Photography


Sunrise Colorado {Wordless} 1

Here’s a little “wordless” break from our vacation in Colorado this summer.  Thanks to amazing friends, my husband and I sneaked out of the house early (without the kids!) to watch the morning sun rise over the Grand Mesa Mountains and flow into the Colorado National Monument. 

It was sublime.

Again, all photo credit goes to my awesome husband.

Colorado National Monument Sunrise Pano

Colorado National Monument Sunrise Pano

Colorado National Monument Sunrise Pano

Coke Ovens Trail in CNM
After watching the sunrise, we took a short hike down into the valley.

Coke Ovens Trail in CNM Pano
I so wanted to play hopscotch across those “Coke Ovens” but my husband wouldn’t let me. 😉


The Great American Total Solar Eclipse! {With Pictures} 1

Alrighty, now for number three on my list of 7 Things I Want to Write and Share. (What?I never said I’d go in order.)

Wayyy back in 2012, my husband, his parents, I and our kids stood in wheat field observing a partial solar eclipse.  On our way home, my husband told us we’d get a chance to see a total solar eclipse in about five years.  It seemed so long away at the time and then suddenly five years went by and on August 21st, 2017 we really did!

A few months before the great event, he scouted out a viewing spot in Nebraska close to a place he travels to work sometimes right along the center of the path of totality.  The morning of August 21st we woke up at 5 a.m., packed up his scope and photography tools, some food and water, the kids of course, and headed north.

Since we started early the roads weren’t overwhelmingly crowded. It was only when we stopped to fuel-up that we noticed how unusually busy the small-town gas station was for a Monday morning. Other than that, there weren’t any obvious signs that something spectacular was about to occur.

Well, except for this one –
20170821_074320

However, once we entered into Fairmont, NE, we started seeing more cars parked on the side of the road and small gatherings of people here and there with campers and tents set up.

We pulled off the main highway onto a dirt road and things started feeling a little strange. We passed by a few other people parked on sides of the road, sitting on their lawn chairs sipping beverages. They waved to us as we drove by – as if  it was just another usual day in Fairmont. (Who knows, maybe that is what they do there every day?)

I felt like I was part of something…odd…and potentially exciting. But mostly odd…and slightly like the part in a movie where everything is going along normally right before an alien invasion descends upon the earth.

We arrived to the spot around 9:30 a.m. and, to our dismay, someone else was already there! How could they?! Didn’t they know we had already claimed that patch of dirt lonngggg before they even knew there would be a solar eclipse. I bet they just found out that morning. Sheesh.

Oh well, we drove down a bit further and ended up finding an even better spot by the corn field, so there.

My husband started setting up his equipment and the rest of us made ourselves comfortable. We forbade the use of the word, “boring”, I mean what could be so boring about hanging out by a cornfield on a dirt road in the middle of “nowhere”?

Setup for the Total Eclipse

Thankfully our daughter brought Uno and the boys’ light sabers were in the trunk so that kept them “entertained”.  We also packed food that I threw at them to fend off any whining.

One might wonder, what happens when you’re hanging out in a cornfield for a few hours with kids who inevitably will have to “go to the bathroom”.

I looked up portable toilet ideas on pinterest the night before and came up with this –

20170821_125054

I was pretty proud of this portable toilet idea and thankful we brought it.

Around 11:35 a.m. the moon began its transit over the sun but clouds had come in making us nervous about what the view might be like for totality.

Total Solar Eclipse 2017

It remained cloudy and we prepared ourselves for disappointment.

Then, about 30 minutes before totality, we sighted a blue clearing moving in our direction and remained cautiously hopeful, hoping it would make its way over us just in time.

Ten or so minutes before totality,  the blue patch made its way over us and  the clouds opened up at just the right time!

Total Solar Eclipse 2017

As the moon closed in, the temperature dropped from a muggy 85F with a hot breeze down to what felt like a cool 65F breeze. We looked up into the sky and saw stars and planets and the horizon in every direction looked like a sunrise/sunset.

The picture on the left is 7 minutes prior to totality, and the one on the right is about half way through totality.

Eclipse Darkness

It felt like evening…and morning, but it was one o’clock in the afternoon! By now we were all standing in the middle of the dirt road, looking around at this surreal sight, crying out in excitement and shock at what we were seeing!

I just kept turning and taking it in, my heart pumping faster and I felt excited and slightly terrified…this was so bizarre!

My husband excitedly announced totality and we all took our solar glasses off and looked up and saw this –

20170821_130252

It’s a terrible picture but you can kind of see the black dot in the middle of the sun. It doesn’t look all that impressive in this picture but when I stood there and looked up and saw it, I…I just can’t explain in words the feeling of seeing such a terrific sight. It was unlike anything I’d ever seen before.

I can see how people got so freaked out about this before they understood what an eclipse was – or even that the moon and the sun were objects in outer space and not gods.

For my husband and me, our kids, and his parents, it was two and a half minutes of the greatest celestial events we’ve ever witnessed.  I can still close my eyes and see it.

It was amazing enough to view and experience this event in person, I’m so thankful and proud of my husband for capturing a photographic record of the Great American Total Solar Eclipse.

Below are some of my favorites, check out his Total Solar Eclipse album for more.

Totality with the corona shining brightly around the moon.

Total Solar Eclipse 2017

Total Solar Eclipse 2017

These “solar prominences” (not to be confused with “solar flares”) are awe-some.

Prominence Closeup

…and the chromosphere of the sun peaking around the lunar limb, about 26 seconds after totality was done. (His words, not mine.)

The show’s finale came just after totality ended, the sun’s light peeked around the edge of the moon creating the spectacular “Baily’s Beads” effect. 

Total Solar Eclipse 2017

Closeup of Baily's Beads

For me, seeing the Baily’s Beads is what I’ll remember the most from that day. So brilliant!

As annoying and distressing the clouds were that day, they really added a different dimension for some of the pictures. We were fortunate that a clearing of the clouds happened just minutes before totality, then they came back right as totality was ending as shown here.

Total Solar Eclipse 2017

Before that day, I really didn’t know what to expect and honestly had no idea how cool it would be.  As we drove home and in the days that followed, I’ve tried to come up with the right words to describe it all.

Amazing, awesome, terrific and magnificent!

Simply put, it was “out of this world.”

 


7 Quick Favorite-Takes Summer Kid & Family Activities 2

I’m going rogue and combining a “Favorites” post with a “7QT” post. If you have no idea what I’m talking about that’s probably a good thing. Ignore my blogging nerdiness and read on. And now it’s Saturday night so I’ve missed out on that link-up too. I just can’t get my blogging together these days!

Here are a few favorite simple and easy summer fun activities we’ve all enjoyed recently.

1. Gigantic Bubbles

Our friend and neighbor is doing “Summer School” activities with her kids and  I asked if maybe we could join their summer school fun. We got together last week for “Science Week”. The kids learned how to make bouncy balls and huge gigantic bubbles!

I had the kids measure the length of the bubbles and the longest measured one stretched just past 15 ft!

My friend saved a bunch of great ideas to her Pinterest “Summer School board” if you’re looking for inspiration.

2. Bubble Art

This is a fun and simple art project that combines kids’ favorites: bubbles, straws, and food coloring and/or paint. I had the kids do this in the garage while I worked on painting the door and bench for my Entry Way Bench project.

Before you think I made this up, I got this idea from a great book my genius mother-in-law gave me. 101 Kids Activities That are the Bestest Funnest Ever! by Holly Homer & Rachel Miller

It’s very easy, get some straws, a shallow dish, bubble juice and food coloring, and paper. The food coloring is the only part I might try to change to just regular washable paints next time since food coloring stains badly!

Pour the bubble juice into the dish and add the colors your kids want. Gather up a few straws together and keep them together with rubber bands. Dip the straws into the colored bubble juice and then blow through the straws over the paper.


Voila – Bubbles and Art!

Warning: Make sure your kids only blow OUT of the straws and not IN! 😉 You might just want to let your younger kids play with finger paint and blow the bubbles. I’m not an expert but I’m guessing colored bubble juice isn’t all that safe for mass consumption.

3. Exploding Pop


This was my husband’s idea that he knew about because, well he’s a boy.

All you need is Mentos and Diet Coke.

Get a cup of water and ask the kids what they think will happen when you put the mentos into the water.  (This is the “control” of the experiment in case you want to get all sciency about it.)

3 of our 4 said it would explode, 1 said it would dissolve.

Drop the mentos in the water and see who is right.

Then, ask what they think will happen when you drop the mentos in the Diet Coke.

4 of our 4 said it would explode.

Open up the unshaken bottle, drop the mentos in (or more than one) and see what happens!

We were all a little disappointed when it didn’t shoot up as high as we thought it would but it was still a neat experiment. I bought a small bottle of the Diet Coke because I’m cheap and didn’t want to waste a whole 2 L of pop just to see it explode. Though we don’t ever drink soda so I don’t know why I cared so much.

Next time, I’ll get the larger bottle and see if it makes the explosion more intense.

It could be fun to try this experiment and see which type of soda causes the greatest reaction with the mentos. That video also has a good explanation of how/why this physical reaction works.

4. Volcanoes

I also took my cue for this one from the same book as the Bubble Art.

This is very simple and the kids had a “blast” with it.

All you need is:

  • An empty plastic water bottle.
  • Baking Soda
  • Vinegar
  • Red Food Coloring (again, you might be able to use washable red paint to avoid the staining of food coloring. I’ll try this next time.)

Ask the younger kids to prepare a place in the dirt or a sandbox for the volcano.

Older kids stay in and help pour the baking soda into the bottle. We didn’t have too much this day so we only filled the bottle up about 1/4 full. I’d like to try it with more next time.

Add the red dye in, put the cap back on, and shake it all around….and do the hokey pokey, that’s what it’s all about, hey!

Sorry, I digress. Once the volcano is ready outside, have the kids put the prepared volcanic bottle in the volcano hole and cover it up so only the top is barely visible. Take the cap off, pour in the vinegar, and –

BOOM! EXPLOSION CITY!!! 

Ok, it wasn’t that big of an explosion but it was still pretty cool. The nice thing is we could do this activity again using either the same bottle or a different one. I might just have them make a few “volcanic bottles” to have ready so when my kids are “bored” and “have nothing to do”, they can go out and play explode some volcanoes in the back yard.

5.  Tape Measures

Here’s what you need: A tape measure for each child. These can be easily found at the Dollar Tree or any home improvement store.

What you do: Give them to your kids and tell them to go measure things around the house.

They’ll take it from there.

My boys have been going around the house measuring tables, couches, hallways, and of course comparing their heights to each other. I also had my boys and some of their friends lay down on the floor and make a human “totem” on the floor and then we measured how long they all were together.

Warning: I did have to remind the kids a few times that measure tape is a tool not a sword, a gun, or any other kind of weapon.

6. Cheetah and Antelopes

We discovered this gem of an outdoor “tag” game while reading about Cheetahs and Antelopes. My six-year-old son was so intrigued that he begged us to play every day for the past week until we finally played and it was a lot of fun. It’s a great way to get in a good workout too!

Here’s how you play:

It’s even more fun if, when you’re the antelopes, you pretend like you’re grazing in the grass when you suddenly look up and see a cheetah coming for you!

7. Late-Night Star and Planet Gazing and Fire-fly Catching

As many of you may know, my awesome husband has become quite the astro man and we love sharing interest and hobby with him when we can.

Since it’s summer and we don’t have to worry as much about the kids getting up early for a full day of school, it’s a little easier to let them stay up late every now and then so we can all enjoy some stargazing together.

This past Monday marked the Summer Soltice (First day of Summer) and June’s Full Moon, which unbeknownst to me at the time, is known as a Strawberrry Moon. This made June 20th, 2016 both the longest day of the year and the brightest on account of the bright full moon. This only happens once in a generation so I’m glad we got to see it! If I’d known, I would have bought strawberries for us to eat under the full moon. But then our neighbors might have thought we were wickens masquerading as Catholics by day. 😉

So we had the kids go to bed early before 8 (and I did too actually!) and then we all woke up around 10:30/11 again and laid a blanket out in our back yard. My husband brought out his telescope and we all took turns looking at the planets – which are visible during a full moon unlike most of the stars.

We spotted Jupiter, Mars, and Saturn in the night sky and then we each got a closer look at them through the scope.

Saturn2x_29-05-2016_02-38-01-1

The most impressive one to see in the scope is always Saturn. It’s so amazing to think that those bright dots in the sky we see are actually gigantic planets out there thousands and thousands of miles away from our world.

I thought the kids might be too tired to enjoy this, the 3 year-old basically slept on the blanket the whole time and my daughter curled up next to him but the other two boys, who always have high energy, were super charged and ran around chasing fireflies while not looking through the scope. Our poor neighbors.

Whew, well that’s all for now. What fun have your families been having this summer?


When a Meteor Collides with your World 1

Continuing on with my “Pilgrimage” story….

After a night’s stay in Flagstaff – a place I’d like to come back and see more of one day – my brother and I finished up our complimentary continental breakfast, smuggled out some extra bagels and fruit for later, and then headed out just after sunrise towards our next destination – Santa Fe, New Mexico.

As we drove out of Flagstaff on Interstate 40 the sun groggily stretched over the surrounding bluffs; it’s smooth rays, like running yolk from a cracked egg, spilled over the distant mountains and filled the valley.

We continued driving through beautiful terrain and mountain regions in the distance and lots and lots of trees on either side of us. Apparently, “Flagstaff lies near the southwestern edge of the Colorado Plateau, along the western side of the largest contiguous Ponderosa Pine forest in the continental United States.[7] Flagstaff is located adjacent to Mount Elden, just south of the San Francisco Peaks, the highest mountain range in the state of Arizona. Humphreys Peak, the highest point in Arizona at 12,633 feet (3,851 m), is located about 10 miles (16 km) north of Flagstaff in Kachina Peaks Wilderness.” (Thank you, Wikipedia)

My brother asked if we could start the drive off with a Rosary this time instead of launching right back into the beguiling plot of our audio book, The Einstein Prophecy.

I love that we can share our beautiful love for Jesus and Mary and the traditions of our Catholic Faith together. We prayed for our family, our friends, for those suffering throughout the world and for those most in need of God’s unfathomable and endless Mercy.  Of course we also prayed for the repose of our dad’s soul, asking that he may be completely united and resting in God’s Love and Mercy.  Appropriately, as we were reminded later in the day by a kind and thoughtful friend, this was February 20th, two months after my dad’s passing from our world into God’s Realm.

While we were praying, we passed by a few signs for Meteor Crater, also known as Barringer Crater (after the guy who figured out it was a meteorite crater).

My husband, the Space Nerd (which I say lovingly of course), was very excited that we were so close to it when I texted him to tell him we were going to pass by it. He looked it up on the map back at home and texted me saying, “It’s only 6 miles from the Interstate…”

I was slightly interested but my brother proclaimed it as a “Tourist Trap” immediately. My brother and I looked at each other a little unsure but then figured we’d go check it out since it was “only 6 miles away” to satisfy my husband’s nerdiness. 😉

We took the exit and followed the very nerdy signs along the way, making sure not to run over any random cattle crossing and keeping our eyes open for signs of a huge hole in the ground. About halfway in, my husband sent another text. “It’s $18 to get in.”

Oh. Drat

We looked at each other and shrugged, we were already almost there, might as well see what it’s like. Once we arrived at the Meteor Crater Visitor Center we knew the only way we’d get to see it would be through the $18 admission tourist trap, er I mean, newly refurbished Visitor Center at the top of a hill that blocked any other view into the crater.

Before seeing the crater, we saw the meteorite that zoomed in from space at around 26,000 miles per hour before impact with the earth’s surface creating the 3,900 ft in diameter and about 570 ft deep crater in what is now Arizona’s desert. (Thanks again Wikipedia). If you can enlarge that picture of the meteorite and read the description it’s a pretty interesting story of where that little meteorite has been. Can you imagine finding out the piece of rock you’d been using as a counterweight for your grandson’s basketball backboard was actually an object from outer space?


I’d seen pictures of the crater from above, which are very impressive, so I was slightly curious what it would look like from the ground…

Oh. It looks like….a big hole in the ground. Cool.

Ok, so at first I have to admit I wasn’t super impressed. (Sorry science nerds). I mean I had just been to the Grand Canyon the day before so this wasn’t quite on the same level of awesome things I’ve seen.

My brother and I split up and he went up and I went down to get a closer look. At first, when you’re standing there looking at it, it doesn’t seem as deep as it is. I was shocked when I looked through one of the fixed telescopes and saw there were actual objects way down there.

What is a Winch anyway?

I don’t see no winch and boiler down there…

Ohhhh! And there’s even a little space man down there too! I never would have known.

After looking through those scopes I was a bit more impressed.

Looking at it from above with the people there gave me a better perspective of the crater’s depth.

At one point, I was all alone, staring down into this gigantic crater and no one else was around at all. It was completely quiet, no noise at all aside from the occasional sound of a chirping unknown bird hiding somewhere nearby. Suddenly, the silence gripped me and rang loudly in my ears, it was nearly deafening.

The silence and solitude offered me time to take it all in and really think about what I was looking at. A hole in the ground made over 50,000 years ago by the impact of a hunk of metal flying in from outer space. Now that is something.

The metaphor was obvious. Like the earth I live on, my own “world” had also been impacted by an unexpected life-changing “meteorite” that left a gigantic crater in my heart upon impact.

Like all the clichés, when I saw the word “cancer” on the text from my mom about my dad back in November, it felt like someone had literally punched me and knocked the wind out of me – or like a out-of-this-world meteoroid intruding into my orbit, crashing through my comfortable reality, and leaving a permanent hole in my heart. Like the earth’s surface, my life has been forever changed after the death of my father.

I can’t make life be the same as it was before, it has left a profound mark on my soul that will never completely “go away”.  The thing is, I’m not sure I really want this scar – this crater – to go away.

You see, there’s a certain unexplained beauty in erosion – even when it feels like our whole world is falling apart. Like I reflected last summer (before I knew what was to come) while standing on the top of one of the sand dunes of the Great Sand Dunes National Park just a few miles north of where that crater is –

One beauty of nature replace[s]…another.

I guess it just goes to show that even the world as we know it now will pass away and erode by the natural forces of the constantly changing world. We can’t see it now but over time, something new and beautiful in it’s own way will develop once again.

And, like the Great Sand Dunes, the Grand Canyon, and yes – even this “hole in the ground” – we all have our own erosion, canyons, and craters on our bodies and in our souls that will remain forever to remind us of what we were, what we’ve experienced, and how far we’ve come despite it all.

It stings, our hearts cry out in pain upon impact while we struggle with the growing pains of life’s changes, but I guess we become stronger too. If we adapt with what comes at us we allow God to mold us and lead us on a new path, even if it’s not the one we had planned to follow. By accepting and trusting God’s Will in everything that happens to us, we’ll find the path leads to something even better than the one we were on before.

While we are in the crater of grief and sorrow, we can’t see the whole picture…

How’s that for some wall art!

but as we get closer, the view becomes clearer.

For I know the plans that I have for you,’ declares the LORD, ‘plans for welfare and not for calamity to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)


From Shore to Canyon {A Pilgrimage}

Continuing with my mini “pilgrimage” across the southwestern United States

After a lovely day touring LA, we woke up before the sun on Friday morning and packed up the rest of my brother’s belongings into the back seat of his 4-door car (good thing I packed light!), we started our journey from LA to the Grand Canyon.

My brother’s apartment was close to the the Playa Del Rey beach so we took a teeny detour so we could drive along the shore road before heading East out of the city. The early morning waves performed a rhythmic dance and whispered a quiet farewell song as we bid the ocean one last adieu. (I had to restrain myself from telling him to stop the car so I could run down and dip my feet in it . I pretended I did instead.)

Thankfully it didn’t take long to get out of the city, probably because we were headed out instead of in and, because there were two travelers, we got to use the carpool lane! We started listening to The Einstein Prophecy, the audio book we’d downloaded from Audible (click here for a free trial), as we drove out of LA through some beautiful mountain and valley areas and then cut through the dry Mojave Desert area and right into Arizona.

Driving through the dessert was interesting – I certainly would not want to get stuck out there alone. We were now far from the soothing ocean waves with no signs of any large bodies of water for miles. After a few hours we traded drivers and I listened to the Family Physics episode on This American Life (It was interesting enough but I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it) while I drove the rest of the way in the afternoon.  I can now say, “I drove to the Grand Canyon.”  🙂

As we turned onto the Grand Canyon highway, I was surprised to see how wooded it was – not deserty as I had imagined.

We finally arrived at The Grand Canyon Visitor Center and walked along the sidewalk path up to Canyon. The area still looked more like Colorado and it was hard to believe the Grand Canyon could be anywhere close. But as the path continued and got closer I heard the sound of loud wind – much like the sound of waves from the ocean we had left behind just that morning.

And then the path ascended just slightly, the trees parted, and there, stretching out for miles and miles  – there it was.

A deep silence filled my soul as I gazed over the vastness stretched out in front of me. Of course I have known about the Grand Canyon for all my life but I hadn’t really expected I would ever see it in real life. So seeing it there, right in front of my very eyes, was like looking into a mirage. Surreal. 

I sat on the wall and swung my feet around to hang over the edge…and then I looked down and everything started moving – so I decided I should probably not look down and get back on the other side of the wall.

Now, for most people, coming to see the Grand Canyon, or even to hike in it would be a pretty awesome experience. For me, standing there in front of this geological wonder, held a deeper significance.

All of my life, as much as I can remember, my dad talked about visiting the Grand Canyon. It was a life-long dream of his to see it. Being an English-man, he’d dream of hopping on the Amtrak train and heading West and the maybe he’d rent a car – or ride a donkey knowing him and funny sense of imagination – until he reached it. My dad and our family traveled to many great places throughout his own life and our family life but the we never quite made it to the Canyon.

Until last summer when he accompanied the same brother to California and they made sure to make time for a stop at the Grand Canyon. At the same time they were there, my husband and our family were traveling also in Colorado when my dad sent us a text message with a picture of him at the Grand Canyon.

Long at last, he was there. I remember looking at the picture of him there. He was so happy to finally be there and for some unexplained reason (at the time) I teared up. My heart suddenly filled with a mixture of happiness for him, mixed with an edge of sadness I couldn’t quite place. Then, strangely, a thought came to my mind – “Now, he can die in peace knowing he finally got to see the Grand Canyon.” The strange thought zipped out as quickly as it had come and I waved it off wondering why I would even think that.

God knew. And even then, He was preparing me for what would be fulfilled in the few months after that.

So, as I stood there and as we walked along the Canyon path, stopping to take it all in, I knew I was walking along the same path my dad had taken not even a year before. I wondered,

Dad, what did you think when you saw the Canyon stretched out before you like this? How did you feel?

Small.

We all think we are so big. Our problems and struggles, our work and accomplishments, our existence.

Flying over the mountains and desert on my way to LA, everything looked tiny. Now, standing in one fractional sliver of the total area of the Canyon, I felt smaller than a seed.

Yet…not insignificant.

We stayed and walked along the path as the lazy afternoon sun slowly slumped lower behind the canyon rim, dragging the last of its golden rays over the canyon as it went.

I think I know now a little of how he must have felt there, what he might have thought. Thoughts without words.

I was inexplicably thankful I could stand where he stood, walked where he walked. That my eyes could imbibe of the same magnificent view his had, inebriated in Glory.

We stayed just until a soft purply-pink hue gently brushed across the sky and the last of the sun’s rays kissed the tips of the canyon tops goodnight before blanketing the canyon in shadow.

As we left, I whispered one last prayer over the canyon, scattering a part of my dad’s memory over the great abyss and carrying the rest with me.

Dad, I miss you so much. But in a way, being here, I feel I have found a part of you that I can now hold in my heart forever. Thank you, Jesus, for allowing me this Peace. 

Grand Canyon Last Sunrays - Explored!

My husband edited and posted this picture on Flickr and it got over 7,000 views and made it onto the Explorer! Who woulda known.

 

(Photo credits: I took the pictures but most of the credit really goes to my awesome husband who isn’t lazy like me and knows how to filter and stitch images together for seamless beauty.)

Related Posts with Thumbnails