Friday, February 25, 2011

Photo Tips for Kids (and their Mamas)

Cory got a camera for Christmas (the vTech Kidizoom) and has been having a blast taking pictures of random things.  But how do you explain things to a three year old so that all his pictures don't end up being either a) blurry b) back lit or c) too small to identify?

I've got a few tips that have helped me along the way.  Hopefully they will help you if your kid has a camera, and maybe you'll learn something yourself too!

Look for the Light

Look around you and see where your primary light source is whether it's the sun*, a lamp, or simply the biggest window in the room.  Then face your subject (or object) towards that light and put yourself between the light and the subject, but slightly off to the side so you don't make a shadow.  The subject can either face the light entirely and you'll get a slight profile shot, or face you and you'll get a bit of side light.  Either way this makes your picture turn out with your subject lit, and not the background!  This is my number one tip!

*If the sun is your light source it's best to be in a shaded place somewhere or you'll get squinty eyes and harsh lighting, but still face towards the direction of the sun.

Get Closer

This can also be achieved by zooming in, if your camera has that function.  The point of this is to make the subject really stand out in your picture.  If what's really important is the eyes, it's okay to not show the whole body or even the whole face!  You'll also get a lot more detail this way.

You can go overboard with this and never have a picture that shows any background, but I think most people are a bit afraid to zoom in!

Also in the case of a scenery shot with people in it, like at the Grand Canyon, a great way to have the people larger is to position them closer to the camera, but off to the side and still have the scenery in the background!

Hold Still

You can definitely get some cool effects with blur, but when that's not the point of the picture you have to be a little more patient!  Show your kids how to brace the camera against anything nearby - the edge of the table, a chair, even the floor.

Most point and shoots, and especially Cory's camera, have a delay between when you push the button and when it actually takes the picture.  Thus you must have a steady hand to get a good shot.  (Yes, I'm looking at you, mom! *wink*)

Turn Your Flash Off!

This one's mostly for us moms!  Obviously there are times when using a flash is necessary and the memory is more important than the perfect quality photograph.  But if you want a great picture of your kids look for natural light (see #1!).  Go outside whenever possible or get close to a big window.  Try the hour just before sunset for some great golden light.

Any other tips you would give to a kid?  Or a mom photographer?

Oh, and if you'd like to see some of Cory's work you can see the blog that he keeps... with my husband as a very hilarious ghost writer!

Disclaimer: The vTech camera was purchased with family money as a gift. I am sure vTech has no idea who I am or any knowledge of my blog. That said, we really think it's a great little camera for the price and I don't have to worry about it getting dropped and broken!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Imitating Brother

Noah watched intently as Cory put his Motor Works Motorcycle back together.  When he was done (and we put away all the extra plastic screws) Noah picked up the screwdriver and put it on the motorcycle like he was trying to do it too.  Super cute!

Monday, February 21, 2011

At A Loss for Words

I am at a loss for words.

I could tell you about the goodbye party we went to on Saturday night, complete with cute and sentimental pictures. I'll miss them!

I could tell you that we've had an entirely too relaxing weekend and still have one day left (not a whole lot accomplished!).

I could tell you that I'm having a really hard time remembering to actually take one picture a day for Project 365 (how many pictures of the same 1100 square feet can you take?).  Or perhaps that's the point, to make you see photo worthy things in the mundane.

But somehow none of that seems really important.

I don't know, maybe I'm having a bloggy crisis.

I have all these thoughts running around in my head.  Most of them are deep and I'm not able to put them into words quite yet.  Some are about the direction of this blog.  Some are not.  But all are deep.

Do you have any input for me?

Also, I have dried baby-gummed animal cracker on the shoulder of my shirt.  I am a mom.

Friday, February 18, 2011

11 Months

Eleven months old already and time to think about what we're going to do for his first birthday!  I have a feeling it will not be a big shindig like Cory's... poor second child!  I think we're actually going to combine them since they are only 10 days apart and Grandparents are coming from Oregon for a weekend.

Mister wouldn't sit in the chair for me this month so I tried to put the bunny up on the chair and have him stand by it... NOT!  He pulled the bunny off and then when I tried to put it back up he quickly realized this was a fun game.  So I just went with it and he was cackling he thought it was so funny.  The pictures turned out pretty cute!

Anyway, not too much is gigantically new this month.  No new teeth, no consistent signing, although perhaps it's just a Mama knowing her baby, but Noah can definitely communicate with me.  Mostly it's squawking, but I know what he needs at certain times.

He also knows what we're saying as we've taught him to stay out of the kitchen (line between carpet and linoleum) and he will test it.  When we say "Noah, get out of the kitchen" he will sometimes move, sometimes sit there and look at you until you take a step towards him.  Then he will hightail it out because he knows he shouldn't be in there!  It's kind of funny except that he's pushing the boundaries already... both of them, what am I going to do?!!

This evening I was giving Cory a haircut and Brian was doing the dishes and so even though he was 2 feet from me he couldn't stand it that he wasn't allowed in the kitchen.  When he crawled in again and Brian told him to get out he just laid down on his face and started wailing.  It was so pathetic, but it was actually kind of funny.  I promise we do spend plenty of time with him in the living room where he can be with us!

Sometimes if I take something away from him that he really wants (cell phone?) he will just stare at me and yell at me.  It's not a cry, he's actually yelling at me.  And if that doesn't work he will actually try to bite me!  At that point he gets a little time out in his crib where he is angry for a few minutes and then calms down and I go get him.  He does play bite sometimes where it's more of an open mouth kiss and very sweet.  But he's still learning that it's not okay to actually bite someone.  A bit of that red hair coming out perhaps.

Both of my boys seem to be going through a growth spurt or something, they want to eat constantly and about double what I was used to feeding them!  Noah has discovered his brother's love of bananas.  So, if Cory wants one for breakfast and I start peeling it I'd better give half of it (in chunks) to Noah!  It's one of the few foods that I can get in small pieces and he can still pick up.  So I'm sure half of it is that he's getting to feed himself, but tonight I also had a half in my hand on the floor and said "Noah".  When he saw what I had he crawled right over to me and up in my lap and started taking bites off of it.
When Cory was a bit older than Noah is now we would have him in our bed in the morning and pretty quickly he would sit up and make the sign for banana.  Every morning.  We go through at least a dozen bananas a week around here!

And while these boys always seem to want the one toy that the other one is playing with at the moment they really do get along pretty well.  They talk and giggle at each other while in bed and just generally want to be together all the time.  Yay for brothers!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Reading

I guess I should amend my post from yesterday.  I have read quite a bit of fiction in the last 6 months, all of it aimed at the 4-and-under crowd!

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Reading - Prom and Prejudice

I won a copy of Prom and Prejudice from My Friend Amy* awhile ago and recently received it in the mail.  I've been in need of some reading time so I picked this up yesterday... and read the whole thing.  I don't think I've read any fiction in about six months and this was a great way to get back into it!
*Linked to her review

Prom and Prejudice is the modern day retelling of Pride and Prejudice, albeit set in an upstate New York girls prep school.  And as you can probably tell from the title the focus is on getting a date to the prom rather than marriage.

I have read Pride and Prejudice and seen the movies although it's been quite some time.  With what recollection I have the characters seem to be very similar in nature to Jane Austen's.  I think any fan of the old version won't find much to quibble with in this story.

Elizabeth Eulberg did a great job of making it her own story though, adding a story element to make it work in the modern setting.  I don't think it detracts from the original at all.

The book is a light easy read, but it's not fluffy at all.  The depth of the characters and the issues they have to wrestle with are real, as any girl in high school today can relate.  It was also a fun glimpse into today's "high society".

If you're looking for an escapist read that isn't too sappy I think this fits the bill!

Monday, February 14, 2011

On Being Known

I use

too many words

I hide

behind those words

I am afraid


Afraid that if I don't use the words

You will misunderstand

I am afraid

That you won't like me

That you won't like

the me

that I want to be


I hate

being afraid

of who I am

Of how you

see me


I want

to be free

To be more

than enough

for me

Prompted by this, this, her, my pastor's sermon, and a thousand other little things.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Financial Peace

Financial Peace.  Those two words probably don't go together in most people's vocabularies.  They really haven't for us since we have two opposing philosophies about money!  But considering the statistics about marital problems stemming from money, it might be a good thing to work on!

Just over a year ago I started hearing about Dave Ramsey and Financial Peace University.  It sounded a little weird to me and the cost to take the class was fairly high.  So I dismissed it.

After buying a house and trying to keep a budget for six months, at the new year we saw that the class was being offered again.  In the interim I had actually learned quite a bit more about it and Brian knew way more about Dave Ramsey than I did, so we signed up.

The church very graciously gave us a scholarship for some of the cost and we dove in.  What is Financial Peace University?  It's a thirteen week video class taught by Dave Ramsey (some of you may have heard of him? =) with the basic premise being to get out of debt quickly.  And also, how to be on the same page as your spouse.  That's the part I wanted, but we've learned a lot of other things and actually prioritized some things in our life.  And we're only on week 5!

The first "baby step" as Ramsey calls them is to get a thousand dollars in an emergency fund.  We sat down and figured out our taxes and realized that we would get enough back (and then some) to fully fund this account soon.  And then both our cars went into the shop.

Brian's car had an oil leak that we thought started right after it was last serviced.  But it turned out to be some seals around the engine that really needed to be replaced... at a cost of almost a thousand dollars.  While his car was still in the shop I finally took mine in to get an alignment and have my muffler welded back on as it was rattling like crazy.  I asked my friend Jennifer to meet me for coffee while I was waiting as it was supposed to be about 3 hours.

Two hours into our coffee date I got a call that my muffler needed to be replaced... along with my catalytic converter.  And since my car is a Subaru and they are specialty parts the guy figured it would be about a thousand dollars to replace, but he'd have to call the parts company for sure on Monday.  I freaked out.  Not only would we have already spent our emergency fund on one car, the second one needed the same amount of repair.  And my car is hardly worth that much total it's so old!

God must have known what I needed because Jennifer started telling me about her job and how she had been thinking to hire an administrative assistant part time and would I be interested.  Not only that, she offered to loan us an extra car they weren't using as the shop man had me believing that my car was liable to catch fire at any point while I was driving.

Monday came and we got an actual quote of $600 for the repair.  Then we took it to another shop that my mechanic had actually recommended and they looked at it and said... the muffler needs tightening.  Done.  And we'll pressure test your catalytic converter, but we don't think that's the problem.  A day and $65 later, I had new seals in my exhaust system and my car is ready to go.  Needless to say I won't recommend the first shop to anyone!

But I'm so thankful for the way things were orchestrated.  I've been working with Jennifer on this position and I will officially start working part time, from home(!) on Monday.

Brian's philosophy is that God will always take care of our money.  I believe this, but I still feel the need to be in control of everything.  I'm beginning to see through all of this that God is still very definitely in control and it might actually be nicer to sit in the passenger seat and enjoy the view rather than white knuckle it the whole way!

So tell me, what's your philosophy on money?  And have you ever taken Financial Peace University?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: Climbing

This may not look like much, but he climbed up on the box and then turned around and sat down.  He was QUITE proud of himself!

Monday, February 07, 2011

A Happy Customer is a Repeat Customer

Sometime last fall I won a bra from A Mother's Boutique.  I'd never heard of them until I ran across this contest on someone's blog.  I liked this bra so much for sleeping and nursing that I ordered a second one.  Happy Mommy.

Cut to last month when I realized that my current nursing bras from Target were pretty much done after 10 months of service.  They don't carry them anymore and I couldn't find any in our town, nor any that fit in Oregon, where I had access to a much larger selection.  So I emailed Judy, the owner of A Mother's Boutique.  She happily emailed me about a dozen different options that she thought might work for my size and requests - yes, I'm unusual, but not too unusual for a nursing mother!

I picked out 4 and ordered them.  None fit well.  So I returned them and picked 5 more from new recommendations.  Finally I found a winner in this La Leche League bra.  And it's even without underwire.  I never would have attempted a non-underwire bra without Judy recommending it.

Needless to say I am super happy with the service I received, including the advice on what to try!  I will be shopping there again for future maternity/nursing needs (and no, I'm not pregnant again =)  They have a great selection and things you won't find in other stores.

Right now is a great time to shop if you have any maternity/nursing clothing needs since they're having a super sale!  On top of that readers of this blog can take an additional 5% off with the code WTML.

You can follow A Mother's Boutique on facebook where they always have the latest news relating to breastfeeding! Or read the blog at Mommy News and Views (and win some stuff there too!)

If you ever have any nursing related questions Judy is great about responding quickly with helpful advice!  I highly recommend it!

I received a 20% discount on my order for writing about A Mother's Boutique, but the experience was all mine and I would have ordered from them anyway!

Friday, February 04, 2011

The Homework is Killing Me!

I'm drawing a blank on writing here.  We've been so busy I've hardly had time to stop and think! 

During the course of January I managed to get signed up for 3 things that require homework: the Beth Moore study I mentioned (and yes, I'm already behind), Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University, and then homework from some counseling we've started.  These are all good things, but they take up yet more of my time. Significantly more actually.

In the middle of all of this my calendar has filled up so that I can hardly find a night to share dinner with a friend who's moving to India next month.  We have a couple of trips out of town (that photography workshop I also mentioned is ON!!!), a scrapbooking retreat - much needed, and just general busy-ness.  I've recently started keeping a list of tasks that have to be done and working on crossing off at least one thing every day.  It's definitely helping me see that I HAVE accomplished something with my day other than laundry and dinner, but it seems the list is growing at an exponential rate!

Looking back at that list I wrote on January 1st I have done quite a few of the things.  I've been to the pool every week except this one, I started my Project 365, I did a photo shoot for a friend, and so far I've memorized my 2 verses for January's SSMT.
Maybe it does help me feel like I've accomplished more if I write them down.  Then I get a big picture look at my life rather than feeling like I'm never getting ahead.  Now to set some more goals I guess!

This month: finding new blog opportunities!

Does anyone else have this problem? =)  How do you keep track of the things that need to be done?

Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Wordless Wednesday: And Then I Ate Them

I've always loved pistachios, but now when I eat them they remind me of our trip to Saudi Arabia in 2009. 

And with this photo I have started a Project 365 (as of February 1st).  I will keep it mostly on Flickr and only occasionally post the photos here, but you will be able to see the full set there.  I will attempt to take at least one photo every day although they may not be posted immediately.  Here's to better photos by 2012!