5 Tips That Will Save Your Sanity

posted in: Parenting | 0

five tips that will save your sanity - betsy's photography - bphotoart.comWhile our goal may be to keep life stress-free, you know as well as I do that that just doesn’t happen. Somehow, things always manage to complicate life, and sometimes we just want to throw in the towel.

My own search for sanity hasn’t been completely successful, but then again, I doubt it ever will be. Instead of trying to eliminate stress, I’ve found that it’s better to find activities that are relaxing — find a way to relieve stress when it comes into my busy life.  Read on for Five Tips that will Save Your Sanity!

Breathe.

Have you noticed that when you take short, quick, breaths, your body gets more tense? Well, the opposite is true too. When you’re feeling stressed, managing your breathing is an easy and effective way to relax your body and mind.

Instead of just breathing from your chest, take deeper breaths — your stomach should expand as you use your diaphragm to fill your lungs completely. Inhale, exhale, inhale, exhale…

Breathing slowly and deliberately will make your body relax and will clear your mind, allowing you to regain your sanity!

Exercise.

This is one of the best ways to relieve stress, anger, or frustration! By exercising, you can relieve pent-up energy and direct it towards something more beneficial (we all know it’s not good to internalize things, right?).

Plus, you’ll feel better and have more energy to do the things you love!

Of course, exercise also has the added benefit of being good for your health and maintaining weight — but think of those as “bonuses” :).

Be Flexible.

Some of the most common sources of stress could be avoided if we are willing to compromise.

Of course, there’s a time and a place to stand your ground, but sometimes there is room to give. A little flexibility can go a long way towards maintaining sanity.

Schedule “You” Time.

Yes, it’s important to help others, but you also need to help yourself. By dedicating time to your needs, you’ll be more refreshed and better prepared when it comes time to help others.

Try to spend some time each day doing something for you — it could be a getting a manicure, reading a book, or even painting a picture.

Spend some time doing what you love so that you will be able to enjoy doing things for others.

Get Enough Sleep.

Not surprisingly, sleep is important. If you’re like me, when you get too little sleep, things seem to be more frustrating and exasperating. In turn, this makes life more stressful.

While I’m not saying you need to go to bed when the kids do, it probably will make life a little less stressful if you make an effort to get to bed by your bedtime. Well, what if it’s just one of those days? Try getting a nap in, and if that doesn’t help, you can revert to your normal pick-me-up (e.g. coffee, tea, or chocolate) for the day.

So, there you have it! Five easy tips for maintaining your sanity and keeping your life as stress-free as possible! Of course, these are just suggestions; I’m sure you can think of additional activities and methods to reduce stress and keep calm. Just remember, a healthy lifestyle starts with a healthy mind. It is worth your time to unwind and relax — as you begin to focus on saving your sanity, chances are, you just might find yourself starting each day with more energy and excitement!

What Kind of Camera Should You Get?

posted in: Parenting | 0

What Kind of Camera Should You Get? Moms weigh in on their go-to favorite camerasThe inevitable question that is asked of me, as a photographer, is this:

“I’m looking at getting a new camera, what kind should I get?”

I have to break it to you.

There is no simple answer.

Sure, I could tell you to go for the biggest and the best.  Or the most expensive.  But what good will that really do you?

Instead, my usual reply is this:

What do you want to use it for?

Then, depending on how the conversation goes, I might ask what type of bag you want to carry around if you plan to have your camera on hand always.  Do you have a purse that can fit the kitchen sink?  Yes? Well, then that entry-level DSLR might not be a bad idea.

But, on the other hand, if you’re like me, and have a small purse, or sometimes no purse at all, then you might want to think in terms of compact cameras.  The quality on today’s cameras is really phenomenal, so it depends, again, on what you’re going to use it for.

What I like about my “everyday camera” is that I can fit it in my pocket.  And I can use it with one hand.  Bonus points because it takes videos.

Actually, the HD video feature was a selling point for me.  For my personal use, I wanted a camera that could document our everyday moments. One that could record my boys as they took their first steps. A camera that would be on hand and easy to operate while I maneuvered around small children.

I didn’t want something I needed to think about. Or a camera with a lot of parts.

Changing lenses?  Not something I wanted to deal with.

But then again, I’m a professional photographer. I do this day in and day out.  I need to draw the line, find a way to experience my life rather than concentrate all my energy on documenting it.  So the compact camera was my choice.  I am still happy with my five year old Canon G12 (#afflink – I’m using Amazon affiliate links in this entire post, thanks for your support!).

When you buy a camera, make sure you’re confident in the brand.  In the five years since I purchased my G12, I’ve had to send it in for repairs twice… due to inadvertent camera drops.  Fortunately, I know Canon stands behind their product, and that the repairs they do are top notch.  Just something to consider if you look into any off brand cameras.

So, what should you do if your 10 year old camera is dying?  Have you been told it’s better to buy a new one than to repair?  Are you hoping to find recommendations for a good replacement?  What to do…

Think about what you want.

Do you want small size, portability? Do you want easy to use, easy to download, etc?  It all comes down to personal preference.

Now, let’s hear from some other people about their favorite camera.  These all happen to be moms who use their cameras on a regular basis.  Their opinions vary as much as their cameras do, but each has figured out what works best for them.

Now, as you read through these thoughts below, consider which opinions echo your own sentiments.  It may just help you get a better idea of what camera you should get.

 


Canon DSLR Bundle – Canon EOS Rebel T5 with 2 lenses #afflink
It’s easy to use, takes great pics and came with 2 lenses. It can be cumbersome to take to school events where there’s not much room in the seating area but I love it.

Peta Groth, www.greatgoogamoogas.com


iPhone + DSLR – iPhone or Nikon D3200 with 2 lenses

IPhone (does that count?) I have a lovely Nikon DSLR that takes great pictures, but my phone fits in my pocket and is always on hand. I make a point to pull out the Nikon for fun sometimes and for special trips and events, but when capturing our everyday moments I almost always use the IPhone.

Erin Buhr, www.bambinitravel.com


Canon DSLR – Canon EOS 70D kit

Canon 70D – being able to shoot in manual mode to get quality pictures is invaluable to me. I would rather carry around a nice camera bag that looks like a purse with my DSLR in it than have mediocre photos of the memories I care about. Getting used to carrying a bigger camera was pretty easy too and I am much happier with the results even though I have an awesome camera on my phone.

Kara Carrero ALLterNATIVElearning.com


 

Olympus Tough Waterproof Camera

These days my go to camera is an Olympus Tough point and shoot. Since I’m in my 40s, I cut my teeth on heavy SLR film cameras–I didn’t go digital until my first kid was 4, and I’ve had enough of carrying a giant bag for camera and baby gear. The Tough is water proof, dirt proof, drop proof and fits in my jean’s pocket. I have boys, I need to be able to keep up with them! Plus it takes blog worthy photos. (I have a Sony a100 DSLR if I feel like dragging it around.)

Denise Bertacchi, stlMotherhood.com


 

Nikon DSLR

I am always carrying around my Nikon DSLR. I hate it when I am stuck using my camera phone to capture a really great moment of my kids because the quality is not up to par. I purchased a new larger purse so my camera fits in it so I will always be prepared to snap away!

Katie Pinch www.alittlepinchofperfect.com


 

Canon Elf – Canon Powershot Elf 350

I have a simple canon elf that tucks into my purse that seems to have 9 lives. (it has been dropped, stepped on, splashed, and still works 7 years and 3 kids later!) It takes good photos and videos for it’s size and price. My kids use it often too! I also have a Canon Rebel EOS that has a much clearer image, but is bulkier, so I use a camera case when bringing it out and about. I love the clarity of the picture and couldn’t image life without it! The image is clear and I can change lenses but it doesn’t have video.

Amanda Boyarshinov www.theeducatorsspinonit.com


I hope you found this post helpful!  It’s always tough to decide on something like what camera you should get, so if this post has helped you at all, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!

 

Finding Time For Yourself

posted in: Fine Art | 1

With all the directions we’re being pulled in, it can be tough to carve out time for yourself!  Like me, I’m sure you wear many hats — perhaps including things like business owner, household manager, kid wrangler, laundry sergeant, extracurricular activity planner, ….the list goes on.

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Drawings and sketches in 2016, created by Betsy Finn. (Disclaimer: These are photographed with my phone… so I can share them daily!!!)

Posted by Betsy Finn on Sunday, January 3, 2016

Let’s face it. Our schedules are busy.  Life is busy.  And nothing we can do will make it seem any less busy.

Well, that’s not quite true.

Over the past two weeks, I’ve done one thing daily that has helped me feel like I’m treating myself.  I’ve opened my sketchbook and spent time drawing.  

For me, there is nothing more relaxing than the act of creating something.  

Whether it is a photograph, a drawing, a sculpture, …heck, even artisan bread… the process of creation is what leaves me feeling inspired, relaxed, and joyful.

Some days I haven’t been inspired, but once I forced myself to get started, that feeling was replaced by contentment.  It’s fun for me.

I have to admit I have a few ulterior motives behind the lofty goal I have unofficially set for myself. 

My not-official-goal?   Drawing every day — ideally finishing a new drawing each day.  

You see, I am a perfectionist by nature, and there’s a tipping point for me when I’m creating.  At some point, I usually reach a spot where I’m “afraid” to go on — a gnawing concern that if I do any more, I might “wreck” it.  Of course I know better than that little voice inside my head, but still, it is tempting to just stop and call it quits.  

And that’s the point where I have been forcing myself to continue on.  For better or worse, I’ve been forging ahead and finishing drawings that, several years ago, I would have left in sketch form.  

I have to say, it’s really exciting. Liberating. Not perfect, but hey, life isn’t perfect.  I don’t need my drawings to be either.

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By drawing daily, I’m doing something for myself — I’m helping myself to get past that mental roadblock.

And it’s amazing how once one roadblock comes down, others start to fall too.

You see, that whole thing about not having enough time for yourself?

It’s a myth.

bphotoart-drawing-wip-011516

You can have time — you just have to make time.

Whether it’s an hour or five minutes, you owe it to yourself to do something for yourself regularly. Do you love to read?  Try to read a chapter every day — or even just a paragraph!  Or maybe you like to do something that can’t realistically be done on a daily basis.  Make time weekly.  By taking care of yourself, you’ll be able to take better care of others, to better fulfill your obligations.

Maybe you owe it to yourself to set a consistent bedtime, or to go for a walk every morning.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, or anything creative.  But find something you can do consistently and regularly.  Something that you enjoy.

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Here are some ideas to get you brainstorming ways you can take care of yourself:

  1. Start a thankfulness journal and write 5 things you are thankful
  2. Draw in a sketchbook
  3. Work your way through a book by reading a paragraph or chapter
  4. Go for a walk every morning, or after dinner
  5. Spend 10 minutes playing wholeheartedly with your kids
  6. Turn off your phone and just relax/meditate/think for five minutes
  7. Listen to your favorite music for 10 minutes
  8. Take a break from sitting at your desk — stand up and stretch!
  9. Subscribe to a daily podcast and listen to it
  10. Complete a scrapbook page
  11. Do a daily crossword puzzle
  12. Try to finish a brainteaser or sudoku puzzle
  13. Play cards (solitaire, etc) by yourself
  14. Take a shower or bubble bath
  15. Take a break after putting the kids to bed — the dishes can wait a few minutes
  16. Work on a jigsaw puzzle
  17. Take a power nap
  18. Just take a breather… a single deep breath in, followed by a deep exhalation
  19. Make a cup of coffee or tea for yourself (and sit while you enjoy it)
  20. Think about all the things in your life you appreciate

See, the things you can do to take care of yourself are so variable.  It doesn’t have to be the same thing every day, either.

Just make time for yourself.

Seriously.

You deserve it.

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If you have any tips about making time for yourself, I’d love to hear from you in the comments below!  What are some ways you make sure to take care of yourself emotionally, mentally, physically, or otherwise?  What helps you keep a positive outlook on life?

 

30 Tips for Going On a Road Trip with Kids (a parent’s survival guide)

posted in: Parenting | 5

30 Tips  for going on a road trip  with kids  a parent’s survival guideLast summer we took the boys on a multi-state road trip.  And we survived.  Surprisingly, we made good time too.  So, as we geared up to plan another road trip this summer, I thought I would share some tips with you, a road trip survival guide of sorts, for taking young kids on road trips.

This list is by no means all inclusive, but it should helpfully get you off to a good start.  And, I’ll mention, that this list is aimed more towards younger kids, but you could really adapt most of these items to older kids too.

1. Pack Lots of Snacks

We had a grocery bag full of various snacks, plus a soft-sided cooler. And don’t forget drinks too.  We intended to have most of our meals at restaurants along the way, but packed a variety of things “just in case” the kids were hungry and we needed to stop right away.

Some popular items? For protein, we brought hard boiled eggs, mixed nuts, cheese sticks, and beef jerky.  Crunchy treats included nori chips, kale chips, popcorn, and rice cakes.  We also brought along a variety of fruit – apples, bananas, raisins, and the like.  For emergency meals, we had a jar of peanut butter, canned tuna (with the pull top), avocados, and bread.  Snack bars were also a favorite.

2. Drive During Naptime

It’s like that rule for new moms, “when baby sleeps, you sleep” — but more productive.  When the kids are sleeping in their carseats, keep driving.  We drove through lunch one time, and on the way home, we pushed through and got within four hours of home so that our last day’s drive could be more leisurely.  It’s a lot easier to drive when they’re sleeping, even if you’re tired and need to get a caffeine fix in order to do so.

3. Pack a Little Potty (for emergencies)

If you have a kid who is potty training, you’ll probably already have this item on the list, but honestly, it’s a good idea to bring a little potty along for older kids too.  Depending on where you’re going, there may be long stretches between rest stops, or you might get stuck in bumper-to-bumper traffic, or the rest stop bathroom might be particularly gross.  Whatever the reason, a little potty may just be a lifesaver.

Plus, it’s better than what many of us grew up with — peeing roadside, or for boys, into an empty cup or water bottle.

4. Bring Wipes + Paper Towels

If a mess happens, you need to be able to clean it up.  Wipes can be used for potty stops, cleaning off sticky hands after a snack,… you name it.  Paper towels?  Well, if a drink gets spilled, you’ll be glad you brought a whole roll (or two) with you.  Plus, they’re more durable than napkins.

5. Let them Pack a Bag of Toys

Kids love to help pack (well, when they’re young enough, right?).  So why not put that excitement to good use and let them fill a (small) bag with some toys, books, or other items for the road trip?  It gives them a sense of ownership and a feeling of control.  They know they’ll have some familiar items with them even if the journey will be long and unknown.

6. Have a Bin of Surprise Activities

50+ Road Trip Games + Activities: Ideas to Keep Your Kids Entertained for the Long Haul - Betsy's Photography {BPhotoArt.com}Whether you call them busy bags or not, having some “mystery” activities packed in the car will be helpful.  I packed a bin with some random toys, busy bags, coloring books, and the like for the kids the night before we left.  This was in addition to the toys they’d packed on their own.  When those toys got “boring” — I was able to selectively pull out an item or two from the surprise bin, which resulted in another (hopefully) 15-20 minutes of being entertained.

Check out my post –>  50+ Road Trip Games + Activities to Keep Your Kids Entertained

7. Give Your Kid a Map

At the time of our cross-country trip, Toby was only three, and not old enough to really read a map, but he still LOVED this idea.  We gave him the map, which had our trip highlighted, and he spent countless minutes, even hours, “reading the map” and telling us where to go.  Older kids could become involved with navigating and providing directions, which also can be exciting.

8. Have them Help Pack Clothes

I have always found that kids like choices.  And getting to choose which clothes come on the trip is no exception.  I told my toddler what kind of clothes I needed from his drawers, and had him bring them to me.  We may have had a little more than we needed, but ultimately it was okay, because part of taking a trip is learning how to pack.  Did it take a little longer?  Sure.  But we had no fights about clothes while on the trip — any issues were curtailed with “well, you chose what to bring.”

9. Show Them (Often) Where You’re Going

As we counted down the days to our trip, Toby and I spend time talking about where we were headed, how long it would take to get there, and the kind of things we would see on the way (mountains).  We talked about this for days.  And on the trip, too.  Interestingly, he never asked “are we there yet?”  — but “are we to the mountains yet?”

10. Pick a Travel Buddy

Sometimes it is tough for kids to sleep in a strange place.  Having a travel buddy (i.e. stuffed animal) from home can help.  Before leaving, Toby got to pick one or two stuffed animals that would get to travel with us.  And he had fun “taking care of them” on our trip, telling them where we were going, during the drive.  When we stopped for the night, those stuffed animals gave a sense of familiarity to a strange hotel room.

11. Bring a Familiar Pillow and Blanket

As with the travel buddy, these two items proved invaluable for overnight hotel room comfort.  Toby snuggled up in his Superman fleece blanket, with the homemade toddler-sized pillow he uses regularly, and felt somewhat at ease with the new environment.  Beyond that, the pillow and blanket got used during naptime in the car, or when the air conditioning got a little too cool for comfort.

12. Pack Slippers

Whether they help keep cold feet warm, or clean feet from getting dirty, your kids may prefer to have a go-to set of slippers rather than having to keep something on their feet (like shoes or socks).  Also, having slippers can help kids make the mental transition – “we’re here for the night.”

13. Find a Hotel with a Pool

After being cooped up in a car all day, being able to splash and swim in the hotel pool will do wonders for tiring out antsy kids and use up that extra energy.  Even if there’s only time for a short swim before bed, it is worth it.  One night we changed our hotel accommodations to a neighboring hotel because the original place only had an outdoor pool (that was closed down).  Being able to swim that night made my boys so excited.

14. No Pool? Have Bath Time

No pool?  Don’t feel like venturing out to the pool?  Just let the kids play in the bathtub.  While we enjoyed swimming in the pool I just mentioned, another night we were not so fortunate.  My toddler was placated by having time to splash in the bathtub after dinner.  It wasn’t quite the same, and we didn’t have any bath toys with us, but that didn’t matter too much.

15. Plan a Picnic in the Hotel

Sometimes, when you’ve been traveling all day, it’s good to just get some food and eat in the hotel room.  You can call it a “picnic” to get the kids more excited.  We did this on one occasion when I was concerned about the wait time in the hotel restaurant (and impending toddler breaking point).  No need to be quiet or sit still in the hotel room…. grab and go is ok!

16. Keep Your Normal Bedtime Routine

Keeping some semblance of normalcy will be so helpful for your kids.  For us, it was bringing along a selection of books so that Toby could pick three books to have read to him before bed.  You might not be able to do your whole bedtime routine, but I’m sure you can probably incorporate portions of it.

17. Bring a Stepstool and Toilet Seat Insert

There’s nothing worse than losing your sense of independence, especially amidst the stress of travel.  We brought a folding stepstool for the bathroom so that my toddler could reach the sink and use the toilet without help.  He learned how to put unfold and use the folding toilet seat too — which made things much more toddler-friendly in the hotel bathroom.  Since the seat folded down compactly, we were also able to use it during any rest stops while enroute.

18. Give Kids Their Own Water Bottle

Whether you give your kids their own child-sized or adult-sized water bottle is your choice, but be aware that the smaller it is, the less it will hold before you have to stop and refill it.  We gave my toddler an adult water bottle so that he wouldn’t run of of water as quickly.  It usually lasted most of the day.

19. Leave a Light on at Night

Sure, you can bring your own night light when you travel, but then you have to remember to take it with you when you leave.  And if you’re staying just one night at each hotel, that means lots of opportunities to forget it!  What we did is leave the hotel bathroom light on and crack the door open — it usually works pretty well.  Or, if you’re one to sleep with the TV on, you can use that glow as your night light, I suppose.

20. Eat a Good Breakfast

Especially when you’re traveling, it’s important to get a good breakfast.  Whether that means eating on the road, from your assorted snacks, or stopping at the breakfast buffet, make sure to take time to get some protein in the morning.  We brought hard boiled eggs and instant oatmeal along for “just in case” …because sometimes the hotel continental breakfast is limited to bagels, bread, and other items that a gluten-free person can’t enjoy.

21. Leave What You Can in the Car

Don’t bring everything into your hotel room.  Just the essentials.  If you’re going to be on the road early the next morning, there’s no sense in bringing EVERYTHING in.  We packed some bags with items that wouldn’t be needed until our end destination, and those never came in from the car during our road trip stops.

21. Have Them Help Load/Unload the Car

In the very least, give your kids a sense of ownership and let them help by loading and unloading some of their own things.  This wasn’t a requirement — some days, the boys were so exhausted that they wanted nothing to do with the loading or unloading.  But other days, Toby was full of energy and excited to help push the luggage out to the car.  Play it by ear, and ask if they want to help… if not, no big deal.

22. Let them “Explore” The Hotel

When you first arrive to your hotel, it can be fun to let your kids help you scout out the important things: hotel pool, ice + vending machines, where breakfast will be served, etc.  This doesn’t have to be a really involved activity, but it will give you all a chance to stretch your legs after sitting in the car all day.

23. Play “I Spy” Out the Hotel Room Window

No, I’m not talking about being a peeping Tom.  Look for any city sights, mountains, or other natural monuments that you know will be nearby.  Even if it’s dark, you can still enjoy looking at the night skyline. Depending on how close to the city you are, you’ll also be able to scan the night sky for airplanes or even constellations.

24. Limit Screen Time

I know there are exceptions to this rule, and sometimes you just need to prevent a meltdown.  But, I grew up with the mindset that you go on vacation to enjoy the trip.  So, we do our best to minimize screen time, since the road trip is part of the vacation.  There are many driving games you can play that require little prep work.  If all else fails? There’s no shame in offering screen time if you know it will prevent an imminent meltdown.

25. Expect Delays + Detours

With kids, there are no guarantees.  You have to be prepared for delays, for unexpected changes to your schedule.  Part of being a parent is about learning to live with that chaos.  So don’t expect your trip to run on a military schedule… it might not go according to plan.

26 . Create a Special Music CD

We made a music CD for the car ride, with tracks that the kids enjoyed, so that we wouldn’t have to be scanning for new radio stations as we went in and out of range.  It really helped having songs that were familiar!  You may want to figure out how to fade your car’s stereo to the rear in case the songs get a little repetitive for the adults in the front seat.  I know I got tired of the songs before my boys did.

27. Be Prepared for Temperature Differences

It’s always important to bring along a variety of clothes for different weather conditions.  But, beyond that, you’ll want to be prepared for temperature differences in your sleeping areas too.  The hotel rooms we stay in tend to be much warmer than our home.  It was really helpful to have a light blanket for the kids to sleep under instead of the huge down comforter or bed spread.

28. Avoid Restroom Power Struggles

We avoided (most) potty power struggles by informing my toddler, whenever exiting the car for a break, “you will be using the bathroom before getting back in the car.” It gives them a greater sense of control, and lets them know what to expect.  It also prevented a number of “I have to go” incidents that would have occurred right after getting on the road again.

29. Be Patient

Kids will be kids. And when they get excited, they don’t listen as well.  So, if you expect their excitement to alter their ability to listen, obey, sleep, etc…. you can remind yourself to be patient with them, you know they’re not being difficult intentionally.

30. Give Your Kid a Camera

Kids love to take pictures.  While I’m not sure my toddler’s pictures were anything to write home about (many of them were of the back of the car seat), having a camera “of his own” really made Toby proud.  He would pull out his camera to take pictures of the mountains, of the cows, or other things we saw that he found interesting.  And then, when we got to the hotel, we could pull them up on the laptop and look through the pictures that were taken that day.


 

Well, what do you think? Did I miss something?  I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.  Also, make sure to check out my related post, 50+ Road Trip Games + Activities to Keep Your Kids Entertained.

101 Things Your Kid Can Do With a Cast On

posted in: Parenting | 38

101 Things your kid can do with a cast on!Honestly, I could have also titled this list “101 Laid Back Activities for Kids Who Like to be Active.”  But since I made this list when my toddler, Toby, was wearing a cast, we’ll stick with that.  Toby managed to get a hairline fracture in his leg while being silly last fall. It took three days, two trips to the ER, and several sets of x-rays to revise his injury from a sprained ankle to a fractured tibia. Let’s just say, while I was sad he broke his leg, I’m glad I listened to that mom instinct and returned to the ER for more x-rays.

We had two stressful days in a temporary splint before we were able to get in for the permanent cast. Which wasn’t a walking cast, persay. But in all honesty, who can keep a toddler from walking or standing on their cast for three weeks? Not this mom.

The loss of independence was really rough for Toby. To go from doing pretty much everything himself to having to ask for help with the simplest things is tough. It doesn’t matter if you’re a kid or an adult! I helped my husband through a similar situation when he tore his patellar tendon. It doesn’t matter if you have a caregiver who is more than happy to take care of you — it’s the loss of independence that wears you down. Not being able to walk or get around is rough. And more so for kids because they can’t verbalize their feelings.

I wracked my brain to come up with things that we could do — things that Toby would enjoy and be kept busy with while the cast remained on. Let’s just say I was really grateful that we had weekly activities on the schedule to help pass the time. Preschool, moms and tots, and the like. But the one that didn’t work? Swim lessons. Although I did find some waterproof cast covers for swimming on Amazon (#afflink) that looked really neat — this discovery came midway through our cast time and it wouldn’t have been used more than once by the time I could get it in hand.  A fellow mom shared one of her blog posts with me about her child’s cast activities: Having a Blast When Your Kid Has a Cast.

All in all, we made it through.  What did we do?  Well, a lot of things.  While I didn’t document our every adventure, I did compile a list of 101 things your kid can do with a cast.  Keep in mind some of these activities may need to be modified depending on whether you child has their leg or arm in a cast.  But hopefully these things will get you thinking of even more ways to have fun when your kid is somewhat immobilized!

101 Activities You Can Do While Wearing a Cast

  1. Read books
  2. Visit the zoo
  3. Make a sand volcano
  4. Bake bread. We like to make Irish Soda Bread (recipe)
  5. Play beanbag games (indoors)
  6. Get them thinking about helping others by making an acts of service jar
  7. Visit the Ann Arbor Hands On Museum (a local children’s museum with tons of activities to do and things to see).
  8. Make a portable tinkering kit
  9. Go to story time at the library.
  10. Learn to code (get a kano computer kit on Amazon #afflink)
  11. Visit the park and go on the swings (this could work for casted legs, arms not so much)
  12. Go see a play or musical
  13. Take a bike ride (if you have one of those pull-behind bike trailers that’s on my wishlist #afflink)
  14. Play a musical instrument (or just make noise on one)
  15. Make a toy boat from a greeting card
  16. Go to an aquarium
  17. Host a playdate (or meet up at a park).
  18. Come up with creative ways to play with Magna Tiles (we LOVE ours! Get your own Magna Tiles on Amazon #afflink)
  19. Plant some seeds and start a garden
  20. Make a foldable take along train track set
  21. Go “digging” for bugs with an excavation kit
  22. Have a movie night, with popcorn and kid-selected “toppings”
  23. Make your own mini microscope
  24. Make a camera obscura (shadow box from my ABCs of Photography for kids activity series)
  25. Make sculptures from nuts and bolts
  26. Combine learning and play with racecar math
  27. Make heat sensitive color changing slime
  28. Play with glowsticks
  29. Practice lacing with these free printable lacing cards
  30. Learn how to work (or play) with yarn
  31. Make Lego Inspired electric playdough
  32. Have a camp out, complete with tent if you have one (either outdoors, or in your living room)
  33. Color rocks with permanent magamerkers
  34. Sew a nature pouch
  35. Go to the grocery store and let your kid ride in the “fancy” car shopping cart
  36. Put together an arts + crafts busy box
  37. Make milk carton crayon ice candles
  38. Have a bonfire and make smores
  39. Play numerous indoor games with balloons
  40. Make bouncy balls from loom bands
  41. Have a sing-along party
  42. Make a play fort kit from old sheets
  43. Make raisins dance (science experiment)
  44. Play “I Spy” (with flashlights!)
  45. Make a bug house (or be lazy like us and buy a bug house on Amazon #afflink)
  46. Make a time capsule
  47. Create a new recipe (we made peanut butter jelly dip)
  48. Make trail mix (and let your kid pick what goes in it)
  49. Make popsicles and learn about diversity in the process
  50. Do a science experiment to make flowers change colors
  51. Make a buckle toy from an old carseat
  52. Make a cardboard pirate ship
  53. Play doctor and take care of a stuffed animal’s broken arm/leg
  54. Make a money bank
  55. Make ice cream in a bag
  56. Zoom (gently) around the house on a wheeled toy (we love our bumblebee wheely bug #afflink)
  57. Get a birdfeeder and go birdwatching up close
  58. Get out pipe cleaners and thread them through a strainer/colander
  59. Get a subscription to the Animal Trackers Club
  60. Make a lava lamp
  61. Make DIY seed paper (for growing seeds)
  62. Play Move and Groove, a movement-based dice game (get Move and Groove on Amazon #afflink)
  63. Make your own homemade marble runs
  64. Make Stone Soup (and read the book, of course)
  65. Play with straws (7 ways!)
  66. Sew something together
  67. Get busy coloring (90 free coloring pages for kids)
  68. Pretend to be super heroes (we got our cape at the Super Run!)
  69. Go out to eat for a lunch “date”
  70. Make your own geo board
  71. Melt frozen hands (a salt and ice activity)
  72. Play board games
  73. Make glowing bounce balls
  74. Make your own board game (check out my In A People House board game with printable)
  75. Paint with flowers
  76. Try animal yoga for kids
  77. Grow romaine lettuce from kitchen scraps
  78. Sneak around the house in “stealth mode”
  79. Make a DIY Air Fort
  80. Make a quick and easy photo memory game
  81. Learn about chemical reactions using baking soda and vinegar
  82. Order a waterproof cast cover for swimming on Amazon (#afflink) and get in the pool
  83. Turn an old toddler bed into a sandbox
  84. Play with a ball (catch, rolling the ball back and forth, bouncing it, etc)
  85. Make a peace corner
  86. Check out these 20 No-Prep Fine Motor Activites
  87. Play with kinetic sand
  88. Make a lip balm rocket
  89. Have a wheelbarrow race (hold your child’s legs, let them walk on their arms)
  90. Make a button snake (for practicing button skills)
  91. Learn math with 100 creative, hands-on math activities for kids
  92. Work in the garden together
  93. Try some stretching exercises
  94. Go for a car ride and let your kid choose which way to turn (e.g. “left or straight?”)
  95. Learn about bubble science, make your own bubble solution and bubble blower
  96. Make fizzing sidewalk paint
  97. Make a rubber band powered car
  98. Go on a photo scavenger hunt
  99. Give your child a piggyback ride
  100. Make a shape stretchie for creative movement
  101. Have tickle time (or if you need something more calming… try snuggle time)

Phew!  We made it.

Did you start skimming the list? Or give up, deciding to bookmark this (or pin it) for later?  I don’t blame you.  I needed a break after getting this list put together for you!

If you have any other ideas you’d like to add to the list, I’d love to hear from you.  Have you ever been in a cast?  What was the worst part?  Did this list get you excited?  Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!

Potty Training – Advice from 10 Moms Who’ve Been There

posted in: Parenting | 32
Potty Training: Advice from 10 Moms Who've Been There
Photo from Pixabay.com. Used with permission.

Ok, I have to admit. I’m not all that familiar with the “normal” methods of potty training. We went a little crunchy in this department — my boys started using the potty when they were less than a year old. I’ve asked some moms to share their thoughts on potty training and what worked for them, so you can get a well rounded perspective on the topic of potty training though.

Potty Training Products

Let me start by saying there are a ton of products out there. I haven’t tried them all… I just know what worked for us. So, that being said, I’ll share some potty training products that you might like before we get down to business:
Amazon #afflinks open in new window for your convenience.

In general, for kid potties, my preference is simple.  Simpler is better. Fewer loose parts, fewer things to clean (watch out for those crevices in “padded” models).

Now that you know what products worked for me…

Advice from moms who’ve been there, done that.

Let’s hear from some moms about the ins and outs of potty training and what worked for them! I’ll share my own personal experience at the end.


I waited until my boys were ready. We read lots of books about the topic and then let them decide when it was time. Then, bam they were potty trained. One was 3 1/2 and the other 2 1/2.

Jodie

Growing Book by Book (read her post on 10 potty training books)


We started EC with my middle son at 6 months old and he did well with it and “potty trained” early at 18 months. My now 2 year old is totally different and we are following his lead on training. We cannot cloth diaper him due to skin sensitivities, so he is not as aware as my other two children were of when he is wet.

Amanda

The Educators’ Spin on It


We just left them to their own devices, when they were fed up of nappies they both started using the toilet within a day. They both happened to be 3 too, although my eldest had only just turned 3 but my youngest was nearly 4 when he decided he wanted to use the toilet.

Charlotte

Raising Wild Ones


My son couldn’t grasp the concept that something was coming out of him. The brain and little boy part weren’t well connected, so we did some naked time to help him connect that the pee came out of him. After that, it took about a week or two (daytime, nighttime took years). Here is a potty training tips post that I have done.

Tanya

Therapy Fun Zone (see her post on toddler age potty training tips)


I made it “my daughter’s business” and set up a little private corner for her potty, she was fully “toilet trained” by 20 months. (I also have a post on how I toilet learn older children in my care.)

Jennifer, Study At Home Mama


I talk to them and tell them what is going on with their bodies, up until now they have never had to actually think about peeing. I put underwear on them and wait. I usually let them pee in their underwear the first time so they recognize what is going on and then it usually clicks. Also… I sit them backwards on the toilet. For boys this is great because they have to sit when they poop anyway, and if they forget to hold down their penis then it sprays the back of the toilet and not the wall in front of them. And it’s easier to balance so they can relax when they have to go and not worry about falling in.

Leah

Socks & Shoes Not Required (read her tips and tricks for potty training boys)


I potty trained our twin girls over a long period of time. We first introduced the potty, and had them sit on it at 18 months old. They were actually doing alright with it, but life happened (car accident), and it got put on the back burner for a few months. Next time we tried the potty seat in the middle of the room,, and running around without any diapers on, and bribes (a single chocolate chip). One of my daughters though could literally squeeze out a drop of pee into the toilet every like 5-10 minutes… I think because she wanted the chocolate chip, and also because I think she was just lacking some control, so we stopped pushing her as hard, and worked mostly with my other daughter at that time. She did really well, had problem getting #2 in the potty, but once she did, she was pretty much potty trained, including overnight around 2.5 years old, though we still had accidents here and there. Her sister we waited several months, and tried again, and she did much better, and followed a similar pattern as her sister, but we kept her in a pull-up at night for a long time as she would frequently have night accidents. She was mostly trained by 3 years old, right before her baby brother was born. She continued to have infrequent night accidents past her 4th birthday, but finally stopped having any about 4 months ago (at about 4.5). My best advice for parents potty training is YOU HAVE TO BE DEDICATED! It’s really easy to throw in the towel that first day when they are doing awful. But, also know your kids.

Katelyn

What’s Up Fagans?


My oldest son basically potty trained my youngest! They are 22-months apart and we told my oldest that he would get a treat whenever his brother went potty IF (and only if) he helped encourage and praise him! He asked him every 5 minutes if he needed to go potty and then whooped and hollered when his brother was successful!

Jenae

I Can Teach My Child!


Our son finally “got it” at Old Faithful at Yellowstone. He ran across the visitors’ center, screaming, “I pooped in the toilet!” It was epic.

Jennifer

Royal Little Lambs (read how her post, The Bubba Trained Me)


3 Day Potty Training Method…it only took him 2….worked great!

Amanda

Dirt and Boogers (read her story about potty training boot camp)


My Experience Potty Training (so far)

And now let me share a little about my experience. We started off cloth diapering from the get-go … first with a diaper service, and then for our second child I manned up and did the whole cleaning thing myself. When my first was about 5 months old, I learned my grandmother (who had 4 kids under 4 in the 50s) started potty training as soon as her children could sit up. The concept intrigued me. That, coupled with observing a local mom help her infant use the potty (and stay dry)… piqued my curiosity. Out of diapers before 3 years old? Tell me more.

Today’s lingo for early pottying is either “elimination communication” or “infant potty training.” It’s not cruel, there is no forcing or punishment, it’s basically learning to recognize pre-verbal signals. It is how most of the world copes with baby elimination instead of extended diapering. In short, the concept is that babies are born with a desire to stay dry (anyone victim to getting peed on during a diaper change?). So while they are not able to verbalize their need to eliminate, it is possible to read their body language for cues (getting fussy, a particular cry, eventually signing “potty,” etc). I was dubious at first. It took me 3 months to work up some initiative to give this early pottying a try. But once we tried, my older son, then about 6 mos, caught on really quickly. It wasn’t a game of trying to get him on the potty perfectly, but a process where I could help him use the potty some (or a lot) of the time. It didn’t take long before I didn’t have to change soiled diapers anymore — just wet ones. And then little by little, we transitioned to baby underwear — without any power struggles… just his natural desire to stay dry. We were out of diapers before 2 years for sure, maybe even around 1 year, but I’d have to look through the baby book to tell for sure.

Now, a couple years later, we’re doing the same thing with my second son. When we got home from the hospital, my toddler actually told me his brother needed to use the potty… I thought, “sure… but I’ll indulge.” Yup, he did. Even though this kid is a solid sleeper, he has woken up dry in the morning from time to time (other times I don’t get there soon enough so we have a wet diaper to change). But once again, my son’s natural desire is to stay dry. So he fusses before he musses the diaper, and if at all possible, avoids soiled diapers.

While diaper changing doesn’t phase me, I have to admit it is nice, not having to clean up diaper blow outs or yucky bums. The pragmatist in me loves early pottying. I know it’s not for everyone, and there is a lot of misinformation out there about elimination communication (infant potty training). But in short, I have never forced my boys …it has always been about making things more comfortable for them. I know I wouldn’t want to sit in wet or soiled material, so it only seemed natural to change that diaper right away. And if I was going to be on top of things enough to change the diaper immediately, adapting to offering the potty wasn’t that big of a deal for me.

It may sound hard core, but for me, it was just practical. I’m a realist though, I know this method of potty training (if you want to call it that) doesn’t work for everyone. And I’ve never been one to judge. Different strokes for different folks.

What about you? I’d love to know what worked (or didn’t work) for you. Share in the comments below!

5 Tips for Taking Pictures of Your Child in the Swimming Pool

posted in: Photography | 4

Water is an inherently “tricky” thing to photograph.  While I’m not going to get into the science of things, I figured I could share some tips with you for taking pictures of your kids when they are swimming pool.  The images you can get will depend on the camera, the available light, and how far away you are.

5 Tips for Taking Pictures of Your Child in the Swimming Pool - Betsy's Photography - PhotoArt.comToby has been taking lessons at Goldfish Swim School for quite some time.  I’m frankly not quite sure when we started, but I know he has progressed through the various classes and loves every minute of his swim lessons.

The facility is very nice, with numerous windows around the indoor pool, so you have a lot of ambient light.  This is *great* for taking pictures of your child in the swimming pool.  Every so often, I will take some pictures to document his progress — for that memory book I’ll eventually get around to making once I decide what format will be best (Wildflower Ramblings has a nice series on keeping and recording memories).

That being said — you have to get the pictures first.  So here are my tips, which I’ll keep simple and sweet.

1. Don’t use a flash if you can help it.

You heard me.  Water is so reflective that your flash will illuminate all the water droplets in the air as your child swims; the flash will reflect off the water’s surface too.  If you’re trying to capture something underwater, it will not be visible at all.  So, if you have the luxury of a well-illuminated pool like ours, or an outdoor pool on a bright day — don’t use the flash.  If you can’t get a photo without flash because the pool is too dark, well, then cut your losses.  Use your camera’s low light setting, or turn off the flash and see how it turns out.  If that doesn’t work, let the flash do its job.  Take the photo, deal with the flash being present in your image… and don’t worry about it.  Something is better than nothing.

2. Use “Fast” or “Action” settings on your camera.

If your camera has some sort of action setting, this may do the trick.  Basically it will have your camera take the picture more quickly (it uses a faster shutter speed to eliminate blur, to get technical).  These settings usually have the flash automatically turned off, so you won’t have to worry about that.

3. Use a higher ISO (“film speed”) or low-light scene mode on your camera.

Sometimes low light settings will work too — they typically sacrifice detail, but if you’re okay with a “grainy” photo, then have at it.  How good will it look?  Well, this depends on your camera.  As digital technology has improved, cameras have gotten better at capturing details in low light.  So you may find this works …or if you have a low-end camera, it may not be up to par.  You’ll have to experiment.

Swimming

4. Closer is better; get close.

The closer you are, the better.  Now, during my son’s lesson, we parents have to sit in the “observation deck” — depending on where my son is in the lane, I’ll be 10-30 feet away from him.  So I’ll usually wait until they come to the near end of the lane for any pictures I want to take.  If you’re taking videos, it can be fun to document the whole “down and back” swim, but this doesn’t really translate to still photos.

 

5. Don’t forget about taking pictures when your child is *not* swimming.

While he waits his turn, it’s amusing to watch my son’s antics.  I’ve taken some adorable pictures of him at the edge of the pool.  Goggle-eyed grins are priceless.  As are photos on “graduation day” …or whenever your swimmer accomplishes something new for the first time.  Toby gets ribbons from time to time for learning a new skill, and there is nothing more adorable than having a picture of him holding that ribbon, just out of the pool.

Swimming

So, there you have it!  A short and sweet list of tips for taking pictures of your child in the swimming pool.  I probably should’ve added a sixth item — don’t get your camera wet!!!  But hopefully that’s a given, right?

Do you have any other great tips for taking pictures of kids at the pool, or while swimming?  I’d love to hear them.

Using Imagery to Calm an Overstimulated Child

posted in: Parenting | 2

If you do an web search, you’ll probably find a plethora of links about imagery and visualization, techniques to calm and focus your mind, etc. Images, whether real or visualized within the mind, really can help anyone to get to a calm state.  And since I specialize in images, I thought it was fitting to share this with you — as October is Sensory Processing Awareness month.  All kids have sensory needs — and use their senses to process and understand the world as it relates to them.

I’m not an expert in sensory processing (what is sensory processing?), nor do I have a child with a sensory processing disorder, but regardless, I wanted to share five tips that I’ve found helpful when my toddler gets overstimulated and need calming (not all related to imagery directly, but worth sharing regardless).

Using Imagery to Calm an Overstimulated Child - BPhotoArt.com

A cluttered environment can be overwhelming for anyone.  I’m not just talking physical clutter, such as toys and “mess.”  I’m talking lights, sounds, even smells.  It can lead to that feeling of needing to “get away” or escape, or inability to function at full capacity.  White noise or background chatter can become overwhelming when trying to focus on a specific task.

Have you ever felt the overwhelming need to step outside, to get somewhere quiet so your mind can focus?

I know I have.  And physically removing yourself to a location isn’t always an option.That’s when calming techniques can come in handy.  What techniques have we used to find that “calm” and peace?

  • Deep breathing – belly breaths are great for grounding yourself.  Your gut should expand and contract as you breath, and it can help to focus in on how much air you can push in and out of your lungs.
  • Visualization – sometimes it helps to close your eyes and imagine/pretend you are somewhere else.  Some place that you find calming.  Maybe picturing a waterfall in your mind.  This can be tough for kids to get the hang of at first, but more on that in a bit.
  • Finding a visual anchor – if you’ve ever been seasick, you may be familiar with the advice to fix your eyes on the horizon.  It’s an anchor, a constant… something that is not moving when everything else is not still.  Find something to fix your eyes on, a visual anchor, something that can help you to feel grounded and become calm.
  • Look at a picture – for kids who have trouble seeing pictures in their minds, looking at an actual picture or photograph can be a good calming tool.  The type of picture will depend on the child.
  • Physical touch – hugs from a loved one can be reassuring and grounding.  Have you ever just needed to be hugged and held?  When someone’s arms encircle you, there is a certain calmness and strength that passes from your comforter to you.

It’s been interesting to teach these techniques to my toddler.  Interesting, but helpful.

Deep Breathing Techniques:

Deep breathing can be demonstrated.  “Here, breathe with me.  In… out…. in… out…”  My toddler will visibly calm down as he focuses on matching my breathing.  You can even invite your child to put their hand on your belly to feel it rise and fall as you breathe.  Or suggest they watch their own belly go in and out.  Focusing on the repetitive action will help take their minds off being overwhelmed and redirect it to something they can control.

Thoughts on Visualization:

The art of visualization is more difficult to teach, but we’ve talked about using our imagination, pretending to see something with our eyes closed, and the like.  Asking my son to “remember” a calm place can be helpful too.  I remember reading in a parenting book about an exercise where you talk about a scene that is all white: “the white snow falling outside, sitting in a white room on a white couch, etc.”  The repetition of a calming color can be useful.  Scenery with water can be very calming too (waterfalls, rivers).  Sometimes my son will visualize the letters of his name  as they hang on the wall of his room.

As a kid, I remember squeezing my eyes shut as tight as I could, and “seeing” patterns.  Try it.  Look at something, say a light, for 5-10 seconds and then close your eyes.  You’ll have something to “look at” even though your eyes are closed. Patterns of light and dark.

It all depends on the individual as to what is calming.  You might find something by trial and error.

Visual Anchor Ideas:

Sometimes there is something in a room that you can focus on — a clock, a light, something stationary. Maybe looking out a window at nature could help if the indoor environment is too stimulating.  The visual anchor doesn’t have to be immovable — it just needs to help your child zone in and concentrate on getting calm rather than continuing to become stressed.

You could also make a “calm down” jar (like this LEGO Calm Down Jar), or a “find it” jar for your child to use.  The simple act of rotating, twisting, and turning a container to look at its contents can be a great visual activity for some kids.

Tips for Looking at a Picture:

Sometimes looking at a serene landscape or peaceful beach photograph can be helpful.  I know that when I’m stressed, photos such as these will help me to become more calm.  But it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution.  Some kids may respond to images of nature, others may do better with a picture of their family.  Perhaps a book with pictures would be more helpful for another child.  Even those “find it” style picture books (Where’s Waldo #afflink, anyone?) may work, as they require concentration and may redirect attention, helping your child to become calm.

Notes on Physical Touch:

Depending on the child, offering hugs or any sort of physical contact may or may not work.  If a kid is “touched out” they will likely get more stressed from a hug or being held.  But sometimes kids are in need of the physical contact of a hug.  I haphazardly discovered that my toddler would misbehave when he “needed me” — so after a series of hugs and loving talks, I urged him to tell me “I need a hug” rather than getting out of control…. or to ask for my help in calming down.

In the weeks since that discovery, I will open my arms and offer a hug, or remind my son verbally that he can ask for a hug if he needs one.  Sometimes that’s all it takes for us to put an end to things.

Wrapping Up:

If there’s one thing I’m sure of, it’s that all of these tips will NOT work for all kids. No two children are alike, and it’s a never-ending process to determine what works for your own child.  Plus, what works one day may not work another.

A child’s sensory system is under construction, so to speak.  Connections are being made, and sometimes kids get overstimulated — they need to calm down, to refocus.  Focusing on the different sensory aspects may help a child calm down, remember to communicate physically only as appropriate (e.g. hugs) and verbally when needed.

Do you have tips for helping kids cope with their emotional and physical reactions?  Ideas for getting beyond physical communication to verbal communication?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Decoding Everyday Kid Behaviors: “Why Does My Kid Do That?”

This post is part of the Decoding Everyday Kid Behaviors series. Over 30 bloggers have written posts about classic childhood quirks and how sensory needs may play into them. All children have sensory needs, and these posts will help you understand your child better, regardless of whether their sensory needs are typical or severe.

Additionally, Project Sensory is another resource you may want to check out.  Their mission is to help grow a community that supports all children in their every day lives, whether they have a sensory processing disorder or not.

5 Tips For Great Pet Snapshots

posted in: Photography | 1

5 Tips For Great Pet Snapshots - bphotoart.comDog owners aside, most pets don’t really listen to their owners. Sure, cats will come for a treat, but often it’s dependent on their mood! So, what’s a pet owner to do when you want some good pet photos? I’m going to share five tips for great pet snapshots (this is a revised list from way back in 2006).

Now, I can’t promise these tricks will word without fail, but they should help you get more used to the idea of photographing something that won’t sit pretty for the camera, like people. Hmm, scratch that — a lot of kids don’t want to sit still for the camera either, right? I’ve covered that in other posts, so today, let’s stick with the topic at hand. Pets. Here are my 5 tips for great pet snapshots!

Step 1: Introduce your pet to the camera

This tip is an obvious one, but sometimes even I have to remind myself of it. The first few times you pull out your trusty camera, your pet probably will be excited or fearful — remember, even though you know what a camera is, your pet either thinks it’s a cool new toy or a one-eyed monster.

Give him some time to get used to the thing before you start clicking away, it usually helps.

Step 2: See how your pet reacts to having his picture taken

Try taking a FEW pictures with him nearby — and see what happens. You may have to distract your pet away from the camera by dangling an enticing toy.

When I initially tried to photograph our cats, I had to resort to distraction — those cameras just look like too much fun! Once your pet is used to a camera being around, you’ll find many cute photo ops…

Step 3: Keep your camera handy!

This of key importance — chances are if you haven’t prompted your pet to do something cute, you won’t have your camera ready. I know, it’s amazing that “hold on kitty, let me take a picture” doesn’t work.

When your pet is sleeping or has just woken up, he’s a whole lot easier to photograph than when he’s playing with that fun toy. Know your pet’s behavior and take advantage of his lazy moments.

Step 4: Get closer to your pet

Sometimes getting on eye level with your pet can make the difference. These pictures I’m sharing of Jake were taken quite low to the ground, from a short distance.

Instead of taking a far-away picture that shows your pet as a furry dot, take some time to sneak up a little closer. With patience and persistence, you’ll get some really great snapshots.

Step 5: Try not to use your flash

You know that “red-eye” feature on your camera? Well, just like people’s eyes don’t always photograph very well with that flash on your camera, neither will your pet’s.

If possible, photograph your pet while he’s basking in the sun, or while outside in your backyard. That way you’ll have enough light so that your pet’s eyes will look normal.

Have more ideas for getting pet photos?

I’m sure you’ll think of some great tips to add to this list — as you find more, feel free to comment or let me know! Hopefully though, I’ve given you enough great ideas to get started — remember, the most important thing is to make sure that both you and your pet have fun.

10 Things to Consider When Planning Your Portrait Session

posted in: Photography | 0

One of the things I frequently hear when helping my clients plan their portrait sessions is the desire for individuality, for the pictures to reflect who they are and what they enjoy. I love finding ways to incorporate hobbies and the like into portraits! Here are 10 ways you can make your portraits reflect who you are and what you love.

1. Pick a place that is meaningful to you.

I love creating portraits on location, especially when the setting has memories attached. Like an engagement portrait session at the Arb where a couple met, or a senior portrait session on the football field for an athlete. Location is a big part of pictures. So when it evokes memories, that’s a great thing!

bphotoart-portrait-

2. Bring your pet along.

Pets are a big part of peoples’ lives. So, including them in portraits is a natural way to add more personal meaning to photographs. I’m not one to shy away from being around exotic pets, so I’d be thrilled to photograph atypical pets as part of a portrait session. Usually, though, I end up working with the more mundane (but still lovable) four legged furry friends. Dogs are the most common pet my clients bring, but I’ve also done portraits with larger animals like horses (outdoors, of course).

bphotoart-portrait-302

3. Include your instrument.

As the daughter of a professional musician, I enjoy when my clients want to document their love of music. Smaller instruments can be easily brought to the studio, but I’ve also gone on location to photograph less compact instruments like an alphorn, or chimes.

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4. Show off your sense of style.

I’ve worked with a number of high school seniors who were interested in fashion and clothing design. Naturally, their portraits included several outfits to showcase their sense of style. Sometimes people have a signature hat they always wear, or a wristwatch that is particularly meaningful. items like these can be easily incorporated into portraits either on location or in the studio.

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5. Wear sports paraphernalia.

If you’re a die hard sports fan, there is no better way to show your true colors than in your portraits. I’ve done University of Michigan themed family portraits  — that was fun! High school seniors might want to include their letter jacket, a jersey, or other another sports item (helmet, stick, glove, etc).

Family Portrait Photography - Peony Garden Portraits

6. Choose a specific time of year.

If you love a certain time of year, it makes a lot of sense to plan your portrait session during that season! I’ve done family portraits in the snow, high school senior portraits in autumn, you name it. We can plan ahead to make sure we keep on top of the weather (sometimes it’s tough, for example, to get the fall colors in your portraits).

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7. Coordinate your accessories.

I have had clients personalize their portraits in more subtle ways too. Coordinating accessories isn’t something that really sticks out as a way to personalize your session, but it can really make a difference. I had one high school senior who made her own jewelry — she wore it for her session. A family who loved wristwatches decided they would wear their favorite watches. It’s all in the details. And if the details mean something to you, so much the better!

Family Portrait at Barton Hills Country Club - BPhotoArt.com

8. Incorporate a hobby.

While I’ve photographed family hobbies (such as golfing, see 7 Ways to Personalize Your Family Portraits), more frequently this is something high school seniors really want.  Whether they’re an aspiring artist, a fan of photography, or just an outdoorsman — seniors love to make their portraits communicate interests and hobbies.

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9. Plan a candid session.

More photojournalistic in nature, candid sessions focus on capturing personalities and interactions. The photos forgo careful poses in favor of flow.  For these types of sessions, we’ll often walk around downtown, or through a park, pausing at select areas to create some candid portraits.

Sibling Portrait at Mill Creek Park

10. Be silly.

Along the lines of candid captures — I love “forcing” silliness.  It lightens the mood for everyone, even if we’re doing a more posed and formal portrait.  The more relaxed you are during your portrait session, the more you will love the results!

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So, there you have it. 10 things to consider when planning your next portrait session!

10 Things to Consider When Planning Your Portrait Session - Betsy's Photography bphotoart.com

10 Places to Have Your Senior Portraits

posted in: Photography | 0

One of the tough things for any high school senior to decide is where to have their senior portraits taken.  It’s a big part of expressing individuality, or conveying personality.  So, with that in mind, here are 10 places you should consider having your senior portraits done.

1. Indoors at the studio.

Studio portraits are timeless and classic. It’s a great choice if you want to do something simple, or want to avoid the unpredictable weather.  We can do a lot indoors, trust me. Here are some senior pictures taken indoors at the studio.  Click on any image to enter gallery view.

2. In your own backyard.

While you may not think of your yard as picturesque, it likely has potential.  My job, as a photographer, is to make the most of what you’ve got.  So, if you want your senior portraits to be someplace that has lots of memories — your own yard is a great choice!  Here are some portraits taken in my clients’ yards (and outdoors here at the studio too). Click on any image to enter gallery view.

3. In your car.

Ok, so this isn’t a “place” …persay.  But work with me on this one.  If you have a car you’re proud of, I’d love it include it in your senior portrait session.  Cars can be part of a portrait session pretty much anywhere — your home, the studio, a park… you name it.  Click on any image to enter gallery view.

4. Nichols Arboretum in Ann Arbor.

This is a great park in Ann Arbor, with many acres. There are the peony gardens, the Huron River, wooded paths, open grassy expanses… you name it. This is also a great location if you’d like to bring your dog along for some of the pictures. Click on any image to enter gallery view.

4. Mill Creek Park in Dexter.

I love this park; my son and I visit all the time.  I’ve done all kinds of portraits here.  The greenery is fantastic, and the river is great too.  Since the addition of a boardwalk and walking path, you can even get to Hudson Mills Metropark from this spot.  Though, I wouldn’t recommend that jaunt during a portrait session.  Click on any image to enter gallery view.

5. Downtown Ann Arbor.

Ann Arbor’s downtown covers a lot of area.  Some places are easier to get to than others, but there is a lot of neat architecture and urban imagery that can be incorporated into pictures.  One word of advice?  Don’t plan a downtown Ann Arbor portrait session the week of the Art Fair unless you really, really, love the crowds.  That was an experience!  Click on any image to enter gallery view.

6. Graffiti Alley in Ann Arbor.

If you’re going for a contemporary, urban look, then Graffiti Alley is a perfect spot for senior portraits.  The fun thing about this spot?  The graffiti is never the same.  So from year to year, or week to week, the senior portraits could look completely different.  Click on any image to enter gallery view.

6. Downtown Dexter.

Dexter’s downtown is a little more… quaint, perhaps?  But it is a lot of fun for senior portrait sessions.  An added bonus?  Parking is a lot easier than if you’d chosen to venture downtown Ann Arbor.  I love all the different looks we can get within a one block radius.  Click on any image to enter gallery view.

7. At your school.

Maybe you’re a sports fan, or you really love playing sports.  If that’s the case, then pictures at your school would be a great choice.  Pioneer High School has the added bonus of being kiddy corner to UM football stadium, so it’s a two-for-one sports deal!  Click on any image to enter gallery view.

8. Curtiss Park in Saline.

This is a great part for senior portraits, there is a river, grassy open areas, wooded spots, and even a playground. I have done a number of sessions here for high school seniors and it is so much fun.  Click on any image to enter gallery view.

9. Train tracks (near, but not on).

As I’ve mentioned before, it’s dangerous to do pictures on train tracks. But, I’m happy to do senior portraits near them, as in these photos of the young man. The young woman in the photos below actually had her portraits done at the caboose in Depot Town in Ypsilanti — it’s a “permanent fixture” and doesn’t pose any danger to get near (or on). Click on any image to enter gallery view.

10. Go on location indoors.

There are many neat places to go– indoors — for your senior portraits.  Your own home is one great place, or perhaps the local coffee shop where you go all the time.  Or, maybe you love your job and want your senior pictures taken there.  The nice thing about indoor locations?  No need to worry about the weather. Click on any image to enter gallery view.

So, there you have it. This list is by no means all inclusive, I had to leave off some fun places! What’s your favorite spot?

Be Ready for School Picture Day (8 Tips!)

posted in: Parenting | 3

As school starts back up, one of the annual rites of passage, aside from the obligatory “first day of school” snapshot, is school picture day.  After all, these photos end up being handed out to relatives, friends, and schoolmates… and don’t forget those yearbook spreads either.  School picture day isn’t a day you want to forget.

That being said, I remember one year, in middle school (or was it elementary?), that school picture day snuck up on us.  By us, I mean my mom and I.  Neither of us had it on our radar.  I didn’t do my hair, get dressed to the nines, or anything.  I vaguely remember feeling silly as I stepped up to sit on the stool for my photo — sporting a half ponytail and my yellow soccer jersey.  To top it off, the photographer mixed up backgrounds, so instead of whatever I’d requested, my school picture faux pas is forever commemorated with a purple background.  Gotta love it.

So, what words of wisdom do I have to share for you… so you can be ready for school picture day?  I’m going to skip “don’t forget” (because that’s a given), and move onto some more helpful tips.

Be Ready for School Picture Day with These 8 Tips - Betsys Photography BPhotoArt.com

1. Practice smiling.  Teens already know how school picture day works, but younger children are new to the process.  I remember hearing about how one of my nieces told her mom (after school picture day): “I didn’t smile.”  Yearbook photographers have limited time to interact with the kids they’re photographing, and the whole process may leave your child feeling rushed (not to mention caught unawares).  I still remember the drill.  Wait in line with your order form.  Step up to the “box” made from tape on the floor, sit down, smile for the camera.  Lights flash.  Seconds later, you’re done.  By practicing smiling, you can have a better chance of that evasive on command smile showing up in your child’s school pictures.

2. Go with tried and true hairstyles.  Don’t get a new haircut the day before, or try a new hairstyle you’ve never attempted.  While it won’t be the end of the world, school pictures are really a capture of your child as they are that year… doesn’t it make more sense to have a haircut or hairstyle that is actually representative of your child, as my toddler would say, “in real life” ?

3. Do a clothing check.  If your kid is messy and has a good chance of spilling on the shirt before photos happen, maybe a patterned shirt will be more practical.  But generally, busier shirts detract from the face (especially once you add in the background).  For older kids and teens, make sure the shirts fit well, and aren’t too revealing.  Here’s a good guest post about dressing modestly for senior portraits — the concepts can be extended to picture day for younger grades as well.

4. Reminisce with your kids.  What better time to pull out your old yearbooks (if you still have them) and laugh about all the clothing trends, big updos, or glasses that kids wore “in the old days” …right?  In the very least, it may reassure an anxious child about the fact that school picture day is not something to stress out over.  Being able to laugh at yourself is a really important life skill — take it from Roy Rogers!

5. Avoid glitter.  This stuff often shows up in photos looking more like dandruff than sparkles.  And while sparkles are fun — no one wants to look snowy.  Stay away from glitter makeup or hairsprays for school pictures.  You won’t regret it.

6. Glasses are fine, but pass on the transition lenses.  I’m not sure how many kids who wear glasses actually have transition lenses, but if you do — leave them off for the picture.  They don’t photograph all that well. Aside from that, glasses won’t be a problem. Professional photographers know how to make sure there will NOT be any glasses glare.  Speaking of glasses, I remember one of the Babysitter’s Club books where the protagonist had to get glasses and was embarrassed at first, but then decided to “own” it and wore both sets of glasses for her photos.  Whatever floats your boat, right?   all seriousness, though, if there is something your kid feels will make school picture day be easier for them, it may be worth it to oblige.

7. This is a good day for bribery.  Yeah, I’m not one for bribery, but I know it works.  If it’s important to you that your kid smiles, or that you avoid the dreaded retake day, then make a deal with your kid.  Good pictures?  Reward.

8. Schedule a real portrait session.  Let’s face it. Some kids just don’t open up well with less than a minute in front of the camera.  You may prefer to hedge your bets on something that will produce those genuine expressions.  Plan a yearly portrait session with your favorite photographer so that you can document your child’s growth …with pictures you know will be great.

Do you have any other ideas?  I’d love to hear them.  This will be my toddler’s first year of preschool, so it will be interesting to see how things go for him.  Here’s one of my first school picture days (I think).

3 Tips for a Successful Outdoor Portrait Session

posted in: Photography | 3

When planning a portrait session for someplace outside, you have to do a little more planning.  There are more variables to consider, more possibilities, more potential problems.  A little later on, I’ll share 3 tips to make sure you have a successful outdoor portrait session.  But first, let me share some images from one of the portrait sessions I’ve done this summer since my son’s birth.

Debbie and Holly are both flutists in the Ann Arbor area; they came to me looking for an updated Flute Fusion group portrait.  This time around, they wanted something more casual, contemporary, and natural.

Something outdoors.

So, planning for the portrait session to take place outdoors was a natural choice.  They knew they wanted something green, maybe with some trees — something kind of “edgy” but not too much so.

Here is one of my favorite photographs from their session.  Sometimes it’s ok to not be looking at the camera 🙂

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Now, let’s get to those tips for a successful outdoor portrait session.  When planning for an outdoors portrait session,

1. Make Backup Plans

We all know how often the weatherman is wrong, no?  While checking the forecast is a good idea, it’s a better idea to have a backup plan.  Maybe an alternate (indoor) location in case of rain, or plans to reschedule for another day.

Debbie and Holly wanted their photos outdoors in nature, so we had scheduled their session with wiggle room — enough time to do the portraits another day if the weather failed to cooperate.

2. Wear The Right Shoes

If you’re going outdoors, chances are good that you’ll be traipsing through mud, dirt, loose gravel — you name it.  Sometimes I’ll recommend my clients wear a pair of walking shoes and then change into their dress shoes once we have walked to our location.  Stiletto heels, in particular, can be difficult to wear while walking through a field or grassy area.  Those heels poke right into the ground.

For the portraits in the field of Queen Anne’s lace, Holly wore her dress shoes, as they had a low heel and kept the hem of her pants from dusting the ground.  Debbie changed out of her heels into walking sandals, as her other shoes would’ve been difficult for walking in the field.

3. Coordinate Your Attire Based on the Location

You don’t have to go with boring clothing, but when you’re outdoors, there is already a lot going on.  Simpler clothing can help draw the focus to the main subject when the setting is more complex.

Imagine if Debbie and Holly had worn patterned blouses.  For the images with the railing, where they are separated from the background by a good distance, it probably would have worked.  But in the field with the Queen Anne’s lace?  It would have made my eyes hurt!

That’s All…For Now!

So, there you have them.  My 3 tips to help make sure your next outdoor portrait session will be a success.  I’m sure that, given time, I could add to this list (my mind is already brainstorming things like: bring a brush, include your puppy). But that’s something to be tackled another day.  Hopefully seeing how these three tips applied to Debbie and Holly’s portrait session was helpful for you!

Do you have any ideas for ensuring a success next time you have your photographs taken outdoors?

Some more images from Debbie and Holly’s session are below.  Enjoy!  Click on any image to open in gallery view mode.

5 Tips for Great Studio Portraits

posted in: Photography | 3

Studio portraits may seem overly simple, but the thing I love about creating studio portraits is how all the attention is on the people, their personalities and relationships.  There is no background setting to tell a story, true, but the simplicity of a studio setting ensures all your attention will be on the people.  That being said, I do have some tips for the next time you plan a studio portrait session.

5 Tips for Great Studio Portraits

1. Coordinate Your Attire – While you don’t have to wear “uniforms” or have matching shirts, when photographing multiple people in the studio, I always recommend coordinating the attire.  Maybe something simple, like shades of black and gray with jeans.  Jewel tones like purple can work well too.  If you’re unsure, it never hurts to ask for your photographer’s opinion (just saying!).

2. Details Matter – What you wear will be front and center, your accessories will be visible.  They will either draw attention away from you, or compliment you in the portraits.  For women, jewelry choices are important to consider.  Do you want to go with something more classic, like pearls?  Or more modern?  Make sure to pay attention to where the necklace falls in relation to the neckline of your shirt or dress.  For men, a sharp tie can add to the portrait, while a loud and cheesy patterned one can detract.  Details are important, so make sure to consider your entire outfit when planning your studio portrait.

3. Go With a Tried and True Hairstyle – Stick with a style or haircut that you know you love.  Don’t go trying something new the day of your portrait session, because if you don’t like how your hair looks in the portraits, you’re not really going to love the portraits themselves either.  For those concerned about receding hairlines or stray hairs, know that qualified photographers have tricks of the trade to take care of these concerns and minimize the appearance of issues like this.

4. Avoid Transition Lenses – If you wear glasses, that’s ok — qualified photographers know how to work with glasses and eliminate lens glare.  The only thing we can’t really do much about?  Those nifty glasses that automatically become sunglasses when you go outdoors.  Transition lenses tend to have issues photographing well, so it’s best to leave those at home in favor of a more traditional set of glasses.

5. Be Yourself – Don’t try to force a smile that isn’t “you,” or wear clothing that is totally out of character for you.  You will feel most comfortable being yourself, wearing what you normally wear, or smiling like you usually smile.  Fake smiles are easy to spot — and you won’t like the end results from your studio portrait session if your smile looks forced or awkward.  I always do my best to capture a variety of expressions and smiles, just to give you options during the ordering process.  While I might know which smiles look natural and genuine, ultimately it’s your opinion that matters — these studio portraits will be enjoyed by you and your family, so you want them to look right!

Family Studio Portraits

I love photographing families when they get together from out of town.  The studio portraits below are of a brother and sister who live multiple states apart.  We did a portrait session in the studio, something simple, but relaxed enough to capture their unique sibling relationship.

7 Ways to Personalize Your Family Pictures

posted in: Photography | 26

While I love photographing all kinds of families, the sessions that really stand out are the ones like these family pictures. Not only were the family pictures taken at a meaningful location, but we were able to incorporate some unique elements to personalize their family portraits. And that’s what makes this so much fun. No matter how many times I photograph at a given location, the people, their personalities, and their interests are always so unique.

A little further on, I’ll share some tips on how to personalize your family pictures, but first, let me share these family portraits! The family portraits were taken at Barton Hills Country Club in Ann Arbor, MI. We originally planned to use the lovely greenery at Barton Hills as a setting for the family pictures — the grounds of the country club are truly lovely when in bloom; even throughout the summer months you know it will always be gorgeously green at a top notch golf course like Barton Hills.

Family Portrait at Barton Hills Country Club - How To Personalize Your Family Pictures - BPhotoArt.com

On this particular day, I’d been watching the weather like a hawk (I tend to reschedule if there’s bad weather). Fortunately, the rain let up, and we had a wonderfully sunny afternoon and evening — just a little damp.

As we walked to one of the spots for taking pictures, I had a sudden inspiration. A golf cart was sitting, empty, almost asking to be photographed. Since I knew this family was fond of golf, I suggested we add another series of family pictures with the golf cart, and the idea was received enthusiastically. The series of family pictures with the golf cart turned out to be my favorite, and the family ended up liking one of the portraits so much it will be on display as a wall portrait in their home!

Family Portrait at Barton Hills Country Club - BPhotoArt.com

Click on any image below to enter gallery view mode.

How to Personalize Your Family Pictures

Now, I promised tips on how to personalize your family pictures, so let me get started with some suggestions for the next time you plan a family portrait session. You could probably adapt these for spur of the moment family snapshots too.

1. Include your family in the planning process

Sometimes I work with families who are totally nonchalant about their portraits, aside from wanting “something nice” as an end result. But, usually, families have an idea in mind for their family pictures. I like to hear from everyone — including the kids, because the more involved the whole family is with the family pictures, the better the portrait experience will be for everyone.

Kids like to have a voice. So, even if their opinion is less influential than, say, mom or dad’s… I like to hear everyone’s thoughts. Often we can work in some elements that will make everyone happy.

2. Your family pictures should reflect your style and show your personalities

Plain and simple — generic family pictures aren’t as memorable ones. You want your family pictures to be a window into your family’s dynamics and show you as you really are.

For families who are more laid-back and casual, I’ll usually recommend relaxed clothing and a more impromptu portrait style. It’s better, though, to plan a formal and elegant session for a family who is more conventional and “proper.”

extended family portrait - How To Personalize Your Family Pictures - BPhotoArt.com
Clothing and location can really affect how formal or casual a family portrait ends up being.

3. Choose a location that is meaningful

Even if you don’t have a specific park, country club, or spot that your family finds meaningful, there are still ways to personalize your family pictures through your choice of location. If your family likes to do a lot of things outdoors, I’ll typically suggest a park with lots of natural scenery.

There’s always the option of having your family pictures taken at your home, or on your property. I love this choice, honestly, because it’s fun for me to include the house as a background element, or pets that may not have ventured off the premises for a different location session.

Family Picture with dogs - How To Personalize Your Family Pictures - BPhotoArt.com
Bringing multiple dogs and a baby on location would have been tough, but worked beautifully at my client’s home.

4. Incorporate your family’s interests and hobbies

This tip works whether you’re outdoors on location or inside at the studio. Find something your family enjoys, and include it! As with the family pictures above, a shared love of golf can really enhance the creativity of a family picture. Other ideas on how to personalize your family pictures can focus on the pets you have, the sports team you love, the city where you live, or the horses you ride.

family portrait with horses - How To Personalize Your Family Pictures - BPhotoArt.com
When you enjoy something, it’s always great to capture that memory in a family portrait.

5. There is no right or wrong

When planning your family portraits, remember — there is no right or wrong. What works best for your family will not work well for another. You can be inspired by what you find online, or what you pin on Pinterest, but ultimately, you need to think about how to personalize your family pictures in a way that makes sense for your family.

formal generations portrait - BPhotoArt.com
Formal portraits do work best for some portraits, but there is no one size fits all solution.

6. Flexibility is important

It’s important to be flexible on the day of a family portrait session. I often find the parents are very stressed out about getting good pictures, or making sure their kids behave, so I will do my best to put everyone at ease. The more relaxed everyone is, the better the family pictures will be.

And, speaking of going with the flow, remember that sometimes things just don’t go according to plan. But, that’s ok. Honestly, some of my favorite photographs and portraits have been the result of the need to make a spur of the moment adjustment or change.

family portrait outdoors winter - BPhotoArt.com
Children can be unpredictable, but sometimes their personalities really come through even if they’re not smiling for the camera.

7. Have a little fun and be silly!

I am a big proponent of being silly and having fun during any portrait session. Whether the funny faces end up as outtakes, or you ultimately choose to include the silliness in an album or wall portrait, pictures that let you (and your kids) have fun will really bring out your personalities.

Making Funny Faces for the Camera - How To Personalize Your Family Pictures - BPhotoArt.com
This family picture of the kids was potentially an outtake, but helped them relax!

Have Ideas on How to Personalize Your Family Pictures?

This list of tips on how to personalize your family pictures is by no means all-inclusive. I’d love to hear your thoughts on what works — or doesn’t — for your family. Or, if you have any memories of past family picture experiences to share, I’d love to read them!

Getting Kids to Eat Healthy Food

posted in: Parenting | 2
Today I’d like to welcome Orlena of Snotty Noses.  Orlena is a British pediatrician who lives in Spain with her husband and four children.  Her website helps parents recognize when their child is ill …and know what to do about it (not meant to replace your doctor’s advice, of course!).

If you’ve ever struggled with getting your kids to eat healthy food, then you’ll definitely want to read on — Orlena gives some great advice for getting kids to make healthy food choices.

— Betsy

Getting Kids to Eat Healthy Food

How to Help Your Kids Eat HealthilyKids are, well, what can I say…strange, inexplicable creatures. You’d think that if they all grew up being offered the same food in the same environment, you’d get little replicas of each other who would all eat exactly the same thing. If only! But then,  life wouldn’t be so interesting. I have 4 kids and they’re all different in their eating habits. Some children like some foods, while others don’t.

Take bananas, love them or hate them? I have two who love them and two who won’t touch them. Same with fish, two who can’t get enough of it and two who won’t touch it. And potatoes, I have a baby who doesn’t like potatoes. How does that work? It’s strange. I can’t explain it.

“But, so what?” I hear you cry. “Why not just let them eat what they want to eat?” (If only they could agree what that would be.) We’d live off spaghetti bolagnese (NOT any other type of pasta) and risotto with one child; and pasta (but NOT spaghetti) and cheddar cheese sandwiches with another.

And vegetables? Hmm, they don’t seem to feature much do they?

Is Feeding Our Children Healthy Food Really That Important?

So, THE big question is…Is it possible to feed (and get them to eat) your child a diet of healthy food AND enjoy life at the same time? Or perhaps, “why bother, is it actually that important”?

Is feeding our children a healthy diet really that important? Well, yes and no. It’s not important in the sense that they will get nasty illnesses like high cholesterol and bowel cancer (both linked to diet) if they don’t eat their veggies (those typically come later in life).  They might end up with constipation, which is really common in children. And we’re seeing an increase in weight problems in children and type 2 diabetes (which is normally seen in adults.)

Most children are thin, poo a lot and don’t like vegetables.  They aren’t in any immediate danger.

The problem is, when children grow older, they’ll still be eating the same stuff …and then they will be at increased risk of all those nasty illnesses. As adults, we can hugely reduce our chances of getting nasty illness by eating healthy food and exercising regularly, and if our kids are already in those habits, they’ll reap the benefits.

Acclimating Kids to Eating Healthy Food

So how do we go about doing that as parents? Well, as there’s no immediate danger, you can relax on the whole “eat your vegetables thing.” Yes, you do want them to eat their greens, but don’t worry about it, don’t stress about it. Keep working at it and they’ll get there in the end.

My main advice is to eat a healthy home-cooked family meal together whenever possible. It doesn’t have to be fancy. Kids like fresh and simple. Vegetable pasta (or vegetable pasta sauce!) is a great way to start.  Teach your kids to enjoy food, to think of it as a time to spend with family and friends.

Orlena's kids enjoying healthy foods
Orlena’s kids enjoying healthy food (vegetable pasta – check out her recipe!)

Make food fun. There are loads of ways to make healthy food different and enjoyable for kids. You don’t have to be artistic or overly creative. Try eating in different places, or with different things, like chopsticks or toothpicks.

If you really want to go overboard, why not have a themed dinner “party,” all dressed up as pirates? Or cowboys. OK, so this isn’t going to directly make them eat their vegetables or other healthy foods, but it will help them enjoy mealtimes and think of it as a special time.

Conversely, if you’re constantly nagging them to eat their veggies, they’ll push their plate away, dig in their heels and ultimately stop enjoying eating and the fun family time that goes with it.

 

Phases of Fussiness Are Normal

Many parents despair when they see their previously good eater turn into the fussiest toddler on the block.

It’s normal.

Children go through phases (some longer than others) and hopefully they come out the other side unscathed. Try to work around their fussiness without pandering too much to their demands. Getting the balance right can be tricky, but once you’ve let go of the idea that they have to eat what’s on their plate, life should be much less stressful.

If you’d like more tips on how to help your kids eat their veggies, why not sign up for my great pdf: 30 Tips to Get Your Kids to Eat and LOVE Vegetables?

– Orlena

Have Tips For Getting Kids to Eat Healthy Food?

Orlena makes some great points, doesn’t she?  I also find it interesting how, even with the same child, a particular food can be a favorite (or a no-go) given the day and the circumstances.

Our son typically is a great eater.  In fact, he loves veggies (most of them).  If he is dubious about trying a particular healthy food, he’s usually convinced to take a taste when you tell him where it came from.  Veggies come from a garden, steak comes from a cow, venison comes from a deer — that sort of thing.  Odd, maybe.  But it works for us.   We also have a two bite rule that has worked wonders for the “no, I don’t like it” response to trying a new food.

Do you have any tips for getting your kids to eat healthy food?  Or stories to share about the struggles of getting kids to be interested in healthy choices?  I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

Finding Balance as a Homemaker + Home Business Owner

posted in: Parenting | 2

Finding balance in life is tough, regardless of your calling, your job, or your commitments. This past week I guest posted over at KiddyCharts.com about balancing homemaking with running a home business — complete with tips for how to keep on top of both while still giving your kids the attention and activities they need.

Finding Balance As A Homemaker + Home-Business Owner - BPhotoArt.com

Here are some additional tips for finding balance when mothering a newborn amidst running a home business:

Give yourself a break

You need to recover from the birthing process, the experience, and the demands of adding another member to your family.  It’s ok to take it easy (that’s the point of maternity leave, right?  even work-at-home businesswomen deserve to schedule a break).

Plan and announce your maternity leave

Your break, or maternity leave, won’t be really effective unless you announce and publicize your plans.  Make sure to give yourself a reasonable window of time so that you won’t feel rushed back to work.

Accept help

Whether it comes in the form of meals being delivered, or relatives being willing to come clean your house, PLEASE do yourself a favor and accept graciously!  You don’t have to be super mom.  You don’t have to do it all yourself!

Be flexible

If things don’t go according to your initial plan, it’s important to be willing to adapt.  Maybe you decide it’s time to go back to work sooner than you expected… or maybe you aren’t quite ready to jump back in when you had hoped.  Either way, be realistic and make changes if needed to save your sanity.

Seek out community

Don’t isolate yourself, seek out the company of moms in similar circumstances in case you need someone to lend an ear, or give advice.  One of the downfalls of running a home business is that you don’t necessarily get out all that often.  So… make sure to venture out from your homestead, even if it’s for something frivolous!

Do You Have Tips for Finding Balance?

Where are you at in your quest for finding balance?

If you have tips for finding balance in a hectic week, or have found ways to balance homemaking and running a home business, I would love to hear from you!

Or, if you’re struggling with the concept of finding balance, know that you’re not alone. Is it tough to carve out some “me time,” or maybe dedicate enough attention to your kids? Perhaps you feel like your spouse is neglected because you’ve worn yourself out during the day and have little to offer at the end of a long day.

I’d love to hear what’s hardest for you about finding balance in your life.

Aging Gracefully + End of Life Planning

posted in: Notes | 4

Parenthood has brought new considerations for us, such as the need to prepare a will and ensure that our child(ren) will be taken care for. It seems like the older you get, the more you have to think about end of life preparations. I’ve touched on this before when considering the legacy my grandmother left behind, and the fact that life is too short to put off doing what really matters.

Today I’m guest posting over at The Entwife’s Journal about getting your affairs in order — from the perspective of a grandchild (Read Aging Parents: End of Life Preparations).

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My grandfather is in good health but had decided to set his affairs in order recently. Our son is fortunate enough to know and remember his great grandfather (“grandpa with the broken cane”); I’ve written about my childhood memories of painting with grandpa as well. While I wasn’t directly involved with his end of life preparations, but my mother and aunt helped him organize his estate and complete some necessary end of life planning.

Their checklist of things to do included organizing financial paperwork, making sure that both children knew where important documents and valuables were stored, and knowing who would do what when the time comes. End of life planning doesn’t sound fun, but honestly I think it can be bring peace of mind for all involved.

End of Life Planning Checklist - BPhotoArt.com

Having been through a number of estate distributions, I can tell you that when a loved one has taken the time to put their affairs in order and has taken the time to do end of life planning, things go much more smoothly for the surviving family members. And it is generally less stressful too!

End of Life Planning Resources

I’ve compiled an end of life planning board on Pinterest, with a number of articles and documents that may be helpful if you’re not sure what to do so far as putting together your will, making estate plans, or even organizing important financial documents. Obviously the best choice will be to consult with your lawyer or financial planner, but for those of you who like to do extra research — here you go!

Follow Betsy @ BPhotoArt.com’s board End of Life Planning on Pinterest.

What about you? Do you have any suggestions for end of life planning made easy? Stories of aging gracefully and being prepared for the final stages of life? I’d love to hear from you in the comments below.

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