Portrait of a Family

It's been exactly 5 years since our last family portrait, taken by a graduate student/part-time photographer friend from Austin, who has since graduated and moved out of state. So we decided that we were long overdue for another one and went with the recommendation of a friend who has experience photographing young children.

I had booked the session weeks ago with the idea that we would use the images for our holiday cards, so my plan was to wear appropriate winter-ish colors and styles, such as sweaters. How was I to know that the temperature that day would be 80+ degrees?! Or that the sun would be shining so brightly with not a blessed cloud in the sky?!

We chose the Japanese Tea Garden at Brackenridge Park for our photo shoot, which is a lovely gem in the center of the city that I always forget is there. Admission to the Garden is free, which partly explains why there were--I kid you not--4 Quinceanera parties, 1 wedding party and at least 5 other families also having their professional photos taken there at that same hour! It was too funny how each group kept getting into another's shot. Except that there was a bit of waiting to set up the shots as a result.

Our photographer, Rachael Myles, was just lovely to work with, very professional but also so friendly and great with the girls. She was also very open to our suggestions and ideas for backgrounds and poses. She loved one of Dylan's ideas for using the bottom of a bridge as a background, which worked out well as there were never any other people there to ruin the shot!

Thalia and Carys were amazingly good-humored throughout the entire photo shoot, despite the sun and heat and crowds. They loved the Garden too, with its enormous koi and quaint bridges and waterfalls.

I've posted the highlights of our afternoon at the Japanese Tea Garden, which you may see again on our Christmas cards too!

All images by Rachael Myles Photography


School Pics: Fall 2009 Edition

In general, school photos are not my kids' best pictures. The background colors are too strange, their smiles are too stilted, body poses are awkward, or there are distracting clothing or hair 'malfunctions.' We never request retakes either, because who knows if the next image will be worse than the original?!

I thought this year I would spruce the pics up a bit with my digital scrapbooking software and then print them out for our relatives and friends. And I was itching to use a brand-new autumn-themed digital kit!

I think the fall colors complemented the girls' outfits and made their smiles seem even brighter.

Layout Credits :
Layout: Scrap Girls ScrapSimple Digital Layout Album Templates-Layered: 4x6 Lay It Out by Syndee Nuckles.
All papers, embellishments & alphabet: Eloquent Autumn kit by Betsy Tuma for Two Peas in a Bucket (some recolored).


Happy Birthday, Kelly!

Happy Birthday, Aunt Kelly! We miss you!

Thalia & Carys

Smart Girls

This is really cool, whether or not you're a parent of a tween girl or just a girl at heart. From the Girl Scouts of the USA online Leader Magazine:

Amy Poehler is known as a TV comedian (Saturday Night Live) and a movie actress (Baby Mama), but the former Girl Scout Brownie also is a Web pioneer. Hadn't heard? It's possible her Internet work flew just under your radar. Last fall, Poehler joined up with Meredith Walker, a former senior producer for Nickelodeon's Nick News, and musician Amy Miles, host of the PBS show Lomax: The Hound of Music. Their plan: Make an Internet-only TV series that could be viewed for free by anyone at any time. The title: Smart Girls at the Party. The subject: girls! In each of the first season's eight episodes, Poehler interviewed girls about their passions. She sat behind a round desk in a dark room (the set looks just like that of PBS's Charlie Rose) and introduced the show as a celebration of "extraordinary individuals who are changing the world by being themselves." Subjects included Cameron, a 10-year-old Poehler described as "a writer, poet, playwright, collector, and scooter enthusiast," and Ruby, a seven-and-three-quarter-year-old feminist who displayed her kindergarten report, A Few Things I'd Like to Share With You, with a section that read, "if a boy can do the monkey rings, so can a girl." Eleven-year-old Valentine, a "teacher, horticulturist, philosopher, activist, cat-lover," talked about gardening at New York City's community garden Open Road Park. "Our goal was to create a show we would have loved to watch when we were young," said Walker in a press release when the show launched. "We knew we wanted to honor real girls and their originality, and we knew we wanted to have fun doing it." Episodes run six to seven minutes, and each ends with an invigorating dance party. The great thing about the Web is that what's old to one person can be new to someone else. So track down the show at www.smartgirlsattheparty.com. New episodes are scheduled for this fall.

And they have a casting call on right now, so if you have a girl who'd love to talk about her talents and interests, hopes and dreams, she might be a part of Season 2!


Back to the Future

Each year during Red Ribbon Week, our school shows its support for a drug-free society with five themed days that celebrate being drug-free. The last day has always been a 50s Sock Hop so we can "sock it to drugs." All the kids are invited to dress in 50s attire to celebrate. However, until last week, Thalia never took part in the Sock Hop.

This year I decided it would be fun for both girls to dress up as 50s gals, so I braved the last-minute Halloween crowds at the party store (50s Sock Hop day was Oct 30) and picked up the very last 'Pink Ladies' satin jacket and a pink poodle skirt. Unfortunately, the costume only came in Thalia's size; they had run out of anything smaller. But then we remembered that Thalia's dance recital costume from the previous year had been a yellow poodle skirt (only instead of a poodle it was musical notes) complete with a black crinoline and top! Hooray! The skirt no longer fits Thalia but with a very slight safety pin modification, it fit Carys nicely. Thalia's hair scarf from dance recital was also perfect for her 'Pink Ladies' look.

Here are my girls when they went back in time:


Glamour Witch

Sometimes I look into my oldest child's face, searching for a glimpse of the impishly sweet toddler she once was. Each growing year takes her further and further away from that idyllic stage of our shared life as "Mommy and little girl." Of course, that is as it should be.

On Halloween night, I experienced the same longing for the earlier days when I snapped photos of my daughter in her tweenish costume of Glamour Witch. She looked so "big girl" to me, so mature and different. So grown up.

She got quite into character as the Glamour Witch and had a blast. During our costume run-through the week before, I realized that the outfit needed some "oomph." She already had some killer (age-appropriate) heeled boots that she just received from her generous Aunt Kelly and Uncle Richard, so I added some fishnet hose to complete the glamour look. (It's very strange, almost disconcerting, to know you can buy fishnet hose for girls as young as 2 years old, by the way.) But it was exactly what the costume needed!

And yet, a part of me wished she could have been a pixie-dusted fairy or courageous and strong princess just once more. *sigh*


Happy Birthday, Steve

Possibly my most favorite photo that I ever took of Tyra and Steve, sometime in the wonderful 1990s.

In honor of your birthday, Steve--my first impressions of meeting you. You are very much loved and missed.

I first met Steve Damm in June 1992 when he and his friend Will picked up my best friend Tyra and me for a pre-Cure concert tailgate at Texas Stadium. I came by my free ticket to the Cure concert through Tyra, who came by her four tickets through her ex-fiance. Tyra, who is just too kind sometimes for her own good, thought that perhaps we should attend the concert with the ex-fiance, as he had bought the tickets. Her friend Will thought otherwise. I agreed whole-heartedly with Will. Will’s friend from high school, Steve, finished out our happy foursome.

We arrived at the Texas Stadium parking lot with plenty of time for a pre-concert-getting-to-know-you happy hour (I vaguely recall trying Seagram’s 7 for the first time). We laughed alot. Our tailgate ended on a boisterous note with both Steve and Will each taking turns wearing my beautiful, beloved Sunflower Hat, and only slightly mocking me for owning it. It was a black hat trimmed with an extremely large sunflower. (Upon reflection, it was a slightly obnoxious hat, but otherwise still very beautiful.) Some random impressions during the tailgate:

Seagram’s 7 mixed with something else isn’t half bad.

Steve was the more outgoing of the two guys.

The concert was loud, dark and awesome. I remember very little about it, only that we stood and danced and sang with the Cure. After the concert, we stopped at a convenience store, and Steve bought some Texas Lottery scratch-off cards. (Texas Lottery scratch-offs were brand-new that summer). We watched as he scratched off each one in front of the store, and on one of them, he won $20! Lucky! I said something like “What are you going to do with your twenty bucks?” thinking he would spend it somewhere else, like I would. But Steve just said, “I’m going to buy 20 more!” He dashed back into the store and did just that. Twenty more scratch-offs later, he was back down to 0 again and couldn’t be happier. He was like a kid in a candy store. Had I ever known anyone who could derive such joy from lottery tickets?

I had half-forgotten about the lottery tickets until recently, and when I thought about it again I knew it was the first of many quintessentially Steve moments that I was lucky enough to share. He was the kind of guy who wasn’t afraid to risk it all (lottery tickets or otherwise) and enjoy every moment of it! I knew from the very first hour that I spent in his company that he was unpredictable and adventurous and funny.

Oddly enough, I don’t think I realized on that summer night that he was perfect for my best friend. But then again, they didn’t need my help to figure that out!


Halloween Hair

This year we paid alot more attention than usual to Halloween costumery at our house. In addition to the costumes needed for Halloween night, Thalia and Carys each were invited to a costume party the week before and their school had a 50s-themed costume day the day before Halloween. By October 31st, I was a bit costumed out!

Carys could not wait to get dressed for trick-or-treating last Saturday. She asked all day long if it was time to get ready yet! Cute, yes, but also increasingly irritating as the day wore on. So at 4:30 pm, well before sunset, I finally gave in and told her she could put on her costume. Her Tinker Bell costume was too cute, but it lacked a certain something to really finish the look. I decided it was the hair. We toyed with possible mini-pigtails (she has very short hair) and Carys fetched one of her Tinker Bell dolls so we could have a good visual. She noted that in the recent movie, Tinker Bell, Tink wears a bun in her hair. So we decided to go for it. Basically I was going to put up her extremely short hair, which is very nearly impossible except that I know all the tricks from Thalia's mandatory-bun days at the dance studio! Carys's bun was actually an almost-bun, held together with bobby pins, clips and lots of hair spray, but from far away looked like the real Tink thing. She loved it and was so proud! And only 2 1/2 hours to go before trick-or-treating!

Our "Stinker Bell": Soooo darn cute!


Girl Scout Scrapbooking

Lately I've been working on digitally scrapbooking the many, many photos taken at Thalia's Girl Scout Brownie troop meetings and outings from the past three years!  I was starting to feel doubly guilty about not doing anything at all with the pics; in addition to the Mom-guilt, I also had Leader-guilt since I'm in charge of the whole troop!  So, I'm working on some simple layouts with a very limited palette of papers and embellishments on purpose so I'll have a fighting chance at actually completing this project.

I also finished a digital scrapbook of Thalia's Daisy Girl Scout year (2006-07) several months ago.  Even after limiting myself to a single color scheme (blue), the album took several weeks to complete!  Too slow!  But I'm proud of how it turned out, and Thalia loved it.  Here's one of the finished pages:


It's NaBloPoMo Time!