Friday, October 30, 2009

It's Been a Party All Day Long

I wasn't planning on advertising my birthday, but I see that my sweet husband "hijacked" the blog to make the big day known. Thanks to all you Happy Birthday wishers...you've kept my e-mail inbox quite busy today. Just how I like it.

Josh actually kicked the birthday festivities off on Wednesday night. Counter to our agreement to only do presents that cost next-to-nothing or less, Josh bought me a rocking gift and had it shipped to his office earlier in the week. Unable to sit on it any longer, he gave it to me on Wednesday. More on that in a second...

Yes, today was my birthday. How old am I? Well, let's just put it this way. According to Abby, I'm "way bigger than Daddy". Actually, I'm only five months older than Josh, but 32 apparently sounds "way bigger" than 31 in the mind of a four-year-old. When I walked into the kids' room this morning, they immediately broke into a long and lengthy serenade of "Happy Birthday" -- the 17th or 18th round this week.

They've been practicing a lot.

Before we could get dressed and downstairs, my fabulous friend, Alissa, called to let me know there would be a little surprise at my doorstep when I got downstairs (Alissa's a serious early-riser, but she knows I don't get into all that "watch the sunrise" mess). The kids and I hopped down the stairs to find Alissa's famous homemade blueberry muffins sitting outside our door -- only this time, she had yanked the blueberries in favor of the world's most delicious chocolate, Ghirardelli Bittersweet. YUM! The little ones (and I) squealed with delight and tore into our breakfast present.

At one point, Abby looked over at Izzy and giggled, "Oh Izzy! Mommy, she's such a mess. I didn't get any chocolate on me!"
No, honey. You sure didn't.
Jack, on the other hand, needed to be pressure-washed to get all the chocolate off of his face and hands. And shirt and shorts. And knees and toes.

I started to tidy up from breakfast, and the kids went outside to play for a while (there's a new toy out there...that's another post for another day). Recognizing the rarity of the few minutes of quiet I had, though, I plopped down in a chair to open a couple of gifts my mom and Josh's mom had sent. Shoes and clothes! My mom did a super job of picking out some snazzy boots, and Josh's mom nailed it with the shirt she sent (it has a little drawing of a minivan on it with the words "this is how we roll" written underneath). From present-opening, the kids and I left and went to Publix...where I saved 40% off of my grocery bill. Not my best ever, but I'll certainly take it.

After we got home, my sweet friend, Michelle* dropped by to bring me a little something (It was homemade peanut butter that she had just made...using a juicer. I'm not even sure what a juicer does, and I'm certainly not sure how a juicer "juices" a peanut. Whatever.) After naps for the kids and a shower for me, I scooted out the door for a photo session (I'm going to try really hard to get some teaser shots up tomorrow).

*On a side note about Michelle, Abby was born on Michelle's birthday. Michelle is now almost 38 weeks pregnant with her third, Lily Kate (remember their session?), so I told her it's only fitting that if I had my daughter on her birthday, then she should have her daughter on my birthday. I'm guessing it's not happening, though. Third babies can come fast, but it's only my birthday for 8 more minutes.

But back to the festivities, my parents had called earlier in the week and said that if I wanted to pick somewhere to eat, they'd like to come take us out for dinner for my birthday. I thought long and hard for 1.7 seconds and decided on...

CHIPOTLE! Our family could eat at Chipotle 10 times a week and be perfectly happy. Broke -- but happy. We had a wonderful time with my parents (minus Jack's run-in with the metal table and Izzy's run-in with the concrete floor), and just when we were about to leave, my mom surprised me with one more birthday present.

BLACK FOREST CAKE!! Like I mentioned in the kids' birthday post last week, I'm not a big cake-eater, but my mom's Black Forest Cake isn't just cake. It's a bit more like...hmm, what's the word? Oh, I know! It's a bit more like perfection. I'm sure we'll have it in heaven.

These are just a few of the special parts of today. I've gotten to talk to lots of friends, read lots of cards and e-mails, and I've gotten sung to over and over by the "Happy Birthday" brigade. But I can't go without telling you about my gift from Josh. He sat me down Wednesday night at the table and told me to close my eyes and hold my hands out. He walked in from outside and told me that he'd gotten me a gift that weighs 18 pounds and is furry (sarcastically referencing the cat we somehow own but nobody likes). The box he handed me did weigh 18 pounds, but thankfully, there was nary a hair to be found on it.

What I did find when I opened the box was a new computer monitor! If you're thinking to yourself, "okie-dokie -- he really outdid himself", then you have no idea how unpleasant it is to be a professional photographer working off of a 15" tinker-toy computer screen. I've mentioned a couple of times in the past that I could really benefit from a new monitor, so Josh took it upon himself to do the research and find exactly what I needed for my business. And what he got is perfect!

And big.

So big, in fact, that all three of our children can sit simultaneously in the box it came in and play "Row, Row, Row Your Boat"...

We joke that reading an e-mail now is like watching a tennis match. Look left. Look right. Look left. Look right. But the best part is that not only did he find a great monitor, but he found it at a great deal! He bought a refurbished Dell...on sale!!

That man certainly knows how to warm my heart.

Thanks to all for making my birthday such a special one. And by the way, did anyone else notice that 95% of the festivities today revolved around food? It hadn't occurred to me until I was typing, and it seems like every paragraph I wrote had to do with something edible. (Speaking of food, the kids' "adopted grandparents", Steve and Libby, are taking them out tomorrow night so Josh and I can have a date night. We're going out to dinner.)

Hmmm -- maybe the fact that our children enjoy food as much as they do isn't so odd after all.

A Hijacked Blog & A Birthday Girl

Hey everyone -- Josh here. Today is a monumental day in the history of the world. Thirty-two years ago today (at 10:01PM, to be exact), the world became a better and brighter place. Feel free to leave a comment and wish "Big Al" a happy birthday if you get a chance.

Happy Birthday, Babe!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Buying Them Took 45 Minutes -- Putting Them Away Took Five Days

Since the kiddos have been sick this week, we missed our customary trip to Publix. But I suppose that's a good thing -- since last week's loot* was still in the trunk of the car.

*I refer to my groceries as loot because of the insane deals I get while shopping at Publix. When you're getting groceries at 50 and 60% off, shopping really is a pleasure.

While cooking dinner a couple of nights ago, I realized I needed an ingredient out of the pantry van, so I asked Josh if he would please run down there and grab it out for me. For some reason, he thought it made a lot more sense to bring all the groceries up to the kitchen (what's that about?!?), so my sweet husband carted up about 20 deep-discount bags of food and laid them neatly in the kitchen floor for me to organize at my leisure.

And there they sat.

In my defense, this has been a bit of an off-week. I don't normally leave groceries laying around for hours at a time (as in 48 hours at a time), but putting them away just hasn't been at the top of my priority list. Obviously. Finally, the temptation was just too great for Isabel...

...and she broke into a bag or two so that she could partake in one of her favorite pastimes -- stacking.

Before long, the kids had made a Mixed Nut Tower and a Chewy Bar Choo-Choo...

...and my kitchen closely resembled the Publix stock room after a tornado strike.

I have to say, it was quite a mess for all of us to clean up, but man, did they have fun!!

There are a few Overheard at Our House Today quotes to share before I go.
1. Abby: "I really wish I had four arms."
Me: "Why, baby?"
Abby: "Because then I could hold my bowl in one hand and my cup in another hand, and I could reach one hand into the pantry and one into the refrigerator -- all at the same time!" (Remember what I said about Little Lewis Eaters???)

2. Josh: "Jack, take the sandwich out of your hair."

3. This one needs a little preface. We had just sat down to eat, and among the foods we were having were crescent rolls. Jack looked over to the stove and saw a lone crescent roll still sitting there, and he exclaimed, "LOOK! That cwessant woll can be for our new baby!"

Oh, how precious that is to me! I've been writing a post in my mind for a while now about our new son and where we are logistically -- and emotionally -- in our efforts to bring him home. I'll be back with that one.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Wordless Wednesday (Sharp Dresser)

Who Knew That Was Genetic?!?

Yesterday was a pretty yucky day for the eldest two Lewis kids. Abby was diagnosed with swine flu, and Jack spiked a pretty high fever during the afternoon, leading us to believe that he was hot on her piggy heels.

But today?
With the exception of a sore throat and a mild fever, Abby's feeling good. And Jack...well, he never missed a beat in the first place. Thank you, God!

Now for party pictures...

The birthday soiree this weekend was casual, low-key, and loads of fun. The birthday kids certainly enjoyed it (notice the large chunk of honeydew melon in Jack's hand--out of control).

It was really, really cold that morning, but just about the time the party began, the skies cleared, and it made for a gorgeous afternoon with lots of sunshine.

But what everybody really cares about is the cake, right? I'm not a big cake-eater myself, but those sweet-toothers out there (and you know who you are!) said it was delish.

There was a bit of a candle issue, though. Tandum blowing-out-of-the-candles is much harder than it might seem. Abby blew hers out on the first try, and Jack was a couple of puffs behind her...
...but as hard as he tried, Brayden just couldn't get that flame to die.
So Abby, as the eldest cousin, was quick to jump in with a little lift. As you can see, sticking your tongue out is apparently crucial to the success of an intense task.
I wonder if Bethany and I do that?

Monday, October 26, 2009

The Siblinghood of the Traveling Bucket

**update at end of post**

How's Jack?
you ask. He's completely and totally, 100%, absolutely fine. The only real surprise about his throwing up last night is that it didn't happen sooner. You see, Josh and I had already named the past few days "The Weekend of the Unhealthiest Sum of Food Our Children Have Ever Eaten".

Let me explain...

Abby, Jack, and their cousin, Brayden, all have birthdays within six weeks of one another. So rather than go to the time and expense of planning individual birthday parties, Bethany and I decided from here on out to opt for one much smaller family gathering. I'm pretty sure I mentioned somewhere in our planning the possibility of just having cake and ice cream and calling it a day.

But you don't know my sister. Telling her to only serve cake and ice cream at a party is like telling me to shoot my next session with a nifty little disposable camera from K-Mart. It's just not gonna happen. Bethany loves the whole preparing, cooking, and decorating aspect of events, and she's really, really good at it. The girl's got a gift, and she knows how to use it.

There was cake (from the little hole-in-the-wall bakery in Gadsden who did mine and Josh's engagement, wedding, first baby, and a handful of birthday cakes to name a few--it's my parent's customary contribution to the festivities), but there were also foods like cookies, brownies, and some cream cheese and crab concoction that I could have eaten until I threw up.

Which brings me back to Jack.

The Lewis kids are born eaters. They rarely meet a food they don't like, and not only do they like to eat, they like to eat a lot! I've had girlfriends ask me how I lose my baby weight so quickly after delivery, and I tell them it's a funny thing -- when you're nursing an infant who's apparently on a 6000-calorie-a-day diet, the weight just seems to vanish. So in true Lewis child form, Jack spent most of Saturday eating. He ate the cake, cookies, brownies, and the CC & C concoction, but he also ate an entire cantaloupe and honey dew melon out of the fruit basket. There are also around 187 alphabets who are sorely missing their 13th letter from all the M&Ms he ate.

We're kind of sticklers about the kids' nutrition, but I'm all about letting them live it up on the occasional special day. But there has to be a limit somewhere, which is why when we saw how much Jack had pounded away at the food table at their birthday party, we cut him off. "You're done, buddy. No more treats today."

If only we had been able to convince everybody else at the party of the end to Jack's feast.

Every time we turned around, he was gladly accepting a goodie from a well-meaning partygoer. The responsibility doesn't lie on them, though, because at one point, I found Jack pulling Brayden's great-grandmother into the kitchen and whispering to her that he would really love a cookie.

Perhaps he has a tapeworm.

Add to that that Sundays are always off-days when it comes to the kids' healthy diets because of church. They've got two opportunities each Sunday during their little classes to eat their weight in goldfish, and they apparently take full advantage of it. So as I mentioned, it came as no surprise to us when Jack's body violently rejected the weekend's quantity as well as quality of food. Let me tell you, I've never seen anything like it.

Enough about that.

Why the Traveling Bucket title, then? Because, unfortunately, Abigail is nursing a temp of over 103 degrees as well as nausea, a headache, sore throat, and chills. Here she is in bed watching home videos from when she was a baby...
...and then trying to keep a popsicle down for lunch.

We're heading to the pediatrician in an hour, so I'll be back with an update on the verdict.

UPDATE:
Part 1 - Abby has swine flu.
Part 2 - Jack's temp was 101.5 when Abby and I got home from the pediatrician. Please pray for the sick ones as they battle the pig nastiness, and please pray for the well ones not to get it.

The pig has struck!!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Sleeping Arrangements

Jack, an old t-shirt, and a bucket.
Never a good combination. Story tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Monday, October 19, 2009

So It's Been Awhile, Huh?

I love writing and posting pictures on this little blog of ours. I really do. But when things get hectic -- or crazy, perhaps -- the blog is, unfortunately, the first thing to go.

Here's what I've been up to over the past week or so...

1. I've cleaned mascara off of Jack's face.

2. I've worked tirelessly to the point of falling on my face on the 2009 Christmas card designs.
3. I've worked tirelessly to the point of falling on my face on last weekend's session.
4. I've banged my head against my desk approximately 4,127 times due to the fact that items number 2 and 3 took WAY longer than they should have because of a wicked virus my computer contracted last week (Free Hint For The Day: When your virus-protection software tells you not to go to a website -- even if it's a well-known photographer's blog that you've visited countless times before -- don't do it. The software really knows what it's talking about when it tells you the site has been infected with a virus that threatens to destroy your hard drive -- and your sanity.)
5. I've double-dipped in the virus pot by taking care of Josh last week when he came down with a bug that greatly resembled the flu. Although it started off with a nasty bang (see item #6 for further explanation of nasty), it was over and done with in 24 hours. Thank you, Lord.
6. I've cleaned up various and sundry bodily fluids from a sick husband and a potty-training son. Enough said.
7. We've gone to Childersburg to visit with my sister, her family, and our parents.
8. I've gone to Gadsden to visit my post-knee-surgery Mom -- who's doing wonderfully!
9. We've gone to Atlanta with some amazing friends who treated us to a day at Six Flags for our 2008 Christmas gift. (No, that's not a typo. We're all aware of the fact that we're staring Christmas 2009 in the face. We just had a hard time coordinating our schedules.)
10. I've stared horrifically at the biggest and creepiest spider I've ever seen outside my kitchen window. The picture was Abby's idea.
11. And most recently, I've spent precious time in prayer for one of my oldest and dearest friends, Anna, as she's gone through an extreme trial over this past weekend. You can read her blog for the details, but I will go ahead and tell you that she is pregnant (with twins!) and she and her husband were hours into their tenth-anniversary trip in another state (I was her maid of honor when she and Paul married, and she was my matron of honor two months later when Josh and I married) when she had a very unexpected medical emergency. Praise God that everything is on the upswing now, but it's an extreme understatement to say that this has been a very emotional and trying weekend for all involved.

Whew! I'm tired all over again just typing all that out.

I mentioned the session I've been working on. I can honestly say that I've had a blast with every session I've ever shot, but this most recent one was so special for me. Back in my pre-little-one days, I taught special education in a local school system. One of the most precious angels in my last class was this now older, taller, and even more beautiful girl:
And not only did I get to visit with her and her sister (who was just a wee one back then), but I also got to meet her baby brother, who I didn't even know existed until their mom called a few weeks back to schedule a session. Little Man had the most adorable nose-scrunch, and his single tooth was too cute!
I never load the SOOC (straight-out-of-camera) shots from a session into a client gallery. I do every stitch of editing I want to do -- to get each shot exactly how I want it -- before I submit the photos. But because my love of Photoshop grows everyday and because I want you all to appreciate it as much as I do, let me share with you something never before seen on the Five Lewis Crew blog.

I give you...the Before and After shot.

BEFORE:
AFTER:
I love the creative freedom I have with Photoshop and the countless different ways I can post-process a file to get the exact look and feel I want...not to mention the fact that I can make pesky black posts completely disappear! (As much as Photoshop costs, shouldn't Adobe pay me a little something for my glowing recommendation of their star product?!?)

As I sign off, I thought I would leave you with a little "Overheard At Our House Today"...

1. Abby: "Jack, let's play Mommy and Daddy. I'm the Mommy and you're the Daddy. Now let's pretend like our kids have the swine flu."

2. Me: "What's that smell?", quickly followed by "Did somebody poop in the bathtub?"

3. Me: "Guys, I've got a super-fun surprise for you today."
Children: Squeals
Me: "Do you know what we're going to do?"
Abby (with wide eyes and a big smile): "Are we going to McDonald's to eat in the trunk?!?"

It doesn't take much, folks. It doesn't take much.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

She's One...And She's Tiny

I've been seeing this tiny tot for photography sessions every three months since she was born. Over the past year, I've come to know and love this sweet munchkin and her family. So I was thrilled to see her again last weekend for her one-year-old birthday session. Our shooting location was teeming over with fall festival traffic when we got there, so we found a quiet little alley and got some fun shots with this great brick wall as the backdrop. It gave our session a touch of an urban spin.
That spot was nice, but it couldn't compare to the gorgeous colors of our next spot. The late afternoon lighting was hitting everything just the right way, and it made for one really happy photographer.
I'm sad to say that my second session of the weekend got canceled because of an unfortunate face-meets-slide accident. But hopefully I'll be back with that one once everything is healed.

And in case you were wondering, Birthday Girl now weighs 13 pounds. That's how much Abigail weighed when she was two months old.

Seriously. I looked it up.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Colors

I'll give you one big, fat, orange guess where we went last weekend...

We went pumpkin-picking! And let me tell you -- I could write a whole post on the blue sky from that day. It was stunning.

Unfortunately, the best way to catch the sky's color is to shoot with the sun directly behind the camera (which usually means having the sun shining directly in the subject's face). So I don't have a ton of good blue pictures, but here are a couple that really showcase the gorgeous sky we had for our pumpkin patch trip.
We've been going to the pumpkin patch with our friends, the Cobbs, every October since 2005 (with the exception of last year when Josh had just lost his job -- hooray for making it through October 9 this year without getting fired!)

At our first visit to pick pumpkins, our little group totaled six people. This year? Well, it was a few more than six...

We had a few minutes to kill before the Cobbs got there, so the kids climbed like monkeys all over the massive orange pumpkins and the big green tractor...

...but my favorite pictures came when they walked out in the field together to watch the tractor/train run around the field. That green grass/blue sky combination was incredible!! (And I happen to think the tiny people are pretty amazing, too.)

OK, maybe those weren't my very, very favorites. They were the runners-up to this gem...

And while this one certainly isn't spectacular, it just makes me laugh for some reason. It's very American Gothic-ish.

Minus the pitchfork.
I was deep in photographer mode when I suddenly heard, "Ab-beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!" screaming in our direction.

Alrighty then -- looks like the Cobbs are here.

Next it was on to the hayride out to the pumpkin patch.

Step 1: Find the perfect pumpkin.

Step 2: Claim your pumpkin.

Step 3: Pick your pumpkin up off the ground (no easy task for a one-year-old -- I really wish you could see Izzy's face up close to get the full effect).

Step 4: Carry your pumpkin (equivalent to approximately half your body weight) back across the field to the wagon.

Step 5: Be sure to rest along the way.

Before we left, we took a quick ride around the field in the tractor/train contraption. I don't know if you can see my face, but my slight "freak-out" look is due to the fact that my friend, Kerry, shouted to me as we started off, "Did you know that thing flipped over last year? Don't let my girls get hurt!!"

Sure. No pressure. I used the enormous strength in my right arm to hold us all up the whole time.
After a quick bite at the picnic tables (serenaded by a little quartet of 117-year-olds), it was time to say goodbye to the blue skies of the country.

Until next year...