Sunday, July 28, 2013

summertime part deux

Sorry, y'all. I'm seriously slackin' over here. Channing's been attached at my hip lately and I've also had an editing job over the last week that took up all of my "extra" time. Anyway, excuses, excuses. Let's move on. Nothing too exciting to blog about lately. We're having a really lazy summer. I feel bad for the older boys who kind of got the short end of the stick this year. But we'll just have to make up for it next year. These are all short seasons, and we deal with them the best way we know how. Thankfully we get to go on a trip again next week to Arizona (without Channing!! Yes, I'm excited. No, I won't miss him. Ok, maybe by day five I will.) and we'll cram in all kinds of fun. And then we'll blink and school will start again. I'm not sure how that's possible but the calendar tells me it's true.

Here are some random pics from the last few weeks. I just love this (very belated) one from the 4th of July of Jon and his youngest brother. These cousins are just 5 weeks apart.
 Speaking of blinking and time speeding up, how did these two....
 turn into this???
I wrote their names and they added the heart. I love hanging out with my nieces. When I wrote the N's in Bennett, Piper says, "I like those letters because they're fancy!" (added to my list of "things you'll never hear your son say"....)
Bennett literally read her to sleep. I worry for Piper's junior high years at sleepovers. She's always the first one to fall asleep.
One of my favorite places to take our boys, Jester Park's natural playscape. Its sometimes hard to find places that are good for a toddler...ahem, excuse me, a CRAWLER...and a six year old. But this is a great one. There are even buffalo and elk here but I didn't get any pics near them.cxx

 Their favorite thing to do is play "tiger tag" with their daddy in these tall grasses:

Jon was perfecting his "house of cards" for when he goes on Survivor. Seriously...does anyone have some videographer skills they want to donate? I'm sure he'll give you a cut of his million when he wins ;) I keep begging him to submit another video application. He would be so perfect for that show, its not even funny. Plus, I just want to meet Jeff Probst.

Ok...I'm going to vent some photography thoughts, so just skip ahead if you don't care about that...
I really love how every time I take a bunch of photos I come away with some other bit of knowledge about how to improve my photos. Its really fun to challenge myself to do better. It was extremely hard to focus the camera in these grasses. If I let it auto-focus, it would focus on grass that was closest to me (obviously not what I wanted). But usually the boys were moving too fast to use the manual focus. A couple of times, I used Ashley's tip of focusing on the area before your subject moves into the frame and then you wait for them to cross it. (Like the one of Dawson by the tree above) Again, tricky to get just the right spot. I was using the manual focus for this next one and didn't realize I didn't have it quite right. I wish his face had been in focus because I love it:
I took a bunch of the boys here but realized after looking at all of them that they would have been much better if I had been standing a lot further away and gotten a wider angle:
Also, I'm trying not to ask them to smile and pose as much since I get their fake smiles. Not terrible but I like the one below it much better:

So here's my question for anyone with more photography experience than me--where did you start? A college course? I've thought about taking a course at a community college but that doesn't seem like it would be the best use of my time and money (plus, I'd probably have to wait for years when they boys are all in school. I couldn't do an evening class with Jon's travel schedule). I see a lot of beginner courses with photographers come up on Groupon and have almost pulled the trigger on a couple but its so hard to know if its the best way to go. (I'm super frugal and have a big fear of spending money on something I know nothing about.) It would be a DREAM to take Ashley's Snap Shop but they're pretty pricey. Not to mention, they fill up within about 15 or 20 minutes when she opens up registration so the chances of getting in are VERY slim.

Ok, done with my photography musings. If I have any readers that are photographers, I'd love to hear your critiques! I promise you won't hurt my feelings :) I have LOADS to learn.

A few weekends ago, Jon took Bennett to his uncle's in Michigan for their first official "man weekend". He went to build a gun or something manly like that. Bennett had so. much. fun. They have a pond in their backyard and lots of room to run. Boy heaven, out there.

We're old:
My hubby scored MAJOR points with me this weekend. He doesn't usually take pictures unless I specifically ask him to. But he took a ton while they were gone and it made me so happy :) That's love isn't it? Doing something that doesn't come naturally to you, just because you know it will please your spouse.
Look at all the goldfish! Also, I sort of can't believe how blue/green this pond water is. Most ponds I've seen are brown. I still wouldn't get in there though.

 If the next picture doesn't scream pure uninhibited joy, I don't know what does!

Bennett came home from the weekend with at least 40 mosquito bites (half on his face and neck). Several of them started swelling up pretty badly (I don't remember that ever happening to him before) and when he came down with a fever and complained of a stomachache and stopped eating, I got a little nervous. Jon realized he'd complained of his stomach the day before on their drive home. So I called the doctor. Our doctor visits for anything other than a well-child checkup average about one per year, if that. Its pretty rare. But I was afraid he was getting the West Nile virus or who-knows-what-else mosquitos carry. Plus, Channing hadn't even had a checkup for about 7 months so I figured we'd kill two birds with one stone. Bennett was totally fine. The Dr. said it was likely a little bug he picked up in the pond water or even more likely, just from exhaustion (and maybe combined with his diet over the weekend but that's just a guess ;) So no West Nile. That was a relief.

One of our best days this summer was when we rented a pontoon boat for the day with Jon's parents. I had actually brought up the idea last year so when it came up as a deal we jumped on it. Our lake here isn't pretty. (In fact, it's pretty ugly.) But boating is my absolute favorite thing in the world. Its relaxing, quality time in the sun. We left Channing at home with a sitter, brought lots of good food to snack on and had a few hours out there. The boys explored on shore and we all jumped in the water to swim. Pretty perfect. (Oh, and I forgot my DSLR that day so these are from my mom-in-law's iPhone.)

And in case you're not on Instagram, a montage of my recent favorites:

Now back to laundry. I've got suitcases to pack for four. Isn't the 24 hours before a trip the most unpleasant part of life with kids?? I'm thankful with just the big boys in the car I'll actually get to nap! 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

over the river and through the woods...

A few weeks ago I took the boys down to my parents in Memphis. I want to be able to spend a week there during the summer but Jon doesn't want to take that much time off of work since we travel so much already. And really, its more for the kiddos anyway. He gets a little stir crazy hanging out doing nothing all day (which I am more than happy to do :) But since there was no way I could attempt a 10 hour drive by myself with all three, I asked my friend Manda to come with me to help. She's been a very close friend of our family for 15 years. (Half my life!! I still can't believe I've lived here half my life when the first half was spent moving all over the place.) She's a little bit older than me (ie: her kids are older) so it was easy for her to get away. I love her for many reasons. We're always laughing together, she loves good food and loves to read. She's also one of the few people that I can go many many months without seeing or talking to but I wouldn't feel odd in the least to pick up the phone if I needed to ask her a random question. I can probably say that about two people. (I hate the phone. Texting is an introvert's best friend.) So anyway, we had a lot of fun together that week and it wasn't stressful at all. Usually Dawson is at his worst when we're traveling (lack of sleep + new situations/schedules = major meltdowns) but for some reason, having her 10 year old son, Eli, there made a HUGE difference. It was kind of amazing and I asked her if I could adopt him for a year or so. She said no since that would just leave her with one preteen daughter. Enough said. 
I have weird pictures from this trip. I only got out my DSLR camera once, at our favorite park. The rest of the pictures are from Manda's iPhone. (And a lot were on Instagram, so sorry if they're repeats for you.)

Here's the coolest park ever. If IKEA designed a playground it would look something like this. I blogged a little bit about it from our first trip there too. It was cool to see part of the metal tunnels nearly covered in vines this time, whereas a couple of years ago, they were just little sprouts.

My littlest sister, Claire, is living down there this summer to save money so it was a treat to have her to ourselves all week too.

My parents asked us to come down during their church's VBS week. (My dad's on staff at a huge church down there.) Both my mom and dad were volunteering at VBS so they took all three big boys with them every day. It worked out so well. So basically all morning, every day, Manda and I got to have fun! Usually vacation with kiddos isn't vacation at all. It's extra work and extra stress and usually a lot less sleep. But I actually came away from that week so rejuvenated! It was pretty amazing. 
Like I said, Manda loves good food as much as I do. She and her hubby plan their trips around which restaurants they want to visit. (I need to travel with them...) And it was absolutely hilarious to see Eli eating my mom's meals that week. He sounded JUST like his dad, raving about how delicious everything was. A food snob already, at just 10 years old. It was so cute. My husband enjoys good food but wouldn't be sad at all to eat the same thing every day. Food just doesn't excite him. So it made me really happy to go out to eat with Manda and my sister and be able to go on, and on, and on (and on...) about how insanely good the meal was.
We ate at Brother Juniper's which claims to have the best breakfast in Memphis. Manda and I shared that sandwich below. Ham & swiss between two pieces of French Toast and dipped in Maple syrup. Oh. My. Word. I literally just started salivating thinking about it again. It was worth every calorie. The cheese grits were way too garlic-y but we weren't complaining since we'd just had our minds blown with the sandwich. That picture on the left of Channing was my favorite moment of the whole trip. Our waiter was this pretty quiet young tall guy with a full beard. When he was leaning on our table at the end, figuring out how to divide our ticket, Channing would look up at him and then bury his face in his arm, over and over. He was totally nervous around him but never got upset. I wish I had video of it. It was the cutest and we were cracking up. 

The boys had so much fun with Eli. They fought over who got to sit or sleep by him all week and Eli was such a good sport about it all. I told Manda he's the most pleasant 10 year old boy I'd ever been around. So helpful. He would actually clear other people's dishes from the table without being asked. Seriously....I was taking notes on how I want to train my boys.

Like I said, Dawson did so much better that week. He only had one major meltdown on Wednesday (our third full day there). He fell asleep really late in the afternoon and woke up crying. He got pretty hysterical and absolutely could not calm down no matter how much holding and rocking and shushing or singing I did. Everyone else started eating dinner and I took him into the bedroom and just started reading books to him. After at least 15 minutes of reading, he finally could stop crying. Then we went out and ate dinner and he snapped right back to his happy self. That was the only rough moment of the whole trip. 
One afternoon we went to "experience" Jerry's Sno Cones. I say experience because it was exactly that. They're famous for their shaved ice/ice cream combo. One of my mom's closest friends down there is always raving about this place so I told her she had to take us. We drive halfway across town around 3pm. We get to this dinky little place in a parking lot and the line is LOOOONG. We waited nearly an hour and it was well over 90 degrees out. I mean, really. It was crazytown. But we had a blast talking to people and deciding which of the 100 flavors we were going to get. My mom stayed in the car with the boys in the air conditioning until we were to the front of the line. Minor meltdown from Dawson because the "cotton candy" flavor wasn't pink but we distracted him somehow. We all really liked it but I can't say I'd ever wait in line for an hour again for one. That place is a goldmine. So just a tip to all you Tropical Sno owners- put a little dollop of soft serve ice cream in the middle and you'll gain a cult-like following.
Another delicious meal at an old beauty shop converted into a restaurant. The hairdryers and everything are still in there. It was really cute.
Kid-free shopping happy: 
While we were there we dug out old family photos. And bam....there was Channing's face in all my baby pictures. I thought he favored me more than Jon but I had no idea how much.

I also found my old hardcover Anne of Green Gables book that my very first best friend gave to me when I moved away from Georgia. She threw me a surprise going-away party and I remember feeling so fiercely loved that day. She and I were inseparable and spent many afternoons roller skating on our driveways in our matching white skates with pink and purple stripes. We wore matching outfits whenever we could and we would always take bubble baths in our bathing suits in her parent's jacuzzi tub whenever I slept over. Her dad never called me Haverlee, always Waverly and her mom had the sweetest smile and most gentle voice. My very first plane ride was to visit her all by myself somewhere around 8th grade. We slowly lost touch for the most part after that but drove cross country to attend each other's weddings. Thankfully now we can at least keep up with each other on Instagram. 
Always fun to see how much my boys have changed in a year. Last year in Memphis

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