Cousins Rock Vermont, Take 3!

Right off the heels of my 4th of July post, when I reflected on what a wonderful time we had with family over that holiday weekend, I must continue to share what happened directly afterward: my niece and nephew, Erika and Christian, stayed with us for the rest of the week!  This is the third straight year they have stayed with us over their summer vacation, and we are lucky that, even as teenagers, they still want to hang out with us!  Well, really, who wouldn’t when they knew the week would be so fun!  Full of…

…afternoon whiffle ball games (with some impressive bed head)…

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…day trips to Burlington…

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…selfie sticks…

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…mini golf (with a hole in one!)…

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…an indoor water park (with someone finally tall enough to go down the water slide!)…

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…and a trip to the science museum!

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My kids are so blessed to have such caring cousins who are patient, fun, and always willing to play with my energetic and enthusiastic kids!  I’m so grateful for them and love having them here; I hope they come back, even if it’s just for a long weekend, every year!

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4th of July Favorites

I never have much to say about spending the 4th of July with my family that would sound novel; I’m sure our annual celebration looks and sounds a lot like ones happening all across the country.  What makes it special to me, and what keeps us coming back and celebrating the same way every year, is the people we spend it with and the reassuring happiness of traditions truly enjoyed.

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We had the same rockstar crew as last year, the same location, stellar fireworks and delicious food.  The biggest differences were that the kids were one year older and that much more excited, and I actually got my act together the day before to buy them red, white, and blue outfits, which the kids were WAY more excited about than I would have thought!

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We had aunts, uncles and cousins galore with us, which makes the waiting in lines and down time before fireworks just as fun as the games and prizes!  I love that my kids’ memories of holidays are mingled with thoughts of family and time together.  That means more to me than any amount of money spent or any extravagant vacation we could take.

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One thing I love about Em is how every year she patiently waits in line to get her face painted.  The woman who does it is an artist and takes her time creating beautiful works of art for all the children, so the line can be long.  But Em loves it, so we eat ice cream and wait together.

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While we were waiting, Jax played games, raced over an inflatable obstacle course, and climbed a rock wall!  He loves the carnival atmosphere!  Then with silly glasses and glo-sticks, we snuggled up on our chairs and blankets and waited for it to get dark enough for the fireworks to begin.

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The kids absolutely loved it, especially Little H! She is still talking about it weeks later, saying “Fireworks loud!” and naming all the colors she saw.IMG_5434IMG_5437

Another awesome, memorable, festive 4th of July in the books!

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The Joy Of Capturing Family At Home

One of this nicest parts of lifestyle photography is when a family opens their home to me and I have a chance to capture them in their own setting, amid the places and things that they love.  Kids especially are more comfortable, and it shows in their demeanor and expressions.  However, it can be challenging to walk into an unknown location and hope for the best with lighting and location.  With this family, though, I had nothing to fear.

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I never worry too much once I learn a couple got married at this location–of course it must be stunning!  And when it’s not just their wedding location but also their home, there’s nothing left to do as the photographer but just sit back and watch the fun.

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When families are comfortable in their own skin, magic appears in photos.

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And it isn’t so much work to let the love show.

Family Photography @ Rebecca Whitney Photography

Family Photography @ Rebecca Whitney Photography

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Paparazzi

What is normal?  Well, in this house, apparently it’s this.

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“Mama, I take your picture.  Cheeeeeeese!”

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Then she checks out her shot, makes sure it’s what she was going for, checks out the light and depth of field.

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An artist in the making!

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Family Friendly

Having sets of grandparents both near and far creates two different dynamics when it comes to my kids.  Local grandparents get almost taken for granted, their presence at last-minute lunch dates or visits to their house a joyful part of our weekly routine.  Far-away grandparents are like special treats, their less frequent visits welcomed with whoops and hollers as the kids know that when we have VIP visitors, routines and expectations get a little flouted and occasions like pajama days, unlimited snuggle sessions, and extra helpings of dessert are more likely.

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Far-away family might have more patience for tasks that I have grown weary participating in every single day.  Instead of tossing a box of crayons and some paper on the table as a distraction while I cook a meal, Grammy will sit and color all morning, if that’s what her girls want.  It’s just being together that is her delight, making small talk and listening to Little H tell her which color every crayon is over and over again.

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As JDubbs and I get older, and as our kids tell us more frequently how much they love living here in Vermont, the likelihood of our leaving seems smaller than ever.  And the gift of having grandparents and an aunt right here nearby, with the rest of our families just a short car ride away, makes me think that living somewhere that might be more uptempo, more cosmopolitan, or more diverse just doesn’t outweigh all the good we have going on right here.

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With the blessing of having family near and far.

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Camping With Kids, Take One

For Father’s Day this year, JDubbs decided he wanted to break with tradition and instead of spending the weekend at home with his family, he wanted to take our little party of five on an entirely new adventure and start a tradition of our own: he wanted to take the kids camping.  JDubbs grew up camping and the idea of the five of us in one tent, the security blanket of bedtimes and schedules out the window, sounded exactly like the kind of weekend he wanted.  I, on the other hand, was less sure, grasping at any and all vestiges of normalcy.  “Should we bring books?” I asked him.  “What about toys?”  He looked at me like I was officially out of of my mind and reminded me that that is what sticks are for. Trying hard to focus on the potential for magic and not so much mischief, I simply packed the kids’ clothes and let JDubbs do the rest.  All we needed was a place to sleep, he pointed out to me.  The rest we could improvise if need be.

Improvisation is not generally how I roll.  Have you seen my chore chart?  I generally enjoy things neat and organized.  This weekend was going to be an experiment in many things, one of which was parenting-on-the-fly.  I took a deep breath and trusted in my husband, and perhaps a little in God, that all would be well.

I have only been camping in a tent twice in my life, both with JDubbs when we were in our twenties, when there was more emphasis on beer than babies.  But those experiences left me with a great impression of JDubbs’s ability to come prepared and be responsible, so while he and the kids unpacked the van, I basically stayed out of the way and let the master do his thing.  I did mine–I took photos.

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It has been long established that setting up camp is not in my particular skill set.  I would be more successful teaching a bear to read than to pitch a tent.  But JDubbs had three very eager helpers, and before long, we had shelter, and the kids were wholeheartedly proud and impressed.

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My next job was to keep the kids out of the way while JDubbs set up the food/grill/campfire.  They were content to stay inside the tent, although preventing them from popping one of our air mattresses–which I had laboriously blown up in the nearest bathroom and somehow managed to carry back to camp–wasn’t exactly easy with three little monkeys jumping on the beds!

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The kids were barely through dinner before they were begging for dessert.  Of course we obliged.  Camping isn’t camping without having to cut the marshmallow out of your daughter’s hair with a leatherman!

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Then it was off to bed for Little H, with the big kids staying up until it was dark to sit by the fire with us.  Jax excused himself and went into the tent to read for a while, but Em was our little buddy and hung out chatting by the fire with just me and JDubbs until bed.  It’s so amazing what you can learn about what’s inside your child’s head when you have nothing else to do but just be there and listen.

After a decent night’s sleep, it was breakfast in red Solo cups while wearing fuzzy bathrobes…

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…and then a hike to a nearby waterfall.  The kids were really excited about the adventure, and super good troopers about the trek!  We hadn’t brought the stroller with us and it never would have made it down the trail anyway, so JDubbs and I took turns carrying Little H (when she’d let us) and keeping clumsy Em from breaking her neck.

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Afterward we had naps all around, a bit of ice cream and some quiet time before heading to the river for some cool fun, which mostly revolved around finding interesting rocks and throwing sticks.

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The big kids eventually brought their favorite sticks back to the campsite and used them as wands to cast Harry Potter spells on each other.  Our neighbors could hear shrieks of “Wingardium Leviosa!” and “Petrificus Totalus!” as Jax and Em ran around trying to make each other fly and hexing each other with the full-body bind all afternoon.  Looks like JDubbs was right; apparently toys are overrated.

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Back at the campsite, the kids got a little antsy waiting for dinner.  I broke out the emergency markers I keep in my diaper bag for restaurant distraction, and was hilariously surprised to see the kids set up what was basically their own tattoo parlor!  I guess since everyone on my side of the family has at least one (if not four or five), it’s not too surprising that the kids were ready for some ink of their own.

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The forecast called for rain so before the sun set JDubbs and I basically broke down everything extraneous that night and packed it back into the van.  By morning all that was left was our tent and the people and gear inside.  One thing that we kept out, however, were the necessary accouterments for snipe hunting!  That is one tradition JDubbs would never forget!

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Don’t know what a snipe hunt is?  Look here–I can’t remember if I fell for this the first time JDubbs and I went camping, but I think there is a high likelihood I did!

Well, JDubbs, as I often say, you were right.  Camping was a really great escape for our family, a chance to unplug and reconnect, to spend quiet moments listening and loud moments laughing and living life.  I hope this becomes a new tradition for our family!  You deserve only the best and happiest memories for Father’s Day!

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We love you!

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Celebrating!

The last day of school for my kids was a pretty monumental occasion: the last time Em would be home with me in the morning on a school day, the last day Jax would be a kindergartener, the last day I would have to rush Little H’s nap to get to pre-K pick up and drop off on time.  JDubbs and I thought the day deserved to be celebrated, and so we decided to surprise the kids and take them to their cousin’s camper for the first time this year.  They love going and so do we, and when we picked them up and announced that we were heading to the camper, their excitement that summer had officially begun was multiplied tenfold!  So with Auntie Jenny in tow, we all piled into the van and headed south.

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The three big cousins, Jax, Tommy and Em, are always so excited to see each other and are immediately thick as thieves.  But this year there were a couple more members of their merry band–Little H and Stella are old enough to want to tag along with them wherever they go, too.

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At this point, the four month difference between Stella and Little H is enough to keep H nearby in strange situations, but Stella was thrilled to be one of the gang with the big kids, and I think their reign as the Big Three is coming to an end.

Little H still needs an early bedtime, and since we were attempted to put all FIVE kids in one small bunk room at the back of the camper, we were hoping Little H would fall asleep before everyone else headed in.  That was a pretty big fail, and if I had known she was going to be up anyway, I would have had her come out to enjoy the sparklers and marshmallows, too!  Be that as it may, she was content in her pack-n-play and wasn’t crying, so unfortunately she missed out on a bit of the fun.  Next time we’ll know better and just let them all wear each other out as much as possible before bed, even if it does mean a late night!

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The cousin love continued with a lazy morning and a trip to the lake before we headed home.  It was a quick little visit, but the perfect way to kick off our summer adventures!

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Hooray for summer! The fun has just begun!

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