College for Grown-Ups

I’m 38 years old, you know.

I graduated high school (barely, if the truth be told) in 1995, with no plans to attend college. I’m not sure what my problem was. I guess I just didn’t take anything very seriously at that time. I remember, at one point, my aunt and uncle offered to let me go out to Utah and stay with them. My uncle said he’d help me get enrolled in community college there, and then I could try to transfer to BYU later. I certainly don’t regret the way my life has turned out, but that probably would have been a good idea. Even though I turned down the offer, I’ve never forgotten their generosity.

I chose to stay in Missouri, though my plan was to return to Arizona. I did go back there with a friend of mine, and we lasted about six weeks. It turned out to be a lot harder to get a decent job than I expected (ha ha), and we couldn’t stay there mooching off of my grandparents forever.

I headed home and went through a few jobs before getting the one at “Main Street Music Hall”. Even though that was “my dream job”, it only lasted one season. The theater was over an hour away, and I was driving it six days a week. When the weather was bad it really scared me to be on the highway alone, and I didn’t want to deal with snow and ice in the winter. So I left that job and got a job ushering down in Branson at “The Promise”. Met Russell, moved to the box office, got married, moved to the concession stand, had Chandler, and finally got a chance to be in the show. After Carter was born, though, I decided I wanted to stay home with the kids and the rest is history.

No college for me. Three more kids and no regrets, but no college.

For 15 years now I’ve been a stay-at-home mom. There have been many times when it would have been helpful for me to work, but I was always only worth minimum wage, and by the time I paid for child care it wouldn’t have been worth it for me to miss being at home. We have been so blessed, and we’ve survived, but often at a pretty high cost. We owe it to the Lord and the generosity of others, for sure.

Fast forward to today. Well, not today exactly.

Since Conner, our youngest, started Kindergarten (now five years ago) I’ve had it in my mind that I should try to go to college. Usually the thought comes, I entertain it for a day or two, research a little, talk a little, and brush it aside. The cost is hard to swallow, I guess. We don’t have the means to pay for it up front, so my going to college would mean getting loans. We’re already paying loans from Russell’s MBA, and the idea of taking out more is my biggest hesitation. See, I don’t intend to go to work, unless I really need to, even I get a degree, so I’m struggling to know if the cost is justifiable. Russell has a pretty good job now and our kids are going to start leaving home before I would finish school, so our expenses should go down before I could even help, so is it a good idea? But then, what if something were to happen to Russell? Nothing in life is certain, and we’re foolish if we think we’re immune to hardship, so isn’t my getting an education still a smart thing to do?

It’s a tough thing, I tell you.

Then there’s another issue. I think I’m actually scared. I’m afraid that, like so many other things in my life, I’d get started and quit. Or maybe, after all these years, I’m just not smart enough to keep up. I never did well in school, though I do think that was lack of effort more than ability, but it still scares me.

I’m sitting here writing this and “The Andy Griffith Show” just came on. Guess what it’s about? A guy who wants to get an education. At this moment, Andy’s helping him learn geography.

Go figure.

So anyway, guess what I did this morning? I called Missouri State University and made an appointment with an academic advisor! It’s scarier than it should be, I’m sure, but it doesn’t hurt to check it out, right?

Wish me luck!

How to Photograph Sparkler Lights

You know that thing where photographers take awesome pictures of trailing sparkler lights?

This first picture isn’t it.

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 40

I’ve tried for years to get that figured out.
You know what I learned? Lot’s of stuff! Mostly lots of ways to fail.

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 41
This year, like years past, I tried to get a picture of the kids making the year with their sparklers. Like the cool kids, you know?

But then my camera said “no”.

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 45

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 43

This is the closest I got:

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 42
Fail, right?

But then guess what?? I learned something AWESOME! Wanna know what it is??

It’s this amazing thing called “bulb”.

No idea why it’s called that, but if you turn your shutter speed all the way down, to the very end of the slowest side, you’ll get to “bulb”. When your shutter is set at bulb, the shutter will stay open as long as you hold down the shutter button! Forever, if you want to!

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 53

That’s the secret!

But, there’s a trick to it-
See, if you hold that shutter button down for, say, five seconds, you’re grabbing all of the awesome light motion, but you’re also grabbing super tons of light! You know what that gives you?
Super blown out pictures. Like, nothing but white.
So you can’t even see all of the awesome sparkler light action you caught.

That’s lame.

Luckily, I can tell you how to fix that! You just have to compensate! You know that you’re holding that shutter button down, which means tons of light, so you have to change your OTHER settings to take in LESS light!

In other words, your aperture has to be more narrow, and your ISO has to be turned down. So, set your aperture at like f/10 or something, and turn your ISO way down to like ISO 100. That way you’ve shut out so much light that holding your shutter open won’t be a problem!
You’ll probably have to play around with your own camera a bit to find the perfect settings, but I ended up having so much fun once I figured this out!

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 62
For this last one I just told Chandler to keep moving so I could see how long we could go.

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 63
In the past, I’ve always tried to make the people holding the sparklers go really fast, but now that’s not necessary! They can go slow, to make sure they get their writing correct. Way better!

I tried to get Chandler to write his name, but his sparkler died. So many possibilities!

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 66
Of course, your subjects do have to figure out how to write backwards, but I needed way more sparklers for all the fun I was having!

Oh, and you can also get killer pictures of the fireworks themselves with this method:

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 60
Go try it! Seriously, it’s so fun. I am having such a blast figuring out my camera. Finally! It has taken me a couple of years to get to a place where I’m mostly happy with the shots I’m getting, but I’m finally there, so hang in there, and have fun!

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 61

Let Freedom Ring

I love this country. I am so thankful to live here, where we are free. I’m concerned about this country, though, and I pray that we can hold on to the freedoms we have.

That said, we had a super fun 4th of July this year. We went to my parents house and did our own thing, which we haven’t done for a long time. We ate good food, had good visits and shot fireworks.
We all live just outside the city limits, so fireworks are EVERYWHERE! We don’t even have to leave our front yard to see a great show, which is awesome!

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 24 
We headed out a little early to do the fireworks that are better in the light. Maybe I shouldn’t even call them fireworks, but I’m not sure what else to call them. Every year we have to do the little snaps, the snakes that grow and make a giant ashy mess and smoke bombs.
This year we even bought colored snakes, but you couldn’t even tell they were colored.
Rip off!

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 37 
I see green from a smoke bomb, but do you see any colored snakes?
Yeah, they were so not colored.

We had a great year because I’m not aware of a single hole in anyone’s clothes! Russell did get a small burn on his finger, though, so not a perfect year. Ha ha.

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 20 
07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 17 
07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 18 
I’m probably going to have to put an end to the age-old light-a-firecracker-on-fire-and-then-throwing-it thing. I’ve always hated it, but did you hear about two NFL players losing fingers this year?? We talked about how the fuses seemed short this year. They used to be fairly long, so you had a few seconds to throw it before it exploded. Not anymore, so Mama says no more throwing!

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 21 
CJ really hates fireworks, but Pippin did pretty good at first. When the neighbors started shooting the giant fireworks, though, he was all done. I feel sorry for little animals during fireworks. Their instincts are going crazy, but we just act like all is well!

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 25 
07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 19 
I love how it looks like Grand Daddy is holding Grand Mama’s chair for her. He sure takes good care of her!

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 27 
Man, I love that kid.

And these people, too.

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 33 
Are my parents just the cutest? Love them!

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 34 
07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 28 
And Conner, well, he’s just happy to be here!

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 22
07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 23 
Can you see that kid’s legs? The boys had a campout a few weeks ago, and Caden brought home poison ivy. So, ok, no big deal for most people, but it’s been a nightmare for him! Let’s just look a little closer:

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 23 copy 
I’m telling you, that picture doesn’t begin to do it justice. It was so horrible! Luckily, it FINALLY has just about dried up. Poor thing rarely even complained!

Anyway, this is the first post I’ve ever written where the photos were shot in RAW. I actually made the leap! I shoot in manual AND in RAW! Like a real photographer or something! It’s all very exciting, even though I still feel like I know nothing. Lol.

I promise Carter isn’t really doing anything dangerous here. He just snapped his fingers to pop one of those little snap things.

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 30 
See how that picture isn’t perfect? Still learning…

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 31 
Probably my favorite moment of the night was when Russell lit a firecracker and dropped it in a bucket of water. The first one just popped and made a cool little splash. So he tried it again-

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 35 
Ha ha ha, he broke the bucket! It was so funny! He tossed the firecracker in the bucket, it popped, then water just started spilling out the bottom. See it running down the sidewalk? So funny!

Sorry, Pop. We owe you a bucket.

After fireworks we all headed back in the house for this amazing yumminess.

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 68 
07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 69 
And probably my favorite picture of the night:

07 04 2015 Indenpendence Day 67 
I hope you all had a wonderful Independence Day, full of family, fun and freedom!

Let’s Bowl, Let’s Bowl, Let’s Rock and Roll

Anyone know the movie reference in the title? Three points for you if you got it!

This year we joined that “Kids Bowl Free” thing. I’ve had fliers and such from them for years, but this is the first time I’ve done it. You know what? Bowling’s pretty cool!

07 06 2015 Bowling 18
We go to a place in town called Andy B’s, and it’s really nice! The food there looks seriously amazing, but we haven’t tried it yet. Next time!

[Read more…]

My First-Born

How can I express how thankful I am that I get to mother this kid?

He went and turned 17 on me. Can I just say that again? SEVENTEEN! Some days it seems so normal, and then it’ll just hit me. Seventeen? Like, one year away from graduating? One year away from college and a mission?? That’s only one more year to grown-up, folks.


[Read more…]

Goings On I’ve Missed

Life kept happening while I was away. Ok, not “away” exactly. Just so frustrated with my computer and picture issues that I gave up trying to blog for a while.
For the record, I quit the cloud. Deleted the account and said goodbye. Until Apple figures out how to make it all more user friendly, I’m out. For the time being, all of my pictures are being stored on an external hard drive. Two, actually. If I want to blog, or access my pictures, I have to hook up the hard drive and get them that way. It’s not ideal, but it works, and it’s tons better than the stupid cloud.

So, anyway, life kept happening.

In February, my youngest child turned nine. One more year and I won’t have any kids in single digits anymore! How is that possible?

We didn’t have a birthday party this year. I just made a cake, and he opened his presents early in the morning, before he was even dressed for the day!

[Read more…]

Technology Contract

Things have been slow around here lately. I wish I could say that we’ve been too busy for me to get around to blogging, but that would be a total lie. The truth is, it’s been so utterly slow that I haven’t even been interested. Isn’t that sad?

I posted a couple of years ago about Summer, and how I was struggling with it that year. The sunshine (which I LOVE), the water, the lazy days, the summer vacation, all of it. It all sounds so amazing, but it just wasn’t happening that year. Well, this year has been somewhat of a repeat so far. Lazy days are about the only thing I’ve pulled off.

[Read more…]

The Dreaded Basement

This is the first time our family has had a basement. We had a second story, for just a few months, in Arizona, but never a basement. I always thought I would LOVE having the space in a basement! The extra storage, bathroom, bedroom (or bedrooms), family room, etc. Sounds amazing, right?


We’ve lived in our house for about two and a half years now, and I have yet to decide it is, in fact, amazing to have a basement.

[Read more…]

A Little Catch Up

I tell you what, I’m trying SO HARD to get my pictures under control. I heard such wonderful things about Adobe LIghtroom. Over and over again, people said it was a “must have” for my photo editing! This year I bit the bullet and bought it.
Now, here’s the thing. I’m not a photographer. I’m just a mom blogger with a decent camera. I’ve done tons of reading, tons of research, and tons of practicing, but I still don’t claim to know what I’m doing. At all. I’ve had Adobe Photoshop Elements for years, and I like it. I can crop, brighten things up a bit, increase the contrast, fix little blemishes (or hide a candy wrapper that got caught in a shot), and then SAVE the edits. And none of this took very long.
But, over and over again, people said APS doesn’t compare to LIghtroom!
Well, maybe I’m just not all that smart, but I get so frustrated with Lightroom I could scream. Then, because it’s a “non-destructive editor”, if I go to my regular picture folder and look at my picture, the edits I worked so hard on aren’t even there! (Many swear by this feature, but I hate it.)
Anyway, one of these days I’m going to dedicate a whole post to why I, in my ignorance, prefer APS any day of the week.

[Read more…]

Silver Dollar City in the Fall

Still trying to get caught up from last year. Sad, isn’t it? I seriously hang my head in shame when I think about how far behind I am. Although, I haven’t taken as many pictures yet this year, so I SHOULD be able to catch up.

Anyway, last October, while everyone was here for our Halloween party fun, we made a trip to Branson to go to Silver Dollar City.

2014-10-17 003

I take a lot of selfies, since I’m the only one taking pictures. So pardon my giant arm in all of the pictures of me…

[Read more…]