Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas Mishmash

The Oscars nomination committee may be calling the Ladd household soon. A little independent film called "The Christmas Story by SW Kids," had Brooke in a starring role.

As Baby Jesus, Brooke stayed close to the script: "The little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes." She nailed it. She made good eye contact with Mary and Joseph, too. I think they'll need to clear a space at the diaper-changing station for one of those big gold Oscar statues.

Just in case the film hasn't come to a theater near you, here's the link:

In other Christmas news, I'm always amazed at what gifts get the most mileage. Kinley's stocking gifts were a hit, especially the Frozen-themed bandages.
She also liked the $3 light-up wand from the Target entry aisles ...
... and the $3 crown from the Stafford Mercantile.
 Who knew making princess costumes out of Play-doh would be so enthralling?

Uncle Brent scored big with the Elsa doll.
Brooke wasn't talking about her favorite gifts.
But she did look pretty stylish in her K-State gear from Uncle Brent.
Brent designed wheat-stalk-adorned Fritzemeier Farms hats for Randy.
And we continued the K-State theme with Brent's limestone rock.
Today, I'm putting away Christmas decorations. I guess I've delayed the inevitable long enough.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Kinley is 3!

Photo by Terra Herring Photography
This year, Kinley Marie Ladd doesn't have to crash the party because she's the guest of honor.

Three years ago, our little immediate family was scheduled to have Christmas 2011 at Jill and Eric's house the final weekend of December. Jill and Eric weren't traveling for Christmas that year, since they were expecting their first baby January 12, 2012. Brent was home from his graduate studies at the University of South Carolina.

We were planning to arrive late in the day on Friday, December 30, so we could begin our celebration after Jill and Eric arrived home from work.

Instead, we got an early-morning phone call. Kinley Marie Ladd was crashing our Christmas party. This was one party crasher we were glad to welcome!
She was born at 4:30 AM, December 30, 2011. She weighed 5 pounds, 15 ounces, and was 20.75 inches long. She was about the size of her Christmas stocking. (Grandma had already replaced the sonogram photo with a newborn photo in her stocking by the time she arrived home from the hospital.)
It's hard to believe how much she's grown in these three years. Grandpa added her 3-year-old height to the wooden growth chart in the dining room when they were here for Christmas. She is taller than her Mommy at age 3, but shorter than Uncle Brent.
 She's now a big sister.
 She loves swinging ...
... and helping Mommy in the kitchen. 
She likes music.
And she loves books. 
 Sometimes, she pretends to be a kitty cat.

 And she loves all things PRINCESS!
Uncle Brent supplied one of her favorite Christmas gifts here - an Elsa doll.
Mommy and Daddy won Christmastime points with her Elsa costume and the Princess Playdoh set.
Today, she's taking cupcakes with the Frozen theme to preschool. We're looking forward to Saturday, when we can celebrate the joy that Miss Kinley has brought to our lives the past three years.
Happy Birthday, Kinley. Grandma and Grandpa are so glad you crashed the party 3 years ago!

Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas Photography 101

Before Christmas, I got a helpful email from Mpix about how to take photos of children during the holidays. Snapfish, Shutterfly and other photo sites are glad to weigh in about how to create those cherished family memories of the season.

Maybe the writer would like to come and demonstrate next year. I have first dibs for Christmas Eve 2015. I'll send directions to get there.

Christmas Eve at my parents' house is both a Christmas celebration and a birthday bash for my Mom. Since the first grandchild was born in 1982, we've been taking the annual snapshot of Grandma and the grandkids. We added a supplementary photo of the Great-Grands when they began arriving on the scene.

Let's just say our annual Christmas Eve birthday shot isn't going to make it onto a photo website, showing the "how-to" to create the perfect holiday image. It's not about photography's Rule of 1/3s or perfect lighting. It's about family - all the imperfections and all the chaos.

noun: chaos; plural noun: chaoses
 1.   Complete disorder and confusion.
                "Snow caused chaos in the region."
 Eight children ages 4 and younger "caused chaos in Grandma's annual birthday photo."

And we thought five were a challenge for Christmas Eve 2013.
The 2013 version 
This year, we added three more babies to the mix. (Below: The babies are Beau with Mom Abby, Brooke with Mom Jill and Pratt with Great-Grandma Moore.) The old pros at this great-grands shot are (from left): Braden (4); Kinley (3 on Dec. 30); Neelly, (3); Benson (2) and Holte (2 next month).
Yes, the great-grandchild photo now has eight children - all 4 years and younger!

The scene is somewhat reminiscent of a long-ago grandchild shot - the first that contained all seven of them, back in 1994.
From left: Abby, Brian, Blake, Mom holding Madison, Jill, Brent & Paige
They did a better job of looking at the camera for the 2014 version. Yay, grandkids!
From left: Jill, Abby, Madison, Brent, Blake, Paige & Brian
Their photo session had fewer "cheeses" involved than the younger set - until we pointed out that theirs was a little less vocal than the younger kids. That got everyone laughing.
Despite the chaos, it was great to be together as an extended family to celebrate my Mom's birthday and Christmas. I appreciate the effort it takes for 26 people to get to my folks' house at the same time to be together - even if it's only for less than 24 hours. 

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Hope, Peace, Joy and Love: My Wish for All of Us

Hope, Peace, Joy and Love: It's what the Advent season should be about. So often, I get distracted by my to-do lists and the "must-do" requirements I place upon myself in order to have the perfect Christmas celebration for everyone.

But, a couple of weeks ago, our church choir sang a song called "Hope, Peace, Joy and Love," with words and music by Joseph M. Martin. Those words have been swirling around my stuffed-up head this Advent season. And it's my wish for all of us during this special time. Here are the words. Many of the photos are from our church, Stafford United Methodist. Others are from my Christmas decorations at home:
Hope is like a candle burning in the night
Hope paints every shadow with its gentle light.
Glowing like a promise till our faith is sight,
Hope is like a candle in the night.
Peace is like sweet music sounding pure and strong
Singing songs of comfort when the night is long.
Turning drums of hatred into heaven's song,
Peace is like sweet music pure and strong.
Joy is like a flower blooming in the soul,
Sending forth its fragrance to heal and make us whole
And when bitter winds are blowing
When birds refuse to sing.
Joy can turn our winter into spring.
Love is like a diamond wrapped in purest gold.
Nothing is more precious, nothing bought or sold.
Pearl of heaven's glory wondrous to behold,
Love is like a diamond wrapped in gold.
Joy is like a flower.
Peace is like sweet music.
Hope is like a candle in the night.

I'm looking forward to having my kids and granddaughters arrive today. We'll be with my family on Christmas Eve to celebrate my Mom's birthday and Christmas together. (My folks have gone from 5 great-grands last year to 8 this year. The family is growing!)

So ...

If you'd like to listen to the song I illustrated, this church's YouTube version had a large choir and full orchestra. We may not have sounded exactly like that. But we did have Kristen Knight on flute!

Monday, December 22, 2014

Frosty Morning

For days, sunrise was a non-event. Overcast gloom had overtaken any hints of glow in the eastern sky. But Saturday morning, light yellow and pink streaked the horizon outside the kitchen window.
The multicolored Christmas lights draped from tree and mantel had some competition on Saturday morning, after days of gloom. I decided to leave the artificial lights behind for a few minutes to see God's light show.
The hay bales had a Christmas-cookie-like glaze on top.
Roadside weeds looked less like trash and more like jewels as the moisture-drenched leaves shimmered in the rising sun.
Frost on winter wheat fields glimmered on green.
Cows were black shapes in the damp, foggy morning, as they grazed on "Frosted Flake" wheat fields. 
Since the snow last Thursday, it had been overcast. We didn't get as much snow here on the County Line as some locations in Kansas.
But the wet snow clung to the winter wheat crop, giving it another boost of moisture, added to the 0.40" of rain we'd gotten earlier last week.
That's a Christmas present that you can't wrap up and put under the tree. But it's a blessing nonetheless. So was a frosty sunrise ...