Friday, December 14, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday: vol.18

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Advent accident. We almost had a catastrophe at breakfast yesterday morning. We light our advent wreath candles for every family meal and so Eric had them lit before the kids came down for breakfast. When Gustin came downstairs he was getting settled into his seat and while wrapping a blanket around himself he leaned forward over the table and managed to catch his hair on fire! I was in the kitchen and heard him scream and turned around to see flames on the side of Gustin's head until Eric quickly patted them out. Thankfully he was standing just a few feet away from Gustin at the time. Though shaken up and with a patch of hair singed away, Gustin was fine. Somehow the skin of his scalp was not burned. I guess I should call this take an Advent miracle!

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Silhouettes. At our last Cub Scout campout I was able to capture some wonderful silhouettes of my kids by the lake. Silhouettes is one area of photography that I haven't experimented with much so I was very happy with how these turned out! I only had a few minutes of lovely sunset light to work with and, for once, my girls decided to be willing models. Serendipity! Please humor me while I share a bunch of them.

A still two-year-old may only be found in a photograph

Sisters at Sunset

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Sunset sitting

I happen to love that these are not complete silhouettes; the kids' forms are not totally black. A bit of light still falls on their round cheeks or on the folds of their clothes.

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Zoom lens. My photography output has really slowed to a trickle these days. I pretty much share all the pictures I take here, and you know how rarely I post to this poor little blog these days. Part of the problem is a bit of frustration over my lenses. I love my prime lenses for good photo quality, but I really need the flexibility of a zoom lens. But, whenever I use my cheap zoom lens I'm always disappointed with the results.

So, I'm thinking about getting a nice zoom lens, a Nikon 24-70 f/2.8. The only problem is that it is a very expensive lens. I've been saving my money that I have been earning from selling my photos through Getty Images and I now have enough saved to buy it. But, I'm scared. It somehow seems wrong to spend so much money on a hobby. On myself.

Any thoughts? Should I go for it?

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Nope, not me. The other day Gustin was taking off his socks and he noticed a long hair on his sock.

"Oh, that must be one of mine," I said.

"No, Mommy," he replied, "this can't be your hair. It's gray and you don't have gray hair. It must be a string from my sock."

Such a smart, smart boy.

(The above photo is from 2 years ago. There may be a wee bit more gray now.)

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Consumable Christmas. I'm all about consumable Christmas gifts this year. I know we have way too much stuff around our house and I don't want to be the one to make other people's homes even more cluttered. So, the kids on my Christmas list are getting lots of art supplies: coloring books, markers, crayons, playdoh, paints and notepads. The adults are getting chocolates, salsas, beer, marinades, coffee, trail mixes and pickles. Of course all of them are special brands that most people don't get to consume on a regular basis. To top it all off, these gifts were really fun to shop for!

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The Hobbit! Eric and I have plans to see The Hobbit movie this weekend. It will be one of the two times all year that we actually go to a movie. I'm expecting to be impressed. I really enjoyed rereading the book several months ago. To further feed my hobbit appetite I also really enjoyed Prof. Corey Olsen's new book Exploring J.R.R. Tolkien's The Hobbit. It's great literary analysis for those of us who don't hold advanced degrees in literature.

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Merry Christmas from our family to yours!

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For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, October 19, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday vol. 17

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Unplanned candids. My favorite kind of photograph.


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Brain food. I love being a stay-at-home mom, but it can be a challenge to keep my brain from turning to mush during all the hours of laundry and cleaning and potty training. The discovery of podcasts a year or so ago completely changed my life (a great place to start is with any of the fantastic podcasts at My current favorite, though, is The Tolkien Professor. You can find his feed in iTunes and he has a variety of series including recordings of classes he teaches at Washington College. Right now I'm listening to a series on the Lord of the Rings books (episodes labeled WC Tolkien Course, Sessions 22-40 in iTunes). They are totally nerdy, but also completely accessible to people like me who do not have a background in literature or literary analysis. Fascinating stuff.

Also, if you're interested in the upcoming Hobbit movies, check out Professor Olsen's series, The Riddles in the Dark. In these podcasts they discuss particular aspects of the book, The Hobbit, how they might be adapted to the big screen, and make predictions as to how these themes/characters/back stories may be portrayed in the movies. Lots of fun.

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Hi! Bye!

A local gem. I am frequently surprised by some of the simple, cheap family activities that surround us but are so often unknown. We recently visited a local orchard (persimmons are in season though we didn't pick any) where my kids had a blast playing on the playground and haystack, going on a long hayride, and just getting lots of sunshine and fresh air.

Riding through the orchard

The highlight of the day, though, was the huge tire swing. You could hear my kids' screams and laughs echoing through the entire orchard. Fun times and good memories.

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All that fun and we also supported a local, family owned business. It can't get any better than that!

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Second time around. I picked up Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset again. I began the trilogy a number of years ago but somehow got distracted and stopped reading somewhere in the middle of the second book. I was enjoying it the first time around, but this time has been even better. I love stories that are both interesting and make me think and Sigrid Undset's medieval Norwegian novels definitely fit the bill. I was struck by this wonderful discussion between Kristin and Brother Edvin:

"... the Devil only [seems] big as long as we harbor fear within ourselves. But if a person seeks God with such earnestness and desire that he enters into His power, then the power of the Devil at once suffers such a great defeat that his instruments become small and impotent. "
Brother Edvin continues:

"There is no one, Kristin, who does not love and fear God. But it's because our hearts are divided between love for God and fear of the Devil, and love for this world and this flesh, that we are miserable in life and death. For if a man knew no yearning for God and God's being, then he would thrive in Hell..."
 So much good food for thought.

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Kids' Portraits 2012. Here are some of my favorites from this year's portrait session. I made some mistakes photographically speaking that I am forcing myself not to enumerate ad nauseum (even after 4 years of pursuing this hobby, I still have so much to learn!), but overall I'm pleased with the results.

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 Clara, age 2

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Augustine, age 5

My sweet 8 year old
Elizabeth, age 8

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Jonathan, age 10

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Just ask. At our Mom's group at church we were recently discussing how difficult it can be to get to confession when you have young children. The times that confession is available can be inconvenient to young families and it's difficult to keep children quiet and entertained while their parents are receiving the sacrament. One of my fellow mom's then casually approached are associate pastor and asked if he would be willing to hear confession's during the meeting time of the Mom's group since we are already there on the church campus and our children are being cared for in the childcare ministry. Well, our priest enthusiastically supported the idea and was there to hear our confessions during our October meeting where at least two dozen moms received the sacrament of confession, some for the first time in more than a decade! He also committed himself to being available for confession during every one of our scheduled meetings for the rest of the year. It's amazing what can happen if we only ask!

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A few more candids. I just love it when I can capture them laughing!

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For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Cooking in the Sandbox

We recently visited Eric's hometown for the birthday party of his triplet niece and nephews. I love weekends in Eric's hometown. It's small, quiet community and we always leave feeling renewed and refreshed.

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My kids, of course, love visiting grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles but I love that they spend most of their time outside in my in-laws wonderful backyard. Tree swings, sandboxes and pogo sticks are the main sources of entertainment. Sunshine and fresh air abound.

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And simple toys. Like old pots and pans in the sandbox. The kids absolutely love them, much more than the plastic shovels and pails in our own sandbox at home.

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The way kids' imaginations explode after being handed a pot, a pan, a serving spoon, and a big pile of sand blows my mind. To find such joy in simple things . . . such a blessing.

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And a sun slowly sinking in the autumn sky with delicious, soft, golden light . . . more beautiful blessings.

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There are some moments in life when your heart just about bursts with gratitude and all you can do is savor the moment by expanding your lungs with a deep breath and then exhaling a most sincere, "Thank you, Lord."

Saturday, September 1, 2012

We Made it to September

A Little Woodland Sprite

What a week. My mother's surgery (mastectomy and reconstruction) was this past Wednesday and (praise the Lord!) it went very well. The doctors believe they were able to remove all the cancer and she has not had any complications (again, praise the Lord!). She was able to move from ICU to a regular room today, Saturday, so my kids were finally able to visit her. I think that visit raised all of our spirits. Isn't it amazing the blessing a few vivacious, care-free children are to stressed-out adults? Their being there at the hospital also testified that we are past all of the scary/worrisome stuff and now Mom just needs a little time to get back to her old self.

Mr. Sweaty Head

Thank you to all of you who prayed for my mom and my family during this time. I was amazed at the sense of peace I had while waiting with my dad during the hours and hours of Mom's surgery. I know that peace was a gift from God and a direct result of all the many prayers offered up for us.


I'm about brain-dead now and better finish off this post. Hopefully tonight I'll get a good night sleep with no worries, kids with bad dreams, or obnoxious, repeat, 3 a.m. prank callers to interrupt my slumber.

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I hope you enjoy these pictures of my kids from a recent fishing outing with the Cub Scouts. The beauty of nature never fails to remind me of God's great goodness.

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Until next time,

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Embracing the Wide Side

When I got my first DSLR camera (about 4 years ago, has it really been that long?!) I was amazed at all the capabilities it had that my point-and-shoot did not. Most especially I loved that I could get so close to my subject. It was heavenly to be able to fill the frame with my beautiful kids' faces, their eyes sparkling back at me in the photographs just as they do in real life.

Mustang Island, TX

I found shooting nature and flowers close up to be a awe-inspiring experience, as well. So many details! All the amazing colors and shapes and beauty to be found if you get down close to a simple wildflower or moss growing on a rock.

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However, before long I found myself firmly in a photography rut. All of my photos began to look the same and my inspiration was waning. My photographs looked tight and cramped to me and I was feeling a bit cramped myself.

Wave jumper
Elizabeth is jumping over the waves in this photo. 

Finally, I learned to mix things up and breathe some new life into my photographs by embracing wide angle focal lengths. For me that meant shooting on the 18mm end of my 18-105mm kit zoon lens or shooting with my 24mm prime lens.

Sisters and Flip Flops

All of these pictures were taken on our recent vacation during a brief visit to Mustang Island State Park using the wide end of my 18-105mm zoom lens.

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In these photos there is room for my subjects, be they children or husbands or birds, to move and interact with their environment. It's also easy to see there different sizes of the kids relative to each other.

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I particularly love capturing so much of the sky in a photo so you can see the beautiful natural gradation of the blue. Capturing the surroundings as well as the subject in a photo adds so much more interest.

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It's a whole new world on the wide side.

I won't stop taking those close ups of my kids' precious faces, though. I just now know to mix them up with a few shots that capture their entire bodies and their surroundings, as well.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

A Summer Wrap Up

Well, here we are turning the bend toward the end of August and it's about time I did a little update on my blog. This summer has screamed by (as it always does) and my kids have been back in school for an entire week already. But, before I get ahead of myself, here are some of the things we've been up to this summer:

1. Our sweet Elizabeth turned eight.

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And when I say she is sweet I really mean it. She's fairly quiet and shy but loves to help whenever I ask. She's a voracious reader (are there any books left at the library that she hasn't read?) and is always quick to pray for the people she loves and those in need. This little girl is such a blessing in our lives!

2. We shot a few fire works for the Fourth of July.

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Gustin and Jonathan had a fierce head-to-head battle with their firecracker tanks.

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Gustin won. What joy it is when the little brother wins!

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Both my girls were happy to watch from the sidelines. They're not big fans of explosions.

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3. We went on vacation!

Every year we go on vacation with Eric's extended family and this year, for the first time, we went to the beach. We stayed together in a beach house (all 27 of us, including 9 kids under the age of 5) and had a terrific time.

We frolicked in the sand and water every day.

Mustang Island State Park, Texas

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We also visited the Corpus Christi Aquarium. Somehow I didn't take many pictures at the aquarium besides the obligatory ones in front of the wingspan sign.

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When we drove up to the aquarium we discovered that the USS Lexington is permanently anchored right next door. We had to visit it, too!

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What an amazing experience. We hope to go back another day when we will have more time to explore and without a tired, cranky two-year-old who was already pooped out from the visit at the aquarium.

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4. Back to school!

Here's our traditional picture of the school kids by the front door.

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Jonathan is a big 5th grader. He gets a locker at school now and can play on the school sports teams. Soccer tryouts were already on the second day of school and I may not be able to stop to breathe again until the season is over in October. Gone are the slow days and wide-open schedules of summer time!

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Elizabeth is thrilled to be in third grade.

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But, even Elizabeth's excitement can't eclipse how ecstatic Gustin is to finally be in Kindergarten.

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This little face at his desk on the first day of school pretty much says it all.

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There's only one baby at home with me during the day now.

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It's wonderful and melancholy all at the same time. Gustin told me on the first day of school that I wasn't allowed to cry because I missed him; I was only allowed to be excited for him since he was so happy. I tried, Gustin, I really did.

5. A prayer request.

My mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in June. She will undergo a mastectomy on August 29th. They caught the cancer early and her prognosis is good, but please pray that they are able to remove all the cancer and that there are not any complications. Also, please pray for my dad who is experiencing some complications with his diabetes. Pray that these complications can be resolved quickly so that his health problems don't interfere with Mom having her surgery as scheduled. Thank you so much for even the smallest prayers that you can offer for my family at this time!