Wednesday, September 30, 2009

WYP #65

Laura, this little girl is BEAUTIFUL! Here's this week's What's Your Play challenge -- and what a treat to work with such a lovely picture. I followed a tutorial Coffee Shop to create the black and white adjustment and then used layers to preserve the colors in the umbrella. Fiddled with hue and saturation and added a watercolor texture. Ta-da:) Very fun. 

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Woot Woot!

I did it, ladies and gentlemen. I vowed yesterday to get up earlier so that I could have a few precious moments of quiet before the day began and here I am -- sipping my coffee, checking stuff out online, savoring the beginning of the day. Ah! Now to see if my theory will pan out in a generally more pleasurable and rewarding morning once the kids are up . . . I'm feeling very hopeful:) 

Monday, September 28, 2009


Today was Sis' 2nd ballet class and again, of course, she loved it. This time around, the parents were banished to the hallway so planning ahead, I brought along a coffee and some reading I've been meaning to get to. I read an interview with Salvador Minuchin, famous family therapy innovator, and it was just what I needed to hear. Here is an excerpt:
I have become a much better parent now than I was as a younger man. I wish I had had the quietness and the wisdom then that I have now. I think it is a pity that beauty is spent on young people, and wisdom comes with age. It wold be a very different world if it was the other way around.   Psychotherapy Networker September/October 2009

Yes, precisely. It is a struggle for me to feel an internal quiet in the midst of the noise and bustle of family life. There is always the push to keep one step ahead of the chaos that threatens to overwhelm the fragile order that must be re-created each day. Routines and rituals just barely keep it at bay at times. After an especially crabby day yesterday, I told my husband that it feels as if there is a to-do list that lives in my head. It is never completed -- as one item is checked off, another takes it place. My mind is always occupied not only by the present (usually the noisy silliness of my children) but also by the demands of the future. And heavens help me if anything truly historical (like anything greater than 5 minute ago) should be sitting on the fringes of my consciousness, waiting for an audience! And then there is my inner critic, the one that tells me that I know how to parent better than I do. It is deeply reassuring that one of the greats of psychotherapy, of family therapy specifically, can reflect on his role as a youthful parent and find himself lacking in the complete calm and centeredness that evades me! 

Another excerpt:

I never expect people to change themselves. In a struggle with yourself, somebody has to lose, and that will be you

He goes on to explain that it is by doing something different that we discover new ways of being in relationship with others -- we change something in how we typically are in these relationships in order to change the system (family/relationship) that we are a part of. In simple terms, my sweet cherubs are driving me nuts at breakfast. Rather than the guilty self-talk I've been doing about my failings as a grounded, calm parent -- which by the way, doesn't feel very enpowering -- I've decided to change something else in the system. I need 15-20 minutes of quiet to have some coffee, gather my thoughts, check in with myself and others. It is the tension between urging the kids to eat, not be too silly, get dressed, not hit each other, etc and this need I have for calm that drives me bonkers. So my new plan, are you ready for this?I'm going to prioritize this calm first thing in the morning, before the children have come downstairs. I'll get it all out of my system so that when we all sit down together at the table, my attention is not divided. That's the plan. The difficulty will be waking up early . . . 

You're good people if you've made it this far, thus I'm rewarding you with some of my favorite colors of fall:) The first photo above is a deliberate imitation of the kinds of photos I admire over at Georgia B's  It's Just How I See Things. And the little duo of the vine was taken on the zoo trip this weekend. This evening it began to rain and cool weather is forecasted for the rest of the week. You know what that means? Lots of beautiful orange pumpkins in the future!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Birds of Prey

The kids love the bird show. My sister would be so proud. She's a bird of prey gal -- having done some pretty note worthy research on the California Condor with the San Diego Zoo and such. In fact, she may know these two birds personally. While living with us between undergrad and graduate school, she volunteered with the Oregon Zoo's bird of prey program. 
We unintentionally sat directly in line with the birds' flight path so there were many times when the huge, majestic (a little scary) birds flew within inches of our heads. Hubby says that the turkey vulture clipped him . . . I was attempting to focus on the birds through my view finder as they swooped in. It can be a startling perspective! None of those close up shots really came out. I'd love to figure out how to do that better. UGH. Running into that photography skill barrier . . . but moving along. The bald eagle is my favorite. I swell with pride and choke up a bit. I suppose the bird has truly become, for me, a symbol of what I want to believe is good and true about my country. 

Speaking of symbols, just finished Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol. Very interesting. Anyone else reading or read it? I'd love to discuss with others . . . I'm especially interested in Noetic Science and the implications for faith and religion. I'm going to need to gather my thoughts a bit before going down that rabbit hole here. Last evening I began a little "research" online, and found a couple of websites that may be a good starting place. I was also pleased to discover that one of the many unfinished books by my bedside may be a good introduction: The Untethered Soul: The Journey Beyond Yourself

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lions, oh my!

Today found us admiring the the big cats at the whole new African exhibit at the Oregon Zoo. They put on a show for us. Laying about on a rock, all photogenic. I swear this gal above is posing. 
And just look at that tongue! I love the grace and power of the big cats -- whatever breed they may be. Not sure I can put my finger on what is so appealing to me. Perhaps its the power in a beautiful, graceful body. I think it may be the contradiction between their sometimes playful demeanor and the fearsome hunter. They may look like cuddle kitties but beware -- the unsheathed claws in the first photo or the teeth hidden behind the monster pink tongue.
My two tots were a little worried about seeing the lions (hyenas and cheetahs, too). They were sure they'd roar and be scary. But quite quickly, they joined the throng of spectators all but throwing themselves against the barriers to catch a glimpse of the three big, stately cats.
It's late and I'm going to put my computer to bed for the night. We had a wonderful morning at the zoo with many photo ops -- can't wait to show you what we saw at the bird show! And then later in the afternoon, a walk at a new park we discovered. Something to show you from there as well. 

Thursday, September 24, 2009

WYP #64

Ok, let me see if I can explain my steps with this photo edit . . . you know what they say, you learn best when you try to teach/explain the process to someone else. First, made a mask of the owl and then intensified that using the hard light filter several times. Then, I think, I simplified the layers and used the filter at a reduced opacity for the whole deal. I bet that's as clear as mud which would be an accurate depiction of my brain at the moment! 

It's been a long work week and it's not quite over. Today to go and then, hopefully, a little down time at home. I work very long hours two days of my 3-day work week so that I can leave early enough on the last to pick up the kids and spend some time with them in the evening. Last week a crisis came up that kept me in the office and prevented me from writing my notes . . . meaning that I started this work week with a day of late notes to write and long days of client hours and meetings. I hate to be behind. And let me tell you, things are hopping. School's been in session for a couple of weeks, long enough for parents and teachers to remember how difficult a child's behaviors really are when they are stressed by the demands of the school day. And parents' behaviors are stressed by their child's, their family's dire financial straits and their own mental health issues. 

Heading out the door now. Looking forward to a friend's baby shower this weekend, working on a school project with Big D and looking for some pictures of the newly changing leaves. Ah, sounds lovely!

Heading out the door

Tuesday, September 22, 2009


Yesterday was Little Sis' first ballet class. In all honesty, she was pretty excited, especially about her hot pink leotard . . . but I was the most enthusiastic. The pink, princess girl stuff snuck up on me! When I was pregnant with Sis, I told friends and family that we were avoiding pink. I hoped to avoid the whole Disney stage. Oh vain, vain hope. (Though I think its a personal triumph that we currently do not own any princess videos or costumes. Knock on wood). 
Last week the whole family took a trip to Target to purchase the dance uniform. I've never had to look for such items. I honestly didn't know where to start. My growing up years shunned any form of dance. There were no school or church dances or proms. We had banquets instead. Ok, once, I had a boyfriend in college who was raised in a different faith who danced. He tried to teach me but I was all stiff with self-consienceness. (But I secretly believe that I'd be a great dancer and regularly rock out when no one is looking). 
Target was not my proudest parenting moment. We all stood in front of the single display of little girl dance costumes. Miss Sis had fixated on the hot pink number you see in the pictures but I was equally fixated and nearly as adamant that a light pink leotard with a sweet little skirt was the better option. I had a vision of what she'd look like in the fabulous pictures I'd take of her a she pirouetted about the room. It was not to be -- despite begging and bribery and the added attempts of daddy and Big D. 
Ultimately, the jokes on me. When we arrived at the rec department classroom, the electricity was out in the basement classroom. Fortunately, large windows let in plenty of light for dancing but not so much for action shots. Then the instructor, who was fantastic with the girls, informed all the doting mamas and papas that we'd be welcome only at the first and last class . . . darn it! Missed photo opportunities. 
What pictures I took that weren't hopelessly blurred were taken at a too slow shutter speed and while trying to be unobtrusive. Sis loved the class -- she sang (without music), leaped, held hands with other little girls and generally had a wonderful time. I'm planning some stealth photography through the classroom windows. That's not wrong, right? 

On the subject of cameras and lens options. I was frustrated to realize that the Nikon D60 does not have a built in auto focus -- its in the lens instead. What?! Purchasing additional lens is looking a little pricey for this amateur photographer. What are your thoughts? Should I sale my camera and go with a model that allows more flexibility in lens selection? Ultimately could be far less expensive than buying individual lens. A salesman told me that he thought I could learn how to auto focus some of the prime lens -- fast enough to catch my moving little targets? Hmm. Not feeling that confident. 

When hubby bought me the camera this past winter, it was spur of the moment and without much research. Neither he or I knew what I'd want or need. Photography was a brand new, growing interest of mine. It's been only 8 or so months since I started down this path and I'm hooked. I'm also really clear that I do not have any professional or money-making aspirations. This is all about having a creative outlet -- self-expression. I can do that with the camera I have. But I have lens envy. Tell me, what would you do? :) 

Monday, September 21, 2009

Fall is at the Door

Fall is standing at the door, peering in on dancing toes -- anxious to make an entrance. The trees are beginning to turn and the evening air is crisp. We had plans to sand the deck and invited hubby's parents up for the weekend to help with the project. Wouldn't you know it, after a week of clear, warm weather, it rained most of Saturday. After naps, we decided to head out into the cloudy afternoon to see the newly opened Africa exhibit at the zoo. I love big cats and our zoo now has two lions! But alas, the zoo is on winter hours and closed just minutes before we arrived.  Confound it. Instead, we took the grandparents on a tour of Forest Park and snapped pictures along the way. 
All was not lost -- on Sunday morning, Summer pushed back on the encroaching Fall and we got most of the deck sanded. Now the race is on to see whether we can treat the wood before the rain and damp start in earnest. 
In all, it was a good and productive weekend. I joined forces with hubby and father-in-law and ran the sanders for a good part of the afternoon. Now, of course, I can feel every conceivable muscle on the right side of my body. Who knew that your abs would get such a work out with a belt sander! In the midst of the dusty mess in the backyard, still got most of the laundry folded and a good chunk out of The Lost Symbol read (i.e. new book by Dan Brown). 

Nothing profound today. Used up all my quality brain power over the weekend. Deep thoughts will have to come later - perhaps when the lactic acid goes its merry way. 

Friday, September 18, 2009

How to spend a lazy Friday morning -- when you shouldn't!

Woke this morning dragging bum and wishing that I could stay curled in bed with a book . . . but alas, Big D had homework to complete, Sis was grumpy and I was parent on deck. Fridays are the catch up and get ahead days around here. When I was growing up, Friday was called "preparation day."  Household cleaning and grocery shopping and meal prep all got done, or started, before sundown on Friday in readiness for the Sabbath. And we all had our specific contributions -- the older my sister and I were, the more we did to get the house ready. My tots are too small to be of much help. Its feels like an accomplishment that both of them make their beds and put their laundry in the hamper. 
But this entry is about how not to get things done on a lazy Friday morning. You start by sitting down for breakfast in your pj's, plan a few fun but unnecessary errands, drop off the Big Boy and when you return home, pour another cup of coffee and play with creating vignette effects. This may require letting the little one watch PBS and ignoring the stack of dishes on the counter. You'll get to it, eventually. 

If you've been hanging around here lone, you've probably seen this pics in an unaltered state a month of so back. Today I made the colors "pop" and then followed the step-by-step instructions from Coffee Shop for creating a vignette. Fun! I think I may want to go back and deepen the edges. What do you think?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

What's Your Play #63

Big week for growing up my photo-editing skills! Learned how to use some actions from Coffee Shop and once I ask my sweet friend for permission, and assuming she'll grant it:), I'll post the results! Getting more comfortable with layers and effects and just "stuff." This attempt at What's Your Play wasn't completely satisfying for me. Got stuck on how to control the background layer and finally gave up. So let's see. What did I do with it? Cropped, played with levels, contrast, added a texture and a clipping mask . . . I should probably take notes so that I can remember! Once I flatten the sucker, all those details fly out of my short term memory. 
Here's the original . . . beautiful horse. 

We had a little drama at our house this morning. My insides are still a bit like jelly, in fact. Sis was laughing while chewing on her vitamin tablet and she started to choke. It was terrifying! I was a lifeguard for years in high school and college. I used to pride myself on quick acting in the face of an emergency. Something different happens to me when its my children. The adrenaline, the fear, the dreamlike sense that I can't organize my body fast enough to stop this awful things from happening. It was probably just seconds but in that time, I had already imagined the worst.  She wasn't breathing or gasping, her face was red . . . By the time I had her out of her seat and my hands fumbling to find the right place for the Heimlich, she was fine. Thank God my husband was thinking clearly 'cause I'm not sure I would have noticed that the tablet had popped back on her tongue without him telling me. So we all had a bit of a cry and then resumed breakfast as usual. 

It's the last day of the work week! Looking forward to breaking in Dan Brown's new book and spending some time on Christmas photo projects. I'd love to have a head start on gifts this year. 

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Soccer: It Begins!

This past Friday was Big D's first soccer game of the season. And it was a double-hitter folks -- not to mix sports or anything. You might remember that last season found my little monkey hanging off the goal posts and staring obliviously about the field while the ball practically bounced off his shins. Things didn't seem so different at first this year . . . 
I watched, slightly amused and a little horrified, while my son tangled himself up in the net and chest-bumped his buddies and was generally checked out. It's an interesting struggle for me on the sidelines. I don't want to be an obnoxious parent, hollering and armchair coaching. I LOVE sports and playing them and I want my son to enjoy them, too. But he's 6. Be patient, mom. Anyway, somewhere towards the end of game one, he actually kicked the ball. In the right direction. And he was on fire!
Suddenly my lackadaisical boy was shouting at the coach from the sidelines, "Coach, can I get back in the game?" He was cheering his buddies on, watching the ball and excited to play more, more, more. Apparently, he had not really understood the point of practices (running and drills, oh my) and expected games to be similar. It was literally as if the light had gone on and the whole point of the game became clear . . . 

Each day after school, we've started the habit of asking Big D to share his 5 favorite things about the day. This week, it's been "thinking about soccer" among other things. He woke this morning asking if today was practice. No, my lad. Tomorrow. And I'm so glad you are having fun!

Monday, September 14, 2009

Leaving on a Jet Plane . . . la, la, la, etc.

It's been a busy couple of weeks and I feel as if I could board this little toy plane, never mind that it looks as if its seen better days, and fly far, far away. Nothing outstanding on my mind. Just life and its messiness. Kids feeling their oats, relationships in flux, a house that refuses to stay picked up, tug-of-war between summer and fall and a general exhaustion that can't be fixed by a solid night's sleep 'cause my brain won't shush up! You've been there, right? 

In the slightly humorous column of this week's ledger of "stuff" -- I went to see the allergist to rule out food allergies in relation to IBS symptoms. I was advised to go off Zyrtec for 5 days in prep for testing. No one told me that cold turkey off an antihistamine will cause INTENSE itching. Everywhere. I'm lucky I'm not bald after the scratching and rubbing my scalp has received in the last three days. And the kicker, it'll likely be all for naught and the test will be negative and I'll be back to apparently senseless stomach "issues." UGH. For those of you more astute observers, you're probably scratching your head, thinking that surely I could have put 2 and 2 together a few weeks back when ONE day off Zyrtec resulted in an embarrassing itching problem while running.  Yes. Well. Moving on.

When I was a kid, my sister and I fought like most siblings do. That is to say savagely and without mercy. And I remember this particular incident when I wanted to convey as clearly as possible my desire to leave her behind and launched into what I knew of the song at the time . . . which was just the leaving part! Of course, she didn't get it. She was like 6. Neither one of us would have understood the irony at the time.

So kiss me and smile for me
Tell me that you'll wait for me
Hold me like you'll never let me go
Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go

My two can't seem to decide if they're going to be inseparable or destroy each other. I remember those days with my sister well and now, my sister and I are closer. Brought on by motherhood and a grown up understanding of how all family's have some dysfunction. All siblings want to jump a plane and not look back at one time or another. Perhaps it would be fair to say that we all have the desire at times to sever ties -- with family, friends, society, employers -- but the really meaningful relationships, we pine and stew over. Come back to. Invest in. Relish. And when we finally have to say goodbye, mourn. 

My grandmother is ill and I've been thinking about when I should make the trip north to see her. Say goodbye. When my grandfather passed a year and a half ago, I didn't have the chance. I tried to speak with him by phone but he became agitated and my mother, who was with him in the hospital, thought it was best to try again later. Later didn't happen. Ah, this is harder than I thought. So many conflicted and sad feelings. 

And I thought I had nothing to say! I'll return on a lighter note. Off to pick up the Big Boy and then to the park. 

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Belated First Day of School

Quick and dirty of the Big D's first week in first grade--
Me: "Are you ready for me to go?"
Big D: "Yes. Go away, birdie [reference to Bug's Life]."

This followed by a slight push away with his hand. Wow, plop a 6 yr old in a classroom with other little 6 and 7 yr old boys and suddenly mom is expendable. When did that happen? I was prepared for the whole "ew, yuck. Don't kiss me in front of the kids" thing in junior high. But now? My mommy heart broke. 

Since that first awkward morning of getting acquainted or re-acquainted with his buddies, he has sweetened up. Giving me little sneaky side hugs before pushing me out the doors!

Soccer starts this Friday -- fun pics for mama:)