Connor: Oh, hey there grown up Connor!!! On Thursday morning, Connor asked me if we could stay home all day, so we did. And it felt nice.  Connor got to stay in his "comfy" clothes all day long. We played inside. We played outside in the sun. We cleaned. We read. It was a very nice day.  

 Isla: She is smiling at her horse that is "eating an ice cream cone". The horse and carriage are from Cinderella, which is her current favorite movie. 

"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015."

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My Little Ballerina

On Thursday evening, while I was headed out of town with Ian, my friend texted me about a ballet class she thought Isla and her girls would enjoy. And just like that, we were signed up, shopping for ballet shoes and Isla went to her first ballet lesson on Monday. It was seriously like an amazing dream come true for her. I couldn't believe how incredibly excited she was. 

Last summer I started looking into ballet classes for Isla. I knew she would like it because she is obsessed with a ballet book she has and talks about going to ballet class. What I wasn't prepared for was the price of these classes and how strict they were…if you miss a class, you MUST go to a make up class, etc. I really was just looking for a hippie style class that she could have fun at. Not something all strict that sucks her love of ballet away from her. 

This is just a little six week intro to ballet course, so there is no recital at the end. There is no pressure. And it is way cheaper than normal ballet. Depending how much she likes it by the end, I may sign her up for normal ballet classes in the fall. 

Isla certainly enjoyed her first class. She constantly asked her teacher to retie her shoes, she would sit on the floor for half her moves (?!) and she really, really enjoyed looking at herself in the mirror. She was so happy and had so much fun. Here are some pictures I took from her first class. I had to take these pictures through mini blinds, which was quite the challenge. 

^^ That's Isla, in the middle, jumping up in the air…when no one around her is. She cracks me up. 

I never thought I could get so much enjoyment out of watching my kids do things they are excited about. And Isla was so excited that she fell asleep that night holding the box for her ballet shoes. 

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A New Adventure

At the end of last week, Ian and I took a quick trip to Carson City, NV to do a training on his new coffee roaster. That big thing Ian is standing next to will be in my kitchen! This is the beginning of a dream that has been the topic of conversation for months in our home. Ian is going to be starting his own little coffee roasting company…Bean Counter Coffee Roasters.

I was excited to go with Ian just to get some time away with him…even if most of it was spent driving. I am glad we went because we actually got to be there when they tested our machine for the first time…and the second and third time too. Then they turned it over to Ian and let him roast two batches. They walked us through cleaning and maintenance and all the what ifs.

^^ Did you know they smell the coffee a bunch of times while it is roasting? And at one point it totally smelled like bread. 

It's fun watching Ian get so excited about this. Watching his friends text him for coffee. Knowing people stand behind him and his dream. My only request was that he not officially launch his coffee roaster until after busy season…because, well, that is keeping him busy enough right now! In the mean time, he will be able to test out the different coffees he wants and pick a couple to use. There is also selecting the packaging, designing the logo, the website, etc…

The roaster should be arriving at our house today or tomorrow and be installed (we need an exhaust put though our roof) later this week. It's starting to feel real. 

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Tulip Picking

It's weird to be in that stage where when you tell your kids you are going to go do something they remember doing it the YEAR before. To be precise, when I told the kids we were going to go pick tulips, Connor remembered playing in the mud last year. With there not having been rain in the past few weeks, I figured it would be totally dry when we got there. But, Connor instantly spotted a rather large mud puddle at the end of the parking lot…more of that later though.

We had the place to ourselves. Isla ran around the flower rows. Connor kept asking when he could play in the mud. I gave him a flower and he danced around for a while. Isla pointed to the flowers she wanted and I picked them. Finally after we were done and the flowers were loaded in the car (along with the camera…which I am sort of kicking myself about now) I let the kids go play in the mud.

They had lots of fun. They walked, they kicked the dirty mud water in the air, they ran. I told them five more minutes. Then three. Then Connor fell. But he recovered well and continued playing. I gave the one minute warning. Then Isla fell. Like bad. She was completely covered in mud. And she was crying because she wasn't happy about the mud. So, back to the car we went. I stripped her down and strapped her in her seat, then stripped Connor down. Connor wanted to know if the police would be mad that they were in the car without clothes on.

We got home and all was made better with baths. My flowers found their way to vases. One on the mantle, one on a table and one in Isla's room. I excitedly showed Isla the one in her room and she asked where the rest of HER flowers were. So I showed her. And she demanded that they all be placed in her room. Silly girl. They are still dispersed throughout the house. They are just too pretty to all be hiding in one room.

You can revisit our trip from last year here. One of the workers remembered us from last year. Made me laugh. I've always wanted to be a regular somewhere, well I guess I am a regular out on the farm! 

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Connor: He thinks it is funny to close his eyes in pictures. And, he was introduced to the photocopier this week. I have such fond memories of playing with them at my dad's office growing up, so I was rather excited about this.  

Isla: This girl thrives being outside. She will play with dirt and water all day long. And she can never pass a flower without picking it…I'm not so sure how much her preschool appreciates this!  

"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015."

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On Shooting in Manual

I seem to have friends asking me for tips on using their cameras and I usually look at them dumbfounded. Probably because  it took me almost 10 years to FINALLY shoot in manual. Or maybe because I realize it is a learning process that a manual or class can't fully teach you…only using your camera can do that one. But now that I have full control of my camera, I love the results {most of the time}.

Ian was actually the reason we bought our first dslr. And he was the reason we bought our second one too. A little over a year after we bought our second dslr, we had Connor. I preferred my ole point and shoot camera to the dlsr. It was smaller and in general I ended up with much better pictures using the point and shoot than the dslr. Of course, that's because I didn't know how to use it!!! Well, my point and shoot eventually died, so I started using the dslr. I really didn't like it. It was big and it was hard to use.

SLOWLY, I started learning things. My first life changer was taking it out of auto and shooting in program mode. Then I learned about focal points. This actually was probably the biggest game changer for me in terms of picture quality. Next I learned about white balance. And, well, that really helped out the bath pictures I took of the kids. All along I would toy with manual mode, then get overwhelmed and switch it back to program. More and more I would play. Sometimes I would completely ruin pictures and it would totally and completely bum me out. This was mostly due to me not checking my settings and just taking pictures, then later realizing the settings were all wrong and I ruined all my pictures. Now days I am programed to look at the first couple pictures I take to make sure they are ok. In fact, I do that far more often than when I first pull my camera out…especially at times like when I took these pictures, when we were chasing the sun.

Honestly, years ago I couldn't have imagined taking pictures in low light without a flash would even work. Sure, part of it was the camera, our first dslr was like one of the originals…no joke. But also a lot of it was just not having the knowledge. I enjoy taking pictures now. I love my camera. It's like my third child. I don't mind carting it around. I love picking it up and playing with it and seeing how it will respond. Every day we get to know each other better and better and I love that.

Also, I would like to say, if you get overwhelmed with tutorials, know you are not alone. I did so much better reading about photography from other bloggers than I did about watching videos or reading tips from pros. It was always too much information and over my head. So, don't give up. Keep searching and trying and eventually you will master it.

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A Preschool Valentine

I was excited to realize that the kids preschool valentines parties were actually on different days. Isla's was on Wednesday and Connor's on Friday. This is the first time this has happened with preschool parties and I was excited because it allowed me to enjoy not feeling rushed when I was picking up each kid and I was actually able to take Isla's picture on the same bench that I used to take Connor's on (all the time) last year.

Isla's class had decorated their valentines bags the week before and Isla was pretty mad when she couldn't take it home that day. But I think all the anticipation, coupled with the fact that the bag was now filled with candy, made Isla SUPER excited to take it home after her party.

 ^^ Checking out her loot. She got excited about each one, including the boy ones, but her favorites were a Frozen one (shocker!) and one that had a picture of a dog with butterfly wings. 

^^ Connor did this same heart last year and I love it because their answers tell so much about their personalities. Isla's answers are just so much, well, her. It says, "I like the Frozen movie. I like bananas too. I like my kitty, but I love you!"

^^ This may be my current favorite picture of Connor. He is just looking so stinking grown up…and I love the fact that he has a real smile on his face, which I am sure is due to all the candy in the bag! 

Connor convinced Isla to split all her valentines loot with him. I told him this meant he needed to do the same. I'm pretty certain both Isla and Connor were equally as excited to see what was in the bag! Isla was trying to rip the bag out of Connor's hand and Connor kept telling her no because apparently his teachers told the class they weren't allowed to open their bags until they got to their cars. Connor was most excited about a batman valentine, that was totally pinterest worthy, so props to the mom that made that. He was also excited about every valentine that contained a temporary tattoo, which surprisingly many did. Isla, on the other hand, was excited about a princess valentine that had a pencil with it. It's so funny to see their different personalities come out even in what valentines they like better. 

On actual valentines day, we gave the kids each a small present, to which Connor responded, "You're so cute mom, that was nice." He is obviously picking up on how I talk!!! We had a nice, chill valentines day around our house. 

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Sometimes I forget that my kids can actually interact without fighting. Usually things around my house are loud, with Connor roaring (yes, roaring) at Isla and Isla in turn screaming and crying. Peaceful, I know. But every once in a while, something happens. My kids will play for a bit without any fighting, crying or roaring. One morning this week was one of these times and it was pure bliss.

Connor: My boy is growing up in so many ways. He got a haircut and didn't fight it at all. Sure, he refused to talk to the hairdresser, but still. He also got his first birthday party invite from someone that I don't actually know the mom. 

Isla: She insisted on wearing her skirt backwards because "the heart pockets go in front". She also did a crazy thing and willingly shared her valentines loot she got from school with her brother. Sharing is rare around these parts, especially from Isla. 

"A portrait of my children, once a week, every week, in 2015."

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I truly feel I was born to be a mom.

I doubted this before I had children. I wasn't sure I would like it much. But it has honestly been the most fulfilling thing I have ever done. A friend was talking to me about finding joy in the little years and I was like, "These years are my joy!!!" Seriously, my babies, my toddlers, my preschoolers are my jam. That's not to say that my blood pressure doesn't shoot up when Isla decides to have public meltdown or that I don't look forward to bedtime. I am human, after all. 

And I am totally losing myself in motherhood. There I said it. Motherhood is totally my identity. Well, not totally. I have a lot of things I dabble in. But motherhood certainly takes the most time. And I am proud of what I am doing. I am tired of people going on and on about not losing yourself in motherhood…which this isn't a debate about if we can be mothers and do other things too, because we can, it's just me talking about my identity as a mother. Let's be honest, my husband spends a heck of a lot of time being an accountant. If he lost that tomorrow and had to change careers, I am sure it would take some time to get his footing. So, when kids fly the coop, of course it takes time for moms to find their footing!!! It took time for me to adjust to life in an office, wearing dress up clothes every day. It took time for me to adjust to serving coffee and dealing with people upset over their coffee (people can be crazy about their coffee!). It took time for me to adjust to living in Scotland. It took time for me to adjust to being back in California.

All I am saying is as mothers we can love what we are doing. We can let it consume us (well, mostly…a break here and there is HIGHLY recommended…then again, breaks are the law for hourly employees…). We don't have to feel ashamed for loving our babies, our kids, so much. I sure as heck don't want my mom to feel ashamed for being all sorts of in love with me…because what's not to love! And I won't feel that way about my kids.

Ok, rant over. Now let me go snuggle with my sleeping child who is sleeping in my bed (yep, I am that mom, the one that lets her kids sleep in bed with her).

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Preserving Memories

While cleaning up this past weekend, I went through and threw away most of Connor's artwork from preschool last year. He generally comes home with one to two pieces of artwork each time, so we had amassed quite the collection. As my kids are growing, I am struggling with what exactly is important to keep and preserve and what really will never be looked at again. 

I made Connor a photo book of all the school related pictures I took of him last year. Most involve him holding artwork he made. Some have stories that go along with them, and I was sure to include that in the book. I also included a bunch of pictures of the artwork he made. At the back of the book, I decided to tape in an envelope to store some things that I wanted to keep from that year, a mother's day card he made for me at school, his "graduation" program, etc. And, except for a few pieces of artwork that I am keeping for myself, the rest has gone in the trash. 

I struggle with figuring out the line between preserving memories for the kids (and me!) to look back on and keeping absolutely everything they have touched. I know I don't want to keep much because I know that then what I do keep will be that much more special. 

I'm curious, how do you decide what to keep and what to get rid of?

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