Saturday, May 31, 2014

Weeks 18-21 of 52

The past few weeks in pictures...not sure my abilities are getting better, but the boys are certainly getting bigger!
Notice Felix's winter boots that are 3 sizes too big. I love this picture.

Gus's diaper is hanging out and I am teasing him with his "lovey" Douglas

Teefers! We actually have another 0.5 of a tooth on the bottom now. 

This picture cracks me up because I can see him at a metal concert screaming to his friend, "this song is EPIC!"

Please. Mid-air photobomb. CLASSIC FELIX.

Popsicle face. 

Playing around with Lightroom presets
I love this one, too. I feel like it's straight out of a magazine. For crazy kids.

Another classic Felix. 

...and classic Miles

Eye injury.

Where Gus spends his time dreaming about...my guess is breastmilk or pacifiers. Or Douglas.

GAK BATH

Yogurt Bath

Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel. 
As you can see, I am still toying around with all sorts of filters and sliders in Lightroom. It's fun, but I honestly need to take some sort of course because I feel like the biggest challenge is figuring out how to adjust the white and black balance. I've learned that just amping up exposure does bad things. And I think I have a good sense of what kind of "style" I like. I'm a little more "moody" than most, and like things to have less "luminance" and more "sharpness." But with all that income I get from the release of my new book (see previous post), I am going to take a photography class. Right after paying for therapy. I'm not quite sure for whom, but it's been one of those weeks I'm pretty sure someone in this house could use some.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Transformer Nutrition

Oh, hi there...

It's been about 20 some odd days, no?

We've had a birthday (how do I have a 6 year old?), school's out, childcare is almost ending, and I STOPPED PUMPING. Can I get a Moo Moo? While I'm still nursing, you have no idea how liberating it feels to stop pumping. So now I begin to pen my book *on* pumping since I have so many more hours in my week when I am not cleaning membranes and microwaving nipples (like, the synthetic type, not mine), and harmonizing with Medela's rhythmic hum.

No joke. I'm going to write a book. Right after I get my hormones re-balanced. Because what I totally forgot about was how any sort of drastic lactation change can set one's hormone into a tantrum. Lawdy. In the past week I have diagnosed my entire family with things ranging from diabetes to acute hearing loss. And I think almost lost it over a load of laundry. And work stress is like a nice anxiety appetizer to a thanksgiving meal of panic and stress. And that license I gave myself to eat whatever I wanted because I was nursing and pumping needs to be revoked, because despite exercise, my body is not doing that thing that I dare not mention to get droves of other moms angry at me. You know, right before our first legit vacation to the beach. #timing

And then after that book on pumping, I am publishing a book of all the funny things my kids say. I thought that once you passed the 3 year mark, the insanity that pours out of their mouths abates. Felix is proving me wrong. Like all of my kids (save Gus--he is still an innocent baby who can do no wrong), they drive me absolutely CRAZY, but then say or do the funniest things and I'm all, "okay...you can stay."

The other day as I bore (beared?) witness to Felix's morning bathroom visit (brother holds court on the potty. Yawn! Stretch! And let's work on that valsalva maneuver speeding up, m'kay?), he informed me that he wishes he was as small as a strawberry seed. Like when he was little (um, what would that stage have been blastocyst or zygote or something?)...because he wants to play with ATOMS. Right. Okay. If that's the case, who do I call to set this said playdate up--a Mommy molecule? An element? If that's the case, I'm hoping for Mommy Molybdenum. I'm sure Eric could come up with some ridiculous pun regarding covalent bonds or something.

Last week Felix informed me his "penis doesn't work inside" after I told him that he couldn't pee on our azalea bush and needed to go inside to the bathroom. Then I thought about the rusting radiator and toilet that no matter how hard I scrub retains a bread crumb trail of little boys. And by bread crumbs, I mean urine droplets. So I ushered him over to the big pine tree and told him to go at it.

And then today I was schooled on transformer nutrition. Felix asked me, "do you know what transformers eat?" Well, of course my go to was "oil." And then Felix told me, "no, they eat fruit. Green grapes, purple grapes, orange grapes and apples."

So I was all "wow. They certainly are healthy. How do you know that's what they eat?"

And then Felix told me, "because that's what's on my transformer underwear."

Well played Fruit of the Loom. Well played.

***

I'm behind on posting my 52 weeks of the boys, but do have the pictures to share. They are just taking a nap in iPhoto. Until then, last week I decided to capture a quick picture of each of the boy's eye. Eric and I joke that people always comment on their eyes "wow, they have such amazing eyes", because their public behavior leaves a lot to be desired. But I also think they really do have some pretty epic irises. And one of each. We certainly purchased the variety pack on many fronts.





Monday, May 5, 2014

Car Talk (ie, an upgraded "kids say the darndest things")

I've mentioned before, but I have books that I keep on the shelf where I write down all the crazy things the boys say. Right now Felix is owning the crazy talk, while Miles's questions and conversations err on the side of, dare I say it, mature. (And you have to pronounce mature like mah- tour.) You know, things like "will you wait for me at the gates in heaven?" (I mean...kick to the gut on so many levels), and "what if a kidnapper comes into the house at night and I am asleep and don't hear him entering?" "Are fairies real?" "What happens to sewage after it goes down in the pipes under the house?" In comparison to Felix's "knock, knock" (who's there?) "alligator in your BOTTOM!" (mass hysterics ensue while Mom rolls her eyes and walks away.)

More than not, Miles and I have solo time in the morning as I drop him off at school before 8am as Eric drops the "littles" off at childcare. During that car ride, Miles and I have some really epic conversations.

Last Friday, Miles and I discussed politics. It stemmed from him asking who was President, and then we talked about elections, campaign funds, senators, pork barrel legislation, and even medicaid. And then Miles asked if when I grow up could I be president. So then I went all women's studies on his 4T briefs and talked about Hilary Clinton (and also thanked him for thinking I hadn't grown up), and somehow I tried to explain the differences between republican, democrat, and libertarian. Miles said he wanted to be President some day, and I told him "absolutely. You just have to make sure gay marriage is legal in all 50 states and run under a democratic ticket." Okay, just kidding. I said that he had to study really hard and get involved in local level politics--even run for student council when the time comes. Of course, Miles's next comment was classic, "okay, but I just need to make sure I get enough time off." Work-life balance, kid. Work-life balance. Maybe I can get him to pass some sort of law requiring all new moms to get a year paid maternity leave. It was almost surreal talking to him about politics. And one thing is for certain--it exposed how little I know. Somehow I feel very adept at talking political shop with adults, but the line of questioning he had really had me rattled.

Would someone ever want to be a democrat after being a republican?
What is foreign policy?
Why can't I be president more than 8 years?
What if I don't want to be President anymore, can I quit?
How much money do you need for the voting game? (love that he called it a game)

Sometimes I'm like, can't you just ask me about how babies are born or something? I actually feel better equipped to talk about that!

During this discussion, we started to talk about homeless people. I realized that I don't think Miles has ever really heard about homelessness before. He knows about kids who are less fortunate (why we donate old clothes, toys, etc), but I could sense the idea that some people don't actually have a home got him thinking. I told him homeless people live on the street. And as a "preK literalist" he asked, "but what happens if they get run over by a car?" I explained that by "street" I meant sidewalks and parks and even homeless shelters. Then I talked about soup kitchens, at which point he said "what if they don't like soup?"

I don't know if Miles will ever remember all these mornings the two of us shoot the $hit in the car, but I know that it will go down as one of my favorite parts of the day.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Week 17 of 52: My Lightroom Tutorial

In case someone reading this doesn't have the "tongue-in cheek" filter (camera pun intended), this post is not meant to really be a tutorial, but to exploit my inability to know how to use Lightroom beyond a novice.

I thought I would show you all a before and after of my weekly pictures for week 17. This week was a great example because I had so little to choose from. I usually have about 70 pictures for a week, but this week I took 23. And then my external flash wasn't charged so the 23 pictures I did take were terrible SFTC. (Oh, that's photographer language for straight from the camera. Actually, I don't know if anyone uses that abbreviation, but I like it.)

Here is my Lightroom process: Open Lightroom. Drag pictures from iPhoto into the application. Click "develop" Scroll through the pre-sets on the left side of the program. Adjust the "contrast" slider and the "sharpening" slider (I have a heavy hand on the sharpener, which I know is apparent...and bad), export to a folder on my computer drive and post.

Pretty easy, no? Call Clickin' moms! I actually also go all "pro" on myself and crop sometimes...or even take out huge under the eye shadows (for the over 30 crowd, that's code for BAGS) with the healing tool. 

So here you go. Before and after. The preset filter I used was B&W High Contrast. 

Oh, and that is Envirokidz Leapin' Lemurs cereal shoved in my children's noses and ears. #proudmama

AFTER:


 BEFORE

AFTER

BEFORE

AFTER

BEFORE

Don't worry...I'm keeping my day job.

Weeks 15-16 of 52: post-apocalypse

Lent is over!

Which means that the Publix Greenwise organic chocolate ice cream I had for dinner tonight at 9pm is totally on God's "approval" list. And as we all know, "organic" is swahili for "healthy." #truth

This picture has nothing to do with the above. Just makes me laugh.
The past few weeks of the junior varsity detox I did from my personal computer and iPhone have been liberating. Some interesting things have happened. I've become more acutely aware of the absolute time suck that is Facebook and my Feedly reader. I've self-demoted myself from a chronic Facebook poster to efficient lurker with just an occasional post regarding things I can't capture with a picture (like recalling the unfortunate event when a stranger called me out for wearing maternity pants in the waiting room of the ENT office. And by called me out, I mean she asked me if I was pregnant after spying my skinny pants' maternity belly band.) I enjoy seeing pictures more than anything, or quick and witty posts, but at night when I'm scrolling through my feed I've realized that I haven't missed that much. I've also realized how incredibly biased Facebook can be. And how it truly contributes to a mother's (ahem, my) feeling inadequate or that there is something wrong with my children because I am not blowing up your feed with only the slice of perfect that is my family. And while I will still post my weekly photo challenge to my feed (wait until week 17's pictures I'll post tomorrow), I have realized that my heart belongs to Instagram. And I do have to thank Facebook, Instagram, and Feedly for being my constant companions during last year's lunch pump dates. Currently, I am still weaning from the pump (cruel, cruel situation that my last pump experience and I am actually having to wean versus the more cold turkey I was able to do the first 2 times), and if and when I pump (about every 2 days), it's at lunch time when I hook up and take my mind off of the fact that I am merely a bale of hay away from a dairy cow by scrolling through social media on my phone while I shove my face with whatever lucky food was thrown into my bag for the day.

I've also realized that an angel does *not*, in fact, lose its wings when I leave messages in my GMail unread. I have some slight residual OCD tendencies and analities (made up word) regarding things like my e-mail inbox. I have to keep my unread messages below the number 11. And if at all possible, I prefer to keep an odd # of unread messages. So if that means I forward myself an e-mail to make the 4 a 5, then so be it. But the past few weeks I just couldn't keep up with my personal e-mail (and those darn multiple tabs in Gmail are not helping me), and at first it was incredibly overwhelming and uncomfortable and I kept referring to the e-mail detox as a modern day version of my own hair shirt...but then I discovered that if I just shut off---shut off from everything that can be plugged into the wall to some capacity, I can actually go to bed before midnight.

Our family has the proverbial phone parking lot where we put away our phones after work through dinner, bath, and bedtime, but we've been known to take our devices out for a spin with excuses like "so and so *had* to text me how the rest of the kids' work out went" or "I need to respond to this work e-mail." And I am the first to own guilt because I am slightly obsessed with taking pictures of my kids with my phone. But my camera app is way too close to my e-mail app and even things like the weather app. And next thing I know, I'm looking up weather in CA just to see if my best friend is probably wearing shorts or long pants...because that matters at 5:30pm when your children are going crazy and reenacting Hulk Hogan versus Andre the Giant's epic match. (They had an epic match, right Eric? Wait...Eric doesn't read this.)

And while I still have my Canon camera out and ready for use, the struggle I have right now, outside of my global drive to disconnect to anything I either didn't marry or push out of my body, of getting real pictures is two-fold:

  1. Gus can stand on his own and even take a few steps, but has zero interest in actually walking. And so we are embroiled in the battle of hand walking. I call it the Miles Maneuver because we did this song and dance with Miles from about a year until he actually walked at 15 months. Although Gus could be considered your exceptionally unexceptional 20 lbs of averageness (ie, textbook on most things), he seems to be following the same walking trajectory as Miles and prefers...no, DEMANDS, that you walk with him around the house while he white knuckles your pointer fingers.
  2. After school the big boys pretty much only want to do one thing: make a stream. What that means is turning on the house and letting it run down the driveway. I'm already thinking of skimming off the top of their piggy banks to pay for our water bill. Outside of the money and environment issue, the other issue is that I'm doing the Miles Maneuver with Gus, who enjoys playing in the pollen filled water. And guess what--I may be pretty strict in some areas, but over the years, I've learned that it's easier (and perhaps better?) to let your kids just GET DIRTY! So I let Gus drag me through the water and mud and let him sit his soggy bottom on the driveway and splash and crawl all over the wood chips while Miles and Felix play lord knows what in the water. So I just keep my fingers crossed Dekalb County hasn't found Giardia or cholera in their water supply. And I thank my local Goodwill, flanked by and donated to by excessively wealthy families, for the cute clothes that at $2.95 a piece, I don't care if they get stained with communicable diseases. 
So while I'm no real photographer, I do know that Cannon EOS rebels don't like hose water. And as the camera was a gift a few years back and we were not and are not in a financial position to replace if it gets ruined, I have no intention of compromising the integrity of its functionality when we are outside most days. That being said, I am still committed to my mission of getting "real" pictures of the kids every week. It's just that my library to choose from and filter through Lightroom is, as I always say, anemic. (That's my new favorite word.)

And poor Gus's first birthday fell during my detox. So his birthday was barely documented in photos. It didn't help that he slept through most of his little party we held at our house. Later we realized his somnolence even after waking up after a nap was due to a yet to erupt coxsackie (hand foot mouth) virus. Or as I call, coxSUCKIE.  Hmmm...maybe Dekalb should look and see if coxsackie is floating around the water supply?
Gus. Not feeling very "Gus"-like on his birthday. 
But we got a few pictures of him before he absolutely rejected anything related to this giant cupcake I slaved away over. (And by slave, I mean used a Trader Joe's cupcake box mix and a giant cupcake mold.)



I am hoping all our other "little friends" had fun despite the "Gus" of Honor feeling under the weather. 
Finally, my Lenten detox has allowed me to reflect on the changing of the season in life. My "material" for the blog doesn't come as naturally, which I guess is a good thing as it's reflective of the fact that part of life is hitting a sweet spot with the kids (tantrums excluded), but also as I have been discussing with a friend who hosts a much more "legit" mom blog, that you hit a crossroads regarding whose story it is you are sharing. And honestly, does anyone really want to hear me complain about fighting with the county over my eldest's speech therapy services? Snooz-a-roonie. But potty-training? Sleep issues? Breastfeeding challenges? Peeing in a used Starbucks cup in the parking lot of a private school? There is a reason "mom blogs" have a shelf life and most of the popularity focuses on the first 5 years of life. The stories, the laughs, the development. Heck, I joke with my best friend at work that we live an entire life before we walk into the office at 8:30am. 

I have lots of feelings on this, but right now am allowing this space to enter what I call hospice. I will continue to photo-document the boys through my 52 week mission with a wordy post like this now and then, but after that would really like things to just end peacefully. Never say never (No NEVER, to a Neverland Pirate--sorry Jake fans, had to), but this all just feels right. 

Until then, see you on the flip side. And by flip side, I mean Instagram.