Wednesday we got our Christmas card picture taken and out of the way. When I do our family picture, it's a bit of a process. The camera gets set up on the tripod and everyone gets told where to stand. Then I take a few test shots, take my place, and use the remote to snap the picture. And when the remote doesn't work, we call mom and have her come down from the house and push the button for us. And sometimes we have at least one that turns out semi decent.
In typical brotherly fashion, the boys bailed as soon as the family picture was set, but the girls stayed with some picture requests, including one with all the sisters but me. We're going to say that it's because I'm the picture taker and not because I no longer live at home and share a room with the rest of them. But I did have to jump in one.
The older kids refused solo shots, and as the older sister, I didn't really have the authority to make them cooperate, so no school pictures this year. But the ones who did cooperate...
Kaylin, who has no idea how gorgeous she is.
Arik, who throws his football up in front of his face. His reluctant cooperation turned out awesome though.
Tad, who dodged the camera as much as he could. Which turned out awesome, as it resulted in the best real smile.
Cami, who seems to be the only one who more than tolerates when I take my camera out. She's always full of her own pose ideas.
And Jay, who insisted on keeping his football in hand.
I really hope these two stay friends forever.
I edited these pictures a few weeks ago, and put some of them on my phone. And I keep coming back to the individuals of the four youngest. I have no idea what it's like to be a parent, to watch your kids grow up and develop their unique personalities and all that, but being an older sister is a funny and special thing as well.
The siblings closer to my age, I grew up with. We have our shared stories from childhood, we're in pictures together, we had the same made up games, and so on. But with these four youngest, I feel more like I watched them grow up. I remember each of them coming home from the hospital. I changed their diapers, fed them bottles, sang them church songs, rocked them to sleep. On occasion, I was the one who got up with them when they cried at night and who rocked them back to sleep; just me and them in the dark and empty living room. I helped teach them how to read, how to add and subtract, how to ride a bike, how to ice skate. I answered a million abstract questions about life, to the best of my ability.
And a lot of times, I hated my role as the oldest girl in the family. I hated being the designated babysitter and caretaker, the 'second mom' of sorts. I didn't like being the one who was supposed to take care of the kids, especially since I had older brothers who were perfectly capable. But now, I am so SO glad that that was my spot in the family.
Because I love that I'm the one Cami and Jay hug first when us college kids come home. I love that Arik and Tad will shyly sneak one in because they care more about me than about looking too tough. I love that they get excited to go places with me, even though it's often just Wal-Mart, and I love that they never run out of stories to share. I love all the memories I have, tucked away in the back of my mind. I love looking at these pictures and seeing the babies I once rocked to sleep, now growing up and grinning away. I love that they aren't just smiling at the camera, but that they're smiling at me behind it. That since it's their older sister behind the lens, they're more real and comfortable and more THEM than they would be otherwise. And I love that I love it.
And since I'm currently nine hours and a few months away, and missing them like crazy, do me a favor and hug the kids around you extra tight today. And cherish the moment. And smile.