Saturday, May 23, 2015

Day in the Life | May 2015

I always enjoy participating in Ali Edwards' Day in the Life. It's a great excuse to pull out my big camera, snap photos with my iPhone, and jot down details of our day in a notebook.

Here's what Tuesday, May 12, 2015 looked like for us. 

8:00 | Noah (and I) slept in until 8:00 am. I awoke to my 3-year-old bellowing for me, "Mommy!" I'm so grateful for days when he sleeps in since I'm such a night owl!

From there, we put the dogs outside and I made breakfast for Noah and me. Life cereal, 1/2 of a bagel with cream cheese and some blueberries for him; yogurt and Grape-nuts and 1/2 of a bagel for me. (Brian left for work around 6:30 am.) 

Conversation at breakfast:
N: "You are growing down, Mommy." 
Me: "I am?"
N: "Yes, I’m growing up and you’re growing down and Daddy’s growing down.”

After breakfast, I took my vitamins and allergy meds and gave Noah his allergy medicine. (Just hayfever, luckily.)

Our dog, Lucy, barked to come in, so we opened the front door for her, but our other dog, Rudy, is nowhere in sight. Probably wondering the property like he usually does.

8:30 | The alarm on my iPhone goes off, letting me know that it's time to feed our dogs. I call Rudy in to the house and feed them. Lucy burps and Noah happens to be standing right next to her, so he turns to her and says, "Excuse you, Lucy!" Ha! I give Lucy her insulin shot, and Noah says, "Did it hurt, Lucy? Just a little bit. Oh, good. You're a good girl, Lucy." (It's so cute when he "talks" for Lucy.)

9:00 | Rinse breakfast dishes with Noah's help. There is water everywhere, but he's having fun and the dishes are super duper clean. Lucy is barking--at what I have no idea, which is not unusual--and Noah is covering his ears.

We head back to the master bedroom and I turn on Jake and the Neverland Pirates for Noah. He's holding his milk, his sword, and a random Mother's Day card he grabbed off the entertainment center in the family room. I clip his fingernails while he's distracted.

9:15 | I start the shower, check my email, and enter the Chris Young sweepstakes on my phone while waiting for the water to warm up.

9:30 | After a quick shower, I get dressed, blow dry my hair, and apply my makeup. I can tell I'm a little too in my head this morning and worrying about things that are totally out of my control. So, I turn on an affirmation track from this Belleruth Naparstek CD, which in the past has helped bring calm to my mind. It works, thankfully.
9:45 | Get Noah dressed in a long-sleeved shirt and jeans because it's cloudy and windy outside. 

10:00 | Noah and I drive 20 minutes to Music Together. Along the way, we listen to Pirate Pete's Giant Adventure for the 6,392nd time! Noah and I strike a deal: He gets to listen to his book once through, then I get to listen to 2 country songs on the radio, and then he can listen to his book again.

10:30 | Music Together class starts. It's full participation for all, including moms and dads. I rack up a lot of steps in this 45-minute session (woohoo!), and I think I have just as much fun as Noah. I'm definitely in my happy place when I'm singing.

11:15 | Noah and his friend, Alex, play with sticks (ie. swords) and rocks after class while I talk to Alex's mom about adoption stuff. (She and her husband adopted Alex at birth, and she has several friends who are hoping and praying and waiting to adopt.) We chat about how hard it is to wait, especially the first time around, and how discouraging it can be to not be picked by birth mothers.We talk about how important it is to share your feelings with other families who have been there, too. And how you simply must remain hopeful.

11:45 | Off to Target we go for a few items. Noah wants to ride in the super long cart with the two kiddie seats, which means we'll probably hit an end cap or two while I try to successfully maneuver it through the aisles. Watch out, people! Ha!

12:00 | We can't find an eye patch for Noah at Target (he's been asking for one for days), but he seems content with a pirate hat, a lollipop, and a sticker. (Thanks to the two sweet Target employees for showering him with goodies!)

12:30 | On the way home in the car, Noah wears his new pirate hat and sings, "Yo ho, yo ho, a pirate’s life for me" over and over again. Can't wait to take him back to Disneyland, so he can experience Pirates of the Caribbean.

1:00 | Put away the Target stuff. Make lunch for Noah and me. Leftover sausage and rice for me; pb+j and fruit for him.

1:30 | I make an eye patch for Noah using construction paper and pipe cleaners. Arrr!

2:00 | Bought Chris Young’s new song, I'm Comin' Over, on iTunes.  

2:15 | Randomly felt inspired to write a country song. This is a first for me. I stood at the kitchen counter and jotted down lyrics in my notebook. It's really only the outline of a song, and let's be honest, it kind of stinks, but I had fun and I hope to flesh it out later.
2:30 | Play trains with Noah and listen to kids' music on Pandora. 

2:45 | Brian sent us a few photos from his day. Noah loves seeing photos of Brian's ladder truck, and having seen them, he now wants to go and visit. (Isn't that a cool shot of the moon below?) 

3:00 | Throw a load of sheets into the washer. Pull clean laundry out of the dryer and fold.

3:15 | Head outside. Brush both dogs--they are shedding like crazy right now. Water the grass. Check the step count on my FitBit. I'm only at 5,167 steps, so I make a mental note to walk around as much as I can outside. 

 3:30 | Sail in Noah's pirate ship. Peer through the spyglass. Turn the wheel. Fire the cannon.  Say "Oh, coconuts!" and "Ahoy, matey!" and "Pirate Island straight ahead!" in my best pirate accent. 

4:00 | Check out Brian's fishing boat. After I take a picture of Noah near the boat, he asks if he can take a picture with my camera and I oblige. I keep the camera around my neck and Noah slips in front of me. I show him how to press the shutter release button. He shoots away. Like rapid gunfire. I show him how to gently touch it, so he only takes 1-2 pictures at a time instead of say, 54. 

We view the pictures together, and I tell him they are fuzzy because there is one more step to taking a picture with my camera. I push the * button on the back of my camera (which enables back button focus), and then he presses the shutter release button. He views his photos and he's really excited.

He says, "Mommy, let's take a picture of the trees Daddy cut down!" And off we go on a photo walk of sorts. 

He's clearly hooked. 

And I'm loving it.

4:15 | Noah takes a photo of this fawn walking down to the creek. (I helped him zoom in.) From there, he shoots the canal, the picnic bench, the creek and some dandelions--which he simply calls "lions." Then, he asks to wade into the creek and I say okay, provided we push his pants down into his boots. (To be honest, that didn't really help; he was covered in mud, pretty much from his waist down by the time he was done playing. That happens when you sit down in the creek, silly boy.) While Noah was traipsing through the creek, I shot photos of the flowers and the plants, in and around the water.

Noah joined me near these flowers for a minute, picking one and bringing it over to me. (That's the shot at the very top of this post.) 

I loved the way the light illuminated some of these reeds, creating beautiful texture and depth.

4:45 | Time to take a break from shooting and go inside, so I can start dinner. I strip off all of Noah’s clothes in the garage, and then make a quick trip to the laundry room where I spray his clothes with Oxiclean and throw them in the washing machine.

5:00| Noah watches one more episode of Jake and the Neverland Pirates on the DVR while I make dinner.

5:30| We say grace and then eat chicken, rice and broccoli for dinner. Surprisingly, Noah is a big fan of broccoli, especially when we roast it in the oven.

6:00 | I rinse the dishes, load the dishwasher and clean off the counters.  I'm listening to I'm Comin' Over on repeat. Noah is back playing trains at the train table.

6:15 | I pull the sheets out of the dryer and make my bed.

6:30 | Bathtime. Early, I know, but when Noah doesn't take a nap, he's usually ready for bed by 7:00 pm. While Noah was playing with his ship in the bath, I snapped the shot below.

This photo requires some explanation. I took it because it documents growth--both literally and figuratively. It's embarrasing to admit it, but I've been a nail biter for years. I know, I know: Nail biting is a disgusting habit; I've tried to stop several times, but have never been able to go more than a few days without starting up again.

In late April, I decided I really wanted to kick the habit for good. I bought a bottle of Bite It and painted it on my nails. (I've included the Amazon link, but it's super expensive there, so you'd be better off buying it from your local drugstore instead. I bought it at CVS for $6.) Later that day, I made the mistake of accidentally biting one of my nails and I was thoroughly disgusted by the taste. Which is, of course, exactly what it's designed to do. 

When I snapped this photo on May 12, I had gone 14 days without biting my nails. That's a record, folks!
7:00 | We read two stories (Pirate Pete, followed by The Itty Bitty Kitty Rescue), and then we said a quick prayer and turn out the lights. Noah is asleep in just a few minutes and I tiptoe out of his room.

7:15 | I change into workout clothes, but because I feel like I'm coming down with a cold, I opt to walk on the treadmill instead of run. I watch the Top 20 Countdown from last Friday while I walk.  My FitBit vibrates halfway through letting me know that I've hit my daily goal of 10,000 steps. Smile.

7:45 | I head into my office, check my email, Facebook and Instagram, and then start writing a Father's Day gift guide for Improve Photography. I've found that when I write on my desktop computer, I MUST close up my email, so it doesn't distract me each time a new message comes in. Same with my iPhone.

8:30 | The alarm goes off on my iPhone, reminding me to feed the dogs and give Lucy her insulin. I send a few text messages while I'm waiting for Lucy to eat her food.  

9:00 | Talk to Brian on the phone. He went on a fire this morning and had a drill this afternoon. He sounds tired. 

9:15 | Back to my desk to continue writing my article.

10:00 | Upload photos from my big camera. Edit photos on my iPhone. Send the photos from my phone to my email account. 

10:30 | Head upstairs earlier than normal because I'm not feeling great. Best to get some extra rest. Take the dogs out one last time and gaze up at the stars. That's one thing I love about living in the country: there are so many stars visible in the night sky. It's pretty magical.

10:45 | Read for 15 minutes and then it's lights out.

All square photos were taken with my iPhone 5S and edited using PicTapGo.

All rectangular photos were taken with my Canon 5D Mark III and 24-70mm f/2.8 lens.

*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, which helps to keep my blog humming along.  Thanks, in advance, for your support!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Motherly Love

I've been looking through old photos lately as I attempt (yet again) to better organize the images on my computer.

I stumbled across this precious photo of my grandmother, my mother, and me. Taken in 1978, my mom had given birth to me just 10 days earlier. It's interesting to think about the fact that my mom was my grandmother's first child, and that I was my mom's first child and also my grandmother's first grandchild.

Notice the sleeper that 10-day-old Noah has on in the photo above?  It's the same one I was wearing in the first photo. I love that my mom saved it, so my son could wear it. 

And one last photo.  This one was taken about three months after the second image, in April of 2012. It's a four-generation photo, which makes it extra special.

Through these images and thousands of others I have in print, in albums, and in my mind, I celebrate motherhood.

I celebrate all women who have carried babies (including Noah's birth mother) and raised babies. 

I celebrate the motherly love, the joy, the sacrifice, the strength, the hugs, the confidence, the kindness, the lessons taught and the lessons learned.

I celebrate all the little things moms do, oftentimes behind-the-scenes, which go unnoticed and unappreciated.

Happy Mother's Day to my mother, grandmother, and mother-in-law.  And if you're a mom, happy day to you, too.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Preparing for Day in the Life 2015

This coming Tuesday, I'll be capturing a day in my life as part of Ali Edwards' Day in the Life documentation project.

It's a fun way to not only document your everyday life, but also to reflect on how you spend your time, what you love about your life and what you might like to change in the near future. 

Nearly every time I document a day in my life, I carve out a few minutes prior to the actual day and brainstorm things I'd like to record in photos and words. For inspiration, I often look at photos and words from past years. (Here's a look at a day in my life in 2013 and a day in my life in 2014. And below, you'll see I've included some older photos.)

Here's what I'm thinking about documenting this year:

1 | MY TIME: I'm planning to track my time in 15 minute increments from the time I get up in the morning until I go to bed. I got this idea from Jessica Turner, the author of The Fringe Hours, and I think it will be a great way to really see where I'm spending my time.

2 | BRIAN'S DAY: Brian will be working overtime at the fire station, so I'm going to ask him to send me a few photos from his day and include those as well.

3 | MUSIC TOGETHER: Noah and I will be attending music class in the morning, and I'm going to bring my phone along with me to capture some of the singing and dancing and smiling and playing.

4 | OUR ANIMALS: It's likely that we'll visit the chickens during the day to check on their food supply and water, and I want to try to capture Noah interacting with them. We'll also feed the dogs in the morning and evening and give Lucy her insulin. Because the dogs are getting older (Lucy is 11 and Rudy is 9), I'd like to include them in as many shots as I can.

5 | CHRIS YOUNG: CY is supposed to release a new song on Tuesday, and if he does, you can bet I'll be buying it and taking an iTunes screenshot on my iPhone. #IMCOMINOVER

6 | NOAH AT 3: I'd like to take some shots that show which toys Noah loves right now, what he's wearing, what he's reading and what he's watching. I'm also going to jot down a few things that he says. Lastly, I think capturing his shoe size (compared to mine or Brian's) would be fun.

7 | ME: I'm rarely ever in any photos because I'm behind the lens. I definitely want to use the self-timers on my iPhone and DSLR, so I can get in one or two of the shots. (Or maybe I need to invest in a selfie stick? Just kidding.)

8 | CREATIVE CAPTURES: I'm a big fan of reflections (shooting into water or mirrors or metal caps or car doors--you get the idea), and I'd love to snap a few shots like that during the day.  I also love shooting from different angles--getting up high (standing up on a step stool or bucket) or getting down low on the ground and shooting up.

9 | GORGEOUS LIGHT: I'm a total sucker for beautiful light, especially during the magic hour (one hour before sunset), and I'm hopeful I'll be able to sneak outside then to take some shots. 

Beyond that, I want to just live the day with a camera nearby (either my iPhone 5S or Canon 5D Mark III) and see what happens. Sometimes, the best shots are, of course, the spontaneous ones. The ones I never could have imagined or planned ahead of time. 

Also, on Tuesday, I'll be posting a few photos to my Instagram feed (@jharless) in case you want to see pictures in real time. I'll share the rest of the images and words later on next week.

Who wants to join me?! Charge up the batteries in your camera, grab a notebook and a pen, and let's do this.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Bluebonnets, Brisket & Blue Bell

If you're a regular reader, you know that a couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Dallas, Texas for a Confidence Photography Workshop.

Before my trip, I was chatting with my sister, Kate (who lives in Dallas), and she asked what I wanted to see and do and eat while I was there. Okay, in all fairness, she didn't ask about food, but I love to eat, especially in the South, so I piped up about my food favorites. (I'll get to those in a minute.)

Warning: If you're hungry right now, just enjoy the bluebonnets, and do not, I repeat, do not scroll down for the must-eat section. You just might gobble up your computer monitor!

Back to the must-sees...I shared with Kate that I hoped the infamous Texas bluebonnets would be in bloom when I was there.

And as you can see, luck was on my side.

They were there in abundance.

Before I arrived, Kate had scoped out several great spots along the freeway where we could easily pull over and take photos of the Texas state flower.

Like I'm doing right here. (If you follow me on Instagram, @jharless, you've already seen this photo.)

Bluebonnets, check.

Now to the must-eats!

Dallas has some of the best food in the state of Texas. (I hear Austin is a close second.)

First up on my must-eat list: brisket. 

My sister and brother-in-law took me to dinner at Spring Creek restaurant, where I ate brisket (the cook referred to it as inland caviar...ha!), mac and cheese, beans, potato salad, and a roll.

I devoured everything on my plate, but left a little room for dessert.

So, Kate and I shared a slice of peach pie and a scoop of Blue Bell vanilla ice cream. So heavenly!

It's no wonder my jeans were tighter when I left Texas than when I arrived.

I'll likely be back in Dallas in the next year. If you live there or visit frequently, what would you recommend I see, eat, or experience when I'm there next?

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

That Time I Saw Chris Young Perform in Texas

I'm kind of a fan of country singer Chris Young. #understatementoftheyear

I adore his baritone voice, and I think he's easily one of the most gifted singer/songwriters in Nashville.

So, you can imagine how excited I was to get to see him play live while I was in Texas a few weeks ago for the Confidence Photography Workshop.

See that big 'ol smile on my face?! It's because I'm standing next to Chris. Ha! Chris, on the other hand, doesn't look too amused. I wonder, "Why the long face?"

But I digress...

The crazy thing is, when I embarked on my trip to Texas, I had no idea I'd be seeing Chris live in concert.

Here's the back story: 

Three Friday nights ago, I was sitting in my hotel room in Texas, checking my Instagram feed. (I'm a total party animal!) Actually, I had just gotten back from a meet-and-greet with eight women from the Confidence Photography Workshop-- and I was trolling through IG before heading down to the treadmill to run. (In other words, I was in serious procrastination mode.)

And there, to my surprise, was Chris Young playing in San Antonio. (Yes, I stalk, ahem, follow Chris on Instagram. Smile.) I thought to myself, "If he's playing in San Antonio, maybe there's a chance he'll be in Dallas in the next few days."

The following morning, I checked his schedule, and my hunch was indeed right: Chris was scheduled to play at Lone Star Park in Grand Prairie, Texas that night.

Being from Northern California, I had no idea where Grand Prairie was located in relation to Dallas. So, naturally, I googled: How long does it take to get from Dallas to Grand Prairie, TX? (Totally forgetting I was in Plano, not Dallas. Der.)

The answer: 17 minutes.


I freaked out. In a good way.

I yelled out, "Holy #@&!" to no one in particular since I was in my hotel room all. by. myself. (I think I just may need this shirt.)

Then, I did a little happy dance from the bed to the bathroom and back. (Kind of like this.)

And then, it occurred to me that there were a few minor details still to hammer out, if I planned to go to Chris Young's concert that night.  

For one thing, who would go with me? I was pretty sure my sister would accompany me, and being the rad person that she is, she said "yes" without any hesitation. (Thank you, Kate!)

And then there was the drive from Plano to Grand Prairie. It turns out it wasn't seventeen minutes like Google had said (total user error), but more like 40+ minutes.

I didn't have a rental car because my awesome sister had picked me up from the airport and offered to shuttle me around as needed during my stay. 

So, how was I going to get from Plano to Grand Prairie and back? 

Why, Uber, of course! (I could write a whole post about my experience with Uber, but suffice it to say, I had a great first experience!)

With about fifteen minutes to spare before my photography workshop started, I quickly downloaded the Uber app (it's free) and was able to view the estimated cost for a one-way trip to my sister's house.

I'm not going to lie: I hesitated for a few seconds when I saw the fare. It wasn't going to be cheap. Basically, a dollar for every minute in the car.

Whenever I'm wrestling with whether or not to do something, I ask myself a "regret" question like this one: "Tomorrow morning, when you wake up, will you regret NOT going to the concert?" 

I couldn't say yes fast enough.

Later that day, after the photography workshop ended around 6:30 pm, I flew up to my room, quickly changed into a dress and boots (I always bring my cowgirl boots when I travel to Texas!), grabbed a burger and fries from Five Guys (because it was right across the street from my hotel), and hailed an Uber.

Funny side story: As I was quickly walking across the street from my hotel to Five Guys, a truck full of young men sitting at the stop light started whistling at me. I kept looking straight ahead, so as not to get hit by any cars and so as not to draw any more attention to myself. But I had a huge grin on my face. Then, one guy shouted, "Hey sweetheart, look my way!" I happened to be on the phone with my husband, Brian, at the time, letting him know that I'd decided to take Uber to my sister's house. He heard noise in the background, so I explained what the commotion was all about. He laughed and laughed. Then, he said, "You must be wearing THE dress." Yep. And to quote a line from one of Chris's songs, I wore the "heck" out of that dress.

About an hour later, Kate and I arrived at Lonestar Park (around 9:00, I think), and the parking lot was packed.  Kate said she'd never seen so many people there. (It turned out to be a record crowd with over 18,000 people in attendance.)

I'd never seen so many trucks in one parking lot. And not just regular-sized trucks, but lifted trucks. The kind of trucks I'd need a step stool to get into because I'm only 5' 4" tall.

Luckily, I didn't have to climb into any trucks, just enter the park. Tickets were only $20 (score!).  Can you believe they would have been just $5 if we had arrived before 8:00 pm? Amazingly cheap, right?!

Inside, there were a ton of people. But they were kind and friendly and for the most part, very patient. (I love that about Texans!)

I indulged in a cup of Blue Bell strawberry ice cream (man, I love their ice cream...and luckily I didn't get sick).

The concert didn't start for awhile, which gave Kate and I time to watch the horse races and chat about life. I'm so grateful I had the chance to spend time with her, just the two of us. We had some of the best conversations that night and during the rest of my trip. Even though we're nine years apart in age, it seems like the older we get, the less that matters, and the more we have in common. 

Chris, as always, sounded amazing.  He really is one of those artists that sounds just as awesome live as he does on his records.

And he's so good to his fans! He interacts with the crowd, talking between songs (something that my sister and I both agreed is so important to having an awesome concert experience), telling stories, and repeatedly thanking everyone for coming out to the show.

Chris seems so down-to-earth, kind, and humble. During one of his songs, "Who's Gonna Take Me Home," he forgot the third verse, and instead of trying to fake it, he just admitted it, laughed it off and finished the song beautifully with a blues-esque run. 

As for me, I sang. (I'll admit it: I know nearly all of his songs.)

I screamed.

I clapped my hands and swayed to the music.

I watched Chris up on the screen. (We got there so late that we were nowhere near the stage, but that was okay with me. I was just happy to be there.)

I laughed.

I gazed up into the sky at the June bugs flying around. (We don't have those in Nor Cal.)

I smiled.

I listened closely as Chris sang "When You Say Nothing at All." (I'm a huge fan of Alison Krauss's version, but I loved Chris's rendition, too.)

I watched a few couples dancing to the music, and thought Oh, how I'd love to learn how to two-step like that with my husband. (I think I see dance lessons in our future.)

I saw a brawl or two break out. (It appeared to be just young men with too much liquor in them.)

I waited patiently to hear Chris's version of "Rainy Night in Georgia," but as it turns out, it wasn't on the set list. (Guess I'll have to travel to a show in Georgia one day, so I can hear his super deep voice sing, "Hoverin' by my suitcase..." He totally nails that song! If you have no idea what I'm talking about, take a listen here.)

I felt so light, so free, so young, so happy that night. 

Seriously, I'm still smiling as I type up this post.

And I know years from now, I'll be grinning when I think about that time I saw Chris Young perform in Texas with my sister by my side.

Sometimes, the last-minute, spontaneous option turns out to be the very best one. 

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