In the last month or two, Nora has turned into the newest member of the Jeff Jr. Club. Sure she resembled her dad when she was born, but some people said she might look a little like me. After her latest growth spurt, however, she has joined her sister as a nearly exact replica of their dad.
While the gravitational pull on her chub in these photos may not reveal the full resemblance, I thought it only fitting that Jeff make an appearance in Nora's 9-month portraits.
Her hair is growing in, but we still haven't been able to identify the color. It's lighter than the decidedly brown shade that runs in Jeff's family and may even be strawberry blond. Since my family carries genes for just about every hair color known to man, I'm holding out hope that perhaps—just perhaps—her hair will represent.
Look what I dug up last weekend. I took this photo, with the Matterhorn looming in the distance, half a lifetime ago while studying abroad in the Swiss Alps. (It's 15 years old—literally half my lifetime.)
Was that semester of hiking, biking, skiing and climbing (rock and ice, mind you) just a faraway dream or did it actually happen? My 1990s-era scrapbook and a bunch of crazy friends tell me it was real.
I've only returned to Switzerland once since then, but you better believe I'll be trekking back there as soon as the kids are ready for such a grand adventure. (They will be "ready" when we gather the courage to take them on hellishly long plane/train rides.)
One of these days I'll get around to scanning and sharing more of my old-fashioned 35-mm photos. Until then, you can check out another shot of the Matterhorn in my shop.
I wasn't in a rush to take Cricket's 2-year-old portraits, seeing as she'll be 2 for an entire year. In fact, Jeff had almost convinced me we already had plenty of photos of her from various occasions within a few months of her birthday. (He just wanted to get out of his job as photo assistant/toddler wrangler, but he was right. Here are a few favorites: Holiday card outtakes, Thanksgiving, birthday, Christmas tree search, Christmas and Valle Crucis.)
Then one late afternoon last week, we strolled down to our beloved neighborhood playground. Cricket was dashing all over the place, chattering, laughing, observing and pointing out interesting things—being quintessential Cricket. Finally she sat down at a table to pretend we were having a picnic of sandwiches and fruit salad. She was wearing her "Cricket in winter" uniform—the one I want to remember her in when I think of her as a 2-year-old: a red fleece jacket, jeans, boots and bows hidden somewhere in her (always) wild hair.
I just couldn't help myself. Before I knew it, we were in the middle of an impromptu photo session. Somehow she sat at that table, smiling and jabbering away at Nora, long enough for me to get a few more images for my collection.
Initiating a game of peek-a-boo with Nora from behind the tree.
And it wouldn't be right to end without a sisterly hug. (Yes, hugging often morphs into smothering, but it always starts out looking so sweet.)
We are forever seeking treasures on our morning walks. We don't always know what we’re searching for, but we always know when we've found it—a grazing deer, an interesting pinecone, a hawk on the hunt. One morning this fall, we came across the heart-shaped leaf with a heart-shaped hole above. Cricket gingerly held it against her stroller blanket as I took a photo, so we could keep admiring it later.
The sweet memory of Cricket awed by this unique leaf sprang up when we were thinking of making Valentines for the girls to send to their cousins. I ended up designing this flip card and wanted to share it with you, too.
Now back to the theme of searching...Every once in a while I bust out with some unsolicited advice for friends who have yet to find their soul mates. The advice often follows a similar format: "Make sure to marry someone who will still love you after he/she sees (fill in the blank) happen to you." (The delivery room is a weird place, people.) Or: "Make sure the person you marry is the one you want holding your hand when you experience (fill in the blank with something awful or amazing)."
I'm sure my words of wisdom are always very helpful and thoroughly appreciated.
Last week, I experienced another scenario to add to my advice list: Make sure the person you marry is the one you want standing beside you, propping you up as you watch a nurse carry your little one down the seemingly endless hallway to the operating room. (When I looked up at Jeff and knew we were feeling the exact same fear and love for our daughter in that moment, it only confirmed for the millionth time that I had chosen right. And so had he.)
Happy Valentine's Day to those still searching and to those whose search is very much over!
(Last year on this day, I wrote about my love letter to my family.)
Before I delve into the world of board books, I want to mention that the first anniversary of my blog and shop came and went two weeks ago and I never even acknowledged it. The girls were sick and Jeff was traveling. Need I say more? But things are looking up this week, and I'm feeling more celebratory. After all, this blog has gotten nearly 100,000 pageviews in the last year! Thank you, my wonderful readers!
My plan to commemorate a year of blog posts was simple: update my profile photo to reflect my current, non-pregnant self (I've been non-pregnant for last 9 months, which is a record for me lately, so it's about time for a new photo) and identify the last year's most popular posts. I failed to take a new self-portrait (I'll get around to it soon) but did manage to look through my blog statistics and update the "Popular posts" column on the right-hand sidebar. I love that a short essay I wrote about my grandma almost a year ago is still one of the most viewed items.
And with that, I'm moving on to board books. We love them. We can't rip them. We can't eat them. We can flip through them before our fine motor skills are very developed. Last year, one of my nieces received a beautiful board book as a gift from one of her other aunties, who made it using My Custom Story. After admiring the book for a year, I finally ventured to My Custom Story to make a board book for my girls as a Christmas gift. (Nope, the company isn't sponsoring this post. I'm just a fan.)
Below left: Front cover. Below right: Back cover.
The book is 10 square pages, plus a front a back cover, for a total of just 12 pages. When I first starting pulling photos together, I was paralyzed by indecision. How could I cull them down to just 12 pages of material?
I needed a theme. Since the girls get a kick out of photos of themselves and their family, I decided to document the origins of our family. The plot is simple. Mom and Dad met and got married. Cricket arrived. Nora arrived. And they all loved each other and had lots of adventures together.
The software is a bit clunky but manageable, and you can either pre-design your pages or plug your photos into a variety of layouts. It isn't cheap to have the book printed, but the print quality is impressive and the books make great gifts.
Cricket flips through her gift after finding it under the Christmas tree. What could be more exciting than seeing yourself on the cover of a book?
Have you ever made your own board book? Would you recommend any other companies? I've got another book in the works, but I'm keeping it under wraps until it's finished...
P.S. Need some Valentine's Day decoration and card inspiration? Check this out.
When Nora hit the 8-month mark, we were in the mountains (see here and here). I wanted to incorporate the scenery into her portraits but couldn't figure out how to make it happen between the cold weather, wet ground and lack of photo assistant, who had the nerve to be doing his actual work that week.
A few days went by. And a few more. And I still wasn't sure how I was going to get those photos before 9 months rolled around.
Then the moment arrived.
The girls were playing in the cabin. I sat on the floor to join them, and Nora immediately crawled over and started to climb all over me, babbling and smiling and nuzzling in—her favorite activities. We happened to be sitting by a sliding door when I realized the light streaming through the glass into the dark cabin was amazing.
I grabbed my camera, got back onto the ground and—with her once again climbing all over me—began taking photos. You won't find any mountain landscapes in these portraits. They just capture sweet Nora as I want to remember her at 8 months: happy, active, expressive and cuddly.
Growing up, Valentine's Day began at breakfast. My mom would set a place at the table for each of my sisters and me with cards, candy and perhaps a little gift. It was simple, and it always made me smile. I hope to create those memories for my girls, too.
As a start, I made this simple mobile to hang above the table. I found the inspiration here, but since I don't have a sewing machine, I just made felt hearts. Here's what you need:
Twine (or ribbon)
Stiffened felt (or two layers or regular felt glued together)
Glue gun, craft glue or double-sided tape (optional)
Washi tape (optional)
Cut several hearts from stiffened felt in a variety of colors and sizes. Use more felt and/or washi tape to embellish hearts.
Punch a hole near the top of each heart (or two holes, one at the top and one at the bottom, if you’re going to hang another heart below it). Assemble sticks into mobile using twine. Tie twine to hearts in varying combinations, then tie to sticks. Hang mobile from ceiling or chandelier.
When I showed Cricket the mobile, she exclaimed: "Oh! What beautiful hearts!" Nora did this:
I'm Julia Soplop. I've spent my life documenting the world around me in writing and photography. I believe there is something profound in bearing witness to moments of joy and pain in others’ lives. My husband, three girls and I live outside of Chapel Hill, NC. You can read more about me here.