Friday, September 27, 2013

20 Months

Little Miss Princess is 20 months already. A great age to play with; unfortunately, not a great age to photograph.

I got her to sit still in this chair with her Blue Puppy for about 2 minutes. I jumped around, sang songs, made Blue's Clue's noises... anything to get her to look and smile at the camera. 

I don't think Jocelyn sees me as funny at all.

I even attempted a hair bow.

 The look says it all. "Really, mom? You expect me to wear this? Don't you know that only *I* am allowed to put hair bows in my hair so I can promptly take them out again?"

Then she tried to put it on Blue Puppy.
 I guess she wanted her stuffed animal to suffer instead.

Since sitting in the rocking chair (handmade by my grandfather when I was a kid, btw) wasn't going well, I tried to encourage her to stand independently for a picture. Maybe even take a step or two, which she has started doing in the past month.

 You can see how well that idea worked out.

How about bubbles on the front porch?

That girl does love her bubbles. By the way, do you realize how hard it is to blow bubbles AND take pictures at the same time? That's why I usually make the mother of my photography clients blow them for me. It results in a lot less spilled bubbles.

At any rate, this photo session was a true reflection of Jocelyn's personality. And really, isn't that the goal of any shoot? To capture the moment. Every moment. Even if its not what the photographer or mom envisioned.

Jocelyn has progressed from taking one step 4 weeks ago to standing independently, getting to a standing position without pulling up on a table, and walking up to 7 steps at a time. Go Jocelyn!

But she still starts physical therapy next week. She is very unstable with her walking and is turning her feet in an awkward direction sometimes. Plus, she's about 5 months behind on gross motor skills overall. Its not just walking that she's late with now.

Yes, obviously Jocelyn did walk on her own at her own pace. But she is still developmentally delayed in this area and it does no service to her to ignore it. I'm a big believer in Early Intervention for developmental milestones.

This has nothing to do about what age your kid is when he learns to read or how many shapes your 3 year old preschooler knows. All kids do eventually catch up and even out with academics by 2nd grade, no matter what they knew before Kindergarten.

Why is early intervention so important?
Research has shown that the time between birth and
age 36 months is a critical developmental period in a
child’s life. These months offer a window of opportunity
that will not be available later. Early intervention programs
minimize and in some cases prevent delays in development
of infants and toddlers with disabilities. They can decrease
the need for special education and related services when a
child enters school, and increase independence. Children
whose special needs are identified and addressed during
these crucial early years have a greater chance of reaching
their full potential.

I have seen first hand how true this statement is. We are choosing to work with Jocelyn now in order to prevent future problems later.

Too many doctors and parents take a "wait and see approach" not realizing that this can have a serious impact later on in the child's life. I can't tell you how many times in the special needs community that I've heard a parent utter the words, "If only we had gotten help with his speech (or insert developmental skill here) sooner!"

We are very fortunate that Jocelyn's only delay is in gross motor. Every other area of her development looks great. Of course, you can never truly rule out an autism diagnosis later on. Some kids don't show regression in development until 3. You can bet that we will continue to monitor her development along side enjoying her sweet personality :)

She loves to color right now. Its her favorite thing. She can draw a circle and calls it a "Clue" because she thinks its a paw print.

Her favorite place to go is a park. It just kills her to see swings and a slide at Jayce's baseball and Jaina's football games, but not be able to play on it. She is quite good at climbing and sliding down on her own. I guess we don't really have to worry about her trying to stand and walk down the slides like so many toddlers do :P

Dora's cool... but so are Bubble Guppies and Elmo. She'll watch Max and Ruby, too, if its on. But Blue's Clues is where its at. She barely shows her monkey any love any more. "Blue? Blue?" she calls for her stuffed dog. She has to go everywhere with us. And "Pel" the pillow has to be in her crib at nap time and night time.

Jocelyn has some new words. "No!" "Go away!" and "Stop!" She just needs to learn the word, "MINE!" and she'll be ready for the Two's. She also asks, "Daddy work?" when he's not home. "Let's go!" and a toddler version of "There she is!" is also said.

For the majority of the time, she sleeps 11 hours straight through the night with a 3 hour nap during the day. That's when we aren't keeping her up late because of a baseball game or interrupting her nap with a lunch out at a restaurant. She is pretty flexible, though, for the most part.

Her newest favorite foods are strawberries and corn. But not at the same time :P

I know Jocelyn doesn't care, but I'm looking forward to beautiful crisp cool Fall weather so I can dress her in all those adorable outfits I bought during a consignment sale :)

Happy 20 months, Jocelyn :)

Who needs actions or presets? I've got scripts!

 If you don't care much about photography, this post is going to be completely pointless to you. Sorry about that!

When I first got into photography, I did the least amount possible of editing that I could get away with doing. I tried my best to expose my images properly and get the white balance correct in camera. I still try to do these things, but I've had to increase my knowledge of editing substantially.

Everything I've learned has been from the internet. Google and You Tube have saved my images more times that I can count. Its taught me how to fix blemishes, tone down red splotchy skin, get rid of newborn jaundice color, correct green color casts, and purple fringing. I've also learned how to get rid of distracting objects in back grounds and also how to swap faces on unsmiling kids.

But I've never once used editing to enhance my look of a photo. Oh, believe me, I've wanted to. If I had a computer or laptop that supported Photoshop or Lightroom, I would have already spent money on Totally Rad Actions or Kubota Actions. Or downloaded some of the Pioneer Woman's presets.

I use GIMP. It stands for Gnu Image Manipulation Program. Just by knowing that, you can tell I have a geek for a husband. A geek that hates Windows, Microsoft, Mac, IBM, and anything Apple. Our computers run on Linux. And you know what? We never get viruses and they never crash.

So far, I haven't found anything that GIMP can't do that Photoshop can. I am sure something is out there, but with my limited knowledge of editing, what I use works for me.

I have slowly started exploring the vast world of GIMP Scripts. They're like actions or presets. You just push a button and instantly your image takes on a different look. Want to see?

Straight Out of the Camera:

And here's what it looks like with four different scripts:

All scripts were downloaded from this site.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Why my life is completely over scheduled right now

It all started back in July when Jaina asked me if she could quit piano.

She had her reasons:
-"I hate practicing."
-"I never like the songs in the book."
-"I already know how to read music."
-"No fair! Jayce gets to move up to 45 minute lessons and he's better than me!"

Before I told her yes or no, I surveyed my best friends about the topic. They were evenly divided.

"I hated piano and I couldn't wait to quit!"
"I quit piano and regretted it my whole life!"

Some things in life you HAVE to do, even if you don't want to. And some good life advice would be to suck it up and do your best, even if you don't like it.

But I didn't feel like piano was something she had to do. I wanted her to enjoy it. I wanted her to fall in love with it. She didn't. I had to respect that.

Besides, she's right... one of my requirements was that she learn to read music. This will help her in chorus or learn any other instrument. I do hope she'll want to pick up another instrument later on.

I wouldn't say Jayce loves playing the piano, but he's quite good at it and he practices faithfully every day. Sometimes even with Jocelyn's help :)

So, how did this lead us to getting over scheduled?

Well... our rule has always been that the kids can play ONE sport and take lessons for ONE instrument at a time. That's it.  For years its been Piano and Soccer every Fall and Spring. With a little basketball and cheer leading and baseball thrown in, but never the same time as soccer.

When Jaina quit piano, she asked if she could take tumbling classes. Since they were only once a week and actually cheaper than piano lessons, I said "sure, why not?"

Then I went to sign Jayce up for baseball. I discovered that his baseball athletic organization also had cheer leading for football. And that it went up to age 12, so Jaina could sign up, too! Jaina has been dying to cheer again ever since camp this Summer. So we signed her up! Tumbling and cheer for Jaina; baseball and piano for Jayce :)

Easy peasy, right?

Not quite...

See, Jaina was fine not playing soccer this Fall. She was kinda done after last Spring with AYSO. Yet all of her friends were going to be on the same team and they were going to have two of the best coaches in Upward coaching them this year. And this is Jaina's absolute last time she'd be allowed to play Fall Soccer because of her age and grade. She's been playing with these girls since 1st grade at the same church.

So, against my better judgement, I said she could play.

That's soccer, football cheerleading, and tumbling classes for Jaina. I rationalized it by saying, "Well, its only ONE season. We can do anything for 8-10 weeks."

Then Jayce brings home the permission slip for International Choir.

They only practice during school and only have a few performances during the school year, so I was totally fine with him being in it again. Besides, its an honor to be picked. This is his second year. Jaina was in it for 2 years as well. I sure hope Jocelyn can sing when she's in 2nd grade as well :)

Next Jaina brings home a packet of information on BETA club. Her grades were finally good enough last year to be asked to join. They only meet every 2 weeks for a couple hours after school, so whatever.

Then Jayce brings home a yellow piece of paper. "Mom! I got asked to be in Dance Club!"

Oh, jeez.

Jaina was in Dance Club briefly in 2nd grade. She didn't like it and ended up quitting after a few meetings. Since I hated picking her up at a different time from Jayce, I was totally okay with that.

Sigh. Jayce really wants to be in Dance Club. Fine. Whatever. I sign the form. They meet every Wednesday afterschool. There just went the ONE day that I don't have anything scheduled.

And here's the kicker....

"Your child has been selected to participate in the District 2 Honor Chorus" is the paper that came home today in Jayce's blue folder.

You've got to be kidding me.

A normal mom would just say NO at this point. But I can't. This is a BIG deal. Only a handful of students at each elementary school (there are like 7 elementary schools in the entire district) are selected. I didn't even know there was an Honor Chorus because my kids have never been asked to be in it before. When I found out, I was kinda hurt that Jaina wasn't picked from her school, but her friend Aaliyah was.

And when does Honor Chorus meet? Oh, just once a week after school. Right at the same time as piano lessons.

When the heck are my kids going to do their homework?

 Yeah. In the car. On the way to all these damn activities.

And please don't think I've forgotten about poor Jocelyn. Oh, no. She has her own set of scheduled activities on the calendar.

Like Story Time.

She also FINALLY qualified for Early Intervention and Physical Therapy! EI will be every Monday morning. PT, for now, has been scheduled the same day that Jayce has Honor Chorus practice, Piano lessons, and usually a baseball game or practice. Oh, and her PT starts at the same time I'm supposed to be in car line picking Jayce up from school.

Add in my babysitting kids, Toddler H and her 3 month old brother Baby H, plus my nursery kids on Sunday, and you just got a glimpse of my life.

And I have 17 Fall Photo Sessions scheduled this season.

Calgon, take me away. Now.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Greek Fest 2013

The first time I blogged about Greek Fest was in 2006. My kids were SO little! I love how our family has yearly traditions that we never miss. We are always up for adding a new one, but seldom ever stop going to something. That just means we keep getting busier every year :)

As you might remember, Jayce broke his arm at Greek Fest in 2011. We could not convince him to go with us last year at all.

I'm happy to report that all 3 of the kids attended Greek Fest this year AND had a great time!

(Even Blue Puppy).

The girls thoroughly enjoyed the empty bouncy-house.

While the girls were busy bouncing, Jayce was busy spending all his tickets on the ride that went around and around and around...

Jocelyn said, "Go?" and indicated that she wanted to ride more rides, too. I handed my camera to Brian while I took her on some, but not a single image turned out. Hmph.

We observed the traditional Greek dancing.

We were going to avoid the dreaded playground where Jayce's injury occurred, but the kids decided at the last minute that they would play there afterall.

What?? A nice picture of my big two kids smiling??? If Jocelyn had been in this shot, too, looking and smiling, this would have truly been a miracle :)

Bye, Greek Fest! See you next September!

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hello Fall Soccer Season!

Well, that was a short Summer break from sports.

 Since Jayce attended two baseball camps and Jaina attended two cheer camps, I really feel like it wasn't a break at all.

Practices for Baseball, Soccer, and Cheer leading started the week after school began. Games started the weekend after Labor Day.  Hello Fall sports; Hello Busy Season.

Although Jaina has been on a soccer team since 1st grade, she discovered last Spring that she didn't really like it as much as she thought she did. And maybe, just maybe, she didn't quite have the soccer skills to make it on an AYSO team, travel team, or a Middle School team.

And that's okay. For the most part, sports are just for fun.

Eventually, though, you get to a point where you have to kinda try out for stuff and that's a little intimidating.

But Jaina couldn't pass up the opportunity to play just one more Fall season with some of her best friends.  And you know what? Just two games in and Jaina's already scored a goal and rocked at as goalie! Maybe the pressure is off or something like that?

Jayce brought a friend to hang out with at the last game.

So, the boys might have been more interested in Mine Craft on the tablet and getting soda and candy from the concession stand, but oh well.

Jocelyn was not too impressed with the game, either.

Jaina enjoyed the game, and that's really all that matters.

 This might be Jaina's last season playing soccer, but I bet she'll go out with a bang.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Internet Privacy?

There are many many debates that exist online among mommies. Breastfeeding vs. Bottlefeeding. Babywise vs. Attachment Parenting. Public school vs. Homeschool. Cloth diapers vs. Disposables. Vaccinate vs. Unvax. Rice cereal vs. Babyled Weaning. Co-sleeping vs. Cribs. Working vs. Stay-at-home. Extended rear facing vs. Forward facing. Birth center or Hospital?

Gah. There are so many decisions. Who knew being a mom was so tough? And who knew that 30 year old grown ups would act like high school teenagers and be quick to judge what's "cool" or not?

For me, though, those decisions come pretty easy. I simply follow my gut, or mommy instinct. Sometimes I'm wrong and learn from my mistakes. Sometimes I feel my parenting decision is spot on but am met with critics of it.

 I am quick to defend myself if someone makes a disparaging comment about one of my decisions, but for the most part, my friends and I adopt a "I don't really care what you do. I choose what's best for my family" mentality.

We all have our soapboxes, though, and issues that are near and dear to us. And that's okay. Its important to have beliefs that you stand up for.

A big debate that I've been reading on the internet has to do with Internet Safety and Privacy. You would think that's a no brainer, right? Of course you will do anything and everything to be "safe" on the internet and protect your privacy. Who wouldn't?

The problem comes when you try to define what "safe" means. Does it mean copyrighting your pictures that you post? Does it mean never posting pictures of your family at all? Does it mean password protecting your blog posts so only certain people can view them? Does it mean not having a blog at all? Does it mean only allowing certain images to be posted?

There are a lot of gray areas. No one can argue that deciding NOT to post pictures of your family online is probably the safest thing to do.  This way strangers cannot look at images of your children. They can't figure out where you live or what school your kids attend from context clues. They can't look for repeat patterns in your daily or weekly routine. Its pretty hard to internet stalk someone when they just simply aren't on the internet.

On the other hand, no one else can see your pictures, either. Not far away family members or close blogging friends.

I used to document my children's lives in the form of physical scrapbooks. Although there are many benefits to having a hardbound reminder of your family's memories, its hard to share them with people far away. And although I am certainly well within my rights as a mother to NOT share our family's adventures with the world, there is a certain disconnect that happens when one chooses to do this. And that's okay.

But I like connection. I am a very social being. For the most part, (with the exception of Jayce's autism issues) my kids are very social beings. We have rules and limits and boundaries about internet usage and I choose to educate my children about the pros and cons of sharing information on the internet.

I try to take the advice I give them and live it as well. I remind them, and myself, all the time that the internet is NEVER private. Don't post anything that you wouldn't want others to see or read. Removing something from online is extremely difficult... its much easier for it never to have been put on there to begin with.

Internet privacy is an oxymoron, it seems. There is nothing private about the internet. Once it is online, the author has very limited control of who sees it.

With that said, I knowingly choose to post pictures of my children for the world to see. I do ask my older children if its okay before I post. They love it. They yearn for the day that I allow them to have cell phones and Face Book accounts.

I certainly can't ask Jocelyn how she feels about it, though. I have to make the decision for her. Will her employer 20+ years from now stumble across these pictures of her taking a bath at age 19 months? Its certainly possible.

If anything, I hope these images make them smile :)