Happy New Year from the J Train!

 Twenty twelve is quickly coming to a close and leaves me feeling like I'm approaching a stop sign but my brakes are out.  I'm trying to take a breath and imagine the fresh start of a new year but it is easier said than done.  I feel a to do list pressing in.

I had every intention of sending out Christmas cards but when I could see that wasn't happening I decided New Year's cards would be fun.  I love the tradition of getting cards in the mail.  It is really the only time of year we get much personal correspondence in our mailbox.  I want to do my part to keep the tradition alive.  But I don't think it's going to happen.

I actually plugged some photos into a New Year's card on line last night.  I got everything uploaded and ready to go and then I tried to write our names at the bottom.  Before I got to Juliet, it told me I had hit the text limit.  It was rather frustrating.  But then I realized we are so blessed we have too many people to fit our family at the bottom of a card.  

This morning I literally just sat here scratching my head wondering how I could photograph nearly 40 families to help them with their Christmas cards yet I couldn't manage to get any done myself.  My kids wanted me to, they kept asking.  But there's always next year.  I pray we will have a happy and healthy year ahead to report on.  As you can see, I did manage to take a few photos of them and my family helped us get a shot when we were all decked out before Christmas Eve church.

I need a fresh start.  I have three days to wrap this year up and I feel unorganized and messy closets and miscellaneous paperwork and school stuff has taken priority.  So I'm going to say Happy New Year on the blog and move on. 

May 2013 make us all aware of God's grace and sovereign hand over everything.  I am vowing to simplify a little and do my best to never leave the house unless absolutely necessary.  Oh wait, I already do that.  And I'm barely here.  So I'm not sure how that's going to happen.  But that's where God's grace and hand come in I guess.

Here we are all are, and here's all our names.  Just to stick it to the Christmas card people.  Happy New Year from Jimmy, Julie, Jackson, Libby, Cash, Penelope, and Juliet!  We love you all!


I felt a funeral in my brain

Monday was my mom's birthday and happens to also be Libby's half birthday.  So it is always a fun day.  Libby and I ran into a poem by Emily Dickinson during her language lesson and looked her up only to discover it was her birthday as well on December 10th.  I have a book of a collection of poems by her and Libby and I enjoyed reading a little bit of it and talking about her unconventional use of capital letters and punctuation.  (We also expanded her vocabulary with words like recluse and introverted!)

I remembered that I did a drawing based on a poem by her I enjoyed reading over 10 years ago.  I found the drawing and read the poem with Libby.  She and I talked a bit about what it might mean.  I was reminded that I used have the time and brain energy to analyze things and sit in silence thinking about stuff.  And make drawings about vague poems.

I asked Libby to write a poem of her own.  It was beautiful.  So here they both are.  Emily Elizabeth Dickinson's first and Elizabeth June Alley's second.  Enjoy.

I felt a funeral in my brain,
  And mourners, to and fro,
Kept treading, treading, till it seemed
  That sense was breaking through.

And when they all were seated,
  A service like a drum
Kept beating, beating, till I thought
  My mind was going numb

And then I heard them lift a box,
  And creak across my soul
With those same boots of lead, again.
  Then space began to toll

As all the heavens were a bell,
  And Being but an ear,
And I and silence some strange race,
  Wrecked, solitary, here.


I Love some cake, I Love some cheese,
I Love a baby boy with ease.
I Love the sun, I Love the air,
I Love an apple and a pear.
I Love Na-Na and Pop-Pop;
My Love will never, ever stop!


Art Class Houses

I have been teaching an art class to home school students this semester.  It has been very enjoyable and great to watch their little creative minds work.  Yesterday for class we built and decorated graham cracker houses.  It always makes for some wonderful and colorful photographs so I thought I'd share some here.

It was quite the sugary and crumby mess.  Just the way I like art class to be.  Messy. 

Children have such innocence when it comes to making things.  They don't second guess themselves.  They are not intimidated by a blank slate of any kind.

They move forward at their own pace and most stay extremely focused.  It is inspiring.

The same day in the afternoon our pest control guy came to treat our house for insects.  It was as if we'd filled the floor with sprinkles, candy, and crumbs to attract them or something.  Hey dude, we just wanted you to see that we've been trying to attract bugs so you could keep your job...

No, but when he arrived I did start sweeping right away so he wouldn't think we were idiots who didn't understand why we had bugs while standing on a floor covered in insect bait.

I was very tired last night and went to bed early.  I had a dream about these Good N Plenty's.  I dreamed that they weren't really candy, but someone's prescription medicine.  I had to try and figure out who brought medicine and then who was crazy enough to take it out of the child proof prescription bottles and offer it to the children for their candy houses.  The house making experience obviously provided me with some really nice rem sleep.

Jackson got to come home from school early to participate.  He had quite the house but he loaded it with so much candy it collapsed.  I took a picture of the final product anyway.  I think this picture is funny.  It looks to me like his house is burning down.

It was hard to pick which pictures to post, I took a lot!  Merry Christmas Art Class!



This past weekend I had the privilege of taking photographs at a Christmas party given by Sarah Henning, a realtor Jimmy and I work with here in Tallahassee.

I was to capture the children on Santa's lap.  They were coming to the party to have cookies and milk, make reindeer food, and of course tell Santa what they wanted for Christmas.

Santa did not disappoint.  He was amazing.  When Jimmy and I were talking about it later, Jimmy said "I believe in Santa!"  If you were there, you would too.

This man was the complete package.  He had a real beard, rosy cheeks, a fancy red suit.  He brought some of Rudolph's bells with him to show the children.  They were old ones.  He told the kids he just got Rudolph some new ones.  He said he has 26 reindeer, but that most people only know the names of 9 of them.

When a child asked where Mrs. Claus was, he said, "She's home baking cookies of course.  She does that every Sunday night.  The elves get very hungry you know."

To almost every child he would say, "Wow! You've grown since last year!" and "What do you want for Christmas?  But you don't have to tell me...I already know."

A couple of times I heard him say, "You're four years old?  I love four!"  Every time he laughed he'd make sure he turned it into a "ho ho ho" at the end.  The guy was genuinely the coolest Santa I've ever seen.

And just when I thought he couldn't get any better, a little girl asked him about a Christmas song.  I didn't hear what she specifically asked, but he said, "I'm so glad you asked me that!" and pulled a harmonica out of his boot and started playing Jingle Bells on it.


All the kids who were there were decked out in their Christmas best clothes and looked super cute.

Jimmy and I and kids were invited to the party but since I was working Jimmy told me to scope it out first and call him if I thought it would be a good idea to bring the kids.  We don't reveal our crazy at just any venue, you know.

I texted him the following:  Bring. Kids. Nice clothes. Best behaviors

(I was holding my camera with one hand, give me a break.)

I really didn't think he'd come.  I had just come from photo shoots at a park so I hadn't been home in over 2 and a half hours.  Jimmy and the kids had been home all afternoon without me.  I really didn't think he'd attempt to locate nice clothes and shoes for everyone, dress them, comb their hair, and give the good behavior lecture.  But I thought it would be fun for my kids to see such a cool Santa.  And I could photograph them with him which never has and probably never will happen again.

But Jimmy came.  However, the texting of "nice clothes" didn't really seem to have the meaning I wished to convey.  How I could believe that what Jimmy thinks of as "nice clothes" and what I think of as "nice clothes" are even remotely similar, I'm not sure.  And there was no hair combing of any kind.

Not to slander my husband in any way.  They arrived whole and wearing shoes (sometimes we arrive places only to discover someone is barefoot) and had no visible food on their faces.  He did put a dress on Juliet but whenever she raised her arms you could see her sagging diaper below it.  I let it all roll.  I knew Santa didn't care.  He knows that my kids (and my husband) should get whatever they want this year because they are the best. 

I didn't get a perfect photo of them (Juliet wouldn't even sit with him...Santa had already explained to an older child that children between 18 and 22 months can be afraid of him) but I took a photograph of what was happening.  A picture of our crazy life.

When the night was over I went to Santa and told him thank you and that I enjoyed working with him.  He shook my hand and told me to stay on the nice list.  Anything for you, Santa.


My iPhone is a Child of the 80's

I always promised myself I would not apologize for a lack of posting on the blog, and so I won't.  But I have been extremely busy taking about 4,000 photographs since the last post.  Lots of family Christmas card photography business to be about.  I have missed writing.

I do not want to let too much time go by without announcing the arrival of my very own cell phone.  After more than a decade of everyone else having one, I've decided to join the 21st century and have my own personal phone number.  (If you want to get technical, I have had a phone before but I'm not counting carrying around an emergency phone in a bag under the front seat of my car in college.)

I have held out for as long as possible, wanting technology to catch up to my phone standards.  I got an iPhone and it has not disappointed.  It is, essentially, a toy for grown up children.  I have not gotten a toy in a really long time.  It is pretty fun.

What I have found very interesting is how much it reminds me of my childhood.  And of things that I remember from the 1980's and early 90's when I was growing up.

In the 80's, we got cordless phones.  You could even walk into your driveway sometimes and still get reception.  With your iPhone, you get reception in the remotest of locations.

In the 80's, we got the Walkman.  You could actually put batteries in a small contraption and play your Janet Jackson tape while you walked around wearing your headphones with the adjustable silver head band.  The iPhone comes with ear buds.  You are expected to listen to it.

In the 80's, Polaroid cameras were all the rage.  And so were double prints.  You could instantly see you and your friends memories.  Or hand them out after developing your film.  On your iPhone, you have Instagram and photo sharing apps.

In the 80's, we passed notes in class or put a note in someone's locker.  Now we text.  It's really the same thing.  You don't know exactly how they will interpret it.  You don't know if they've read it yet or not.  You write back and forth using juvenile abbreviations that somehow give you a cheap thrill.

In the 80's, we played board games and card games.  The iPhone comes with games we would have been thrilled to get in a box as kids.

In the 80's we gave day timers as gifts.  Now our entire brain gets deposited into our phone.

So the technology is there, but the needs the phone meets are the same.

Appreciating the work of Steve Jobs, I relished the moment when I opened the box the encased my phone.  Do you know what the box said to me?  It said, "Hello."  The same thing the first Macintosh computer said in 1984.

Hello, iPhone.  Welcome to the future.  Welcome to the past.  Hello, indeed.


Happy All Saints' Day

The kids costumes yesterday were as usual fun and cute and creative.  I enjoy coming up with and helping them come up with ideas and how to execute them.  Creativity is, after all, much about the process itself.

Jackson, leading the pack in costume creativity, was a Blue Man.  From the famous performing art trio, The Blue Man Group.  He has wanted to be this in years past but we finally pulled it off.  And pulled it off he did...as soon as I finished painting him he did not speak, as the Blue Men are mute.  Not speaking is totally out of character for Jackson so we were all impressed at his ability to stay in character.  He didn't even say "Trick or Treat" or "Thank You."  He'd just make his eyes real big and stare at people.  Super. Cool.

Libby was an artist.  This is quite the stretch for me and Libby.  We have nothing that resembles art materials around here anywhere.  EXCEPT NOT AT ALL!  Libby decided on an artist months ago and has been worried about my lack of preparation but I knew it would be easy to make her look like the wonderful artist she is.

Cash is Steve, from Mine Craft.  This needs no explanation.  Either you know the game or you don't.  But if you do, you know that Cash was and is, awesome in this costume.  Although he couldn't see really at all and had to be led around by Jimmy or I as if we were seeing eye dogs.

Penelope was a kitty cat.  She is wearing a cat head and tail I think sewn by someone in my family but I can't remember who gave me the costume!  Thank you whoever made it!  I put together the rest and painted her little whiskers and she was off.  Although she ended up in the stroller much of the time.  Cats need their rest.

Juliet wasn't really into it.  She was fighting a cold and cried every time she saw the Blue Man.  Or the Mine Craft head.  She didn't like her tights or angel costume at first but obediently sat in the stroller all through the neighborhood and enjoyed a lollipop and some Smarties.

All in all I learned two things:
#1-  If I want to shut Jackson up all I have to do is paint his face blue...
#2-  Trick or Treating isn't easy with a blind 6 year old who already screams your name on a regular basis and now has an excuse to do it even more and even louder...

Happy All Saints' Day!


The Black Mold and Silly Putty

Yesterday I discovered really powdery fine black dust mold in the bottom of my diaper bag.  Somehow this always happens to me.  It is infuriating.  And guess what I did with it?  I just closed it up, pretended I never saw it, and it is sitting in the floor of my kitchen even now.

But I did not succeed.  I did not forget.  I did see it, and it has been mocking me ever since.  And today, even though Jimmy banned it from our home years ago, like even since before we even lived in this house, I found silly putty on my couch.  I did not see how it could have possibly gotten there.

And then I found out it's ironic origin.  I had taken off the back cushions from the couch and covered the bottom, in an attempt to keep my freshly washed cushions clean between house rentals.  As I was readjusting the cover (a queen sized sheet) I saw that there was silly putty in two different places on the sheet.

So my attempt to save my couch from such despair ended up causing it.

What does one do in the face of black mold and silly putty in the wrong places?

One pretends like neither are there, and that dinner does not have to be made, and one goes out to the driveway with the children, enjoys the beautiful fall weather, and takes photographs of them.  Because children don't care about mold or couches.  They are free.

Juliet has joined the ranks of the driveway kids.  She is very busy, mostly pushing babies around in strollers or shopping carts.

Cash on his bike.  He is definitely a super man.

Penelope hugging my legs.

Juliet making the Alley face.  I can think of numerous shots of Jimmy's brother Gary making this face.

Libby is speeding across our neighbor's driveway.  I know I have said it before, but we have the best neighbors in the entire U.S. of A.  They don't just put up with my kids, they love them and allow them to play in their driveway and pool and make noise and everything.  It is wonderful.

This is their daughter, Alex.  She is a wonderful friend to the kids and puts up with everyone amazingly well considering she does not have any siblings.  (Besides us!)  The whole reason my kids went outside was to wait for her bus to bring her home.

  Everyone zooms back and forth.

Jackson on his skateboard.



 Hold on, stop everything...Juliet's got something in her shoe...

Okay, back to work.

Swinging on the vine in between our driveways...

Juliet is giving Pooh a ride on the skateboard.

And now she is loving him.  I love her.  I need to go stare at her.  I guess if I love her as much as I think I do, I might just have to clean out the moldy diaper bag tomorrow...

I am making a face.  It is so gross.


Our Fall Break

We've been at my parent's lake house for the last three days.  It has been wonderful to be away from the daily grind and enjoy the beautiful weather.  My arms are sore from playing tether ball against Jimmy.  It is a hilarious event.  He makes me laugh so hard I can't hit the ball.  I love my man.

I have been taking lots of pictures because every other minute is a photo op here.  From swimming to swinging to pinball to sailing to cute kids I have been enjoying capturing the fun.  Cash only allowed me to photograph him in the bubble bath if I promised to put it on the blog.  So the following photos are narrated by Cash Alley.

Enjoy!  Here's Cash...

We sailed twice.  It tipped to the side a little bit but not that much.  It was fun.

Jackson was doing a project for school.  I got to ride a bike to go pick oranges for the project.

Here's Ju-Ju.  She's drinking caffeine.

Now she's super hyper.  She's just like Jackson.

Well, now she's asleep.

This is me taking a bubble bath.  I like taking bubble baths.

This is Libby and Penelope listening to books on tape.  They have to be quiet because Juliet is asleep.

Here is Libby, Walker, Penelope, and Dad on the swing.  They are swinging really high.  I mean  reeeeeeally high.

Juliet is going to read to mom.  She is reading Cat in the Hat.

They are doing puzzles.  This is the last piece on this puzzle.

Thank you for reading this blog.  Bye-Bye!