Goodbye, July!

I can't believe that in 2 weeks, I will be back to work. Because we are shifting our school year to match the colleges that moved to semesters, we will start/end earlier, but this first "early start" made for a very short summer break. Anyway, I am still getting over the fact that we aren't at the beach but am readjusting to life in Cbus!

Shale Hollow Preserve
One morning, I was dying to get out and explore and Larkyn wanted to go grocery shopping with Matt (?) So, we headed to Shale Hollow, a shady nature preserve in Orange Township. Parking is easy, the trails are short, and it is a short walk to some great creek stompin'. I would not recommend taking kids up to the higher trail, and there is a warning sign as well. What a perfect, perfect morning for this mama and her boy. I love this playful sign...

The Little Gym
I am happy to be teaming up with The Little Gym this fall! I have mentioned how the kids have loved visiting for an event and then trying out the camp this summer. It will be fun to show you how our classes go and what you can expect from them. Bottom line for me: it makes my kids smile and brings confidence. Look at that fabulous 2 on 1 kid-wrangling move right there...

Shaker Square Park
I've been looking for a new "neighborhood" playground for us after I swore off Selby playground's proximity to the street (PLEASE add a fence!) In researching for our Toddler List a few weeks ago, I found Shaker Square, which is off of Olentangy River Road and 161. I struck gold!

Tons of shade, a well-stocked Little Free Library (Harry Potter, kids!), swings, picnic tables, a nice play structure, and NO STREET access. Rhys never once tried to get away, and if he did, he would have to run through back yards, which were almost all fenced. When can we move in?

Powell Street Market
Oh, craft shows. I'll never get sick of you. But this one was my favorite so far: outside, enough room to walk and browse, food trucks, and stores to stop in and out of for a little AC break. And pony rides and princesses. My mom, Larkyn and I can't wait to go back to the next one on September 11th!

Matt was lucky enough to get one of these hats. I want one next! Which Good River hat do you like?

Sock Hop Soda Shop has THE most entertaining staff/owners. And the brownie sundae was amazing.

One more piece to add to her gallery wall in her room. Our other print from Glitteracy is the donuts, and I have to say that Larkyn and Chelsea totttttally hit it off, so we will be back for more!

Princesses from The Glass Slipper. No big deal. 

And gearing up for a trip to the Smoky Mountains!
Literally within the first hours of us (kids and I) arriving home from the beach last week, Matt said he really needed a vacation. He couldn't come with us because of his state nursing class he was taking this semester and his first clinicals. But, he takes his finals SOON and off we go before school starts for us girls.

I looked for about 24 hours straight for a place in Michigan, but we were too late for that. Our second choice was Gatlinburg, but this time with a pool. I got cabin fever (ha!) on our last trip because we stayed so far away from everything and there wasn't much to do for free and, TOURIST TRAPS.  Tourist traps aside, the wildlife is brilliant and there really is a lot to explore there. Like moonshine distilleries. This is a throwback to my favorite picture from last year's trip. Moment of silence for those baby curls.

What are you into this August?  And if you haven't subscribed to our Adventures Planner, go ahead and do it now so you have lots of fun ideas for August!

Vacation Photography: Capturing Big Moments

I have been trying to figure out how to present our vacation photos in a way that is fun for you while keeping true to the family scrapbook that is the basis of this blog.

If you've wondered what it looks like to be on vacation with us and how we get the photos in, I thought it might help to have a few tips along with some of my favorites.

First, have devoted time for photos that are really important to you.  These are the ones you might print, frame, or use in Christmas cards. I bring outfits that coordinate a bit, and I set aside a specific time when I can get the shots I want. Outside of these one or two times, I just bring the camera out when spontaneous photo opps arise or other times when it isn't too obtrusive.

Classic colors and designs, courtesy of Target and CraftshowCollective

Let go of the "look right here! Smile! Hold her hand. Hold his hand. Stop squinting!" shenanigans. It is not going to work and you are going to get frustrated. I ask for one or two "staged shots" just for posterity (and older/traditional family members') sake and I don't ever like them as much as the others. It just makes everyone frustrated.

Exhibit A

Even if they're not looking, much better. They're doing what they want.

I like this one best, even though one child is now out and his back is turned.

Wait for BIG moments and be ready. You know, seeing the ocean for the first time in a year, finding  or tasting something they love, or seeing their favorite Disney character.

Look at that face and those fists!  He was pumped to get to the waves for the first time in his memory.

Because I didn't take any other photos of him at this event, I got a great one when it mattered. Like meeting a pirate who enjoys the same pose (great tactic, Mr. Pirate).

Let them play. That is my whole philosophy as I photograph. I follow them doing the things they love and end up with pictures I love. We had swimsuits underneath, ready to go.

Look, I'm a crab!

I hope she never outgrows jumping in Peppa Pig muddy puddles.

Choose a good time of day. Some of you may have heard the term "Golden Hour". It is the hour after the sun rises and the hour before the sun sets. When the kids were little, we went in the morning. Not anymore!  This is when you can avoid tricky shadows on faces, caused by the overhead sun.

Bright eyes instead of squinting, interesting and soft sky

Be strategic with your placement or theirs. I wouldn't say much of my photography is staged or me asking them to do anything, but I invite them to step certain places or look at this cool thing or the other from time to time.

Wow, look at that tree (in front of an amazing sunset)!

Whoa! Look at the big puddle (that makes fabulous reflections!)

Most of you won't be shooting in manual, but I think you should learn how :) If not, make sure your shutter speed is high enough to withstand all the motion that goes with playtime. This is why I never need to ask my kids to stand still. Also adjust as the light keeps changing, as you can see.

Play with perspective. Get down low, shoot from above, shoot details, move waaaaay back. I think you'll like the variety.

For these, you can either crop close or get in close for the shot. I did the latter, which I try not to do too much to stay out of the way.

Pulling back gives context, which is my favorite part. 

By getting low, look how many layers I get. Sand ridges, my boy, waves, and those clouds.

Offer to take stranger's photos. I do this all the time when I see people trying to take selfies with the selfie side of the camera. Often, they will offer to take yours in return, and then YOU get to be in the pic. But hand them your phone instead of the camera just to make it easy on them.

When your "session" is over, the camera goes away. After about 10-15 minutes of getting some fun shots, I try to put it away and enjoy playing with them. That is the part they will remember.

I promise, this photo did not come from saying "smile" (you get a totally different smile then), it came from letting her play and just documenting her joy in the environment.

Many of you have asked about my camera equipment. I did a ton of research before buying my Nikon D3300. I absolutely love it and it is so very affordable! It performs better than many of the newer models, and mine is even refurbished (which subtracts about $200 off the price as well). My lens is a Sigma Art 35 mm. That is where the magic happens (in the lens rather than the camera). If you have any other questions, let me know!

The Story of the Sea Turtle

For as long as I can remember, sea turtles have been my favorite animal. And there were actually several years as a tween when I thought for sure I'd be a marine biologist, even visiting Coastal Carolina University for a college visit. Living in Ohio, though, most of my learning came from books and documentaries.

When we visit Bald Head Island each summer, we know there is a chance that we will either see a nesting female turtle or a hatching. Chances are slim on either, but there IS a chance.

I saw a nesting female many years ago, and it was awesome. But only this year did I finally get to see a precious baby. The first nest of the season hatched while we were there, and three days later, a team does a public excavation.

They gingerly dig up the nest to count eggshells, find unviable eggs, and maybe, just maybe, find a "straggler". Those babies that didn't quite make it out with his or her siblings.

Does it seems kind of sad? Like they left her behind in their mad dash toward existence, following the reflection of the moon on the night ocean. One little one, not quite ready, maybe not even hatched. Counting on a village to release her when it is safe for her to come out.

What you may not know is that only one in a thousand of these babies will make it to adulthood. During their sprint to the ocean, they are defenseless targets to birds and crabs. That is if their nest even survives the egg-eating foxes. I have watched this clip many times throughout the years, and if you can make it past the annoying ad, it is spectacular.

This is why the BHI Conservatory has a turtle patrol, out all night on ATVs, watching for new nests. They cover it with mesh and clearly mark the nest. So many people caring about the littlest members of our community. And look how excited they are for this one tiny baby.

Do you see where I'm going with this? My girl is about to be the littlest one in her community. A kindergartner! She is that baby, waiting for the others to go, making sure all perceived dangers are out of the way. And I've been worried about it. She doesn't dive right into the water like her brother, but she will slowly get in and love it, even as she struggles through her anxieties.

But maybe she is onto something. Maybe by hanging back, avoiding the dangers at first and learning by watching, she will be just fine. This little baby who didn't make it out of the nest had hundreds of people cheering her on. She had safety, love, and a little help from kind strangers.

I hope that is what is in store a few weeks from now, when my little one leaves our nest.

PS- The team ropes off an area for the baby to crawl on her own out to sea as we all watch from a distance. She made it, of course. 

Getting there is half the fun

We've done quite a few road trips with the kids, but our annual trip to Bald Head Island is my favorite. Though it is the longest and involves several modes of transportation, getting there truly is an adventure that is not for the faint of heart. Take coffee and have a glass of sangria and cookies ready when you arrive.

We left with my mom on Saturday morning, driving to my sister's house to stay overnight. It is a little out of the way but I always like to rest there and see other family before we head out the coast. The cousins only see each other once a year, but when they do, they have a great time. Every time we leave there, my heart hurts a little.

Everything was fine on the 9 hour ride; much improved from our Chicago screamathon in March. Of course, we didn't have Peppa Pig DVDs on that trip.

After our overnight in Charlotte, we headed out. I drove this part of the trip by myself with the kids and it was actually the easiest four hours. I think it was because it was from 12-4, so NAPS for all. Oh, I love iPads and DVD players (thanks Jill) for lulling them to sleep on the road. It was SO hard not to stop at the billion peach orchards on the way and get some while the kids slept. I actually still regret it.

When we made it to Deep Point Marina, where we catch the ferry to Bald Head Island, we had some mixed emotions. Some of us were excited to see the boat. Some of us were not (loud noises).

With some encouraging words from our family, who met us there, we got over it (sort of). It was nice to see old friends who have relocated to the area, and share our cold Hardee's entrees while we tried to keep the boys from climbing into the harbor.

Nothing like a little walk along the dock to take our minds off of the impending loud ferry arrival.

Guess who rides inside with Nana and who wants to be out with me?

Thirty minutes and one gorgeous sunset later, and we are on the island. Get ready for beach photography overload. Sorry?

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