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Monday, August 31, 2009

Brad & Tatiana are having a baby!

Two years ago, I had the pleasure of photographing Brad and Tatiana's wedding. Last week, I got a call from Tatiana asking me to take some pictures for them because she is about to have a baby! It was so nice to see this couple again, and they seemed to me even more in love than they were on their wedding day. When she called and told me she was due any minute, I was a little scared. The last month of pregnancy for so many women is filled with swelling and, well, the feeling of being huge. Tatiana, on the other hand, looked amazing. She tells me that pregnancy has been good to her, and I can tell. Here are the pictures that prove it. I'm hoping that all goes well, that baby Emma arrives easily and safely, and that I'll be able to post pictures of the three of them in the near future.

Friday, August 28, 2009

We recently attended a birthday party to celebrate little Elliot's first year of life. I had the privilege of being in the room when Elliot was born last August. Here are some fun pics of the kids from the party. Wow, they really look like siblings here! Such similar features. At the top is a picture of Schroeder in his ring sling. My husband conspired with a friend of mine to produce this fun device. I've been wearing it to hold Schroeder when I take D'arcy to school, and everyone stops to look at the little cute half kangaroo half human.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Kindergaten: The First Day Report

After getting a shrug when I asked how her first day at kindergarten went, I decided to ask more specific, pointed questions. Here is a synopsis of my inquisition.

Me: Who was your favorite person at school?
D'arcy: The girl who sits beside me. I just love her. She is so nice.
Me: What was her name?
D'arcy: Shrug

Me: What was your favorite part of the day?
D'arcy: Going to P.E. We played tag with a ball, but I didn't get a chance to hold the ball :(.

Me: What was your least favorite part of the day?
D'arcy: Nap

Me: What was your favorite thing your teacher did?
D'arcy: He told us a story called the itsy bitsy spider. (Proceeds to sing the song with a smile)

Me: What are three things you learned today?
D'arcy: When you are kind to someone you are teaching them how to treat you.
Keep your hands in your lap and sit criss-cross applesauce (otherwise known as boom boom by Mr. Martinez) on the mat.
You can't read at naptime (to her great disappointment).

I asked her if she ate in the cafeteria. At first she said no, but then told me that she had eaten there but she hadn't gotten her food from the cafeteria. I asked her if that would be something she would want to do occasionally. She said yes. I suggested once a week. She thought for a moment and said, "How about two times?" Today, She purchased her lunch at the cafeteria. This really shook me. She's really in school!

She also came home today with news that she had identified the name of her favorite friend. Her name is Madison, and she has made an additional friend named Benjamin.

And don't go asking if Benjamin is her boyfriend because she's already declared that she is going to marry her friend Daniel from preschool. He moved to Atlanta with his family, but she is undeterred. She made sure to tell me that it wasn't Esther's husband Daniel because if she married that Daniel she would be stealing someone's husband and that wouldn't be nice. As far as I can tell, the determination to marry isn't a romantic situation. Husbands in her mind serve a clear purpose, they work and are daddys. She is very clear about the order things should happen. She was telling me about another friend from church, Eddie. Eddie has recently graduated from Medical School. She told me that when she first met Eddie she was sure he had children, but he didn't. She then went on to say that he needs to pick a good wife first and that is an important decision. Indeed.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Tips for Tuesdays: Family Historian

Were you ever in a club during your school days? Remember when your club would elect officers and their was always a historian who was supposed to document the comings and goings of the club via pictures and pen? Well, I am my family's historian, and let me tell you, it's a big job.

Digital cameras create these problems. First, they allow us to take way to many pictures. Well actually, taking too many pictures isn't the problem. The problem is that we tend to keep them all. Secondly, digital pictures are stored on our computers, they tend to never get printed, and then end up getting lost when our computers go ca-put. Is this how one spells ca-put?

So here are a few tips on how to manage all these photos.

1. Dump your camera's photos into an editing folder. After looking through the pictures, only move the ones you love to your permanent storage folder. Delete the rest.
2. Put a limit on how many photos you keep of your family every year. For example, I've limited myself to 300 photos each year. Plus, an additional 100 for our summer vacation. When I have a limit, it helps me be decisive when determining what to keep and not keep.
3. Throughout the year, backup your full resolution size images by uploading them to a website like Picasa Web Albums, Zenfolio, or Flickr. Many of these sites are free or at least free for the first couple of gigs. You'll want to pick a site that allows to download it back onto your computer if for some reason it gets lost.
4. At the end of the year, make a CD or DVD of your families permanent storage folder. This give you a double backup plan.
5. Regarding printing, there are a couple things you could do. You could make a digital photo book for your family each year. This could range from between $20-100 or more depending on how many pictures you add to your book etc. You could print the top 20 pictures for each child each year to add to their ongoing photo albums. The thing I like about actually printing 4x6s is that they are fairly resistant and I don't know how resistant photo books are to water, mold, etc. Yes, I said mold. Stephen grew a whole science lab of mold on the scrapbook I made him of his growing up years. The scrapbook got tossed, but the actual pictures survived, amazingly.

Here's my final tip for Tuesday. It's what we did today on D'arcy's fifth birthday. Put the camera down, and just enjoy making memories the old fashioned way.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

D'arcy is headed for school and the big 5!

Tomorrow, D'arcy heads off to her first day of kindergarten. She's ready, well, sort of. The first day outfit is laying out, the backup and lunch are packed, the supplies are already in the classroom, the teacher (Mr. Martinez) has been met, but D'arcy is a little reluctant. She misses her friends and teachers from last year. But she did say she was looking forward to playing in that awesome play kitchen in her new classroom.
We've had some special moments preparing for the big day. With a little money from Grandma and Grandpa, she picked out her own backpack and outfit. The outfit had to have sparkles on it (on the shirt towards the collar). She's barely taken the backpack off, and has told me all the great uses for a backpack like hers. When she wears it, she insists that she must keep her hands around the straps and pull them toward the center of her chest. That's how you handle a backpack according to D'arcy. She's been telling everyone about her big day.
The preparation has been fun, but I'm looking forward to going on this journey with her. Public school is by no means perfect. She'll be in the midst of kids her age, but who have different personalities and certainly each will be coming from their own unique family with various values and beliefs. She will be sharing her teacher with 19 other 5 year olds. However, I'm certain that she will be able to learn and grow and find great friends along her journey, just as Stephen and I did.
On Tuesday, she will also be turning 5! I'm so thankful for a daughter who is serious, thoughtful, affectionate, comforting, creative, and confident. At this moment in time, D'arcy likes dresses, accessories, her mommy, using scissors, drawing, playing PBS kids, cleaning the mirrors, her baby brother Schroeder, jumping rope, singing, dancing, her daddy, swimming, Christmas music, Chicken noodle soup, strawberry shakes, Rudy's BBQ, Bernstein Bears, her baby doll, her best friend Ju Ju, her church friends, Pixos, jewelry making, Jesus, being independent, her family in Indy, and cartwheels. Being her parent is a daily joy (and challenge!).
Here are some pictures that commemorate the beginning of her school days and celebrate five years of life with Jacquelyn D'arcy Edith Williams.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Superman to the rescue!

So we named our first son Julian. In fact we gave him loads of names (Edward Julian Theodor Williams). He has lots of nicknames, too; Jude, JuJu, JuJu Bean. Lately, though, he isn't going by any of these. He prefers Superman. Or Bolt. Or Daniel. Or Scamp. Or Spiderman. Or Kung Fu Panda.

We were in JCPenny the other day. I was trying to spend my coupon for $10 off a purchase of $10. I live for these coupons. All three kids were with me. It was 4pm, and, although they had an hour and a half of rest time, Julian hadn't gone to sleep. He was pushing his boundaries, and I was having to frequently say, "Julian, I need to see you." or "Julian, hold on to the stroller." He decided he would play his new favorite game. He would pretend that he was Bolt, and I was Cat, and D'arcy was Penny. So anytime I would say, "Julian, I need to be able to see you.", he would remind me that no longer was he Julian, he was Bolt. Ok, I'm cool, I can play along.
Mommy: "Bolt, Mommy needs to be able to see you."
Julian: "You aren't Mommy, you are Cat!"
Mommy: "Right, Bolt, Cat needs to be able to see you."
Julian...err...Bolt quickly complies.
So here I am, just trying to get my free stuff, and looking crazy yelling "BOLT!" across JCPenny.

There is another family at our church who we spend a lot of time with. Esther and Daniel Applegate have a daughter named Isabel and a son named Aidan. For about two days, I was Esther, Julian was Daniel, D'arcy was Isabel, and Schroeder was Aidan. I asked Julian who Stephen could be, and he quickly decided that Stephen would be Eowyn, their golden retriever. HA!

Since Sunday, Julian is confident that he is Superman and has been asking for a cape so he can "FLY in the SKY!!!" Then he promptly puts his hand in the air, begins to run, and screams "Superman to the rescue!".

Tips for Tuesdays: Six O'Clock Scramble

I have a high value for teaching my children how to eat well. Someday I'll discuss our philosophy on how to get the food from the table to the stomach, but today my tip is all about how to get the food on the table. Have you ever felt exhausted thinking that we have to eat THREE times a day? That means preparation and clean up THREE times a day! What, it's time to eat again!? Now don't get me wrong, the eating part is enjoyable, but the preparation part can feel never ending. There is recipes to collect, a grocery list to assemble, shopping to be done, and, of course, cooking. Cooking can be fun, but when you are doing it at six, or seven, or (in our case very often) eight o'clock, with kids running around after an exhausting day, it can seem daunting. So here's my tip...subscribe to the Six O'Clock Scramble.

Why the Six O'Clock Scramble?

I use this particular company because...
It is owned and operated by a mom not unlike myself who had a really great idea.
The meals are always fast! Very rarely does anything take more than 30 minutes.
The meals are always healthy. I'm using the weight watchers program, and find that most of the meals fit into my allowable daily points. Many times they suggest fruit as a side dish. Plus, there are always plenty of veggies, beans, and lean meats on the menu.
I feel like a real chef at the grocery store and in my kitchen. The recipes call for fun spices, oils, and fresh produce that always make shopping and cooking an adventure. I feel like a earthy, yuppie, food network watching, mommy.
I spend very little at the grocery store. Stephen and I always spend between 50-100 a week on groceries which includes things like soda and beer which hike it up closer to that $100 mark. For fresh, healthy meals, I don't think that is too bad.
There is a lot of variety. For people who like to eat foods from many cultures or expand their pallet, this is a great way to do it. We eat asian, indian, meditteranean, cuban, mexican, italian, and american food at our house thanks to the Scramble!
I don't have to spend a lot of time planning a menu or making a list. This is done for you. Plus the website allows you to create your own menus from their database of recipes. I was in the mood for pork chops this week, searched the database, found an awesome recipe, and added it to my digital shopping list. My whole family gave me big kudos for that meal.
It's only about $50 for a whole year's subscription. So ask for it for your birthday, or use it and save $4 a week at the grocery store to pay for it.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Teeth are unforgiving

Knees get skinned and heal back. Bottoms get diaper rash which eventually goes away. Heads get goose eggs but eventually return to normal size. Teeth chip and stay chipped. A tooth develops a cavity and only after shiny silver is poured on the hole is it fixed. Teeth don't give parents grace, they proudly display all the accidents or poor habits that take place under a parent's supervision.

That being said, here is a tip for Thursdays. Children's liquid Zyrtec has sugar in it. Which means it is not a good idea to have a habit of giving their "medicine" to them right after they brush their teeth and right before they go to bed. That was our habit for a year. D'arcy developed persistent and extensive hives in June '08 which led us to an allergist who put her on a daily regimen of antihistamines. The allergist who was otherwise amazing, neglected to tell us that this medicine should be administered prior to brushing teeth.

At this point, you might be thinking, "DUH?!" So although Stephen and I both have Bachelor's degrees, and Stephen has a successful career as a Computer programmer, we didn't think to read the ingredients on the bottle.

Fast forward nine months, and D'arcy begins to complain that her tooth hurts. After a quick inspection, I conclude that she has many cavities. The dentist concurs. I, still clueless, ask why this is happening. She wonders if they are sneaking cookies after bedtime. NO! At this point, we have only been brushing their teeth once a day, but our kids don't have juice regularly nor do they have candy regularly (well, besides that month long stint of potty training). They certainly aren't sneaking a bit of ice cream after they are supposed to be in bed. I was, as you can imagine, defensive, and then a light bulb went off in Stephen's head. What about the medicine?

Our dentist then sends us to a pediatric dentist who recommended we put her under general anesthesia in order to complete the extensive repair needed on her teeth. Which brings us to today. We went to the hospital at 6am, and by 9, D'arcy was in recovery. A kid waking up from general anesthesia isn't easy to see. D'arcy had peed herself and was kicking and screaming and lurching her head back. After a half and hour she was more herself.

When I finally got a chance to look at the work that had been done, I was surprised to find that they had to cap six teeth with silver. I knew they were going to use silver in order to protect the nerve, but I didn't realize that would have to fully cap the tooth. D'arcy is insisting that they are not silver but gold. Maybe I should have asked for gold, it certainly would have been more of a fashion statement.

So let me stop and assess what I am grateful for.
#1 D'arcy's hives were managed well with Zyrtec.
#2 D'arcy went back to the allergist a couple of weeks ago and miraculously, her body has began to properly handle it's histamine level so she doesn't need medicine anymore.
#3 D'arcy's teeth have been fixed in order for her to eat without pain until her permanent teeth come in in several years.
#4 Our medical plan is fantastic, and all of this cost me only about two hundred dollars.
And most importantly
#5 For a little girl who is brave, who is proud of her new beautiful silver teeth, and who loves her parents despite their inability to check the bottle of medicine for sugar content.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Tips for Tuesdays: Peek a boo

Are your kids ever fussy when you are getting them dressed or when they are getting their diaper changed? My tip for the week is to always look for an opportunity to make mundane tasks into a laughable moment. Shirt peek a boo has never failed me. Kid is getting pajamas on for bed and is, as expected, whining about going to bed. I put shirt over head and say, "Wow, where did my kid go? D'arcy have you seen Julian?" Kid stops whining. His eyes pop through the hole. "Oh, well I found his eyes? D'arcy have you seen the rest of Julian's face because it is obviously missing?" Kid begins to giggle.
Ok, whining might quickly resume since he's headed to bed, but in the morning when a kid is whining because he is waking up, a little giggle is all he needs to get the morning started. It's like kid coffee. And hey, a kid's little giggle might get your morning started too.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tips for Tuesdays: Sibling Arguments

My wonderful friend and mother-in-law reads lots of both fiction and non-fiction books. When she reads a good parenting or marriage self-help book, she'll usually send it my way. And then, I read a chapter or two. Although, I like to read, these types of books are not my cup of tea. The tip I'm about to share comes from an idea that I got from reading a chapter from one of those books. My friend, Esther, laughs at me because I'll take an idea from a book, but don't read the whole chapter to fully understand what the author meant by the idea. But hey, I tend to parent by instinct based on the values that I feel are important to pass on to my kids. This particular tip is probably one of the things I am most proud of as a parent. So here it is...

If someone has hurt you, I have a high value for going directly to that person and working it out. If I believe I've hurt someone else, I have a high value for going to that person and resolving the situation. But what happens when you have siblings? When D'arcy hits Julian, or Julian bites D'arcy? What will they automatically do? That's right, they come tell Mommy.


Here's what I don't do. I don't ask what happened. I don't try to understand the situation, who was right, who was wrong, who took what. I don't typically punish the culprit. (Keep in mind, I haven't had any perpetual biters or hitters. If it was a huge issue for one child, I might do more intervening.)

What I do is tell whoever is hurt to go talk to the person who hurt them. This is an example
D'arcy: "Julian hit me."
Mommy: "Then go tell him that he hurt you."
D'arcy: "Julian you hurt me when you hit me."
At this point, Julian might need some coaching to listen to his sister.
Julian: "I'm sorry D'arcy. Are you ok?" (Hug)
D'arcy: "I forgive you, but no, I'm not ok." (More hugs and comfort)

Another example:
Julian is on the floor screaming from something or another.
Instead of figuring out what happened, I tell D'arcy (who is obviously the culprit), to go to him, comfort him, and figure out what's wrong.
D'arcy: (kneeling down in front of him) "What's wrong?"
Julian: "YOU KNOCKED ME DOWN ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!"
D'arcy: "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to. I bet that hurt." (D'arcy waits until Julian is ready to uncross his arms and receive a hug. Forgiveness takes a minute sometimes. D'arcy kicked him in between his legs one time and forgiveness took about five minutes :P.)

So when it comes to fights between siblings, I'm not the mediator. The only involvement I have is to coach them on how to listen and give comfort to one another. And although they still come to me to crying a lot, they have also been able to resolve a lot of their issues on their own. Hopefully this will become a habit in their relationship as siblings, and even with their friends and future spouse.