Tuesday, December 28, 2010

black and white Wednesday - my best of 2010

I didn't really have anything (I thought) for Black and White Wednesday,
then realized...yes I do.

I decided to choose 12 pictures that I felt were my 'best' of the year.
I'm not quite sure some were my best (photography is so subjective),
maybe some were sentimental favorites.
2010 blw 1

Grace taken in Jan. 2010 by the window.

I adore her expression as she looked back at me and the way the light falls away from her face.

2010 blw 2

If I had to pick a favorite for the year, it's the above shot of Grace and her friend.
Two seven year olds and best friends.
I don't have to say much more.

Other than wouldn't it be fun to be that age again...

2010 blw 3

Spring 2010.
Will as 'Batman' and in character.
Because Batman is one tough guy.
And makes appearances in our house frequently. ;)
2010 blw 4

Grace helping Will, another favorite of mine.
2010 blw 5

Walking on the beach of the Western Caribbean, Mexico.

2010 blw 6

Will checking out a horse at a nearby apple orchard we visit each Fall.
I loved how you notice the size of the horse compared to little Will.
And Will's face.

2010 blw 7

A portrait of Will that's all him.
His eyes show so much of who he is,
sweet, funny, loving and a character!

2010 blw 8

Sun flare and haze in black and white.
One of my favorites because I love the way he's looking at her.

2010 blw 9

A candid of Grace looking away.
Taken in the Fall, I was attempting Christmas card pics.
I can see a glimpse of the beautiful young woman she'll be someday.

2010 blw 10

This is about the 3rd time this one's been on my blog.
Not that it's that outstanding of a picture,
I loved Will's expression as he hugged his sister.
That's why this one made the cut for the Christmas card.

2010 blw 11

Grace on the train tracks in late Fall.
Equally beautiful in black and white and color.

2010 blw 12

And the final one shot on one of the last days of November
when some leaves were still on the trees.
My favorite images are of the two of them together.
And I loved their expressions in this one.

Wishing you blessings, health, prosperity and lots of laughter in the New Year!



the long road

Sunday, December 26, 2010

(The Merriest)

Storyboard Xmas eve 1

It's hard to believe in some ways that this holiday is actually over...
with all the preparations and planning that we do.
As Grace told me on Christmas Day, "Mommy this was the best Christmas ever!"
I agree.
It was wonderful and much of it due to the fact that our entire family was together.

Christmas Eve we went to an early church service.

Storyboard Xmas eve 2

Then we came home and had a nice dinner together with our oldest son Nick and his girlfriend Lindsay.
It's our tradition that we open family gifts on Christmas eve.
Grace in the Santa hat passed out the gifts.
I loved that all my kids were in the nest.
Christmas Eve rd WEB wm

Grace and Will read a few books and left cookies and milk out for Santa....

and then woke up the next morning around 7:30 am, which wasn't too bad.
The bottom storyboard is a little of our Christmas Day.
My parents and brother Philip came over for the day and Dan and I whipped up a yummy dinner.
The birthday boy (Will) had a great time and wore his little birthday crown around proudly.

Sunday was a lazy day of cleaning up the mess and kids playing and enjoying new toys and books.

This month of December I've taken an online photography course called, 'Finding the Holiday Joy.'
Taught by Kelly Willette, it helped me to be inspired,
and I found it very enjoyable.
And I'm learning to like(not love) shooting in low light situations, use my speedlight when I have to,
and accept that some of my pictures have noise.
And that's okay, I just wanted to capture some candids and special moments of the holiday.
I took few pictures the last 2 days.

Storyboard Xmas day

finding holiday joy

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Merry Christmas

Snowglobe rd web WM

May the spirit of Christmas bring you peace,
The gladness of Christmas give you hope,
The warmth of Christmas grant you love.

~Author Unknown

Tree rd

Love came down at Christmas;
Love all lovely, love divine;
Love was born at Christmas,
Stars and angels gave the sign.

- Christina Rossetti

Peace rd web

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

black and white Wednesday - the blessings of Christmas

For with God nothing shall be impossible.

Luke 1:37
Will blw Christmas web wm

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for behold,
I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

Luke 2:10

Will Grace blw Christmas web wm
(This was a post written 2 years ago, it's been changed a little to where we are right now in our lives).

Five years ago on an early Christmas morning in China, a baby was born.
I imagine he had swaddling clothes and came from humble beginnings.  We will never know for certain but I do know his parents left him in a place where he could be easily found and cared for.  This baby boy had a large cleft palate and lip which made it extremely difficult for him to be fed. Fortunately he was placed into the hands of those who could help him and they did.
They not only saved his life but provided him a loving and nurturing home.
On the same day of his birth, on the opposite side of the world, a family celebrated their first Christmas in Wisconsin. Their lives had changed so much in the prior two years with the adoption of their daughter, changing jobs and moving from Chicago. They never dreamed that 5 years later, the baby boy born on the other side of the world....so fragile and innocent...would be celebrating his birthday and Christmas in their home as part of their loving family.
 Our lives are woven from many threads.

His name traces his journey.
The first name given to him was You Sheng which means "gift from heaven." 
 His second name was Michael, after his foster father.  We named him William and call him "Will" because he came to us by the "will of God," just as our daughter Grace came to us by the "grace of God."
When you start on an adoption journey, you never know the final destination or path that will be woven before you.
The wait may be agonizing at times, but worth it in all ways.

The first verse above reflects the "impossibility" of our family getting to where we are today. 
Will has become an integral part of our family after surviving enough ordeals in his brief time on earth to last most people a life time.  He's now a happy, sweet child who does not carry his past hardships as scars but rather faint memories of a past which fade each day. 
He's a joy and gift that we treasure.

The second verse refers to the "Christmas Miracle" and is an invitation to the world
to open their hearts to peace, love and hope.
 And we hope the invitation is accepted.
Giving (which is sharing what we have with others) is really what Christmas is all about.
No greater gift can we give than ourselves...our time, our love, our heads, our hearts
and for an orphan child...a family.
 Our Christmas miracle is also our family.
We all took different paths to get here but we are here now.
We combine our threads and weave the path forward...together.

2010card final front
This Christmas we joyfully celebrate the birth of Christ,
 and the 5th birthday of our son,
 William Michael Yousheng. 

Merry Christmas!
 May you find the blessings of Christmas - peace, love and hope...today and everyday.

With love from,
Gail, Dan, Nick, Grace
 and William

the long road

Monday, December 20, 2010

enjoying the season

Last week Dan and I had the pleasure of attending Will's preschool
Holiday program.
Above is a short clip of one of the songs two of the classes sang.
Will is on the left.
They are singing 'Epo E Tai Tai E'- a Hawaiian children's song.
I love the hand movements and Will's bow at the end.

gingerbread storyboard
Thursday after school was out we made a gingerbread house.
From a kit. (Costco- $10)
I'm not that industrious to make one from scratch.
They had a blast.
gingerbread house Will WEB wm

And yes I let him eat icing after we were finished...it's hard to turn down a request from Will.
Especially when he asks nicely.
And is so darn cute. ;)
grace snowglobe WEB WM

And Sunday, Grace and I went to the Nutcracker for the 4th year in a row.
The Madison Ballet does a beautiful job with their production.
Going to the Nutcracker has been one of my Christmas traditions since
before I had children.
First in Raleigh, NC, and later in San Jose, CA
and then Chicago with my son Nick when he was a little boy.
That is until he was about 10.
Couldn't coerce him to go after that.

This year Grace asked for a Nutcracker snow globe
 and I gave it to her before we left for the show.
She's holding it in the picture.

You know I do many of these posts for people
 who know Will through his foster home in China to see how he's doing.
And for friends and family who live far away.

5 more days until Christmas!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sunday Snapshot (Santa rocks! - part 2)

Storyboard Santa Will 1

Last Sunday I did a post with pics of Grace with my new backdrop.
On Thursday Will got his turn.
Storyboard Santa Will 2

Will has always loved music
So when I handed him his big brother Nick's guitar
he had no problem channeling his inner
'Eddie van Halen.'

The guitar is practically as big as he is.
He had a blast and so did I...Will is a comedian
and an entertainer.
And has a beautiful singing voice and loves to dance (and he's good!)
Santa Will rd WEB WM

On Christmas Day my baby will be 5 years old.

We love you William Michael!

Ni Hao Y'all

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

black and white Wednesday - firsts

Recital Grace 1 blw rd
Last Saturday evening Grace had her first dance recital.
Her dance school presented
'How the Grinch Stole Christmas.'
All the proceeds went to a local charity.
Recital Grace 2 blw rd

It was an afternoon of firsts for Grace and me.
Her first performance.
And mine too...been to plenty of wrestling meets, and football and hockey games with my oldest.
I hadn't attended any kind of recital.
She wasn't nervous in the least (and did awesome!)
We had specifics as far as hair style and makeup.
So that was a first too,
to wear foundation, eye shadow, eye liner and lip color.
It had to show up on stage with the bright lights.

She enjoyed that part very much.
And I did too...

Recital Grace 3 blw rd

There was a fair amount of waiting between her dances.
Her group waited in the orchestra room.
Which was fine because she could play with her DS or talk with friends.
And I was able to take a few pictures.
There is something just so wonderful about seeing these children in costume,
excited and anticipating their time on stage.

Storyboard recital blw

Cameras were not supposed to be in the auditorium,
but this naughty mamma sneaked her's in.
I didn't use a flash and noticed some of the other parents did the same.

Recital Grace cellos blw WEB WM
Did I cry?
Yes, I did when she danced.
And after we got home I talked to my husband about it and wondered why...
maybe because of all these firsts, which are bittersweet to me in a way.
When I look at these last two images,
 I see my little girl growing up.
And also maybe because I can't help but remember
 how far she's come in the last 7 years with our family.
But mostly I think about how proud I am
 and that I love her so much.

It was a lovely evening and one we'll never forget.

Recital Grace cellos color WEB WM

I used Florabella's black and white 'Vanilla' action for all the images except the final one.
For the color version,
I used another Florabella action called 'London,' from the Luxe collection.
I felt it lent well to the image because it brought out the rich contrast
of the cellos, her green tutu,
black leotard and hair.

The color version is my favorite.

the long road

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Santa rocks!

Santa Grace hat 1 final copy-2

Well we all know Santa rocks, that's a given...

Santa Grace hat 2

This year Santa gave me a present a little early and I got to try it out today.
It's a backdrop which I set up in our guest room
and Miss Grace agreed to be my model.

Santa Grace hat 3

She looks like a little rock star in these pics (at least in my opinion).
Next up will be William, that is if I can get the boy to agree. ;)
Santa Grace hat 4

Thank you Santa!

(Backdrop came from here).

'Santa Baby Hat' by Gracylu Originals.

Grace's top by Paperlili.

I shot these in our guest room with the backdrop on a stand.
She faced the window
I also used my flash (Nikon SB900) in manual and at a very low setting
to add a little more light to the image.

Shot in manual setting with a  50 mm 1.4 fixed lens,
f/3.2, 1/320 sec., ISO 320.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

'tis the Season

Storyboard school holiday performance 2010

'You better watch out
You better not cry
Better not pout
I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town!'

~Haven Gillespie

Santa green brush WEB
Well we are fully into the festive spirit of the season.
It started last Friday with Grace's school Holiday performance. (top pictures)
Storyboard elf santa

And on Monday I took Grace and Will to see Santa...for the first time!
Yes, I said the first time.
Both have been more than a bit reluctant to sit on Santa's lap in the past, so I didn't push it.

This year they asked if we could go.
Their visit and little conference went extremely well.
They spoke to him briefly and then Will had a couple of requests for the man in the red suit.
First, he asked him to say "Ho, Ho, Ho." (of course Santa did very loudly)
And second Will asked him to sing a song.
Santa sang Jingle Bells beautifully (and he had a wonderful singing voice).

I can pretty much guarantee we'll be back to visit next year,
as this year was a huge hit.
One of the best parts for me was we were first in line and I got to take as many pictures
as I desired! We obviously timed it right.

On Saturday Grace dances in her first performance.
Yesterday I was able to watch some of the rehearsal and got teary,
 so I can imagine how I'll be seeing her in costume in the show.
This mamma cries at the drop of a hat,
and especially when my daughter steps out of her comfort zone like this.
It's a benefit for a local charity.

Happy Holidays!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

black and white Wednesday - tradition

Snowy tree farm blw WEB 1-2

Newly fallen snow.
Gray sky.
Snowy tree farm color WEB 1
Pine forest.
Green needles.
And many trees.
As far as you can see.

Tree bokeh color WEB_

Saturday morning we woke to 5 inches of new snow.
Our first official one of Winter.

Storyboard snowy tree farm

This is our 6th Christmas season in Wisconsin.
We have a tradition of cutting down a tree and every year it has snowed.
This year was no exception...
Besides finding a tree, there was angel making, snow ball throwing
 and of course playing.
And a little bit of candy cane eating before we went home...

Storyboard tree farm WEB

Dan and I were talking about traditions the other day.
We realized that both of us have had a real tree every Christmas.
That's every one since we've been born (and that's a long time!)
They came from a Wisconsin hill side,
the Santa Cruz mountains in California, the states of North Carolina, New Jersey, Ohio,
fields in Illinois and Indiana,
 and tree lots in Chicago neighborhoods.
All places the 2 of us have lived over the years.

Tree vert color WEB WM


My family.
An abundance of love.

And the beauty of the Season of Advent.

Tree vert blackwhite WEB WM-2

the long road
© Aging with Grace and strong Will
CoffeeShop Designs