Saturday, September 28, 2013

Things I Learned in September

Inspired by Emily Freeman’s series and a tradition in my besties’ annual letters, I’m sharing a few of the things I learned this month.

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1. The river really is fun.

Maybe I should rename this series, “Things Everybody Else Already Knew & I’m Just Learning Now.”  Of course I knew the river would be fun. I love being near water. In our Before-Kids days, Brian and I took inflatable kayaks down the Rogue River and tubes down the Salt River, and went on a sea canoe adventure through Phang Nga Bay. Yet I’d never been on the Colorado (my boys are emphatic that the night cruise boat does not count) until this month.

I have lots of excuses to account for how my boys have gone numerous times but I hadn’t. I was pregnant, or staying back with the baby, or, last summer, with our puppy, or this summer, with my dad. Or preparing for a huge meal to feed everyone who came back from the river hungry. But no more excuses! Thanks to good friends, I’ve finally done “the daily” and hope we do it again soon.

2009behind the rocks

2. There is no cheap or easy way to get from Moab to Los Angeles.

Someone told me about an $80 round-trip ticket but I’ve decided it was an urban legend (or perhaps a rural-legend?). I’m excited about a solo-birthday trip to see my sister, Erin, and meet one of my favorite authors, Karen Maezen Miller. Less excited about the 20-hours-round-trip drive.

3. How to fix a dead or hot pixel on your SLR.

I found two hot pixels (red) on all the images I shot in August. The only solutions I could find were to either send it in to Canon for professional cleaning (impossible with several sessions lined up this month) or just let Lightroom fix it in RAW (also not ideal as I shoot RAW only in difficult lighting). I finally found this little youtube video, and it worked!

I read similar instructions elsewhere that I tried, but none of the others mentioned the necessary step of leaving your lens cap ON. Yay for youtube and strangers sharing their knowledge!

4. Being the only one without a smart phone isn’t so bad.

I was going to title this: Louis C.K. is a genius, but I’ve known that for a few years. Basically I just want an excuse to share this video (head’s up, there’s some foul language in case that offends you).

Louis C.K. reminds me of George Carlin and why I first loved stand-up. He knows if he can get you to laugh, he can get you to listen. In less than five minutes on Conan, he captured the ideas of half a dozen other writers  If you’ve never seen his show, it’s brilliant. It breaks all the snore-bore sitcom rules. It takes risks, which means it sometimes falls flat (or gross). But when it works, it soars.

If the video disappears off youtube, here’s a link to the original site:


5. Parenting does get easier, and then harder.

I photographed an adorable 16-month-old boy this morning. He had sky-blue eyes and a killer smile, and rarely stayed in the same spot (never mind the same lighting) for more than five seconds. I’m exhausted.

I’m sure it depends on the child, but I’m going for generalities here. My take is that the newborn / first-year is hard, because you’re getting to know each other, and figuring out sleeping and nursing, but it’s also easy (depending on the baby) because that’s all the baby needs---lots of sleep, lots of milk and lots of love. I love newborns.

The second year is harder, in my opinion. They have all those same needs, and they can move. But they haven’t mastered it yet, so they can get hurt moving. They want all kinds of things and to communicate is one of them, but they haven’t mastered it yet, so there’s a lot of frustration. I swear by baby sign language because two of my three boys were late talkers and it really helped them communicate. But that second year is hard.

I’m sure the window is different for everyone. Once they can talk, it is a whole different ball game. And when they can walk and run without fear of a face plant, phew, life is good!

Is there anything sweeter in life than a three or four year old boy who loves you? Once you get past diapers, life is even easier. Maybe life gives you a little reprieve to refuel for what’s coming.

Because, your baby will be 5, and then 6, and in a blink 10 and then just when you’ve really relaxed, your baby is almost a teen. And you see what is coming. The eyes are rolling. The emotions. The pimples. The being embarrassed by mom and dad. The exhausting attempts to be funny. I know, that sounds mean. I love my kid’s sense of humor. But suddenly he’s trying to be funny when he’s always just been naturally funny. I feel like I just got a wake up call this month. It’s going to get harder before it gets easier again. If it is ever easy to love someone this much.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Benjamin & Mason | Moab Utah Newborn Photographer

2013 08 07_101

Awww, twins! These sweet boys stole my heart---so beautiful and so sweetly content curled up next to each other.


Ever the middle child, I wanted to be sure we captured some individual shots of each. I swear Ben is blowing me a kiss in that shot above!



Here’s lucky mom and dad! They are already pros---they seemed more calm and together than most parents I photograph. Maybe with twins you just have to learn to go with the flow.

2013 08 07_112brothers

Benjamin and Mason seem to have already mastered going with the flow themselves!

Friday, September 20, 2013

letters to our sons | September 2013

I have great intentions, but without deadlines most of those don’t come to fruition. One of the main reasons I created a blog was to capture this time when my sons are young. So I’m excited to join a group of friends, moms, and fellow photographers as we share about the boys in our lives on the third Friday of each month. We will be writing a letter to our sons each month. You can follow our blog circle to Chantell Sim next, and continue all the way back here. ________________________________________________________________________________________________

my boys at the wedding

Dear Aidan, Sean, and Nolan,

I like the idea of starting this series with one letter to all three of you. I so want to carve out time for each of you separately, and in future letters, plan to focus on one of you each month. Still, many of my favorite moments are when we are all together and you three are “my boys.”

We’ve reached a sweet spot that for years I joked about---it seemed SO far away---that golden age when all of my children would be able to buckle their own car seat (or seat belt in Aidan’s case). I know every stage is fleeting, and, as each one arrives, I always have the same reaction: this is my favorite stage ever and I hope it never ends.

I remember writing your Aunties Angie and Mary Alice during Aidan’s first year that I feared I’d reach my peak in life too soon and would always be wanting to relive that year.  I really did relish your baby and toddler years. 

At the same time, I gotta admit, this stage is pretty sweet.

web2013 08 15_3 brothers on the 1st day of school

For this one year of your childhood, all three of you are at the same school. I love that each of you recognize that fact and are making the most of it. How much easier it is to let my baby ride the school bus, knowing his big brothers are by his side. And how fun to listen, when he arrives home an hour earlier than you two, to his stories of having spotted you in the hallways or on the playground.

There are so many things I love about this specific season of our life together---the way all three of you love playing with LEGOs, the way you crack each other up, the way Aidan will be sure to grab a granola bar for Sean when he takes one for himself, or the way you often return from a party and share your new bounty of sugar with each other. I love the way the three of you negotiate music (Nolie says, “ENOUGH MICHAEL FRANTI” and Aidan says, “Never enough!”). The way you wake up together on the weekends and feed Duke and play quietly in hopes that you’ll get to watch more cartoons if you let your dad and me sleep longer (you’re smart boys!). The way you encourage each other---whether it be Nolan’s first sentence in writing last week (you wrote: I see Nolan), or Sean finishing a long book, or Aidan’s 50th comic strip drawing---each of you know you have a built-in audience who will praise and love your work.

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It’s not all rainbows and unicorns. There are accusations (“who ate the last lime popsicle?”) and threats (“never touch my Gandolf LEGO again”), epic Wii battles, and the never-ending debate over who really is Duke’s favorite (I hate to break it to you boys, but his fav is the one girl in the family). Every family has their struggles, and we have plenty, but I’m grateful that sibling fighting really isn’t one of ours. You are each so different and so compatible at the same time.

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One of the best parts of this stage is that we can do more. We did a lot in the past, but every thing is so much easier now. In the past few weeks you’ve hiked at Arches National Park, river rafted on the Colorado, taken Duke with us through Granstaff Canyon. Nothing new---you’ve been on the river before, been to those sights before, but while I still see danger around every corner, I’m not quite as worried now. And Nolie hiked all the way to Morning Glory bridge AND back on his own two feet. It had to be the first time your dad has finished that hike without a child on his back!

web2013 08 21_brothers heading into HMK

I’m in no hurry to move to the next stage, whatever that might be. Many mornings I tease you that this is my Christmas (a concept that has stayed with me from this interview with Karey Macin). I can’t imagine a time when I go to sleep without all three of you under my roof, though I know that time will come. Right now, it is Christmas every day, and I plan to enjoy as much of it as possible.

So far I’ve been shocked to find each season better than the last. Whatever lies ahead, I hope you always carry this sweet season with you---this time when you knew your brothers had your back. Even when you’re grown men, I know I’ll see the baby, the toddler, and the boy I knew still within you. My matroshki. I hope you see that in each other, that you’ll always be a link back to this time for each other, still watching each other’s backs, still laughing at each other’s corny jokes, still giving “awkward sibling hugs” (thank you, Gravity Falls).

more than all the stars,


Wednesday, September 11, 2013

9/11 A Day of Remembrance

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This is what I remember. I was pregnant with my first child, and getting ready for work. I never turn on the news in the morning. Never. But that day I did. I can’t remember why. Brian was on a fire assignment in California, and perhaps I was hoping to hear news of the fire. I sat down in shock as the Today Show struggled to make sense of the live footage. Brian immediately called, and headed home that same day.

My youngest sister was a grad student at NYU at the time, and working in a law firm just a few blocks from the towers. I immediately sent her an email, and am still grateful for her one line reply as they were being evacuated. It would be days before we could hear her voice, telling us where she was staying, as the windows of her apartment building had been blown out in the attack.

I had to go to work. That was a good thing---something to focus on, knowing my students would be shaken and that we, the faculty, would need to be strong and collected. I was driving Oregon’s I-5 when the radio announced the first tower fell. I remember being afraid I would have an accident, driving and crying.

I believe it was my friend Jeanie who had a television in her classroom, and several of us gathered in there to learn more. They showed too much and I left, hoping not to see or hear more until we heard from my sister. It was good to be with students, and to have Brian home that evening. We were glued to the TV, feeling completely useless, and worried about the world into which our son was about to be born.

firefighters photograph by Thomas E. Franklin of The Record

I have struggled since then with what and how much to tell my sons about that day. George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I know the world does not need this addition to the collection of “where I was when I heard” stories, but I’d like my sons to know, for that day to be more than historical facts for them.

We bake cookies on September 11 and deliver them to our local fire station. They always seem a bit embarrassed to accept them, and we’re a bit shy too, but this is what we choose to emphasize. My sons will learn soon enough of the evil in the world, of the terrible things humans do to each other. Aidan has asked me questions about slavery and WWII that I’ll never be able to answer. But what are we really called to remember today?

The bravery. The compassion. The love.

My cousin Rosemarie shared this link today.

She owns a bakery in Chicago, and one of her brothers is a Chicago fire fighter, and her other siblings are police officers.

There are so many good people in the world.


Yes, there is evil in the world and in each of us. But it is not more powerful than the love we share. Today we remember all the innocent souls who lost their lives on 9/11, the families who lost their loved ones, the first responders who walked into hell to help others, and heroes like Welles Crowther.

St Francis of Assisi said it best: “All the darkness of the world cannot extinguish the light of a single candle.”

Monday, September 2, 2013

Motion Blur Challenge

Motion blur is the challenge from the Clickin’ Moms circle this month.

I had great intentions to set up my tripod and capture the boys riding their bikes by in a blur and Aidan shooting basketballs that became a blur…but life happens, and none of those plans happened.

Still, I appreciate how the challenge forces me to break out my photographic comfort zone and experiment a bit.

Deirdre O. Keating Photography

Sean volunteered for the first experiment. He’s just started playing the violin. I wanted to capture his face in focus but his arm in a blur of movement. His teacher would be scandalized by this form here, but he was fiddling away!


I’ve wanted to shoot with this van as a backdrop for ages. This past Saturday, on our way home from Aidan’s KZMU gig, I finally stopped. Aidan was kind enough to jump in front of it for some cool blur.

web wipeout motion blur

Most of the time I prefer a higher shutter speed with a wider aperature, in hopes of avoiding blur. But intentional motion blur can capture a sense of movement and play---as in the above shot from a few summers ago, and the shot below, of the boys laughing to a Snoopy holiday special.

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One more---my favorite motion blur subject: sparklers!

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Please continue through the blog circle to see how other photographers interpreted the challenge, starting with Maggie Saunders of Texas and her post on Motion Blur.

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