Capture Everyday Moments with the Olympus PEN Ready Project

I’m in the Mamarazzi.

You know who we are. We’ve got big cameras, long lenses, and we shoot EVERYTHING. I take so many photos of my kids, my daughter says, “Get my good side, Mommy!” while other kids say, “Cheese!”

One of the challenges is that I love capturing every day moments and making them extraordinary.

Capturing tiny hands sneaking a treat:

Or catching a Superhero getting ready to take on the world

To show how easy it is for everyday people to take amazing pictures, Olympus gave more than 1,000 people a new Olympus PEN® E-PM1. It’s all part of The PEN Ready Project—more than 1,000 cameras, over 1,000 people, 6 cities.

The photos are amazing. Everyday moments – simply, but elegantly stated. To see what they shot, visit the PEN Ready Project.

 

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#GracoSafety: Learn More About the SnugRide Click Connect 40

I made a BIG parenting mistake this year….

Like so many other parents, when my son turned one, we turned him around into a forward-facing car seat. It was what we did for our daughter back in 2010, and as far as I knew, it was still safe – and legal – to have your child forward-facing as long as he was 12 months or 20 pounds.

I was wrong.

Back in 2011, the American Academy of Pediatrics put out new recommendations for infants and car seats. They recommend that children remain rear-facing in the car until 2.

Two years old.

The problem was that our son was HUGE! He was almost 30 pounds, and he was so long his legs were scrunched up in the back of the car.

We turned him around.

Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40 To the Rescue

The Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40 is the ONLY infant car seat that provides rear-facing protection for babies from birth to 2 years old.

It has a 4 to 40 pound weight limit – a full two years! And its base adjusts with eight recline positions for most leg room in any rear-facing car seat.

And, my favorite feature, it has the Simply Safe Adjust harness system, which allows parents to adjust the harness and headrest with just one hand to fit the baby’s height as he grows. No more re-threading the harness every time you need to adjust the setting!

Actually, now that I think about it, that is probably my husband’s favorite feature – he usually gets the car-seat adjustment job!

Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40 Demo and Review

I’ll be reviewing the Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40 right here in the next few days. Be sure to check back, or subscribe to my YouTube channel to learn more.

I received a Graco SnugRide Click Connect 40 as part of this party promotion.

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Snow White – The Gateway Princess

If you ask my 2 1/2 year old what she wants to be for Halloween, she’ll tell you one thing:

I’m not sure how she even knows what Halloween is, but she wants to be Snow White.

The problem is, I don’t want her to be Snow White.

For the last two Halloweens, she’s been something of my choosing. In other words, something super cute that makes me look at her like the little baby girl she is.

Now, it seems like Snow White is the first princess to infiltrate my princess-free fortress we’ve worked kind of hard to build.

And she wants to be Snow White for Halloween.

We’ll have at least 10 or 12 years  – at the most – of her dressing up for Halloween, and already, she wants to jump into princesses? As far as I am concerned, a Disney princes costume is a gateway drug…it opens the doors for costumes like this:

And I’m not ready for that.Wait- I will never be ready for that.

I want to keep it cute. What’s wrong with these?

How long can I keep the Disney Princesses from entering my castle?

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Does the Apple Warranty Cover Shattered iPad Screens?

Does the Apple warranty cover shattered iPad screens? I wish I didn’t know that answer .

A few months ago, on the very last day of our family vacation – the same family vacation in which my then 2-year-old enjoyed playing games on my brand new iPad 2- said toddler shattered my iPad screen.

We’d been reading the interactive iPad book, The Monster at the End of This Book, while sipping milk from her sippy cup. She sneezed the cup hit the screen and before my eyes, the screen had shattered into a spiderweb of glass splinters.

I was shocked. In fact, I could not believe my eyes. I thought it was snot. I literally shook my head to try to get my eyes straight so I could see what had just happened to this $800 tech toy I just purchased.

And then I immediately asked Google: Does the Apple warranty cover shattered iPad screens?

When we got home, we went to the Apple store where they – get this – just replaced my iPad 2. No questions. Just, “Oh, here you go, let’s set you up with this new one.”

Maybe it was because I was 9 months pregnant. Maybe they felt sorry for me. Or maybe it was part of Apple’s warranty policy. Whatever the case, I won.

Fast forward to last week. My now 2 1/2 -year-old grabbed my iPad off of the kitchen table, and proceeded to drop it on the floor. My husband ran, picked it up and had a look of relief – it was safe.

But it wasn’t.

So, back to the Apple store to see what they could do. I still had the warranty, so maybe I could just get a replacement.

No such luck. It turns out, I had used my free pass for shattered iPad screens, and this time I’d have to pay.

A lot.

So, lesson learned. The Apple warranty for the iPad may be good for shattered screens…once.

Also? No more sticky fingers on the iPad.

P.S. I totally realize this is a First World Problem. Leave me alone.

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Get Your Toddler to Sleep Past 5 am

I know a lot of you have been interested in how we are trying to get our 2-year-old to sleep past 5 am. Our toddler has been waking up at 5 am (and earlier) for almost a year now, and this summer, it was getting out of control. Our toddler was waking up too early– waking up at 4:30, 4, 3:30 am – not going back to sleep, and becoming an emotional nightmare by 6 am.

We had to do something – Enter Toddler Sleep Boot Camp.

When I say “boot camp” I’m really referring to just being consistent and disciplined (on our part) to try to set things back on track. Also? “Boot camp” because it kinda sucks.

So, here is what we did to get our 2-year-old to stop waking up at 5 am (or earlier).

Set Rules

Before we started, we decided what we laid a few ground rules.

  1. No official “wake-up” until 6 am
  2. Back to Bed (B2B) without speaking or engaging our toddler
  3. Three times out of bed, and we lock our door so she cannot get in

The last one might be unique to us. Our upstairs has a landing, and we felt like if we locked all the doors to the landing (except for hers) she would have nowhere to go when she woke up thus, making her room the only option.

So here is the deal. She wakes up at 5:45? B2B. She gets up 5 times before 5:30? B2B each time.  She wails and cries outside of our door at 5:55? Let her.

But at 6 am? The door opens. The songs are sung, ” Good Morning!!” We shower her with kisses and hugs. We make a huge deal of it (the Sleep Lady calls this a “Dramatic Wake Up”) and we take her to the window and say “Look! The sun is up! It’s time to wake up! It’s light out!”

And she is the happiest girl in the world.

It sounds harsh – leaving her to cry it out until 6 am, but it’s not called Toddler Sleep Boot Camp for nothing.

Set A Clear Bed Time

So much of what we were reading about toddler sleep issues said we needed to set her bedtime earlier. Some even suggested bedtime as early as 5:30 pm. The theory was that an overtired toddler has interrupted sleep patterns. If you get them to sleep before they get overtired, it is a more restful sleep.

Before Toddler Sleep Boot Camp, we tried earlier bedtime (as early as 6 am) and we tried later bedtime (as late as 9 pm) but she always got up at 5 am or before. We were convinced that what time she went to bed really had nothing to do with what time she woke up.

It wasn’t until a trip to Grandmom’s, where she went to sleep at 8:30 and slept until 6:30 (almost every night we were there), that a light went on – maybe we should try a bedtime around 8-8:30 pm.

So we chose that bedtime.

Whatever bedtime you choose, make sure it works for you, and be consistent. Sure, you can deviate from time to time for special occasions, but in the first few weeks of Sleep Boot Camp, stick by that bedtime as best as you can – even if it means turning down party invitations and the such.

A Wet Diaper May Be the Cause of Early Waking

In all my Internet searches, not one result suggested a very wet diaper might be waking my daughter up early. Yes, we use night-time diapers, but we also were “tanking her up” with milk before bed.

It wasn’t until my MIL and Mom suggested a wet diaper may be the case.

Then, one morning, she woke up at 7 – with a dry diaper. I was convinced it was a wet diaper waking her up.

She’s not quite potty trained, and we are a long way off from sleeping without a diaper, but I did move up a size in night-time diapers (more absorbance) and we stopped putting her to sleep with a full glass of milk or water.

Be Consistent

The problem we were having with her waking too early, or in the middle of the night, was that we were not being consistent. Sometimes we would bring her into bed with us (that never worked), sometimes we would lay in bed with her. Sometimes we would bring her downstairs, and sometimes we would march her back to her bed.

We needed to stick to the rules. And, to be fair, she needed to know what to expect.

So, this is what we are doing for our Toddler Sleep Boot Camp. Next week, I’ll let you all know how it’s going.

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Is Two Too Young for Disney?

I want to take The Girl to Disney World. I know she is only two, and most of you would tell me it’s too young, and she won’t remember anything about the trip, but I don’t care.

I’m selfish. I want to see her hugging characters, singing songs and dancing to the parade music.

What sealed the deal for me was a Disney party we went to, The Disney Summer Social. The Disney Summer Social was sort of an “on the road” Disney party for adults kids. We danced. We ate. We played. And the girl? Got her favorite Disney character painted on her arm.

It was a blast. And it reminded me of how much I want to take her to Disney.

I went to Disney for the first time when I was about 3. Do I remember a lot of the trip? Not necessarily, but I have photos like these to help me.

In fact, it’s the photos that have made the memory last as long as it has. And, Disney gets that. That’s why their new experience, “Let the Memories Begin” is so impressive.

“Let the Memories Begin” takes the photos, or memories, throughout both Disney parks, and makes them larger than life, shining the images on Cinderella’s Castle in Disney World, and “it’s a small world” at Disneyland Resort.

Disney PhotoPass photographers will capture guests caught up in the Disney experience – a memory in the making – and as many as 500 photos will be used in each location. The nighttime show will use the latest in high-intensity projection technology to create vivid visuals that seem to defy the architecture of the building.

How cool is that?

So, I am ready to “let the memories begin” with our family.

How old were your kids when you first took them to a Disney Park? Did they love it??

Disclosure: I was invited to the Disney Summer Social party. All opinions are my own.

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Toddler Sleep Boot Camp

Since last October, right around the time change in the fall, our toddler has been waking up at 5 am.

Every. Day.

It doesn’t matter the time she goes to bed that night, what kind of nap she had the day before, or what she ate for dinner, every day at 5 am we get a wake up call. At first, I thought it was the change of seasons. But then in the Spring, when we moved the clocks again, her clock stayed the same.

We tried bringing her in our bed, where she would kick and fidget – but never go back to sleep. We tried to sleep in her bed with her, where she would kick and fidget – but never go back to sleep. We gave in to television, and would doze as she watched Nick Jr. on our bed while torturing the dog when he, too, obviously wanted to sleep.

And then it got worse.

This summer, she started waking up at 4:30 am… then 4 am… then 3 am… then midnight. Each time she would stay awake for 2 or more hours- or not go back to sleep at all. We were inconsistent in how we treated the wakings. All the sleeping-advice books told us to put her to bed earlier. She was overtired, they said, and that was leading to earlier wakings. Our doctor’s office suggested melatonin before bed.

For a while, we thought it was the fact her diaper was so wet in the mornings, so we limited her drink at night. It seemed to work – for a day or two.

I admit it, I was beginning to get angry with her, which was totally unfair. I wanted to sleep. I wanted her to sleep. When she gets up early she’s cranky and tired by 8 am. I missed my sweet little well-rested girl.

But now? I have had enough. No more pussyfooting around. I mean business: Sleep Boot Camp – Toddler Style. She wakes before 6 am? Back to bed. No eye contact. No words. No kisses or cuddles. She wakes at 5:45 am? Back to bed. Midnight? Back to bed.

I am not messing around anymore. We’re locking our bedroom door. We’re letting her cry it out.

Bad parenting? Quite the contrary. We’re trying to instill good sleep habits. Good sleep means better development, less stress on the household, and better temperament.

We’re giving her the best gift possible. But let’s be honest…Sleep Boot Camp is going to suck – for everyone.

 

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Desperation at 4 am

We are at our wits end. No, not because we have a newborn who doesn’t sleep more than 2-3 hours at a time… Believe me, I can handle that.

What I can’t handle is this: Our 2-year-old gets up at 5 am. Every. Day. And lately? The Girl has been getting up at 4 am.

The other day, she woke up at 3:45 ready to start the day.

5 am wake up calls are beginning to look good.

It all began last fall around Daylight Savings Time. Her usual get-up time of 7 am began creeping backward. Television would usually entertain her until we were ready to join her amongst the awake.

7 am became 6 am, and 6 am soon became 5 am. We were confused. What could be waking her up? Was it the change in time? Was it a neighbor’s car? Were we putting her to sleep too early?

Yes, that must be it. We started putting her to bed later, and still, nothing changed. At 5 am she was awake. No snuggling in our bed for more sleep, or playing quietly in her room. She was awake. Up. Wanting attention.

I thought it would change back when we Sprang Forward in the Spring. It didn’t. We began to take more action.

We put in two sets of room-darkening shades and a white noise machine. Still up at 5 am.

You might be thinking, “Well, E, maybe that is all the sleep she needs.” And I would agree with you if not for the fact she has a meltdown by 7 am and falls asleep in the car to daycare by 8 am.

The girl is tired.

And so are we.

And we feel so alone, like no one else we know has this problem.

So, I am asking for advice.

How can we get our toddler to sleep past 5 am?

We’ve begun putting her to bed by 7pm. We’ve tried melatonin (not working). We’ve tried the, “You can’t get out of bed until the sun is out” routine (doesn’t work). And we try (without success) every morning to crawl in bed with her until she falls back asleep.

Please don’t tell me to put her to bed later. Please don’t tell me to try the “Sleep Lady Shuffle.” We’ve tried all of these before. And frankly? Nothing seems to work.

Please don’t tell me it’s “just the way she is” because her falling asleep at 8 am is not normal.

Please tell me you’ve been there before with your kids. Please tell me she will outgrow this. Please tell me what worked for you.

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I am The Luckiest

I’ve been in a mood for weddings. Maybe it’s because my friend Celeste just got engaged, and I am so happy for her and her hubby to be… Maybe it’s because I see my awesome wedding photographer posting wedding photos on his blog… Maybe it’s because I was missing my man while on vacation… but I had to pick this Writing Prompt from Mama Kat this week:

Write about your wedding song. What was it and why did you choose it?

Choosing wedding music in general is pretty tough, but this song… that first dance with your new spouse holds a lot of pressure.

When we were trying to pick a song, we had requirements: It had to be some sort of alt/indie/rock band or artist. It couldn’t be about death, it couldn’t be about breaking up. But that was tough, because all the pretty songs are about death and breaking up.

After pouring over music libraries for hours and running songs and artists through our minds for days, we chose a quiet, lovely song by Ben Folds called “The Luckiest.”

Photo by Douglas Benedict

As the title implies, it’s about feeling like you are the luckiest person alive because you found the one person who makes you wholly happy. It’s about standing by someone and imagining what life would be like without that person only to realize it would not be life at all.

It’s a beautiful song. And though it was a quiet song (I am pretty sure no one heard or knew the lyrics but us) it made us feel good. It made us realize how lucky we are.

And you know what? Listening to these lyrics still brings tears to my eyes.

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What’s Your Reason?

Things have been a bit challenging for me and my husband these past few days. It’s one of those situations when you think to yourself:

“God, it sucks to be an adult and deal with adult things!”

but somehow, you need to just get through it.

And through this, one thing keeps getting repeated over and over:

Everything happens for a reason.

I know it sounds cliche, but I really do think it is true. As my father-in-law reminded me, when one door closes, another door opens.

Yet, sometimes when you are in the thick of all things horrible it is hard to remember that. So, this post is dedicated to a few of those “reasons” for which things have happened to me.

Reason #1 – Missed connections

Back in my single days, there was a guy who kept trying to get me to go out with him. We never could find a date that worked for us, and our plans kept falling through. Days later, I met my future husband. Score!

Reason #2 – I was mugged

Once upon a time, I was working nights at a television station. I was mugged while walking to my car. It wasn’t horrible, but it gave me the push I needed to get off of night work in television, and from there I changed careers into healthcare marketing. Changing careers was one of the best decisions I could have made, as the television industry (well, local news) was changing a lot, and chances are I might have gotten laid off in the months/years to come. Plus, I love what I do now.

Reason #3 -I was robbed

I know, within months of each other, really, I was robbed. I was living in an apartment – just moved there, actually, and my place was broken in to. Nothing earth shattering, but enough to make me reconsider my move into this neighborhood. I broke my lease, said “See ya!” to my security deposit, and months later, my now-husband and I bought our first place. One could argue that it was a bad decision based on the housing crisis a few years later, but buying rather than renting was one of the best decisions we could have made. Plus, our mortgage payment wasn’t much more than what we would have paid in rent.

See, doors closed… and opened.

So what are some of your “Everything happens for a reason” stories?

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