Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Was it wrong to be unhappy?

As you probably remember from yesterday's post, I've been accomplishing quite a bit lately....

And I don't think I've experienced this level of life satisfaction in years. Today, I cleaned out the 18-year-old boy's room in preparation for setting up my pseudo-photography studio....

And in the past two days I've done, literally, about 60 loads of laundry, most of which came from the basement....

And I've packed the 4 four and under's suitcases for our upcoming trip, for which we don't leave for another five days... (See how organized I am?)

And while I breastfeed, which is a lot, as you can see...

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...I spend my time poring over images of newborn babies so I can get a feel for what direction I want to go when I feel competent enough to start taking clients.

So this is what I feel bad about. Is it wrong to be this happy over things that in no way involve my children?

It is so amazing to have the four oldest home for the summer to help with the four youngest, and it feels so incredibly rewarding to actually be accomplishing something. I mentioned these feelings to my mother, that I feel like I might have been somewhat unhappy for the past two or three years, because I haven't been accomplishing anything, and she cried, "Jennifer! You have been accomplishing something! You've been keeping all those kids alive!"

Now, I'm not sure this was a compliment or not. I'm pretty sure I'm supposed to do more than just keep my kids alive. But I got her point. I'm supposed to feel good about raising kids and find the "joy in the journey" of doing that. However, when I evaluate my feelings of the past two weeks, with the older kids being home, and me not being pregnant, or having a newborn or baby twins, or moving (which I've done seven times in the last six years), I realize I felt immensely happy. And something I've also noticed is that when the older kids are gone, such as when they went to help a very good friend set up her kids' bunk beds, and I have to do everything involving the 4 four and under on my own, I'm stressed, and irritated, and feel unfulfilled.

So I've been wondering if this is how I've felt for the past two to three years, and didn't even realize it. And aren't I supposed to like being a mother of young children more? Shouldn't I be able to find happiness in the cute smiles...

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...the chubby toes and cheeks...

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...and the kisses...

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??????????????

I do. I really do, but it's wonderful to have a new hobby/potential part-time job (very part time, believe me) to think about, and when I need to find a happy place for my thoughts to go when they start to get out of control, I think of taking pictures of little tiny babies. And it's wonderful to be getting things organized in my home after three years...but...

What's going to happen when the kids go back to school and I have no help again and do nothing but "keep kids alive" all day? Will I go back to having a low life satisfaction level? Things will be a little different this year. The 4-year-old boy will be in preschool every morning, the twins will be closer to three and more manageable, and the baby will be close to crawling and happier to be on his own, not needing to be held constantly. So perhaps I will be able to do more that just babies.

Now watch me get pregnant this summer....

As they say in Spanish, "Dios se lo paga." God will pay me. I know he will, and does, it's just that life is hard, and some years it's really hard. I guess it's supposed to be.

I feel like I've kind of blabbered on and on today, but if you've gotten this far, thanks for listening. :)

Monday, June 28, 2010

Basement Before and After Photos

Who doesn't love a good set of before and after photos? In our basement was all the junk I had accumulated before I married John five years ago, and all the junk he had accumulated before he married me five years ago, and stuff I didn't have the intestinal fortitude, literally, to sort through when we packed during our move to Mexico. I was two months pregnant with the twins, but thought there was only one, and had double nausea and fatigue.

Anyway, the first photo represents a depiction of what our basement looked like after the kids and I did a day's worth of work (9:30 to noon, then 2:30 to 4:00, and yes, these hours were strictly enforced each day)...

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(Try to comprehend what it must have looked like before this day's work.)

And now, after giving away and throwing away four truckloads of stuff, two days later...

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My kids totally rock for the way they helped me, and they only complained a little bit.

Our future plans for the basement? Game room!

Thanks for listening. :)


Today on life in mexico {and other places} a picture a day: {inside the popsicle store at night}

Today on 365 Days of TV-Free Toddler Time: Stream Time! ...

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Homemaker Monday

Sorry, craziness going on here, including the stomach flu, so no Homemaker Monday post today, but here's MckLinky so you can post your link. Thank you so much!

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Friday, June 25, 2010

Tips for Better Photographs - Part 7


Eye Highlights

This is kind of random, but it's something I learned a few days ago, and since we've been on the subject all week, I thought I'd share.

When photographing portraits, it's important to make sure you capture highlights (you know, the shiny white spots) in the eyes to show life and vibrancy. The following photos are practice shots I did of the kids today...

This is the 8-year-old girl photographed indoors facing a window...

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I was actually doing some test shots of her in preparation for setting up my newborn photography studio. Yes, this is a sudden urge of mine, but I find that I'm happier in life if I have some kind of weird goal to accomplish, and newborn photography is my newest obsession. I've got my first cute hat ordered (THIS ONE, to be exact), various cozy fabric folded neatly on the shelf, bowls and baskets ready to receive babies, and I even have a couple of clients lined up to practice on. If I can figure out how to say, "This session will probably take 2 to 3 hours, yes, my hands are clean, and it's so hot in here because the baby will be nakie" in Spanish, then I'll be set.

Anyway, back to the eye highlights. The following photo of the 3-month-old was taken in open shade at around noon. It was very difficult to get eye highlights because his fatness makes his eyes very squinty at all times, but after several tries, we finally did it...

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I also tried to practice on Twin A, but he would never look into the light source (the sky), and eventually defiantly ran off...

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These two final photos were taken during the "magic hour", about 20 minutes before sunset. In both photos, the twins were facing the sun, which was diffused by some trees. Twin A thought I was taking a picture of the flower he picked for me, (see this post on how I've trained the twins to model objects for me) so he cooperated this time...

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And here's Twin B...

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Yes, with pizza face and all. I figure I need to practice shooting their portraits before I fix their hair, clean their faces, dress them up and pose them for the real thing. I'm exhausted just thinking about it.

Thanks for listening!

Thursday, June 24, 2010

When 7 of your kids invite 8 friends over...

... it's great to have a teenage daughter who loves to cook...

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This came together in no time. She used THIS recipe for the crust, poured on some bottled spaghetti sauce, grated up the mozarella in the food processor, added some canned olives and mushrooms, then sliced a couple of bell peppers and sprinkled them on top.

And since she knew to double it, it fed all 16 of us. Thanks, 15-year-old girl! I don't know how I would manage without you! :)

P.S. I also wanted to show you the cute swallows who have built a nest against our home...

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This evening I watched the mother of these 5 babies fly back and forth, back and forth, countless times, finding food for her offspring and feeding it to them one at a time. I thought of all the work I do every day and I realized that work is just part of God's plan. We all have to and should do it, whether we're a swallow or a person. Realizing this made me feel better about working hard. Just thought I'd share.

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Today on 365 Days of TV-Free Toddler Time: Laying on a Quilt Outside Time!

Today on life in mexico {and other places} a picture a day: {outside the popsicle store at night}

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Tips for Better Photographs - Part 6


Panning

This is a technique I recently learned after reading THIS e-book. What you want to do is capture motion, but not by having the subject blurry, but the background blurry.

The above shot was my first attempt at practicing this. If you'd like to try, just ask someone to run or ride a bike, horse, carriage, whatever, in a semi-circle around you. Point your camera at them when they start going, focus, carefully follow them as they go, then shoot.

It was really fun to try this. Here are some other attempts that weren't as good, but still, like I said...fun!

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In the above photo, it appears that the 8-year-old girl was running a little too fast for me to keep up, but apparently, the dog wasn't. His face is in perfect focus!

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I liked this one, too, but I didn't follow the rule of not having a lot going on the background. There's the baby running the the opposite direction, the dog, the truck, the plants. On the other hand, this completely captures the chaos my life is right now, so perhaps it's the perfect picture.

So anyway, something fun you might want to try some time! And now for some eye candy. I was send this photo in an email on Sunday and it perfectly depicts what I'm trying to learn. Check it out...

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If you'd like to see more amazing photos where that came from go HERE. Thanks for listening.

Tips for Better Photographs - Part 5


Shallow Depth of Field

As you have probably figured out by now, there is almost nothing that I love more than using a shallow depth of field. And since it's only been about 5 months that I've known what that actually means, I shall explain.

A shallow depth of field means that only a small part of your picture is in focus, such as only the objects four feet away from you, and everything in the background is out of focus, or only the objects ten feet away from you, and everything in the foreground is out of focus. There are a couple of ways you can do this.

First, it's super-easy if you have a camera that has an manual aperture adjustment. The wider the aperture, the smaller area of focus you will have, which is what I'm almost always aiming for. A large aperture means having a smaller f-number, by the way.

Now, if you have a simple point-and-shoot camera, it is possible to achieve this effect as well. If you set your camera to the "portrait" setting and get really close to the object you would like in focus, you can get some beautiful shots, like these, taken by the 15-year-old girl, with her $99 Exilim....

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That being said, it's much easier (and more fun) if you have a camera with a manual aperture setting. I love using a shallow depth of field because it helps keep the focus on what's important. Here are some of my fave examples...

The following photo of an iris from John's garden was taken in full sun, which is normally a no-no, but I love how this turned out, with the faded shadows of the grass in the background adding an interesting texture to the photo...

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This next photo has be to one of my favorite all-time food photos...

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I love this because the ice cream cone is so clearly in focus, while the background of the different flavors of ice cream of blurry. I think what I love most, though, is that the ice cream is sitting on glass, so it looks like it's floating in mid-air.

I love the following example, because it shows the effect of an out-of-focus foreground (the hammock) and background (the grass), while getting the 3-month-old in perfect focus...

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Here's one of my favorites...

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This is a geranium shot in John's garden. What I love about this photo is how the flower fades from focus as it rounds to the back. And just for your info, I don't know how I got this shot with a black background. I was simply taking a picture of one geranium flower in a pot of others, and I just got lucky.

Here's just some funny feet examples of shallow depth-of-field...

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And this one, another favorite, because the bracelets are in focus, but the foreground and the background are blurry, although you can see she is filming a graduation ceremony... (Plus I just love the colors of her bracelets!)

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One of my favorite things to photograph is food. And since the twins and the 4-year-old boy know nothing else but a life of being blogged, they have been well-trained on how to hold food samples so that I can get the perfect shallow depth-of field shot. Remember, the object in focus has to be at a different distance from the camera than everything else, so I've taught them that when I say, "Show me the... (so and so)", they hold it out far from the bodies and close to the camera. It works every time! Check out how they show me food and other important items...

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...and here are some other people who have learned to hold things close to the camera for the perfect shallow depth of field shot...

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...and one last favorite...

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I love this so much, especially because of the spots of sunlight coming through the honeysuckle vines in the background.

What about you? Show us some of your favorite shallow depth of field shots by posting links in the comments. Thanks for listening!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Tips for Better Photographs - Part 4


Post Photo Editing

Perhaps I should save this post for last, because it's what we do last, but because this post also involves Father's Day, I didn't want to wait too long.

To me, this is one of the most fun parts of photography. This is where a person's creativity can really shine through. Let me take you through a step-by-step process of how I edited the photo I framed for John on Father's Day...

A few days ago, I came across this scene in our bedroom...

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While this is a really cute photo, I knew it needed a lot of work. The first thing I did was to open it with the basic Microsoft Office Picture Manager and remove the color saturation to make it black and white.

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Next, I cropped it. After all, I really didn't want John's breathing machine in the background...

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Next, because I removed the color, which can often leave a photo too dark and monotone, I brightened it...

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...then adjusted the contrast...

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The next step was to load it up into my blog photo server, Photobucket. Here, I softened the faces...

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...then added a dark, faded border around the frame to really highlight the faces and remove more of the clutter in the background, including the pillows...

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Okay, done!

The next step was to print it out, let it dry overnight, frame it, clean John's office, which hadn't been organized since we moved in nearly two years ago...

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...and set it up on his desk...

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Incidentally, we also organized and cleaned his closet, where I had been storing 7 trash bags of baby clothes, various plastic boxes that he been opened and dumped out by unnamed children, 20 pairs of unorganized shoes, and who knows what else...

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Nice!

So what are some of your favorite photo edits? If you have a link to one of your posts, I'd love to see. Leave the link in the comments! Here are some more of my faves...

Before...

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After...

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After...

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Before...

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After...

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Thanks for listening.

Today on 365 Days of TV-Free Toddler Time: Rolling Sprinkler Time!

Today on life in mexico {and other places} a picture a day: {gladiolas}