Saturday, November 16, 2013

Fun with my new toy

I got my new camera a few weeks ago. My very own DSLR - a Canon Rebel.

I was kind of scared to put it into my cart. Somehow, it felt like a huge commitment, like I had to master photography now. I felt like I maybe wasn't up to the task. It was way too cool for me.

I brought it home, and it literally sat in its box for a few days before I could muster up the courage to open it. When I finally did, I spent a few hours poring over the manuals, but most of the technical stuff went over my head, so I gave up after reading about the different lenses and how to turn it on.

I decided to just try the camera out, but I soon noticed that while my pictures were a little sharper, they weren't much better than my point and shoot.
 I tried turning off the flash, and that didn't work.
 The flash didn't wash out pictures like my point and shoot always does, so I decided to embrace it.
 I finally broke down and read a bunch of blog articles on DSLR cameras. Most of them talked about switching from Auto to Manual mode, which I hadn't gotten to yet in my reading. :) I found the button, made the switch, and the magic ensued. I love the way the crunchy leaves are just frozen in flight here.
I'm figuring out how to get the sharper focus where I want it.
 I've played around a little with lighting.
It's amazing how just a few steps over changes the quality of the picture so completely.
 I was ecstatic to discover continuous shooting, letting me catch all the intonations of Lydia's smiles and playful interactions with her big sister.
 And I love how accurately it captures color. Don't you love Nora's new bangs? I finally got brave and cut them this morning.
My pictures are still far from professional or even frame-worthy, but I do feel as though I'm getting better. One of these days I might even finish reading through the manual, and then we'll really be in business. ;) I'm pretty excited about this new hobby!

Monday, November 11, 2013


I have always been grateful for our country. What we have is so rare, especially when you look at the sweeping history of humanity. It's easy for me to get caught up in meaningless politics and frustrated by where our country is headed, but one thing that I have realized is how grateful I am for the military, who do not get to question that elected authority. They just do what is asked, and they do it for us- even us ungrateful, short-sighted ones.
My oldest brother (who is in the Air Force) just returned last month from a six month deployment in Afghanistan. Besides 9/11, this is the closest I've ever felt to real war. Not to throw myself a pity party, but his letters frequently made me cry when I'd hear about the regular, routine bombs and danger coming within inches of his life. I ached for his family- his wife who had the four kids (our kids' ages) with her at home. I am so, so grateful he is back home, safe. I am also thankful that he went, and that so many just like him go. And I am grateful for their families, who let them.
My brother in law just joined the army, and his family will likely face similar challenges. He'll be going through training soon, and I am no less grateful for him and his family! They are about as patriotic as they come.
I never thought about it before, but it makes sense that Veterans Day falls near Thanksgiving. Certainly much of what I have to be grateful for can be attributed to those selfless individuals who more than self their country loved.

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Kid Fads

I remember a few bits from third grade. I remember my teacher, Mrs. Isler and her funny, quiet sense of humor. I remember a few of the kids in my class, but probably the most vivid memory I have from that year was the trolls. They were such a weird trendy thing. I remember on my birthday, my friend Jenny gave me a pink haired troll, and I treasured that thing. I kept it in my desk where I could see its bizarre amber colored eyes peeking out at me all day. It didn't matter that every other kid in the class had amassed huge collections of them, I was euphoric to finally be counted among them as an official troll owner.
 I'm reminded of that weird craze because Benjamin seems to be caught up in a similar one. Rainbow Looms that make crocheted rubber band bracelets. Several weeks ago, Benjamin came home with his first bracelet that he'd convinced a friend to give to him. Before long, he had managed to trade up and had gotten several more. He'd undo them when he got home and would weave them into longer strands by hand until he had a necklace.
 Finally he'd earned enough money to buy a loom of his own, and he has been making these things every spare second since. He gets on YouTube and watches tutorial after tutorial, mastering all the weaves.
Yesterday, he refused to wear a coat to school, because it would mess up his display. :) According to Benjamin, there is only one kid in second grade who doesn't have a loom now. And he really wants to get her one for Christmas.
He came home with his favorites, but had traded some of the others with friends. He also managed to come home with $5, which some poor kid had paid for one. I seriously considered whether I should pursue this and talk to the parent, but I ended up letting it go. I think Benjamin and I need to have some chats about curbing that manipulative behavior, but I also feel like these first-hand learning experiences are invaluable. Just glad he's learning something at school! ;)

Monday, November 04, 2013

Some of the Best

 I know it's been weeks since I last mentioned family pictures, but I finally got them back in a share-able format. So for the two of you that may have wanted to see more, here you go! :)

 Finally, a Lydia smile! We see these all the time, but it's a rare thing in pictures.

Sunday, November 03, 2013


Our Halloween festivities started at our church's trunk-or-treat, which was outside the whole time. We made sure to dress warmly, since it was in the mid-thirties that night! I converted Lydia's snuggle suit into a pig, since that's what Nora insisted that she needed to be. Not sure why she was so adamant about it, but Lydia sure made a cute pig in a blanket.
There is a Halloween store that opens seasonally, right around the corner from us- two minutes if we walk.  We made lots and lots of trips over there "just to see," much to my great excitement. ;) I encouraged them to make cool costumes (I think they're higher quality and way more fun), but they decided they wanted to pay for part of them so they could buy new ones. I went along with it, mainly because I know they'll see a lot of use, and it was easy. Nora wanted to be a pink Power Ranger, which was perfect because she never can find a suitable ninja costume in our costume box when the mood strikes (as it often does).
We wanted to have a little more fun with the front door this year, and this is what we came up with. That's Benjamin's bat he made hanging from the yarn, if you can't tell.
Monday night pumpkin carving. Each of the kids designed their own, and we helped carve. I let Benjamin use a knife to carve his own for the first time, which I think made him feel very big.
For Nora, I made Cinderella's coach. She added Merida and a few tiny horses for company.
Along with our traditional witches brew (beef stew), we had mummies, spiders, witches brooms and pumpkins. The kids really got into it.
 It was raining off and on all day Halloween, but that didn't stop the annual elementary school parade and school-wide "Thriller" dance from happening. We caught them mid-parade, and waved at our little green ninja. When it was time to trick-or-treat, it was raining again, so the kids headed out with umbrellas. Spiderman, Pink Power Ranger, and Green Ninja were among three or four groups of kids to make their rounds through our neighborhood. Lydia was in bed, so I stayed home to pass out candy to the six other of trick-or-treaters.
 I still think Halloween is a weird holiday, but it does make for some fun traditions.