My Girl, My Teacher

On Friday, my daughter asked me why I don’t wear shorts.

I paused before I answered because I know she is watching what I do, listening to what I say. I do not want my daughter to develop body insecurities like mine. I have tried to hard to do better, to not talk about how much I dislike my body. I’ve tried to be more comfortable, more confident in my skin, even if it’s hard, even if I feel insecure, even if I strongly dislike the way that I look. But shorts? Oh my God. I just can’t bring myself to wear them, to show my thighs. I just can’t. So, I wear skirts and jeans all summer long.

I took a deep breath.

“I just don’t like shorts very much. I prefer skirts.” was my reply.

She looked at me and said “Mommy, you just need to accept your legs and wear shorts.”

I said “You are absolutely right!” And I bought my first pair of shorts in more than 10 years.

I’ll do anything for that girl.

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Staying Motivated

“Don’t stop trying because you’ve hit a wall. Progress is progress no matter how small.”

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Since November I have committed to lose the 66 pounds my doctor has told me that I need to lose. And in all of that time, I have only seen the scale move from 216 to 198 pounds. There are weeks that pass that nothing changes. Not a single pound is lost.

“Even if you can’t physically see the results in front of you, every single effort is changing your body from the inside. Never get discouraged!”

I do know that my dedication to exercise still has benefits beyond weight loss. I know I’m stronger and that my heart is healthier, that I’m building muscle, that things are happening inside of me that are positive and good for my body, mind and soul. That is why I keep going. Because I know it’s good for me. I know it’s paying off. Even if I can’t see it or if no one else can notice. I’m doing a good thing for myself, my health. I feel more motivated than ever to keep going in spite of the lack of weight loss. I have not missed a single workout over the last 5 weeks. 5 days a week at 5 am I get up, I show up, and I do the work.

“When you feel like quitting, think about why you started.”

I am so grateful that my husband made the commitment to go through this with me. It’s been such a mental struggle for me and I’m not sure I would be able to keep going were it not for his encouragement and willingness to put in the work with me. He has always been supportive of me with my weight and health problems, but the fact he’s willing to get up every day and do this with me– it’s love in action and I am grateful. He pushes me when I need it, he holds me close when I break down or when I’m feeling like a failure and every day when we are done with our workouts, he gives me a slap on the ass, a high five and tells me he’s proud of me. I’ll be honest– There have been mornings when we are grumpy, have been arguing all morning and can’t stand the site of each other’s faces, but no matter what, he is there for me and I couldn’t be more grateful for his love and dedication to me.

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“It’s a process. It’s a process. It’s a process. Change takes times.”

Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Photographing My Children When I Became a Mother.

This post is sponsored by Canon but all opinions are my own.

Last weekend I celebrated the high school graduation of my second child. As I scrolled through his baby and childhood photos, I cringed at the terrible quality of the photos I had taken of him. I didn’t know the first thing about photography when my boys were little. I just knew I wanted to capture every moment that I could. I snapped away on my disposable cameras, clueless about things like composition or exposure. Luckily, by the time my daughter was born, I had discovered blogs and photo-sharing sites and was able to start learning and understanding how to capture and document my family’s life in a creative, beautiful, more meaningful way with a Canon DSLR camera. I know that understanding photography can be a bit overwhelming, so I’d love to share some simple tips for seeing your family through the lens of your camera and capturing beautiful memories that will last a lifetime.

Get to know and understand your camera. Don’t play the guessing game when it comes to getting a good shot. Knowledge is power! When you truly understand how your camera works you can make your camera work for YOU. Get to know your camera’s capabilities and functions. You will be more confident behind the lens and be able to capture memories without stressing out or missing out on precious moments.

Turn off the flash and use natural light whenever possible. Flash can be harsh, creating unnatural skin tones, overexposed subjects and red-eye. Take some time and learn exposure. Understanding basic exposure can be a game changer when taking photos of your family. I have boxes full of pictures of terribly exposed photos of my boys that are mostly unusable. I wish someone had said to me “hey, you should learn about exposure!”

Change your perspective. When photographing children or moments in our lives, it’s so easy to simply point the camera and shoot straight on. Try a different perspective. If your baby is sleeping, step out of the room and take a shot while looking through the doorway. If your baby is playing on the floor, get down on their level and capture the moment from their perspective. If you’re outdoors, lay down on the grass and shoot looking up. Move around, try different angles, different points of view. Get creative!

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Always keep your camera close by and ready to go. Life happens fast when you have little ones and you don’t want to be caught off guard. Make it a habit to keep your camera accessible with a charged battery (or an extra one ready just in case!) and plenty of space on the memory card. Also, don’t be afraid or intimidated to take your camera with you when you’re on the go to be able to capture moments you experience with your children while out living life.

Invest in a prime lens if you’re using a DSLR camera . A prime lens is a lens with a fixed focal length. Using this type of lens means having to move around a bit more to get a shot. Since it cannot zoom in or out, you have to move to get closer or to back away. But prime lenses are quicker, sharper and allow more light in. This makes them ideal for low light situations. Some prime lenses can cost a pretty penny, but Canon sells an EF 50mm f 1/8 STM lens for under $200. It’s one of my favorite all time lenses and is usually the one you will find on my camera.

Think Candid. Not all pictures of your children have to be their smiling faces. Try capturing them in their surroundings without asking them to smile, or to look your way. Don’t focus so much on getting a perfect shot. Life isn’t always picture perfect. The little moments are worth capturing too and will be so much fun to look back on. Your baby’s sleeping face. Your toddler’s favorite shoes. Your child reading on their bed. Pick up the camera and shoot when they’re not looking or expecting it.

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Get in the picture, mama! Hand that camera to someone else and ask them to take a picture of you with your kids! This is one of my absolutely biggest regrets. There are so many holiday pictures, family gatherings, family trips that I documented with my camera, but never thought to include myself in the pictures. Or, invest in a tripod and remote so you can take pictures of yourself with your family. I know sometimes as women, we prefer not to be in the photo. But if you take one thing away from this post, PLEASE LET IT BE THIS. You will want to remember being there with your family. It can be painful to look through albums and not see a single photo of you with your children at big life events. Twenty years down the road, you won’t care about how much you weighed, or if you had a terrible hairstyle, or if the dress you were wearing was hideous. Trust me.

Back up your photos! I can’t stress this enough! I once lost thousands of pictures when my computer got a virus and was destroyed. It was devastating. That will never happen again. I currently back up my photos on a hard drive and also upload all photos to Dropbox. Find something that works for you and BACK! UP! YOUR! PHOTOS!

Now, the most important thing I can tell you is that you just need to pick up that camera and start shooting! Take the tips that I’ve shared that work for you and put them to use. Find photo blogs and photo sharing sites that inspire you. The more you shoot, the better you’ll get and the more comfortable you will feel. Remember you are creating a visual history filled with all kinds of wonderful, emotional, funny, adorable stories to pass down to your children. That is what really matters. Have fun, be creative and don’t forget to enjoy each moment you are capturing!

What is the single best tip someone has shared with you about photographing one’s family? Or do you have advice of your own to share? I would love to hear from you!

Because #BasketballMom

It’s been a while, yes?

So much has happened in the last seven months.

Seven months.

Mostly things that involve The Middle Child. He played his last season of high school basketball, probably his last season of basketball ever. Because he doesn’t want to play in college. He wants to focus on college. I respect his choice, but if I’m being honest. I’m heartbroken. He’s played since he was three years old. City ball. Travel ball. Junior and High school ball. What will I do when next year rolls around and there won’t be any games to attend to cheer for #3? Though the sadness will linger, I’m sure, I’ll always have the memories. And oh, what wonderful memories.

The Starting Line Up.

Oh, just my son putting in another 3 to tie the game and send it into ovetime. Go Braves!! #basketballmom

A video posted by Yvonne Valtierra (@yvonnemarie_v) on

Hitting the game tying shot

Aaand my son putting in the game winner in double overtime!! Great win, Braves! #tribe #basketballmom

A video posted by Yvonne Valtierra (@yvonnemarie_v) on

And then hitting the game winner in double overtime

Winning All Tournament Team honors

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So proud of our Braves and of my son on his double double! #basketballmom

A photo posted by Yvonne Valtierra (@yvonnemarie_v) on

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Me and my husband embracing just before walking our son out on Senior Night. I cried on his shoulder because I just couldn’t believe it was all over.

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14 years of basketball with this kid. 3-17 years old. @ethan_v3 #basketballmom #tbt

A photo posted by Yvonne Valtierra (@yvonnemarie_v) on

Speaking of college. Our son was accepted into his first choice college. Not only was he accepted, but he received a $15,000 annual academic scholarship. (Insert “proud mom” comments here)

Ethan got his first college acceptance letter and an academic scholarship. We are thrilled! So proud of my son! #Vanguard

A photo posted by Yvonne Valtierra (@yvonnemarie_v) on

On April 27th, we made if official. Our boy will be attending Vanguard University this fall.

I hope to not make it another seven months before I write here again. Now that all Things Basketball and High School are coming to an end, I will have a bit more time to focus on other things besides driving the basketball team to tournaments.

(Or, maybe not because I may find myself in a corner crying because MY BABY IS ALL GROWN UP AND DOESN’T NEED ME ANYMORE EXCEPT HE TOTALLY NEEDS MY MONEY BECAUSE… COLLEGE.)

We have two more events to attend. Senior award night tomorrow night and his high school graduation ceremony on May 20th. I can not believe how quickly this all happened, but you know what they say about time, flying, and fun.

Before I leave, there is one more thing that I must mention because out of all of the great things my son has accomplished in high school, this is the one makes me the most proud.

Top that, Moms and Dads. Pretty sure you can’t.

Photos: The Last Homecoming

This year will be filled with “lasts” for my son.

His last Homecoming. His last season of high school basketball. Last Prom.

My son has been blessed with a solid group of friends who have become like family. Some of them have played basketball together since Junior High (one of them since they were 8 years old.) They are all good students, they are smart, driven, loyal and they always have each other’s backs.

This weekend was their last Homecoming. Of course, I brought my new baby with me and well, I took over 270 pictures. That sounds crazy, but my son was with a large group and I took it upon myself to photograph all of them.

Here are a few of my favorite shots.

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I am honored to be able to capture their Senior year through photography, to share these memories with their parents (who are all awesome people) and to give them all something to take with them as they all go out into the real world to become the great men they are destined to be.

Time For a Change

I grabbed my camera and headed out for a drive last night because I was feeling restless and nervous about things. Photography always soothes my soul, so I thought I’d drive around with my camera, to see if anything photo worthy caught my eye.

I drove past a church parking lot that I used to go to weekly for boot camp. The sun was setting and I noticed how beautiful the tall, white cross looked with sunlight behind it. I turned into the empty parking lot. I sat there for a few minutes, just looking at the beautiful sunset, thinking about life and people and all of the crazy, fun, challenging workouts I’ve done in that parking lot.

“Life was really good 2 years ago.” I thought to myself.

I want life to be good again. Last night I realized I’m the only one in the way of that happening.

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“Modern Family” Fall Event at The Grove + a Giveaway!

Disclosure: I was not paid to write this post. I was, however, offered to gift bags to give away to two readers and I always love the chance to give cool things away. Also? I love Modern Family and this sounds like a fun event and I was happy to spread the word.

Next Sunday (October 26th) a Modern Family Fall event will be taking over The Grove. The event is free! There will be lots of fun activities for families, including an interactive corn maze, a pumpkin patch (with hundreds of art pumpkins) snacks, face painting and more!

(Read more about it here.)

I plan on taking the family for a few hours, maybe I will see you there!

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Now, for the fun part! I will be giving away 2 studio gift bags. Gift bags are valued at $200 a piece, and are each filled with lots of fun treats like Seasons 3 & 4 DVDs, branded clothing (black tee, tank top, and sweatpants), and more, all wrapped up in a fun reusable tote!

In order to be entered, simply leave a comment on this post. Please include your name and email address (in the comment.) I will choose two winners at random on Monday, October 27th. I will contact the winners via email and prizes will be mailed within 5 business days.

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Congrats so Katelin and Jessica! mf1

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My Best Girl

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I love her free, playful spirit. I love that she think she’s too “grown up” to kiss me goodbye in front of her friends at school, but not too grown to ask me to swing with her at the park. She is the perfect mix of little girl and young lady. I imagine us swinging together, laughing at life when she’s in college and I’m old enough for senior discounts at restaurants and that thought makes my heart soar with joy.

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Swings at sunset with my best girl

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