Thursday, March 30, 2006

The things you can do with felt

I bought some blue felt yesterday to try out as a backdrop for future photoshoots, specifically the one I have on Saturday of a 6-month-old girl. Ava was kind enough to indulge me a bit today, so that I could play, I mean, practice. ;)

I think I need to iron it to get out the wrinkles (you can really see them in the first pic) and find a way to get it to hang tighter on my backdrop stand, but I think it will work out pretty nicely and is a relatively inexpensive backdrop.

I was pleased to discover the light in my livingroom was better than I originally thought, so maybe I could do shoots here at my house after all. We'll see. Oh, and I ran an action on these pics called "colour wow" which I just LOVE. Really makes the colors pop! :)

Here's my lil punkin. Thanks for looking.

I think this one is my new favorite of her. :)

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Stuff n things

Haven't had time to blog lately, but I figured a little recap was in order, so here goes...

Ava officially learned to jump (with BOTH feet off the ground at the same time last night)! It was pretty exciting for all of us. :)

I've been busy proofing my two photo sessions from this weekend. Neither went as well as I would've liked (mostly weather-related problems), but I rolled with the punches and am pleased with several of the pictures. Maybe one of these days I'll get around to posting a little gallery from some of my recent shoots.

The weather was gorgeous today, so, after running some errands, Ava and I spent a good deal of time playing in the backyard along with the dogs. It's nice to see spring has returned (at least for now). :)

We've been dealing with a major infestation of mice in our garage for the past few weeks. I won't get into too many details but after trying many ways of getting rid of them without killing them (catch and release traps - they got out of, those sonic noise things that are supposed to make mice leave the premises - which hasn't bothered them in the least, etc.), we have had to resort to more drastic measures (some kind of poison "food" that causes them to fall into a coma and die, because neither of us could bear the thought of using actual mouse traps). *Gulp* It sucks and I feel horrible about it, but I think there are at least 15 of them out there and 15 mice make a LOT of poop and a BIG mess which certainly can't be healthy for us. So Jody's been taking care of all of that, both setting out the "food" and cleaning up the ridiculous mess of poop they've left us. Thank God.
Looks like I went into more detail than I'd originally planned. Oops.

I'm sure there are those of you out there who think this is absolutely cruel and horrible for us to do, but I ask that you keep your comments to yourselves. I feel bad about resorting to killing them, but I honestly value the health of my family more than I do the health of rodents. Sorry. :(

That's all I have time for right now. Must find something to make for dinner while the little one naps. Eww. The thought of food doesn't sound appetizing after all that talk about mice. Gah.

Friday, March 24, 2006

The kids need chaperones already?

Since both my husband and my friend's husband were going to be out of town yesterday (both on separate trips), we decided to get together to hang out, have dinner, chat and watch a movie. Obviously since our guys were gone, we had the kids in tow.

You would've thought it was "date night" for Ava and Creed, more than a relaxing night for the mommies the way those two kept kissing and hugging each other. I swear they gave each other at least 10 to 12 kisses last night, plus several hugs. LOL We joked around that we were just there to chaperone.

One hug was so sweet, they were holding onto each other so tight that they lost their balance and fell over while still hugging. Unfortunately Ava bonked her head and was reduced to tears. :( Awww. What can I say honey? - sometimes love hurts. ;)

At one point, while we were watching "Fried Green Tomatoes," Creed snuck behind their futon and Ava soon followed after. They were just sitting back there playing together, but it was pretty funny. Like they had to sneak away so they could be alone. hehe. ;)

We had a fun evening. It was nice to get out and do something with a friend since Jody's been gone since Tuesday night. We ordered Indian food and spent a lot of time just chit-chatting. In fact, we didn't start the movie 'til pretty late so we didn't get to watch all of it, but that's ok because I've seen it before (years ago) and since it was my Netflix rental, I'll probably watch the rest here tonight.

Anyway, Jody gets home later today - yay! I'll be happy to have him back and I know Ava will be too. :)

This weekend is a busy one - two photoshoots with toddlers! Should be fun and interesting I'm sure. ;) Thankfully, after lots of crazy snow here lately, the weather looks like it will cooperate for outdoor pics - in the 50s and partly cloudy.

Hope everyone has a nice weekend. :)

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Say it ain't soy ;)

Since making the switch to vegetarianism back in January (I think it was), we've been consuming a lot of soy in this house. Not just tofu and tempeh, but I've been buying a lot of the fake meat products in the freezer and refrigerator sections. This is in addition to drinking soy milk.

Well, guess what. I think I'm WAY overdoing it.

All of this soy consumption is causing me major gastro-intestinal issues. I won't go into detail (you don't want to hear it - doh! no pun intended), but things have gotten a little too gassy around our house lately.

A mama on one of my message boards recently posted a link to an article from Mothering magazine called Whole Soy Story: The Dark Side of America's Favorite Health Food and it really got me thinking about our eating habits. (That, and I chatted via email with Miriam about soy, protein and other stuff. I wish she could just come cook for me. Not like she has anything to keep her busy with a baby coming any day now. ;))

I admit to going gung-ho over all of these soy products, thinking they were a healthy meat substitute, while they are really just heavily processed foods being marketed as "healthy" because they are made with soy. And so I'm cutting back on these processed foods. It only makes sense. I wouldn't buy processed frozen chicken nuggets for our family before we were vegetarian, so why would I buy processed frozen soy "chicken" nuggets, etc. now?? The convenience of them definitely appealed to me, but convenience can have it's drawbacks.

So now I need to figure out some healthy alternatives (like more beans/lentils/whole grains/etc.). This isn't to say I won't buy any of these things fake meat products again, but, like ALL things we do/consume in life, I believe that the key is MODERATION. :) So we will be consuming them far less often.

Anyway, if any of you vegetarians or vegans out there have some ideas for me, I'm all ears. :) Thanks!

Monday, March 20, 2006

Dreams and cleaning

I had a dream about some old friends (and a former friend) last night. This time they were all going on a cruise without me, but I heard about it or was invited or something at the last minute so I decided to hang out with them for a bit. I didn't buy a ticket for the cruise so I could only stay on the boat until it was about to leave the port. (Weird.) Anyway, I don't remember much about it, but it seems like me and my former friend were able to work out some of our issues, though it was definitely awkward and strange.

I am sure I dreamt about this because I recently learned that the old gang is getting together for a trip to visit one of our mutual friends. We all did the trip together last year, but since then, me and the one friend had a major falling out (that I, to this day, still don't understand) and so they are going without me this year. (Which is fine by the way. No hard feelings to any parties involved.)

Anyway, despite the several inches of snow we have on the ground, I was doing some spring cleaning today and came across this big tote box thing full of paraphernalia from planning my wedding. I have about 6 wedding planning books as well as several wedding/bride magazines, a slew of receipts from our wedding stuff, a bajillion wedding and shower cards and all kinds of notes relating to our wedding. In addition to this, I found "souvenirs" from friends' weddings - including about 10 programs, a handful of napkins and matches and a bottle of bubbles from the one friend that I had the falling out with. I'm not sure why I saved all that stuff (I can see one program, but 10??!), but, for a number of reasons, I couldn't see holding onto it any longer. I parted with a bunch of MY wedding stuff (our recycle bin will be full of paper this week!) and plan to donate all of my books and magazines (God willing, I'll never need those again!), so I parted with her wedding memorabilia as well.

I'm not sure how this all ties in together, but it felt good to get some cleaning done today, even if it was a very small dent in the huge amount of stuff I need to go through. It felt sort of like an emotional cleansing too. First I had the dream that things had been patched up with this friend and then I physically removed some of the stuff related to her from my life. Not saying that I want her out of my life, but I think fresh starts are always good.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

A few treats for myself

Since we have a little extra money at the moment, I decided to treat myself to a few new things this weekend.

First off, I finally got a pair of Crocs. I've been wanting some for well over a year now (maybe two or three, I don't remember) but just never took the plunge. Jody was buying a new pair of shoes today so I took advantage of the moment and asked if I could get some too (he hates Crocs by the way), and he indulged me. Yay! I got the fuschia pair. I wanted to get a pair for Ava too, but the smallest size seems a little too big for her still. hehe. Just wait. ;)

For those of you who are unfamiliar with Crocs, the company that makes them is based right near here in Boulder, CO, and just about everyone and their sister/brother has at least one pair around here. They are supposed to be uber-comfy. I guess I'll let ya know. ;) I know a lot of people think they are fugly as can be, but c'est la vie. I like 'em.

The other thing I got for myself (which was VERY much needed) was a new nursing bra. My "good" one that I bought before Ava was born has seen much better days (and it doesn't fit quite right now that my boobs are not nearly as big as they were right after she was born). So I got a nice, new Bravado bra. Yay again!

It's not often that I get to splurge on myself so it's pretty fun when I do. :)

I also picked up a few things for the photography business - two large pots and a wooden crate (to help keep babies/kids in one place), and some faux flowers. I really need to pick up some tulle and ribbon to make some tutus as well. :)

Oh, speaking of the biz, I got my backdrop stand and a free roll of white seamless paper in this week so I did a bit of playing with it with Ava the other day. Here are a few that I took. (click the pic to see it larger.)

Hope you all have a nice weekend. It's raining here and snow is expected overnight and tomorrow. Blah.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Great Google-y news!

Back in August of last year, I wrote an entry about Google and the company's awesome benefits. At the time, my husband had been idly day-dreaming about working for Google, and we both oooh'd and aaah'd over the company's larger than life perks.

Seven months later, I'm ecstatic to report that his day-dream wasn't as far off as we thought it might be. The company Jody works for was officially acquired by Google this week! :)

The office is staying in the same location here in Colorado so we don't have to worry about packing up and moving across the country (yay!).

While Jody won't be getting quite the lengthy list of benefits and perks that Google's California employees receive, he/we will still be making out very well. Some of the perks we're excited about are better health, dental and vision insurance coverage for less money; free catered lunches to all employees Monday through Friday (no more worrying about packing leftovers!); more vacation time (nice!); tuition reimbursement (Jody wants to go back to school at some point); paid paternity leave (we plan to have at least one more child); a $500 take-out meal allowance after the birth of a new baby (woot!); low-cost massages for employees (Jody's excited about that - wonder if they'd do it for spouses as well); and more. :-)

This looks like it will be a great change for both Jody's company and for our family. We're excited about what lies ahead. :)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Fresh, yummy (organic) fruits and veggies

After hearing great things about Door to Door Organics, I finally took the plunge and signed up for the service a few days ago.

We got our first box of organic fruits and veggies today and everything looked (and so far has tasted) delicious. :)

I decided to try out the "small" box (which is $30) on a bi-weekly basis (at first) to see how we like it. If we end up going through all of the food in one week, then I will probably change it to a weekly subscription.

Here is a pic of our loot. (We were missing 4 oranges, however, which will be delivered in our next box.)

Ava enjoyed going through all of it with me and I think it could be helpful to teach her colors and about various fruits and veggies since the menu varies with the growing seasons.

Trying an apple:

Inspecting the strawberries (which she ate w/ her breakfast):

One nice thing about Door to Door is that the produce comes locally from farmers within the surrounding states.

Another nice thing about it is that they allow you to make up to three substitutions on the menu per week. So if you don't like butternut squash, you can substitute something else in it's place.

It might be a little more expensive (than going to the grocery store and buying them yourself) since they are delivering it right to your door, but the convenience is, admittedly, very nice. I am assured of having a variety of fresh fruits and veggies at my door every other week (or every week) if I so choose. Plus once I factor in the time and gas spent to get me to the grocery store, I think it nearly evens out.

Other than the missing 4 oranges (which we will get eventually), so far so good. I'm really happy with it and I think it will be a great thing for us. :)

Saturday, March 11, 2006

A slew of baby disco pictures

We went to the "Baby Loves Disco" party this afternoon and had a good time. Ava wasn't as enthused about dancing among the masses as we thought she would be (it was a little overwhelming), but she still enjoyed herself.

Her favorite activity (only barely beating out playing with balloons) was going up and down the couple sets of stairs between levels. At one point during her stair stepping escapades, she got out of Jody's view. He chased after her, but got stuck behind some slow-moving toddlers and parents and she disappeared around a corner. Neither of us could find her for about three minutes. That might not seem like a long time, but that's the first time she's ever been "lost" like that and those three minutes felt like an eternity. What a scary feeling! I was glad she was wearing that bright green dress (which was my sister's when she was little), because I was able to spot her without too much trouble on the dance floor. She was unharmed and had even managed to find a ball to play with in those three minutes. It took me a minute to recover from losing her - my eyes welled up with tears as I hugged her tightly afterwards. That was more than enough excitement for me.

We took several pictures (there are even some with me in them if you can believe it! I asked Jody to take the camera and have at it). I tried to do several without the flash and the ISO bumped way up, but, as dark as it was, there was no way I could get a fast enough shutter speed to avoid motion blur. So I had to settle for using my flash. My new outlook on using my flash is - better to preserve the memory and use the flash (and settle for the unnatural lighting, horrible shadows and dots in eyes, red eyes, etc.), than not to use the flash and have a picture that sucks.

Without further ado, here are more disco pictures than you could ever want. ;) (Click on them to see them larger.)

The dance party as seen from the balcony (the only pic I'm posting where I didn't use the flash):

Dancing with daddy:

On the dancefloor, taking it all in:

Starting to get into it:

Looking out over the balcony:

Climbing on the chairs in the balcony:

Doing a little dancing:

Cheesing it up with mommy. (Jody says I look manic in this pic...nice.):

Watching all the dancers:

Being escorted down the stairs by daddy:

Oooh, a balloon:

Watching daddy get another balloon:

So pretty:

Oooh, and there it goes!:

Friday, March 10, 2006

Positive discipline to the rescue!

On Wednesday, our local Attachment Parenting group had its monthly meeting. This month's topic was "Child Development and Discipline from Birth to Age Five," with speaker Patience Bleskan, the founder of Parents and Children Empowered.

Patience's talk was wonderful. She hit on several points that I've heard before, but it was a great reminder for me to hear them again, especially since Ava's at an age now where she is testing her boundaries, etc.

Here's a bit from Patience's autobiography which helps explain her view on discipline:
"Through her past and continued work with families including her own, she continues to see the negative results of parents misunderstanding their child's behavior. In general parents focus on the behaviors they see their children doing, with no attempt to understand why the child is acting a certain why. Patience firmly believes children have a legitimate reason for everything they do. But because they have few skills to express their thinking, their actions often leave us wondering. As a parent it is our job to find out the reasons behind what our children do so we can help them find better ways to be in the world.

If a child is misbehaving, and you only see the bad behavior, all you can do is punish. But if your child is misbehaving and you see the thinking and motivation behind the behavior, you have found an opportunity to teach."

Her talk began with explaining child development at different ages. That was really interesting to learn when they can comprehend different things.

She explained the importance of first validating why your child is doing a specific behaviour. Say, for example, Ava is standing on her rocking chair (something she really likes to do). I could say to her, "I know you like to stand on your rocking chair. It's really fun for you and you get to be tall!" Then go on to explain why this behaviour is something you don't approve of. "Mommy gets scared when you stand on your rocking chair because you could fall down and get hurt." I could then demonstrate a doll standing on the chair, rocking, and falling off, emphasizing that the doll gets hurt when she falls. And then explain what the proper behaviour is. "Rocking chairs are for sitting." Etc.

My first reaction was, wow, that sounds like a lot of work. But Jody (who was able to sneak out of work to attend the meeting as well) and I have already started implementing these changes in how we address her, and once you start doing it, it's really easy to get into the habit. And Ava really seems to be responding to what we say.

This doesn't mean she's going to be a perfectly behaved child, but hopefully we can use things like standing on a rocking chair or throwing a block, as opportunities to teach rather than just getting upset and frustrated that she's not behaving the way that we want (which I know is so easy to do).

Patience also talked about giving your child choices (a la Love and Logic style), so they feel like they have some control over their lives.

She also mentioned that you don't have to make your words simple for your child. Words are words are words are words. If you use larger words with them, they will quickly learn what they mean. I thought that was really cool because we don't really use smaller words with Ava and it's good to know that she can still learn and understand what we mean.

She talked a lot about positive reinforcement and how it's been proven to be much more effective than punishment. Here are a couple articles on the subject: Why Positive Reinforcement Works and Positive Reinforcement vs. Punishment.

I know there are other things she mentioned (like effective ways to get your child to take turns and how to wean your toddler), but that's all the time I have to write right now.

All-in-all, it was a very productive and beneficial meeting and I'm glad Patience was able to come. I know I had been feeling a bit frustrated lately about how to respond when Ava does this, that or the other thing, and I feel like I came away from the meeting with several useful tools to help me in my parenting journey. I am actually thinking about making myself some notecards to put up around the house with various reminders about how I want to respond in certain situations, because I know how easy it is to just react without thinking. I think that would be handy for both me and Jody.

Just came across this tidbit (on what looks to be a really good site on the topic of positive discipline), which I think sums it all up perfectly.:
Remember: the goal of discipline is not to control children and make them obey but to give them skills for making decisions, gradually gaining self-control, and being responsible for their own behavior.

There's no time like the present

I've been a horrible blogger this week. Not because I haven't wanted to blog, but I just haven't had the time. I have a feeling my entries are going to be more sparse as I continue on with my photography business. So, it's a good thing for me, but I do enjoy blogging and plan to continue it, perhaps just not every day. (And I'm sorry that I haven't been commenting on my fave blogs lately either. Forgive me?)

Anyway, I'm tired (*yawn*) and wouldn't mind sleeping in, but I'm awake so I figured I might as well get on here for a little update before the lil miss wakes up.

Maybe I'll just go start another entry since I have a specific topic I'd like to write about.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Disco baby :)

We've decided to join some friends on Saturday for Baby Loves Disco - "an afternoon dance party featuring real music spun and mixed by real djs blending classic disco tunes From the 70s, & 80s guaranteed to get those little booties moving and grooving."

I admit that this seems a little out there (i.e. too gimmicky) to be something of interest to me. In fact, when I first heard about it, I had no intentions of going. But then our AP group decided to make an event out of it, and, the more I learned, the more fun it sounded.

I think Ava is going to love it. She loves music, kids and dancing so it should be a hit. :) I just wonder how to dress her for a disco party. ;) LOL

Here's a bit more about it:
"The fun spills out from all corners of the club: bubble machines, baskets of instruments, a chill-out room (with tents, books and puzzles), diaper changing stations, a full spread of healthy snacks (provided by Whole Foods) and dancing, LOTS of dancing. But at it’s core, Baby loves disco is a community event that brings kids together with kids and parents together with parents."

I'll be sure to take some groovy pictures of my dancing queen for sharing. :)

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Mexican polenta casserole - recipe

This proved to be a very tasty dinner for us on Thurdsay. Ava gobbled it right up. Hope you enjoy it as well. :)

Mexican Polenta Casserole

1 package of polenta w/ green chiles and cilantro (it comes seasoned that way)
1 can of refried beans w/ green chiles
1 C Quorn grounds (warmed and seasoned with taco seasoning)
1/2 C salsa
1/2 can black olives (sliced)
3/4 C cheese (I used sharp cheddar and monterrey jack)

And 1 or 2 avocados (and whatever you put into your guacamole) to make into guacamole. I used lime juice, Spike seasoning, pepper and cilantro.

Spray the bottom of your casserole dish w/ some non-stick cooking spray.
Soften and mash the polenta by adding some water and microwaving it until it softens.
Spread 1/2 the polenta into the casserole dish.
Spread a layer of refried beans (use the whole can).
Spread a layer of the Quorn grounds (that have been warmed and seasoned w/ taco seasoning).
Put down a layer of salsa, then black olives.
Spread on the other 1/2 of the polenta.
Top with shredded cheese.
Bake at 350 degrees for about 40 min., then follow up with the casserole under the broiler for a minute or two.
Top with guacamole and serve.

By the way, the Indian food (palak paneer) we had for dinner last night was sooooo good. :) Ava loved it too and had leftovers for dinner tonight as well. Yum!

Oh, I was mixing up some guacamole tonight to go along with my dinner leftovers (of the Mexican polenta casserole no less). I asked Ava what I was making and, clear as day, she said "guacamole." Then she repeated it about 6 times. Can't tell that we like our avocados in this house, can ya? ;)

Friday, March 03, 2006

Recent Ava pics and lil updates

I took these last night and today. There's nothing technically great about them (other than they are of my sweetie, of course), just some cute snapshots. :)

Ava, playing with her "babies" (and hamming it up) last night. (The Mandy and Jenny dolls were mine and my sister's when we were kids.) These pics were taken right before she decided all of her dolls needed to be naked ("nake-nee").:

Today's weather was so awesome, we spent a good part of our day outside. First playing in the backyard, then we went for a walk around the park, then I decided to clean out my front flower beds and rake up dead grass. What a busy day! Ava, of course, was a great helper. :)

Here she is, helping mommy with yardwork. - (I had been sweeping off the walkway, but she decided the grass needed sweeping as well.):

My future's so bright...:

I've got a delicious recipe and pics to share this weekend - Mexican polenta casserole. :)

Hope everyone has a nice weekend.
I've decided I'm taking a break from cooking tonight ;) and we're ordering Indian takeout (palak paneer and naan - mmmmmmm). And, since we happen to have "The Guru" from Netflix, we'll watch that which will make it an Indian-themed night. hehe.
The weather looks to be wonderful Saturday and Sunday so we're going to a park (to scout it out for future photoshoots) tomorrow and I've got a newborn photoshoot on Sunday. Plus I'm excited that I've booked one other photoshoot for March so far, three for April, and another possibly for May. To quote Almost Famous, "it's all happening." :)

Oh, and good news about my mother-in-law. She only had 20% blockage so there's no need for any surgeries. They will have to do further testing though to find out why she's having the pains. Hopefully, like someone (I think here) suggested, with some lifestyle changes she will be able to do much better. Thanks for your good thoughts for both her and my dad.


P.S. I have no idea if he reads my blog or not (we don't really talk anymore and haven't for years), but happy birthday to my younger brother today! He turns 29.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Organics on the rise

I just caught part of a show called "American Consumer" on PBS. On today's show they discussed something that's been particularly important to me lately - organic foods.

In the U.S., organic foods are regulated by the government, which is reassuring because you know that if you buy something labeled organic, it truly will be organic. Here's a little bit about the labeling process per USDA Organic Standards Fact Sheet.
Products labeled:

1. 100% Organic must be just that—100% organic ingredients.
2. Organic with the USDA Seal must contain 95% organic ingredients by weight.
3. Made with Organic Ingredients must contain 70% organic ingredients by weight.
4. Products with less than 70% organic ingredients may list specific organically produced ingredients on the side panel of the package, but may not make any organic claims on the front of the package.

The show mentioned that the demand for organic foods is majorly on the rise which is encouraging to me because organic farming is so much better for the environment and organic animals are treated much better. Plus it shows that consumers are interested in improving their health by buying foods without heavy pesticides, growth hormones, antibiotics or other chemicals.

They mentioned on the show that arsenic is fed to conventional chickens. It seemed so preposterous to me that I thought I misheard it. So I looked it up and found an article called "Chicken: arsenic and antiobiotics" on the Consumer Reports site. It may not be as scary as it initially sounds, but still - I wouldn't want my child to eat chicken that had consumed arsenic in any form, though I know she must have when we were still eating meat (and not buying organic at the time). And how many years did I eat chicken (after I stopped being a vegetarian but swore off beef) that was tainted in this way? Eep.

The expert from Consumer Reports that they interviewed said the most important things to buy organic (to get the most bang for your buck so to speak) are produce first; dairy, eggs, and meat second; and then processed foods third.

When I first started buying organic, fruits and veggies were my main priority (though I don't buy all of them organic - just can't afford it). Now that I've been doing it for a little bit, we're trying to budget for organic dairy (cheese) and eggs as well. And our soy milk/tofu/tempeh are all organic as well.

I really think that the investment in organic foods (which, according to the program generally cost 50% more than conventional foods) at this point will only be beneficial to our health down the road. It sucks that there is such a big difference in cost for something that is better for you, but perhaps as the demand for organics grows and more farmers pick up this method, the price will go down. That's my wishful thinking anyway. ;) Maybe if the demand is high enough and people stop buying conventional foods, all farmers/producers will convert to organics. How awesome would that be? :)

For more consumer information about The National Organic Program, click here.