Monday, December 22, 2014

on my mind

After 5 months of working intensely long hours, Zach's been "on the beach" (aka between projects, aka not going in to work) for the past 2 weeks. So that's been nice, getting to actually see him and spend time together. They said this part of the job would be kinda boom-and-bust, with intense working periods and random time off, and I guess we finally got to the "random time off" part.

Quinn is enjoying preschool, or at least seems to like it ok and has made some buddies-- it's pretty fun to watch them run around wildly together during their outdoor time when I go pick him up every day. Though he still tells me he misses me while at school, and talks about liking being at home better.

Most of the time I feel pretty good about homeschooling with Donovan, with occasional bouts of oh-my-god-I'm-fucking-it-all-up. But I figure that's kinda just part of parenting-- the occasional freak-outs are just a normal part of everything. D is enjoying it, and it's so nice having everything be more relaxed We're slowly building up our networks-- we've got a solid homeschool group we belong to, I've kinda accidentally become an organizer for a local monthly lego group, and have some other stuff in the works. For the first few months after we moved D was having such a hard time with the adjustment, just missing our life in NH and wanting to just stay home and be pretty anti-social. He's really turned it around in the past couple months, and now happily comes out to park days and engages easily with other kids there. Sometimes you just need a little time, I guess.

Over the weekend we went to this low-tide walk with the Marine Science Institute. We didn't find as many fun critters as we'd hoped (partially bc the waves were way high so we didn't dare go as close to the water's edge as we might otherwise) but the boys still loved climbing over the rocks, and playing on the beach. And I took a bunch of pictures.

I'm looking forward to and also trying to gear myself up for Christmas, as this is the first year without JC and that absence will be especially palpable, I'm sure, once we get to my mom's house. It tears at my heart a little as I watch D get into so many of the things JC loved, imagining them talking Star Wars and maybe making short movies together. Alas.

Every year I write up a year-in-review type letter/post, and I still want to write one for 2014 but it just feels overwhelming. I kinda can't believe how many big things got packed into this one year. It's kinda hard to look back and think clearly about it all.

I wrapped the boys' gifts tonight. I both feel a little bad that they're getting only a handful of small things from us, and also realize they already have beyond plenty and get stuff randomly throughout the year and will get more stuff from family anyway. So, we'll have our small family christmas here, then fly to Texas to see my family, which I expect will be fun and loud and lovely and chaotic, as always, just also tinged with a bit of bittersweet sadness.

Hugs to all who are missing someone over the holidays.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

a few thoughts on ferguson, and what you can do to help

I've been reading over updates and postings about the grand jury's decision to not charge Darren Wilson for killing Mike Brown, and I don't even know what to say. I see a lot more people speaking out on facebook than I've seen before, so that feels like progress. And yet this whole thing is still so disappointing, so heartbreaking. I've seen comments that make my blood boil.

"What happened to innocent until proven guilty?" Wouldn't Mike Brown like to know?
"Those looters are thugs, destroying property like that!" And taking a life doesn't matter?
"The riots just show mob mentality, no one respects your position when you act like that." Yeah well, no one's seemed to respect their position after 3 months of peaceful protests, either. I don't know that violence is the answer, but keeping calm and quiet doesn't seem to be helping much, either.

I look at my boys, my sweet pale-skinned blond-haired boys, and I know I need to talk to them about this. About the racism they will grow up around, the injustices happening all the time, the privilege we enjoy that isolates us from it. I look at D, not quite yet 7 years old, and he seems way too young to hear about these things. And yet I know there are black parents all around the country who have to sit down their boys (and girls) of the same age and have The Talk in hopes of protecting them.

The thing is, I believe that it may very well be the case that Darren Wilson honestly feared for his life and that Mike Brown was not actually a threat. I think Wilson is a product of our racist culture, that teaches us that black people are scary and dangerous and aggressive. The media continues to feed this stereotype by painting peaceful protests as angry riots, and the police by responding to a group of people exercising their right to protest by coming out in full riot gear and sniper rifles and tear gas. And as long as we keep believing in this magically dangerous and hyperaggressive negro, and as long as we keep taking the killer's word for things and not question these murders, we will continue to have white police officers and citizens overreact and harm innocent people.

Chart showing how rare it is for grand juries not to indict

In Defense of Black Rage: Michael Brown, police, and the American dream 
"I believe that racism exists in the inexplicable sense of fear, unsafety and gnawing anxiety that white people, be they officers with guns or just general folks moving about their lives, have when they encounter black people. I believe racism exists in that sense of mistrust, the extra precautions white people take when they encounter black people. I believe all these emotions have emerged from a lifetime of media consumption subtly communicating that black people are criminal, a lifetime of seeing most people in power look just like you, a lifetime of being the majority population. "

Self-Segregation: Why It's So Hard for Whites to Understand Ferguson
"But these are not stories most whites are socially positioned to hear. Widespread social separation is the root of divergent reactions along racial lines to events such as the Watts riots, the O.J. Simpson verdict, and, more recently, the shootings of Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown. For most white Americans, #hoodies and #handsupdontshoot and the images that have accompanied these hashtags on social media may feel alien and off-putting given their communal contexts and social networks."
A Black man is killed by the police every 28 hours in the US

21 Things You Can't Do While Black

What Black Parents Tell Their Sons About the Police
"Every black male I've ever met has had this talk, and it's likely that I'll have to give it one day too. There are so many things I need to tell my future son, already, before I've birthed him; so many innocuous, trite thoughts that may not make a single difference. Don't wear a hoodie. Don't try to break up a fight. Don't talk back to cops. Don't ask for help. But they're all variations of a single theme: Don't give them an excuse to kill you."

So, what can you do?

Color of Change's Petition for Mike Brown

12 Things White People Can Do Now for Ferguson

A list of resources, funds, petitions, etc, you can use to help Ferguson

A simple and beautiful take on how to talk to kids about their privilege

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Monterey trip and other stuff we've been up to

This past weekend we drove down to Monterey for a couple days a little family trip, and to take advantage of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Homeschool Days program. The aquarium was awesome, of course, and D enjoyed it though Q may still have been a bit too young or just hit on the wrong day or whatever. But it went ok. We also spent some time at some beaches along the coast. The boys loved climbing up and down rocks along the beaches, and had a grand ole time feeling small crabs to sea anemones and watching what happened. I felt that familiar frustration at having my camera along and wanting to capture so much more, but being divided between that and helping watch the kids and keep them safe. The usual photographer parent dilemma. But, I still got some good stuff, that I will upload at some point...

It was nice to get some good family time together on our trip. It's been rough with Zach's job, he likes it and all but he's been working 80-hour weeks. So I'm solo parenting all week, and at least he's home and usually doesn't have to work on weekends, but then those weekends are crammed with trying to spend time together as a family, me and Zach to get to hang out a bit as a couple, me to get some time on my own, to see any friends we wanna hang out with, etc. Sometimes it feels like we've totally got the hang of this and are doing fine, other times it's like we're all getting so worn out with this current schedule and it feels totally unsustainable. In a few months Zach is supposed to shift to a different group and things should slow down a bit (perhaps working a more manageable 60hrs/week?). And I guess we'll just see how that goes.

The boys are doing ok, they're in a phase where they're fighting/annoying each other more than they used to, which is a bit, um, trying on all of us. We are all (me included) working on controlling our tempers and finding appropriate ways to express and vent our frustrations. It is so maddening to hear them screaming at each other yet again, but then five minutes later they are calmly and politely figuring out a compromise to whatever they were fighting over and I need to hold on to those moments more, remember those, hope for what is developing. We also have some good leads on homeschool groups and park days/activities that have shown promise. For a long time after our move D was being pretty anti-social, not wanting to play with other kids much at all as he dealt with his homesickness. But the past few weeks he's seemed more open, more sociable, actually running off to play with other kids at the park rather than scowling at my side demanding to go home. So, big improvement. We'll see what comes of it.

Monday, November 03, 2014

and then I let a complete stranger poke my skin repeatedly with a needle

I got my first tattoo a couple weeks ago, at the ripe old age of 34.

I've gone back and forth on getting a tattoo since I was... I don't know, somewhere in my teens, whenever everyone started talking about getting tattoos. In theory I wanted one, but never knew what to get, and was too chicken to commit to anything that permanent. I was tempted when I was 20, but instead opted to get my belly button pierced with my friend Danyelle, figuring I could always take it back out one day if I got tired of it (which I did, about 6 years later).

I've spent the past couple years debating off and on about getting something on my wrist (I fell in love with that placement years ago, after Danyelle came back from a visit to Hawaii with a turtle on her wrist), and then debating what to get. The process reminded me of when I was 17 and thinking of chopping all my hair off for the first time, and I agonized about the decision for months, growing ever more tired of my own indecisiveness, and finally one day just said, "To hell with it" and went for the pixie.

And so, similarly, I finally got fed up with my own indecisiveness, and decided to get the damn tattoo once and for all.

I went by myself-- Zach stayed at home with the boys. And that felt fitting. I got this for me, one of the few things I get to do purely for and by myself these days, and I liked that. It's a small heart, which is cliche, I suppose, but I like it. I suppose that's the simplest answer for why I got what I got. I can give a deeper meaning to it-- a reminder to be compassionate and kind with myself and with others, to live my life wearing my heart on my sleeve. But mainly, I just like it. It's simple and cute and stays there, and as the kind of person who wear the same simple jewelry every day for years on end it just kinda feels right. Maybe one day I'll get tired of it, but probably not before I get tired of other permanent marks on my body that I didn't really have a choice over.

Our scars tell stories. I have a scar on my knee from the time that Zach convinced me it would be a good idea to go trail riding with him whenI had hardly been on a bike in years. There's the scar on my stomach, from having surgery a couple years ago. I have two small burn marks, one on my hip and one on my arm, that are cautionary reminders of what a clumsy idiot I can be in the kitchen.  A tattoo is another scar, but one where the bearer gets to choose its shape, placement, and the story it tells, and I think there's something beautiful in that.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

another attempt at a constellation

I read this post over at Renegade Mothering this morning, and I've been thinking about it all day. I think I used to feel what she describes more intensely back when the boys were younger-- my blog archives have many posts, from back when the boys were babies, complaining about my lack of time, lack of sleep, lack of feeling like a human being. A lot of things are so much better now. For example, these days I get to choose my clothes based on what I want to wear vs what provides the easiest access to my boobs-- it's a small but significant thing. But I also think I've gotten better at resigning myself to what life is like with young kids. Which makes it sound bad, when it just is what it is. I get to hang out with my kids all day and really drink in their childhood, which is awesome. I love that, and have chosen it very consciously. But as with everything, there are ups and downs, good stuff and bad stuff, and things that I miss or wish I had more time for.

I miss writing. I like writing. It feels good when I write a post that I'm proud of, even better when it resonates with others. But I can't tell you how many times I sit down at my computer with ideas of something I want to write, and all the thoughts in my head feel so jumbled up and my brain foggy and I stare blankly at the screen trying to make sense of how to say what I want to say, and even what exactly that is to begin with, and eventually give up. One of my favorite lines from The Fault in Our Stars is when Gus says, "My thoughts are stars I cannot fathom into constellations." That. YES. What he said.

And I feel like I've totally stagnated with photography. You wanna hear something sad? I bought myself Photoshop Elements like a year ago, when it was on sale for half off. I have opened up the program maybe once in that time. ONCE. I keep meaning to look up tutorials for how to use it, wanting to try out ideas and new techniques, but when I get a bit of free time I just can't muster up the energy for it. Zach rarely gets home before the boys' bedtime these days, so I'm solo parenting during the week and frankly I'll say I've gotten pretty good at it, but once the kids are asleep all I wanna do is flop on the couch and just...sit. Maybe with a book, or some tv. And then there's the always-growing list of books I want to read, and the few times I go dancing and suddenly realize how much I've missed it, and on and on it goes.

What's interesting is that usually when parents talk about this stuff there's a yearning for your "former self," a wanting to get back to who you were before having kids. And that, I don't identify with much. I look back on the person I was before having kids, and I don't have much desire to go back to being her. Not that there was anything wrong with me then, but I feel like I've grown to be more ME in the time since then-- not necessarily because of motherhood, but, well, partially, and also because of just other ways in which I've grown or interests I've developed or whatever in that same period of time. So I guess it's more like I do know Me, I'm not yearning for a different self, it would just be nice to have a bit more space for Myself.

And I'm not meaning to complain or make things sound terrible... I am devoting most of my time, energy, attention to my kids, which means other things get less of it, and that's ok. That's the flavor of shit sandwich I'm choosing to eat at this point in all our lives.

(this post made it past the "jumbled mess of thoughts in my head" to published thanks to it being saturday and Zach taking the boys out of the house for a few hours, giving me the time and peace and quiet in the middle of the day for getting this out)

Friday, October 03, 2014

a rambly post about nothing and everything

So now it's October, and it's weird because the weather hasn't changed at all it still feels the same here as it did in the middle of summer, and as incredibly glad and relieved as I feel about not facing another east coast winter I do miss the fall colors. Pros and cons. I will take my beautiful weather and year-round flip flops and quit complaining.

I've been writing a new blog about our homeschooling. I haven't shared it very publicly because for some reason I've been feeling very shy about it... I suppose part of it is that it all still very new and we're figuring our way through, and I know it's so controversial (we're not only homeschooling, but *gasp* unschooling which is even more certain to ruin my kid's future, right?) and perhaps I'm trying to delay whatever clashes that may bring. I think I also don't want it to seem like I'm pushing things in people's faces or anything. Feathers tend to get ruffled when someone goes against the norm, and sometimes people take it as a personal affront of their own choices. Or maybe I'm just being paranoid and overly sensitive to potential negative reactions or hurt feelings.

All that aside, things are going well, and I'm enjoying having a separate space to write about it.

Earlier this week I was feeling bogged down, it feels like there's been so much loss lately. My brother died 3 months ago. Last week we found out that one of my mom's oldest and dearest friends passed away (it was her time, not unexpected, but still. I have vivid memories of playing with Smurf puzzles at her house as a kid). My brother-in-law posted pictures of his parents, both deceased, honoring the one-year anniversary of his mother's passing. So many wonderful people who did wonderful things and were so loved, gone. So it goes. Life is fleeting and all that jazz. And they are dealry missed, leaving the rest of us to ponder on their memories and what they taught us, the ways they influenced us. They all left their scars, and the rest of us are better for it.

I recently came across a blog post that posed 7 weird questions to help you find your life purpose. The questions are actually pretty good at making you think about what matters to you, and how you want to shape your life. The last one asks what would you do if you knew you were going to die one year from today? A grim question, but one that seems very fitting.  I've been thinking about it a lot lately, and while there are plenty of things I can wish were different about my life right now (friends and family who I wish weren't so far away; personality quirks in myself and my family that I wish were a little different; etc), when it comes down to it if this were my last year on this earth there's not much I would be doing differently. I like living in California, having so many great things so close by. Zach's working a good job that supports our family and that he's enjoying, even if it does mean long hours away from us. Homeschooling isn't perfect, I still get frustrated with my kids and everything, but I really like getting to spend my days with them and having D at home with me. I love having the freedom and flexibility to enjoy our time hanging out together, to be able to drive 2 hours to see a good friend on a random thursday, to spend our time exploring cool things together. I realize we are incredibly lucky to even have this option, and I'm glad we get to take advantage of it.

Monday, September 29, 2014


We went on a family trek to see a nearby grove of coastal redwoods yesterday morning. It was a good time, and I brought my big camera along, and then stayed up way too late last night working a photo post on exposure. So here are just a handful of pics, head on over here to see more.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

adding to my camera collection

I had a birthday last week, I am now a ripe ole 34 years old. Following a few strong hints Zach got me a vintage twin lens reflex (tlr) camera... or, well, two actually, thanks to a little mixup on ebay. So on my birthday (or really, on the night before, apparently I'm not the only one who gets antsy about giving gifts early) he surprised me with them, along with a pack of rolls of Portra 400 film.

Hello there, gorgeous. Both of you.

I gleefully check them over, and quickly realized what foreign beasts they are, and promptly headed over to the google and youtube to figure out how you even load film into these things. The buttons all seemed to work, but neither camera was film-tested so I wasn't even sure the photos would turn out. Which, of course, means you HAVE to try out a roll in each just to check if they work, right? The rolls only hold 12 exposures so it's not that difficult to burn through them...which I did, in just a few short hours. 

Old meets new

Shooting with a tlr is like a completely, totally different experience than with even my film slr. I'm used to having a fixed focal length (no zoom) and prefer it anyway, but I don't usually shoot in fully manual mode. The cameras both have light meters that seem to work (they respond to changes in light and settings) but I don't trust the readings, so I downloaded a light meter app on my phone and have used that to figure out the right settings. The ISO is set by the film-- there is no adjusting it for a dark room or bright sunlight. The apertures are a fairly standard f/3.5 to f/22, but the fastest shutter speed is 1/500th of a second (and each shutter speed interval is a full stop-- my "fast" shutter speed options are 1/125, 1/250, and 1/ inbetweens). I have to manually crank the film after taking each picture, and then wind the lever back to prep the shutter for the next one. And then there's the viewfinder, which is much larger but is on top of the camera, and a reversed image which makes it really really weird to try to adjust the frame (there is a nifty magnifying glass that I can pop out to better see close-up details in the viewfinder, for easier manual focusing). Lastly, the minimal focusing distance is something like 3 feet. Shooting with these babies made it really obvious how often I like getting up close to my subject. 

Even D got in on the vintage action.

All these things impose some serious limits on what kinds of photographs you can take, and how. Eg-  indoors is a bit too dark without faster film, while outside I can't take a dreamy wide-open photo if it's too bright.. and that's kind of the fun of it. It's awesome to have a super nice dslr that can handle almost any situation I can throw at it (the limits there are my own skill and knowledge), and it's a whole different experience to have to stretch my creativity and skill to work within the parameters of these oldies. I have to see and think very differently than with any of my other cameras (film slr, dslr, iphone).

So, I shot a roll of film in each of the Yashicas and took them in to get developed, and just today got the results back. I am happy to report that both cameras seem to work fabulously. The first two shots in each roll didn't turn out, which is probably from a mistake I made while loading the film? But the others turned out fine. They're not super great pics or anything, as most of my focus (heh) was seeing what they could do and getting a feel for them. 

So now that I have a bit of a feel for how they work and how the resulting images may look, I get to stretch myself further trying to think of what subjects are best suited for them and how to use their limitations to my advantage. It's not a style that comes naturally to me, but I do think it could be pretty fun to try. 

BTW I really don't need to keep both cameras, and will likely be selling one of them soon... let me know if you happen to be interested. ; ) 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Photos from my brother's funeral, and other thoughts

About mid-afternoon today the boys were playing a video game together, and getting along pretty well doing so, so I took a chance and sat down at my computer. I opened up Lightroom, and remembering the pictures I had taken at my brother's funeral, almost 3 months ago, but had till today been avoiding doing anything with, I went ahead and opened those up. It was bittersweet, remembering that day and seeing the sadness in everyone's faces captured in the photos. I didn't take many, but at the time I felt a strong urge to capture the moments and was trying to do at least a bit of that. Most of them, of course, aren't of the actual funeral, but of my family setting things up at the church beforehand-- putting up pictures, and the kids running around as a welcome distraction and reason to smile here and there.

I think I have a nearly identical shot from our wedding, which was held at this same church. 

JC's birthday came and went last month, the 20th of August. He would have been 40 years old. The boys and I re-watched Star Wars episodes 4 and 5 together, in his honor (I finished up with Return of the Jedi after the boys were asleep). Tears came and went throughout the day, but overall it was ok.  A few friends left sweet birthday messages on his facebook wall, mostly imagining him celebrating his birthday up in Heaven. I don't share their views of Heaven as a place or what happens to us after we die, but I still found their words comforting as the love they had for him shone through. One of the hardest parts for me is thinking of the missed opportunities, watching Dono get so into playing Star Wars games and trying to make his own movies, how much they could have bonded over those things in the years ahead. D reminds me a lot of him, actually, in small ways.

A few weeks ago my dear friend Jeremy, who so often seems to know what it is I need to hear, referred me to a song by the Avett Brothers called Murder in the City. I had heard the song in passing before, but never really listened to the words. So I pulled it up on spotify and listened to it, and instantly felt like it was speaking right to me.  There's the last verse about the love shared among siblings, that I can't stop thinking about. But also at the beginning, the song starts out with If I get murdered in the city/ Don't go revenging in my name. The best explanation we got for why he died was that it was long belated after-effects of the brain tumor he had battled and beaten something like 15 years before, but had left behind enough damage in his immune system and finally did him in. I had been feeling so angry at cancer, that insidious bastard that somehow still managed to kill him, but when I heard that line of the song it's like I could hear JC telling me to let that go, that it's no use being angry. To not waste my energy on being mad at things that can't be changed but instead to "pay attention to the list," to the way he lived life and things he found important-- family, community, making other people's lives better in whatever ways he could-- and do the same in his honor. I've been listening to that song a lot lately, and the Avett Brothers in general. I fear they are doomed to be one of those bands whose music becomes forever associated with a particular point in my life, where it may later on be difficult to hear that music on its own (or maybe not... maybe that connection will always be bittersweet with a slight emphasis on the sweet over the bitter), but there's just something about them that feels soothing these days. 

There are so many little things that just feel so strange now. Like there was an email going back and forth among my sisters and mom and I, and when I looked at the address field it seemed so short, his email so obviously missing. Our family just feels so much smaller all of a sudden. 

We spent those days leading up to the funeral looking through all our pictures, new and old, for good ones of JC to share and display. We all know the joke of how our generation has so few pictures from our childhoods because film was expensive, but I was impressed by how despite the cost of film, and despite a global move where so many other things were lost or left behind, we still had a plethora of family photos to look through and re-discover. We even found a bunch of photos JC had taken himself, as a kid, of his action figures posed around the backyard in different fight scenes (again, so many similarities with my kids now). We filled that sanctuary with JC through the ages. There were so many different sides of him present that day, as each of us-- his family, new and old; a few of his childhood friends who attended; all his church friends who knew him as a adult and through his involvement with the child programs and the audio equipment; etc-- we each knew a slightly different version of him, and were able to give the gift of sharing our knowledge of him with each other, to broaden each of our understandings of just who he was. 

And lastly, there is one of my favorite pictures of the day-- JC's funeral portrait, with a running Quinn photobomb. He would definitely have smiled at this picture.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

I've been kind of in love with for months now, ever since discovering it last spring. It's a beautiful platform for posting photo narratives. I finally went ahead and justified getting a paid account, as a little early birthday gift to myself, which means I will likely be doing a lot more of my photo posts over there instead of here.

If you enjoy photography, either taking pictures or just looking at them, I highly recommend checking them out. I've spent a good bit of time drooling over other people's work. There is so much amazing stuff posted all the time.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

remember patience

The past couple of months I've noticed that emotional stress seems to be taking a much stronger physical toll than normal. It feels like anytime I have a bad day-- feeling sad, stressed, frustrated, whatever-- my body soon starts feeling run down, tired, ragged, and like I'm getting sick. It's almost like clockwork. I take it as my body reminding me of how much we've gone through over the summer, and that I need to slow down and practice more self-care.

Yesterday was kind of a mixed bag of a day... Some parts were good, like when our neighbors invited us over for tea in the afternoon. The kids all got along pretty well (at least till the end when tiredness began to escalate into tears), and we grownups got to hang out a bit while enjoying the incredibly delicious treats they made. The boys and I dearly miss the amazing friends we had in NH, but it's nice to be making new friends and see potential there.

Other parts of the day, however, were incredibly trying. I went for a long run in the morning which was good, but since I don't go often enough it left me super tired for the rest of the day. And we've been dealing with some stuff with D that hit me really hard yesterday. We're working on it and I think we're taking the right approach, but there's still those nagging voices of doubt in my head and things that just feel really bad when you're in the middle of it. And so then starting last night and for much of today I felt completely wiped and like I was getting sick.

Which got me thinking of the realization above, about how strongly my emotions are affecting my body, and how I'm not the only one who has gone through the emotional wringer the past few months-- Donovan has too, our whole family has. And if I'm still feeling wrung out by it, then he probably is, too, which helps reinforce the need for patience-- with myself, with my kids. That we're all going through a lot. That we each have our own ways of dealing with it. And that time, patience, and love are probably the best medicine. I'm writing this out partially as a reminder for myself, for the nest time I get super frustrated by it all.

Monday, September 01, 2014


So we've been here in this new house for about two months now. Things are good... we like this house, which feels so much more spacious than our last. I almost feel worried about being "spoiled" by having more space to stretch out, in case we have to downsize again one day. We got most of the house set up pretty early on, though we still have random piles of things here and there that need to be sorted, photos I need to hang on the walls (or order to put in frames), a few pieces of furniture that I'd like to find for this spot or that one. But for the most part it kinda feels like home.

The boys like it, too, or at least parts of it. We flipped D's bed so now it's lofted, with Quinn's bed underneath, which is great fun for them. And they love the larger playroom, where their legos can scatter even farther across the floor (and the fluffy carpet that hides the small pieces so well...). But they definitely also miss New Hampshire and our life there. Quinn is more subtle about it... the past couple weeks he's been telling me how he misses the porch on our old house, which admittedly was much longer than our current one and pretty darn nice. He also says he misses our old, much smaller kitchen, which I can't quite make sense of. 

Donovan, however, tells me straight-up that he wishes we could move back to New Hampshire, with Ethan still down the street. Sometimes it's just a passing comment during play or while he's doing something else. Other times he gets really upset, tears welling up in his eyes, telling me it's not fair and it's too hard not being able to play with his best friend. It breaks my heart. They facetime sometimes, but I wonder if that almost makes it harder, if it just makes him miss playing with his buddy even more.

We've started making friends with some of the neighbors and their kids. We've also been slowly reconnecting with old friends around the bay area. Quinn is pretty social and seems to connect with other kids more easily and quickly. D has been more awkward and kinda antisocial around other kids. Lately he has been having an easier time warming up to others, although he still mostly just wants to stay home by himself or with Quinn, playing legos...which can be frustrating for the rest of us who like getting out of the house every once in a while. But I'm trying to remind myself that he's still adjusting to some major changes and emotional turmoil and may just need more time. I'm hoping that between neighbors and playgroups he can find a few new friends to click with soon. Quinn starts school in a couple days, which hopefully will give him that social outlet he needs and a few new buddies to play with.

Saturday, August 30, 2014


I tried out "freelensing" today for the first time. I first heard of it years ago, from a guy I used to follow on flickr who used the technique to take these incredibly gorgeous dreamy photos. But I was always too freaked out by the thought of dust or whatever possibly getting inside the camera that I was too scared to try it. Today I saw someone mention freelensing again and finally screwed up the courage to give it a go... and oh my. It's tricky and will take practice to get decent at it, but I'm kinda loving the effect, including the unexpected color cast and fading caused by light leaks from moving the lens around. 

FYI the first and last photo are SOOC. With the others I did a little light editing (like the b&w conversion), most of the "look" of these is the freelensing effect. I used my sigma 50mm lens. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014



Things feel kinda heavy right now. I've been glued to twitter trying to keep up with the events in Ferguson, MO, which are disturbing enough on their own but even more so knowing that this is but a public example of a widespread problem of racism and abuse of power among law enforcement. On top of that, in the past few days we've heard of two acquaintances who have been in serious accidents (unrelated to each other), one of whom passed away yesterday and the other is in the ICU. Wednesday marks what would have been my brother's 40th birthday, his first birthday for us to (celebrate? honor? observe?) without him. And, the boys are being incredibly moody and getting super upset over every.little.thing.

In other words, it feels like there's bad news and crap coming in from everywhere right now, and I'm doing what I can to focus on the good and ride out this little storm till it passes. To that aim, here are some cute pictures of my little masked crusader from sometime last month.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

getting ready for (un)school, re-thinking screen time

Summer is chugging along here, and it's somehow mid-August already (I say that and yet when I think back to the beginning of summer back in NH it feels like an entire lifetime ago). We're getting ready for a school switcheroo this fall-- it's now Quinn who will be starting montessori preschool in a couple weeks, and D will be home with me. Part of me feels a little weird about opting to send Q to preschool since we've already decided to homeschool D. Part of me is also not looking forward to going back to a regular school routine, having to get out the door by a certain time every morning, etc. But I do think it will be important for both Donovan and me to have that time just the two of us in the morning, to be able to try projects or whatever that are more, uh, challenging to do while little brother is around, and also to give the boys a bit of a break from each other (they get along really well most of the time, but I think they're kinda starting to get fed up of being around each other all the time). I also think Q kinda requires a bit more social interaction, so that will be good for him too.  

We're unschooling, which means that right now the biggest thing to work on really is on my own perspective and mindset. I'm "de-schooling" myself, meaning trying to get over the mindset of reading, writing, and math being the most important skills to develop at this age and instead opening ourselves up to seeing all the other many learning opportunities we have every day. In the past few weeks D has been really interested in penguins, sharks, and other sea creatures so we've been reading and watching videos about them a lot. I introduced him to MythBusters, so he's been watching a lot of that and learning about setting up experiments to test out a theory (and a lot of other random stuff about electronics, physics, and whatever other things the myths happen to be about). The past couple days he worked on an army of little paper robots (robots drawn on slips of paper that stand up), and he set them up on a table then decided he needed more space so worked out how to make a paper platform extension off the edge of the table. It's pretty amazing to watch him learn. I'm also figuring out how to dance along that fine line of giving enough guidance and help while letting him do things on his own. Not that it's always sunshine and unicorns, mind you-- we've also had our fair share of moodiness and yelling and brothers fighting, etc. But, I am learning that if I can relax I really think this can go really well, and be really cool for all of us.

I'm also questioning and re-thinking my views on "screen time." There seems to be a sharp divide among homeschoolers, with highly restricted screen time on the one side and fairly unrestricted on the other. I've been really fascinated to read some of the arguments and research studies on the possible benefits of TV and video games. There's this understood assumption that reading books is always better than watching a video, but videos can be incredible learning tools... And a lot of this might depend on what you're watching, why, and how. So I'm researching, thinking, and experimenting with loosening our time restrictions and seeing how that goes.

Thursday, July 31, 2014

a few favorites from texas

Just a handful of favorite images from our time in Texas last month. I'm slowly working on catching up the rest of the way on pictures, while also suddenly deciding that I need to weed through older pictures on my computer.

A few days ago I went back into some folders from 2008 looking for a particular set of old photos, and realized that I have so many pictures saved that I really don't need-- bad pictures, near-duplicates, etc, and I could probably easily get rid of half of them. Yesterday morning I woke up startled, realizing that while I have things figured out within Lightroom and with the couple of catalogs I've set up so far, I am probably the only one who knows how to use my current system. I really want my photos to be useable and accessible by Zach, or my kids, etc, even if I'm not around, so I'm making it a project to go through and simplify things a bit. It's not as daunting as it sounds, I've gotten pretty good at wielding the black flag and deleting, and there's something kinda cool about going through those old photos and remembering trips and people from years ago and also comparing my photography then vs now. It just takes time.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

thankful for neighbors with a green thumb

Our upstairs neighbor is a long-term resident and, as it turns out, she and her son enjoy gardening which works to our benefit because they have planted and tend to a number of flowering bushes and plants all around our building. It's a nice perk. 

I have a soft spot for bougainvillea because we had a big bougainvillea vine/tree in our backyard growing up, and I have strong memories of all the pink petals (which I guess are actually a kind of leaf) falling and landing in the water of the little pool we would set up in our yard in the summer months. So it makes me smile to look our our kitchen windows and see it blooming right there.

Nev has had a few supervised forays into the outdoors, and she is also greatly enjoying the beautiful vegetation. It provides for nice hiding spots.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...