Monday, December 29, 2008

A&W Photography

I've mentioned my friend Ashley and the amazing photos she took of my kids several weeks ago. I am finally posting some of the pictures here on the blog. I hadn’t done this because I’m lazy, but also because I gave photobooks with most of the pictures to the grandparents as Christmas gifts this year. They are awesome! If you come and visit me I will proudly bore you to death with the book.

I always mention how wonderfully talented Ashley is, but I feel like I should mention her equally awesome husband, Wendel. What a pair. They are like the dynamic duo of children’s photography. A perfect blend of talent and comedy. At our shoot, Ashley did most of the camera snapping while Wendel had the important jobs of carrying heavy things around, holding up reflectors and saying silly things to make my kids smile. He spent about 30 minutes inventing a secret crush that Tyler apparently has on his 2nd grade teacher, Mrs. Spalding, and then teasing him profusely about it. Very important work.

I love photos of my children, but having them professionally done is like torture. They are complete spazzes most of the time and never follow directions. But this experience was wonderful. No rush, no rules, no limits on poses or settings or number of shots. We just went where the kids took us, literally. Emma even peed her pants at the end because we couldn't make it to the port-a-potty fast enough. Ashley and Wendel just smiled and continued the shoot. The kids laughed and played at the park. And when they were done, we were done. I really hope A&W will continue their work and we'll be able to do this again down the road when my children have grown an inch or two.

Thanks A&W. To see a few more pictures from the shoot, click here.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday Letter 2008

Friends and Family,

How wonderful it is to be back in our home state of Washington! We believe our wanderlust has finally subsided, but can make no promises because who knows when an offer to relocate to an exotic locale in Middle America will materialize. On that note, the recent deluge of snow that rivals any Midwest winter has quelled any feelings of homesickness we may have had.

We have enjoyed a wonderful year as we have resettled back into familiar settings. Chance is busy at work at AT&T in Marketing Operations as a project manager. His office is located at Redmond Town Center, which incidentally is the same location he opened the Gap at 10 years ago when he was much more hip. Regrettably in his new position he does not receive a mall discount.

Michaelynn continues to grow into the ever expanding role of ‘Mom’. Our van’s odometer has grown at a rapid pace as she shuttles the brood to volleyball, t-ball, soccer, field trips, recitals, etc. She is also further exploring the plethora of options that exist as a homemaker having recently tackled some very extensive sewing projects and has become a proficient blogger. You can find her outstanding work at ‘’.

Our oldest, Tyler, is in the middle of his 2nd year at Crestwood Elementary in Ms. Spalding’s class. A woman, who along with himself, is apparently smarter than both of his parents combined. Tyler continues to enjoy all things sport, music, and electronic. His career path is leading towards science, his goal being to build a light saber. Hopefully he will choose the path of light.

Noah has become the comedian of the family, overshadowing even his father at times with his antics and infectious giggles. He is not content unless is making noise of some sort, the louder the better. He began preschool this year, and for now still believes his parents to be quite intelligent.

Though Emma has lost her accomplice to preschool this year, she has grown ever closer to her Mother. Emma is definitely all girl, desiring ‘dolls, all of them’ and a pony for Christmas. She can usually be found wearing a dress, and aspires to become a princess some day.

We hope this letter finds each of you well. We celebrated our 10th anniversary this year, and it truly is amazing how fast the years pass. Life is truly a finite period that we are meant to enjoy together, and we very much appreciate this time of year in which we at least have a few moments to reconnect with each of you.

Wishing you a most Merry Christmas,

The Richardsons
Chance, Michaelynn, Tyler, Noah and Emma

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas Quotes


Emma: "Dad, its Christmas! We're going to the North Pole."
Dad: "Emma, we're NOT going to the North Pole."
Emma: "Yes, we ARE!" (insert very belligerent 3-year old voice)

Emma has been watching a little too much Polar Express lately.

Her favorite songs this week have been her own special versions of: "Frosting the Snowman," "The Chipmonk Song" and "Old MacDonald".


Upon opening his Christmas Eve present (containing pajamas):

"What?! Clothes?" (voice dripping with disdain)


Tyler: "Yay, Sonic Unleashed Video Game! Wait ... its for the Wii?"
Mom: "Oh, oops. Guess Santa forgot that we don't have a Wii. We'll just take it to the store and exchange it for a different one."

Sad, gloomy, depressed face appears on Tyler.

10 minutes later...

Tyler: "OH! Santa got us a Wii! Yes!"

10 minutes after that....

Tyler: "Yeah, Santa got me a Wii because he knew I couldn't afford one."

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

A Watched Pot

You know the saying "A watched pot never boils?" I think you could also say "a watched sky never snows." We were supposed to have a snow storm Wednesday. The school district had late arrival again for some reason I cannot understand and the news continued to report severe snow warnings for our area. We watched the sky all day and waited. And then we gave up watching and made cookies - Noah, Emma and I. It was very interesting and fun. If you look closely at the pictures you'll see that Emma is wearing her ballerina costume from her recital last week and Noah is working side by side next to his Star Wars Stormtrooper action figure. The kids and I (and "trooper" as he is affectionately known here) took turns with the rolling pin and the cookie cutters. And then Tyler came home and ate his fill.

Here is Noah with "trooper". (And yes, Noah's t-shirt is on backwards. I think his shorts are on backwards, too, to be honest. But he's happy and who am I to take that away from him?)

And just when you stop watching that pot ... it boils. Or snows, in this case.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Who knew?

The other day I ruined two batches of fudge and it sent me into a depression spiral. Who knew all my happiness and self-confidence rested on my ability to boil and stir and stir and stir for 11 minutes straight on into chocolate perfection? But, after the fiascoes I was in a funk. It just didn't feel like Christmas anymore. I am living in this mess of a house that I cannot escape with a defective stove to boot. Woe is me! But thankfully, everything is back on track. I have had fudge success and life is rosy again. I'm smiling. Suddenly I feel like all the things that were impossible are possible and the desolation of my life is not so dark as it seemed before. Suddenly I have Christmas carols in my head and everything is right in the world again. Yay! Who knew fudge had so much power?

Chance mentioned that although I don't remember it this way, this is a Christmas ritual for me. Apparently I always have a few disasters before I get in my groove and things get all magical in the kitchen. Hmmm ... I've decided this is probably his fault for moving me around the world forcing me to get acquainted with different atmospheric conditions, new kitchens and stoves all the time. Maybe if we finally "settle down" for awhile I could go a few years without wasting a few pounds of butter and sugar at Christmastime.

Some people don't really like fudge. But making fudge is one of my favorite Christmas traditions. My mother's fudge recipe is an edible masterpiece. The recipe is difficult, but worthy of the Nobel prize. It has been a holiday tradition my entire life (or at least since I was old enough to lick the spoon). Back in the days before Kitchenaid civilized the world with their fancified mixers, my mother slaved her way to arthritis making fudge during the holidays. She stirred that bubbling, boiling pot on the stove continuously for 20 minutes and then dumped that lovely potion into a bowl full of chocolate yumminess. She continued stirring like a madwoman for another half hour until the fudge became the right (really thick) consistency. By the end of the hour, mom's arm was useless and I was made to do all the cleaning. (Especially the toilets. I remember them well.) And then to add to the torture the fudge had to set in the fridge for 12 hours before we could eat it! But when that moment came, when we could taste the hallowed chocolate, it was glorious. All the cleaning, the toilets, the was all worth it. Its a different feeling now when I make it in my own kitchen. In my youth, the anticipation is what made it such a treasure. Now, it is not the waiting, but the work; the labour of my hands that makes its all so valuable to me. We all have our treasured labors ... the hunter his game; the fisherman his fish. Me? I have fudge.

Hello beautiful.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

New Camera & New Snow!

This weekend we almost (not really) felt like we were back in Minnesota. Snow fell from the sky and covered all of Covington really nicely. So nicely, in fact, that church was cancelled! This turned out to be a good thing for me because I had to teach today and I wasn't prepared. (I tried, I really did, but I was too distracted with my new camera (see below) and with all the other things going on around here.) With nothing to do all day, we had a snowball fight and photo session outdoors until we got too cold. (HA! TOO cold? We've become a bunch of weenies since we left Minnesota. Have you noticed that I use a lot of parentheses? Its weird.)

So, I've been complaining for months about the sad state of our digital camera. It didn't use to bother me so much, but it seems to have aged over the last few months and the photo quality is ... well there is no quality. Of course, Ashley's gorgeous photos of our kids last month only increased my discontent. After seeing them, every picture I take is just disgusting to me. She's ruined me! Maybe someday I'll be rich enough to buy my own SLR and lenses and photoshop and photography classes and ...well, maybe not.

Anyway, yesterday Emma woke me up and said that Santa had brought presents. It turns out that Chance did have one for me. A new Nikon P80! I almost cried in joy. But I was too happy to cry - I just kept smiling! And then I just wanted everyone to leave me alone so I could read the manual. I spent the next hour and half doing that and managed to snap about 186+ pictures before the battery ran out. (This happened to occur at the exact moment Emma walked onto stage for her ballet recital yesterday! Sigh. Thankfully, a friend took video of it and I'll post it later after I get it. I know, parentheses again.)

And now to compare the old with the new. Below is a pretty scary picture taken with my old camera. This kind of quality was fairly common. I ask you?! How am I supposed to live with that? It looks like something taken with a mobile phone. (Of course, the picture is also pretty scary because Tyler is pretty freaky in that shot.) I don't know what happened to the camera. Maybe it was dropped too many times or something. All I know is I am so grateful to be able to grab a shot like the one of Noah in "time out" on the porch. Hallelujah!

"Buying a Nikon doesn't make you a photographer. It makes you a Nikon owner."
~Author Unknown

Friday, December 12, 2008

Bell Square vs. Disneyland

Last night we went to Snowflake Lane at Bell Square. After hearing great things about it, I guess I was slightly disappointed. I should have done more research before we drove all the way there. For some reason I had it in my head there would be a parade of toy soldiers in the streets. And unfortunately, that is what I told my kids. That is not exactly what happened.

This is what did happen. There were toy soldiers/nutcrackers drumming magnificently. They were loud and cool and exciting as they streamed out of the buildings and marched to their posts on the sides of the street. The drums beat to music projected over the crowd while several characters (snowmen, penguins, soldiers on stilts, snow princesses, etc) strolled the sidewalks and interacted with the kids giving away peppermint lollipops. Snowflakes were projected onto the surrounding buildings and snow (thick bubbles) did indeed fall from the sky. And the scene was beautiful. Holiday lights, nutcrackers, children everywhere. The music and drums continued for about 15 minutes. Sounds good, doesn't it? What's wrong with me?

But there was no parade. There was a street full of traffic. Those cars driving by detracted from all that musical talent. The street was never closed and the nutcrackers didn't march around with all those cool characters and dance in the streets. I waited and waited for the moment when that would happen so the fun could really start. It never did and I sat thinking how sad it was that an opportunity for holiday greatness was lost. What a difference it would make to close off those three blocks for 15 minutes and have a parade with all those soldiers and drummers and snowmen and princesses and music and snow and lights. If only, if only. Sigh. I have been totally spoiled by Disneyland. Snowflake Lane is a fun holiday experience; it just falls a little short of magical.

BUT ... We still had a nice evening. All that holiday festivity was contagious. We strolled through Bell Square and grabbed hot cocoa before the show. Emma was thrilled to see Rudolph and the other reindeer suspended from the ceiling. We heard some carolers. We spent 20 minutes at Pottery Barn Kids and the kids played with tons of expensive toys we will never buy. Plus, we ate dinner at Red Robin and received a free Mud Pie (and, let's be honest, that made the trip worth it right there). The kids had a good time. (Of course they did! Hot cocoa, mud pie, peppermint lollipops!) Noah's favorite thing was riding the escalators. Weird, but that's what my 5-year-old digs these days. He was a bit disappointed that there wasn't a parade like I said there would be (which is probably why I was disappointed because HE was disappointed. It's the mama in me.) Tyler loved it and wrote all about it for his writing assignment at school. Emma just quietly, happily took it all in and became one with her hot cocoa.

Chance and I looked at each other and agreed that Disney would have done it better. But then, Disneyland isn't free.

"Perhaps the best Yuletide decoration is being wreathed in smiles. "
~ Author Unknown

"Blast this Christmas music. It's joyful and triumphant."
~ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

A Tale of Two Trees

We usually try to get our Christmas tree the Saturday after Thanksgiving. We like to go out into nature and spend time selecting that one perfect holiday treasure for our home. We go out and get to know our tree. Meet its family, breathe its air, discover where it is from. Then we cut it down and tie it to our van kicking and screaming. Its a tradition.

This year, our schedules have been completely overloaded and we found ourselves on a late Thursday afternoon with an hour or so to find a perfect tree. Chance came home early and the kids were bubbling over with giddiness. Then we discovered that all the tree farms in this area are closed during the week. (WHAT?!) We drove around searching for farms to take our family in. It wasn't long before darkness was descending and we found ourselves in front of The Home Depot. I was completely depressed. Our holiday tradition was ruined and we were forced into the position of purchasing a tree cut by a stranger. The kids however, were still filled with giddiness. (I think it was mostly excitement to finally get out of the car and use the potty.) They cried out in joy when they saw the piles of trees at the Garden Center. I was despondent. No amount of Chance rubbing my shoulders and apologizing for nothing did any good. Then we met Anton.

Anton is a jewel. He's The Covington Home Depot's Master of Christmas Trees. He happily walked around lifting up trees one after another; giving tree advice; chatting with the kids. After we found what was probably the best Noble Fir in the store, he trimmed it, netted it and helped Chance load it up. All this for the bargain price of $39.95.

"You can do it. We can help."
~ Slogan for The Home Depot since 2003

Monday, December 8, 2008

White Elephant Bingo

I'm not sure if there really are "winners" in white elephant bingo or not, but if there were to be losers ... well, we definitely lost last Saturday night at the Schultz' holiday gala. We brought ten scratch lottery tickets to the exchange. We took home this little gem ....

Perhaps "little" isn't the right word. Special thanks go out to Tami B. for her excellent sense of style and artistic genius. The bra just wouldn't be the same without her bedazzlement. And thanks to Phil for passing on this rare piece of joy to me.