Friday, October 30, 2009


when I least expected it

my kids somehow grew up
before my very eyes.
I thought I would try letting them
cut out their own pumpkin tops
(after I had drawn the line to follow)

and they just kept going
without looking back
to find out what to do next.

Ben even remembered to tell us that
you have to scoop it out good
Apparently they HAVE been watching and listening.

I never touched Ben's pumpkin.
He was all business
and not to be interrupted.

I did help Bethany just a tad,
(and it was a VERY small tad!)

but the plan was all hers.

Really, who knew that Ben could cut out letters like this...freehand?

Bethany carefully drew and executed her plan.

She cut out her whole cat
all by herself.
And when I was amazed
she gave me a giant hug.
She had also amazed herself.

I did not cry when they were baptized
or when they sang their first solos in children's choir.
But today, as they carved their own pumpkins
and talked about who they wanted to go trick-or-treating with
and did not mention their parents' names
I was tempted. Very tempted.
I took pictures instead.
Because they are still
just as delightful
as when they were really little.
I want to savor the growing up, too.

Monday, October 26, 2009

More Cheese, Please!

Yesterday Joy commented on my post about how to get your kids to smile. She wondered if that strategy would work on her husband. I'm not really sure I want to try it, but I have another one that works for my husband. Observe.

Lee and Ben took a break in the action at the zoo in a spot with a great background, and some beautiful indirect light. They were playing a little game while I went to work. Lee was obviously sticking with his own game and not planning on playing along with mine.

So I took the pressure attention off him and turned to my boy, who was completely and utterly ignoring me. Perpetual motion, this boy.

Then I got Lee back in the frame, and he had obviously figured out that I wasn't going away anytime soon. Maybe if he just humored me for a sec.

I wouldn't be pacified that easily, but I had found my crack in the facade. Now it was a head on contest.

When he starts scrunching up his face, that's when I know I'm going to win. Because it makes me laugh, and when I laugh...

...he laughs.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Say Cheese!

Well, who knew? I found the perfect way to get your kids to smile for the camera...start posting pictures of other peoples' kids! In my last post I was working with the photo they gave me at I Heart Faces, and Bethany was just a little bent out of joint by seeing that adorable STRANGER's face on her my blog.

So today we went to the zoo, and the kids were all, "Mom, take a picture of this!"

Try it! It just might work. ;-)

Friday, October 23, 2009

Fix-it Friday: iPhoto (updated with a little Photoshop Elements)

Today I'm participating in I Heart Faces Fix-It Friday. Every week they post a photo and ask participants to give "recipes" for bringing out the best in it. I just couldn't resist this little guy. Plus, I have been working hard at just the issue this photo has--an underexposed subject.

The vast majority of the participants in Fix-It Fridays use Photoshop, and have lots of fancy actions that make photos gorgeous. I'm totally envious. I use a Mac, and while I do have Photoshop Elements, I confess that I still find it overwhelming, and don't have any desire to start messing with downloaded "actions". My Mac-standard iPhoto software is so simple that it's what I keep coming back to. Let's see how it measures up.

Here is my color version:

My edits were all using the "Adjustments" menu.

1. First to expose the face. I've discovered the treasure of the histogram for dark faces--reduce the midtone levels by dragging the middle arrow to the left. I stopped about 2/3 of the way over. Additionally, I pulled the shadow reduction slider to the right to 5, and reduced the contrast to -40.

2. Once I found the face, I wanted to refine detail: Sharpness 14, De-noise 34

3. After I brought the face into the light, the background was also exposed. I love the black background, so I went back to the histogram and dragged the black point (on the left) over to the right to 13% to darken it back up. That's probably my favorite part about the photo (besides that beautiful face)--I love the contrast and light!

4. To enhance the color, I bumped up the saturation to 57 and warmed it up a bit to +10 on temperature. With iPhoto '09 you can check a box to limit saturation on skin tones, which I did.

5. My overall look was still a little darker than I wanted, so I bumped the exposure up to 0.69. Voila!

And my black and white version:

I took my color edited version, clicked on "Effects", and clicked on B&W. The overexposed part was a little too white, so I clicked twice on edge blur to make it look almost like a special effect. The face was a little too dark again (and still a little darker than I'd like, but to get more light was a quality sacrifice), so I pulled the saturation back down to 50, and increased exposure to 1.02.

I have to say...I really love my iPhoto!


I went to see how my edits measured up with my Photoshop counterparts, and one thing glared at me (very literally)--the cheek! So I took my edited version to Elements, and used the clone, eyedropper, airbrush and blur tools to play around with that spot, and then the very dark shadow under the eye. I could never in a million years describe what I did though. Still love my iPhoto. ;-)

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Not anymore.

Playing along with Mama Kat today--she's got some awesome Writer's Workshop assignments this week. You should go check it out.

Once upon a time I wasn't a mom. It's hard to imagine. But for quite a long time, I was just me.

Before I was a mom, I was a career woman, immersed in making the world a better place for and through the students who spent their days in my classroom.

Not anymore. Today I am a "stay at home mom" with a class size of two. Except when they're at school. Well, I guess I was at school today. Twice. But that doesn't count because they didn't pay me. Or does it?

Before I was a mom, I had my own agenda, and I followed it.

Not anymore. Today I move about from place to place with my kids and live according to their agenda. Except when they're at school, or busy with their friends, or playing, reading, or watching TV. I hardly ever do what I want. Or do I?

Before I was a mom, I could keep a stiff upper lip.

Not anymore. Today when I see peoples' homes in a pile of rubble from natural disasters on TV, I imagine my own family in their place, and turn into a puddle. But if I was so tough, why did I bother to go to Haiti and the Philippines and Central Asia to help serve others--before I was a mom?

Before I was a mom, I was ultra-competitive, and didn't mind celebrating a little in front of the competition when I won.

Not anymore. Today I am not competitive at all. Nope. I have to consider the tender feelings of my offspring who might be sad if they lost. Well, maybe not today, but at least I did when they were like three.

Before I was a mom, I used to give my husband my undivided attention after I got done at school. I cooked special things for him, went on dates with him, socialized with other people with him.

Not anymore. Today he has to take a backseat to the kids. He gets the leftovers. No, I mean OUR kids. I had PLENTY of energy for him after spending my days with 25 seven-year-olds. Yeah...plenty...mmm hhmmmm.

Before I was a mom, I was a woman who was passionate about living her purpose in life, whenever, wherever, to whomever God called.

You know, come to think of it, maybe motherhood hasn't changed me so much after all. Maybe I am still...

...just me.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Christ in you, the hope of glory

Today is Monday. I love Monday. It's the day I start out my week with Moms in Touch. If you haven't checked it out yet, you should.

Every week we pray for our kids and their school. There is a certain format that all MIT groups are encouraged to follow, the "ACTS" model for prayer. It goes like this:

A is for adoration, when we focus on a certain characteristic of God and meditate on it and praise him for it.

C is for confession, where we reflect on ourselves (silently), often in relation to the attribute of God's character. He serves as a mirror by which we can see ourselves, ask forgiveness for our shortcomings, and ask him to help us be more like him.

T is for thanksgiving, where we thank him for answered prayer, and for the ways he has helped and blessed us.

S is for supplication, where we bring our concerns and requests to him for our kids and their classmates and school staff. We usually take the attribute of God that we focused on, and pray in some way that their lives would reflect that quality either in their character, or in the way they interact with God and others. We also pray for any specific needs we are aware of.

So here's how it went this morning.

Adoration: We praised him for being the God who indwells us.

Colossians 1:27-29 says, "To them (the saints, or believers in Christ) God has chosen to make known among the Gentiles the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory. We proclaim him, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone perfect in Christ. To this end I (the apostle Paul) labor, struggling with all his energy, which so powerfully works in me."

In Philippians 2:12-13 Paul writes, "Therefore my dear friends, (...) continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose."

Confession: As we meditated on the scriptures above, it became obvious that there is a tension in the believer's life. We are to work, and work hard at following Christ and living godly lives, and yet we are utterly in need of his help, which is completely available to us. His very presence is the hope of glory. Without it, we are hopeless to produce anything glorious.

We asked God to show us areas in our lives where we are trying to do it on our own. We confessed that our anxieties and frustrations in doing so affect us and those around us. We wrapped up this time of quiet reflection with these verses from 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 "But he (God) said to me (Paul), 'My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.' Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses so that Christ's power may rest on me. That is why, for Christ's sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong."

Thanksgiving: We thanked God for inviting us to come to him with our weaknesses, and for the fact that he doesn't ask us to confess our sin so that he can condemn us. He wants to extend his grace and forgiveness to us, to deliver us from our own self-condemnation, and to help us do it right. It's for our good and his glory!

Supplication: In light of what we had already looked at, we prayed through 2 Peter 1:3-4 for our kids. It says, "His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires."

This passage was a feast for us. We found ourselves praying for our kids not to be frustrated (or even motivated) by the pressure of feeling like they're supposed to be extra good because after all they are Christians and come from Christian families. We prayed that instead they would experience the life of Christ firsthand within them, that they would know him increasingly, and that in knowing him they would desire more than anything the joy of participating in his divine nature. We prayed that WE as parents would not pressure them, but that we would have wisdom to let God do his work in them personally, and that we would come along side them and encourage them with the truth that God forgives and empowers them, and that we see him at work producing fruit in their lives. (And as I write, I find myself asking that God would make us instruments of freedom in our kids' lives, freedom to find God's grace sufficient, as opposed to instruments of bondage to the belief that they can never measure up.)

So there you have it. A mini-Moms in Touch meeting, and an example of how scripture shines a spotlight on God's amazing character, which in turn inspires us to pray, and sets us free. This week, may you know and dwell on the glorious riches of this mystery, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory!

(And if you don't, please don't hesitate to email me to find out what in the world I'm talking about!)

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Real Deal

Whew! All that snow took a few days to melt, but today we had a true fall day. Lucky for me, the kids were out of school, so I could take some fall photos of more than just leaves.

The kids were taking pictures too. That was the fun part. They started taking videos, and then they would watch them and laugh at themselves. They think they are hilarious!

Ben had packed his backpack full of everything he might need. One thing was his notebook so he could take notes on his tree observations and make rubbings. Wait until you see what else just *had* to go!

Thank you once again, God, for the beauty of your creation, and the amazing diversity of the seasons. For all of the wonder that you MADE, it makes me think of just how unfathomable you ARE!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Autumn Colors

Here I was thinking that very soon I would have some glorious fall photos to post. I was just waiting for the perfect day to get the trees at their peak color. Soon. Very soon.

Until today.

Now I am wondering if any of the leaves will have survived this little arctic October blast. We shall see.

The good news is that my kids still have jackets, snowpants, hats and mittens that fit. The bad news is, no boots.

Poor Bethany, traipsing through the snow and water to the bus in her tennies. Poor camera. Hard to focus with melting snowflakes on your lens.

So of course I ran out to Target, along with all the other crazy people, to get boots. October--they should be here by now, and there should be a good selection. Right?

Well the crowds of people and the empty shelves were mocking me, I'm quite certain.

But I emerged victorious!

Winter, I am serving you notice that we are now fully prepared. Go have your fun at someone else's expense. We will look for you in December. LATE December.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Home Sweet Dome

The Tigers made a surprise reappearance at the Dome today. We were all pretty excited, but it was inevitable that someone would come away disappointed, what with our divided loyalties and all.

Ben REALLY wanted to go to the game. We would have loved to, but we just couldn't imagine much good that could come of it. We were smart to follow our hunch...

We thought the next best thing would be to recreate the stadium atmosphere at home.

Dome dogs


a couple more fans in the stands

and helmet sundaes.
After all, ice cream tamed the savage beast, didn't it?
(Well, that remains to be seen. We can hope so.)

It was fun...and a GREAT game...and we wish the Tigers a very happy off season! Go Twins!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Crank up the oven!

There's just something about a

that makes it feel like

Fall colors are good with Ben--they match his beloved team cap!

You may or may not have noticed that I have a weakness for

Spread them around any way you want to,
they always spell happiness!