Wednesday, August 31, 2016

First Day of Pre-K & Some School Thoughts

Liam is already in his second week of school!  Somehow I feel like Summer cannot possibly be over; yet, tomorrow is September 1st which is the unofficial start to Fall in our house.  I have new pajamas for the boys as well as a new Halloween book (Little Blue Truck) to give them for a couple little surprises.  Except the book will really just be going to Liam for now, because Finn cannot be trusted with any lift flaps in sight!

So the first day... somewhat uneventful actually.  I'm not sure if it's because we have been so busy that I had barely taken a moment to think about it; or, if it's because he's going to the same teacher and classroom as last year, so really it is no big deal.  This year he's going three days a week, which already seems like so much more time than his two days last year.  Now, he's away from me more than with me during the week.  So crazy!  I miss him, but I'm also just loving that one-on-one time with Finn!  And I know the feeling is mutual!

Finn actually wants to run into Liam's classroom every time we drop Liam off.  And every time I have to scoop him up out of there, he cries.  Hopefully this little stage is short lived.  Finn's also making me work extra hard to keep him awake during the drive home from preschool pickup.  That is the time that Finn is so ready for a nap, but I have to get home so I don't have to deal with the dreaded car nap transfer.  So I have now have a crazy snack stash in the front seat that I slowly hand back to him along with some up & down window action to keep him alert & awake!  Oh Finn, my little handful.  I would actually love to be a room mom for Liam's class, but that would be nearly impossible with Finn in tow.  So instead I will just volunteer every so often, when I can convince Conor to work from home for a morning.  

So as of now, the plan is that Liam will start Kindergarten next year.  But it's all sorts of complicated since he is a summer baby.  He'll either be super old or super young for his class.  It bugs me that if his birthday were a mere two months later or two months earlier, it wouldn't even be a discussion.  But it's not, so instead I stress.  From strictly a sports perspective, I want him to be older & bigger.  But that would mean that he would do another year of pre-K.  And that means he would be a year behind in school of many of his friends & cousins.  Liam is actually big (at least tall) for his age, so I'm not too worried about that.  And his social skills are up to par, as are his academic skills.  Having said all that, he should just go ahead and start Kindergarten next year.  But he'll always be the youngest.  This is honestly stressing me out far more than it should!  We'll meet with his teacher this Winter and probably make a decision together based on Liam's first half of the school year.  I would love to hear thoughts from other parents with summer babies!  What are you all doing?!

Cheers to a wonderful school year ahead!

Sunday, August 28, 2016

Smith & Morehouse Trip #2 {Camping}

We loved our trip to Smith & Morehouse Reservoir so much, that we hit it up again a couple weekends ago.  This time we brought friends & we stayed for two nights, which is really the way to do it!  A lot of effort goes into camping, so it's far more relaxing to make a longer trip out of it.   And all the extra kiddos around means much more hammock time for Conor & I.

We found the perfect site, that easily accommodated our three tents.  Plus, there was a massive osprey nest right above us!  All weekend long we watched the osprey bring fish back to the nest.  A fun sight for all!  We were also nestled right along a stream, and while it wasn't rushing as much as I had hoped, we could still hear it throughout the night.  Nature's own sound machine.

There were wild raspberries.  Long walks.  Walkie Talkie spy games.  Hammock parties.  In fact, one afternoon while everyone was out fishing, Finn & I took a nap together in the hammock.  It was the best hour of camping ever.  Outdoor naps are the best, add to it a little breeze and all the sounds & smells of the mountains.  If only Finn had made that one of his 3+ hour naps!  And while the fishing was somewhat uneventful, they did snag a rainbow trout as a little appetizer for dinner that evening!  A successful day of camping all around!

The evenings were a tad chilly; doable, but long underwear was necessary!  For an accurate look at what camping sleep looks like for me.... Finn & I share a sleeping bag.  And since his head is nuzzled under my arm, I can't zip up my sleeping bag any higher than my waist.  So it's cold.  And it's super hard to roll over or switch positions.  Add to that the fact that I am nursing him throughout the night, so my chest is exposed half the time as well.  Cold cold cold.  But we learned a fancy little trick of throwing large rocks in the campfire at night, and then placing them under the eaves of our tent before bed.  It helped soooo much!  Hot rocks for the win!

This was our 4th camping trip of the summer, which just blows my mind.  While I've always been an outdoorsy girl, I don't know that I necessarily envisioned myself camping so frequently with young children.  But we all love it and are even hoping to sneak in a September trip while the temperatures stay warm.  We'll see.  Life has been busy and it's definitely wearing on me.  I need to slow down a bit.  But who can, when we've literally been having...

The.  Best.  Summer.  Ever.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Photography Post

I get asked about photography all the time lately.  What gear do I use? How do I edit?  How did I learn?  And many of you have asked for a photography blog post of sorts.  So finally, finally, I'm delivering.  Sort of.  I'm going to try and keep this super basic; I more want to share about the tools I've used to get to where I currently am.  I still have plenty to learn and am improving constantly.  Even photos from just 6 months ago can make me cringe, let alone the ones I used when I first started blogging.  There are amazing online classes & tutorials all over the internet!  I'm just here to nudge you all in the right direction.

50mm 1.4    ISO 200  f/3.5  1/500

The Gear

I shoot with a Canon Rebel SL1.  The SL stands for super light, which is a huge huge perk!  I almost always have my camera in my bag, so I really appreciate that it's not one of the heavier cameras on the market.  And I am completely smitten with the white color; it's so me!  But keep in mind that all lenses (besides the kit lens) will still be black.  Otherwise, this camera is just your pretty basic beginner DSLR, but I seriously love it.  And I'll probably won't upgrade until I am ready (can afford...) the mack daddy of Canon cameras
My 50mm 1.4 lens is on my camera 99% of the time.  And I totally think it's worth the extra money to get the 1.4 instead of the 1.8 (nifty fifty).  I also have a 24mm 2.8 which is an inexpensive lens that is nice to have on hand for indoor shots, but is by no means necessary.  I really want a 35mm, but I'm saving up for that lens!

50mm 1.4  ISO 800  f/2.8  1/500

The Editing

I edit my blog photos & my instagram photos differently.  For the blog, I currently just make minor edits in "Photos".  I may straighten, crop, brighten, and/or sharpen.  Occasionally I'll mess with the contrast & the saturation.  I have Photoshop Elements (I wanted to start with something simple & basic), but I have yet to even attempt to use it.  I really need to take the time to watch some youtube tutorials and figure it out, because I know that I am missing out on plenty of post processing potential in my photography.  And once I feel like I have a good grasp on editing, I'll finally start shooting in RAW.

50mm 1.4    ISO 100  f/2.5  1/800

For Instagram, I do quite a bit more with editing.  I like that my feed flows & that my photos have the same style & feel.  I always start my edits in VSCO.  I use A6 (at +6 strength) for every single photo (or B3 for my black & whites).  From there, my editing totally depends on the photo.  I do plenty of playing around with various settings and apps.  It's all about trying different things and seeing what feels right and fits you.  The other apps I use are FaceTune (for details & light filters), Snapseed (to brighten shadowy faces or increase saturation on a mountains, water, or sky), Tough Retouch (to get rid of that rouge rough patch of sand or random dark corner), & Lens Distortions (to add a little sun flare, but only if it already naturally exists).  Keep in mind that every time you edit a photo, and with each new app that you use, you are losing photo quality.  This is why I only use these apps to edit Instagram photos.  (Note: while pulling photos for this post, I have realized how really terrible my blog photo edits are.  I'm making it a priority to learn Photoshop and to start finding and tweaking actions that fit my style!).
50mm 1.4    ISO 400  f/3.2  1/200

How I Learned

From the minute I bought my DSLR, I have been constantly practicing and trying to learn more.  Just using my camera daily has taught me the most.  The biggest improvements came when I started only shooting in manual.  If you are not, just do it.  Not shooting in manual is the biggest thing that is holding anyone back.  I didn't sit down my camera's manual, I just read a few basic tutorials that I found on Pinterest and made the switch.

50mm 1.4    ISO 800  f/2.8  1/200

Looking at beautiful photos daily is also going to help spark your creativity and provide inspiration.  I was seeing the types of pictures that I wanted to be able to take myself, so that gave me the drive to figure out how.  I follow tons of photography accounts on Instagram, some of my favorites being Childhood Unplugged, Candid Childhood, Camera Mama, & Moms with Cameras.  But by far, the most influential account for me has been Momtog.  Different photographers are featured each week, and they all answer questions and share their tips.  I would carefully read over each word in my beginner days.  I will know that I have finally made it and come full circle when/if I am ever asked to be a featured momtog for a week!

24mm 2.8    ISO 800  f/3.2  1/250

Because of my love for Momtog, I decided to take Drew's online class.  I've had the class since January and have barely dove in.  Again, time is the issue.  If I stopped blogging, I could dedicate my evenings to learning my editing software and finishing her class.  And I may actually do that at some point this Fall, we'll see.  If only there were more hours in the day that I could commit to all my little hobbies.   But I will say, the parts of this class that I have completed were super easy to follow, and I have loved it thus far.

50mm  1.4    ISO 100  f/2.5  1/1250  

I feel like I didn't really cover all that much here, but I'm not sure what else people want/need in this regard.  Feel free to ask any questions.  I truly believe it's all about just picking up your camera.  Google and Youtube can be your best friends.  For many people, finding their style is one of the hardest parts.  I feel like I fell into mine rather naturally, but my editing has changed a bit over time.  There is no right or wrong style, as long as you are passionate about what your choosing to capture!

50 mm 1.4    ISO 400  f/1.6  1/1250

 The Accessories

I use a TimBuk2 camera bag but cannot find a link to it anywhere!  But honestly, I mostly just use it for traveling or transporting.  I don't actually put my camera in it when I'm out & about.  I'm really really rough on my camera.... there is room for improvement there!  Right now, I carry a diaper bag, so it gets tossed in there.  But my plan is to buy a super pretty camera bag/purse when the diaper bag gets retired.

50mm 1.4    ISO 400  f/3.2  1/400

I really want a fun camera strap.  And while Bloom Theory has so many beautiful options, Conor is not on board with them.  Since I love that Conor will often take a turn with my camera, I want to make sure he likes it too.  Instead, I'm drooling over Fotostrap's options.  I love the leather with a pop of color.

50mm 1.4    ISO 400  f/3.5  1/500

A few other fun things to consider would be a lens cap holder for your strap (since I am constantly losing my lens caps), a reflector (which I am personally against, since I want to capture how the light truly was at the moment, even if it's darker than I would like), starlight filters (super fun around Christmas time), and UV filters.  UV filters will protect your lenses, so get one for all of your lenses!!!

50mm 1.4    ISO 400 f/1.6 1/125

Wow.  This is already longer than I anticipated.  And I'm not sure that I covered everything I wanted to.  Or said the necessary things.  But this is my first attempt.  Perhaps if there are enough questions, I will toss another post together.  Please let me know!

 Now switch your camera to manual right now!  And start shooting!

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Big Sky Country (Summer 2016)

I'm still so behind guys.  It's a tad ridiculous.  But we went to Montana early this August, and it's beautiful, and I took a ridiculous amount of pictures, and I'm going to over share.  So now that we all know the plan, here we go!

Conor somehow finagled a work trip to Montana, so we planned a whole week plus trip around that.  It was perfect timing for when one of his brothers was also in town, so all the Keenan boys were together!  One of his sisters wasn't able to make it back for our visit, but the rest were home; so naturally, we fit in as much family time as we could.  Conor is one of five kids, and I love the big family dynamic.  We especially love taking Liam to see all his cousins.

The two days that Conor worked for a bit hard for me.  His parents live right on the water, so I was terrified of Liam wandering to the lake while I was putting Finn down for naps, showering, etc.  But I have one of the bestest best friends ever, and she stayed with me for a night to help with the littles.  She logged some serious hours with legos!  We stayed up late, snuggled up on the couch, and chatted over some trashy TV just like we used to do in high school.  For her, I will forever be grateful!

One of the work days, I snuck up to Whitefish to my sister-in-laws house.  They seriously have the most dreamy backyard ever.  It's what childhood dreams are made of.  Chicken coop.  Firepit.  Sandpit.  Zipline.  And all the space you would ever want to just run around.  We had 5 little ones between the two of us and still thought hitting the evening farmer's market together was a good idea.  Liam decided to throw absolutely the biggest fit of his life while we were there.  Worst meltdown I have ever seen.  Nothing I said or did would calm him down.  So for the first time ever, I carried Liam kicking & screaming to the car... FIVE blocks away.  Not easy!  Finn was strapped to my back, and it took every ounce of my energy to get Liam to the car.  And bless my sweet SIL for texting me "you're a good mom." after witnessing the whole debacle.  I hope to never repeat the experience ever again.

Once all Conor's work stuff was over, we both settled nicely into vacation mode.  Morning coffee boat rides still in our jammies led to long afternoon naps.  Delicious dinners at the family restaurant, followed by icecream cones from the other family business.  And it should be noted that Finn insisted upon his own icecream cone.  Full size.  He would only take a few bites, but then not let go of that cone until all the icecream was melted and dripping down his hands & face.  And there were tears.  Lots of tears if anyone dared to try and lick up the sides.  So that was fun for all.  There were sunset boat cruises.  Tubing.  Swimming.  Rock throwing.  Deer watching.  Lawn mower riding.

There were morning walks, that always included fence climbing.  Oh how I had a little love affair with all the beautiful fences and wide open spaces in Montana.  And one of our walks ended at the golf course, with Liam being able to play the last two holes with his Dad, Uncle, & Grandpa.  Special memories for sure.  Perhaps next year, Liam will join them for a whole round!  He loves all the time he gets with family, especially those we don't see very often.  He was more than happy to help Grandpa with any little projects or to sit on Grandma's lap for some books.  He played hard & slept harder our whole visit!

I love visiting this beautiful state.  I love the lakes & the mountains.  The time with family.  The slower pace of life, and the horrible cell service which practically forces me to unplug in all the best ways.  And since my newfound love for photography, I now experience Montana with a new set of eyes.  I have a whole new appreciation for the state.

I'm not sure when we'll get back, but I know we won't be able to stay away for long.
Maybe one of these days, I'll actually be brave enough to attempt road trip.  It's about 8+ hours away, and right now that sounds terrifying...

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Our Summer of Swim

Both my boys are little fish in the water!  They can't get enough.  But with that comes confidence, which isn't necessarily a good thing.  Liam thinks he can swim.  He'll jump right in a pool and not worry about it.  I worry!  So this summer we fit in 3 sessions of swim lessons.

The pool just happens to have this crazy amazing view of the mountains.  With a little hill nearby, just perfect for snapping some photos.  It's the view that makes me love Utah just a tad bit more every time I see it.  So while Liam swam, I lounged poolside.  I tanned a little, sipped my adult beverage, and relaxed...

Oh wait.  No.  No, I didn't relax.  Because Finn.  Finn also wanted to be in the pool.  But that won't be happening 'til he's three (I cannot believe I will have another summer of Finn wrangling).  Thankfully, the pool has a splash pad, but he would still run straight for the actual pool any chance he got.  So I was in the splash pad most of the time too!

At the end of each two week session, everyone gets a day on the slide & the diving boards.  Our thrill seeker loves the high dive!  His enthusiasm for all that he does always makes me smile.  He has passed all his preschool level classes and is now in Level 1 swimming.  We are getting closer to letting go of those floaties, and everyone is excited for that!

So the highlight real of our summer at the pool:
Liam swam.
Finn splashed.
And I tried to (but never quite) nailed a high dive shot!

'til next summer!

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