Friday, April 18, 2014

Foto Friday--Blood Moon

I would have posted these earlier in the week, but with my internet down, and then with my computer infected with some sort of annoying malware, my picture processing capabilities have been sorely impeded.

I did take a few pictures of the eclipse, but I didn't put much thought into it. Using the camera was actually a bit of an afterthought. I attached my 70-400 mm only to use it as a telescope to see better. Huh. This telescope takes pictures, too? Great idea.

Since I hadn't prepared for photographing, I ended up putting my camera on 16000 ISO (yes, that's three 0s), 1/60 sec at 5.6. (Yes, these photos were taken without a tripod--handheld in the complete dark.) I love my 70-400 mm. That is a fantastic lens, even if it weighs 3.5-4 pounds (yes, that's pounds, people. Sheesh. Just believe me).

These photos aren't edited much from the original. I wish I'd taken some time to set up the tripod, think about ISO noise, and exposure. I think I could have snapped some phenomenal shots.

Then again, I wasn't too thrilled to be up in the middle of the night to begin with.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Birthday Boy

What to say about yesterday?

Brad had his birthday--shout hooray!

He is a man of simple tastes, my Brad. When I asked him what he wanted for dinner, he actually requested grilled cheese sandwiches. Even Hyrum recognized that this was a little . . . low brow . . . and said, "I think this is the first time I've ever had grilled cheese for someone's birthday . . ."

I did spice up the meal a little bit. Tried my hand at tomato caprese.
Easiest thing ever. And he was really surprised. That made it even better.

Our Wednesday night was crazy, so we had to wait to do cake and candles until almost 9 pm. By that time, everyone was a little wound up.
 Including the birthday boy. He insisted that he blow the candles out three times. Ok. It's your birthday.
 There were a lot of helpers around--helping light, helping blow . . .
  . . . helping pose for pictures . . .

 . . . and of course, helping eat. Dad decided that since it was his birthday, he could take a giant bite out the cake. That invited Mayhem to the party, and all of the little kids began taking giant bites out of the cake.
I hope one of them took a huge bite of one of those lemons . . .


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Grad School and the Blahs

For some reason, I've been dragging ever since I got back from Idaho. I need a swift kick to get me into gear and get something done today. I thought I'd share an excerpt from my last writing assignment, to try and explain why I've been so . . . unfocused? Unmotivated? Un-anything? Enjoy. My teacher did. 

There is much irony for me in this week’s assignment. Under most circumstances, I would describe myself as a textbook example of intrinsic motivation—“motivation resulting from internal personal characteristics or inherent to the task being performed” (Danner, 2012, p. 177). I am most likely one of the oldest students in this class, having returned to academia after 23 years of being a full-time stay-at-home mom to seven children. I came back to school because I wanted to—not because there is a pay increase waiting for me when I get my certification and not because my parents are paying for my schooling in hopes that I will find myself. I don’t even know if I’m going to work when I’ve completed my degree. How’s that for thumbing my nose at the concept that rewards are needed to improve performance (Pink, 2010)? I have discovered that I love the independence associated with online study, since all of this is completely new to me—learning about Google docs, dropbox, and research without a room of drawers full of index cards and Dewey decimal numbers. Whenever I’m studying or testing or writing, I am focused and intense, and my entire family knows there is potential danger involved if I am interrupted. I guess that’s what Danner (2012) means by the term flow—if flow means don’t interrupt upon pain of death. That being said, I have found nothing that can force me to the keyboard this week. Extrinsic motivators (like missing my favorite yoga class or a diet Pepsi in the afternoon) have been quite unsuccessful in pulling assignments from me. Why the sudden change? What has happened, you ask. My oldest daughter had a brand new baby boy (seven pounds, one ounce, 19.5 inches long, and tons of curly black hair, just in case you were curious), and she lives over 800 miles away. How can a grandma possibly focus on the mundanity of grad school when there is a delicious new baby in this world?

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Radio Silence

Things have been oddly quiet around here the last three days.  Have you noticed?

Our internet is down.

First, Brad thought it must be a problem with our provider, but after contacting them, he realized it wasn't.

Next, he called his handy computer guru. After explaining our issues, Jerry seems to think it's the router.

That's something Brad can fix. If he could find the time to do it. He didn't come home until after 11 pm last night, and he left before 7 am this morning.

I've stooped to using my iPhone as a hot spot, but that doesn't make my pictures any more accessible.  Hopefully by tomorrow all will be back to normal.

Last week was a killer around here. Every single one of us got hammered with a 24-hour flu--all in separate 24 hours. Hyrum and Evie and Lily threw up all night on three different nights. Lily's happened to be in a tent while she was camping with Brad and Eve. 

At least it was a quick little bugger. 

Hyrum threw up all night, felt yucky all morning, and watched TV with his blanket from the couch. When Evie got home from school and after they ate lunch, he disappeared for a moment, then came around the corner and said, "Ok, Mom. See ya in a few hours." He had grabbed his backpack and was headed out the door to school! Did I let him go? Yep, I did.

Hopefully today all will be back to normal.

Vomit, router, and all.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Saturday #15

It was 1980, and Brooke Shields was everywhere--ads, movies, billboards.

It was 1980, and Jenny Tucker was almost eleven years old. Our family was at the annual Tucker reunion camp out, and my cousin LaNay and I were busy collecting rocks, sticks, and flowers to create monuments to our secret crushes at the deserted campsite next to ours. Other than writing these perfect boys' names in the dirt with a squirt bottle, I remember little of this reunion--aside from one conversation I had with Grandma Tucker.

Grandma was a well-kept woman. She always had her hair done perfectly, always wore a brooch and lipstick and lace-up oxfords with her panty hose, and always smelled of fancy powder from the puff on her vanity table.

During this particular weekend, I remember sitting close to her as she told me, for the umpteenth time, how much Grandpa Tucker would have loved all of these beautiful little girls running around everywhere. (My grandpa was killed in a car accident in 1959, leaving behind his wife and five sons ages seventeen to three.) I had heard her say this exact thing so many times that Grandpa seemed real to me, like he really would have hugged me and loved me if he had been there.

What came from her lips next is forever etched in my brain.

"Always love your thick eyebrows, Jenny. Look at Brooke Shields. She is the most beautiful woman in the world, and she has thick eyebrows, just like you. Never pluck them. Always love them. They are beautiful."

And with that, I was off to refill my squirt bottle to write "Michael" in the dirt one more time.

I never forgot that my grandma thought my eyebrows were beautiful. My Tucker eyebrows--the ones I had inherited from a phantom grandfather with a crooked smile, who would have loved me unconditionally, just because I was his.

I held off shaping my brows till late in my life (as my wedding album and driver's license picture from 1995 attest), but every time I pick up the tweezers even now, I think of that moment and memory. I think of a loving grandmother who with a single conversation permanently changed my perspective of myself, and forever linked me to the grandfather whose features I bear and whose blood I share.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Foto Friday--Grandma's Favorites

Sunshine streaming through the huge kitchen window every morning during breakfast
 Evie loved holding that baby boy. I'm so glad that my baby has so many chances to hold babies that are still "hers" even though they aren't her siblings.

Ellie has nightmares and wakes up many times over the course of each night. She got a new night buddy, a unicorn with a flashlight in its tummy that she named Daisy.
Daisy has an amazing way of chasing all of the scary dreams away.

I did squeeze in some time with that delicious new baby.  I love his hair so much.


 Don't you wonder what they're thinking and what they're seeing in this brand new world?
 

Heidi had just gotten out of the shower and didn't want to get her picture taken, but this may be my favorite moment of all.
I feel a joy that can't be explained as I watch my daughter mother her children. It is breathtaking and beautiful and wonderful.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

First Family Portraits from Rexburg

Note: There's still time to ask questions on Monday's post. Click here if you missed it.

I'm not an experienced formal portrait photographer. I don't know all the tricks and angles and lighting and stuff. And anyone who has ever had formal pictures taken with little kids knows that it's difficult at best to get kids to sit still long enough for an acceptable picture, let alone a really good one.

Most photos turn out like this:
 Where's Nathan? And please put down your dress!

Or like this:
Everyone wants to hold the baby!

Some shots have eyes closed or fingers in noses or tantrum-throwing toddlers, and they're all vetoed, one by one. I kept telling Heidi: "We only need one or two good ones, right?"  She didn't care much. You know how you feel a week post-partum and the last thing you want is a photograph forever reminding you of your black-rimmed eyes from lack of sleep, still-stretched-out body, and hormonally charged emotions. Am I right?

She did recognize that she wanted a photo of her family, and that she's part of the family so her presence was required.  I will note here that as soon as we were done shooting, she changed right back into pjs, which is where she still needed to be.

In the end, I got two shots of their entire family that were acceptable.
The one above is my favorite, even though Nathan needed something to keep busy, so I handed him my tripod.  It matches Ellie's dress. Funny, huh?
These two are amazing parents. Going from man-to-man to a zone defense is tough. Most parents will say that from two to three kids is the hardest transition, but Sam and Heidi are two of the best parents I've ever seen. And I'm not just saying that because I'm the grandma, either.

We also tried just the kids with the parents' legs.
Jonah just hung there while Nathan squirmed and fought his daddy's grip. Ellie didn't know quite what to think about this arrangement.

Strangely enough, shooting just the kids yielded the best shots of the morning.
 Do you see any resemblance between the two older kids? Ellie is a Denton and Nathan is definitely his daddy's boy.

 Jonah was so patient, even when precariously balanced on Ellie's lap.
 I think Nathan is going to be a photographer.  Here he's playing with my lens cap.  Anything to keep him still, I say.
 This last shot is my favorite. It captures their personalities the best. Ellie loves people and loves to interact with anyone who will listen. Nathan, on the other hand, is a little more reserved, a little more shy, but the cutest little boy I ever did see.
Love these guys.

Which are your favorites? What tricks have you used to successfully photograph young kids? Tricks that don't involve straight jackets or copious amounts of candy are preferred.