turned the bedrooms into a "game room" (i.e. the boys' room with a large TV and the Wii set up), a "movie room" (i.e. our room where we put a TV and had the movie "Elf" playing), and for the backyard we borrowed an outdoor heater so people could eat out there and stay warm. Everyone seemed to have fun, and we had TONS of food that people brought. I whipped up a huge batch of spaghetti and a caesar salad, and then we had food ranging from restaurant ribs to pizza to homemade enchiladas and fried chicken. YUM!!!

Filled with some of our guests:

The "Game Room":

The Dining Room:

One of the tables of food (there were 2):

On Tuesday we had our church staff over for a traditional turkey dinner. Our pastor had poached the turkey overnight and it was the best turkey we have ever eaten. SO juicy and moist!! I got the recipe and recreated it for our family Christmas dinner yesterday. If you are cooking a turkey, visit this recipe to do it yourself. It really was easy!

The Church Staff Luncheon:

Last night we had my family over and had another turkey dinner, this time made by me. I loved setting the table, and made little placecards out of ornaments. Again, very easy and simple yet beautiful when the candlelight reflected off of the ornaments!

We also all took a drive to visit "Sleepy Hollow" which is a huge neighborhood near us where every house is connected by lights and they all have elaborate Christmas displays out front. Every night around 1000+ cars drive through the neighborhood, and our youth group has been selling hot chocolate and cider as a fundraiser. It is beautiful!! I'll try to post pictures soon, but you can view a few of them (not my own) here.

Tomorrow I'm going to post some of my very favorite recipes that I either ate or made this week, so if you're in need of some Christmas recipes this week, check back soon!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Pacing Myself

I have never been a runner. I actually hate running, although one day I would like to learn to love it and become a runner. Is that weird? Anyway, they say that when you're running a race, you need to pace yourself (Who is "they", you ask? I don't know. Those people). Anyway, they say that you should not sprint a lot in the beginning or you could run out of energy towards the end. This past week has made me understand why they say that.

In life, I don't pace myself very well. I usually have a few very boring days (or weeks), and then sprint, sprint, sprint until I am exhausted and can't stand any longer. This past week has held for me a MOPS leadership meeting (which I had to lead), a Women's Christmas Decoration Celebration at church (which I was in charge of), a photo shoot, a 3 hour homemade-jam-making-session that totally stressed me out, a cookie jar making night for MOPS (that was 3 hours), MOPS the next morning (which I had to lead), a luncheon today at a hotel, a MOPS Christmas party tonight, 2 photo shoots tomorrow, and a large Christmas party at our house on Sunday. Oh, and on Tuesday we're having another party at our house for the church staff. The only reason I mention that I "had to lead" some of these events is that doing that puts a lot of extra pressure/stress on me. I do enjoy it, but it can get exhausting.

On Wednesday night I hit a wall. At 10pm I started to cry I was so exhausted. This morning I could not get out of bed. I laid there wondering what is wrong with me. Why do I do this to myself? These are all really fun things, but even too much fun can be a bad thing. When will I learn how to pace myself? It is Christmas, and I have even spoken in large gatherings about "choosing peace" and "being instead of doing." Yet I have the hardest time following through on it myself.

Then today, I went to an amazing luncheon at a hotel to watch the Azusa Pacific University choir. The lady next to me told me she was a photographer, who I immediately recognized and knew where her studio was. She is good. She found out that's what I do, and offered me a part-time freelance job. I really want to do it, and it would bring in some much needed money. It would be 1 1/2 days a week. But how? Can I do it? Is it the right thing? Everyone probably reading this is saying "Um, DUH! NO! You're obviously too busy!" But this is one of those things that falls in line with what I want to do, and could help financially. I am going to pray about it, knowing that God may say no.

So after tonight - no, after Sunday - no, after Tuesday, I'm going to start pacing myself better :) Just kidding. I really am going to try to do a better job of it starting now.

And now, here are some of the cute kids I got to photograph on Sunday. The best part? This is a family who moved in across the street. When the house was vacant, we prayed that a family with little boys would move in. These two brothers are 3 and 5. Isn't God good?! AND, the boys just happen to be wearing the EXACT same shirts my 2 boys took their Christmas pictures in last week. How odd is that?! (AND this location that I use all the time was featured on ABC's "Find my Family" this past week!)

(This is how the photoshoot started) :)

But soon, he warmed up...

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Photoshoot Bonanza!

At the end of this week, I will have completed six photoshoots in one month, which is a new record for me! I'm sure it was all because of a $99 Christmas Special I was running, in which I gave everyone a CD of all the images (but no prints included). Everytime I have a photoshoot, I get nervous - hoping that I remembered all my equipment, that it works okay, that nothing happens to my memory cards, that the lighting is good, that nobody else is using the spot we want, etc. I know my nervousness is due to a time, about 2 years ago, when I brought all my backdrops to a woman's home, photographed her for over an hour (where she did 3 outfit changes), and when I got home, realized that all of the files in the camera were corrupted. I had lost ALL of the pictures. My worst nightmare had come true. After a frantic call to my brother, he walked me through a file recovery program that (after a long time), actually got almost all of the pictures back, and everything turned out fine (and she never knew what had happened). Ever since then, I have been a little nervous!!

Today I had a great shoot of a family I just met, and was really bummed to find out that the shots with the BEST background had blurry faces in them. That is because of the lens I was using and I could not notice the blurryness on the small screen. But thankfully there are many others to choose from, and again, they will never know. This job can be stressful at times!

I thought I would give you some general photography tips, for those who might want to learn how take better pictures. So here goes:

-If you are taking a picture of a group smaller than five people, it might be best to take a picture vertically (rather than horizontally), because so much of the picture will be taken up by "space." If you are going to take a picture horizontally, zoom in so there is not so much "space" taking up the sides of the picture. The exception to this rule is if you have an amazing background and you want to focus on the background.

-Use the "rule of thirds" when taking pictures. Read here for more on that.

-If you are the photographer, always have the sun behind you.  Taking pictures into the sun will cause a glare and the pictures will not turn out good.

-The best times of day to take outdoor pictures is either 10:00am, before the sun has fully risen, or 3:00-5:00pm, after the sun has started to go down a bit.  You don't want to shoot in direct sun because of problems with shadows, squinting, etc...  If you have to take pictures when it's really sunny out, then take a picture in full shade.

-Place your subjects as close together as possible.  Here is an example of our recent family shoot.  This is my own fault, because I placed us and then had my sister take the picture. But see the big space between our heads?

Here's another one - notice the before and after:

-Invest in a good lens. Get a digital camera, even the Rebel XTi, which I use all the time, and slap a great lens on it (like a Canon 50mm). This will make your shots look professional and amazing!

-Get Photoshop or Lightroom. You can take any mundane photo and make it amazing with a good editing software. Take this photo for instance:



-Take photos from a little above the subject, and have them look up towards the camera. This is always more flattering for the face and makes it look thinner. When you take a photo straight-on, or if you're shorter than the subject, it can make them look bigger than they are and show flaws (like a double chin).

-To stay away from "stale smiles", have your subjects close their eyes. Count to 3, and tell them to open their eyes and smile. You'll get fresh, open eyes and a bright, new smile. (This is a tip I learned from my brother & sister). (It also sounds more professional if you say "one, two AND three") :) (Just another tip from my sister).

Photographers today are a dime a dozen. Everyone is doing it. Everyone wants to make a living doing it. I do not claim to be any better or more professional than anyone else; my only advantage is that my brother has been doing it for over 8 years and is amazing, so I leech off of him all the time. These tips won't make you a "professional", but they might get you some great compliments! If you are trying to get started, one of the most important things you can do is work on how you pose your subjects. Look online for ideas, and write down your ideas before you go to a shoot. Be creative (which I have trouble with), and try to think of new ways to pose people for each session. I almost always have my clients climbing things (like trees) or in rocks and bushes somewhere. At the beach, they almost always end up in the water. This makes it fun and exciting! Good luck!!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Not Me! Thursday!!

It's a good thing it's NOT "Not Me! Monday" today. Or maybe this should be the "Thursday Edition" of "Not My Child Monday" instead.

Some things just can't wait until Monday.

Like today. My 4 year old son did NOT walk up to me, while I was in the middle of a deep conversation with a woman from another church, hold his hand up to me, interrupt me and say "Mommy! Look! A big booger!!" Um, Hi! That's NOT my son!!

Or this week. My two boys have NOT been having fights over imaginary things. Like cupcakes that don't really exist. At the dinner table during dinner. Leading to crying and screaming. "I have a cupcake!" "No, it's MY cupcake!" "No it's NOT! It's MY cupcake!" Or imaginary musical instruments that they like to play when our IPOD is playing. "You can't play [air] guitar! You play the [imaginary] drums! It's my turn to play [air] guitar!" Um, what?!
Or over who gets to sing a louder rendition of "Real Gone" at the dinner table. "That's MY song!" "No it's not, it's MY song!" This is NOT life at MY house!

The boys have also NOT been obsessed with chasing monsters and fighting bad guys all day long. It is pretty funny to see a 2 year old, with a binky in his mouth who just woke up from a nap, explaining in detailed lisps how he had a dream and "chased the bad guys and fought them with his sword and went yah, yah, yah!!! and now they are all gone."

I also do NOT have a 4 year old son, who commented after seeing a large woman walk by our car today, say loudly "Mommy, why are her arms so big?" and my response was NOT "Well, honey, maybe she ate too many donuts." And I am NOT laughing so hard right now while I am recalling that incident that I am crying!!

I also did NOT most likely break a crown in my mouth this week, while sneaking left-over jaw breakers from our not-so-fun gingerbread house making night. Have YOU ever tried to make a gingerbread house with a 2 & 4 year old? I hope YOU had fun. Oh, and I really think "jaw breakers" should be renamed "crown breakers."

Other than those events which may or may NOT have happened, I have enjoyed decorating our house for Christmas this week, snuggling with Jaden every morning in bed when he runs in at 4am, loving the cooler weather and getting in the Christmas spirit!!