October 27, 2011

From Wonder Woman to Old Lady in 15 Feet

Back in September my kids were already trying to decide what they were going to "be" for October 31st.  The original plan was for all 5 of us to dress as superheroes.  Isn't that cute?  Over the course of the month the plan sort of changed when my girls eventually chose something entirely different; while my son stuck with the superhero idea.  

Fast forward to this week.  The kids and I have been in the mountains visiting my parents for fall break.  Knowing that cold, rainy weather is on its way, we tried to squeeze as much fun stuff into the first few days as possible.  Hiking (lots of hiking) and horse back riding were the top two priorities.
Hanging out with "Papa" on top of Grandfather Mountain

On Wednesday afternoon my girls and I went on a gorgeous horse ride through Christmas tree farmland.  The day couldn't have been more perfect.  Unfortunately one of the horses (that my 10 year old was riding) had spacial issues and didn't like any other horse to get too close.  As I came around a bend my horse got too close to Mr. Personal Space and he started backing up and kicking at my horse.  Unfortunately, I was thrown as my horse tried to avoid the kicks.  My horse took off running and my girls (with good reason) freaked out as they watched their momma lie on the ground with the wind knocked out of her.  Miraculously I avoided being kicked, but sustained other injuries from my fall.  The ol' body ain't what she used to be.  Eventually our trail guide was able to capture my horse and as the saying goes, "I fell off the horse, but got back on."  Because, really, who wants to walk a mile back to the stable?  I think it was pure adrenaline that got me back to the stable because when I got in my car the pain hit like a ton of bricks.

I've spent the entire day on the couch (which was TOTALLY not in the fall break plan) nursing cracked ribs and a very bruised body.  I don't know if I've ever experienced this kind of pain.  Who knew laughing or sneezing could be so painful??  My sweet parents have taken over all of the details like feeding and putting my kids to bed.  I don't know what I would have done if they weren't here!

My sweet momma who has taken such good care of me

Wanna know the funny part?  I decided to leave my camera in the car for the ride, even though I was doing a blog series on taking lots of pictures.  For some reason I just didn't feel like bringing the camera along.  I'm SO thankful I didn't!  

This afternoon my daughter said to me, "well mom, instead of being Wonder Woman you could be an old lady in a wheel chair for Halloween."  

I'd appreciate your prayers for a quick recovery.  I hear ribs don't heal quickly, so I'm none too happy about that!  It was a very traumatic experience for my kids, so pray for them too.
I'll be looking for the perfect gray wig to go with my haggard body.  ;(

Photography: Daylight

Using Light To Your Advantage
So, did you do your homework?  Did you pull out your camera and act like a crazy person?  I'm sure you were a cute kind of crazy.  ;)
Today we are going to talk about light.  If you only walk away with one thing today let it be this:
Daylight is a photographer's best friend

1. There is a time of day that is called the Sweet Hour (I don't know if that's an official term but that's what I call it.  Should I get a patent on it?) It is about 1-2 hours before sunset.  If you want gorgeous pictures outside of your kiddos/dog/spouse/favorite dishcloth, this is the time to do it.  Or 1-2 hours after sunrise, but who is crazy enough to want to do it then??  Take your baby out on a quilt and take some shots at that time of day.  You will be amazed.   

2. One thing you have to be careful of is shadows.  Make sure the shadows of the branches above aren't making her face look like a puzzle:  

3. TURN OFF YOUR FLASH.  Who wants a shiny forehead?  By turning off the flash, you will have a much more natural glow... and no more red eye!  Use that natural light to your advantage.  I rarely use my flash.  Oftentimes, if you have your camera set on "auto" it will use the flash.  Try turning it off.  Sometimes Mr. Auto thinks he's smarter than he actually is.

If your life is anything like mine, that is the craziest time of day, filled with dinner and baths.  So here are some hints if you can't take the shots during the "sweet hour":

1. Water and sunlight make a gorgeous couple.  Much better than Brad and Angelina.
The best time is mid-morning or late afternoon, but don't put the camera away if you happen to be near water during mid-day ... you just might capture a fun picture like the one above.  :)

2.  Use the angle of the sun to your advantage.  Rather than having your subject face the sun and end up with the crazy the-sun's-in-my-eyes grin, try to have the sun to the right or left of their faces.  Look through the viewfinder to double check your subjects' faces.  Are they too shadowed?  If not, allow the sun to play off of their hair.  It gives a celestial glow :

3. Don't let an overcast day get you down.  It's actually a great filter for a good photograph.  Try it, you might be surprised.

4. Take advantage of the sunlight that comes into your home.  With the cold weather nipping at our heels, it's a good time to find a window in your home that has good light.  Often, when I want to do a still shot of something I will move it to my kitchen table because of the great natural light.

  To see my disclaimer and catch up on this little series go here.  Next time we'll talk about getting in their faces.  Did you know that when you have a camera in your hand, it's not rude?  :)

October 25, 2011

Photography: You Can Do It

I'm not a professional.  
I don't know all of the lingo.  
I'm still learning all kinds of things. 
 I'm really just a mom who loves to take photos.  
See?  Doesn't that make you feel better?  
I've had several friends ask me for advice on photography, so I thought I'd do a little series on it.  Even if photography isn't a hobby for you, you can still take great pictures of your family enjoying life.  So today I'm here to tell you that you can do it.  Beautifully.
Here's how:
1. Take the time to get your camera out, often.  The two photos shown today are from a couple of weeks ago when my kids were playing in the backyard.  We didn't coordinate outfits; we didn't practice poses; we didn't make it an event.  I just started taking photos while they were playing.  There were lots that didn't turn out, but that's the beauty of digital. In the photo above they were playing on the tire swing and I took a picture because they were being so sweet with each other.  My kids have gotten used to me taking pictures of them so when the camera comes out, it isn't awkward or forced.

2. Know your camera.  Even with a point-and-shoot camera (and, for the record, there's nothing wrong with a point-and-shoot) you can take gorgeous shots.  I know the owners' manual is overwhelming and annoying.  Start off by learning what the little icons on your camera mean so that you will be able to use them to your advantage.  If your life is uber crazy right now, at least figure out where the "no flash" icon is located and how to use it.

3. Capture the here and the now.  Don't save your camera moments for a pose on the top of a mountain you just climbed (yes, these shots are very important, but don't let them be the only ones on your memory card).  Take pictures of your loved ones as they live out the day-to-day.  The picture below is one of my favorites.  Would I normally choose a pink Cabela's sweatshirt for a photoshoot?  Um, no.  But this is who she is.  This is what she wears on a regular basis to play outside.  I look at this photo and the boots melt my heart.  Would I prefer her in striped tights, a corduroy skirt and cute cowgirl boots?  Sure!  But that's not what I wanted to capture that day.  I wanted to capture her in her backyard just as she was.

We'll stop here for today.  My goal with this little photography series is to encourage you.  Hopefully you will leave feeling less intimidated by the lens and excited to take some great shots.  So, go grab your camera!  It's homework time!  Start taking pictures and come back tomorrow ready to learn about using light to your advantage.

October 24, 2011

Turning Eight

(Lego cake made by my main squeeze)
 Over the weekend we celebrated my sweet boy's 8th birthday.  Since he's my baby, I'm a wee bit more emotional sentimental than normal.  Eight sounds so big.  I asked him on the eve of his birthday if he would still give me snuggles.  I'm so glad he said yes... with a grin.

We have a rule in our house about sleepovers.  It's really to protect our kiddos.  The rule is that you have to be eight to have or go to a sleepover with someone other than family.  We feel like that is an age that our kids are old enough to tell us if something is going on that probably shouldn't be.  It adds to the excitement of turning eight, too.
So that's what he wanted to have: a sleepover... with a Lego cake, NC State University napkins, Starwars candy, and a treasure hunt kind of party.  That's a boy for
you!  Doesn't he know his momma thrives on a good theme?!

With two older sisters in the house, we've had eons of sleepovers.  I'm here to let you in on a little secret.  Boy sleepovers are much more active than girl sleepovers.  Not as much giggling and chit chat, but lots of guffaws, physical wrestling contact, and bodily noises that would make you proud.

In the quiet moments of my shower that day I had a little cry.  As my kids are getting older I am overwhelmed by how fast life is moving.  They are growing up way too quickly for my preference.  I might have begged and pleaded that he turn the clock back to 6 instead of moving forward to 8.  Yes, each age and stage is packed with goodness and fun, but sometimes it hurts a little to let go.  As I stood in the quiet, I could hardly believe that I have had the privilege to enjoy his gift of life for 8 years.  It's such an overwhelming task, this mothering.  A task so full of joy and pain, love and work wrapped up into a precious package.

As for the number 8, I'm ready to embrace it.  Right after I dry my eyes.

October 20, 2011

Fair Weather

It's fair time in NC.  I'm not a huge fan of the crowds (and the germs) but I do love a couple of hours to take pride in my state.  We didn't make it last year, but this year I decided to surprise the kids.  
I told them it was a field trip, not a day off.  {Mean momma}  So I explained that they were expected to have good attitudes while we looked at all of the livestock, agriculture and historical stuff in the morning, and then we would spend the afternoon riding rides and eating the good stuff.

They did great with the 'tudes.  Who wouldn't be impressed by a 522lb pumpkin?   They loved the Village of Yesteryear.  In fact at the end of the day I asked what the favorites of the day were:
1. The rabbits/bunnies (I had to agree)
2. The blacksmith (in Yesteryear)
3. The "guy making the gun" (in Yesteryear, again)
Apparently I didn't have to make a stink about having good attitudes in the "educational" part.  It was their favorite!

I guess my germaphobia has rubbed off.  For lunch we played it safe and ate Chic-fil-a.  Who knew you could find it at the state fair??  No one wanted to try the fried koolaid, fried butter, or fried candy bars.  We're not super health conscious, but I draw the line somewhere.  Fortunately, my kids weren't  interested in clogging their arteries the fast way.

For the first time ever, we purchased ride tickets ahead of time.  I was armed with enough tickets for everyone to ride 2-3 rides.  After walking through the entire Midway, they all decided on the ferris wheel.  That. was. it.  
Um.... hello?  What a bout the Zipper?  The Gravitron?  The Swings??  Back in my day I rode them all.  Good grief, that sentence made me sound like an Old Fogey. I guess when you visit Cedar Point at the beginning of summer, their standard for fun rides is set a little high.  :)
We polished off the day with cotton candy, popcorn and another venture through Yesteryear.
I stood my ground when they started asking to buy a bunny.  I was a wee bit tempted by the cuteness, but don't tell my kids, mkay?
I also resisted my personal fair favorite, the Caramel Apple since they were going for $4.  Patience paid off...  I bought one at Target last night for $1.25  

What's your favorite fair food?  

October 14, 2011

Tough Job

 Back in the spring I was asked to be on the planning committee for the women's fall retreat.  I felt guilty because of all the tasks that needed to be done in preparation, I got the most fun job: preparing the gift bags for all of the guests and leaders.
 I had a blast finding fun (but inexpensive) items for all of the ladies.   I thought it would be a good idea for all of the ladies to have the same scent of hand sanitizer so we wouldn't smell like a pumpkin threw up sweet peas and cucumber melon in the meeting room.  Imagine the surprise on the manager's face when I cleaned out their supply of Sweet Cinnamon Pumpkin at Bath and Body Works.
I might have squealed in the middle of Walmart when I found these new Kleenex personal packets:

Then my two girls joined the fun in helping me put the bags together and add the ribbons.  My girls may not be in the band or on the basketball team, but they are learning that serving others can be F.U.N.  :)

They even helped me load my car:
Doncha just love the pattern on the bag on the far right?
Target, you always know how to impress a girl.
I was also responsible for the decorations (finishing touches) for the retreat.  Again, feeling guilty for such a fun job!
I had decided that fresh fall flowers would be great for the registration tables.  Of course, I waited until Thursday evening to go get the flowers so they would stay fresh for the weekend.  Maybe you're a little crazy like me, maybe not; but I had this idea in my head and the local grocery floral departments were not cooperating. My daughter and I traveled all over town looking for the right flowers.  After we finally found them, she looked at me and said, "I've never been to 5 grocery stores in one day."  Me neither, baby, me neither.  


Confession:  I don't drink milk.  Period.
I know I should but I don't like it.  Shudder.  I've been trying to figure out ways to get more calcium.  Dipping Oreos doesn't quiet reach the FDA daily recommendation.  

So I've tried to find creative ways to add more sugar to my diet drink milk.  I found these little packets in the coffee section.  When I drink one of these, I am getting a full glass of milk.  For only 60 calories, it's a great pick-me-up treat for the mid-morning sighs.

Adding a candle to the mix is optional, but I think it makes it taste better.  ;)

How about you?  Are you a milk drinker?  Any creative ways to get more calcium?

October 11, 2011

Chicken Politics

It's voting day in our area, so I thought this was perfect.  Hope it brings a smile to your face
Why did the chicken cross the road?
Barack Obabma:
The chicken crossed the road, okay, because it was time for a change. The chicken wanted a change!

Sarah Palin:
You betcha he crossed that road, because he knew how hard it is for middle class American chickens to get across the road. Especially with a lipstick wearin' hockey mom at his heels.

Hillary Clinton:
When I was First Lady, I personally helped that little chicken cross the road. This experience makes me uniquely qualified to ensure that every chicken in this country gets the chance it deserves to cross the road.

Dick Cheney:
Where's my gun?

Bill Clinton:
I didn't cross the road with that chicken ... uh, what is your definition of crossing-the-road?

Al Gore:
I'm gonna make the world a safer place for that chicken ... no more cars allowed on roads.

Well, I understand that the chicken is having problems, so instead of having him learn from his mistakes and get hit, I am going to give this chicken a car so he can just drive across the road.

Al Sharpton:
Why are all the chickens white?! We need some black chickens around here!

Anderson Cooper, CNN:
We have reason to believe there is a chicken trying to cross the road, but we have not yet been allowed to have access to the other side of the road.

Dr. Seuss:
Did the chicken cross the road? Did he cross it with a toad?
Yes, the chicken crossed the road, but why it crossed I've not been told.

Ernest Hemingway:
To die in the rain ... alone.

Jerry Falwell:
Because that chicken was gay! Can't you people see the plain truth? If you eat that chicken, you will become gay too. I say we boycott all chickens until we sort out this abomination that the liberal media whitewashes with phrases like "to the other side."

In my day, we didn't ask why the chicken crossed the road. He just said he was going to do it, and that was good enough.

It is the nature of the chicken to cross the road.

John Lennon:
Imagine all the chickens in the world crossing the roads together in peace.

Colonel Sanders:
Did I miss one?

Oh, great, my husband's going to be looking for that chicken later.

October 10, 2011

Come and Meet With Me

...{Jesus} said to them, "Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.  Mark 6:31

I had a date this weekend.
With the Creator.
He displayed his majesty in breathtaking ways.  
I awoke to this view (above) each morning.
He had been waiting...  
Quietly waiting for me to put aside the busyness of life to notice His splendor.

Christians often use the phrase "God showed up" when referring to a big event or retreat.  What a ridiculous statement.
He's always here, revealing himself to us.  We're the ones that forget to show up.  Actually, we often forget to just look up.  

I have been so consumed with the here.  The now.  
Creating a worship of my time toward the insignificant.  I had become so blinded by the necessity of the immediate that I had forgotten the promise of the eternal.

On a grassy hill overlooking the lake, I voice words of love toward my Creator.  I lift my eyes and notice his gift of a world that is breathing His glory.  Spending time in his masterpiece of creation quiets my soul.  He brings me back to those things that truly matter :
His gift of life.
His promise of abundant life found in Him.   Quiet truth is difficult to hear over the static of a busy life.
The Lord your God is with you, 
he is mighty to save.  
He will take great delight in you, 
he will quiet you with his love, 
he will rejoice over you with singing.  
~Zephaniah 3:17

He will quiet me with his love.  
A quieting of my mind.  
A quieting of my to-do's.  
A quieting of my discontentments.  
A quieting of my soul.  
A quiet, restoring love.
In that quietness I am gifted the promise that He, the Creator King, takes great delight in me.   I have goosebumps.  He delights in me as a mother delights in the tender laughter of her child. 

His gift of an artist's brush painted across the evening sky on the final evening of my date with Him.

I am abundantly overflowing with His goodness.

Linking with Imparting Grace today.

October 7, 2011

Happy Friday

May your weekend be filled with glory

I'm headed to a women's retreat.
I wasn't going to go.
I haven't been on one in years.
But my husband encouraged me to take some time to myself.  I'm looking forward to being refreshed in body and spirit.  Now that it's time to leave, I'm realizing my man was right.  I do need some time.
I'll come back a better mother, better wife, better daughter of the King.

October 4, 2011

Crazy is as Crazy Does

1. I don't know about you, but I welcomed October with open arms.... and candycorn nail night with my girls.  So fun!  

2. We've been official chicken owners for over a year now.  Our egg lay-ers have been producing eggs since last November.  A few weeks ago, we were up to 5 eggs a day.  Then something happened and we suddenly went from 5 to 1.  We thought maybe something was getting in the coop and collecting the eggs, like a snake or racoon.  We also noticed that our beautiful birds were looking R.O.U.G.H.  Thanks to the vast knowledge found on the internet, we discovered that our girls were molting.  They don't lay when molting.

Well, guess what happens when you don't do your job:

3. Haha!  Just kidding.  We've been raising meat birds, too.  I've got a whole post on that coming up soon... I know you're waiting on pins and needles.  Our egg layers are alive and kicking and we're patiently waiting for the egg production to pick back up.

4. On Saturday I was cutting through the parking lot of a local strip mall when suddenly I realized that I had driven right through the twilight zone middle of a Ford Fiesta Festival.
 Um, hello??  Ford Fiesta owners are proud enough to have a festival?  I've always thought of those cars as the lowest on the food chain of vehicles.  Take all kinds, I guess.  Normally when I see weird stuff unusual things, I try to casually sneak a picture or two.  Nope.  Not this one.  I decided if they were proud enough to meet in a parking lot with 100's of other Fiesta owners, they wouldn't mind the crazy lady in her giant SUV taking pictures with her zoom lens.  We're all a little crazy, aren't we?

5. Dinner conversation last week :
          Sister: My brother has a great memory.
          Brother: Yeah, I do.  I remember my birth nurse.
          Mom: Huh?  Whaaa????

6.I reached my limit last week and joyfully announced that this week would be fall break.  Whoops and shrieks ensued, and then I pulled myself together to allow the kids to respond.

7. To celebrate our first day of break, we went hiking yesterday.  It was one of those perfect mornings: sunny and brisk.  We met some dear friends who are also celebrating their fall break.  I'm not sure who had more fun, the moms or the kids.
 8.  I can't believe two days of our break are done.  I'm trying to savor each moment of just being in the role of MOM, not teacher.  It sure is fun!

What is bringing you joy this first week of October?