Saturday, May 25, 2013

poor old blog

This is just getting sad.  The blog.  The one without Mabel's eight month photo uploaded when she's nine months in just a few days, the one without stories of last weekend's scenery-seeking road trip to Silverton where Chester, in true Chester fashion, leapt from the Suburban and damn near right off a cliff.  The one without the tale of Wednesday's date night where after showering and carefully dressing and settling in the sitter and driving a half hour to the event and sitting in an empty parking lot for thirty minutes ... our tickets revealed we were early for that event.  Like 24 hours early.  I wish the blog had a picture of us downtown with J's coworker and his wife splitting a consolation prize pitcher of beer, instead, but it does not.  The blog is cobwebbed and neglected.  Because we're in this house.  The one where the days fly by into blurred out weeks.  The one where 5/5 family members have been some sort of sick.  Starting with a runny-nosed Mabel last Friday, concluding with a daddy who's snoring off a fever upstairs instead of being at work where he'd usually be on a Saturday morning.  The one where a pair of Spiderman underpants have been hanging from our foyer chandelier for ... a month?  All it would take to remedy this is a broomstick and a minute, but minutes are limited.  And hell if I know where the broom is, that's why I have a DOG.  (A cliff diving dog.)  The one that celebrated the last day of a boy's first year of preschool, a middle girl carefully writing out her first unassisted word (M-O-M) with an orange marker, a baby's three first "words" spoken all in the span of a week (mama, dada, baba, in that precise order) and then spoken over and over again, to the delight of all.

So for now, until I catch my breath and find some quiet time and a quiet space to catch up, to write and reflect and .... who am I kidding, if I have a quiet place I'll fall to damn SLEEP.  Because also, in this house?  There's less sleep than I'd like, what with the 6am glaring sunshine and the bedtime fighting kids and the waking once a night baby and the Kindle I never can quite seem to shut off before 11pm.  Yawn.

Anyway, for now, happy Memorial Day weekend.  And welcome SUMMER!  Ranch style.  It's going to be a good summer, I can feel it.  Maybe not a great summer for the blog, but definitely a great summer for the real people out living it.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

you want to make an instagram book, i know you do

If you're like me, a whole assortment of things keep you grinding your teeth late into the mid-night hours.  Likesuchas, if you're me: North Korea, rising college costs, and what to do to preserve your Instagram photos for all of eternity.  I can't do anything about nuclear missiles, I can't do much more than save and pray about having two/maybe three kids in college at one time and having to sell my kidneys online to buy their textbooks (for classes they'll skip to sleep in after a frat party or someshit) (not that I did that LIKE EVER) (SORRY MOM AND DAD), but I can do something to prevent the 100 treasured photos I take of my kids each week disappearing off into nevernever land one day when the Internet dies.  (It COULD!)

Cue a Facebook post asking my nearest and dearest for Instagram bookmaking recommendations.  Cue me heading over to Artifact Uprising and going "YES, YES, YESSSSSS!"  Cue squealing one week later when this package hit my doorstep.

And then more squealing when I ripped open the box and met this little lovely.

Please excuse the iPhone photos in this post.  I meant to get real pictures with the real camera, but I also meant to post this like two days ago, and it was kind of an 'iPhone or never' situation at this point, know what I'm sayin'?  

So, the details, before the FakeTwins start fighting over the blocks they're miraculously sharing right now (should be about three more minutes before hell breaks loose).

I went with the 'Instagram Friendly' 8.5x8.5 softcover book (found under the Shop tab).  These start at $27.99.  Mine, with 400-ish photos, came to just under $50 shipped.

The only initial disappointment I had with Artifact Uprising was that they're not currently set up to import directly from Instagram.  But after following these simple directions from their FAQs, it wasn't that hard to do it myself:
"To use your Instagram images – the files must be present on your tablet, computer or Facebook account. We are not directly integrated with Instagram at this time. If you are looking to use your Instagram files - consider trying to download a complete zip file of your Instagram images to select from to upload to our online system. They upload very quickly as the files are not very large."

One big tip I have is this: after using the site to download the complete zip file of your pics, take some time to organize those Instagram pics into monthly folders on your desktop before uploading the images onto the Artifact Uprising site.  This way you should have separate galleries for each month (or season, or whatever) and not one huge 400+ image gallery like I ended up with on my first go'round.  Why this matters?  I found that when I was designing my book, I'd go to the 'page layout' tab to choose a new layout for my next page, then go back to my image gallery, the gallery would slide all the way back to my first photos - so then I'd have to scroll through to get back to the photo(s) I wanted.  No biggie at the beginning of my book, but a little cumbersome when I was toward the end.  Does that make any sense?  I emailed Artifact Uprising to ask whether there was an option to hide the photos I'd already used or have my gallery stay put as I moved along and received this prompt and super nice message from one of their reps:

"Oh stink! That is a huge bummer I am sure. Unfortunately we do not have these options... :( Your best bet would be to upload separate galleries based on time. Perhaps by month, event etc? I know this is a pain... I am so sorry! I will forward this suggestion along to our development team for optimization ideas going forward."

So nice, right?

The editor was super easy to use, otherwise.  Lots of layout options, easy to move pics around.  Once I got the hang of it, I was able to finish up my book before naptime was over.

There are also options to add text to your pages and color to your backgrounds, I didn't do this.  I just preferred a clean, white background.  And I love how that turned out against my many, often busy, Instagram photos.

Oh!  Another tip.  One I'm sure most of you are well aware of, but just in case.  You've probably got some keeper photos on your phone that you didn't upload to Instagram, right?  So set your iPhone to airplane mode, Instagram those puppies, and a copy will be saved to your phone's photo album but not actually published to Instagram.  I did this with a bunch of photos from MG's birth day and am so glad I have those to include in my book, now.

I don't work for Artifact Uprising.  I don't know anybody who does (but apparently they're Coloradans, so HEY-YO!)  I'm not one of those hardcore mommy bloggers schilling crappy products to other mommy bloggers because I got one for free.  I'm just kind of obsessed with my Instagram pictures and based on the reaction to the pics I posted on Instagram when I got my book, I figured more than a few of you might want some help making books of your own.  AND I'M JUST VERY NICE LIKE THAT.  Go!  Make one!  Show me yours when you get it!  I'm hooked, I tell you.  I'm working backwards and have my late 2012 book on the way, early 2012 book made up, and 2011 underway.  Safe to say I'm grinding my teeth 1/3 less at night, now.  Except yesterday, Anderson came home from preschool and told me he has a GIRLFRIEND.  So, you know, griiiiind.  (A GIRLFRIEND.  HE'S 4.)

Let me know if you have questions.  Not like I'm some book creating genius, but I'm happy to help if I a) know how and b) have time between keeping the FakeTwins from trying to kill each other.  xoxo!

Thursday, May 9, 2013

there, in his eyes

This boy, you guys.  Do you have satellite radio?  If so, you've undoubtedly heard the commercial I hear twice, three times each day.  The one with the exasperated mom, with the kid named Jeremy, Jeremy who is a backtalker and a defier and once slammed a door in her FACE.  And this ad will come on, and I'm driving the Suburban packed full of kids, my teeth grinding and my coffee working its way through my veins to give me the strength I need to make it through the grocery store trip or pediatrician appointment, and nine times out of ten there's backtalking or defiance or sister torturing going on two rows behind me right that very MINUTE and I'm listening to this ad with the wits-end mom and thinking "just that ONCE, Jeremy slammed a door in your face?  Like just once, yesterday?  Or just once, EVER?"  Because I'm getting doors slammed in my face.  And the backtalking and defiance are a given, usually before the breakfast dishes have even hit the table.  We're trying (or have tried) it all.  The points chart.  Positive reinforcement.  Time outs.  Regrettably, the occasional spanking.  Taking away toys, blankies, everything but the pillow in his bedroom.  Frustration induced yelling when the day's grown long and my patience has grown thin and there's just nothing left.  And some of it works.  Some of it works for a moment, some for a day, some of it works for a week, but without a doubt at some point, he'll fall back into the backtalking.  And the defiance.  And the occasional door slammed, sometimes in my face.  A few times, lately, I've done something not on the list of behavior tips and tricks on my (long, long) list.  Something against my instincts, when I see this boy I love to bits do something so shockingly unlovable, like step on his baby sister's hand, purposefully and with a "so what" look on his face.  When what I WANT to do is pick up the poor innocent crying baby and run into my room and lock the door and hide under my sheets nursing a bottle of wine until his father comes home to deal with it.  And, you know, cry.

Instead, I pick up this boy of mine.  And set him in my lap.  And I hold him tight and breathe in his little boy smell that reminds me how tiny he really is, how actually new to this world that he's still learning how things work and why and when.  How small, that he can still BE picked up and set into my lap or onto my hip.  And I look into his eyes.  Really LOOK.  And in those bright blue eyes of my boy, beneath the defiance and the challenge of this moment, I see him.  My Anderson.  The sleepy, deep set, dark blue eyes of the newborn baby Anderson we gingerly carried through the doors of our house, after so many many months of thinking no baby would ever be carried through the doors of that house.  The mischievously glinting eyes of the toddler boy Anderson who, without words to use just yet, would stand pounding at the front door.  Looking back at me with wild, begging eyes until I took him out into the dripping Texas heat, gripped his hand to cross the street to the park, where he'd wiggle his hand out of mine and bypass the brightly beckoning playground and speed-toddle down the greenbelt path.  And how I'd keep on his heels, breathlessly scanning for snakes or esophagus-sized stones, kicking away stabbing-sharp sticks set out in the world to harm this precious, hard-fought child of mine.  And if I look really deep into these eyes of his, the ones passed directly through the genetic gene pool from his father to his little boy face, I see the future big boy Anderson.  The one who will probably be a calming, eye-rolling sidekick to me when we're smack dab in the middle of the teen years and his sisters are screeching and hair pulling upstairs over the new issue of Seventeen, or over a cute boy they both think they love.  I imagine that he and I will exchange a look, shake our heads, dig deeper into our bowls of ice cream and wait it out.  We'll get there, to these calmer days, I know we will.  His heart is so good.  His affections so genuine, so loyal.  His enthusiasm for adventure and exploration so infectious.  He's good, I know he is, and sometimes it takes these moments of gluing him to me and looking, really LOOKING into those eyes of  his, to ground me.  And maybe in doing so, he's getting exactly the thing he needs.  My undivided attention.  My time.  The affirmation that though he's no longer the only, wasn't for all that long, really, before sisters came along and divided the time and patience and snuggles ..... he's my only Anderson.  Will always be.
Finally, I let up on this hug-lock I've got him in.  I kiss him once more upon the waves of his ashy-blond hair, whisper some tender parting words into his ear before sending him off to play for ten minutes before the next infraction inevitably happens.  "Sweet boy?  Step on the baby's hand again and I'll take you into the woods and feed you to a hungry bear.  Mommy loves you!"

Monday, May 6, 2013

it rains

Much as I've become quite fond of Durango's near-eternal sunshine, have come to rely on that sunshine to get my tired bones shoved out of bed and down the stairs to pour out the Cheerios ..... I do cherish a rebel rainy day.  The little people in the house sleep just a bit later without the 6:45am sunshine beckoning them from outside their windows, I don't have to apply the entire half-bottle of lotion my high altitude dry skin typically begs for, and we're just all a little ..... slower moving.  Less having to chase my runaway kids down the cul-de-sac while the half-dressed baby bounces on my hip, less pressure to go, go, do do all the livelong day .... more content to build a blanket fort in the living room and read library books underneath and dig into the Play-Doh stash.  (While I toss Puffs at the baby and take ten minutes to update my blog for the first time in three-ish weeks.)

And more Hunter boots, used to their full potential by kids who keep sneaking me sidelong looks, surely wondering if this puddle stomping, mess making is REALLY allowed.  Knock yourselves out.  OMG BUT NOT LITERALLY.  I'd like to go a whole month without an urgent care visit, okay?
that's a pink glove of mine the girl is wearing.
not a deformed hand. 
The Mabes was mystified by this whole precipitation event as we waited for the big kids to finish up at gymnastics this morning.  It's fun to see her get into this bigger-baby phase and start to take notice of this big world around us, you know?  Every day, it's something new.  Let's try sleeping all night next, okay MG?