Sunday, January 30, 2011

Almost Eight

Eight is a big milestone for Mormons, since it's the year you can be baptized. Ellie will turn eight this August, so we went to her baptism preview tonight right after the recital. It was a good overview of why baptism is important, plus the practical aspects of what to expect on her baptism day.

Time flies when you're having fun.

Samantha's Harp Recital

I can't believe I'm getting this post up before the Stringhams do, but here goes. Mine will have a selfish photo-analysis twist, so be sure to read their blog for better journaling. I'm not sure I can do it the justice it deserves, since I haven't had to practice even one of the hundreds of hours they've put in to get Samantha through her Suzuki Book One. After listening to Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, I'm not sure I've got it in me to do that. Anyway, Samantha did a great job—she played 21 songs, picked in random order, all from memory. Very impressive. Shawn asked me to bring my camera, and I took around 60 photos. After reviewing them, I can tell that I still have a lot to learn.

I like this shot, but the harp growing out of her head is probably not the best composition.

This shot is one of my favorites, and I didn't take it. I passed the camera to Shawn, since I knew he had a good angle. You're a natural, Shawn.

I like the composition here, but didn't catch any emotion.

I'm still playing around with depth of field, and loving that, even though I probably overdo it.

How cute is this though?

I'm kicking myself for this shot, which would be great if I'd gone with a slightly higher aperature so that Janet was in focus too.

And one more—it's hard to go wrong with a subject this cute.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Pioneer Day

I was the photographer for 4th grade Pioneer Day, and took almost 600 photos. Good practice, I guess. I narrowed it down to my favorite shot of each student and group and I'm working on a slideshow that I think they'll enjoy.

Ainsley loved the center of attention most of the time, and had the serious pioneer face down.

And after comparing all 97 students, my unbiased opinion is that you won't find a more handsome 4th grade cowboy.

Monday, January 24, 2011

FHE Guests

After homework, scouts and dinner, we generally have a hard time fitting in anything more than a quick lesson, treat and game for family home evening. Tonight was an exception. Stan Tanner, a retired doctor in our ward, and one of the nicest guys ever, offered to show us his 1st edition Book of Mormon. So we invited him to join us for dinner and family night—we had the Healeys over too, since they're book nerds like us. :)

Stan also brought a DVD of his great-great-great? grandfather, John Tanner, which was really well done, and such an inspiring story.

The top book is a British Isles 4th edition, and the one on the bottom is the 1st edition. It's probably worth around $80K, and should be handled with gloves in a sterile environment, but Stan has it to show, and we got to hold and read it. It was very cool.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Baby Shower

Last year I didn't miss a daily photo post until May 5th. This year I didn't even make it through January. We've been so busy, but not really doing anything exciting, or really productive even. Lots of homework, PTA and church responsibilities. So I'm backdating the highlights.

My friend Virginia is expecting a baby boy, and I hosted a shower for her. I had tons of help, and have decided that most of the people in my ward could be professional caterers. We had yummy quiche, orange rolls and beautiful fruit platters. I'd love to take credit for this cute diaper cake, and invitation, but they too were made by others way craftier than I. We had a great turnout—no surprise there, everyone loves Ginnie.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Picture Day

I know that anyone reading this might see that post title and think, "Isn't every day picture day at your house?" But I'm talking about studio portraits. At Busath, no less. In the past I've tried to take the kids in on their birthdays, but it's been a few years since I've done even that, so I scheduled all four kids on the same day. What was I thinking? I guess I've forgotten how much stress is involved in picking out clothes, fixing hair and getting them all cleaned up, especially on a school day. Luckily I knew I wanted black and white close-ups, so I didn't have to match colors, as you can see below.

The staff at Busath couldn't have been nicer, and the photographer, Richard Busath, was awesome. We were there for an hour-and-a-half, and most of that time was spent trying to get Ainsley to 1) sit still, 2) look at the camera, and 3) quit being a goofball. Richard had some great tricks and he and his assistant, Katie, were so patient and great with the kids. They even agreed to what I'm sure is the strangest request they've ever heard, a photo with the kids. But I'm all about the daily photo, and this was a big deal for us. Hopefully my recommendation will score them another client or two, or at least give them another "weird client" story. :)

We're going back in March for a family photo. What do you think, black and white or color?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Photography Class

For Christmas Rob gave me a beginning photography class from Gallery Photography and it was tonight from 5:00-9:00. It was awesome. I have a nice DSLR, and have loved the quality of photos I've been getting even on auto mode, but I didn't even know how to manually focus. I'd just keep pushing the shutter half-way down until it gave me the focus I wanted. I also learned how to set the aperture so that I can get great depth of field—it might be kind of hard to see in this small size, but the focus is just on that one line, "Milk Chocolate with Toffee & Almonds."
We covered shutter priority, and I'm excited to try some action shots now that I understand that. Also ISO, white balance, metering, exposure compensation, composition and lighting.

The last half-hour of class we went outside to shoot. Our model was the photographer's 9 year-old son. And my kids think they get tortured! This poor kid had four of us taking pictures of him, in the freezing cold. He did make $10 though, and I'm not willing to pay my kids for taking their photos. :) I did NOT expect to get any good shots at almost 9:00 p.m., but was pleasantly surprised that my new-found knowledge led to some decent photos. Sort of dramatic and edgy. My daily photo is going to be fun again while I play with what seems like a brand-new camera!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Finally done!!!

The slideshow is supposed to be a New Year's tradition, but after an iMovie fail, got pushed clear to Martin Luther King day. We had a great time reliving the previous year with the Stringhams. Last month we went out to eat with Shawn and Melissa and Rob told Shawn that he had an "absurd tolerance for adventure," which became their tagline. I complained that we didn't have a great tagline and Rob said, "Are you kidding?! It's 'pass the brownies.'" Pretty good, you can tell he's a pro. Thanks Stringhams, for including us in some of your adventures. We're looking forward to many more in 2011. Especially now that the never-ending slideshow is finished!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Here's hoping the apple doesn't fall far from the tree.

Rob has a great family. Tonight we enjoyed our third Sunday Backman family history night without kids, and that was a stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. We're grateful to Grandpa Backman and Grandma Janet for their work putting the histories and photos together, and to Rod & Barb for hosting this month.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

I may need to have my Costco card confiscated...

Note to Melissa: we've got the treats for slideshow night covered. But we'll all have to limit ourselves to 24 pieces each. Sorry about that.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Keeping Me Busy Right Now

When I'm not doing dishes, laundry, or cleaning out the storage room these days, I'm working on our 2010 slideshow. It's a tradition that started December 31, 2008 and gets better every year. Except that this year we're running a little behind schedule. Oops. But I've now got all 1734 photos/videos edited and in place, with music and titles, for a total of 55 minutes and 18 seconds. Now I just have the time-consuming and boring job of Ken Burns cropping. The big premiere is scheduled for Monday night with the Stringham's slideshow as a co-feature. The kids keep asking me if the slideshow is done yet, so I feel like I'm on a never-ending road trip. Today Ellie said, "Mom, I know the slideshow is going to be great. I don't know if it'll be as good as Milsie's...well, it'll probably be the same." We definitely have a lot of overlap.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Honeymoon Phase

After some serious begging, Ellie started piano lessons on Monday, and is loving it. Her practicing is punctuated with questions like, "If I finish playing everything five times, can I still keep practicing?" Today she's got a friend over, and they spent at least another twenty minutes playing songs for each other. Any bets on how long this enthusiasm will last?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Speaking of home improvement...

We now have a front door that opens and closes without using the deadbolt. It's only taken me a year-and-a-half to fix this. No one will be happier to see this than Rob.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

This Old House

I had to call Rob this morning with a bad news/good news report. The bad news is that our furnace had a five inch crack and was leaking CO2 into our basement, so had to be shut off immediately and replaced. The good news, of course, is that we found out about it from a service call, not a tragedy. More bad news? We replaced the upstairs furnace just a few years ago, as well as the water heater and water main. But the good news is, that furnace is working just fine, so at least we had some heat. Bad news—I meant to take a photo of the old furnace, and the now-clean storage room, but was too tired after getting it clean. Good news—Rob told me he'd buy me an iPhone 4 when the storage room was organized.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Least favorite day in my least favorite month

I'm with Melissa when it comes to January. And Mondays are no fun either—usually I spend the day trying (but failing) to catch up on laundry and doing clutter control. Nothing photo-worthy. Instead, here's one of the New Yorker cartoons Rob put on my bulletin board recently. I love his sense of humor.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

We Have Contact

Ainsley has been terrified of dogs for a while now, in spite of the fact that we owned the gentlest dog on the planet. So this is a major success. She's holding Chris and Christine's new puppy, Molly, who is pretty much the cutest thing ever. We may have found our next dog breed. Unless Rob is too embarrassed to tell people that he owns a Yorkie-Poo.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Before you know it, I'll be posting prom pictures...

I took this photo at Ian's baptism, knowing that Ellie will be baptized later this year. These milestones are always a reminder of that strange time paradox, where the days sometimes feel like years, but the years feel like days. It seems like Robbie was just baptized, but there he is passing the sacrament. And when did these two get so old? I can totally picture the prom photos. I'm trying not to blink.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Little Miss Matched

I said, "Ainsley, that's quite an outfit you've got there."

She said, "Thanks Mom."

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Winner, Round Two

Joey has now advanced to the Reflections regional level two years in a row. The theme was "Together We Can," and I guess the judges must like PB&J. Joey was thrilled to win. We're wondering what he might be able to do if he didn't wait until the night before entries are due to throw something together. :)

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Birthday Party

Ian turned eight today, and the kids were excited to go to his birthday party at the aquarium.

I hadn't been since it left the Gateway location, and I was pleasantly surprised. They did a good job with a large party, and I found myself wanting to watch the octopus, jellyfish and sharks more than I wanted to keep an eye on my kids. Ainsley escaped a few times, but no damage was done. :)

The penguins were so active and fun to watch.

This is my favorite shot of the day:

Monday, January 3, 2011

Game on

After our BrainLinking evaluation we stayed for an hour or so and were introduced to lots of new educational games. We ended up with a long wish list, and luckily Santa helped us out with that. So I'm sharing our discoveries.

Here's yesterday's daily photo, Rob and Robbie in a Gobblet tournament. This is one of our favorites. It's sort of tic-tac-toe on steroids—you have to get four in a row of your color, but you have to remember what smaller cups might be hiding underneath. Links below if you want to check it out.

And today's photo, playing Spot it! for family home evening. It promotes quick visual processing—there are a bunch of different object on each card, and you have to spot a matching object on your card to add it to the pile. It's fast-moving and harder than it sounds. Nice to find a game that the whole family can play.

Perplexus Robbie and Joey love this crazy maze within a ball.

Quarto Classic Wooden Board Game This is another cool strategy game. One twist is that you have to give the opposing player the piece they'll play.

Gobblet Covered this above. Fun.

Chocolate Fix Aside from the appealing name, this is an addictive logic game. It comes with puzzles at various levels, so there are some that Ainsley can figure out, and some that challenge an adult.

Word On The Street Fun game for two teams. You have to think (quickly, there's a timer) of a word that would use the most letters within various categories.

7 ATE 9 Good for basic math skills.

Super Circles Another one for visual quickness.

Spot It You can see what I was talking about above.

My Word! Making words out of letters—good for Boggle/Scrabble fans.

ThinkFun Rush Hour We actually didn't get this one, but it's on our wish list.

SET Game This one we already had. There are several ways to play this, all fun. Pat Rosenbury, the BrainLinking expert, said if she could pick one game to put in every household, this would be it.

I'd love to know your favorite games!