Happy Graduation

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A quick post here about a recent event we are especially proud of. Sam graduated from Bowdoin College on Memorial Day weekend, and we could not be any more proud of him. The rain stayed away and despite some cool temperatures, the outdoor graduation went off without a hitch. Bowdoin College has been an exceptional four-year experience for Sam, and we are proud to be able to call him a Polar Bear.

It really does seem like only yesterday when we were dropping him off as a freshman, but it’s already been four years, and a lot has happened since. Ignore the cancery old man on the right, and admire the happy and gorgeous rest of the family to the left.

Can you guess which one is Sam? None of us know where he gets the tall genes, but he’s always been a big (and kind, and smart, and athletic, and genuinely nice) boy. Jack (10) is growing up too, and if he follows in Sam’s footsteps even slightly (and he has already started), then we’ll all be thrilled. The two of them are exceptionally tight as siblings, and we love to see them interact. Sam’s going to be home for the summer before heading off to work in NYC, so we’ll all have some time together – that’ll be good.

My lovely, lovely Lori… what can I say? She is the most caring and loving mother and wife that one could ever imagine. She is so strong in times of adversity, and she always knows what to do and say at the right moment to make you feel safe and loved. Obviously the boys benefit tremendously from this, but so do I.

Happy Graduation!

Bigshot Camera

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Trying to come up with creative gifts for Jack at Christmas time, I stumbled on the Bigshot camera – billed as ‘the camera for education”, it is a really cool concept and I jumped at it immediately. For any educator interested in combining science, math, engineering and, most importantly, the arts – this one’s for you!

The enormous appeal of the camera can be used to turn it into a compelling tool for learning. We believe that a camera designed for education must have three features. First, it should be designed as a kit for assembly – putting the kit together should expose the user to a wide range of science concepts. Second, it should include features that cannot be found in other cameras, allowing the user to explore new creative dimensions. Finally, it should be low-cost, making it accessible to the less privileged. Bigshot has been designed with these goals in mind. There is another important feature that sets Bigshot apart from virtually all educational kits – once you have built it, it is a fully functioning digital camera that you can use everyday!

Basically, you purchase a kit for making your very own fully functioning digital camera, and along the way as you assemble the camera, you explore and learn about a variety of technical and creative processes that go into the ultimate expression of making a photograph.

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It was on one of my short stays in the hospital getting hydrated that Jack and Sam took on the task of assembling the camera…. needless to say, it was the most amazing surprise and the perfect moment when I learned about their little adventure together. I love that they spent the time together to make the camera so that it would finally get done – Jack and I had been meaning to get to it but as you can tell, time got away from us a little bit! Great little camera that you crank to generate your own power, and has a lens wheel that allows all sorts of creative possibilities like panoramic, 3D, wide angle… so much fun, and when you roll in the level of ownership applied to the entire process, then we have an absolute winner.

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The accompanying web site resources are excellent, and they really aid in the educational aspect of this project. I hesitate to call it a project – makes it sound a little sterile and maybe too much like school – but I know that both Jack and Sam had a blast putting the camera together, and I’m very proud of my little scientist/engineer/photographers. Well worth the investment if you have a little one interested in learning more about science, digital photography and creative expression. Bigshot Camera.

 

Voldemort!

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1-14-14 VoldemortDefinitely not a landscape photograph.

I was trawling through some of my oldest portable hard drives in search of original RAW files from a long-ago trip to Utah when I came across this. Made on April Fool’s Day, this was the moment Jack Robert Patterson arrived in our lives. Due to its graphic nature – that’s literally Jack’s first breath after a C-section – some people might find this photograph a little off-putting. Me, I absolutely love it!

When I stumbled on it again the other day, I couldn’t wait to show it to the now tween Jack. I figured he’d get a kick out of seeing himself right at the beginning, and after all, I doubt if there are many kids with portraits like this! When I unveiled the image to him, he got very serious in tone and expression, and then he uttered one word that made me chuckle… Voldemort!

Real world math…

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So, at first I felt a little guilty about having my 9 year old help me brew and bottle my latest batch of home-made beer. A little voice way in the back of my head was questioning my parenting skills, worrying about the message I might be sending Jack, but that’s when I also realized that on the flip side of things there was a serious educational plus to the situation. As Jack and I struggled with the concept of siphoning – the method by which the liquid was transferred from the fermentation bucket to the bottling bucket – he was being exposed to some pretty serious real world math (and science). Understanding the impact of pressure, gravity, displacement, volume… all key math/science skills, right? This was definitely a two-person job, and as you can see, Jack’s assistance throughout the process was invaluable as we prepared this latest batch of liquid gold for bottling. Next up… we’ll brew ourselves some kid-friendly root beer!

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Goblins and Ghoulies…

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Halloween is right around the corner, and in our house that’s a big deal. When Sam was little he really got into Halloween, dressing up not only himself, but also the entire house. Now that Sam’s off at college, his little brother Jack has assumed that role, and boy does he do it with gusto. Skulls seem to be central to the theme this year, though there are lots of gravestones, cobwebs and spooky colored eyes too. Jack still isn’t sure what he’s going to dress up as for trick or treating, but whatever he settles on, I’m sure it will be good! Happy Halloween!

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A Boy and his Dog

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Jack doesn’t always come with us when we go for a walk with Oliver, but when he does, he usually has a blast. In fact, the two of them usually have a grand time chasing each other all over the place! It’s as if Oliver knows that Jack is a kid, and that as such, he’s supposed to play with him! Jack doesn’t need a lot of encouragement to join in the fun.

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Heeeeeeere’s Oliver!

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For all you Oliver lovers out there… you know who you are! Here are a few quick pics of my boy enjoying a late fall family walk. He’s such a good boy, and isn’t he handsome? He’ll charge around in the long grass like a crazy dog, and when we pull the tennis ball out for a game of fetch… well, he’s all in. He’s a solid 75 lbs now, and since he’s quite stocky, sometimes in these photographs he looks a bit chubby – though he’s not really. Lots of fur he has. Our baby boy… enjoy!

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A chip off the old block…

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I played a lot of soccer when I was younger, and for a little while I even made a living playing it. I’ve been involved in the game all my life, though at my age now, all I can really do is coach. Currently I coach the local high school boys team, and although resigned to the sidelines, every now and then when I’m feeling adventurous I jump out onto the field and show those young’uns what it’s all about! Jack loves all sports, and as parents we have always wanted him to explore a variety of interests, so we haven’t pushed him hard in any one direction. He’s 9 years old now though, and since it’s fall, that means another parks and rec soccer season. Jack has been asking about playing a higher level of soccer… more than parks and rec (which is a great program for kids). Lori and I told him that we’d do parks and rec one more time this fall, and if at the end of the season he has any interest in getting more serious about soccer, then we’d jump “all in” and support that path. I’d love to coach him and help grow that obvious love of the game that he already has… here he is… a chip off the old block.

Another first day of school

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Boy do these days come around fast. It seems like yesterday that Jack was going to school for the very first time. I can remember that day vividly, though in what seems like the blink of an eye, here we are starting fourth grade already. Fourth grade means a change of school for Jack, and I’m pleased to report that he’s settling in to his new surroundings quite nicely. There’s a big adjustment to be made, with an increase in homework, and lots of after-school activity choices to be made. Life’s getting just a tad more complicated for Jack these days, but what better way to send him off to school than a big hug from the O-Dog!

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Sleep-over

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We have puppy-proofed the whole of the downstairs, and we use a baby gate to keep him from wandering where he’s not supposed to go. Oliver isn’t allowed upstairs yet, but lately he’s been more and more curious about where it is that we go when we close the gate behind us at night. Our biggest concern with allowing him upstairs is all of Jack’s toys, especially the piles of Lego, strewn all over his bedroom floor. Probably like most dogs his age, Oliver hasn’t met a sock, sneaker, or stray piece of clothing that he doesn’t want to chew, so that’s another reason to corral him downstairs.

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Though we did the whole crate-training thing, he doesn’t sleep in his crate at night any more… we let him have the run of the downstairs (except for the living room), and to date we haven’t had any problems… he’s a good sleeper. Still, we sometimes feel bad about leaving him downstairs on his own at night, so we have a family sleepover in the living room every other weekend. I think he truly appreciates us being close to him, he sleeps through the night like a champ, and he is incredibly well-behaved as he cuddles in beside us in our sleeping bags.

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Favorites of mine…

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These photographs of Jack on the golf course have become favorites of mine… not hard to see why, eh? This was hole #4 on the Kelly Nine at Bangor Municipal Golf Course, the last hole we played on Jack’s first time ever out on a course. Jack did an awesome job, and as you can see, he has pretty good form as a golfer. These were both shot with my iPhone camera using the HDR option, and then converted to black and white using Nik’s Silver Efex. HDR stands for high dynamic range, and when you choose that option, the camera basically takes a series of images, each with a different exposure from darkest to lightest. The HDR software automatically combines the best bits of the three overexposed, underexposed, and evenly exposed shots to create one photograph with shadows and highlights that are usually better balanced. This doesn’t work for every scene, and really not so well if you are shooting a moving subject, but in this case… I liked the effect.

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We call them the “red” tees….

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…and not the “ladies” tees as some might.

Lately, Jack and I have been hitting the driving range and the putting green maybe three times each week, and as you might imagine, the little guy has been getting better and better. He has a very natural, long and smooth swing, and all he needs are a few lessons to get his grip and stance etc. squared away correctly to begin with. We’ve signed him up for lessons at The First Tee golf camp this summer, but there’s no holding him back at the moment.

He wants to go to the course every day after school, and needless to say he has been itching to get out onto the real golf course. Up until this evening, I’d been stressing the need to practice so that he would be ready when we did eventually tee off. While I love hitting balls and putting (and I think he does too), I could sense that he was beginning to wonder if we were ever going to play real golf. We’ve hit plenty of range balls, we’ve worked on our short game and putting, and we’ve even eaten in the clubhouse grill… I don’t think there’s anything he doesn’t like about hanging out at the course! So, understanding his desire to hit the links, I promised him that the next evening it wasn’t raining, I’d take him out to play. Here he is teeing off for the very first time… and yes, he hit an absolute rope down the fairway.

Every evening I take Oliver for a walk on the golf course right around when the sun goes down. Anyone who’s still playing on the course is usually somewhere on the back nine and certainly nowhere near the first six holes or so. We have the place all to ourselves, and Oliver has himself a grand time running and chasing the tennis ball. Even after the sun sets, there’s usually another 45 minutes or so before it gets really dark, and as I was wandering the empty course one evening, I realized that this would be the perfect time to bring Jack out to play golf. While he’s still learning, what better way to enjoy the course… with no-one in front of or behind us, we could take our time and not have to worry about how long we took to play, or how many shots we made. I asked in the pro shop if we could pay for nine holes each and split it over two visits, and they were more than happy for us to do that. Nine holes of golf would probably have been too much for him in one shot, so we set out to tackle holes 1 – 4 of the Kelly Nine.

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I needn’t have worried at all about him making the transition from the range to the course. He hit the ball superbly, and totally understood the concept of keeping score in an honorable way. We talked about how he wasn’t competing against me, but rather against himself and the course, and how he would continue to get even better with more practice. We talked about being aware of certain aspects of etiquette such as not talking while someone was swinging, how to decide whose turn it was to hit, and why, if you swing and miss, it still counts. He was fastidious about replacing his divots, especially after I explained to him that those who replace their divots get favorable bounces of trees. He used all of the clubs in his bag at some point, and once he got up around the greens, he displayed a deft touch for someone who had never been on a golf course before. We both had a blast, and I can’t wait to hit the course again with my new golfing buddy.

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Fore!

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I’ve spent so much time walking the golf course with Oliver this winter, it feels as if I now know every inch of the landscape intimately. This winter we hiked just about every fairway from tee to green, and although there was often a foot of snow on the ground and golf season seemed an eternity away, it still felt good to explore the course. I used to play a lot of golf when I was younger, but these past few years there just doesn’t seem to have been time. That’s all going to change though, since we bought Jack his own set of golf clubs for his ninth birthday, and he and I are planning to spend some time playing together.

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On a sunny, but distinctly cool, late April afternoon, (don’t let his Adam Scott inspired purposefully chosen but woefully under-dressed for the weather attire fool you) we made our first trip to the course to try out his new clubs. He’s a smart little guy, and it didn’t take long for him to start exploring the intricacies of the game of golf. On the putting green, he quickly and intuitively made adjustments to the line and length of his putts, and on the driving range he demonstrated a naturally free and loose swing that is destined to get better with instruction and practice. We only live about a quarter of a mile from the local course, so I can already imagine him walking down to the course and spending time on the driving range and putting green improving his game. Can’t say I’m not excited about having the opportunity to play more golf, and what better way to enjoy it than with my little guy!

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A Sandy Beach in Maine

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Best place on earth… before the tourists arrive! Sand Beach is one of my favorite places to spend time, especially during the off-season before the park gets swamped with people from away. There aren’t many sandy beaches this far up the Maine coast, so as you might imagine, during the summer months this is a very popular place. This time of year though, it’s pretty quiet, and it’s also pretty special. The photograph at the top of this post is from a few years back. It was made at the far end of Sand Beach looking back toward the Beehive – I was perched on a rock in the shade of Great Head as a wave washed in and around the rocks. Keeping the shutter open for a relatively long time rendered the moving water with the misty effect.

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Fast forward a few years to today… and despite the reluctant temperatures over the Easter weekend, the sun actually felt warm on your face, and as you can see, two of our boys had themselves a grand old time. Oliver just turned six months of age, and he’s already becoming a little more mature. He walks on the leash really politely, and he’s learning how to be much more calm when approaching people and other dogs. He’s still a silly puppy at times, but he’s definitely starting to get it. Sand Beach is full of wonder for Oliver – the texture of the sand between his toes, the smell (and taste) of beached seaweed, and the ability to wade into the cold water – all things he seems to love, and in the last photograph he’s enjoying a classic Acadia view…

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Snow Day x2

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It’s been a snowy winter so far, with 75+ inches of snow having fallen locally already. Despite the higher than average totals, up until recently, neither Jack nor Lori had enjoyed any snow days yet. That all changed however, when the latest mid-March snowstorm dropped an additional 12-15 inches of powder. Timing is everything, and with this storm bridging the end of one day and the start of another, we actually had back-to-back snow days… something we haven’t seen since the infamous and deadly Ice Storm of January, 1998. Consecutive snow days meant lots of shoveling, watching movies in the middle of the day, and long family walks with Oliver.

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Springtime? Hold on a minute…

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It’s mid-March. That’s right, mid-March, and we just got walloped with another foot plus of snow! Despite the fact that 7:02 a.m. on this particular morning (3/20) heralded the official start of spring in the northern hemisphere, I’m beginning to wonder if warmer weather is ever going to come our way. Oliver… he doesn’t care. He joined us in late November when it was already winter, so all the little guy has known so far is snow and more snow. As you can imagine, he was in his element when we took him for a family walk to the local golf course to check out the new snow. The powder was at least a foot deep, and more like double that in most places, but that didn’t stop Oliver from doing his thing. As much as I enjoy seeing him romp in the snow, I’m about ready for spring summer to arrive so we can go hiking in Acadia and watch him swim in the water. Bring on the warmer weather!

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A semester abroad

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Sam’s studying abroad this semester, so he’s missing out on all of the growing up changes we are seeing with Oliver (and Jack). He’ll be back home in the states just in time for his birthday in May, but in the meantime, we’ve been making do with Skype sessions to keep in touch. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again… the ability to use your phone/computer to video call with someone halfway around the world in real time… that’s quite sci-fi and very Star Trek like.

He’s a Government and Economics major at Bowdoin College here in Maine, so the time spent in Europe studying and visiting many of the important political institutions will give him a better understanding of how part of the world’s economy works. He’s based in Freiburg, Germany, but what’s especially cool about his semester abroad is that he travels to a lot of places as part of his study program.

So far he’s been to Brussels, Berlin, Prague, Frankfurt, Basel and Paris… and in the next few weeks he’ll be visiting Paris (again), Barcelona, Geneva, London, Tallinn and Munich. He has seen places like the Bundestag, the Louvre, Cathédrale Notre Dame de Paris, the Berlin Wall, the Brandenburg Gate, the European Central Bank – now that’s pretty cool. Here are a couple of photographs from his travels…

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My new favorite photograph

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The last time I declared I had a new favorite photograph it was a landscape image of the famous round rocks on Boulder Beach below Otter Cliffs in Acadia National Park. And although I still very much like that image, especially the moodiness generated by the black and white processing, I am hereby declaring that I have a new, new favorite photograph! Can I tell you a secret though? You see… I have this addiction. I can’t seem to shake it, and it’s getting to the point where I think I might have a problem. No matter how I try (and I don’t try very hard), I can’t stop photographing our newest family member, Oliver. The only thing better than photographing Oliver… is photographing Oliver with Jack. Here are a couple more favorite photographs of two of my boys…

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Dreaming of a white Christmas

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Here’s Jack continuing a tradition that Sam always loved so much… cutting the tree down at Piper Mountain Tree Farm in Newburgh. Sam’s off at college now, so Jack assumed the role of Paul Bunyan and chopped down this year’s tree. The weather totally cooperated, creating a festive atmosphere with a light dusting of snow coating the ground and flurries gently falling all morning. A classic New England scene… hot cider, cinnamon doughnuts and the annual purchase of an ornament for the tree rounded out our morning on the mountain, and our relatively short, plump, and healthy tree is now decorated and enjoying its new home in our living room.

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Two Mainers exploring New York City

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New York City is the greatest city on earth. A family obligation recently afforded us the opportunity to spend a couple of nights on the island of Manhattan, and part of my responsibility on this visit – while Lori was working – was to keep the little man entertained. So, what do two Mainers set loose in the big city do? Well, they explore… and as they explore, one of them Instagrams their adventures. In just a couple of days, Jack and I hit up some of the more famous locations… Central Park (and the zoo), Times Square, the Empire State Building, Fifth Avenue, the Brooklyn Bridge, Broadway and 42nd Street, Greenwich Village… and that’s what I’ll be documenting in the next couple of blog posts. Let’s start with Central Park and the Children’s Zoo where we saw some awesome critters (in and outside the zoo). I know it’s weird, but I can’t shake the spooky feeling I get when looking at the first couple of photographs from this post. Makes me think of The Shining… here’s Jack!