A Recalcitrant Wife and Mother Tells All

Tag: photography

The best Christmas card we ever made

My friend Laura helped me make some really fun Christmas cards a few years ago.

I was just so sick of my usual Christmas card routine: dress the kids up, try to keep them clean long enough to get a good picture, stick ’em in front of the tree, scream at them to smile at the same time, “no – not that smile…your real smile,” get frustrated, make someone cry, etc.

I desperately wanted to do something different. 

So when Laura called me up one day and said, “Hey Toots, the lighting is perfect this afternoon. Meet me at that abandoned trailer up the road. I’ll bring the Beanie Weenies,” how could I say no?

I grabbed our matching PJs and a few props, tossed the kids in the car, and we were on our way.

It was so incredibly liberating to just let the kids play and be themselves. It didn’t matter if they got dirty. It didn’t matter if they weren’t all looking at the camera at the same time. It didn’t matter that we were trespassing and eating processed meat from a can. We all had a blast. (Well maybe not Bucket Head, but he was only 21 months old.)

Laura sure has a gift. Here are a few of my favorite shots from that day.

Surprisingly, none of my children have been approached by the Hanna Andersson catalog to model. Huh.

Jello powder. It’s not just for breakfast anymore.

Now check out this next one. It’s an action shot.*


Look at that lighting! Love the snot rivulets. That’s not a real squirrel, by the way.*

Now imagine all these pictures and more on some sweet mama-jama matte card stock with a beautiful quote and seasonal greeting inside? Second only to my children, this card is possibly one of my finest creations. Either that, or I was overdue for a med-check.

And how was it received?

“Well, it’s different,” said a vast majority of my relatives.

Mission accomplished. (Insert evil laughter here.)

Happy everything,


* I swear, no children or squirrels were harmed in the making of this card. 

Oh brother!

Blogging icon, The Pioneer Woman, posted a photography assignment/contest last week titled: Brothers! And guess what? My BFF Laura submitted a photo!

Isn’t that an awesome shot? The faces just kill me. Such joy! And the colors… and the water action… the whole enchilada, really.

Guess what else. The Pioneer Woman picked this very photo to include in her post, YOUR Brother Photos: Group 3! That alone is pretty darn special, because you know she must have had THOUSANDS of entries.

But wait, there’s more. After handpicking and displaying five groups of brother photos, she posted a set of finalists. And guess what. Laura is one of them!!!

I sure am happy for her! I believe The Pioneer Woman is announcing the winner today (Sunday), so good luck Laura!! I’m pulling for you, girl. (If you like this photo as much as I do, go tell The Pioneer Woman! Maybe we can influence her decision!)

By the way, Laura is the only photographer I will let anywhere NEAR my family or myself. I love her THAT much. And yes, she is the artist behind all the good shots on this here blog. For instance, here’s a picture I took of myself (with the self timer on my camera):

And here is a picture that Laura took of me:

Need I say more?

You can see more of Laura’s work on her blog. Check her out! She’s amazingly talented.

Not only is Laura a great photographer, but she’s a great friend too. Here’s a picture of us at Mini-Me’s 7th birthday party:

It was a “mock slumber party” theme and she arrived at my house carrying two dozen hot Krispy Kreme doughnuts and wearing pink footie pa-jay-jays. That’s one dedicated friend, let me tell you.

She also brought this big empty picture frame and used it as a prop to take pictures of Mini-Me with all of her guests so that we’d have cute pictures for custom thank you notes. Totally her idea. I mean really, how cool is that?

So this whole contest thing got me thinking about my kids and how lucky they are to have each other. Especially how lucky they are to have Nature Boy as their big brother. He’s such a love.

If I were to enter a photo in a brothers contest, this is the photo I would have picked:

I took it yesterday at Mini-Me’s softball game. I like how you can see Nature Boy in the reflection of the sunglasses, smiling at his little brother who was totally hogging the juice.

Or maybe I would have picked this one:

So sweet!

Or maybe this one:

Always entertaining his siblings.

Or this one:

…just melts a mama’s heart.

Or how ’bout this one:

I mean really. Every little girl should have a first dance like this.

Or this one:



But probably not this one:

Hey, nobody’s perfect.

(Especially the mother who created this vignette and then photographed it. Nice.)

Anyhoooo. Wishing you lots of brotherly love, today and everyday. And good luck, Laura!

your friend,


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.

This Is Not a Photography Blog

My friend Laura calls me a “Jill of all Trades.”

I think she means it as a compliment, but I’m not totally sure.

I do indeed have a menagerie of random skills that speak more to my A.D.D. than to any special prowess. Laura finds it mildly entertaining… my ability to use a toilet auger, sprout alfalfa seeds under my kitchen sink, repair a small engine, save a choking child, and knit a prayer shawl all on the same day. Sure, it looks good on paper, but you know what they say… “Jill of all trades, master of none.” That is me. Hi. I’m Jill.

I’ve always admired the people who can focus on one goal and hone one craft or skill. Like Laura and photography. This girl is seriously talented. And she’s living the dream… building her own photography biz on her own terms. You should book her now before she gets super famous and can’t fit you into her busy schedule.

As for me, photography isn’t really my thang. I have a Nikon D40 that my sweet husband bought for me a few years ago so I’d stop whining about missing every shot due to the long delay on the tiny little pocket Olympus I was borrowing from my 7 year old son. This past Christmas he bought me my first big-girl lens: an AF-S DX VR Zoom-Nikkor 55-200mm f/4-5.6G IF-ED. I have no idea what that means, but it takes real pretty pictures. Like this:

That’s my little girl, playing in the big snow last week in the cute-as-can-be kitty hat her Grandma bought her. I don’t know if this is what the pros call depth of field, but I love the soft gray background and all the different sized snow flakes.

I’m still trying to figure out how to work the dang zoom…

Ooops. Too close. How ’bout that booger just clinging to the nose hair in his left nostril?! Sorry hon.

Now this one turned out just right:

That’s Ike. He’s waiting for a meter reader to chew on. Look at his cute little gray beard. He takes after his mama.

I have so much to learn… like how to capture motion. Sometimes I can get a good shot:

But usually not:

That’s my youngest having oodles of fun with an empty 7-Up bottle. Please don’t tell all my relatives who sent him a metric ton of real toys for Christmas.

And don’t get me started on how much I need to learn about lighting and shadows.

Ouch… that just hurts. Look at his cute little face behind those dark window pane shadows. He was so proud of himself for trying a green smoothie that looked SO GROSS but tasted soooo good. Damn. That could have been such a cute photo if I spent less time making green smoothies and more time reading Photography for Dummies.

So, just wanted to put it out there that if you are looking for one of those Mommy Blogs with gorgeous, artful photography like The Pioneer Woman (my fave!), you are totally barking up the wrong tree. The most artful photo I ever took was when Ike ate that box of crayons… For the record, Laura took the lovely “before” photo of the crayons and I took the “after” photo of the rainbow colored doggie doo. Classy. I know.

Mostly I’m just a blissfully ignorant novice, which is par for the Jill of All Trades course. But once in a while, through the grace of God, I am in the right place, at the right time, with the right lens, and the camera on the right setting. And when that happens, I can see the light! Literally.

“I saw the Spirit come down like a dove from heaven and remain upon him.”
– John 1:32

Can I get an Amen?!

Thanks for reading,


© Copyright 2011, The Bearded Iris.

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