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Thursday, June 05, 2014

Careening

ISS 3x25s

That's the International Space Station, orbiting at 17,000 miles per hour, which is approximately the same speed as our summer is already traveling.


Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Eyes on the Prize

Derek Eye on Ball

It's so easy to get caught up in the here and now with regard to junior tennis. It's so easy to get frustrated and discouraged when your children are so close, so capable, so darned good at it, but they still miss out on their short term goals. We've seen it and experienced it over and over again, and there are days that we wonder how on earth these boys press on.

But they do. They play their guts out and sometimes come up short. They walk off the court in tears and hating the game and never going to play again and then ten minutes later ask when they can play again. They are one billion times stronger than I am.

And so we leave the courts and we cry it out and we talk about the match later when everyone is calm and we look for the positives to carry out of the experience. It's so easy to focus on the negatives - so easy to pick those out, for some reason. Identifying the negatives is important, sure, but the only way to build and to grow is to find what went well, and capitalize on those things.

We are fortunate enough to have coaches who care - who are willing to travel nearly three hours on their own time to watch them play. What a blessing. We are also fortunate enough to have friends on the same journey - farther down the same road - who can talk us down and help us see reality. What a blessing, indeed. 

One of those tennis moms wrote this on my Facebook wall over the weekend, "Junior tennis is unlike any other sport. Watching these kids struggle with their emotions while having to fight through matches with no support from a coach or parent is so hard. I can't help but think it will create self-motivated adults who can think for themselves."

Joshua Serve

She's right. My heart breaks while I watch them, some days. It splinters into tiny shards of soul-piercing glass to see them fight so hard and end up just a few points away from a win. It shatters to see them unable to break through an opponent's game. 

But somehow, at the same time, my heart swells with overwhelming pride to watch how hard they try - how alien it is for them to give up, even the the face of ridiculous odds. It soars to watch them hold their heads high, take a deep breath, and step back up to the line to serve against a player who is leagues ahead of them.

I don't know where this journey will take them. I don't know how long they'll play competitive tennis. I don't know if they'll peak in high school and just play for fun afterwards, or if they'll end up playing college tennis. We've got a lot of time before that plays out.

But I do know that the lessons they've learned through the process are priceless, regardless of how far they go. The lessons of perseverance and self-reliance - the lessons of mental toughness - the lessons of conflict management on a personal level - the lessons of pushing yourself farther than you ever believed you could go - those are the lessons that create success in any endeavor, and I'm so proud to watch them learn them.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Throwback Thursday





On the left: Joshua at the end of his K-4 year. On the right: Joshua at the end of his 7th grade year. 

Still has those sparkling blue-green eyes, adorable cheeks and the cutest little half-a-dimple ever.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Oh, Brother

Brothers

It's such fun to watch them have fun.

We are in our last weeks of school for the year, our last weeks of having both of them home for school. Derek's sprouting wings and getting ready to start the process of flying the coop, while Joshua has another year at home with me.

My plan for the summer is to soak up as much time with them together as I possibly can, knowing that it is precious and fleeting. I have a feeling that Joshua and I will be a bit rudderless come August. 

We've done online school for the past year and a half, and have had mixed feelings about it, so when Joshua and I talked about what to do for his eighth grade year, he told me that he'd rather go back to me teaching him, so that he could actually learn a lot of stuff (his words, not mine.) 

I only beamed for 14 hours straight.

Now, my afternoons have been full of course catalogs and curriculum reviews - it's been a little while since I pieced together a year of lessons, but I'm completely looking forward to doing so. 

It's strange. I've never had Joshua at home by himself, really. I had Derek for 20 months - just the two of us, but ever since Joshua came along, the two of them have been tied together. When Derek started Kindergarten, Joshua started K-4 and went right along with him. I'm looking forward to some time spent with my baby, even though he threatens to shoot up past me in height, and I can already borrow his shoes.

In the meantime, I'm just going to enjoy watching them interact with each other the way they do. 

Friday, May 09, 2014

Acclimation

Rhododendron

My rhododendron bushes positively exploded this week. I was worried that after the bitter winter, I might see very few blooms, but they clearly made it through without issue. Not everything made it, though. My gardenias are gone, I lost a forsythia and one of my crepe myrtles is badly damaged, but recovering.

I feel a bit like the crepe myrtle after this winter. The biting cold and excessive snowfall turned me soft. I played tennis yesterday, in 80 degree heat, and felt like I would pass out. I love heat. I live for heat. Eighty degrees is like paradise for me.

Except yesterday.

Like my crepe myrtle, it's going to take some time to ease into this summer. I'll definitely need to spend some time soaking in the sun, readjusting my body to the heat and humidity that the season brings. Which sounds an awful lot like an excellent excuse to sit by the pool with a good book.

"No, darlings - Mama didn't make supper today. I was acclimating to the weather."

"Oh, I'm sorry you don't have any clean socks. I was acclimating to the weather."

"I couldn't possibly do that thing you want me to do. I am acclimating to the weather."

Yep. Sounds like a plan.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

5 Simple Steps to Great Family Portraits

With a combination of a little patience and a lot of planning, taking your family's portrait should be a breeze. Build a repertoire of basic group poses, like the ones here, and you'll be on your way to a fantastic gallery wall of your own portraits in no time!

Let's get started!

1. Location, location, location. Scout out your yard or local park to find a nice area with open shade that will give you even, diffuse light. Avoid getting hotspots on any of your family members by making sure they are completely in the shade, not in a dappled sunlight area. No one wants a shiny forehead.

In the shot below, we headed out to the backyard and found some really great open shade that evenly lit Dr. SmartyPants and Jasper, but I really didn't like the area in the background. Pay close attention to the background! It can make or break your shot. Use the playback feature on your camera to really evaluate what is going on behind your subject.

   Jasper Smiling

In the next shot, below, I moved my view just a little until the weedy parts of the yard were hidden, and nothing but green grass was showing. It always pays to take a few test shots before you get the whole family involved. Which brings me to point two...

 2. Pre-shoot. Find your most cooperative family member, or members, and place them in your chosen area to set up your exposure and focus. The more you do here, the more efficiently your session will go. Obviously, I chose Dr. SmartyPants - man of infinite patience - for my test subject. Chico did pretty well, too.

Pre-shoot

3. Arrange the humans. Trust me. If you are including your family pets in the photograph, they need to wander around and sniff all the things while you get your humans in place. This applies to toddlers and pre-schoolers, as well. Get all the non-fidgety people placed, make sure your lighting is perfect, then bring in the wigglers.

4. Shoot fast. There's nothing worse than sitting through a session where the photographer just keeps going and going and going. You've got everything set up already - just take the picture! Use a high burst mode to help you avoid the dreaded blinks of half the crowd - you're bound to get one where everyone is looking at the camera with their eyes open. Just fire off a burst, check your settings, make whatever quick adjustments you need, fire off another burst and call it a day. Trust your pre-work.

Posed Portrait

Once you've done all that, it's time to move on to the last step...

5. Let them goof off. Finish the session by letting everyone loose. Keep the camera firing on continuous drive and tell everyone you're finished. That's when the real family portraits show up!

Jasper.Chico.Play

See what I mean...
  Real Portrait

Alright - your turn! Get out there and grab some great shots of your own family, okay?