Sunday, November 21, 2010


Today, I got to photograph my friend & her son.  I think that she was the first person I told that I was thinking about perusing photography as a side job.  She said pretty quickly that I could practice with her kid.  I let lots of time pass because I tend to just talk out loud without any taking action.  I'm grateful that one day she said "Come over on 11/21" because I probably wouldn't have acted on my own words.  

This weekend, I was able to spend it with two families.  Yesterday, I photographed another family.  She's very aware that this was my first time & we both laughed about having to be lovey-dovey.  During the shoot, I said "Just pretend like you are so in love.  Smile & each other.  Whisper sweet nothings.  All the gooey things."  There was no reason for these words.  Love shines through & is hard to miss.

 It was fun to watch these women with their children.  There's a love that cannot be faked of staged & I'm so grateful that I got to witness it.


p.s. Personally, I love that first shot.  It shows how she lets her son explore without fear.  He isn't told "No, that's really high."   I'm not sure she could stop him if she wanted.  But instead of fighting, they rely on a great balance of trust & love.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010


Today, I'm grateful for:

new flavors at Jeni's. (try the gouda one!)
meeting friends for lunch in the middle of the week.
talking photography over ice cream.
that this little one finally woke up to play.
her momma because she's giving me a chance to practice as a photographer.
having friends with similar mothering-styles.

But I'm really grateful for online friends that have become actual friends.


Tuesday, November 16, 2010


These photos were not taken today, but I'm still grateful today for the experience.  During the past couple weeks, I've been thinking about photographing other families.  It was becoming a nagging itch that I could no longer ignore.  It's time that I start scratching.  I'm not sure what will happen, but it's time to give it attention.  So I began asking family & friends if I could photograph them.  And a few have asked even before I could dial their phone number.  Asking was the first little jump.  A watermark was the second.  A website will be the third. 

My SIL let me practice on her kids this past weekend.  These kids know me.  They're comfortable with my questions & my camera wielding ways.  I'm aware that these facts make a photographer's job much easier.   Once we got passed the "No Cheese" zone & when they realized I was going to shoot even if they weren't looking, we got along quite well.  Here are a few of my favorites:



Monday, November 15, 2010


Tomorrow, my post might be, "I'm grateful for not puking or gakking or otherwise getting the flu," but that doesn't seem very likely given the current state. For now, I'm grateful for sick days that I can use when I am sick

But until then . . . enjoy! And remember, no matter how hot he was in college, how bad-ass he was in that dive bar, how charming he might have been on that third date . . . he's now a dad. Chances are he's still hot, bad-ass, and charming. Have a safe trip, Dave . . . miss you already!

- Jill

Sunday, November 14, 2010


It doesn't happen very often, but today was sheer bliss. And it had to do with nothing. Not a damn thing. No grading. No planning. No cleaning (although I probably should have). Nothing. I'm grateful for sitting down and doing absolutely nothing other than knitting . . . and watching football . . . and reviewing photographs. Period.

Jill, who's also grateful for Ted Leo and the Pharmacists 

Thursday, November 11, 2010


When I fly, I have to fly early.  This flight was much better than my past flights.  I only had to get up at 5 a.m.  Before I fly, I don't sleep.  I completely freak out that the alarm won't work.  This particular night, I was wired.  I tried to sleep really hard.  I squeezed my eyes so tight, it might have woken me up.  I'm pretty sure I slept for a total of 3 hours. 

When I pulled into the garage, I pulled onto level 3.  Not on purpose.  Just because my brain told me too.  I drove past a couple rows & remembered my last trip's spot.  Shoot for Row E.  Two trips have been in this same spot.  Remember the Row E.  Remember this spot.  And tonight, I did.  I'm grateful for not having to spend frantic moments trying to find my car.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010


While I might complain about grading essays, I truly am grateful for the decision I made eight years ago when I pursued education as my career choice. Originally, I had a degree in technical writing, but I hated every job that I took in that field. Most of it was done on spec for clients that ranged from major hospitals to Ivy League colleges to small non-profits. And I hated just about every job that I had because there was a lack of interaction with other people. So when the Girls were in the third grade, I took a job as an instructional assistant at a neighboring district and was hooked. Turns out I actually enjoyed working with middle school aged children, and I loved learning new things from the people that shared the space around me. Three years later, I left that position to work on my certification in education. Ironically, I was hired in the same building where I worked as an assistant.

Days run together after about the third week. I seem repeat myself to the point where I am sure that one day someone will find me in the corner muttering, "Your name, my name, English 7. period you have it, today's date . . . no punctuation," just to get the MLA heading down properly. Christ, there are some days that I consider getting that simple, four-line heading correct a major victory. I've worked out a dance to teach my kids the writing process, I've smacked my head against the board for emphasis, I've made kids cry for no reason other than saying, "I don't understand your writing," I've cried after kids tell me they couldn't get their homework done because their mother is dying of cancer, I've laughed so hard I thought I was going to puke, I've seen just about everything, I've heard just about every excuse. And yet . . . every day is a brand new day.

Her Name Is
Whoever said, "Those who can, do, those you can't teach," never taught a day in their life

Yesterday, I was privileged and honored to chaperone an annual trip to New York City to see the Martha show taping for our school's television production class. The students come from all walks of life and offer a unique glimpse into the future that awaits us in 20 years. Part of me is frightened - I've seen them eat and heard their jokes - but a bigger part of me can't wait. Our future is more than bright . . . and for that I am so grateful.


PS - I'll get a video up sometime this week from both the New York trips - Dave's and my trip and the Martha trip . . . after all, I still have those essays to grade

Tuesday, November 9, 2010


I was over a week late & starting to get really worried.  Today, I'm grateful that I started my period.  I'm extremely fortunate to have had two children and that's where I'd like my fortune to stop.  My sanity can handle two on good days.  The thought of adding another sibling to our clan is so terrifiying to me.  A third would feel like the prisoners took over the jail.  A third just freaks me out.  I see families with three & I start to sweat.  I know lots of people with three kids & they're all good familes.  I know that someone will comment here or on Flickr something along the lines of this:

LOL!  I thought the same thing & then we had #3.  I wouldn't change it for the world.

And I'd say, "That's so wonderful!"  And I'd actually mean it.  I just don't want to take that chance.  I like sitting at a table without having a chair hanging off the end.  Amusement parks will love us because we aren't breaking up the family for roller coaster rides.  And god forbid, our third was a girl.  Here's another comment I have gotten or might get again:

LOL!  I only wanted boys too & then my girl came along.  I love her so much!

And I'd say, "That's wonderful!"  And I'd actually mean it.  If I had to pick, I want all boys.  But since that's not how nature works, I'm certain I'd love a daughter too.  I'm not cold-hearted, I just know what I'm good at.  Fart sounds & boogers are where I'm strongest.  That being said, a third child for us would definitely be a girl.  I just know it.

But whenever a period is late, your mind scampers off to the big "What-if?"  They actually over-warn you before a vasectomy that a pregnancy is possible.  The chances are 1 in 64,000.  But there's a 1 in that sentence & that's all I focus on.  During this week, I was assuming that my body is still getting used to not have birth control in its system, but it was starting to freak me out. 

Here's the part of the story that does make me sad.  I adore being pregnant.  If I could spend my entire life being pregnant, I just might.  I'm not sure what it is.  I wasn't overly emotional about the pregnancy.  When I saw the ultrasounds, I didn't cry at the sight of my son.  I didn't fully attach to either kid while in utero.  My pregnancies were easy.  I was huge, but that was fine.  It was funny to bump into things with my bump.  It was amusing to hear the shit people would ask or say about my pregnancy.  I liked trying to figure out if I was resting my book on a baby butt or a head.  I loved being the hospital.  I loved breast-feeding all over the place.  All of it & I will miss that until the day my kids put me in a home.  But I don't want the rest that comes with a pregnancy, I'm thrilled & blessed with the two I have.  I'd carry babies for the 20 women if I could, but I'd gladly hand their child over the second I pushed it out.  Goo & all.

Until someone rents out my womb, I'm grateful to have started my period.



Last night, I had dinner with a good friend.  I wasn't feeling well all day & almost picked up the phone to cancel at least 3 times.  But I didn't want to cancel.  I wanted this dinner.  Amy & I don't get together as much as we used to.  A long time ago, she was part of a couple in our group of good friends.  We spent our weekends watching bands or hanging out at a party/dive bar.  She's the type of person that everyone loves.  If a stranger sat down next to us one of two things would have happened.  First scenario: we began chatting, learned a lot about the stranger, & probably helped them solve a problem.  Second scenario: we informed the stranger that we were producers for MTV's reality tv department & we were looking for stars.   Both scenarios would drive Mark insane.  Name a pop star or group from early 2000's.  We've seen them.  We've offered a waiting father a beer in the parking lot of an N'Sync concert.  We snuck down for better seats at a Britney Spears concert.  And we talked our non-drinking friends to hold our extra beers at the Justin/Christina concert.  Don't judge.  You try going to a pop show with thousands of teenagers, you'd drink too.  We've had some fun.

But then that couple split & I knew we wouldn't see as much of each other.  It also happened during the first few months of my life as a new mom.  I was going through the biggest change of my life & that probably lessen the impact of what the split meant to & for me.  But I understood that she needed to be away from the group.  I knew she was making some big changes too.  Our friendship was going to have to change.  And that was ok.  Over the past 5 years, we see each other when we can.  And each time it feels good.  Our relationship is sort of like a good soap opera, but without the drama.  We can get together after a couple months & pick right up again.  She's hilarious, laid back, talented, & extremely supportive.  I know that when I need encouragement or good advice that she's stocked up to her eyeballs with it & will generously dole it out. 

Yesterday & every day, I'm grateful for my friend Amy.


Monday, November 8, 2010

7:30 . . . Brought To You By the Letter "E"

Generally, when Erika has done about ten posts in a row, one of two things has occurred: she's either found a new project OR it's the end of the quarter/I have a ton of essays to grade. Imagine, if you will, a perfect storm of blog silence from me . . . and new project coupled with both the end of the quarter and 130 character sketches of various ranges of mediocrity.

My friend, Brian, for whom I am extremely grateful

It's not that I'm not grateful (hell, I am grateful every morning I wake up and get ready for work), but putting that gratitude into words seems hollow to me and inevitably, my suckiness at it creeps in. I tried to keep a gratitude journal about 13 years ago, and I failed miserably. That journal lasted only about three days; I distinctly remember starting it around October 6th as the first thing I was grateful for was the birth of my niece, Katie. See what I mean? I can't even maintain a written form of gratitude with a new infant.

Autumn Days
Scenes From Under My Maple Tree . . . for which I am exceedingly grateful

Today, however, I'll explain my gratitude in simpler terms. I'm extremely grateful for catching up with a good friend because emails are not enough to fill the void of seeing each other every day. I'm exceedingly grateful for the yellow leaves that float like feathers from a maple tree that has seen more than its fair share of change. I'm eternally grateful for my students' writing, even when it causes me to question whether or not I actually speak the same language as them . . . because surely some of the confusion must be due to a barrier with the Mother Tongue.

We All Make Choices
Stacks of paper, written by 12-year-olds, revised by a 41-year-old . . . for which I am eternally grateful

But most of all, I'm grateful for my sister  who would put up post after post after post - even with sick kids - without bitching or complaining or calling to harangue me because deep down, she knows how to be grateful . . . and she knows that this is the time of year when report cards are due.

- Jill

Sunday, November 7, 2010


{The exhibit was pretty much empty & one bear was swimming.  Bonus}

{I think our boys would love to just climb on the statues rather than look at the animals}

{or walk on the walls}

{I think this is when he was done.  He eeked out a "Cheese."}

{They like to check off where they went.}


Saturday, November 6, 2010


I'm incredibly grateful for our libraries.   I'm shocked when people don't use their libraries.  Because our library system is so good, we're able to preview all new book purchases.   I can honestly say that I have never not found a new-release or  older book I was searching for because they always have it.  The reserve feature is almost magical.  See a book online/tv, visit the library's website, reserve it, a few days/weeks later it's in your hands.  See?  Magic!  We get to read books that have been out of print for years.  We get to listen to music that was stolen from our college collection.  It's a service that we never take for granted & use on a weekly basis.  Last year, we were afraid that our quality of service was going to be diminished because our libraries faced budget issues like everyone else in the world.  They cut hours (no Sunday hours & shorter weekday hours) & some funding for new books.  We felt devastated.  Sunday trips to the library were starting to become the norm in our house.  Believe me, library trips are not always smooth or enjoyable with two young kids.  There's plenty of "How do we speak in the library" talk as we drive over to the branch.  We like to pour over each new release & linger in certain aisles & kids don't understand "linger" as well as we'd like.  Actually, they know how to linger when we don't want them to linger, but that's another post.  But this past Tuesday, the library got some funds because the people voted in their favor.  I'm grateful that the libraries won. 

People, use your libraries & use them often!  Even if you don't get every single new release, check out what they have to offer.  Something will be new to you.


Thursday, November 4, 2010


I am not good at taking my kids to the doctor.  I'm not cutting up tree bark in the backyard or slathering them with slug trail to ease their pain, but I'm just not one of those Mom's that calls the doctor a lot.  And I'm not slamming those Moms either, but I'm not one of them.  I know plenty of them & they're all excellent Moms.  I also know that I'm in the minority on this issue.  I guess you'd say I'm cautiously lazy.  Cooper had a cough for the first 18 months of his life.  A nasty cough.  The kind of cough that makes strangers in Target ask if I'm allowing my kid die in Lane 4.  The kind of cough that sounds like I blew cigarette smoke into his cute little newborn face for 3 straight days.  I'd mention it every time I brought him to the ped's office for his well-checks, but his lungs were always clear.  I even made sick appointments after the strangers' comments, but nothing was done because he was in daycare.  It's the Daycare Cough.  He was eating & sleeping while he sounded like he was going to spit up a lung, so I stopped worrying.  Clearly our doctor didn't seem upset by it.  On his 18 month check-up, he coughed up a big one & the doc asked about it.  I explained what I had always explained & he said, "Ok.  You just don't want to become complacent about it."  It's a good thing I have a minor crush on our ped or I would have smacked him.  So I'm used to a nasty cough.  I'm used to not freaking out if a fever is 103 degrees.  I'm used to rashes that aren't real nasty looking.  We just don't call or go in all the time.  We also don't Google.  That will get any well-meaning parent stuck in the nasty "What-if" tunnel of doom.  Mostly Mark hates this attitude, but the kids have never been real sick.  Nothing that a cool bath & slathering of cream won't fix.

But occasionally something comes along that I can't ignore.  Once Becks had a cough that I could tell was croup the second the germs left his mouth.  Another time, he so hot & cranky that it forced the phone in our hand.  If the thermometer went one digit pass 103.9, the doc was getting a call on a Saturday night.  I always forget that taking a temp should never be done the second you pull them out of their warm bed/covers.  Wait 10 minutes & you'll get a more accurate reading.  He was down to 102 after the wait.  Medicine was given & we hovered.  On Monday, we discovered he had an ear infection & was almost over it.  Cooper's cough was the normal nasty hacking until this morning.  There was a wetness that could not be ignored.  And so we went to see the doctor.  He listened & listened much longer than usual.  He determined that it's either just a bad cough or pneumonia.  To me that sounds like we won $5 or $5 million.  Since he's never been on antibiotics, he prescribed some & warned me that they might not make a difference (aka: not pneumonia).  We left & returned to the couch.  A few hours later, daycare called & said Becks had a fever.  And so our day of two medicines began.

I'm grateful for medicine to make my kids feel better.  I'm grateful that we have health-care.  I'm grateful that when my kids are sick, they don't really act like it.  I'm grateful for medicine that taste good so I don't have to gag them to take it.  I'm grateful that we haven't had major sickness yet.  I'm grateful that they haven't puked on me. 

Today.  Puked on me today.  I've been puked on plenty, but not yet today.  And that's something to be grateful for.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Coming home after work is nice, but today it was extra nice because it meant that I didn't have to drive one more mile.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Why Not? 1:30 & 2:30

I've discovered that I love a project.  It sparks my creativity when I feel myself start to slug along.  It forces me to look for beauty every second of the day.  And lately, that's been challenging.  Work has been extremely busy.  One would think that traveling is a portal for new beauty, but one would not be a veteran of the road.  When I'm really busy with travel, I have one mission: get home as fast as possible.  Don't look to the left or right.  Don't gaggle or get lost on purpose.  Get home & take care of that place.  Finding & taking pictures for the 365 was getting boring & robotic.  I needed a kick in the ass & that's just what 30 Days/Gratitude '10 provides.  "Thank you can I have another," is what I'll be screaming all November.

The purpose of the project is to focus on your own gratitude.  To cultivate that attitude all year long.  Reading a few entries, I've been moved & even shed a tear.  I know I will have those moments with my own photos & words.  But I also know that every single entry will not have that heart wrenching emotion.  Sometimes I'm extremely grateful for a morning where I know that I'll get to take a nap in the afternoon.  Or one day, I'll be thrilled that I start my period (sometimes I'm afraid the big Cut didn't work).  Some days I'll be grateful that I didn't lose my shit on my loved ones.  But most days I hope that I'm grateful for the good that is showered on my life.

1:30 {When they sit & work together}

2:30 {Not having to cook dinner}


Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween Pictures!

It's in the can!  And now it's time for Christmas.  I can't believe I just typed that.  I'm screwed.