Monday, March 28, 2011

Confessions of an Amateur Photographer and Adventures in Pest Control. Alternatively Titled: The Final Days of Spring Break 2011

How about that rain?

I don't think there has ever been a sunny spring break here in Eugene during my lifetime. I'm pretty sure if there had been, people would still be talking about it, because it would have been a VERY BIG DEAL and probably broken some meteorological record or something and maybe there would be a state holiday or at least a commemorative plaque somewhere because it always rains here during spring break.

(On a loosely related note, one of my coworkers recently asked me if I remembered the Big Snowstorm of '69. '69?! As in 1969?WTF??!! And here I had been all bent out of shape because teenagers think I'm a soccer mom. Sheesh.)

I think I have mentioned before that I am actually one of those weird people who likes the rain. I know it's strange and I can understand why the weather gets to other people, but me? I am okay with some rain. I like being all cozied up by the roaring fire and wearing my hooded sweatshirt and yoga pants like some official Domestic Army uniform. Also, I like to crank up that oven and do some serious baking and you just can't do that when it's 90 degrees in your kitchen. Or at least you shouldn't. (Sometimes I do. Sometimes I just need me some cookies.)

(On another loosely related note, if Brent ever leaves me it will probably be because I asked him to chop kindling for the fifty billionth time too many... Yeah, yeah equal rights. Blah blah blah. The reality is that me chopping firewood is a scary thing. Just ask my neighbors.)

So a good portion of this spring break has been spent in the kitchen baking breads, muffins, cookies, and brownies. Also, I've spent a good amount of time attempting to coax fires in our wood stove, since Brent has been out and about working hard to bring home some cash money this week. Our crazy flip flop seasonal employment thing works pretty well most of the time, but in December, January and February when we are down to one meager income, things can get more than a little tight. As in beans and rice for dinner again? Brent has been a handyman jack-of-all-trades type this week and I've had the house and kids all to myself. Which means that I stoke up that wood stove and bake my heart out and pretty soon the kids are sweating and asking if I'll open a window.

But there are time when you just have to suck it up and head out in the rain for a hike at Mount Pisgah. It doesn't matter if everyone's rain boots are still wet from playing in the rain the day before. You just go.

Some disclosure here: I really don't know much about photography. I am a trial and error photographer, and I use that p word loosely. I shoot with a Canon Rebel and most often use the no flash mode. I typically end up with about five million pictures each week and then I wade through them until I find a few decent ones to post on this blog. So I think many of you have been assuming that I know what I am doing- ha ha. Fooled you. I am a total amateur.

Brent has patiently tried to explain the basics to me, but his version of being patient and my ability to understand these concepts does not, shall we say, mesh well. Aperture? Shutter speed? Huh?

If there is one thing I learned in grad school... and, well, come to think of it, it might just be the one thing I learned in grad school, it's all about the metacognition. Metacog what? Understanding how you learn best. So my metacognition told me long ago that I was never ever ever ever going to be able to learn how to use my camera either by reading the manual or by listening to Brent's rapid-fire-information-overload-blah-blah-technical-terms-over-my-head very informative and helpful photography lectures. And so I came to rely on those handy automatic settings.

Yet I knew, in my heart of hearts, that there was a real photographer (again, loose term) trapped somewhere inside of me cringing whenever I turned that dial to no flash mode and laughing as I cursed my blurring action pictures and out-of-focus portraits. And so fairly recently I started venturing into the world of manual settings and sometimes my shots look pretty sweet. And often it's a total disaster. And most of the time I'm not sure what I did to achieve either of those results.

But then my friend Erin (hi Erin!) introduced me to the wonderful world of PHOTOSHOP and ACTIONS and MY GOD! LOOK AT MY PICTURES! THEY LOOK ALL OLD TIMEY AND YET HIP AT THE SAME TIME!

And many of you are like duh, Photoshop has been around for like ever and all this time you could have been photoshopping out your wrinkles and whitening your teeth like everyone else does.

Sometimes I am a bit behind in the times. I bought music from iTunes for the first time this weekend. FOR THE FIRST TIME!

Don't worry, I'm not going to go all out Photoshop crazy or anything, but if I can jazz up some dreary hiking in the rain pictures from time to time, you bet I'm down. Because when I'm messing around on the computer eating cookies in my yoga pants I like to feel like I'm on the cutting edge of something other than the couch.

Now that I have confessed my newfound love for Photoshop, I want to commit the following pledge. I won’t be photoshopping our lives on this blog, oh no. I intend to continue recording our lives authentically; even if that means that I talk about poop a lot. Or throw up. Or simultaneous throw up and poop.

(Jack calls diarrhea “throw up poop”- I find that hilariously accurate. Further proof that my child is, in fact, a genius.)

But today’s story has nothing to do with poop. Well, mostly nothing to do with poop. There’s some poop involved in the back story, but I’ll go ahead and start with the poop-free part. Confused yet?

We have a live animal trap in our backyard. You might be wondering why we would have such a contraption in our possession and in order to answer that I’d have to launch into an epic tirade that would take waaaaaay too much of my time (and yours too) and it does have something to do with poop… and… well… let’s just say we have R.O.U.S.s. That’s right. Rodents of Unusual Size. Yep, we have a problem that only a live animal trap can fix. And that’s all I’m going to say about that because, well, it just is.

So there I was, at home with the kids, baking cookies because… of course I was baking cookies, and minding my own business when I looked out the kitchen window and saw that the trap door had shut. This meant only one thing: an R.O.U.S had been captured! But some foliage blocked my view, so I couldn’t see exactly who our victim was and I sent Jack to the sliding glass door to investigate. Whatever he saw caused him to collapse into a fit of hysterics and fat tears rolled down his chubby red cheeks as he struggled to explain just what was so funny. I hurried to scrub cookie dough from my hands and ran to the door, dreading what I might see.

One of our chickens, Hazel, was stuck in the trap!

You might think that is the punch line of the story. Sadly, it is not. I still had to get the damn chicken out of the trap and if you’ve ever operated a live animal trap or attempted to move a chicken against its will, you will have some sympathy for me in this endeavor.

Also, it was pouring. Because… OF COURSE IT WAS POURING!

And so I ventured out from the cozy warmth of my kitchen into the downpour to perform the chicken rescue. My first thought was that if I could just get the door open, Hazel would just obediently walk out.

Ha ha.

Those doors are tricky because they’re all, like, animal proof and stuff. Eventually I managed to get one side of the thing open and hoist it up into the air so that I could shake the chicken out. Except Hazel had other ideas. She was clinging onto that cage for dear life with her creepy chicken fingers and feathers were flying and I was shaking and shaking and shaking. And then bits of tuna (the bait) start flying around and feathers are in my face and FOR THE LOVE OF GOD! CALGON TAKE ME AWAY! Out she came with a ceremonious plop and she ran off cackling about it to her friends. I stood there in the rain while my children pressed their faces up against the sliding glass door laughing their asses off at me.

And there’s just no way Photoshop can make this story look any better. So see? I’m keepin’ it real here, y’all. Even if I did Photoshop some soft edges onto that trillium picture.


  1. I can so relate to the rain thing...we live in Vancouver WA...yep...lots of rain here! Even tho my kids are grown, one escaped to Redding CA and is loving the warm weather, the other two live in town here, I do remember those spring breaks! You're just hoping for some nice weather so the kids can get out of the house and out of your hair...but NO...not happening, at least not most of the time.'s beautiful here and it's because of that rain that plagues us sometimes. I'm like you tho, I can live with the rain cuz I also love to lounge in my pj's and curl up with a book or whatever! Enjoy your blog, actually this is the first time I've read it...Your mother in law posted on FB, so glad she did!!

  2. I'm so sorry, but I would have been joining the boys falling on the floor laughing at the chicken incident, since I almost peed my pants reading about it! I should have read this post before going to library and checking out just about every book about Photoshop - I think I just need a Cassadie tutorial. My favorite picture is the fence (?) below the picture of Sawyer standing on his own two feet. I have a cute pic of Jack from the hike I'll send you to see what magic you can work... Well done!