When I think of the fourth of July I think of my childhood. Every year we would go to my Grandparents farm and eat BBQ and blow off fire works. Our fourth was like a Norman Rockwell painting. A beautiful farm with family laughing and just enough hijinks happening to make it memorable.
When I was far too young, I learned how to blow off fireworks from my cousins Adam and Jay. Technically they are my first cousins once removed (I believe that is how it works) but whatever their relationship technically is to me, they were always just Cousin Adam and Cousin Jay. Adam and Jay were just a few years older than me, but that gap in age was just enough for me to look at them and just know… those boys knew everything and I could trust everything they said. Of course in retrospect it is a miracle that Adam and Jay didn’t seriously wound one of us younger cousins. And even when I close my eyes and think really hard, I can’t, for the life of me, remember there ever being an adult around while Adam and Jay taught us 4 younger cousins what a punk was, how to light black cats, and how long those black cats could sit on Adam’s tray before we needed to throw them. I still get that anxious feeling in my gut when I think about lighting the black cat and waiting for Adam and Jay to yell “THROW IT NOW!” Even with all that anxiety, I never once doubted their judgement. Adam and Jay were firework experts.
It has been a little over or a little under 2 decades since we have had a fourth of July like the ones I remember so clearly. This year some of us reunited to relive those 4th of Julys from the old days and it was perfect.
I think as a parent the most special moments are when things come full circle. I love watching my kids experiencing moments that I hold dear to me from my childhood. This fourth of July was like that for me.
This fourth of July my kids met Adam for the first time. The boys instantly fell in love with him. And for me, spending time with my cousin Adam as a peer was wonderfully different. Seeing Adam joke with Michael gave me a new perceptive of those fourth of July’s of old. Michael and Patrick vied for his attention just like, I am sure, my younger cousins and I used too. Michael was so taken with Adam and is still talking about how smart Cousin Adam is. We all laughed at Michael and Adam’s banter and nothing could have made me prouder than when Michael started spewing his random facts and then seeing Adam’s surprised reaction.
In addition to Adam and his parents (and I have no idea what their relationship to me is beyond the fact that Adam’s Mom is my Grandma’s sister) joining us for the fourth my Grandma’s Aunt Eldrice came out for the fun too.
Here is the closest photo we can take to five generations. It makes me smile from ear to ear.
I don’t know how many more fourth of July’s we will all be able to have together. We all live so far apart now and as families grow they naturally spread apart. This day was special to everyone that was present. I am so grateful for that day. So many things came full circle and the only thing that would have made it better would have been to have more cousins there. Maybe next year! It is a lot of work, and takes days of preparations, but I think after such a wonderful day we would all agree without hesitation that the miles travelled, the hours cleaning and preparing food and the cash spent on fireworks was worth it.
More photos here.
Today my boys made me proud.
Michael worked hard doing little and big chores to earn money so he could buy something at Target when we did our obligatory weekend Target run. He ended up earning $2.50 and when he added that to his $1.50 he had $4 and he spent every penny he had at Target. He is now the proud owner of two new match box cars and 3 feet of plastic orange track.
Patrick spent hours designing, cutting out and painting a puppet theatre. All his idea. He also created a handful of puppets. Pun intended.
And because is was 80 degrees this is how they cleaned up craft time.
What about Elise you ask? Well Elise is three going on 13 and she is right at the age where she wants to do everything by herself but can’t. She wants to be near you all the time and wants you to play with her but she has very specific ideas about how things should be done and she gets pissed if you don’t play her way. She is still at the crying to get her way stage and it isn’t cute. I say, “USE YOUR WORDS” approximately 283 times a day to her.
Right now she wants to grow her hair long but she doesn’t like having her hair in a ponytail because “IT IS TOO TIGHT!” so she is a bit of a hot mess. Pun intended.
more photos here.
Usually taking photos outside gets me good results when photographing the kids. They are happier outside, more relaxed, quicker to smile and the smiles are more genuine. On the photography side of things shooting outdoors is easier because you can get plenty of bouncing light even when standing in the shadows. When you don’t have extra lighting equipment to help you with indoor shoots, shadows and inconsistent or harsh over head lighting are enemy number one.
All this is true except when it comes to photography in winter. Especially in MN when winter means lots of snow.
Today I tried something new though. I followed some tips I received from my bff Christine (who is a great photographer in Jamestown, ND- check out her blog here) about light metering and I also read a bunch of online tutorials to help me balance all the white in the snow.
Here is the thing about photographing my kiddos. They do not sit still, wait for you to say cheese and then look into the camera and give you a genuine smile. Well, Elise does the majority of the time, but the boys don’t. Patrick doesn’t like to look straight into a camera lens so his eyes are always looking in another direction and for Michael it is hard work to look at a camera, but he does his best and while he is focusing so hard on making his eyes meet my lens, his smile becomes forced and brows become furrowed.
I understand this about my kids, so when I take photos I rarely mess around with settings. I usually just set it on auto or av, frame the photo, bribe the kids for smiles and open eyes and shoot as many as I can while they are all looking. I don’t want to miss a chance for a good shot by messing with settings like aperture, iso, white balance and shutter speed. I just want the best photo I can get with them looking.
Today I risked not “getting the shot” and pushed myself to try and be a better photographer (even if I am just a glorified mommy photographer). The goal was to get photos that were not too underexposed (all white snow and dark faces) or the opposite which would be overexposed photos that were all too bright with the kids’ faces washed out. I also have been working on getting truer skin tones.
These are the results.
Far from perfect, but I am happy with them and proud that I switched my camera off of auto when taking photos for something as important as a Christmas Card.
We printed out Holiday Cards today and with the help of a Christmas Miracle, they will be in the mail by Monday.
more Christmas Card Outtakes here.
We couldn’t wait for the sun to set. The kids and the adults were exhausted from a full day. It was 9 pm and we started shooting the bigger fireworks even though it was still bright out.
There was a time when her profile made my heart ache, now I don’t see a scar all I see is beauty.
We killed a little time by asking Beth to take family photos. The kids didn’t appreciate the forced photo-op in the middle of their fireworks show.
We got a few smiles by posing silly.
Parachutes were a favorite. I remember racing my cousins and Beth to get the parachutes. Good times. Somethings never change.
In my family everything is funny after 6pm. We are not night owl by any definition. We were all a bit delirious at this point.
I don’t know what my Grandma was laughing at, but I love this photo of her.
My Dad and Beth did all the work while the rest of us sat back and enjoyed the show.
This is how PJ watched my Dad light up the sky until he gave up and went inside to play legos.
The sun finally setting.
Cozying up to Nama for a bedtime story.
I posted this in his birthday letter but I love it so much that I am posting it again.
I spent Independence day with my family on the land my Great Great Grandparents homesteaded over 100 years ago. I am blessed.