Just ask Amy ;-)

In the past couple days I had two people ask me for my thoughts/advice about two parenting-related topics.

The first woman, a semi-regular commenter on this blog, emailed me to ask for advice regarding vaccinations for her 1-year-old son. She was feeling hesitant about taking him receiving so many shots at his 12 month check-up. I would never tell someone what they should or should not do. That’s not my style. I’m all about people doing their own research and making informed choices (regarding healthcare and other aspects of parenting), and I believe that those choices can differ from person to person. So I supplied her with some information, gave her some questions to ask her pediatrician regarding thimerosal use, and some things to think about as she makes these decisions.

The other woman, who I know from a message group, PM’d me to ask about starting solids while breastfeeding her 6-month-old daughter. It was funny to me to get questions about when are you supposed to feed them, how many times a day, etc., because that stage in Ava’s life seems like it was ages ago now and I really didn’t remember. I looked up some info for her on KellyMom and told her what I did remember. It’s amazing how it’s been less than a year since Ava was at that stage and I’ve nearly forgotten what it’s like!

Anyway, it made me feel good to have people come to me for my thoughts and information on those topics. It’s nice to be respected. :) I would never claim to have all the answers, but I can speak from my research and personal experience and let them come to their own conclusions. It’s nice to see other mamas who want to make informed choices.

And the other cool thing that happened recently was that I discovered another commenter on my blog who seems to share my passion for APing and her husband plays Dungeons & Dragons (as does mine), lives a town over from me! We seem to have quite a few things in common so I look forward to learning more about her and her family. Small world. :)

Now that’s depressing

Even though my husband got paid today, our bank account doesn’t reflect that. There were seven bills out there in limbo counting on this money to come in.

It kills me. The day he gets paid, we are already broke again. This vicious cycle sucks!

We haven’t paid our car tag renewal yet (due in August) and have been driving around with an expired plate because we can’t afford it.

We don’t live a lavish lifestyle. We don’t live in a huge house. We only have one car. Jody takes the bus (free pass) to work more days than not. He also takes his lunch from home almost every day.

We don’t put purchases on credit cards anymore (except for my camera which has no interest for 18 months), but we still have some credit card debt we are trying to pay off. However, making the minimum monthly payments (which is all we can afford right now) is obviously not making a dent in it. We’re also still paying off medical bills from when Ava was hospitalized for croup nearly four months ago.

I never buy brand new clothes for Ava. Everything comes from garage sales or thrift/consignment stores. She’s desperately in need of a couple pairs of good warm pjs because she won’t keep blankets on her while she sleeps. And we never buy new clothes for ourselves.

I will admit that we go out to dinner once in a while. (I should clarify that these aren’t expensive meals – always under $20, generally more like $12 or $15.) I know we shouldn’t go at all because we certainly can’t afford it, but I feel like that’s something we have to do or I’ll go crazy.

I’m just feeling so frustrated and overwhelmed and had to let it out.

I’m not looking for handouts. I don’t want pity. I just want to be able to afford to live.

I welcome any tips or suggestions you all have. What has worked for you or people you know?

Thankfully I have some money coming in sometime this month from my CafePress store. Thank you to everyone who has purchased something from me. :) October was a great month for sales for me. I hoped that sales would continue to pick up as Christmas approaches (from people buying them as gifts), but it doesn’t seem to be happening that way.

And I’m trying to sell the things we have sitting around the house that we aren’t using. Still no takers on the crib though. Know anyone who wants one? ;)

I’m also hoping that I can contribute to our income through photography. However, with winter approaching and not having any sort of studio in my house, I’m not sure how much “work” I’ll be able to do. Guess I didn’t pick the best time of year to get into this.

I’ll quit whining now. I just really needed to get this off my chest. Thanks for “listening.” I know we won’t be broke forever. This too shall pass. And I’m very thankful for the things we do have and all the things that money can’t buy like smiles, laughter and love. :)

P.S. Maybe I should whine more often, I just had a sale on my CafePress store. ;)

Walmart and what’s wrong with our thinking?

Disclaimer: The following entry is nothing short of a rant about Walmart and American values. If you are easily offended or prefer to live in a world where everything is happy and cheerful, please DON’T READ.

After stopping at a local Super Walmart this weekend so I could go to the bathroom (hey, when ya gotta go, ya gotta go), I started thinking in depth about my issues with this superpower and the people who shop there.

These days we are all about patriotism and pride in being Americans. The cars in the Walmart parking lot were littered with yellow and American flag ribbons. “Support our troops.” “God Bless America.” It seemed like an oxymoron to me! How American and patriotic is it to shop at a store that forces American-owned companies out of business in favor of sweatshop labor in China?

I understand that many people are looking for the best deal and the lowest prices. So many Americans are struggling to get by these days and I am one of them. But I believe that many of the people who shop at Walmart are the very people who will end up losing their jobs when their companies are forced to close their doors because they can’t compete with foreign labor.

It saddens me to think that we just don’t think about the future. What are the future ramifications of my getting super low prices in the NOW NOW NOW? What cost will this have to my city, my community, my family?

It took months, if not years, to get the city council where I live to approve the buliding of a Walmart Supercenter here. There were MANY who were against it, but eventually the proposal passed. One of the arguments is “just think of how many jobs it will create!” Yes, but at what cost? They don’t pay well enough for someone to support themself anyway, especially not with the cost of living in Boulder County. And how many small businesses in town will have to shut down as a result of it? :( What will these people do for employment then? Go work at Walmart?

I’m also concerned about all of the empty Walmarts that the Super Walmarts leave behind. I’ve seen it happen many times now. They close down one store to open a bigger, better store and leave a garish eyesore in the shopping center.

JibJab.com currently has a parody movie on their site called “Big Box Mart.” It tells the story of a man who loves to shop at Big Box Mart because of their low prices. Eventually, however, the company he works for is forced to close down because they can’t compete with the prices Walmart can get from the sweatshop laborers in China, so he loses his job at the age of 53. He files for unemployment and eventually ends up working for Big Box Mart. He’s unable to afford to retire and will likely work there until he dies.

There’s also a documentary coming out this week called “Walmart – The high cost of low price.”

WAL-MART: THE HIGH COST OF LOW PRICE is a feature length documentary that uncovers a retail giant’s assault on families and American values.

The film dives into the deeply personal stories and everyday lives of families and communities struggling to fight a goliath. A working mother is forced to turn to public assistance to provide healthcare for her two small children. A Missouri family loses its business after Wal-Mart is given over $2 million to open its doors down the road. A mayor struggles to equip his first responders after Wal-Mart pulls out and relocates just outside the city limits. A community in California unites, takes on the giant, and wins!

There are thousands of free screenings being held nationwide.

If you’d like to get involved or spread the word about this movie, check out this link. There are many activism opportunities, from promoting the film by placing a button on your blog to signing a petition for Walmart workers’ rights to boycotting Walmart to hosting a free screening of the film. Every little bit helps.

I’ll end this by saying I’m not a huge fan of posting about such downer topics, but I do so every now and then when think the truth needs to be told. Thanks for reading.

Thoughts on photography and sharing a few pics

Last weekend and this week were a blur. I did two photoshoots – one maternity and one of my friend’s son who’s turning two next week – and I spent a lot of time proofing the pics (because I am not good enough to take them straight off of the camera without much work yet). I was glad to read a lot of “The Better Photo Guide To Digital Photography” this week. It helped me better understand and utilize the rule of thirds. I knew about it before, but reading a more in-depth explanation in that book helped me crop my friend’s son’s pictures a lot better. It ended up being more work for me to go back in and redo them, but it was worth it to have a better looking finished product.

I’m happy and relieved to say that both parties were very pleased with the proofs. It makes me feel good and that I’m on the right track.

Friends have been asking if they can put up a link to my work on their website or telling me I should put up fliers and start advertising, but I really don’t feel ready to take that step yet. I am enjoying what I’m doing, but I know that I still have a lot to learn. One of my big issues right now is getting my focus down. It’s hard enough with a stationary subject, let alone with a baby or child who’s always moving. ;) I also want to come up with a backdrop that I can use in my house since winter is approaching and outdoor photography options will become limited. Backdrops are quite pricey, so I’m looking for a less expensive alternative for now. I’ve heard of using fleece or a vellux blanket and I’m going to look into that. Then the question will be – how do I hang it in my livingroom without buying a backdrop stand? I know you have to spend money to make money, but I don’t want to keep buying things I think I need and going further into the hole.

That’s one of the reasons I’ve decided to stick with shooting with natural lighting for now too. I think my livingroom gets adequate natural light, though I’m a little worried about the skylights because I don’t want sun glaring down on people. Unfortunately for me, my house has to be one with the fewest number of windows ever. Eight windows in the whole house, plus two skylights. Crazy, no? Whenever we decide to move again, finding a house with great lighting will definitely be high on the priority list. ;)

Then there are also the business, tax and legal aspects to all of this. I want to get my ducks in a row before I really start doing this even semi-seriously. So far it’s all been friends or family of friends. When I venture out into people I don’t know, however, I want to be fully prepared.

I took Ava to the park this afternoon to get out of the house and do some more practicing with my manual settings. I haven’t taken the pictures off the camera yet, but I’m feeling more confident with my ability to go all manual. It just takes practice, practice, practice. Anyway, we had a fun time. She played with pinecones and sticks, we saw geese, and we stopped by a tree and had a snack of grapes and crackers. It was a nice day. :)

Here are a few pictures from my friend’s son’s photoshoot (taken at a local park):

Oooh, the presentation folders I ordered last week (for delivering prints to customers) just arrived via UPS. I’m so excited to see how they look! Feel like a kid on Christmas morning. ;) Gotta go.

Have a good weekend. :)

Bad timing

Last night proved to be especially chaotic in our house.

We were eating dinner when the phone rang. We rarely answer our phone, especially in the evening, afraid that it’s a poll for this, that or the other thing or Qwest asking us to upgrade our service, etc. So we let it roll over to the answering machine and it turned out to be a friend of Jody’s (he was an usher in our wedding) that he hadn’t talked to in over a year. So Jody ran upstairs and got the phone and proceeded to have a loooong ol’ conversation with his buddy.

In the meantime, Ava smeared food all over the back of the chair (we just use a booster seat on top of a chair and I’d forgotten to put another towel – to protect it – on it), got ahold of a crayon and drew on the wall (thank goodness for washable crayons), dumped her water all over the paper and table where she was drawing (after I discovered the colored wall), and then fell off the bottom step where she bonked her head and started crying.

While all of this was going on, I was trying to finish eating my dinner, then do the dishes and clean the kitchen, tend to the dogs and wash crayon off the wall, and then calm an upset child. In my efforts to clean up, I dropped Ava’s booster seat tray into the sink and it shattered a glass. Oy! (Thankfully the glass stayed in the sink and Ava was in the diningroom.) It was one of those “Calgon, take me away” moments.

Where was Jody while all mayhem broke lose? Upstairs, chatting it up. ;oP
I got pretty frustrated with the whole situation for a while. I understand he hadn’t talked to his friend in over a year, but couldn’t he have called him back at a better time? I know he didn’t do it to spite me, but I was definitely feeling overwhelmed.

Anyway, after he got off the phone and my frustration hadn’t subsided, I decided to take a couple hours to get out of the house and chill. I drove up to Borders and read almost an entire book on (what else?) photography. It was nice to get out alone, and I learned a great deal too.

Lesson learned? Hmmm. Don’t sweat the small stuff, I guess. Funny thing is I haven’t gotten really worked up over something in quite a while.

And then I wonder where Ava gets her temper from. ;oP