It's Time for Family Portraits!

June 2007

My Christmas picture is done and I am happy! It is a lot work for me to organize everyone to get a nice portrait taken. This year, in honor of our 25th wedding anniversary, we had a professional portrait taken . It was great knowing that our Christmas picture was done in August.

We purchased the disc of photos from the photographer, so we are able to edit and print many different variations of the family. I have a favorite of the entire family, one of the girls, one of the boys, and then one of the four youngest girls, and a last one of Eby and Little Man. I’ll be sure to share them all here, but for today, I want to encourage you to plan your family holiday picture. Ask a friend to take it, schedule a date with a photographer, or plan to do it yourself; just get it done.

In 2005 my friend, Amy, and I waited until November to take each other’s family photos. The day was so rainy that we had to set up a “studio” in my family room. After struggling with poor lighting, we swore we would do it earlier in 2006, and we did!


In 2006, on October 1st, our two families packed picnics and went the University Arboretum where we took one of my favorite family pictures.


2007 was our first year with Dimples, Eby, and Little Man. I thought it would be fun to take the picture on the tractor by our barn . I had everyone wear jeans with a dark colored shirt. We planned to take it after church. Unfortunately, I didn’t get to it until December 9th and it was very cold. In fact, we got the kids down to the barn, and my camera refused to shoot. Russ finally realized it was too cold for the electronics in the camera to function. We ran inside and did some some chaotic shots by the tree. Then Russ took the kids back out, arranged them on the tractor and I ran out with the camera in my coat. I quickly took the photos, and ended up with one we liked, but the kids were cold!


In 2008 we took our picture in October and sent it along with Honeybee’s adoption announcement. This picture is hanging in our entry way and I really like it. I squeezed everyone into the space next to our bay window which allowed enough light to avoid using flash. Window light is great. I have a reflector that Russ held while standing to Dimples’ left (as you look at the picture). The reflector bounced the light back onto the kids who were furthest from the window (which was to the right of Honeybee as you look at the picture). Holding up a piece of white poster board or white tablecloth would also work well.


That leads us to 2009. The photo still needs a little bit of editing before it is ready to share, but Rusty is going to get it done soon. We wore jeans and white shirts again, like we did in 2007. It was the simplest theme to accomplish and right now, simple is all I can manage. Fortunately, it is a look I like!

Here are some tips you may find useful:

1. Choose a day and time when your youngest children are most likely to be happy. This year we took our photo just after an early dinner. It was August so it was still light.

2. If you have big kids, schedule it well in advance. I sent multiple email reminders to my older crew.

3. Choose a unified clothing theme. It can be formal or casual, holiday-ish or not, funny or serious, but you should look cohesive. In general, stay far away from patterns, stripes, or excessively fussy clothing. Our 2008 photo is a good example of how to hide some color problems; Rusty converted the image to sepia. My friend Joy always sends a gorgeous photo; last year they wore jeans with black shirts. Some other friends dressed in jeans with red and green shirts which looks very cheerful on our bulletin board.

4. Go outside where you won’t need your flash or where it will only add a little pop of light. Alternately, place your children near a window that will shine some indirect light on them. You don’t want bright light, just soft illumination.

5. Take lots, and lots of pictures. Back when we all used film, it was more costly to shoot multiple rolls, but now that nearly everyone has gone digital, there is no reason not to shoot dozens of shots. The more people you have in the family, the more photos you should shoot.

6. Put small treats in your pockets to keep the youngest children happy. My little ones like Tic Tacs which don’t make a mess or look big in their mouths.

7. Plan a special reward for a job well done. This year we came home and had ice cream sundaes to celebrate.

It is a lot of work to get a decent family picture, but it is worth the effort to chronicle the changes and growth of your family. I have a future project that has been brewing in my mind for a few years. I plan to go through my negatives and find every family Christmas picture beginning in 1987, the year Sweet Pea was born, and print them all as 5 X 7’s. Then I will frame them in sequence and hang them in my house. It will bless me every time I look at them and I think it will encourage our guests to see how our family has grown over the years.

Have fun, and get that picture take
n! You will be so glad to have it off your to-do list when the holidays arrive.


Thinking About Homeschooling?

Sweet Pea, Mimi, and Noah on our first official day of homeschooling – September 1991.


May 2008 – Noah’s high school graduation and Sweet Pea’s college graduation. Note Noah’s very intellectual pose.

Whenever I mention that I homeschool, I get questions about how to get started, what curricula I use, what to do with little ones while working with older kids, etc. Since the primary emphasis of my blog has been adoption and related issues, I haven’t devoted much time to writing about homeschooling. However, as a mom who is in my nineteenth consecutive year of homeschooling, I have a responsibility to offer what I can to other moms. When my elusive new blog is up and functioning, I’ll have areas devoted to family life, homeschooling, etc., but for the time being, you’ll have to wade through one topic to get to another.

First, if you have questions you would like me to address about homeschooling, please leave them as comments in this post. It may be awhile before I get to them, but I have plans to dig into this topic.

Second, I have to say how funny it was to get eleven comments on the post about my pencil sharpener! I had no idea there were so many moms struggling with the same problem of not having the right tools to do the job of teaching our kids – whether as homeschoolers or as moms helping with homework.

[This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.]

DeeDee, however, got me thinking with her comment (part of it is below):

Paul and DeeDee said…

Lisa, I can’t believe I am actually going to type these words but I am seriously considering homeschooling.
… I really want my kids to have a strong foundation in an education that lines up with our beliefs.
…I have 2 years before Jackson starts kindergarten but I know I need to start researching, any advice on where to start?

Where to start, now that is a great question and I could probably write many posts about it – in fact, I probably will, but here is my first bit of advice about educating children:

Think and pray about your vision and objectives for educating your children. Consider the needs of each child in your family. Consider your needs and those of your husband. Consider the educational opportunities available in your community. If you are a Christian, ask God how He wants you to educate your children. Once you have done this, you may decide not to homeschool at all. Homeschooling is not for every family or for every child…the fact that Dimples attends school is an example of this in my own life.

If, however, you are strongly persuaded that you want to homeschool, the objectives you’ve created can be applied as a filter through which to view the myriad of choices homeschooling offers. You must have an overall vision for your family as well as goals and objectives for individual children.

To give you an idea of what I mean, I can share with you the three objectives Russ and I have in homeschooling our children. To be honest, we didn’t have these objectives 18 years ago; we had a small vision that grew over the years. I suspect that is true for many families, but you still need a vision as you set out on a journey. Otherwise, you may not end up near your destination.

1. We want to provide our children with a distinctly Christian education. This means we want to pray with them, read the Bible with them, instruct them in God’s ways, incorporate Bible study into their education, and so much more. We want our children to know Church History, the stories of great missionaries and heroes of the Christian faith, and our own life of faith as a family.

2. We want our family to be tightly-knit and our children to be not only siblings, but the closest of friends. We want our children to be family-oriented rather than peer-oriented. I’ve written about peer-orientation in the past and cannot recommend Hold On To Your Kids highly enough. Now that our five oldest children are 22, 20, 18,16, and 14, I can say with confidence that this part of our vision is being fulfilled and I give great thanks to God.

3. We want to customize our children’s education to suit their specific needs, interests, and goals. This is the fun part of homeschooling when you get to look at your child and ask yourself, “What are her gifts and talents? How much time (and money) can we devote toward developing this gift?” It is also an opportunity to look at our children’s weaknesses and ask ourselves how we can help them overcome those areas. These may be academic, character, or spiritual weaknesses, but as parents, we want to devote ourselves to helping our children grow past them.

I’ll write more on each of these topics in a future post. Until then, if you are considering homeschooling, or if you are homeschooling without a vision, take the time to think and pray about what you most want for your family and each of your children. Write it all down and then begin to explore how you can accomplish your vision.

Sweet Pea is now in her second year of medical school and Mimi is a senior in college.


Fall Beauty on My Table

Remember last weekend when I sent Ladybug and Honeybee to gather things from the yard for a centerpiece? This is what they created. They put the candle in the middle of an oval platter and placed leaves, two small apples, and some berries around it. It is lovely!

This is the table set for Little Man’s birthday dinner. I used a small, folded tablecloth from Ethiopia as a table runner laid over a dark blue cloth that isn’t very pretty on its own. We broke out the $2.00 per stem iced tea glasses from Walmart to make the table extra festive. I’m ready for the blue candles to burn down so I can replace them with pretty orange candles I’ve been saving.

Send me a picture of something you and your kids created for your table, or anything at all about setting your table and I’ll share some of your ideas here.

Let’s encourage one another.


A Little Bit of Happiness

Candy Corn may not really taste that great, but it certainly looks pretty. This jar on my window sill has been making me smile all day.

Find something small to add a little happiness to your life today – a basket of leaves on the table, a new candle to burn in the evening while you cook dinner, or some nuts piled in a basket. It doesn’t take much to add a little joy to our days and beauty to our lives. I think I’ll have the girls gather some leaves and berries to make a centerpiece for the table today. I am also a huge fan of candles on the dinner table – which could not be easier.

It is easy to get so entrenched in the intensity of mothering a large family that I don’t remember to seek beauty in my life, but this is a simple gift I can give my family. A canning jar filled with candy corn just might be a little inspiration.

Tomorrow we are celebrating Little Man’s third birthday! He is so excited and keeps telling me he wants chocolate cake–except the way he says it is super cute. Then he says, “I not scared to blow candles this time.” Last year he leaned so far forward that he nearly burned himself and I had to quickly pull him back.

Have a wonderful weekend.


Staying Sharp

After 18 years of homeschooling, I finally found the perfect pencil sharpener and I can’t believe I waited this long. For many years we used wood pencils, but our sharpeners were often lost and it took the kids too long to sharpen the pencils once they found one. Finally we bought an electric pencil sharpener, but it jammed easily and frustrated us even more. I gave up and switched to mechanical pencils, but the leads broke easily, and the cheap ones were very inadequate.

[This post contains Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.]

Last August I was telling Russ that it seemed silly to be so frustrated over something so small, but I had never found a pencil sharpener that really worked. That evening he came home from Staples with this big School-Pro Pencil Sharpener, and believe it or not, it has truly made my life easier! We have switched completely back to wood pencils and are much happier. It gets heavy use, for a family, and we haven’t had any problems with it. It is also relatively quiet and can even sharpen the fat pencils that little kids use.

The downside is that it is bit expensive for a pencil sharpener, but I think a good tool is worth it! I promise that I get no benefit from recommending this product – I just had to share my happiness over it. Anything that makes my life just a little easier is a good thing.

It could even make a great Christmas present for a little kid who likes to do “big kid” things. Just think of all the colored pencils that could be sharpened. It probably wouldn’t be the best gift for a husband to give his wife for Christmas…unless she requested it. (Just a little bit of free advice from a woman who has been married over 25 years.)

I only wish I had gotten mine when Sweet Pea was in kindergarten!


Birthday gifts that Teach and Bless

My “Twins” modeling their birthday aprons

Purchasing birthday gifts has grown harder for me over the years for a number of reasons. First, I rarely go shopping unless it is absolutely necessary. I just don’t enjoy it very much. Second, space is limited in our house, so it is hard to add “stuff” to our lives. Third, I can always think of wonderful gifts that are out of my price range, but it is harder to think of gifts that are affordable, useful, and don’t take up too much space.

Ladybug and Honeybee have been asking me to teach them to cook, and I’ve given it some half-hearted efforts, but the frenzy of the summer didn’t allow for much instruction. For their birthdays, I gave them each a pretty apron and a binder with labeled dividers for Soups, Salads, Main Dishes, etc. with page protectors in each section. I chose two or more recipes that were simple enough for them to master and put them in each section.

Eby managed to jump into this picture – I love the expression on his face. His apron says, “Chef in Training”. Somehow I can’t quite imagine letting him loose in the kitchen any time soon.

Tonight Honeybee made Tostada Bake for dinner and Ladybug made some great brownies to top off the meal. They are both excited to gather more recipes for their cookbooks and I am happy to help them. My recipe notebook is covered with post-its denoting the recipes they want to copy.

It is truly fun being in the kitchen with my daughters and teaching them new skills. They are so proud of the food they create and of course, Russ and the boys give them lots of compliments. The guys know that praising good dinners will lead to more good meals…and special desserts. Life is looking sweeter all the time.