Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Easy Peasy Video Storytelling with OneDay

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of OneDay.

I take pictures. I've been doing it for years and because of that hobby, my family doesn't lack in the special moment preservation department. Our still photos are saved in folders, in albums and showcased in frames on our wall, and I love it. The photo of Lainey at the beach, framed on my dresser? I remember that moment. Thin wisps of blond hair dancing in the wind, eyes squinting from the sun, shoulders dusted with sand. It's all wrapped up in that photo, a memory frozen in time. I love my kids' baby photos, the ones that really capture the things I loved most about their littleness--folds in their chubby hands, Cheerio crumbs glued to their cheeks.

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I'm diligent in taking photos of my children not only because I want to remember everything about these days, but because I love the art of photo taking--the challenge of capturing who they are, their spark, their relationships, their timidness, their curiosity--in a single photo. I've realized over the years though that because I'm good about picking up my camera, I've forgotten to capture video moments of my kids. Recently while digging through the archives, I found a few videos of Lainey when she was a toddler, particularly one where she was dictating a letter to Santa, making present requests for herself and Nella who was just a baby. I had completely forgotten how precious her little voice was, how her tongue awkwardly attempted words against her pacifier teeth. As soon as I began playing the video, the whole family joined me around the computer. The girls were mesmerized, and Lainey didn't believe the little girl on the screen was her. We watched as teeny little Lainey looked over my shoulder and bossed me through the letter writing process.

"Write Maywee Kissmiss, Tanta," said three-year-old Lainey. And with that, seven-year-old Lainey fell to the floor in a giggle fit.

"I said Tanta!" she laughed. "I said Tanta! Play it again! Play it again!"

And if that was funny, you should have heard her when I asked in the video, "Do you love Santa?" and three-year-old Lainey snapped back "NO." Lainey done lost her mind, laughing so hard, she got the whole family going. We've since watched that video--oh, about three hundred times and "Maywee Kissmiss, Tanta" has become a frequently dropped phrase in conversation.

I'll always love still photos. But I'm challenging myself more to make quick videos to preserve the things photographs can't capture--their voice, their laughter, their humor, their hilarious answers to questions that tell so much about how seven-year-olds view the world. I have a voice memo saved on my phone of Dash's two-day-old cry and his suck-and-swallow noises, and those clips are just as precious as our photographs.

So it makes perfect sense that I'd love what OneDay has created to help families tell their stories. OneDay's app allows parents to make short movies of their children like a pro in seconds, doing all the think-ahead work for you so that you get your child's favorite things, funny sayings and thoughtful answers to questions preserved in little clips that the app stitches together for a short movie showcasing unique personality. The app not only preserves your children's stories, but it makes it easy for you to tell your own story to share with your family with a whole list of themes for parents--what you believe, your influences, your inspiration, about your childhood, your wedding, etc.

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My favorite thing about this app that makes it great for me to use is that it's set up for quick video capture--simple, not editing, not thinking required. I can open any story, ask some questions that take just a few seconds, tuck my phone away and pull it out again later to finish a complete story. And the questions are all written for you. You know those priceless kindergarten projects that come home with all the funny answers to questions you wouldn't have thought to ask your kid--things like "my dad's favorite thing to do is...read magazines on the toilet in the bathroom"? You can find these things out for yourself now and lock them up in sweet videos to be watched for years to come.

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The app also has story themes for babies who might not be quite as prolific with words as older siblings.



And once you create a library of these stories, your kids will love rewatching them, especially when their voice has changed and they've gained a bit of a filter for outlandish childishness.

In one minute, we created a cute video with OneDay's Halloween theme yesterday:


Top tooth gone! 

Videos can also be easily shared with family and friends right from the app if you choose.
You can download the free OneDay app here!

And to think only 20 years ago, I hadn't even used a cell phone yet. I love the way technology enriches our families in good ways--storytelling just one of them.

Thank you OneDay for sponsoring this post, and thank you readers for checking out the sponsors that make great products and services our family enjoys and also help make supporting this blog a little easier.
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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

North Carolina Part One

We are emerging from a fall hangover over here--one that included a week of breathtaking scenery and a very special wedding we'll never forget. I'll break this into two posts with the wedding later this week.

We've been planning this trip for almost a year, and our original plan was that the entire family would drive up. When Brett's work plans changed and he wasn't able to go, I figured driving 11 hours alone with three kids wouldn't be feasible. "Why not?" was Brett's response, to which I had no answer. Now that we've done it, I'm inspired to map out future adventures. The kind of storybook fall scenery I dream of isn't a giant expensive plane excursion away but a fun road trip that required a car and less patience than I expected. The kids did great, the drive was smooth, and we broke it up into six hours of driving each day with only one cockroach cabin blip. Lainey had a short week of school last week which made the adventure even better (still missed a couple days, but I'd do it again in a heartbeat). And though we experienced some pretty magical fall days and my standard North Carolina landscape reaction was "Oh my God, Oh my God, Oh my God", our most treasured memories were with our people. A wedding that will go down in the books as something pretty special. And all the talks we shared as friends last week, volleying our gaze between the little kids who added--well, let's just say a real life flair to what was so aesthetically beautiful--and a young couple whose mamas remember as little as my kids as if it was just yesterday. All I can say is, I hope the space between their littleness and bigness is filled with many more experiences like we just enjoyed.

With no further ado, the beauty of North Carolina. Its state spoon will be well-polished among my collection.

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(above photos are actually in Cordele, Georgia)

The house my friend rented was tucked right into the top of this mountain (outside of Franklin, North Carolina), and the view looking out changed in just the five days we were there from mostly green lightly speckled with yellow and orange to a full technicolor fall dream.

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We visited Dry Falls twice on our trip, the epitome of a fall postcard. You have to drive up Highlands Road to get there, a white-knuckled grip-your-steering-wheel-and-stare-straight-in-front-of-you drive that winds through the mountain with nothing but a rusty guardrail separating you from treacherous drop-offs. Treacherous drop-offs with gorgeous waterfall views, but still--treacherous. "Don't tell me how pretty it is or I'll look," is how you have to drive it.

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This is as far as Nella would go the first trip to the falls. By the second trip, she had conquered her fears and went all the way down underneath them.

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Dash, on the other hand, was ready to climb in a barrel and go over them.

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On the way back from the falls the first time, we passed a sign that said "Baptist Church--one mile this way."

"Bet that's a pretty sight," I said as we drove by. Steeple against foliage, little church in the mountain woods. It was enough to make us swing around and creep the one mile up the road to find it. There was no one around when we did, so we parked the car, opened the doors, blared Brandi Carlile and had a dance party in the parking lot. I'm sure the Baptists won't mind. I mean, we weren't in the church, and it's not like we were twerking on God's grounds. We saved our inappropriate moves for further down the mountain.
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This right here? Well this makes me insanely happy.

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Downtown Franklin where the sweet ladies of Rosebud Cottage served us up some nice pasta salad and sandwiches.

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Mountain fog? Nothing like the horror movie fog. Much kinder, thank you. Although I'd like to thank Brett for watching the movie one night, a week before our trip so that when the fog set it in, I had a quick instinct to hit the deck as my mom would say. So did Dash. Look.

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There was a scenic pull-off on Highlands Road, and I happened to pull over right while my grandma was waving from heaven.

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Lainey was ecstatic to take the bag of gems she mined for to school today as they're learning about geodes and gems right now. If you're headed to the Highlands area, check out Jackson Hole on Highlands Road, just a short jog down from Dry Falls. You can mine for gems, sample some cherry cider and shop the most adorable collection of little gifts--Davy Crockett hats, hand carved slingshots and bows-and-arrows, cut gems and geodes, jewelry, children's books, jams and ciders and my favorite--flavored honey sticks.

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Happy and fall-full here. Part 2 to come.
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Bring the cozy vibe of North Carolina home with this simple family fall party you can throw at home. I'm over at eHow this week with suggestions for fall treats, movies and fun for your next Friday night at home.

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Friday, October 17, 2014

From the Mountains

I'm just going to apologize for making you all read about the spiders. If it makes you feel any better, Karma got me back. After driving with the kids all day earlier this week on the way to a wedding in North Carolina, we tried to find a hotel for the night. Apparently the entire population of Georgia is attending agriculture conferences at every hotel along 75, so after ten attempts to settle in for the night, Brett finally got online from home to see if he could score us something (he has to work and sadly couldn't come with). He did--a cabin by a lake, forty minutes north of where we were driving. "Looks exactly like something you'd love," he said.

It was darling. Quaint as ever. Fireplace, knotty pine, old furnishings. We arrived late at night, and I got the kids in the tub, anxious for our lakeside cabin adventure. An adventure that ended ten minutes later when I saw two huge cockroaches crawling on the bedroom walls--and heard them crawling.

Aw, hell nah.

We were out of there. And I'll admit, I immediately thought of the awful spider story and the way I made you all share it with me.

So, enough of that. A quick little stop-in from North Carolina before wedding festivities begin tonight. We are in heaven, enjoying the best of the best of God's creation--a landscape that has taken my breath away numerous times this week.

More to come. Happy Weekend!

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Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Whatever You Do, Don't Read This

I'd like to officially thank my sister for sending out a family text this week that said, simply, "Whatever you do, don't read this" and a link to an article that has plagued my every thought since. Because I believe in passing on horrible thoughts to make others bear my horrible thought burdens, therefore lessening their effect on myself (hey, my sister did it first), let me share it with you.

A family had to leave their house--as in abandon where they live permanently--because it was infested with brown recluse spiders. And by "infested," we're not talking a bunch. We're talking 6,000--or, as one journalist chose to put it (I'll thank him later), "the spiders were bleeding out of the walls." Because true journalism demands good details, this article decided to include the important fact that the spiders' "exoskeletons were falling from the can lights"--a phrase that, frankly, makes me angry at the person who wrote it. Why do I have multiple links to different articles about an event I'm pissed I know about in the first place? Because the infestation has consumed me, and I Googled other sources, thank you.

Text, five minutes ago, to my sister: "I think about the spider infestation once an hour. At least."

Text back: "I was thinking about it when you sent this."

Here's the thing. Those clicky taglines that lurk outside my inbox and do their little "click me" fancy dance when I'm trying to Google "ways to deck out your house for Halloween"? Well sometimes I click on them. Because I am a sucker. Here's another thing: Nothing good ever comes from clicking on shock value stories and pictures. Not the giant shark who's eating a boat (it's a hoax and an insurance commercial), not the wrinkly old lady whose "after" picture makes her look like Giselle Bundchen, not the "Spiders Bleeding Out of Walls Force Family from Missouri Home."

Opening my e-mail has now become an exercise in self discipline. It's like walking into a room full of naked people and trying not to look at anyone's business. Easier said than done. I have to click "Inbox" really quick before my eyes dart over to Jumbo Squid Attacks Greenpeace Submarine. Or worse--a funny baby video that went viral. I'll fold. Which is exactly what I did with the dancing boy who stole the reporter's spotlight and, for the record, that was totally worth it. I now have a new tool to kill insecurities: I just imagine myself as Lady Gaga, and no one can destroy me. That kid is brilliant.

All this to say, social media analysts are all about SEO and clickability and pin-friendliness and retweet ratios, and I've been thinking that maybe this blog doesn't fit in. So I'm renaming Enjoying the Small Things to RAVISHING GINORMOUS AND SUPER INTERESTING STUFF (all caps intentional), and titling all posts from now on to something more exciting like ALLIGATOR ATTACKS and UFO LANDS IN NAPLES SUBURB BACKYARD with "just kidding" tucked somewhere in the post, because I'm responsible like that.

I kid, I kid. I actually did an article a while back for dental health month about parental guilt associated with necessary child dental work, and I was so afraid the editors were going to change my title to something more Enquirer-esque like "MY BABY HAD A ROOT CANAL!" Thankfully, they didn't. Because they're also responsible like that.

So, I'll take a few lessons in social media efficiency and try not to be completely lazy in my post titles. But I won't bait and hook just for the heck of it. Unless you count this post.

And this all started with spiders.

If you're not completely poisoned by the Internet and still like to enjoy the small, calm, uneventful things, keep reading.

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My father-in-law does a lot of wildlife photography in the Everglades and has taken us out on a few swamp buggy adventures, promising to return when the fields are covered in wildflowers. We hit the timing right this past weekend, landing a backstage pass to Florida's Black-eyed Susan show.

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If you're wondering why I wasn't running through that field, spinning like Fraulein Maria, let me expand the view.

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Totally headline worthy. ALLIGATOR ATTACKS BLOGGER REENACTING SOUND OF MUSIC SCENE. Tweet that. 

Little Miss Dundee and her alligator-wrangling Barbie were on the look-out.

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Finally, our weekend was topped off with one of my favorite October traditions--our box of leaves that arrived from Michigan, sent by my cousin Joann every year. Spider free.

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I spy hidden curls. 8:00.

They make us very happy--a little act of kindness that goes a long way.

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Happy Tuesday. Check your drains for spiders.