Proud Mother Moments: D.J.

Stacey Pin 2

Last night was our Cub Scout troops’ Blue & Gold Banquet where

D.J. was awarded his Wolf, one gold arrow and four silvers.

He also received several segments for Basketball, Flag, Cooking and the Pinewood Derby.

Great Job, D.J., we’re so proud!


On another ‘proud mother moment’.

Parent-Teacher conferences were this week and I was scheduled to meet with Miss Is’ and D.J’s teachers back to back around 5:30 in the evening. Earlier that day, just afterschool, D.J. was adamant about taking dinner to his teacher.

“She has to be there until 8:00 tonight, Mom.”

“I’m sure she has something-“ To put it another way, I was 'busy’.

“She needs something to eat, she can’t leave the school.” He was very serious, very concerned and I knew he wouldn’t be easily placated.

“Okay, I’ll see what I can find in a bit.” I hadn’t even thought about what I was going to fix and was hoping a run to Sonic or McD’s would do.

“And some cookies too. She likes chocolate.” Not added as an afterthought – a requirement. “Mrs. M needs cookies too.” (His first grade teacher.)

“In that case, you make some cookies.” He would have to take responsibility for his demands.

With very little help, D.J. made chocolate no-bake cookies while I rounded up last night’s Happy Chicken leftovers and before the cookies were completely cool, I was off. Maddy’s conference didn’t happen, the parents ahead of me took their 20mns. and mine. D.J.’s was good and his teacher was astonished and touched by the gesture, even though there were sub sandwiches and chips in the teachers lounge. Mrs. M was grateful for the extra sugar, especially if D.J.’s hand was involved.

Fast-forward to yesterday. I received a call from Ms. S (his current teacher) who asked if she could come by in the afternoon which of course was fine. Three-fifteen, the door bell rings and there was Ms. S with our plate filled with fresh-baked, raspberry muffins. She handed them to a very bashful D.J. and thanked him profusely for having such compassion on his teacher. She went on to explain that no one, in her twenty-four years of teaching, has ever thought of her welfare as much as D.J. did. “You’re a credit to your parents, D.J. and I love how special you are.”

My bottle rocket started tearing up a bit and merely nodded in reply. She kissed the top of his head, thanked me for raising such a wonderful boy and returned back to school.

Oh, maybe we’re doing something right. Maybe I should remember that the next time I want to wring his little neck. Now that I think about it, I should have those muffins bronzed.

Lesson in What Not to Do: The Umbra-Penumbra Conundrum



I learned so much today; the light, the dark and that grey space in between.  No, I’m not talking about what’s left of my noodle, though it feels extra-squishy after cramming all that info in.


Examples of Umbra and Penumbra:


Sydney Closeup 2 BW


This is Syd from a previous Lessons in What Not to Do.  It looks okay, but now that I know a little more of what I’m looking at, not so much anymore.  Talk about raining on my feeble, one clown parade, but with the exception that this was not shot in a studio, I’ll cut myself some slack, albeit just a little.   


Take a look at the dark side, where her hair disappears into the black abyss.  There is no definition between the two; umbra.  Not a good thing unless you’re going for some dramatic/theatric effect.  Penumbra.  Do you see it?  It’s that grey area between where the light hits and the umbra.  Good penumbra, as I understand it, should still shows texture and balance bridging  the light and dark in a nice little gradient.  The light in this case is a tad blown-out adding to the penumbra/umbra woes.


Let’s look at color:


Sydney Scrunchy Nose 1


Umbra – Penumbra?  Presto – Change-o?  Abracadabra - Bananarama?  Nothing seems to work.  Besides other issues going on in this photo, do you see the grain in the penumbra?  Not a good thing, but at least I know what is causing that particular headache.  JPEG-F. 


Important lesson learned; Never, NevER, NEVER, Ever EVER use JPEG no matter what ‘quality’ it is.  Work in RAW to work less later.  I knew that going in and had shot in RAW when I first got my camera, the problem was I could not make my computer/PS3 to read it without wringing it out to a JPEG or buying Nikons tres-spendy reading/converting software so I went exclusively to JPEG-F.   (I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to all those I shot in this format.  My bad.)   Turns out, a few clicks here and there and NEF magically converts to RAW.  This is one of those Homer “Doh" moments; relish in my stupidity, relish.  To be fair, Nikon does a good job of pulling the wool over your eyes to spend those Ben Franklins.


As if that wasn’t enough to bake my noodle, lesson number three:  The Retouching Three Amigos.  Levels, Hues/Sats, and Color Balance before you touch anything else.  It’ll save numerous steps once you start fiddling with the ‘artistic’ value of the photo when you work off of a nice, clean base.  It puts the Zam in ShaZam!


I was lost on a Mac.  Completely lost.  It was like that fateful raft ride into the Land of the Lost and those white monsters were my Sleezaks, funky mice and all.  None of my hot keys worked, of course.  The dash to close a window didn’t work.  (Use the colored buttons, Stace.)  I had the kids help me and they were more than happy to show off their stuff.  Then I took a spin on the tablet.  Another moment in frustration, but I could get used to it.  I really could get used to it.


My assignment?  Reshoot Syd.  All of Syd.  Somehow I’ve got to be fun, give the appearance of confidence, complete math problems on the fly, look at the light, do more math, make her feel at ease while I’m snapping away, look for things out of place, yet more math – I hate math in my head – fix what needs to be tweaked (i.e. crumpled dress, spearmint gum stuck to the bottom of her shoe) and pay close attention to my 3’s and DOF .  Oh, what have I gotten myself into?  I’ll never look at a photograph and think  “piece of cake” ever again. 


Wish me luck or send a whole lot of chocolate – I just might need it.  Are you ready Smekskdlajg?



Highschool Hi!


I’ve always said that I’d love to go back to highschool, to take those missed opportunities and relive the better moments I fondly remember. Yesterday I had the chance. Unfortunately, I wasn’t seventeen, a hair over ninety-five pounds and my pom-poms and past friends were non-existent. I did, however, take a class with a bunch of students who were and thanks to the resurgence of 80’s fashion, it felt a little like how I remembered it. A little. The building itself is incredible, large and modern, looking more like a community college than a highschool.

Through the teacher, a professional photographer who happens to be in our ward, I was able to beg my way into visiting every so often. Everyday if I wanted, but mommy duties and church calling stuff has to come first. Work before play, right? I sat through three classes; beginning to the select few who made it to third year and came home with assignments from all three. Boy, do I have homework to catch up on, a full semesters worth!

I was amazed by the lab. A full photo studio and enough Mac’s to power a small techno army. Wacom tablets (Intuos3, a cool $300.00 a piece.) sat at every station. Professional Epson photo printers (2) able to print a 24” wide picture and a mess of other, smaller yet equally professional printers. Walls were lined with the students work, some of it jaw-dropping good. A cache of cameras and lenses, enough to give me a bad case of the give-me’s and the need of a bath towel to wipe off all that drool. Do these kids realize what they get to play with? Do they know how much this stuff costs? Do they know what kind of opportunity they have to learn? Do they know how lucky they are to have it?

Given a small introduction to the class and free rein, I wandered down the aisles, peering over the students shoulders while they worked. Most were cool with it though I think I made some nervous, which if the places were switched around, I’d be one of them. I also tagged along with teacher, watching her answer questions and solve photo-editing problems. The first years’ were working on their Animal assignment so I got to see an wide variety of four-legged and winged creatures undergoing the razzle-dazzle treatment of editing and the different artistic tastes of students.

I talked with the blond kid on the back wall, left hand side with the grey hoody. He asked how old I was. (He was a very brave boy.) I asked, “How old do you think I am?” hoping that those pesky, kinky, wire-like grey hairs were well hidden. He was smart and replied with a vague answer, “Not very.” I fessed up and revealed my true, horrifying age, the fact that I have an almost eighth-grade son and two more in elementary school made his eyes go wide. “That’s cool.” “Brandon” had taken a picture of a man riding his horse along the trail at Celebration Park; it was very nice. We had something in common, taking pictures at the park.

The class was for the most part self-sufficient. They arrived by the bell, teacher took a quick roll, and they went to work without another word, I was impressed. I’ll probably stop in Wednesday morning and bring a few of my own pictures to play with. Never used a tablet before; never used a Mac before. It should be fun. I did learn a few tricks with catch lights, window lighting and converting my .NEF’s to work in PS3 without the spendy Nikon software.

A funny thing happened as I was leaving. The common area, crowded with students milling about during lunch and giving me sideway glances as I weaved my way through their social circles, I happened to catch the eye of the principal who chased me down. This would have scared the ever-living tar out of me had it not been somebody I knew. I’m a good girl. I really am. Really!

Go Sparts….. I mean, Wildcats!




Hubby has a new hobby.  No, it’s not sewing – it’s welding.  Yeah, much more manly. 

But he did ask me last week where my sewing machine was and if I could set it up for him.  You can imagine my surprise.



He cannibalized a pair of his older, worn out jeans and used them to make a drawstring bag for his welding projects.


Grill 3


For the last two Saturdays, he and his man-friend, Willy, have been grinding out these campfire shelf-table things

made from bed frame angle iron, expanded metal, a large stake and a nut and bolt.  

It all started with a Dutch oven table. 

The bag is to keep everything organized and ease of travel when camping.

I can see my cobalt blue and white speckled camp water pot percolating to life on a cold Kalaloch morning.




Miss Is with her new Hannah Montana wheeled backpack I picked up on clearance at Wal-mart for $3.00.

  (She’s been wheeling it everywhere!) and Papa’s brand new bag, sort of.

The Evolution of Miss Is



The Original, straight out of the camera.  Oh-hum; dark and boring, but with potential.



Maddy copy 2 flip


Flipped and brightened.  I also “desaturated” the reds so her cheeks weren’t quite so rosy. 

For example, if this picture was a towel soaking wet with red; I just rung it out until damp.

 Maddy copy colorized


Then I colorized it with a nice Pink Chablis color because I thought it was cute.

 Maddy copy 2 copy


Toned it down a bit with a really faint texture.  (Above full view, below a closer look.)


Maddy copy 2 copy


A few more clicks of the mouse, a squiggle here and there.  Tah-dah!  A new banner.


Peek Madness copy

Growing in the Gospel





It was a very big day for Devin yesterday. 

He was set apart as the new Deacons Quorum President, along with the other members of his presidency. 

Devin had a little trouble with the Deacons’ handshake for mothers;

I got a quick, half-hug out of obligation which was probably to lessen whatever

humiliation he would suffer from getting all mushy in a room full of men. 

Too bad he was first, next time he’ll know better.


Congrats and Good Luck!

Changing My Mind

Okay, I know that blogs aren’t supposed to change too dramatically too often, but the last layout - however cool it was - just didn’t work as well as I had hoped. So I’m trying something else that borders the bland of basic instead of tastelessly trendy.

Geektechnonerdyese is still hard to decipher; I know a few html color codes now and what a secondary #navbarrttx is, just don’t ask me to explain in great detail other than it’s that colored blinkie-like box with the squiggles in it. More tweaks are on the way… my pea brain can only handle so much.

While I was changing the tags of every single one of my posts to date (193 of them) I got to briefly peer through the looking glass spanning the last year and a half. Some posts were really bad and others much, much worse. Some are better. Some will still end up in the trash. It became apparent that my Farmers are the most important, followed by my random, often delusional or misguided thoughts, whatever projects I happen to be working on around the house, family, friends, faith and pictures for the sake of exercising my right hand index finger that altogether should be filed under Lessons in What Not to Do. Oddly enough, the most popular post is The Truth About Cats & Bags followed by I *Used* to Be Cool. Great, confessions of a dyslexic moron and totally rad eighties style. Go figure.

As always, comments, thoughts, opinions, two-inch soapbox moments are welcome.


P.S. According to blogging etiquette, I’m supposed to answer every comment, (thanks Chick!) so I will endeavor to do so.

For the Birds


David and the Farmers took on a Saturday project of making birdfeeders while Mom was at a Stake Relief Society conference and Devin worked on his merit badges at a Scout Pow-Wow. D.J. and Maddy made their own designs that Dad burned into the cedar planks. D.J. drew a picture of a bird on the fence with our cat, Spike peering over the top quite anxious to catch one.


We’ve been going through another bout of colds this last week – at least that’s my excuse for the ragged, messy, pajama-wearing look the kids are sporting and my lack of posts.


(Female House Finch)

The houses were mounted on a broken mail post we’ve been storing in the garage for nearly three years now. Hopefully, I’ll be able to grow clematis over it this summer to spruce it up a bit. D.J. and Maddy were watchful, begging every bird that flew by to stop and eat from their feeders. Finally it happened.

male house finch

(Male House Finch)

They’ve been keeping track of the different birds and taking pictures of all the new ones to look them up online and get a positive species match. We’re sneaky when it comes to educational stuff. D.J. said, “Grandma will be so excited that we’re watching birds too!” since he knows Grandma M likes to find them when she goes for her morning walks in the park. Sadly, Robins and House Finches have been the only diners thus far…

DSC_0057Oh, and Spike too!

Positive Person


This morning I had the honor of attending a Positive People Award assembly where D.J. had earned a certificate for his efforts in the classroom. His teacher wrote,

D.J. is a great person to be around. He was just absent for a few days and we really missed him. He has a positive, happy disposition and a heart-warming smile. D.J. loves a good book and makes productive use of his time reading when his work is complete. He is kin and friendly, and is always willing to work in a group with anyone in class. One of D.J.'s accomplishments this year is learning how effort is connected to achievement. He's making great choices in regards to his future. It's wonderful having D.J. in class.

Sounds like my Farmer, doesn’t it? Congratulations, D.J.!

Silky Smooth That I Can Do

Sleek & Shine

“My name is Stacey and I have naturally frizzy – curly, I mean curly hair. I’ve been using since I was a little girl in pigtails. I can’t go straight. Really straight. I’ve tried. I need help.”

Last Tuesday, just before I started taking Sydney’s pictures, her mother told her to “go run upstairs and get the hair oil”.

“Hair oil?” Something that I had never heard of in a positive light, let alone that you can just run upstairs and get in a jiffy and not over a three day stint of no shampooing. “What’s hair oil?”

“You haven’t heard of hair oil?” By this time Syd had returned with a rounded, green pump bottle and Stacey (her mom) squirted a small amount into her palms, rubbed them together and then proceeded to run them through Sydney’s fly-away hair. “It works great! Feel my hair.”

So I touched another woman’s hair and it was wonderful. Smooth, soft, and pin straight. I had to get some. I needed that product.

After a Wal-mart run the next day, I too had lovely hair. It smells great, like a citrus orchard on a warm summer morning and it wasn’t too terribly greasy either. A little goes a long, long way and with help from my straightening iron, Ms. Frizz can channel that Jennifer Aniston Sedu look or more likely, give a great impression of Afghan Hound without the Hollywood big bucks ($4.97) or an A.K.C. registered pedigree.

It’s miraculous stuff that hair oil and I highly recommend it.

Something Different

Have you noticed it yet?

I'm trying out a new and improved Chaos template/layout today, tomorrow and possibly for quite some time in the foreseeable future. Change is good, right? So bear with me as I struggle to mend broken links, repair lost widgets and search out all those blogs that have been lost in the shuffle.

Let me know what you think - for better or worse - and I'll try to delve further in the lost language of CSS and XHTML to make it easier to browse. Right now I'm just trying to get LiveWriter to see it!

Hang in there! (A little self-encouragement)



Cars Waiting to race.

Friday night was our Ward/Cub Scout Pinewood Derby; the kids were ready to race and so was Dad.

DJ Start Race 1

There’s D.J.’s car on the left, the blue and green Charger-like model.

DJ Race Finish 2

This time, he’s on the right, beating the competition.

DJ Race Finish 4

Looks like another one bites the dust.

DJ Race Finish 5

Devin Watching

Sometimes the races were too close to call.

Good thing the track had an electronic finish line to catch those split-second winners.

Devin had to wait until the very, very end to race his car. It wasn’t allowed in the open category due to the fact that it had a little motor inside. Ah, who needs rules anyway? When Devin did have a chance to show off his car, it did well until the engine petered out.

Maddy Race Finished The Little Old Lady From Pasadena? Miss Is smoked them in her pink princess car. Apparently, she’s in a hurry to look for her prince.

DJ Award D.J. took second place overall in his den division. Much better than last years results of dead last.

DJ Award CloseupLater that evening, he ran – in the dark – in the church house and smacked right into an outer corner. Bruising, blood and lots of tears from the center of his forehead, down his nose and a big fat lip. Hopefully he learned his lesson, though I highly doubt it.