Thursday, July 30, 2009

Kara & Katie

I had the pleasure of playing with the boisterous and energetic Kara and Katie this week. They were so much fun, we were all giggling the entire time.

Thinking "sugar and spice and everything nice," I had an idea to get two pink lollipops for their shoot. Little did I know their mom would bring matching bathing suits! It was perfect.


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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Bennett

My first photo session during my week in New York was with the incredibly expressive Bennett and a few of his biggest fans. It's very obvious these first-time grandparents are loving the newest member of their family.

And I did too. For 7 months old, he is an amazing mover and shaker. When his mom said he was sitting and crawling, I almost had to see it for myself.

Bennet was all too happy to show off his skills when I gave him a few new things to play with. What a little ham.


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Sunday, July 26, 2009

Two photo shoots down, three to go

And I'm having a blast. This workcation is turning out to be a lot of fun. I'll have photos to post as soon as I get a few hours to myself to go through them.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Newspaper column

For the majority of my life, I’ve been programmed to strive for what’s supposed to come next: graduate, go to college, get a full-time job, get married, buy a house, have children, live happily ever after.

And maybe because my early adulthood fit squarely into the mold, I find myself wondering, now what? Life doesn’t pause in one continual suspension of perfection like it does in Disney movies.

I guess I sort of assumed I’d be able to settle into a well-deserved predictable pattern once I hit my thirties. My husband and I would work hard to provide for our family, take care of our home and spend our days off cultivating our interpersonal relationships and interests.

Although that has happened to a point, I find we’re constantly being challenged and asked to adapt. No day or week is ever the same, and our daughter isn’t even old enough to have commitments and a social life of her own. I marvel at families who juggle dance classes, Little League games and birthday parties.

And that’s just on a small scale.

For us, the unexpected could be as simple as a pocket-gouging car repair, having to re­arrange our schedule to help a friend or being forced to accommodate a toddler who decides to give up her morning nap.

We’ve had bigger hurdles too, but we try to meet each one with an open mind. It helps when you have a partner to absorb some of the impact.

What keeps us going is knowing how good we have it. Like most people in this economy, we’re faced with ever-rising prices and being forced to do more with less. But I also know that hundreds of thousands across the country don’t have a steady paycheck to rely on — including state employees as our representatives fumble to pass one extreme budget proposal after another.

When our self-worth is tied so directly to what we do, I know what it feels like not to have a career to help define me. I’ve been a casualty of downsizing before, and as someone who likes to be busy, I felt like I was floating aimlessly without purpose.

That was also before I had a mortgage payment and a child who depends on me. I can’t imagine the stress of wondering where my daughter’s next meal is coming from. Many families struggle with that every day.

So as often as I daydream about playing hookey to soak in the summer sun, I am incredibly greatful for my work.

I also know that sometimes even the worst unforseen circumstances can bring unexpected results. Maybe it provides a catalyst to try something you’ve always wanted to, or spurs you to make a change you’d been putting off.

I’ve always been one to embrace change. I like trying new things and enjoy a challenge. Even though I’ve long since left the classroom, I haven’t given up on learning — especially when there’s so much I don’t know.

Including what comes next.

I guess I’ll just have to be open to what life throws my way and continually pursue my own version of happily ever after.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Workcation

Our second-annual summer vacation at my parents’ house is quickly approaching, but it doesn’t really feel like it.

Due to circumstances beyond his control, Jerry has to get a few things done at work and won’t be joining us until later in the week. And I tried to take advantage of my free time by scheduling a bunch of photo sessions.

Because of this, we’ve vowed to take an actual real family vacation next year. I’m already picturing somewhere with sand.

In the meantime, I have a million things to do before Allison and I leave, most of which include packing a ton of stuff — clothes, toys, toiletries and breaking down all of my studio equipment.

I’ll miss Jer like crazy. It’s always nice to have a little free time to reconnect, but our fourth wedding anniversary is next Thursday, and we’ve made reservations at a little bed and breakfast.

I’m counting the days.

That said, I’m definitely excited about my photo sessions. I booked more than enough to make lugging my equipment worthwhile, and it seems like my business is finally starting to take off.

I’ve been working so hard for so long that it feels like a major accomplishment.

The rest of the time will be spent hanging out with my family — something I always look forward to — and not having to cook or do laundry.

Hell, that’s reason enough to be excited.

And even better? Since I’ll have my very own laptop this year, I won’t have to mouse wrestle everyone else in the house for computer time.

Plus, I may even get to finish that chick-lit novel I started two months ago.

OK. I’m officially pumped.

C’mon Friday.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Scott & Wendy

I couldn't have booked a more perfect pair for my first engagement session. I had the pleasure of working with Scott and Wendy recently, and they exuded happy couple in love.

Despite mentioning how stressed they are with only a few weeks left until their wedding, they said they had been looking forward to their time with me as a reminder to slow down and enjoy the moment.

To be honest, they really reminded me of Jerry and me right before we got married. They laughed freely, stole glances and easily displayed how comfortable they were with each other. When they left, I couldn't stop smiling. I had to call Jer and tell him how much I loved him.

This might quite possibly be one of the best decisions I've ever made. I feel so privileged to be able to share in other people's joys and blessings.

I'm already wondering how I can talk Wendy into doing a bridal portrait session with me in her wedding dress. She'll be stunning.

In the meantime, here are a few favorites from their session. I had a very difficult time choosing my top 10 and wavered on at least another five.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Ainsley Violet

Being responsible for helping set this couple up five years ago, I can't even begin to describe how amazing it was to get to photograph their new baby girl.

Miss Ainsley Violet is seven weeks old, but she looks more like a newborn because she's so tiny. Then again, don't let her size fool you; she was full of spunk. At one point while laying on her tummy, she lifted her head and held it high for a few minutes -- a first her mommy said.

I have a few favorites, of course, but I'll probably hold them all as dearly as Ainsley's parents because they both mean so much to me.

A glimpse of Dan, Timberly and Ainsley's session:

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

1 year, 8 months

Dear Alli,

I used to wonder what you were thinking. Up until recently, I would've given anything to get a glimpse of what's going on in that little head of yours.

Now I know.

You want a cup of milk and an apple while watching "Yo Gabba Gabba" outside with Bear and Bunny. Then, when it's over, you want to brush your teeth.

You spend your entire day asking for these few things. Any time there is a lull, you scan your brain for an Allison-approved activity.

Then you ask for that thing repeatedly.

Milk? ... Milk? ... Milk? ... Milk? ... Milk? ... Milk?

And if I say no?

Milk? No? ... Milk? Milk? No? ... Milk?

And if I really drive home the point that you just had milk and you don't need more, your world crumbles. You toss yourself onto the floor in a screaming fit, hoping I'll give in to your tantrum.

When I walk away, you quickly perk up, follow closely behind and try again.

Apple? ... Apple? ... Apple? ... Apple? ... Apple?

It must be bliss to have such simple goals in life.

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Our weekly trips to the library to attend your play group have done a lot of wonderful things. I've fostered some great relationships with a few women in town, and you've grown leaps and bounds interacting with the other children.

But it also taught you to be obsessed with ownership. When there are a limited number of dolls in a room full of toddler girls, the word "mine" gets used quite frequently and forcefully.

You're still the youngest in the group, but you're catching up in skill level, so now when someone tries to grab an item out of your hands, you understand that it's not just part of a pass-back-and-fourth game.

It has translated into you declaring everything "mine" at home. You point to things and scream "MY! ... MY! ... MY!" until we either acknowledge that it's yours or explain that it's not. Most of the time, you're right on. You know when something belongs to you. Other times you use it to educate us that you'd like to have something. Like my lunch. You'll point to my plate and yell, "MY!"

It's gotten so annoying that your Dad made this observation the other day: "I used to think it was obnoxious when she said 'Mommy' all the time, but this is so much worse."

He's right. Perhaps it's the shrill way you scream it, where "Mommy" used to be sweet, although constant.

But every once in awhile, while you're walking around the house staking claim to everything in sight, you'll come across something you deem fit to bestow upon someone else.

The floor? MY! The play mower? MY! The remote? MY! A throw pillow? MY! A chewtoy? Toby.

Thanks for throwing us a bone once in awhile.

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I think I had said in previous months that your vocabulary exploded overnight. Sure, at the time, it probably seemed like that.

But now you use new words every day. You've used so many words for the first time this month that it's impossible to keep track of all of them. It's amazing to hear you vocalize things I've been repeating for months. I've read that kids at your age comprehend much more than you let on, but to have actual proof is incredible.

Simple things like how you said "keys" and "car" when we were heading out one afternoon. Or how you started communicating that you'd like to go outside. First, you made the request with "side," but just a few weeks later, you now use both syllables.

I still recognize when something's new, but I'm guessing it's all going to blend into a constant stream of utterances soon.

You're growing up so fast.

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This month, your dad and I were set to go on an all-expenses-paid trip to Atlantic City complements of his radio station. He was asked to do a few broadcasts of his morning show from a sponsoring hotel and casino. It would've been our first overnight excursion without you, and I'm sorry to admit that we were really looking forward to it.

But you got sick at the last minute, and I had to stay home. I just couldn't in good conscious leave you to struggle through an illness with such a massive upheaval to your routine. Plus, I wouldn't do that to your grandma.

So you and I spent nearly three days just the two of us. You were feverish and miserable. You wouldn't eat, had trouble sleeping and cried often.

Fortunately, you found comfort in baths. I probably gave you 400 baths in two days. The water was just enough of a distraction to let you forget about your pain for awhile.

Eventually, I refused to allow the nurses at your doctor's office tell me that your symptoms were normal. I demanded an appointment, and your pediatrician used a small flashlight to show me the little white lesions that had formed on the back of your throat.

He said it would take a few more days, but in the meantime, to give you popsicles and ice cream.

On our way home, I stopped and bought two giant vanilla milkshakes -- one for you, and one for me.

I will always remember that as one of my sweetest moments. When you got your first sip, you looked at me with such delight, it was almost as if you were telling me it was going to be alright.

And, you know what? It was.

Atlantic City, Schmatlantic City.

I'll take time with you and two milkshakes over a blackjack table any day.

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In the past 20 months, I have watched you develop and grow. I've gotten to know your quirks, I watch you make decisions, learn how to master new tasks and otherwise take in the world around you.

It is absolutely astounding, this parenting thing.

But I'm lucky because you really are a lovely little girl. You're bright and fun and outgoing and friendly. When we go anywhere, you say hello to people -- which gets sticky in quiet places like the bank and post office, but who cares? You wave when we pass people on walks. And you're absolutely enamored with other children.

Just last week, your dad and I took you to a new park. It was my last night off for awhile, so I suggested abandoning the dirty dinner dishes and enjoying the last few hours of sunlight.

Apparently we weren't the only ones with that idea, because the park on the other side of town was packed. You immediately jumped in, doing what you were capable of, and watching the older kids intently do the things you couldn't.

By the end of our visit, you had introduced yourself to another girl a few months older than you and a head shorter. As you played together, I couldn't help but notice your differences, and it amazed me how much more connected you were to everyone in the vicinity. It's very possible that she has other talents you don't, but you are a people person through-and-through. It's never more apparent than when you're with other children your age.

As if I needed any other proof, while we were waiting for it to get dark enough for our Fourth of July fireworks display to start, you got bored with us and started exploring. You walked the vicinity and said hello. At first I worried that you would annoy people, especially the man you woke up from a nap, but when I took my eyes off you to scan the crowd, everyone was watching your antics with a smile.

Your joyfulness is infectious. I'm so lucky to get a shot of it every single day.

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In the spirit of saving the best for last, YOU POOPED IN THE TOILET!!!

I was so excited, I made that exact statement my status on Facebook (it's a social networking site that will probably be hilariously archaic by the time you're old enough to read these), and everyone weighed in to cheer you on. I can easily say that your bowel movement got more of a response than anything I've ever posted about myself, including starting a business.

I know you're very young to start potty training, but you've taken the initiative all on your own. You started announcing that you had pooped, then you took interest in the toilet, and pretty soon you were asking to sit on it.

It took me forever to decipher what "punny" meant, but when I realized it was "potty" after you pointed to the bathroom, everything sort of clicked. I've been placing you on the toilet when you ask, even though it's a complete pain in the ass to undress you, take off your diaper and re-diaper and re-dress.

But the look you get when I put you on the pot is priceless. You LOVE it. You must feel so big.

You don't want me to hold you, and choose instead to plant each hand on either side of your legs so you don't fall in. Dad had purchased a little pink potty just for you, but you want nothing to do with it. You want to be part of the real thing.

Most times you just sit there and smile, then, when you've had enough, you ask to get down. But when I prompt you to try to poop, you do. The fact that you understand the concept is encouraging enough. Then we practice wiping, close the lid, flush and wash our hands.

Your toilet success story had a million things stacked up against it. I had just turned on an episode of "Gabba," you had a fresh bowl of strawberries and I was about to walk out of the room to go clean the kitchen. But despite all of the distractions, you said said, "Pup. Pup."

Poop it is. I asked if you had already gone and you shook your head, so we hurried to the bathroom and I set you on the toilet. Sure enough, within seconds, you pooped and I heard a tiny little loaf hit the water.

I cheered like a drunk watching their favorite NFL team make a game-winning Super Bowl touchdown combined with a someone after they just realized they won a $278 million Powerball jackpot.

I never thought I'd be that excited about fecal matter in my entire life.

I'm not ready to buy you underwear just yet. In fact, I'm assuming we have an uphill battle to climb over the next several months. But I'm taking this as a major victory. One I will brag about to your friends when you graduate from high school.

I'll say something like, "I always knew she was smart. She pooped in the toilet at 19 months."

Way to go.

Literally.

Love,
Mom

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Adding to my arsenal

One of the items on my "eventually" business list was a short-range lens. But it became very clear in my last two sessions that I was breaking my back to get the look I wanted. I was literally contorting my body in all sorts of strange ways to produce that fuzzy depth-of-field effect.

So I quickly moved it from "eventually" to "immediately."

And when it arrived on my front porch a few days ago, I couldn't wait to attach it to my camera.

It had me on the first click. If my saliva wouldn't have blurred my pictures, I probably would've made out with it.

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After I ran around the house testing it out on different things, I took it and Allison to a massive arts festival. The event draws 14,000 people annually and is billed as one of the premier artisan shows in the state. I might not have attempted it on my own if I hadn't had to pick up a framed photo series for my mom, but I'm really glad I did. We had an excellent afternoon that included Alli's first bus ride. She entertained everyone around us dancing to the music. Later, Jerry met us for lunch and we got robbed on two gyros and a skewer of coconut shrimp.


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Allison was so good for so long, that when the tents thinned out,
I took her out of her stroller and let her run around a bit.


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She loved the freedom.


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Later, she found a bubble machine.


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She was so enamored, she didn't seem to notice
that her necklace was wrapped around her ear.


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She got so soaked a passerby said, "You won't
need to add detergent to THAT load of laundry!"


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Realizing she was eating it, rubbing the bubbles
in like lotion and otherwise dripping, we checked
out other things. Like these balloons. The green
one became a quick casualty.


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We were all exhausted when we got back, and the whole house
took a nap. Including Toby, who is always up for anything.
Including getting his picture taken. With my awesome new lens.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Jerryisms

After Allison started showing interest in the wrong spots while petting Toby and he ran away:
"No, no, no. Don't touch Toby's butthole. Never touch anyone's butthole because see what happens? The party's over. ... Unless it's that kind of party. Then it's just getting started."

While laying on the bed, realizing we're long past our quarterly responsibility to rotate our pillowtop mattress so the sides stay even:
"Hey, maybe later we can rotate the mattress. When we're laying down, I feel like I'm three inches lower than you. You're the rest of the country and I'm New Orleans."

Friday, July 10, 2009

The perfect retaliation

Conversation with a coworker after finishing our to-go bounty from a local Wing Off night:

Me: "Now we need to find a Chocolate Off."

Her: "Yes! They could run the Wing Off and Chocolate Off together!"

(Nearby naysayer chimes in) "Then you'd have to go to a Weigh Off."

Her: "Fuck off!"

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Where's the rewind button?

Our Fourth festivities were spectacular. It was my first time off for the holiday in four years, and to celebrate, my parents came down for the weekend.

As if Allison wasn't reason enough, the fireworks display in our area is rated the No. 3 in the country, mostly because it's timed to music. And since Jerry's radio station broadcasts the music so viewers far away can crank their car stereo and appreciate the effort, we got a bunch of VIP passes, which placed us a few hundred yards away from where they were being set off.

It was the first time my parents visited for the holiday, so I was worried they would regret abandoning their typical plans, but at the end, my dad announced, "THOSE WERE THE BEST FIREWORKS I'VE EVER SEEN!"

Plus, he got to watch me sprint for a porta-potty to relieve myself from the wine we smuggled in.

And that alone must've been worth the drive.

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Baby's first firework.

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Alli loves using my mother-in-law's basement shed door as a ramp.

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Toby is a douche at the pool. He now jumps in when he feels like it,
so we're trying to teach him to climb out on his own using the ladder.

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Allison would live in the water if she could.

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Sparky getting a little love.

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Alli has never warmed up to Jerry's brother-in-law,
Tom, so he tried bribing her with a bag of fruit snacks.

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It worked.

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Watching Jerry set off an at-home fireworks display.

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And the boys toss caps at each other.

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Beer bottle bottle rockets.

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Red, white and blue (and pink) beauties.

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Allison introduced herself to everyone sitting around us while
waiting for the fireworks to start. She showed off Bear and Bunny.

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Matching hoods.

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FYE-ER-WORKS! FYE-ER-WORKS!

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I think Alli slugged my mom in the face right before this photo was taken.

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There was a lowering of the flag ceremony by local
service members before the fireworks were set off behind it.

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The sky provided it's own show that night, too. I dream of
days like this in February. It was nice to fully soak it in.