Monday, January 25, 2010

Photo shoot tutorial

I didn't get interested in taking pictures until I had children. I had an old 35mm camera with no zoom, and all of my first pictures of Spencer were either blurry or too far away. I knew I had to get a new camera - one with zoom, and that made a huge difference. My pictures improved little by little through trial and error. A few years later Jen gave me a book about photographing babies, and I LOVED it. I'm sorry that I can't remember what it's called, and I'm not exactly sure where it is right now. But here are the main things I learned:
1. Get close. Then zoom in even closer. Babies are little, and the only way you can really capture their cuteness is to get super close. It's okay if part of the head gets cut off. The focus is the face.
This is a pretty cute picture, but you can't see Levi's face too well.

Much better!
2. Turn off the flash. I almost never use a flash - it washes out the face, distorts colors and makes everything look flat. There are external flashes and diffusers out there, but that's for fancier cameras.
3. Use indirect light (window, front/back porch, garage, under a tree, etc.). You may have noticed that the majority of my indoor shots are taken right next to my front window or sliding glass door. You don't want the sun shining directly on your baby, so a nice cloudy day like today was just perfect. And I know that we're often told to put the light in front of the subject and never behind him, but sometimes I like the look of light lining my baby's face in a profile view like the one above. You may lose some details in the shadows, but I love the contrast of light and dark.
4. Take LOTS of pictures! Now that most of us have digital cameras, it is super easy to take a gazillion shots. And the more pictures you take, the more likely you are to get a good one. Plus we can learn by trial and error much faster when we take bunches of pictures and can see them immediately.
5. Finally (and this is my tip, not the book's), have fun playing with your pictures. If you have one that didn't turn out so great because of lighting or something, don't immediately delete it. You may be able to salvage it later. For example Levi's forehead was slightly overexposed in this picture (it had that shiny look to it); but I liked it because he looked so cute sucking his thumb. So I converted it to black and white and increased the contrast for a dramatic effect.
You know it's time to stop when your baby gets fussy. My photo shoots are rarely planned. I just happen to notice that my baby is looking especially cute and happy and that the lighting is decent, and I take pictures quick before he gets tired/cranky.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

River of water

After 5 straight days of rain, which was often very heavy with high winds, thunder, lightning and even hail, we woke up to blue skies and sunshine today. And as much as I love rainy weather, it was nice to have a little break. So we loaded up the boys and drove to the riverbed, which actually had water in it. Our town is dissected by the Salinas River, which is usually just an underground river that serves as our town's water source. The kids have been asking me all week to go there, since they've never actually seen it with water.
They got a tad wet and muddy while exploring, hiking, climbing and throwing rocks in the water. My boys love water, and I love the green hills. It's amazing what a little rain can do.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Dave visits Spencer's class

Spencer's class just finished a chapter about medicine in their reading book at school, and his teacher asked Dave to visit. I went along to help out and take pictures.
I thought he did an excellent job, and the kids were really captivated. He talked about proactive versus reactive medicine, and what they can do now to prevent diseases. They had written questions ahead of time, and he interspersed the answers to those along with interesting cases he has seen.
He spent a lot of time talking about the food pyramid and brought in a sample day of food for their age, so they could see how much a serving is of each group as well as good food choices. Spencer said no one wanted to eat their white bread sandwiches that day.

Then they broke up into groups and went around to different stations. Spencer manned the X-ray station. Yes, this X-ray is backwards. Of course Dave put a plug in about the dangers of smoking, especially since at least one of the X-rays showed serious lung damage from smoking.

I showed them how to use stethoscopes to listen to their hearts and lungs. They had a lot of fun with that. Spencer's teacher did the food table, Dave told more interesting cases at another station, and then the last table had test tubes showing the different amounts of fat and sugar in various foods. I told Dave he should hold onto his notes - he may be doing this again.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Random Updates

Brennan is finally feeling better after dealing with a yucky ear infection and a lymph node in his neck that was so big he couldn't move his head. No, he doesn't need eye protection to paint, but he sure wanted to wear them. Spencer had them out to work on his Pinewood Derby car, which they finished this weekend.
The boys love to get ahold of my camera. Tyler took this one of me and Levi.

Rain is always a big deal around here. It's going to be a wet week.
Levi has gotten into a good sleep pattern. He takes a morning nap, an afternoon nap and then 11-12 hours at night. That doesn't leave much time for playing, but he fits it in where he can.
Sometimes he can even hold his own toys. He sure loves his baths.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Christmas crafts

Now that Christmas is over I can post pictures of some gifts I made this year. Here is the family tree we gave to Dave's parents. It was one of the projects at the super Saturday craft day in October, which I couldn't go to because Levi was just a week old. But I loved it so much I made them later on my own. I also did one for Josh and Megan and one to keep. If you're interested, here's the tutorial.

The other major project this year was shell ornaments. It all started when Spencer begged to make something to sell at the school's annual craft bazaar. I am always against this kind of thing. Emphatically so. I hate to sell things. I don't need more work right before Christmas. And as much as he promised he'd do it all on his own, I knew I'd end up getting hugely involved. He was coming up with all kinds of ideas that made me cringe. He even collected bags full of pine cones. Then one day I looked online for simple Christmas craft ideas, and I found these. Now this was something I could actually get excited about. It was simple. Cute. Something I would want myself. Even if he didn't sell any, I'd love to give them as gifts. And since he's all about the ocean, it seemed like the perfect thing for him to do.

So we made a trip to the Shell Shop (my kids' favorite store in the world) and bought a variety of shells. They sell ornaments there too, which helped give us ideas.

There were some shells he really liked, but they were so expensive that he'd have to sell them at a high price to make a profit. We were going for cheap. Like this cut shell that only costs 50 cents. He painted it green and added glitter. Then he sold them for $1.

These longer ones looked like icicles, so we painted them white and added glitter. My favorite thing about these ornaments was that the boys (Tyler helped) could make them almost completely by themselves.

These sand dollar snowmen were a little more complicated, but I thought they were so cute. I'm not artistic, but I can handle decorating with dots.
Here's another snowman. More dots.

We had the most fun with these starfish santas. They were the biggest ticket item at $3.

Don't you just love the polka dot swimming suit?! I got the idea for this one from google images. Kristen's boys also made these, and they glued theirs to shell surfboards.

Spencer really wanted to buy these heart-shaped shells, but they were kinda small and we didn't know what to do with them. So we stuck them on these circle shells and added some things we had around the house - beads for heads and silver rings for halos, and we ended up with these cute angels. We only made 3 of them, but they were the first to sell. After all our work, the school decided not to do the craft bazaar this year! But his teacher, who had gotten him all excited about doing it, said he could go around the school and sell them on his own anyway. They were a huge hit, and he made $26. He had SO much fun selling them! I can't even begin to tell you. He came home with his pockets full of quarters and dollar bills every day, grinning from ear to ear. Then we gave some as gifts and kept the rest. We might even do it again next year.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

3 months

Levi is 3 months old! He has 2 moods - sweet and happy or MAD! Not much in between. He won't take a binky, but he likes to chew on his fist or my finger. He's a good sleeper and eater. He's starting to play with toys, or at least look at things we dangle in front of him.I love this nightgown. Maryruth gave it to Spencer, and all my babies have worn it. It's especially soft and snuggly. And it's extra long, so they can wear it a long time.He's just so stinkin' cute! And he makes me happy.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Last sunset of 2009

We said good-bye to 2009 by eating chili on the beach and enjoying the last sunset of the year. It got pretty chilly (hee hee). But it wasn't windy, and it was just gorgeous there. The kids all decided this should become a tradition. Thanks for making such a yummy dinner mom! Soup is such a great way to feed a crowd.Troy warming up by the fire.

Levi's cousins sure adore him.

Spencer got to try out his new skimboard he got for Christmas. For those of you not familiar with those, they are kind of like mini surfboards. But instead of paddling out and riding the waves in, you throw them parallel to the water and jump on. He did really well for his first time.

Dallin and Brennan got very nervous about big boys getting too close to the fire.

Then we all went over to my parents' house for the usual spread (cheese and crackers and spinach dip and chips and such), games, movies, Martinelli toasts and countdown around 9:40. Random time, I know, but we wanted to get kids to bed. Some were sad they didn't get to stay up until midnight, but there was already crying and sadness.
Dave and my nephews spent most of the afternoon constructing this cool time warp spinning tunnel for the youth dance (it was Jonathan's first dance, woo-hoo!). I drove home around 10:00 and put our boys to bed. Then I cleaned my house like crazy for 3 hours and watched movies and folded laundry while waiting for Dave to come home from the dance. That might sound like a horrible way to spend the evening, but it felt great to actually get so much done without any interruptions. Then New Year's day we put away all our Christmas decorations. I love my clean, empty house! My resolution is to organize and decorate.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Hanging out with family

We've enjoyed having lots of family in town this week for the holidays. So we decided it was a good time to bless little Levi at church last Sunday.

Levi didn't start crying until the end of his blessing, so I was able to hear the whole thing. He sure looked ticked when Dave held him up afterwards.

My sister Emily and her family stayed with us for a few days, which was a lot of fun. Last Monday we went to a local beach that is one of her family's favorites but we don't think to go to very often. There's lots of rocks and shells and tidepools and rough surf, so it's more of an exploring beach than a swimming one.

Everyone ran around screaming with excitement when Spencer found a sun star, which is like a star fish but has lots more tentacles and a soft outer body rather than a hard one.

Here's what the bottom side looks like. It was squirming all around and he had to get it back to the water quickly, since it was still alive.
Afterwards we were cold and wet, so we went to my parents' house to warm up with hot soup. It was lovely.

We went to the Monterey Bay Aquarium on Wednesday. Here are 2 of my neices, Allison and Hannah. See? There are a few girls in the family.

They had a new sea horse exhibit, and I especially liked this dragon sea horse.

And this leafy dragon sea horse.

I was worried about taking all of my kids without Dave (he had to work), so I left Brennan behind with a friend. That made the biggest difference, since he is at the age of wandering off and getting lost in big crowds. I couldn't handle that. I did get the annual membership, so we'll go back with Dave and Brennan at some point.

My kids' favorite part was the hands-on section.

And as usual Spencer enjoyed impressing all the elderly volunteers with his marine knowledge.

Here's the cool part where you can go under the waves. It was a fun but exhausting day. I was just so grateful that my kids were so awesome there. Especially Levi, who slept in the stroller almost the whole time.