17 different women, 36 crazy children, 0 babies in utero
Adventures, Advice and Questions from a group of Mormon women who met in Queens, NY and have now scattered all over the place.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

I'm no Fashion Maven

Our fashion maven is on the road...so I am stepping in...

If you have any money saved up for a rainy day, I saw some dresses at Banana Republic online today that I must share. I feel like there are a lot of possibilities with these knit dresses:

1. They can be adapted for the changing seasons: shaved leg and ballet flat or nice sandal for the warmth, tights and a heel or tall boot for the cold, maybe add a tiny sweater too!
2. For the most part they are quite modest on their own: no need for layering or altering.
3. Flattering. Many of the cuts are flattering for us baby-making types...tiny on our waists, lots of room for those birthing hips!
4. Prints are fun.
5. Black dress options are there, and also a bolero-to help you extend your wardrobe a bit, if you have any dresses that aren't working now that you have gotten married and stuff.

Check out our maven's posts for a refresher on what and how to buy your wardrobe:
Modest Fashion News
Shop Til you Drop
What a Mormon should wear to a cocktail party

Happy Shopping!
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Sunday, July 29, 2007

DC for Tots

When we were planning our move from New York to DC, I kept thinking how great it will be when our kids are school-aged so we can take them to all of the amazing museums and historical sites in the area. Turns out, we've discovered a few fun things to do around DC in the meantime, while the kids are young. Here are some of our favorite places to take our boys (ages 2 and 4) in the DC Area:

1. National Building Museum: Hidden upstairs amongst the architectural wonders and exhibits is a really fun interactive construction zone designed with active young kids in mind. Kids can build their own structures with bright and child-friendly materials, play in the playhouse or read books about buildings and construction. We have spent a few fun afternoons in this room and it has never been crowded.

2. National Aquarium: This place is a bit of a secret since it is located in the basement of the Department of Commerce. Although it doesn't begin to
compare to its Baltimore counterpart, there is a cool Touch Tank that your more adventurous kids will enjoy and lots of variety of underwater wildlife to see. Another plus, it is very conveniently located just off the Mall.

3. National Museum of Natural History: Ok...this was my least favorite museum on the National Mall until I had kids. Younger kids will enjoy Dinosaur Hall, full of dinosaur skeletons, the rooms full of rocks and gems, and the O. Orkin Insect Zoo where they have a huge beehive and lots of critters that generally make my skin crawl, including "Big Bob" a huge tarantula. Of course, this is my kids' favorite room!

4. US Botanical Garden: Check out the Children's Garden. It is an outdoor area with a miniature house, fountains, and pails for the kids to play with.

5. National Air and Space Museum: Younger kids can climb into old airplanes and spaceships and see them overhead and experience the "How Things Fly" exhibit. There is also a cool planetarium (Albert Einstein Planetarium). Every time we go to this museum, my boys take a greater interest in it.

6. National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden: It is sort-of in the middle of the National Mall and houses some amazing modern works. To my kids, it the place with the cool water fountain where they can take off their shoes and splash. A most excellent place to cool off if you are touring the Mall during the summer.

7. Theodore Roosevelt Island: Located between DC and Virginia on the Potomac River, just north of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge. There is a memorial for Teddy R, but also some fun, easy hiking trails around the island with great views of Georgetown and Downtown DC.

8. Clemyjontri Playground. Need to let the kids run for a couple of hours? Come here, the Disneyland of all Playgrounds, located just a few minutes outside of the District. Just try to avoid the CIA headquarters entrance, which is next door. I have found myself there by mistake more than once, a real tribute to my driving skills. Luckily, there is an exit and you can leave without interrogation.

9. National Zoo. OK, so this isn't my favorite zoo of all time, but it is free. Personally, I like looking at the neighborhood that surrounds the zoo (Woodley Park), more than the animals. The panda bears and the monkeys are especially fun to see here and there is a nice petty zoo for the kiddies.

10. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. A modern palace devoted to the performing arts, the Kennedy Center has daily evening free programs geared for families at their Millenium Stage. You usually have to reserve way in advanced for one of these shows, however. Nearby in Northern Virginia, Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts offers 'Children's Theatre in the Woods' during the months of July and August. The quality of the shows is excellent and it is a fun time to bring a picnic, enjoy the outdoors and take in a show all at the same time.

A Couple More Suggestions:

*Bring food and plenty of water along during your day in DC, especially if you are going to spend the day in and around the National Mall. Our experience is that museum cafes are overpriced and the food is average at best. It is a long walk, even to find a McDonalds, from the Mall area. I seem to have to learn this lesson over and over.

*DC has a huge homeless population. You might want to figure out your strategy beforehand. I try and bring granola bars to give out, but I often forget.

*We are much happier when we take the MetroRail into the city and avoid traffic and parking (plus, the boys love the train ride). While not as plentiful as New York, metro stops are convenient to most areas in the Distric. One notable exception being the Georgetown area.

*If you can plan your trip for the autumn or spring (except for Spring Break time), do it! It will be a much more pleasant experience to avoid the heat and the crowds. We pretty much avoid the District in the summer and relocate to our neighborhood pool instead.

*Enjoy your time in DC! It is a great city to explore, even with young children, and best of all....most attractions are FREE of charge!

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Monday, July 23, 2007

At least it wasn't poop this time...

My office nook is right next to the girl's bathroom, so I often fill up the tub, and catch up on computer stuff while they are bathing. If it gets quiet (a rarity), I call their names to make sure they are still alive. Before I put them in the tub, I glance around: no razers, no toxic cleaners, nothing dangerous. I didn't realize that a stack of kleenex boxes would get me.

I am guessing how it happened was Poopy saw them stacked on top of a box of pullups on the floor, and decided to just throw them in the water. I think after that, the kleenex box absorbed the water to the point of breaking, and all of a sudden there was building materials. With three brand new boxes of 300 count kleenexes, imagine the joy she experienced as she built her kleenex castles around the perimeter of the tub.

When I went in to check on her, I stifled a scream, took a breath, and ran for the camera. I should have let her keep playing...I would have gotten a lot more done...but instead, I cleaned it up, like every good mommy should.

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Saturday, July 21, 2007

Freebies from the Crib: Free Men and Dreamers Winner

The winner of our July Freebie, Dark Sky at Dawn, the first book in a series of historical fiction, written by the talented Laurie (L.C.) Lewis is:

kris akarti who commented "pick me! pick me!" Congratulations kris!

Please e-mail us at talesfromthecrib at gmail dot com with your shipping address. If the book is a gift, please include information you would like included in the autograph.

For all the non-winners out there, remember you can still pick up your own copy here or here. Laurie has also offered to send you an autographed bookplate signed to the person of your choice if you just e-mail her at lclewis2007 at gmail dot com. If you request a free autographed book plate before the end of August, you will also be entered into a drawing for the Willow Tree Figurine called "Hero".

And don't forget to look here for a list of questions for book clubs to use to discuss Dark Sky at Dawn.

Thanks to everyone who commented and especially to Laurie (L.C.) Lewis for suppling the freebie this month!
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Thursday, July 19, 2007

My Hobby: Photos and Scrapbooking

I love taking pictures. I love scrapbooking pictures.

I love photo gifts.

I have learned recently that there is a WIDE VARIETY of ways to scrapbook. I have heard about digital scrapbooking, giant journals, and crazy-takes-2-hours-to-do-one-page scrapbookers. There is a whole WORLD out there, that I am N-O-T a part of. I just go along my way and do my scrapbooks and give my gifts.

So, this post is for those with a mild interest in the hobby of scrapbooking and giving of photo gifts.

If you are crazy into it, visit some of these sights:
Heidi Swapp
Paper Cat
Giant Journaling

If you are average like me, this post is for you!

First I want to start with a new, very cool photosite called Heritagemakers. One of our commenters here turned me onto this. I put together a hardbound scrapbook through their website that had every bell and whistle you could think of. I was able to upload my photos, and then digitally scrapbook them. There were tons and tons of embellishments, alphabets, borders, colors, custom colors, already-done page layouts, and the list goes on. Not only that, but you can resize and rotate everything. It was this scrapbookers dream b/c there was no cutting, gluing or MESS in my house, and the end result was a fabulously printed and bound scrapbook...I even got to design my own cover.

At first I thought the price was a little up there, BUT I had this great cross-comparison. I recently made an 8 x 8 scrapbook for a friend, that had about the same pages as the 8 x 8 Heritagemakers Digital scrapbook. Doing a scrapbook from scratch with an acid free album, papers, embellishments, stickers, and printing the photos, was around $70-...not including the scissors, glue etc. that are already in my kit. Plus it took hours and hours to put together.

The Heritagemakers book is $49.99 I think. And it is a really high quality, creative gift. I think this would be so great for a very special gift: Anniversary, Wedding, Baby's 1st Year, Christmas, or Birthday. But, honestly I think it is so smart for all of you who WANT to scrapbook but are so intimidated by/"over" having to get all the supplies, pull them out and DO IT. $50+ a year for your family's scrapbook seems like just the right price, and you can be working on it a little at a time all year round. I give Heritagemakers an A+++. These books are NOT for those of you who want the stark white back grounds and a few photos on a page...this is for the creatives!

2 other points. 1 is that some of you out there are a little afraid of making mistakes, and here you can just UNDO...it's not STUCK WITH GLUE. And, they have a 12 x 12 album available, which is the size of my personal scrapbooks, and frankly they are starting to take up a LOT of space, so I am strongly considering making a 12 x 12 scrapbook from this site as my family's album....

Snapfish was my first adventure in an online photo service. I started about 5 years ago, and I am still a loyal customer. The quality of their prints, price, prompt service, and EXCELLENT customer service keep me coming back. I have gotten a lot of friends and family to use this site religiously as well, which tells me that many people enjoy snapfish.

Though recently they have added some new features, I am most familiar with their postcard, flip book, and photobook services. Every year I get my family Christmas postcard printed by them, and I love the quality and fast service. I can take the picture one day, and about 3 days later have the postcards, by using regular mail shipping options.

The flipbooks are great too, for small gifts, or little memories you want to preserve. Stark white, clean backgrounds with the option of borders and captions. It is user-friendly to put together, and high quality.

Photobooks are my favorite Christmas gift to give to Grandparents that already have everything. Their layouts/options for pages have become more sophisticated over the years, but are pretty basic. The price is right at around 20 dollars, and 10-15 percent off additional books that are the exact same. The only glitch I have experienced with these books is my grandpa received one that had about 15 pages in the beginning of the book, of some random person that I don't know's wedding photos, but the rest of the book contained exactly what I had ordered. He never told me this, I just discovered it when visiting, and my husband easily removed the other family's pages.

For that extra touch on a card or postcard, I am a fan of the photostamp. It is definitely a luxury item and a little pricey, but I just love the idea. I have done this a few years for Christmas cards, but when I realized that get stamped over quite a bit in some areas, I reconsidered...

I have also received photogifts made by a MAC site I think...right Carrie? and they seem very similar to Snapfish.

So.....would love to start a thread on your experiences, and maybe we will repost this with some tweaks and links around the holidays...to get us thinking of that extra special, personalized GIFT!

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Freebies from the Crib: Free Men and Dreamers

July's freebie comes from the very talented, Laurie (L.C.) Lewis--mom, grandma, multi-tasking fifty-something year-old, former RS/YW Pres/ Primary chorister, walnut brownie baker and a successful author. Laurie proves that it is never too late to become a momtrepreneur (or in her case a grandmatrepreneur too)!

Laurie is a mother of four who has always loved to write. After a stint as a Science-Education facilitator in their local school district, she applied her research skills to fleshing out her writing. Then, when the kids left home Laurie started traveling with her husband and fell in love with the people, cities and history all around her on the east coast. These travels and experiences helped Laurie bring her stories to life.

Soon after her first novel, Unspoken, was released in April of 2004, she began the research for the Free Men and Dreamers series, a work of historical fiction which illustrates the situation in America before the Restoration. The idea for this series had been brewing in her mind since two of her sons attended EFY in Willamsburg, Virginia a decade ago. She became so intrigued and awed by the richness of our colonial heritage that she began her research about the lifestyles of early America.

The first three books of the series detail the American struggle to retain independence during the War of 1812 and the impact that retreat from European influence had on the political, spiritual, and social lives of families both in America and Great Britain. The books follow five families, two British, three American, and consider how their efforts to "rise to the call of their country" impacted the demands of their private lives.

While Laurie believes the fictional lives of the families make for a great read, she is also very proud of the historical accurateness of the books as well. She worked closely with the primary historian of Colonial Philadelphia and received endorsements on the book from him as well as from the curator of Fort McHenry in Baltimore.

July's freebie is an autographed copy of book one of the Free Men and Dreamers series, Dark Sky at Dawn. You'll have just enough time to read it and get hooked before book two is released. Or if you are like me and have about 5 books already in the queue, it's never too early to start thinking about Christmas presents. I know my mom would devour this book. So make your comment and have a chance to win!

Bonus Free Stuff:

If you aren't lucky enough to win a copy of the book, order your own copy here or here and then email Laurie at lclewis2007 at gmail dot com and she'll send you an autographed bookplate signed to the person of your choice. If you do this, you will also be entered into a drawing for the Willow Tree Figurine called "Hero", to be awarded at the end of August.

Look here for a list of questions for book clubs to use to discuss Dark Sky at Dawn.

How to win this Freebie:
-You have until Friday (7/20) midnight EST to enter.
-Make a comment (any comment) on the post
-Please don't post under Anonymous - use a Blogger login or the "other" category.
-Winner will be randomly picked and announced Saturday (7/21) morning.
-Please only enter (comment) once.
-Tales contributors are excluded from winning the freebies--sorry :(
-Freebies can only be shipped to US addresses.

What's with the Freebie?
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Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Improving Your Photo Skills: Photographing Indoors

It's a real puzzle--you are indoors and don't want to use flash. Here are some suggestions to help you get a great shot:

Lighten the room.

If your environment is too dark try adding light.

Pull back the blinds of your windows to allow more light in. Even if the light that is coming though the window is not directly on your subject (which may not be nice looking anyways since it could be too harsh) it will increase the over all brightness in the space. This is because light will bounce off the floor and onto the walls, ceiling and subject.

You could also try bringing in a lamp from another room. Those torch lamps that shine on the ceiling make great light (because it bounces off the ceiling onto the subject).

If you are daring, you can try direct light from a lamp or light bulb. When experimenting with direct light watch the shadows beneath the subjects nose. I know it sounds crazy. Try to get the shadow created by the tip of the subjects nose to either point to either corner of their mouth or make the shadow symmetrical on either side (the shadow would be pointing toward the middle of the lips).

Using windows - bring your subject to the light source

Take your subject right up to the window. Have them look out the window (if it isn't too bright) and then position yourself in a variety of different angles until you find one that makes a beautiful/interesting photo.

1. Try to stand or sit with your back against the wall right next to the window (so you are almost facing each other). With this angle you can see most of their face and they will have a really cool reflection in their eyes. Consider your background, it may be too busy. If it is try placing the curtain behind you and your subject, kinda like you are in a tent.

2. You could try a silhouette look. Have your subject stand or sit looking out the window. Place yourself behind your subject and let the exposure allow the subject to become dark.

3. Have your subject sit on the floor and play next to the window in the direct sunlight. Hopefully the light is not too harsh. This can give an interesting natural spot light kind of look.

I saved the most difficult for last

Read your manual - this is the only techy suggestion, so if you can get it pat yourself on the back cause it is a whole new world/language.

Sometimes you can go in and change the setting to allow you to photograph in dimmer light.
Three things to look for:

1. ISO - this is a unit that measures the sensitivity of your film or the chip in your camera that makes the photos. The higher the number (ie 400, 800) the more sensitive/the lower the light conditions you can photograph in.

If you are using film you first need to have a camera that has an indicator in it that tell you if you have the right exposure. If your camera doesn't have this then your out of luck. If you do have the indicator you can then buy film with a higher ISO. I suggest 800.

2. F stop or Aperture - This is a mechanism in your lens that controls how light is exposed on your chip, it is similar to the iris in your eye- expanding to let in more light and contracting when things are brighter. The smaller the number the more light can be let in (ie. 2.8, 4, 5.6 etc).

3. Shutter speed- This is a mechanism in your camera that also controls light. It is like a set of curtains that travel across the chip. The more space between the curtains the more light is exposed to the chip. It's unit of measure is in fractions of a second (ie. 1/4, 1/1000) the slowest setting I suggest is 1/60 of a second.

Check out the series of "Improving Your Photo Skills" by our resident expert, happy nanny, here:

Improving Your Photo Skills: Archiving Your Photos

Improving you Photo Skills: To Flash or Not to Flash

Improving Your Family Photo Skills
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Monday, July 16, 2007

From the Tales Inbox: Vegetarian for the Summer

This post is from my sister-in-law, Julie, who has decided with her family to try out a new diet for the summer. I asked her to share her journey up to this point because I find it so interesting (and deep down, I would love to try something similar for at least a summer if I thought could talk my family into it and if the In 'n' Out down the street didn't call to me each time I passed it).

Up until a few months ago I thought that all vegetarians were strange. The ones I knew made me feel uncomfortable, often offering snide comments at parties where meat was served. Cooking for them was a nightmare! I never, ever thought I’d become one - until this summer - when I decided that I wanted our family to try being vegetarians.

Why did I change my mind?! Little did I know that this idea actually started forming in my head about six years ago after the birth of my second child. The weight wasn’t falling off like it had the first time, so I joined a diet program. This program worked really well for losing weight and it taught me a lot about how to eat better, but it was high in animal protein, and I couldn’t shake the feeling that I wasn’t “eating meat sparingly” like I should.

Then about two months ago my book club read the semi-controversial book, The China Study. The author, T. Colin Campbell says that a vegan diet will prevent cancer, diabetes and heart disease and he uses study after study to back it up. At first I was really skeptical, but the more I read and thought about his ideas, the more I got a feeling that he could be onto something. This type of diet (or a version of it at least) matched what I believed God had been directing me towards all along (believe me when I say I don't think God wants everyone to be vegan or vegetarian).

Going completely vegan felt totally overwhelming, not only because I had no idea how to cook this way, but also because of the social implications. I started by testing my plan on friends and family. They were all curious and mostly very supportive. Many of them sent me recipes to get started. My husband and I also decided that in any social situations, we would simply eat the meat provided and it would still match the goals we had in mind. Also, we decided that even though we didn’t want to eat fish or eggs, we still wanted to eat a little cheese, butter and honey, so we would be vegetarians instead of vegans.

Honestly, I have found this diet to be an adventure every day. For the first little while I would find myself wandering around the kitchen unable to find anything to eat. I had a hard time controlling my blood sugar. I felt grouchy and hungry. But as time went by my body got used to all the whole grains and vegetables and I feel better than I have in a long time.

Because I am making a recipe new to me every day, cooking and shopping takes longer than it did before. I often find myself at the local nutrition store with a list in hand of ingredients of which I don’t know where they are, what they are or how to say them. I am still struggling to learn “quick” meals for those busy days. It can be discouraging when dinner turns out yucky, but in only three weeks I have discovered about five meals that my family just loves.

At first I worried that a vegetarian diet might stunt my children’s growth because of a lack of adequate animal protein. Then I learned that my kids could easily get all the protein they needed from plants. My four-year-old son hates meat and vegetables, so dinner with him used to be a nightmare. But, he loves rice, beans, whole wheat pasta and whole wheat breads and I’ve found that if the vegetables are mixed in he will eat them! My seven-year-old daughter, who has always been a good eater, gobbled down a bowl of brown rice, broccoli and tofu the other day. I was amazed.

So, here are some questions I have for you:
1. What would your husband say if you told him you wanted your family to try being vegetarians for the summer?

2. What have you heard, good or bad, about kids on vegetarian diets?

3. Do you have any good vegetarian recipes, especially quick ones?

4. What are your thoughts, good or bad, about vegetarians as a group?

Thanks for your help! If you decide to try this diet, good luck in your adventure!

Julie, Brand-new Vegetarian
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Saturday, July 14, 2007

You've GOT to be kidding me...

I was listening to Bob Greene on XM radio...

he was speaking to this sickeningly chipper woman who I think had written a book or something. Her voice made me picture this really young, put-together, FIT super mom, who when talking about her son, made me think she only had 1 child, and for some reason she had long, luxurious, healthy-looking, suave-like brown hair, and she was like 25.

I found out who the woman is, what she looks like, and the name of her book.

Anyway, the only thing that I remember about the interview was this, and I am paraphrasing her here:
"I got my son to eat Spinach. I told him to pretend to be a giraffe and eat these leaves. I would hold them up in the air and he would eat them. I got my son to eat spinach!" (said in a Home Shopping Club-esque surprise and delighted voice).

Then she went on to state that she and her son pretended to be dinosaurs and ate up ALL the trees (broccoli) in his mashed potatoes.

It sounded too good to be true, and my main thought while listening was a big fat YEAH RIGHT.

HOWEVER, since my recent high cholesterol diagnosis, weight gain (ok it's only 5 pounds but STILL), and genuine desire for my family to eat healthy and maintain a healthy lifestyle, I picked up a bag of spinach today (let's hope it was ecoli-free).

I explained the game to my children, and they ate spinach. Like, a LOT of spinach. Even Poopy who is a fruit-a-holic, ate about 8 to 10 spinach leaves. Pukey asked for more, in her own bowl please, and after tasting the first one said: "THESE ARE REALLY GOOD".

And all of a suden, I'm a believer.

And, Zonya had something else to say that I remembered: Instead of rewarding our children with candy, reward them with good food. I know everyone's rolling their eyes now, but it's true right? We are the ones who introduce this reward system (well, unless it was Grandma: ) ), and we can change it. I knew a woman who told her son that water was juice....he bought it for a while.

Anyway, just passing it on, because that's what I do...spinach anyone?

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Living Down the Street from a Registered Sex Offender

As I mentioned before, we are looking to buy our first house. I got a lot of great advice on the process on my last post, but one piece of advice I received off-line from chloe, was to check the neighborhood for registered sex offenders which has been made easier with Megan's Law.

I followed this piece of advice immediately with the first house I feel in love with. I got on Family Watchdog. First of all, it was a little sickening to see how many little red boxes littered the map of the entire city. Then, zooming into the actual neighborhood and street, the area was actually pretty clear except for one little red box which happens to be across the street and just three houses down from the house with the For Sale sign. This man was convicted of "lewd and lascivious acts with a child under 14".

Would you ever knowingly buy a house down the street from a registered sex offender? What would you do if you found out after you bought the house? Would it make a difference if you found out he was older and married and not some creepy hermit guy living in the back of a duplex? Would it make a difference if you found out it happened 15 years ago and he is terribly embarrassed to the point that he never walks outside his property without his wife just to put everyone at ease? Would it make a difference if the victim was a boy and you only had girls? Or vice versa? Would it make a difference if you talked to the neighbors and found out they have already confronted him about the situation? Would you ever feel okay about living that close? Are there any circumstances that would put you at ease? Or is it just distance that makes a difference? And I can't even get started on all the non-registered sex offenders that probably live in the neighborhood or in the neighborhoods of all the other houses we're looking at. This guy could be the least of my worries.

Just to do a comparison, we decided to look up our old Queens neighborhood on Family Watchdog. The area is surprisingly clear of little colored boxes. Never would have guessed it.
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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Hi, My Name is Ernie....

I had wondered why Asher's nursery leaders were calling him Ernie. I just figured...lots of kids...lots of names....must be easy to get them all mixed up.

Then one day a few weeks ago, I randomly asked Asher his name. I wanted to find out if he was still calling himself "Ashew". "I'm EU-NEE!" he said with a big grin. As in the Ernie with the adorable cackle who talks to a yellow rubber ducky and lives ambiguously with Burt in what we can only guess is a rent-controlled New York City apartment.

At first, I laughed my head off and told everyone the story. And then, I noticed that Asher had begun giving everything in his life a new identity. When Grandma came to visit she immediately became "Bee-Ma", his Aunti Kelli became "Telly." DH, much to his chagrin, became "Potty", and for me.....I am also known as "Ba-Ba."

No, he's not mispronouncing his words, although his pronunciation in general has something to be desired. Most of the name changes, I am guessing, are because he likes the sounds of his new words better than the originals. It is SO much fun to call Papi "Potty"....especially when he gets a reaction from Potty...I mean Papi. Ba-Ba is a little different, though.

Ba-Ba has emerged as a new person is Asher's life. She is the one who lets him eat his morning cereal in the living room while watching Sesame Street. Ba-Ba takes him hiking and wading in the local streams, throws rocks into the water with him and doesn't get mad when his clothes get covered in mud. Ba-Ba kisses his "hurts" and gives him "singing" (ice cream) to make him feel better. If I am away from the house or if it is the middle of the night, only "Ba-Ba" is good enough for Asher.

But Mama still exists. It is Mama who makes Asher take baths and brush his teeth every night before bed. Mama puts him in timeout for running away or other general nautiness. Mama doesn't let him leave the dinner table without trying everything...even the green stuff. When he makes a mess, Mama stands over him until he has made a good effort to clean it up.

I guess having a bit of "Ba-Ba" and "Mama" in each of us as mothers is best for our kids...but I sure hope that when Asher gets older, he remembers more of Ba-Ba.

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Monday, July 09, 2007

On Death and Dying...

I love life. I really do. I feel like I really LIVE it...that's how much I love it.

My first funeral was when I was around 5. I remember one image from it, my aunt kissing her 5-year-old son, as he lay in the casket. It was strange because I was around the same age as my cousin and I didn't understand why anyone would want to touch a dead body.

From there I attended my home teacher's funeral at around age 9 or 10, my beloved singing teacher's memorial service at age 12 or 13, and then my friend's funeral. He was 19, I was 16. He hung himself. At 19 my husband's mother passed away, 6 months after we wed. I had to sing at my friend's and my m-i-l's funerals (that's a whole different post). My cousin's wife died at 33. I still regret not going to her funeral. I have had a few grandparents pass as well.

I have met some people my age who have yet to attend a funeral. I didn't know that I had been to quite a few for my short life.

I am motivated by many things: my belief in God, fulfilling my talents, motherhood, wifehood, the list goes on. Most of them flow through me on a subconscious level, and only come to my consciousness if something specific pulls them out, or if I am perhaps struggling with something specific. Another motivator is a sense of urgency that I have, just in case I die tomorrow.

I do not want to die young. I do not fear death, but I see what a death can do to those left behind, especially an "unconventional" death. Unconventional death being defined as any death that does not involve a very old, very wrinkled, very grey person dying peacefully while sleeping.

The other day, while cleaning my house, a song came on my ipod that I hadn't heard in a while. It is entitled HOW GLORY GOES. It is by Adam Guettel, from the musical, Floyd Collins. This particular version sung by Audra MacDonald. I love it. I decided that I wanted this sung at my funeral. You should go download it right now.

My next thought was, is it weird to know what I want sung at my funeral when I am 28?

Then I made another decision. My friends and family are welcome to my possessions, but I would like most of them donated or preferrably, sold on ebay...because that is fun, and that is one of my favorite things to do.

Then I wondered if I should just write all of this down, JUST IN CASE...so that my family knows that, yes I would prefer a HOT PINK headstone if that is available, and if I cannot be buried in Queens, my home town of Naperville is my second choice.

And I do not want a viewing or open casket thing, just a giant life-size cardboard cut-out of myself looking happy.

So, now I have documented it. Right here on this blog. And one of you will remember, and see to it that these requests are met. Thank you for your time. And I hope I don't die now.

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Sunday, July 08, 2007

Family Home Evening with a Toddler

I don't want to make this long. The title says it all. I'm just looking for some creative ideas and inspiration.

T is almost 18 months and since his birth we have always been gearing our FHE toward ourselves... that is when we are disciplined enough to actually remember to hold one - oops! But the past few months I've noticed him beginning to "catch on" to some of our spiritual habits (saying Amen after every prayer, and watching intently when we have family prayer). He also points to every piece of art hanging on a wall and calls it "Jesus". This is basically because he isn't in nursery yet and we spend A LOT of time walking the halls of the church building. I'll point to the pictures of Jesus on the walls and say, "T, this is Jesus", or something of the sort, figuring that at least I'm trying to give him a spiritual education. I guess it's working. :)

Anyway, I didn't grow up in the Church and obviously didn't have FHE, so I can't call my mom and ask her what her tricks were for these early years of introducing FHE. I have asked a bunch of friends in my ward about what they do with their little ones and they do pretty much what I do, which includes: sing a primary song, have a prayer, read a scripture that goes with a picture, or something like that. But they all thought it would make a good post on the blog because we were all feeling a bit creatively blocked when it came to FHE.

So what are your ideas for Family Home Evening with a toddler? What has worked for you, and what hasn't? Do you gear FHE toward you and DH, or toward your children? I know there are some very creative people out there who read this, so I'm hoping to get a good list going! Thanks for your help.
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Thursday, July 05, 2007

Improving Your Photo Skills: To Flash or Not to Flash?

Most cameras have them, they pretty much guarantee you will capture a decent image. But they don't always make flattering photos. Why is that?

Four reasons:

1. Direction of light.
In nature light normally comes from above (the sun/sky). A flash comes from eye level.

2.Red Eye.

3. Spread
If your background is too far away your flash may not be strong enough to light it as much as it will be lighting your subject. As a result you get a bit of a spotlight effect.

4.Intensity- Harshness
Most flash units have no diffusion, so the light they create is hard. Which may or may not be a problem.

What to do: Honestly there is no easy answer. You have to use your judgement. If flash is the only way to get that image then do it, and don't feel bad about it. If possible, take a few shoots with and without the flash. I am currently working on two posts that each talk about what to do without a flash (one for inside and one for outside).

Taking it up a notch: If you are an amateur photographer and want to improve your flash technique, it is all about getting an off camera flash. You will need to buy a flash that is not connected to your camera. When you have your flash unit, I suggest two options:>

1. When you are in a situation where you have a ceiling that is no greater then about 20 feet above you, point the flash to the ceiling. Sounds crazy, but really it is crazy brilliant. The light being emitted from your 1"x3" flash will bounce off the much larger ceiling -- which becomes the light source for your subject. The quality of the light will be beautifully soft and the angle is more natural.

2. Get an L flash bracket (cost between $15-$32). An L flash bracket connects to the bottom of your camera, and has a grip on once side (which helps you hold your camera more easily) and it is where you mount your flash unit. So your flash will be about 5 inches above the lens and to one side. No more red eye and a more natural angle. Also consider getting a diffuser of some kind to soften the light. Your local amateur/professional camera store will have suggestions.

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Monday, July 02, 2007

Buy This House

Well folks, we might actually do that thing that pretty much everyone else around us has already done -- we might buy our first home.

It's exciting and terrifying all at the same time. It's completely time consuming and emotionally exhausting and we are only at the very beginning stages of pre-appoval and house hunting. It's nerve-wracking trying to figure out the right choice in this shaky southern CA housing market. After being immersed in the depths fixed rates, variables, 5-1 arms, fees, taxes, comps, closing costs, insurance, rent equivalency, interest only (language only a mortgage broker could love), it's mind-boggling to think that people actually make it out happy and mentally sane on the other side. And like I said, we are only in the beginning stages! I know it will only get worse.

I know there are millions of people out there who have already gone through the crazy roller coaster ride that I am about to strap into. I believe 12 of the Tales Girls have gone through the process within the past 2 years. Not to mention all the other fellow bloggers who seem to have done this crazy thing recently too. I need you now. What are your best tips for a first home buyer?

Please let me learn from your mistakes and find hope in your success!

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Kids, you STILL owe me

When I got pregnant back in 2001, there were many things that were to happen that I did not expect.

I did not expect to LOSE 10 pounds during my first trimester.
I did not expect to come home from the hospital, after giving birth, weighing less than the day of my first appointment at week 9 of pregnancy.
Though losing that weight was H-E-double Hockeysticks (LOTS of barfing for LOTS of weeks), it was a nice perk.

I did not expect to feel that little spot near my va-jay-jay where there were two miniscule stitches, for a whole year.

I did not expect my hair falling out around my baby's 5 month birthday.

Most of these I was fine with...definitely fine with the weightloss, and the hair grew back, and like I said, after a year, everything felt fine DOWN THERE.

However, there have been some other things that I did not expect that I am not ok with.

The first is my shoe size. I remember reading that a woman's shoe size could go up during pregnancy or I guess, as a result of pregnancy. I never suffered from any swelling, so I thought I was fine with this situation. Then after my second baby I started noticing that a lot of styles of a shoes just weren't working with my feet. I didn't understand...until I realized, hmmmmm...maybe I should go up a size?

Now, it's really not a big deal to go up a 1/2 or sometimes a whole size, but the fact that it didn't occur to me, and I passed on a bunch of cool shes (b/c I am dumb), and that I had to replace some of my favorite shoes, is just a little bothersome. The WORST was when I was on a job and they handed me my shoes, and I had to amputate my pinky toes to get them OFF again...THAT'S how tight they were. OUCH.

The second, and most troubling is my allergy situation. I have always had allergies, but they really came out of the closet when I went through puberty. I was given a sheet of paper that was a long list of ALL my allergies and a rating at just HOW allergic I was to each one. Having allergies (foods, animals, indoor, outdoor), is just my lifestyle, and I am fine with it. Right now I take 3 medicines a day, and use my neti pot, and I am VERY healthy. During both pregnancies I did not take meds, and I did really well. In fact, pregnancy and nursing can act as an allergy medicine b/c of the boosted immune system (so my docs said), and many of them told me way back during puberty that a major hormonal change like pregnancy could REVERSE or MAKE BETTER some of my allergies.


Instead, with each pregnancy I have added food allergies to the growing list.

With Baby #1 I lost Peaches, Pears and Apples. This may not seem like a big deal, but I am also allergic to all melons, bananas, avocados, some citrus, and anything tropical I just avoid. I LOVED these fruits. Cooked or otherwise processed I can still eat some of them.

With Baby #2 I lost peanuts. UGH. I LOVE peanut butter. I love peanut butter candy and ice cream. I love snacks that have that PROCESSED ON THE SAME MACHINERY AS PEANUTS labels. I am annoyed. I am ok with other allergies, like say, shellfish...because I have never even tasted it, I don't know what I am missing, and I have always regarded it as poison. But now, all of a sudden, a food that I love and have eaten my whole life is taken away from me? The other day I was walking down the street just CRAVING chocolate peanut butter ice cream and I was like: I will NEVER be able to satisfy that craving.

The reaction isn't THAT big a deal...it's just a little swelling that causes me to sort of wheeze/cough for a few minutes, but every time you expose yourself to it, it gets worse, and I just can't KNOWLINGLY put something in my body that is possibly harmful.

I am not complaining. I will get used to this NEW change in my lifestyle, but I am just WOWED at what pregnancy has done to me (and I didn't even get to the back fat, and the random bumps on my eyelids that come and go, and the grey hairs...)

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