Friday, January 10, 2014

Photography review: Life on Paper by Bri Mason

Since being pregnant with Lily, I've gone through a lot of photographers for various different reasons: price, personality, pictures, I've won some sessions and never continued with them, etc. It took me awhile to finally find and settle on Carrie Adams of Carrie Ann Adams Photography. But, I recently won a contest through Metro Detroit Mommy's Facebook for a photoshoot with Life on Paper by Bri Mason. I love working with Carrie but I also love free photoshoots so I couldn't turn it down! Unfortunately, I couldn't have been more disappointed in our session.

The day started with us driving an hour to a beautiful park in Farmington Hills called Heritage Gardens. It was a gorgeous fall day; the sun was shining and the trees were full of color. The girls were dressed adorably, as would be expected if you know me. My excitement was through the roof. We had a hard time locating Bri because her last shoot was running a little late - which was no big deal. She barely took the time to say hi before shuffling us to our first photo spot. She posed us, quickly taking a couple photos and moving to the next pose. We moved between a few different spots. Again, she quickly posed us and took a few pictures saying if she needed to she would "take it to the clouds". At this point, I was getting a little concerned about the quality of pictures but I had seen her pictures on Facebook and reminded myself that she did a good job and not to worry. During this time I had mentioned to Bri Mason that I had 2 poses in mind: one of us flipping the girls that I had seen on Pinterest and the other was with the girls holding paintings that my friend Lyndsay of Cordial Punch Press had made. I even explained that, since I know a 1 and an almost 4 year old are hard to work with that I didn't expect the best picture and was just hoping to get something. Nevertheless, my request was met with a sigh and an eye roll. After rushing through a couple more poses including the one of the girls I requested we finished up with the picture of us holding the girls and flipping them over. During this time someone called (her husband or her father, I forget which) and she proceeded to take the pictures while on the phone.

Our whole experience lasted around 20 minutes, 30 if I want to be extremely generous. I don't remember her ever calling us by name, just "mom" or "dad" and "girls"/"honey"/etc. At the end, when I asked her when we'd get out pictures she explained that it was her busy season so it would be 4-6 weeks before they would be done. But, she promised that previews would be up on Facebook that night or in the following days. I explained to her (as I did in our email correspondence) that Lily's birthday was coming up and asked her to include a singular picture of her in the preview so that I would have something to hand out at her party. She said that wouldn't be a problem and she'd even email me Lily's photo so that I could print it out in high quality.

I left the park feeling quite disheartened. I wasn't happy that while I was promised a full session, we got what can only be considered a mini session. I wasn't happy that we drove 2 hours round trip for that mini session. I wasn't happy that everything felt rushed. That she never took the time to commit our names to even short term memory. That may not mean much to some people, but it did to me. I wasn't happy that everything seemed so rushed. I wasn't happy that there were so many beautiful places to take pictures and we missed a lot of them. If I had thought to bring my own camera, we would've stayed so that I could've at least gotten pictures of the girls. There were so many opportunities and while I don't expect to visit each of them, I believe if we had gotten our full session we could've done at least a couple. I've worked with photographers so I was more understanding of the wait time to get the pictures. However, I did note that I got married in the fall and it only took about 6 weeks to get my proofs back.

In any case, I went home and anxiously awaited my fears to be dissolved with the beautiful pictures that she took. A day went by and no previews. Two days. A week. Four weeks later, just a few days before Lily's birthday party, I emailed her reminding her about wanting to have a picture for Lily's party. She did respond quickly with the picture and a release to have them printed. All the while, she's booking session upon session every weekend. Two weeks or so later (6 weeks after our initial photo shoot), she was booking sessions for the following weekend. Someone asked about her turn around time and she said 1 week. I commented that it was surprising because we had been waiting for 6 weeks. She deleted my comment and sent me an email (that I viewed to be passive aggressive but things translate differently when written) that ultimately informed me that I had 1 person in front of me. Two days later I finally got the link to our photo gallery.

Ultimately, pictures are nice. Frame-able but not noteworthy. I do feel that had she taken the extra time that it would take to get good ones then I would be happier. Or, if she had taken the extra time and it didn't work, I would not be writing this blog. I take pictures of the girls. I know how hard it can be to get good pictures of them. I know if you take too many, they lose interest. They're not models and I don't expect them to be or pictures of them to be model quality. But, I also know that you can get good pictures of them if you take the time and don't just assume you're going to be able to switch heads for every picture.

Overall, I had a very bad experience with Life on Paper by Bri Mason. I don't know if this is how she always is. She may have only acted like this because we won the photo shoot or because she realized we lived so far away and probably wouldn't pay for another session with her. But, that to me is no excuse for the lack of professionalism I experienced in my short time with her. On top of that, I truly feel that her actions reflected that she's only interested in quantity (read: money) instead of quality.

I could not and would not in good conscious recommend Life on Paper by Bri Mason to anyone. In fact, I would urge people to look elsewhere when considering a photographer.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Adelyn Rose: 19 Months

Actually, Adelyn is almost 20 months. I've been working on this post since Adelyn was 18 months.

Let's start with the updates. She had her therapy evaluations. Her motor skills have made a huge jump. She's always been about 3-5 months behind on things but this evaluation showed her being in the 15-18 month range on most motor skills. She's borderline for not even needing physical therapy anymore! We'll revisit the idea after the first of the year and decide (with her PT) whether or not she would benefit from continuing. I am a little concerned that although she may be on par now, she'll have difficulty achieving future milestones due to the hypotonia. Also, she's started to exhibit more sensory issues. She seems to be adversely affected by noise and low "whirring" sounds (think public hand dryer) and possibly visually stimuli - although we don't have that nailed down thus far. We sort of stumbled across these things by putting it together based on the places she seems to have behavior or mood issues. Her eating is hit and miss. She's sprouted a mouth full of teeth. In expressive speech (things she says) she was evaluated to be at a 12 month old level. That didn't come as a surprise. Her vocabulary has expanded slightly since I last posted but not a lot. She's started calling me "mama" all the time. I'm excited that when I say  one, she says "twwwoooo". And will repeat in a raspy voice "redrum" if someone does it first. This provides endless entertainment for us. We did qualify for speech an hour a week. A goal we have is adding 3-5 words a week, which I think would be awesome.

While all of the above is great and I'm happy to report how well she's doing, Adelyn is so much more than her diagnosis and prognosis. She has such a little personality that I rarely even touch on. Adelyn is one of the sweetest babies I know. She's always hugging, kissing and snuggling. She's so affectionate it's amazing. There is almost nothing better in the world than when she crawls into your lap, wraps her arms tightly around your neck and lays her head on your shoulder. I say almost because her big sister is pretty great at those things too.

It's not just family that she's affectionate with. Adelyn has no separation anxiety or stranger danger. She will love on anyone. As soon as the boss lady or boss man come here to pick up the little mister, she runs over asking them to pick her up and wanting to snuggle them. The women in the nursery at church know her by name and love her. On the bad side, she will go to anyone. Often asking strangers in the grocery store to pick her up or attempting to sit on strangers laps at The Great Wolf Lodge and The Renaissance Festival.

Adelyn has the most amazing smile and laugh. When she does either, her whole face lights up. She even has a fake laugh/squeal she does for Lily that Lily just eats up. Her big goofy smile is contagious. She's such a happy baby most of the time. And she's such a ham. If I'm just holding my phone or a camera, she starts cheesing and motioning for me to take her picture. If she knows your laughing at her, she will continue to do whatever she's doing. She'll even fake laugh right along with you.

Where Lily is my little dancer and always has been, Adelyn is my singer. She may not say much but that girl is always singing. The whole day is spent "lalala'ing" or humming. She's constantly singing. It's absolutely adorable because she has such a soft sing-songy voice. Her new favorite song to sing is, "nanananana batman". She started randomly singing it while painting a pumpkin and it was a-fricking-dorable.

I say, "most of the time", because Adelyn does have a harder side to her. She is demanding and sassy. She sat on the floor fake crying for 20 minutes the other day because I wouldn't let her play with the PS3. Something would distract her and she would stop, but the moment she noticed me she would start wailing again. When she wants to be held, she wants to be held that second. It doesn't matter to her if you're folding laundry, putting away dishes, cooking a hot meal or sitting on the crapper. You better pick her up or else expect the nose to scrunch up, the lip to come out and crying (fake or real) to begin. If that doesn't work, she moves on to screaming. It's not a pretty sight. She's been known to hit, push, and head butt her sister. Sometimes provoked, sometimes not. She's also started to get aggressive with other kids. I've talked to her therapists and they say it is probably related to her sensory processing issues but is also an age thing too. They've given me some great tips to help on both fronts. She's also stubborn. Just recently, she was trying to eat a magnet so Steve told her to put it on the fridge. At that point she dropped it on the ground, backed up to the fridge with her hands behind her back, crinkled up her nose at him and stared him down not budging. It's times like these that I have to tell myself that God made her this way so that she can concur any obstacles she may have to face. I tell myself that because I don't want to admit that she's me incarnate. The good news is that once she finally put the magnet back on the fridge, she was back to hugging and loving on us. Which, makes everything else she does null and void.

Adelyn is a full of personality - both good and bad. Just like her sister, she can take you to the brink of insanity and pull you back again in a moments notice. But, most of all, she's our baby - even at almost 20 months old.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Our Happily Ever After

I could tell you about the first night I met Steve. I could tell you how we were in a bar and locked eyes across a crowded room. The music stopped and everyone else disappeared. We spent the whole evening talking to each other and when it was done, I immediately told my friends, "this is the guy I'm going to marry". I could tell you this romantic, made for the movies whirlwind relationship we had that ended up with us riding horses into the sunset. I could tell you all that, but it wouldn't be true. The truth is nothing I've seen on TV or in the movies or read in a book. It's not the Disney Fairy Tale that all girls dream of when they're younger but it's our love story. 

It all started with just an average night at the bar with my aunt (and one of my best friends), Mary Anne. An old friend, TJ, came over to our table to say hi and we ended up playing darts with him and his drunk friend, Steve, all night. There was no instant connection. It was actually the opposite of that. He didn't exactly bode with Mary Anne and I. And....well.....I won't tell you what's he's admitted to thinking about the both of us after our first encounter. None the less, the 4 of us continued to meet up to play darts weekly. Sometimes going back to TJs house to play cards once the bar closed. But our lives went on outside of those nights. Steve seeing his on again off again girlfriend. Me doing the same. And at some point as those months passed by, things began to change. It's hard to pinpoint when or how. It may have been when I told TJ his friend was "cute but not very smart". It may have been when TJ announced that Steve was the only friend he had that he'd allow to date his sister. It may have been over countless hours of playing darts or Steve trying unsuccessfully to teach me to play pool. But, TJ stopped coming out and Mary Anne started going to bed earlier and then it was just Steve and I. Staying up way too late talking to each other. Talking about our families. Talking about our relationships gone wrong. Talking about hopes and dreams for our futures. Sharing our darkest secrets and greatest hopes. We cried on each other's shoulders, although Steve did more of the crying.  During that time, we also started spending more time together and less time with the on agains off agains in our lives. We became best friends. We spent almost every day together. So, it only made sense that a few months later (November 4th, 2006 to be exact) that we made our relationship "official".

From there it did become a whirlwind relationship. Exchanging "I love yous" within a matter of weeks; something I believe had been on both our hearts long before it crossed our lips. Within months we knew we were going to get married and started thinking ahead to that. While not formally engaged we started talking wedding plans for the future. Steve started to share my existence with his family; explaining to his dad, "she's like me with boobs". And his dad responding with, "so she likes comics?". Nope. We can't all be perfect (although Steve has gotten me to read one set of comic books recently). Christmas Day, 2007, just over a year from when we became "official", Steve handed me a big box from under the Christmas tree. I just knew that it was the robe I had been asking for. After all, he had already given me the digital picture frame and digital camera I had asked for. I opened the box to find it all but empty. Digging through paper I found a small jewelry box and looked up to see him down on one knee. He professed his undying love for me and proposed with, "I want to spend the rest of my life trying to make you as happy as you make me".

Just 10 months later, on October 25th 2008 we started our lives as husband and wife. Things still haven't slowed down for us. We had Lily in 2009, bought new cars in 2010, a new house in 2011, Adelyn joined our family in 2012 and 2013 brought another new vehicle....my mini van.

The past 5 years has had it's ups and downs. It's not perfect. We're not perfect. We bicker like an old married couple. We have fights that last for days. We aggravate each other. But, even more important, we still stay up too late talking and crying (still more Steve than me). We still share hopes and dreams and fears. We still share stories of our past that the other hasn't heard. We share our daily joys and let downs. We're still the team we were 5, 6, 7 years ago. We're still best friends. We still go to sleep each night holding each other's hand after 5 years of marriage. In the sitcom Friends, Phoebe is known for saying that Rachel is Ross' lobster because lobsters fall in love and mate for life. But, I like to think of Steve as my otter.



This is our love story. This is our happily ever after.


We tripped into a friendship.....stumbled into a relationship....
and fell into love

~ Holly Hebert, circa 2007 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Lily-Come-Lately

I feel like a lot of this blog has been dedicated to Adelyn. While I love having a place to sort out my feelings and express myself regarding this experience, I also feel like Lily deserves some love too. So this entry will be about her. My first daughter. The little girl who made me a mother; who made us a family; who changed us forever.

Lily. My first littlest love. She's so many things all rolled into 1. She's precocious. She's smart. She's sassy. She's sweet. She has the attitude to drive me to the brink of insanity and the smile to pull me back, all in an instant. She's my first miracle baby. The baby by all medical accounts wasn't supposed to be easy or even be here. I remember the day I got a positive pregnancy test like it was yesterday. I remember the threatened miscarriage. The crying at work. The hospital visits later in the pregnancy. The bed rest. The headaches. The swelling. The pre-eclampsia. But, most of all, I remember the birth. I remember how fast and furious it all was. I remember hearing, "it's a girl" and crying. I remember Steve crying too. Our healthy, chunky, dark haired, dark complected little girl (although it's hard to picture her now as anything other than a fair skinned, blonde haired bean pole). The little girl I had dreamed about. The little girl I had named when I was 16 years old. My beautiful, Lilian Mae.

And here we are, on the brink of her turning 4. The next few weeks are going to be big for her. We decided that she needed more interaction with kids her age so we decided to enroll her in pre-school. Her orientation is next week and the following week she starts. My first littlest love is starting school. I want to say I'm choked up over the whole thing. But, I'm not. It's so unreal to me. I look at her and still see the baby who would ask me, "where'd that parking lot go?"; who called fruit snacks, "snack fruits" and ranch dressing "narnch". I'm going to cry when she goes. I'm going to cry like a baby. But I know that I have to let her go. While she's a great big sister (most the time), she's had a hard time being the oldest. She craves big kid interaction. And I can't blame her. I am always telling her to play with her toys at the table or after Adelyn goes to sleep if she wants to play alone. I try to make her bedroom a good place to go and not be bothered by a pestering little sister who wants everything Lily has. But, it's not nearly as fun to be holed up in a bedroom. She's constantly asking to play with the neighbors or her cousins, but that's not always feasible. She needs a place where she can be her. Where she can learn and grow. Where she can play with kids her age. And even learn a thing or 2.

The same week, Lily has her first ballet class. She started dance last year but was in a "pre-school rhythm" class that promised to introduce her to all sorts of types of dance. While I don't feel that promise was kept, it did introduce her to ballet. It introduced her to a love and a passion. She's not exactly graceful. She doesn't have "raw" talent. But, she has a love for something that I'm going to encourage as much as possible. And, it again, gives her time to be a 3 - almost 4 - year old without the restrictions of being "the big sister".

It's not easy to sit back and let her grow up. She promised me when she was little she wasn't going to do that. But, it's been amazing to see the process as it happens. To see how much she's changed in the past year or even how much she changes day to day. She's so articulate and expresses her thoughts so well when she wants to. She has such a vivid imagination; she loves to draw/color and play "house". She's a mother through and through. She nurses her babies and changes their "cloth" diapers - newborn size disposable diapers that she insists on washing in her play kitchen sink. She tackles me with her hugs and isn't afraid to express her undying love for me and others and her love for God. She gets down on her knees and prays for others. She can tell you more super heroes than I can. She loves older music - anything from Elvis to Journey to Bon Jovi. She's turned into such a little person. But to me, she'll always be my first littlest love. My beautiful Lilian Mae.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Adelyn's Inchstones

Whether big or small, an inch makes a foot and a foot makes a mile, or in this case - a milestone 
Owen's Mom of Owen's Inchstones

It's been a long time since I blogged. The summer has just been too much fun to find the time to sit down and write. But, when we last left off Adelyn had just started crawling around on all 4s, was being evaluated for foot braces, was pulling up on the furniture and was working her way off baby food. So much has changed since then! If you're just joining us, feel free to read the beginning of our journey at Perfectly Adelyn and Perfectly Adelyn Pt 2

She got her foot braces in June. Those made a world of difference for her. I thought she was going to be upset over wearing them, but she loves them! The orthotist explained it to me like this: imagine trying to roller blade without having the skates tied up. Think about how unsteady you would feel. How hard it would be to do. That's what Adelyn was going through before she got the braces. Then she got them and it's like we tied her roller blades, so to speak. She's even gotten to the point that if she doesn't have them on, she gets upset. She'll find them and shake them at me while yelling as if to say, "woman, what are you thinking?! I need my braces on!"

After she got the braces, she really started taking off. She began by pushing things around the house. It started off almost accidentally. Where she would be putting her weight on the toy and it would move (since we have pergo floors) and she would follow it. Then it became a purposeful movement and she made her way around the house like a pro. She even started taking some unassisted steps. Her first steps were to her sister. Which, couldn't make Lily prouder. But, then last month she got Hand, Foot and Mouth. She was very sick for about a week. She spent several days on the couch unmoving. After that, she regressed a lot. She stopped walking all together; refusing to even push her toys and wanting to be carried everywhere. It was then that I knew I had to start really pushing her. I started making her walk everywhere. It started off as holding my hands and walking to her high chair for meals or to her bedroom at nap/bed time. Then she started walking on her own! As of the beginning of August, she is a full time walker. I don't remember the last time I saw her crawl. She's still unsteady outside on the uneven ground but we're working on that a little each day. She can make it down one house, one way and if pushed will walk back.

Her eating habits have made a 180 degree turn. Not only is she fully on table food, but she eats all.day.long. That girl amazes me with how much she can eat in one sitting. And she's not nearly as picky/sensory as she was. She'll eat almost anything. She's still a tiny little peanut but that's okay.

Her vocabulary is expanding. She's started calling me mama, but I'm still not sure if she knows what she's saying. Lily taught her how to say "ow" and "ouch" Although she says it all the time, so she doesn't quite know how to use it. She calls all cows "moooo". She likes to intentionally drop her food on the ground and call for Loela to come clean it up. She's started to say "Lily". When Lily recently spent the night at her aunt's, Adelyn walked around putting her arms up inquisitively saying "Lily". Well, her version of Lily at least. As if to ask, "where's Lily". She's trying to repeat a lot of what we say too. I already see her being as big of a talker as her sister is once she finds her words.

She's made some huge strides this summer on all fronts. We'll start therapy back up in the fall. Right now she's slated to have physical therapy, occupation therapy, speech therapy and the teacher. I cannot wait to see how much she grows and changes when we start that back up. I feel like every day she's sticking it to the man and I couldn't be happier.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

A special kind of person

I've been told, a lot, that it takes "a special kind of person" to be a nanny. When I ask why they usually respond with something along the lines of "because I couldn't do that!". But, I don't really see how that makes me "special". I prefer to say that it takes a certain kind of person to do it. The kind of person who loves children. The kind of person who doesn't mind poopy diapers, feeding fiascoes and epic meltdowns. The kind of person who enjoys art, teaching, kissing boo-boos, building blocks & tents, playing dolls, playing outside, the list is endless when it comes to kids & their imaginations.

Yes, I am one of these people. That, in & of itself does not make me special. It just makes me a certain kind of person who does well at my job. On the other hand, I'm the type of person who can't stand (I would say hate, but if Lily could read & read my blog she'd yell at me that "we don't say hate in this family".) history, math, science and most other "left brain" subjects. I could not handle a chemistry job, like Steve has. I feel my eyes glaze over and my brain start to melt when he talks about work (bless his heart, he still tells me about it though). I'd never have an engineer job, be an accountant or work in IT. Just because I can't do these things, does it mean the people who can are "special"? No, we just have different aptitudes.

I just happen to be able to work in a job that I love and that I'm good at. It's not a job that is cut out for everyone. It's hard. There are bad days, really bad days. There are days when all the kids cry at once and I daydream about what it would be like to work in the "real world" again. There are days when I'm out of ideas on how to entertain the kids. There are days when I'm at my wits end and want to cry. But there are a lot of normal days. And even some great days. Just like any other job I've had. And I would assume, just like any other job you've had.

Truly, when I think about the idea that it takes "a special kind of person" to do something. The only thing I can really think of is the men & women who put their lives on the line for us. Whether it be military, police or fire. And I certainly know that I don't deserve to be in that category.