PICTURE PERFECT

I used to thumb my nose at online shopping. 

I love this time of year and a big part of my joy comes from the process of choosing gifts.

I always looked forward to the browsing and searching and finding of the perfect one.

Spying on other shoppers and their purchases, drinking overpriced candy cane flavoured lattes, taking in the sound of holiday muzak from the overhead speakers. 

Then three years ago, I broke my wrist five weeks before Christmas. 

Four kids and countless family members, friends, teachers and bus drivers.

Five weeks and one working arm. 

Hello, internet. 

These days you can find me spying on my friends and their purchases by Facebook (have you seen these?!?), drinking made-at-home coffee, and taking in the sound of my favourite holiday tunes (and I have many, many, many playlists to choose from).

My ordering is fully underway and packages have begun to arrive.

Ookpix

I can't tell you about the contents of this package (because its recipient reads my blog), but I can tell you how much I loved ordering from the Canadian company ookpix.

Their website is fantastically easy to navigate (not to mention adorable) and their support staff are fantastic (they call themselves Owl Wranglers, by the way!).

There are so many products that will bring happiness to the ones who unwrap them—because a picture says so much, doesn't it? And they offer free shipping (oh how I love free shipping).

Because this company is so worth sharing, I was thrilled when they offered my readers (that's you!) a unique promotional code that takes 30% off ANY product on their website.

Here it is: LNP30

The code is valid until December 1st. 

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Disclosure: Ookpix offered me a code for my gifts, too.

and

I love Canadian companies, online shopping and owls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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FAMILY PORTRAIT

My parents had it right with their insistence that we take family portraits. 

The photos sat on side tables and lined the wallpapered hallways of my childhood home, and I spent a lot of time looking at them. Whether it was to giggle at my dad's evolving moustache or poke fun at my sister's toothless smile—they made me happy. 

Raising a family isn't easy and my parents were proud of the many ways we met the challenge. They displayed those photos (and still do) like framed diplomas—evidence of our family's success smiling at us from behind the glass.

JB wasn't easily convinced when it came to our own family. He didn't come from the same tradition and found it a bit overindulgent and awkward. We compromised by sending out a staged family photo for our first Christmas—complete with ugly Christmas sweaters and a pair of retro dad glasses—expecting to create some good fun.

Vintagefamilyphoto

The joke ended up being on us. JB had just returned to school full-time and, upon receiving our card, friends began calling and emailing to ask if our student budget had us shopping in our parents' closets and whether they should send food.

We didn't attempt another family photo during the years we were lost in the busyness of three kids under the age of four. Our holiday cards were of the store-bought kind. I included handwritten notes, but that was the only personal thing about them. 

After our fourth baby was born, I felt a pull to return to the family photo. The first time, it was just the kids. I took them out on my own while JB was at work. I planned to wrap one as a Christmas surprise that he could later put on his desk at work. 

When we saw this photo, there was no going back. Because captured in this frame was the story of our family's success and the love that drove us forward through our own challenges. 

Firstfamilyphoto

{original photo by: Natural Attraction Photography}

Our annual holiday card is now plastered with our most recent family photo and I get absolutely and ridiculously giddy with the process every year: deciding what everyone will wear, narrowing down the final photo from the photographer, and my very FAVOURITE part...creating the holiday card.

This year we had a couple of hiccups, with uncooperative monsoons that washed out any possibility of an outdoor photo and a feisty three-year-old that wanted to take the photos her way.

Leahoncouch
But I think we're going to end up with something very special (thank you, Sarah).

It's been a year of incredible growth for each of the kids, and I can't wait to see it captured in a moment. 

Kidsoncouch

Last week, I was contacted by MINTED—which features designs from independent artists and designers from around the world—and asked to consider using them for our holiday cards. There are so many designs that caught my eye, and I am so excited to see the photo that will help me make the final decision. 

The side tables and walls of our home are now covered with photos from the last few years. I catch the kids looking at them, and they often ask questions about what they were like when we took them.

There are some traditions worth holding on to, and I could not be more sure about this being one of them. 

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MINTED would like to offer one of my very lucky readers a $50 code towards any design of your choosing.

Just leave me a comment below, about your holiday card or family photo traditions, and I'll randomly select a Canadian or U.S. winner at the end of next week. And don't worry if you don't have a formal family photo, candids work really well, too.

Now go...drool....sigh...wander around their gorgeous website and come back and enter.

Good luck!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Bright Eyes

Bright Eyes

The moment is seared in my mind, like parenting moments often are. 

It came during a dinner party with three other couples. Two of the couples were still childless, and the other had one child. We were sitting pretty at three kids then.

We landed on the topic of family size, and one of the childless guests said, I would never have more than two kids.

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snapshot

Sethbaby
Do you want to know how to make me cry? 

Send my grade three boy home with an assignment that asks for stories from his baby days, complete with pictures.

Because then, you see, I'd have to go into my walk-in closet, after the kids are in bed, and stand in front of the bookshelf that is bursting with photo albums. 

In the quiet—without any little hands to poke at the glossy pictures with their who, what, where, when and whys—I would look for our story on those pages. 

And even though it's still being written, there's so much worth remembering in the chapters behind us. 

Paigebelly

When I come to a photo of my son growing inside of me, I trace the swell of my belly with the tip of my finger—to connect to the feelings I remember so well: vibrant, excited, beautiful. 

And I want to lean into the girl in the photo and say, You have no idea. There is so much more coming. Gratitude, magic, surprises, miracles. You are one million times more blessed than you are in this moment. Lucky, lucky you. 

Triokids

I look at photos of my children before they were a foursome and I wonder if they knew there was another friend on the way. When I find the photos of big sisters with brand new brothers and big brothers with baby sisters, I'm certain they knew—it's on their faces: Oh there you are, what took you so long?

There are also photos of family gatherings, and in them someone we miss so much. And I am reminded that the stress of pot lucks and rolled out sleeping bags and driveways filled with cars are worth it. That as much as the pizzazz of a birthday party with friends becomes an important part of childhood, family celebrations should never lose their place. 

I see faces with less lines: the worrying kind and the ones that come from laughter. 

And I feel so much affection and pride in the ways we have triumphed and held one another through the pages of this story. 

I haven't put the albums back on the shelf yet. I feel like I need those reminders a little while longer. 

Life unfolds itself, in loud and quiet moments. Each of those captured moments are gifts, and if I could frame every single one, I would. 

For now, I walk past them at the end of the day on my way to bed. 

Lucky you, I say to them, lucky you. 


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