Tuesday, December 26, 2023

Paparazzi Poses


The great-grand girls

You don't have to be Taylor Swift at a Chiefs game to have a stable of paparazzi clicking away trying to capture the perfect shot. 

The great-grand boys. Perhaps they didn't embrace the hats and masks as much as the girls.

We have our own version of paparazzi at my mom's birthday and our family's Christmas Eve gathering. There's a good share of "Smile!" "Look this way!" and "Wait! Just one more!"

Several years ago, we moved to the shed for the evening meal. We added another person to the group shot this year - making a total of 33. (Madison isn't pictured because she's the photographer.)

My mom celebrated her 88th birthday on December 24.  


Ever since the grandchildren were little, we've been taking a photo of the birthday girl with the troops.The first one with all seven of the grandchildren was in 1994.

From left: Abby, Brian, Blake, Mom holding Madison, Jill, Brent & Paige

The grandchildren shot is easier these days. They can even look the same direction without a lot of prompting - though, with as many paparazzi as there are on scene, we still do a little of that.

I had to laugh at a Facebook memory that came up, showing a behind-the-scenes look at the great-grandchild photo from a few years ago (2016). We added one more great-grand since that time.

The great-grand photo is a piece of cake these days (birthday cake, of course).

It's amazing that what four girls can convince my dad to do. I'm not sure he'd wear a party hat for just anyone.

We added another face to the "outlaw" photo this year, too. Several years ago, we decided the non-blood relatives needed their own paparazzi moment.

A shot inside the house during the gift opening reveals the reason we've moved some of the festivities to the shed.

This doesn't even show the whole group.

 Even though it's loud and chaotic, we're thankful for this tradition of celebrating my mom's birthday and Christmas as a family.

Thursday, December 21, 2023

Ho! Ho! Holiday!

I know that Christmas card letters have their share of detractors. But, I love getting cards and letters from people at this time of year. I'd much rather have a mass-produced letter than simply a signature, though it's great when people include a handwritten note, too.

Several years ago, I transitioned from a full letter to a summary on the back of the card. It was quite a leap for me. I am not necessarily a believer in the old adage, "A picture is worth a thousand words." I'm glad to give you the 1,000 words ... and multiple photos. (My niece, Paige, wins best Christmas card letter so far this year. I told her that I literally laughed out loud.)

Even in this electronic communication age, I send quite a few Christmas cards. It's been a way for me to keep in touch with childhood friends and college buddies, along with sending greetings to family members across the U.S. and seasoning's greetings to neighbors. 

For us, the photo Christmas card is a family tradition. I starred in my very first one in 1957, as a 6-month-old baby.

By the time 1958 rolled around, I was already sharing space with my sister, Lisa, on the annual missive from Bob and Janis.

Though my brother, Kent, was born in December 1966, he didn't make the Christmas card until 1967. This is the first photo card with all my siblings. I would have been 10, Lisa, 9, Darci, 6 and Kent was 1.

My parents included their children on the family Christmas card until we graduated from college. Since then, we make occasional appearances on their card.

 Randy and I sent our first photo card in 1981, the year we were married.

 Then, we didn't send another one until 1985, the year that Jill was born.
Christmas Card Photo - Jill - 1985

We sent one with the three of us in 1986, when Jill was 15 months old. After that, I usually stayed on the other side of the camera and just included the kids. (When you're the one doing the work, you get the most votes.)

Christmas Card Photo - 1986

The first one with Brent was in 1988. Brent would have been about 7 months and Jill was 3.

Christmas Card Photo - 1988

Before the advent of digital photography, I developed rolls of film trying to come up with the perfect photo.

Kinley made her first Christmas card appearance in 2012.

In 2014, when Brooke joined the family, I featured outtakes on the blog, showing my attempts to get a decent Christmas card photo with two little girls. I guess I had amnesia regarding the number of photos you take to get one photo that's Christmas card worthy. But it all came back to me.

At least it's digital now and you can delete them off the memory card at will. In 2014, Kinley, almost 3, was at that cheesy fake smile stage unless you captured her in action.
Brooke, at 3 months old, would smile, but it was more fleeting than the camera shutter could record.
There's a reason I'm not a professional photographer. I can usually capture a pretty sunset, but portraiture is another thing all together.

I think this is what we ended up with.

They are considerably easier to photograph these days. (And so far, I've avoided any pre-teen eye rolls on the number of photos I NEED to take.)

Merry Christmas from our family to yours! 

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Branson Travelogue

I'm going to go with the tried and true "Better late than never" adage for this blog post. We've been back a couple of weeks from our trip to Branson, Mo. But it is Christmas time, and I've been otherwise occupied.

The photo above sums up the trip. This trip was another of Fritz's Adventures. There was even a sign for it.

In reality, Randy just bought a t-shirt at Fritz's Adventure, and he posed for some photos. But if we bring the girls back to Branson with us sometime, this business might be one of the stops on the travel agenda. He's already worn his t-shirt to breakfast with his buddies.

My favorite show was The Duttons. This family made it into the finals of America's Got Talent several years ago. Everyone from the grandparents down to the great-grandchildren spent time on stage. Playing multiple instruments and singing seem to be part of their DNA. Of course, maybe the people who weren't blessed with musical ability get the behind-the-scenes roles at the theater on the main drag in Branson.

This was one of their signature moves on America's Got Talent. They stand in a line and use their bow to play their neighbor's fiddle. We were on the second row and got an up-close look.

We both enjoyed the dinner show on the Branson Belle Showboat.  
It was a rainy evening, so we didn't spend a lot of time strolling on the deck as the Branson Belle floated away from the dock and journeyed on Table Rock Lake.

But the Christmas show included lots of wonderful singing and dancing. (No photos were allowed during the show.)

Another of my favorite stops was The Butterfly Palace. It wasn't on Randy's initial travel itinerary, but we are glad we added it. (Thanks, Trista, for suggesting it.)

There's a back story to why it was a much-needed spot for me. When we picked up our show tickets, the salesman offered a reduced price for Silver Dollar City tickets if we went to a time-share presentation. Early in our marriage, we had done something similar in Las Vegas, and it was tolerable. So, we did it. What a mistake! There were the predictable stereotypes in play by two different salesmen: "If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy" was just one of them. However, in our family, it's Randy who is the traveler. I am more a homebody. The salesman wouldn't know that (even though he was told) because he was way more interested in telling his life story, rather than finding out anything about us. (I literally could take a quiz about him: where he grew up, how long he's been married, how many kids his wife wants, how he dreads his wife getting his credit card at this time of year - more stereotypes anyone? - and who his best friend married ... It was one of the Haygood's - another premiere Branson musical family, by the way.)
When he figured out that we weren't buying what he was selling, the salesman called us rude. (We weren't ... until he called us rude.) Never, ever again!

I needed a lowering of my blood pressure after the debacle. And The Butterfly Palace provided that.

In a simulated rainforest, there were more than 1,000 live exotic butterflies imported from their native countries. 
We could feed the butterflies with a complimentary nectar flower.

It was beautiful and peaceful - just what I needed. 
I didn't hold a nectar flower for long. I was too busy taking photos.

My favorite butterfly was this blue one, but they rarely landed for long. I was lucky to get this shot.

We were also told to watch where we were walking, since butterflies also light on the floor to soak up the moisture and condensation from the rainforest. That's where this vibrantly-colored butterfly ended up.
It said there were tropical birds in the enclosure, but we only saw this one. Of course, I loved the beautiful blue.

Randy's favorite show was Dolly Parton's Stampede. They were doing several sittings of their Christmas show each day.
As with their shows year-round, there are 32 horses and their talented riders featured.

The Christmas show also included a beautiful nativity scene, complete with camels and hovering angels.

It even "snowed" during the finale.
The Dolly Parton show is a dinner show. I didn't know it before we arrived, but it's served without silverware. All the food is designed to be eaten by hand, including a creamy vegetable soup. (This is a photo from their website, since the food is served in stages.)
If you know Randy, you know that a magic show was also on his travel itinerary. He chose Reza.
It was staged at the same location as the Baldknobbers, who we didn't see. 
No photos were allowed during the show. 

That evening, we went to Silver Dollar City. When we arrived at the far reaches of the parking lot, we couldn't even see the entrance. Thankfully, we saw a tram depart from a nearby parking lot, so we were able to catch a tram to the entrance.

It was a Saturday night, and there were tons of people.
There were also tons of beautiful lights. I can't imagine how long it takes to install all the holiday decor.
The website says there are 6.5 million lights, and I believe it.

I really liked the Christmas tree, which they called Joy on Town Square.

By chance, we arrived at Heritage Hall just in time for the final "Home for the Holidays" show of the night. 

The vocal harmonies and dancing were outstanding. 

But the true "show" was all the lights.

We would have liked to see Dickens' "A Christmas Carol" but we didn't arrive in time for the final performance of that.

Though it had rained earlier in the evening, it turned out to be a nice night, especially since we were dressed for it.
If you get a chance to go to Branson during the Christmas season, we would recommend it. Just don't fall for the time share spiel.