Thursday, August 30, 2012

A Season

"Two roads diverged in a wood, and I took the road less
traveled by, And that has made all the difference in the world."

~ Robert Frost

The Robert Frost quote is one of my favorites and could be called my life quote.
To me it speaks of my life and how adoption changed it profoundly
in so many wonderful ways.

Last Post 1
{The good stick that broke.}

For as long as I can remember I wanted to be a mom.
I'm the oldest of 4 (all quite close in age) and used to play teacher or mommy to my younger siblings.
My mentor is one of the own mother, Barbara.
I have an incredible mom.
From her I learned patience, not to sweat the small stuff, 
give my children choices,
and be a good listener...our children have so much to teach us.
Both of my parents gave me the gift of compassion and it means very much
that my children have that gift too.

Last Post Storyboard 2

This time with our children is short and truly in a blink of an eye they've graduated
from High School and gone to college or are working full time in a job.
I know that first hand because I've raised one son who's now in his 20's
and it seems like yesterday that I first held him.

Last Post 2
5 years ago in August of 2007, I started this blog. It was just after Grace's 5th birthday.
My husband Dan thought of the name, 'Aging with Grace,' it
was a little comment on our age (at the time in our 40's) and life with our little girl.
She was such a little peanut then.
The blog was a way to journal our wait for our second adoption.

Blogging has changed greatly in 5 years...
I used to blog nearly every day
and many of us participated in cute little memes, contests and giveaways.
It definitely was a sweet and supportive time in my life.
I can whole heartedly say that through blogging I've met
some amazingly supportive and kind people.
Good people.
Unless you've adopted and gone through the long, arduous, soul searching process,
not many folks understand the experience and
the emotional investment and deep love we have for our children.
We truly are a special little group.

Last Post Storyboard 3
4 years ago we made the trip with Grace to Fujian Province, China to adopt our William.
I wrote every single day about our time there, it was such an emotional time. 
Both of those trips to the birthplace of my children were profound experiences 
for both Dan and myself. 
It's not possible to travel to China and not be changed on some level.

Last Post 3
Over time the blog became more of a photography one.
I was given a DSLR camera by my husband 4 years ago.
The goal of me wanting to learn to use that first camera well and take better photos, soon
 changed to me wanting to learn all that I could about photography.
I took photos 'from the heart.'
That part was easy for me, I'm a heart person.
A sensitive soul, I feel deeply and love the same way.
Shooting from the heart means shoot with a passion,
and don't get consumed with all the technical stuff at first.
That will come.
Maybe shooting from the heart as it relates to photography 
is a great analogy for how we all should live our lives,
passionately, deeply, and always in the moment.

Last Post Storyboard 1

I have an incredible life, a beautiful life some would say, I suppose.
I'm blessed in ways too numerous to count, but the the most important being with good health,
 people that love me unconditionally and a loving Father
in Heaven that cares about me.

I've learned that photography is a journey, just like life.
I will always be a photographer... whether as a professional or hobbyist.
It's a lifelong love and passion,
and it's really through photography that I've found myself.
The Gail that has always been there...the nurse/ mom/ artist/ caring / altruistic person.
I'm at a very good place in my life.

I have learned that one of my greatest joys is photographing my children
 and second to that is giving back with my gift.
Who would have thought that I can use this gift to give back to newly adoptive families
 through Red Thread Sessions and to volunteer with An Orphan's Wish,
an organization that serves 'the least of these,' orphaned special needs children in China.
I feel called to help these children and bring attention especially to the older ones who wait for their 
forever families.
So as life is a journey, I'm going to be enjoying it to the fullest.
We only have one time on this Earth.

Thank you for the last 5 years...the friends that I've met through my little blog
will always be a part of my heart.
 I've loved every single moment of this 'season' of our lives.
A little snapshot in time.


As this is my last blog post (the 777th!) I can now
 be found at my new blog, A Mother's Art Photography.
I'll post favorites from client sessions and there
will still be some posts featuring my two littlest loves.
Follow along if you like.

Last Post 4
(My heart)

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Beach Days (Sunday Snapshot)

{A little beach fun...Door County style}

Beach days 2

Why do we flock to the beach (whether it's near a lake or ocean) every Summer?
Maybe it's because everything about it is calming and renewing.
All stress and anxiety leaves.
We all need a little 'beach therapy' from time to time in our lives.

Beach days 1

I have always loved the beach.
Maybe it's the sensory part of it...the sounds of 
the water, my children's laughter, the feel of sand, sun and wind,
and the obvious visual appeal of textures and color.

Beach Days Storyboard 1

We took advantage of the little private beach where we stayed
last week. We were the only ones there for quite a while.

Beach days 3

I happened to find the perfect vintage sand pail
and playing cards at a little shop that added some charm to our little beach themed shoot.

Beach days 4

When I uploaded the photos I could really see how much my 
children had grown.
Time is flying by and I cherish all these images.
All the little details.
They stay young for such a short time.
I loved the image of Will's little feet in his flip
flops with the sand on his toes.
Someday I'll look at that photo and remember these precious days.

Beach Days Storyboard 2

We have had a perfect Summer in so many ways
and are a little sad to see it leaving.

Beach days 19 
These were taken with two different lenses, my 35 mm 1.4 for the wide shots and
85mm 1.4 for others.

The first one ~
Nikon d700
85mm 1.4
1/6400 sec.
ISO 160

A very quick edit was done in PS with one of Florabella's new Colorplay actions.
I used an action called 'Matte Film' which
gave the perfect vintage matte finish which is
exactly what I wanted to add to these images.

Ni Hao Yall

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

32/52 - Summer Vacation

{First glimpse of the beach, the waters of Green Bay in Ephraim, WI}

Summer Vacation 7

I'm a water person and it's no surprise that all 3 of my children are too.
My Dad had a boat when I was growing up and I learned to ski
and spent many hours on lakes and reservoirs growing up in Indiana.
It's probably for that reason that we try to vacation at a spot near water.

Summer Vacation Storyboard

The water this time was in Door County, WI.
This was our second visit there as a family and it didn't disappoint at all.
We spent quite a bit of time on the beach or in the water...whether
it was the fresh water of the bay or in the pool.

Summer Vacation 8

When we weren't in the water we explored some of the quaint little towns and villages
that are up and down the peninsula.
I found a gem of an antique store and purchased a few photography props that also
double as items that go in our home.
Grace and Will got to experience a drive-in movie (we saw Ice Age 3).
They wore their pj's and ate popcorn and we snuggled under blankets
while watching the show on that big outdoor screen.
It reminded me of my own childhood.
 We played mini- golf
and went to a traditional Wisconsin fish boil.
The food was delicious!
They embraced all these new experiences...all 3 were a huge hit.
We found that Will  has a fondness for boats of any's adorable.
He loved checking out the local marinas.

I think the best part was time spent together away from the tv, computer and
video games.
Just us being a family.

These are a few of my favorites but as you can imagine
I have quite a few more photos to go through and will do a couple more posts
showing our time in this beautiful place.
It's lovely in the Fall, so hopefully next year we may return...

Summer Vacation Storyboard 2

Monday, August 13, 2012

Birthday Girl (Sunday Snapshot)

{Grace and friends celebrating her 10th} 

Birthday party 2

I've been a mom for a very long time and I always try to make each of my children's birthday celebrations special. They have input about what they'd like to have for a party.
Some years the parties are family ones, some years they celebrate with friends.
Most of the time if the request is reasonable we can find a way to do it.

Grace's Party Storyboard 1

Grace (my little artist) loves to draw, paint and create. 
When she mentioned she'd like to have a party where she and her friends could get together and make something, I had the perfect place in mind... 

Birthday party 1

Located in Middleton, WI....Confectionique is a French inspired vintage craft market that sells the most beautiful things. One of the owners, Jessica(in the photos) teaches all kinds of classes.
May I add that Jessica is as sweet as a person can possibly be. 

Grace's Party Storyboard 2

The girls made little pink and white cakes out of Sculpey clay that they cut and rolled out that eventually were decorated and baked.

Birthday party 4

And of course they had to celebrate with cupcakes all around!

Grace's Party Storyboard 3 
This was a treat for me because I thoroughly enjoyed myself just watching the girls interact, create and help my daughter celebrate her special day. I loved capturing Grace and her friends and some of the details of this adorable shop. 

The first image was taken with my Nikon d700.

35mm 1.4 lens
ISO 800
1/160 sec.

All were quickly edited in Photoshop with Florabella's
Classic Workflow actions. I used Classic Color,
with Ivory Boost and 1968.
Ni Hao Yall

Friday, August 10, 2012

Friendships, Photography and Fun - Favorite Photo Friday

{Beautiful Natalie, just after being photographed by her mom.} 

Friendships 1 

If you read my previous post you'd remember that our friends (Grace, Liam and Natalie)
visited us for 5 days, (here from Florida).
Grace (mom) had a new 35mm lens and wanted to take it out for a try.
She already knew plenty about light and how her camera worked.
Her photography is beautiful.
I did show her a couple of of them being as far as what I do to get children
to relax and have natural smiles and expressions in photos.
And it's not hard...we have conversations, I listen, we talk and I ask questions.
Many times the best expressions are between the talking (and that's my opinion).
Natalie did awesome by the way!

Natalie Diptych

Grace(mom) also wanted to get some photos of Liam and Natalie
and then Liam by himself.
I'm hoping in a blog post she'll show some of those adorable photos
that she captured.
My husband Dan was a great assistant as far as distracting the two boys while 
Grace, Natalie and I were working on photos.

Friendships Storyboard

Dan and the little boys took a walk around the back of the park and found some
big sticks. They started making what looked like a tepee.
Eventually the girls joined in.

Friendships 8

The kids called it a 'nest.' As in a birds nest.
The girls added leaves and flowers.
They were all so cute together making this thing, and
it was serious business for everyone.
The boys had to choose just the right stick.

Friendships 9

While they were here visiting, we went to the Madison Farmer's Market,
 Grace(mom) and I went out to dinner by ourselves, 
they helped us celebrate my Grace's 10th Birthday on Monday 
and they got the grand tour and saw  Southern Wisconsin's
rolling hills, beautiful barns and farmlands.
Oh...and cows of course. ;)
In the evening time the kids raced around the backyard playing tag with neighbor children
and they caught fireflies. Fireflies don't seem to be in Florida I guess.
Of all those things, I think this one...with our 4 children building that funny 'nest' was my favorite time
and I'll always remember how much fun we all had.
In our quaint little corner of the United States.
I call it 'Mayberry.'
And it really is.

Thank you Grace, Liam and made some wonderful Summer memories for all of us.
Maybe next time...Florida?

Friendships 10

Liam (5.5 yrs.), Will(6.5 yrs.), Grace (10 yrs.) and Natalie (9.5 yrs.)
Love those sweet smiles!

the long road

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

31/52 - Seeing Double

{2 little Batmen} 

Batman duo - 1

Last Friday our friends Grace, Liam and Natalie arrived in our neck of the woods.
It was their first visit to Wisconsin and our little town.
Grace lives in the city and we live in the country.

Batman duo - 2

I believe they had been here about an hour and Grace(mom) was upstairs unpacking.
I was downstairs and came around the corner to see these two little boys all decked out
in their best crime fighting apparel.

Batman duoDiptych
I watched what transpired between the older Batman and his younger friend.

(Will was fastening Liam's cape in the front).

Batman duo - 3

After that these two drove off in the Batmobile! ;)

Batman duo - 4

Though I love taking portraits, my very favorite style of photography is lifestyle. 
You just sit back, observe and watch the show. 
This one was delightful...

(More photos of their visit coming later in the week).

Sunday, August 5, 2012

She is 10 (Sunday Snapshot)

Grace is 10 - 1

Dear Grace,

 Happy Birthday! Today you turn 10 years We can't help but think back to the little baby we brought home nearly 9 years ago. So sweet and innocent...not much has changed in that department. You have grown so much - physically, mentally and emotionally. Though you are still a girl, we can see the beginnings of the young woman you will become. 

Grace is 10 - 5
When you have children of your own one day (through biology or adoption), you'll find that you never know what you're going to get. Everyone is different and all have their strengths and weaknesses. We've been blessed to have you - which is where we got your name in the first place...By the Grace of God. your name couldn't be more appropriate. You're full of grace, carry yourself with grace...and we delight in being a part of your life because you brighten ours so much. 

Grace is 10 - 4

There are so many things that you'll learn over the next 10 years that we can't begin to tell you everything. Instead, we'll give you some advice gathered through our own life experiences.

 1) Be happy. This is easily said but requires work every day. Every day of life is full of good and bad things; winning, losing, happiness, sadness, hard work, pain, good luck, bad luck, accomplishments and failures. It's all there and we all control how we respond to it. Focus on the good, fun and enjoyable things in life. There are so many. Get through the hard times...."Hit, lift and drive," as Grandpa likes to say. Bad times will happen but once they're in the past, they don't seem that bad. 

Grace is 10 - 6

2) Let your light shine. You've always been a happy, joyful person who loves to laugh and smile. You can brighten a gloomy night and bring a smile to sad faces. Share your joy and love of life. Don't be afraid to take risks or be yourself. There will be mean unhappy people in the world who will be jealous of your happiness. Ignore them and don't let them steal your smile or joy. 

Grace is 10 - 2

3) Challenge yourself. Set your own goals and don't take the easy road. We grow by stretching ourselves out of our comfort zone; by trying and learning new things. Self confidence comes from achieving what we set out to do. If we let others set goals for us, we'll always be trying to live up to someone else's standard. Set your own course and enjoy the ride.

Grace is 10 - 8

4) Lastly, be strong. You don't need to be told this but it's good to remind yourself from time to time. Whether you realize it or not, you have overcome tremendous obstacles and challenges in your short life. There will be more but you have a strong spirit and your inner strength will carry you the rest of your life.
 It is a gift from God.
 Never let it go.

Grace, you're a wonderful daughter, a great sister and a beautiful person - inside and out.
We thank God every day that you're a part of our lives.
Happy Birthday darling.

Ni Hao Yall

I chose the first image as my favorite because of Grace's expression.
The last one makes me cry every time I look at it, I imagine
she looks very much like her birth mother.
A woman who I honor and pray for especially on this day.

Nikon d700
35mm 1.4 lens
ISO 200
1/640 sec.

The location was the Wisconsin Historical Society Building
on the UW Madison campus.
The stone on the steps and walkway were a natural reflector.

I wanted to do something special for her 10 year old portraits
and that's why we chose the silver embellished crown.
It's handmade by Kelly of the Love Crush Bowtique.
You can find her here and here.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

30/52 - my week

{iphone photo collage} 


A little bit of my week, iphone photo style.
1. Will and Logan, the Superhero/Crime fighter neighborhood association. 2. Cool bridge in central Illinois. This week I made the 6-7 hour drive to my sister's home in Indiana. 3. Grace demonstrating some pool love. 4. Stayin' cool when it's 103 degrees. 5. Indiana prairie wildflowers. 6. Big sky over the state of Illinois. I'm a native Midwesterner and I love the endless corn fields with the blue sky. I can happily say that we finally got some rain, both in Indiana and Wisconsin.
And we had a blast at my sister's...a lot of laughing, a little shopping, kids swam, it was all good!

Monday, July 23, 2012

He's the Man (Sunday Snapshot)

Superman Will 1

Well he's definitely got the right posture, especially in the above image.
 Chest out, shoulders back....and the expression. I suppose that's one of
contemplating saving the world?

Superman Will 2

Superman represents truth, honor and the American way.

Superman Will 3

He's stronger than a locomotive, faster than a speeding bullet,
and able to leap tall buildings in a single bound.

Superman Will 4

And yes he can fly.
Certainly in his dreams.

Because he's Superman.

My little Superman. ;)

Superman Will 5

Taken with my Nikon d700
and 85mm 1.4 lens
ISO 400
1/200 sec.

These were taken shortly before sunset, hence the golden light
and some haze and a tiny bit of flare.
All edited in photoshop using Levels and Curves.
Image #2 and 4 have Sarah Gardner's textures applied,
at 'screen' on a low opacity and removed with a black brush off of Will.

In images #1 and 5, I enhanced the natural flare and haze
by adding an overlay from a Nichole Van action from her
Sunflares and Sunbursts set. She has videos to follow on her web site
and they were easy to apply.
Again, you use a black brush and remove the amount of flare that you would like.
It's all personal taste.
Overlays of flares and hazes have been used for a while in editing
and it's a fun effect to try and play with.

Ni Hao Yall
© Aging with Grace and strong Will
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