Holiday Photo Tips

Tis the season for holiday decorating, overeating, over spending and family gatherings.  If you’re like most Americans, you will most likely be toting a camera around with you on these occasions.  How do you capture these moments and what are the best tips from the pros?  Lucky for you I have some great tips for even the most beginning novice.

You don't need the whole tree in there to get they're in front of the tree.

Don’t have a super fancy DSLR?  No worries, the point and shoot cameras that are available today take some really amazing pictures. Even I don’t carry around my big pro camera to family functions, I carry my small Canon Powershot.  The first tip I tell everyone is to READ YOUR MANUAL!  Get to know your camera and the different settings.  For example, you should be able to switch between having the flash fire automatically or turn that baby off.  If you want a moody shot of the neighborhood Christmas lights, you obviously don’t want the flash going off automatically, you need to know how to turn the flash off.

Decide what is your subject.  This is a HUGE one that I tell people all the time, especially my parents.  Every time my parents come back from a trip there are always pictures of my mom, about the size of an ant, the huge skyline, the trees, cars, etc all in one picture.  What is the focus?  If you’re going to do a scenic photo, take the people out, if you want a photo of a person, make them the star and don’t worry about all that scenery.  Too often I see holiday pictures with the huge Christmas tree, the stockings hung, and the kids in about 1/4 of the photo.  Trust me, if your kids are the star of the photo and take up 75% of the frame, the viewer still understands and sees they’re in front of the Christmas tree, you don’t need all 8 feet of the tree in there.

Get creative with your shots!

Be creative. We always try to do something different with our holiday pictures, whether its a fun picture of the kids wrapped up in a ton of Christmas lights, just a picture of their feet in front of the fire, or funny angles of their toys.  That’s the joy of the digital age, you can take as many pictures as you want, so go ahead and be creative!
And finally… edit edit edit.  I am a AVID believer in editing.  We have way to many pictures stored on our hard drives these days.  We didn’t use to have 150 pictures from Christmas, maybe a roll of 36 exposures right?  Just because we took the picture does not mean we have to save it.  We don’t need a picture of every toy that was opened, or the back of the kids when they were playing with their cousins.  Instead edit the pictures down to a solid 30-40 pictures that represent this holiday season best and get them into an album of some sort.  Whether is an online album to share with friends and family or a printed album get them off the computer and into a place that your children can look at!  Don’t hand them a hard drive when they’re all grown, get these memories in print.

The Photo Addict runs a retail photography studio location in Fullerton, Ca.

Reading with iBooks

I used to love to read. However, these days between my children, husband, school, my business and household, I barely have time to cook let alone read for pleasure. When my husband recommended I try the iBooks app on my iPhone, I scoffed at him. As if reading on my teeny-tiny iPhone screen was going to fill that void of pleasure reading… HA!

Screenshot of the "bookshelf"

Every once in a while I’ll go into the app store and try on a new app for size. Give it a go so to speak. I saw the iBooks app and decided I’d try it. I downloaded the trial version of Eat, Pray, Love. The trial version probably gave me the equivalent to 10-15 pages but of course on a iPhone screen it was about 198 pages.

Boy do I stand corrected! After about 5 pages I was hooked. Not only on the book (yes, the book was amazing!) but on the app. Since the only time I ever have time to read is in strange 5-8 minute bursts, like say pumping gas, waiting for water to boil, or in a doctor’s waiting room I can read a few pages, and since I always have my phone on me its super convenient. I can highlight, or bookmark something I want to remember, and every time I open the app it goes to where I left off.

Now of course it’s not as cool as the kindle and the screen is not nearly as easy on the eyes as the kindle, but if I had a kindle I doubt it would always be on my person. Whereas my iPhone never leaves my side. Sure it’s not as relaxing as sitting down with a glass of wine and a good book, but considering I love reading, I enjoy my little 5-10 minute stolen moments.

Thank you Steve Jobs and all the wonderful people at Apple… keep ‘em coming!

Works for me!

Works-For-Me Wednesday

Summer Traditions

The aftermath

My family has a lot of traditions, for instance our family 4th of July party.  It’s been a family event since I was a young girl.  We also have the Easter egg hunt which involves plastic eggs filled with money that all the kids hunt for.  This started in Arizona with my dad’s family which my mom brought back and has kept up the tradition in our own immediate family.  But for me, it’s important to start some family traditions within our own family.  One that we have started is our Summer Seafood Boil.

It all started with my husband’s birthday.  We were past trying to “celebrate” it in normal terms, he’s too old now to be celebrating every year with birthday cake and presents.  After watching a particularly fun episode of  Alton Brown and his perfect seafood boil we knew we wanted to try it.  I LOVE to entertain.  If I were rich I would host very elaborate parties… all the time!  I just love it.  I love doing the invitations, coming up with a menu, the details and of course the actual socializing.  To me, there’s no better thing.  So after watching this episode we decided it would be super fun to host a seafood boil at our house.

I don’t know what it is about boiling a bunch of crustaceans throwing them in a big pile in the middle of the table and eating with your hands that is so much fun, but it is a blast!  It was such a hit that everyone started asking for it for birthday dinners and all, so instead we make everyone wait until the first weekend in August, for hubby’s birthday for our annual seafood boil.  We are preparing as I write this for the big day this weekend.

So what are your new family traditions?  Do they include just your immediate family or are friends and extended family included?  Do you think it is important to start these new traditions?  Comment and let us hear your ideas.

Oh, and one more thing… Happy Birthday today to my wonderful husband!  You are my everything babe, you make life so much better!  I love you!

Starting Preschool

If anyone knows little C, they would agree that he is “spirited”.  Don’t get me wrong, he is an absolute sweetheart, but he wants what he wants when he wants it, and nothing will stand in his way of getting it.  I know this is a trait that will only benefit him as an adult, but as a 4 year old, its rough on the parenting front.  I really wanted to skip preschool, I loved being home with him and felt that going to play dates was enough interaction for him with other children to help socialize him.  However, since I needed to go back to work due to financial issues, I decided to put him in preschool two days a week.

Little C doing "Creative Play"

The first day was a little rough, he did in fact cry for me when I was leaving.  I didn’t know if it was best if I slip out the door, hug him goodbye and leave with him crying, it was so difficult.  His teacher told me I should just kiss him goodbye, let him know I’ll be back in a few hours and leave.  Gosh was it tough, I could hear him crying down the hall.  I was so worried all day.  How is he doing?  Is he still crying?  Will he bully the other kids?  Will he yell at the teacher the same way he yells at me?  When it was time to pick him up, just 4 hours after dropping him off I peeked into the classroom.  He was playing with one of his classmates at the table.  When I walked in he shrieked MOMMY ran over, gave me a hug and then told me “just a minute”.  When I told him it was time to go, he started crying again, this time he wanted to STAY!  He got his taste of what preschool was all about and loved it!

I can honestly say I have seen a huge difference in little C since starting preschool.  He plays better with other children, he no longer bullies his cousin and actually shares.  He potty trained which was a huge power struggle and his speech is getting better.  There has been no tears since that first day of preschool, just praise and happiness.  According to his teacher he is “Mr. Personality” and is the welcome wagon to every child  that arrives.  When we leave he waves goodbye and tells every child by name, “see you  tomorrow Parker”.  He loves his teacher and asks for her by name.

Preschool has been a blessing to us.  I’m certainly in no rush to put him in 5 days a week, but if I did, I’m sure he would have no complaints!

Rainbow Hair Kids Styling

Its been a wile since we’ve reviewed some place.  So if you’re not in the OC area, I apologize, but hopefully you have one of these by you.  I take both my kids to Rainbow Hair kids haircutting in Fullerton.  This place is wonderful.  Not only is it totally kid friendly with a playhouse and toys in the waiting room, but each of the “styling” chairs entice the child to sit on it.  The chairs are shaped like cars.  Each station also has a little TV monitor playing your kids favorite shows, our usually has an episode of Yo Gabba Gabba playing.  When the child sits down for their haircut they get a little bucket of toys to occupy them and distract them while the stylist cuts their hair.  If you have a little girl, you are really lucky because they do the cutest little flowers in their hair.  At $18 a haircut its not on the cheap side, but its worth every penny!  We love Maria, but all of the stylists are fantastic!

Rainbow Kids Hair Styling
127 West Orangethorpe Avenue
Fullerton, CA 92832-2901

(714) 441-1016

Make sure to let them know the Gen X Moms Blog sent you if you decide to check them out!

I Am a Working Mom

Living in Southern California is expensive, and living in Orange County is no exception.  I have been fortunate to stay home with my children for the past 5 years. It didn’t come without sacrifice though.  I also took a part-time job as a waitress to offset some of our bills.  It was a good fit since I love being around people and it allowed me to be home with my kids during the day.  But when I broke my ankle and had ligament replacement surgery it kinda made it painful to waitress for 6 hours at night.  And to be quite honest… I felt too old to be serving now, my body would ache after a long shift towards the end there.

Photo Addict at the studio

I have been a working photographer for 7 years now, never enough that I would say my primary income came from it, but its always been there. I recently made the switch in January from commercial work to families and children. It’s been a great change and it feels like I finally found my niche, and I’m really good at it since I’m so good with kids. The thing is, due to finances I had to make a very pivotal decision, we knew we couldn’t afford all our bills on one salary. We also knew that waitressing wasn’t an option for me anymore. So the question really became, find a job or accelerate my 5 year plan?  What is my 5 year plan you ask? Well for me, I wanted to slowly work on my career as a photographer for 5 years, so that when little C started kindergarten, I would open a studio and have my open hours be when he was in school.

When researching jobs I realized the problem I had before I had little C, no one really hires part-timers anymore, and no boss is going to give me the flexability I need. What if there is an amazing playdate I want to take little C to? There’s no way an employer would be okay with that. What about t-ball practice? Parent-teacher conferences? I just didn’t want to sacrifice this time with little C. But my family needed more income.

My husband and I decided to take a leap of faith and open my studio 2 years ahead of schedule.  It’s been by far one the hardest and scariest things I’ve done. One of the main things that’s been difficult is that even though I can take my child to work with me, I’m still working and not paying 100% attention to him. I have put him in preschool 2 days a week which has been great for everyone since he is mr. personality and loves it. But it’s really hard to get a business running successfully in the first few months on 2 days a week. It’s a really tough decision to go back to work. I don’t know how the women do it after 6 weeks. Little C is almost 4 and I get that “guilty” feeling if he’s watched more than one movie at the studio with me. It’s such a hard balance working mothers have to live. I know I’m extremely lucky that I can take little C with me, or decide to take him to Disneyland for the day, but don’t be fooled, even flexible jobs are still work.

I stll have a hard time saying it out loud…
I am a working mom.

WFMW – Calming the Witching Hour

Little C on a recent walk

Little C is a “spirited” child.  He is extremely stubborn and moody by nature, so I’m sure you can use your imagination as to how the witching hour can go in our household if we don’t take control of it.  You know the hours, its usually the hour s right when daddy gets home until bedtime.  The kids are tired and crabby, you’re tired and crabby and everyone wants to tear each other apart.

Well in our house, there is really only one way to calm this dreaded part of the day… OUTSIDE.  Now I realize we are lucky to live in Southern California where going outside until 8:00 pm is totally beautiful and comfortable and not everyone will be able to solve their witching hour with this solution.  But for us, getting outdoors is pretty much the only solution.

Not only does getting outside help with the crabbiness, its great for the family for bonding and for your health.  What good is plopping in front of the boob-tube after dinner?  Instead, get outside, ride your bikes and go for a nice walk.

Works for me!

Works-For-Me Wednesday

"Oh Woe is Me," said the 12-year-old!

It’s officially summertime!  In years past I would yell loudly, yayyyy!!!  Last summer was a blast, we had passes to the local water park and we were there at least twice a week.  This year is a little different.  I opened up a photography studio 4 weeks ago.  Having a brick and mortar store is extremely scary.  You have to make your overhead, period.  Before when I was working out of my house, if I had a slow couple of weeks, no problem!  If I wanted to take 4 days out of the week to go out with my kids, no problem!  Not the case now, I have a need to perform business model, yikes!

So back to summer.  Little C is content, he has his summer school and loves it, he only goes twice a week which puts the pressure on big time for me to book all my sessions in two days.  The problem lies with Big E, he’s twelve.  It took all of 2 weeks for the novelty of the studio to wear off.  Before he was all “Can I have a summer job and work for money”, to “Do I have to go?”  I mean come on… its 2 days a week?  Is it really so terrible to spend 5 hours at a studio making $8/hour twice a week?  Maybe its the age, I don’t know, but he would be perfectly happy spending 14 hours a day on his computer.  But of course there is no way I’m going to allow that!

The thing that gets me, is that I can plan a super fun day, have one of his friends over, sleepover, give him the moon, it still isn’t enough.  He wants to be entertained every minute of every day or else he wants on the computer.  It baffles me so much.  What happened to the days when kids would just go outside in summer and play?  Take the bike out and explore the neighborhood.  I feel like computers and video games have robbed some of our youth of activity.

So here’s my question to all you Gen X Moms readers, what is there for a 12 year old boy to do, that isn’t a fortune?

The PhotoAddict

Review – Moms Groups on Meetup.com

When I was pregnant with little C, I was not working. So when big E was in school it felt a little lonely since all my friends were at work. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED being a stay-at-home mom, but the adult stimulation was definitely lacking. I went on Yahoo groups to find some groups with similar interests. I joined a scrapbooking group. I enjoyed the discussion and I even went to a few events that were a lot of fun. Did I make any real connections? Not really. I stumbled upon Meetup.com while surfing the net about 2 weeks after giving birth to little C.  I did a search for Moms with a 10 mile radius of my house.  Holy cow, 15 groups near me! I joined the group. My first meetup was interesting. The first thing you need to know is that I am a very outgoing person. I have absolutely no problems going to a party alone where I don’t know anyone, no problem speaking in front of people and certainly no problem making friends. Not to toot my own horn, but I’m a pretty fun person. So back to my first meet up. I went to the park where there was a play date, no one introduced herself to me, I had to go up to the group of women and ask if they were from XYZMeetup group, which they were. I enjoyed the conversation, I really liked being able to talk about breastfeeding with other women that were going through the same things as I was. All in all it was a good experience. There was definitely a clique though, which I was NOT part of. But I took it for what it was and kept going to events.

It’s been four years since my first Meetup and about 3-4 different moms groups later. I think Meetup is a great place to meet other moms, but there are some things I think one should know.

  1. Anytime you have a group of all women together there will most likely be drama.
  2. Don’t go in with expectations of meeting a friend for life. Will you make connections? Of course, many will be on the surface, but if you’re lucky you may find a deeper friendship.  But remember a true friendship takes time to develop.
  3. People will FLAKE. Yes, we are moms, we are scatterbrained and sometimes we forget.
  4. You wont like everyone… and everyone wont like you. It’s OKAY.

So with all these said, I have to say I am in a moms group now that I absolutely love on meetup. I have met some of the most amazing women on meetup. One of my dear friends I meet on meetup and we’ve been friends for almost 4 years now. I think the bottom line is, if you’re going to jump into this world of meeting people online, you just need to go in with the right expectations.

The Photo Addict

It's OKAY to wait on potty training!

A while ago I wrote about potty training my very head strong stubborn toddler.  Of course technically thats not even a correct statement, he’s not a toddler he’s a preschooler.  I had been trying to train him since about 2.5.  I pretty much tried everything in the book to get that child to potty train.  It just wasn’t happening.  Finally I was at a playdate and the Librarian was there and she heard me talking about my disastrous potty training attempts.  She continued to tell me that Rocky was over 4 years old before he was potty trained and that he is just fine.  For some reason a light went off in my head, it was almost as if she was giving me permission to stop trying and put it in little C’s hands.  So that’s what I did, I laid off and gave up all mentions of underwear, the potty and everything else I was doing.

The comments continued from the older generation.  “Well if he was my son, he would have been on the potty since he was 2”, “Well in my day we just MADE them do it”.  And then there was an event where I worked with an elimination communicationist (They learn their baby’s cues and hold them over toilets, claiming to have their children trained at infancy) and the mere disgust on the faces that I had an almost 4 year old still in diapers was enough to make me want to run screaming.  If you have the patience and can do what they do… more power to you, but that is not for me.  They said I was training my child to be reliant on diapers.  I guess…

The hardest part of having an older child not toilet trained is not the diapers, its the constant disapproval from outsiders.  I’m always amazed at how once you join this motherhood club, the lack of filter some people have.  Just because we’re both moms doesn’t mean you have the right to tell me what I’m doing wrong.  I can see if I’m soliciting advice, but if I’m changing my son’s diaper on a changing table that is obviously too small for him, I don’t need the comment “looks like that boy needs to be going on the toilet, he’s too big for a changing table”.  Keep it to yourself lady, you think I’m choosing this?

So back to my stubborn, head strong preschooler.  My mother-in-law was determined to get Little C toilet trained.  I kept telling her I was waiting for him to be ready but if she thought she could do it… more power to her.  She purchased the Potty Scotty doll and got everything prepared that Dr. Phil had said to do for the 1 day program.  The plan was to do this Sunday.  We were ready.  I had a long week.  Plus I worked all day Saturday (something I don’t normally do) so Little C was missing me.  Instead of flopping on the couch to relax we decided to take Little C out for the night.  We played, ate and had a great time.  In the bathtub that night he looked at me and told me he needed to go potty.  I whisked him out of the bathtub and onto his potty… he went!  Hooting and hollering followed, he was so proud.  He literally has been potty trained since.

I believe he knew his grandma was going to try to train him the very next day and he wanted to be the person responsible for potty training himself.  I also think he was rewarding me for a great night out and letting him do this on his own.  No matter what his reasoning, he did it totally on his own, I really had no hand in it except helping him to the toilet.  He’s so proud of himself.  Now he’s even going standing up, he transitioned from a little potty to a big one in 3 weeks (which some say takes forever!).

I’m so happy I eased up on him and let him go at his own rate.  I wish more moms would allow their children the freedom and not pressure their children to do things too fast.  Big E was ready very early and was super easy to potty train.  That just wasn’t the case with Little C.  But the moral of the story is that kids will eventually be potty trained.  They wont be going into kindergarten in diapers so maybe we shouldn’t push so hard.

Just make sure to tune all the negative comments out…

The Photo Addict