Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Going Wide (Wordless Wednesday)

A few weeks ago, this magical box arrived.  I was surprised, because I'd talked to my husband and had told him I was going to wait until Black Friday to get any new lenses and that I was thinking that as much as I'd love a wider angle for landscape work, it wasn't something I would ever get a return on my investment for like the portrait lenses.  It would be strictly a fun indulgence.

Which, I guess, is what he thought I deserved.

What a sweetheart!

This new lens is a Rokinon 14mm, which is extremely wide -- my previous widest is 24.

It's been fun to play with.

The thing about wide angle lenses is that a lot of people get them thinking of capturing huge vistas.

But actually, the angle is so wide that landscape work with wide angle is really about the foreground.  You might stand in front of an amazing view, but whatever is in the foreground is going to stand out because the perspective makes it so large relative to the background.

So you really need to make sure what is in the foreground is interesting and compelling, like these berries.

or these flowers.

It was fun to play with the lens indoors, though as an all-manual lens, it's going to take me a while to figure out its focusing.

And just for fun, some shots from inside the house:

Notice how much room in the photo is taken up by the ceiling and the couch?  All about the foreground.

 Fun to fit my whole kitchen into one frame:

My great room:

And some cookie-making munchkins:

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Creation in the everyday

My friend Jenifer has been writing a series on her blog about the meaning in the everyday tasks of a mother.  I wish I had time to add my own musings to what she has to say, but instead, I leave you with some links and some of my favorite quotes.

I was blessed to meet Jenifer in person a few months ago and she's just as real and genuine in person as on her blog.  You may remember that Jenifer from a guest post she wrote for me a few years ago. Since that time, she has been through a lot.  While pregnant with her eighth child, she had placenta percreta, where the placenta grows outside the uterus, threatening the mother's life.  She chose to sacrifice and risk her own life for that of her son, and in the process almost died.  She's had a long road to recovery, and we're all so grateful she's still alive to share her wisdom about life.

The Value of Making a Home
There is grace in the daily opportunity to nourish again, keep feeding, keep teaching, keep filling. The moulding of both physical and spiritual happens over time and is a result of years and years of input.  Thank goodness!  I would not want my children's health to be determined by one boxed Mac n Cheese dinner or their social character ruined by one maternal tantrum.  Daily nourishing to body and spirit, over time, yields beautiful results.  It's pretty hard to "ruin" a kid because we are programmed to be quite renewing and resilient.  
(Oh, I could write ten blogs on Christ as the ultimate nurturer and constant nourisher.  How I cherish my weekly bite of bread and sip of water that symbolizes Christ becoming part of me.  He nourishes and changes me day after day after day, in small and simple ways.  I become like Him as I feed His lambs.  And, they become like Him as they see me trying day after day to be more like Him.  It's beautiful really.)

I Cook 
We need to stop fighting with each other and start feeding each other more!  Believe me- it works.  Make more cookies and your children will squabble less.  Ha!  Do not argue or fight with a cranky child!! Feed them or help them to sleep.  
The stupidest advice we ever give newlywed couples is "Never go to bed angry."  No!!  Go. To. Bed!!!  You are probably not even angry, you're just tired.  (Please excuse my random rant.  Sleep and food are so related in my mind and my role as a wife, mother, and homemaker.)
Regular, healthy, beautiful meals in your home will change things.  

We hunger, our children hunger, our neighbors hunger.  Hunger is a gift that helps us to take time to feast upon that which is good.  Hunger draws us together.  Hunger pulls us back to our Heavenly Father as it pulls our children back to us.  Let's kill the fatted calf!  Let's rejoice when our children come to us for food!  Feeding others is a privilege that we would yearn for if our children were lost or wandering.  I hope Heaven feels like a Thanksgiving family dinner.
23 And bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry: 24 For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found. And they began to be merry. (New Testament, Luke 15)
My relationships are strengthened as I feed others.  
From the moment I first bring my newborn baby to my breast to eat, I am bonding that baby to me.  Children learn early that mother and father equals food, warmth, protection, comfort and love.  I am teaching my children over and over and over again as I nourish them.  I am blessing them with a secure foundation as I consistently feed and serve them.  
As we feed bodies we are loving souls.  Feeding bonds.  It is beautiful.  God must have known this when he created bodies and children that required food.  

I Clean
Can I tell you a thing or two about changing dirty diapers?It is a privilege!!It is a skill!It is an act of service that is healthy, bonding, and crucial.
I do not bask in poo, but I cherish the opportunity that I have to serve my baby often during the day.Keeping his bottom clean and healthy is important to me.
I teach so much as I clean him.I teach him to trust me.I teach him to lay still and be calm.I teach him to find his eyes, his hair, his ears, his nose, his tongue, his toes.I teach him animal sounds.This is the game of responding-- I ask, he answers.  What an essential skill for him to learn.
As I change his diaper, his eyes are close to mine.  We connect, we sing, we bond!!I choose to love changing diapers!!!I want my child to feel loved, not dirty and annoying.I CHOOSE to love changing diapers because I love the child I am cleansing.
I love cleaning dirty toilets.
For almost one year, I laid in bed unable to lift, clean, or even potty.I watched people I love serve me.I watched people I love clean my toilets.My body ached to work, my soul yearned to serve.I wanted desperately to clean my own toilets-- and today I can!!!The ability to clean my home is a gift.
As I read holy scripture, I find a God who cleans.  
2 And, behold, there came a leper and worshipped him, saying, Lord, if thou wilt, thou canst make me clean. 3 And Jesus put forth his hand, and touched him, saying, I will; be thou clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed. (New Testament, Matthew, Matthew 8)
If thou wilt, thou canst make me clean.Don't you love those words?


God doesn't ask us to repent because He expects us not to sin.We repent because we are mortal and sin is part of the plan.Repenting is a joyful gift, an opportunity for cleansing and growth.Cleaning is like repenting.
We clean because mess is inevitable.We clean because work is worship.We clean because we are hopeful and grateful.We clean because cleansing is holy.We clean because it is a service and a sacrifice.
44 And he turned to the woman, and said unto Simon, Seest thou this woman? I entered into thine house, thou gavest me no water for my feet: but she hath washed my feet with tears, and wiped them with the hairs of her head. 45 Thou gavest me no kiss: but this woman since the time I came in hath not ceased to kiss my feet. 46 My head with oil thou didst not anoint: but this woman hath anointed my feet with ointment. 47 Wherefore I say unto thee, Her sins, which are many, are forgiven; for she loved much: but to whom little is forgiven, the same loveth little. 48 And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven (New Testament, Luke, Luke 7)
I believe I clean because I love much.I believe that as I serve I am sanctified and cleansed myself.Yes, I find cleaning to be a holy sacrament.I feel privileged to be able to serve my family.I love to clean.In the repetition of cleansing I am purified.Life, with clean diapers, wiped counters, shining toilets and vacuum lines is good.Life, even with stinky diapers, sticky counters, ringed toilet bowls, and crumby carpets, is an absolute gift. 

But really, you should click, click, click on those links, read what she has to say, and let it sink in as you perform your own everyday, repetitive, nourishing tasks in creating your own little safe haven in this troubled world.

Friday, October 24, 2014

Friday Favorites: Depression and Suicide Prevention

This brought me to tears and has a message everyone should hear.  Give it a few minutes of your time.  You won't regret it:

My friend Cheryl has written openly and often about her own struggles with depression.  I highly recommend a recent link about how to recognize and get help:

  Just Choose to Be Happy 

She explains how "just choosing" isn't always an option for someone with mental health issues, then goes on to describe what has helped her.

And another of my favorite bloggers wrote this:

Sitting on the Bench

Suicide touched her son's high school this week and she writes movingly of the effect on the students.

"Most people would heroically step in if they felt like they could prevent a suicide– pull someone off the edge of the bridge, offer CPR, call 911. But are we willing to listen when someone is sad, to mourn with those who mourn, to offer sympathy even when we don’t understand why they are hurting?

Why are we on this swiftly tilting planet? Not to accumulate ‘likes’ or possessions, not to make our mark or show our strength. All those things, even “the nations are as a drop of a bucket, and are counted as the small dust of the balance: behold, he taketh up the isles as a very little thing…All nations before him are as nothing; and they are counted to him less than nothing, and vanity.” Isa. 40:15,17

What does matter? People. Men, women, children, old, young, strong, weak, foolish, wise. We are here to help each other along. To lift the hands that hang down; to offer kind words, firm hugs, listening ears. Stumbling along the path, we will bump and bruise each other, but we will also feed each other, make each other laugh, work in offices and fields, celebrate holy days and small victories, admire flowers and sunsets and babies and with every step, bring each other home.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Rainy Day in the Canyon (Wordless Wednesday)

One day in late September, I woke up before dawn, woke up Joey and Sarah to join me, and drove up the canyon to get what I hoped would be stunning sunrise photos.

The sky was black, with no moon to help me know if there would be a good sunrise or not.

As we drove, it started to drizzle.  I had hopes that by the time we got to our destination a half hour away, it might clear up and let the sun break through.

But it didn't.  

And though I'd hope for glorious beams of light on the golden leaves 

and beautiful clouds illuminated in shades of pink and purple

I think what I got instead on that drizzly, rainy day

while my son held a towel over me to protect my camera from the rain

was absolutely beautiful.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

San Diego Family Trip

We got back on Sunday from a week in California.  It was our first family trip since we sold our big red van over a year ago (remember Clifford?), and that made me a bit nervous.

Goodbye Van that Fit Our Whole Family

I haven't regretted selling the van.  With our kids old enough to be left home alone or with a sibling, we rarely take the whole family places where two cars are more than a minor annoyance.  And we've saved a lot on insurance and maintenance (we replaced that battery a whole bunch because it wasn't driven enough), not to mention gas.  Given the gas mileage in our two remaining vehicles -- 22ish and 25ish, as I recall -- it doesn't even cost that much more in gas than the big red van, which got an abysmmal 13.

Still, I was a little nervous about taking two cars on a family trip.  I've been spoiled all these years because my husband is great about driving almost all the time on our trips.  I usually spell him for an hour or so here and there, but otherwise, he's the driver and I'm the peacekeeper/referree/treat fairy.

But it turned out fine.  Part of that was that we didn't do the full 9.5 hours in one day -- we spent a night in Las Vegas (about 5.5 hours away) on the way there and one on the way back.  And it was nice to be able to divide up the kids by interests.  In DH's car, Lillian, Joey, and a rotating third or fourth kid listened to Ender's Game, while in my van, we watched Toy Story, Little House on the Prairie and Hotel Transylvania, on a tiny DVD player.  We also listened to the third book of Adventurers Wanted.  Both cars were stocked with plenty of snacks and goodies -- grapes, homemade cookies, Oreos, chips, and rice crispy treats.  Michael was usually the oldest kid in my car, and he's a great companion with a good sense of humor and a peace-making attitude with the younger ones.

And it was nice to have the option to swap kids between cars when there were squabbles or when I was a little tired of a whiny 4-year-old.  

I was a little sad to be leaving Utah.  Fall had just barely reached the valley when we left, and I was itching to get more fall landscapes and families done.  And California, pretty as it is, just can't compare to a Utah fall.  And with the drought, it was even less spectacular.  In fact, I don't think I've ever seen California so dry and brown.  It made me sad.

But it was wonderful to spend time together as a family, and the stunning sunsets on the beach were unforgettable.

We didn't really do a ton.  

We went to three museums.  The Natural History Museum in Las Vegas was surprisingly fun -- live fish and animals along with stuffed, and an interesting exhibit on King Tut.

The Natural History Museum in San Diego was all right, and the Fleet Science Center was a fun hands-on place, but not as cool as the one in Phoenix.

We spent one day at Sea World, where I was able to meet up with a friend and her son (thanks, Carrie!).  Soon after we got there, I was approached by two perky Sea World employees who asked me personal questions and were a little too friendly.  I was a little stand-offish, just waiting for the time-share presentation.  But it turned out they were handing out special passes in honor of some anniversary.  So our entire family got wristbands that gave us access to special reserved seating at all the shows AND allowed us to walk on all the rides using their QuickQue line.  It was pretty awesome, though the park wasn't too crowded so it didn't save us a ton of time.  (No pictures yet, as I have yet to go through the 800 pictures my kids took on my old camera).  

The shows were fun.  The dolphin one was a little skimpy on dolphins and big on people dressed as birds flying around and diving from big platforms.  And Shamu was a bit of a let-down.  Now that they don't let the trainers into the water with the animals, it's just huge animals splashing the crowds and doing a couple of jumps.  But otherwise, we had fun.  We divided up the big kids and I ended up on Cami and Katie duty.  Despite my best efforts to get them excited to go see penguins, fish, and tidepools, they mostly wanted to stay in the Sesame Street Playland.  And by the end of the day, they were tired and cranky.  DH owes me one!

The rest of our time was spent at either the resort or the beach (we did go to Church on Sunday).  We own a timeshare through Marriott and had traded into the Welk Resort in Escondido and it was quite nice.  The rooms were large and there was plenty of storage and the kitchen was plenty big.  It had a washer/dryer as well.  They had three pools, two of them with water slides and the kids went swimming nearly every day.  They also had a nice recreation center with games and activities and unlimited inexpensive crafts, so we really enjoyed that.

But gee, inexpensive or not, when you have nine kids doing three or four projects each, it can add up.  

We had a nice back patio overlooking the dry and scruffy golf course.  You could tell that they were doing their best to conserve water and that in a normal year, the course would be stunning.

Joey's a goofball.  I told him he needs to join Facebook so this can be his profile picture.

My only complaint about the resort is that it was so far from everything.  It was thirty minutes to the beach, forty-five to Sea World or downtown.  But we didn't let that stop us from spending nearly every evening at the beach, reading (Lillian and Michael), taking pictures (me and Michael), playing in the waves, building sand castles, fending off hungry seagulls, and just having a lovely time.

Building awesome castles

And it's just as much fun to tear them down.

Cami's joy and excitement is contagious.

On our way home, we drove through Tehachapi to visit DH's grandma, an amazing woman who at 92 takes care of her home and beautiful yard and still reads the books for her book club and is sharp and smart, not to mention a great cook.  She had a lovely spread of banana bread, chili, homemade mac and cheese, veggies and dip, and pigs in a blanket for our kids to enjoy.  

We also got to pick raspberries and pumpkins from Aunt Margaret's farm.

Another highlight was having dinner with Kelli, my dear friend from high school, who has settled in this small town with her husband and four adorable kids.  My kids call her "the cookie lady" because she has made them monster cookies many times as we've invaded her home on our way through town.

We got surprisingly few comments on the size of our family this trip.  Perhaps it was the two cars or the fact that we divide up a lot more now that the kids are older.  We did have one older man come up to my husband as we were eating breakfast at our hotel on the way home.  He clapped my husband on his shoulder and told him he was a blessed man and that he was impressed with how our children all help each other.

With Lillian getting older, we likely only have a few more trips before she graduates.  I'm glad that we've made family travel a priority and that we have so many fun memories together.


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