Archive for July, 2013

The consensus among enthused photography hobbyist, at least those who express an opinion online, is generally that department store photography studios are not real photography studios. It’s a such a strongly expressed belief, that I stayed away without much of a second thought. Today I announce I am a convert. Kinda.

familyphoto
The photo that’s totally going on my new desk.

When we went to JCPenney’s for the graduation photos, it was actually the second time we had gone. We went back at Christmas time when I was struggling to take a family photo with a smile for our Christmas card. The experience left something to be desired. I ended up with 18 frames, but I really wasn’t happy with any of the family photos. I was so not happy, in fact, that I ended up just using one of my own sans smile.

It’s so hard to get family photos, and I only had a few days before I had to give back the cap and gown, so we decided to try again at graduation. Just to have something.

For the graduation photos, we dressed Nicki up in her Easter dress, Domingo wore a button down shirt and slacks, and I wore a free t-shirt from a company that had gone out of business a few years prior. (Hey, I was wearing the cap and gown after all!) This time our experience was vastly different. I instantly regretted not having dressed up myself, so we could have a non cap and gown family photo. With Nicki’s birthday coming up, however, we had another excuse to go and I can never have too many photos.

Here’s what I learned from our three visits.

1. Find the Right Photographer

I read to request the best baby photographer when scheduling appointments, but I’m pretty sure they’re not allowed to offer this kind of opinion. When I asked I kept getting responses like “we’re all good!” You might have better luck asking for the “most requested” photographer.

Here’s the thing, though, I don’t think you need the “best photographer”. The studio has excellent equipment, and standard settings they use. They don’t have to worry about lighting, exposure, depth of field (they avoid shallow depth of field since the risk of the baby moving out of focus is too high). They don’t have to worry about the technical side of photography. They also have a set of standard poses they can fall back on. While good equipment and a list of poses does not a good photographer make, it goes a long way to bootstrapping a novice. What you want is someone who can elicit a smile, someone who your baby will respond well to and someone with a lot of patience.

withalittlepatience

We wanted to get a few photos of Nicki in her dress during our visit in June, but she was adamantly refusing to be outside of arms reach of mommy and daddy. The photographer sat her down with daddy then slowly started distracting her with toys until Daddy was able to slip away. The end result was this cute reading photo. When an idea wasn’t panning out for our first photographer, he took the shot anyway and skipped on to the next.

If we didn’t already have a photographer we liked, I’d probably try and find one that has been there a while under the assumption that they would at least have a lot of experience. I might even fib when booking an appointment and say that I was looking for someone who took my photos years ago but I couldn’t remember who it was. I’d then describe the traits I’m looking for, and let them make a suggestion. For formal photography I like my photographers to be a little bit on the picky side. I like the mother hen type personality that will jump up and straighten your hair if it’s starting to look a little messy.

Once you have a good photographer, you can keep requesting her/him.

2. Go at the Right Time

Department Store Photography Studios are a volume business. They’re on the clock. You’re going to get about 20 to 25 photos, and then they’re going to move on the next client. Not only did we get whoever was free (and the guy whose free is probably not the highly requested, “best” guy) when we went in December but they were running late and hurrying everyone along to make up time. There was not a lot of time for our photographer to be patient even if he has patience.

We went on a Tuesday morning for the graduation photos. Not only did we get a much better photographer, but there was no one else there, so the second photographer became her assistant. That meant one person making goofy faces and tickling Nicki for a smile, and another actually snapping the photo. Let me tell you it works much better if the tickler is not also behind the camera!

When you call to ask for an appointment, ask what times they have available. If they’re somewhat to fully booked, they’ll list times. If they’re reluctant to list times, they’re probably mostly free. (No one wants to give the impression that business isn’t booming.)

Your best bet will likely be mid mornings on weekdays. There’s usually a small rush right when they open, around lunch time, and just before closing.

nickivail2

3. Go with Your Own Ideas or Props if you want Something Different

As mentioned above, they have a list of standard poses. The good photographers might deviate from the list, but the newbies will probably stick to it. That’s okay, the standard poses are standard because they tend to work for most people. But if you want something different from what they usually offer, help the photographer out.

One way is to go online and look for poses you like. Here’s a word of caution about bringing a photo: Never go thinking ‘this is exactly what I want.’ Instead think ‘this is the kind of style I want.’ It’s very difficult to reproduce a photo with a different subject and a different photographer and not have it look forced. As a corollary, never hire a photographer wanting exactly the same photo he or she has taken of someone else. Instead, go with a photographer because you like his or her overall style.

Another strategy is to bring your own props. Our last trip I went in with Nicki’s knit blocks Grandma had made. I wasn’t sure if the photographer would be able to use them, but they turned out really cute.

knitblocks

(Bonus 4th Tip) Go with the Right Expectations

I always hate the “you get what you pay for” cliche, but it is sometimes true. There’s a reason why independent studios can charge so much more and stay in business. That doesn’t mean going to department store studios is a waste. I like to think of these photos as “filling in the holes” of our family photos. I can’t take nice formal photos of all of us, so these are a nice addition to our family albums.

I plan to continue to use JCPenney’s, although I’m sure from now on it’ll be a once a year thing if that.

Disclosure: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission with each affiliate link click. For more details please see my full disclosure about blog profit.

Books


Okay, it’s not technically “gear”, but man have we been enjoying our books lately. My favorites are the Llama Llama series. Domingo and I discovered them when hunting for discounted books after Easter. We saw Llama Llama Mad at Mama on the shelf and just cracked up at poor little llama’s facial expression on the cover. Even though it wasn’t on sale I picked it up and started thumbing through it. Domingo kept trying to talk to me and I kept shushing him. I wanted to know how it ended! That night I bought Llama Llama Red Pajama, Llama Llama Misses Mama, Llama Llama Time to Share and, of course, Mad at Mama. I adore them. I could read them all day any day, they are so much fun.

We also purchased Llama Llama Holiday Drama and Llama Llama Home with Mama. The rhythm doesn’t flow as smoothly, and the ending to “Home With Mama” feels a little cobbled together. That’s not to say I don’t enjoy them, I absolutely do, but I don’t like them as much as the first four.

Nicki’s favorite book is Chu’s Day. She cracks up and the sound of the sneezing, so it’s not a good bed time book. It’s a very short book, so we generally read it several times in a row.

Toys

There’s been a cognitive explosion as of late. Nicki loves her knob puzzles, can assemble mega bloks creations, and cuddles her stuffed animals. For her birthday, my sister got her Jumbles. They’re an awesome building toy, different from anything else I’ve ever seen. The box says for “six months and up”. That seems young to me (although they also make for a good teethers) even at twelve months she seems a little on the young side.

We splurged with the activity tables three months ago. I justified the splurge thinking that she would use them for a while, long after she was standing and walking. I wasn’t sure the same would be true of a walking toy, so when Amazon had a 50% of sale on select Fisher Price toys, I jumped on the basic activity walker. When the walker first arrived I tried to get her to stand with it. No dice. She wanted to play with the knobs. The second time I put her next to the walker she tried to pull herself up on it, on the reverse side even, and it immediately began rolling. She had to run to keep from falling. She went about two feet before colliding with the desk, somehow managing to stay upright, and had a huge “DID YOU SEE WHAT I JUST DID?!” grin from ear to ear. From then on she was a little speed daemon. Within days she had new found confidence in walking and surprisingly we’ve had just a few spills. She can now pull herself up on it without it moving, run, walk, stop and change directions.

Organization

We purchased this storage organizer and two fabric drawers. In the dark brown drawer we put the toys she had clearly outgrown, and in the light tan one we put the toys she wasn’t as interested in. It’s not that novel an organization scheme (or technically baby gear), but it makes the list because of how Nicki interacts with it. Daycare encourages the kids to put the toys away, and she’s taking the lesson home. She’s constantly taking toys out and putting them back. She had her secret binky stash in one of the drawers. As I type this the knob puzzle pieces are all in the top shelf.

July 23, 2013

Nose, Meet Grindstone

Doctoral students are the arch nemeses of trees. True fact.

We decided to go ahead and enroll Nicki in day care full time now. I was definitely feeling the mommy guilt about it, but she has taken to being full time at day care extremely well. Now that she’s twelve months she’s in the process of transitioning to the toddler room, where all the cool toys are. We’ve had a couple instances where she was too enthralled with exploring the new toys and not ready to come home. So much for separation anxiety. She’s also eating the toddler lunches now, and drinking from sippy cups. Apparently it’s not just cheerios that are better at day care, she’s even devouring her peas and green beans.

I’ve been using the extra time home alone to make serious headway on my thesis. The current page count? 122, including boiler plate formatting, appendix and references. Not too bad considering I gutted a few chapters recently. My goal is to be done by this time next month. My committee will need at least a month to review it, and they will undoubtedly suggest changes. I want to be done-done before I start working in October.

thesisdraft

It’s a tall order to be sure.

In September (when my committee is reviewing my dissertation) I will start getting the house ready to sell, as well as begin scooting out new areas to live and day care options. I’m hoping to create a short list for Domingo and I to check out together so he won’t have to take time off from work.

Another tall order.

One step at a time.

Some days it’s hard to wrap my head around the fact that I am now the parent of a one year old, or that it was over a year ago that we were waiting for signs of Nicki’s arrival.

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One of our monthly photos from 11 months. I was going for an image that resembled a drawing more than a photograph, and dialed the brightness, contrast way up while decreasing the saturation.

At the start of the month I found myself in a bit of a photography funk. I was suddenly struck by the fact that my “baby” photography days were over, at least with Nicki. I kept thinking of all the missed photo opportunities to capture her babyhood on film. I took 28,357 photos of Nicole in the first 365 days, so I know this fear is all in my head. And yet, while I have photos that I absolutely love, that photo envy has a tendency to creep back in.

I can think of two reasons why the feeling of “too few” photos keeps coming back, especially from those very early months. Nicki never really looked like a typical newborn. Her full head of hair and beautiful dark eyes made her appear older than she actually was. Secondly, now that my photography is improving, it’s hard not to critique my own work and notice those past flaws. My top five photos? In (1) the sleeves need to be rolled down, (2) the depth of field is a little too shallow for that angle, (3) my body and hand position is awkward, (4) The depth of field is too shallow and the tip of Domingo’s left thumb is out of focus and (5) would be absolutely stunning if it were a true profile and the light was illuminating the shape of her head. This is not to say that they’re not very good photos, or that I’m not very proud of those photos. I only wish to point out that they’re not “perfect” and that these types of flaws are more pronounced in those early months when I had much less practice.

Of course, my skills are improving. And not just my skills with the camera. That above photo? Here is the SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera).

sooc

One of the things I’ve always wanted to learn was photo editing. There is a lot that can be done with a “bad” (ordinary, everyday, etc) photo to create something interesting. Cropping, Rotating, Saturation/Hue/Lighteness levels, Something. While the goal is to get it right ‘in camera’ each “bad” photo gives me a opportunity to play with my graphics program. I love the top photo in this post, even though the SOOC isn’t particularly unique or striking.

These days I’ve also been making more of an effort to showcase my better photos. Ironically, while I might notice the imperfections of any one photo, the more time I spend with the collection as a whole the better I feel about my photos overall. I guess this revelation shouldn’t be too surprising. A few months ago a study was published showing looking at one’s own profiles on facebook tends to improve mood. It’s like looking at your own highlight reel.

As a result of increased confidence I find myself relaxing more when it comes to picking up the camera. When Nicki was 11 days old I took a family portrait of the three of us. I took exactly 15 photos using a tripod and a remote: 4 were too badly cropped to be saved, 2 had motion blur and 2 were badly out of focus leaving me with seven usable ones. That felt like plenty. Yet a month later I took 392 photos of a sleeping baby and her stuffed unicorn so I could order just one print and I still wasn’t completely satisfied with the photo I choose. Lately I’ve been drifting back the other way. While I’ll still trigger happy during activities (e.g. splashing in the tub – you never know when Epic Splash is coming!), I’m back to taking only a handful of photos for those detail shots – like the putting her feet up on the high chair. I only took 12 of those. This change does not a moment too soon, once again I have less than a memory card’s worth of free space on my hard drive.

newfamily

They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master anything. Assuming an average frame rate of a photo every 30 seconds and with 28,357 photos that would mean I’ve spent roughly 307 hours on photography. Imagine the possibilities with 9,693 more!

Disclosure: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission with each affiliate link click. For more details please see my full disclosure about blog profit.

Cheerios trumps separation anxiety. The other day I dropped Nicki off to day care earlier than usual, right at the start of morning snack time. Her teacher asked if she would like to join them. Nicki was so excited, she was grinning from ear to ear and banging on the tray as her teacher strapped her into the high chair. She barely noticed me waving goodbye. Yeah, whatever. Bye mom. THERE ARE CHEERIOS HERE! The next day I set her down on the playmat when we arrived. She took off crawling towards the highchairs immediately. She gets cheerios every morning at home, but apparently day care ones are better.

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Putting our feet up while lounging in the high chair.

My Daughter is Part Squirrel. We’ve haven’t used binkies as a sleep aid for quite a while, but Domingo and I still keep secret Binky caches hidden throughout the house in case of baby meltdowns. Trouble is, Nicki has an eagle eye for her Binky. She has spotted one on the top shelf of the office bookcase, half hidden under a piece of paper. When she sees it, she wants it, and we usually cave and give it to her.

A few weeks ago, she was playing with one of the fabric drawers in her toy organizer. She loves to organize her toys, taking them all out, putting them all back. It suddenly dawned on us that the Binky she was sucking on was a different color than it was a few minutes ago. We took a peek in the fabric drawer and found not one, not two, but three binkies! She had her own secret binky cache and was saving them for later! I’m choosing to believe this is some sort of advanced Marshmallow delayed gratification test, and not that my daughter is part squirrel.

drawer
Putting Chan Pie Gnon back in the drawer.

The best laid plans… I’ve been sick lately so Domingo offered to take Nicki after our morning nursing session so I could get another hour of rest. He also very kindly made sure to shut both our door and the nursery door so the sound of Nicki playing wouldn’t wake me up. Alas, shutting the door is somewhat ineffective when the baby monitor is left on.

July 12, 2013

Employeed!

It feels like virtually overnight I’m going from a grad student with a baby girl, to a working mom of a toddler. Yup – you read that right. I accepted a job offer with a start date in October.

With this one change will come a host of others.

We’re Moving! To where I’m not exactly sure yet. The commute to my job is a problem so we’re going to try to find something more in the middle. There’s multiple factors to consider, cost of housing (we’d like to buy again if possible), school systems, etc.

We’re Selling our House! Gulp. We’re in a rowhouse and two other units have just sold or have a sale pending so I’ve been zillow-stalking them to see what the going rate is.

Pooky is going to Day Care! Okay, she already goes to day care, but she will be going full time. I am really apprehensive about this, but she seems to be doing well at her current daycare, so I’m trying not to dwell too much.

The goal is to be situation into our new lives by the start of 2014. Wish us luck!

July 10, 2013

Photo Forensics

A while back I wrote about editing Nicki’s photos to reduce the appearance of orange in her nose nose. I hesitated before sharing that post, knowing I’d be opening myself up to criticism should anyone ever read my blog. What kind of mom would care about the color of her baby’s nose? Worst.mom.ever, that’s who. I ultimately decided to publish the piece because I thought there might be others interested in doing something similar, and I wanted to be honest about the level of photo editing I do. My goal in editing these photos is to learn about photo editing, not (really) to change the image. Trying to keep the photo editing a secret feels like I’m sending the wrong message, like there’s something to be embarrassed or guilty about. Let me be clear here: I don’t think that there anything wrong with photo editing, nor do I think there is anything wrong with Nicki’s appearance. This is just the next step in learning to process photos, after color balancing and contrast/brightness adjustments.

The question I keep coming back to, however, is what level of photo editing is too much? In my mind if the photo edits are noticeable, it’s too much. If you can’t tell whether a photo has been altered, does it really matter if it has? (I have the same philosophy on real vs fake diamonds, for the record.)

Recently I’ve stumbled onto the field of photo forensics. I found fotoforensics.com and decided to have a go with my images. I use the full sized images (I only post small versions on my blog) since resizing them can affect the analysis.

De-oranging the nose: De-oranging is totally a word, by the way.

fotoforensicscarrotnose
Screen Grab from FotoForensics.

No white patch, or higher ELA values around the nose! Looks like I can get away with this edit.

I also ran the analysis on the small (400 x 262) version I uploaded to my blog. Interestingly the nose appears unedited but the eyes show possible signs of being altered, where the above screen grab indicates they weren’t. I have brightened eyes before (using this tutorial), but not this photo. I double checked by going back to the raw file.

Removal of scratches:

At 7 months Nicki gave herself one heck of a scratch on her cheek at day care. (We referred to it as her daycare warrior battle scar). It was pretty pronounced for a while, and is still somewhat visible, although now it looks more like a blemish than a scratch. I’ve edited it out of a few photos where it was particular pronounced, like I would with baby acne and teething rashes. Although I’ve never been very good with teething rashes, they cover too much surface area.

fotoforensicsscratch
The arrow shows where the scratch used to be pre edit. In this one I also brightened the eyes, but left the orange nose.

Nothing.

The birthmark:

Like the orange nose, I thought this one might be controversial. Nicki had a small birthmark on her left arm at birth. If it was a permanent birth mark, I would have let it be. Since it looked like something that would fade, and had the appearance of a bruise in photos, I removed it from some of her early photos. It was already fading by 2 months, but you can still see it in this instagram.

fotoforensicsbirthmark
The arrow shows where the birth mark used to be pre edit. In this photo I didn’t completely remove the birthmark, just lessened it’s appearance.

Maybe? There’s a little bit of a lighter patch (higher ELA values) near where the birthmarked was removed, but it doesn’t stand out from other patches of skin that were unedited.

Other Photos

This is making me wonder if any of my edits would be detected. (Or, at least, detectable by me. I read the tutorials, but I’m no forensics expert.)

fotoforensicchristmas
Bingo!

This photo was actually a composite of two photos. I took them early Christmas morning, when she and I were the only ones up. I can’t get Nicki to smile when I’m staring through the view finder, so I was singing and playing her while attempting to hold the camera level. The camera slipped slightly and the photo with the good smile was poorly framed. The nicely framed photo had lens flare on her face – over her left eye of all places! Eyes are the hardest to edit. What to do? Clone the face from the one photo onto the other.

It was fun running my photos through FotoForensics. Hopefully my analysis is not embarrassingly off. I want to learn more about forensics. And photo editing. And photo taking.

Disclosure: This blog post contains Amazon affiliate links. I may earn a small commission with each affiliate link click. For more details please see my full disclosure about blog profit.

family

The theme for Nicki’s first birthday party basically materialized out of thin air the day before her party.

I stated planning this party before she was born. I found these colorful pinwheel cookies on pinterest that looked like something from a book of Seuss. I loved the Seuss growing up, and I figured we would be reading Seuess daily, so I wanted to make Dr. Seuss my pary theme. My imagined first birthday party for Nicole was going to be colorful with a sense of whimsy. I was going to bake those cookies onto a lollipop stick.

But Alas, pinterest failed me. All the Seuss parties inspiration ideas I found were based on “The Cat and the Hat”, or “Green Eggs and Ham”, my two least favorite Seuss books. There was a dearth of other ideas. Adding insult to injury, a few months ago I discovered the Llamma Llama Books, which I loved even more the Seuss. I was quickly becoming disenchanted with the Seuss theme, so I started thinking of the party as Dr. Seuss Inspired, rather than Dr. Seuss Themed.

Invitations

At first I wasn’t going to do invitations. We invited 4 sets of family members, three which had to fly if they were going to attend so I coordinated the party date with everyone months in advance via email. There is no need for invitations when all pertinent party details had already been shared.

But that’s when I had discovered custom printed balloons. Nicki loves balloons. She spied the birthday balloon Domingo bought for me before I did it, and commandeered it. I had to have custom printed balloons. It was a compulsion. The custom printed balloons were from Balloons Tomorrow and set me back $75. (Splurge #1)

nickiballoon

I figured the best way to incorporate the balloons would be on the invitations. Of course this meant I had to design the card to affix the balloon too. The Seuss invitations on pinterest were not my style, and I couldn’t come up with anything, so I decided to go off theme. My first instinct was to do a marbled border for the invitation, but my graphics program didn’t have the right texture. I settled for “smoke” texture but something was still missing. I started playing around with “tubes” and found yellow bubbles against a purple “smoke” background really popped. It’s rare for me to be comfortable pairing multiple colors. Normally I pick one hue and vary the shades. Since the yellow bubbles seem to fit so well, and Nicki loves bubbles as well as balloons, it just seemed meant to be. I used the left over card stock to print my invitations. (I am totally getting my money’s worth out of that card stock!)

Picture of the invitation coming. I apparently forgot to take one.

Decorations

One of my favorite Dr. Seuss books is The Lorax, so I loved the idea of creating an enchanted forest. Once again I turned to balloons. The idea was to create a “balloon forest”. Domingo would later refer to it as a “balloon fog”, since it was toddler height at 2.5 feet tall per “tree”.

forest1

forest2

We used up all three large tanks of helium, but only 100 of the 300 balloons I ordered. There were 16 balloon trees, each tree was tied to an organza bag filled with marbles. I triple tied the bags since marbles are chocking hazards. Truth be told, so are balloons. I wasn’t too worried, Nicki was the only one there under 25 and there were always multiple pairs of eyes on the birthday girl.

The final cost for the balloon forest was $198 after a 20% off coupon. (Splurge #2) I do feel a touch guilty about this purchase being so over-the-top, but Nicki loved the balloons and I could not find cheaper helium. And really, how often does your baby turn 1? Judge away if you must.

Of course the balloon forest would never work in our home, so we needed to find a venue. (That sounds so fancy, doesn’t it? The “Venue” was just the club house at our complex. The cost to rent it was just $35, and we were responsible for cleaning it afterwards.) I don’t think I can count the venue as a splurge. We had 9 adults and Nicki attending the party, and it would have been a tight fit in our living room, even without all those balloons.’

venue
The “Venue”

extraballons
Putting the extra balloons to good use.

It just so happened I had snapped a monthly photo for Nicki lying on different colored sheets. I had intended to them to make a Happy Birthday Banner, but the venue didn’t have a convenient place to hang a banner. All the windows were too narrow, and the only bare wall was the brick fireplace. I ended up taping her monthly photos to the windows.

I admit this is totally neurotic of me, but I didn’t want rectangular photos. Where’s the whimsy in that? I settled on circles because they’re relatively easy to cut out and different enough. My originally plan was too have numbers printed out on card stock and overlapped on top of the photos, but they ended up being ridiculously hard to cut out neatly, so I cut them out as a circles as well.

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agebubble2
Sample age bubbles for 10 and 11 months.

Food

I never made the pinwheel cookies. Truth be told I forgot about them, which is probably a good thing because we had so.much.leftover.food. (Splurge #3)

For the adults we standard party snack fair for us – one cheese, one fruit and one veggie platter. Before Nicki was born I built a bit of a reputation as a dessert guru in the family even though I mostly do easy stuff. I haven’t had the chance to really bake since then, so I over indulged my inner domestic diva wannabe. We had ice cream cone cupcakes, rise krispie and fruity pebbles treats, and multicolored chocolate cake balls.

cupcakecones

krispietreats

cakeballs
My sister and mom ended up making the cake balls. Yummy.

Of course, it wouldn’t be a first birthday party without a smash cake. I wanted a smaller cake (we had already done a smash cake) so I purchased a $8 4-inch cake pan off Amazon. I decided to use this number idea. (Since the softer, albeit bigger sprinkles were not a problem on our previous smash cake, I felt safe trying these smaller ones.) Unfortunately I must have forgot to grease the pan and the top of the cake popped off when trying to remove it from said pan. I was so annoyed at myself. At that point I had made 4 cakes (the vanilla ice cream cakes, 2 chocolate cakes for the cake balls, and the ruined smash cake) for a party serving just 10 guests. My mom convinced me to use icing to glue the two pieces of the cake back together and move on. Trouble was, I could no longer level off the top. The cake was just too fragile. I was forced to keep the doom shape.

smashcake

After icing it I realized it looked like a giant (4-inch) round bubble. That’s when it dawned on me that the invitations had bubbles, and the monthly photos were round like bubbles. I had a theme to her party after all!

Total cost of the party: $316 (plus the cost of food, which I forgot to keep the receipts)

The Birthday Girl Loved It

nickicatchmeifyoucan
Catch me if you can!

balloons!
I’m surrounded!

architectualinspection
Inspecting the tree tops.

nickimyballoon
Mine!

nickiyupgoodparty
Yup, Good Party.

I totally failed in my momtographer duties. I did a good job with the still objects, but photographing a one year old in a balloon forest is like trying to capture photographic evidence of big foot. I had so many blurry, obscured photos, it’s ridiculous. I have a photo where the only thing you see of Nicole is her hair ribbon, and another where you can tell she’s smiling but the top half of her face is obscured by balloons. Every single photo has at least some motion blur. This was the best I was able to capture. Daddy did much better with the video camera. Next time higher ISO. Much higher ISO.

July 1, 2013

Nicki at Twelve Months

Dear Nicki,

What a month! What a YEAR! As fast as the whole year has gone, the past three months have felt like a blink of an eye. Weren’t you just 7 months old yesterday?

bubbles
Playing with bubbles

You are no longer a baby, but a toddler. Literally. Yesterday you walked for the very first time! Twice prior you let go of what you were holding onto, took a half step to reposition yourself, and grabbed back onto it. You were so close! It reminded us of when you learned to crawl – one half step at a time. Mommy decided to be sneaky. I held out my hands for you to grab into. You let go of the book shelf and reached for me, but I quickly pulled away. You stumbled forward two steps before falling into my arms. An hour later you let go of the computer chair and torpedoed into daddy! Today you took two more slower, more deliberate steps. You are so proud of your accomplishment!

prettyeyes
The prettiest eyes ever. Some day I will have to learn what it is about the bathroom that brings them out so much
ETA: I now know: the tub acts as an eye catch light!

You are confusing Mommy and Daddy so much on the talking front. I swear it sounds like you’re saying “here” when you hand us things, and “hi/bye” when you wave, but those are abstract concepts. Everything I’ve read said first words tend to be nouns that babies have a strong affinity towards – “ball”, “dog”, etc. It doesn’t seem possible for you to understand what “here” means. Our guess is that you’re mimicing us. We’ll often say “here” when we hand you something. Maybe your associating the word and the gesture, like the wave that accompanies the word “hi”, without knowing what it means? Or maybe it’s first time parents hearing what they want to hear.

In that-might-be-a-word news we hear something like ‘nana’ when you eat Bananas, and it sounds like ‘E’ when you see Lily. We’re not sure if it’s ‘E’ for ‘Lil-E’ or ‘E’ for ‘Kit-E’. ‘Lily’ was mommy’s prediction of your first word, by the way.

fakepout
The fake pout someone at day care taught you. You will be hard to resist when you get that lower lip thing perfected.

You are amazingly social for your age. The other day at day care you and another little one year old boy where chasing each other through the foam tunnel and laughing up a storm. At the fair, you were more interested in watching the other kids than the animals. You love to sing along during lullabies and narrate books while reading. You are a total sweetheart, and everything that Mommy and Daddy could have ever hoped for.

Love Always,
Mommy and Daddy