Tuesday, August 16, 2016

2016 Summer Ohlympics


10 Points to the person who can find what's wrong with my super fancy Ohlympics sign. 

You guys. Summer. 

It's the middle of August and it's been HOT around here. We've been playing outside, going to parks, staying inside in the air conditioning (SO thankful for that!), and spending some time with family. We recently made a trip to Pennsylvania for our annual summer visit and took part in our own little OHLYMPICS - see what I did there? 


Poppi set up his world-famous slip and slide in the front yard and the fun began!





Complete with a cushy spectator area, 4-wheel rides and a kiddie pool. 


It was nice just hanging out and visiting with each other. I cannot get over how grown up our nieces are. Slow down, time! 


Marshall enjoyed playing outside, investigating the garage (of course) and riding the big wheels. He's one cool guy!


I wish I took a few more group shots, but sometimes it's better to enjoy the moment and not be snapping photos left and right. Thank you, Laura for this awesome pic of Marshall with his sunglasses!

We got to see the newlyweds, David and Elsa, too!



This photo of the three cutest little cousins, is my favorite. I wanted to recreate the picture we took last summer when Marshall was just 6 months old.


I can not get over the difference ONE YEAR has made and how much they've all grown! Eeeek! This whole time passing thing is surreal. 

I hope you're all enjoying these days of summer. Savor every last bit. I cringe when I see back to school ads appear in July (or earlier) and see hints of fall approaching. Even though it's been ridiculously hot for us lately, I'll still take this over snow in  heartbeat! Get out there and enjoy some sun!  

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Marshall: 18 Months


And just like that, by baby boy is 1 1/2. 






It is such a joy to watch his personality developing each day. He is funny and sweet and very LOUD. Lately he's been going through a shouting phase. I fear for my hearing. He eats and sleeps well. His smile and his laugh are my absolute favorite! He is very helpful, especially when it's time to Swiffer and vacuum. And SO smart. He knows an understands so much. We like going to the park and playing outside. And listening and dancing to music. He loves his Mommy and Daddy and we love him with all our hearts! 

I hope the next six months slow down a bit because I'm not ready for the infamous two's... 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Thoughts on Being a Stay at Home Mom


Today, I feel like a stay at home mom. 

My almost 1 1/2 year old slept in (after waking once in the night). I made us pancakes for breakfast. We played outside. While he napped in the afternoon, I baked banana chocolate chip muffins. Ironically, I don't have a vehicle this week, so I feel even more "stranded" at home. But, I assure you, this is not a typical day for us. Some days are easy and some days are really hard. 

I read an article which captured it well. After working full-time for a decade, in my chosen profession, and then making the transition to staying home to care for my son full-time, I can say wholeheartedly that it is wonderful and it is amazing hard work. I can't tell you how thankful I am to be able to witness all of Marshall's firsts. I don't have to rush him out the door every morning to go to work (at a job that I truly enjoyed). I'm the one who changes his diapers all day long, feeds him endless snacks throughout the day, and takes him to the park. We can even stop for ice cream in the middle of the afternoon (usually more for me than for him). He's watching me and I'm teaching him every single day, all day. It's amazing, it really is. 

It's also more work than anyone can prepare you for. Before having a child, my husband and I had a pretty laid back lifestyle. We both worked 9-5 jobs, but we ate dinner together, relaxed and watched TV, took day trips and vacations, SLEPT IN, enjoyed hobbies, shopping, doing projects around the house. At the time, I knew I had a lot of "free" time, I just didn't realize that it would be completely eaten up and so much harder to come by, after having a baby.

I'd say that time has been the biggest adjustment for me. The lack of time to do regular tasks, like take a shower, go to the store, read, sit down and eat a meal in peace, see friends. My entire day revolves around my sweet babes schedule and his nap time. Oftentimes I feel like I'm racing against the clock. Trying to get as much done as possible in my limited "free" time. I've been realizing, the more time passes, that I continually need to die to myself and that the "old me" is not who she was anymore. Not entirely gone, but definitely different. I'm not living for myself, I'm living for someone else. A sweet, funny, sometimes screaming, busy, growing, determined, has a mind of his own, little boy. It's hard to give up "me time" and say "no" to people and activities I wish I could partake in. It's hard for me not to get dressed up and wear makeup and actually do my hair. I miss being able to sit at my favorite spot, sipping a latte while eating a scone. In silence. Alone. 

And the exhaustion. I don't know if it's because I'm raising a boy, but he wears me out! We go from one activity to the next, trying to keep him busy, entertained, and happy. All. Day. Long. The other day, we went to the splash park, went for a bike ride, played outside, then in the evening went for a stroller walk before bed. It's go, go, go! My days are full, from the time he wakes up to the time he goes to bed at night. Don't forget meal times and snacks for days. By the time I collapse on the couch and ponder what I want to do with my couple hours before bed, I'm too tired to do anything. 

But, I keep reminding myself, that each day, he's never going to be this little again. Every single day is a gift. One that we get to share together. We can laugh and have fun and explore. It's not going to last. I'm already in disbelief that he's almost 1 1/2. He's not a baby anymore. He is definitely an active toddler and is growing by the minute. 

And I'm so thankful that I get to share every minute with him. Being a mom, and being a stay at home mom, is truly a gift, in so many ways. 

Even on the tough days.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Freelance Fresh Night Out Takeaways


Earlier this month, I attended my first Freelance Fresh Night Out, put on by the RAF (Rochester Advertising Federation). The event featured a panel of freelance and agency creatives, sharing tips and advice that any working professional could put into practice. And I got a cool, free t-shirt!

I always find it inspiring and encouraging to be in a room full of fellow artists, talking shop, and sharing ways to improve (and what not to do). Especially since I've been making my way solely as a freelance graphic designer and art director, since leaving my full time job over a year ago. 

I'll jot down a few of my key takeaways: 

Brand yourself (well) and be aware of your personal brand. Especially your online presence. Be mindful of how you use social medial (positive and negative). People are watching. 

Make sure people know what you do. Not everyone may be aware of what you have to offer. Make it known.

"Bug people," in the nicest way possible. Get your name out there. Remind them that you're available for hire. Ask them if they could use your services. Keep your name on their list of people to call. 

Be buttoned up. Do good work. Be organized. Be professional. Don't leave loose ends. Don't make an employer have to hold your hand throughout a project. Follow directions.

Be confident. Know your stuff and be confident in the skills and talents that are uniquely yours.

Focus on your strengths and do them well. Don't pretend you can do something that you can't or aren't an expert at. 

Reach out to other artists/creatives/professionals in your field. Spur one another on. Ask for help or advice. Share insights. 

Stay relevant. Keep your portfolio up to date. Know the latest trends and technology.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Family Photos



In April, just as it was finally starting to feel like spring, we had family photos taken. Marshall was 14 months old, and I feel like he's already changed a lot since then! We worked with family and newborn photographer, Kristen Koppers, for the first time. She captured so many fun moments and certainly worked to get Marshall to smile for the camera. I really love photos that are taken during last light or "golden hour". The grass and trees weren't very green or in bloom yet, so everything was still earth toned and awakening from winter. The colors are soft and "dreamy" in my opinion.

Marshall was a good sport, despite being up past his bedtime. He was just regaining his full-range of walking, after having his leg cast removed right before Easter. It was a fun shoot and I love the images we got! I especially like that Kristen included the majority of our shots (after weeding through the non-keepers). We got SO many final images to keep and choose from. I have a hard time narrowing down just a few selections, so this was a huge plus. I've already had a book made and plan on ordering some large prints.

These are a few of my favorites! I can't get over Marshall's sweet smiles, and the love and joy I feel when I look at these. I'll let the images speak for themselves. 









 








Wednesday, June 8, 2016

BFFN


I recently read an article about the decline of friendships after the age of 25, especially among women. I find it interesting and something I can actually relate to, at this stage in my life. I'm a bit past the 25 year old age bracket. Ok, I'd rather not admit that I'm closer to the 35 year old age bracket. Um. What? I don't know if it's simply because of the stage of life I'm in now, raising my young son and no longer working outside the home, but my circle of friends has shrunk, significantly over the past 2 years or so. Some friends have moved away, some continue to grow their family and naturally become increasingly busy, some have simply drifted away. I know people and friendships inevitably change over time, but I feel like friendships are even harder to maintain than ever before. You would think with the addition of social media, smart phones, and every means possible to keep in contact, that friendship would be easier than ever before. But I'm finding quite the opposite. 

I've always had this notion in my head of having a "best friend." Someone you can call, day or night, living close enough to drop by for a cup of coffee or take a spontaneous trip to Target together. Going for walks around the neighborhood with your strollers. Sharing advice about marriage and raising kids. Checking in on one another when you know there's something going on. Celebrating the happy and helping to shoulder the sad. Bringing over a meal or your favorite cookies. Someone with similar likes and goals to share life with on a semi-regular basis. A best friend kind of friend. A BFF, if you will.

Am I living in a dream world? Does this kind of friendship only exist on TV? Or do you just have to work really hard at it? Or either you have it or you don't? I feel like some people are blessed to have friendships like this. Maybe even a lifelong friend that you've known since you were 10 years old. If that's you, consider yourself lucky, indeed. 

Maybe it's because I've always had a build-in network of friends, where ever I was  - high school, college, part-time job, full-time job, church. Now that I'm a stay-home mom, I'll be honest, things have gotten pretty quiet around here. I LOVE being a stay-home mom, that's for sure. It's a gift that I'm thankful for, every day. But before I had my son, I pictured life as a full-time mom looking a little differently. I didn't imagine it being lonely at times. I didn't think my social circle would almost completely disappear. I didn't anticipate friends being so busy with their own families and lives that I would hardly see them anymore.

I know having children does change your availability, that's a given. Life now revolves around nap time and bed time, and schedules and routine become king. It's hard (and expensive) to find sitters, and to be honest, it's really nice just staying home on the weekends and enjoying family time. Sometimes it's more work to go out as a family. I get that. Then there's the guilt associated with taking "me time" and doing something on your own while your child(ren) and spouse are at home. 

But I still think that close friendships with other like-minded women is important - at every stage. I've been blessed to have different friends come into my life at different times throughout my life. And maybe that's just how it works - different people at different times. My best friend in junior high might have been intended for that unique time period. My best friend in college may have been the friend I needed for those years. This sounds so dumb even writing it, but has anyone else ever had "friend envy"? Is that a thing? I'm admitting that I have. This isn't a cry for help or a pity party, more of an observation and wondering why. Why some people have that instant connection and bond of lifelong friendship, and others stay at the acquaintance level or outskirts of close friendship. Anyone else? 

What I've come to realize is that I want to be that type of friend, and have that type of friendship, but it does take work. It's not going to happen if I sit in my house everyday waiting for someone to think of me. I have to reach out. Duh, right? Friendship is a two-way street. And if someone isn't reaching back out, move on to the next. I've also learned that friendship can't be forced. If people change, or don't reciprocate, as hard as it is not to take it personally, it may be time to move on. To look for other opportunities to make new connections. To be the friend that someone else might need at that very moment. You never know until you have a conversation.  

So, what's the point of my rambling? I guess it's just to be a friend. Be a friend to someone who may need one. Do a little something extra for someone else. Go out on a limb. Drop off an iced coffee and give them a hug. Send them a note in the mail. Send them a text if you miss them. Or (gasp) actually make a phone call, instead of sending a text. I feel like we have gotten so electronically removed, and friendships have gotten so screen-based, that we've forgotten how to actually BE a real friend. In person. Face to face.

You don't necessarily have to be a BFF (best friend forever) but you can be a BFFN (best friend for now). You don't know the difference it might make in someone's day/week/month/year.

Friday, May 27, 2016

David and Elsa's Wedding



Last weekend, we celebrated with David and Elsa at their beautiful beach wedding, in Beach Haven, New Jersey, on Long Beach Island. Their ceremony took place on the sand right along the edge of the ocean. It rained the rest of the weekend, so they picked the perfect day for it! 

Elsa grew up on Long Beach Island, which has been a special spot for our family to vacation and take day trips. We have come to know and love Elsa over the past few years. She and David compliment each other so well and make a great pair. Can I just say what an absolutely gorgeous bride Elsa is? Such a natural beauty, inside and out. I admire her bubbly and outgoing personality. She is a teacher, so she knows how to take charge and she knows what she wants. I'm so lucky to have her as my new "sister."


Family and friends came from far and near. Andrew was so happy to be the best man in his little brother's wedding. He won't admit it, but he was nervous about giving the speech at the reception. He did such a great job and shared both funny and sweet words. And he looked mighty handsome! 

The bridesmaids dresses were so pretty! I love that coral color and the style was so elegant! Laura looked beautiful.



My "date" was a handsome little guy in a bow tie. This was Marshall's first wedding! He was a trooper. We managed to keep him entertained until waaaaay past his bedtime. 


We have such beautiful cousins. And we had fun on the dance floor! 


My little family. I wish we had more pictures of the three of us. We were too busy enjoying the festivities to take more photos. 


The reception was at The Boat House, overlooking the water. Such a perfect location. Every detail was so thoughtful and beautiful. I know Elsa and David spent a lot of time planning, preparing and decorating. The flowers with custom wood boxes (made by David and his Dad), the favors, the cake, the cute signs - It was all gorgeous!  

Elsa's parents really know how to dance! Elsa's Dad sang a song for her which was very sweet. 



My nieces were the cutest flower girl and ring bearer! 

 Husband and Wife! Such a beautiful, happy couple.

I don't think there was a dry eye while David danced with his Mom to "Find Your Wings." 


 Someone was getting a little cranky....


Congratulations, David and Elsa! Welcome to the family (officially), Elsa! We are so happy for you and so blessed that we could celebrate your special day. Thank you for making us feel so welcome during our stay and for all your special touches. We love you both so much!