What I Live For. We're Not Saying Goodbye to Summer Just Yet.

8.29.2014

I have mixed feelings about the school year starting again and summer coming to a close, about adhering to a regular schedule again, colder weather, and sending my little boy far away from me for four hours a day four days a week.  They're all good changes I suppose, but this summer has really hit a sweet spot with my soul.  The boys are the perfect ages for taking to the lake or just playing around the house.  It's been a ton of fun.  And we've made a lot of cherished memories.  Lucky for us, while everyone else starts school next week, we still have two more weeks to soak in the last rays of summer because preschool doesn't start till mid September.  Woohoo!  Maybe... maybe by then I'll finally be ready to welcome Fall.

This week we've been fitting in our last summer hurrahs with friends.  We met the Youngs at Dierkes Lake and the kids had a blast running down the hill together and sliding onto their towels.  We also sat on the edge of the dock admiring the little fish that hung out there just waiting anxiously to be fed.  The boys begged me to catch a fish for them in a giant purple bucket.  I tried.  It was never going to happen.  Maybe if I had a net... 

Then last night we met several family friends after dinner at Natsoopah, a natural hot springs pool.  We practically had the place to ourselves!  Levi was just a cute little fish.  He enjoyed "swimming" with his water wings and being thrown up into the air.  I channeled teenage Jessie and did a back flip off the high dive.  But absolutely the best part of the whole night was riding the water slide a hundred times over with Jed.  Jed's enthusiasm was contagious.  Bron and I took turns sending him down with a big shove on an orange mat while Jed wore a giant grin.  He loved it and claimed, "This is the best day ever!"  Moments like that make my heart swell with happiness.  I love my family.

Finally, I can't forget to mention where all these pictures came from: last Sunday evening's walk around the neighborhood.  The weather was dreamy and the boys were being hams, riding their bikes with gusto and insisting on wearing sunglasses.  It's an evening I wish I could bottle up and repeat.

So Summer, we're not saying goodbye just yet.

  ^^I wish you couldn't see my reflection.  Those aviators kill me with their cuteness!^^
^^We need to buy Jed a helmet his size.  Problems of being the first child.^^
^^Practicing his off-roading downhill skills.^^
^^My favorite four year old stud.^^    
^^Cruising fast!  No feet!^^
^^Sometimes I can't believe I actually live here.  It's so peaceful and beautiful.^^
^^Rural Idaho is like a petting zoo.  We visited the neighbor's goats.^^
^^Then we walked across this "bridge" a dozen times.^^
^^What the walk home looked like.  Haha.  Bron was smart enough to bring the double stroller.  It was a one-way bike ride for the boys' short legs.^^


P.S. I guest posted on Savouring Simplicity about my photography workflow for blogging and how I keep it as short and sweet as possible.  Check it out!

Throwback Thursday: My First Day of First Grade

8.28.2014
This was too funny of an opportunity to pass up.  In honor of back to school season, I just had to link up with one of my favorite mommy bloggers for a throwback of our own school days. 

This is me on my first day of first grade in 1991...


I'm wearing a dress my mom made.  (Gotta give that wonderful woman some credit!)  And my hair was curled with those pink sponge curlers that I slept in over night.  I know I was thinking, "I'm sooo pretty!"  Hahaha.

Worse, is that a few months later I had a sudden obsession with wide brimmed hats--the ones that women wear to the beach and horse races.  I wanted one with long colorful ribbons.  So I made one out of a basket and wore it on my head.  I'm pretty sure I went shopping at the commissary with my mom wearing this dress with a basket tied to my head.  Umm, yeah.

Embarrassing childhood memories.  But if I remember right, first grade was a pretty darn good year.


Hop on over to Jenny's blog to link up and see some more silly first day of school pictures from back in the day!

My Photography Journey

8.26.2014
My photography journey started way back before I even knew I wanted a camera.  Bron and I were newlyweds.  I was working for an ophthalmologist office while Bron was finishing his bachelor's degree and working on his family's dairy.  Bron usually didn't get in from milking those bovine beauties until about 10PM most evenings, which left me plenty of free time to fill after my own work day was done.  So I started running, scrap-booking, and teaching violin lessons.  I had my own mini studio of six students or so.  At Bron's suggestion, I started saving all my violin money in an envelope tucked away inside a book.

Roughly two years later, we moved to New York so that Bron could commence earning his master's degree.  I still had the envelope of cash.  At first I had my heart set on buying a piano, but that very summer I became pregnant with Jed and everything changed.  I saw the beautiful pictures my cousin was posting of her handsome boys and I knew I wanted to have pictures of my own children just like she did.  If she could learn photography, then so could I, right?

So after a little research, I took my envelope of cash to the store and bought Photoshop Elements 8 and a Canon Rebel xsi with a kit lens.

 ^^A trip to Montreal, Quebec with my new camera.  Can you see my tiny baby bump?^^
 ^^One of my first attempts at capturing upstate New York in the Fall^^

I was thrilled!  And I was overwhelmed.  There was just so much to wrap my head around: shutter speed, aperture, ISO.  I immersed myself in online tutorials on "how to shoot in manual" and editing basics.  I read my camera's manual, played with my settings, and re-read the manual.  By golly, I was determined to learn this and learn it well!

Little by little, I did learn.  I asked a lot of questions.  And I made a lot of mistakes.  I was critical of myself, but delighted in my improvements.  Most of all, I was just happy that the click of my camera was fast enough to capture Jed's first smiles and milestones.

I soon grew brave enough to start shooting in RAW.  My cousin suggested editing in Digital Photo Professional (DPP), a program that came on CD with my Canon camera.  I immediately saw a HUGE difference!  DPP is a powerful basic editing program that suddenly transformed by photographs from "blah" to "ta-dah".  Used in conjunction with Photoshop Elements (PSE), I felt like I was on my way.  It was exciting!

 ^^Six month old Jed playing in the leaves.  One of my first pictures edited in DPP.  It was over exposed and I was able to "save" it.^^

Since we didn't have internet access at home, I would often go next door to the Miner Institute Library and print off pages of step-by-step instructions for editing and making my own actions in PSE.  I cannot tell you how beneficial that was to learning the program and its seemingly endless capabilities.

 ^^Learing the ins and outs of Photoshop Elements, experimenting with layers and colors and opacity using instructions I printed from the web.^^

Christmas 2010 Bron surprised me with a brand new lens!  He bought me the 50mm f/1.8, also known as fantastic plastic.  For a pair of students, it fit our budget perfectly coming in at about $100.  I attached it to my camera and immediately noticed an extensive difference in my photos.  The colors!  The sharpness!  Bokeh!  I could finally shoot indoors!  It was a miracle lens that changed the way I saw the world as a budding photographer.

 ^^Using my 50mm f/1.8 lens for the first time!^^

Six months later, Bron graduated and started his career.  We moved across the country back "home" to Idaho.  We bought a house and welcomed Levi into the family.  When I began making friends, Bron encouraged me to tell my friends that I loved photography and offer to take their pictures.  (Where would I be without that man's loving support?)  For some reason, taking pictures for other people took some courage for me.  It felt simultaneously thrilling and intimidating.  After all, I didn't want to waste anyone's time or money.  So I made up a little website and started shooting other people for free, gradually increasing my prices as word spread and demand grew.

Months later, I finally earned enough money to buy a new computer and upgrade to editing in Lightroom 5.  I would sing praises about Lightroom all day long!  It's an incredible computer program that has sped up my workflow and I think has improved my finished photo product.  The program comes with a steep learning curve though.  I'm still learning about its infinite functions, but I'm excited because I still have a long way to go in the way of pushing the program to its limits.     

Just last spring, I photographed two classes of children at a local private preschool.  Almost all of the checks were made out to "Rock Creek Photography".  Ooops!  There was no way I could cash those.  So I quickly sent off a form in the mail to the state (with a $20 check) to officially register Rock Creek Photography as a business in the state of Idaho.  Two weeks later I was suddenly a legitimate business woman!  What?  It was crazy and exciting and really didn't mean anything more than the fact that I now have a business bank account.  I'm still in the very beginning stages of running a "business".  I really have no idea what I'm doing, but I'm learning.  Right now, I'm slowly trying to grow my clientele whilst keeping my role as wife and mother top priority.


It has taken me nearly five years to feel comfortable enough to call myself a photographer.  Perhaps I can more accurately be labeled a Momtog--a mom who photographs her children.  Either way, I've come a long way.  I've learned a lot!  But the interesting thing about photography is that there is no finish line.  I will never "arrive" anywhere.  Instead, I will have to challenge myself to keep learning and improving.  Photography is a wonderful art, a beautiful way to document our lives and a form of self expression.  I love it and I don't see myself stopping any time soon.

 ^^My little boy--the whole reason I started learning photography^^

Berry Picking is Over-Romanticized

8.24.2014

Last week the boys and I headed out to Patton Farms in Gooding, ID to pick blackberries.  The farm was a quaint family-run operation and I couldn't help but feel at home there.  We were welcomed by two little girls, one of which became Jed's new friend.  She showed Jed how to pick blackberries and then the two disappeared to play somewhere on the farm.  I thought, "This is so much fun!"

And it was a lot of fun, but it was also very hot.  And buggy.  And itchy.  Then Levi decided to have an epic meltdown.  So off we trudged back to the car for his sippy cup of water.  I brought him back to our row of berry bushes and set him down in the shade with his water.  He continued to whine and cry while my nerves frayed and I picked berries as fast as my hands would move.  Finally, I began singing; music always seems to calm that boy down.  Luckily, it worked.  Levi mellowed out enough to let me finish picking three gallons of plump juicy blackberries.

Needless to say, our berry picking experience was a far cry from romantic and happy.  I'd say it qualified as a semi-fail.  Fortunately, however, the taste of those giant blackberries were definitely worth the effort!

My favorite part of the whole ordeal actually happened a few hours later while prepping the berries at home in the kitchen with Jed.  Both Jed and I tied aprons around our waists to protect our clothes.  Then we dumped the berries into a sink full of water and gently washed them.  I then carefully placed the fragile berries on cookie sheets to flash freeze while Jed enthusiastically snitched away to his heart's content.  We also made a batch of freezer jam.  Finally, Jed helped me bake an angel food cake.  The sense of pride in his attitude and the giant smile on his face made me feel like the best mom on the planet.  "I take the cake out of the oven all by myself," he insisted while wearing two oven mittens.  He was so cute.  I'm so happy we had that special time together.

So I suppose berry picking turned out to be romantic after all, in a mother-son bonding kind of way.

^^Vanilla Greek yogurt + Blackberries.  Anyone want to join us for dessert?  Or lunch?^^

Goober: Can't. Even. Handle...

8.22.2014

Those curls.  That smile.  His big personality.
You guys, I don't stand a chance.
I am irrevocably wrapped around Levi's tiny pinky finger.

*****

Happy Friday and a wonderful weekend!

The Weekend Commander Visited: South Hills Hiking and Dinner on the Rim

8.20.2014
This is the second post about our incredibly fun weekend with family.  

After such an exhausting (but super fun) day, we took Sunday a bit slower.  We began with a late morning trip up into our beloved South Hills.  We hiked the short distance to Ross Falls and then drove further up to Pike's Peak for a sensational view.  Simple yet refreshing.

^^Levi getting a free ride on Commander's shoulders.  And Jed, proud of himself for climbing this little hill.^^
^^The whole gang at Ross Falls, including Tyke, our dog.^^
^^Jed helping his little brother down a precarious hill.^^
^^My main squeeze and me enjoying our perch on top of a giant rock.  I love that man... a lot.^^
^^Grumpy Jed.  He was ready to go home.^^
^^View from Pike's Peak^^

We all came home and crashed in the afternoon.  Then that evening, I hired a babysitter and we adults ended our day at one of my favorite restaurants, Elevation 486.  Not only is the food delectable, but the view is unrivaled.  The restaurant sits on the canyon rim in Twin Falls and boasts magnificent views of the Snake River and the Perrine Bridge.  After a delicious dinner, we walked out onto the bridge and just happened to be in time to watch a couple of BASE jumpers propel themselves off the bridge. 

^^Our Sunday night sunset view at dinner.  I'm proud to call this uniquely pretty place home.^^
^^I've seen folks jump at least a dozen times now and it always takes my breath away.^^

I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sad to see my dad and Liz go.  I missed them the moment we hugged and said our good-byes.  The weekend was unbelievably fun and full of so much love for family.  May our next trip to California and another family reunion come quickly!

We love you, Dad and Liz!  Thank you so much for making the effort to travel all the way up here (we're out of the way, for sure) and then spoiling us rotten as well.  The boys will be talking about Commander and their boat trip down the river for weeks as well as plaguing me with reassembling their new Lego sets over and over again.  But I wouldn't have it any other way.