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Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Lightroom Class coming soon - Registration now OPEN!

***Registration is OPEN, and class starts October 26, 2015***
Click HERE to for all the details and link to register
Class size will be limited and is available first come first serve!

Combining photography with a busy family with 7+1 children can often leave me short on time.  (Can I get an amen?) But photography is precious to me so I had to find a way to make it work.   That's where Lightroom comes in! Lighroom is an editing program that allows me time to import and organize my pics, then edit them efficiently! And I'm thrilled to share what I know and how I make editing happen! Are you already using Photoshop? Did you know that Lightroom and Photoshop work together? I use both programs, but honestly Lightroom does the "heavy lifting" for 95% of my editing because it's faster and honestly it's a better the right way to do clean edits. 

Lightroom 101: An Editing class for Beginners, will demonstrate how I edit and teach you how to edit your photos efficiently via Lightroom. I'll keep it simple, use easy-to-understand language, and give you step-by-step instructions and video demonstrations too. No secrets. If I know it, I'm willing to share it!

I had Danielle in class, and here's what she wrote me:

     Before this class I tried to self-teach myself Lightroom by Youtube videos and it only confused me more. Your streamlined process and workflow really helped untangle the mess I made for myself. Your videos and pdf’s were really clear and didn’t over-saturate my brain with information. But most of all, I really appreciate how flexible and accommodating you were AND continue to be even though class has ended. It’s just gives me a sense of security to know that I can still lean on you in case of trouble. That feeling is just priceless and worth every cent.  ~Danielle

More specifically, here's some of what Lightroom 101 includes:
14 lessons to print and keep forever and over 20 video tutorials!
---Examples of how I download and organize my own photos
---Step-by-step instructions for completing a quick, clean edit
---Selectively editing areas of your image, including brightening eyes, 
smoothing skin, whitening 
    teeth, removing blemishes...
---Converting photos to black & white
---Correcting white balance
---Noise reduction
---An introduction to the magic of Lightroom presets and how to install, use and 

    create your own
---Saving your newly-edited photographs
---The ease of taking your photo(s) from Lightroom to Photoshop and back

---Creating and using watermarks

You do not have to purchase Lightroom to participate.  Adobe offers a free 30-day trial of Lightroom that you can download to coincide with the class.  (Click here to go to Adobe's free trial offer.)  You can try Lightroom out during the class and decide for yourself if it's worth purchasing.

This course is 7 weeks long, offering 2-3 lessons per week.  We all learn in different ways, so there will be both written lessons and over 20 video tutorials!  And I am not going to leave you hangin' because this class is totally interactive!  We're in this together via a private forum just for our class where you can share your photos online {or not}, ask questions, and get feedback.  You will be able to see what the other students in the class are doing and asking too. There are no set times that you need to be "in class" because you choose when to check in online, view course material, and there's no pressure because you work at your own pace. Feel free to come to class in your jammies! You better believe that I will!  I will be available the whole time for questions and to offer clarifications and information.  After 5 weeks of lessons, you will have an additional 2 weeks to let it all sink in, practice and ask more questions.  

What you'll need:  
---Lightroom downloaded and installed on your computer, (Please check Adobe for 
    system requirements.
---Images taken with your DSLR and downloaded on to your computer to practice on
---A Facebook account
---Access to high-speed internet to view video tutorials

Registration cost is $149. 
Class size will be limited. 

Sound like something you'd like to participate in?  

***Registration is OPEN, and class starts October 26, 2015***
Click HERE to for all the details and link to register
Class size will be limited and is available first come first serve!

If you'd like to see some examples of student editing after they took the class and see what they had to say, it's also on the link above.  

And of course if you have any questions, just give me a holler!

PS-Did I mention I'm {uber} excited to have you in class?! Many of my students continue to keep contact with me, and we share regularly. Together with many of my past students we create a photography community to ask questions, keep learning and share our photos... long after the class is over. If you want to be a part of that, I would absolutely love to have you there! Really! 

Friday, August 21, 2015


Forgive my absence.
As expected, (but maybe not because can anyone really prepare for this type of thing?) we got a placement of our sweet thing quickly. Our licence was approved in the morning and my phone started to ring that afternoon.
So she's here. And she amazing. And again like Mimi, we thought she would be a he because the need it so great to find homes for little boys. But God has other plans and she is here with us and settling in.
And I can't and won't say much more than that about the situation.

As for me, my emotions are reeling. And none like I expected.
The need for a support system is HUGE in this process, probably even more so than international adoption. The house is a mess. I've forgotten appointments. Dinner and taking a shower seem like distant memories. I'm missing my camera. I reached out and a dear (online) mom friend, and she said, pretend you just had a baby. What would your expectations for your life and yourself be? What would you expect of yourself if you just had a baby 4 days ago? It made it make all sorts of sense in my mind and more importantly my heart. Okay, I need to give myself more time and grace. I'm doing that.

The transition has gone as well as expected. Don't get me wrong. It hasn't gone great, just as well as could be expected. Frankly we didn't expect it to go great. You know, pray for the best and prepare for the worst. Something like that. And we're all learning not just about each other but also about the amazing grace of the Lord in the process.

The kiddos are processing too. The reality of how this affects the day-to-day life has hit them. All are doing okay. Liv has stepped up to the plate like she was born to do this. Actually I think she was! Mimi is having a tougher time. I'm giving her extra snuggles and mom time. Some are adjusting better than others and honestly it's the unknown that hard to adjust to for all.

Livy's holding down the fort this evening and Papa's taking me out of a surprise date this evening that starts with a pedicure at a spa! Just thinking about it literally makes me want to cry.
I need it.
We need it.

More later...

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Jude turns 8!

Now is the time that we find ourselves in the middle of birthday season! Oh how I wish that birthday season wasn't smack dab in the middle of back-to-school season. But it is, and so we do both simultaneously all the while thinking that Christmas is right around the corner and the mama be careful not to skip it forget it entirely. Which is likely to happen someday.

First up, Jude, who turns 8 years old this year.
Jude, our anal-retentive, liner rule follower has found his rebellious side this year. Not that he uses it often, but every once in a while this once always-obedient child now knows how to sneak off when asked to do something or show his disapproval when he has to do something he doesn't want to do. 

He's become a little fish in the last year, swims up a storm and thus has an awesome tan. He's grown in confidence (see aforementioned rebellious side) and has more friends and school and is more likely to raise his hand in class. Don't get me wrong. If we meet on the street and he doesn't know you, he's still the one that I'll likely have to coax to even say hello when I introduce you and even then he's probably not gonna make any eye contact. 

Jude finally tipped the scales at 40 lbs. this year! Yes, he's still a little guy. Probably always will be. 

Jude has really shown that he's quite a little athlete in the last year. He's a quick learner and more importantly he really loves to learn new athletic and sports skills. He listens to his coaches and takes into account what they are teaching him and he practices practices practices all he can. And he loves it! He's taken to baseball and golf this year. 

He takes school quite seriously. He's in 2nd grade this year. On the morning of a spelling test, he'll ask me if we can study just one more time before we head out the door for school. In second grade he's yet to have any letter grades, and I'm kinda dreading the day he does. 

I love this child so so much. He's a rock on most days and easy to parent. I'm a lucky mama indeed! 

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

International Home study/Dossier vs US Foster Home study/Licensing

I just got an email saying our foster licence was submitted!
You know those moments in life that take you back to reality?
That just happened.
This is for realsies now.

6 home studies later... Yep, you read that correctly. We've now completed 6 of them! 4 for international adoption (IA) and 2 to get certified for foster care. Well the first foster licence didn't get finished in the 11th hour because we ended up going to China for Mimi, but almost. And because that makes me some sort of expert or something (not!) about completing home studies and the pile of paperwork that goes with it, I thought I'd give you a little run down on the similarities and differences in the 2 processes. Disclaimer... I know nothing but our own experiences. Please seek professional guidance, from both a social worker. And a mental health care provider because there is likely to be tears before it's over on either path.

I'll start with the educational requirements and how it was different between the two programs.  In IA, let me be honest, there were some classes that we had to take. We chose to complete them online and fee was about $400. Keeping it real, we didn't learn much that we didn't know already. I know some folks have better experiences than we did for these classes, but it was more of a get this done and tick the box off kind of thing for us because the mountain of things to do was huge. But for foster licensing, there is this big ol' class called the MAPP class, that we had to take. 3 hours per week for both of us for 10 weeks. It was free, and not a single class could be missed. And there was lots of homework too and in-class participation! Honestly I learned far more in that MAPP class about myself, my heart for parenting children from hard places and what that means in reality, than in all the classes we took for IA. I'm pretty sure the MAPP class is require most states in the US for foster certification. And personally, I think some version, just as long and intense, should be required for all IA parents too. Foster parents are taught from the get go that these kiddos are broken from their loss, that we may or may not be able to fix the brokenness and yet it's still our responsibility to do all they can to try. Foster education revolves around what is best for the child, not  parents. Where as the international program comes from a place that these are regular ol' children, the same as any other, an ya, it's gonna be hard, but with work these obstacles are overcome-able. I observed a different mind set from the get go on these two programs.

Well, the cost difference is humongous! The licencing process for foster care was not completely free. But it wasn't much and hardly worth mentioning especially when comparing it to the $30K+ cost for international adoption. For our foster licensing we had to pay to get all the adults in our home CPR re-certified. We needed to reconfigure some bedrooms, (foster care is pretty picky about who sleeps where and gender mixing) and that meant buying another bed, but that was something we would've done eventually. And there was a lot of safely stuff we needed to buy for our home, a new fire extinguisher, those annoying little outlet covers, a ring buoy for our pool, our play/swing set in the backyard needed to be resurfaced... Some of this safety stuff was stuff we needed to do anyway. Some wasn't.

Most of the work and documents for international adoption was done at the national level. Even documents that were produced locally at the state level, had to be notarized and authenticated all the way up to the national foreign consulate, and each step charges a fee of course. Compared to the foster care docs, none of which got notarized, or even signed by us. Or at least I never saw anything like that happen.

Strangely, the fingerprinting and security checks for our family were very different in the two processes. You'd think that this part would be the same, but no. In IA, I think all security and background checks were done at a national level except for a  brief clearance letter from our local police station that said we didn't have any big stuff in our recent past. For IA you also have to get finger printed... a lot! Papa and I joked that the folks probably know us personally down at the national fingerprinting place. For foster licensing, they did do a more extensive background check at the state level, or at least examined it more closely than during the IA process. Papa had to explain a couple of traffic violations that were never brought up in the IA process. And remembering the details of a traffic violation from 2006 wasn't easy!

I'll also mention the "urgency level" of the two processes. In IA, you know that in the end you are going to add to your family. And about mid-way through the process, you see the photo of a child that is going to be yours forever, expect that your new son or daughter is far away and can't come home yet. And you think of this child, from the moment you see him as your own, even though the process is far from complete. He is  in your heart from the first moment you see a picture of him and maybe even before. This deep and almost instantaneous love that occurs creates a sense of urgency on the parents part, and they do anything they can to get that child home as fast as they can. It creates a sense of urgency. But when your foster parents on the other hand you have no idea how any of this is going to play out and that changes you're whole viewpoint on how fast you proceed and how important every little step is. You're pretty sure you're heart is gonna be broken at least a few times, and you hope you can stand it when it does happen. You have no idea if you're going to parent this child a few days, a few months, a few years or forever. And you only have the Lord to trust with how it will all play out and when it's time to say goodbye. And that keeps your heart guarded. I hope I can let my guard down when he gets here. Even if I know I'm gonna get my heart broken, she deserves that. Every child deserves to be loved that way even if it's temporary.

Maybe it's because of these different mind sets, that the preparation for the two programs is different. IA is very self-driven. Where as foster licensing and the possible adoption later is kinda like a just sit back and just do the what you're told process. In IA, we were given a BIG list of requirements and a directions, and of course a person at the end of a phone call if need be. But in the end it was us doing the leg work and keeping ourselves going. For our foster licensing, our case worker is doing most of the work. Bless her heart, she is the one that has initiated and largely carried out the majority of the work to not only complete the home study but also gather and submit all the documents to get licensed after then home study is done. She gets all the other documentation gathered up, let's me know if there's something I missed, and gets it all turned in to the state on our behalf.

But I'll finish this wit the biggest difference that's on my mind right now. Timing! The waiting in international adoption is grueling, tear jerking and can be heart breaking especially if you are waiting for a special needs child! It was months after all the docs left our hand till we saw a photo of a child that would be ours, months to get all the docs to the right place and then stamped by the right people. And months more after that till we had our child home. On the other hand, once the foster care paperwork is turned in to the official place, like ours was this morning, licensing usually happens from 24 hours to a week later. And because there is such a shortage of foster families in our state, placement of a child also happens quite quickly. Sometimes in days. A foster friend warned me that she got a call later that afternoon so not to be surprised.

I feel like I'm at the top of the roller coaster looking down.
It's gonna be a wild ride!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Who was the most excited to see the first day of school arrive?

I keep giggling at this picture every time I see it.
This was their I'm serious about school look. Tess cracks me up. Almost enough to make me not notice that The Man Child is wearing flip flops, (One must carefully pick which battles to fight) and has car keys in his hand. 'Cause he will be driving both himself and Boo to school this year!
Oh my. 
Oh my my my.

And this sweet girl started "kinneygarten" this morning. Oh please, for the love of all moms who don't want their children to grow up, please nobody correct her pronunciation of the word kinneygarten! I want her to say it that way forever! Mimi was equal parts excited for her first day of school, ('cause she's only been waiting fffooooorrreeevvvvvvvverrr to go to school with Tess and Jude) and nervous. Wasn't it just yesterday that she was just in our arms looking out the window for anything familiar? (and the pics linked show that it's evident that The Man Child has done a fair share of growing too!) Those 3 years flew by I tell ya! 
And I love that I caught a picture of Tess looking totally bored and in reality was completely exasperated that I was taking pictures of them before school. Jude kinda was too, but at least he pretended to be excited.
 And then they walked from the parking lot to school...
 ...through the playground waving at the friends they hadn't seen all summer...
 ...into their new classrooms...
... and I said goodbye! My 16th year doing this, this year for grades 11th, 7th, 2nd, 2nd and kindergarten, and I'm pretty sure that I was more excited for school to start then they were!

In the end, Mimi didn't shed a single tear... but I did, later on in the parking lot as I drove away. 

16 years and I'm still crying in the parking lot. 
I hope that never changes. 

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Photo Gallery (Tess in Daisies)

If you're following me on Instagram, you've already seen this one, and I'm sorry for the repeat. Did I ever tell you that my plan is to print all the "Photo gallery" pics in our very own coffee table book? Well that's the plan at least. I think it would be so neat to have our very own coffee table book, and this one should be in it!

A quieter version of Tess. It doesn't happen all that often.

Our summer at Little Cabin in the Woods has come to an end. School starts next week, and we had to go.
I'm sad.
Back to doctor appointments, carpool lanes, the telephone ringing, helicopters in the sky, chrome laden SUVs, unwanted solicitations and reality.

But I'm fondly remembering a quiet spread of daisies with a the most amazing child in the middle.
And of all the daisies, this is the one she picked, because as my very smart sister-in-law said, it's perfectly imperfect just like all of us.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Family Faves (Breakfast Popsicles)

I tell my photography students that backgrounds are important. Like really important. And photographers really need to get into the habit of looking back there before you click the shutter.

Case in point...a bottle of wine in the background of the homemade popsicles. Someone call CPS now or the foster care system for the indication that I'm making the children popsicles with wine in them! We had a good giggle when we looked at it after the fact. Oh well. I promise the wine was neither for breakfast, for the popsicles, or for the children.
But let me tell you about their awesome goodness! Do you remember the popsicles from last summer? They were so delicious, but time consuming. And by "time consuming" I mean took more than 60 seconds to make cause really that's all the time I have to devote to popsicle making. As part of Operation Fatten-Up-the-Children Summer 2015, I just started to throw whatever into the blender. And whatever quickly turned into a go-to recipe pretty fast.

  • ---1 can of coconut milk (Not coconut juice. Not coconut syrup. Not coconut cream. All of which come in a can that looks just like the one that coconut milk comes in and is probably on the shelf right next to purposefully confuse you. Been there. Done that. About $1 per can at the Asian market. About $3 a can at the local grocery store. We stock up on this stuff and use it a lot. Especially in curries which is a dinner staple at our house.) 

  • ---1 banana (You know that banana that's just a tiny bit too ripe, and yet it's still perfectly edible. Not that you'll ever be able to convince your kids of that. Because now nobody will touch it since it has fewer then 5 minuscule brown spots on it! And even though there's nothing wrong with it, it'll sit there in the fruit bowl until it's turned completely brown... then black.  And it's just 1 of them so there's not even enough to make banana bread muffins either! you know that banana? Ya, that one.) 

  • ---1 or 2 containers of yogurt

  • ---Whatever other fruit have on hand (strawberries, blueberries, mango, papaya, raspberries, a scoop or 2 of frozen oj concentrate, cherries, heck be brake and try avocado! Once you blend it all together they won't have a clue it was in there. You can put all sort of stuff in there and as long as they don't see you make them. Beets make the popsicles really pretty red. Carrots. Zucchini. Spinach. Kale. 1 Tb of wheat germ. A scoop of protein powder... you get the gist! and yes, I'm pretty sure frozen oj concentrate is a fruit because it's my blog and I can make it a fruit if I want to. Wine however is NOT a fruit.)

Blend it all up really really well. If you're lucky enough to have a VitaMix blender that has a motor the size of a small boat, then you're a lucky gal. Pour them into the mold, put in the sticks (I've forgotten that part a couple times!) and freeze. I bought this mold last summer, and it's holding up pretty well. And of course the mega box of popsicle sticks 'cause one can never have enough hand-crafted popsicle stick houses. I make all 10 of them, them take them out of the mold (run under hot water a bit to get them out), and store them in a gallon Ziplock bag in the freezer.

And aside from the fact that they're so fast and easy to make, the other great part is that littles love them! For breakfast. For lunch. For snack time. ANYTIME. They've been eating 2-3 a day, and I don't feel a bit guilty for it cause I know what's in them! 

If anyone makes them, please let me know. I'd love to know how they turned out! 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

You know that thing that happens when your mom visits?

When she paints your youngest daughter's finger nails on the porch. 
And she does the dinner dishes while you get the kids ready for bed. 
And she makes you breakfast. 
And she brings pie and brownies when she comes. 
And she doesn't like her picture taken so you have to sneak them when she's not looking.
And she and you spend hours catching up about anything and everything. 
And she stays with the kids so you can go to the grocery store... alone. 
And she plays Spot It, Ticket to Ride and Trash again and again and again with the kids. 
And she gets up earlier than you so you can sleep in. 
And you try to help her learn how to use her new cell phone but realize you don't know how to do it anymore than she does. 
And the two of you go lookie loo-ing in antique shops together. 
And she uses words like lookie loo. 
And you try to think of a way to make her stay forever. 
And she always has great parenting advice but only when you ask. 
And she always takes your side and has your back. 
And you find that as you grow older, you're really not that different from her anymore. 
And she loves you unconditionally... always. 
Ya that.

Monday, July 27, 2015

Mimi on golf

****Registration is now open for 2 of my photography classes, an intermediate class and a beginning editing class. Click HERE for more information.****

This is Mimi's first year playing golf. Honestly I wasn't going to have her participate because she's only 5 years old after all. But then when her brothers and sister were having lessons, someone asked her why she wasn't playing, and she replied with the saddest look and big ol' puppy dog eyes, My mom won't let me. And because this child is generally spoiled and we really hardly ever tell her no (cause really she's just the sweetest thing with the most irresistible giggle that we just cant' hardly ever tell her no. Seriously. I've tried. It's impossible!) I caved in and let her try it the next 2 weeks.
We decided to let her participate in the children's tournament 'cause like I mentioned, she has those puppy dog eyes. That's her foursome below for the tournament. Surprisingly, the girls below are within 1 year of her age. Looks like we have another petite little one. 
And just in case you are on pins and needles about how she did in aforementioned tournament, She scored a 28.  One 1 hole.
I was taking pics and no nothing about golf. But thankfully a lot of her Papa's side of the family does! And she got some great tips from her Granna! 
Let's just say that golf, when you first start playing it, isn't graceful. Nothing about it looks or feels natural. Especially when your 5. There's a whole lot of muscles that have to work together to get a little ball in a little hole that's a long ways away. And truth be told I'm not sure if she enjoyed it nearly as much as she loved doing something Tess and Jude were doing. Sheesh, Mimi would love going to bed early and eating Lima beans if Tess and Jude did it first! There was a whole lot of whiffs going on.
But she sure did look cute doing it and had a smile on her face most all the time even when she didn't make contact, which happened a lot. 

And that's a skill in it's own right! 

Saturday, July 25, 2015

A blog to follow!

This is Sennie. One of my former photography students turned dear (cyber) friend. And I WILL meet her in person some day! At which time she'll probably figure out quite quickly that I really am crazy.
As she explained in her blog, she's looking at a pic of the newest member of her family with her 9-year-old daughter, who's wanted a little sister for a long while. They both look a little misty eyed just looking at her. Such a sweet moment.

Sennie is in China right now about to get their newest daughter. Not to mention that she already has quadruplets (yep, FOUR of them all at one time!) and a 9 year old. And an Airstream that I'm totally jealous of! Sennie has the most beautiful talent for documentary lifestyle photography. It's a feast for the eyes I tell ya!

Her blog is Our Mothership Adventures, and it's full of their plain ol' life split between Maine, Florida and on the road with their 5 very soon to be 6 children that she home schools.

Go follow her adventures and soak in the eye candy while you're at it!

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