"A mother's love for her child is like nothing else in the world. It knows no law, no pity,
it dares all things and crushes down remorselessly all that stands in its path."
~ Agatha Christie

Alex, Cole and Braden - At 2 years, 2 months

Sunday, January 6, 2008

Me and My Big Ideas

It was their first Christmas, and since I am somewhat shutter-happy on a normal day, you can imagine how many new pictures were taken this holiday. Picture after picture...fix Alex's hat, "click!", move Braden over a smidge, "click!", rearrange the backdrop after Cole pulls it down, "click!"...really only slight differences; hoping to get that perfect first Christmas card picture. It's one-in-a-million, of course, but I was determined. I took enough that if you had all of the actual prints, you could flip them through your hands and it would resemble a stop-animation mini-movie...It was a busy week of photo shoots!

The problem arose in getting all three kids happy, smiling, somewhat still, looking my way, not crying...oh, who am I kidding? Looking in my general direction and not making a face as if they were just pinched is all I really want! Smiles are a bonus! I guess my expectations have lowered a bit as they have gotten more expressive and mobile. See, I have been taking monthly pictures of them all together to see how they grow in the first year. Mostly, I try to pick a time when odds are in my favor. That is, just after napping - about an hour before lunch. Between "no longer sleepy" and "not quite hungry" is the window I am aiming for! It usually works quite well and the kids seemed to be warming up to my demanding picture taking adventures...I think Braden even mock-"model"-posed for one, and it makes me laugh every time I see it.

Goofy, hilarious Braden

Well, Christmas was coming! And that meant no lunch until these pictures were perfect! Ok, so maybe that's a little harsh for 7-month olds, but they had to learn that we had a deadline! Of course, I am kidding...I think the kids reached their breaking point after the third day of pictures and started protesting my "adventures". I decided to set up the living room for their Christmas picture -elaborate sets, tweak the lighting, get the Christmas strand lights just right under the tulle, crumple a little green and red tissue paper and dot accordingly....it looked homemade, but oh, well...good enough! I was in a hurry because my window was closing fast. So, we lost a few background embellishments - but the kids are the most important part...so they were ready!

Me and my Big Ideas...What was imagined in my head was not exactly what happened...but I was ok with this first "shoot" not producing a perfect picture...we had a few more weeks left until Christmas, so I didn't panic just yet. I pictured a white background, white tulle puffed around them like clouds...oh - and Grandma Ertel got them all these super-cute little Santa Hats that say "Lil Angel" (Alex) and "Tiny Elf" (Boys). SO cute...and I pictured them all on their tummies with the hats on and nothing else! Just a few bare bums peeking out from behind the tulle "clouds". Oh, it looked so cute and perfect in my head... If only! At the time, it didn't seem like any of the pictures I was taking were even close to the imagined scene.

I have to accept that I need help in some areas, and that is really hard for me to do...I usually try to do things alone because I am so gosh-darn stubborn! This is one of those times I really needed help, but never asked...I am such a dummy sometimes. Anyway, the scene is set....the kids are angelically happy, compliant with my de-diapering of them, placing them here and there, plunking the hats on their heads - they were so good - it was play time, right??

Cole is great with being on his tummy and lifting his chest and head off the ground...looking around like a little groundhog popping up from its hole. So, I set him up first...beautiful! Braden is next. He's good at it, but likes to roll over immediately whenever placed on his tummy. It's basically lay him down...roll. Lay him down...roll. You get the idea! But I was so ready for him! Ha! I placed a rolled up blanket beside him to prevent or just delay the inevitable. He's on his tummy...tries to roll...no good! I win! I felt a rush of accomplishment over this small miracle. Ok, boys are up, get Alex's diaper off and flip her over...Face plant. She has a hard time with bringing her head up, but she usually has a minute or two in her! Oh, come on Alex! Everything else is good to go! You're the last piece of the puzzle that is my sanity today! Nope. I actually think she felt this was just a silly waste of her time...the diva was not going to perform today. :( I kept trying to get her head up, making all sorts of silly noises I would never make in public...even those only had a temporary effect...not long enough to snap a picture. Meanwhile, the one or two pictures I could take, Braden had found a way to roll past the blanket and into his sister...my fleeting rush of accomplishment had turned to defeat oh so quickly. Alex was already having a hard time concentrating on battling gravity with her little head...now she had her brother steamrolling her! Poor thing!

Well, I ended up giving in and letting them run the show - I put Alex into a chair between the two prone boys and snapped a few pics - this will have to do! I was bummed, but little did I know that the girl knows her stuff! Alex proved to me that her way was better and it's the picture we finally used in the end. I smell a design career for her! ;)

The winner!

After a few more days of shooting, different outfits and poses...I looked back at the beginning and ended up choosing one of their first pictures. It will always be a great memory for me; fun, challenging and completely endearing. I look back now and all I remember is the good stuff. I hope the rest of their childhood is the same!

So, they didn't turn out like I imagined, but I am so much happier with the end result...who knew?!

Thank God it's over!

Christmas, I mean! It has been hectic, but pretty productive this year, ironically. But, thank God it's over. Too much to do! I forced alot on myself this year...something about feeling productive and finishing something other than taking care of babies all day kept me motivated. I actually even baked a cookie or two! That didn't happen last year...and since the monkeys will be mobile next year, it most likely won't happen then either! On the subject, I was having this discussion with someone the other day about Christmas cookies...why do we make them? It's funny, because we all must like the ones we make...and then we trade them all away for someone else's favorites! We sometimes get a few new favorites in the swap, but if we like them that much, we may even add them to our own list for the following year! I say, give the good wishes, still make the cookies, and in the spirit of the holiday...keep them all to yourself! ;)

The kids were cute on Christmas Day; just learning how to rip paper, we had them unwrap a few gifts. Just like the dogs, at the moment they are more mesmerized with the paper than the present. Oh, well! That will change soon enough as they learn to collect and hoard toys. We headed to both in-laws for both days and snuck out before the chaos of the evening began! (We always have to be home every night for the scheduled solids/bath/bottle/bed routine by 6:30 no matter what day it is!) So, it made for a bummer of an evening (same old, same old) considering it was Christmas Eve and Christmas night! We keep telling ourselves that we just have to get through this first year and we will be able to reclaim our nights again. Here's to next Christmas!

New Year's was uneventful as well, but I have to give kudos here to Mike's parents, who have been exceptionally attuned to providing us with "normal moments" whenever they can. They always do little things for us here and there and provide us with creature comforts...like fresh baked cookies or other comfort foods - vitamins to keep us strong, stories to keep our life in perspective! Having them around is like getting a nice big hug right when we need it the most. So, they brought over an amazing prime rib dinner for all of us to share after the kids were down for the night...we had nice placemats, candlelight, great conversation and it made the holiday special...especially considering that we might have just shared a box of mac and cheese and called it an early night! ;) Thanks Mom and Dad Ertel...you guys are the best and an oasis in our desert right now.

Mom and Dad Ertel (Grandma and Papa)

Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season!