Some People Carry Blankies…

When I was a sophomore in high school I was dating a boy who I was seriously infatuated with and constantly wondering if he liked me as much as I liked him. We were hanging out before a basketball game one evening at the school. We decided to leave the gym right before the game started and as we were walking across the gym floor in front of a packed house (which isn’t saying too much at my small school) – I fell.

I was so terribly mortified and overwhelmed with an incredible desire to be killed by a bolt of lightening…I immediately understood the term, “Died from Embarrassment.” That’s what I wanted to do in that moment…DIE. I was that embarrassed. Utterly and intensely mortified.

I don’t know if it was that early on embarrassing experience that made me so sensitive to other people’s awkward situations, or if I was just born sensitive and that’s why that moment was so painful for me. Either way…I have a very inherent and strong need to avoid any awkward situations. This is why I can NOT, under ANY circumstances, watch those first few weeks of American Idol. I feel the embarrassment too vividly to suffer through that willingly. I even stopped watching the entire show years ago because there were too many times when the judges called out really bad performances in ways that made me want to DIE. Not just for the singer, but for ME. That’s how easily I empathize.

On other shows, like So You Think You Can Dance, I’ll fast-forward through potentially embarrassing or awkward parts of the show. This drives my family KRAZEE. I can’t help it.

Recently…someone somewhere (and I swear I tried to hunt it down so I could give that person credit) used the term, “Embarrassment Pillow.” In reference to that pillow you grab from next to you on the couch to cover your face when something awkward or embarrassing happens on TV. I need to carry an Embarrassment Pillow around with me in my purse because it’s not just on TV that I cringe for others.

If I’m standing in line behind someone who’s card get’s rejected? I want my Embarrassment Pillow. That one is very vivid because I’ve been there too many times to count…on the DENIED! end of the situation. Whenever it happens in front of me I’ll busy myself with my cell phone, or my kids, or my hair…anything to pretend I haven’t seen the person get told their credit card doesn’t work.

When socially awkward people do embarrassing things in social situations…I often want to crawl under the table and hide. I’ve had a few people in my life like that throughout my years and I ended up simply avoiding being in large groups with them. I couldn’t take the risk. Oh…how I truly wish to really be able to have an Embarrassment Pillow to hide behind. Especially if it came with Embarrassment Headphones to block out the sounds.

In short — my intense sensitivity towards other’s experiences stretches from TV to real life. And can I tell you a secret? It has also stretched to the internet.

Any time there’s any sort of conflict in the blogosphere, whether it’s mild or severe, I totally avoid all discussion about it. Sometimes I can’t avoid it entirely, but I do everything in my power if I see an entry heading towards the topic of conflict…I totally stop reading. I’m always afraid if I dig too much into the story I’ll end up feeling awkward or embarrassed for one or all of the parties involved. I’m betting 9 times out of 10 if I just read about the debate I wouldn’t feel awkward or embarrassed, but since I feel those things so intensely? The risk is too much. I avoid any situation that brings back feelings of me tripping across my high school gym floor with my boyfriend standing there next to me.

Even if that internet drama relates to a celebrity…I avoid it like the plague. When Britney shaved her head? When Vanessa Hudgens had embarrassing photos leaked? When ANYONE had a sex tape? I avoid any website or video or blog discussing those situations because I feel so terribly bad for this person…that I do not even know. And don’t even get me started on the Gosselins. I never watched their show and the crazy drama around their split? And their 8 kids? I know nothing about it. Because I can’t read or listen to anything about it without wanting to stab my eyeballs out.

Because I am weird.

Please tell me I’m not alone. Would you use an Embarrassment Pillow to hide in uncomfortable situations? Just for TV? Real Life? Internet Drama? Or am I the only one who would like to have one permanently attached to my body?

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Roso is trying to hide his butt to avoid being embarrassed by his own nudity on my blog.

Waiting For My Rocket To Come

We are crafting while waiting for Grammy to come out of surgeryMom is still in the hospital…had gallstones removed on Tuesday, gallbladder removed Wednesday, leftover gallstones found in her bile duct removed Thursday. Saying she is ready to go home is the understatement of the year. We’re hoping today is the day. PLEASE LET TODAY BE THE DAY. If today is NOT the day my mother will be the woman in the hospital gown running away from the hospital and toward her house as another woman and her daughter chase her down the street screaming, “GRAMMMMMMYYYY!”

Since there were THREE procedures, there were THREE stretches of time we had to stay at the hospital to wait for a big chunk of time so we could be found after the surgery or if anything went wrong. I’ve decided to compile tips form lessons learned for anyone else in this situation with a kid who finds hospitals mildly boring.

(All kids find hospitals boring. FYI.)

  • Wait in their room, not the surgery waiting area. The staff understands this request and the doctor can just call the room to update you after surgery. This gives you your OWN television and your OWN space should the child like running around and dancing like mine does.
  • Bring projects but tell your kid you can’t start them until the surgery starts. This gives them some sort of schedule and an understanding why they’re there. You don’t want to start the project as soon as the patient goes TO the operation area because it may be another hour or more so build up the anticipation!
  • As soon as you get word that your patient is out of surgery and in recovery…TAKE A BREAK. One day we made the mistake of waiting and ended up not getting our break until 3 hours later. Take a break. Explore the hospital. Ride the elevator. Get cheerios out of the cafeteria. Something to rejuvenate your child so that they may be able to wait a bit longer for your family member to return to their room.
  • Point and explain. When you’re walking around the hospital, point out things like blood pressure stands or hospital beds in the hall. Something your child can spot like Punch Buggy! Have them count them. Offer a quarter for each 5 or something. Depending on what all they’re counting. This helps them WANT to take walks around the hospital which they need to do to keep that built up energy from exploding in attacks of WHINING or WALL-BOUNCING. Two things that will make the patient wish they were back in surgery.
  • Things to find the first day as they’ll come in handy: Public bathrooms. Cafeteria. Vending machines. Any good window/lobby areas for staring and point at things outside. It seems to make a child feel better if they can at least SEE the outside world periodically.

A Little Bit Of Girl Time

Dr. Diva on call! I brought NikkiZ with me to Knoxville for several reasons. The top of the list? Company. I’ve had enough experience with parents in the hospital to know that it can get lonely and boring waiting around for doctors and procedures and whatnot. I thought it would be nice to have someone along I could chat with. Even if that conversations tends to often center around the hilarity of bodily functions.

I also hoped that by bringing NikkiZ with me, I’d be leaving MrZ with a little less stress back home. Of course, I left him with the kid that requires the most assistance (that would be AndyZ…LilZ is pretty self-suficient) but without the one that requires the most conversation…hopefully things are still a bit easier for him.

(OH. MY. GOD. My daughter has turned into such a chatterbox. It’s equally AWESOME and AGGRAVATING.)

So, we’ve been here since Sunday and will probably be here until Mom comes back home on Thursday. (Hopefully.) And let me start by saying she has gone above and beyond what I would have expected. I’ve tried to bring new projects when we have long stretches at the hospital. Like yesterday – when Mom had her gallstones removed. Unfortunately, due to a crazy blood pressure spike that took a while to lower, that turned into a VERY long experience. NikkiZ stayed tolerant for about 5 hours. But those last two? I’m still not sure how either of us survived them.

But over all? It’s been a nice experience…just she and I. The second you have the second child, you always know in the back of your head that none of your kids will get the attention from you they would have if they had been the only child. We all try to find ways to give our kids their individual time and I’m seeing a high dose of why that’s important. But funny enough? Not just for her. I’m seeing how important it is for ME. I feel like I’ve really gotten to know my daughter better these last few days. Like how much like her DAD she is. Jeez. Those two? Cut from the identical mold.

So…valuable lesson learned, I guess. Instead of continually trying to find ways to give my kids their one-on-one time with their parents for their sake, it is equally important to do the same for our sake. We learn more about our kids when they’re not fighting for attention from siblings.

Just thought I’d share this lesson with you. I mean…if I hadn’t brought NikkiZ along on this trip I’d never have known how much she loves to talk about BUTTS and FARTS. (Like I said…exactly like her father.)

My life will never be the same.

My Process

Late Addition To This Entry Which I Actually Wrote This Weekend: I have been in Knoxville for a few days as my Mom has been put in the hospital with what we now know is a gallstone which will be removed today. Possibly along with her gallbladder. Keep her in your thoughts.

I have always loved to take pictures. I have always adored photography. I just wasn’t able to merge those two into a hobby until 2006 when I could finally afford to buy my first real camera. Since my first outing with that camera (slideshow here) I have been growing as a photographer. I still have such a long way to go, but as I learn, I realize how dependent I am on other people sharing what they’ve learned, their process, their opinions. It occurred to me this weekend that maybe I’ve reached a point where documenting my process could help out other people. So…here I am! Documenting my oh-so-thrilling process.

First…is the outing. NikkiZ has been begging me to let her dress as a princess and walk around town. I thought I’d make a game out of it for pictures and we took her downtown last night to find her castle. She picked out her own wardrobe and accessories (hence the two purses) and I gave her guidance as we explored downtown Huntsville and played pretend while looking for her castle. When I came home, I transferred all pictures using the organization method I’ve been using for years. I keep a directory with the year/month (2009_08). And inside that directory, I have two other folders: SOOC (Straight Out Of Camera) and edit. I copy EVERY photo I take into the SOOC folder. I only delete photos that are simply bad or redundant. I then open my favorites and…even if they need no editing…I save them into the “edit” directory. And if they required no editing, I try to add an “sooc” to the file name.

DSC_0015 (3)sooc

I upload everything in the “edit” directory to my flickr page. It gives me a backup of my favorite photos and an easy way to search as I try to be very diligent about tagging.

Now…most photos? I edit. By keeping the originals in the SOOC directory, I can always go back to the original and do other/different editing somewhere down the road. I do this often for birthdays or Christmas. I’ll revisit photos for gift ideas.

I edit almost every photo I print and/or upload to flickr. Most of the time I at least crop photos. In terms of other editing I rely heavily on PW Actions because they are great for beginners. Just a click away. I’ve started exploring more advanced actions (like MCP Actions) but I still do almost everything with PW’s.

With my kids the shotgun method of photography is the best. I just take as many pictures as I can. When I sit down at the computer, I clear my mind and just look at each of them individually. In my pictures, the post-processing is just as fun to me as the photography itself. I don’t always know if I’ve caught a good expression until I get home. Many times…the expression is so good that I change the entire composition of the photo just to draw the attention to the expression.

My Process
Cropped. PW Actions Slight Lighten. PW Actions Lovely and Ethereal.

Since kids move so much…I often just need a basic crop around them in the frame. But to me? Even just a crop makes a huge difference.

My Process
Crop Only

I often look at my photos and try to make them Print Worthy. What can I do to this photo to make it worth the cost of a print to be hung on the wall? Sometimes I open a picture on the computer and immediately I feel a certain story to the photo that a little editing can tell. Turning a nice photo, but probably not Print Worthy, into an interesting photo with a story to tell that would look great on any wall. This always works with non-face photos. My kids often don’t look at the camera, but sometimes even the back of the head can tell a story.

My Process
Crop. PW B&W Beauty (I think?). Boost.

My Process
Lovely and Ethereal x2

My Process
PW B&W Beauty.

And then…sometimes? I just play. I just see a photo and start clicking until something speaks to me. Many times I start over (another of PW’s Actions!) and try a different route. But often? I end up with photos I adore and send immediately to be printed.

My Process
Crop. Lighten. Lovely and Ethereal x2

If you want to look at all of the photos from our outting this weekend, you can see the slideshow here. This was a great outing and NikkiZ wants to do it again with friends next time.

Of course, she also wants me to dress as a princess next time.

That’s NOT going to happen. In case you were wondering.

How To Make Being Cheap Sound Like An Intentional Statement Against Societal Gender Rules For Children

NikkiZ has two pairs of sunglasses, so she can lend one to her brother, right? I mean…he’s just a bit over one. He has no concept of style and has no opinion about whether he should prefer more masculine accessories. In other words, he does NOT care if he’s wearing sunglasses with bows on them. Right?

I also use the same logic when talking myself out of buying the boy version of many things we already have girl versions of. Now, because we hoped to have more kids, we bought non-gender specific versions of many of the big items. Like carseats, strollers, baby seats and playpens. So, AndyZ has felt no stabs at his masculinity for those items. But, there are many things I have refused to buy because we have perfectly good items AndyZ can use that belonged to his sister. And he is too young to care right now, so I’m going to take that as far as I can. At some point he’ll be old enough to voice his angst over being forced to use his sister’s hand-me-downs. But for right now? I’m saving cash left and right by letting him use things she used.

Of course, many of them are quite girly. Like her dishes. He has been eating his dinner off a Strawberry Shortcake plate, his breakfast out of a My Little Pony bowl and his favorite sippy cup has Tinkerbell on it. That sippy cup goes everywhere with us.

To me? It’s not even something I care about. If he gets old enough to complain? And does, in fact, complain? Then we’ll look for a solution. But I’m the one with a daughter currently hooked on the old-school GI Joe cartoon. (Thanks to her Dad.) We obviously don’t force stereotypical gender interests on our children. So, if this same principal can save us some buck? I’m totally for it.

So, if you think you see us out and about? Check out what our kid’s have with them. If there’s a girl with GI Joe figurines and a boy drinking out of a lavender cup with fairies on it? That’s us.