Capturing the Moments: Part I

Posted 08-28-2010 at 10:59 AM by brewanothercup

Undoubtedly every parent has had the desire to freeze time for a second and enjoy that precious moment with baby; photography allows us this fleeing opportunity to forever remember a fraction of a second.  You don’t need a fancy camera or editing equipment to take a great picture – even a cell phone will do (though there are limitations to what you can do with any camera). Here are some starting tips for photographing your favorite little ones, along with some examples of what I mean.

Use the viewfinder instead of the display.  When people use the display to take a photo, they tend to hold the camera an arm’s distance away, which allows for more instability, resulting in images that can be blurry.  By using the viewfinder, the camera will be more supported and it’s less likely the camera may accidentally shift when you press the shutter release button.

Take LOTS of shots…this is the beauty of the digital era! Don’t delete them right away, either – sometimes a picture won’t look so great on your camera screen but upload it and you’ll find something magical when you can view it on the computer.  The digital space each photograph takes up is miniscule, and you can always go back and delete images you are certain you don’t want at a later date (though sometimes looking at them with fresh eyes helps you find something new, too).

Look for natural light. This might mean moving closer to a window, or outside. Test out a few different angles of natural light to see which you might like the best, and go for it. Becareful of shadows overtaking your pictures, too, as sometimes they accidentally appear. We took this first photo for our son’s 2 month birthday and saw how horribly dark it was (and noticed a wrinkly blanket!). We moved a few feet closer to the window and ended up with much better natural lighting.

Watch your crop. Basically, make sure you don’t chop off the top of anyone’s head if at all avoidable. This gets a little trickier if you have people of various heights in the photo (think family photo shot) but your subjects will thank you for appearing to have complete heads in photographs.  Step a few feet back if you are about to cut someone’s body parts out.  If that’s not an option and you have to crop out part of someone’s body, try to go for something logical, like the waist instead of just the person’s feet.

Know that crying and sleeping pictures are cute too. If you spent hours waiting to catch that first smile picture you might become delirious in the process.  We all know how unpredictable kids and babies can be!  It is adorable to have crying pictures and for those first few weeks, sleeping pictures ARE the action shots. Babies and kids do these things, and capturing these seemingly less desirable moments are actually helping to capture one of the essences of childhood. Think about how sweet it would be to have great photos of your young one’s first trip to the zoo…and also the deep slumber that followed a great day of playing and learning. Precious.

Don’t get obsessed with having people in every photo. If you truly want to capture the experience of childhood, look at the things they love – foods, toys, animals.  Capture these moments to remind them about later, long after the objects themselves may have expired. A friend made this adorable cupcake for her daughter’s first birthday, and the photo says so much about the day.

Try these tips out and don’t be afraid to take some risks. Take a few moments during your photography sessions to check out some of your images – if you like them, great! If not, retake to preserve the moment.  Most importantly, have fun! Stay tuned for part II of photography tips.

Diaper Swapers

The Five Most Dreaded Questions for New Parents

Posted 08-27-2010 at 01:48 AM by brewanothercup

As a new mother, sometimes I feel like I have a never-ending list of questions, many of which feel like they could never really be answered unless I found a psychic who could read my baby’s mind (wouldn’t that be dreamy!).  I sometimes see other mother’s with little ones slightly older than mine and I want to bombard them with questions I’ve been building up – what things can I look forward to in the next months? What terrible milestones are we about to be broad sided with, and how should I prepare myself? How many vacation days should I save for days when I’m a zombie after a sleepless night of teething?

On the same token, sometimes I feel like I’m being asked never-ending questions, too, and it’s like being pregnant — questions vary slightly, but the general answers are always somewhat the same.  Here are my top five favorite questions as a new mama, in no particular order:

1.) Isn’t birth beautiful? About 24 hours after my son was finally born (I say finally because I was in labor for four days, pushed for four hours, and then ended up having a c-section anyway) I was on the phone with my grandmother. I explained my labor to her and she paused for a second, then in all seriousness simultaneously exclaimed and asked: “Isn’t birth beautiful!?” I was floored! How could I possibly think of the beauty of birth while my whole body felt like it had been raked over hot coals and then dipped in acid for FOUR days? The idea of creating life and bringing a new life into this world is beautiful, of course, and perhaps in 55 years I too will recall my first birth experience as beautiful.  It’s probably going to take me that long, if not longer.

2.) Is he sleeping well? It seems like people ask me and my husband this question on the days we are most tired, and I want to just scream, “DOES MY FACE INDICATE HE SLEPT WELL LAST NIGHT?!” The reality is that everyone asks this questions, family and strangers alike. The root of it is unfair -why is the gold standard of “sleeping well” sleeping through the night? A lot of adults I know can’t sleep through the night, but we expect infants to.  All babies have good sleeping days and bad sleeping days, just like adults and older kids. Sleeping a solid five hours at night is actually considered sleeping through the night for an infant, but this question and its partner question of, “Does he sleep through the night?” makes new parents think that they are doing something wrong if baby isn’t holding their same sleep schedule. It’s hard enough to deal with the sleep deprivation as it is, let alone with every stranger and family member inquiring, too.

3.) Is he a good baby? Yes, we are lucky enough to have a good baby. But if we didn’t, I think you’d know by both his screams and mine. What is a “bad” baby anyway?

4.) How is he eating? There are two ways to answer this one: “He’s eating well” or the more sarcastic, “He’s eating with his mouth these days!”.  Covertly, this question seems to be asking about whether the baby is formula fed or breastfed, which each come with their own set of baggage and follow-up questions.  My grandfather once asked me WHAT my son was eating, and without thinking twice I blurted out “diet coke!” as a joke.  Thankfully he got my subtle hint that I didn’t really want to discuss my breast milk with my 80 something grandfather.

5.) Has he  (insert random milestone here) yet? People are obsessed with comparing babies.  Half the time the milestone is grossly inappropriate for the age (someone asked me last week if my 3 month old was crawling yet, no joke) and the other half of the time they’re asking to compare stories of sorts. Of course there are milestones babies meet, but there’s no need to stress people out with added pressure of these expectations.  Babies aren’t predictable robots – that’s why some diaper changes end up with more pee on the table/baby/adult/dog (not like this has ever happened to me or anything) than the diaper. As long as the pediatrician is happy with baby’s progress, then chances are good everything is fine.

My suggestion for handling these questions? Smile, take a deep breath, and take it all with a grain of salt. Or invite the question askers to spend a few hours with baby while you relax so he or she can answer all their own questions.

Protecting Yourself from Identity Theft

Posted 08-20-2010 at 05:19 PM by MyFrugalFunLife

Identity theft is a growing problem in our country. An estimated 9 million identities are stolen every year! When someone gains access to your private information, like a social security number, they can wreak havoc by opening new bank and credit card accounts, and wracking up charges on your current lines of credit. However there are a few simple things you can do to protect yourself-things that are free and easy to do!

Do not carry your social security card in your wallet! Surprisingly many people still do this and if your wallet is stolen your social security card can be used for a host of troublesome activities. Memorize your number and then keep the card locked in your home safe. Same goes for debit and credit card PIN numbers. Never keep these in your wallet because they give access to your cards.

Along those lines don’t carry your children’s social security cards with you. You will almost never need those numbers and there’s no reason to risk having those numbers exposed by carrying them around with you.

Avoid carrying multiple credit cards/debit cards with you. Knowing first hand the trauma of having my purse stolen I’ve learned that having less on you is better. Try to keep as much at home and only carry the cards you’ll be using at each outing. If your wallet is stolen you want as little in it as possible. Having to replace your drivers license is hassle enough without having to deal with several stolen credit cards. I don’t even carry my check book with me anymore-just one check tucked in my wallet for emergencies.

Never give out your personal information to strangers. Again, surprisingly, many people will give out their social security number to people they do not know (suspicious emails or web sites). That number is one of your most prized ‘possessions’ and it needs to be protected as much as possible. Do not give it to anyone you do not know thoroughly and if you’re giving it at a place you do trust (like your bank for a loan application etc) request that they block out the number or destroy it after your paper work has been processed.

Check your bank and credit card statements thoroughly every time you receive them. Be especially careful for small charges that are listed as a ‘monthly subscription’-usually these will be a recurring fee of $9.95 or less a month and many times people don’t catch them. My husband had one of these illegal charges happen every month for over a year before he caught it. Someone got his banking information and added this subtle fee that was overlooked  (and his bank did not reimburse the money because we didn’t catch it right away).

Check your credit report regularly! You can do this for FREE through the government sponsored site Annual Credit Report. You are allowed three free reports annually so space them out every three months to keep a close eye on any unauthorized activity under your name.If something does show up that you didn’t approve take immediate action and have it fixed right away to prevent further problems.

By doing some simple steps you can protect yourself from the frustration of identity theft!

Breastfeeding and Returning To Work

Posted 08-11-2010 at 02:24 PM by Faiths13

For many moms, the joys of the first few months with their newborn are overshadowed with guilt as they must prepare to return back to work. It is a difficult decision for some mothers knowing they must leave their precious infant in the care of another. As you spend the first couple of months bonding and establishing breastfeeding, you probably cannot imagine leaving your sweet baby even for a minute – even if you are excited to return to your career. Returning to work doesn’t mean you will lose the bond you have created or that you have to stop breastfeeding either. There are many ways you can make the transition to work while breastfeeding easier so you can continue to give your baby the very best.

The Breast Pump

When returning to work, the breast pump will become your “breast” friend. A breast pump will enable you to store and bottle your milk so your baby can continue to reap the benefits of it while you are away.

When it comes to buying a pump, your best bet will be a dual electric pump. It will be the quickest and most efficient way to get the most breast pump in one sitting. A manual pump is only a good choice if you want to get a small amount of milk in one sitting – say 3 – 6 ounces. There are a few great dual electric pumps out right now and you can usually get them in a neat carrying case with bottles that go with it.

Getting Into A Routine

Before you go back to work, you want to get familiar with your pump and how to use it. It is a good idea to start practicing with it and trying to get your baby to become accustomed to drinking it from a bottle as well as your breast. It can take a bit of time to get used to using your pump and for your baby to feel comfortable taking a bottle. You want to make the whole process normal and a part of your daily routine so you can ease right into it when you go back to work. Remember, it’s very important to always stay relaxed and think about your baby when trying to pump.

It’s also a good idea to have someone other than yourself give your baby the bottle, because it is often hardest to get a breastfed baby to take a bottle from their mother. If you can have your partner, or the caregiver who is going to be with your baby give them the bottle, it will help them get used to the change. That way your baby knows they can have the best of both worlds, breast and bottle.

Stocking A Supply

Once you begin using your pump, you can start storing milk in the freezer so you will have a nice supply started once you return to work. You can start anywhere from a month to a couple of weeks before you are scheduled to return. There are many ways you can store your milk in the freezer. You can use bottles, covered ice cube trays, or the special little bags made just for breast milk. The bags are pretty inexpensive and easy to use. They also will help save space and have markings on the side so you know how much milk is stored in it. Make sure you write the date on any container and always store the milk in an area that will stay the coldest.

Breastmilk can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 8 days and can be stored in a freezer for up to 6 months. If you store your milk in a refrigerator/freezer where it is exposed to variable temperatures, it will store for 2 weeks. If you store it in a refrigerator/ freezer with a seperate compartment, it can be stored up to 4 months. If you store it in a deep freezer, it can be stored for 6 months.

Plan Ahead

Before you go back to work, it’s a good idea to talk with your boss and let them know you are going to be pumping at work. Be honest with your boss and let them know that you will need to pump a few times a day and that you will need a private place to do so. Ask if there is an office with a locking door, or some other room (not the bathroom) where you can go. It may sound like a talk you don’t want to have, but you will be surprised how many other mothers are pump at work.

On average, you will need to pump 3 times a day, for 10 – 15 minutes to get enough for the next day. Once your baby gets older and begins to eat solid foods, you will find yourself needing to pump less frequently.

Another important decision to factor in is, wearing the appropriate clothing. Even though you may be pumping in a locked office, you don’t want to have to feel like you need to wrestle with your clothing if someone came knocking. Clothing that makes it easy to access your breasts or even nursing shirts, will be your best choice. You may also want to use breast pads in case you have any leaks in between pumping.

Making A Decision

If you find yourself doing everything you can to make pumping work for you, but just don’t feel it’s going to, then it’s ok. If pumping at work is interferring with your life or causing too much stress, it just may not be the right choice for you. There are other options if necessary and there is support out there for you. La Leche League is a wonderful resource for all your breastfeeding and pumping questions. You may want to try negotiating your hours or work schedule, or possibly try to work from home.

Whatever decision you make, as long as you know it’s the best for you and your baby, then that’s all that matters. Hopefully with these tips you will have a successful return to work while still giving your baby breastmilk. Good luck!