Monday, November 30, 2009

Because all good stories start with, "So I was on the toilet"

So I was on the toilet, and Allison is encroaching my personal space, as usual. Actually, there is no such thing as personal space anymore. Sometimes I can't even pull on a pair of pants without repeatedly prying tiny hands from my thighs.

This time, I was using the downstairs bathroom, which currently has one of our car seats in a small space in the wall, waiting to be taken outside. Allison loves this setup. She sits in there by herself sometimes, like we were being so thoughtful to have a cushy chair just for her in what otherwise is a fairly boring room.

She has also discovered that it's fun to jump from the seat to the floor, but isn't able to do so without assistance.

So whenever I need to use the bathroom, she sees it as TIME FOR GYMNASTICS.

The toilet's proximity to the car seat is close enough that she expects me to hold out one arm so she can steady herself in whatever antics she prefers for the day. And getting my arm back so I can do more necessary things like wipe, flush and pull up my pants is no easy feat.

Well, today my lovely daughter got bored with the Using My Mom as a Jungle Gym While She's on the Toilet game, and decided to spin rapidly in circles. When she got dizzy and needed to steady herself, she ended up planting her freezing hands on my leg.

They were so cold that it made me jump.

"Your hands are FREEZING, Allison!"

And what did my sweet little girl proceed to do? She spent my subsequent time on the toilet trying to put both hands on my bare skin and laughing when I flinched.

Oh, and would you look at that? All of her cartoons are allllll gone for the morning.

Weird.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

This year, I am thankful for ...

my amazingly supportive and loving family -- the one I was born into and the one I married into, my equally supportive and loving friends, Grandma Ople's Apple Pie recipe, my health (and health insurance), the people who believed in me enough to book a portrait session before I had a portfolio, BunnyBear because they take one for the team on a daily basis, chocolate, the fact that I can wear my hair curly or straight without too much effort either way, Dove bar soap, all of my appliances that do the work for me, but especially my dishwasher, cartoons and the absolute household peace that comes with them, MY DVR for being able to play said cartoons instantly, Jerry's hugs because they can erase any worry for at least a moment, the fact that almost everyone I know and care about is employed, all of our great neighbors who have become great friends, my can-hold-almost-anything-I-toss-it's-way purse, my speed-dial three, which reaches my mom in an instant, the crazy women at our local grocery store deli who provide endless entertainment, getting to spend an entire day on a movie set with Denzel Washington -- something that would've been on my Bucket List had I even thought it possible, having the guts to take a huge leap of faith and start my own business, Wendy's for bringing back it's bacon cheeseburger with BETTER bacon, the things I take for granted almost every day like clean water, an abundance of food, heat, two vehicles and owning my own beautiful home, that I can uncharacteristically let it go and not go back and interject semi-colons where they should go now, and above all else, my neurotic and snuggly dog, my crazy fun daughter and the joy she brings us on a daily basis, and Jerry. He's my husband, my partner in life, my sounding board, my cheerleader and my best friend.

Happy Thanksgiving.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Jerryism

Trying to pick up the 100-piece set of miniature plastic food that Allison dumped on the floor:

"This food is like glitter at a strip club. It's just everywhere!"

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Getting to be a movie extra an unstoppable experience

When news spread about the major motion picture “Unstoppable” filming in my hometown, I won’t lie, I had visions of stardom.

I pictured myself running alongside Denzel Washington toward the runaway train, hopping aboard and saving the day. Of course the director would immediately spot me in the crowd, notice my potential and order the screenwriter to add me to the script.

That said, I wasn’t among those who mulled whether or not they would attend the open casting call for extras. My husband and I printed out giant 8 x 10 headshots and were in line an hour before they were even supposed to start accepting applications.

Afterward, we went to breakfast and celebrated the casing director writing “COP” on Jerry’s form.

We figured we were in for sure.

So when almost everyone we knew got called and we didn’t, it was hard not to be a little disappointed. OK, a lot disappointed.

Conversations of sitting in the front row on opening night and buying the movie on Blu-ray turned to discussions of boycotts.

We tried to be excited for our friends, enjoy the helicopters flying over our house and listen to tales of explosions, but deep down, we knew we were missing out.

The next day, the phone rang.

Our home caller ID read: UNSTOPPABLE.

I couldn’t answer it. I nervously handed it over and listened intently as my husband’s half of the conversation got more and more detailed.

We were in!

They wanted me to be a TV news reporter and Jerry to be my cameraman. They could have told us to dress in our underwear and hold a toilet plunger, and I think we would have agreed.

We were asked to bring four outfits each so someone from wardrobe could select something appropriate, and be at the designated meeting location at 6 a.m. Normally I would cringe at having to get up at 4:30 a.m. in order to account for showers and travel time, but in this case, I wasn’t sleeping anyway.

The experience was everything I thought it would be. Sure, there was a lot of waiting and even some confusion at times, but I loved every second of it.

I signed a form agreeing not to give any details about the scene we shot that day, and because I value my freedom, I’ll stick to it.

But I can say it was exhilarating.

After a hot breakfast and stops at tractor-trailers and tents posing as wardrobe, props, and hair and makeup, we were bused over to the set and given a brief explantion of the scene we would be shooting for the day.

I didn’t get to run alongside Denzel, but he stood about 15 paces from me the entire day. It took all of my restraint not to geek out and ask if he would pose for a picture with me, but I took a cue from everyone around me and respected his personal space.

The good news is that it’s the final scene of the movie, so it won’t end up on the cutting-room floor.

The bad news is that it’s the final scene of the movie, so I’ll be fidgeting and wishing I had a fast-forward button while I’m sitting in the front row on opening night.

I’m not ready to quit my job and run off to Hollywood just yet, but if Denzel calls asking me to hold a toilet plunger in his next movie, I’ll do it.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The joys of trying to reason with a 2-year-old

While I was trying to get dressed this morning, Allison needed a little hands-on attention, so I didn't have time to toss on a shirt and ended up changing her diaper in my bra.

"Nice suit, Mommy!"

"What?"

(pointing) "Suit. Mommy swimmin'."

"Noooo, this is a bra. Not a suit. It's November. Too cold to swim."

"I want to swim."

"Honey, all the pools are closed. It's too cold to swim. Trust me, you wouldn't have any fun even if we could find a pool that still had water in it."

"MOMMY SWIMMING! I WANT TO SWIM!"

"It's un-der-wear, Allison. Do you understand that? It's called that because you wear it under your clothes. I just need to put a shirt on, okay?"

"Yes. ... Then we go swimmin'."

Saturday, November 21, 2009

Sad, but true

Conversation with Jerry this morning while we were cleaning the house for my portrait sessions today and tomorrow:

Jer: "Oh, come ON Allison! I JUST put those books away!"

Me: (laughing) "I wonder how much of this we'll have to redo tomorrow morning."

Jer: "I wonder how much of this we'll have to redo in 20 minutes."

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Bowling party goodness

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Allison showing my cousn Deitrich something of utmost importance.


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My aunt Glrrr decorating Allison's cake before the party.


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When I asked Jer if he had snuck any, he said, "Nope."


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When my grandma asked which color flower Alli wanted to
eat first, she said, "Blue. No pink. No yellow. No purple ..."


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Playing a game at the bowling alley before guests arrived.


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All set up and ready to party!


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Bowling!


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Is it my turn yet?


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Allison won her game, but only because
I got her three spares in a row.


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Playing with the hand dryer.


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Pizza!


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The Cake in all of its awesome Wubbzy glory.


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Realizing she's the center of attention.


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A frosting flower and a forkful of cake.


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That kitty makes a crying sound, so Allison always announces it's sad.


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Her four Wubbzy plush dolls from us.


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Present C-R-A-Z-Y.


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Because a pile of gifts weren't enough.
She wanted to be a Big Winner, too.


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Nicholas gave bunny ears in every photo he was in.


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Back at home in assembly mode.


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Which one isn't stuffed?


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The end of the night in jammies, three skirts, Elmo slippers and
butterfly wings surrounded by new toys while watching Ni How Kai Lan.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

2 years

Dear Alli,

Today is your second birthday! To celebrate, we had a bowling party. Yes, a bowling party. Not typical for a 2-year-old girl, sure, but it was awesome. (And not just because I didn't have to stress about cleaning the house. Although, I'm not gonna lie, that was a MAJOR plus.)

Two weeks ago, Dad and I realized we had an entire Saturday afternoon free. No photo shoots, no radio broadcasts, no orders to process, no phone calls to make, no plans, no responsibilities, nothing. It was blissful. So we starting brainstorming things we could do together as a family, and one of us suggested bowling.

We figured it was a bit of a risk because we didn't know whether you'd be able to handle it, but not only did you tolerate it, you LOVED it. You loved pushing the ball down the ramp they had for kids, watching it knock over the pins and announcing whose turn it was. And just when you thought it couldn't get any better, they turned off the overhead lights, fired up the disco lights and started blasting music.

You squealed, you laughed, you danced, and we put down a deposit for your party.

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We spent the week before your birthday in Rochester with Grandma and Grandpa. While I was there, I had a bunch of holiday photo shoots, which included mock Christmas presents.

Those presents taunted you. You wanted to open them so badly, even though I explained repeatedly that they were empty and that you would have real presents in a matter of days. But you couldn't give it up. You begged for those presents. You wanted to arrange them and carry them and rip off the bows.

So when it came time for actual! presents! ... you had shell shock. All of your cousins and friends at your party were ready to rip and tear. In fact, I had to hold them back from doing so on more than one occasion. But in the midst of all the crazy, you kept quietly turning to me and asking, "Momma open?"

I got them started, prompted you to help, and tried to take in your reaction as you discovered what was inside.

Mostly it was a whirlwind of tissue paper, shrieks and little pointing fingers, but when you got to the toys Dad picked out for you, the world stopped.

I have to preface this by saying your father is addicted to his iPod and all of his damn apps -- one of which offers a single product every day and when it's gone, it's gone. Every afternoon he shoves that thing in my face to show me the fantastic item that's going to change our lives, and every day I tell him if he does it the next day, I'm going to shove it up his ass.

But when the product of the day happened to be four plush dolls from your favorite TV show, I conceded. I agreed it would change our lives. Yes, that app was indeed useful. One. Time.

Because although your show is popular, it hasn't quite made it to mainstream status yet. "Wow Wow Wubbzy" is mostly relegated to online specialty retailers. I couldn't find a single Wubbzy party hat or plate in any store. We had to print ghetto invitations from the official online site. And the only thing that made your party anything close to being Wubbzy related was the amazing three-tiered kickity kickball cake your great-aunt Glrrr made.

So when you saw a miniature Wubbzy, Walden, Widget and Daisy for your very own, you just gasped. You got very quiet, pulled each of them from the bag and hugged all four in your arms so tightly, I had to pry them free in order for you to finish opening the rest of your presents.

That moment almost made listening to the Wubbzy theme song every day for the past month tolerable.

Almost.

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I'm not sure if I've written about this yet, but one of the most enjoyable things to experience with you hasn't been tangible. Watching you learn to use a spoon or figure out how to jump or master a new task has been incredible, but in the past few months, I've watched your imagination develop.

You no longer need to play with an exact replica of something to envision it. You can pretend that rocks are cookies or bring your stuffed animals to life by giving them emotions and actions. You replicate the sound of a train as you push it around the track and use toys in ways other than they were intended because you can imagine them as something else.

This is perhaps your biggest milestone in my opinion. It's one thing to watch your physical development, but to experience your mental and cognitive growth is astounding as a parent.

People still constantly remark about your advanced language skills, but now I just expect it. I expect you to use the correct tense and place an adjective before a noun instead of the other way around. I expect you to ask for something in a complete sentence.

One of the experts who came to speak at your play group said that 90 percent of a child's brain is developed by age 5. When my jaw returned to its normal closed position, I leaned to the mom next to me and whispered, "But no pressure, right?"

You are so eager to learn and do and try right now. I want you to know that we're all just trying to keep up.

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Bunny and Bear, your favorite companions, have become BunnyBear. As in, "Where BunnyBear?" or "BunnyBear stuck" or "Wait! Get BunnyBear!" They are now one entity. And they rank in that order.

When you were less mobile, we would leave them in your crib. Every morning after changing your diaper, I would ask you to toss them in bed before we went downstairs. Eventually, once we made our way back upstairs to play, you'd pry them from between the bars of your crib or scream for help when you couldn't.

This came in handy when it was naptime because you couldn't fall asleep without them. At least we wouldn't be frantic looking through the entire house, just a few rooms. And there was never a fear of leaving them somewhere, because they weren't allowed out of the house.

Now that you're big enough to walk upstairs to get them yourself, I've given up. They are your sidekicks. Where you go, they go. But I've demanded that they stay in the car when we get to our destination. The potential for disaster is just too great.

I say this because they don't sell them anymore. I can't just go to Super Everything Mart and buy four backups. Besides, I want you to have the originals. As someone who still has her childhood bear, I know how special that is.

But after two years of you sucking on Bunny's tail, the unthinkable happened this month. The tail's little hole became a big hole. And all the stuffing came out. Then the entire thing fell off.

"OH NO! MOMMY! BUNNY BUTT! ALL GONE! ... Momma fix? Momma fix? Momma fix?"

It was beyond repair. Bunny's entire rear end is gray from saliva and who knows what else. Dad and I had been joking for months that she has irritable bowel syndrome. The last thing I wanted to do was reattach what was left of the tail.

So I gave in to Dad's pleading and paid a ridiculous amount for another one on eBay. I lost sleep over what was going to happen and how we were going to make the swap, but Dad looked at me and said, "Go with it."

He held you in his arms, told you to toss Bunny to me, then I ran into the kitchen, made the switch and tossed the new one back to you.

You looked at it suspiciously at first, and I could see you knew something wasn't right. Then, just as I thought you were ready to reject it, I flipped it over, pointed out that the tail was miraculously fixed, and you shouted, "YAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYYYYYYYY!"

Then you hugged it, and spent the rest of the day remarking "Bunny softy" because this one still has all its plush goodness.

So now the new Bunny goes on your daily adventures. She stirs pasta. She flies from one end of your bedroom to the other. She rides Toby like a horse. She reads books. She dances. She plays dress up. All with her best bud Bear.

But I promise that the original Bunny will be ready to play with you again when you're old enough to understand how special she is.

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I have a million other things to write about, but mostly I want you to know what a tremendous little girl you are. You smile freely. You can't pass anyone on a walk without shouting hello. If I'm not blocking you into a booth at a restaurant, you will instantly jump down in attempt to visit all of the tables and see who will talk to you.

You love milk, cheese, chocolate chip ice cream, pomegranate seeds, craisins and any kind of fruit cup, but especially mandarin oranges. You love pasta or "noonles," and you always drag your chair to the counter to help me cook dinner.

You like to run at full speed, lean to one side like you're losing your balance, scream "WOA! WOA! WOA!" and purposely fall to your knees.

You like to collect sticks on our walks and throw them in the river when we get to the bridge. You also ask to sit in the gazebo near the train station to watch for them, but always run to me and cover your ears when one passes.

You like to ride the arms of the couch like a horse. You often take all of the decorate bowls and candles off the shelves in the dining room and pile them on the coffee table.

You love showers and scream to take a bath every time we change your clothes. You think that if you're naked, you ought to be in the water.

You love pop-up books, but you desperately want to pull them apart to see how they work. A shark took one for the team when I wasn't looking this month.

You love playing dress up and piled on three skirts, butterfly wings and a princess hat last night, but you also grab bugs, get dirty and play rough.

You love animals, when Dad swings you as high as he can, getting lollipops at the bank, putting your blankets over your head when I lay you down to sleep and giving high-fives and kisses.

You love making faces at yourself in the mirror and want to eat lotion, soap or anything else that has no nutritional value and would cause you to vomit if I didn't stop you. In fact, when I tell you not to eat my lotion, you just close your eyes and continue as if I can't see you anymore.

You stuff your mouth so full of food sometimes that you can't swallow. Then you walk over to me, I hold out my hand, and you spit everything out in a half-chewed mass. And sometimes, if I'm not fast enough, you'll pick part of it back up and shove it into your mouth. My parenthood badge keeps me from dry heaving.

You often call me "Momer," and I couldn't figure out where you had come up with that until I realized I like to call Toby "Tober."

You asked for an apple in Chinese this month after watching an episode of "Ni How Kai Lan." I nearly ripped my hair out trying to figure out what the hell you were talking about.

You pooped in the toilet tonight, looked between your legs into the water and screamed, "LOOK MOM! FISHIES!"

You never say please on your own, but when prompted, you drag it out as long as possible as if the extra emphasis makes up for the fact that you didn't think to say it the first time.

You've gotten so good at saying thank you that everyone comments how polite you are. But I know that you like to announce every time you fart. And laugh like it's the funniest sound you could possibly make.

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As usual, there are lots of memorable moments from this month, but one in particular stands out in my mind.

We were all eating together at the table, and you announced, "I love you, Mommy."

It was the first time you told anyone that, so Dad and I kind of froze. He broke the silence with a big "Awww! Did you hear that?" and I just nodded. It took me a minute to tell you that I loved you back because I was busy storing the moment into my brain's filing cabinet.

Since then, you have told lots of other people that you love them, but you don't use that word freely, so we know you really mean it.

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I could have easily reminisced throughout this entire letter about the beautiful baby I brought home two years ago and tell you how nostalgic I get when looking at your old photos.

A few weeks ago I found this amazing frame in a discount bin with six identical spaces for photos. I spent days finding the perfect spot to hang it and even longer deciding which pictures to fill it with.

But as I went through my files trying to get a few good shots of everyone in the family, the perfect idea suddenly occurred to me. I hung it vertically and put a progression of photos of you starting with one I took when you were 2-days-old.

Allison, I love looking at that frame. I marvel at the changes you have gone through in the past two years, and I feel so privileged to have been able to experience them with you. If I stop and think about where we're going to be two years from now, I start to lose my breath. I want to put you in a bag, hook it up to our food vacuum sealer and preserve you in the freezer.

But I know you have so much more growing to do. More milestones. More birthdays. More farts, more shoe sizes, more sticks to throw into the river. And lots of things you haven't even tried yet.

I remember looking at your sweet little face as you slept for hours in my arms. I remember smelling your head, feeling your warmth and weight on my chest and wondering who you would become. What you would be like. What your voice would sound like. How your features would change.

Now I look at you, and I can't believe I didn't know it all along. I can't imagine you any other way.

I love you,
Momer

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

The Gardners

I had an outdoor session a few days ago with this wonderful family. At the end, Morgan ran up, gave me a huge hug and announced, "I really like you, Kelly." As if giving people beautiful photographs of themselves wasn't rewarding enough.

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Kara & Katie

I had the pleasure of photographing these adorable sisters this summer. I couldn't believe how much they changed in a few months when they came back for holiday portraits!


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Austin

This adorable little 3-month-old was so content cuddling with mom.


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Dustin & Kylie

I am shooting this couple's wedding next September. For their complimentary engagement session, we had fun with blocks!

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Zach

I just did a senior portrait session with Zach, who brought his guitar. I loved having live music in the studio so much, I want to hire him to play for all of my sessions!

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Jake & Jess

I recently did a portrait session with a couple to celebrate their five-year anniversary. They just got back from spending a few months in Germany and had lots of interesting stories to share. I can't say it enough: I love love!

Interestingly enough, it snowed a few days after these photos were taken. We were all relieved Mother Nature cooperated for our shoot.

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Ketchup

No, not the Heinz kind.

More as in, holy hell, I have a bunch of photo blog posts to add, and I better do it now before I get so far behind it's not even funny.

Ready? Set? Go!

Friday, November 6, 2009

It took all of my restraint not to geek out

Denzel. was. FEET. from. me. today.

Jerry and I are in the final scene of the movie.

Helicopters. An uber famous directer who said fuck freely on a megaphone. Wardrobe. Hair and makeup. Props. Free food. And we got paid.

IT WAS AWESOME.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

UNSTOPPABLE

So remember that Denzel Washington movie Jerry and I auditioned to be extras in a month or so ago? We got called!

I will be a TV news reporter, and he's going to be one of my camera guys!

We have to be on the set at 6 a.m. tomorrow morning at some industrial warehouse for a full day of shooting, and rumors have it they're going to blow something up. Can't wait.

Not sure if Denzel is going to be there or not, but he and Chris Pine were shooting one street over from our house yesterday. By proximity, I am now one-degree of separation from both of them. WE PRACTICALLY LIVE TOGETHER.

Jerry says he's going to rent a tux for opening night.