Thursday, December 30, 2010

My oh-so classy introvert

My parents were in town for a few days after Christmas, and one afternoon while my mom and I were on a tear getting the nursery cleared out, my dad entertained Allison with his laptop's video feature. It's obvious that she loved watching herself while it was filming, but it pales in comparison to the joy she got seeing the final product. She watched it so many times that she memorized all of her lines and screamed and laughed so hard she nearly passed out.

Normally a video of Allison would remain permanently in my camcorder for that miraculous day I don't have anything on my agenda. You know, 18 years from now. But because my dad is far less of a procrastinator than I am -- in fact, the mere thought of putting something off for 10 seconds instantly gives him a rash -- the video was e-mailed out to family, uploaded to Facebook and put on YouTube within a few hours.

Ahh, the information age.

Now no one needs to wait to see what a half-masticated raisin looks like in the mouth of a toddler.



Tuesday, December 21, 2010

30 weeks

With only 10 weeks left until my due date, I realize I should probably be panicking about how little we have done at this point. The holiday season has been so busy this year it pretty much obliterated any productivity I was making toward getting ready for Bubba. I can't even settle on a paint shade for his room, and that's usually my wheelhouse.

It never escapes me how little I've been able to document this pregnancy. I won't lie, it's been incredibly hard this time around -- mostly for reasons completely independent of my expanding midsection. Besides the horrible ongoing morning sickness, which I'm chalking up to my body's reaction to the male hormones, I've also thrown out my back twice and had a raging case of poison ivy. It led to a lovely secondary rash that spread throughout my entire body and required numerous trips to a skin specialist and nearly hospitalization. I still have large scars all over my legs and probably always will.

So dealing with health issues, an overbooked work schedule, trying to juggle Allison's growing committments at school, Jerry's new responsibilities at work and life in general, time seems to slip away before I can blink sometimes.

And because I know so many families are in the same boat, that's one of the reasons I love my job so much. I love helping them freeze time for just a second. To capture a special moment that will remind them about where they were that year.

It made me realize I wanted that for us. I wanted at least one photo of us as a family during what will very likely be my last pregnancy.

So I made time.

I asked a good friend and photographer to take some photos for us while we were vising my family for Thanksgiving. It was bitterly cold and windy out, but Jerry and Allison knew how important it was to me. So not only did they make the most of it, but we had fun, too. Watery eyes, runny noses and all.

In the end, Scott gave us a bunch of great images I love, but one really captured us exactly. It's already hanging on our wall and if nothing else, I will always have this to remember my baby Bubba before I got to hold him in my arms.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Newspaper column

Rewind the clock about five years, and my real estate agent was mentioning something about the house my husband and I were touring being located in a flood zone.

I remember asking what the extra insurance might cost annually, but her answer didn't matter. Did you see that gorgeous built-in china cabinet in the dining room? What about the high ceilings? And so much closet space!

According to the seller's disclosure form we were given, the house had only flooded once in the past 11 years, and that was when remnants of hurricane Ivan pretty much washed out the entire region.

And, as luck would have it, the basement was completely redone afterward -- including a brand new furnace. Score!

The first year in our new home, we checked the sump pump every time the forecast called for dew. But after a few storms only produced small puddles in our back yard and not a drop indoors, we relaxed. To be honest, I had almost forgotten about it entirely.

So when my husband called with concern that all of our daughter's Christmas presents were in bags on the basement floor during the heavy rain last week, I nearly dismissed him.

Instead, I indulged his request to check. When I rounded the corner to discend the bottom steps to the basement, I stopped short. There was water throughout the entire space, and it was visibly rising through a small crack in the floor.

I think I managed to mumble, "Oh my God, I have to go" before hanging up the phone and dropping it on the landing.

Unfortunately for Jerry, I had slipped on his brand new sneakers to cover my bare feet during what was presumambly going to be a quick inspection. I tried gingerly stepping in what few dry spaces remained, but it was no use. When I opened the door to check the second room, more water gushed out, covering my feet up to my ankles.

The icy sensation wasn't the most shocking part. Seeing all of our things submerged in water was.

I tried to salvage the presents first and ended up holding up boxes of toys long enough for the water to drain out. Then I looked around to survey the rest of our belongings and I just wanted to cry. All of the things we had been storing for our soon-to-arrive new baby were soaked.

I felt totally helpless.

In a panic, I called Jerry back to tell him the news, which he had deducted on his own after my quick departure. A plumber was on the way.

Turns out the sump pump was working, but it was overwhelmed. The plumber extended pipes away from our house so it could drain to the street rather than recycle it back into our basement.

Then the fire department showed up. A friend apparently called on my behalf, and I couldn't have been more grateful. Three volunteers helped me pick up what remained on the floor, toss some of what couldn't be salvaged and devised a temporary fix for the problem areas. And being in my third trimester, that was an enormous help.

Jerry and a neighbor did the brunt of the work that afternoon, hooking up a second pump and directing the water to increase its effectiveness. Little by little the water started to recede -- taking with it my anxiety.

Now that the mess has been cleaned and the damage assessed, I feel incredibly fortunate. Not only did I learn a valuable lesson about where not to store things I intend to keep, I was overwhelmed by the help and support we received from our friends and community.

From dropped-off dehumidifiers to borrowed pumps and phone calls offering assistance, I spent much of that day just saying thank you. I guess sometimes it takes a small catastrophe to remind you about all of the important things in life.

If I'm ever in a position where I'm left wondering which is which, I'll know that the things I really need are strengthened by a few inches of water. The rest can be replaced.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Alli-isms

Asking for Special K with Red Berries this morning:
"Mom, I want strawberries and snowflakes for breakfast."

Her attempt at the phrase "driving me crazy":
"Toby, stop it! You're driving all crazy!"

Her way of politely asking me to move:
"Mommmm, your big butt is in my face!"

Trying one of my bras on for size:
"This is too big for MY nippos."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Baby Bubba

We've been asking Allison from the beginning what we should name the baby, and she came up with lots of great suggestions including recurring favorites "Puppy" and "Blue."

I told her we're not A-list celebrities who partake in such nonsense and asked her to dig a little deeper.

But after our 20-week prenatal visit, which of course comes with the highly anticipated ultrasound and gender revelation, she's settled on a name: Bubba. Which kind of clicked for me because WE'RE HAVING A BOY!

Jerry's response? "I've never been so excited to see a penis in my entire life!"

Yes, right in the doctor's office with the technician, ultrasound wand in hand. After she stopped laughing, he asked her how certain she was. She looked right at him and said, "No labia look like that."

And although we've already come to a consensus on his actual name, we've decided to keep it a secret. So, for now, Baby Bubba it is.

I can't wait to meet him in 15 weeks. (Or 13 if he's really smart and chooses to get a head start on becoming the favorite.)

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

My almost 3-year-old

I took Allison out for her birthday photos yesterday. Her big day isn't for another few weeks, but the weather was so warm, I had to take advantage of the perfect fall day.

And, yes, that white dress was totally destroyed when we got home. Shout spray kicks ass. That is all.

(I watermarked them for my business Facebook page and didn't want to redo them, so please overlook!)







Sunday, October 24, 2010

Newspaper column

I know it's fashionable this time of year to indulge in a little horror and gore, but it's fun to allow your imagination to run wild. For many, Halloween means haunted hay rides, scary movie marathons on TV and perhaps giving paranormal activity a little more thought.

At least that's what always seems to happen at our house.

My daughter has just gotten to the age where she has started complaining about ghosts at night, prompting a full and thorough search under her bed, behind her door and in her closet before lights out. But when I'm done reassuring her there aren't any spooky spirits in our house, then I have to convince my husband.

Granted, our house is more than a century old, which gives Jerry's suspicions a little more merit. But I also know that if they were ever confirmed, we'd have a "For Sale" sign in our front yard the very next day. He's just too superstitious.

As someone who spent a year living in an apartment where the radio dial would spin until I asked it to stop, doors would open and close multiple times at random, and personal items would lift off my dresser and suspend in mid-air for a few seconds before dropping to the floor, it takes a lot to convince me of ghosts. I've learned that one weird happenstance is likely just that.

Jerry, however, is determined there is something in our basement. He always points to the fact that the lights come on when no one is down there. But I know he has a tendency to leave them on. In fact, I often follow him around the house, flipping switches when he leaves a room. I'm just not behind him when he's done using his home gym or bringing up a load of laundry.

It makes sense that he only notices it at night when the light is visible from the crack under the basement door, but I suspect that means the bulbs were left on all day -- a real nightmare to our electric bill.

When I was sharing this story with a friend recently, instead of laughing, she got really quiet and eventually whispered, "I think I have a ghost in my house, too."

She only has one instance to rely on, but it was a little more hair-raising than basement light ulbs.

After bringing her baby home from the hospital, she and her husband hooked up their infant monitors. A few days later, when her son was starting to stir from a nap, my friend heard some strange static, loud crackling and then a woman's voice through the device.

"Shh ... shh ... shh ..."

Then the lullaby started. "Hush little baby, don't you cry ..."

My friend said her protective instincts far overrode any fear, so she burst into the room, grabbed her son and ran outside, heart racing. She said she didn't see anything in the nursery, but the air was cold. They have since unplugged the monitors and I'm told he now sleeps in a bassinet in their room at night within arm's reach.

I didn't have much to say other than try my best to reassure her, but if that had happened at our house, I think I would've raced Jerry to the phone to call our real estate agent.

Lightbulbs I can handle. Ghostly electronic devices are best left for sci-fi shows I can turn off when I get spooked.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Newspaper column

When my brother and I were little, we would get a kick out of checking out old photos of ourselves as babies. Every once in awhile, we'd grab all of the massive albums off the bookshelves, lay them on the carpet and sprawl out beside them, flipping through each page one by one.

As we got older, it became obviously apparent that there were far more photos dedicated to my infancy than my brother's. In fact, my albums outrank his four to one.

This is a fact that my little brother likes to bring up frequently even now in adulthood when there's any inkling of favortism or scales tipping in my favor.

"It's okay," he'll say. "I'm used to it. I know you love Kelly more ... as evidenced by the baby books."

It's typically followed by a roomful of groaning and eye rolling, but my mother knows it's something she'll never hear the end of.

And it's something I'll never forget either.

My husband and I are now expecting our second child, and as much as we're both thrilled about our newest addition, the pace of life with a toddler doesn't leave room for as much planning and doting as there was the first time around.

With my daughter's pregnancy, I documented every weird craving, the first kick and even took weekly profile pictures of my growing belly. As I'm nearing the halfway mark of this pregnancy, I can honestly say I'm just glad we have another 20 weeks to get everything together. We haven't had time to do much more than discuss potential name combinations -- and we're nowhere near a consensus on that decision either.

Being someone who loves to write, in addition to taking on the role of paparazzi to my daughter's development, I also spent hours and hours every month compiling letters to her about her milestones. I detailed the stories of her first words, her first steps and my pride in watching her grow and flourish.

I kept it up for two years. And although I'm disapointed that my ever-busy schedule has prevented me from continuing, I'm no longer worried about the dropped project. Now I'm concerned my youngest will think I love him or her less if I'm somehow unable to find the time to do the same -- which, frankly, seems inevitable when I think about trying to balance life with two little ones.

But I know the guilt of parenthood can rack up quickly. As much as I'll try to protect them from every bump and bruise and avoid any potential fodder that would reqire a psychologist's office visit when they're older, I know I'll make mistakes. I know I'm not perfect.

So even though I can quickly become consumed with remorse for not wrapping myself in this pregnancy like I did with my first, I don't allow myself to wallow in the fear of not having enough love to go around for long.

Because I know your heart can expand instantly. I felt it the second they placed my daughter in my arms for the first time. And I know it will happen again. Parents have an amazing ability to love beyond reason.

Even now, when I'm in the middle of my busiest moment -- my daughter is clammoring for help in the bathroom, the dog needs to go out, the phone is ringing and dinner is threatening to boil over -- I'll feel a tiny little kick and instantly smile.

It's not the photo albums and letters that count. It's the kisses and hugs.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Trying to figure out where the time went

Today was Allison's first day of preschool. We debated long and hard about the decision, but ultimately we thought she would benefit from a place she could call her own without family around.

Plus, interacting with other kids, having to listen to and respect adults other than her parents, and learning to cooperate are all skills we know she'll learn there that she can't learn at home.

At times, it's a little difficult having a child who is so verbally advanced. Conversationally, she prefers the company of 4- and 5-year-olds because they can communicate back. So when she naturally gravitated toward the older classroom this morning and I had to pull her away and lead her into a room of 2-year-olds who mostly can't speak in complete sentences, it was a little tough.

I mean the girl used the word serindipity the other day. Correctly. Upon discovering marshmallows in the kitchen cabinet among the spices. Insane.

Being an only child who is always at home with at least one of your parents can be wonderful in a lot of aspects -- certainly in the personal attention category -- but Jer and I know it has its limitations. So we're hoping a little time in a classroom will help provide her with a few new skills.

She was so excited to go. When I explained to her how I would come in with her and then say goodbye, she said, "DROP ME OFF NOWWW, MOMMMM!"

I'd say she was ready.

Although she said she wanted me to stay with her as we talked about what her teachers would expect of her on the drive over, I got a quick kiss and she turned and that was it. She was a blur of pink as she ran around the room checking everything out as I left. And, frankly, that's wonderful.

As much as I want her to be my little girl forever, I know I have to let her grow. So I showed her the same respect by not making a big fuss either.

Even though I desperately wanted to.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Someone took a photo of ME for a change!

Crazy, right?! We celebrated Jerry's birthday today with family, football, my homemade sausage chili, an ice cream cake and (at Alli's insistence) party hats.

Jerry's just lucky I talked her out of the pink Hello Kitty ones.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

You should probably be sitting down for this

It seems like no matter what changes I make, I never seem to find any more free time in my schedule to write. But I'd say there's more than enough going on for a quick update.

Just be sure you're sitting.

* I'm pregnant! I'm due in February, and all three of us are very excited. Allison came with me to my first ultrasound appointment out of necessity, and she was very upset that we didn't bring the baby home with us that afternoon.

* I quit my job at the paper. I am now a full-time photographer. It was a gut-wrenching decision to give up a career I've loved for over a decade, but knowing I'll have weekends to see my children participating in whatever activity they decide to pursue, be home to tuck them in at night, eat dinner together as a family and celebrate holidays without me rushing to get to work, well, I'm sure you can understand why the decision was clear.

* Business is booming. I have been so fortunate to have incredible clients who are thrilled with my work that word-of-mouth has spread to the point that I'm booking two months or more in advance now. I can't stress enough that if you believe in yourself, and you're willing to work hard, you can make a change in your life.

* Because of our pending new addition, we've started looking at bigger houses. "The one" doesn't seem to be out there right now, but I did semi fall in love with an old Victorian on a hill with five bedrooms, original woodwork, two fireplaces, stained glass windows, a master suite, a two-car GARAGE, and a huge walk-up third floor that would double my studio space. I know. Sounds perfect, right? the downside is that the former homeowners put on a weird addition with a modern iron spiral staircase that I'm terrified one of the kids will break something on -- or worse. Plus the yard is a little less than ideal for, well, pretty much anything. Like I said, it's on a hill. So we're still looking.

* Jerry got a promotion at work. He's now program director of his station, which means he's in charge of which songs plays when, scheduling, hiring (and it's not-so-pretty counterpart), promoting concerts and events, devising contests and the guy everyone goes to when shit hits the fan. I didn't think it was possible, but he's even more tethered to his phone these days. I may have to organize an intervention, but I'm so proud of him.

* We had to put Toby on a diet because Allison can't seem to protect her snacks or meals. We now count the cheese sticks and sandwiches he steals as part of his daily food intake, and it works! His new name is Skinny Toby, and he can jump on the bed again, which really saves us from the incessant whining when he couldn't do it in his Fat Toby days. The only downside is that he's even more voracious to get scraps falling from our dinner plates when I'm loading the dishwasher. Then I call him Jaws.

* Allison is an amazing lovable girl. Having a toddler certainly comes with its own sets of challenges every day, and I've definitely had moments where I want to just lose it because she isn't listening. But when she's dancing on the bed, looks and me and says, "I love you, Mommy" for no reason, well, those moments far outweigh the other ones.

* This pregnancy has been completely different in every way imaginable. I've been throwing up constantly, and even puked right in front of a candidate for lieutenant governor on my last night at the paper. (What a way to make an exit, right?) Even weirder? I want red meat ALL. THE. TIME. I think Jerry would move my due date to NEXT February if it meant I would keep requesting steak for dinner on a regular basis.

* Jer and I celebrated our five-year anniversary last month. We took a mini overnight getaway to a beautiful historic resort that has hosted six presidents over the centuries. I've wanted to stay there ever since it reopened after three years of extensive renovations. We walked the grounds, checked out old guest books with Washington's signature, played checkers on a table that is probably older than dirt, took a hike to see some natural springs and celebrated with some sparkling grape juice on our balcony. I bypassed the spa so we could splurge on $40 steaks. Meat can melt in your mouth like butter. Oh yes it can.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Newspaper column

I am enjoying the best part of my weeklong summer vacation to Myrtle Beach right now -- the glorious anticipation.

It occurred to me when I started thinking about how much work still needs to be done before we even start packing the car that perhaps vacation is better in theory than in reality. We made reservations in January, and knowing that I would have my toes in the sand in July was enough to get me through most of winter.

And now that it's just five weeks away, I can almost taste the oceanside margaritas. I bought a new bathing suit and a thick novel that looks very promising. My husband picked out a bunch of new "beachworthy" shirts, as he calls them. And our daughter is very excited to have her very own bucket of colorful sandcastle-making tools.

You know, the fun stuff.

What we haven't had to worry about yet is packing. We haven't had to debate over what stays and what goes. What we have room for and what we don't. We haven't had the argument about who's driving or which route to take. Or whether we remembered the sunscreen. Not to mention the fun of attempting our first 10-hour car trip with a recently potty-trained toddler.

And every vacation I've ever been on, although mostly filled with wonderful moments, always has at least one huge disaster in there somewhere -- sometimes more.

I took a trip to Cancun, Mexico, with my college roommates for spring break our senior year. The memories that instantly come to mind are getting attacked by an unruly peacock in the courtyard of our hotel, having my watch stolen right off my wrist by a group of boys pretending to sell bracelets and ending up on the back of a jet ski with a man who spoke zero English because mine broke down in the middle of our snorkeling adventure.

For our honeymoon, my husband and I went on a Caribbean cruise. Although I can easily call it the best vacation of my life, there were definitely some moments we could've done without. Like when my husband missed a spot on his upper lip while applying sunscreen and ended up with a giant Hitler-like mustache blister. Or getting lost in Mexico when the cab driver misunderstood our desired destination. Or forgetting our bag filled with our formal wear. We felt like jerks in shorts when other people had on tuxes and ball gowns.

Before we got married, we took a little getaway to Ocean City, Md. We were in heaven until we realized we had forgotten towels. It didn't seem like a big deal because there were a million stores filled with towels of every imaginable design and color. But the ones we picked, when wet, bled bright blue and red dye all over our skin, our clothes and our stuff.

Then there are the little things like when I locked my keys in the car on a road trip in Massachusetts. Or when the border patrol agent in Canada apparently thought I looked suspicious and emptied my entire car, including the contents of every suitcase onto the road. Or when I ended up staying in a gritty, disgusting motel when trying to be spontaneous and not make reservations.

But even though those things were nightmares at the time, looking back I guess that's what vacation is all about. Experiencing something new and having funny stories to tell -- good and bad.

I can't wait to see what this one brings. Just hopefully not a flat.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

A little lace

Thought some of you would want to check out my latest (massively time-consuming) project. I just launched a new division of my photography business called Black Lace Images. Let me know what you think!

Alli-ism

Singing the alphabet:

"A B C D E F G ... H I J K elbow and a P"

Friday, June 18, 2010

Quick update

Took Allison out for 2.5-year-old pictures a few days ago. You can see them here.

Business is booming. So much for that "I'll have more free time when I go part-time" stuff.

I'm loving life right now.

Oh! And did a great wedding a few weeks ago. Photos here.

Remember the naysayers? Fear will only hold you back. If you have a dream, chase it.

Miss you all.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Jerryism

Alli: Daddy, I want something to drink.

Jer: I'm getting iced tea, so you can have a little.

Alli: Yeah! I want tea!

Me: How about some water?

Jer: You know what, Alli? This tea is really strong, so I'm going to add some water to make it taste better. We'll call it Twatter.

Me: TWATTER? Really? ... Didn't think that one through before you opened your mouth, did ya?

Monday, May 24, 2010

Newspaper column: My very own miracle grow

Right around this time every year, I like to pretend I can garden. But if I’m being honest, it’s more like making a trip to a garden center and filling up a cart with things I’ll never use.

Let’s just say I have an extensive seed collection.

When we bought our house four years ago, I was delighted to see a small portion of the back yard had been designated for a garden. It seemed like the perfect new hobby for a first-time homeowner.

I envisioned growing watermelon-sized zucchini, the ripest tomatoes anyone had ever seen, peppers, garlic, squash — and anything else I could cram in there. Every meal during the summer months would be accompanied by something fresh off the vine.

Instead, I have a hearty crop of weeds and a beautiful lamb’s ear plant that thrives despite being neglected.

I’m just not good with plants. Unfortunately for them, I really love the idea of bringing the outdoors in and have a few in every room.

Only the heartiest survive.

I’m constantly reminded about my ineptitude in the botany department when I visit my parent’s house. Years ago, I purchased two small identical potted plants and gave one to my mom. Hers has quadrupled in size and is now waist-high. Mine leans severely to the right and has a few more leaves than when I bought it.

But I suppose I should consider its relative longevity a major feat in itself.

The latest example of my black thumb is even more embarrassing. I strongly hinted that I would like a hanging basket for Mother’s Day and was thrilled to get a massive specimen with gorgeous purple flowers. The leaves were so hearty and green that they appeared waxy.

I immediately hung it on the back porch and often found myself admiring it when I passed a nearby window or walked outside.

But the love affair was short-lived.

Within a week, the leaves were wilted against the basket and the mass scattering of dead petals on the porch railing looked like a crime scene.

I was at a loss. It had been raining for days, so I assumed it didn’t need water. It was getting plenty of sun. The only reasonable explanation I could come up with was that perhaps it had gotten too cold at night, providing a swift and fatal blow.

So I instantly wrote it off and chalked it up to another unfortunate plant casualty. But I figured I’d give it a few days before I put it out for the garbage collectors to enjoy.

You know, just in case.

Then the most bizarre thing happened. A few days later, it looked rejuvenated. The leaves appeared healthy and the flowers were blooming again.

When my husband came home later that afternoon, I happily pointed out the miracle.

“Yeah, I watered it,” he said, laughing. “You have to do that from time to time.”

Oh. Right. I guess it might not have gotten all the rain I thought it had being under the porch and all.

I don’t think he knew it at the time, but by saving my plant, he has now assumed full responsibility for its livelihood.

And I think I might hand him that huge collection of seeds I’ve been amassing, too. Maybe we’ll have homemade zucchini casserole this summer after all.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Free desktop picture and Allison hilarity

Thought some of you would enjoy this on the photo blog.

I'm working on Allison's back-logged letters now. Hoping to have them up this week.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Newspaper column

Who knew that potty training would be harder than childbirth?

At this point, I'd gladly go through 22 hours of labor if it meant a difinitive end to this horrible drawn-out battle of wills with my toddler and the toilet. I never thought I would be this obsessed with someone else's bodily functions. Ever.

When Allison was 19-months-old, I thought I had it made. She was successfully asking to use the bathroom on a semi-regular basis. Then it came to an abrupt halt. For the last nine months, I've tried everything from bribery to nonchalance. From Pull-Ups to pulling my hair out. And everything in between.

And everyone tells me girls are easier.

Granted, it hasn't been all bad. There have been a few moments worth celebrating -- however brief.

I came to the conclusion that she'll consistantly go on the toilet if she's not wearing a diaper, so most of her days at home are spent in the buff from the waist down. I felt like a complete genious until I covered her with a blanket while she was watching a TV show. That little bit of fabric somehow encouraged her to pee all over the couch.

Unfortunately, expressing my disappointment was far outweighed by the fun new toy revealed when I removed the cushion for cleaning.

Springs!

Yes, the couch transforms into a toddler trampoline. And if that isn't incentive to keep peeing on the cusions, I don't know what is.

A few days later, her bare butt raised an eyebrow when a neighbor stopped by to ask if we'd like some leftover manure for our yard. I politely declined with the explanation that we had enough fecal matter to worry about at our house. We certainly didn't need any more.

There have also been a few moments that I had to just step back and laugh.

Allison asked to use the bathroom during our most recent weekly playgroup outing, and I couldn't have gotten her to the toilet faster. Knowing that time is of the essence, I practically jumped off the floor before she completed the request.

When the trip proved successful, I summoned my inner cheerleader, as usual, but this time it apparently wasn't enough.

"I want to go tell the guys!" she said, and proceeded to waddle to the door with her pants around her ankles, open it with surprising ease and announce to a room of shocked faces at her lack of clothes that she had, indeed, gone potty.

And because her audience was full of understanding moms going through the same difficult phase with their children, she got exactly what she was looking for -- an eruption of applause and cheers.

At that moment, it was great. But how do I follow that? Next time she'll expect a marching band.

She doesn't seem to care about collecting M&Ms, stickers or toys. She doesn't care if her pants (and socks) are soaked -- it doesn't phase her one bit.

When she wants to, she does. When she doesn't feel like it, she doesn't.

I think this is one battle she's going to have to tackle without me. My husband and I have done all that we can.

I can think of a thousand metaphors that would be appropriate in this case, but I've come up with my own.

You can lead a toddler to the toilet, but you can't force them to pee.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

2 years, 5 months (photos coming)

Dear Alli,

My gosh I'm up to my eyeballs! I've never worked so hard in my entire life, but I think I'm really on the cusp of a total life transformation, and I have you to thank because you're one of the biggest inspirations behind it.

I just need to find time to keep up with these letters! I'll kick myself so hard in 10 years if I don't. These are just as much for me as they are for you.

Anyway, after one year of being in business, I'm ridiculously proud to say that I'm going part-time at the newspaper. This was not without major sacrifices on all of our parts. Our schedules are absolutely crazy right now, but I know there will be a huge payoff when you're in school. You might not think so because you'll always have a parent at home to prevent you from getting away with things you shouldn't, but for me, it's indescribably amazing to know that I'll be around most nights of the week to tuck you into bed.

Just writing that makes my day.

You might not completely grasp what it is I'm doing, but clearly you know that taking pictures is my thing. Any camera in the world is "Mommy's camera." And, frankly, I kind of wish that was the case.


You often help me set up my studio before clients arrive by piling all of the props into the center of the backdrops and ask me to take your picture.

"Eee take my picture, Mommy? ... Eee get your camera?"

I just laugh and ask you to put things in certain places and cross my fingers that you don't knock over any of my light stands, although you're pretty respectful of the items I tell you are off-limits. But even though you're a crazy hurricane up there, it's much more fun than doing it by myself.

The other draw of the studio space for you is my candy jar filled with lollipops. Sometimes you just walk past the door to the third floor and mess with the handle — presumably hoping you'll one day hit the jackpot and gain unrestricted access to all of that sugar.

I'm not sure what I'll do when that day happens. Maybe buy a deadbolt.

*************

You regularly see me editing photos of other children, and it intrigues you to no end. You ask to sit on my lap and want to know their names and where you might have seen or met them before. It amazes me that you retain the information, too. Weeks or months later, you can see a photo of someone on my blog or Facebook page and say, "Oh! That's Anna!"

You just amaze me.

In the mornings, we sit at the dining room table so I can get a little work done, and you use your giant bucket of crayons and markers to draw until your arms threaten to fall off. We've probably gone through an entire ream of computer paper this month alone.

You might not have mastered total control of your markers, but you always tell me what you're drawing. Just this morning, a random shape resembled a boat. When you said so, I reached over and added a sail and some water. I love that you can see things in your creations.

What we're doing isn't too different. We're both making art.

And even though I spend more time working on photos of other kids now, I want you to know that you're still my absolute favorite person, place or thing in the world to take photos of.

And you probably always will be.

*****************

I could write forever about you and your crazy antics, but my fingers would fall off describing them in detail, so instead, I'll see what little blurbs I can come up with.

  • Witnessing your imagination is so incredible. This morning you encountered my shirt that Toby lovingly dragged to the middle of the hallway, stopped, looked up and yelled, "WAIT! I have to jump ober the alligator!"
  • Music is still the glue that holds your days together. You sing constantly. You expect us to sing constantly. Meals often include serenading and clapping. Plus, thanks to satellite radio, you have no patience for commercials. Any talking in between the music is intolerable. "I WANT ANOTHER SONG, MOMMY!"
  • Speaking of which, you scream everything. If your voice was being recorded by a stenographer in a court room, she would use all caps. You are the loudest child on the planet.
  • Toby has become your best friend. You still harass the shit out of him, but then you'll say things like, "Hey, that's my friend Toby. Aww. He's a good boy." The two of you chase each other, you now share your toys with him and every morning you get a treat for him and help me pour his food for the day.
  • You are becoming quite the fashonista. I can't just pick out an outfit for you anymore, it has to meet your approval. You won't allow me to choose matching hair clips, either. If you want orange, we go with orange. Who cares that the rest of your clothes are green, right?
  • What you call me depends on your mood. When you're hurt, it's "I want my Mommy." When you're excited, it's "MOMMY!" When you're being silly it's "Mommer or Momila." Sometimes we spend 10 minutes just repeating each other's names in a funny way using different sounds and mimicking the other's inflections. I love it.
*******************

You're growing like a weed, and I can't stop saying things like "She's just such a KID!" all the time.

The biggest change is that you no longer want or need help for most things, and you're very clear about that. Everything is "BY MYSELF."

Move over Kelly Clarkson. You are the new Miss Independent.

You want to make your own lunch, get into the car on your own, walk not ride in the stroller and pull up your own pants. If only socks were easier, you'd probably throw a fit about those, too.

And I don't even THINK about getting the remote control. When it's time for a show, YOU must be the one to grab it. That is of utmost importance. Even though you simply pick it up off the table and hand it to me, that little exchange is an unspoken, nonnegotiable ritual.

I am only given access to it because you don't know which buttons to push to access the DVR yet. If I wasn't the gatekeeper to your cartoon world, I'm pretty sure you'd have no use for me at all at this point.

Well, that and pouring your milk.

I guess I'm still good for something!

Hey, I'm learning to step back kiddo, but I imagine I'll be fighting the instinct to do things for you as long as I live. I know it's important to let you try and master things on your own, but you'll always be my little girl. No matter how hard you try, you'll never outgrow that.

Love,
Momer, Mommy, Momma, Momila

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The places his brain goes is beyond me sometimes

During a walk, we stopped at the candy store to get something for a friend, and while we were there, I told Allison to pick out three pieces from the display case as a treat for us. Here's the conversation that followed after we rejoined Jerry and Toby who were waiting outside:

"I can't believe three bite-sized pieces of chocolate costs 2 bucks! It's worth it once in awhile, but still!"

"Eh. Don't worry about it. Think of all the money I'm saving."

"What?"

"Well I save a ton of money by not having a crack addiction. That's like 500 bucks a month!"

"You're not right."

"And I don't hire hookers! Spitzer was paying $3,500 every weekend. So I've saved ... $10,500 already this month!"

...

"Seriously. The next time I want something, I'm just going to use the money I didn't spend on hookers."

Friday, April 16, 2010

Sucks when your team is named after a cute animal and you have a toddler in the house

Jer: Hey, Allison, do you want to watch the Penguins tonight?!

Alli: YEAH! I LOVE PENGUINS!

Me: Um, you do realize you're thinking hockey and she's thinking "Happy Feet," right?

(Allison starts waddling like a penguin.)

Jer: Oh, God. ... Let me try that again. Hey, Allison, do you want to watch hockey tonight?

Alli: No! PENGUINNNS!

Me: Yep. You're screwed.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Linking instead of reposting

I'm running a huge contest on Facebook right now, so I've been concentrating on keeping the content on my fan page and photo blog fresh. The newest post is one I think some of you will enjoy. Check it out here.

I'll be back here as soon as I can catch my breath!


Friday, March 26, 2010

BUFF THE WOOD

I'm visiting my family with Alli this weekend, and man do I need this. I need a break from all of the usual, although I brought a ton of work with me.

Starting with the newspaper column I SHOULD be writing instead of the wayyy overdue monthly letter I WANT to be writing.

Or better? Sleeping.

Speaking of which, I forgot a T-shirt to sleep in, so I went through my old drawers and dug up something that hasn't seen the light of day in more than a decade. It has a bit of a musty smell to it, but the memory attached to it slammed me in the face when I opened it up and I nearly fell over laughing.

It's a shirt my team made for Senior Week in high school. I know the slogan is a movie reference, and don't ask me which movie or what it was about (I'm sure we would probably all come up with the same guess), but I can see my friends fighting over our shirt slogan and settling on this:

BUFF THE WOOD.

I'm willing to bet any team would've gotten disqualified if they tried to pull that now. Ahh, we had it so good. That was before high school shootings and all of the inevitable crap that followed.

So, yes, I'm wearing a bright purple shirt with the neck hem cut out with those ugly ass felt letters in all caps. And the back reads: Kels-Buff.

It's good to be home.

Monday, March 15, 2010

New photo blog

Sorry for the short personal posts here, but I've been sweating over a blog redesign for my photography business. Not to mention editing photos from two shoots last weekend, hammering out all of the details for a launch contest and preparing for a festival I'm going to be a vendor at on Saturday. Then another shoot on Sunday.

Phew!

The template I purchased allows me to use it in two places, so when I have a minute to catch my breath, I'm thinking about doing a redesign here, too. It'll take a little work because it's Wordpress supported, but I think I can do it.

It's definitely time for a little sprucing up. I mentioned earlier that I like change, right?

If you'd like to check out the site, here's the link. Feel free to leave a comment. It should be pretty user-friendly because you won't have to keep retyping your info. It'll remember it for you.

Let me know what you think!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day Jerryism

After handing him a bunch of coupons for a trip to Target, among them a buck off Irish Spring, which I asked if he wanted to try:

"When I think of Ireland, I think of potatoes, cabbage and drunks ... none of which I want to smell like."

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Feels a lot like discovering I have a superpower

I wish I had figured out how to upload MP3 files to YouTube AGES ago. I'm really not that technologically challenged, but most of the Google searches related to those two topics result in instructions in the opposite direction -- converting a video into a music file.

Anywho, now that I've found MP32Tube.com, you'll be getting an occasional sound clip from Jerry. But, you know, deal with it. HE'S FUNNY.

Yesterday he called from work to tell us to eat lunch without him because he was working on wrapping up a special project for his morning show. He sent me the clip and I laughed so hard, I couldn't wait to share it.

For those who don't follow off-season football chaos, Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger has been charged with sexual assaulting a woman in a bathroom during a recent trip to Georgia.

Here's Jerry's take on the situation.

*****************

UPDATE: Somehow this got to Pittsburgh, and the producer of the morning show at KDKA loved it so much that the show aired it and interviewed Jerry afterward! Pass the link along!

UPDATE #2: Apparently the phones blew up so much after KDKA played it that the producer decided to run it on all four CBS-owned stations in Pittsburgh tomorrow. Go Jer!

UPDATE #3: It's gone national! Radio stations across the country are playing it, and it's among YouTube's list of most popular videos.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Thanks kid

"Alli, are you my favorite girl in the whole world?"

"YEEEEEEEEEEEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHH!"

"I thought so. ... Who's your favorite girl in the whole world?"

"Uhhh, DADDY!"

Friday, March 5, 2010

Either the best or worst decision I'll make this decade

As someone who loves change, one of the things I've found hardest to adapt to in adulthood is actually the stability.

Yes, there were lots of times in my life when I had crashed with friends in a dumpy apartment that was barely fit for human habitation where I fell asleep at night dreaming about a home that I could make my own.

There were also times while I was bartending, listening to overly inebriated men berate me for refusing to serve them another shot of whisky that I would duck down, take a few breaths and remind myself that there would come a day when I would have a desk in an office where my job performance was judged in a completely different way.

And, of course, every bad date and heartbreak was always accompanied with dreams of finding someone I could share my life with.

Although my life has been far from dull the past few years -- I've gone through a major milestone with every new calendar since 2003 -- most of the constants in the last five have been very steady, and sometimes I dream of a little change.

Which I'm about to get. Big time.

I didn't plan this next move. In fact, it terrifies me. But I think it's going to be instrumental in how I want to shape my life while raising Allison.

I'm going part-time at the paper.

It shocks me just to write it. I asked my bosses about the possibility earlier this week, and I'm still having a hard time wrapping my head around it. Fortunately, I have a few months to get used to the idea because it likely won't be until May or June 1.

To be honest, I suppose I hoped the business would one day enable me this flexibility, but I had no presumptions of it happening this fast. Ideally I would like to be able to balance both a little longer, but because I work nights and weekends, it quickly became an "either or" situation.

When I was faced with the likelihood of working every single weekend from May through November, it made the decision a little more obvious. Clearly I needed something to change, but that doesn't make it any less intimidating.

Metaphorically speaking, it feels like I just jumped off a building, and I'm hoping I built my parachute strong enough to support me. (And my family, a mortgage, two car payments, utility bills, food, clothing and the niceties in life that keep you sane.)

The fear, of course, is failure. Failure to live up to my own expectations.

But I can't afford to fail. It's not an option. There's too much on the line -- and not just the security and dental and eye benefits I'll be leaving behind.

Here goes everything.

Friday, February 26, 2010

A little crossover

I realize promotions and marketing usually isn't something most of you would be interested in, but I'm guessing this time will be different.

Here's my latest radio ad that will be running next week on a few stations.

I wrote it. Jerry recorded it.

Enjoy!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

What 16-year-old's dreams are made of

We are in technology heaven over here: I upgraded to a full-frame sensor camera, and Jerry and I bought our first-ever brand new car.

I just want to drop everything and drive someplace I've never been while taking pictures out the window. I don't think they've passed a law against that yet.

Normally I'd rave about the camera first, but since I'm still waiting for my honkin' compact flash memory card, I haven't really been able to open 'er up yet. But the temporary demo displays on the viewfinder are so gorgeous they kind of make me want to pee a little.

The car, on the other hand? I'm in loooove. Heart-fluttering teenage love where I want to stay up until 2 a.m. talking on the phone with it, telling it how happy I am when we're together.

Rewind a few months ago, and I was pumped -- PUMPED -- when Jerry came home cheering that our old car was finally paid off. Despite the fact that it had over 100,000 miles on it, I figured we'd drive it until it fell apart, which would probably be another 100,000 miles because it was a Honda.

But when it started shaking uncontrollably on the highway to the point that the driver's seat could've doubled as a vibrating massage chair, I knew it was over. Jerry took it in, and the mechanic initiated the conversation by asking, "How long do you plan on keeping the car?"

The repairs cost half of what it was worth, and frankly, having a two-door sport coupe is a gigantic pain in the ass when you're trying to get a toddler into a car seat. I'd rather try to squeeze a queen-sized boxspring mattress into a dishwasher.

Then there were the other issues. Like the fact that the seatbelt never properly retracted anymore, leaving me struggling to wrangle it into place like a wild horse every time I got in and out. Plus the key fob died ages ago, forcing us to (gasp!) manually lock and unlock it rather than conveniently click a little button on the way to and from our destination. Deal breakers.

Nevermind that we replaced all four tires less than a month ago when I had a horrible blowout on the highway doing 70 mph on my way to work. That was fun.

Needless to say, I didn't want to reintroduce another monthly payment to the household expenses, but the pros of a new car made it more than bearable of a thought. All I wanted was four doors, keyless entry and a seatbelt that retracted properly. Those were the only requirements I gave Jerry. I left the rest up to him.

I shouldn't have been surprised when Jer did his homework, but I can't rave enough about how he tackled the task. Personally, the thought of buying a new car makes me want to run and jump into an active volcano. There is NOTHING I enjoy about the process.

Sure, Jerry has something most customer's don't: a radio morning show and local name recognition. Which, I'm not gonna lie, totally helped us in the deal department. But all jobs have perks, right? Ours just came in the form of great customer service at a car dealership.

We wanted a mid-size sedan, so he checked out all makes and models, well, other than Toyota for obvious reasons. When a top-ranking official admits that a worldwide recall may not "totally" solve all of the accelerator problems, it kind of makes you reluctant to invest in that product.

Long story short, he fell in love with the Ford Fusion. He test-drove a used one, but we ended up being able to buy new for almost the same price. Five-star crash test rating. 2010 Motortrend car of the year. President's Day sale. An extra $1,000 cash back when you trade in a Honda.

Who were we to ignore the stars aligning like that?

And although I would've been happy with the fact that it has four doors, keyless entry and retracting seatbelts, all of its fancy features made me fall in loooove. Like our satellite radio is now built into the dash instead of suction-cupped on top. And it has an iPod dock. And a place for a thumbdrive full of music. And voice-activation Bluetooth calling synched up to our cell phones. And a digital display for text messages. And electronic seat adjustments. And that new-car smell.

Excuse me while I go make out with it.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

You guys were right: No-merge Jerryisms

After I mentioned that tying a tie looks complicated:
"See? And women complain about childbirth."

After I told him dinner would be ready in two shakes:
"Of what? A lambs tail? Or of my pecker after I pee?"

Thursday, February 18, 2010

2 years, 3 months

Dear Alli,

Your personality is forming at a rapid pace right now, and I'm really trying to take in all of the little nuances before they change.

Two of my portrait clients -- a couple I did holiday photos of a few months ago -- started reminiscing about their son when they found out I had a little one. We shared lots of stories, and despite the decades that separate us, we found we had a lot in common when it comes to experiences raising a child.

But one thing in particular stuck with me. They said age 3 was their mutual favorite because he was really starting to communicate, and they found the things he had to say nothing short of hilarious.

I know you just turned 2, but I think you're at that stage now, and I couldn't agree more.

You say the craziest things sometimes, sentences that leave me wondering where in the hell you got a particular idea, but it's so great getting a glimpse into that head of yours.

While Dad and I were manning our booth at a bridal expo last weekend, we got a text from Aunt Amy, who had taken you to church. During the children's message, the pastor asked each kid what they do to honor their mother and father. When she got to you, I'm told you said, "I DON'T HIT."

I laughed so hard because I instantly pictured you with your right hand up, index finger extended, punctuating each word with the gesture I often use to drive home a point.

Hilarious.

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One of the things I look forward to most is the first thing you'll tell me in the morning. More often than not, I say goodbye to you at 4 p.m. when I walk out the door for work, and I don't see you again until whenever you decide to wake me up the next morning. The rest of the night you spend with Dad, who often takes you to friend's houses, running errands or shopping because he needs to get out -- especially in the winter.

So every morning when I come into your room, I can't wait to hear what you'll blurt out. Sometimes it's simple: "DAD AND I PLAY TRAINS!" Other times you give me a glimpse of what you got in trouble for: "I CAN'T HIT TOBY." Or whose house you went to: "I SHARE WITH EMMA."

Either way, it always gives me such joy that you're able to share the parts of your day with me that I'm not around to spend with you.

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You've also honed your singing skills. Or maybe just your memorization skills. I'd say what you do can be loosely described as singing because it's rhythmic and sometimes even melodic, but more often than not, I'd describe it as shrieking.

You ask to sing lullabies constantly, but your favorites are Twinkle, Twinkle and the Itsy Bitsy Spider.

You've gotten so good at Twinkle, Twinkle that you can sing almost the entire song. I've memorized your rendition:

Twinkle, twinkle little star
How I wonder what you are
Up the world so high
Like a dime in the sky

Wash, rinse, repeat. It's turned into your own version of The Song That Never Ends.

I hope to someday see a likeness of Franklin Deleno Roosevelt's profile in the stars. That's the closest one would get to looking like a dime.

One afternoon when we were making lunch, you started screaming something about wanting a microphone over a conversation Dad and I were trying to have. I'm sure most people would've thought you were crazy, but somehow my motherly instincts told me to look around.

Then I spotted it.

And handed you the turkey baster.

You thanked me and proceeded to dance around and sing. Now when you ask for the microphone I know it means, "Please hand me the turkey baster, Mom, and I'll entertain you while you make sandwiches."

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One of the hardest parts of your developing language skills is when you master a word that you previously misspoke or had a cute nickname for.

Dad and I have discussed this at length. Of course we want you to speak properly. We don't want to pat ourselves on the back too much, but one of the things we're most proud of is that you talk circles around other kids your age. I'm sure a lot of it is just that you're incredibly bright, but we work very hard prompting you to ask for things in a complete sentence, and phonetically break down words until you can put all of the syllables together on your own.

But at lunch a few weeks ago, you asked me to cut you another strawberry.

I looked up from my plate to see my exact expression mirrored on Dad's face.

You've always said "strawbee." We loved strawbee.

And just like that, it was gone.

Later that week, Dad dropped you off at Aunt Amy's house, and you ran in to greet Emily saying her entire name instead of just Emy. It shocked everyone in the room, including you. But you're so proud of your new skill that you've added "ily" to the end of everything.

Everything.

Momily. Dadily. Tobily. BunilyBearily. Gramily. Phoneily. Blanketily. Chairily. Milkily. Jumpily. Lightily. Couchily.

Thanks for giving us fun new additions to balance out the loss of the old ones.

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But perhaps my favorite verbal change this month is the way you answer a yes or no question.

Instead of "mmm hmm" or "uh huh," you've added a third syllable so it becomes "mmm hmm hmm" and "uh huh huh."

I'm sure most people wouldn't notice even if I alerted them to it because it's so subtle, but it's so consistent and you, that I can't help but smile every time you do it.

It's those unique things that make this experience of parenting so absolutely incredible.

When your dad and I were recently engaged, I remember stopping over at Grandma's house on my way to work to drop something off. It was summer, and she was down at the pool with your cousins Nate and Ben.

When I opened the pool gate, their entire demeanors changed. I knew the boys fairly well at that point, but it struck me so intensely that they sat up from their relaxed lounging on the swing. I wasn't a part of their inner circle yet.

And for that exact reason, I feel so privileged to be among the few people who get to see the real you every day.

Mmm hmm hmms and all.

Love,
Momily

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Re-evaluating a few things in my life at the moment

A few months ago, I signed up for Google Analytics so I could track traffic to my photography site, and while I was there, it gave me the option to “add another website.”

I’ve been tracking my blog hits for years, but I thought, what the heck? It might give me some different information, so I added it.

Then I promptly forgot about the entire thing.

It wasn’t until just a few days ago that I wanted to see how many hits I was getting. A few photographers I've befriended revamped their photo blogs recently, and I questioned the monthly hosting cost and whether they really thought it was worth it.

When they explained that their blog was getting about as much traffic as their main flash site, the host of which the three of us all have in common, I started to reevaluate mine. The dump I call a photo blog.

It’s pathetic.

To give you an idea of how pathetic, I update it even less than I update this one these days.

Yes, that bad.

But I’m a firm believer that social networking online is better than any paid advertising. I’ve gotten more business from my Facebook fan page than almost all of my advertising dollars combined. And I spent almost a grand on that in the last few months with both bridal expos.

So then I started to take a harder look at my business’ web presence. And my personal web presence, too. And I remembered that analytics account.

I’m happy to say that my photography site’s hits are up more than 200 percent, but that still pales in comparison to the traffic I get here, which is up, too.

Then I started comparing things like time spent on each site, referring sites and bounce rate. It all looked pretty basic.

Then I clicked on “countries.”

In the past few months, I’ve gotten regular hits from Poland, Iceland, Ireland, Indonesia, South Africa, Chili, Venezuela, Columbia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Russia, Portugal, the Philippines, Australia, New Zealand, Germany, the Netherlands, Canada, Pakistan, India, Malaysia and, of course, the U.S. Because I know my mom reads.

That floored me.

Then the internal debate started.

I wondered what the hell I was doing trying to half-ass another blog when I already have the most awesome readers on the entire planet. A site I’ve spent years and years pouring my heart and soul into.

On the other hand, do I really want to mix my personal site with my business site? I already feel somewhat limited in what I can write because I value my newspaper job, I want my family to respect me and I want to maintain my husband’s and my daughter’s privacy. Do I really want to add another layer of personal censorship?

I’m an open book in a lot of ways, but there are some things I wouldn’t want to share with my clients. And I might feel the need to keep it perpetually perky.

Which I’m not.

This is my outlet when I’m working through some difficult emotions. That doesn’t seem to mix with a sneak peek of my latest photo sessions.

Speaking of that, if I combined the two, that would mean you’d have to read about my studio specials and promotions. Not to mention the difficult decision of whether to keep novelle360, which has become a part of me, or get rid of it because it might confuse clients.

I could add an explainer in the “about me” section, but that just seems like a mess.

But I also know that I need my professional blog to be relatable, to tell a little bit about me, to reflect who I am — not just talk about how much an 8 x 10 costs.

So this is my quandary for the moment. To merge or not to merge.

On the pro side, it would likely mean more frequent updates until my schedule miraculously lightens. It would also feel great to have a one-stop spot, rather than feeling twice the guilt if I haven’t updated both in awhile.

I mean, it’s a lot to maintain a personal blog, a professional blog, a personal Facebook page, a professional Facebook fan page, three personal e-mail accounts (don’t ask), a professional e-mail account AND a professional website.

Not to mention my family, my full-time job and corresponding with clients.

And then I wonder why my house is a mess.

So I guess I’m looking for advice. I’d like to know what you think. You rarely steer me wrong. And this time it may affect what, how and where you read me.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Mom, there's one without a watermark for your desktop

Conveniently, my two days off this week fell during the second coming of Snowmageddon. It was nice not to have to travel, but occupying Allison for hours on end without being able to even make a quick run to the store left me searching for activities.

We colored and built forts. We ate popcorn and watched movies. We made gigantic block towers and smashed them until they scattered. Then we'd do it again.

But after awhile, I think both of us just got bored. And, frankly, the thought of tugging on snowpants and the ensuing wet kitchen floor and runny noses from playing in the snow weren't all that appealing.

So what's a girl to do?

Play dress up and take pictures, that's what!


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As usual, I had to bribe her with a green lollipop! We were all done,
and I was about to put my camera away, but I turned around to see this.
Some of the best moments happen at the very end when everyone relaxes.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Just about as random a post as you can get

Because I'm long overdue for an update, I don't know where to start. The bridal expo was incredible. It was a ton of work and definitely triggered a massive meltdown complete with uncontrollable sobbing, but I still say it was worth it. Most of the stress came from trying to do too much in too short of a time span on very little sleep, but I was very proud of our booth and the response we got. I booked two weddings on the spot, two more the following day and have a lot more pending.

I'm going to do it all over again this Saturday in the other city in my area. But this time I won't be rushing to finalize last-minute details. Everything is done and ready to go.

I also just wrapped up all of my January portrait sessions and don't have any more scheduled until March, so I took advantage of the downtime and cleaned my house. I can't express to you the level of gross that had been lurking in the corners. I didn't notice because it's hard to see past all of the kid clutter. But when I got on my hands and knees with the vacuum and started dusting the floorboards? Well, lets just say I needed to take allergy medication for the following three days. The dust gorillas put up a good fight.

Once I was on a roll, I just went with it. By the time I was done, I had moved every major piece of furniture. I should've taken a picture of what I found under the couch. It was a three-course meal and toy graveyard. Allison cheered like a drunk football fan when she saw all the loot. Blocks. Cards. Balls. Crayons. Stickers. Jumbo Rice Krispies. Craisins. Petrified grapes. Nasty.

To say I needed the week off from the photo business is an understatement.

But yesterday I took photos just for us. I didn't use my fancy camera or flash. I didn't worry about shooting in RAW or what my ISO settings were on. I just took pictures.

We got hit by the storm Obama jokingly titled "Snowmaggedon." The National Weather Service said it was the worst on record for our city. It closed malls and dumped more than 24 inches in some spots of the county, but man did we have fun at our house.

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Wishing we had a snowblower.


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Bombs away!


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Next it was Alli's turn.


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Then Jer's.


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Toby couldn't contain himself.


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He would completely disappear in the deepest parts.


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Later we got out the sled and took a walk.


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Hey ... wait a minute ...


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THAT'S MYYYYY SLED!


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And all is right with the world.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Newspaper column: Trip to Haiti as a teenager filled with life lessons

My first impression of Haiti was how in­credibly poor it was.

I was only in Port-au-Prince briefly as part of a beach day cruise stop with my parents when I was in junior high, but the visit left a lasting impression on me. I had never seen so many people in the streets working so hard to sell their wares for so little.

Women shoved straw hats and decorative clay bowls in my hands as we passed, small children sitting on blankets at their feet. I remember the women held up their hands, refusing to take their items back when I tried to politely decline a purchase. It broke my heart to set the items down. I just wanted to hand them what little money I had in my bag.

Getting a head full of braids and beads suddenly didn’t seem all that important.

At the time, the country was in a civil war. We had been given strict instructions by the cruise line not to stray too far — otherwise they couldn’t guarantee our safety.

That part didn’t matter to me. Although I was curious, I was more than content sitting on a gorgeous beach with the bluest water I had ever seen.

The area was breathtakingly beautiful, but it fell in sharp contrast to the broken benches and crumbling concrete homes we passed.

I left feeling incredibly greatful for everything I have.

So when news of the earthquake broke a little more than a week ago, I immediately thought of those small homes I had seen. I knew they wouldn’t withstand much. 

I waited to see how the story would develop. After reading the ongoing up­dates, a coworker turned to me and said, “A calamity of this magnitude is going to hit home. Local people will be affected.”

Boy was she right.

As much as gripping photos of children crying over lost loved ones and detailed accounts of suffering in makeshift hospitals equip­ped only with aspirin connect us to the plight of those an ocean away, it’s easy to forget.

We have our own daily battles, although nowhere near as dire, to distract us. And, let’s face it, getting swept up in their reality is heartbreaking. Sometimes we need the luxury of being able to turn our attention to something else and laugh.

Like me, I’m sure most people felt the urge to help. Sure, dropping change into a collection can at a restaurant, donating at the grocery store checkout or joining a Facebook group that promises to give $1 for each member feels like we’re at least doing something. But there’s still a disconnect.

That’s why stories of survivors with local ties are so important. It places the disaster at our doorstep. It makes us realize that despite an earthquake being more than a thousand miles away, the aftershocks were felt around the world — including here.

We can find hope in the story of the former Tyrone-area woman who managed to escape after a four-story apartment building crumbled around her. Her fortitude to crawl through a crack a little more than a foot wide de­spite a broken back is nothing short of astounding.

We can find solace in the story about the Huntingdon church pastor who de­scribed helping other survivors remove the concrete from their hair on his annual outreach trip to his twin parish.

We can find courage in the face of adversity in the stories of three doctors with local ties who volunteered their time and skills to help retrieve orphans or take part in a medical relief mission.
It also helps to remember that in the midst of all the pain and suffering, there are tens of thousands of stories of strength, tenacity and compassion emerging from the rubble every day.

And because the odds are slim that I’ll ever return, I’m glad I ended up going back to buy that clay bowl.

Friday, January 22, 2010

2 years, 2 months

Dear Alli,

I was just about to give up writing this month’s letter. Let’s face it: I’m already a week late.

I have been so busy getting ready for two major bridal expos in the next two weeks that if I had a moment to actually stop and catch my breath, I think I might just start sobbing.

It’s not easy trying to make a killer first impression for your business, particularly when you work another full-time job, overbooked yourself with portrait sessions this month and have an amazing little girl you desperately want to snuggle with on the couch.

I knew building a business would be a major commitment for me, but I didn’t realize how much it would affect everyone else in the house. I want you to know that your dad has picked up a ton of the slack at home without so much as a peep. Last weekend, he did six loads of laundry in one afternoon, and tonight he made an amazing chicken dinner while I was corresponding with clients and designing my brochure.

It’s been a monster team effort.

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But yesterday I think you and I just needed a break. We needed to get out of the house, leave the photos and e-mails and phone calls behind and spend a little time together.

It was our inaugural Mother Daughter Day.

When you got up, I asked, “Hey, do you want to go have some fun today?”

Your eyes got wide, then you screamed, “YEAH! TOYS!”

After I got done laughing, I asked where you’d like to go. Even though I had a specific destination in mind, I wanted to see what you’d come up with. You ticked through a predictable list of relative’s and friend’s houses, then asked to go to the bank. It’s those damn free lollipops.

Instead, I took you to Slinky Action Zone — a crazy kid activity area filled with tubes, slides, punching bags, a ball crawl and ramps. Actually, it reminds me of a gigantic hamster cage. For kids.

Knowing how crazy you are at home jumping and climbing and running and otherwise constantly going at full speed, I expected to feel a rush of air as you passed me yelling, “BE BACK MAMA!”

Instead, you looked at me, held out your hand and asked, “Eee comin’ Mama?”

I spent the next two hours 20 feet in the air in plastic tubes as other impatient toddlers tried to squeeze past my butt. And, you know what? I loved every second.

So what if all of the other moms were sitting at tables in the eating area? So what if I hit my head every single time you wanted to go down the twisty slide in my lap? So what if it took us 20 minutes to crawl across the rope mesh? We did it all together.

We didn't go out to lunch afterward like I had planned because you were conked out before we even made it out of the parking lot, but the afternoon rejuvenated me in more ways than you’ll ever know.

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As always, I had been thinking for days about all the things I wanted to document this month. That was two weeks ago. Now I don’t remember any of it. There’s nothing left in my brain space besides what I need to do tomorrow. If I allow anything else in, I’ll make a major gaffe that I can’t afford to.

Instead I'll write what comes to mind. This does, however, come with a disclaimer. I worked all afternoon on the business, then I went to the paper for 9 hours and dealt with a late-breaking hostage situation that required me to rip up and resend a page minutes before deadline, and it's now 1 a.m. and counting, so it could very well end up all over the place. But this feels important. I promised myself I would do this for you. And after two years, I'm not about to stop now.

I knew I was going to write about our day. The rest? Well, here goes.

Santa brought you a gigantic princess tent for Christmas. When we got back from spending the holiday in Rochester, I wasn't exactly sure where it was going to fit in our house. First we had it in the office upstairs, but it severely restricted, oh, breathing in that room. So once the Christmas tree came down, we parked it in the living room.

You love that tent. Right this very second it is filled to the brim with shit. Your kitchen is in there, your doodle pad, blocks, plastic food, your kitchen, a wooden train and probably at least four miniature Kai Lan figurines in various outfits and hairstyles.

We sit in that tent together every afternoon reading books or doing just about anything. You love it in there.

Surprisingly enough, I don't hate it. In fact, one of my most cherished memories of that tent will be New Year's Eve 2010. All three of us were really sick this year, so instead of going to a friend's party like we had planned, we stayed home.

After a very bland dinner and passing around some medicine, you, me, Dad and Toby spent hours hanging out in your tent. Dad hooked up his iPod dock, and we listened to music while playing with your new toys. It was so hot, there were tissues everywhere, and the only thing flowing freely was snot instead of champagne, but it was wonderful.

There wasn't anywhere in the world I would've rather been.

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This afternoon while we were eating lunch, you turned to Dad and asked, "Daddy, eee sing the spider song?"

You phrase all your questions that way: Mommy, eee do it? Daddy, eee comin'? Mommy, eee get BunnyBear? Daddy, eee havin' a drink?

I know someday you're going to speak clearly and I'll struggle to remember all of your cute attempts at learning a language. In fact, just a few days ago you said "lemon" correctly. I knew it was the first time you had gotten in right, but then I couldn't remember how you've been saying it up until now and it broke my heart. I think it was "menen" or something like that, but I hate that I'm not sure.

Anyway, so you asked Dad to sing Itsy Bitsy Spider. You know almost all of the verses now, you just have a hard time remembering which one comes next. Sometimes the sun dries up all the rain and then the spider washes down the spout, but whatever. We love it.

This time, when Dad got through the first verse, he made this weird noise with his mouth and you went into absolute hysterics. You laughed so hard and long, your eyes were just so alive. I didn't have my camera, so I hope the mental picture I took lasts a lifetime.

It continued like that after each verse. Dad would bust out that weird noise and you would freak out, looking at me like, "Hey, isn't this the greatest thing you've ever seen in your ENTIRE LIFE?"

When I looked at Dad quizzically, he just said, "I screwed up the song last night and made that sound before starting over. She laughed like crazy, so I did it again."

We spent the rest of our lunch making blubbery noises in between bites while you laughed and laughed and laughed.

I don't remember what we did to entertain ourselves before you came into our lives, but surely it wasn't half as fun.

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You are still at a very difficult stage as far as tantrums and needing instant gratification. You specify which color cup you want your drink in and expect things to be a certain way.

But there are other times that I remember how far we've come with you. How much you've grown.

Last Saturday morning, Dad's radio station sponsored a free showing of Loony Toons at a historic theater downtown. He had been planning on taking you himself, allowing me time to work on photos, but then he said something in passing that instantly changed my mind.

"I can't wait to see her face when she sees a movie screen for the first time."

That's all it took. I threw on clothes so fast that I think I broke a personal record. I went from pajamas to ready to walk out the door in less than 10 minutes.

And I couldn't have been more glad. Not only did you sit on my lap the entire time, you helped Dad introduce the show. You've gotten so familiar with microphones from hanging out at his radio station a few times that when the theater manager handed Dad the equipment, you begged and pleaded to hold the "mike.ro.phone." You pronounce all three syllables like they're separate words that are each worthy of their own distinct attention.

When the two of you walked on stage, I felt my heart expand. Once you saw the crowd, you covered your eyes. Then Dad explained that it was your first time in front of a group and asked them to say hello. As the whole auditorium yelled, "Hi, Allison!" you put your hands down and beamed. And just like we had practiced in the car on the way there, you leaned into the mic and said, "HI KIDS!"

And then my heart expanded again.

You finished by attempting to pronounce the names of the business sponsors when Dad prompted you to, then you waved on your way back to your seat.

Needless to say, you guys got the biggest cheer from me.

As for your first glimpse at a movie screen? It earned a long "Oooooh" in between bites of popcorn. And, impressively, we made it through the entire series of shows.

There were lots of little moments like this that are eluding me at the moment. But mostly because I'm exhausted. Not because I've forgotten them.

I guess I just want you to know how incredible you are. When I'm stressed to the max and feel I can't hold one more thing on my plate, you are my antidote. Your perfectly simple world where utter joy comes in the form of a funny sound. And the biggest hurdle to overcome is figuring out where Bunny disappeared to.

Remember how I said starting this business was a team effort?

You're a big part of it, too.

Love,
Mama

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Smooth operator Jerryism

"You look great."

"Really? I feel like I was run over by a truck."

"A truck full of beauty products!"

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Like talking to a tape recorder

Conversation I had with Allison when she woke up this morning:

"Mom, I want to go downstairs."

"Okay, but I need to change your pants first."

"I want to go downstairs."

"I know. But we can't do that until you have a new diaper."

"I want to go downstairs."

"We have to change your pants."

"I want to go downstairs."

"Allison, I have to change your pants."

"I want to go downstairs."

"I want to go to Europe."

(Pause)

"I want to go downstairs."

"Well, feel free to go by yourself. It's dark down there, though."

(Stomps feet)

"I'll go with you after we change your pants."

"I want to go downstairs."

"Okay, well, I'm going back to bed. Wake me up when you're ready to get your pants changed."

"Mom, I want to change pants."

Friday, January 8, 2010

Wanted: One blowtorch

There are about a million great reasons to have children, but one of the changes I've had trouble dealing with lately is wondering where my beautiful, organized home went.

Jerry and I spent almost a year getting our house to look the way we wanted it. We removed drop ceilings, horrid wallpaper, bought upwards of 20 gallons of paint, and I scoured every store and website for the perfect decorative touches. After all our hard work, it was a great source of pride.

But now it's filled with kid clutter that just doesn't seem to dissipate no matter how much I keep after it or how many baskets and bins I dedicate to containing it. At any given time, there is guaranteed to be something underfoot and out of place -- blocks, train track parts, books, tiny plastic characters and the random scenes they came with, board game pieces and the always-AWOL stuffed animals.

To top it off, Allison is in that awesome destructive stage. She wants to write on walls, purposely spill her drink to see where the liquid will go and throw things just to hear them hit the floor. In the past few weeks, I've sadly discovered that the Magic Eraser does have its limits. Mr. Clean can't remove pen from the back of a white door -- no matter how hard you scrub. It can, however, remove pen from placemats. And chalk from wood floor.

Every time I think I've found a somewhat acceptable place to contain her kid crap, it multiplies. I swear her things come alive at night just to procreate and take over the house. I just hope the 911 operator who answers my inevitable call about being suffocated by stuffed animals has kids so she'll understand that it's a genuine emergency.

The sad thing is, we used to have empty rooms. I remember when we first moved in, I put the desk at an angle in the office because it was the only piece of furniture in there. Now everything is crammed against a wall, not an inch of space between the bed, end table, rocking chair, bookshelf, toybox and desk.

And the center of the room is always filled with stuff that should be in the toybox.

It feels like we're bursting at the seams.

I'll know it's time to move to a bigger house when I come home to find a white flag out waiving out of the chimney.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Acknowledging what I've refused to

A close friend of mine once said I was "one of those annoying people who is good at everything."

Lovingly, of course.

I wouldn't say I even touch the hem of Martha Stewart's apron, but I do like to consider myself multi-talented when it comes to using the right side of my brain. The only problem is that it has become painfully clear that my creative juices only flow in one direction at a time. I can't portion it off, even when I want to.

A few nights ago when I didn't have any photos to edit, orders to place or sessions to book, I sat down and started reading through some of my old blog posts. I don't do it often, but when I do, it's everything I had intended it to be when I started on this venture five years ago.

It can make me laugh and cry. It can make my heart dance and break all in a few little clicks. I hadn't ever been successful at keeping a journal in my lifetime, but the daily pressure of providing something for other people to read inspired me and kept me at it. And I couldn't be more grateful.

So it probably goes without saying that I'm angry at myself for failing to document the past few months as well since starting my business. This has been one of the most interesting and demanding times of my life, and I have very little to show for it personally. I do, of course, have an incredible portfolio of images that can't be overlooked and met some really fantastic people along the way.

But lost in the mix is my writing. I thought having a baby was demanding on my personal time. Try raising a business. It requires about the same lack of sleep.

I do miss it. And I know I'm going to miss reading about Allison's daily adventures when I'm older and desperate to remember her little nuances at this age. Like how she has to say goodnight to the entire house before laying down to bed. And still hasn't completely mastered the pronunciation of certain words, so she says things like "packpack" instead of backpack and calls anything in a container that is designed to sprinkle it's contents onto food "sparkers."

As in, "I want MORE SPARKERS!" while I was topping my pasta with parmesan last night.

Then, when I added some to her bowl of noodles, she just dipped her finger repeatedly into the sparkers and licked it clean, eventually leading to the declaration, "Mmm. Cheese."

I'm not going to say I'm resolving to write more this year, because those kinds of statements are made to be broken, but I can say that the desire is there.

I have some big goals for 2010, personally and professionally, and this seems like a good start.