Monday, May 17, 2010

Oh Deer

So, this is really meant to be after the "Birthday" post and before the Garner post...

We were on our way home from our little trip to Fort Worth, and we had all the boys loaded (and nearly nodding off), as we drove down some dark country roads between Austin and San Antonio. Specifically, on 3351, South of Kendalia, and just North of the Guadalupe River.

Chuck was driving when we spotted a deer eating right beside the road. Our speed was about about 70, and when Chuck had slowed to about 50 mph, the deer acted like it was about to run away. At the last second, it decided to sprint out in front of us instead. There was little reaction time. Chuck braked more, but there was no missing the deer. It sprinted a few steps and was hit dead center in front of our minivan.

While it was a bit of a bump kind of feel in the car, the car stayed straight and didn't seem to have any problems. Thankfully, the deer only rolled slightly up before deflecting off into the night, on the other side of the road. We both went, "Whew, that was close!" and kept driving. Charlie said "What was that?" and Chuck casually replied "Nothin'." Don't get me wrong, this wasn't a happy one likes hitting a deer. If it hadn't been pitch black (and there was no shoulder, only slope), then we would've stopped to check on it. Really, there was nothing more Chuck could've done, with the way it decided to dart out in front of us.

So, about a mile later we found a driveway and pulled in just to check the damage. It was a lot more than we expected.

This is what happens

this is what happens

We were grateful to make it home without any problems. The van then spent about one and a half weeks in the shop. We used Legend Collision Center and they did a great job! They even delivered the van to us when it was done.

What I wish I would've photographed was our other car, a Ford Escape, stuffed to the gills with stuff for our camping trip to Garner! It was my greatest packing feat to date!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Olympus Pen

update: one video added to the end of this post. And here is the link to many of the recent ones.

As I mentioned awhile back, we got a new camera. As I've already lamented, I try to be a frugal person, but I have this photography monster inside that wants to get more equipment, regardless of the cost. However, this time, it was a good decision.

Our point and shoot went blind a year ago (the LCD screen broke), and I've been thus video taping the kids with no clue as to what I'm doing. But I had seen this new type of camera come out that is like a hybrid between an dslr and a point-and-shoot. It no longer has the mirror of the slr, but the sensor is way bigger than a point and shoot, so the image quality is better. It gives you fully manual controls if you want it, yet has the full auto mode like a p-and-s. The lenses are even interchangable like a dslr. And the Olympus and Panasonic are both operating on the micro 4/3rds scale, which means that with an adapter I can use all of our current Olympus lenses (with full auto focus, whoohooo!). It can even shoot raw.

However when the first of these kinds came out (the Panasonic GF1 and the Olympus Pen EP1 and EP2), the price tag was hefty ($1000+). And honestly, like all cameras, it's a new technology that is sure to get cheaper. Also, there isn't a large range of micro 4/3rds lenses yet. But there is one prime lens (the Panasonic 20mm) that would be nice someday...Oh, sorry, that's just the photography monster talking!

So anyhow, since about a year ago, I had been hanging on to my blind little camera, awaiting a price drop. And it's finally happened, beginning with a "consumer" version of the Olympus Pen. Olympus released a version where the main difference (to me at least) was an extra control dial, which didn't matter all that much given the much cheaper price tag. It's called the Pen EP L 1. It's currently running around $550 retail. It's more than you'd spend on a p-and-s camera, but cheaper than a dslr... and with video!

Here's a little commercial that explains it better than I could.

So we got it about a month ago. I have loved having something lightweight and small enough to fit in my purse. This doesn't replace the dslr, for sure. I still love having all the switches and dials on the Olympus E-3. But for on-the-go, this thing rocks!

I've heard that some pro photographers are keeping these in their bags as backup cameras. In fact, we met a guy at a tball game this morning that has a Canon 5D Mark II, but was using the EP2 (the more expensive version), and said that it was much easier to lug around...I think he was videoing/photographing the tball game of his grandson.

My one qualm so far is the continual auto focus when in video mode. It's gotten better with a patch that Olympus put out, and I may just have some learning to do, but it's not as simple as a point-and-shoot to get a good quality video (especially of 3 rowdy boys). I have taken a lot of video and when I get some uploaded I'll add that to this post. (see below)

But here are some of the still shots it's given us...

This is a pic of my sweet friend Jenny and her baby boy Graham. This was taken in fairly a dark room, on auto everything. ISO 1600 and the shutter speed was only 1/1oth of a second. So you know the image stabilization works!
Sleepy Graham

It comes with some fun art filters. This was taken by my brother last weekend in tilt shift mode.
tilt shift taken by Bubba

While the autofocus doesn't have the lightning speed of the E-3, I was impressed that it caught this of Charlie just before he ran off.
Aue Fiesta Fandango

Then there was this one that I had shown previously. Taken in a pitch dark cave. While a few of the shots didn't focus (understandably), I was highly impressed that this one did.
More from Garner!

Chuck got this shot. Stats - 1/20th of a second shutter speed, ISO 100, f5.3 (he may have had it in full manual mode).
Last from Garner

Chuck also took that big huge panorama with some great detail with it.
Garner State Park Panorama
If you want to see detail - click on this bigger size.

Another low light photo - one in which I marvel at the 2000 iso with little noise. But most of all, the incandescent lights were really orange, and I was proud of how well the white balance turned out in spite of that.
Sarah's Surprise

So, for those who want better quality photos without having to buy up to an slr, this would be my recommendation. I still LOVE the dslr, and won't be giving it up anytime soon. But this works so much better as my snapshot taker!

Monday, May 10, 2010


For my 19th birthday, my best friend Sarah planned a sweet surprise. She had made all of our friends (on campus at Mary Hardin-Baylor University) swear to secrecy, buy a rose, and meet up for a surprise birthday party in my honor. In addition to a beautiful diverse bouquet of roses, I had the precious memories of my friends caring for me in my first year away from home. It remains the only surprise birthday party I've ever had.

Fast forward 12 years. Sarah lives in Fort Worth with her husband of 7 years and their 2 little boys. While we were in each others' weddings, we haven't been very close since life got busy. But back in January I was able to visit her briefly and reconnect. Then, her husband calls me and says "Hey, I'm planning a surprise party for Sarah. Would you like to come?" Um yeah!!

So my 31st birthday present was a night off from the kids, as Chuck and I traveled up to Fort Worth to attend her party.

On the way, we stopped at this famous hole-in-the-wall kinda place called the Czech Stop.

It was delicious!

Then we got to the party. This was the banner Sarah's husband had made. So sweet!
Sarah's Surprise

And he pulled it off! There were about 25 people there, and she was completely surprised!
This was just after she came in...

Chuck and I had a blast having dinner and hanging out with Sarah and her friends and family. We spent the night in a hotel, then Sarah invited us to her house the next morning for breakfast.

It was a great birthday, for her and me both! Sarah, I'm so thankful for your friendship!


Weighing in at 41 pounds...

With a height of 41 inches...

The son of a bass player of the former band Chapter 41...

Ladies and gentlemen, Chance Thier, #41!!

1st Tball Games

He prefers the helmet on backwards.
Helmet backwards

He prefers his tongue out for batting.

He prefers coaxing to get him to get in the game.
1st Tball Games

He prefers m&ms after a hard game.
1st Tball Games

1st Tball Games

Tball time

Sunday, May 9, 2010


Saturday marked 19 years ago that I met Jesus. Well, not like "met him in person," but it was a life changing experience when I realized that God was real, the Bible was true, and Jesus was the only way I was going to get to Him thru my sinfulness.

I remember the night like it was yesterday. I attended my best friend's church because it was her birthday. I went down to pray at the altar, and while I'd prayed many times before (usually alone, at night), this time I just had an awareness that God was with me. I don't remember what I prayed, I don't remember the sermon. But I do remember coming home to my scary, dark, and creaky house, and my mom was watching "Friday the 13th," and for once I was not afraid. I no longer feared death.

I didn't go back to church for a few months, but in that time I noticed other things start to change. It was like my conscience had grown stronger. I didn't want to cuss or lie. I wanted to be more loving to those around me.

Anyhow, God in His grace led me to a church that would disciple me and teach me why all those weird things were happening. I could never repay the various churches I've been to for the love and grace they've shown me...or really, that God has shown me thru them.

And speaking of grace, today marked 7 years that I asked the Lord to give us a son. We'd been trying to get pregnant for awhile, but on this particular Sunday, Mother's Day, the sermon was about how Hannah prayed for Samuel, which led me to realize I had not formally asked God to give us a son. And specifically - a son - not just a child. I really wanted a son. So I asked Him. And a few weeks later I was caught by surprise when the pregnancy test was positive. Oh me of little faith...

A very happily exhausted me with a very newly born Charlie.
First time to hold him

Charlie's (an) angel

The exciting thing is, God isn't done working in my life. Thru Jesus He gave me eternal life (here and now, too!), and thru Charlie He gave me a calling as a mother. I could not ask for more.

Monday, May 3, 2010


This year marked the second year for us to go camping at Garner State Park with our friends. Some of them have been doing it for 4 years now, and it's easy to see why. This time, instead of leaving on Friday afternoon, we made a longer weekend by showing up Thursday evening. Thankfully, it was Fiesta weekend, so the kids were out of school Friday. This made it feel much more like a vacation.

While I call it camping, I'm not sure that it completely qualifies, since we stay in cabins that have a full bathroom and full kitchen. But I'm not complaining. ;) It's the only camping we tend to do all year, and really, I don't know that we'd even do that if it weren't for having such great company with us! This year we had 5 families, which meant 10 adults and 15 kids. The boys had a blast playing with their friends (as do we)! We really missed one family, the Thompsons, though. They had their newest additions -yes, plural, it's twins!- the day after we got back.

Just to warn you, this post will be a little picture heavy since both Chuck and I kept cameras nearby the whole time.

Here's that "friends are the best" thing I was talking about...
Garner 2010

We swam/waded in the Frio river (brrr!)
Last from Garner

Last from Garner

And Charlie even got to do the rope swing.
Garner 2010

One morning the dads and older kids took a hike up to Painted Rock and Crystal Cave.
Last from Garner

Chuck took a panorama at the top:
Garner State Park Panorama
If you're so inclined, check out the larger view. It's worth it...

Meanwhile the moms and little ones played on the playground.
Garner 2010
{Chance with Linden and Brady. All of the kids thought it was so funny to have slide-pile-ups.}

Speaking of cute, Chandler enjoyed someone's butterfly net.
Garner 2010

On another morning I got to do a small hike with Charlie and Chance, where we explored a little cave. Kudos to Jeff Henderson for taking this pic with my camera. This was in the back of the cave where only the kids could squeeze into a small area. It was also pitch black so I was amazed that my camera was able to get this. (We got a new category of camera that I'm excited about...more to come on that...)
More from Garner!
{Charlie, Brooks, Chance}

Sarah Henderson had the great idea to bring pillow cases and have the kids draw on them, creating a tradition for years to come...
Garner 2010

Chance and Max helped Chuck make his squirrel noise.
Garner 2010

Here are all the kids (not counting babies) getting ready to attack a pinata.
Garner 2010

Each night, after the kids went to bed, the adults would corral around the camp fire and chat. It was the perfect way to end each day.
Last from Garner

And here is Stacia's picture of our whole group. :)
Stacia's group shot

And the silly shot.
Stacia's silly group shot

And our family. (Thanks, Sarah!)
Garner 2010

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Old Friends and New

I've had the blessing of having many big brother and sister type people in my life. As the oldest of 6, I had always longed for an older brother to protect me, and an older sister to teach me. God, in His grace, provided me many friends/mentors like that when I was in middle and high school. I'm definitely a better person for it.

And Scott Miller was the first of those big brother type of people for me.

Now, thanks to the wonders of social media, I've gotten back in touch with Scott and his family. Then in late March they happened to vacation in San Antonio, and we got to meet up at the zoo! It was a bit surreal to meet again, now as adults and parents, and watch our kids make new friends with each other. So fun!!

First of all, they got to see a monkey that had escaped just outside the entrance of the zoo. Welcome to San Antonio (and to my world, ha!)
Zoo with the Millers redone

Scott & Michelle's oldest, Matthew, same age as Charlie (6).
Zoo with the Millers redone

Scott got some great shots that day, which can be seen here. But I thought it was funny when the butterfly outwitted him!

Zoo with the Millers redone

Charlie, Matthew, Chance.
Zoo with the Millers redone

Morgan, who is Chandler's age (2), enjoyed the butterflies.
Zoo with the Millers redone

This is the closest thing I have to a family shot. I have GOT to get better about that!
Matthew, Scott, Morgan, Michelle
Zoo with the Millers redone

It was actually a school day, but I let Charlie play hookey so he could meet Matthew. I'm glad I did, because he really enjoyed meeting him and showing him around the zoo.

Zoo with the Millers redone

Michelle & Morgan. This is a fave for me.
Zoo with the Millers redone

Halfway thru the day, we ran into our friends, the Thompsons. So then we had an even bigger group of kids! So fun!
Zoo with the Millers redone

Charlie and Lincoln in the petting zoo.
Zoo with the Millers redone

Chandler thought the goats were hilarious.
Zoo with the Millers redone

By the time we were done, it started getting hot outside, so we loaded them on the train with popsicles. The perfect way to end a perfect day! (Matthew, Chance, Charlie, Preston, Lincoln).
Zoo with the Millers redone

Cooper Thompson was so cute; his popsicle was pretty big for him!
Zoo with the Millers redone

Thank so much, Scott & Michelle, for coming to visit! Hopefully next time we'll come up your way!