Photography Tips & Tricks: Posing Babies

Photography Tips & Tricks: Posing Babies

We'll take the next few weeks and break down posing different age levels. This week, let's start with babies.

Posing babies can be difficult, but it doesn't have to be. When they're an infant, find a way to safely prop them up. A great trick is to use a boppy pillow with a blanket thrown over it. Baskets are also a fantastic way to pose a newborn. I stuff a basket full of blankets and tuck the baby down in there. Some of my favorite poses are of newborn babies in baskets. Remember, don't just get full length shots. While they're in the basket, you can also zoom in on their little feet, hands, ears, and other body parts. Another fun option is a blanket made out of fake flowers. (Think Anne Geddes.) You can easily make your own (if you'd like me to post directions, say the word!), or you can purchase them online if you don't want to take the time to do it yourself. Just think outside the box when it comes to posing a newborn. Because Parker was due on Halloween, I wanted to do something different and pumpkin themed for his announcements. I bought a great big pumpkin, put Parker on top of the pumpkin, and edited hubby out of the photo. It is one of my all time favorite photos that I've taken.

As babies get older - and more mobile! - It can become more and more difficult to keep them still. Once they're crawling, it's next to impossible to keep them on the backdrop for more than 2 seconds. A Bumbo chair is great for sitting them in. In the closeups, you'll never even know the child is stuck in a chair! :) Another fun option is a washtub. These are GREAT outside once the weather turns nice, or you can even do them indoors and use a "bath" theme. Hang a wash cloth over the side of the tub, put some bath products in front of the tub, and boom! Instant scene.

Once baby starts standing up well on his own, another fun shot is to take a large wooden stool, place it on the floor upside down, and put baby inside the legs. They sell these stools at Walmart for a fairly cheap price.

Confining a baby is always going to help you get better photos. A highchair, a crib, a swing. Anything you can put them in will help them hold still, and you won't have to chase them around everywhere.

If you try some of these tips and trick, post them on your blog. Then, come back here and leave a comment. I'll gladly stop by and check them out!

Next week we'll talk about posing toddlers! Hope you'll join us.
Happy Re-Birth Day, Ashley!

Happy Re-Birth Day, Ashley!

One year ago today, Ashley asked Jesus into her heart. We think that's worth celebrating, so we surprised her with cupcakes and a cross necklace.

We are so proud of Ashley and the sweet young lady she is becoming. She is always kind, thoughtful, and will help anyone out who needs it.

Whenever Ashley is around someone, she has a way of cheering them up and making them smile. I can't even begin to tell you the number of compliments we get from everyone that Ashley spends time with.

I am so blessed to have this young lady as my daughter, and I'm so thankful that she has given her life to Christ. I know that God is going to do great and mighty things through her!
I love you, Ashley. Thank you for being such a help to me and for all you do around here! Always keep Christ first in your heart. Love Him more than anyone else. Obey Him. Serve Him. Make Him your priority, and He will bless you all along life's journey. The road won't always be easy. You will face battles and heartbreak. But always know that He is one Friend who will never, ever leave you. One of my favorite songs says, "His grace reaches lower than your worst mistake." He doesn't expect you to be perfect. He just expects you to love Him and serve Him. Just keep pressing on. I am so thankful that God has put you in my life. You are such a blessing and an encouragement to me. I'm lucky to be your mom!
A Fun New Blog Design to Share!

A Fun New Blog Design to Share!

Ann of A Latte in the Morning won the $75 Gift Certificate Giveaway on BuyByMom. She decided to use her certificate on a custom 3-column blog design.

I had so much fun designing her blog, and I am so glad she likes it!

Head over to A Latte in the Morning and check out her new look. While you're there, be sure to enter her awesome giveaways!
Winners of the Pearl Bracelets from Cheerios

Winners of the Pearl Bracelets from Cheerios

Congratulations to Natalie, yyeres, and Eli's Lids!

I've sent each of you an email. Please claim your prize within 48 hours, or it will be repulled.

Thanks to all who entered!
MagnaPlay Toys (Review & Giveaway -Closed)

MagnaPlay Toys (Review & Giveaway -Closed)

I am so excited to introduce a new toy company to you! MagnaPlay asked if I would be willing to let my kids try out some of their toys. I agreed, and they sent me the MagnaPlay Magnetic Activity Travel Set with the Wooden Magnetic Number Match Up Puzzle and the MagnaPlay Magnetic Coloring Travel Set.

When the MagnaKases arrived on Tuesday afternoon, I wouldn’t let the boys open them. I’m so mean. I know. But, I really wanted to put them to the test on our drive to the dentist on Thursday. However, the boys wouldn’t stop asking to play with them. They went to bed really well for me that night, so I allowed them to play with their new toys first the next morning.

First, they had to decide who was going to get which case. Jace loves blue, so he asked if he could have the bright blue MagnaKase. It had wonderful magnetic number matching shapes in it. He played with it for the longest time and was so proud of himself every time he found a match. I love that the shapes are not only fun, but Jace is also learning while he plays with them. He has a hard time with sight-words, and these shapes have already helped him learn what the number words look like.

Here's Jace enjoying his MagnaPlay Magnetic Activity Travel Set with the Wooden Magnetic Number Match Up Puzzle:

Zander got the dark blue case filled with markers and lots of dry erase activity pages. He loved them! He easily read the directions and knew just what to do. I’m pretty sure that in the last few days, Zander has done each sheet about 10 times. He never gets bored with it, and I love that it’s helping him improve his reading skills.

Here is Zander playing with his MagnaPlay Magnetic Coloring Travel Set:

Even Lucy joined in the fun! She loved matching up Jace’s number shapes and counting all the adorable pictures on them.

When we drove to the dentist which, as you know, is 2 hours away, the boys played with their MagnaKases the entire time…. There and back! At one point, I listened as Zander would write a word on his Kase, and then ask Jace what the word was. If Jace didn’t know, Zander would help him sound it out. Then, they would both draw a picture of the word that Zander had just written. They were nice to each other! No fighting. No screaming. No “He touched me!” Nothing. Just 2 little boys playing nicely with each other…. something this mom has only dreamed of until now!

I love MagnaPlay toys! They are wonderful when we’re on the road or at home. The kids love playing with them, and I love that they are educational *and* fun. Living in the mountains, we have to drive everywhere. The grocery store is 20 minutes away, Walmart is about 45 minutes away, and the mall is almost 3 hours from us. Keeping 5 kids entertained for that long is next to impossible. However, MagnaPlay has proven that siblings can get along on a long trip, and they can have fun while learning!

If you don’t think that’s enough, I’ve got *more* benefits of the MagnaPlay toys for you:
  • The toys are safe - CPSIA Certified
  • There is no other magnetic case on the market like the MagnaKase.
  • Can be used with other magnetic toys and activities you already have at home.
  • 2 Magnetic surfaces for tons of creative play, and plenty of storage space inside the case.
  • Comes with 2 magnet strips that can secure coloring pages to the activity surface. Great for coloring with crayons, markers, or pencils at home or on the go. You can even download coloring activities and puzzles on the MagnaPlay website.
  • Easy to carry, and easy to clean up!
  • The write-n, wipe off front of the case means your child can customize his case any way he wants to over and over again!
I am going to be ordering a MagnaKase for Lucy soon, and I will also be ordering some more activities to go along with their cases.

Would you like to have a MagnaPlay toy for your kids? MagnaPlay has graciously offered a MagnaKase Magnetic Dry Erase Activity Kase to one of my lucky readers!

Here’s how to enter:
-Visit MagnaPlay’s website and tell me your favorite item they offer and why.

For additional entries:
1. Follow my blog
2. Subscribe by email or in a reader.
3. Favorite us on technorati.
4. Follow me on twitter.
5. Blog about this contest. Please include links to 5VinezMonkeys and MagnaPlay.

**Please leave a comment for each entry that you complete. If you already follow my blog, subscribe, have favorited us on technorati, or follow me on twitter, leave a comment for each that you already do. Thanks!**

Really want to win?
If you do all six of the above, you can have unlimited entries. The only catch is that you can only talk about MagnaPlay and their products.

The contest will end on April 10th at 11 pm. A winner will then be picked using Good luck!

Only in the Mountains #1

Only in the Mountains #1

I am going to start a new meme. I don't know how often it will be, but because we live in the mountains and have to drive hours to get anywhere, I come across some pretty strange stuff in my journeys.

For example, you know how I'm often complaining that we have to drive almost 3 hours to find a mall? Well, I was wrong. Completely wrong. Yesterday, while driving to the dentist's office, I found a mall - just a mere 45 minutes from my house!

See for yourself.....

And all this time it was just hiding right under my nose!
Gum + Infant Hair = Sticky Mess

Gum + Infant Hair = Sticky Mess

I handed Parker over to Ashley this afternoon so that I could run to the bathroom. I came back and found this huge clump of gunk in Parker's hair. At first I thought it was a spider, and I totally freaked out. (I don't like spiders.)

After I figured out it wasn't a spider, I asked her what happened. She said that Lucy climbed up on the couch beside her and bumped her. When Lucy bumped her, the gum in her mouth fell into Parker's hair. When she tried to get it out, it just made it worse.

I panicked, thinking that we were going to have to cut Parker's sweet hair. Then I remembered the Peanut butter trick - only I didn't want to expose Parker to peanut butter yet, even if it was just on his head and not in his mouth. I remembered how well canola oil had worked on his cradle cap, so I soaked the clump with canola oil, let it sit for 15 minutes, then used the brush and the sprayer on the kitchen sink to wash it out.

It slipped right out, and thank heavens you can't even tell there was gum in there. Whew!

So, Canola oil saves the day again! I should by stock in this stuff!
Another trip to the pediatric dentist.

Another trip to the pediatric dentist.

This time, I left the girls with a sitter and took the boys down to the dentist. After all, it's a 2 hour trip, and I thought it would be better for Lucy if she wasn't stuck in the waiting room of the dental office.

On the ride down, I made promises to the boys. "If you'll be really good and let the dentist do her job, I'll take you to the toy store and you can pick out a new toy."

We got to the dentist's office and the boys stuck to me like glue. We sat down, and they called their name a few moments later. Neither one freaked out, so I figured the toy promise had worked.

Boy, was I wrong.

Not two minutes later, I hear Jace screaming at the top of his lungs. They tried for about 5 minutes to calm him down, but they couldn't even get him into the chair. The dental assistant came out to talk to me about sedation and why they thought it was the best route to go with Jace. I totally agreed.

While I was talking to Jace's dental assistant, Zander's assistant came out with a paper for me to sign. Zander was kicking and squirming like crazy, so they needed my permission to put him in a "papoose" and then brace his head and shoulders down. It was the only way they were going to get him to stay still and get any work done. I signed the paper and let them go ahead.

Almost an hour later, Zander came out with tears streaming down his face. He is bruised all over his shoulder and chest area because he fought and squirmed so much while in the brace. We decided that it would just be best to do sedation for him next time as well.

I almost wish we had just gone with sedation in the first place. What did all the trauma of today teach them aside from how scary the dentist can be?

I wish I could help them understand the importance of the dentist. Any tips or suggestions? I never had this problem with Ashley. She's always been so good for the dentist. In fact, on her last trip, the dentist told her she was their best patient in their office. Now how's that for a compliment?! I certainly didn't hear that about my boys today. Wish I could change that!
The North Face

The North Face

I have always been a fan of the North Face brand. From their warm winter jackets to their stylish summer clothes, they've got you covered for every season.

Every single one of their items is perfectly manufactured for those who love the outdoors. Things like waterproof trousers, waterproof jackets, insulated jackets, they are the first place I think of whenever I think of clothing for outdoor activities. I have always, for as long as I can remember, wanted a North Face down jacket. We moved south a year and a half ago, and it still gets really cold! A warm, fluffy down jacket would be the perfect thing to wear on those bitterly cold days.

But, did you know that they offer more than just clothes and jackets? I also found gloves, running and walking shoes, hydration bags, travel bags, and even a super-cute messenger bag.... among so many other items!

My husband and I love walking the trails here in the mountains. The scenery is just beautiful and we could spend all day just hiking. However, the weather gets hot, and we get thirsty quick. The hydration pack are awesome! What a great way to stay hydrated no matter what outdoor activity you choose - hiking, cycling, running, etc.

When you buy something in the North Face brand, you know you're getting top quality items at a price that won't break the bank. They are sure to last you for many years to come.

You can't go wrong when you buy north face!
Food Network Challenge: Last Cake Standing

Food Network Challenge: Last Cake Standing

I have been a fan of Food Network for as long as I can remember. I never learned how to cook, so when I got married and had to learn, I turned to Food Network for tips all the how-tos that I was never taught.

Aside from learning how to boil water without burning the pan, I've also found some really fantastic, highly addictive shows. Ask my kids. If we're not watching kid shows, odds are, our tv is probably on Food Network.

Now, they're introducing a new show. And it involves cake. Anything that involves cake just has to be good!


Special Four-Week Stunt “Food Network Challenge: Last Cake Standing” Premieres April 5th at 8pm ET/PT

Since 2005, Food Network Challenge has captivated viewers with exciting food battles from around the country. Now in it’s first-ever elimination-style competition, Food Network Challenge: Last Cake Standing, six Challenge all-stars vie for the title of “Best Cake Artist in America.” Premiering Sunday, April 5th at 8pm ET/PT, the series throws the pastry chefs into a grueling four-round cake competition. The Challenge alumni will be thrown a number of difficult tasks, from creating one-of-a-kind wedding creations to undergoing a 24-hour cake-making marathon. Each week the judges eliminate one cake artist, and the winner takes home the biggest prize in Challenge history: $50,000! Challenge emcee Keegan Gerhard serves as host and notable pastry chef Patrick Coston and famed cake designer Kerry Vincent lead the judging panel.

Last Cake Standing super- charges our popular Food Network Challenge series to make it the toughest, longest, most extreme cake competition ever,” said Bob Tuschman, Senior Vice President, Programming and Production. “Viewers will be amazed, not just at the brilliant creations, but at the fierceness of the competition. Who knew cake decorating was an extreme sport?"

The six Challenge all-stars are: Michelle Bommarito (Ferndale, MI), Courtney Clark (Ann Arbor, MI), Mary Maher (Chicago, IL), James Rosselle (Los Angeles, CA), Elisa Strauss (New York, NY), and Bronwen Weber (Dallas, TX).

Episodes include:

Episode 1 - Premiering Sunday, April 5th at 8pm ET/PT- In the premiere of Food Network Challenge: Last Cake Standing, six enthusiastic Challenge all-stars receive their first task: illustrate one aspect of their lives through cake! The action-packed competition begins with surprise instructions to move into their kitchens and immediately start creating their signature cakes. At the elimination ceremony, a curveball shocks the competitors when they, instead of the judges, are told to eliminate the first cake artist.

Episode 2 - Premiering Sunday, April 12th at 8pm ET/PT- The five remaining competitors take a field trip to Denver’s City Hall where they embark upon an exciting, but complicated challenge: create a top-notch wedding cake in only eight hours. The competitors serve as wedding ceremony witnesses and consult with the newlyweds before completing impromptu cake sketches. The judges reveal the next elimination and the winning cake is served at the reception that very night.

Episode 3 - Premiering Sunday, April 19th at 8pm ET/PT- The competition heats up when the four remaining competitors design over-the-top cakes based on an original superhero, decked out with extreme elements like moveable parts and fireworks. Hours before the competition, they are divided into teams and required to combine their cake designs. The winning team advances to the finale, and the losing duo faces off in an intense, 30-minute “cake-off” to determine who will move on and who will go up in smoke!

Episode 4 - Premiering Sunday, April 26th at 8pm ET/PT-The final three competitors endure a 24-hour cake-making marathon – the longest competition in Challenge history! The finalists create a unique five-foot birthday cake for a set of sextuplets. Upon completion, they must transport their cakes 20 miles to the birthday party. Strategy, endurance and skills are tested and one talented cake artist is finally crowned the winner!

Doesn't it sound exciting? I certainly can't wait to watch how this plays out.

Tune in to Food Network starting April 5th at 8PM ET/PT to watch all the action.

Do you live in Texas?

Do you live in Texas?

And have you heard of DirectBuy?

Want a free pass to check out any of their Texas locations? Click here: Direct Buy San Antonio to find out how easy it is to get one! (No obligation to buy anything, and no strings attached!)

I wish that I had a DirectBuy closer to me. I would certainly take advantage and replace the 12 year old couch we have in our living room. ;)
Wordless Wednesday: Look at me!

Wordless Wednesday: Look at me!

Thank you, Jackie, for sending this photo my way. I haven't stopped smiling since I found it! :)
Photography Tips and Tricks: Use your flash outdoors!

Photography Tips and Tricks: Use your flash outdoors!

Use your flash outside? Really? Why? Don't you need a flash when it's dark, so that it will light the subject up a bit?

Yes, of course you need a flash then. But, using a flash outside can also make a big difference. All of the photos in this post were taken outside using a flash on a sunny day.

The sun casts shadows, right? So, if you don't use your flash, you get those shadows all over your subject. (Ever taken a photo of your child in a hat outside? The shadow covers most of their face.) If you use your flash, those shadows will be eliminated.

Sometimes, especially when using a point-and-shoot camera, the flash is way too harsh and can cause burn spots on your photos. (Bright white spots on the subject.) To solve this problem, cut out a small piece of tissue paper or vellum paper (available in any scrapbook section) and hold it in front of the camera's flash when you take a picture. This will diffuse the light from the flash similarly to how the clouds diffuse sunlight. If you use an SLR with an external flash, you can take the piece of vellum paper and cover the flash. Be warned, though, this will eat your batteries up! (Speaking from experience here! I used the vellum paper over my flash to shoot my first wedding, and I had to change the batteries 12 times during that wedding. I immediately ordered a light sphere after that.)

It may take some practice to getting it right, but it can be done, and you will soon notice a huge difference.
Now, you try! Go outside and try taking some photos with your flash on. Then, post them for us to see. Leave a comment here and I'll be sure to stop by!

Photo of me was taken by my friend Jewels of Impressions Photography. (That's her in the last picture. Isn't she gorgeous?!)
Corneille: The Birth of Cornelius (Review)

Corneille: The Birth of Cornelius (Review)

Thanks to Music Moms, I had the opportunity to review Corneille: The Birth of Cornelius.

I put the kids to bed, popped the cd in the player, lit some candles, and settled in for a nice long bubble bath and some much-needed "me" time.

The CD was fantastic. I didn't want my time - or the CD - to end! With elements of acoustic-driven R&B, Corneille sings about love, the heart, and his own personal life experiences. If you are a fan of John Legend, Tracy Chapman, or Marvin Gaye, you will quickly fall in love with Corneille.

I don't often get the chance to enjoy grown-up music. Every time we get in the car, we listen to the kids' CDs. This was a much-welcomed change of pace for me, and I savored every moment.

Originally from Rwanda, this singer/writer/producer scored a number of hits in Canada, France and even Japan. The Birth of Cornelius is Corneille's English-language debut. His parents and other family members were killed in Rwanda during the genocide in 1994. He alone managed to escape - first to Kinshasa, and then to Germany, where he was taken in by some family friends. He is a Red Cross Canada spokesperson, and has been made a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador. His story is truly amazing. To learn more about him, please visit his website at

Corneille says, "Music has been the place where I could go to hide and forget about the world. I couldn't make sense of a majority of the things that happened to me, so I used music as a shield. But over time, music has become a vehicle to channel out evertyhing that I've been keeping from myself for all these years. And the new album is definitely the most honest, real assessment of everything that's happened in my life, because I'm not trying to hide as much."

The Birth of Cornelius from Universal Motown Records is now available in stores and online. I highly recommend it if you like the sound of the original Motown music and if you just want some good music to relax to.

Dudley's Solo (Review)

I love books. I love reading. Reading to my kids, and watching them read are two things I enjoy most in this world.

I was recently given the opportunity to review Dudley's Solo. Written by Tiffany Alexander and Illustrated by Jeremiah Carstarphen, Dudley's Solo is about a sweet little boy who wants nothing more than to perform in his Children's Band's choir concert. The only thing is, Dudley is deaf.

Even though he is deaf, it still doesn't stop him from doing what all of his other friends do. He performs in the choir concert, and he even gets to do a solo!

This was such a sweet little book. I love the values portrayed in it. It teaches kids to embrace each other - we're all different, but we're all special. Dudley's friends wanted Dudley to be a part of the concert just as much as he wanted it.

The kids all loved the book. Zander had a tough time with some of the names, (Ebenezer, Esmerelda, Dezzi, and Tito), but after reading them several times, he had no more problems.
To learn more about Dudley's Solo, and to purchase your copy, go to It's a cute little website, and you can also learn more about each of the characters from the book over there.

Thanks for the opportunity to review this wonderful little book. It's been the perfect addition to our home library!
How to make your comments numbered in Blogger.

How to make your comments numbered in Blogger.

I figured it out! Wooohooo!! Doing giveaways has been time consuming because I've had to go through and physically count which comment was the winner. Remember this giveaway? It took me hours to count out the comments - but boy, was it a fun giveaway!!

Well, thanks to this article, I was able to make the comments numbered.

That article will walk you through, step by step, and hold your hand the entire way. They'll tell you exactly what code to change, and you can have it done in just minutes. If you're afraid to touch your html code and really want someone to hold your hand - or just do it for you - drop me a line. I'd be happy to help!

Totally easy peasy! I've seen websites that will charge to do this for you, but it's so quick and easy to just do yourself. (And free is always good!)

Now, the only bummer is that Blogger paginates things, so if you have more than 200 comments, things could get funky. (I think it may start over at 1 once you hit 201, but I'm not sure. I've never had that many comments on my blog.... yet!)

Oh, and one more thing - before you start messing with your blog's html code, make a backup! Copy and paste it somewhere or do something. It's better to be safe than sorry, and believe me, I say this from experience.

I really hope this helps someone out. If it did - let me know. Leave a comment - maybe I can break that 200 mark and find out what happens! :)
I hate to do this....

I hate to do this....

and I've actually debated for a very long time on whether I should say anything or not. But, after reading this post on Susan's blog, I figured it was time to say my peace.

In December, I won a contest at Mom to 3 Angels. The prize was for a custom hand-stamped necklace from Elli Noelle Designs. Now, I won't be linking to her etsy shop or her blog because she doesn't deserve any kind of linky love at all, but I will tell you that you can find links by going to this post on Jamie's blog. She also has a website now, and you can find that by doing a google search.

At first, the sponsor of the contest was impossible to get a hold of. I have 35 messages in my inbox between Jamie and I regarding this giveaway. Jamie was so sweet and so apologetic. It absolutely is NOT her fault. She did her best trying to make sure I received my prize. When we finally did get a hold of her, she had one excuse after the other. (Just like you'll find on her etsy shop and her blog.) It's been over 2 months since I've even heard from her, and over 3 months since I won the contest. On her blog she says, "I have many emails asking about my jewelry and what my plans are. Well a month ago i was getting ready to open my website however i have been on hold and i have not even checked that email box. So if your waiting on a response i'm sorry there has been a lot going on my life." Are you kidding me? I have 5 kids, and while I'm not perfect, I do my best to get to my clients in a very reasonable amount of time. ALWAYS. And if something happens, I contact them immediately, and give them a target deadline date (that is well within reason). Oh, and if you do find her website, it's open! She has items for sale on there, and not one word about "a lot going on" in her life. It all seems a little fishy, doesn't it?

I think that people need to be aware of this person and to be careful if she contacts them about doing a giveaway - or if they happen by her website.

Do I need the prize? Certainly Not! I actually offer hand-stamped jewelry on my designs website, and if my designer there didn't have what I wanted, I would go to Kristen's Custom Creations. Kristen does an amazing job, and she's fast and super pleasant to work with. She just had a cute piece in her shop that I thought would make the perfect gift for Ashley. So much for that!

My point to this post? Don't offer up a prize if you don't intend to follow through. And don't go shopping at Elli Noelle Designs.
Issues with Homeschooling.

Issues with Homeschooling.

I am having some issues with homeschooling one of my kids, and I would love some advice from other Homeschooling Mamas out there.

This is our first year homeschooling. I currently teach Ashley (11, and in 6th grade) and Zander (5, and in Kindergarten). I absolutely love teaching them and can't imagine sending them back to public school - ever.

I have no problems teaching Zander. He is doing so well in everything. He is reading and spelling on a second grade level now. I am *so* proud of him and how hard he works every single day.

My issue is with Ashley. I got back a batch of her grades on Friday, and I wanted to cry.

We use Christian Liberty's homeschool program called CLASS. It is awesome. My brother actually attended Christian Liberty for several years, and I had a boyfriend that went there - a long, long time ago. Their CLASS system is fantastic. I teach the kids, give them tests, send the tests to Christian Liberty, they grade the tests, and they email me the results. I absolutely love it.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, I sent in a *huge* batch of tests. They emailed me the results and I was floored.

Ashley is doing fantastic in the subjects that I sit and teach her. A's and high B's in English, Math, Geometry, Spelling, and Science. Awesome! BUT, the two subjects that she reads and studies on her own, she is failing. And I don't mean she's failing a little bit, I mean she is getting 40's on her tests. (The subjects are reading and history.)

Right now, our process in those two subjects is this: She reads the set pages each day and takes notes on what she's read. At the end of the week, we discuss what she read, the important key words, and review the pages. But, apparently that's not working. Even after doing that for months now, she's getting 40's and 50's as her test scores in those subjects.

Do y'all have any suggestions? Obviously I can't do this for her, and I don't think I should have to hold her hand through these two subjects. She has to learn to be able to do things on her own. After all, what boss is going to want to hire someone that can't read and comprehend what she's just read without being told a gazillion times?

I really don't know what to do here. Ashley is *such* a smart girl. She's proved that with her other test scores in other subjects. So how do I get her to do well in these two areas that she's lacking?

Man, I never saw this coming. I thought she was doing really well. Now what?
Ultimate Blog Party \

Ultimate Blog Party '09

Ultimate Blog Party 2009
I know, I'm a day behind. I've been busy trying to transfer everything over to this new computer! BUT, I definitely want to join in the fun!

First, a little about me. I'm Angie, mom to 5 Vinez Monkeys.... and if you're wondering, it's actually pronounced "Vinnie." But, most people get that wrong, so I answer to just about anything. (Well, usually. As long as it's nice!)

My husband and I will celebrate our 7th anniversary this September. It's been a crazy 7 years, but I wouldn't change a second!

I homeschool, run a photography business, an online web, graphic, and design service business, and also run BuyByMom - a fantastic website to find wonderful businesses and support WAHMs.

I love to be busy (obviously), but nothing is more important to me than my relationship with Christ, my family, and my church.

My kids are Ashley (11), Zander (5), Jace (4), Lucy (2), and Parker (5 months). They light up my life, and are such a joy to me.... even if they can drive me batty! Here's a picture of them:
Blogging is a passion for me. I blog from every day topics like parenting issues, life with a large family, and sometimes just rambling thoughts. I also participate in Wordless Wednesday and offer Photography Tips & Tricks on Tuesdays. I also have 2 fantastic giveaways going on right now: the first is for a pearl bracelet (retail value, $65) and the second is for a set of 3 Chicken Soup Books - geared toward kids in middle school, high school, and getting ready for college.

Also, over on Buy By Mom, I've got a giveaway going on with a chance to win a $75 gift certificate to Angela Vinez Designs . Click here to enter - but hurry, that contest ends on Tuesday the 24th.

Thanks so much for stopping by my blog! I look forward to getting to know you.

If you have no idea what the Ultimate Blog Party is, you need to read this post. There are tons of opportunities to win TONS of really cool prizes!

My favorite prizes are these - in order of preference:
All of the prizes are fantastic, and I'd be happy with anything. If I can't use it, I'd love to pay-it-forward to my fantastic readers!

Also, I'm offering up a prize in the Ultimate Blog Party! It's in the International category - INTL 15 - a $75 Gift Certificate to Angela Vinez Designs. Go check it out!

Now, Let's Party!
My Picture Princess

My Picture Princess

Shabby Baby is looking for the next Shabby Baby Girl. After browsing their website, I just knew I had to enter Lulu!

Lucy (aka Lulu) would make the perfect Picture Princess. Why? Just look at her! She is brimming with personality, and she *loves* to be in front of the camera. (This is a very good thing when your Mommy is a photographer!) Lucy is such a ham, full of adventure, life, and tons and tons of energy. Her smile and laughter are contagious. She loves all things girly, but isn't afraid to get her hands dirty or roughhouse with the boys. She loves jumping in mud puddles and painting her toenails. She is "picture perfect" in lots of ways.

I found this dress and fell in love while browsing the little girls and girls dresses from shabby baby: The Vineyard Dress. Wouldn't it be perfect on Lucy? So cute!! I love the bold patterns - totally matches Lulu's personality.

Thanks for the chance to enter my little princess!
Say it Forward: Week 7

Say it Forward: Week 7

Mom Blogs
Every Friday on 5 Minutes for Mom, they do a wonderful post called "Say it Forward." The purpose is to thank those who are faithful in commenting on your blog and spread a little love. Each week, I will pick a different faithful commenter and post about them.

This week, the award goes to Nicole of Simply Stevens.

I first met Nicole over one What to Expect. We are both Featured Bloggers over there, and Nicole and I instantly became friends. She always stops by my blog on WTE and leaves a kind word, encouraging thought, or just offers up some virtual hugs. Nicole is a mom to 2 beautiful babies, and she shares many of the same morals that I do. It's wonderful having so much in common!

In the past few months, we've started visiting each others' personal blogs as well as our blogs on WTE. Nicole is always kind enough to leave a comment whenever she stops by here, and it is certainly appreciated!

I am so glad that I met you, Nicole, and I look forward to seeing our friendship grow. Thank you for always stopping by with your encouraging words! They mean so much.

Take this badge and display it on your blog proudly! :)


Be sure to stop by Nicole's family blog to learn more about her and see her beautiful family. Then stop by her blog on WTE - she's got some *awesome* posts on there.
My husband now refers to me as his "techno geek."

My husband now refers to me as his "techno geek."

While on vacation, I always had my bag of techno-goodies in the diaper bag. It never left my side.

What was in this bag that deserved the nick-name "Techno Geek" you ask? Well, it contained the following items:
  • My Cell Phone - I only got *one* phone call while we were away, but I'd constantly use the texting feature to update my twitter status while I was away.
  • My small digital camera - I really didn't want to lug my big, professional camera along on the trip, so into the bag the little camera went. (I took over 300 pictures on our trip with this thing. It certainly got put to good use!)
  • My peek - A fabulous little tool for checking my email. I don't know what I would have done if I hadn't had this thing. I got an email from Dell on Saturday that they shipped my computer on Friday and it was due to arrive while we were gone!! GASP! Because I had the peek, I was able to call FedEx and request a later delivery date with all the information I needed. I was able to breathe again - I would have had a panic attack if I had gotten home and found a computer sitting on my steps in the rain - or worse, that they had shipped it back to Dell because I wasn't there.
  • My Flip video camera - this thing rocks. I had way too much fun capturing the kids on video. (I won't bore you all with them, but they are videos that I'll cherish forever.)
  • Cords for all of the above mentioned items.
So, yes, I guess that qualifies me as a techno geek. But, in all honesty, I think hubby enjoyed playing with my gadgets as much as I did - although you'll never hear him admit it!
We are home.... finally!

We are home.... finally!

I am absolutely exhausted. I just kissed hubby goodbye - the poor guy has to work all night tonight after driving 13 hours home. (He drove the first half, I took over the second half. At least it didn't rain the whole way down!)

About 6 hours from, we *finally* figured out how to make Parker stop screaming. I accidentally left the shade back on his car seat, and he could see out the window. As long as he could see what was going on, he was fine. If we tried to pull the shade to keep the sun out of his eyes, he freaked out. Figures it was something as ridiculous as that!

We had a really great time, and it was so nice to see our families. I took bazillions of pictures. As soon as my new computer arrives, I'll upload them and share them!

I must say, though, that I'm not doing that again any time soon. I'm thinking the family needs to come visit us. It's just too hard to do that trip with 5 kids... at least at the ages they are now. Maybe in a few years it will be easier.

Things will start to get back to normal around here very soon. I'm looking forward to going to bed in my own bed tonight.

Thanks for the thoughts and well wishes while we were gone!

Today's check in.

Just stopping by to see how ya'll are doin'. We're having fun, but we're exhausted. We've done tons of running around.

We got some Barberton chicken and some Strickland's ice cream, two of our favorite things.

One more day of fun and then a long drive home! I'll check in again soon.

Sent on the go from my Peek.

Checking in from an actual computer! :)

Checking in from an actual computer! :)

I got an email on my peek that made my heart to drop into my stomach. In a panic, I ran into my mom's house to jump on her computer. Turns out I can't resolve the email right now, but I got a phone number to take care of things tomorrow. Whew.

But, since I'm here, I figured I'd pop on and say Hi! :) We're having a fantastic time up here in Ohio. We saw Gene's dad this morning, and spent all afternoon with Gene's Grandma & Papa Joe. The house that we're staying in is HUGE, and the kids haven't stopped running (inside or out) while we've been here. They are having a ball.

Tomorrow we'll spend the day with my family, and then Tuesday will be with Gene's family. Run, run, run for the rest of the trip. It's been so good to see everyone, though. We've missed everyone so much.

Hope ya'all have a great week. I'll check in from my peek as I can!
Not looking forward to doing that again!

Not looking forward to doing that again!

We made it. What a long trip.

Parker cried the entire time. I'm talk ear piercing. Gut wrenching. loud crying. The only time he stopped was when I took him out of his car seat to nurse him.

So not looking forward to doing this again on the return trip Wednesday.

Have a great weekend. I'll check in again soon.

Sent on the go from my Peek.

Testing to see if this works (Updated)

Testing to see if this works (Updated)

Just want to see if I can post while on the go. If this works, I'll be able to check in on our trip.

Fingers crossed that this goes through!

Sent on the go from my Peek.


Well, it works. Kinda funky, but it does. LOL!

By the way, I sent this from my Peek. If you order a Peek, I can get you a free month of service! Just be sure to let me know if you do order one (or purchase one at Target).

Say it Forward: Week Six

Say it Forward: Week Six

Mom Blogs
Every Friday on 5 Minutes for Mom, they do a wonderful post called "Say it Forward." The purpose is to thank those who are faithful in commenting on your blog and spread a little love. Each week, I will pick a different faithful commenter and post about them.

This week, I am giving this award to Chris of What's In Sissy's Head?.

I first met Chris on CafeMom in a blogger's group over there. She's the only member of that group that still always drops by my blog, and the only one that I continue to keep up with.

I love reading Chris' posts. She is funny, witty, and many times she digs deep and makes *me* want to dig deep, too. And, by the way, Chris - I *heart* your new tattoo! I'm dying for a new one, but I'll have to live with the two I have for now. ;)

Thanks for always stopping by with a comment, Chris. I am so glad that we met, and I really enjoy stopping by your blog. I hope you'll continue to stop by here and that I can encourage you as much as you encourage me!

Take this badge and display it on your blog proudly! :)


Chicken Soup for the Soul (Closed)

Chicken Soup for the Soul (Closed)

In 2007, USA Today named Chicken Soup for the Soul one of the five most memorable and impactful books in the last quarter century.

Well, Chicken Soup for the Soul has done it again. This time, they're focusing on families with tweens and teens! The Chicken Soup for the Soul “Teens Talk” series is filled with personal stories that teens today face, ranging from eating disorders, new loves and heartbreak, looming college applications, substance abuse, and peer pressure. It inspires and supports preteen/teen readers as they face personal challenges as well as opens the dialogue between parents and their teens. Adolescence is a difficult time period for everyone, but the Chicken Soup for Soul “Teens Talk” series is the support group teens can hold in their hands.

Here's a little more about each book in the series:

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School
101 Stories of Life, Love, and Learning for Younger Teens
Almost everyone hated middle school. It’s a very tough time for adolescents. This “support group in a book” is specifically geared to younger teens -- the ones still worrying about puberty, cliques, discovering the opposite sex, and figuring out who they are. Meant for middle school students ages eleven to fourteen, stories cover regrets and lessons learned, love and “like,” popularity, friendship, tough issues such as divorce, illness, and death, failure and rising above it, embarrassing moments, bullying, and finding something you’re passionate about. The stories provide emotional support, humor, and inspiration for the young teens making their way through the tumultuous middle school years.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk High School
101 Stories of Life, Love, and Learning for Older Teens
This book focuses on issues specific to high school age kids, ages fourteen to eighteen. Teens in high school have mainly moved past worrying about puberty and cliques, so stories in this book cover topics of interest to older teens such as sports and clubs, religion and faith, driving, curfews, growing up, self-image and self-acceptance, dating and sex, family relationships, friends, divorce, illness, death, pregnancy, drinking, failure, and preparing for life after high school. High school students will find comfort and inspiration in the words of this book, referring to it through all four years of their high school experience, like a portable support group.

Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Getting In... to College
101 True Stories from Kids Who Have Lived Through It
These days, colleges are deluged with applications, and the application process has become something traumatic that students and parents experience together. This book isn’t about how to get into college -- it’s about providing emotional, not tactical, support. The stories in this book are written by kids who have been there and want to pass on their words of support to the kids about to go through the whole ordeal. Story topics include parental and peer pressure, the stress of grades and standardized tests, applications and interviews, recruiting, disappointments, and successes. Parents and students alike will find Getting In... to College a great source of inspiration.

I have been given the opportunity to give away a set of all 3 books to one of my lucky readers!

To Enter:
Check out Chicken Soup for the Soul's website and tell me one of their new titles that you would like to read.
(It must be something other than the 3 books listed in this giveaway. I want to know you made a little bit of an effort!)

Extra Entries:
1. Tell us a story from your tween/teenage days. It can be funny, embarrassing, proud, or whatever you'd like! (10 extra entries if you do this. Please leave 10 extra comments!)
2. Follow My Blog, Subscribe to my Feed through email, or Add me to your Reader. (1 entry for each. If you do all three, you may leave 3 separate comments.)
3. Blog about this giveaway. Please include a link to 5VinezMonkeys and a link to Chicken Soup for the Soul. (5 extra entries. Please leave 5 separate comments, and be sure to include a link to your blog post in one of those extra comments!)

Fine Print:
The contest will end on April 2nd, and 1 winner will be pulled using
Winner will receive a copy of each book listed above: Middle School, High School, and Getting into College.
Please leave the proper number of comments for each additional entry that you complete.
You must leave a valid email address (or a way for me to contact you) with your entry.

Good luck!!!

Cheerios Circle of Helping Hearts (Closed)

Cheerios Circle of Helping Hearts (Closed)

Do you know your cholesterol number? High cholesterol is one of the major controllable factors for coronary heart disease, which is the number one cause of death for women. A recent study conducted by Harris Interactive for Cheerios found that more than one-third of adults (37 percent) have not had their cholesterol checked within the past year.*

Those with limited access to adequate healthcare may not get regular cholesterol screenings and thus are at an even greater risk for heart disease.

Wondering how you can help? Now through January 31, 2010, for every code entered at, Cheerios will donate $1, up to $200,000, to raise awareness for heart disease and provide free cholesterol screenings for women in need, through its partnership with WomenHeart. Codes will be featured inside specially marked boxes of Cheerios cereal. It only takes a minute to do, and it could help save a woman's life. Definitely a minute worth investing!

We have always been a fan of Cheerios. It's the first "table food" cereal that I've given to each one of my
kids, and it's a staple in our house. When we opened the box the other day and saw a box of Cheerios, the kids were dancing around begging for some. Yep - they love Cheerios!

Along with the box of Cheerios, they also sent me a gorgeous freshwater pearl bracelet
with a heart charm from Charity Charms. Charity Charms donates a portion of the proceeds from its charms to various charities. What a beautiful way to show your dedication to raising awareness of women's heart health.
Cheerios and the Circle of Helping Hearts also wants to give a beautiful freshwater pearl bracelet to 3 of my fabulous readers. That's right! 3 of you will win this gorgeous bracelet and be able to show your support in raising awareness of women's heart health!

To Enter:
Tell me....

  • What do you do to maintain a healthy heart?

  • Or

  • Share your story of you or someone you know who has battled or overcome heart disease.

  • It's that easy!

    The Fine Print:
    The contest will end on March 28th, and 3 winners will be pulled using
    Winners will receive a timeless freshwater pearl bracelet - valued at $65.
    You must leave a valid email address (or a way for me to contact you) with your entry.

    Good luck to all who enter!

    *This Heart Health and Cholesterol survey was conducted by Harris Interactive on behalf of Cheerios. All data collection was done online within the United States between January 9 and January 13, 2009 among 2,416 adults ages 18+, of whom, 1,207 are women, 1,209 are men, and 1,038 have not had their cholesterol level checked within the past year. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated.

    Giveaway courtesy of Check them out today!

    Piano for Preschoolers (Review)

    Piano for Preschoolers (Review)

    I recently had the opportunity to review a wonderful new teaching tool called Piano for Preschoolers.

    I have been wanting to start piano lessons for my kids, but because I have so many of them, paying someone else to teach them would break the bank. I took piano lessons myself for years, and have always loved music. I'd really like to instill that same love in my kids.

    As a homeschooling mom, I teach my kids all day long. I love it. So, when the opportunity to try Piano for Preschoolers was presented to me, I jumped at the chance. What a fantastic way for me to teach all of my kids the basics of playing the piano, and each at their own pace. We headed to our church several times a week to practice.

    I started with Zander. Because he is so artistic, I figured he would do well with this. I was right! In just minutes, he was playing a song on the piano all by himself! Over the next few weeks, he seemed to grasp the lessons quickly, and he would master new songs and concepts quickly.

    Jace also wanted a chance to try. After all, what Zander does, Jace must do too. So, after Zander would finish his lesson, Jace had his turn. Jace didn't master it quite as quickly. He did get it, just not as fast as Zander. Jace gets distracted easily, so it took a lot more effort to keep his focus. However, by his second lesson, he was playing "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" like a pro!

    When we went for our first lesson, Ashley asked if she could try, even though it was supposed to be for pre-schoolers. She has been asking to take piano lessons for years, so I figured this would be a great place to start with her and see just how interested she really was. (And if she would actually stick with it!) I am proud to say that she did great! She caught on quickly, and with her, I was able to go deeper into the lessons. We talked about rhythm, timing, and other musical terms. I know this is geared toward preschoolers, but it really is a great tool for teaching anyone of any age.

    The best part is, the parents don't have to be musical genuises to teach their children how to play the piano. The lessons in Piano for Preschoolers are really easy to understand, the concept is a breeze to pick up, and the cd they include really helps you understand the timing and rhythm of the songs.

    If you have been hesitating about introducing your child to the piano, don't wait another minute! Piano for Preschoolers is an excellent, affordable way to get your child started in their musical journey, and also spend some quality time together.

    (Review opportunity courtesy of Parent Reviewers.)
    Wordless Wednesday: Sibling Rivalry
    Winners of the zonderKidz Giveaway

    Winners of the zonderKidz Giveaway

    Congratulations to the following readers:

    Kristinia - Loving Heart Mommy


    The Halton Mom


    I have sent each of you an email. Please respond within 48 hours, or the item will be repulled!

    Thanks to all who entered. I have several more reviews and giveaways coming *very* soon!!
    Photography Tips & Tricks: Zoom WAY in.

    Photography Tips & Tricks: Zoom WAY in.

    I will never forget one viewing session I had with a client. She had her MIL come over so that she could select the portraits she wanted and they wouldn't have to do a second viewing session.

    They ooohed and aahed over the pictures. And then they came to one where I had zoomed way in on the little boy's face. The MIL immediately became furious. "You cut off the top of his head! This photo would have been perfect if his whole head had been in it."

    I tried to explain that photography is art and that not all of my photos are the standard "school-type" pictures. She didn't understand, but thank heavens the mom did, and she *loved* the super-close ups.

    Personally, the super close-ups are some of my favorites. You can catch everything - down to the crumb from the chocolate chip cookie they had 4 hours ago. :) However, zooming in that close really makes their eyes just pop.

    Don't be afraid to zoom way in. You may like what you see!

    Now, go try it for yourself. Post your results and leave a link so that I can come see!

    I've been hacked, and I don't know what to do! (Updated)

    The Blog on has been hacked!! I'm suddenly getting error pages every time I try to access the blog. Apparently, it's a hacker, but now I can't get into the admin panel to fix anything.

    Does anyone know what I need to do?

    Just another reason why I hate wordpress. If anyone can help, I'll send you a box of cookies.

    PLEASE help me get my blog back.

    Updated: Thanks to twitter, I was able to get some help and get the problem fixed. I'm not sure how to prevent the problem from happening again, but at least I was able to fix it and should be able to fix it if it happens again.

    WHEW. Crisis averted. That only took about 10 years off my life!
    Lulu Live and on Stage!

    Lulu Live and on Stage!

    Last night, we attended a benefit that was held to raise money for a dear friend of ours that is battling lung cancer. Our church youth choir sang at the event, and Lulu decided to join the choir for the performance.

    So, what happens when you put a 2 year old on stage in front of hundreds of people?


    I apologize for the camera shaking. I was laughing so hard that I couldn't hold still. I'll do better next time.

    And, in case you're wondering: I was talking to Jace, and no, I didn't beat her. LOL! It was all said in jest. Please don't read into anything that's not there. The crowd got such a kick out of Lu on stage, that it would have been impossible not to laugh and just enjoy it! And, yes, I took her off stage the moment that song was over! Oh, and that was Ashley that kept grabbing her and trying to get her to stop. :)

    Kudos to me for finally figuring out youtube! :) Yippee!!
    Youtube Virgin

    Youtube Virgin

    I have this fantastic video that I want to share with you all. It is one that I promise will have you laughing out loud. Here's the problem: this youtube virgin has NO idea how to upload the video to youtube. Pathetic, I know.

    I tried uploading the .avi file straight from the camera. That didn't work. It took hours, and then it said it was unsuccessful. So, I did some research and saw that you need to convert the avi file to an mp4 file. I downloaded software to do that, but when I convert the file, it only converts the first 30 seconds of the video.... the video should be 2 minutes 39 seconds.

    What am I doing wrong? How do I get my videos from my camera to my youtube account? Is there software you use that you recommend?

    Help this youtube virgin out, please!
    So many compliments!

    So many compliments!

    I had to run up to Walmart this morning with all the kids. We're going to a benefit for a friend this evening, so hubby needed to stay home and sleep and couldn't go with us. It's never an easy task on my own, and I rarely look forward to it.

    While in Walmart, I had several compliments on how well behaved my children were. As we were driving home, we decided to stop at a few more stores, just to avoid being trapped in our house on a gorgeous day.

    Every single store we stopped at, someone went out of their way to tell me how good my kids were.

    And, you know what? They're right. I know I complain (probably too much) about the whining, the fighting, and the terrible 2s, 4s, and 5s, but when we're out somewhere, my kids know to behave. They stick close to me, don't touch things, and obey the entire time.

    I am so blessed. God has given me some amazing children, and I'm thankful for each one of them. Gene and I were talking last night about how we were supposed to be done having kids after Jace was born. I'm so glad that we were *wrong* and that God continued to bless us two more times!

    I have much to be grateful for. God is so, so good.

    Enjoy your day and remember to thank God for your blessings today - no matter how small!
    Say it Forward: Week Five

    Say it Forward: Week Five

    Mom Blogs
    Every Friday on 5 Minutes for Mom, they do a wonderful post called "Say it Forward." The purpose is to thank those who are faithful in commenting on your blog and spread a little love. Each week, I will pick a different faithful commenter and post about them.

    The person I want to award this to this week is Lori of Jewllori.

    Lori and I were due with our boys on the same day. (Or was it one day apart, Lori?) We went through so much together during our pregnancies, and Lori was always there to support me, and just send a virtual hug my way. I'm really looking forward to watching our boys grow up together - even though we're hundreds of miles apart.

    For those of you who don't know, Lori also has an etsy shop. She makes the most amazing jewelry. I'm always blown away by her talent and creativity and love seeing what she thinks up next.

    Thanks for stopping by and being a loyal commenter, Lori. I am so thankful for your friendship!

    Take this badge and display it on your blog proudly! :)


    Here, kitty, kitty.

    Here, kitty, kitty.

    Killer is gone, and all of my kids and I are so upset. Hubby accidentally blew Killer up. It was an accident, but we're all just heartbroken.

    Let me explain. My husband really is not in the habit of blowing up cats. I promise. My husband is the most loving person on earth, and even when it comes to animals, he has such a tender heart.

    Killer is an outdoor cat. I let him come in whenever it got cold outside, because I couldn't stand the thought of him freezing out there. When he's outside, his favorite place to be is up in the wheel wells of my Expedition or up in hubby's truck's engine. Usually the second the door to the house opens, Killer runs in. The other night, hubby walked out the door for work, and Killer didn't come. (Can you see where this is going?) Hubby figured Killer was off in the pasture with the cows, and thought nothing of it. Until he turned the key in his truck and heard the most awful sound.

    I haven't told the kids yet. I have no idea how to tell them what happened. Ashley knows, but we just change the subject when the boys bring up Killer. I know we need to tell them eventually, but how do you tell them that Daddy blew up the cat. UGH.

    It has been a rough week around here. I am looking forward to our much-needed getaway to Ohio next week. I definitely need it.

    Now, what do I tell my kids?
    Ordered my Flip Mino!

    Ordered my Flip Mino!

    I am so, so excited!! I am finally going to be able to join the world of v-blogging - or is it v-logging - or vlogging? I don't know... but in just a few days, I will finally own a video camera that isn't attached to my cell phone. Wooohooo!!!

    I ordered the Flip Mino, and had it custom designed to look like my blog! So cheesy, I know, but I didn't want to personalize it with a picture of the kids that will be out of date in just a few months. I'm not planning on letting this blog go anywhere, so I just went with this design. If nothing else, it'll be a great conversation piece!

    Ya'all are gonna get SO sick of seeing me after I get this thing. ;) I just bought a 500 GB external hard drive so that I can move everything off the computer and have lots of room for new stuff.

    Wooohooo!! I'm going to be watching for the UPS guy every day until it gets here. Hope they hurry.
    Wordless Wednesday: I have to share?

    Wordless Wednesday: I have to share?

    This is what you get when you tell Lulu to share something.
    Photography Tips & Tricks: It\

    Photography Tips & Tricks: It's OK if they're not looking!

    Some of my favorite photos that I've shot are all photos where the children weren't looking at the camera. When you force a child to stop what they're doing, look at the camera, and smile, you get a big, cheesy, completely unnatural smile.

    By allowing the child to explore and be themselves, you will capture them in their true essence.

    Think about it. Which would you rather have: A photo of your child with a fake, goofy grin on their face, or a portrait of them and their true personality?

    Follow your child around one day. Spy on them, if need be. If they don't know that you're watching, you'll capture the moments that you truly never want to forget.

    I had some clients when I lived in Ohio that were SO much fun. We set up the backdrop in their living room, turned on some music (loud!!), and they danced their hearts out. We all had a blast, and I got some amazing photos. So, it's ok to have fun with this. The more fun you make photos for your kids, the less often you'll hear, "Aw.... Mom! Do you have to take our pictures again?"

    Also, if you are trying to get a group shot, it's ok if they're not all looking at the camera. Have them all look at the new baby in the center, or even looking at each other.

    Here are some candid shots to show you what I mean:
    Now, show me your favorite candid shots!

    Put up a post with some of your favorite shots and leave a link to it in the comments section of this post. I'd love to stop by and check them out!
    "Mother Caught Driving while Breastfeeding."

    "Mother Caught Driving while Breastfeeding."

    Ok, I'm sorry, but some people are just idiots. This woman is the perfect example of one. Not only was she breastfeeding her child while driving, but she was also on the phone. What hand was she using to actually drive with?

    In the interview, she said she "will take the advice of the officers into consideration, but she may breast-feed her baby while driving in the future if she feels that it is necessary." WOW.

    I am all for feeding your baby when they need it. That's why if Parker is screaming because he's hungry while we're in the car, I will find a parking lot and pull over to feed him. I won't even feed him in the front seat because I'm afraid of some random idiot hitting my car and deploying the airbags.

    I am a HUGE advocate for child safety. If I see someone driving in a car and their kid is climbing all over the car, I have no problem rolling down my window and telling them how stupid they are (the parents, not the kid). I just don't understand why people think "it won't happen to my kid." Sure, we all hope and pray that our children will be safe and no harm will come to them, but isn't it our jobs as parents to protect them as much as possible?

    I'm not saying that we should put our kids in bubbles. While that would be nice, kids are kids. They will climb trees, break arms, and have their hearts broken. But, if my child is hurt because I neglected to put them in a car seat, I wouldn't be able to live with the guilt, knowing that it was my fault they were hurt.

    This woman should have her child taken away from her and she should never, ever be allowed behind the wheel of a car again. I personally think she should be shot, but that is just my opinion. And, until I become queen of the world, we'll just have live with her going to prison. Hopefully for more than just 180 days.
    My Natural Toys (Review)

    My Natural Toys (Review)

    Hosung, a Brooklyn based company, and the creators of the miYim organic toy line, has just launched a 100% all-natural cotton plush toy line that was created using environmentally-friendly, non-toxic materials and processes to create eight new colorful characters.

    Available exclusively at Target, the My Natural line includes four Teeny Tots, cuddly ten-inch tall plush characters, a monkey, dog, bear and rabbit, plus their taller counterparts, the TrueLove Leggy collection. My Natural has already been given the seal of approval by Cookie Magazine, and I can absolutely see why!

    The item they sent me was the adorable bunny you see pictured. It is so soft, and I can't get Lucy to let go of it! She absolutely loves it, and it is quickly becoming her new "best friend."

    As a mom, I love the bunny for several reasons:

    • It's made with 100% natural cotton fiber
    • It's naturally dyed with plants and minerals
    • The toys are certified non-toxic
    • No awful plastic ties around the toy in the packaging. It's all natural.
    The next time you're in Target, be sure to check out the new My Natural line of toys. We'll definitely be adding more to our collection on our next visit.

    Along with the bunny, they also sent me an adorable little frog from the myYim Fairytale Plush Collection. (Please note: This collection won't be available until this Spring, and will only be available in specialty stores and online.)

    Baby Ben, the frog, is made from certified organic cotton, and is soft with embroidered details. He's also colored with all natural plants and minerals, and his overalls are made from natural hemp. He comes packaged in the most adorable (and made from recycled materials!) cardboard gift box that can be reused for just about anything. I'll be using it to store lots of photos in!

    I am always looking for toys that are safe for my kids, and if they're environmentally friendly, it just makes them that much better!
    We took the WAT-AAH Challenge!

    We took the WAT-AAH Challenge!

    Recently, WAT-AAH contacted me and asked if I would let my children take the WAT-AAH Challenge. I agreed, and they sent me two bottles of WAT-AAH to use in the Challenge.

    The WAT-AAH! challenge is putting the WAT-AAH bottles next to other drinking products in your fridge (soda, juice, etc), don't say a word and see what your children do!

    Easy enough, right? I decided to have Ashley, Zander, Jace, and Lucy participate, just to see how they would each respond.

    Because Sundays are impossible for us, we started the challenge this morning. Here's how my fridge looked:
    I had Ashley go first. I distracted the other kids with a video and told Ash to go in the kitchen and grab something to drink. She immediately reached for a bottle of WAT-AAH and started to drink it. I never told her what to pick, I told her she could have anything on the shelf. I was completely surprised, because I totally thought she'd pick soda given the chance!

    Next was Zander. I had Ashley put her bottle of WAT-AAH back in the fridge, and did the same thing with Zander. I told him he could pick whatever he wanted to drink off of the shelf. He opened the door and picked up a bottle of WAT-AAH. When I asked him why he picked that, he told me, "It's a boy color, and I wanted to try it!" Ok, well, whatever works!

    Then, it was Jace's turn. I had Zander put his bottle back in the fridge and told him not to tell Jace what to do. I had Jace open the fridge and pick something to drink. He also grabbed the bottle of WAT-AAH with blue lettering. When I asked him why he picked that one, he said, "Because the boy screaming on it looks just like me! And you know I love blue!"

    Then it was Lucy's turn. I told her to open the fridge and get something to drink. She opened the door and immediately went for the bottle of WAT-AAH with pink letters. She didn't even wait until I got the lid off before she put it to her mouth. She was quite upset that she couldn't get anything out of it with the lid on.
    I am SO proud of my kids. Each one of them picked the WAT-AAH without being prompted. I don't allow my kids to drink soda, so imagine my surprise when they reached for the water instead. Even though they're not allowed soda, they still always seem to want Gatorade or juice. This is a fantastic way to get them excited about drinking water.

    It's been a few hours since we started the challenge, and I've refilled the bottles with filtered water about 3 times each already. The kids are taking to it like fish! They love it, and refuse to drink anything else.

    Thank you, WAT-AAH for contacting me and allowing me to take part in this challenge! Your product rocks, and I love that this is such an EASY way to make my kids healthier!

    To my readers - want to take the challenge with your kids? You can find out more information here. If you don't have a store near you that sells WAT-AAH, you can also purchase it online. If you do take the challenge, let me know your results. Hopefully they'll be as good as our results were!

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