Sunday, September 27, 2009

Newspaper column

It wasn’t until I saw small objects flying out from underneath my car in the rearview mirror that I knew something was seriously wrong.

Until then, I had considered ignoring the loud buzzing sound that had developed suddenly while trying to make it another 10 miles or so to work. I was traveling at a high rate of speed on the interstate and hoped maybe it was a fluke that would correct itself if I was patient.

But when the floor under my feet started vibrating and the smell of burned rubber wafted through the interior, I knew it was time to pull over.

Even though it was mid-afternoon, sitting alone on the side of the highway with an undrivable car was a little scary. I had read too many stories about people in my exact situation who get hit by a passing car to feel comfortable — no matter how far onto the grass I pulled.

I reluctantly climbed over the center console and exited through the passenger door to find shredded rubber where one of my rear tires used to be.

I called my husband, Jerry, for help, but in the meantime, I tried to summon my long-buried driver’s ed knowledge while attempting to dig the spare out of the trunk.

The activity of jacking up the car kept me from worrying too much, but I couldn’t help but feel a little surprised that no one had stopped to offer help.

Not that I was exactly a damsel in distress, but I would want someone to help a friend if she found herself in a similar situation.

Just as I was wrongly starting to take out my frustration on humanity, four vehicles pulled up — a tractor-trailer driver who left after he saw I had help, a D&E Com­munications employee who said he would’ve arrived sooner if there had been a closer spot to turn around, my husband and a couple in a pickup who wanted to make sure I was comfortable with the men who had stopped to assist.

I could’ve hugged all of them.

Instead, I just shouted my thanks over the wooshing of the passing traffic and waved as they carefully maneuvered back onto the highway.

As it turns out, I was supposed to loosen the lug nuts before I raised the car, but Jerry simply lowered it back down and started over. In what seemed like no time at all, he was finished and handed me the keys to our other car so he could drive the damaged vehicle to a mechanic.

The entire incident left me feeling oddly in good spirits. Despite the fact that I was late to work, likely had a few hundred dollars worth of tires to purchase and dirt all over my pants, I was bouyed by the fact that so many people cared enough to see if a stranger was all right.

That’s the kind of thing that makes a bad situation tolerable.

It will also drive me to pay it forward.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

If you've been reading for awhile, this might blow your mind

This was our outing to get pumpkins last year.

Needless to say, I agree that she looks "so grown up."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Proof you shouldn't eat mums

Allison and I went shopping a few days ago, and during our multi-store stops, she noticed all of the Halloween displays -- particularly the pumpkins. I explained what a pumpkin was, and it was the first time she was able to associate something round with something other than a ball. It was a huge milestone in the cognition department.

So now she screams PUMPKIN! every time we see one. I SEE THE PUMPKIN! SEE THE PUMPKIN? MOMMY? SEE THE PUMPKIN?!

Yes. My God, yes. I see the pumpkin.

So Jer and I figured we'd get a huge reaction when we told her we would be going to get some pumpkins of our very own. Pumpkins she could keep. And scream! her excitement! at!

We did. She screamed PUMPKIN! I GET A PUMPKIN! the entire way to the farm.

She's very interested in the sky these days.


I'm pretty sure we ended up keeping this one.

Learning the hard way that flowers don't taste good.

A wonderful mother-daughter moment.

Smiling because I left her alone.

This sly face terrifies me.

Crane game!

Carrying her mini pumpkins in a bag.

Don't ask me why she insisted on bringing her chair with us.

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Thursday, September 24, 2009

A few updates

Life has been absolute insanity the past few days. Here are some quick updates:

  • Jerry and I went to an open casting call to be extras in a Denzel Washington movie filming next month one street over from our house. As Jer puts it, "It would be the one Denzel movie we go to see on opening night and buy on Blu-ray."
  • We no longer have a toddler. We have a dictator. She has taken to chanting her demands in the form of "I WANTA ______" Fill in the blank. Baby. Show. Milk. Nana. Cheese. Kim Jong Il sould take notes.
  • Jer sent me this text last night from a restaurant in Pittsburgh, where he went to see Gwar and Lamb of God in concert: "I just ordered hard-boiled eggs wrapped in sausage, breaded, deep fried and served with hot sauce."
  • After asking Allison to chant "Go Penn State!" Jerry thought he would joke about my alma matter's lack of football prowess by encouraging her to say "Go Cortland!" Allison showed him by screaming "GO CUNT!" Yeah, we didn't ask her to repeat it.
  • You can now follow Kelly V. Photography on Twitter here.
  • You can now become a fan of Kelly V. Photography on Facebook here.
  • I'm looking for some large natural wood bowls for newborn photos that don't cost a fortune. Anyone have any suggestions?

Thursday, September 17, 2009

The power of pictures

I've been taking photos for so many people for so many months, and I'm focusing so heavily on the details that I forget what a powerful impact it has when it's someone you love so deeply.

The whole family was up in my studio playing around a few days ago when Jerry picked up Toby on a whim. When I said, "Over here guys!" I captured something that will melt my heart for a lifetime.

Photos really are such a gift.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Miss Ella

This little cutie really wanted to show off her sitting skills! Ella was happiest when she was upright and couldn't wait to share her smiles.






Tuesday, September 15, 2009

1 year, 10 months

Dear Alli,

I can't believe you're 22 months old. Your second birthday is only two months away and everyone is so excited about it that we've already started making plans.

Grandma bought you a birthday girl shirt and dress. Your great-aunt Glrrr volunteered to make the cake. Your great-grandma loves you so much that she's coming despite the disaster it turned out to be for her last year, and the rest of the family in Pennsylvania keeps asking what gifts you'd like for your special day. You always appear as if to be giving it quite a lot of thought, then talk about whatever pops into your head. Usually about something yellow or Toby.

How is it possible that the little girl who made paste out of an entire cake last year is going to be old enough to mark a second birthday?

The big changes are easy to note from month to month, but when I look back at photos from a year earlier, I have a hard time grasping that anyone could grow that much in such a short time.

Speaking of that, I'm not sure exactly how it happened, but a few mornings ago, I pulled up some old videos of you -- including smashing your birthday cake -- and we watched them for almost an hour.

You kept pointing at my laptop screen saying, "Baby!" So I had to drive home the point that it was you.

I don't think you believed me until Toby made an appearance, then you got a wry smile on your face and looked at me like, "Woa, Mom! You weren't kidding!"

You loved watching those videos and kept requesting "more, more, more" when each clip came to an end.

Fortunately, I love watching them "more, more more" too.


Everyone keeps remarking about your language skills. Other moms with kids your age can't believe you know all your colors and talk constantly about the things around you.

I've never done this before, so to me, your vocabulary isn't out of the ordinary. I expect you to say every word that comes out of my own mouth, because you always try to repeat after me, and when you don't, I prompt you to. You're fond of adding "y" on the end of words or maybe just saying the last syllable instead of the entire thing, but for the most part, everything is pretty discernable.

One of the things that impressed me the most this month is your ability to associate things in books with things in real life. Someone gave you a few small hardcover cardboard books with single items on each page with the corresponding word written underneath. You have one filled with animals, one with numbers and one with everyday objects.

We read these books constantly. Sometimes while I'm busy, I hear you in your bedroom flipping through the pages, saying the words to yourself. "Piggy. Cow. Moo. Froggy. Hop."

A lot of them Dad and I got to show you when we went to the Grange Fair a few weeks ago, but there are some animals and objects we've just never come across other than on those pages. Like the snail or octopus.

But a few days ago, while watching a cartoon, a snail joined the talking animal managerie on Super Pets or whatever the hell that show is called. They're pets. That wear capes. And sing. And rescue other animals. And one talks with a lisp. Whatever.

Anyway, you pointed to the newcomer, screamed "SNAAAAIL!" and stomped your little feet up and down in celebration.

It's so awesome when you make connections like that.

Then, just yesterday, you did it again. Sort of.

Your objects book has a kite in it. I'm not sure why, but we've never taken you to fly one. It just hasn't come up yet, I guess, so it's kind of hard explaining what a kite is without actually playing with one.

Now that the weather has gotten a little colder, socks have turned into an occasional necessity. So one afternoon while I was putting on a favorite pair of argyles, you pointed to the diamond shape and said, "KITE!"

It was so cute, I couldn't help but laugh.

I promise to buy you a kite the next time I see one at a store to clear up the confusion.


The potty training had been mostly tabled since your triumphant poop at 19 months. We help you sit on the toilet when you request it, but your interest had clearly waned a little.

Until a few weeks ago.

It must have been a Sunday morning because everyone was home and in pajamas listening to music and dancing when you stopped and said "poop." The world freezes when you say poop. We instantly drop whatever we're doing and whisk you to the toilet, undressing you as we go -- appendages flailing in every direction to accommodate such an immediate need.

As parents, it's hard not to get discouraged when nothing happens. It's like we go through all that work of unassembling and reassembling that it would be a hell of a lot easier to let you crap in your pants for the rest of your life. But diapers are expensive, and I'm cheap. So that's pretty good motivation.

Most of the time you just sit up there and smile, kick your feet and point to the water between your legs and say "dirty" because I've given you that explanation as to why you're not allowed to touch it.

When I prompt you to try, you do, but it usually ends with you getting bored and asking to get down. Then we struggle while I try to wrap a diaper back around your butt, and a few minutes later, I find you hiding behind the curtains in the dining room, squatting.

Or, once, you just squatted and peed right on the floor the second I got you down from the toilet.


But there are some good moments. That one particular morning when you asked to poop, we put you on the toilet and you peed! Something so triumphant, I wanted to shower you with stickers.

Which we did. We came up with a reward system on the fly, and thankfully had a stickers that you proudly moved from body part to body part. You must've liked it so much that you asked to "poop" 20 minutes later.

I figured after the last success it was just going to be a potty drill, but you peed again!

More "sticks" for you!

The successes are still rare at this point, but they're definitely the high points of our days around here.

It's still weird to be cheering for excrement, but I'll break out some pom poms if that's what it takes.


As far as some everyday moments, you're still a social butterfly. You want to say hello to everyone in sight and even force me to take detours just to waive to people on our walks.

Just yesterday at the grocery store, when a woman got in line behind us, you said "Hello" repeatedly while the cashier rang up our makings for s'mores. When she said hi back, you started telling her about Toby as if you were sharing the top secret 12 herbs and spices that go into KFC's original recipe.

Later, we went home and invited our neighbors and your best-bud Nicholas, or "Nicky," over for an impromptu fire pit party. Maybe it's because I dug out those kite socks a few days earlier, but it dawned on me during dinner that I hadn't had a s'more all summer. Or the summer before that. And damn if that isn't an injustice in America.

So you got to experience your first fire. And you were pretty good once it was really going, but before that, you kept trying to blow out the little flames while yelling "hot."

Then we kept both of you kiddos up way past your bedtime while we sat around eating flaming marshmellows, drinking wine and listening to Dad brag about his apps on his new iPod. (Although it was a great source of "your mom" jokes -- a fun addition to any campfire.)

We also watched you play on your slide in the dark, and cringed when you coated your sticky hands in sand when we realized you had opened your sandbox for the first time yourself. Awesome timing. It was like we had coated you in Fluff and thrown you on a beach.

Yeah. Take a minute and really picture that.

There wasn't enough soap in your entire shampoo bottle. And the tub has a pound of sand in the bottom of it right this very second.

But moments before that, you walked up to me, held your arms out and asked to "snuggle." Then, when I put you in my lap, you laid your head against my chest, looked up and pointed to all the "starts" in the sky. Then you sighed and said, "Inside, Mama? Night night? All done?"

You were so tired from all of your activities the past few days that you were tapped out. So I walked you around the circle in my arms so you could say goodnight to everyone, took you upstairs, power-blasted the marshmellow and sand off your skin and laid you down in your crib on your new pillow.

Bear in one arm. Bunny in the other. Pink blanket. Green blanket. A few kicks against the mattress. And the biggest smile I could ever hope for.

You're one I'll always want s'more of.



Sunday, September 13, 2009

Four fabulous faces

Friday night I hosted a ladies-only Look Fabulous on Facebook cocktail party. We had a perfect party of five for wine, cheese and laughs. Each of the girls got a few head shots for their Facebook pages.

It was so much fun, I'm planning on having another party in January. In the meantime, here are their fabulous photos.





Thursday, September 10, 2009

Miss MacKensie Grace

This little lady just celebrated her first birthday. I don't think there's anything more adorable in the world than a little girl in a tutu, so I spent the day before her session making one and matching accessories.

And with her gorgeous red hair?







Thursday, September 3, 2009

Newspaper column

I no longer live in a house. I live in a toy store.

I remember the days when my beautiful decorative baskets were filled with the latest issues of Bon Appetit magazine instead of overflowing with colorful plastic apparatuses that beep and sing if I bump into them.

I remember when I could walk from one end of my living room to the other without having to step over a knee-high kitchen.

I remember when the only lawn mower we owned cut grass instead of blowing bubbles.

Those days are long gone.

When we bought our house three years ago, my husband and I spent months getting everything exactly the way we wanted it. We changed light fixtures, took down a drop ceiling, painted nearly every surface and even replastered walls.

And when I wasn’t wielding tools or a paintbrush, I was scouring stores and Web sites to find exactly the right accessories to decorate each room. I painstakingly selected picture frames, throw pillows, wall hangings, mirrors and wreaths that would complement each other.

It took a lot of work, but we were proud of the result.

Then our daughter came along — with all of the inevitable stuff that follows.

At first, the toys were contained to her room, but the creep was slow and steady. A bear would find its way down the hall and into the bathroom or a doll ended up downstairs after getting flung over the gate.

Now there isn’t a room untouched.

Our once spa retreat-inspired bathroom has a giant green frog tub scoop suctioned to the shower tiles.

Our office has a toy chest that barely shuts. And the door should have a warning sign that reads “BEWARE OF THE BLOCKS.”

Our dining room often hosts dinner parties for very important guests like Elmo, Brobee and a yellow bear amusement park prize appropriately named Cheesey.

When a contractor working on a foreclosed house in the neighboorhood recently knocked and asked to use our bathroom, I welcomed him in with the warning to watch his step.

On his way out, he complimented our place.

“It’s really nice in here,” he said.

I thanked him, but added that it used to look a lot nicer while gesturing to the tiny cookware set sprawled all over the couch and the little piles that have collected in the corners.

As a father of two teens, he just gave a knowing smile. Then we shared a laugh as I walked him out.

The whole thing got me thinking. I might not have a magazine-perfect house anymore. There are things in each room that a real estate agent would tell me to get rid of before trying to sell. And a TV decorating team would gasp in horror, ready to pounce into a sleek redesign.

To me, I guess it might feel like I live in a toy store most days, but really, our house just became a home.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

We left smelling of popcorn, grilled meat and animal excrement

Jerry and I took Allison to one of the last surviving encampment fairs in the country. I wouldn't ever want to stay overnight, but thousands of people do for an entire week, in tent plots passed down from generation to generation.

We just go for the fried dough.

Lamb butts.

Allison got to pet her first cow.





Alli wanted to pet this piglet badly enough to stretch.

This guy was ornary. But his monkey was adorable.

Is it bad that I lied about Alli's age by 3 months to get her on this ride?

But that huge grin is why I did it.

She asked to go on it repeatedly four times.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

These are completely overdue, but

Since I woke up early before Allison, here are some pictures from Jackson's first birthday party that Alli and I attended during our vacation at the end of July.

He's practically 13 now, but you get the idea.

The girls were in beautiful dresses, that came off minutes
into the party thanks to a water toy and sandbox.

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Drink she stole from someone.

Birthday boy after waking up from a nap.

Seriously. How do you not
want to gobble him up?

Back in a pretty dress.

The Elmo balloon got kicked off its
ribbon thanks to a big kid.

It rocked Alli's world.

Hardcore. She talked about it for weeks.

Grandpa carrying in the cake.

Greatful kiddos for being granted
permission to dig into the smash cake.

Birthday boy's view.

Cake face.


More appendages than sand granules.

I loved this cutie.

My worst nightmare.

Playing in the water.

This is the present we got Jax. When Court and Matt
came to stay with us, Matt spent nearly 20 bucks trying
to win this pig from our amusement park. Feeling badly,
we went back and won it for them.

Jackson, however, was more into the cards.