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Saturday, May 28, 2011

2nd Bike Ride of the Year :)

I just knew today was going to be a great day! We all woke up around 9am this morning, went down and had a big egg breakfast, and then started loading up the van with all of our cycling equipment. We were blessed again with another beautiful day, so we knew for sure that we just had to go for another ride!

This time we decided to start our ride in town (Morgantown) since the trail is mostly flat and paved (the trail we took last week is inclined and mostly small, loose gravel). We started in Sabraton, near the Marilla pool, and rode past the amphitheater toward Star City until we were forced to turn around because of construction. We then rode back to Sabraton and headed up the trail toward Masontown, then turned around and went back down. We rode for a total of approximately 20 miles over an hour and a half. It was so much fun. Once again, the girls were on there best behavior! Ava did get a little bit hungry, but a baggie of Pepperidge Farm goldfish was a quick remedy :)  

We didn't take any pics until the end, after we had already put Audi in the van. So, here's a shot of me and my sweet riding buddy...

If you're not familiar with the WV rails-to-trails, click here to find out more about all the trails in WV (location, length, etc). If you click on the home page, you can even find out more about trails near you. There are even state trails in Hawaii... good info for when you're visiting and want a fun trail for a bike ride or run ;) The site also lets you browse trail by activity (cycling, fishing, hiking, etc). It's pretty awesome. You should definitely check it out! 

Well, we're heading down to Merritt Island, Florida tomorrow evening for ten days to visit the Johnsons, so more than likely I won't be putting any new posts on here during that time. But don't worry... there'll be lots to write about from all of the adventures we have there when we get back!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Going for a Spin!

This past weekend we were able to enjoy some much needed fun outdoor family time! I was so thankful that the girls and I were getting over our colds, so that we could go out and enjoy the beautiful warm weather. Saturday daddy mowed the lawn while the girls and I played in the yard. He also took advantage of the day by installing a custom Honda hitch to our new Odyssey. Such a good idea because Sunday we were able to put it to use, hauling our bikes to the rail trail for a family ride. This was our first bike ride of the year and Audrey's first bike ride ever!

We had a blast! Ava rode on mommy's bike, and daddy pulled Audrey in the trailer. The girls loved the ride! Audrey slept most of it, and Ava actually feel asleep the last 5 miles. We rode for about an hour and a half covering a good 16 miles. We started in Masontown and headed down the rail trail toward Morgantown for approximately 8 miles, then turned around and came back up. The going down was a breeze. In fact, I didn't have to pedal much at all, but let me just tell you, coming back up (with an extra 25+ pounds of baby on the back) was not easy. We did it though. If you can believe it, we actually only had to stop one time.. so we could take the pictures, of course :)

(FYI: Ava was wearing a helmet... we just took it off for a little while to let her head cool down).

Being out in the beautiful weather and on our road bikes was such a rush for both my husband and I. Jeremiah and I began riding before we had even met over four years ago, and for both us it has become one of our favorite things to do. Since then we've gone from riding alone to together, with one daughter, and now with 2 babies. It's something that we know we'll continue doing together for a very long time, and perhaps one day our girls will enjoy it as much as their daddy and mommy do :)

Friday, May 20, 2011

Just Dance!

I suppose it doesn't matter much what the weather is like outside when we aren't feeling well and have to stay in anyway. Poor little Audrey and I have been battling serious head colds for several days now. I was so thankful Ava didn't also catch our bug.... but of course, that soon changed just yesterday, and boy did she get sick! Fever of 102. Stuffy, snotty, runny nose. Even vomiting. Luckily though, the evening just before she started coming down with these symptoms, I was able to snatch a couple shots of her dancing to Pandora while dressed in her tutu (thanks Grandma Johnson!). She just loves playing dress-up, and she really loves to dance. Check out how cute she is........

It's nice that we can get our blood pumping a little, while having fun. Dancing is actually a great cardio work-out that's perfect for days when we have to stay indoors. It's true that children who are regularly active are able to fend of stress easily and are generally happier overall. How neat is it that while dancing Ava's actually "doing exercise" and doesn't even realize how much she's benefiting her overall health?! 

And Ava's not the only one having a good time. Audrey also really enjoys listening to the music, and she's very interested in watching Ava dance...

As mentioned in one of previous posts, Look Who's Talking, dancing and singing are excellent advocates when it comes to your child's language development. Plus, it is tons of fun! So, next time you have to stay inside, our suggestion is to turn on the tunes, and get your body moving! You'll definitely be glad you did :)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I'm Going Bug Hunting! I'm Not Afraid!

The sun was actually within view this morning, and at last, it wasn't raining! So, Ava and I quickly got ourselves ready to head outdoors (after getting Audi down for a nap, that is). Oh, it sure was nice to be able to go outside!

Although there are many things for us to get into indoors, we much rather prefer playing outside. We had a blast just running around in the grass and blowing lots of bubbles, but what we really had fun doing on this fine sunny day was collecting bugs! Nana and Grandda Glover got Ava a little bug collecting kit for Easter this year, and today was a great day to put it use. Granted we only found 2 bugs, one that was mostly dead when we found it and the other mostly dead after Ava got a hold of it, we still had an enjoyable time looking. It not only was a fun adventure, it was also a learning experience for Ava. She was able to explore the world in a new way and understand that certain living things are very fragile.

Children are always interested in learning more about the world around them, in particular the world of bugs and insects. Instead of telling Ava to leave those yucky things alone, I'd much rather let her discover what they are and how to interact with them. Of course, I don't let her touch insects that could be potentially dangerous... bees, poisonous spiders, and so forth, but harmless creatures like grasshoppers and ants certainly are worth a little discovery. We tried to catch a couple butterflies, but they're a little too fast for us. I think we need to get a bigger net!

Well, our bug hunting adventure of course came to an end sooner than we would have liked... grey clouds were moving in and little Audrey was waking up from her morning nap. Nonetheless, we sure are looking forward to finding more bugs for our collection the next time we're out (of course, we let them go after we catch them... if they survived while being caught, that is!).

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Why Hire A Pro?

Like all the finer things in life, professional photography is more of a luxury. Professional photography offers a great deal more than your entry level - run of the mill - chain photography experience. It may be true that professional photography generally requires a larger investment in time and money as well as planning and forethought from both the client and photographer, but, with that being said, there are many reasons to choose this scenario over the "mass marketed - cooperate" setting.

Professional photography allows clients to take an active role in the creation of capturing their families memories as well as personalizing the experience. The luxury of this whole experience includes better service, better choices, and genuinely overall better end products.

Professional photography can be compared to cycling, so to speak, which is something I very much love to do. True I could jump on a Huffy, wearing regular work-out clothes, and go for a bike ride, but I probably wouldn't make it further than 10 miles
due to the discomfort in my legs from having to grind the high gears that are only offered by lower end bikes and a sore backside from sitting on a seat with the improper cycling attire. I would also probably end up tiring early from riding a bike made of many extremely heavy parts. However, had I choose to ride a light-weight Giant, which is actually the bike I currently own, with the proper cycling gear (jersey, cycling shorts, gloves, cycling shoes, etc), I'd be able to take an epic 60+ mile ride, having the time of my life.... a ride worth remembering for all the right reasons. I'd be able to change gears from easy to difficult depending on the terrain. The light-weight components of this bike would allow me to travel far with much ease. Granted more money was invested in the latter option. More time was involved in planning this ride. But in the end, the experience was overall more satisfactory from start to finish, and I'd honestly say, the latter will always be my choice. This my friends, is the same as deciding to choose a pro to photographically capture your memories. It is where the experience is made truly wonderful, and the images themselves make the investment of money and time completely worthwhile.

Whether you want to have your wedding captured on film or photos taken of your newborn's precious little features, a professional experience will very much be worth the extra time and effort. Allow yourself the opportunity to experience how a photography session should be, where quality and level of commitment are top priority. Portraits from professional photography can be as unique as you are, will only increase in value, and will become more priceless as years pass, leaving behind an heirloom for the ones you love.

♫ ♪ ♫ It's Raining, It's Pouring... Who Says Life has to be Boring?! ♫ ♪ ♫

I hope pictures of Ava and I playing outside will eventually come, but for now, pictures of indoor activities will be displayed and discussed. Hopefully the rain will go away soon and sunshine will follow, but since we are stuck inside, we might as well make the most of it, right?! What can Ava and I (and little Audrey) get into while it rains outside?! (Keep in mind that most of these activities have occurred over the last several days.... I'm just now getting my thoughts put together and having a chance to post about it).

How about we play with Play-Dough for a little while?! That's always fun. And while we're at it, how about grabbing a paintbrush and watercolors or some crayons and a coloring book for a bit of colorful fun?!

Although Ava isn't exactly sculpting like Michaelangelo or painting like Picasso, she has a blast and is actually learning in the process. Yes she's learning. Her little fingers are learning fine motor skills. Play-Dough, in fact, helps to strengthen fingers, hands, and wrists. Playing with Play-Dough also helps to foster the imagination.... the possibilities of what can be made out of this soft, squishy material are endless.

Just let your child explore through the art of creativity. Plus, let your child get that release of tension or excess energy by squeezing, punching, pulling, and poking.

Who knew having so much fun could actually be so beneficial to her development?!

Coloring and painting are equally as beneficial when it's comes to your child's development and learning... and just as fun. Fine motors skills are again taking shape as your little one grips the end of the crayon or paintbrush. You can let your little one play independently, figuring out the process of coloring on her own, which is sometimes needed, or as your child's instructor, you can also encourage your little one, through demonstration how to color in different ways, i.e. side-to-side, up and down, staying in the lines, and small or large circular motions.

(Another fine motor skill involves the ability to put the Play-Dough lids on the containers, and take them off. Boy, even us adults have a hard time with that!!)

Of course, another activity that takes place most days, rainy or not, and indoors is reading. There are numerous obvious benefits to reading to your child and letting her "read for herself"... literacy, exploring unknown worlds of the imagination, being able to associate pictures with words, etc. And it's fun! Ava also loves to put puzzles together. She currently has 4 different ones... two animal puzzles, a clock puzzle, and an alphabet puzzle. She has easily mastered them all, so I'm thinking another puzzle will soon be on the "To Get" list.

I suppose there's a big debate on whether or not, and how much time, a child should spend watching TV. I can't say that I let Ava watch a whole lot of TV, but yes, I do let her from time to time. She particularly loves to watch Go Diago Go and Word World, which is really great because both of these shows are full of learning. Ava has actually learned a couple Spanish words from Go Diago Go, and I'm pretty sure the 15+ letters Ava knows has something to do with her seeing several episodes of Word World. As a mother and as a speech pathologist I know that Ava's speech and language development are right on track, so I'm not worried about her watching a couple shows here and there... granted some days the TV is on a little more than others, but some days it isn't on at all. I'm not worried. I'm not a couch potato, so I've no worries about her becoming one. Plus, I notice that Ava actually interacts with what she is watching. She'll answer questions (yes/no, what color, etc.) and even predict certain parts (of something she's already seen). I'd say if the TV has to be on, she might as well be learning something from it... and apparently, she is!

So what does Audrey get into when it's raining outside? Well, let's take a look, shall we....

 She spends a little time in the bumbo chair, strengthening her back and neck muscles.

She relaxes in her vibrating lamb chair while listening to soothing songs.

She plays in her, what we call "the dangling jungle", to stretch out and kick those little legs while being visually stimulated by all the different colorful hanging toys.

Tummy time generally takes place here as well.

And when she's in the mood, Audrey spends a little time in her lamb swing. Who doesn't enjoy swinging?!

So, I'd say, even if it does have to rain outdoors, we'll find something fun to do. There sure are a lot of things inside for us to get into!!

P.S. - I'd just like to thank my sweet sister, Brooke, for the Play-Dough, coloring book, and watercolors that she gave Ava for Easter this year. Ava's having a great time playing with each of them!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Preserving Precious Memories through the Art of Scrapbooking

There are many things in life I love to do... cycling, swimming, skiing to name a few, but when I'm indoors, one thing I really enjoy doing is scrapbooking. In fact, I LOVE to scrapbook! I've been scrapbooking for over 10 years now, and I love it as much today as I did the day I began. I suppose it has to do with me being able to get in touch with my creative side, which is something I enjoy doing (those of you who have read my previous posts about creating crafty wall letters already know this about me). I get to be artsy. I get to be unique. And I get to create something that is meaningful.  


I currently have a total of nine scrapbooks (five that are completely finished) that include special times in my life (i.e. my high school graduation, my first day of Kindergarten, fishing with my family, etc). It's simply a beautiful way to preserve precious memories, not only by including pictures from the past but also captions, that when you read them, really take you back to that place in time. 

Scrapbooking allows you to tell a beautiful story. It's a way for you to remember a time from the past that meant something special to you. I honestly could spend hours scrapbooking... that's how much I love it. Of course I don't actually get to these days with little ones, so I just work on a page here and there. That's what's nice about it too... there's always something to scrapbook. Just bring pictures and your imagination, and let the story unfold!

(A little view of my set-up when I'm ready to put some new pages in my scrapbook.)

(My current nine scrapbooks... I'm sure I'll be adding to this collection soon.)

 (A shot of a couple of the pages I've done in the past.)

In addition to scrapbooks that consist of memorable times in my life, I've also started scrapbooks for my daughters that include my pregnancy, their birth, and their first year of life as well as other fun times. I've included our certificate for completing the child birth class, the hospital certificate with those cute little first footprints, ultrasound pictures, baby shower announcements, the weight/height/head circumference charts from each pediatrician's visit, and much more. In my other scrapbooks as well as those for my daughters, I also like to include things like holiday cards and birthday cards as well as other souvenirs like tickets to movies or theme parks. In the picture above I included metals that my husband and I won in a triathlon we competed in as well as the bike log of all the stats (heart rate, total miles, average speed, fastest speed, etc). Just by adding those little extras really brings those pictures to life and creates a more memorable story. 

Another memorable addition that I've included within my daughter's scrapbooks is a page for each month of life during their first year that includes a couple pictures that were taken during that time as well as a message describing certain facts and moments that occurred during that month (e.g. skills that were learned, milestones that were accomplished, etc). It's my hope that my daughters, Ava and Audrey, will look through these keepsakes with a special joy and be glad these books were created for them and possibly be inspired to create their own for their children one day. 

If you haven't already started a scrapbook of your own, I encourage you to do so. If you're worried that you won't have time for it or that you won't finish it, don't be. That's what's nice about it... you can spend as much time on it as you want, make it as detailed as you like, and it will always be there waiting for you when you want to come back to it. There's no time limit and don't set yourself up for one. Just have fun with it, knowing that you are creating a timeless keepsake that will be treasured by you and your family for a very long time. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Just playin around

This is just a short, sweet, little post about how much we've been enjoying the nice weather lately. It finally quit raining and has warmed up a little bit, so Ava and I actually get to go outside and play. I know "April showers bring May flowers", but this year it's been more like "April showers bring May floods!!" 

We're definitely looking forward to many more days having fun outside in the sun! And we can't wait until Audi can join us. (For those of you who don't know  - Audi is what Ava calls her little sister, Audrey. Isn't it so cute?! Daddy and I actually call her that sometimes too. It's become her little nickname.)

Many more pics of having fun in the sun will be coming soon, so stay tuned ;) Until then we'll just keep playing outside!

Photography Tip #8: Understanding Aperture

Although getting the perfect exposure is an advanced topic, the basic concept is simple. Exposures are made when light enters the camera lens and is recorded on the digital imaging sensor. To make the proper exposure, a certain amount of light is needed for any given situation for a certain subject. How the camera gets just the right amount of light is an advanced photography topic, but simply speaking, the amount of light can be controlled in three basic ways: Aperture, Shutter speed, and ISO. Shutter speed was discussed fairly in detail in one of my recent posts, Photography Tip #3: Capturing Motion, and I will take the opportunity to discuss ISO a little further in the future. So for now, we'll just talk a little bit about Aperture.

Aperture, or f/stop, is the lens diaphragm opening inside a photographic lens, and the size of the opening regulates the amount of light that passes through onto the film inside the camera the moment the shutter curtain in your camera opens during an exposure process. It also affects how much of the scene, from foreground to background, is in sharp focus.

Your camera has an automatic setting called the Aperture Priority Mode (A or Av). When you pick this mode, the camera automatically chooses the appropriate shutter speed for proper exposure. If the depth of field (how much of the scene is in acceptably sharp focus from foreground to background) is most important for your photo, you may want to select your preferred aperture using this exposure mode on your camera. (You also have the option of choosing Manual mode on your camera, which will allow you to choose the aperture and shutter speed if you want complete control). If you want to emphasize your subject by placing the background out of focus, select a large f/stop (small f/number) such as f/2.8 or f/4.0 for example. Select a small f/stop (high f/number), like f/11 or f/16, to capture more of your scene in focus.

 Using an aperture of f/5.0 allowed me to focus in on the tiny details of this newborn's precious little feet.

By using an aperture of f/5.6 to put the older brother out of focus, the story of this picture then becomes about the younger brother.

I was able to focus in on this piece of grass, isolating it from the background, by using an aperture of f/1.8.

The photos below were taken at three different apertures: f/4.5 (top), f/11.0 (middle), and f/29.0 (bottom). Notice how the background changes from blurry with the aperture wide open to much sharper and more distracting with a very small aperture.

Next time you are photographing your subject consider what aperture you would want to use to portray the best story. Do you want to isolate your subject from the background, making him/her the focus of your image? Or do you want to capture the whole scene in perfect sharpness? Play around with different apertures (as well as different aperture / shutter speed combinations), and see the various photographic masterpieces you can create.

Friday, May 6, 2011

A VERY Happy Anniversary!

May 3, 2008 was one of the most special and remembered days of my life. It was the day Jeremiah and I got married. We had a small, fairly simple wedding right down the road from where we currently live here in Reedsville, and looking back, we wouldn't do anything differently. We realize that it wasn't about the decorations, the flowers, the dress, the cake, or even the ring. It was and is and will always be about the love we have for each other and love God has for us. Of course, I'm not complaining about those other things, and in fact we both were very happy with all of our choices, the choices that made our special day our own.

The third of May this year marked our 3 year anniversary. Three very wonderful years! We've seen and done countless things within these past three years that just naming them would make this blog one of the longest you've ever read. But, I will name a few things that we've done together that are worthy of mentioning... we've had two beautiful daughters, Ava and Audrey, visited Hawaii twice (once to Maui and once to Oahu), visited over a dozen states within the US (including FL, NY, TN), competed in a triathlon, cycled over 40 miles from our house to Fairmont WV (my husband actually competed in a century, which is a 100 mile race... maybe next time we'll to it together), completed several home-improvement projects (including upgrading the master bath), established a photography business (JB gallery), and went on a cruise to the Bahamas. That's just to name a few ;)  We are so very blessed and are even more in love with each other than the day we wed.

This year my hubby surprised me with a beautiful bouquet of a dozen long-stem red roses, chocolate covered pretzels, and our favorite bottle of Cabernet, Clos Du Bois. What a sweetie!

But that wasn't all he had in mind ;) This anniversary will definitely be, by far, one of the most remembered anniversaries..................

Now before you think we've gone and done something impulsive and or drastic even, think again. We've been wanting to do this for quite sometime, and what better time to "give each other something new and exciting" than on our anniversary, right?!

WELL, here's the long and short of it....

We traded in our old vehicles, a Toyota 4Runner and an Acura TL, for a brand new Honda Odyssey and a pre-owned Convertible Mazda MX-5 Miata.

Here's a first (and last) look at our recent vehicles:

Both of these rides have been great vehicles for us. They've not only served as great modes of transportation, they've also offered many luxuries during their years with us, including navigation, towing, blue tooth to name a few. We really did enjoy having both the 4Runner and TL. But, years go by, things change, including the size of our family, and we were ready for an upgrade, so to speak.

First I'll talk a little bit about why we decided to trade in the 4Runner for a Honda Odyssey. The main reason is the need for additional space. And, boy, the Odyssey is loaded with additional space.... in the front, on the sides, in the middle, in the rear. It's got a lot of space, and as a mother of two babies with massive car seats, toys, snacks, etc, I was hooked! The Odyssey offers three rows of seating (8 seats), whereas the 4Runner only had room for 5. Plus, that third row in the Odyssey can be stored away if needed to make, you guessed it!, even more space. And behind the third row is a deep rear that is perfect for transporting groceries, or luggage. Now to name several of the luxuries that the Odyssey offers: Blue tooth, XM radio, Rear view camera, a cool box [for keeping foods and drinks cool :)], MP3/Auxiliary jack (perfect for our IPOD), leather-trimmed seats, heated front seats, Tri-zone automatic climate control, multi-function 2nd row center seat, wide-mode adjustable 2nd row seats with armrests and walk-in feature (perfect for when I have to climb in the back with the girls!), power sliding doors, and much much more including dozens of safety and technical features. So, you can see why we just fell in love with this van. Here's a couple pics to help you visualize what I've described:

Why stop there, right?! We also decided it was time to trade in our Acura TL... for various reasons, but mostly because it was reaching a pretty high mileage. So, after a bit of research, we decided to go with this pre-owned '02 Mazda MX-5 Miata. This baby is in mint condition. With only 19,000 miles, this car is basically brand-new. It's actually never been in the rain! Not only is it a sight for the eyes, it's super fun to drive with it's 6 speed manual transmission. This little sports car only has two seats, so the girls will have to wait until they're older to take her for a spin. It might seem unpractical to have a two-seater car when we have two babies, but that's what the van is for, right?! This is for fun! For date night! And, for just taking a drive without the little ones. So for you car junkies out there, here's some mechanical facts: while weighing in at only 2000 lbs, this car has a torque of 125 ft-lbs @ 5500 rpm and horsepower of 142 hp @ 7000 rpm. As I'm typing this, I honestly have no clue what that means. All I know is that it has some spunk, and it is fast! Need I say more ;)  Now to feed your visual appetite.....

And even though our oldest, Ava, won't literally be getting behind the wheel of this beauty for many many years to come, we couldn't help but snap a  couple shots of her pretending to drive it.

So, I think we'd all agree that this has been quite an anniversary to remember. And, what's really awesome about this whole endeavor is the fact that we now have nicer "mostly more practical" cars with even lower monthly car payments. Go Figure! Extraordinarily enough, the car trade-in amount for our recent vehicles was more than pleasing when the time came to make the trade. And I most definitely can say with no regret, that we are happy we did :)

Let me leave you with one final glimpse of both the Odyssey and Miata, photographed side-by-side. I'd say they're both pretty to look at, wouldn't you agree?!
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