I was asked recently to take pictures at a celebration for one of my favorite places. Either you have heard of Shriners Hospital of you haven't – perhaps depending on whether you know a child with a muscular or skeletal abnormality.
Whether you've heard of the Hospital – supported by the generosity of the Shriners – or are only familiar with the Shrine Circus...I'm here to tell you that it is a one-of-a-kind place.
While monetary donations keep the doors open, gifts of the heart are what make it feel like home to the children who get their first arms/legs here and the parents who watch their children take first steps.
Watching patients accept the "Rainbow of Hope Award" I was amazed at the grace the Shriners patients have and how amazing their families can be. I was none-the-less thankful for the healthy limbs that my kids get to run on every day!
On Hospital Day everyone involved was honored – patients, staff, Shriners and the Women's Auxiliary. Here are a couple of pics from the day.
Did some swimming over the Holiday weekend. So glad to be in the upper half of the thermometer these days! I find that with this new season it's as if I'm seeing summer with children for the first time! We hit the 80's with snow boots and sleeves when what we really needed were sun hats and band-aids.
From Saturday morning at the packed Minneapolis Farmers Market to Monday night weeding the garden before bed we collectively went through 18 pairs of shorts and at least 2-dozen shirts, we have sand/mud/dog poop in approx 9 pairs of shoes and counting...
Kids expand out of their clothing so fast I need a full time staff person just to rotate their closets...I would pay her overtime to fold the laundry. We dress these days out of the dryer. Every day I'm running downstairs in underwear hoping to find dry treasure that has yet to be folded. Entire loads are pilfered before even receiving a crease.
How do "herd mothers" do it (mothers having more than 2 children which is unfathomable to me)? How is is possible to keep shorts on every body and food in their stomachs? It's an exhausting thought!
Over the three day span we did find sun hats for the boys, the sunscreen wasn't too buried and due to some early planning (and exchanged x-mas gifts) I managed 2 pairs of swimming trunks per boy – the rest is still a crap shoot.
In the last 24 hours my shopping list has grown from: a sun hat for me (because I will undoubtedly be living near water this summer) to a lengthy list including summer pajamas for both boys (they are literally sweating through their sheets)! The list never ends!
Tonight I have a date planned with Target...should be able to obtain most of my wants/needs in a one-stop-shop – I imagine in 3 months I'll be doing this again for "Back to School."
It took some coordination last weekend to meet our needs but fun was had and swimming season is upon us. Hope you and yours had a toasty Memorial Day, your sheets are dry and your skin just a little bit pink...feels good.
Above water and smiling,
You see them everywhere – amazing photos of children, their eyes glowing (almost alien-like in color), their skin pristine and the background appropriately blurred. "Professional" photographers have gotten really good at one thing – Photoshop.
Aside from the amazing effects applied to most photos (Instagram, etc.) when you see a photo of your child or someone else's that really captivates you it's probably for a completely different reason – the photo speaks of who that child IS and not WHAT THEY LOOK LIKE.
I have huge pictures of my kids hanging in my home – 20x30, 24x36 – rarely anything smaller than a 16x20. I LOVE kid pics and I LOVE them large. Confession – I'm too frugal to pay anyone else and go through the stress of a professional photo session. All the prints on my walls are from my own, oldish, digital camera.
Here's the secret - THE BEST PHOTOS are snapped when outfits don't coordinate and you're not consumed by the stress of the perfect shot. Yesterday I took the kids to breakfast before Axel's Yoga class and started taking their pics against the red walls of Cheeky Monkey (Dale/Selby area of St. Paul). They turned out to be some of my favorites – not because my kids looked particularly darling yesterday but because their personality radiates through the images.
Here's what I saw:
They're not perfect, the images, the boys – their skin. I did touch them up a bit but not much. I tried to leave them as raw as possible.
A few things that sharpened these pictures that you may want to try at home: I cleaned up the walls (nicks and white spots), I cleaned up some of the powdered sugar (using the bandaid tool in Photoshop especially the stuff in the foreground of the picture that would pull focus from the boys), I removed a scratch from Oliver's head (not because I cared that he had one, but because I was photographing not WHAT HE LOOKED LIKE THAT DAY but HOW HE REACTED TO POWDERED SUGAR).
I spent maybe 3 minutes on each image for (what I see to be) wonderful results. Not all of these are wall-worthy, some of them are slightly blurred (low shutter speed) and the lighting is funky with such a bright window next to us, but most of them are decent quality and most of all STRESS AND COST FREE.
Willing to drop $1000+ for pics of your kiddos? You might get something a little better than my old Nikon. Need a push to take your own? HERE'S ME URGING YOU TO DO SO!
We weren't the only one's in the restaurant yesterday – it was packed. My only tip with public photography is shoot candidly, don't ask for poses and in order to get 10 good shots (perhaps 1 great one) you'll need at least 200 to choose from. Start clicking.
Axel only made one card this year. I asked him to make a card for EVERY Mom! This is what he came up with.
Whether you have a 0, 1 or 2 Mom household. Whether you were raised by a single or a multitude of Mothers. This day is about celebrating whoever Mom is to you.
I took Oliver to the post office today – actually bringing him inside because his brother wasn't there to sit in the car with him as I sprinted to the automated postage system. I brought Ollie into the lobby by his own self – no stroller – nothing with straps – it was a huge risk.
It's a relatively new post office and the lobby has the automated postage machine. A separate glass door opens to the "window" area – that's where I was headed. As I made for that second door Oliver decided to stay in the entryway. There was only a handful of people in the building and I could clearly see him while keeping my place in line.
A woman walked up to the postage machine and began ordering stamps. Oliver stepped between her and the machine (he's worked the machine with me MANY times). I began to panic – not visibly. As soon as she had finished paying I knew what would be coming out of the lower slot – her stamps. Ollie was ready for them.
I made the awkward "I'm torn" motion, trying to hold one foot in line while opening the glass door to call him to my side.
"Oliver, get in here (insert waving motion...followed by pointing to the floor underneath me)."
"No way." LOVE this phrase.
"It's ok, he's my helper," said the woman. I let the door close again and watched him hand her her sheets of stamps – one at a time. She never hurried him.
The woman left and Oliver waved. I moved forward in line.
In walks a younger man towards the machine. He was smiling as Oliver took his place by the stamp shoot. I felt less nervous this time. The man in front of me commented on how cute Oliver was and how he greeted him – making eye contact – as he came in.
I turned to face him, middle-age, round glasses, baseball cap. "Both of my kids are overly social. They would willing go with a stranger I'm afraid," I told him.
"What a unique view of the world," he told me. "It's refreshing to see a kid who will grow up believing that people are good."
Wow. That really hit me. That's exactly what my kids will believe! As I've watched each of my children be extremely comfortable with adult strangers it has at times made me afraid for them. However, today I realized that it's me who has modeled that behavior. I believe that people are good! I've never been a worrying Mom. I don't fear that my house will be broken into, that my identity will be stolen or that someone will snatch my kid from the playground at school. I've always been comfortable in my community, been able to rely on strangers to pick my kid up if he falls at the park and they are closer than I and in my own way have promoted co-existence to my boys.
Oliver had to help one more customer before I was finished checking out. That person was equally as thrilled to have an assistant.
When we got home from the post office I found this box in my porch – dropped off my a stranger. My kids are aware of the kindness in people because it is demonstrated to them daily. Sure wouldn't want them to grow up any other way – might just change the world.
Here's the short list of what I've been reading.
Rosemary's Baby – totally didn't do my research on this one. I knew it was a 60's horror story and that it has been made into numerous movies and now a mini-series.
The word I didn't pay attention to was "horror." Just as it indicates, it's a cheap thrill that goes sci-fi in the end and left me totally bummed.
I thought the book was written for a 3rd grader, there was no real mystery and nothing I couldn't predict.
A total bummer...don't waste your time.
I give Rosemary's Baby:
3 yawns and a big "no thank you."
The Almost Moon – from the author of "Lovely Bones" which I read years ago...college perhaps.
Chosen by my book club I knew that it came highly recommended. In the opening act the narrator suffocates her mother who had been living with dementia for years and is thought to have lead to the suicide of her father.
Recovering from the shock of that incident the narrator acts on a series of terribly impulses until the book finishes only 24 hours later.
I LOVE books written in a short period of time – plenty of flash-backs included to fill the pages.
Great style of writing, kept me interested throughout, would recommend for to read on the plane or as a fast summer page-turner.
I give The Almost Moon:
2 "WTF's" and a "Hmmm, you really wanted to sleep with your BF's son?"
Moloka'i – Historical fiction – just my style.
Again a book club read – I'm about 50 pages in. It's a good sign when you're already checking out what else the author wrote before even finishing the first.
Moloka'i is the name of a leprosy colony – part of the Hawiian Islands. The novel takes place on the beautiful islands and the main character is only a child when she contracts leprosy and is (I'm assuming) about to be sent away to the colony.
Seriously, get this one immediately and read along with me.
I give Moloka'i:
1 "I can hardly wait" and 2 "I'm so darn happy we don't deal with leprosy in these parts."
Thanks for stopping by. Now off to catch up on my TV shows...details on what I'm watching to come.
Thank you to the stranger who created order out of a complete mess.
Yesterday I noticed that my Little Free Library had about half the books - many of them new - and now actually looks like a library.
Winter was hard and it was looking more like hoard. Whoever you are...stop back any time! No need to limit yourself to the library - my kitchen looks just as bad.
So I mentioned yesterday that Oscar is getting on in years. He will no longer jump into "his chair." While he's not allowed on any other furniture – for 3 years or so he has had total ownership of one garage sale find.
Last night I decided that instead of lifting him into his chair I would lower the chair to him. Here it now sits, legless on the floor...he sure seemed pleased.
Thanks to an enthusiastic recommendation from a neighbor we decided to check out Banfield Pet Hospital today for Oscar's overdue (sorry old boy) checkup.
Losing sight of our dog amidst toys and school activities is something I'm not proud of. In the last few months he has become somewhat lethargic (possibly due to advanced age) and I was beginning to feel like the end was in sight for earnest Oscar.
I called Banfield last week because of the tip I received about their wellness plan and wanted to see if the savings were true. THEY ARE! For $42/month (seems like a lot I know) you can put your dog on their "Special Care" plan which includes unlimited free office visits and "all the fixin's" plus a dental exam.
**Admission** Oscar has NEVER been to the dentist. A $350+ dental bill for the dog wasn't something we were willing to budget for.
I went in to his exam today thinking I would pacify my guilt over his care with budget service. I was planning to check him off my to-do-list for this spring. I COULDN'T HAVE BEEN MORE SURPRISED!
We dropped Oscar off for his visit (which was actually pretty nice not to have to entertain two small children in the 6x8 cement cell). Within an hour-and-a-half the kindest (ok...I really haven't met a veterinarian that wasn't overly sweet) Dr. was on the phone explaining everything I needed to know about Oscar's health.
I had a chance to meet her when I picked Oscar up and she was so complimentary and helpful as I asked about the aging process of dogs. All of his vaccinations had been given, a routine de-worming prescription was in her hand, labs were drawn, a dental appointment scheduled and I was asked to pay NOTHING! (Other than the monthly automatic payment.) The bill for his services today alone would have been $276.24.
I was incredibly impressed with Banfield (this is NOT a sponsored ad) and I would highly recommend you avoid the sticker shock of annual vet bills by joining the "Plan." I feel so much better that we can hop on in if Oscar is having a issue and I don't have to put my wallet in front of good health care anymore.
Oscar's diagnosis today? Tip-top shape – for his age. She estimates he is mid-life and has plenty of miles to go.
Some disappointments in life are just too difficult to bear. Like when you find a metallic-pink piece of wallpaper hidden underneath the molding in your entryway. To think that something so dazzling was removed to paint the walls a hideous shade of "flesh." While I'm in the business now of helping people make their home neutral for the market – I just may be the only one who would prefer vintage wallpaper and period colors.
My extreme disappointment this morning is only trumped by Axel's who woke up asking, "Why isn't the sun orange today?"
Tired of heather skies my little man?
"Also, you need to get rid of the Lightening McQueens's and all the other underwear that fit me when I was 4. They are killing my waist."
Trip to Target scheduled. If he were to know the truth about my own underwear selection he'd probably be in tears. Maybe I could trade up for some Lightening McQueens – they'd be at least 10 years newer.
How many blog goals have I lapsed on this year? Probably a hundred. Something I'm more than disgusted by. Turns out life is pretty busy with two boys (one who recently recreated a "van Gogh" on about $2500 worth of furniture). I used to have the Mac with 25 Chrome windows searching and an open Word document for thinking – I think best with keys underneath my fingers.
The truth is I'm blogging every day in my head. I spend most of my day thinking of what I'll post on here, what I'll write next and what I'm planning to publish. Publish...yeah...we'll need to talk about that you and I.
So while I make no promises for more frequent blogging (or on what color I'll paint my entryway) I hope to see you tomorrow – when the sun is orange and Axels waist can stretch itself out.
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