Action Shots

Neighborhood swim team is a big thing around here.  A lot of the neighborhoods are what’s called “swim/tennis” neighborhoods, meaning…they have a pool and tennis courts.  People want to live in a swim/tennis.  We do.  I must admit, it is very nice to know we have a pool we can go to that is very close any time we want without the hassle of having to keep it up.  You do have to share, but that’s fun too.

Over the summer, a lot of the swim/tennis neighborhoods have swim teams.  And then all the hoods compete against each other.  The meets are a good example of organized chaos.  They are lots of fun though, hot, sticky, long (ours start at 6 and often goes to 10…that’s withOUT a rain/thunder delay) but fun.  It’s all of June.  Practice everyday.  One meet a week.  It’s great exercise and entertainment for my kids.

All my kids swim.  And they do pretty well.  They usually at least place in every race and often get 1st.  We have a lot of those pretty blue ribbons at our house.  And yes, there are winners and losers at swim team.  None of this, everybody gets a blue ribbon business.  And they don’t like losing.  However, losing is a good motivator.

Anyhow, as a photographer, you would think I’d have tons of pics of my kids at swim meets.  I don’t.  I only managed to take my camera out at one meet this year.  Parents usually have to volunteer for 1/2 of the meet.  So between all the socializing and the helping out, there isn’t really much time for picture taking.

I did want to show a few pics I took this last meet and share with you some tips on how to take good swim and/or action shots.  Swim pictures are hard.  Their face is in the water 1/2 the time and they are moving so fast.  And then there is all that splashing around.  So hopefully these tips will help you out a bit.

Tip #1.  To get good, sharp swim pics, it does help to have a “real” camera.  Meaning, not your phone.  Ya, that phone pic you took looks pretty darn good on that 3×2 inch screen, but blow it up a tid.  Maybe not so good anymore.

Tip #2. Use a higher shutter speed.  At least 200 and maybe 250.  You will have to play around with what works best for your lighting situation.  You don’t want too bright, but you want it fast enough to freeze the action.  Take some practice shots while they are warming up.  See what works best.

Tip #3.  Set your camera on continuous focus.  They are moving so fast, you need to have your camera on a mode that will keep shifting the focus to your subject as it moves.  That’s a good tip for those of you with toddlers too.  In my experience, toddlers rarely stop long enough for you to snap a pic, they are constantly on the go, so that continuous focus mode helps get sharper pics of them too.

Tip #4  Set your camera to click away mode.  Don’t judge me because I can’t remember what the technical name is right now, but it’s that mode where if you hold down the clicker it’ll take pics in rapid succession.  I have 2 such modes on my camera.  One does rapid succession and one does crazy speed fire rapid succession.  This is good for swim, since sometimes, it’s hard to snap quick enough when their head comes up out of the water.  Even for me, when I was trying to shoot my daughter doing the breast stroke, I did not do rapid succession and managed to most gets pics as her head was already turned down, heading back under water.

Your camera might not have such a mode.  If it doesn’t, that’s ok.  As long as you have the shutter speed right and the continuous focus mode, you should be ok.

Here are a few from our last meet.  I hope I helped and I hope you are not cussing me because I waited till most swim team seasons are over to post this.

*a little disclaimer…my oldest swims for her school during the year.  They do not swim in little, outdoor, neighborhood pools.  They swim in huge, olympic size natatoriums.  You need a whole other set of tips and even equipment for these types of places, especially if you are trying to shoot from the stands.



The University Model School

Where you should send your kids to school is a big question many families face as their kids become school age.  Pubic or private or homeschool?  OR, a university model school.  A what?  A University Model School.  Yep, that’s an option nowadays and becoming more and more available.

I have 3 kids, grades, 8, 6 and 4.  All three of my kids have gone to the public elementary school.  Some Christians gasp at that and that’s fine.  We made the decision to send our kids to public school because we thought it was what was best for our family.  And it was fine. I could spend a lot of time getting in to why we thought it was best and how if we had to do it all over again, I’d do it the same way, but I won’t.  That’s not what this post is intended to be about.  Just know, we are Christians, our kids went to public elementary school and they are fine..and still Christians….and I believe even stronger Christians for it.

Anyway, so now, my oldest two kids are in middle school and once again, we made a decision about schooling that we thought was best for our family.  After lots of searching and prayer, we decided to go to a university model school that is close to our home.

In a nutshell, a university model school meets only 2 days a week.  It is not any kind of homeschool or homeschool hybrid.  It is a private school with regular teachers and lots of learning.  On the 3 “off ” or satellite days (because your home is your satellite classroom), they have work to do.  It’s like college.  You go to class, hear your lectures, learn your lessons, take your tests and quizzes, but do your work on your own time.

Class meets on Tuesdays and Fridays from 8 AM to 3 PM.  Like I said, they have teachers.  The teachers teach them stuff.  They do Math, English, History, Science, Latin (starting in 7th grade) and Bible.  There are no specials or electives on these days.  They can do those things on their off days. They are done at 3 PM.  They are free to go home and chill out or scoot along to whatever practice for whatever sport or activity they might be involved in. Unlike their public or traditional private school counterparts they do not have to do homework when they get home from school.  However…

On their satellite days, they do their work.  They have enough work that they are usually pretty busy all day completing said work.  This is where is get a lot of other questions mostly geared around wanting to know how they manage it all.  How do they get their assignments, what is my responsibility, how/when do they turn in assignments, what does a typical satellite day look like.  Some of the more detailed folks want to know how did we set up our work space at home.  All valid questions and all that are more easily answered than you might think.

They get their assignments online through a nifty system that keeps all of their grades, assignments, emails, notices from the school and projects all in one place.  Each student has their own account as do the parents.  I can check my phone and see how my kid did on a test earlier that day.  Assignments are due the next class period.  So for example, they have class on Tuesday.  They get new assignments to be completed that are usually posted by Tuesday evening but defiantly no later than Wednesday morning.  They have Wednesday and Thursday to complete these assignments.  They are then due when they go back to class on Friday.  Simple.

This is one of my daughters assignment pages.  She clicks on an assignment, downloads anything she might need to print out and voila.  She’s ready to work.



As for what does a typical satellite day look like, that varies from student to student.  One great thing about this type of school is that is gives students time to do other activities during their satellite days that most kids can’t do till after school.  For some kids that includes gymnastics, tennis or music.  Our school does offer a variety of electives that meet on the satellite days.  One my girls have particularly been fond of is Musical Theater.  This year they did Pete Pan, Jr.  And it was fabulous.


They also offer quite the array of sports.  My oldest just finished the swim season (middle school girls state champs!) which meets in the mornings on her off days.  And not at the ungodly hour that most morning swim teams meet.


My middle kid is currently doing track.  They practice after school on the 2 school days, but since she doesn’t have homework due the next day, she doesn’t have to worry about having to complete that after a long day at school and then track practice.  (I haven’t made it out to track yet to get any pics).

Both of my middle schoolers have taken various music classes on their satellite days from outside sources.  You can really do what ever you want on those days, as long as you get your work done.  And that is our priority.

I usually wake them to start a satellite day around 7:30.  I give them an hour to get up, get breakfast (sometimes get dressed though I do sometimes let them PJ-it all day if they want) and get awake before they need to start working.  They usually work for a couple of hours, take a break, work a little bit more, break for lunch (sometimes we go out, because we can), work some more, take another little break and then try to be done by 3.  Sometimes they finish before 3.  Sometimes it takes a little longer.  Sometimes they have to break for an activity like voice lessons or piano.  These satellite days will look different from family to family and sometimes from student to student.  Some kids need more frequent breaks.  Some prefer to work straight through to get it done as quickly as possible.  I would say one important thing to remember, no matter what kind of student(s) you might have…don’t procrastinate.  If you only do 1 subject that first day, then your next day is going to be super long and not fun.  Time management is key which is where you as the parent might come in.  Time management is a valuable skill that everyone needs to know how to do.  It will help them in whatever they go on to do for the rest of their life.  It’s even an important skill for me to know as a stay at home mom.

As for their workspace.  That too can be anything you want.  One daughter choses to do her work at the desk in our office.  Sometimes she does it in her room.


Another daughter likes to do her’s at the dining room table.  Last year, she spent most of the time on the floor doing her work.


Some kids keep their space nice and neat, some not so much.  Whatever works for them, works for me.


The university model school has been a good fit for us.  When my youngest daughter graduates from elementary school next year, she’ll join her sisters.  It’s a K-12 school, so at that point, they will all be in one school!  Yay for me!  Maybe it could be a good fit for you too, maybe not. But at least, now you know about it.  If you have any more questions, feel free to shoot me a comment.




Internet Safety


Internet safety.  Where do I begin. I’m not really asking.  I just saying.  There is so much to say, to know, to learn, but I’m going to start today with apps.  Specifically our children and apps.  More specifically our children and their responsibility with their own behavior and said apps.

I’ve seen an article going around on Facebook about this one particular app and how “scary” it is.  The article tells a story of a young girl who downloaded this app unbeknownst to her parents and was some how subsequently coerced into sharing some rather revealing pictures of herself with another boy.  The boy, according to the article, kept threatening her that if she didn’t send more revealing pictures, he would share the pics she’s already sent with all her friends and family.  The theme of the article is that we as parents should be terrified of what is on our kids’ phones and electronic devices and that we need to monitor, monitor, monitor and that we should some how fight back against the evil companies that make such apps.  I wouldn’t disagree with that.  I am a strong believer in knowing what your kids are up to.  We monitor all of our kids’ devices and our computers.  They know that nothing they do on any electronic is private, that we can and will have access to all of it.  They have no passwords of their own.  In order for them to download and new app, they have to bring it to one of us (their parents) so we can enter the password (the password that they do not and will not know no matter how much my 13 year old keeps trying to convince me that it would be helping me out if she could just have the password herself instead of having to disturb me all the time).  And, I made them aware that we know at least 2 qualified real life hackers who can retrieve any info, text message, picture, web search that they might try to delete.  They have to turn in their phones to us at 9 PM. We keep them in our room.  There is no texting or internet use past that time.  If they feel the need to let something off their chest, they can do what I did when I was a kid; they can write it down on actual paper with an actual writing utensil and then rip it up in the morning and throw it away happy that no one else actually read it.

Where I might have my qualms with the afore mentioned article is that no where do they put any responsibility on the kids to modify their behavior or on the parents to teach them what is appropriate and what you should NEVER do. My problem with that story is, why was that girl even taking revealing pictures of herself much less sending them to someone in the first place?  That is not the app’s fault.  The app did not make her take her clothes off.  It did not make her pose selfie style and snap that shot.  From what I can tell, this particular “scary” app is a simple text messaging application for kids/people who don’t have phone service on their phone.  There is nothing sneaky about it like some other apps that are designed to allow kids to send things and then they “disappear.”

Instead of being scared of apps and computers and phones, we, as parents, need to be teaching our children from day 1 what is appropriate, what is acceptable and what is not.  And we need to repeat it over and over and over.  That article did make me reiterate with my kids that you NEVER under any circumstances, not for ANYONE or for ANY reason, do you ever take a naked or semi naked picture of yourself or of anyone else, even if you don’t plan to send it to anyone.  That kind of behavior would be punishable to the highest degree in our house and should be in everyones.  And you should tell these stories like the one in the article to your kids.  They need to be scared, not of the app, but of knowing their actions have real consequences.  They need to understand the importance of making good decisions and what is appropriate and what is not.  They need to know how to be responsible human beings, responsible for their own actions, not how to lay blame on what ever they can.  I’m afraid this generation has grown up in the self esteem movement with such a sense of self gratification that they think they can do no wrong, or at the very least, if they do do something wrong, it’s not really their fault.  Gag me with a spoon.

As parents, we do need to maintain a certain level of awareness about pop culture and what our kids are in to and we definitely need to be warriors as we monitor all their devices.  In that way, this article was good for me to read.  That’s why I clicked on it in the first place.  I want to stay informed.  We need to stay informed but we also need to parent our children.

Proverbs 4:23, “Above all else guard your heart for it is the wellspring of life.”


p.s.  I know a chicken has nothing to do with internet safety, I just like that picture.




Could I Let My Kid Fail


Nothing gets me bent out of shape quicker than when we are fixing to walk out the door and one of my kids can’t find their shoes.  Even worse, when they can’t find their shoe, singular.  It’s one thing to lose both shoes but to only be able to find one, there’s no excuse.  They should always be together, lost or found.  We have a rather large bin with two big drawers in our laundry room that’s sole purpose is to house shoes.  I’m even happy if they just get their shoes in the laundry room even if they don’t make it all the way in to the bin.  Nevertheless, after 13, 10 and 8 years of life and all those years of me saying over and over and over, “put your shoes where they belong” we still, often, will be headed out the door and someone frantically says, “I can’t find my shoes” at which point laser beams shoot out of my eyes and I lose it.  I have literally probably wasted a good week of my life looking for someone’s shoes.  Why do I do this?  Why?  And that is what I do.  When someone can’t find their shoes, even though they know that if they had put them where they belong, shoes would never be lost, time would never be wasted, mom wouldn’t go berserk, I drop what I’m doing, risk being late to wherever we are going (which I hate) and join in the frenzied look as we all run around the house like chickens with our heads cut off, and look for the lost shoes, which apparently walk off on their own, no fault of my angels. *wink wink.

I was thinking about this the other day.  I don’t know why.  Maybe cause, umm… someone couldn’t find their shoes before school that morning.  And I was thinking, why do I help them?  I always mean to think up some appropriate punishment for them when they don’t put their shoes up in hopes of teaching them to do it, but either I don’t or I forget or by the time they get home from school, the whole situation is so far past, a punishment at that point would not really be effective.  So I decided the other day, that the next time a shoe is not to be found, I’m not helping them.  They will either have to find it on their own or wear some less desirable shoes- which to a girl, is a punishment.  Me helping them for 8+ years has apparently not taught them anything.  Me yelling and fussing and giving death looks has not taught them anything.  How will they learn?  Maybe if I let them fail.  Maybe if they know mom is not coming to the recuse every single time for every little thing, maybe they will learn to be more responsible.

And then I started thinking, could I let my kids fail if it meant something more serious than having to wear church shoes to school?  Could I let my kid make a bad grade without trying to intervene with the teacher knowing they did not study for a test that they knew was coming.  Could I let them have to miss something big and important to them so they could work to pay off a speeding ticket instead of me just paying it for them?  Could I let them spend a night in jail, or go without something like a car or phone because of some bad decision they made?  Could I let them fail so that they will learn?

God allows us to fail all the time.  He knows that through adversity, comes character and growth.  Romans 5:3-5; “We gladly suffer, because we know that suffering helps us to endure.  And endurance builds character, which give us a hope that will never disappoint us. ”

And just like a father who loves His children, even though we may fail and disappoint and make bad decisions, God will never forsake us, He will never not love His children.

So, could I let my kids fail?  Honestly, I don’t know to what extent I would really be able to do that.  I hope that, in the end, I will do what’s best for my children, even if that does mean, letting them learn the hard way.  I do know that there is nothing they can do to make me stop loving them and that no matter what choices they make in life, I will always be there for them.  That doesn’t mean I will always fix their problems, but I will be there.

We can only do our best to teach our kids to follow Jesus, to make wise decisions in life, but at some point, they become independent adults and completely responsible for their own lives.  And if we keep helping them find their shoes when they know better, how will they ever learn?

Right now, I am happy to just have missing shoes to worry about and the occasional forgotten lunch or homework.  I pray often that as they grow, we don’t have more serious issues to deal with.  What ever happens though, we will continue to pray for our kids, to love them and point them to Jesus and on rare occasion, help them find their shoe.

Marriage Advice

Oct. 2011 034

Before I go doling out advice, I am going to lay it all out there for ya.  I am 40 years old.  I’ve been married 15 years.  I have 3 kids ages, 13, 10 and 8, all girls (yes, that’s another topic for another day), 1 dog and 2 cats.  I know I have a long way to go before I am officially capable of giving marital advice but I’m going to do it anyway.  However, fifteen years is nothing to sneeze at.  We’ve been through some stuff.  We successfully made it past the first year of marriage without calling a hitman, we got through the toddler years and the terrible 3’s 3 times! (not 2s, 3s, if you’ve been there, you know).  We’ve had a few health scares, job loss, job issues, money issues, don’t touch me right now honey issues.  We’ve had our share of disagreements on how to raise our kids and on how to raise our pets and on what to spend our money on and on whether or not the hall light should be left on after 9 PM.  We’ve laughed, we’ve loved, we’ve hated…blah, blah, blah.  You’ve heard it all before.  But no one can really prepare you for what it’s really like until you get there.

I was at the hair salon recently and I noticed that my stylist was sporting an engagement ring that she did not have the last time I was there.  So I asked her about it and she was telling me all about her wedding plans and their plans for the future.  I mentioned that my hus and I had just celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary.  Being a hair stylist and pretty well trained in small talk, she asked me if I had any advice on marriage.  I thought for a second and spewed something about marriage being hard and you have to work at it but in the end it’s all worth it, again with the blah, blah, blah.  As I so often do when presented with a heavy question as such, I thought of a much better answer once I got home.  And since I probably won’t go back to the hair salon for another 4-6 months (I’m a low

A recent beach selfie with the hus

maintenance kind of gal), and it would be awkward for me to bring up the subject of my advice when I do go back, I decided to share my thoughts on the subject with you.  You’re welcome.

So, if I had to give quick conversational advice on marriage it would be;  Remember that love is a decision, an act, not a feeling.  You promised to love your spouse for the rest of your life.  You did not and could not promise to feel love for him/her for the next 50 years.

There are some circles in modern society that would say that the idea of traditional marriage is antiquated. If those folks are among those that think in order to have a happy, successful, long term marriage, you have to maintain the same level of feeling that you have for your spouse on your wedding day, then I’d say they aren’t far off.  But that’s the thing.  Maintaining that same level of intenseness, passion, moon beam in your eyes can’t stand to be away from each other, can’t keep your hands off each other love that you felt when you first started dating is impossible.  Impossible I say!!  The passion will always ebb and flow.

I hear people who divorce say things like they just didn’t love that person any more or that they fell out of love.  Poppy cock! There will be days- in a happy marriage mind you- when you don’t feel any love at all for your spouse!  Days when you might actually contemplate what it might be like to not be married to that person any more.  But, you decided, you promised to love that person, to show love for/to that person for the rest of your lives.  That means that no matter how you might feel at the moment- even if that moment lasts a while- you must remain committed.  And if you do your best, to show love to your spouse, the feelings will eventually come along as well.

In short, marriage is hard.  It’s also awesome and wonderful and comforting and uplifting and good for you cause it makes you a better person. But, there are no soul mates.  No perfect companion.  You have to work at it and keep working at it and work at it some more. You have to want to make it work, even when it’s hard and especially when you don’t feel that lovey feeling you felt at the beginning.  And extra-specially when he puts his dishes next to the sink instead of in the dishwasher, and when he only changes his towel and not yours thus causing a mismatch situation and when he leaves the steel wool on the counter instead of putting it away like you’ve asked him to do a million times.  MY husband has never done any of these things of course.  *wink wink.  But you get the idea. You have to be selfless.  Marriage is not about making you happy.  Making you happy is not your spouse’s job. It’s about a partnership and sometimes that means YOU don’t get what you want and YOU don’t get to be happy for a little bit.  You have to decide to love him/her.  Even when you don’t feel like it.

Unfortunately, Webster’s dictionary has it wrong.  I looked it up.  They define love as a “strong feeling or desire…”  How can that be?  Even after a rather mundane fight with your spouse, the kind that got your blood boiling and included a little yelling of things you really don’t mean or at least shouldn’t have said, but isn’t the kind that brings on end the marriage kind of thoughts, you could still admit that you love him, even though you are still mad and don’t have a “strong feeling or desire for him”, right?  So, how can that be THE definition of love?

My statements and beliefs on this subject are rooted in the Bible.  I’m not just making this stuff up. That 1 Corinthians 13 passage everyone likes to quote at weddings, what I said here is what those verses mean. No where in that passage does it say, love is sexy, love is hot, love is always feeling awesome towards your partner or that love is happiness. To have an understanding of this and to constantly remind yourself of this truth over and over, even after you’ve been married 15, 30, even 50 years is paramount to a successful marriage.

God mandated marriage.  It was in the beginning of time.  And so He also regulates it.  (The Christian pastor and author, Tim Keller said that, I can’t take credit.)

I would reference you to Tim Keller’s book, The Meaning of Marriage.  An excellent read.  Once you’ve read it, you should probably read it again.  And encourage your spouse to read it.  I’m on my second time.  He explains all this so much better than I can and goes into much more detail than a single blog post will allow.  Seriously, read it.  As I was writing this post, I pulled out this book to use as a reference.  The more I even just skimmed through it, the more I wanted to add to this post.  But then it would be a book.  So just read Tim Keller’s instead.

So that’s it.  That’s my marriage advice for the new comer and maybe for some married folks who might be struggling with what it means to love his/her spouse.  Give me another 15 years under my belt and maybe I’ll think of some more.