Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Turn that Frown Upside Down.

Today was frustrating.

I may have sworn at my computer more times than I'd like to admit.  (CSS rollover images NOT working on my new site. Despite the fact that I spent hours upon hours trying to make them work. Bleh. ANYWAY.)

I got a headache.

Then I took a second vitamin instead of acetaminophen because I am absentminded. Then I ate a pound of green beans (I have weird eating habits).

If you've had a less-than-awesome day as well and need a little cheering up, I offer you these:

Not only is he a techno baby, he can help but shake his tail feather...

And most every time he wakes up from his nap, it goes a little like this...

And, finally, if you'd like to hear how talkative Gabe is:
Dinner Time. from Ashley Marie on Vimeo.

And now I shall go chase my sweet little baby around the apartment to improve my mood.

(If you don't have a sweet little baby, maybe eat some ice cream instead. Or a giant bowl of Fruit Loops. Or a cupcake. Or a lot of chocolate chips. Or go work out if you're one of those.) (Those: I am jealous of you and wished I worked out when I was sad. You are awesome.)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I Once Heard that 'Bullet Points' was Too Violent a Term.

  • I am working insane hours. Like, basically, ALL THE HOURS. I've working like crazy to launch a new website that will rebrand my business, and have lots of wonderful clients that I'm working with, as well. I go to bed too late, ignore my husband and baby too much, and am generally parked in front of my computer all hours of the day. Seriously. I told Mike today that I understood why the teacher from The Freedom Writers got divorced. Not that I'm saving the world or anything. Just working 20/7.
  • As much as I use LeechBlock (love!), I sometimes cheat. As a result, I've had to make a wallpaper for my desktop to remind myself to just STOP IT ALREADY. I've had a few requests to share, so here it is!
  • To use: click on it so it opens in another window. Then right click (or ctrl+click and 'set as desktop background.')
  • I just launched an internationally best-selling author's blog today. She lives in London and just got back from a trip to Italy to meet with historians. Have I mentioned how awesome and interesting my clients are?
  • Have I ever told you that I am stupidly obsessed with The View? I'm not sure if it's the fact that it's on Hulu or if I  actually like it...but I pretty much watch an episode every day while cleaning and cooking dinner. I tell Mike that I watch it to hear current events Octomom bringing her 23 children on an airplane.  Yeah.  
  • I am contemplating switching to WordPress. I still think Blogger is AMAZING in terms of what it has to offer, especially for newbies (free > $100 a year). But the plug-ins? I might be in love.
  • I like Harry Potter, but I'm not obsessed. Is there a middle ground? It seems as though everyone is either FANS!!11 HARRY POTTER FOREVERRRR or...hasn't read the books.  I loved the books, but I honestly cannot handle Daniel Ratcliff as Harry. I'll see the movie on DVD. Or at the dollar theater. Are you going to take away my wand now?
  •  I'm sort of tired of being a mom. I mean, not being Gabe's mom, but being a mom amongst other moms; existing in this weird world where everyone has opinions about Really Important Things like parenting and how to feed your child and take care of your child...and talking about it is tiring. Don't get me wrong, it's also reassuring and helpful to know that other people have so been there. But the part that exhausts me is the partisanship (where you belong to a parenting philosophy instead of a political party).  People get defensive when they do things differently than someone else. (I mean, there is clearly Right and Wrong about some things; child abuse = NO), but I feel like I can't ever talk about what my experiences and choices as a mother without a few people popping up to say, "That didn't work for me/That's not how we do it/Let me tell you why you're wrong." See? Tiring.
  • I got two novels from the library today Mockingjay (!!!! - the final in The Hunger Games series; I almost don't want to start it!) and Matched by Ally Condie. They are both 'teen' novels. Mike may have made fun of me. (His books right now? Political philosophy and freaking Ghandi.)
  • I am also reading Tina Fey's Bossypants and I am even MORE in love with her. I told Mike I wished she had a blog, but he said she's too important for that. Psh. And last night as we were laying in bed reading, I kept making him read funny bits from Bossypants (so, basically, ALL OF IT). He said, "Ha! Let me read something to you that Ghandi wrote that is hilarious."

Monday, July 11, 2011

A Quarter of a Million Dollars in Eighteen Years, They Say!

We hear ALL. THE. TIME. about how darn expensive babies are. But what no one talks about is the ways babies save you money.

Yes, you read that right: Gabe has saved us money.


Let's discuss:

- I feel like stopping for Starbucks on the way to get groceries, but Gabe has fallen asleep in the backseat and I really don't feel like waking him up. Money saved weekly: $5

- I'm running into Target for some mouthwash and Spin Pins (I lost my first set and they are essential for long-haired girls!). I don't feel like dealing with a cart, so I decide to just hold Gabe and run in and out, thereby avoiding checking out the clothing department, the baby department, and every end cap clearance section. Money saved weekly: $50

- In the first month Gabe was home, we didn't go out to eat like we normally do a few times a month. Instead of our usual budget of $75 for going out to eat, we spent $15. (Okay, so this hasn't really been as gigantic of a savings in the month since, but we certainly go out to eat less since it's more of a hassle with a baby.) Money saved weekly: $20

- While running errands, I drive past a cupcake shop/Target/fun little store and instead of getting out and indulging, I drive right by - since the hassle of getting Gabe out of his car seat and back in would negate any enjoyment I find in said cupcake. (I need a roller coaster harness in my car instead of a car seat. Push a button, Gabe is strapped in. Presto.) Money saved weekly: $10

- Buying new clothes for Gabe is far more exciting than buying clothes for myself these days. I know he'll look absolutely adorable in anything without having to try it on. I, on the other hand? Not so much. Since baby clothes are cheaper than adult clothes, I can spent $30 and get him six outfits. $30 would get me maybe three shirts. (Bargain shoppers, unite!) Money saved weekly: $20

Total money saved each week: $105. 

Plus, I'm hyper-motivated to cut corners so we can afford for me to only work part-time. (Hellooo, cloth diapering while traveling.)

Here's to half-full glasses, my friends. And money-saving babies.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Traveling with a Babe.

I wasn't going to post about the 'how tos' traveling with Gabe, because I feel like I'm too often spouting Opinions and Advice, but then I got emails, messages, and comments asking me for advice - so, here I am with Lists! And Advice! And Opinions!

This summer, we've traveled to the beach, the mountains, New York City, an amusement park, and several places in between. We've stayed at hotels, a beach house, and our families' homes. We spent every night for nearly three weeks away from home at the end of May/beginning of June. And we still have nine days at a cabin in Western Massachusetts and stopping to visit our friends along the way. And three weddings. We hibernate all winter, so it's time to get OUT all the time in the summer.

Disclaimer: This is reflective of our baby and what works for us. Results may vary. 

On to the How Tos!

Have low expectations. Expect your baby to cry constantly. Expect to have no downtime. Expect the hotel to be loud. By setting the bar low (not being pessimistic, that's another matter), you'll be pleasantly surprised at how easy it all is. How much you can still do, even with a wee one.

Just do it. Yes, it's a little scary to think about changing your routine with a baby. I was nervous before we took our first trip that involved a hotel (thankfully, my husband talked me out of it).  I get it. The fear of it not going well is almost enough to not go. But it's totally worth it. Don't let your fears stop you. If you are super anxious about it, try just one night in a hotel a few hours from home to test things out. If it's awful, you can drive home. Chances are, your baby is probably more flexible than you give him credit for! Let him surprise you.

:: Bringing Stuff ::
Less is More: You're going to be bringing a lot more stuff when you start traveling with a baby. But try to restrain your inclination to bring EVERYTHING WHO KNOWS WHAT COULD HAPPEN!? If you won't definitely need it and you can easily buy it where you're going, leave it at home. Sure, your baby might start teething while you're gone - but can't you just buy some baby medicine if that happens? The first time we traveled, we brought tons of his toys, the second time? A small tote full.

Think it Out:  What do you need for each part of his day at home? To sleep, we bring Gabe his seahorse, his sound machine, and a Boppy pillow. Sure, it seems like a lot, but it makes bedtime SO MUCH EASIER when his familiar things are there. When we went to the beach, I thought ahead and brought our little camping tent to corral Gabe in on the beach (and off the beach, as it turned out). Thinking through what you'll be doing helps you narrow down what to bring, instead of bringing tons of stuff that you won't end up needing (liiike, lots of fancy clothes on a beach vacation where you live in shorts and tank tops 24/7) (Want more inspiration for packing lightly? This.)
:: Sleeping ::
Flexible Sleeping Arrangements: Sometimes we all shared a bed. Sometimes Gabe and I shared a bed while Mike slept in the other. Sometimes Gabe slept on the floor. Sometimes Gabe slept in a Pack-n-Play.  Many times Gabe slept in his stroller. Lots of times Gabe slept in his car seat while we drove.

In a Hotel: Sleeping all in room (with nowhere else to go) poses a challenge. We went to bed at the same time - around 9:30 or 10, a little earlier than we're used to, a little later than Gabe is used to. Otherwise, we'd have had to get an extra room and put Gabe in it ($$!) or sit awake in the dark after he goes to bed. Not so much.

Naps: Depending on the nature of your travel, your baby may get normal naps or may nap in his stroller. At the beach house, Gabe was able to take a solid nap or two a day in his Pack-n-Play. In NYC, he napped in his stroller off and on. He was fine either way - as long as he got roughly the same amount of sleep each day. We did not really plan around naps, because Gabe is flexible and usually naps whenever and where ever. You might not know till you try!

:: Eating ::
Nursing: I finally conquered my fear of nursing in public in Central Park - I just...had to nurse Gabe and had nowhere to do it. I also nursed in a tea shop, on park benches, lots of times in the front seat of the car, and in more bathrooms than I care to admit. He's at an exceptionally distractible stage, now, so he pretty much needs to not see or hear anything to be able to nurse.

Solids: We brought a jar or two of baby food for while driving, and some baby snacks (these are Gabe's favorite of all time), but we largely fed Gabe what we ate, in slightly mashed form. It is far easier than packing along a dozen jars of baby food. 

Eating Out: We do this fairly regularly at home, so eating out while traveling is really no different. In fact, I'm not sure what to even say about it,'s like eating out alone, just your baby is in a highchair next to you. Move everything so he can't grab it off the table. Ask for a spoon or some chopsticks for the baby to play with. You can bring toys if you want to, but I usually forget to and just give him a menu or keys or something to play with. Babies aren't picky. Give the baby some of your food. C'est tout.

:: Pooping ::

Cloth Diapering: If we'll have access to a washer and dryer, we cloth diaper while traveling. Gabe has only blessed us with blow outs when he's in disposables, so that's incentive enough! As is saving money. We love to not have to buy diapers. Cloth swim diapers are also the way to go!

Diaper Changes: Again, prepare to be flexible. Many, many bathrooms in New York City did not have changing tables. Many, many bathrooms in other places we went did not having changing tables. At one restaurant, the waitress told me I could change him on a bench where other customers were waiting. I was afraid of getting Looks, but I just did it and avoided their gazes. We also did our fair share of diaper changes on top of the trunk or in the front seat. Not easy to navigate in such tight quarters, but it works. Parks are where it's at when changing diapers in a public space.

:: Traveling ::
Road trip! 99% of the time, one of us sat in the back with Gabe while the other drove - it made Gabe far happier when we could meet his needs and keep him company during trips. We could play with him, feed him some snacks, and help him fall asleep if he was overtired.

Public Transit: Gabe has been on buses in our city, as well as lots of subways in NYC. I mentioned before that he absolutely loved it.  And we did, too! It was easy to travel on public transportation with a baby and we got to play with him instead of worry about driving. Plus, people were REALLY NICE to us because we had a baby. Sometimes we brought his stroller on (this is what most locals seemed to do), but most of the time we held him and packed up his stroller until we got downtown and wanted to walk around.

:: And, ALSO ::
Time Alone:  If you're traveling with lots of family members, it's awesome because they'll want to play with your baby. But it can also be tiring to have no alone time with your little family. Be sure to get out a few times for a walk, a trip to the grocery store, or out to dinner with just your little family. For your own sanity. And your baby will probably appreciate it, too. 

Baby-Proofing=Your Eyes: Chances are, you won't be able to make your hotel room/beach house/in-laws' house completely baby-proof. This will require lots of watching your baby, then taking a photo when he does this:
Seriously, though, I completely underestimated how hanging out with a baby in a hotel room would involve not wanting him to crawl on the floor ew gross. I did let him crawl in the tub a little when I was going to the bathroom, though. You gotta get creative, am I right?  

Sand Ahoy! It will happen. Gabe would put some in his mouth, then try to wipe the taste off his tongue, getting more sand in his mouth, resulting in this face: 
Keeping him in a tent some of the time helped, so he could be in the shade and out of reach of shells and driftwood, which he liked to try and eat. Or, you know, crawl with: 
You'll note that our child has not been on a plane and is not a toddler. Both of those things terrify me. Of course, my friend Kelly took her daughter all the way to SOUTH AFRICA when she was, like, seven months old. She is basically Super Mom. Also, check out Ginger's helpful post about traveling with little ones!

Anything to add, traveling mamas? Any questions?

Thursday, July 7, 2011

On Encouragement and a Family Photo Session.

"Forget about that craft stuff, you should find a way to make money from your photography." - My dad, February 2011. 

I'm lucky to have a family that is so supportive and encouraging of me. Their words empower and inspire me. They make me feel like I could maybe, possibly, someday do this whole photography thing. For real. Thanks, family. 

A few weeks ago, I had the priviledge of photographing the Wojtkun family before their son/brother left Ohio for a new job (yay!) in Atlanta.

Reasons why I love this family: 
- they are fun. Really, really fun. They are silly and goofy and I had a blast photographing them.
- the parents met at my alma mater! Go Flyers. :)
- they adore each other - it's obvious how much they absolutely love one another. They even love being around each other.
- they made me laugh. And each other laugh. And were hilarious.

Wojtkun 1

Wojtkun 2 : The Girls

Wojtkun 3 : Bubbles!

Wojtkun 5

Wojtkun 4 : Lake Erie. :)

Wojtkun 6 : The Kids

Wojtkun 8

Wojtkun 9

Wojtkun 10

Thank you for asking me to capture your family and for making me giggle. :)

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ten Months.

My sweet boy.


- is basically as mobile as it gets without actually walking. He crawls as quickly as the speed of light, pulls up and cruises around while holding on to things.

- is a cautious little guy. I keep trying to get him to walk or stand just holding one of my hands, but he'll try to sit down instead of doing that. At least he knows his boundaries and limits?

- cannot handle being 'fenced in.' If I try to create a baby-safe (not baby-proof) area, he whines and cries until he can roam free. He doesn't actually get into much trouble roaming and it makes him far happier (ie: easier for me), so I oblige. He's ten months old and we've already given up on the idea of baby-proofing. J-j-jaded.

- can most often be found holding on to the side of his crib and jumping up and down on his mattress after he wakes up. It's pretty much adorable.

- continues to overlook his toys in favor of ANYTHING and EVERYTHING else. Alas.

- is still 50th percentile is height (29 inches) and weight (22 pounds) for his age. After growing so fast and breezing through his outfits, I'm sort of glad that he's going to be able to wear the same clothes for a while, since we already have SIX boxes of clothes he's grown out of.

- got a new stroller. Hurrah!

- has his own version of baby signing: when he wants to nurse, he pulls down the front of my shirt or hugs my boobs and buries his face in them. It's quite charming in public.

- still doesn't exactly have a schedule.  It's a day-to-day exploration of how much he'll want to nap and eat. I am honestly amazed by parents who give their babies three meals a day, nurse them every three hours, and have naps at 10 am and 2 pm. I far too lazy for that. He has a bedtime that we stick to (except if we want to go somewhere at night, which we've been doing...most nights lately), so there's that. Some people might say that I am not giving my child enough structure, but I say I would likely go insane if I had to plan everything around when Gabe is napping or his bedtime, and Gabe needs a sane mother more than he needs a rigid schedule. (I am not saying my way is better, Some People. I am saying it works for me. I feel like I have to clarify myself a lot lately. I don't think I'm a better person than anyone.  Except maybe Casey Anthony. I encourage you to find out what works for you and do that. We can still be friends. Promise.)  (I was just kidding about Casey Anthony. She might be a better person than me.)

- sleeps through the night most nights (he'd just started to do this last month, but I forgot to tell you.) I never thought I'd get to sleep seven or eight hours a night. HALLELUJAH!

- has been wonderfully affectionate lately, what with the kissing and the cuddling.

- is just FIFTY EIGHT days away from being an entire year old. It's both insane, exciting, and makes me weepy. No more baby! :(


- made my first 'mom friend' at a park. We went out to coffee and baby storytime at the library. I want to blog about making mom friends. Because, dude.

- am really good at saying, "I'll blog about that," then failing to. Oops. I currently have half a dozen posts in draft, which I never do.  (I'm more of a blog-and-post-right-now, then a scheduled-post kind of blogger. It's sort of how I am in everything, actually.)

- bought Gabe's first birthday present! A set of five wooden toy cars from Etsy. I may not have any birthday party plans, but I have a toy that I know he is going to LOVE and it's handmade and not plastic and I AM SO EXCITED YAY.

- have been completely swamped (in a wonderful way!) with design work this month. So many blogs, invites, and resumes have been designed! I also have mastered WordPress. Word.

- have officially been living in the same place for more than a year - which I can't say has happened since...2002. Yes. I have moved my things every single summer since 2002. I'm elated to not have to deal with boxes and U-Hauls and unpacking. We love our apartment and expect to be here for a few more years, until Mike is done with school.

- say, "I need to do yoga" nightly. NIGHTLY. And, yet, I am not really working out. Unless you count some walks and doing The 30 Day Shred...once every 30 days. Ha. Is that not the way it works?

- have had a really full social calendar this summer. It's wonderful. But also tiring. But mostly wonderful. I have great family and friends. Perhaps we were all hibernating in the winter.

- tried on one of Gabe's t-shirts last night. Mike dared me to. I have no idea why I'm including this in Gabe's monthly update, except that it's a perfect illustration of Mike and I as both parents and spouses. (It fit. But just over my boobs. My wimpy arms even fit through the arm holes. It's slightly stretched out.)

- have never felt more special than when Gabe said, "Mama," grabbed my face with both hands and kissed me right on the lips. I love when he calls me Mama.

10 Months
His "Hey Mama!" smile and pouty-lipped-model look.

10 Months
The many feet, teeth, and goofy faces of Gabriel.

10 Months
Handsome dude and completely flummoxed by the 10 Month sticker.

10 Months
Obsessed with the toothbrush. And tolerating yet another attempt at a mama-Gabe self-portrait.

10 Months
Corn on the cob, cuddling with Lion, and a Lion portrait.

10 Months
His "Oh, heeeey" look, "How can you expect me to sit in this chair when ALL MY TOYS are right below me??", and naked on a hot July day (teeny tiny pecs!).

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Cookie Jar and Some Chocolate Macadamia Goodness.

Almost eleven months ago, we celebrated our third wedding anniversary by getting veggie burgers  and tater tots at a drive-in restaurant and using something called a Groupon for the first time (maybe you've heard of it?) to go to one of those paint your own pottery places. I'd been wanting to go to one of those places since I was about ten. 

After taking a solid twenty minutes hemming and hawing over what we were going to paint together - something for the baby? something to hang on wall? - we decided to paint a cookie jar, with the agreement that I would always keep it filled with cookies. Amen.

The other day, I realized the cookie jar had been empty for quite some time. A travesty! And breaking one of my marital vows. This was unacceptable.

I'd been wanting to make some kind of cookie with macadamia nuts for a few weeks after compulsively buying a bag of them at Trader Joe's. I adapted a recipe and made some tasty little cookies.

The ingredients. Everything I have is from Trader Joe's or the bulk foods store.

What, you don't take photos of your ingredients for a recipe next to an old record player while your son eats a teething biscuit in the corner? :)

Chopping up macadamia nuts is hard. The little buggers slide around.
I've only been able to make cookies ONCE without eating some of the cookie dough.This was certainly not that time.

The little cuties all lined up and ready to go in the oven. Love my Silpat, man.

They are delightful, just soft enough, with big yummy chunks of nuts and chocolate. I love almond extract, so I put some in most of my cookies - it really makes them tasty.

They're delicious with some coffee or a cup of iced chai.

Macadamia Chocolate Chip Cookies
adapted from here
Makes 2  and 1/2 dozen
2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
2/3 cup canola oil
2/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup milk (cow or non-dairy)
1 tablespoon ground flax seed
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (or more vanilla)
1 1/3 cups unsalted, chopped macadamia nuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F.
Beat together oil, sugars, milk, flax seed and extracts. Add flour, baking soda and nutmeg slowly until well mixed.
Fold in nuts and chocolate chips.  Dough will be extremely thick and sticky. (Eat some.)
Drop tablespoon-sized portions onto a parchment paper-lined (or Silpat!) cookie sheet. Keep them roughly 2 inches apart.
Bake for 12-14 minutes.  Let them cool on the cookie sheet for 5 minutes after removing them from the oven – this lets them set. Cool completely on a wire rack.