iPhone photography

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This is not my photo. Kris took this shot of Miles on a trail near our house at sunset. I wanted to post it because:

1) I LOVE it. It makes me smile.
2) It proves that you don't have to buy big fancy equipment to be a good photographer.

Kris snapped this with his iPhone and emailed it to me. No editing was done. He just saw how gorgeous the light was and he framed it perfectly. I love how transparent Miles' hair is, and how you can tell he is smiling and running even though the shot is backlit.

It's photos like this than inspire me to keep shooting. Thanks, Kris.

pause. taste. repeat.

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When things start to feel dim, I try to remember salted caramel.

When my bones ache from exhaustion, I close my eyes and try to taste it. Sweet. Savory. Warm. Buttery. 

I'd like to thank the Frenchman who, perhaps on a whim, thought to mar something as delicate as caramel with a pinch of sea salt. This is just too much goodness. Too pure. Too sweet. People can't handle the sweet.

But this salt. It knew better. It's an overachiever.

It scours away the crustiness of your palate, making space for the creamy vanilla-tinted flavor to flood your senses full-force. I let it seep in. There's no way not to smile.

Without the salt, the sweetness would come up short. 

It's perhaps the most authentic, non-pretentious, most courageous flavor combination on the planet. (Oh, and don't argue that bacon chocolate cupcakes are any better. That's too easy.)

A few days ago, in quick succession: A pipe in the garage sprung a leak. Miles sprung a leak...a poopy, awful leak. The dog got into the diaper pail. The babysitter called in sick, twice. B thew some larger-than-life tantrums, the 3-year-old kind in which she follows you all over the house and flails about the tile floor because you said "no" to that thing, that little blasted thing that she wanted and you can't even remember what it was, but you can't give in because it would only reinforce the whole-house-full-body-contact temper tantrum. You stand firm, calm, reminding her that you love her, even when she's angry and screaming. I think for a moment, 2011 never made me any promises.

We had house guests arriving for the night. Dear, precious friends and their four children. And I worried the day would be all salt. salt. salt. salt. They'd have to dig their way to the guest room.

But then, B approached me with a tender apology and a request that I paint her fingernails while Miles napped. I love the process of painting her nails. The desire for pink sparkly fingers wins the battle against every molecule of her toddler being that wants to move. It's excruciating, the patience required to sit for 10 minutes. But she manages it. Is it dry yet, Mom? Is it now? Now? How much longer? Blow on it, Mom.

For the sake of beauty, she suffers.

At dinnertime, our friends filed through the door, one by one. Their youngest greeted Miles with an enormous grin and shouted "Baby!!" though she is just a baby herself, only a few months older than Miles. Their 4-year-old and 6-year-old embraced B and asked her immediately to play. She proudly showed him her sparkling pink nails. The parents exchanged weary hugs and smiles, fellow travelers on a perilous journey to bedtime.

And the whole house exhaled and absorbed the sweetness.

You've heard the cliche: this too shall pass. I'm learning that I don't want any of it to pass. I want it all: the leaky pipes and the tantrums and the sweetness that follows. 

make a paper flower bouquet

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B's preschool teacher is undergoing chemotherapy and has missed a lot of school the past couple weeks. B ADORES this teacher and has been sad not to see her as often, and she asked if we could bring her flowers. I wasn't sure when her teacher would be back to school, and I didn't want the flowers to wilt, so I suggested we make some paper flowers...

This turned out to be such a fun, easy project and it was a huge hit at school. I thought I'd share how we did it.

We bought several sheets of scrapbooking paper and card stock and some green pipe cleaners and decorative metal brads. Total cost: $8.50


Next I helped B cut several circles out of the paper. We didn't pay attention to the size of the circles. We just cut, cut, cut as many as we could. B had the idea to cut the edges too, so they would look more like flowers.


If you have an older child, you could trace circles so that they are more precise.

Next, I layered a few circles and attached them with a metal brad in the center.


I folded and crinkled the edges inward to give the flowers some dimension and attached a pipe cleaner to the back, securing it under the brad. I also cut a few square flowers with notches on each side....just to shake things up. Though B said she prefers her circles and my squares are too "pointy."

Noted.


You might want to try this for Valentine's Day. Instead of making stems, you could attach the flowers to card stock or a blank greeting card and slip it into an envelope--homemade Valentines are the cutest!

shoes, drugs, and existentialism

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Bronwynn has been waiting a long time to wear these shoes. A gift from her great aunt a few months ago, they were about a size too big. She would pick them up and carry them around and pet them and every few days we'd try them on to see if they fit.

You can understand the anticipation, I'm sure. They're pink. They have sparkles. They're princess shoes you can RUN in. Does it get any cooler than that??!

Finally, the day came. They fit well enough that she would not trip over and fall on her face. So she wore them to preschool.

Today, in the car, we talked about the shoes:

B: I used to be little and my shoes were too big and I falled down.

Me: Right, but now you're wearing your shoes. Why is that?

B: I'm not little anymore. I'm not a little girl. I'm high.

Me: You're what?!

B: I'm high. I got high and now my shoes fit and I won't fall over.

Me: Do you mean you got bigger?

B: Yeah. I'm a big girl now. I got high.

Me: Thanks for telling me, sweetie. I want you to know you can ALWAYS tell Mommy if you get high.

the haircut

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I didn't mean to leave you hanging.

I mentioned on my birthday that I got my hair cut. I was going for something dramatic. The result was actually not so dramatic. I asked for bangs. I haven't had bangs since 6th grade, so I was bracing myself...

What I got was bangs, but long, sorta sideswept bangs, and so I don't look all that different. If you didn't see me every day (which most of you don't), I doubt you'd notice any change.

But, alas, here is an "after" photo snapped on my iPhone.

I'm not in love with the result. But it is an improvement over the mop I was wearing. I have another appointment lined up in February and I'll see what we can do to fix it.

183/365

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Meet the Thompsons

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Readers, meet my good pals, Chris and Amy ("Weather") Thompson. I've known them about 8 years and we've managed to keep in touch fairly well despite a few moves (theirs and ours). They're the kind of sincere, laid-back, authentic, generous, adventurous, creative, fun friends that everyone should know. I had the honor of walking one of their beloved Jack Russell terriers down the aisle at their outdoor, mountain-backdropped Montana wedding. Just cool people.

When I posted last year about our move and the loneliness I was feeling in this new town, Weather sprung into action. A childhood friend of hers lives in our city, and so Weather grabbed our moving announcement and typed in both addresses on Google Maps to see if we lived anywhere close to one another. The result? Our new house is 0.2 mile away from her childhood friend. Just 6 houses away!

Weather immediately put her friend and I in touch. And now, that good friend of hers is a good friend of mine. Weather's thoughtfulness and caring at that moment was a beacon in a storm for me. Anyone who's ever picked up their young family and moved where you don't know a soul....you get what a gift that was! She connected me with an easy friendship and that friendship gave me hope for more easy friendships to come.

So, I guess now I'm hoping this blog can be a beacon for the Thompsons. Chris and Weather are on a journey toward adopting a baby. I've never been down that path, but I can imagine how exciting and painful and hopeful and agonizing and joyful and exhausting it must be. Especially the waiting and not knowing where your baby is. Who that child is. When he/she will arrive. 

I DO know that they will be endlessly loving, nurturing, safe, skillful, fun, gracious and fully capable parents.

They're working through an agency on finding an open adoption. They've passed all their home studies and jumped through various hoops and now just need to be connected with a birth mother.

This is where we can help. If you know any potential birth mothers, please pass along the links to the Thompson's adoption websites. It's about helping the Thompsons find their child....but there's another side to this too. We once knew a birth mother who struggled to find the right parents to adopt her child. She considered dozens of couples and didn't feel like any fit what she imagined for her baby. It came down to the wire for her, and I know she would have appreciated additional networking and adoptive parents to consider.

Even if you don't know of anyone, I'm sure the Thompsons would appreciate any prayers and warm wishes for their journey to parenthood.
 
Spread the word however you can. Thanks!

Here's the info:

www.chrisandamythompson.webs.com and
www.iheartadoption.org/users/chrisandamy

their toll free # is: 1-888-859-4612
email is: chrisandamythompson [at] gmail [dot] com

Overheard

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I'm always jotting down funny things the kids say. Or ridiculous things Kris and I say that we never imagined we'd ever say in those blissfully ignorant days before children. Here are a few recent favorites:

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"Well, yes, actually I do sometimes let her pee outside. But she has to come inside to poop."
--me to my nanny  mother's helper  part-time childcare support person

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B: "I remember being in mommy's belly."

Kris: "Was there a TV in there?"

B: "No."

Kris: "Was there a refrigerator?"

B: "There's not a frigerator in mommy's tummy."

Kris: "What's in there?"

B: "There's me and Miles and Belle. My room was pink. I was sleeping in mommy's belly."

Kris: "Was it crowded?"

B: "Yes."

--

"Miles doesn't need to talk. He'll talk someday when he's a big girl."
-B to the pediatrician

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"We don't leave the house without panties. It's a new rule."
-Kris

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"No, you can't take another bath. You took two baths today already."
-Me to B (our water-loving toddler)

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"Eating green noodles will help me feel better."
-B

swivel and tilt

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I'm not a trained photographer. I've learned a lot from Kris (a trained photographer) and by trial and error, and just practicing every. single. day. When I learn something new, it gives me energy and motivation to keep going.

So here's one little trick I learned last week that is making a big difference in how I shoot indoors. I had never used a flash indoors because I hate how flat it makes everything look and the colors get all wonky. I rely instead on natural light, which means that I'm always watching the sun and plopping the kids down by a window to take some shots. Or, I just make it easier on myself and go outside.

Then Kris remembered he has this external flash that tilts and swivels, so you can bounce light off the ceiling or behind you rather than directly off your subject. It's amazing.

...I know all you seasoned photographers are probably rolling your eyes and saying "duh, Gina....that's like, the oldest trick in the book." But to me, it's as if the heavens parted and dropped the gift of natural light into my lap. Natural light that I can create anytime I want to. Like GOD.

Let me show you what I mean. Here's an indoor shot of Miles taken in early evening with no flash....just natural light:

 Pretty dark, eh? Though still cute...
Now, here's a shot taken with the external flash pointed almost directly at Miles:


I pointed the flash over the top of his head so that he wouldn't have red-eye, but still, the direct flash is way too strong. He looks two dimensional and totally washed out.

So then, I pointed the flash toward the ceiling and tried again:


Much better, though still looks over-exposed, especially where the natural light hits him on the side of his face. So, I turned down the intensity of the flash (I'm not sure how I did this...Kris helped me.). I also tilted the flash further back so that it bounced behind me. The result is much more natural, I think:


It helps that Miles put his arms up, shielding some of the light from his face.

I still need to practice with this, but one area it will help immensely is in taking photos in the kids' bedrooms, which receive less predictable light.

Just for fun, here's a couple other shots I took this week (no flash):

My birthday flower from B, which is still miraculously alive after 12 days in a vase. 

The playground near our house. The swings looked lonely to me. 

365 Project

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I've been catching up on my photo uploading/editing and wanted to post a few favorites....It's been much harder than I thought to keep up with shooting a meaningful photo every day!


This was a little family hike we took the day after Christmas. It was about 70 degrees out and gorgeous and the kids really enjoyed picking up sticks, rocks and pine cones. I loved the looks of concentration on their faces.

 
The birthday cake that B and Kris made for me. It was a total surprise to come home to this, and it was SO yummy. And SO pink! Kris also took photos of B mixing the cake so I would have that memory too. Love that man.


Kris also cleaned out our fireplace and made sure it was safe and operational before the cold snap hit New Year's Eve. That evening, as the temperature dipped below freezing and we snuggled up by the fire, I felt more at home in our house than I have in 6 months of living here. What is it about fire that is so soothing?

I just discovered Kris has an old swivel flash, which lets you bounce light off the ceiling or at different angles rather than directly at your subject (flashing directly at the subject is usually too harsh and makes them look flat). I'm enjoying playing with that and will have some more photos to post soon...Stay tuned.

the village

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On New Year's Eve, I used my Facebook status to complain about my nanny quitting. It took four months to find someone I really trusted with my kids and after two months she emailed to say she was leaving us. I thought of Carrie Bradshaw's infamous Post-It note breakup in "Sex And The City." It stung, and so I said so.

My life is full of wonderful, precious things. I want you to know that, readers. I am brimming with joy over all the gifts I've been given. Everywhere I look, blessings: my husband, my children, a lovely home, good food and friends to share it with (to name just a few.) 

Even so, 2010 was a painful year, and the nanny quitting was the least of it. Three of my best friends lost their fathers. Two of my childhood/college friends died. We moved away from our support network to a city where we didn't know anyone. Illness. Vandalism. A car accident. And there were other, more personal losses that I can't even type here.

So, getting an email from the nanny felt like a little shriveled cherry atop the mud pie, and I vented about it to the peanut gallery.

I was perplexed, though, about some of the responses I received. The issue became more about my having a nanny....it was a surprise to some people. I'm not calling out anyone in particular here...I got several comments, plus a couple of private messages. I really valued getting the feedback (snarky as some of it was), and I wanted a chance to respond at greater length.

First, an apology: I never intended to hide the fact I had a nanny. I am not superwoman. I'm sorry if I ever gave that impression, friends. I cannot do what I do--raise my children, write for magazines, blog, practice photography, cook, manage a household--alone. That's to say nothing of the things I want to do like finish the book I've been writing, exercise more, read, fix up our house, and socialize with new friends.

Second: Why do we make assumptions about mothers who have help? Would anyone have thought twice if I had said that I have a supportive mother/sister/aunt/friend helping me raise my kids, as opposed to a professional whom I pay? Do we judge women in other cultures who lean heavily on a network of helpers (be it the village, family members, or paid help)?

Maybe the word "nanny" is loaded in some way...Our nanny watches the kids on average 15 hours a week, so she's no Mary Poppins, but she's more than a "babysitter" to us. And, like many cities, where we live it's cheaper to hire a part-time nanny than to pay for part-time daycare at a center. Bizarre, but true.

Lastly, I want to challenge: If you're a mother, do you have support in your life? If not, why? There is no badge of honor for going it alone. Superwoman is a myth. And I can tell you that bad things happen when mothers isolate themselves.

Only you know how much help you need. But be honest with yourself. Writing is my sanity, and I think the ability to write alone a few hours each day is what helps me be a healthy, involved, patient mom. I feel lucky that this is my job. ...Maybe you just need an hour a day to eat some lunch, to exercise, to have an adult conversation, or take a shower. Maybe you need much more in order to work full-time and meet your family's needs.

The bottom line is, there are no martyrs here. Seek support in the areas you need it.

I think that's all I wanted to say.  

Now, I will dip into the well of optimism. I'll embrace whatever 2011 holds. Even if it's more pain, because I don't believe life happens to us. It happens for us, to mold us and teach us. And having seen pain, it's easier to recognize the joy. I know I've said that before, but I'm constantly reminded of it. Thanks to pain, joy is more visceral, more vivid.

Thanks for making The Daily B so successful in 2010. I hope you'll continue reading and commenting (and criticizing!) in 2011. I really think it's a gift having so many people walking beside me in this crazy motherhood journey.

more of this, please

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Cold weather. 

Happy, healthy family. 

A day with no agenda. 


Nectar. 


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