Friday, March 30, 2012

My New Perfume

mack has decided that i need a new signature scent...eau de spit-up. he's not generally a spit-uppy kind of baby, so i can only assume that his dousing of my clothes over the past couple of days has been, in his mind, for my own benefit. and, apparently, his generosity knows no bounds. he gladly allowed me to have 4 wardrobe changes yesterday. thanks, mack! ;)

the irony here is that my favorite perfume, by ralph lauren, is called "ralph". hee hee!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

It IS a Small World After All

so, ya know yesterday's humpday hero, journey through IF? well, she literally lives just down the road from me! crazy, huh?

we've been emailing back and forth and we decided to meet up in person today. have you ever met somebody and felt like you've known them forever? i'm not sure if it's our common bond of experiencing infertility and now having our first babies or just having personalities that click, but it was exactly like that!

for an hour and a half straight, while mack quietly took in his surroundings and piper napped peacefully in her stroller, we talked about our experiences with infertility and treatments, our feelings about becoming new moms, our struggles to overcome our fears, and pretty much our entire life stories. i honestly don't know anyone else in real life that has been labeled "infertile", so i've felt pretty alone at times. it is so nice to finally have a friend that i can spend time with face to face that gets it, that understands the bumpy road i've traveled to get mack here, that can relate to it all.

i've found so much support here in this community. i just can't believe that one of you was practically my neighbor for so long and i never even knew it! coincidence? i think not. ;)

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Hero Humpday

it's back!!!!!!! i know you're as excited as i am. ;)

i have to admit that i hadn't read this blog until the nomination came in. so, i went ahead and read a few posts, because i like to try to get to know a bit about the nominees if i don't already. i have to tell you, this chick is funny! she did this post a while back about valentine's day cards for the infertile. hilarious! her writing is witty and honest and her story and positive attitude make her an ideal humpday hero!

so, without further ado, meet journey through IF:

Bio: I am 32 year old new mom from Maryland who is looking forward to spending the rest of the school year and summer with my baby girl.  I am married to the most incredible man who was made to be a father!!
10 unique things: (I have no idea how I am going to balance some of these things now that I am a mom, lol)
1.  I am a dedicated runner and am already looking forward to my next marathon!
2.  I love anything related to reading- books, bookmarks, book sales, book clubs, the library!!!
3.  I am originally from Pittsburgh, and like most Pittsburghers, I am a die hard Steelers fan :)
4.  I met my husband when he was observing me teach for his graduate degree in education
5.  I love finding a deal- consignment stores, goodwill, super sales, you name it
6.  I love to write and do anything creative
7.  Hubby and I love to watch movies and think Redbox was the best thing invented
8.  My goal is to become a better cook this summer
9.  I am the youngest in my entire family- by MANY years- and the only one to struggle with infertility
10.  If I could hire a driver I would never drive a car again :)
To my readers:  I started blogging to make sense of the world of infertility and maintain my sanity.  All I hoped for was some peace and a way to reach those in my life who had no clue what I was dealing with.  Every day someone reads a post of mine or takes a moment to comment I feel so honored and validated that my voice was heard.  I just hope that my journey helps someone, somehow.  I am in awe of the IF community and am a better person because of it.

now it's your turn to nominate the bloggers who inspire you for the humpday hero award! email your noms to storkdropzone at gmail dot com.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Branching Out

i think i have survivor's guilt or something. it's like i survived the workforce and now i feel guilty that i get to stay home with mack while B is slaving away (not that mack doesn't keep me working!). i know i'm still contributing, but it's different than contributing financially, like my contribution isn't easily seen or measured.

maybe it's the guilt, or maybe it's that i'm overly-ambitious, but i've decided to expand my photography business to include a bit of my graphic design background. i haven't decided if i'm going to open an etsy shop or not, but i'd like to start designing birth announcements, cards, wedding invitations, etc.

here's a birth announcement that i did for someone close to me:
here's the one i did for mack:
yes, mack's initials are m.m.m. :)

i made this thank you card to coordinate with the announcement:

here's a christmas card i did for my sister:
i took their pics, too. such a photogenic family!
i love doing this kind of stuff, so why not integrate it into my business? i'm not sure how much to charge for this kind of stuff, as i'm still in the researching phase of it, but i'm hoping to get going soon. if you have any thoughts or suggestions, i'm all ears! and, of course, if you're interested in having something designed by yours truly, hit me up! :)

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Pic Tip #2

pic tip #2: lighting

first of all, turn off your flash! there's really no substitute for natural light and a stock flash is about as bad as it gets. yes, a flash will light up your subject enough to focus on it, but if you're photographing a person, it is way too harsh of a light.

i always prefer to do outdoor shoots, but if you're working with a newborn, that's probably not practical. in this scenario, you should choose the best lit room in your house, the one with the most direct sunlight, and set up your backdrop there. also, remember that whatever you lay the baby on will be reflective in a way (unless you use a black fabric). that means that if you lay the baby on a red blanket, the light is going to get reflected onto the baby in a way the makes him/her look more red. i prefer to lay them on white, because it doesn't add a color, just brightens them up a bit.

timing is everything! when shooting indoors, you'll want to schedule the shoot for midday or the time of day when the sunlight streams into that room the most. shooting outdoors is a whole different ballgame, though.

when shooting outdoors, you have 3 options for the best light: 1) in the shade  2) on a cloudy day  3) sunrise/sunset. the main point here is to avoid the midday sun. the reason being that it casts unflattering shadows on your subjects' faces. it tends to make eyes look hooded with circles underneath. not to mention the fact that everyone would be squinting. yeah, not at all flattering.

so, back to the good options...

if you must shoot midday, try to find a nice shaded area, maybe under a tree or, if you're in a city, in an alley, etc.
in the shade

if the day of your shoot doesn't dawn bright and sunny, don't fret! clouds are our friends! :) i've done some of my best work on cloudy days.
on a cloudy day

my favorite time of day to shoot is an hour or two before sunset (an hour or two after sunrise is also a great time, but who wants to get up that early???). the light then is so soft and warm that can be very forgiving. it tends to make skin look smoother and can even soften wrinkles. try not to shoot with the sun directly in your subject's eyes, though. it's better to have the sun streaming down on them at an angle.

side-lit at sunset
if you're feeling brave, try shooting with the sun at their back. it takes some practice to figure out exactly how to position them this way, but it can give you a really cool effect.
backlit at sunset

that's our lesson for today, kids. now, get out there and give it a try! let me know which kind of lighting option you prefer and send me some pics. i'd love to post some success stories!

also, if you have any specific questions about photography that you'd like me to cover, you can either leave me a comment or send me an email. :)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

In Lieu

you were probably expecting a humpday hero post today. sorry to disappoint. i did get nominations for a few bloggers, but i'm waiting to get their info for their posts. (FYI - you can still send me your nominations, even if you've nominated someone before. there are a lot of inspiring bloggers out there who deserve recognition!)

so, in lieu of giving the humpday hero award out today, i'm going to give some recognition to an incredible blogger who is doing something wonderful.

i recently joined a couple of mommy blogs' directories, which is where i met ashley.

ashley is a mommy blogger, but she is so much more than that. she is an IF survivor! her blog, flats to flip flops, is all about fashion... and family, but her journey to build that family was difficult and, at times, painful, just like so many of our journeys. IVF was her answer and she now has 2 beautiful children.

The Hudson Foundationthe amazing thing about ashley is that she is taking her experiences with IF and turning them into something positive. she and her husband, in an effort to pay it forward, have started a charity called the hudson foundation, with a mission of "giving hope to couples struggling with infertility." they offer the mission hope grant, a grant given to couples to help them to grow their family through IVF.

i am so inspired by their efforts, by the fact that they aren't just talking about helping people, they're taking action. they're actually doing it! but that doesn't mean that we can't do something, too. i'm sure this is a cause that we can all get behind, so i urge you to step up and help. it doesn't take much. you could simply take a few moments to click here and donate. if we all chip in, even if it's just a little bit, we could help families to grow and lives to change.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Heavy Load

no, i'm not talking about what's going on in mack's diaper, although they could frequently fall into that category.

this heavy load was actually mack himself, strapped to my chest (love the bjorn!), as we took him for his first hike last weekend. the kid has to be like 100lbs now, or at least that's what he felt like as i climbed a steep hill carrying him all the way. talk about a great workout! i think i'm going to have to make this a daily thing, since we have such great weather and i could use the exercise.

anyway, he slept the entire time, which was so sweet. i love holding him close to me, sweat and all. ;)

the good news of the day was that even with the shift he caused to my center of gravity, i didn't fall down a single time. i wound up having to slow myself down several times to ensure it didn't happen (clutziness is kinda my thing), but it worked and no one brought home a souvenir bruise or scrape. last thing we needed was a trip to the emergency room.

all in all, i would call the adventure a huge success, loved the family time it provided, and will definitely be going again. bring on the family bonding!

don't forget to email me your nominations for the humpday hero award. (no limit to the number of nominations you can send!) let's spread the love!

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Call to Action

there has been way too much drama in the blogosphere lately. i've deliberately chosen to stay quiet on the subject and i plan to maintain that. as far as this matter goes, consider me switzerland.

it did get me thinking, though. dangerous, i know. ;) anyway, it reminded me that it has been months since we've had a humpday hero! how is that possible?!?

in order to remedy this situation and bring a little positivity back to our cyberworld, i need your help. consider this your call to action!  (it's easy, though - i promise!) all ya gotta do is think of your favorite bloggers (you know, the ones that you look up to, who always send out positive vibes, and generally make the land of blogs and pleasant place to be) and send me an email with their names, blog urls, e.mail addresses (if you have them), and why you think they should be named a humpday hero. (my e.mail, as always, is storkdropzone at gmail dot com) and i'll take it from there, letting them know of their nomination and dedicating a wednesday post to them to thank them for their contribution to our community.

now, get to it!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

My Leap of Faith

remember that post a not too long ago when i announced that i wasn't returning to work? well, let's revisit that, shall we?

in all of my deliberating, the one unknown that really weighed heavily on my mind was "if i give up my job and lose my insurance, will we ever be able to have another child?" it was the one thing that made me hesitate to quit my job at all. in the end, i realized that as long as i have mack, i have everything i need - and that is completely true, but i still wish we could give him a little brother or sister.

i definitely have not questioned my decision, because i've felt in my heart that i am where i'm supposed to be, but i have felt a little bit of guilt, like i threw away any chance we had of expanding our family (because, of course, we would love to have more children).

well, my leap of faith paid off. we aren't pregnant or anything, but the next best thing has happened.

it all started with COBRA. i looked into it, in an effort to continue our incredible coverage, and it would have cost us an arm, a leg, and our first-born child to pay the monthly premium, so that was out. then we turned to B's insurance. we had never really looked at it before, because the monthly premium for his PPO was almost 4 times as much as we were paying to cover both of us with my insurance. but, with not many other options, we went ahead and gave it more than just a glance.

the premium was still ridiculously expensive, but on top of that we would have a good-sized deductible, plus the co-pays and the 20% that we would have to pay out of pocket for any treatment. for the first time i was starting to doubt my decision, fertility treatments aside. it would cost us thousands of dollars just to have our annual check-ups and minor illnesses treated. i was feeling nauseated just thinking about what a strain that would put on our already shrunken income.

B decided to talk to his HR department, just to make sure that was the only route we had available. when he called me to tell me how it went, it was like the heavens had opened up and angels were singing! hee hee!

apparently, there is this other, lesser known, option for insurance through his company. most people aren't interested in it, because that it has a $3000 deductible, but the premium is about half that of the other and there are no co-pays. that means that once we meet the deductible, everything is covered 100% (including the meds)! and i haven't even gotten to the good part yet. you guessed it - they cover fertility treatments!!! (and that 100% covers in-network & out-of-network doctors, so i won't have to worry about changing clinics.)

most people would probably turn tail and run after seeing such a large deductible, but for someone expecting to pay, easily, 3 times that much on one round of IVF, that is a bargain! so, it looks like we'll be able to start back up on our fertility treatments soon and, hopefully, mack will have a sibling before too long. :)

yup, i'm sure i made the right decision.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

2 Months of Mack

can you believe my baby boy turned 2 months old on monday, let alone 9 weeks old today??? crazy, huh? it seems like time is speeding up on me.

it just so happened that his 2 month check-up fell on his 2 month birthday. he weighed in at 10lb 15oz and measured 23", which is perfectly healthy - exactly what every mama wants to hear. he was so good for the doctor, as usual. she commented on how happy he looks (he's all smiles almost all the time) and how strong he is. he was squirming all over the place as she looked him over. she asked about doing tummy-time and i told her about how he's been raising up on his forearms over the past week. she told me that she wouldn't be at all surprised if he became mobile very soon. she also cautioned me about putting him too close to the edge of things, which is a warning that she normally doesn't have to give until the 4 month check-up. hearing that my child is ahead in something gave me a surge of pride that i've never experienced before. :)

mack has been a very content baby from day 1 and i certainly count my blessings because of it. he was quick to start smiling, as in deliberate, social smiling, a while ago and now smiles any time someone else smiles at him.

he's quite the big eater, too. one of the advantages of formula feeding (don't get me wrong, i wish i could've breastfed - always the better option!) is that i know exactly how much he's taking in at each feeding. the day he was born, he was eating 2oz every 2 hours. he has since progressed to eating over 6.5oz every 4 hours. he gets so excited as soon as he sees the bottle that he starts flailing his arms and moving his mouth like a fish!

night-time was pretty tough at first, with the frequent feedings and consequent exhaustion, though he would sleep a good 3 hours at a time when the sun went down. at about 4 weeks, he was sleeping 4 hours at a time. at 6 weeks, he was up to 6-7 hours and for the past week he has been sleeping 8-8.5 hours. it's been wonderful! i really do feel blessed, as if the man upstairs knew i needed a good sleeper, since i wasn't going to have anyone to help take a shift at night.

one big help in the sleep department has been the book "healthy sleep habits, happy baby". i'm not the type that is really into parenting books, so this one is the only one i've read, but it really has been a real eye-opener, explaining the importance of sleep for brain development and basically giving step-by-step instructions on how to sleep train your baby. thanks to what i learned in that book, i've been able to develop a nap-time routine and a night-time routine, which have created cry-free bedtimes!

i've probably painted a perfect baby that i see only through rose-colored glasses in this post, so believe me when i tell you that there are days when i get so frustrated, not knowing why he won't eat well, or feel exhausted from washing his bottles and doing his laundry. truth be told, this life isn't perfect, but it's perfect for me and i remind myself everyday of how blessed i am.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Pic Tip #1

after having several requests for posts about photography tips, i decided to start a series called "pic tips". i am so stinkin' excited about it!

photography is a big part of my life. i spend a lot of time and energy honing my skills, because i truly love taking pictures, especially of people. i'm no expert, by any means, but i am more than happy to share what i know with all of you. :)

and so we begin... with pic tip #1: the backdrop.

just because you don't have a studio (don't worry, i don't either), doesn't mean you can't take fabulous looking photos. in fact, you can create your own mini-studio in your house. all you need is a great background to set your subject in front of.

you have several different options when it comes to the perfect backdrop, and you probably already have most of them in your home. you could use a wall (preferably one with some color on it. ;) ), a sheet (make sure you get those wrinkles out first), a blanket, or a large piece of fabric. get creative!

i love using a patterned backdrop from time to time. i have a few pieces of fabric that i've purchased (on sale) for just this reason. all you have to do is hem the edges. easy-peasy!

here are some examples:

these clients happened to have this beautiful blue wall, so i just went with it.
this was a plastic tablecloth that i bought at big lots for $5.
this is just a white sheet hung in the background and across a boppy.
here, mack is just laying on a throw blanket on the couch. i laid it across the back cushions, as well.
so many possibilities!

now, here's the most important part of this tip: step away from the backdrop! seriously, though, pull the baby (or whomever your subject is) away from your chosen background. otherwise it could distract and make shadows a problem.

i hope this has been helpful! stay tuned for more pic tips coming soon.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

What I Learned While Traveling With an Infant

mack asleep in his sling at the airport
  • two arms is not enough. (try carrying a baby in a carseat, a diaper bag, a carry-on bag, and a bag of snacks (because the diaper bag is full of bottles and formula), while dragging a 50lb suitcase with a broken handle. not physically possible, you say? i beg to differ. i also beg for a massage, because i'm still sore!)
  • all pack-n-play's are not created equal. (i borrowed a pack-n-play for mack to sleep in while we were there. it didn't have any instructions and was completely different from the one we have at home. we tried to put it together at midnight...we kept trying till 2am. needless to say, mack slept on a blanket on the floor the entire time.)
  • if someone offers you help, take it! (i have a really hard time accepting help and an even harder time asking for it. so, when we were waiting to board the plane, i had to put together a bottle of formula for the little guy with one hand, while holding and soothing him in the other, i had to swallow my pride and accept the help that was offered by the lady sitting next to me. or...i could just tell myself that i was doing her a favor by giving her the chance to serve her fellow man. yeah, that's what i'll tell myself.) 
  • don't expect to get any time with your baby. (everyone will want to hold him. he will be passed from person to person the entire time you're there, with the exception of when he needs to be changed or fed. yup, you get him for all the dirty work while they reap the rewards. oh, and he will come home spoiled. you'll be trying to cure him of his new-found need to be held constantly for at least a week!)
  • no one on the plane wants to sit by the lady with the baby, and i mean no one! (the plane was full and i was flying solo with mack, so there was an empty seat next to me until the very last person needed to be seated. the flight attendant had to insist that the guy sit next to us. he was anything but happy about it, keeping his arms folded and a scowl on his face the entire flight. he was so sure that mack would be screaming the entire time, which made me laugh to myself, because i knew differently. my sweet little boy slept the entire flight, waking up only once to eat, never making a peep. take that mr. grumpy!)
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