Tuesday, May 31, 2011

30 Day Photography Challenge ~ Day 1

Alright everyone, here is your first challenge!

Day 1 - Your self portrait.

You can cheat and use a tripod or a timer, I suppose.  You can take a picture with your cell phone in a bathroom if that's what it takes.  Who are you, right now?

Me...well, forgive the wet hair. I should have dried it for y'all.  I fiddled with the editing software a little, but this is me.  Right. Now.

I wanna see YOU!  Bring it!

30 Day Photography Challenge

Are you ready????

I am so ready. 

I love, love, love photography.  I don't allow myself nearly enough time to engage in it as I should.  I'm not a terribly gifted artist when it comes to drawing or painting or sculpting or anything like that.  But I can take a kick ass picture.

Here's the plan:

Every day for the month of June, I will promise to take and share at least one picture, according to the prompts that I've put together. 

I'd love it if you played along.  There is even a prize in it at the end!  Post pictures each day to my Facebook fan page. 

Some of the prompts are fairly straightforward.  Some of them require a little planning.  Some of them require a degree of creativity.  Any of them that require technical skills, I'm totally willing to help you out with.  (especially that up-close shot and action photos)

The idea is not to re-use old pictures, but to take new ones.  If you can't get out there and shoot for whatever reason and have a fabulous submission for the day that you took before, by all means, please share it. 

I've already got ideas for the next 30 days.  :)

Have fun with it!


Say what? 

I know, it's not the catchiest title.  To be honest, it's something that I probably should have joined and written about a long time ago.

Essentially, NaBloPoMo is a group of bloggers who vow to write something, anything, daily.  Which I already do.  I write every day unless my blog host disappears from the internet for 2 days, I am traveling without access to the internet or so far past being busy that I have no time to sit.


For anyone who is interested in blogging, this is a great group to join, and I highly recommend it.  There are thousands of other bloggers there for support, in varying stages of their blogging adventures.  This particular site offers daily writing prompts when you can't think of anything to write.

I've definitely found that writing daily has benefits.  It keeps me disciplined, it keeps me focused, and it has drastically improved my writing.  I'm faster, and better.

I read some of the stuff I wrote when I first started blogging and just shake my head. 

Which is the point of my sharing this all with you.  If you love to write, write.  Write whenever you can, write even when you don't feel like it, just write.  Write, write, write. 

It will get easier. You will get faster.  It will come more naturally.  I promise.

Here's a link to my page there.  For the month of June, I will be posting links to my blog every day.  On top of doing the photography challenge. 


You can do it! 

Friday, May 27, 2011

The Edge of Glory

I'm a bit overwhelmed by the response I've received to my writing in the last few months. 

And yeah, I'm borrowing another title from Lady Gaga. 

This whole blogging thing was a bet I had with a friend.  She'd get on Facebook if I'd start writing something.  It wasn't ever intended to become what it has.  Yet, here I am now, just shy of two and a half years into it, actually contemplating writing a book.

I've had pieces picked up and published by a few other websites.  Some that I made submissions to, others completely unsolicited. 

I was featured on BlogHer Food a few weeks back, made the main page feature this week.  I just received notification of another published piece coming from Mamapedia. 

It's been amazing.

Though I really do write for myself almost all of the time, I have to admit that the validation is nice.  The confirmation that what I do here is worth other people's time and energy. 

Now that school is out for the summer, I am committed to taking this next step.  I've begun working on the book already.  It's the fine tuning and putting it all together to be perfect that will take me the longest, I know.

It seems weird for me to say it, but I just really believe that this is going to work.  That this book is going to get picked up by a publisher.  That this is the path it seems I am supposed to be walking.  That this is what I am meant to do.

It feels right.

And at the same time, it feels so strange.

I was never supposed to be a writer, but I am. 

I love what I am doing right now.

I love being a writer.

I've learned quickly that my best writing comes effortlessly.  The days it seems impossible to put the words together are my challenge to overcome.  I promised myself when I started this that I would write something every day, and for the most part I have.  I make mental notes about the things that I see.  I wake up in the middle of the night with ideas.  I write and write and write some days.

At some point on this journey, I went from simply being a person who writes to a writer.

I thank my father for helping nudge me over that edge.

Now it's to be seen whether I can stomach the failure I am destined for.  If I can take the rejections that will be thrown in my face.  I've never been terribly good at failure, in fact I've in large part avoided it throughout my life.  I am going into this next phase of the journey expecting it though.  Anticipating it. 

Knowing that I will hear no over and over before yes.

I'm willing to fail a thousand times if that's what it takes.

I will sell this book.

Don't worry, you can all say you knew me before I was famous.  ;)

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Mommy needs a drink

Sometimes mommy needs a drink.

Sometimes that drink comes in the form of a jello shot.  Shhh....don't judge

Sometimes it comes as a beer snuck in the basement before noon.

Sometimes it is required since you had to open the bottle of wine to make dinner.

Sometimes it's a mimosa after drop off on the first day of school.

Sometimes it's the liqueur added to the coffee carried around Halloween night.

Sometimes it's the beer that goes with the pizza that the soccer team eats.

Sometimes it's a martini out with friends.

Sometimes it's a margarita on a porch.

Sometimes it's tequila, straight up.

It is always, always well deserved.

To my friends out there, a toast. 

May your children never find your stash of chocolate. 
May you boobs never sag to your knees. 
May your husband never point out the gray hairs on your head. 
May you survive your children's childhoods. 
May you still be crazy enough to make new stories worth telling. 
May your liquor cabinet never be empty. 
May you be surrounded by women who understand.
May you remember that it's always 5 o'clock somewhere.


The Angry Bulgarian

I went to FedEx to ship a package last week.  A big one.  A big giant one.

It takes me months of planning to do that, really.   I promise a friend that I will send her my girls' outgrown clothes, then it takes me at least two months to actually make good on the promise. 

I'm terribly bad at it for some reason.

But I was so proud of myself last week.  I had located a big giant box and crammed it full of stuff to send her.  I'd even taped it and addressed it in the same day.  Shocking, I know.

I loaded it up in the car to take it to FedEx, knowing that it was better for me to go alone.  AJ has this way of dismantling that particular store in 7.3 seconds, then opening at least two packages of candy, which I then am obligated to purchase. 


So I went alone, which was a good thing.  If I'd had the kids with me, it would not have been fun.  I would have had to drag the box back to the car and wait even longer to ship it.

No way could I have waited as long as I did with the kids.  No way. 

I walked in, lugging the giant box, to find a couple waiting at the desk with two boxes to ship.  No big deal, right?  It only takes a few minutes per box. And honestly, I didn't care because I didn't have any small humans to supervise.  I can wait.  All good.

Then I heard her.  That voice.  The whining.  The complaining.  The accent.  Even not being able to clearly understand everything she was saying, it was obvious that she was bitching.

The angry Bulgarian.

Behind the counter, one employee.

The lady waiting ahead of me sighed audibly.  We exchanged the mutual look of gosh, she is a pain in the ass!

I was immediately reminded why working in retail sucks ass.

Turns out that the heavily accented whiner had been there a while.  How long, I don't know.  I walked in just as it got good though.  When she'd been given the price to pack and ship all her boxes. 

Over $3200.

Holy crap!

My jaw must have hit the floor because the lady ahead of me giggled.  She'd been there longer than I had and knew how much this whiner was intending to spend to ship her stuff. 

You'd have thought she was shipping something really heavy or expensive.  I guess she'd make that argument, being as she was the one who created the masterpieces.  She was shipping her art (that she'd made) home to Bulgaria.  I use the term art loosely.

She condensed it in a few less boxes, then started whining about how Fedex was charging $20 a box to pack it. Ummm....you are spending over $800 per box to ship it.  I'd err on the side of caution and let them pack it in case something breaks. 

Before she was done, one of the pieces she'd grabbed from the employee's hand broke.  Totally the crazy lady's fault.  Then she wanted to know what FedEx was going to do about it.  How was she going to get her money back for the damage?  Where was the manager?  Could she talk to someone right now?  What is the international claim number?  The poor employee.  I felt really bad for her.  There wasn't much I could do to help her though.

And mostly I just wanted to pay for my box and leave. 

Finally, overwhelmed and sensing that we'd been kept waiting far too long because of this one person's ridiculous demands, she told the angry Bulgarian she had to help the other people waiting.  First she helped the lady in front of me.  Then she took my box. 

I couldn't help but actually laugh out loud when she rang up my total. $23. 

I gladly paid, then wished the angry Bulgarian a nice day as I walked out the door.  And I laughed all the way to the car.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Listen Up, Overcompensators

Is overcompensator even a word?  If it's not, I invented it. 

I've seen it with my own eyes.  I've smelled it's putrid breath.  I've been witness to the crazed behavior it creates.  I've seen how it can intrude upon others.  I've been touched by it. 

At least I wasn't drooled on by it, like someone I know.


So, among the 487 things I did today, I watched my baby girl sing songs with her fellow kindergartners on the last day of their kindergarten lives.  They had a little presentation in the gym amidst all the other stuff going on today.

I knew this, so I got there early.  Hell, who am I kidding?  I was at school the entire day.  But I sat out front of the gym extra early so I could grab front row seats for the little performance.  I was kind enough to save seats for some of the other parents, who happen to be good friends of mine, at least one of which is most certainly dousing herself in bleach this afternoon and no longer thanking me for saving that seat. 

Anyway, I got there early.  Did you get that part?  You know, where you arrive somewhere early enough to get the best seats?  Like, on purpose? 

Okay.  Good. 

I know you are all intelligent enough people to understand that is how it works. 

The row of people directly behind us need a lesson in it.  Apparently.

At some point right before the presentation began,  Ms. Overcompensator sat down.  She whined audibly about the people sitting in front of her who took the best seats.  Hello?  We are sitting two feet away from you.  We can hear you bitching.  And yes, we are snickering at YOU.

Head meet wall.

Then she decided that since she wasn't being given the seats that she so clearly deserved, she would lean all the way forward, perching herself just on the edge of her seat.  The whole time.  Breathing her nasty breath between our heads.

At least during the times when she was sitting. 

Then there were the other times.   

The time she screamed out "good little girl!"  and "pretty girl!" in her screechy voice in the middle of a song to draw her kid's attention for the pictures she insisted on snapping almost continuously.    Good little girl?  What is she?  A dog?  I don't talk to my kids that way, especially not in public.  Sheesh.

The times she practically used my friend's head as a tripod for her camera.   More than once, people.  More than once. 

The pinnacle of her rudeness?  When she leaned over a little too far to wave to the kid and drooled on my tripod friend's hair.  I so wish I was making this up.

I'm sure that everyone who videotaped the performance will be delighted to hear her commentary running through their video constantly.  Because nothing warms the heart of a sentimental parent more than some random chick yapping in the background.

I'm whining, I know.  But I can't stand to have moments that I want to cherish with my kids invaded by rude people.  Especially ones that are so clearly over the top trying to make up for their general lack of presence at everything else all year.  I can honestly say I've never seen this woman before in my life, nor had any of the other moms I talked to. 

Listen up, overcompensators of the world:

I get it, lady.  You're here and you're excited.   This is clearly the only thing you've shown up for all year and need to make sure the kid sees you.   And that everyone else knows you are there.  But don't be rude and interrupt everything.  Unless you actually have Tourette's, you can't just blurt shit stuff out in the middle of a performance by 6 year olds.  And please, don't drool on people.  That's just nasty.

I couldn't help but feel sorry for the girl she was there to see.  Poor thing.  She's still young enough to be clueless about how embarrassing her family was today.   That's going to change.

Someday, she's going to be mortified.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

July, anyone?

Everywhere I look, everywhere I go.  June.

June.  June.  June.

Only a few days left of May, it's knocking on my door.  Ready or not.

Infiltrating my email inbox, signs posted in the stores.  Soon the Sunday paper will do it too. 

The commercials will start. 

The rows and rows of cards that I will never buy again.

It is a lot like how I felt after I'd lost the baby and felt like every.single.woman in the world was pregnant but me.

Except now, what I see are little old men.  Grandfathers picking up their grandkids from school.  Family outings at the park. 

I know that my radar is just heightened.  I know that I'm just more sensitive to it all right now.  I know that June comes every year and brings that day with it. 

Him walking me down the aisle, in June of course.
I know this. 

But it doesn't make it easier.

Last Father's Day, he was still here.  He opened a gift from my kids like he did every year.   He answered a phone call from me.   He was loved on by my baby nephew.  He was still here. 

How am I supposed to get through Father's Day without one?

I don't know.  

I will have to, somehow. 

I'll remember all the lessons my Dad taught me, including those he was still working on at the end.  I'll honor the memories, cherish the time I have with my own kids as he did with us. 

I'll drop whatever I am doing to toss a ball in the backyard, play 3 day long marathon games of Monopoly.   I'll teach my kids to keep score at a baseball game, I'll show my son how to throw a hook with a bowling ball. 

I'll watch some NASCAR, just like I did with him every weekend it was on.  I might even pretend to be interested this time.

I'll open a can of Coors Light and send a toast up to the sky. 

I'll miss him something fierce, though. 

June isn't going to be the same without him.  Never will be again.

I'd like to just skip straight to July this time around, if that's okay with all the rest of you.

Shock and Awe

Living with a man and having children have served in my life as constant reminders of the fact that I need to, from time to time, let my crazy out. 

You haven't seen my crazy, I assure you. 

Okay, so a few of you have.

For those who've been at the mercy of my crazy before, you understand why it is something to be feared.

I've been told I am scary.

There's a tone of my voice that is reserved only for the crazy. 

Back when I started working as a doula, I partnered up with one of my best friends in our joint endeavor.  It was good almost all the time.  All those warnings from other people about how you should never work with family or friends were clearly mistaken.  Until one day.  I don't honestly even remember what triggered it, but at some point we ended up screaming at each other. 

Two grown women, full on yelling.

You'd think that might cause a rift between us.  Actually, it didn't.  At all, shockingly.  We both understood that we had to let the crazy out.  And, at that particular moment in time, the person who needed to receive the crazy was also throwing it back. 

Sometimes you just have to do it. 

Like when you come home from the grocery store to a house that looks as if a tornado hit it, while your husband is calmly sitting on the couch reading a book, oblivious to the chaos everywhere.

Or when the kid's room that you just spent 3 hours cleaning up resembles a disaster area the next day. 

There are plenty of reasons that the crazy is released, for sure.

I've learned, though, that you can't let your crazy out all the time.  You can't overuse it or people will start to ignore it.  Become numb to it.  Then it won't work anymore.

You have to tuck it away and save it for the times when you really need it. 

Your crazy also has to be impressive enough to stop them in their tracks.  The release of the crazy isn't a time for holding back.  It's an all out declaration of war. 

And it's extremely effective, when used properly.  ;)

Shock and Awe, people. Shock and Awe.

Raising a kid is part joy and part guerrilla warfare ~ Ed Asner

Monday, May 23, 2011

Is he into you?

Sure, there are ways to tell if a guy isn't into you.  There's a book and a movie about it, even.  But how can you tell if he is? 

It can be hard to tell.  Especially if you've turned into an old married couple like we have.  Or if you are in the uncertain stages of a new relationship.  It's not like men come with a manual.  Lord knows we sure don't.  And these aren't the signs that we're trained to look for.  These are the ones that matter, though. 

Seems like these days, I have friends in every stage imaginable in their relationships. 

Some are still in the holy crap this is exciting and fun and new stage.  I miss that stage. 

Others, like me, have been with their husband for what seems like forever.  Though there are certainly moments (okay maybe even weeks) of imperfection, there are still the times when I catch his eye from across the room and know I'm supposed to be with him. 

Maybe I'm just all gushy with love and adoration of him because he vacuumed and ran to the liquor store for margarita mix and tequila in the same day. 

Note to all the guys out there: do chores It makes y'all way more appealing

Seriously.  I can't think of many things sexier than a man who dusts. 

And I've digressed. 

The whole point of this was supposed to be that when a guy really is into you, you can tell.  Like, when he brings you home paint samples because he truly understands your crazy.

Or when he tapes the shows he knows you'll want to see without you asking first.

Or when he downloads the new album from your favorite artist.

Or when he fixes the electronic devices you yell at.

You know a guy is into you when he cooks for you.  You know he loves you when he makes dessert.  You know he is head over heels when he'll take on something like risotto. 

Or when he invites you along to fish or golf or play poker.

Guys don't just invite girls along for those things unless they really, really, really like you.

You know he's into you when he talks about getting a pet together.  No lie, that is a huge commitment for a guy.

You know he's really fallen hard when you start a fund to buy a pig.  Not kidding, I know someone actually in this process.

You know he's into you when he makes sure you meet his friends.  Even the ones that happen to be other women, and especially the ones who aren't unattractive.

You know he's madly in love with you when he has you meet his family, especially the crazy ones. 

You know he's into you if he'll go see a chick flick in the theater. 

You know he loves you if he actually paid attention.

These are just some of the ways to tell if he's really into you.  A little unconventional, yes.  But accurate.

Trust me.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Ruffle Conspiracy

I noticed something a few months ago, around the same time that a good friend of mine noticed the same thing.  Something that is very, very, very wrong. 

Something that was still wrong when I was out again yesterday. 

Something that clearly points to a conspiracy.

We'd both been looking for clothes for the new Spring/Summer season, for ourselves.  Which is just weird to begin with since both of us tend to buy our kids far more than we ever get for ourselves.  Neither of us had much luck. 

So much for good intentions. 

The reason we both walked out of stores empty handed? 

Ruffles.  Ruffles as far as the eye could see.  It seems like every single top, tank, dress and even sweater this year has a ruffle on it somewhere.

Just one of the 673 ruffled shirts available
at your local Kohl's right now. 
I don't wear ruffles.

I have this opinion that grown women should not.  There should be an age limit on them.   And for god's sake, a size limit.   It's hard to pull off layers intended to make you look flowy and drapey and delicate when you aren't under 105 pounds.

Trust me on this one.

The designers appear to disagree.  They are trying to force us into ruffles, largely by not making much of anything else. 

I wish that there were more places locally to find affordable (okay, just plain cheap) clothes for me.  A woman in her 30's that doesn't want to dress like a 5 year old.  I wish that the retailers around here would jump off the bandwagon they seem to be on.  Every designer they carry in the stores here seems to be thinking the same thoughts.  Those thoughts clearly include no fewer than two consecutive seasons of ruffles. 

I like variety.

Classic lines.  Coordinating pieces.  Maybe a print.  Maybe.  But it would have to be an age appropriate print, not something that looks like a child should be wearing it.  Or like something that appeals to women over the age of 65. 

What happens to your fashion sense, by the way, when you get old?  I wonder about that.  Sure, there are some older ladies out there rocking their outfits.  But most of them settle into polyester and appliques and loud obnoxious prints and sensible shoes.  Note to self: never buy polyester.

Designers of the world....I implore you to stop this madness.  Break the pact you seem to have with one another.  Dress us better.  Please.

No more ruffles.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Kids are gross

Really, they are.

It's one of those things they should warn you about. 

Every new parent anticipates changing diapers and occasional spit up...but there is so much more nasty to having kids.  So.much.more.

There are things that will come out of your children you could have never imagined.

And at least one parent has to have an iron stomach. You can't both be sympathetic barfers.  Do not laugh, I'm being completely serious.  Someone has to clean it up. 

When you are dating, it should be one of the things you discuss with a potential spouse. 

Like, in the order of priority:
1) what is your overall philosophy on life?
2) how do you enjoy occupying your free time?
3) does seeing or smelling vomit make you hurl?

I urge you to ask that question before you have kids. 

It doesn't help that I have a herd of them.  This year, I have three entire classes of nasty to worry about.  It's not just my kids and their propensity to acquire germs that is the issue, it's all their classmates that bring stuff to school to share. 

Why do we teach them to share????

Next year, it's going to be four of them.  Four petri dishes that I willingly place my kids in with regularity.  Yippee.

I keep telling myself that at some point, it will get better.  Childhood immunity works that way.  Eventually they get most of the viruses that are passed around, and the lifelong wonder of immunity as a result.  It seems to have worked on Aidan, and even Ashley a little, this year.  They haven't been sick hardly as much as the little ones. 

Of course, Aidan still missed the equivalent of almost a month of school.  Clearly I am delusional. 

Whenever something comes into my house and gets passed around, I feel like we should be good for a while after.  Like we've paid our cosmic barfing dues for the year and should be granted a pass for a while. 

Never seems to happen that way though. 

And people laugh.  Tell me how I remind them to take their birth control.  Ha, ha, ha.  Glad I can help.

I don't need that reminder though, at least not when the kids are sick.   I had two kids and a barf bowl in my bed last night.  There ain't nothing else going on.

Ah, motherhood. 

Ain't it grand?

Today, I'd like to give a shout out to the people at Kenmore.  The ones who clearly have had children, and in their infinite wisdom created a sanitary cycle on the washing machine.   Makes my life a little less nasty.

I said a little.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

30 Days of Music - Day 30

Day 30 - What was your favorite song at this time last year?

See, now I knew this challenge was going to suck. 

A year ago, I heard this song for the first time in the car and immediately related to it.  I found myself doing what it says too many times to count. 

Except that none of the wishes I made on airplanes were granted. 

I try very hard to not be angry about losing my father.  I do.  I know that with time, he came to a place of peace and acceptance with what was happening.  He had time to say his goodbyes and tie up his loose ends.  He had time to sit and talk with each of his siblings. 

If there is such a thing as dying well, he did it. 

But I'm still angry.  I want him back.  I want him healthy.  I want him to see his grandchildren grow up.  I want him here, even if just to meet the next one.

I struggle with feeling sorry for people who are just now losing grandparents and older.  Mourning the loss of someone who went peacefully at 90 years old just seems inconsistent.  They had their long life.  That isn't something that should be mourned, really.  It should be celebrated.

It's those who go too soon that we should mourn.  The ones that could have used a wish.  

I know I made more than a few that never came true.

I do love this song, I probably always will.  Still, it hurts to hear.  A reminder of what I couldn't do to help him.

This is a fitting way for this challenge to end.  I miss you, Daddy.

Airplanes, B.o.B. feat. Hayley Williams

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

30 Days of Music - Day 29

Day 29 - What is a song from your childhood?

Oh so many. 

Like most people I suppose, there is a soundtrack of my life.  Songs that mean something to me from a time and place in my past. 

When I first thought of doing this challenge, this is the song that popped into my head first. 

Not sure why really, except that maybe I will always associate this song with the my extended family, at least when I was little.  Living dangerously, partying hard, raising hell.  All that. 

This song, was, I believe, my uncle's favorite.  Or it should be.  I can't listen to anything by Rod Stewart without thinking of him.

Uncle Kev.

The jeep driving, teeny OP shorts wearing, beer drinking, cool uncle.  (Okay, so in all fairness, that really could be a description for any of them at one point or another).

I really do have a pretty awesome family. 

This is the song that immediately makes me think about that time we were all out in the desert camping.   I remember the smell...must have been the trip out by Salton Sea.   The sand rails and motorcycles and trucks that rolled backwards down the hills they didn't make it up.  Taking the camper shells off the trucks, taking the tops off the Jeeps.  Shooting beer cans just for the hell of it.  

I must have been about 7 or so back then.  Old enough to know that adrenaline is a ridiculous high.    Strapped into the backseat of his Jeep with my cousins on one of those mornings, Uncle Kev at the wheel.   Flying through a ravine, we caught a boulder wrong and flipped. 

We landed almost completely upside down.  A trickling stream beneath us, we could just touch it from where we landed.  Three little girls, hanging upside down, laughing until we cried.  We weren't scared.  At all.

Just like we weren't scared when that ride broke at Fiesta days and we were stuck upside down waiting for them to repair it.  The hammerhead.  Ahhh.

Those were the days.

This is the song I remember hearing more than any other one from back then.  And the song that will forever make me think of Uncle Kev.   About sitting around campfires way too late.  Of the time when it still really was all good. 

Hot Legs,  Rod Stewart

Hurried Random Thoughts on a Wednesday Morning

I have no time today.  Like, none.

There are people in my life who always tell me they are too busy, and I shake my head in silent agreement with them, knowing that they really aren't anywhere near as busy as they think they are.  Or want other people to be.

But whatever.  It's frustrating for those of us who truly need at least 6 more hours in a day just to get everything done.

I've been up an hour already trying to get everything ready for today.  You know, all the stuff I didn't get around to yesterday.

The last Daisy meeting of the year is today, after a 5 hour long field trip that I am going on with Ally, but not before I have to drive AJ to his grandparents' house so they can attempt to keep him alive while I'm insanely busy.  Oh, and there is some other thing at school after the field trip, but I can't honestly remember what it is, just that I have to be there. 

Can't forget to have Ashley take her giant butterfly.  Mental note.

May is chaos.  It's just crazy busy.  I barely have time to do what I have to, let alone do what I want to.  Can hardly even think straight.

One more week and this school year will be done.  Though right now, I am feeling excited to not be so busy, I'm also dreading the whininess of boredom.  (Yes, that is a word.  I totally just made it up.)

I should find out at least one of the kids' teachers for next year today, the others will come home in the folders tomorrow.  Then Friday.  Oh Friday.  Commonly known around these parts as "Freak Out Friday", where it seems like half the parents at the school get their panties in a wad over the teacher they are assigned, grab their pitchforks and head to school. 

And people wonder why I don't want to really get back into education.

It's not the kids.  Trust me.

I still have four lunches to make and a bag to pack for the little boy.  Three of the kids are still sleeping, which makes all the sense in the world.  They get up at 6am when I don't want them to, but the day I need them up, zzzzzz.

Sorry for the brevity and discombobulation this morning.  I don't have time to organize my thoughts.

Maybe tomorrow, but probably not. 

Just saying.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

30 Days of Music - Day 28

Day 28 - What is a song that makes you feel guilty?

I've been thinking about this one a lot today.

I have a handful of regrets in this life.  Things that I would take back if I could.  Only one of them has a song attached to it though.  And it's this one. 

Ironically, I wrote about this regret already.  In that last challenge I did.  The 30 Days of Truth.  You can read it here, if you're inclined.   

He gave me a CD for Christmas, a movie soundtrack.  He knew I would love it.  This song was on it.  I've never been able to listen to it without thinking about what I did to him.

Blaze of Glory, Jon Bon Jovi

Monday, May 16, 2011

30 Days of Music - Day 27

Day 27 - What is a song that you wish you could play on an instrument?

Well, given yesterday's completely pathetic answer, this one is an easy one to answer.

Anything.  By anyone. 

The Unreasonable Expectations We Put On Ourselves

A few weeks ago, we had to sit the kids down and warn them in advance that this summer was going to suck.  There weren't going to be lots of fun camps and classes, there weren't going to be expensive leagues to join and things to do. 

We'd be going to the pool and the library, the parks and the free events in town. 

So much for the promises that we made them last year about how awesome this summer was going to be. 

We're tapped out.  Spent a not-so-small fortune in all the trips we made back and forth across the country to see my father, then to get everyone out there for the services after he passed.  Then there is the matter of the most expensive three week long trip ever, the story of which begins here.  As if the fact that it happened during Christmastime wasn't enough. 

There's not much left to do anything extra. 

I felt bad about that for a while.  Really, I did.  The kids have had summers filled with camps and craft clubs and music lessons and swim teams.  They know how much stuff they can do.  They see what their friends do. 

Then I realized how ridiculous it all is and stopped feeling so bad about it.

I stopped apologizing to my children.

How ridiculous are we all as parents? 

How many completely unnecessary things do we deem necessary?

How high do we set the expectations we put on ourselves to be "good" parents?

How much do we push ourselves to make things perfect for them?

Kids don't need expensive craft camps to be happy.  They just need some finger paint or a few rolls of tape.

For the price that $250/week LEGO camp cost, you could buy a ton of LEGOs to keep all the time.

They don't need to join expensive swimming teams to get wet.  Give them a hose and see what happens in the backyard.

They don't need to go away to overnight camp to have a good childhood.  Plenty of us never went, yet somehow we survived.

I need, we all need, to stop believing that we can make our kid's lives better by paying someone else to entertain them for a few hours. 

We need to stop thinking that the only path to raising successful adults is filled with perfectly balanced schedules of enrichment. 

We need to stop.

Kids need time to just be kids.  They need time to play with their friends outside of these activities.  To just play.

They need time to build forts and go on nature hikes and chase each other with the hose in the backyard. 

They also need to know what downtime is.  What boredom is like.  How to occupy themselves quietly for hours at a time.  They need to read.  To draw.  To lay on their backs in the grass and find things in the clouds. 

We need to stop believing that we need to entertain them all the time. 

I don't want to start sounding like the crotchety old fart that I really am, but it's the truth.  When we were kids, how many of us had carefully scripted summer vacations?  How many of our parents made sure that our programs didn't overlap or leave too many gaps?  How many of our parents spent every day in the car shuttling us all over town every day for three months?

I'd bet not too many.  I know this because while I was home bored all summer, my friends were there with me.  They weren't hard to plan play dates with because of their schedules.  They were bored too. 

I'm hoping that there are at least a few people out there who will understand what I mean.  I'm hoping my kids might have friends around this summer who aren't always busy. 

Because we won't be.

We'll be hanging out at the pool.  We'll be playing in the backyard.  We'll be at the park.  We'll be reading every afternoon.  We'll be having fun chasing each other with the hose rather than focusing on who needs to go where when.

This summer isn't going to suck. 

In fact, it just might be what we all need right about now.


Sunday, May 15, 2011

So, yeah

I'm not real good at hiding my emotions, at least not for prolonged periods of time. 

I'm trying to.  I've been trying to do that for a long time now.

In fact, I've done such a good job that most people have no idea what I'm even talking about.

Starting to wonder what the point of trying is anyway.

There just comes a point when you can't take it anymore.  You can only fake it for so long.

Getting close.

Damn close.

This is a place I never imagined being at this point in my life.  At least I'd always hoped I wouldn't be.

So much for that.

I didn't get to choose.

What I do get to choose, though, it where to go from here.

I just hope I'm doing the right thing.

Whatever that is.

Cryptic enough?


I'll work on being funny.  I've sucked at that lately.

30 Days of Music - Day 26

Day 26 - What is a song you can play on an instrument?

Oh, my readers.  Prepare to be vastly disappointed.

I can't play any instruments.  I can't sight read music.  I took piano lessons for a while, but if I was to sit on a bench and tap on the keys today, there are only a handful of songs I could play.

That bad.

Mary Had a Little Lamb

Saturday, May 14, 2011

30 Days of Music - Day 25

Day 25 - What is a song that makes you laugh?

How about this one?  It's ridiculous.

I'm Too Sexy, Right Said Fred

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

30 Days of Music - Day 24

Day 24 - What is a song you want played at your funeral?

My husband jokingly said he wants dueling banjos.

As for me, I don't know.

I guess the only answer is Ave Maria.   

Monday, May 9, 2011

30 Days of Music - Day 23

Day 23 - What is a song that you want played at your wedding?

Well, being as I've been married for a while now, this one has already been answered.

The song here, not even one I chose.  He did.  My dad. 

This is the song we danced to for the father/daughter dance.  I'd sure love one more dance.

Butterfly Kisses, Bob Carlisle

The Day After Mother's Day

Mondays are normally a little chaotic around here.  I can always plan on a lot of cleaning on Monday morning. 

Yesterday, though, was not a typical Sunday. 

It was Mother's Day. 

A day off.

Rest, relaxation, pampering, right?  Right????

Not so much.

I spent a while out back removing the landscaping material from underneath the sand in the play area.   The edges are fraying and coming up, the kids are tripping over them.  Just an FYI to all the husbands out there....when your wife asks you nicely to take the ripped landscape fabric out or replace it before you put 6 tons of sand on it....listen.

Anyway, after ripping out the fabric, I did get to sit on my porch and relax a little.  I didn't cook.  My one handed husband made breakfast, my son made dinner.  Which was nice. 

It's more the issue of what they didn't do that's bugging me.

Mother's Day is supposed to be a day for me to sit back and rest, right?  That's how they advertise it anyway.  And I didn't cook.  I didn't clean except for that one load of laundry. 

Trouble is....no one else did either.

This morning, I woke up to a kitchen that looked like a bomb went off in it.  Sand on the table.  Sand under the table.  Okay, really...sand just everywhere.   Napkins and cups, even a plate on the floor.  Trash heaped over the can since no one took it our yesterday.  Shredded cheese all over the counters and the floor.  Recycling items stacked intentionally so as to not fall over.  Piles of dirty dishes on the counter. 

Someone opened the bag of goldfish in the pantry and they spilled all over everything else in there.  AJ removed the foil seals from half the cartons of soymilk, which I just noticed this morning.  Since I don't know when he did it, I had to toss it all.  So much for saving money by buying a case.

The dishwasher had been run, but not emptied.  When I went to empty it after lunch, I had to re-run the dishwasher because the tablet thing won't dissolve if it's put in the compartment it's supposed to go in.   Never has in the almost 6 years we have lived here.  I know this because I do the dishes almost all the time.  My husband refuses to believe it, which is fine when you aren't the one doing the dishes.

That was just the kitchen.

I should have taken pictures.


Mother's Day was nice. 

But I could do without the day after.

In Tom's defense, he does have a broken arm.  I should get a do-over, right?

Sunday, May 8, 2011

30 Days of Music - Day 22

Day 22 - What is a song that you listen to when you are sad?

Ahhhh.  One of the questions that I knew was going to suck.

There are so many. 

I forget how many songs made it onto the CD from Dad's funeral services, but every single one of them was picked for a reason.  Special songs with special meanings, there for a reason. 


Not a single one of them is a song that I'll ever hear the same.  There are some that I still can't bear to listen to...one of which is the answer for tomorrow's question.

This song is one that I'm not sure Dad ever even heard. To my knowledge, it's never even been part of a studio album released by the band, only included on a greatest hits album after the moving live performances of it at concerts.  It's had limited airtime, I've only ever heard it on the smaller independent radio stations around here. 

First time I heard this song....sometime in the weeks around the time he was first diagnosed.  Coincidence?  I'm sure it wasn't.  Music seems not to come into my life accidentally. 

The lyrics here seem as though they could have been written by my father. 

Just Breathe, Pearl Jam

My Mama

This year is one destined to be filled with hills and valleys for my mother.  It already has.

Today, though, is for her. 

I suck lately at getting things done on time, and her gift this time is no different.  It will be ready when she's out here to visit in a few weeks, though.  And maybe that's better.  It's something to help her to start the next phase of her life.  The one that is here.

It's been a rough road, Mom.  And I know there are bumps ahead.  There are no guarantees in life about anything it seems, and the last few months have only served to prove that truth. 

All I know is that I love you and that somehow we can get through this together.

These flowers are for you.  They aren't ready yet.  But they will be.

Happy Mother's Day, Mama.  I love you!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

30 Days of Music - Day 21

Day 21 - What is a song you listen to when you are happy?

It's amazing what music can do for your mood.  I think.

Originally, I intended to choose a Black Eyed Peas song for this answer.  You know the one....about tonight's gonna be a good night and all. My son is obsessed with the BEP and I've already promised him a concert with his dorky old mom one of these days when they come to town.

But then I realized that as much as I love that song, it isn't mine. 

This one is. 

It takes me back to a place in my life where things, though imperfect, were about as close as they'd ever get.  College.

Man, what I wouldn't give to go back.

That was the life.  Pseudo-adulthood.  No one I was accountable to other then myself.  No one needed me.  People liked me for who I was, not who they had thought I was all through school.  I worked hard and I played hard.  Best.years.ever.

This song, an instant time machine.

Where my girls at?  Turn this one up.  Cuz South Central does it like nobody does.

This is how we do it, Montell Jordan

mother's day, without

I've been thinking about writing this post for a while now, not really sure where to begin.  My mother's day posts always seem to allude to the experiences of my past.  Up until now, though, they've been lacking an element of truth that has to be discussed.  That is worth talking about.  Important.

Mother's Day came and went as it always had every year up until the year 2000 for me.  A card, a sentimental gift.  First for my mother and grandmothers, then for my mother in law as well.  I'd had no occasion to experience the day as anything other than the child of another woman.

Then 2000 came along.  That terrible, horrible year that sometimes I wish I could wipe my memory clear of. 

In 2000, I was to be a mother.  And then I wasn't.

And Mother's Day went from just being a holiday I noticed on a calendar, sent a card and made a phone call to a day I dreaded for weeks before.  A day that I spent holed up in the corner.  I did what I was still obligated to for those who came before me.  I sent the cards, I bought the sentimental gifts, I made the phone calls.

And it, all of it, felt like I was being kicked in the gut.

That my insides were being ripped from me, that it was happening all over again. 

I went through the motions, did what I was supposed to.  And it hurt. 

That was the year I was supposed to be a mother.  Except I wouldn't be.  And I wasn't sure I would ever be. 

It wasn't a kind place to be.

The entirety of it, a reminder of what I didn't have.

Since then, I've received the cards and the handmade gifts.  The half-spilled cups of coffee and the plates of runny eggs.  And it has been wonderful.

Nothing can erase how it felt when I was without, though.

I don't know what the point is of writing this, really.  Perhaps it's to point out the fact that motherhood, as challenging and exhausting and demanding as it is, is a gift.  A blessing. 

One that not everyone gets.

On this weekend, take a moment to honor those who want and can't have.  Who would give anything for a 2am wake up call.  Who would welcome frazzled nerves and uncertainty with open arms.  Who long for walls covered with scribbles.  If only.

Motherhood is like so many other things in this life.  Sometimes it comes with careful planning, sometimes it comes unexpectedly, sometimes it refuses to come at all. 

It isn't fair.

This weekend is a constant reminder of that unfairness.

To all the mothers out there, whether they are mothers in this world or only the world they imagine, my love.

Friday, May 6, 2011

30 Days of Music - Day 20

Day 20 - What song do you listen to when you are angry?

Had to think about this one a while.

I was going to pick Raise Your Glass by Pink because it's the ultimate anthem for dork perseverance. All in favor of that. Embrace your weirdness....someone is going to love you for it.

But then this song came on the radio again.

Every time I've been angry the last few weeks, this song has magically appeared on the radio. Which is freaky and weird and all that, especially given the fact that prior to the last few weeks it had been years (if not a decade or more) since I've heard it.

It's not in any way, shape or form relevant to anything going on in my life, but the message is the same. And it's one that the cosmic radio gods seem to think I need to hear repeatedly.  Someone is trying to tell me something.

Patience, Guns N' Roses

I'm not paranoid, I'm just a mom...

I have to say that being a mother has been occasionally terrifying.  There have been moments in the lives of my children where I was rocked to my core.  Completely disabled by the fear that there was something very, very wrong.

Becoming a mother makes you vulnerable, because everything in your world revolves around these little people.  The instant you realize how much you love them, you dread ever having that taken.

They are adventurous and wild, daring and strong, fearless and bold.  And yet all that can change from one heartbeat to the next.

They can become weak and broken, small and tired, afraid and alone.

There are moments in the life of every parent where your heart literally stops beating.  Where time slows down and you can see the events unfolding before your eyes, but you know you are powerless to stop them.  

With my oldest, I learned this lesson almost immediately.  I didn't even get to hold him when he was born.  One quick kiss on the forehead and he was rushed to the NICU.  He was sick and weak.  They intubated him and talked about things like oxygen saturation levels.  About immature lungs and surfactant.  About how they were all fairly confident that he would be okay.  But when your baby has to undergo MRIs an CT scans to check for brain function, you know that he is anything but okay.

I went to see him for the first time, knowing in my head what it would be like since I'd been in the NICU many times before other times as a volunteer and student.  But this time was different.  He was mine.  All I saw was my little boy laying there, helpless.  Time slowed down to a crawl, while everything around me kept going at the speed of light.  I held his tiny little hands and prayed like I never had in my life.  Please just make him be okay.

The second time my heart stopped beating was the day he ran away.   The day that I lost my child.  The store we were in at the time followed their lock-down procedures flawlessly.   He was back in my arms safe and sound quickly.  It was only a few minutes, but it felt like an eternity.  I learned that morning how quickly life could change forever.  How vigilant I had to be.  And how even if I did everything in my power to stop harm from befalling my babies, it could still happen.

On a summer afternoon a few years ago now, it happened again.  One moment the kids were marching around the house banging pots and pans.  The next, there was blood.  Everywhere.  Ashley had fallen with one of the large wooden spoons in her mouth.  Instinctively, I grabbed a kitchen towel, scooped her into my arms, yelled to my neighbor across the street to watch the other kids and drove to the emergency room.  Her life was saved because of the distance of less than an inch.  If the spoon had hit any further back, we would have lost her.

In the middle of the night, a frantic phone call to Children's hospital.  My other little girl on my lap.  There was so much blood and we could not make it stop.  A one in a million reaction to a medication.  When they put those warnings on the label, she is why.  Her existence terrifies me often, as she tends to have sudden and scary reactions to things.  Often, we don't know why. 

Try as I can to be relaxed and roll with the punches, as much as I know that most of the ailments of childhood are self-correcting and temporary, I worry.  My radar is admittedly heightened right now, and it's going off again.  I will do as I must and I will watch and wait.  Only time will tell if this is anything worth worrying over. 

My brain knows these things.

My heart doesn't know the difference.

So I will wait and I will watch, while time slows down again.

I'm not paranoid.  I'm just a mom.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Clarity of Grief

Though I think about my father every day, there are times that it seems overwhelming. 


I was chatting with a good friend yesterday, one who lost his mother too many years ago, who understands.  I've come to rely on those who've been where I am a little more than I probably should.  Looking to them for confirmation that I haven't completely gone off the deep end and that with time it will get better. 

There are things that I've still forced myself not to remember about those weeks.  Things that I will probably always force away from my conscious thoughts because that's where they belong.  Hidden.  Things that a person should never have to see or experience.  And yet I know that I was there for a reason.  I did what I had to do for him, even if others will never understand that.

As hard as it was, as excruciating as it was, I would do it again in a heartbeat. 

I knew that I couldn't fix him.  I knew that I didn't possess a magic cure.  I knew that he would be gone regardless of anything I did or said.  I knew that.  I've learned that lesson wasn't just about him.  Now, it is about others.

On the back end of everything that we went through with him, a clarity.  Not just pertaining to him, but to so many other things in my life.  I have learned that I cannot expect that I can right the wrongs in this world, and I've learned to forgive myself for that inability.  I have learned to do what I can, but have also gained the ability to walk away with a clear conscience when I can't anymore. 

Call it self-protection of self defense or just good judgment.  I don't know.  But there is something about going through a journey like this and coming out on the other side that changes you.  Clarity is the only way I can describe it.  And it's not something that anyone who hasn't walked that path will understand. 

I know that with my father, I will be forever grateful for the time that we had together.  I was able to say to him everything I could have ever wanted and more.  Many people are not ever granted that opportunity, I know.  And I am grateful. 

The lesson to be learned though, is that not everyone has that chance.  Not everyone gets to say goodbye.  Not everyone has months to be reminded of the gift each day is.  Not everyone will be there, holding the hand of the person who leaves. 

So take your time to say what you need to now, long before you ever have to.  Say it even if it doesn't fix anything or make it better. 

Just because I let him go without regrets doesn't mean it doesn't hurt like hell.

Maybe I'm just feeling terribly sentimental today because my little girl has a loose tooth.  As much as she wiggles and wiggles it, begs me to pull it, I don't want her to lose it.  If every baby tooth left in my house never wiggled, I think I might be okay with that.  Every one lost from here on out is another reminder of who should still hold that title.  Who should still be the tooth fairy.

Now, there is no one to ask for advice when the kids are nervous and afraid to lose one.  There is no bragging phone call to him that they pulled it out on their own.  There is no asking if he's got his tutu and wings ready.  There is no him anymore.

These are the days that I miss him the most.  Where I reach for the phone before I remember he isn't there anymore.  When I would give anything for one more day. 

More for them, my babies, than for me.  I had my time, even if it wasn't enough.  They never will.

My apologies to you all for being sad today.  Sometimes it just happens, and I've learned to let it.  I'll work on being funny tomorrow.

30 Days of Music - Day 19

Day 19 - What is a song from your favorite album?

There are so many albums that I love, all for different reasons.  Some because they speak to my soul, some because of the amazing music they are filled with.  Others simply for the reason that they help define periods of my life and explain in part who I was then.

This is one of those. 

At some point, I abandoned NKOTB and pop music almost entirely for a while.   I was drawn to the guitar solos and power ballads and guyliner.  Hair bands.  My first favorite of them wasn't really so much a hair band, they were a British import with a harder rock and roll edge.  Def Leppard.  I loved Metallica too, and they were fairly resistant to the Aqua Net (as much as any band was back then). 

As the genre blossomed, and the hair got bigger, our generation's insatiable need for this music led to some groups that were just comical looking back. 

But, oh back then.  One of my all time favorite songs will always be Every Rose Has Its Thorn, by Poison.  I knew this guy who played his guitar and sang that song to me once....which is pretty awesome when you are a boy crazy 14 year old girl who's walls were plastered with these posters.

If I had to pick one album though, out of all of them from that time frame that is my favorite, it's this one. Dr. Feelgood, Motley Crue.  I love it because it's fast and it's loud, the lyrics are dirty and scandalous.  Everything rock should be.  Plus, their hair peaked around then.  And Vince is the only guy who will ever be good enough to front a band with Nikki, Mick and Tommy.  Just sayin.

Kickstart My Heart, Motley Crue

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

30 Days of Music - Day 18

Day 18 - What is a song that you wish you heard more on the radio?

Also another easy one to answer.  Right now, I have a full blown girl crush on Adele.  That deep soulful voice of power and strength.  That she is as wise as she seems for how young she still is. The fact that she is a beautiful woman who gives hope to all the girls out there who don't fit into skinny jeans and bikinis. 

Love, love, love.

What I don't so much love is the fact that her music is a bit unconventional and can't seem to find it's place on the radio.  It's not really pop, so it doesn't get much rotation on the top 40 stations.  It's not rock, so those stations are out too.  No hint of country to it, and not really falling into the adult contemporary category either though it's the most likely fit there.  She doesn't fit nicely into the pre-determined categories, which is just another thing that I love about her.  I just wish it didn't also make her songs harder to come across on the radio.

Rolling in the Deep, Adele

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

30 Days of Music - Day 17

Day 17 - What is a song you hear often on the radio?

I was in the car for a cumulative total of less than an hour today.  The song I heard 4 times, this one. 

I like Katy Perry enough, but not nearly as much as my 6 year old diva-in-training. Then there is Kanye.  Kanye, Kanye, Kanye....the singer that I would love to see grow up one of these days and knock off his ridiculousness.  He's so good that he deserves a nice long career....not one that could end up abbreviated and peppered with too many times on the news.

I don't actually like this song all that much.  She can sing better than this, he can too.  The lyrics are weird...and don't even get me started on the video. 

E.T., Katy Perry feat. Kanye West

A Taste

Yesterday, I had a few hours to myself.  A couple of hours where no one had anywhere they had be, no one needed picked up from school.  No one needed to nap, no one was raiding the pantry. 

My in-laws offered to take the younger two off my hands yesterday and overnight since I have a field trip to chaperone today.

Oh, you know I totally took them up on that offer.

By 1pm yesterday, I was child-free.  For a few hours anyway.

My apologies to those who saw me dancing for joy.

I got a short glimpse of what life will be like once they are all in school.  A taste of what it might be.

I was able to write without negotiating with anyone.

I went to the store and didn't buy anything we didn't need.  No one climbed into or out of my cart and ran around the store.  No one touched anything.   No one begged for candy at the checkout stand.

As an aside, I absolutely despise the retailers that do that.  Do they want every kid that comes through there to start throwing a raging fit???  Do they realize how much harder it is for us to maintain our sanity when the two year old can reach the M&Ms????  My guess would be no.   Or they just don't care because of the number of parents who placate their kids and buy them candy to silence them.  I'm a mean mom, though....and won't.  So if you've heard my kids hyperventilate at the grocery store, it was my fault.

Anyway, I got to come home after going to the store and put everything away without half of it being consumed before it even made it to the fridge or pantry. 

I had about ten minutes when all was said and done before I had to leave to pick up the other two kids from school. 

And do you know what I did?!?!?!

I sat on the couch with no one touching me, drank a Cherry Coke Zero without anyone begging for a sip and thumbed through a magazine without anyone asking me a bajillion times for something.  

Again, if you heard anything yesterday afternoon, it was my fault.  Except this time, I could swear it sounded like angels singing. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

30 Days of Music - Day 16

Day 16 - What is a song you used to love, but now hate?

Another easy one.  This one fell victim to the heavy rotation curse.  I loved it the first fifty times I heard it, sure.  I don't generally like country, but this song was a really good one...one of those crossover hits.  Until I was tired of it.

By now I've heard it about 3.7 million times....and the radio gets changed.every.single.time.

This one is so overplayed, they are probably tired of it.

Need You Now, Lady Antebellum

Real Friends

One of the icky lessons in life is that not every person who portrays themselves as your friend really is.  It's a lesson that you never ever stop learning.  Which makes it suck even more.

The real friends, though....they are pretty awesome.

Real friends don't care if you aren't wearing a bra when they show up on your doorstep.   You know who you are.  ;)

Real friends don't care if you drink too much and make a fool of yourself.

Real friends take you home before you become too much of an ass.

Real friends pick you up and dust you off afterwards.

Real friends don't care if you forgot their birthday (as long as you remember eventually...okay maybe even if you don't).

Real friends keep your secrets.

Real friends know about the ridiculous things you've done, which they tell people about at every possible opportunity.

Real friends keep their promises.

Real friends will listen to you bitch about the same thing for hours.

Real friends don't even see the messy house you're standing in.

Real friends don't try to out-do your car, your clothes or your husband.

Real friends know sometimes you won't want to talk.

Real friends don't need to know what you're doing all the time, and they sure as hell don't care.

Real friends always find time for a drink.  Or six.
Real friends love your kids almost as much as their own.

Real friends know that sometimes you just need a hug, no questions asked.

Real friends also know when you need a kick in the ass.

Real friends offer to help before you need to ask for it.

Real friends can go for weeks, months or years without seeing each other and pick up where they left off. 

Real friends get your crazy.

Real friends know when to offer advice and when to shut up.

Real friends have inside jokes.

Real friends touch each other inappropriately (but not like that...unless they are realllly good friends).

Real friends know when something is wrong, even if you say you are fine.

Real friends know when you are lying.

Real friends know when you're up to something sneaky.

Real friends understand that sometimes you're just going to be bitchy.

Real friends can talk for hours or sit in silence and be okay with it either way.

Real friends can get you into trouble.

Real friends will also save your ass.

Real friends will tell you if there is something between your teeth, even if they laugh first.

Real friends will cheer your successes.

Real friends don't question your choices, unless they are supposed to.

Real friends let you screw up and say you are sorry.

Real friends will drag you to the gym, but then make you brownies.
Real friends don't expect you to be perfect, in fact they celebrate the fact that you aren't since they aren't either.

Real friends understand that sometimes life gets complicated.

Real friends get it.  All of it. 

I love my friends.

Friendship is God's way of apologizing to us for our families. 
~ Author Unknown

Sunday, May 1, 2011

How to Take Better Pictures of Anything, especially your kids...

When I started having kids, I learned quickly that you take a lot of pictures.  A lot.  It wasn't until I became a doula and we started offering photography packages that I really invested any time in learning the craft though. 

I have since put hundreds (maybe even thousands) of hours into picture taking.  My husband signed me up for a class on digital photography, but to be honest I ended up half teaching it.  By then, I'd honed my skills enough to assemble a sizable portfolio.  Not to mention some kick ass pictures of my own kids. 

This is a skill worth refining.  Whether you enjoy landscape photography, high speed sports shots, family portraits or candid pictures, there are tips here for you.  The wonderful thing about digital photography is that you can take hundreds of pictures a day when you are in the learning process, then delete everything that doesn't come out the way you thought it might. 

* Lighting, lighting, lighting.  Like realtors preach about location, photographers preach about lighting.  The ability to recognize good lighting is critical for good pictures, especially of people.  Ideally, you want bright, indirect, natural light.  For instance, you want to take a picture on a bright sunny day indoors in a well lit room without any sun streaming directly in the windows.  Outdoors, this often means that overcast days lend themselves to better lighting than bright sunny days.  I could write books about lighting.  Suffice it to say that when you learn the importance of this one single element, your pictures will dramatically improve.  And it's like obscenity, you just know it when you see it...but it's pretty hard to define otherwise.

* Get down to their level.  Pictures of kids especially seem to be notorious for having been taken from strange angles.  Get on the floor and take pictures of them from down there, not looking down at them.

* Turn off the flash.  The flash is an artificial bright burst of light to help the camera clearly see the image and capture it.  Unfortunately, it often has the effect of washing out the subject or making the skin tones look funky.  Once you get your lighting perfected, you'll quickly realize that the flash is often unnecessary.  I do almost all my picture taking without the flash.  There are times you need to use a fill flash, but that is more advanced than this post is intended to be.

* Be aware of your background.  A fantastic picture of your family can quickly be ruined by clutter or other stuff in the back.  Don't just look at your subject, look behind them.

Wait until the path is clear to take the picture
* Take pictures of people when they don't know you are, and of things you wouldn't normally.  One of my favorite pictures of my son playing baseball last year is not an action shot and doesn't even include his face.  But it captures so much else.

You have to be one of two things to have a good end product: either be a skilled photographer or be really good at editing.  I'd personally rather be the first since it takes a whole lot less time.

* You don't need a super expensive camera to take good pictures.  Most digitals over $100 are good enough, with high enough pixels to take decent pictures.  You want at least 8 megapixels and adjustable settings.  Having said that, little substitutes for a digital SLR camera.  They are worth the money if you are willing to invest the time in learning how to use them.

Taken with a cell phone (and not even a fancy one)
The only way to learn is to play.  You have to get out there and experiment. 

* Don't strive for perfection. Cut off the tops of people's heads.  Put your subject off center.  Don't try to get everyone to pose and smile, capture them in action instead.  Make kids and babies laugh and get their real smiles, not the fake ones.   Some of my favorite pictures are the ones with the subject looking away, slightly out of focus, not fully smiling, walking away. 

* Focus before taking the picture.  Every digital camera I've ever seen has a pre-focus feature.  You push the button halfway down until the camera focuses.  Then there is less lag time when you take the actual picture.  You may think a fraction of a second won't make a difference, but I can assure you that it does.  Use this feature, learn to play with it.  Especially when taking pictures of kids who move around a lot, it becomes important.  This is also an important element for taking more artistic, off centered pictures as you improve.

Change the settings and see what happens.  Most digital cameras come with pre-set settings. Get to know them and use them.

- Fully automatic - this one is best for new users.  The camera will self-adjust to a standard setting and speed. 
- Portrait setting - this one is set to focus on the features of a person, at a relatively close distance, while slightly blurring the background.
- Landscape setting - this is the opposite of the portrait, intended to clearly focus distant objects, blurring closer ones.
 - Sports setting - this one has a faster shutter speed to decrease the blurriness of the image, but trades off that speed with decreased light entering the camera.  It works best in bright lighting.
 - Macro setting - usually labeled with a little flower, it is for close up focusing.  It brings items into clear focus at near distances that the automatic setting will often reject. 

More advanced cameras (especially the digital SLRs) have additional settings.   These allow you to change the camera's settings even more than the preprogrammed ones.

I could go on for pages and pages....but I will stop here.  :)  I hope that my tips help you take better pictures!   Please ask me anything if you have more specific questions, and share your improved photos!

30 Days of Music - Day 15

Day 15 - What is a song that describes you?

This one is another easy one to answer.  Not much explanation is needed here.

B.I.T.C.H., Meredith Brooks

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