Saturday, February 28, 2009

Fresh Air...

...And New Growth.
The willow is bursting with new life.




Reading Anywhere

When you are in the middle of a good book, it goes with you everywhere! Levi has been known to play outside with a book under his arm. Grin.

I guess it's time for another Levitical saying... The other day I handed Levi something sharp and said something ridiculous like, 'Watch out, it has an owie.' He replied, 'I'll receive it with care.' Hmmm.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Reading and Watching

I revisited a childhood favorite last week and wanted to share. I am David is a story about a twelve year old boy who escapes from a labor camp in Eastern Europe. It was originally published in Denmark in 1963.

I'm not sure at what age I first read this book (the first English translation was titled North to Freedom, a much less fitting title), but it captivated me. Out of my regular sphere of reading, I am David was at once tragic and hopeful. The book follows David's escape, aided by an unlikely prison guard, and his journey to Denmark. Having spent his whole life in the labor camp, David struggles to adapt to his freedom and the new experiences and people he encounters.

David grows in his appreciation for beauty, trust in others, and his child-like faith in God. One feels privileged to share the journey with him. Highly recommended.


If you are looking for a deep family film (though there are intense scenes not necessarily appropriate for young children), I am David was adapted into movie form by Walden Media. Jim Caviezel plays a role in this rich film. I was disappointed that the movie didn't follow the book more closely, but it is still a worthwhile experience.


Speaking of interesting movies, has anyone viewed Bella? I had no idea what to expect, and I ended up sitting entranced for the whole movie (unusual for me). It is filmed very artistically, and has a haunting mood. When it was finished, I sat, a bit stunned, wondering what had just happened. Do you ever feel like that after watching a movie?

Bella isn't a straightforward story, in which you are spoon-fed the plot and moral. At times I was lost when the time-line jumped around, but I felt as if I was supposed to be feeling the story rather than following it.

This is not a family movie, but I would recommend Bella if you are in the mood for something out of the ordinary. I would love to hear opinions of the movie if you've watched it!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mr. Earnest

Luke is my love bug. When we are snuggling in his bed (or mine), he is my bed bug. He makes my heart sing. Luke would spend the entire day by my side, doing lessons and projects or just hanging out. If I tell him that he can go play or do chores, he chooses chores. He wants to help. He wants to touch. He wants a hug. He wants to hang on me while I'm working. He wants to sit on my lap while we do lessons.

If I can't see or hear him, chances are something is being destroyed. There is not much in between. This boy is Curious George. What would happen if I scrape this pencil on this peeling paint? What would happen if I use these scissors on this shirt? How does this mechanical device come apart? Can I jump from here to there without killing myself? How does this electric tool work? What happens when I pour a whole bottle of liquid soap in the bathtub? Look at the cool dents in the wall I made with this metal pole....
Luke is a whiz at puzzles. He loves math. He reads like a champ. He doesn't play independently. He puts his arms around me and tells me that he loves me. He begs for snuggles. He is my only quiet child. He doesn't say a lot, but his facial expressions are worth more than words can say.
Luke thinks the best days in the world are the days his Daddy is home when he wakes up. His favorite activities are 'dirty jobs' with Dad. He also loves candy. His Daddy loves candy, too. Hanging out with Daddy means getting to eat candy and do 'dirty jobs.' It doesn't get any better than that, folks.
Luke says, 'Be careful, be careful!' every time he sees a blinking yellow light when we are driving. He also tells me when the speed limit changes, or when curves are coming, or when there is a dead end. He wants to know how much gas we have in the car. He wants to know what each gauge means. He wants to know if we have enough gas to get back to Disneyland.

He wants to know what is on my list when we are at the grocery store. Heaven forbid we go without a list.
Luke is very athletic, has a good sense of balance and what his body is capable of. He started riding his two-wheeled bike on his fourth birthday. He loves to play outside and get dirty, but he comes in shivering and asks for a 'hot tub'. The boy loves a hot tub. He also loves roller coasters.

Loving this boy feels like a roller coaster some days....



...but what a ride.

Finding Lovely


With finding lovely on my mind, I loaded the boys in the truck a while ago and set off on a country drive. My camera sat poised and ready on the passenger seat. The day was gray and dull, as February often is, but I knew lovely was somewhere to be found.

We returned a while later, camera untouched. The drive was relaxing, and it felt good to get out, but nothing had inspired me. As I was parking the truck, my gaze landed on a large, very random rock which sits at the edge of the yard and driveway. I pass by it every day as I load the kids up for errands or activities, but never think much of it.

The moss growing on the rock was lush, vibrant, and growing in interesting, mottled shapes. A bright spot in an otherwise dull and gray day. I grabbed my camera and snapped away.


Sometimes we are so busy looking for lovely, that we fail to see it. Sometimes lovely is so small, we have to stop what we are doing to notice it. Sometimes lovely is disguised in the quotidian, and we must step outside of our normal point of view to recognize it.

Don't go looking for lovely today, just stop to see it.

Wishing you all sorts of LOVELY today.







Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Vocabulary and More

Sarah B asks: I would love to know how you and Levi "handle" new words. Do you make spelling and vocab lists of the new words you encounter? Does he learn them through context?

Heidi answers: I hit the jackpot with Levi when it comes to vocabulary. He is fascinated by words, assimilates them quickly, and uses them without hesitation. He does learn most words through context, but in the past I have made a list of interesting words we encounter in our reading. We looked them up in the dictionary and talked about them, but didn't do it formally. This is how I will probably handle vocabulary with Luke. I have yet to start a spelling program with either of them. (Isn't it fun to watch kids develop their strengths? If you asked me about math, I'd be telling a completely different story....)

Sarah B also asks: I was also wondering about your organizational skills so I'll just second many of the questions above and ask specifically, how do you organize the thoughts, ideas, impulses, that come throughout the day?

Heidi answers: I am an avid list maker. I love to write everything down. Unfortunately, I wouldn't call any of my writing 'organized.' I really like the idea of Simple Mom's Daily Docket, which gives room to jot notes each day. I think I will start keeping them in a 3-ring binder, so all that information is in one place.

I have kept spiral journals for notes and thoughts of all sorts since I was very young (ten-ish, maybe?), and still use one. I also regularly type notes into drafts for future blog posts.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mr. Emphatic

When you take pictures of your children, do you prefer a nice smile or realistic expressions? That may be a silly question for some of you, but really think about it. Do you appreciate the faces they make while you have your camera in use? I think I want a sweet smile when I am trying to take the photo and get my boys to cooperate (they don't and I get frustrated), but I tend to like their natural expressions when I look back over the images.

Leif is my little man at 2 1/2. He thinks he is 3. Or 13. Or 30. He wants to participate in everything. Actually, he would rather run the show. We are definitely out of the baby stage around here.

Leif loves undivided attention. He grabs my face, turns it toward him, and says, 'Look at me.' No mistaking that one.

Although he is decisive, opinionated, and determined, he is also an absolute pleasure. He is cheerful, exuberant, loving, and interested in everything. He says thank you consistently. When you ask him a question, he says the most adorable, 'yes.' When he is enjoying a meal, he gives a cheerful, 'Dis is 'li-cious!' This boy loves people, especially family.

Leif's verbal skills are increasing exponentially, and he never is at a loss for words. He wakes up talking. He goes to sleep talking. He talks every minute in between. And his voice reflects his exuberance. (Loud, if you catch my drift.)

He knows just how everything should be done. When we leave the house, he is the one who thinks of closing every door and turning off my computer. He'll tell you where to sit. Where to go. 'Do like dis.' No grass grows under his feet. If I say we are going to run errands, he is out the door. If I tell him I will get him some juice, it had better be now.

His body reminds me of a miniature football player. He weighs about 41 pounds, but is also tall. He is incredibly strong. I feel like I've been wrestling an alligator by the end of the day. Lucky for him, I suppose, since he has no trouble holding his own around his two big brothers. In fact, I'm often worried for them.
These photos were taken one painstaking picture at a time. He would sit 'still' for a split second and then jump up to look at the image on my camera. Then he would run around a big sculpture in the park a couple times until I managed to get him to sit down for another second. My 'take 500 photos and hope 3 turn out' routine went out the window. I was extremely appreciative of good lighting and a simple backdrop!

Some days I can't wait for him to get just a little older, but most of the time I am squeezing the life out of every minute with my little man.

We Have a Winner!


According to random.org, the lucky winner of the $30 Amazon gift card is Cindy!

Hi, Heidi! I have been reading your blog for about 6 months. A friend passed along your url. I consider it a great gift that she gave to me. With three little ones and 700 little ones at my school, I am always looking for resources, inspiration, and understanding. Thanks for providing all three. I know just what book to buy. Wish me luck!
Luck was with you, Cindy, and I'm happy to know that you have a book in mind! Email me at heidi (at) poetsgarden (dot) com to claim your prize.

Thank you EVERYONE for playing along and leaving such nice comments. I am feeling particularly lovely. I hope you feel the same when you come to visit!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Introducing...


I almost fell over dead the day my mom called and asked if I would help her get started blogging. She already had her blog title and theme. She has more free time on her hands now than she has had in years and a camera sitting idle. It was about time she started taking photographs of her beautiful garden and sharing it with the world!

If you are interested in checking out her lovely garden-themed blog, head on over and leave her a comment. I would love it if my friends would give her a warm welcome to the blogging world!

B&W



It is black & white week at i heart faces. The contest is open to everyone. Consider participating this week. (Entries can be submitted through Wednesday.)

Ideal Worth


To what does God assign the highest moral or ideal worth?


Jesus replied: " 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." ~Mathew 22:37-40


"For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." ~John 3:16

Make that to whom.



It isn't how other people see me,

but how I make them feel about themselves.

I think I have some work to do
in this area of my life.
How does my husband feel when he is with me? Unappreciated? Like he can't do anything right? Or Lovely?


How do I make my children feel? Naughty? Annoying? Burdensome? Frustrating? Or Lovely?


How do other people feel when I am around? Judged? Inadequate? Invisible? Or Lovely?


Ways to make someone feel Lovely: Make eye contact. Show a genuine smile. Give a sincere compliment. Ask questions. Listen. Send a handwritten letter. Remember details about their lives. Say, 'I love you.' Make time. Say, 'thank you' and 'good job.' Encourage. Believe. Share joys. Offer a shoulder to cry on.

Be there. Completely.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Ready, Set, Action(s)!

Russ took Levi to Super Science Saturday today, so I had the day to spend with Luke and Leif. When it is up to me to decide what to do... it is picture time. Grin. We headed to a tiny little park downtown within walking distance of a toy store. Bribery. Unfortunately, Leif isn't old enough for that sort of bribery.

The lighting was excellent, and I got some great pictures. I'll share others later, but I thought I'd use the following (straight out of camera/SOOC) photo as an example of the editing process I use.

The above photo is nice, and all, but... I wanted to focus in on Luke's face. It happens to be a classic Luke expression. So I did a little cropping and came up with this:

The lighting must have been just right, because my photos don't often look quite as nice SOOC. No photo is too perfect for a little editing, though. Every photo I post here on my blog is first processed in photoshop. I am technically challenged (and lazy and impatient), so I use actions exclusively at this time. (Hopefully that will change in the future as I get more comfortable with photoshop.) I downloaded Pioneer Woman's free actions and purchased Totally Rad Actions (both sets). These are the extent of my arsenal.

Some photos don't need a lot of help, or I want them to look natural. My favorite actions for these pictures are PW's Boost or TRA's Oh, Snap. Both of these get rid of any gray haze to the photo and brighten it up. (Don't ask me for an accurate description of what they do, I couldn't tell you.) I applied Oh, Snap to this one:

Luke's eyes slay me, especially when the lighting is right. The original photo isn't bad, but I used PW's Bring On the Eyes! here at 100% opacity to show you what it can do:

I rarely use the eye action at 100% (it tends to look a little wicked), so I toned it down for the next few pictures. I added TRA's Milk and Cookies B&W at 100% for the next example:

My favorite trick with actions is to adjust the opacity of each action to create a wider range of effects. I changed the Milk and Cookies opacity to 30% here:I don't remember the percentage on this one, but it is somewhere in between:

Did I mention how much I love Luke's eyes? I rarely change Levi's pictures into B&W or sepia, because I can't bear to mess with his vibrantly blue eyes, but Luke has really dark eyes which look great in sepias. I used Oh, Snap and Homestead on the following (without any eye actions!): Often I'll find that one action (or a couple together) is just the right look for a whole batch of photos (a day at the beach, for instance), and I'll process most of the photos using that action. Occasionally, though, I'll find that multiple actions (used separately) look great on an individual photo. That is when it is tough to decide!! I liked almost every action I tried on this picture of Luke:


I was even willing to get a little crazy: