My dear blogging friend (and fellow awesome grandparent), Susan, asked about the chalkboard bubble prop used at Holly and Ben’s baby shower. It is a fun prop to help break the ice at an event such as that, to get people to interact more with the camera rather than just striking a cheesy pose or, worse, be a part of a really bad, unflattering shot because you have a stick up your butt and forgot to remove said stick before you arrived at the event where many pictures will be taken.

No, I wouldn’t be talking about anyone attending the kids’ shower…certainly not certain in-laws of my daughter’s! But if I were talking about certain in-laws I would have to wonder why did you even bother to show up and be all pissy and rude…in my house?

But back to the prop. It is a great prop. Best photography-related purchase I made this year. I wish my best photography-related purchase I made this year was an amazing Canon Rebel T3i.

Alas, no.

But the chalkboard speech bubble is the best and I found it at Photojojo.

As promised, it does give confidence to the meek, liven up even the dullest of shots and really does make your photos talk.

Oh heck! It’s fun!

Unless your subjects are in a pissy, rude mood.

For the more crafty types, it can be made with your own two hands all easy-peasy like.

Here are some other great photo props ideas that will definitely make your portrait taking fun and more creative. When people compliment you on your clever, creativity just smile demurely and say thank you…then snap away!

my five ingredient blogging recipe

Blogging friend and co-worker, Sharon writes: I want to know what you think are the five most important things you should know to be a successful blogger.

  1. Be yourself- there are so many different blogs out many…way too many. The blogs that I read regularly are the ones that are written by people who are just that in their blog. They feel comfortable in their blog when I read it. I have found this to be true with those bloggers that I have the good fortune of meeting and knowing in real life.
  2. Define yourself/your blog- What kind of blog is it that you have?  Why are you blogging? Now would be a great time to come up with your own mission or purpose statement that defines your space, why it is in the blogosphere and what you are doing with it.
  3. BLOG. WRITE. POST. PUBLISH. Do it with some regularity. It could be every day. It could be several times a day. It could be Monday through Friday only. You are the boss of this blog. Set a schedule and try to stick to it with some regularity. Every blog post does not have to be the ultimate, award-winning blog post to end all blog posts. Some may be so-so but you can only improve with practice, practice, practice. You will define yourself more clearly as you grow and develop the space.
  4. Be social. Link up to other blogs whether in a blogroll of your favorites or in your blog posts. Answer questions that may be left in your comments. Say hello. Think of your blog as  something like a cyber-cocktail party or backyard barbecue at your place. What kind of hostess are you? Here is where I confess that I am kind of shy. I have to work really hard to be social even in my own place and I am pretty casual and relaxed…I will have a drink in my hand and wave to you to make yourself comfortable and help yourself.
  5. Above all else, do YOUR best and people may like it but more importantly be sure that you like it.

Pretty simple, pretty basic, I know. But because this circus life of mine can be so crazy, I try to keep everything else as simple and basic as possible. I can’t tell you the secrets to a successful, monetizing blog that attracts MAJOR traffic because that is not the kind of blogger that I am. I can tell you that the writers of the successful, monetizing blogs with lots of traffic that I have had the pleasure of meeting face to face are true to these five basic principles too. I think ultimately to be successful we need to be consistent, confident, courageous, candid and curious; not just in blogging but in everything we do.

And with that, my friend, I would say that, in my eyes, you are a success. Truly. The most favorite thing for me about your blogging is that I can hear your voice (the warm, friendly voice I hear when we exchange shift reports at work or just catch up on our lives outside the NICU or blogging world).

Thank you, thank you every one who left me a question this week. Your questions poked, prodded and provoked me in a very good way.

the space between

Juju asks: How do you know when the “right” time is to have another child? My two year old keeps me on my toes and between the hubby/kid/house i barely have time to take a shower. How did you know it was the right time to add to your family?

Fair enough question to ask the mom of five. I should know this. I really should.

For the record the spacing under the Big Top goes this way…Holly was 5 years old when Zoë was born. Zoë was just 20 months old and barely out of the crib looking incredibly small in her big girl bed when Abby arrived. Abby was terribly, terrifically 2½ years old when she welcomed her baby sister Jodie. When Daniel joined our family circus he presented his big sister Jodie with a Barbie in honor of her 6th birthday…how he managed to purchase the Barbie while a patient in the NICU remains a mystery to this day! For those who might have lost track the kids are spaced 5 years to 20 months to 2+years to 5+years apart.

What is the ideal?

Damned if I know!

In all seriousness, Juju, the fact that you sometimes are overwhelmed juggling that delightful 2 year old with everything else is normal. I was definitely overwhelmed and I know Holly and Ben feel that way with Hazel. I don’t believe we are supposed to have time to shower when our kids are that age which means the fathers of our delightful toddlers must worship us because we do manage some how, some way.

Mr. Juju, I hope that you are reading this!

For me, for our family, the easiest time when our family expanded was hands down when the 4th circus clown arrived. Abby definitely was ready to be a big girl and big sister, all three older girls were already accustomed to the fact that there is sharing mommy and daddy’s time and attention and most of the toys\ and we as parents had a little bit of confidence with the juggling of the family life.

The hardest time? Well it is a tie between the birth of our second child and the birth of our third. When Holly became a big sister, we all were more than ready. We had wanted this for a very long time. We had wished for this, prayed for this, bargained and begged for this. Yet when Zoë arrived our adjusting was hard. Holly had been our one and only for so long that the three of us really struggled at first with the sharing and division of time, attention and labor. We all did survive and muddled through well enough because when Zoë was still in many ways a baby herself we were getting ready for another baby. That first year with two in diapers and a busy first grader was a blur. There were days where I know we all were crying but somehow everyone was fed, clean, dressed and dried…thank goodness!

Is there a right time? Is there an ideal spacing when it comes to planning a family?

I wish I knew.

Honestly, I don’t know. I would LOVE to hear comments from others. What I do know is that as parents everyday we muddle through giving our all and doing our best and somehow it does work out even if in that moment we don’t know for certain that it is what is best and right for our family. I don’t think in the moment we are supposed to know otherwise we just might give up and run away screaming.

But in  time we do.

my family circus, August 2009

It’s a leap of faith. At least that is what I think. It’s scary, crazy, stressful, fun as hell and so worth it all. Especially in moments like these.

the road taken

Andrea asks: I want to know why you decided on nursing as a career.

How timely of you to ask because it was twenty years ago when I walked into a level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit for the first time as a RN…a brand-new RN. I walked into that unit with my cute little pink scrubs ready to start my new career as a nurse. I walked right into the admission of a baby born 13 weeks early who was merely minutes old. The nurse manager who interviewed and hired me earlier that month was sooo happy to see me because she wanted me to watch the team admit this baby. I confidently walk into the unit and approach the baby’s bedside to see a bunch of people surrounding a warming bed. As the manager introduces me, the staff opens the circle around the bed and I see what truly took my breath away…and scared the hell out of me. It was this itty-bitty baby who looked more like a frail, just hatched baby bird than a newborn baby. I gasped and took a step back from the bed just as the team closed rank around the bedside and continued to rescue and stabilize the baby. I wanted to be a nurse more than anything in the world and I really wanted to work in the NICU but what the hell had I got myself into I wondered?

Why did I choose this as my career?

First it goes back into the dark ages when I was a kid. I knew I wanted to be a nurse. Sciences, especially life sciences were what I did best and nursing as a career appealed because I would always have my hand in life sciences….who knew there was math in the picture too. LOL I seriously told one of my high school math teachers that I saw no reason why I had to learn this material because I had no intention of using it in my adult life…..I know he is somewhere laughing at me every time I mix and titrate a mcg/kg/min drip.

During that time the other motivation for me to choose nursing was I was in LOVE!!! You know, the kind of love where you practice writing your name and his together and yours with his last name. Yes, that kind. This love of mine was going to be a doctor and we both knew we were going to be married so it seemed only natural that I would go into nursing that way we could work together. :::::::::sigh::::::::: Well, Jeffrey Cox and I did not get married and the last time I checked, he is not a doctor.

Despite putting college on hold for a few years to “find myself” I still was determined that I would be a nurse. I finally got going on that in 1987 right after Holly was born. Like a lot of the fresh faced nursing students I encounter these days, I wanted to be a nurse in labor and delivery. I did try to keep an open mind as one professor advised me that nursing is a very broad field with many areas of specialty and sub-specialty and I might find something else I was drawn to. But as I worked through med-surg, ortho, gerontology, sub-acute, CCU, MSICU, Peds, PICU, OR, Psych, labor and post partum, I knew I wanted to keep my focus on maternal child. I enjoyed every portion of my nursing education and clinical rotations but in each one I realized that none of them really fit me except maternal child. I felt in order to be an EXCELLENT nurse which, IMHO, all patients should have, I should stick to the area I felt most passionate about. I was still determined that Labor was where I wanted to go, but after attending a delivery during that rotation with a completely unplanned negative outcome, I decided I should have a solid background in newborns, especially at risk newborns since I would be responsible for essentially two (or more) patients during that first and second stage of labor.

During school I worked part time as a tech and floated between post-partum, nursery, pedi and short term surgery where I worked only with the infertility specialists assisting them with egg retrievals and embryo transfers. The staff and the docs got to know me and when it came time to look for an RN position I was offered a NICU position. The staff knew me well, encouraged me all through nursing school and it seemed wanted me to stay on board with them as an RN.
Some places will not even consider hiring a new grad directly into a level III NICU. I got lucky I guess. I was especially fortunate that where I was hired they had in place a solid new grad program in the NICU with intensive one on one teaching for ten weeks followed by buddy support for several months. The NICU is a highly specialized area and such training I believe is essential.

Despite my first day fright of walking on the floor to watch an admission taking place of a 700 gram baby that would have easily fit into an adult’s hand, I thrived. It wasn’t two weeks later that I was caring for that same baby and following my preceptor’s instructions as I flipped her over with her ventilator tubing, multiple lines and monitoring devices attached to her tiny body. I still remember my preceptor leaning over and whispering in my ear to breathe…..I was so scared that first time that I was holding my breath for fear I would break that tiny, fragile body that weighed less than two pounds. My preceptor was afraid I would pass out from lack of oxygen.

As time went on, I loved the NICU and all the micropreemies more and more. I fit in perfectly with the tight community formed by the staff of RNs, RTs and neonatologists.I was thrilled with working with the families. Nursing is all about promoting health and one key aspect is patient teaching. Patient teaching in an adult nursing setting frustrated me because the majority of adult patients just were not receptive to the idea that their lifestyle brought them to the hospital and now they must change certain aspects of their lifestyle. But in the NICU setting I learned that new parents are virtually empty vessels so eager to be filled with the knowledge of how to care for their babies, so eager to touch them, hold them, feed them and understand preemie behavior and ultimately what to do when the long awaited discharge day arrived. This was the kind of patient teaching I loved. I found my passion!

Four years after I started in the NICU, I was offered a position in Labor but after much thought I declined. The NICU was my niche.

Over the years in my nursing practice I have encountered nurses from other specialties who confess that they could never work in the NICU because those tiny 1-2 lb babies were just too scary. I usually would grin and reply that I could never see myself where they worked at because those big people scared me too. Oh, there is one final reason for my choosing neonatology. At the risk of being too gross, it is the poop factor. It happens. Everyone does it and guess who cleans it up in a hospital setting? I figured if I have to I would rather do it on a patient a lot smaller than me.

stopping my moments from running away

Matt flatters me!

Laura, I’d like to know more about your photography.

Your pictures are so wonderful.

I love lists. So, what are the 5 things you think about when taking a shot.

Speaking of pictures. The pic for this post is awesome. Your eyes just pop out!

Thank you, thank you! Considering the amazing shots Matt shares on Flickr, I take it as high praise for him to compliment my photography. I do love to take pictures and I take a lot. A-LOT! When I picked up my camera from the repair shop, I was told that I had taken over 40,000 pictures with it. Kind of creepy that he was able to know that but also interesting to know. Of those 40,000 shots that I have taken over the last three years, I have manages to take maybe a few hundred pretty decent shots and of those maybe several dozen great shots and of those dozens perhaps just a handful of amazing shots.

I’ve said it before, I get lucky sometimes.

So what prompts me to take a picture besides the fact that it annoys my kids?I prefer that my pictures tell a story so I tend to not like posed, formal portraits. I believe that there is so much more that can be taken from a photo when it is not a posed, perfect portrait. Everyday there is something worth capturing with a camera and thank goodness there is because I am working on my own Project 365, Year 2. There are some days where I find myself scratching my head trying to figure out what kind of shot must I catch. Then there are days where it is 11:38 PM and I am panicking just a little thinking, “Crap! I haven’t taken a picture yet!” But what am I thinking when I take those shots that may or may not end up in my Project 365?

  1. Who or what is in the picture? – Hazel and her Daddy’s (Ben) leg.
  2. What is going on? –  She, and the rest of her family are meeting with Mr. Angry Eyes who wants to explain why this time he is ready to be a daddy.
  3. Why is this person, place or thing important today? –  I love how while her biological father is telling us why he is Hazel’s rightful daddy, Hazel is looking up to her real Daddy, the man she adores.
  4. What makes this shot something I want to remember a year from now…or more? – There is nothing more perfect and pure than the look of love and adoration in the eyes of a small child when they see their parents. I have captured that look in Hazel’s eyes forever.
  5. What does this shot reveal about me? – I adore the love that she has for her real Daddy. She and Ben both are so lucky!
Thanks Matt also for the compliment about the self portrait too. Since you’re often behind the lens too I am sure you appreciate the fact that there aren’t many shots of me. I have come to realize that I need to make a conscious effot to get in the shot lest my grandkids and their kids wonder where was I. Hurray for digital cameras too because it makes it a little easier for me to get in the shot even when I don’t have a willing circus clown to take my picture. I have to confess that I wasn’t too excited about that shot of myself and one of the reasons was how my eyes appeared. They look almost green to me…what the heck is that all about? Still it was an interesting shot of myself.
A good snapshot stops a moment from running away.  ~Eudora Welty