Philly photo phun, here I come!

Well, internets, it is adios from me for a few days. Headed out of town for a spontaneous little weekend in Philly. I get to see her and her, and FINALLY meet her and her. I am giddy with excitement.[ I am also practically paralyzed with fear as I have 11 photo shoots lined up for the weekend.]

Nothing like a little pressure, eh?

But I am looking forward to the trip. Especially the part where I sit on a plane all by myself and read a book for several hours. Bliss.

But before I go, I wanted to leave you with some of my favorite shots of the Great Family B. One of my favorite families anyway, but I am even more in love with them after getting to see them through the lens of my camera. They are some beautiful people, no? And nice? When you look up nice in in the dictionary - you would see this whole family there. Not an exaggeration either. Ask anyone who knows them.

This pic just might be my favorite of the whole batch - love the moment between a daddy and his sweet girl. Love the colors. It was a somewhat accidental picture - we had wrapped up the shoot and were getting ready to leave the park when I turned and saw this. And how, HOW, could I let one like this get away?

Wish every shot was this easy to take.

Have a good weekend, peeps. Don't have too much fun without me!

A picture perfect weekend

Over the weekend, the Husband and I flew to Utah to meet his siblings and surprise Oma for her 60th birthday. It has been very difficult to keep the secret, and there was a time or two when I almost let it slip accidentally over the phone.

I know. I am not good with secrets.

Luckily, I kept my big mouth shut, and she was beyond thrilled when she walked into the restaurant and saw all seven of her children and their spouses (minus one who inconveniently started to go into labor the day before).

Unfortunately, I left my camera in our hotel room during the big surprise dinner, and kicked myself all evening because of it. Being married into this family has its perks, for Marta has already documented the festivities here much better than I ever could.

What I did remember to bring my camera for was a little morning with this lovely lady. Yes, photogs everywhere, weep with envy. I was treated to pastries, fabulous conversation, and an impromptu photo lesson from none other than the best. I tried to remember how I first found Michelle in blogland, but I have decided since that she is my long lost soul sister. She is as beautiful in person as she is on her blog. Just as easy-going, intelligent, and funny as I pictured her to be. I cringe with horror at my inability to do her justice here, but fell in love with this picture of her and sweet little Mary anyway.

I imagine posting this is somewhat like handing Michelangelo a stick-figure drawing you have done and asking him what he thinks.

I would be remiss if I didn't also mention how much I fell in love with this gorgeous girl. Miss Mary is as cute as a button. She was mildly tolerable of the two cameras in her face, and very fun to sit and eat cookies with. I am fully convinced that she and Hannah need to be BFFs someday.

Later in the weekend, I was able to turn my camera onto my nieces and nephews. Looking at these shots collectively made me laugh - they are almost all blue-eyed and blond. Scandinavian ancestors much?

Absolutely adorable though. Need proof?

These pictures are for a top-secret little project I'm working on. It may or may not see the light of day, but rest easy, Mom, you'll get copies of these shots at some point.

It was a fantastic weekend and we owe so much to the good souls who were kind enough to watch our kids while we were away. (Thanks Meggan and Maren!)

Stay tuned - coming this week: Thanksgiving dinner in September and a big boy turns ten.

Meltdowns, love machines, and things to look forward to

Last week, I had the mother of all meltdowns. I was overwhelmed by all that I had to get done, and was finding myself choked with panic at the lack of time to do it all in. I was exhausted and beat up. I found myself in tears on the phone with the Husband, and later that day with his mother. I had reached my breaking point and knew something had to give.

So, what did I do to deal with the crises?

I threw my hands into the air and took the week off.

I know. How very adult of me.

But I have no regrets, you see, for I played with my babies in the sunshine, soaking up the last few hot days of summer. I laid on the couch and held my (big and jointy) little girl in my arms. I watched movies. I finished a book that was started far too long ago (and LOVED it so much that I am planning to re-read it). I actually cooked dinner a few times, and did not have laundry blocking the mudroom walkway every night.

And, I won't lie to you, it felt damn good.

But I would be remiss if I didn't share with you a couple snapshots from the previous week when we got some time with these delicious people:

Sam, the undeniable Love Machine

Luke, the self-proclaimed Hurt Machine

Emme, the long-lost sister Hannah's been waiting her whole life for

Jake, the Nerf-wielding, wrestling, boxing, sword fighting pal that fit right in around here

We felt so lucky to get a few days with our cousins from the east. The girls took to each other like long-lost sisters and we only saw them emerge occasionally from Hannah's bedroom to grab snacks before they were off to swap clothes and write plays together.

The big boys bonded instantly over our vast arsenal of Nerf guns, prompting Gabi's oldest to immediately rush to Target and spend his savings on a whale-sized Nerf gun of his own. Chase and Jake spent their waking hours traipsing through the woods hunting squirrels and jumping endlessly on the trampoline. It amazed me that they never seemed to get tired.

The little twinks, well, they had each other and big cousin McKay for entertainment. I will forever think of them as the Love & Hurt Machines, and will always regret not snapping that photo of Sam and his hilarious naked typing. (there's one for the wacky google searches, eh?)

But most memorable for me were the poolside chats with Gabi and late night pontificating about all things related to life. She is one of the wisest women I've ever met and I will forever value her thoughtfully rendered opinions. She makes me laugh like nobody else I know, and she has a knack for making you feel beautiful, smart, and put together.

Which my meltdown last week clearly proved otherwise.

But it truly was a magical few days, and we were definitely wishing for more when they pulled out of the driveway to head for home. Luckily, we've conned them into Thanksgiving at Amish Country again.

(Any bets how many times the Husband pleads to go off the grid before we even get there?)

Stay tuned for a busy upcoming week: I've got photoshoots galore to show you. The new business seems to be off and running with a bang, which makes my heart so very happy. Plus, school starts on Tuesday for my babies. (As does my new career as a lady who lunches and sees a lot of movies.)

I am sad, yet I am also secretly excited.

How to take an Amish Country Tour

Step one: Read all of Beverly Lewis' books. Become obsessed with the Amish people. Discuss the Amish on a regular basis with your friends. Get giddy with excitement when the local community college offers an Illinois Amish Country Tour. Sign up immediately and ignore all mothering responsibilities to attend the day-long tour.

Step two: Board the bus for your Amish Country Tour, and realize, to your dismay, that you are the youngest people there, and I do mean the youngest by decades. Be grateful you can walk without the assistance of a cane and do not yet require Depends. Stop for bathroom breaks every 16 minutes on the two-hour drive. Try to recover from a very unmentionable bathroom incident involving one of the elderly passengers.

Step Three: Eat lunch a thanksgiving feast in an actual Amish home. Be very grateful for make-up and pretty shoes. Decide those two factors alone would be deal breakers in your husband's Amish conversion/go-off-the-grid-dream. Eat yourself sick on fresh bread, jam, chicken, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, fresh corn, and pie. Wonder why the Amish don't weigh 900 pounds. Realize all this food was made by hand instead of by Costco. Decide Amish work load is too hard. Call your Husband and break the news that you will not be converting after all.

Step Four: Get back on the Old Folks Mobile tour bus and begin the long drive back to St. Louis. Accept the impending 19 bathroom breaks. Laugh mercilessly with your friends. Make lots of jokes in Effingham. Search i-phones for You Tube videos and pictures of Rupert Penry-Jones, your new imaginary boyfriend.

Step Five: When, and only when, you are positive the lady in front of you is about to fall out of her seat for the eavesdropping, be sure to invent some stories about your friend's illustrious street walking career and nekkid bungee jumping escapades. Be a little frightened later when she tells you how much you all remind her of her daughter.

Step Six: When one of the bus patrons loses control and pees all over her seat, be renewed in your desire to spend hours a day doing kegel exercises.

Labor Day, Christie style

This year, I decided to celebrate Labor Day by rewarding myself for having given birth three times. Yes, I realize it was a long time ago. No, that doesn't make it any less painful.

That's what we celebrate Labor Day for, right?

I mean honestly, do you think Mother's Day makes up for the fact that I voluntarily split my heinie in half? And did it three times, one of those without an epidural? No, it doesn't. Which is why, this past Labor day, I was found in Branson doing this:

With them:
Instead of them:

I'm pretty sure the mother of the year plaque won't bear my name this year. Oh well. It was totally worth it.

This weekend, there was a lot of:

You Tube searching
Flashing grill wearing
Journey worshipping
Tennis playing

There was not a lot of:

Cleaning (unless your name is Butch and you are the maid. Then there was definitely a lot of cleaning that took place).

A most excellent way to spend a holiday. Thanks, girls. It was a great weekend. Let's do it again soon.

Like tomorrow. Anyone?

Oh, and Katie? This one's for you: "They never take them off!"