2017

Before the Break

Sure, it’s nice – getting a week between Christmas and New Year’s off as a freebie vacation week. That week is one of the many benefits of working in higher ed.

Except when you’re sick.

It hit us the weekend before Christmas: a scratch throat, a groggy unease, and sinus pain that felt like continual just-before-you-sneeze agony. Then, from Christmas day to just this week, a persistent sickness. It didn’t ruin the holidays, but it certainly wasn’t fun.

Maybe it’s a good thing I had that week off. But there are better ways to spend a vacation than homebound misery.

So I took the usual Christmas morning photos of the kids opening presents. Other than that, and despite some big photo plans I had, I just didn’t get much done. Instead, I’ll share some pre-Christmas fun in the playroom with the kids.

Before the snow fell. Before the presents showed up under the tree. Before the misery.


Home for the Holidays

Everything is different this year: new house, new family dynamic, and heck – even a new place for our Christmas tree.

This time we went to the well-known family name, the one you pass on the highway with the big sign. And wouldn’t you know it, the nice weather met us there and made for a fun family outing (and great photos). It’s one of those holiday traditions we look forward to every year.

Like Christmas Vacation, right? Everyone loves that movie. You can’t help but think of the Griswolds every time you head out to the countryside to grab a Christmas tree.

Plenty of things change, but we try to keep these kinds of things steady.


The Legend Of

It wasn’t my pick. Honest.

No, it was the boy saying, “I want to be a bokoblin for Halloween” that got the whole train started. Now, we’re doing the Legend of Zelda costumes – the whole lot of us.

The forecast looks chilly for trick or treating tonight. Let’s hope our mostly-homemade costumes keep us warm.


Courtyard’s Courtyard

The Complete Lack Of [Explored]

It’s amazing: if you build a community place, a community will form, even if it’s a transient one.

Over the summer, we stayed at a Courtyard hotel – nice place, pool, convenient location, etc. And, as the name says, it had a courtyard in the middle of the hotel with picnic tables and trees and little walkways. Our hotel room had a porch that looked out on the courtyard.

The whole thing caught me off guard. Hotels, as I had experience them, were private places, where noise was kept down and you rarely saw the people in other rooms. But a courtyard? Where you could see people? Whoa.

And what do you know, people gathered there. A family brought a six pack of beer outside and sat on the picnic table to chat. People strolled by on their way to the pool. Kids ran around and played kickball. It was like being back in college, only with a more diverse crowd. It was great. We sat on the porch and watched the whole evening take shape.

If you build it, they will come, the saying goes. In this case, it was true. The evidence was gathering in front of us.

That made me think of the “courtyards” I’ve encountered in my online life: Twitter, my old Apple Newton blog, photography groups.I would still rather chat with someone in person about their (or my own) weird hobby. The nice thing about the Web is, you can have both in-person courtyards and online meeting places to talk about what interests you.

Make a gathering place, and like-minded people make a community. If you’re generous and open, those communities become stronger and closer.

Especially if you bring a six pack.


Jon + Amanda

As I’ve said, I don’t do weddings unless (a) I know you and (b) I like you.

That’s why I was happy to capture Jon and Amanda’s wedding a few weeks ago. Amanda and Jon are family, and their small wedding in my dad’s backyard was intimate and lovely.

Photography can be an awesome gift to give – longer lasting than cash or a toaster oven. Don’t be stingy with it.


New Routines

Settling into the new house, here six months after moving in, means doing things in different ways than before.

Mowing the lawn? It takes half as long now. My commute? About 20 minutes shorter. Moving into town, we have time in the morning to let the kids sleep in a bit before taking the boy to school.

We take walks like we used to, just around a more suburban setting. We play out in the yard, as always, it’s just that the yard is not as big.

Little things, here in there, that I’m still getting used to.


Summer Vacation

This was it – the last big adventure of the summer, saved until the end.

The trick was lining up our northern Michigan vacation with the grandparents’ schedules. One pair in Mackinaw City for a few days, and the other in Petoskey for the second half. Help with adventures, babysitting, and overnights. With three kids, taking one to spend time with the grandparents relieves a bit of the strain.

Not that this was stressful. No, northern Michigan moves at a vacation pace. Water, and sky, and enough green and blue to make both of our major state university fans happy.

(It’s Go Blue season, just to be clear.)

This close to Lake Michigan, and this close to all those forests – it’s a proper goodbye to nice weather, and water, and wilderness for a while. We even said goodbye to the trout sunning themselves at an honest-to-goodness fish hatchery, complete with a bald eagle waiting, and watching, in the canopy above.

It’s what’s so great about living in our state. A few hours in every direction and you’re next to a giant freshwater lake and enough nature to forget that it’ll all be buried in snow and ice in a few months.