Monday, January 26, 2015

Currently | January

I'm currently...

sharing Christmas photo booth images (some with props, some without) with family via Dropbox.

drafting two new articles for Improve Photography.

enjoying Downton Abbey with Brian.

loving The Honest Co. body wash and bubble bath for Noah. (Thanks to my sister Katie for sending us a free trial!)

wearing a Pivotal Tracker 1. (My first band was a total dud, so I returned it to Amazon and they quickly sent out a new one. So far, so good with this second one.)

finishing up two scrapbook layouts using Ali Edwards' "Firsts" Story Kit.

framing this free 16x20 print. I had it printed at Office Depot (from a jump drive) for just $1.05. Plus, the frame was 50% off at Aaron Brothers.  Double score!

sprinkling my conversations with Noah with "color" words. Would you like the blue one or the green one?  Let's paint with red paint first and then yellow paint. (By the way, have you read this article about how important it is to talk--and talk A LOT--to your little ones? So fascinating.)  

watching Brian and Mike (Brian's dad) build the foundation for a chicken coop on our property. 

playing with kinetic sand and real sand and play-doh and watercolor paints.   

scheduling Noah's first dentist appointment.

trying to nurse Noah back to health after a yucky virus plagued him all last week. 

listening to Elise Gets Crafty podcasts while I do my makeup in the morning, while I'm driving in the car (by myself), and while I'm sweeping or mopping the floors. I've never been a big podcast listener, but I'm really enjoying it.   

soaking up the sunshine and the warmth. Is it really January?

adding photos from 2014 (and a few from this month) to our Adoptimist profile.  

dancing around to Taylor Swift's Shake It Off song. 

spying daffodil bulbs popping up in our front yard. Already?!
chatting with moms who are interested in joining Mountain Moms.

scouting out places to shoot a family portrait.

responding to emails from our adoption attorney. (No match yet, but we're hopeful.) 

loving how much Noah adores hugging, snuggling with, and talking to the dogs. 

Your turn: What's {currently} happening in your life?

Monday, January 5, 2015

A Letter to Noah @ 3

Dear Noah,

Today you turn three, my precious boy.

Like most moms out there, I'm kind of in shock that you're not so little anymore. 

I think...three? Already? You're growing up so fast, baby bear. 

Last Friday, I was at the post office mailing an envelope to your birth mother when it hit me.

The USPS clerk entered your birth mother's address into the system, but for some reason, it didn't recognize it. I was surprised and said, "Wow, really?  I've been sending envelopes to that address for three years."

Turns out, he spelled the street name incorrectly, but when I heard myself utter those three words, for three years, it really sunk in that it's been that long since I laid eyes on you for the first time.  That long since I fed you a bottle for the first time. That long since your birth mother lovingly placed you in my arms.

It's true I became your mama that day, but it wasn't until a year later that you started saying my favorite word in the English language: mama.

And you've said it countless times since. It's music to my ears, I tell you. 

Your birth--and the courageous, loving, and selfless decision your birth mother made to place you with our family--made me a mama.

And man, am I grateful for that.

Oh, how I adore you, Noey.  

Oh, how I cherish you.

Oh, how I love you. 

About a week ago, in anticipation of your birthday, I started jotting down as many things as I could think of that I love about you right now. 

I love that you...
  • Love helping with the dishes. We push a dining chair up to the sink and you climb up and stand on it, so you can reach the faucet. Inevitably, tons of water ends up on the floor, but the dishes get very clean and you have so much fun in the process.
  • Love the ocean, love the beach, love the sand, love the sunsets.  (I snapped the photo above on a beach in Del Mar.)
  • Adore singing. You sing at home, at Music Together classes, in the car--even at Target. (In fact, we were shopping at Target last week and a customer complimented your singing voice. I said, "Thank you," and you just kept right on singing.)
  • Have so much energy and enthusiasm and zest for life. 
  • Have curly hair. (We got your hair cut a few weeks after the photo above was taken. It was a 25-minute, two-lollipop kind of haircut. It was tough on you, and it was tough on me. Since then, several people have commented, "Oh, you got your hair cut, Noah!"  To which you quickly reply with a frown, "I didn't like it.")   
  • Love taking the back roads. When I give you the option, and I try to as often as I can, you always choose the back roads over the freeway. Reminds me of that Rodney Atkins' song, Take a Back Road--a tune your daddy loves.
  • Are playing independently more, and for longer periods of time. Right now, you play with your Jake pirate ship, your trains, and your fire truck most often.
  • Ask me to "Talk Mickey?" which in Noah-speak means "Would you please talk for Mickey?"
  • Ask me for a granola bar by saying, "Can I please have a handlebar?"
  • Are obsessed with the Disney show, Jake and the Neverland Pirates. The other day, you were playing in the family room when I said, "Okay Noah, in 5 minutes, I'm going to get you dressed and then we're going to get in the car and go see Nonni and Pop." You looked up at me and said, "Aye, aye, Captain Mommy!"
  • Love persimmons.  See, we have a persimmon tree in our  yard, but neither Daddy nor I particularly like the taste of them.  So, for years, we've been giving them away to friends. But not anymore. As long as we remove the skin, you will eat and eat and eat some more.
  • Think of Zoey, even though she no longer lives with us. When we're in a restaurant, you'll say, "We need to get a highchair for Zoey" or when we're in the car, you'll ask, "Can we pick up Zoey and go to the park?"
  • Came out of your room last week wearing your orange Home Depot apron, your safety goggles, and your fire helmet, and you said, "I have to go to work, Mommy!" I asked, "Where do you work?" and you replied, "Grass Valley." 
  • Carry your chainsaw up on your shoulder--just like the loggers do. (Last week, there was a crew of 10 loggers working up the street from us and you were fascinated by their chainsaws and ropes and chaps and helmets.)
  • Love animals. We were driving in the car one morning, on a windy country road, just you and me. The temperature outside was about 30 degrees.  I saw two horses in a pasture off to the right and I said, "Gosh, those horses must be cold." Your reply? "They need a sweatshirt, Mommy."
  • Placed my iPhone, Pandora music playing from the speaker, under Lucy's head so she could listen to some instrumental music. You turned to me and said, "It makes her happy, Mama." Oh, be still my heart, sweet boy.  
You, dear Noah, make me happy. 

I can't wait to watch you grow and learn and play this coming year.



Wednesday, December 31, 2014

My 2014 Favorites

As we say farewell to 2014, I want to share a round-up of some of the {rad} things I've stumbled upon in the last 364 days.

Keep in mind that most of these items were not released in 2014; I simply discovered them this year.  I've also recommended ONLY those items I (or my hubby Brian) have tried and loved.

Best Cell Phone Case | Lifeproof
I've had this {awesome} phone case for three months now, and it has protected my iPhone 5S from bath water (twice!) and survived multiple drops to the ground. A definite must with a toddler.

Discounted Lifeproof cases for fire, police and military personnel are available here

Best Music Classes for Kids | Music Together
I wrote about our experience last semester here.  And we'll be starting a new session in two weeks! 

Best Website Building Platform | Wix
Easy-to-use (even for those of us who don't know a thing about HTML), free, and their customer service is awesome. I used Wix to successfully build our adoption website.

Best Parenting Book | The Whole-Brain Child
Hands down, the best parenting book I've read since Noah joined our family in 2012. 

Best Online Store for Pet Prescriptions | Pet 360
Our Lab Lucy has diabetes, and we've saved some serious money ordering prescription dog food and medicines through this site.  (We also fill some of her prescriptions at Wal-Mart.)

Best (Mostly) Instrumental CD | Saving Sarah Cain
I listen to A LOT of instrumental music on Pandora when I write, and that's where I discovered this beautiful movie score.

Best Free Printable | Thank You Cards from Caravan Shoppe
I just downloaded these free thank you cards, and I can't wait to use them in 2015.  

Best Movie | Philomena
If you haven't seen it yet, check the library or RedBox. Have Kleenex handy when you watch it. 

Best Fun Photo Product | Fridge Magnets from Sticky 9
I ordered a set for my sister for Christmas, and they're so cute that I ordered two more sets, one for my mom and one for my grandmother.  Next up? A set for our fridge! (If you place an order at Sticky9, use code FRIEND10N2E to get 15% off your order.)

Your turn: What great product/class/book/movie did you discover this year? 

*This post contains affiliate links. What does that mean? If you click on a link and make a purchase, I'll receive a small commission--with no extra cost to you--which helps to keep my blog humming along. Thanks, in advance, for your support!

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Christmas 2014

Seeing this photo instantly takes me back to Disneyland, where I was kneeling on Main Street and shooting up at this gorgeous Christmas tree.

Disneyland is so magical, especially when it's all decorated for the holidays.    

Not only am I a fan of Disneyland, but I love good bokeh, too!

Because I wanted the lights to be out-of-focus, I switched the lens I was using (a Canon 50mm f/1.2 that I rented from Borrow Lenses) from auto focus to manual focus. Then, I turned the focusing ring as far as it would go to completely blur the lights.

I was shooting in manual, and although this image was shot at f/2.2, it probably would have been even better with a larger aperture (smaller number) such as f/1.2.

In post-processing, I made a few simple edits in Lightroom and then used RadLab in Photoshop to boost the color saturation and add contrast.  Lastly, I sharpened the image using a free action from MCP.

It's seriously super simple to capture holiday light bokeh! Here's an easy tutorial and some great tips if you want to give it a try.

Last December,I learned you could customize your bokeh, creating nearly any shape. I made a hood (out of black card stock) with a heart shape, took a few shots, and shared this image on my blog.

If you're interested in making your own unique bokeh, here is a simple tutorial.

Whether you find yourself behind the lens, in front of the lens, or a combination of both this Christmas, here's hoping your heart is filled with peace and joy.


Saturday, December 20, 2014

2014 Video

Last December, I posted our annual family letter here on my blog, instead of enclosing it with our Christmas cards.

I loved that I could share MORE photos and MORE stories with friends, family members, and blog readers.

So, this year, I decided that I wanted to do something similar, but with a slightly different spin.

I knew I wanted to share photos; if you've been reading my blog long, you know how obsessed I am with taking and editing photos. :-)

But, to be honest, I just wasn't up to penning a long letter. 

So, I created a video, 2014. (When you click this link, you'll be taken to Vimeo to view the video.)

It's a 3-minute slideshow (created using Animoto), which highlights some of my
favorite photos from this past year. I threw in a couple of captions for good measure, but all-in-all, it's really basic and simple.

I've watched this video several times now, but every time it brings a big smile to my face.  Lots of wonderful memories were made this year.  

Thanks for watching!

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