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Thursday, April 30, 2009

A Drop in the Ocean (RE-POST)

Continuing on with my blogaversary re-post week, I'd like to thank everyone for stopping by and entering my GIVEAWAY. You still have until 5pm (PST) May 1st. So PLEASE head over to that post and enter.

Today's re-post is simply indulgent. I just can't help but love this post. It is a really good window into th mind of Corey. AND....I still adore these photos. oh how I loved that hat....and chubby cheeks! ♥ ENJOY!

Mother Theresa of Calcutta once said:

“We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”

Often I find myself going about my daily life wondering what I am actually accomplishing. Before Sugar Bear entered my life, I distinctly remember feeling as if I were making no difference in this world at all. I hated feeling like it really didn't matter what I did, in 70 years...there would be no one here to remember me, and what I accomplished. I felt as if there was no purpose. Sugar Bear changed all that. There is absolutely NO doubt in my mind that I was destined to be her mother. My purpose in life is to raise this girl up, and in doing so....I am making a difference.

At the end of each day, I find myself wondering about that "drop in the ocean". I sit back and think about the events of the day, and ponder which of the activities we did, made a difference. Sometimes it is harder than others to come to the realization that EVERYTHING I do makes a difference to Sugar Bear. EVERYTHING!!!

The simple things.....the fun things.....the hard things...the sad things....the loving things....the loud things....the quiet things....and the mad things. All those things put together are making a difference. All those things will come together, and as Sugar grows...they will make up who she is. Every moment of everyday is a lesson. Whether I try or not....I am making a difference.

Even a simple trip to the beach yields so many important lessons in life.

Sometimes life is seen as half full.

Sometimes it is half empty.

Sometimes we are blessed with MANY.

Sometimes ONE is plenty.

Sometimes we need to ask for help.

Sometimes we stand alone.

Sometimes we are the ones drawing the line.

Sometimes we are the ones to cross it.

Sometimes we need to follow...

and follow...

and follow.

Sometimes we just need to lead.

And no matter is ALWAYS better if you have a silly hat, and a SMILE!


Thoughts on parental guilt

I have been meaning to blog about a website that I have been enjoying for quite sometime now. It was introduced to me by my dear friend, Megan, of Sorta Crunchy. is something of which I can really relate to. I have a connection to the philosophy. In fact, I was quite surprised the first time I ventured over there to find a person that can articulate so well what is in my head. It was like Scott Noelle, the author of the website, had been in my head for awhile, then expanded upon it, and made it even better.

I signed up for "The Daily Groove" emails, and quickly became a fan. I enjoy the little snippets I get each day, and value so much how it makes me think....and be. It isn't for everyone, I'm sure, but it is a perfect fit for me.
After re-posting one of my parenting posts last night, I wasn't surprised at all to open my email this morning to find this little gem:

Are you plagued by guilt whenever you fall short of your parenting ideals? Such guilt may seem a natural response, but it's not... It's *cultural*.

Our culture conditions people to believe that their worth depends on their behavior, so that when your behavior is "wrong" you doubt your self-worth, i.e., you feel guilty.

But if you knew absolutely that you *are* worthy of love and respect -- *unconditionally* -- you'd never feel guilty. You'd simply feel "off" whenever your behavior was out of alignment with your values.

That "off" feeling would be a welcome sign that you need to adjust your course. And with your self-worth beyond dispute, you'd be confident in your ability to get back on track.

So next time you feel parental guilt, say to yourself,"This has nothing to do with my inherent worth --that's a given. I made a mistake, but I can learn from it. I got a little lost, but I'm finding my way." ~Scott Noelle of The Daily Groove

You see....while I tend to have very high expectations of my parenting, I also have a very interesting way of looking at life. I am very good at excepting things as they are, while making sure I am striving to be who I want to be. When I make mistakes, I honestly feel very little guilt because I know it doesn't make me a bad mother. Through admitting my mistakes, and moving forward, I grow as a person. There is a big difference between throwing the mistakes to the wind and continuing to make them, AND taking those mistakes, figuring out why you made them, and learning from them. Regardless, GUILT helps neither situation, and only serves to tear you down.
Let go of the guilt. Move forward. Be the parent YOU want to be!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009 for naughty or nice (re-post)

How is everyone doing? I'm sorry if this crazy week of re-posting is boring, but I'm making real headway on my scrapbooking, and that makes me happy.

As, I have said all week, be sure to head over to my Giveaway post. You don't want to miss it.

Today, I want to share one of my first indepth discussions of my parenting philosphy. I love writing pieces like this, but they take so much time, and I rarely find the right moment to write such pieces. I hope to remedy that this summer. You can read some of my other parenting posts HERE.

So if you missed it the first time....or just might enjoy a reminder food for thought, here it is:

You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance. ~Franklin P. Jones

Recently I have run across several discussions on Toddler Tantrums. Lis Garrett posted
a lovely article on her blog, that really got me thinking about this subject. Then The Nap Warden reached out for advice. Reading comments on such posts intrigues me. I am forever amazed at the vast difference in parenting there is out there. The different techniques out there opens my eyes and gives me a chance to reflect on my own parenting style and try to articulate why I do the things I do.

One of my favorite questions for other parents is "WHY?" Yeah, I isn't like they never hear that question from their children. However, I enjoy challenging people to articulate WHY they are parenting the way they are parenting. Often, I find, that parents stumble around at a loss for explaining their line of thinking. I am not saying that folks aren't thinking when they are parenting. I am saying that often we just don't know WHY we are doing things the way we are. Maybe it is just how they have seen it done....or how they were parented. Maybe they are just trying out things they have read about. Possibly they are just going with their gut. Any is always advisable to take a step back, and really think about WHY. In this....we must truly analyze who we are, and who we want to be.

I'd like to share one of the most inspirational quotes I have read in a long...long time.

We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today. ~Stacia Tauscher

WOW! Read it again.

We worry about what a child will become tomorrow, yet we forget that he is someone today. ~Stacia Tauscher

Oh my yes.....that says so much. It touches my heart. I see the relevance of it in our world. As non-judgmental as I TRY to be, I often fall short when I see children being treated without empathy. Young children are just like you and me. Their body runs the full range of emotions. Each day they may feel happy one minute, and extremely discouraged the next. We are not born knowing how to express emotion. It is through interacting with adults that children learn how to identify emotion, and how to appropriately express those feelings.

As a parent, I find that when I consistently handle my daughter with the care all humans deserve, and empathize with her challenges, I come the closest to getting it right. I believe that most of our difficulties are based on the fact that she is a normal human being with the full gamut of emotion, and it is MY job to help her successfully deal with those emotions. It is MY job to take her by the hand and lead her in the right direction.

I parent by the golden rule. I treat Sugar as I would like to be treated. To achieve this, I have had to dig deep and identify my own feelings.

-I do NOT like to get in trouble for things I didn't even know was wrong. Children are not born knowing the rules. They must learn right from wrong from others. It is OUR job to successfully lead children in the right direction. I try to think of how I would feel if I entered a new job, and no one told me what I was supposed to do. I was just let loose on the job, and then suddenly without warning I was reprimanded for the things I did incorrectly. I try not to inflict such confusion on my child. I set clear boundaries, and steadily work at making sure she understands them. Most young children will not get it right away. It is through consistent follow thru on the parents part, that they begin to understand and follow the rules. It is my belief that the majority of the time, children WANT to do the right thing. They may have impulses and desires that are inappropriate, but that is due to their developmental age....NOT because they WANT to be bad.

-I do NOT like to be yelled at. In fact, when I am yelled at, I shut down. I can not listen, or learn in this situation. I have fear, and anger. It is especially hurtful when someone I love and trust yells at me. Knowing this about myself, I apply it to my dealings with Sugar. 99% of the time I refrain from raising my voice. If safety is involved, I may shout out to get attention, but other than that, I use a normal tone of voice. I like being able to get down at her level and say, "Oh my....You are yelling. Remember....we don't yell. Mama doesn't yell at you....and you don't yell at me. Can you tell Mama in your normal voice?"

-I do NOT like to be physically hurt. I know this is touching on a really touchy subject, but I am simply stating WHY I chose not to physically discipline MY child. I try to imagine what my world would be like if every time I made a mistake someone hit me. I don't care if they had warned me....or if it was unexpected, I would be so fearful. I am certain I would NOT work in a job where the boss had the right to hit me every time I messed up. We can all agree that it isn't a healthy relationship if my partner has the right to hit me if I forget to take the garbage out. I am fairly certain that respect isn't garnered by physical punishment. Fear should not be mistaken for respect. I respect hundreds of people who never laid a hand on me. Knowing this about myself, I practice a "hands off" parenting style, even when safety is involved. I am ever mindful of the message I am sending my child. I believe ALL humans have the right to be free of physical violence. (Please know, that I am respectful of other parenting choice, but it won't stop me from asking you WHY, and hoping that you can articulate your answer.)

-I do NOT like being completely without choice. Seriously....can you imagine having NO control of your life? I can not. I like having choices. I don't always have all the choices, but it is nice to have some. I parent keeping this in mind. I may not be able to let Sugar choose when bedtime is....but she certainly can decided which jammies she gets to wear. I make it a habit of offering her a choice as often as possible, so she has a greater sense of control. "Would you like to put your shoes or your coat on first before we go?" "Do you want the blue or the red cup?" "Do you want to brush your teeth or take a bath first?" "Which book would you like me to read?" The possibilities are endless. Then when something comes up, that just isn't a choice I say, "I can hear that you don't want to take a nap right now, but this is just not a choice. It is nap time. How about AFTER your nap, you can choose which game we are going to play?" I always try to offer a replacement choice.

-I do NOT like it when my feelings are disregarded. When I say, "I'm sad!", I certainly don't want to hear, "I don't care!" When I am frustrated, it doesn't help to be ignored. Often if someone can just empathize with helps. Keeping this in mind, I ALWAYS acknowledge Sugar's feelings. It is perfectly okay for her to be angry, frustrated, sad, happy, or excited. She just may not be expressing it appropriately. I acknowledge her feelings, let her know if the way she is expressing it is okay or not, and offer an alternative if needed. "Oh dear, Sugar...I can see you are very disappointed. You don't want to leave the park. It is okay to be sad about it, but remember we don't yell at each other. Maybe when we get to the car, you can snuggle your blanket for a bit. That might make you feel better." or "Sugar....I see that you are very angry at mommy. I am sorry that you can not watch another episode of Dora right now, but you can not hit. Remember we have a rule about NO hurting. Can you use your words and tell mama how you are feeling?" I believe it is okay for her to say, "I am mad at YOU!" as long as she isn't yelling it at me. I then say, "Yes, I can see you are mad. Sometimes we just get mad at each other, but that is okay. We still love each other. Maybe we can come up with something that will make you feel better." I do NOT give in. She does not get to do whatever it was that started the anger, but I am not opposed to helping her feel better. Don't we like others to try to make us feel better when we are upset? You'd be surprised how quickly some children feel better about things when they are sure you understand them.

On a whole, I practice the whole "reward good behavior and prevent misbehavior" technique. Most parents understand and practice the first part of that statement, but the last half is often misunderstood. I like to believe that I parent using a good Offense. I do my very best to stay in tuned to my child, and predict her feelings and moods.
As Lis stated, when Sugar is tired, or hungry she is more likely to have a meltdown. Knowing this, I go into it prepared to prevent the tantrum. Instead of saying, "it is time for bath" when I know she is likely to get upset, I say, "Sugar! When we jump in the bath right now,do you want to play Ice Cream Shop or bubble beards first?" She is tricked into focusing on the exciting things she will get to play, and totally forgets that she really didn't feel like taking a bath in the first place. This technique sets the child up for success....and isn't that what it is all about?

Children are born, and placed into our arms. It is our mission to embrace them, honor them, respect them, teach them, and love them. It isn't easy, but they are counting on us to do the right thing. You decided what is right for you, and yours.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009 for Painting (repost)

Yes, it is day two of the repost series, in honor of my two year bloggaversary. Be sure to check out THIS POST, or you might miss out in a fun giveaway. For shame.....

The post I chose today, is a fun little description of what it is like to be in the house of Living and Loving. You can read some other fun posts in the Alphabet series, HERE. I am determined to finish that project up. I actually forgot that I hadn't.

Now let's get to the post, which was originally posted spring of 2008 (the spacing issues towards the end of the post have me stressed out and worked I'm letting it go.  sorry!):

"Good art is not what it looks like, but what it does to us." ~ Roy Adzak

Nearly a year ago, I wrote a little about my process of finger painting with my Sugar. Since that day, we have been blissfully happy art partners. In fact, Hubby built us an Easel last summer, and ever since, the art has been flowing in the house of Living and Loving. I fully intended on share more of the 3000 photos I took of her painting at her easel, but I have neglected to get them all edited. Yes....I know! Shame on ME!

Over our Spring Break, I tried to have a few activities planned to keep us from killing each other being bored on a daily basis. I find it helps when WE have something to look forward to, and it seems to break up the day a bit. I try to have no preconceived ideas of how it will go, or ultimately turn out. I just give us the opportunity to experience something different.

"We work not only to produce but to give value to time." ~ Eugene Delacroix

It is always a treat for me to see the excitement in Sugar Bear's eyes when I say, "Hey Sugar, you wanna try something new?" She lights up, and immediately starts asking all sorts of questions, trying to guess what it might be. I have yet to disappoint her. That is a beautiful thing. Even the most simple little things are amazing to a child. Practically EVERYTHING is new. Until that day, she had never seen Marble Painting, so to was a thrill.

There are no seven wonders of the world in the eyes of a child. There are seven million. ~Walt Streightiff

"We are in the business of making the kids feel good about themselves and reinforcing self-confidence. Sometimes that little positive reinforcement is enough to change a kid, or at least guide them in a direction towards creating more and more art." ~ Susan on Long Island

Sugar Bear loves to create new things, and proudly shares her ART with anyone she can find. I love to hear her explain the process she took to make her masterpiece. Hearing her interpretation of the event can be a learning experience for me. Sometimes, I walk away thinking, "Well, that wasn't all that great.", only to hear her telling Hubby about it later, and realize how much she appreciated it.

In this particular case, she found it a little frustrating to get the paint on her hands while retrieving the marble from the paint. I personally found that interesting, because she loves to finger paint. However, I find that my girl, can be somewhat anal about things, and since we were not using our hands as the tool in which to put the paint on the paper, the paint ought not be on our hands. To remedy her concern, I just brought a wet washcloth over for her to wipe her hands on after retrieving the marble. This worked for her.

There were many lessons to be learned in this form of art. Coordinating her muscles in her hands and arms to rock, roll, shake, and tilt the box without losing control and flinging the marbles across the room.

She spent a great deal of time trying to master keeping the marbles from simply rolling down the edge of the box without crossing the paper. It was intriguing watching her learn from the experience, and applying her newly found knowledge.

"Fill a space in a beautiful way" ~ Georgia O'Keeffe

To keep it simple I only set out Yellow, Fushia, and Blue paint. On her first painting, she proclaimed it complete as you see it above. She has yet to master the tilting, so the colors hadn't crossed each other too many times. They basically remained un-mixed.

Her next few paintings were much more actively "shaken", so we got the opportunity to discuss what happens when you mix colors. We got some Green, Orange, and Purple effects. It was delightful.

“The most effective kind of education is that a child should play amongst lovely things.” ~ Plato

Towards the end, it began to matter less that she got paint on her hands. I find that once she is fully engaged in the process, the little details seem not bother her as much.

"It took me four years to paint like Raphael, but a lifetime to paint like a
child." ~ Pablo Picasso

Of course the wash cloth was never far, so she took full use of it from time to time.

Sometimes the project veers off in a different direction, and I strive to remain open to this. Sugar Bear began to get intrigued by the process of coating the marbles with paint, and then washing them off with the wash cloth. I had to literally sit on the "cheap and thrifty" part of my being that wanted to stop my girl from WASTING the paint. Over and over in my head, I was repeating, "It's the Process.....not the product.....It's the process...not the product!" The paint was NOT was just used in a different way.

In case you are wondering, yes, I did take like 1000 photos of her throughout this activity, and yet, I was completely there and in the moment with her. Our conversation was lighthearted, yet purposeful. At one point, I asked if I could give it a try, but she was reluctant to share her painting box. Next time, I'll make sure I have one for me as well. She let me play for about 2.5 seconds, but couldn't get past the thought that I was painting her picture for her. If I had my own box and marbles, I feel she would have been excited to see what Mama's painting would look like.

In the end, we both declared it to be the "bestest thing we did all day!", and we look forward to trying it again soon!

"A painting is never finished-it simply stops in interesting places." ~Paul Gardner

Monday, April 27, 2009

When I press the shutter...(repost)

Welcome, dear readers to my anniversary week on the ol' blog here. If you missed it, I posted a little something over the weekend to serve as a reward for all your hours of reading my drivel. Check it out!
This week, to serve several purposes, I'll be reposting a few of my more popular posts. I'd like to say that I have a higher purpose, but mostly, I just have some serious amounts of digital scrapbooking to do before Mother's Day. Can you say...."PANIC MODE"?
Let's stop wasting your precious time, and kick this puppy off with the first Photography Tutorial I wrote for this here blog. It was originally published in January of 2008. Several others can be found under the Photography Stuff tab under my header. ENJOY!

Nothing makes my day more than sharing my photographs with others. I adore the entire process of photography. From the moment of pressing the the perusing of the digital files....editing and printing or sharing online. Each step of the way brings me a certain amount of joy, however, none so much as seeing the final product, and hearing the thoughts of others.

Fairly often I am asked, "What camera are you using?" This question alone is a reasonable one, and I am more than happy to share my thoughts on my camera. However, when it's sandwiched between these statements, "I love your photos!" and "I would love to get photos like that!", I get my back up a tiny little bit. Recently, I stumbled upon the following little story, and it struck a cord. I was finally able to put words to what has been bothering me.

When Jack London had his portrait made by the noted San Francisco photographer Arnold Genthe, London began the encounter with effusive praise for the photographic art of his friend and fellow bohemian, Genthe. "you must have a wonderful camera...It must be the best camera in the world...You must show me your camera." Genthe then used his standard studio camera to make what has since become a classic picture of Jack London. When the sitting was finished, Genthe could not contain himself: "I have read your books, Jack, and I think they are important works of art. You must have a wonderful typewriter."

You see....wanting a nice camera isn't a crime. However, hoping that a certain camera will suddenly create the photographs you have been admiring, is a mistake. In fact, it is an error I have witnessed many people make. I personally know several people who purchased a specific camera solely based on that fact that they knew someone who had that exact camera, and admired their photography. These same people have not seen the results they were hoping for, and now regret having purchased said camera.

When choosing a camera, it is very important to know exactly what you are looking for, and understanding your personal desire to pursue photography. Bigger does not always mean better. More money, doesn't guarantee you fantastic photos.

What, then, should you do if you want to improve the quality of your photos? I'm glad you asked (you did right?)! My advice is to take the camera you currently own, and just start snapping, and I mean really snapping. It is through practice that one starts to see improvement. Learn your camera....take it to it's limits. Read great books on photography, or take a class. It is through understanding the basic principles that you finally will understand what is going wrong, or right for that matter, with your photos. When this start having some control over your outcome. Keep at it. At some point, if you are really, truly getting into this photography stuff, you will realize that you have reached your camera's limits, and will start looking at upgrading. It is at this time that asking advice and doing research becomes important. Just remember, it isn't the EXACT camera that makes the photographs you love. Someone is behind that lens....and has some natural talent, or worked hard, or most likely....BOTH! I have come a LONG way in this process, but I certainly have a lot to learn, and even more to practice. It is a challenge I thoroughly enjoy.

Last August I set out to take some 2.5 year old portraits of Miss Sugar Bear. I'd love to share my process, as I am also often asked, "How do you get her to sit still?" People often think that Sugar is just easy to photograph. Honestly, that is partly correct. She is easy, because she is used to the camera being attached to my hand, but she certainly doesn't just sit there and take direction. I have to keep her distracted and entertained.

On this day, we set out to one of our favorite parks, and features a lovely Japanese Garden. Sugar likes to explore the surroundings, and everywhere we turn the scenery is nice. I led Miss Sugar to the pond, and basically sat her on some rocks, and proceeded to just talk with her about the water, the plants, the ducks...and anything I could think of to make her look around. At certain moments I would grab her attention with a silly remark, or a funny sound. Yes, people, I am not above snorting in public! It works, she looks at me and laughs. If she attempts to leave, I just follow her, and redirect her to another spot.

I snapped approximately 50 shots in this location in about 10 minutes or so. Here are some of the results:

I like to call these the "Okay Keepers". They aren't bad...but not the portrait I was looking for. About 50-60% of the photos I take fall into this category.

You don't take a photograph. You ask, quietly, to borrow it. ~Author Unknown

People are so wonderful that a photographer has only to wait for that breathless moment to capture what he wants on film.

The pictures you want tomorrow, you have to take today. - Kodak advertisement

Then we have the "bloopers"! Now I have to admit, as a mom...these are some of my favs. The bloopers are not the mistakes. They are just the ones that make me smile, let out a giggle, or just plain crack up. About 15% usually fall into this category, however, on this particular day, Sugar was a total ham sandwich.

A good snapshot stops a moment from running away. ~Eudora Welty

There are always two people in every picture: the photographer and the viewer. ~Ansel Adams

Lastly, we have "The Ones". These are the photos from session that meet the purpose. Depending on the goal in mind, the amount of photos in this category can vary greatly. If portraits are in mind, I usually only get about 10%.

When you find yourself beginning to feel a bond between yourself and the people you photograph, when you laugh and cry with their laughter and tears, you will know you are on the right track. ~Arthur Fellig

Sometimes I do get to places just when God's ready to have somebody click the shutter. ~Ansel Adams

So for those of you doing the math...the remainder of the photos from the shoot are mistakes, or undesirable in some way, so they are deleted.

Lastly, I'd like to leave you with one of my favorite "clean" jokes. I imagine my Sugar would very easily share this little girl's assumption.

A little girl walked to and from school daily. Though the weather that morning was questionable and clouds were forming, she made her daily trek to the elementary school. As the afternoon progressed, the winds whipped up and it started to thunder and lightning. The mother of the little girl felt concerned that her daughter would be frightened as she walked home from school and she herself feared that the electrical storm might harm her child.

Although it hadn't begun to rain, thunder and lightning began cutting through the sky. Full of concern, the mother quickly got into her car and drove along the route to her child's school. As she did so, she saw her little girl walking along, but at each flash of lightning, the child would stop, look up and smile. Another and another were to follow quickly and with each the little girl would look at the streak of light and smile. When the mother's car drew up beside the child she lowered the window and called to her, "What are you doing? Why do you keep stopping?"

The child answered, "I stop and smile because God keeps taking my picture."

Sunday, April 26, 2009

I ♥ Faces~ Reflection

This week over at I ♥ Faces, the them is REFLECTION. While I have tons of reflection shots, I decided to give an old idea, another shot.

Folks....if you want to feel like you are repeatedly beating your head against a brick wall, and possibly damaging your relationship with your child FOREVER, ask her to stand still holding a mirror backwards in front of her face, while you try to get an in focus shot of your own face in the mirror, without the camera showing up in the mirror. shouldn't be that hard, but holy can send a person over the edge. I will NOT be putting myself or the Sugar through that again, so the following photo is as good as it is going to get....until she is 10 or something.

Here is my Adult entry:


After giving up, and trying to give my blood pressure a chance to go back down, I sat defeated on the deck and watched Sugar Bear play with the mirror.

She looks damaged......doesn't she??????

Here is my entry in the Child category:


I love reflection shots, so I'm pretty excited to see all the great shots this week, over at I ♥ Faces.

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