We Are Both Right

There’s No Time Like Now for Professional Family Photos

A little birdie whispered in my ear and told me that two of our favorite bloggers (ahem, Suzanne and Amanda) have not had professional family portraits taken in a good five years time. Part of me wants to give them a stern talking to, but the other part of me hangs my head sheepishly because I too have committed the same sin — avoiding professional family photos.

It was a long time coming, but after getting a professional photographer to take this family portrait, this mom wishes she hadn't waited so long. © Calhoun Ink / www.calhounink.com

This is probably a bad thing to be admitting to, especially since for the last several years, I was living out my dream of owning and operating my very own photography studio. It was a lot of hard work, but I loved (almost!) every minute of it.

Part of being a professional photographer included shouting from the rooftops the importance of professional family photos.

“Life is short, moments are fleeting… capture them on camera to remember forever.” That was my cry. And luckily, photography has made so many advances in recent years and digital photography has made getting professional family photos much more affordable. Yet, many people still don’t take the leap.

Isn’t it horrible that my livelihood depended on other people having professional family photos taken, yet I never made the time for my sweet family to step in front of the camera. It was not for lack of wanting… life just got busy and hectic and that was always the thing to get put off.

Often, my reason for not getting a session scheduled for our professional family photos was because I was busy photographing everyone else! Then I was pregnant, or losing baby weight, or we decided to do it after my brother-in-law got married, But then my sister-in-law got pregnant so we wanted to wait for her baby to arrive.

After years of discussing having professional family photos taken, my hubby and I finally decided to bite the bullet and purchase a gift certificate for family photos as our Christmas gift to his parents. But we missed our window of opportunity.

On October 5th of 2010, my sweet mother-in-law passed away very unexpectedly. We were set to leave that morning, with my in-laws, for a family trip to Disneyland and instead we began planning a funeral. In those early days following her passing, all I could think was: “We never had family photos done.” I posted on my photography blog, urging everyone I knew to stop making excuses and get those professional family photos taken, because now I realized just how short life was, just how fleeting those moments could be.

We have lots of pictures of my mother-in-law with my girls, but we have no pictures of our entire family together. My heart hurts when I think about that, because to me, pictures are a very important part of life. Pictures are all my girls will have to remember their grandmother by, and I don’t have any of our entire family together.

Aside from preserving memories, I feel that there are many other benefits of professional family photos. A true professional photographer is well trained and talented in their field. This means that they will know how to work with lighting and scenery, how to pose and crop in order to get a truly beautiful image that is several steps up from the typical snapshot. They will know their way around Photoshop and be able to touch up the photo to remove that pesky zit that showed up on family picture day or to brighten everyone’s eyes or make the colors really pop.

The time and talent of a professional photographer should give you a piece of art that features your most prized possession, something to hang on your wall and take pride in showing.

Within a month of my mother-in-law’s passing, I had made arrangements for my husband and our girls to have professional family photos taken and I invited my father-in-law to come along as well. I knew I could not risk the chance of missing out again. Those photos were taken just last November, and already I am looking at the calendar, figuring out when we can schedule another session, one that will hopefully include my brother-in-law and his family.

I am no longer working as a professional photographer — my mother-in-law was the one who watched my girls and made it possible for me to live out my dream. I am actually enjoying my status of full-time stay at home mom though, but my shouting from the roof tops has just gotten louder.

Have professional family portraits done — even just once (but hopefully on a somewhat regular basis)! Preserve those memories for the future. Spend an afternoon hanging out with the people you love and let a professional photographer capture your relationship on film. I honestly believe that you will not regret it.

Guest blogger Officerswife33 is a mommy and an amazing photographer who writes I’m a Mommy. What’s Your Superpower? She has two of the cutest little girls in the world and is married to her own crime fighting super hero.  Check out Facebook for their latest adventures.

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Fitting a professional photography session into the budget is usually the biggest reason for not doing it, but as Suzanne is beginning to realize, you get what you pay for.

And if you want to get more ideas for great family portraits, check out Calhoun Ink at www.calhounink.com.

Boy Wearing Little Girl Dress Up Clothes to Preschool? Not Acceptable.

©thiralia/stock.xchng

Do feather boas have a place in a preschooler's ensemble? Not at school! ©thiralia/stock.xchng

I’m a mommy blogger on the What to Expect website.  A while back, Heidi Murkoff, author of the What to Expect series, was asked the following question:

“My son loves wearing his older sister’s frilly dress-up clothes and boas. I don’t mind it around the house, but now he wants to wear them to preschool. Should I let him?”

You can click here to see the question and Heidi’s response.

To me, it’s a silly question.  Of course the answer is no.  Maybe not for the same reasons you have, but in my mind wearing any kind of kids dress up clothes to school is inappropriate.  And, while I agree with Heidi in simple terms, I respectfully disagree with her reasons for thinking so.

I like to think of myself as an open-minded mom, and pretty much accepting of just about anything that kids do.  Tommy’s sharing his popsicle with the dog again?  That’s a teaching opportunity about germs.  Toddler dressing up in mommy’s bra and parading out in front of company?  Sweetheart, let’s learn the word privacy today and how it applies to mommy’s underwear.

Kids don’t know any better a lot of the time, so you can’t fault them for being ignorant.  Instead, you teach them what they need to learn, and you do it in whatever way you know how.  The great thing about kids is how spongy they are.  They soak up knowledge anywhere they can get it and anyway it is given to them.  Take social cues, for example.  Many folks (parents, grandparents, teachers, school secretaries, parenting expert-authors, and so on) have clearly defined notions in their heads of what makes a girl and “girl” and a boy a “boy”.  Girls wear pink.  Boys wear blue.  Disobey these societal rules and you just might be a homosexual.

Even in Preschool.

How ridiculous, right?  I mean, who gives a rip if a kid is gay.  So your preschool-aged son (which makes him three or four years old, by the way) likes to play in kids dress up clothes of the “girlie” variety.  Who am I to say that boy faeries don’t wear skirts?  I’ve never seen a boy faerie, how would I know?  Oh, and, he’s FOUR, folks.  His parents have years to go before he starts really worrying them with his wild and crazy sexual explorations.  I’m pretty sure that even the most progressive four year-old child isn’t donning black lipstick and a kilt because he wants to be “alternative” (as we called that style when I was a teenager).  Nah, this wee one just thinks that toddler dress up costumes of the skirt, tutu, and gown persuasion are pretty.

I see no problem in allowing a boy to play in little girl dress up clothes.  The operative word in that sentence is play.  Which (finally) brings me to my point about why little boys shouldn’t wear dresses to school.  We don’t go to school to play.  We go to learn.

Here’s what it boils down to.  School is the beginning of understanding what it means to become a productive member of society.  The end goal of all that schooling is to enable us to figure out what we want to do to become successful members in a workforce.  There are certain behaviors that are acceptable at home and in one’s casual time, and others that are appropriate for school or the workplace.  We go to school to pay attention and learn, not to play dress up all day.

Even in Preschool.

Of course there are political reasons for discouraging little boys from wearing dress up costumes to school, especially if they are of the feminine variety.  Frankly, if those were the only reasons I’d fly a double salute and let my kid wear whatever he wanted to preschool.  But, where I rebel against the stupidity of other adults and their idiotic and thoughtless reactions to seeing a little boy in a dress, I do conform to the principle that a school is an institution much like the workplace.  We should dress in business appropriate clothing at work, and similarly at school.  Should a little boy be allowed to wear frilly kids dress up clothes to preschool?  Well, should he be allowed to wear his pajamas to preschool?  The answer is the same for both questions.  In a word, no.

Be a friend and a fan of FunnyMum and Motherhood by Design on Facebook, plus follow her blog on What to Expect!

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Amanda says she doesn’t have a problem with boys wearing girl’s clothing to school (and kind of wishes she could get in on the sparkly tutu action herself!).

“Yes, I Believe in Spanking”… And?

Has spanking ever been a part of your discipline routine? © Iuriatan Felipe Muniz / stock.xchng

The other day, I was sharing mommy war stories with a woman at my volunteer gig. Her son is also two, just a few months older than Pop Culture Toddler, and we were sharing the things we both love and hate about this age. Soon the discussion turned to our least favorite part about the terrible twos – the acts of defiance.  The other mom told me that she was running out of discipline options, because neither positive reinforcement nor time-outs nor spanking were working, and before she could complete her thought, she blurted out, “Yes, I believe in spanking!”

This sentiment – feeling defensive about how she chooses to discipline her own child – is something with which I am familiar. More and more, parents who spank for some reason feel like they have to “justify” their actions. It’s not that we think we are wrong – no more so than any other parenting decision, anyway; it’s that many people who are anti-spanking have turned up the rhetoric so much that sometimes it feels as though the second you admit to being pro-spanking, people expect horns to grow out of your head.

I was spanked as a child, as most of my friends were. I am not afraid of my father (the parent who spanked me) nor do I hold any ill will towards him for spanking me. I appreciate and respect the fact that he spanked me. Every spanking I got, I deserved.  Although my father’s punishment was in some ways a comedy anecdote [the classic black comedian line about parents/grandparents who punctuated each syllable of their talking-to with another hit of the belt], he never spanked me out of anger. In fact, I usually was warned hours beforehand that a spanking was coming. The psychological element of the spankings – the sheer anticipation of the spanking to come – was often worse than the spanking itself. But neither element was so harmful as to negatively affect my childhood or my adult life.

Regardless of what you feel about the effectiveness or usefulness of spanking or what kind of lessons it does or does not teach to your children, let’s get one thing clear: spanking is not abuse. I have friends who were abused, and I find it insulting and demeaning to the turmoil they suffered when people, caught in their own rhetoric, equate spanking to abuse. Yes, in the wrong hands, used in the wrong way, spanking can be abusive. A verbally abuse parent can make time-outs or even positive reinforcement abusive; that does not make the methods of discipline in and of themselves abusive. And really, that’s my problem with the anti-spanking movement.

Like so many of the Mommy Wars, people feel that in order to justify their own positions, they have to turn up the heat in vilifying the opposite. I am not saying that everyone who is anti-spanking is this way; but certainly some of the most vocal opposition I have seen against spanking goes to this extreme.

Personally, I don’t care how someone disciplines their child as long as it is well-thought, non-abusive and effective. It is truly none of my business.

For myself, I believe in tailoring the punishment to the child. We tried time-outs with Pop Culture Toddler. Unfortunately, like her mother, my child is showing early signs of ADD. One of the side effects of this is that she amuses herself in time-outs. It is utterly the most ineffective punishment for her. Positive reinforcement also only goes so far with her. Really, the most effective thing to date has been spanking. We do not spank often, but we do spank when necessary (or threaten to spank as needed). Fortunately, I do have enough authority that if I begin the countdown to “If you do/do not do x by the count of three, you’re going to get a spanking,” I rarely make it past two.

As Pop Culture Toddler gets older, we will (as my father did) modify her form of discipline to use what works on her. Likewise, with the next Pop Culture Baby, we will cycle through forms of correction until we determine what works for that child, and then modify accordingly for him or her as s/he gets older.

The bottom line is that this decision will be made by my husband and me alone; how we discipline our children is not up for a community vote. If you don’t like spankings or don’t feel they are effective, don’t do them; but like every other parenting decision out there, spare me (and others) your judgment. Just be happy that my child is content, bright and well-mannered.

Yes, I believe in spanking. So what?

Pop Culture Mom, as she is known to us, writes none other than the Pop Culture Mom blog, keeping us updated on Glee and all the pertinent info we need to get by at the water cooler but were just too darn tired to catch ourselves. You can get your fill too — just check her out at Pop Culture Mom, on Facebook, and Twitter.

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In our new series of guest blogs, we invite other mommy bloggers to share their points of view on topics where Suzanne and Amanda happen to be on the same side. In this case, Suzanne can appreciate the careful consideration Pop Culture Mom gives to her version of spanking for discipline. She just doesn’t get the same results.

I’ll Keep My Kids Germ-Free (and Healthy), Thanks

©asolario/stock.xchng

Let's face it: Kids are gross! ©asolario/stock.xchng

As a mama of three and a half, you would think that time and experience would have forced me to relax some. And it has, to a degree, I am not nearly the uptight mama I was when I had my son Boston. At least, I don’t think I am all that uptight anymore. Others, my husband included, might beg to differ. But I am less of a nut case, I am not worried about perfectly coifed children anymore. Kids get dirty. They aren’t going to stay stain free with perfectly arranged hair all day. They are kids for crying out loud. I have finally learned to let them just be kids.

There are some things I have not lightened up on at all though. I am still paranoid about keeping them clean from a germ standpoint. I am the mom that uses a cart cover and a highchair cover. I am the mom wiping off the table with a wet wipe before I let the kids touch it. I am the mom going through thousands of wipes a month in general. It is a big nasty world out there and I don’t want it smeared all over my kids. Grocery cart handles are supposed to be the dirtiest thing in America and my kids all seem like they can’t help but lick it when they are sitting there. *shiver*  Buying wet wipes by the case isn’t my only addiction. I have to buy Clorox wipes the same way. Have you ever used those babies? Best little instant sanitizer ever. I would much rather use a Clorox wipe than a wash rag on the high chair any day. Another sweet little gem is the awesome, always effective, magic eraser. One use and I was in love. Those little rectangles of seemingly nothing clean better than anything.  I thought my tub was clean until I got a magic eraser. I was SHOCKED. It was three shades whiter when I was done. That new found love immediately took over my toys.

Most of the time we buy things used. I bought a Little Tyke slide at a garage sale for the perfect price of $1. I also bought a little car and a Fisher Price piano for $1. A steal people. I took them home, wore out two magic erasers, then gave them a bath in soapy water (magic erasers much be washed off of toys with soap, they can leave chemical burns on baby’s delicate skin) and we have been playing with those toys for four years. I have spent more on batteries for the piano than all of the toys combined.

But it doesn’t stop there. If a bunch of kids come over, I whip the Clorox wipes again and wash down everything in the playroom. Kids are gross. Not just other people’s kids, mine are too, but kids are gross. It just isn’t worth it to me to deal with sick kids because I didn’t bleach everything off at the end of the day.

I have heard all the arguments that we need to let our kids get exposed to germs so they can build an immune system. I understand that, but I also think it is stupid to just let it be a free for all. I was mocked by EVERYONE when my son was born because I wouldn’t take him out or let people hold him.  They told me I was being over protective and worrying too much. I respectfully disagree. It was RSV season, it is stupid to expose a newborn to something like that. In the end, there were six of us that had babies in a two week period, four of those babies ended up being admitted to the hospital for RSV. Boston didn’t even catch his first cold until he was ten months old.

I know that I am uptight in this area, but I have no intentions of changing in the slightest. In four years with three kids, I’ve had three ear infections, two pukes, one flu, and maybe a half dozen colds. That is amazing numbers. Until about a week ago I didn’t even know what it was to have a scary sick kid, I’ve just never dealt with it. My sister brought my nephew over sick and infected my kid so much that he ended up on oxygen. She knew he had pneumonia and brought him over anyway. After that experience it just made me recommit to bleach everything and stay away from anyone that has a cough. People can tease me all they want.  I like my kids healthy.

BostonsMama is a wife; mommy to Boston, Scarlett, Isla & Quatro; a blogger; stylist and crazy person. You can read about the life and stories of her sweethearts on her, blog They Call Me Mommy. Keep up with her on her Facebook page.

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In our new series of guest blogs, we invite other mommy bloggers to share a different point of view on topics where Suzanne and Amanda actually find themselves agreeing (for once). After reading this post, self-proclaimed mess (in more ways than one) Amanda says she may have to check out these magic erasers of which BostonsMama speaks so highly.

We’ll Use the Potty Sooner Rather than Later

Elimination communication depends on you to interpret your baby's timing, signals and cues. © BabyBjorn

I hear about potty training as a two-year-old issue and even a three-year-old issue now.

I know that my mother would be appalled to see three-year-olds running about in diapers. No child in our family has ever been in diapers past two; if I let my baby be in diapers that long, I’d never hear the end of it. Some of us were trained before one.

In fact, family tradition dictates that one of baby’s first birthday presents will be a potty chair. Potty training starts when walking starts. I was potty trained before one. Now I’m working on having my son Norton potty trained early, too.

We use elimination communication. For months now (since Norton was six months old, actually), we’ve been putting Norton on the potty before he gets a bath. For the first week, he cried when I put him on the potty. Then we figured out that it was because he was cold and naked, so we started to warm up the bathroom a bit.

He stopped crying on the potty, but he still wasn’t actually using it. Instead, he was peeing in the bath as soon as his little bottom hit the water. That was when we started putting his potty on the bathroom counter and splashing water from the sink over his little foot. It took about a month of this before we had success.

The day that Norton used the potty for the very first time was just downright euphoric. I cheered so loud that I scared my baby and made him cry, then proceeded to brag on Facebook about my little genius baby using the potty. Then he didn’t do it again for a week.

Elimination communication wasn’t easy to start, but we got him to the point where he uses his potty nearly every night. (Of course, we’d have probably gotten a better start if I didn’t brag about it on Facebook. There’s no quicker way to get my kid to stop doing something than to brag about him doing it in the first place.)

Now that he’s almost a year old, we’re trying to get him to use the potty more frequently. We’re putting him on the potty before naps and after naps, and also first thing in the morning. We aren’t necessarily having success at these times, but he’s cooperating with the experience. He’ll get it soon enough. Each time he uses the potty is a success.

There’s one huge advantage to doing it this way: Norton is already used to the potty. He’s already comfortable sitting on it, and he even holds his little foot out over the sink so that it may be splashed. When he’s officially a toddler and is really ready to be completely trained, then we’ll move forward with no hold up. Less time in diapers means less laundry for me (because I mostly use cloth) and less money literally thrown away with disposables.

It’s really not even that hard, nor is it a hard core commitment. You can use elimination communication on a part time basis, or you can go diaper free and use elimination communication all the time.

It’s not about forcing your child to be potty trained before he’s ready. It’s just recognizing your child’s cues to recognize when he or she has to go. Eventually, they’ll start communicating those cues to you so that you know that it’s time to go to the potty.

Really, potty training can be hard enough if you wait until they are old enough to be stubborn about it. Why delay it if you don’t have to?

Enyo is an ex-pat living in the Great White North. You can keep up with the adventures of Enyo, Norton, and their puppies on her blog, “Motherhood Looms: Where’s My Yarn?” or stop by to chat with her on the Motherhood Looms page on Facebook.

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In the first of our new series of guest blogs, we invite other mommy bloggers to share a different point of view on topics where Suzanne and Amanda actually find themselves agreeing (for once). Thanks to Enyo for enlightening us on the ins and outs of elimination communication — which Suzanne didn’t quite get until now.