Monday, December 30, 2013

My Little Princess

My kiddo got two new princess costumes for Christmas: Bell and Ariel and I can't tell you how excited she was.  Thank you family for spoiling her with these dresses and so many other wonderful things!! She has been trading off which costume she wears every other day since then and she pretty much keeps them on as long as she can or until we leave the house.  I had no idea the princess phase would start so early and last so long and I hear it can go on and on for years.  That's okay...I just wasn't expecting to have so much princess memorabilia strewn all over the, pink, and more pink:).  

This particular dress actually has a small battery pack and several wires that lead to several twinkling lights and it plays a song!!  Wow, talk about awesomeness and interesting all at once:).  Pretty much every time she pushes the little magic button and her dress starts to loudly play the tune of "under the sea," I find myself compulsively belting out the lyrics in the accent and voice of Sebastian.  I just can't help it.  My kiddo thinks I'm weird.  She's right, but, I'm comfortable in my weirdness so it's all good. 

I took these pictures of my kiddo in her new Ariel dress to capture "a day in the life of Daisy"...and this is it! lol   I just adored the genuine expressions that she gave me.  You wanna know how I get kids to make natural silly, sweet and smiley faces?  I ask them questions that are usually  incorrect so that they can correct me.  They love that.  So these were taken after I asked Daisy some questions along the lines of "Bell is the princess that lives in the ocean, right?"  To which she replied (with an excited I'm smarter than my mommy face), "Nooooo silllyyy.  Ariel lives in the ocean!"  "Is Snow White the princess with the really long, long hair?"  etc. etc.  Works like a charm:).  

Daisy, as long as I'm living my princess you'll be.  Love you with all my heart little one.   

and just in case you forgot what sebastian sounds like singing under the sea...or rather, what I sound like several times a day...enjoy! :()

Sunday, December 29, 2013

What I am Listening to Lately

I don't listen to rap often unless the singer is Lecrae.  He has been one of my favorite artists for quite a few years because, his lyrics are strong, powerful, thought provoking, righteous, honorable, edifying....and awesome.  His passion for Jesus is SO inspiring and his songs encourage my weary soul.  This song has been out for over a year now but, I could listen to it every day.  LOVE. I don't care who you are or what your sins are...Jesus loves you wildly and HE died for you....we've done nothing to deserve that kind of sacrifice but, he died to redeem, set free and forgive us of our sins and I can't tell you how grateful I am that he loves a wreck like me unconditionally.  Infinite.  Holy. Perfect love. 

Lecrae - Tell the World (one of the stanzas from this song)
I can't offer you nothin, but your care and kindness keep comin
And your love is so unconditional, I get butterflies in my stomach
I got the old me in the rearview, gotta new me, gotta clear view
I was so dead, I couldn't hear you
Too deep in sin to come near you
But you drew me in, and cleaned me up
And take me home and beamed me up
Before you do, just let me tell the truth
And let these folks know that I done seeing your love
And it's everlastin, infinite
It goes on and on, you can't measure it
Can't quench your love, they can't separate us from the love of God
It's no estimate
My face look the same, my frame done rearranged
But I changed, I promise I aint the same
Your love is so deep, you suffered and took pain
And died on the cross to gimme a new name
Aint nothin like I seen before
I gotta beam to glow
Was low, down, and dirty but you cleaned me Lord
You looked after me, you keep rockin me
Imma tell the world and aint nobody stoppin me

Mandisa is awesome. She is so positive and uplifting and this song, "Overcomer," is a favorite in our household. We played it several times a day for a while there. My kiddo knows hand motions to the chorus and we dance around the house with this song blasting.  It never ceases to put a smile on all of our faces:). If you ever have a bad day, week or a bad decade...don't ever forget that you are an overcomer in Jesus.  Hang on, keep fighting, keep pressing on or better yet, blast this song and dance around your house while belting out the lyrics with a fake microphone (or a kitchen spoon will do) in your hand.  It helps!  I promise:).  

Every time this song comes on the radio I'm drawn in.  I lived many seasons in my childhood especially and teen years where I was just a Christian because it was all that I knew.   It was easy to believe when life was easy but, when the heat turned up and I mean REALLY turned up...I struggled to hold on.  I lived seasons where I was so broken that I didn't know if God even cared anymore.  I've loved Jesus SO passionately at times and then completely surprised myself by doubting Him tremendously in others BUT, at my darkest hour in my loneliest valley, He always showed up to love on me in such a powerful way.  I can't tell you how beautiful His love feels when He joins you in the trenches and shelters you from the storm and lets you rest in his arms.   He is my only hope and He is my stay.  I NEED one defense, my righteousness.  Hallelujah. 
And I'll wrap it up with this fun and happy song, "My Beloved," sung by David Crowder...I mean take a second to look at that crowd will yah...just look at all the people packed into the arena just to sing, dance and worship Jesus!!   Y'all this is just a microscopic, but beautiful glimpse of Heaven.  Someday, all believers, are going to gather together by the millions/billions to sing, dance and worship Jesus and He is going to be there in the flesh (if we are flesh in heaven?? but you get my drift)!!  We will be completely free, uninhibited, unrestrained by sin or division of any kind.  Folks in Heaven there will be no more pain of any kind.  No more sorrow.  No more struggle.  No more loneliness.  It's gonna be so, so, so awesome.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Oh Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

Twinkly Light Christmas Tree Tutorial
I already posted a picture (and a tutorial) similar to this a couple of years ago but, it has now become a tradition of mine, to get a twinkly light, nighttime picture of my tree each year.  I'm sure you already know how this effect is captured but, in case you have missed it or if you are eager to try it out yourself...Basically you need a super long shutter speed and a very small aperture (which means a large f-number).  The settings can vary but, I chose an aperture of f16, my ISO was low, below 200 (though last year I had it at 800) and my shutter speed was so slow  that I literally got bored waiting for it to fire.  In all reality it was only a handful of seconds but, in the world of portrait photography that is a very long time. lol  Because the shutter speed is so slow you will want to use either a tripod or other very steady surface to prevent hand shake, which will blur your image.  For this shot I actually set my camera on our kitchen counter/bar because my tripod is broken and then set the timer at 10 seconds.  Whalah.  
Yeah for another thing that I can check off of my holiday to do list!
Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Our Christmas Family Pics - 2013

My good friend Emily Camp is a great photographer and for the past 3 years we have swapped our skills and taken each others family photos.  It really has been such a blessing to capture our growing families and to save money in these tighter life seasons.  I honestly don't know that I would even make it a priority to get our family pictures done each year if I didn't have a friend doing it for us because, picture days are often ridiculously stressful around our house.  I don't even know why...we have the entire day to prepare for them, we plan and pick settings and outfits in advance, we keep the expectations low and it really isn't that big of a deal to me.  I know the routine after all as I am a photographer myself nonetheless, like clock work, about an hour or two before our session, the moods in our house begin to deteriorate.  Sigh.  Does anyone have that issue or is it just us?

Anyways, this year we almost backed out...almost but, we pulled it together at the last second and I am very glad that we did.  I love the beautiful images that Emily captured of our family and our 3 1/2 year old daughter who really does look much older this year than she did in last year's Christmas photos believe it or not.  I do too but, let's not get excited about that shall we.  

To answer the ten people who asked me where my shirt came from...TJ Maxx, Summer '13.  Sorry, that was not relevant for the rest of you but, you have to is a cute shirt.  It's like a confused mix of the 80's, 90's and 2000's. :)  

  Thank you Emily again for being such a great friend and photographer!
 And thank you sweet Jesus that we only have to do this once a year:)
one of my faves below:)  How cute is Daisy all propped up perfectly:)
Daisy loves to wrap her arms around both of our necks and squeeze as hard as she can.  Kind of her trade mark.
We sure love our little peanut a whole heck of a lot...and she knows it:)
Emily and I took a few portrait head shots of each other so that we could update our photography websites.  I have officially captured my 30th year with a professional portrait, yeah!! Thanks Emily:)!
this was my favorite head shot, below.  My eyes aren't really that awesome and my skin is not really that smooth but, Emily made me feel special by editing me gently and I'm grateful! xo
 My kiddo is getting long and lean these evidenced in this picture!
 I love this picture that Emily captured of Daisy sitting pretty and doing such a good job getting her picture taken.  Love my little girl so much.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Thankful Trees and Thanksgiving Memories

As Daisy is gets older, my desire to create holiday traditions with her grows.   I have so many fond memories of making Christmas count down chains, setting up Nativity sets, creating advent calendars, teddy bear cookies, thankful thoughts in a jar etc. with my Mom. 

 This year I made a thankful tree with scrap book paper that I had lying around and I taped it up on a bare wall in our dining room.  I cut out dozens of colorful leaves and kept them on the table all November long.  Each morning Daisy sat on my lap (by her choice) at the dining room table and I wrote what we were thankful for on two leaves and then she got to stick both of our leaves on the tree.  She loved sticking the tape on the leaf and then smacking the leaf on the wall with her fist...lovely.  She is three after all.  What I especially loved about this daily ritual was hearing all of the adorable things that she came up with..."Thankful for baby Jesus because he was so cute.  Thankful for Minnie because she is my friend.  Thankful for pencils because I like them.  Thankful for God because he is with Jesus.  Thankful for Disney because the princesses live there.  Thankful for Vince (her neighbor friend) because he is my husband...(LOL)"  And so on.  I LOVED starting each day off doing this activity with my daughter and focusing our hearts and minds on thankfulness.  After she scurried off to watch her morning show, I would continue to sit at the table and read my Jesus Calling Devotional, while sipping my coffee and have a quick moment alone in prayer.  It was such a peaceful routine (and fun!) and that peace carried me through each day.  So thankful.

As I am writing this post, Christmas is rapidly approaching.  Now more than ever, amidst all the craziness and business I want to remember how powerful it is to start each day off in praise and thanksgiving.  I sat in a sunbeam in my living room this morning (I'm like a cat or a dog that way) and made a point to tune out the ridiculous to do list, all the presents that still need to be purchased, all the parties that we need to attend, late nights ahead, lack of sleep, all the baked goodies to be made, all the errands to run, packages to mail, extra phone calls to be made and so on.  I breathed in gratitude and exhaled praises.  Thank you Jesus that I already have all that I need.  Thank you Jesus that we have food and shelter.  Thank you Jesus that I am warm on such a chilly morning.  Thank you Jesus for loving me today and giving me peace in the midst of the hustle and bustle.  Focus my heart on what really matters this holiday season.  Focus my eyes on all that I have and not what I think I need.  I have you.  I have all that I need.  Thank you Jesus.  It's rather miraculous that a few minutes of giving thanks and praising can turn an entire day around. 

I took these pictures below right before we took the Thankful tree down at the beginning of December.  Daisy asked if she could be in the pictures and she brought her hot chocolate along.  Her expression had me busting up.  There is never a dull moment when this girl is around! 
she totally jumped in my shot...little stinker.  But honestly, it's much cuter with her hot chocolate face in there right:).

We had the special treat of having Uncle Jeremy, (my brother-in-law,) in town during Thanksgiving break.   He lives out in California and we see him once or twice a year usually.  Daisy went through a good three year long phase of being very wary of any man besides her Daddy.  But, it appears that she has finally turned a new leaf because she was all about her Uncle Jeremy this visit.  She wanted him to hold her non-stop and she asked him to do everything with her.  He bought her a Snow White ornament which she pretty much carried around for 3 days non-stop  She was pretty happy as you can tell.  
 We also dragged Jeremy out to Christmas tree hunt with us.  We went to 3 different places and we kept striking out.  We finally went back home treeless and took a lunch break.  Jeremy was a trooper and helped to entertain Daisy which was awesome. It's always such a treat to have extra set of helping hands around to keep our lively girl entertained.  It's always hard to see family go but, we look forward to seeing Uncle Jeremy again early next year when he flies back out to welcome his second niece who is due late January.  We are all very excited to meet Avery!
One of my favorite traditions is getting together with our good friends, The Morris Bunch, on Thanksgiving.  I think we have spent about 5 Thanksgivings together now and it's been such a blessing to have friends on the East coast that we can spend a special holiday with.  We met the Morris family about 10 years ago when we lived in California.  We were all newlyweds and we all attended the same church.  It was a fun life season.  The military brought them to the East Coast and our family moved this way to buy a home and settle down.  We are a few hours apart but, we've been able to get together a few times a year and they are always good times.  I love watching their kiddos grow up and Daisy has so much fun playing with their three boys now.  I am so thankful for good friends.  The kind that you can roll out of bed in jammies and bed hair and feel comfortable around.  The kind that you can have deep talks about life, marriage, family, faith and God and no one gets ruffled or takes anything too seriously.  The kind that have seen you at your best and your very worst over many years and have loved you through it all.  

Yes, so thankful for good friends and I know that Daisy loves the extra attention she gets from three charming boys.  
The kids took turns playing a game or two on the ipad with Mike. 
I made Elissa do all the cooking...because let's face it, she actually enjoys cooking. I wasn't completely useless. I took pictures of her slaving away. And I am kidding, sort of. I did make the mashed potatoes and popped the lids off the sparkling cider. Elissa came up with this amazing brine mixture and then the brine bag basically ruptured and all the liquid spilled everywhere. Not fun (though it was hard not to giggle at all the commotion from the sidelines...eek) BUT, the turkey still turned out delicious and moist! Yeah! That was pretty much our only hiccup over the Thanksgiving holiday so I'm not complaining:).
I like to stick the kids at a separate table in hopes that the adults might get more than two words of conversation in without being interrupted. I even covered the kiddie table with paper and set out stickers and crayons to keep the kids distracted and allow for a longer and more enjoyable meal time experience. The kids did awesome. The meal was delicious. The company was perfect.  Score!
Elissa tried out a new sweet potato recipe and it was SO SO good.  Definitely a new fave of mine. She also did a fresh green bean casserole and OMG so much flavor and so much healthier!! I really would like Elissa to be the permanent Thanksgiving chef going forward. :)  Thoughts, Elissa?

Might I direct your eyes to the marshmallow fruit salad up front on the plate below.  That was one of my Grandma's recipes and I spent probably 20+ Thanksgivings at her house eating that delicious salad.  It will forever be a staple in our Thanksgiving dinner as well.  Preparing it, looking at it and eating it all made me feel a little closer to her this year and I really needed that.  It's only been a little over a year since she passed and the holidays are especially hard because my life is saturated with her wonderful traditions.  I still haven't quite figured out how to move on without her presence and her at the center of the traditions.  It's hard to make a new norm when the old was so familiar and such a huge part of my life but, somehow we just press on, one day at a time.  But, oh how I miss you to the moon and back Gram.
And though it looks like we are miserable...with the exception of Elissa...:) I promise you that I was simply concentrating on how delicious the food was that I was stuffing in my mouth mid photo op.  I definitely killed the Norman Rockwell vibe that we could have created in this shot but, Elissa is on it!  hehe  The food was SO GOOD. I ate a lot, lot.

Happy. Happy.  And on that note, If I recall, we watched several episodes of Duck Dynasty together after the kiddos went to bed.  It was a great Thanksgiving!
Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Catching Up

So, I think I've decided that one of my new year's resolutions will be to try and get one blog post up a week and since I tend to "break" resolutions by about mid-February...I thought I should start now so that I might get a couple of extra weeks in. lol.    

I seldom make resolutions at the start of the new year but, I do enjoy the fresh perspective that a brand new year gives me and it often motivates me to take a little more action in the areas of my life that I had been neglecting.  Do you like to make new year's resolutions? 

On that note, I am going back in time just a wee bit because if I don't post these priceless images now they will soon fade away in the land of digital file space. 

Daisy wanted to be Belle for Halloween.  She has been a princess every day for the past 2.5 years and then some and I mean that she literally dresses up like a princess almost everyday.  Soooo...I was a little bummed that I couldn't convince her to be Supergirl or Shirley Temple or ANYTHING besides a princess again.  I kept my opinion to myself and made my 3 year old's dreams come true by sprinkling her hair with sparkles and dusting her cheeks with blush.  She was the sweetest princess in the land.  We went to a trunk or treat at my friend's church a week before Halloween and she had a blast!!

A few days later I happened upon a Minnie Mouse costume at a consignment shop.  It was her size and I just couldn't pass it up.  I showed it to Daisy and she said, "it's princess Minnie's dress!"  For that reason alone, she was willing to wear it and I didn't bother to explain to her that Minnie is in fact not a princess.  This way we both win. 

This year we went out a little later to trick or treat.  I think we got out close to 7 and stayed out until close to 9. We had our traditional Martinez/Bailey burritos before hand with Granddad and Beej (Daisy's great grandparents) and then Granddad passed out candy and the rest of us headed out. We treated with a group of neighbors and it was so fun to watch the kiddos go door to door together.  My little girl is getting so much more independent and well, she's growing up. tear. tear. 

 Look how small my baby girl and her friend look sitting up front together.  Sometimes they seem so big until you see them from far away and then you are reminded that they are still so little...I need those reminders from time to time:)
You can't tell by looking at her facial expression but, Daisy really enjoyed the puppet show.  It was her very first puppet show as a matter a fact.  The church did such a great job creating a fun, family friendly Halloween even for the community. 
 this is a terrible night shot on my phone but, I had to post it because it's the only one we got of our neighborhood crew before we set off on our trick or treat adventure.  
We got done trick or' treating around 9 and I put Daisy to bed shortly after.  She couldn't wait to dump all the contents of her bucket out first thing in the morning.  She immediately organized (yes she loves to organize just like her Mommy) the candies and picked her favorites.  Lolipops are always a top fave and her chocolate bars went really quick too.  This kiddo loves chocolate and she didn't get that from me:).
Fall on the east coast is gorgeous.  Growing up in Southern California we didn't experience much change in seasons.  Even after living on the East coast for six years the gorgeous fall colors never cease to take my breath away.  This pretty red leaf came off of the tree in our front yard.  SO red and lovely.
 Daddy and Daisy carved pumpkins together.  I was glad to take a year off.  Carving pumpkins is fun and all but, it's a lot of work and if I recall my hand felt like it was going to fall off after three hours of sawing pumpkins, with a tiny toothbrush sized saw last year.  It was nice to stay inside where it was warm and take pictures while sipping coffee this year. hehe.   
Last year Daisy was not impressed with the goop inside a pumpkin.  This year she was all about it.  I was so proud:).
I have to say that I was really impressed with my hub's pumpkin carvings this year and I thought it was really sweet that he carved the pumpkins with Ariel and Minnie Mouse just to make his little girl happy.  What a Dad:)  See for yourself. Pretty impressive huh.
And She loved throwing leaves around this year.  
I got to visit her at her fall school party.  She was so happy to have me there and it melted me to see my little girl in her class acting so big.
she was pretty tuckered out after her party as you can tell:).  Kids look so angelic when they sleep doncha think.  Lately I've been letting Daisy take her nap in my bed to make it more worth her while and more often than not I take a little nap with her and then quietly sneak out when she has fallen asleep.  She may be almost four years old but, she still looks like my little baby when she is napping:).

Now off I go to watch Walking Dead, sip tea, snuggle under a blanket, and work on my photography website.  Good night all.