Tuesday, December 31, 2013

On marriage and the holidays

(UPDATE: the morning after I shared this post we found out I was pregnant!  And the story goes on...)

Let's talk about dirty laundry.  Not the pair of underwear that Penny put on her head the other day and then threw a 35-minute tantrum when I took away and replaced with a more suitable piece of fabric for such an activity.

Marriage: "covenant by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life and which is ordered by its nature to the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring."

Dan and I fight.

According to most marriage experts I care to listen to, fair fighting is a healthy part of any intimate relationship, but it sure doesn't always feel good.  For us [especially this year] the holiday season really pushes and tests our communication skills and patience.  This December basically kicked my you-know-what and I'm going to air some of it out because I think it's gonna feel good.  If nothing else, let this post be a "me too" for the rest of you out there whose December wasn't all snowflakes and dream fairies.


Each having separate stresses and not reading each other's minds.
Me with my mental to-do list comprising of Penny care, photo deliverables, gift purchases, tax preparation, and everything else that moms do; and him with his year-end stuff for work and being the spiritual leader of a disastrous house.  We get so preoccupied and wrapped up in what's going on in our own heads that sometimes we fail to share our burdens with one another.  This makes us feel isolated and frustrated with one another for not knowing exactly what's on our minds. I'm most guilty of this in our house.

[Not] synchronizing schedule commitments.
With text messaging often used as a way of communicating with other people, it's very easy forget the "hang on, I need to check with my spouse to make sure we are free." step in the making-plans process.  I'm sure husbands and wives all over town have this problem because technology makes us feel like we can and should give people an answer right away, even if it's impulsive.  It's been kind of a perfect storm for us these last few weeks.  Lots of social gatherings happen this time of year, some planned and some impromptu.  And maybe I forgot to tell Dan a couple times that I had scheduled or moved a photo shoot.  Or Dan might have forgotten to tell me that friend(s) were coming into town and he made plans to see them, or that Penny needs a nap every afternoon before committing us to mid-day outings.

Dressing up and getting out the door on time.
The latter part of this has been a weakness of mine my entire life.  Punctuality is not my strong suit, and add an unpredictable child to the mix, it's extra difficult to leave the house at a designated time.  Make me do my hair and makeup AND get said child all dolled up in photo-worthy ensembles AND pack the car with gifts or camera equipment or diaper bag or potluck items or all of the above?  Yeah. Not a smooth experience.  No matter how much earlier I start getting ready, or how many bags I pack in advance and load into the car, there is ALWAYS something that holds us up.  Again, guilty. This drives Dan batty.

Keeping house.
Here's another natural weakness of mine, magnified and multiplied by the hectic December complete with one rainy day that caused enough mud in our backyard for the dogs to completely cover our wood floors.  This year we ended up paying to have the house cleaned before we allowed ourselves to put up our Christmas decorations.  That felt good but I also felt
like a failure.  A messy house is a big stressifier for my husband and I fail him in this area consistently, especiallys  since I spent almost every waking moment this month shooting or editing photos.

Buying (and budgeting) gifts.
Fail to plan, plan to fail.  We actually worked really well as a team in the Christmas Shopping efforts this year.  Where we failed (and where the stress stems from) is in the budgeting department.  Our last-minute, spend whatever, approach to providing this-and-that for loved ones feels great when you're watching them open it, but not-so-great when you look at the bottom line two days after Christmas.  Let me be clear, both Dan and I LOVE giving gifts, and we did not go into debt buying anyone anything this year, I just wish we had been more organized about it.  In some areas I felt like we gave too much and in some, not enough.  Better luck next time.

Night Owl vs. Early Bird
Here we differ all year long, but since I started photography on the side it has been much more significant since I am doing most of my work when it's pitch black outside.  I don't understand why Dan won't "can't" do anything productive after 10pm.  He doesn't understand how I can sleep past sunrise when there's a to-do list hovering over our bed.  And nobody wins when you go to bed and wake up at different times than your spouse.  Being out of sync is just a hard thing.


There's hope.  When we fight, we always make up. Here's what we focus on:

-Dividing and conquering. Don't step on each other trying to micromanage the other's projects. Two can do more than one, let it be so. This can take a lot of self control for strong personalities, but it's so important. 

-Coming back to the importance of being a team and giving each other the benefit of the doubt.  No grudges, no hard feelings; forgiveness and togetherness. 

-Knowing when to stop the exhaustive talking and lean in for a hug instead.  Coming back together for physical contact can sometimes remedy tension better than the best conversational skills. 

-Making decisions together about things that mix it up and feel good, like giving to charity or getting some fresh air and exercise. Remembering that it's not about us.  Stepping outside the status quo. 

In the new year Dan and I will continue to work on developing our communication styles to better suit one other.  Marriage is a journey. 

Up here in the quiet of the mountains, tonight our goal is to make it 'til midnight before falling asleep :)

Do you and your spouse have any communication goals for the new year?

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Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Winner Winner

Congratulations to Noel M. -- you are the winner of the Matilda Jane Clothing $50 giveaway!

Merry Christmas Eve to all and to all a blessed and beautiful day with your families.

Now if you don't mind, I'm going to be wrapping presents all day…

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Monday, December 23, 2013

Cheery Things

[If you are looking for the Matilda Jane giveaway post, it's still live here and you still have time to enter! but I hope you'll read this post too :) Merry Christmas!]

Recent Holiday Happenings from My Neck of the Woods

iPhone photo
-UPDATE: The Griffins are no longer the Scrooge-house on the block.  We hung our stockings and put up a Christmas tree and wrapped lights around the front porch (patting self on back as I type).  This might seem like table stakes (side note, I used to think the expression was "table steaks") but there was a little while there where I had accepted the notion that we might not decorate for Christmas at all this year.  We were too busy, I was too stressed, and it was the one thing that we could do without since we aren't hosting any gatherings this year.  But we did it, and I'm so glad.  Better late than never.   I felt so much better about the world as soon as I hung that jingle bell wreath on our front door.
   I was quite concerned about the potential adventures a toddler might attempt with access to a Christmas tree, but surprisingly Penny couldn't care less about the smorgasbord of breakable ornaments and electrical chords in the corner of our family room.  Winning.

-Daniel's brothers (twins) who live in California and Louisiana were both in town these last few days.  Dan and all of his siblings have not all been in the same place at the same time since our wedding  almost three years ago.  It was awesome to hang out with them and get to have brothers around, but my most favoritest part of having them both here was seeing how happy it made my mother-in-law to have all four of her children together for Christmastime.  (Spoiler alert, Nana) we also did some family photos which I will be pleased to share on social media after I have given a few of the printed ones out as Christmas gifts.  Jon left today (sad face, he has to work on Christmas Day) but David is here for another week (yay!).

-I've found another Christmas movie to add to the annual-watch list: 1947's The Bishop's Wife.  It took three attempts to watch it from start to finish (late nights) but it was well worth it.  It's long and a little slow moving at first, but the characters are utterly charming, the acting is classic and the story is good.  Other movies will come to mind with the same themes and similar story lines, but note that this one came before all of these.  Dare I say it's my new favorite black and white film.

-Between online shopping and calculated errands over the last week plus one trip to the mall, our Christmas shopping is almost done.  Now the fun part: wrapping.  I would love to start a gift wrapping business if I had the time.  I. Love. Wrapping. Presents.

-And then there's this Apple commercial.  In my past life working in marketing and advertising I would have loved to do a case study on this ad.  In my currently life as a wife and mommy, I just enjoy it :)

-My friend Steffi hosted a cookie decorating open house on Saturday.  Read: Penny got to have a play date with lots of other little kids, our husbands got to chat and do guy bonding, and I -- happy as a clam -- I got to decorate sugar cookies with perfectly homemade hardening frosting in all different colors and lots and lots of glitter and other embellishments.  Crafting meets dessert: yes please!  I feel like I haven't decorated cookies in years.  It made me want to start a baked goods decorating business.  Then I remembered that I just started a photography business sooooo….

photo: Jane Z
-In my first six weeks as a "professional" photographer (FB page), I have been so blessed to serve exactly thirty clients.  I am humbled and overwhelmed at the amount of interest and support I got in the immediate phase of giving this a go.  My own jaw drops when I reflect back on where I was two months ago, giving my two weeks notice and offering to take Christmas card pictures for a few family and friends with my DSLR.  Never in my dreams did I think I would be here today with a small portfolio built, shooting full frame, booking sessions through February.  Capital B--Blessed.  If you are reading this and you are one of the last three 2013 clients who haven't gotten their photos from me yet, please know that despite my own familial commitments and holiday craziness, I am working on them dutifully and with the utmost attention to get you your images in the time frame promised.

Sidenote and shameless plug: I'm also offering gift certificates! What a wonderful gift to provide someone a photo session that they can use any time next year!  Contact me very soon if you'd like to buy one as a Christmas gift!

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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Matilda Jane Love (giveaway closed)

Do yourself a favor and go grab a cup of hot chocolate and a blanket for your lap, because you're going to be sitting at your computer for a little while doing some shopping and wish-list-makin'! 

Today we're checking out Encore, the final release of the Paint By Numbers collection by Matilda Jane Clothing.  (psst… and there's a $50 giveaway at the end of this post)

Penny's Outfit
In these photos, Penelope is wearing the Turtledove Knot Top, Stippling Tee, and Gallery Leggings

What you can see: sublime little-girl whimsical style. As a budding photographer the first thing I noticed about this outfit when I took it out of the box was how well it would photograph (as all MJC outfits do) but after some wear I know it's also very practical for playtime and parties. 

What you can't see: how SOFT the fabric is in the leggings and tee.  These items are also very well made (I know this to be true of all MJC stuff  because I've got hand-me-downs from my niece that are in perfect condition even though I know she wore them a lot!).  Five stars for style and quality.

A note on sizing... Penny is sixteen-months-old, and as you can see, the size 12mo fits her perfectly.  I've noticed that MJC sizing runs a tad big for babies and toddlers, so keep this in mind as you shop for your littles.

You might remember we did another MJC giveaway in September (here), and while I'm tickled pink that we got another chance to try out another great outfit, I'm even more tickled pink that I can mix and match all these pieces together.  Thus is the Matilda Jane way… so many cute pieces and so many ways to mix and match them together!

Penny is going to show off her new MJC ensembles at two of the many Christmas events that we have on our calendar in the next two weeks. Perfect timing!

How to Shop

You've gotta find a Trunk Keeper in your area and buy the items through them.  It's kind of like an underground boutique of girly goodness.  If you live near me in the Phoenix area, I've tracked down a seller near us.  If not, you can find one through the website, easy as (storebought) pie.

What You've All Been Waiting For: Giveaway Drawing!

One lucky reader will win a $50 gift card towards their next Matilda Jane Clothing purchase!

Three steps to win:

1. [on your honor] Share a link to this post on the social media platform of your choice, so others can have a looksee at my review and enter if they'd like.

2. Browse the Matilda Jane Clothing Collections online, and in the comments below, share which item(s) you might like to purchase if you won, a sort of "wish list".   Your comment is you putting your name in the hat! (Commenting works best from a computer, some have had trouble commenting from their phones.)

3. Make sure I know how to reach you if you win!  Hi new friends, I'm Julie.  If we've never met and I don't have your contact info, you can email me at juliejanuary [at] gmail [dot] com if you'd rather not post your contact info in the comments.

I will select a winner at random at 8am (Arizona) on CHRISTMAS EVE!  Good luck!

P.S. My blogariffic sister-in-law is featuring a MJC review and a giveaway on her blog this week as well.  As far as I'm concerned, there's no shame in entering both drawings, especially since it means you get to see more of my sweet niece, Hope, sporting her MJC outfit too.   

Aren't these cousins the sweetest?

* Opinions herein are my own and I was not compensated for this review beyond items being provided to me at no cost.

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Class of 2031

My stop-in-your-tracks moment du jour came not when I realized that Christmas is eight days away (and we are still the only house on the street that doesn't have lights up yet), but earlier in the day as I was rocking Penelope [back] to sleep after a teething-pain pre-emptive wake-up from her nap.   I was thinking about how little she is and remembering how little my sister used to be (now in college).  Then after a typical female random trail of scattered thoughts, I calculated in my head what year Penny will graduate from high school. Rocking, rocking, calculating.  I had to check my math.  I had to count on my fingers. Penelope Jane Griffin, Class of 2031.

My thoughts lately have unfortunately been wandering over to negative territory from time to time as I find myself wondering: "what if I died?"  Like seriously, what would happen if I died?  Car accident, early onset of fatal disease.  Penny wouldn't even remember me.  This concept of time and how much of it we have and how precious it all is gets me choked up around the holidays.  It's a horrible thing to think about, but I guess as my love for my family continues to grow, so does my fear of all the good things slipping away.  Hormones don't help.  Stress doesn't help.

I wish I had an advent post for you, or photographs of all the cool Christmas baking and craft projects I have been doing that I found on Pinterest (I haven't).  But truthfully, December has been a pretty regular month for us, aside from the photography business (this is like tax season for an accountant) and the full social calendar.  I'm hopeful that it will start to feel more like Christmas when I'm caught up on photo editing and when we put our tree up.  I guess it's ok not to be Pollyanna all the time, right?  Thank you, God, for my wonderful husband.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Rock Me Mama

Well, she did have her first MMR vaccine last week, and I know that one can have a whole slew of side effects.  She had the stomach flu this past weekend so maybe she's still not feeling regular.  Oh, and our neighbor kid has Hand Foot and Mouth Disease (maybe she's getting that?).  And my mom has the flu (maybe she's getting that?).  She's cutting her first molars in all four corners of her mouth which is undoubtedly bothering her a whole lot.  I have been working in the office at the computer a TON, maybe she's irritated that I'm not spending every waking moment with her?  Our house is the only house on the street that doesn't have any Christmas decorations up yet, I bet she feels inferior to the other neighbor kids, especially the ones with the three giant blow-up snowmen adorning their entire front lawn.

As parents it's so easy for us to try to find pathology to explain every little thing our kids do.

My Penny has been more-than-ornery off and on for a few days. Doesn't want to eat, everything is "hot" which means she doesn't want it. Doesn't want to be put down, doesn't want to be held.  Wants Mama, then wants Daddy, then wants Mama again.  Wants a bath, no - a shower, no - a bath.  She is even getting frustrated with Apollo, her best bud, when he comes near her looking for baby affection.  Doesn't sleep through the night, wakes up whimpering in agony, the kind where momma knows she's not faking anything.  Today when she awoke from her nap, she cried uncontrollably for a good forty-five minutes. She's never done that before.  (Of course when Dan got home she acted fine which made me look like a lunatic.)

Something is going on.

Last night, I just cuddled her to her little heart's chagrin until she fell asleep, twice; just like I did in the morning as we watched Elmo's Christmas Special on Sesame Street together on the couch; just like I did this afternoon after our shower and before her nap.  

In short seasons like this, parenthood is extra hard.  The challenges of teething or illness can sometimes outweigh the obvious joyful moments.  My head aches as I consider my to do list of a million things, and everyone who is counting in me for something. People want their photos. And their rulers. And their Christmas gifts.  

I don't have time for teething.  But taking care of my family comes first.  I will sing You Are My Sunshine and watch Curious George until I'm blue in the face, we just might not be putting up a Christmas tree (again) this year. 

(Written on my phone, on my couch, with a toddler in my lap.  And no I haven't even put on pants today.)

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Tiny Prints Cyber Monday

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Penny Jane: Sixteen Months Old

Twenty-something pounds and almost 33 inches tall.  Wearing size 12 or 18 month clothes, and a size 5 shoe.  We've got ourselves a full-on toddler.

We are in a time of watching closely that little fingers don't slam themselves in doorways 
and little foreheads don't bump themselves on faucets 
and little hands don't pull heavy things off the counter tops onto soft little heads.

First time we saw her blood (ever) was on Thanksgiving day when she busted her frenulum (the little thing that attaches your lip to your gums) on a set of doggy-stairs leading up to a bed at my parents' house.  Yes, the kind you buy from Skymall catalogue.  I thought we were going to have to go to urgent care and get her some stitches, but my uncle (an E.R. physician) had a look at it and said it would heal itself (it has).  Also in the mouth, she has cut what I think are some upper molars in the back of her mouth, and has been sleeping horribly, some nights waking at both 11:30pm and 3 or 4am.  I'm thinking growth spurt too?  Whatever it is, mama and daddy ain't thrilled about it and are looking forward to it being over.

She gives out hugs and kisses on request and it's utterly adorable.  She tells the dogs what to do in their own little secret code, and calls them over by smacking her lips, just like mom and dad do.  Her love affair with Apollo (the golden one) grows stronger every day and I wince at the thought of how she is going to feel as an emotional pre-teen when the dogs pass away.  Why do parents think about these things?

She goes all the way up to the top of the playground, and down the big swirly slide all by herself, signing "more" with her hands when she gets to the bottom every time.

Semi-regular vocabulary (said with a special Penny accent):  Ball, Mama, Daddy, "Here You Go," "Go Go," Doggie, Up, Seat, Leslie, Wow!, Oh!, More, Socks, Papa, Nana, Hat, Hot, Happy, "Whooooaa!"

Her recent thing has been nodding her head "yes" to prety-much any question she is asked, and with the utmost enthusiasm.  We try not to manipulate it for our own amusement, but it can get pretty funny. It amazes me how well she comprehends questions and commands, despite her limited ability to speak herself.  She also shakes her head "no" on the rare occasion when she definitely do NOT want something.  I.e. "Penny, should we change your diaper?"

Daddy and I often call her "Pay-Goo" which is a phonetic shortening of "Penny Goose."  She also gets called "Boosey" a lot or "Booses." -- both short for "baby goose."   I actually sternly called her "Penelope Jane Griffin" for the first time (and surely not the last) during a discipline moment, and then I laughed at myself… as though she would understand the significance of being called her full name.

Her dance moves are my favorite. Her little mullet hairs in the back are my favorite.  She's my favorite.

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Tiny Prints Cyber Monday

Friday, November 29, 2013

Black Friday Recap (and Tiny Prints 30% off)

Holler if you love Black Friday!

It's 3:00am and I just got home from my annual Black Friday shopping trip with my dad and sister.  It's a tradition I couldn't really explain even when I wasn't tired, so I'm not going to try now when I'm completely delirious…  ok maybe I will try.  Sporting goods, electronics, clothing, socks, cosmetics, gifts for others… nothing we couldn't purchase any other day (or later in the day on Black Friday)… but it's not really about the purchasing or the deals.  It's about the time we spend together, on a mission, doing it together.  Can you tell I'm delirious?   It started one year when Dad wanted to buy something in particular, a doorbuster, and I said I'd go with him to stand in line.  This guy loves good deals more than he hates shopping.  I was in high school.   We had so much fun doing this together, talking in line, drinking our hot chocolate from thermoses.  It became an annual thing.  This was the day and age where the rebates were paper copies that you had to fill out and mail in (which was also a bonding experience later on in the day).   I can't remember how old she was when Leslie starting joining us, but I do remember becoming a trio made for even more efficient trips to high-traffic destinations.  One could stand in line while two shopped, and we could take shifts.  We then broadened our hit list from just one or two spots, to like five or six.  It's just kind of grown from there.  This year was the first year that we went shopping at night before going to bed, instead of setting an alarm and going at like 3am (now).  So many stores opened either late on Thanksgiving night, or at midnight this year.  I actually liked this better.  Although not sure the Thanksgiving Food Coma did anything to help our shopping work ethic. 

Say what you will about people who shop at odd hours of the night, but know this: I don't think we miss out on the Thanksgiving spirit, or spending quality time with one another… we just do it a different way.


I'll be going to bed in a few minutes hoping and praying that Penelope is a dear and sleeps in a little bit, but wanted to make sure I posted this….  the real Black Friday fun:

For all of you ordering your Tiny Prints stuff today, here's the scoop:

30% off your entire purchase, 50% off special trim options on cards, and free shipping.

Write these down:  promo code BF13 (today only) and free shipping code FS13 (limited time).

Click here to shop.

Tiny Prints Black Friday Sale

Also available here you can cash in on 5 free stationary samples with code 5HOLIDAYSAMPLES -- I haven't really checked out their stationary but I'm sure it's classy.

OK now seriously I'm going to bed.

Nighty night….

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Tiny Prints Thanksgiving Sale

Yeah yeah yeah… people who shop on Thanksgiving are….

But if you're one of those people, and photo iPhone cases are on your shopping list this year, this is the day to get 'em.

Write this down: code IPHONE50 and free shipping code FS13

Tiny Prints iPhone Cases

Happy Thanksgiving!  

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Twas the Night Before Thanksgiving

And all through the neighborhood, Christmas lights were already up.  There's a chill in the air that says it's FINALLY not going to be hot anymore, we can start wearing our warm winter scarfs instead of our summer fashion scarfs.   

My cranberry relish is in the refrigerator, ready for tomorrow.  (recipe)

I epically failed at the whole blogging every day in November thing.  I had to draw a line in the sand between staying up staring at a computer screen until 4:00am and staring at a computer screen until 4:30am last Friday night.  I had hit a wall so I gave myself a free pass (and a few extra days off from writing).

This is what we've been up to this week…

-Dan unearthed some home-videos from his childhood, one in particular of his siblings proudly presenting the Nativity story… hilarity and beauty and nostalgia enjoyed all in one.  This was the first time I'd seen video footage of little Daniel in all his pre-pubescent Danielness.  I marveled at the uncanny sameness I found in this midst of this grainy footage, to the man that I share a closet with.

-We had pre-Thanksgiving with my in-laws, wherein EVERY ONE of the Phoenix branches of Dan's family tree was able to give thanks and break bread together, without having to leave to be somewhere else halfway through the gathering.   We ate delicious feast and sang Praise God From Whom All Blessings Flow (which I still haven't learned all the words to even though they sing it in full-theatrical rendition every holiday gathering).   It was glorious and I hope my sister-in-law plans to host this every year.  Turkey twice in one week, yes please.

I missed out on pie this day to go shoot my 16th official photo shoot of this Christmas Card season, and what marked three weeks with the new camera.  "Slammed" would be an understatement.

Slammed with excitement.  My body aches and my eyes burn and my mind spins, constantly -- all the time, but in a way that makes me rejoice and be glad for this new phase of my life.  I never knew I always wanted to photograph people for a living until I reinvented myself and started doing it.  Insert encouraging cliche about dreaming and achieving here.

-I had a dream that I named my photography business "Jolly Griffin Photography" and it was a smashing success. Get it? Jolly sounds like Julie? but it has a jovial ring to it?  When I woke up and shared, Dan just looked at me and said: "No."   Still reluctant to name it anything (or even call it a business, and myself a professional), I have been secretly dreaming up business names.  I don't think Jolly is the one, but it was a funny dream nonetheless.

-We celebrated Daniel's 33rd birthday.  I researched buying him a new XBox but it was the thought that counted.   I baked cookies (that's what he wanted) and we met up with family and friends at our neighborhood restaurant.  Dan felt loved, life was good.

-Penny said "Leslie" (my sister) for the first time on the very night her very aunt came home from college.  I patted myself on the back for capturing it on video.  It's on my Instagram feed if you missed it.  It might be the cutest video of all time.

-Although my pre-occupation with the photos that need editing and wanting to get home to view the gallery of our family photos that our photographer had just sent me and I couldn't open with my phone (more on that later… ah the self-loathing and meltdown that ensued when I saw myself in the pictures), Dan and I went to a movie.  Yes. A date.  Dinner and a movie, with no toddler.   We couldn't remember the last time we saw a movie just the two of us.  It was nice.  And my eyes will hopefully forgive me tomorrow for staring at a screen for two hours that wasn't productive to my new profession.

Tomorrow we will gather with my side of the family just like old times.  Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE gathering day.   I'm so excited.

Thanks for joining me in my ramble.  Many blessings to you all.

Tune in tomorrow and Friday for Tiny Prints special deal codes.  It's the time of year to put your family photos on cool things and use them as gifts…  tomorrow all-day you can get 50% off of iPhone cases, and Friday it's 30% off site wide + free shipping.  For reals.  If you're not ready to order your stuff, don't worry, there are going to be deals next week too.  

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Five Things I Couldn't Live Without: 14-16 Months

1. Clevamama Splash Wrap Bath Towel
Penny has outgrown most of her "baby"towels, and regular bath towels are just a pain for managing slippery toddlers.  This towel is capital G--Genius.  You clip it around your neck and tie it around your waste (like an apron) so when you pick up little Johnny out of the bath, you just hold him and wrap the bottom.  We got two as a registry gift, from Amazon.  And here's the Clevamama website.

2. OXO Tot Snack Disk.
Great design.  Stuff doesn't spill (as easily) so toddler can carry it around independently.  It's also sleek to slip into your purse or diaper bag, unlike some bulkier snack containers.  We got ours as a gift, but you can find them anywhere baby stuff is sold.  Product on OXO website.

3. UPPAbaby Vista Stroller
Never say never, but let me start by saying I could NEVER spend $700+ on a stroller.  We got ours used on Craigslist for a quarter of that.  BUT whether you are comfortable paying top dollar for a new one, or can find a deal like we did… this stroller will change your life.  The deal-makers for me: the huge storage compartment underneath, the adjustable height handle bar (for tall parents!), the way the seat reclines, and the comfort of the pushing.

4. Lavender and other Essential Oils (doTERRA)
I've mentioned it before and I'll say it again: I've become a believer in essential oil use on kids.  We think doTERRA oils are the best, but you can get cheaper (and less pure; careful, you get what you pay for) oils at health stores.  Daily, I use Lavender on Penny before her nap -- she lovesssss it and it konks her out.  I use Frankincense on owies and Melaleuca mixed with jojoba oil on dry skin.  I've also cooked with the Lemon stuff, and we swear by a blend called "OnGuard" to keep everyone healthy.   There are so many oils for so many things.  If you are looking to get started in essential oils, I highly recommend the doTERRA Family Physician Kit or the Beginner's Trio Pack (Lavender, Peppermint and Lemon).  You can order them here.  I don't sell it, but I've got friends and family members who do and can educate you a lot more than I.  Let me know if you want me to put you in touch.

5.  These Spasilk brand and These Leveret brand onesies.  
We like simplicity and comfort clothing in our house, especially for play and nap time.  I also prefer for Penny to wear shirts I didn't spend a ton of money on, because they get dir-tay at meal time and park time.  Gotta love online shopping.   Having these in stock lets me save her "cute" outfits for occasions that warrant them.  Also great for layering and undershirts since it's getting cooler.  I love the Spasilk long-sleeve onesies because they are incredibly soft and well-made.  I love the Leveret onesies because they come in colors other than white, and even though they aren't as sturdy, I paid $11 for a 5-pack, so if we wear them out and throw them away after she outgrows them, I will still feel like I got my money's worth.

P.S. I think I mentioned this item in Five Things about six months ago, we are still using this hat by iplay pretty much every day.  It's a real winner.

There's more where this came from... Five Things I Couldn't Live Without:

Nobody paid me or gave me anything for free... I wrote about this stuff on my own volition because I couldn't live without it!

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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Family Session: The Jones Kids

After battling with Facebook for too darn long trying to upload these photos for their mom to see (gah! technology!) and to continue to build my virtual portfolio, whatever that means -- I remembered… oh yeah… I have a blog.  I can share the photos here instead.

This has also saved me from failing at my #NaBloPoMo commitment (blogging every weekday in November) because I didn't have anything else ready today.  Now at 11:56pm I am getting in just under the garage door of Tuesday.  Phew… really dodged a bullet there.

I love these kids.  When I met them, they were ages three, five and eight (ish).  Their dad, Dan's cousin, actually introduced us (story), so technically we owe their family for our entire relationship.  Thanks Shane, I hope you like these photos I took of your kids!  XOXOXOXO

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Successful Family Photos: 5 Tips for Parents

So...I've been a professional photographer for about five minutes.  

Kidding, it's been like two weeks.  

No but really, in these couple of weeks, I have been hitting it hard, doing photo sessions about every other day, photographing families with children all under the age of ten (mostly toddlers).  I still have a lot to learn on the photography side, but as a parent and on the coordination side of things, I have observed some best-practices (and some not-so-best practices) in family photo shoot planning.  I hope these tips are helpful for those of you who are coming up on your Fall family photo shoots! 

Five Tips for a Successful Family Photo Session

1. Pick out clothes way in advance.
This is a no-brainer, you would think, especially with all the clothing coordination guides you can find on Pinterest these days... but you would be surprised how many people procrastinate this.  I myself have FAILED at this BOTH times we have done family photo shoots since my daughter was born.  Literally, our ever-patient photographer once actually helped me decide what I was going to wear, I had like five outfits laid out on the bed when she got to our house.  She was so calm and easy-going about it, but I know we lost precious natural-light and we were wasting her time.  Sorry, Jane.  This year I already have our outfits all picked out... just need to make Penny's hair-bow. (P.S. Jane's my fav, you should check her out.).  Knowing ahead of time, and what's more telling your photographer, the colors and style of your attire, will help him/her suggest the best location.  Laying out your outfits the night before relieves stress for you on photo shoot day.

I love the way the browns and reds and creams all come together in this setting with her outfit.

2. Bring props, bribes, and baby wipes.
Best prop I've seen so far?  Lollipops.  Used as a bribe AND totally adorable in the photos.  Bring extra because the first few are bound to end up on the ground.  Other ideas: a ball for your little guy to chase or kick around.  A favorite stuffed animal that matches the style of your shoot in case it ends up in a few shots.  A tambourine to get their attention if their eyes start to wander.

For older kids, plan to do something fun as a family after your photo shoot so they are excited to be dressed up, and can be reminded of what's coming next if the shoot starts to feel boring for them.

And as for the baby wipes... we can edit out boogers and crumbs and dirt... sort of... but man oh man it's a lot of work.  Better to clean little's face before photog starts clicking.  Please and thank you.

how adorable is Lill with her lollipop?
You can't tell, but Brooklyn is staring at her favorite stuffed animal that is "dancing" above my camera lens.

3. Get there early. 
This lets your child(ren) get familiar with the area to fend off any anxiety (for the shy kids) or use up some energy before photographer starts shooting (for the rambunctious kids).

Nico loved running around, but it took him a few minutes to warm up to me at the beginning.
We got there nice and early, which gave him plenty of time for both.
I know.  This face.

4. Act Natural.
Be yourselves and relax.  Some of my favorite photos are "candids" of parents interacting with their kids.  These are the moments, the special sauce of life, which are so wonderful to preserve in a photograph!  Let your photog do his/her thing, and you just have fun with your family.

5. Keep Smiling.
Number one.  When you're there, grownups, you just keep on smiling.  It's natural to be preoccupied with your little one -- did her hairbow fall off? (guilty), is she smiling? does she have boogers? is she doing a nice face or a silly face? etc. -- so sometimes us grownups forget oh yeah I'm in the photo too.  I considered posting some outtakes of the many images I've captured wherein the little one looks flawless and it's the the adults who look a wreck, but I love my clients so I'm sparing them :)  I leave you with this: your photographer WILL get the shot of your kid(s) looking at the camera... we promise... that's our job... your job is to make sure you look good in that shot too. 

It took about forty shots in this staging to get this one photo where little Ryan (far left) was smiling and looking at me, but look how great the grownups did at making sure everyone was smiling when he did!

and one more just because she is so precious.

A few other things worth mentioning:

-Make sure you click with your photographer. Pun intended.  Did he/she come recommended by someone who has kids?  Not all great photographers are great with children.  Is he/she going to be patient if you have to breastfeed / change a diaper / console a meltdown?  Will your kids feel comfortable posing for him/her?

-Have your older kids practice their smiles for days before the shoot.  I photographed one little girl (about age six) whose mom told her ok now do your "laughing smile" and she immediately busted into this perfect vibrant smile like a little model.

-Make sure everyone is healthy.  Kids who don't feel well aren't "themselves" in photographs.  You make the call, but your photographer will understand if you need to cancel or reschedule.

Happy posing!

P.S.... Psssst! Speaking of family photos, did you notice that Tiny Prints extended their 25% off site wide discount and free shipping? This is the same great offer I posted last week that was supposed to be for one day only.  They keep extending it, but it's bound to end some time.  Click here to shop before the offer expires!  Use code SW1119 for the discount, and use code FS13 for FREE SHIPPING -- limited time only.   You're welcome.

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