Hello Summer

     We didn't get much of a spring here in Oklahoma this year.  We went from snow over Easter weekend, left the country for our 2 week vacation in Europe, and returned to record-breaking heat that has simply refused to abate.  So that leads me to a somewhat embarrassing confession: summer is my least favorite season.  I mean, I totally get why most people love it.  Long, lazy days filled with cold drinks and sweet treats, fun afternoons spent at the beach or the pool that bleed into the late evening, often capped with some kind of outdoor concert.  

     Maybe it's just the introvert in me, but autumn and winter are where it's at in my book.  Give me hot drinks, cozy pajamas, crackling fires, an endless stack of books, softly floating snow flakes, and early nights and you'll find the happiest girl that ever did live.  And yes, I go outside in the winter.  In fact, I find myself in nature MORE often when it's cold than when it's hot.  That crisp, clean air just begs me to move and live my life.  It's a good thing we'll be moving to Alaska this winter, isn't it?

     Anyways, I obviously try to push aside my dislike for the heat so that the girls can make their own quintessential childhood memories.  A few weeks ago, I found out about an ice cream festival not far from us and so loaded us up to go get our fill of the sweet treat.  There were also plenty of bounce houses, playgrounds, and even a zip line, and it was all free!

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 For those wondering, those spots/scabs on my youngest are not bug bites or chickenpox.  She is *literally* allergic to the heat and breaks out in hives whenever the temperature goes above 90 degrees or if she spikes a fever.  I guess an aversion to the heat runs in our family...

For those wondering, those spots/scabs on my youngest are not bug bites or chickenpox.  She is *literally* allergic to the heat and breaks out in hives whenever the temperature goes above 90 degrees or if she spikes a fever.  I guess an aversion to the heat runs in our family...

     A few days after that weekend, I got an email from one of my favorite people from my college years.  Turns out, he was in Austin, TX, for a conference and considering that this was geographically the closest we've been to each other in 10 years, my mind immediately started to race, trying to plan out a spur-of-the-moment road trip.  Fortunately, this is an area that I excel in, so everything was planned and booked within hours and I left the next morning with my girls and faithful Great Dane in tow.  

     I met up with him the following night and we spent the next 3 hours trying to cram in whatever catching up we could while the girls played on the restaurant's playground and climbed trees.  It was almost a shock to see him in person again...after a decade of exchanging emails and phone calls every now and then, I'm not sure that I thought I'd ever find myself face to face with my friend again, but I'm sure glad I did!  And wouldn't you know it, I forgot to have someone take our picture with a decent camera or even a phone (like I said, I was kind of still surprised), but my youngest readily picked up her Instax camera and snapped a shot of us with the last frame from the pack.  Of course, the lens was pointed into the sun, so we got a lovely sun flare over our faces.  Oh well, it's still tangible proof that we did indeed meet up at least once more in our lives!

 I have this man to thank for getting me through a lot of crap in college.  I'm eternally grateful to him :-)

I have this man to thank for getting me through a lot of crap in college.  I'm eternally grateful to him :-)

     It also just so happened that my "brother from another mother" had recently moved to Austin. I hadn't seen him in a couple of years as well and so I was dying to catch up.  He and I are less than 2 months apart in age and we grew up next door to each other, worked the same jobs, traveled to faraway places to chase waves, and went to college together.  He was the brother I never had...he was my protector, my confidante, and he drove me crazy at times, but I loved him deeply.  We had grown apart in recent years and it absolutely crushed me, so I tentatively reached out to him before I left for Austin and was thrilled when he said he'd love to meet up.

     I challenged him to a round of miniature golf and we spent the next few hours knocking around the balls, eating hot dogs, and talking about the futures we had planned.  We share very similar senses of humor and I don't think I had seen him smile and laugh so much since high school (and I was right there with him).  The girls put on quite a performance for him, considering they hadn't slept much the night before and they were in a new area, but he seemed genuinely delighted by them.  They had him in fits of laughter for pretty much the whole night.

 They were so busy goofing off that I couldn't even get a clear shot.

They were so busy goofing off that I couldn't even get a clear shot.

     Sandwiched in between the reunions with my friends, I promised the girls a hike to a waterfall. The images of it online looked so fun and refreshing, and I've been trying to build up their endurance in preparation for Alaska since we'll be doing a lot of hiking and backpacking.  I got everyone in their bathing suits, filled up a gallon jug of water, loaded up my camera gear, grabbed a towel, and saddled our horse (just kidding...) before taking off to try to find the trailhead.  Just FYI in case you're going to Austin: it sucks driving there.  You can't afford to make a mistake and considering that my phone was dead and I couldn't access GPS, I ended up driving around in morning rush hour traffic for about half an hour before I found where I was supposed to be.  Anyways, found the trail, hiked about a mile and half, found no water.  The girls and the dog were not pleased.  But it was a pretty hike.

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 The only bit of water we found.  No, I didn't let them get in.

The only bit of water we found.  No, I didn't let them get in.

     So after that failed expedition, we guzzled every last bit a water, blasted the AC in the van, and headed back to the hotel to go for a swim.  I was immediately forgiven.

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Less than 48 hours after arriving in Austin, we turned around and went back home.  The drive was totally worth it and I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat (except that I might leave even earlier if I had a do-over).  We got back in time for my husband and I to drop off the girls at their dojo so we could go on a date night, and then the next day was Father's Day.  It was really important to me to get some updated shots of my husband with our girls, so I begged them for 10 minutes in front of my camera.  A few of these just make my heart sing.  There's nothing sweeter than pictures of your loves, and I hope the girls will one day realize that I couldn't have picked out a better man to be their father and their mother's husband.  Their future partners have a lot to live up to!

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 My youngest was over it by this point...

My youngest was over it by this point...

     That's it for the past month.  I'll be going into almost full-blown experimental mode in July and August since I have to send off my two main workhorses (the Leica and Mamiya) for repairs before we move.  I'm in the process of building a new camera to shoot 4x5 sheet film with and plan on playing with different lens ideas.  I love shooting sheet film since it's orthochromatic and I can therefore bring the girls into a red-lit "darkroom" under the stairs to watch the image develop in front of their eyes.  I'll also be stewing some rolls in chemical soups to experiment with color shifts and breakdowns of the emulsive layer on both C-41 and B&W.  I know that it's rarely done with B&W film, but I have a couple of ideas I want to try that I think may cut through the silver halides on the strip and influence the effects.  Stay tuned for those disasters!