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Friday, November 23, 2012

book - Little Sugar Addicts

Little Sugar Addicts 
by Kathleen DesMaisons, Ph.D. 

This book's title includes the phrase "end the mood swings, meltdowns, tantrums, and low-self esteem in your child today." Right from the start it's a book any parent can relate to and probably should read. It was a really interesting read. I learned a lot about what sugar does to a body, especially children's bodies. It's not an anti-sugar book, and I'm totally NOT an anti-sugar person. I think sugar is awesome in fact and certainly has its place in our world and bodies. But this book is essential for those of us trying to navigate the toddler or young child or even teenage drama tantrum battlefields.

Sugar does indeed affect us, some more than others. I know it really, really affects my son, so we've limited the amount of sugar he gets since he started eating it after his first birthday celebration. We notice he amps up with his energy after eating sugar. Some kids aren't that affected by it, so it's nothing to worry about, but for most it does affect them. Knowing how it affects them and what you can do to prevent any pitfalls is what this book is about.

Sugar Sensitivity 
On page 2, DesMaisons explains how it is sometimes with kids who may be affected by sugar. "Sometimes it feels as if you are living with a split personality. The changes in behavior simply make no sense. You wonder what is behind it and you simply do not know what to do."

She writes about sugar sensitivity being a biochemical imbalance that affects how the "brain and body function." "These behaviors are not a result of your parenting skills." The author suggests starting by changing a child's food and diet instead of rushing to medications, counseling, etc. if you notice something off within your child.

On page 15 the author lists some questions that will help you to figure out if your child is sensitive to sugar. Questions include Is your child impulsive? Does your child ask for sweet foods all the time? Is your child wildly dramatic and goofy? Does your child have lots of allergies? Is your child known as a motormouth? If you answer yes to some of these your child has a sensitivity to sugar.

Monkey see, monkey do
The biggest point the author stresses in this book is that if you limit the sugar your kids take in, you must do the same with yourself. Kids are smart .They see right through the fact that you can drink soda but they cannot. You have to teach them by example.

Add before subtracting
The "plan" suggests adding in good foods (fruits, veggies, protein, etc.) before taking away other foods, so as not to overwhelm the kids and to do it gradually, according to DesMaisons on page 51.

The 7 Steps for kids:
1. Eat breakfast with protein. 
Kids must eat something substantial in the morning, including eggs or cheese or something hearty with protein to keep them going. This affects their blood sugar most.

2. Make connections between food and mood.
Start tracking what your kids eat, how they behave, how long before they're hungry again, how you notice their moods. Better yet, if your children are old enough, ask them these questions. How do they feel after eating breakfast? You need a baseline to see where your kids are at with their current diet before you change anything.

3. Change snacks and drinks.
No sodas. Limit fruit juices. Decrease sugar. Instead, make sure all snacks have protein with them. Some examples the author listed on page 89 include:
-apple or Triscuits with cheese
-hard boiled egg with carrot sticks
-slice of wheat toast with peanut butter (sans sugar)
-handful of nuts (over age 3)
-cottage cheese and some unsweetened canned peaches
-applesauce and leftover sausage

"Maintaining a stable blood sugar is significantly more important in children than in adults," the author wrote on page 88. She said most parents and children graze throughout the day, but really meals and snacks should be very planned ahead of time and stuck to so that kids do not go too long without eating and can keep up their blood sugars.

She wrote that children need a snack midmorning and midafternoon. "Your child should not go more than three hours without having something to eat," she wrote on page 89.

DesMaisons said that disciplining a child who is really hungry is not effective until their blood sugars are stable. "Little sugar addicts are in an altered state when their chemistry is off. They are not rational. If you can begin to look at these 'bad' behaviors in a new way, you may be able to come up with some creative alternatives for what to do if your little sugar sensitive child starts acting up. First of all, feed him."

I have personally fed my son his lunch at 10 a.m. many times when I've noticed that he is starting to amp up his energy, not share as nicely, or disagree with everything I say. He needs food. He's not a sugar addict, but he definitely has whatever it is that I have in that he needs to eat every couple of hours or else he does not do well. I carry snacks with us wherever we go. I plan his meals and when he'll need a protein to tie him over, like his glass of milk. It's important to notice these things about our kids.

Kids must eat when they come home from school. The author wrote that their metabolism cannot last from noon at lunch until 6 or so for dinner without eating something. For those who do sports afterschool, pack an extra peanut butter sandwich or something for practice. They need fuel to workout.

4. Eat protein lunches.
"The most important rule is eating on time," the author wrote on page 110. Sometimes moms get distracted and though you are hungry you can push yourself a little more. With kids that's not an option. They need to eat when their body needs it, routinely. "You job as a parent is to make sure they have food on time. Most parents think the contents of meals are the most crucial. They get very motivated and think about what to feed their children and don't really factor in when. The more I talk with sugar sensitive parents, the more aware I have become about the 'when' factor." 

She gives a great list in this chapter of fast food options that are healthiest and give protein in the meals in case you are out and busy, but need to stop for lunch.

5. Shift to whole grain food.
No brainer. Eat wheat!

6. Take out the sugar.
"But if you start to connect with the idea that the thing you are using to comfort and correct is actually creating the problem, you will find this step easier to take. If you remove the sugar from the equation, you won't have those out-of-control moments with your child. Moving to sugar-free will have benefits that so outweigh your reluctance to say no and stand your ground that you will wonder why you didn't do it before," the author wrote on page 151.

She stresses the motto that sugar is not love. "Sugar is poison. Time is love."

On page 154 she includes a great list of other commonly used terms for "sugar," like barley malt, brown sugar, cane juice, galactose, fructose, etc.

She said to first work on removing the "overt sugars" from your home first, including:
brown sugar
granulated sugar
high fructose corn syrup
powdered sugar
white sugar

She said that many holidays, birthday parties, Halloween, family gatherings, etc. are where the problems start, as family do not understand why you would go sugar-free entirely, which is the authors advice - no sugar whatsoever.

7. Take care of life. 
Get moving. Be active.
Less television.
No diets, be healthier.

The last part of the book includes tons of great recipes that sound delicious - desserts included!

A recipe from page 94 of Radiant Snack Bars:
6 cups rolled oats
1 dozen eggs
1/2 cup cinnamon
4 cups milk, juice, whatever liquid you want)
1 cup cottage cheese
2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut, lightly toasted
1 teaspoon salt
Additional 1/2 cup shredded coconut for topping

Blend the wet ingredients for 1 minute
Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl
Add the liquid mixture to the dry ingredients a little at a time
Pour into a 9x13 inch pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray
Sprinkle an additional 1/2 cup coconut on top (don't toast this)
Bake 1 hour at 350 degrees
Let cool and slice into "bars" that are sized for your children
You can add other things like nuts or applies if you like.

Overall, a very interesting read. 
I was pleased to see a lot of her tips I already do at home with my son, who is an active boy. He needs to eat a lot, protein included. I'm the same way, definitely need to eat frequently or else I feel sick. We pack snacks wherever we go. It's essential. I feed him when he's hungry, but also stick to a schedule of meals. You have to do what works for your family.

I personally think the zero sugar thing is overwhelming, especially with kids. I can't imagine being at a birthday party and not permitting my child to eat a piece of cake when they sing happy birthday and all the children are eating it. But that's just me, and I'm talking about toddlers and older, not younger than 18 months. But if it's what a family wants to do, I support it, as it does make sense that it's probably healthiest.

Pretty interesting!

Friday, November 16, 2012

mommy gratitude

I see so many on Facebook posting daily things they are thankful for, as part of this 30 Days of Thanks movement during the month of November. I didn't want to commit to doing it on Facebook daily, because I'm not sure I can be that organized right now. So power to those of you who ARE doing it daily, I LOVE reading them.

Instead, I'm showing my gratitude here with 30 things I'm thankful for as a mommy:

(doesn't he just look grateful in this picture?! so handsome!)

1. breast pump for helping me feed my kids

2. uterus for kicking those fibroids out of the way so I could deliver two healthy babies, and for surviving 4 major surgeries to do so

3. kid-friendly job hours so I can be there for all the important moments

4. a sense of humor for helping me laugh when I really want to cry sometimes

5. patience like I've never had before for keeping me sane in tough moments of "I do it myself" or when the baby would not stop screaming for oh, say, 6 weeks.

6. the ability to be a kid again myself through watching and playing with my children. I never used to run through the mud or play outside when it was super cold or rainy, now I do this type of thing on a daily basis and feel great about it!

7. that I'm part of a "club" of moms who have become my greatest friends and who really get what I've gone through, thus making me feel more normal

8. the Internet and my library card so I can research and get advice easily and for free from other moms, doctors, authors, etc. who have been where I am and know what I should do

9. organizational skills to remember things like when the birthday party starts and to send thank you notes for baby gifts; to write in my children's baby books weekly and to keep an immunization record to take to the doctor's office.

10. ability to let things go more now that I'm so busy I don't have time for petty things like wondering who's judging me or if I'm 5 minutes late or the floors have not been washed in two weeks. There are more important things in my life now.

11. appreciation for my body and what it can do and has done by bringing life into the world. It's pretty awesome, and so I'm grateful for it and plan to take care of it. Having babies has made me feel the strongest I've ever felt physically. It's pretty damn cool.

12. my husband because I have no idea how single moms do this very challenging job. And even more I'm grateful that my husband is the BEST dad and partner in the world. He helps with all I have to do around the house and with kids. So grateful for being a good team.

13. that I'm teaching my kids to be good people through my own actions like voting or teaching them manners or when I give them "talks" about things like not smoking and being good friends.

14. money to provide the things we need to keep warm, drive in a big enough car to fit all of our things, clothes, hats for winter, toys to play with, and food to eat.

15. a huge family of grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins for my kids to grow up surrounded by, learning from, and being loved by. Our family spoils our two kids. My son spent the day at a wedding recently with a lot of his family, and the whole time he asked me where the rest of his family were. That night saying prayers with his Dad, he told Dad he wanted tomorrow to "see my family again." Love that.

16. tons of babysitters who would drop anything to watch our kids. See #15 of aunts, uncles, grandparents, etc. We truly believe the saying "it takes a village to raise a child." We rely on our family so much.

17. ME time. Taking time of myself is ultra important as a mom. I need time away, time with friends, time being girlie, time to read or listen to my music. Time to run and focus on my goals. I am grateful when I get these chances.

18. my ability to score a great deal in order to be thrifty and save money to get all we need. I consign my kids' outgrown clothes that we don't need anymore and buy things on sale. I use coupons, sign up for emails where I get 40% off things like photo books online. I save money wherever I can so that we can do all the fun things we want to do.

19. being obsessed with my camera means I take pictures of everything child-related. I have every moment documented. We all say it flies by too fast, and having photos of what happened makes me feel like they stay little forever.

20. creativity with celebrating. I love that I remember to celebrate things like my son's half birthday with an ice cream cone or throw a party when he learned to use the big boy potty! I like that I search for hours on Pinterest looking for cute ideas to make my kids' birthday parties that much more special. Pinterest is my new best friend because it helps me be super creative with birthday planning!

21. sentimentality. I love that I'm sentimental, thoughtful and always wanting to recall the small moments. I take a weekly photo of my daughter, since the first week she was home from the hospital. Looking back at her growth makes me smile. I'm grateful that I remember to do this every week, and that overall I put energy into sentimental things. I keep a memory box for each of my kids - filled with cards, first lock of hair, pictures, etc.

22. the What to Expect book series. Love these things! I have the expecting one, the first year, and toddler years. I love every word in every one of them. So helpful.

23. health. My own health, my husband's, my children's. It is so challenging to watch friends deal with sickness and their children going through doctors visit after visit. I'm so beyond grateful that my home is healthy.

24. my college degrees. I'm glad I went to college and know how important it is to encourage my kids to strive for lots of education. I hope to help them someday earn a degree in the field of their dream. Having my own degree makes me feel like I can not just encourage them but show them how it's done.

25. my sister. It's so nice to not only have a mom friend but a sister who is a mom at the same time as me so we can bounce ideas off each other, or even just call each other up and say, "You will not believe what my son did today!" or "I'm going to snap if my husband does ___ one more time!" or "Hey did you see that totally adorable ____?"

26. a big car. I'm so grateful to have a car that fits the two car seats, diaper bag, groceries, strollers, ETC. ETC. that you need when you have kids. I have it all in there. I'm grateful I don't have a tiny car.

27. that I've been pregnant and had newborns. What incredible experiences. I would not trade those 10 months or those first 4 sleepless months for anything in the world. They were challenging, sure, but they made me stronger.

28. my huge freezer. I'm so grateful my husband agreed when I said we needed a huge freezer for the basement for all the breastmilk and homemade baby food I make. Literally, it's jam-packed. And I'm proud of that. Sooo lucky to have this.

29. my treadmil and my jogging stroller, because it's really hard to get outside sometimes so the treadmill does the trick to get my butt in gear. And the jogging stroller because it's SO nice to pack everyone up and just hit the road and feel like I can get away from the stress, while my kids are happy to be out for a stroll.

30. Mother's Day. I love this day. I feel special on this day, slightly more so than even on my birthday. I feel more gratitude on this day than I ever did before for my mom. She's amazing, now that I realize what she went through just being my mom on a daily basis. I love that there is a whole day just set aside for us mommas. We deserve at least one full day to celebrate all the cool things we are and all the many things we do for others.

Lots to be grateful for as a mother!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

MORE Whole-Brain Child book tips

Since many of you wrote to me this week saying the Whole-Brain Child book review I did by Daniel Siegel was helpful to you, I went back through the book seeking more tips that may be of use to we parents striving to do the best we can with our wee ones. Here is the first post:

More on the Connect and Redirect 
-First connect with physical touch, facial expressions that show empathy, nurturing tone of voice, nonjudgmental listening, etc. (page 24)
-Connecting first to the right side of the brain allows a frustrated, overwhelmed, upset child to feel heard, understood and OK. It helps to balance the emotions of the right brain. Only then can you "appeal to the left side of the brain" and get your child to see logic or understand your directions.
-Then you redirect with the left side of the brain by logically explaining what you want to say.

The author says this does not always work, but in many cases it will be just what your child needs and just what you need to get through to him. Sometimes what a kid needs is sleep or to eat, which in those cases you can't really get through to them in this way. Sometimes a child is "past the point of no return," too emotional and upset to even be able to be calmed down this way. The author also does not encourage letting kids get away with anything. Having rules is still important. These are just general guidelines.

On page 27 the author wrote, "... with the whole-brain approach, we understand that it's generally a good idea to discuss misbehavior and its consequences after the child has calmed down, since moments of emotional flooding are not the best times for lessons to be learned."

He suggested that discipline works best after a child is calmed down and more receptive to what we have to say.

"It's as if you're a lifeguard who swims out, puts your arms around your child, and helps him to shore before telling him not to swim out so far next time. The key here is that when your child is drowning in a right-brain emotional flood, you'll do yourself (and your child) a big favor if you connect before you redirect. This approach can be a life preserver that helps keep your child's head above water, and keeps you from being pulled under along with him."

Name It to Tame It 
Encouraging a child to tell a story and explain what happened for them, an experience they have gone through, makes the world make better sense to them.

On page 27, Siegel wrote, "When a child experiences painful, disappointing or scary moments, it can be overwhelming, with big emotions and bodily sensations flooding the right brain. When this happens, we as parents, can help bring the left hemisphere into the picture so that the child can begin to understand what's happening."

Instead of just brushing off what happened ("Oh, you're OK, no need to cry, you're fine, just go to sleep," etc.) we should allow them time to feel what they feel and process it.

Sometimes parents avoid talking about upsetting or scary things because they are afraid to make it worse, the author wrote. On page 29, he continued, "Actually, telling the story is often exactly what children need, both to make sense of the event and to move on to a place where they can feel better about what happened."

Some great ideas!

Monday, November 12, 2012

book - The Whole-Brain Child

The Whole-Brain Child - Revolutionary Strategies to Nurture Your Child's Developing Mind 
by Daniel J. Siegel, M.D. 

This was such an interesting book. I learned a lot. I wish I'd had more time to focus on it, but what I got from reading it recently was that our children are so complex. It's not just "terrible twos" or tantrums in the teenage years. Yes, those happen, but also kids' brains are wired with chaos and crazy during certain periods in their development. Learning how to integrate their left and ride sides of their brain to work together is what most of this book was about. 

The right side of the brain is about emotions, feelings, experiences. 
The left side is the logic, the facts, reality. 
Getting the two to work together in the same moment is key in helping someone feel at ease, confident, safe.

The authors suggest some helpful tips for working with children:

-Connect and redirect.
When your child has done something wrong instead of running in to yell at them or tell them to listen to you right now, you first address their right side of the brain by connecting with them on their level, then redirect them to the left side of the brain for some truth, reality, facts about what is going on. 

For example, I went into my son's room the other day at 4 a.m. when he was wide awake and wanting to play with his toys. I was frustrated, thinking my sleep was disrupted, as was his and when his is disrupted he gets very cranky later in the day. So I walked in and instantly said, "You need to get in bed right now, Owen. It's not morning yet," in a stern voice. He instantly started crying, real tears, really upset. So I picked him up and asked in my nicer mommy voice, "What's wrong pal? Tell mama what is making you wake up and cry." He pointed to the shadows on the wall and said "They scare me, Mama. I no sleep. I pee, too." 

The author would encourage me to first have gone in the room and said, "Why are you awake, bud? Why can't you sleep? What can I help you with?" instead of snapping at him. Then redirect by saying, "It's not morning yet, we need to stay asleep in our beds, OK?" 

On page 29, Siegel wrote, "What kids often need, especially when they experience strong emotions, is to have someone help them use their left brain to make sense of what's going on - to put things in order and to name these big and scary right-brain feelings so they can deal with them effectively." 

Siegel encourages you to talk with your children in a way to help them make sense of what is going on for them. When a child is scared of something that happened, you help them tell the story of what happened, who they responded, how parents responded, etc. in order to help them make sense of it and hopefully move on from it. 

-Remember to remember.
Instead of asking, "how was your day?" ask "what was the best part of your day?"

-Let emotions roll by.
Siegel said one of the best things parents can do for their children is to help them understand what emotions are, name them, and learn that they are fleeting; no emotion stays forever. 

I love this explanation of emotions the author wrote on page 103, 
"... it's also true that feelings need to be recognized for what they are: temporary, changing conditions. They are states, not traits. They're like the weather. Rain is real, and we'd be foolish to stand in a downpour and act as if it weren't actually raining. But we'd be just as foolish to expect that the sun will never appear. We need to help children understand that the clouds of their emotions can (and will) roll on by. They won't feel sad or angry or hurt or lonely forever." 

-Instead of denying or dismissing, try teaching feelings come and go.
So instead of quickly rushing to make your children feel better or move on by saying things like, "oh, you're OK, you don't need to cry." Try saying, "I understand it's hard when you lose what you had. You know that you feel so sad right now because you can't find your toy, but remember when you were playing on the toy and you were so happy, well that feeling being happy will come again soon. Feelings change a lot don't they?" 

One of my favorites is this one:
-Instead of command and demand, try playful parenting. 
The picture in the book is of mom giving girl a bath.Girl screams that she wants dad to come give her a bath, but dad is helping the other sibling to bed. The first scenario is command and demand, what the author says not to do, where girl screams for dad, and mom says, "Yelling isn't going to work. If you don't stop, we won't read any stories tonight." Girl keeps screaming. 

Second scenario of trying playful parenting, which the author suggests is better, is when girl is screaming. Mom says, "Hello, Samantha. Were you calling me? It's me, Daddy. Shall I give you the special shampoo?" in a dad voice. Girl stops screaming and is heard and happy. Sometimes it's just redirection and silliness that's needed to get our children to listen. 

Whole-Brain Ages and Stages
The best part of the book is the last few pages where there are cheat sheets on everything the authors suggested in the book. The author gives various ages and shows what might help with getting children to understand their feelings and even feel more understood by parents. For example, in the 0-3 age range they suggest acknowledging the feelings when you see your child is upset, but then move on to something physical, move around or race to the bedroom to clean up or play with him to change his mood. 

Overall, an interesting read. Not something to skim lightly. Lots of important, even scientific information in this book. I highly recommend it. 

It was good to just stop and think about why my toddler does things and realize that much of it is brain chemistry and physical development, not lack of parenting skills on my part or anything else. There is more to the Terrible Twos and Threes than meets the eye, and this book has great tools for dealing with those challenging moments. 

countdown to holidays - tips to make it manageable

Christmas, Hanukkah and all the other wonderful winter holidays ... they're upon us!

You must know this since the stores are INUNDATED with holiday decor and gift items. I was saving this post for after Thanksgiving, maybe December 1st/ish, but from what I see online and in stores I suppose it's appropriate to post now. 

So holidays coming means we moms are BUSY, busier than normal. It's overwhelming sometimes purchasing a zillion gifts for our own kids, and then family members and friends and parties. Here are some tips to make it a little more manageable for you. 

Start early - Break it down into smaller tasks, keep working on it weekly until the holidays are here. Take one or two things you need to do for the holidays and put that on your weekly to-do list. For example, this weekend I'm going to buy my mother's gift, next weekend I'll buy my father's gift, the following week I'll work on getting the kids' stocking stuffers done. Break it down so it's not as overwhelmingly crazy as it will be if you wait until the week before Christmas!

Make an Amazon Wish List - When our second child came along and we got multiple toys and baby items that we'd already received with our first, I made an Amazon Wish List to keep track of things we did not yet have that our second would want or of those things my older one tells me he wants. It's SO easy to create one of these lists online. Then you can email the link to your family and friends when they ask you what your child wants. They can then order online or purchase in a store they know of. A GREAT way to keep track of the toys your children say they want all year long. You can even order yourself those things you want to give to your kids, then just erase from the list so you know it's covered. The creators of this totally were moms, I swear!

Shop online - Etsy and Amazon - these are a holiday shopping momma's best friends! They deliver right to your door! There are always great deals on there with free shipping. Etsy offers the nicest things you can't find in stores, so that's a plus also.

Write it down - Keep a list so you know who you bought for, what you still need to get, etc. Keep this list with you in your purse so when you see something in a store you can check the list to see if it's needed.

Adjust the cards process - Skip the cards, or do a free e-card online. Or if you want to mail cards then at least write the addresses and stamp them ahead of time, and use printed address labels if possible.

Wrap as you go - Once you've collected all gifts for a particular person, wrap them up, call it good.Don't wait until Christmas Eve to wrap all gifts for all people on your list at once, it's too confusing! Using gift bags saves more time than wrapping paper does also, so go that route for less of a hassle.

Sticker labels - Use sticker labels for gifts. SO much easier than taping them on.

Organize your supplies - Keep all wrapping paper, tissue paper, gift bags, labels, ribbon, scissors, and tape all together in a neat and tidy plastic bin or something that works for your home so that all holiday supplies are already together, every year, easy to pull out and use.

Start cutting back - Keep the yankee swap parties and gift buying to a minimum- choose one to attend. Do you really need to swap gifts with your great aunt or can you just bake some cookies or write her a nice card instead this year? Do you really need to have your child give gifts to every single teacher or friend in their pre-school, or can you pick a few teachers and maybe no friends to make it easier, and give nice cards instead. Thought that counts, remember that, Mommas!

Just let it go - Don't do it all. You don't HAVE to visit Santa at the mall, get Sears portraits done in a red dress, set up a Nativity scene, be part of the Christmas church pageant, donate to here there and everywhere, attend every single holiday party, give gifts to every person you know, ETC. Some of it you can let go. Pick and choose what's most important to your family and focus on that.

Give pictures - People loooove pictures as gifts. lets you create photo books, mugs, magnets, ornaments, posters, etc. all for low prices, often with deals and discounts. GREAT gifts!

Get crafty! - Pinterest has TONS of awesome holiday gift giving ideas that are cheap, easy and yet so adorable your loved ones will appreciate them more than a store-bought gift. Make things like homemade jam or cookie jars, or someone on the Mommy Stories mentioned making homemade tomato sauce for pasta and putting that in a jar as a gift.

Schedule in relaxation - December flies by, we all know this to be true. Yet it's a magical time of year, especially for the kiddos we live with. So make sure you schedule in some down time with your family. Sleep in late. Bake cookies with the kids. Plan for Christmas Eve to be a low-key day instead of doing last minute gift wrapping or purchasing.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

photo 101 - part 2 - interview with photographer

This is part 2 of a photography for moms series I started last week. 
You can see part 1 here

Beth Wallace is one of my closest and oldest friends, and she's also a super momma whom I admire greatly. She has one son, Holden - super cutie of the Northeast! She is a photographer based in Massachusetts, originally from Maine. You can check out here AMAZING work here -

Not only is she a great friend of mine, but she also took my maternity photos and one-month-old photos of my son, Owen. LOVE HER WORK!

Below Beth answers some questions with great tips on how to get professional pictures done of your children, and what to do when you want to take great pictures yourself of those cute kids of yours!

1. What is your advice to parents looking to hire a photographer for their childrens photos? 
Do it! Of course I may be biased, but I love the photographs that are in a natural setting (your home, the beach, etc). Some studios can be amazing, but having the photographer in your home makes the children more comfortable (in my experience). You know your children best, so if you think they will do best at a fun location, then plan around that! One great family I've photographed a few times had their favorite session at the beach because their son really loved it.

2. What is a good age for parents to get professional photos done of kids? 
All ages, honestly, but please don't skimp on the newborn ones. Find someone who has experience with newborns, and never, ever let them put your baby in a compromising, unsafe situation. Those fancy shots of babies in precarious places (i.e. hanging in a little bundle in a tree branch or even with their head propped up in their hands) are all something called COMPOSITE shots (meaning someone holding the baby is then photoshopped out). As a photographer, I put the baby's safety as my number one priority. There are some really beautifully talented newborn photographers out there. While you're pregnant, research the ones you love and they may have a baby plan for you, meaning they will do a discount if you book a few within the first year of life.

3. What do you encourage people to dress their children in for professional photos? 
I tell people to keep it simple and just don't clash with each other. Wear what you feel good in, and you'll look good. Definitely avoid logos and words on your shirts, but don't be afraid to have fun! If your kiddo loves superheroes, let him or her don a favorite cape! If they love dress up, have fun with that, too!

4. What should parents do during a professional photo shoot while kids are being photographed? 
Relax. I just did a photo shoot for a family today, and I told them every single photo shoot with little kids is total mayhem. Don't worry because the photographer will get great shots. I love finding great shots between family members, so kiss your kids, hug them, kiss your partner! Don't forget to get a picture of just you and your significant other because when was the last time you did that??

5. What are your tips for parents to take their own photos of their kids at home every day, or even to do their own special "shoot" outside every now and then?
Have lots of fun. Get down on the ground, even further than you think is possible. You want to be on their eye level. Give them a task to do (collect flowers, leaves, play...) Do you have one of those nice SLR cameras but don't know how to use it? When I had my first one, it had the "sport" option. That one was always best for capturing fast motion but with your flash not popping up all the time.

6. What's your advice for framing pictures of kids for the house?
 Decide your style. I'm a big fan of always using white mats for prints. You really can't go wrong there. Also, if you really like a picture, go big! (Just make sure it's clear and not fuzzy at all).

7. What are some cute props, clothes, locations, etc. for photo shoots you have seen parents and kids use? 
Tutus for toddlers, family heirlooms with newborn shots, bikes for older kids, balloons, barns, etc.

8. Anything else you want to share with fellow moms about photographing their kiddos? 
Don't let the camera sit. Take photos of your babies and get them printed! Fill up photo albums (I need to do this, too). One goal would be to print them all up at the end of each year. Overall, just have so much fun. If you want good pictures with your iphone, take them outside with good light (or else they will be grainy).