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.