Picture Day & A Quick Tip for Photographing Kiddos!

First of all, for those of you who offered kind words about yesterday’s “A Deathiversary” post, thank you so much. It truly means a lot. ♥

Well today was “picture day” at McKenzie’s school! Her first picture day ever. Do you remember picture day when you were a kid? I always looked forward to picture day. Anyhow, I had McKenzie’s outfit all picked out yesterday…and then she got all scratched up by our neighbor’s puppy. Across her chest, across her neck. Poor kid. It actually drew blood. I felt so bad for her. I originally had her in a white shirt, but then I decided to I dress her in a red shirt with a white vest, which strategically covered all of her scratches. See? We had a mini-photo session before we walked to school. I love that she gets to be my little muse.

The outfit below is the one that I originally had picked out for her picture day…darn it! I removed the scratches with Photoshop in these pics, but they were very visible. *sigh* We’ll see if her school picture turns out better than mine. Probably not. ;)

A quick tip for photographing children: Above all, make sure they’re having fun! Would you want to smile if you weren’t having fun? I wouldn’t! Whenever I have a session, I usually bring some fun things for kids to do. I’ve brought bubbles, bread to feed ducks, and chalk (to name a few). Kids are messy. Kids are carefree. Capture that. I feel like sometimes too much emphasis is placed on smiles and props. Sometimes simply playing is beautiful! That’s what I always try to emphasize in my photography: the child. Capture them as they are…they’re only little for awhile.

Do you have a picture day memory? Or maybe a funny story about a photo day? I’d love to hear it!

A hair dilemma.

I have straight hair. Very, very straight hair. So straight that if I curl it (even with hairspray), it’s flat within 10 minutes. Imagine my surprise when my daughter has fluffy, curly hair. What do I do with that? Curly hair does run in my family (my sister & dad) and on Jon’s side too, so I wasn’t horribly surprised.

First thing I did was ask my sister what to do. She told me 1) never brush her hair unless it’s wet because it separates them, 2) get layers in her hair because it brings out the curls, and 3) use product for curly hair! Well, I’m still not good at it, so inevitably I always just put her hair in a ponytail. Which I do very well, if I do say so myself. But the day I snapped these photos (when we were in California) we left it down. It was pretty, but I did break rule #1, and you can tell. See what I mean when I say fluffy? I just wound her hair around my finger when it was wet to accentuate the ringlets.

And I didn’t realize how red it looks until I saw these photos! She got this horse with a Barbie for her birthday and she was very proud it…I love how she’s trying to ride it (in the above pics). She wouldn’t part with it for days! Not even on the airplane ride home. =)

Her outfit was under $15:

  • Shirt: Target, $7.99 (unusual for me, because I never buy her new clothes!)
  • Jeggings: Target, clearance $3.98 (they’re one size too small, so I turn them into capris by rolling them up once)
  • Shoes: Old Navy, thrifted $1.99 (I threw them in the wash and they look brand new!)

I’m not cheap…I’m thrifty!

Who likes to waste money? No one, that’s who. So whenever we visit California I always stop by the local Children’s Orchard to buy McKenzie “new” clothes. It’s a resale shop with children’s clothing and toys…and I LOVE it! Kids grow so quickly that their clothes stay in awesome shape. ((Check out the store locator on the home page to see if there’s one near you.)) I always go a little crazy and buy a ton of stuff… this visit, I got her ENTIRE winter wardrobe for around $80! Crazy, right? 6 pairs of pants, 6 shirts, 3 dresses, 1 pair of brand-new kicks. Yep. Momma did well! Here are my finds (and FYI, these are photos of the actual clothes I got her):

The brands for the jeans above are (left to right): Gap 1969, Genuine Kids, and Koala Kids. She only ever has about 2 pairs of jeans at a time. It’s all you really need.

These are all corduroy pants if you can’t tell from the picture (pink ones are actually thrifted from Goodwill). I love bright colored pants on kids…and they’re even popular on adults right now…not that I could wear her pants. Haha. Any-who, the pink ones are Genuine Kids and the other two are Cherokee. Sa-weet. That means that all 6 pairs of pants were under $30. They averaged $4.80/pair…for name-brand pants! Talk about a steal. ;)

And aren’t these dresses ridiculously cute?! The brands are (left to right): Old Navy, Gymboree, and the tags on the striped one were cut off…so if you know, leave a comment. ;) I figured that the red one will be for Christmas. The other two are just great fall/winter wardrobe staples. They could be worn with boots or shoes. =)

All the shirts I bought from Children’s Orchard were $3.99. The brands above are (left to right): Oshkosh B’Gosh, Jumping Beans, and Gymboree. The brands below are: Carter’s, Gap (obviously), and Jumping Beans. I love all the fun, bright colors!

Also, I always shop for shirts to match the shoes that she already has…like these ones from Target, which I found on clearance for $2.98. That way, I always know that her shoes will match her clothes, and I can dress her quickly without putting a lot of thought into it! Makes things super-simple.

Lastly, I found these amazingly cute Adidas shoes there…they are definitely brand new and they were only $7.99! They will match perfectly with the (3) new Adidas tracksuits that she got for her birthday from our good friend, Kim, in California!I hope this gave everyone some insight into how I shop for Kenzie…can you believe all of these clothes are used? Can’t you just see all the adorable combos of outfits we can do with these pieces? If you don’t have a Children’s Orchard near you, there are tons of private resale shops around, and I shop at Goodwill all the time! I’m very picky though (I won’t get clothes if they look too worn), and I shop for the look of the clothes, not the brand. And even check Craigslist! You can get great deals on kid’s clothes. So you see, guys, I’m not cheap…I’m thrifty. ;) Oh, and thanks for all the birthday wishes already on FB! Y’all know how to make a girl feel special.

[[All photos were taken by me in my living room! Not too shabby for my first time editing photos this way, right?!]]

Why did the cow cross the road?

McKenzie has been incredibly shy lately when she’s introduced to strangers…which is totally fine because we’ve really been stressing “stranger danger” (the little sweetie was saying “hi!” to everyone she saw…cute, but potentially dangerous). Anyhow, it can definitely be a little embarrassing when we’re trying to introduce her to someone new, and she hides behind our legs…she’ll make the face in the bottom-right picture (below). What a little stinker.

To remedy this new-found shyness, we’ve taught her a couple cute, kid-friendly jokes…it really helps her relax a bit around new people. I found a lot of them on the Melissa & Doug blog, because we were having a hard time finding ones that would be easy enough for a preschooler/kindergartener to actually understand. Here is a list of the 10 best ones we’ve found:

  1. Why did the cow cross the road? To get to the udder side!
  2. What do you call a sweaty dog? A hot dog!
  3. What is a pirate’s favorite letter? Arghhhh! (r)
  4. What did the teddy bear say when he ate too much ice cream? I’m stuffed!
  5. Why was 6 afraid of 7? Because 7 ate  9!
  6. What time do you go to the dentist? Tooth-hurty!
  7. What do Santa’s Helpers learn in school? The elf-abet. 
  8. Where did the hamburger go on a date? To the Meat Ball!
  9. Why did Tigger go to the bathroom? To look for Pooh!
  10. Where do cows go on dates? To the mooooovies!

Like how I began and ended with a cow joke? We are from Wisconsin, after all…haha. ;) Kids telling jokes is just pretty darn cute, and I’m glad it sets her at ease around new people. Her favorite one right now is #2 on the list (probably because it’s so easy). Sometimes she’ll just roll right into the answer, but it’s cute anyway. Do you know any good, kid-friendly jokes? Feel free to share them with me so I can add them to our repertoire!

I used the “joke technique” with McKenzie at her fun-filled birthday lunch with me last Friday, and she told jokes 2, 3, 5, and 6 to our server! Afterward, I snapped some pictures of her in front of the Cheesecake Factory. She was in particularly happy mood, so I got these adorable, personality-filled pics! She wore this on her birthday, so it had to be fabulous. Can you believe this whole outfit was less than $10? Can’t beat that.

  • Shirt: $1.99, Children’s Place (thrifted from Goodwill…I love this shirt!)
  • Jeggings: $3.98, Circo (Target clearance)
  • Shoes: $2.98, Circo (Target clearance)

There’s no place like home…

Oh man, there’s nothing quite like sleeping in your own bed. McKenzie and I had a great trip to California…but there were definitely ups and downs, and I’m pretty relieved to be home. We had a lot of fun seeing seals and dolphins on Grandpa Jeff’s boat, and she had a wonderful birthday. Boy, did she get spoiled! New Barbies, a new toy phone, dolls, some new clothes, and even a Disney princess suitcase…traveling home would’ve been impossible without it!

So a little recap of the trip is in order: Since Grandpa Jeff was working on her birthday (and had no food in his house), we went to the Cheesecake Factory in Mission Viejo, CA for lunch. The servers came and sang “Happy Birthday” to her, and she got a mini birthday sundae…she thought it was pretty cool to be the center of attention! And she loved it…so of course I did too. ;)

On her birthday evening, some local Cali friends came over. McKenzie had a blast playing with Sadie and Sophia (4 and 9-years-old, respectively). They played Barbies and had tons of fun. And I  just didn’t have time to make my famous Dirt Cake…darn it! She loves it every year and it’s so much fun for kids. I figure I’ll make it for my birthday this Saturday and we can have a combined mini-celebration together so her Daddy can watch her blow out candles too. I was so sad he wasn’t with us on her birthday this year. =(

Anyhow, while we feasted on some Domino’s Brooklyn Style Pizzas, Grandpa Jeff was the hero and ran to pick up a last-minute cake. He got the most delicious Caravel ice cream cake, and it was perfect. She got her second chorus of “Happy Birthday” for the day, and shortly after, we called it a night.birthdaycakecollagecrop

Now, Grandpa Jeff always spoils us and takes us to yummy restaurants, and this trip was no exception. We had delicious dinners every night, and we walked to watch the sun set over Dana Point Harbor. It was stunning view from up on the cliffs. I didn’t happen to snap a picture, but while we were there McKenzie was being quite a little goofball, so I was certainly able to snap a few of that…look at that attitude!nightcutiecollagecrop

Anyhow, our flights home were uneventful, and I had 3 separate people tell me that McKenzie is a “great traveler.” So I suppose that’s good for me! Haha. But seriously, it was a really long day, and it was great to come home and see Jon. We missed him oodles. And I took a looooong nap in my own bed while McKenzie showed Daddy all the new goodies from her birthday.

And her amazing Daddy had one more birthday surprise for her, too…she walked into her bedroom to find this beautiful flower arrangement. She’s been asking for “fake flowers” for months, and I think Jon did a pretty darn good job making his first flower arrangement all by himself! It’s perfect on her bookshelf…and I’m so glad to be home. ♥

A tantrum for the books…

Oh. My. Goodness. Mad props to single parents everywhere. This “vacation” has definitely been stressful having McKenzie by myself. I didn’t realize how much I really need my “me time” to unwind after a long day…and how much of a hands-on daddy Jon is. If one of us is getting really stressed with her, we literally say “tag!” and switch. It’s great. And I definitely could’ve used it yesterday. She had a tantrum of epic proportions. But I don’t blame McKenzie at all…the Wisconsin/Cali time change was really dramatic (2 hours), so her sleep schedule is all f*%#ed up.  She only got 8 hours of sleep, which is like 30% less. But seriously you guys, it was terrible. Like, she was screaming and crying for 45 minutes and curled up in a closet type-terrible. When she was finally done with that she had a nice long nap, and I did too. It was glorious.

After our nap, we went down to the Embarcadero Marina at Dana Point Harbor and went out on Grandpa Jeff’s boat on the ocean. We got to see seals and dolphins, and it was pretty sweet! McKenzie thought it was pretty cool. She was very excited her new mermaid Barbie got to see them too. So that was our day yesterday. I’ll recap her b-day party in a later post when I can download the pics after we get home.

In the meantime, I took these pics before we left and this outfit was also around $10. Even though I bought the shirt new, it was still really reasonable at $5.99 on sale at Kohl’s. I always buy shirts based on the shoes I have for her. It takes any thinking out of the equation. Haha. And I have a theory I apply whenever I dress her: baggy on the top, tight on the bottom, or vice versa. And I currently love the trend of shoes without socks. ;)

  • Shirt: $5.99, Kohl’s
  • Leggings: $3.50, Carter’s Outlet
  • Shoes: $2.98, Target clearance

Kindergarten ((4K))

Because McKenzie is only a week away from the cut-off date, we’re enrolling her in school today…she’ll be starting K4 on September 4th! Yikes! She’ll be the baby in her grade. This has always been an issue for Jon and me because we’re both older…first to drive, physically bigger, stronger, etc. Size-wise, she’s pretty tiny to begin with (only the 30th percentile amongst her peers), so hopefully that won’t be an issue. We’ve decided we want her to be older too, but she’s still going to start school now. We just plan on having her do K5 twice, so at least she’s still getting the academic input…unless her teachers really advise against it because she’s such a smarty-pants. ;) She has such a big personality, so I’m sure she’ll be a social butterfly!


But with the school year fast-approaching, I’ve been doing all my back-to-school shopping at the local Goodwill. Yep. Not gonna lie, I really don’t care if it’s used as long as it’s in good shape. Like the shoes in this post. On my last visit, I was very happy to find the shirt in these photos for $1.99. They perfectly match her new blue shoes from Target Clearance…which translates into big savings for me, and trendy-tike style for her. =) This whole outfit was less than $10!

  • Shirt: $1.99, thrifted Goodwill
  • Jeggings: $3.98, Target clearance
  • Shoes: $2.98, Target clearance

On the topic of school, this past weekend we were visiting Jon’s Mom in the Milwaukee area (where Jon and I both grew up), and McKenzie and I went to the playground at my old middle school. They replaced all the equipment since we went there. She had a lot of fun just playing with me, but she will definitely have fun playing with kids her own age when she starts school! The dogs came too…Logan is our chill golden retriever, and Cali is  our energetic yellow lab. They’re both 6, and ridiculously patient with McKenzie. She’ll pull them all around the house playing “Lion King” or “puppy.”  ((She’s the cub and/or puppy and they’re the parents. It’s hilarious, and I do feel bad for them, but it gives me a nice break. Just sayin.)) Cali is super-tolerant, but McKenzie is especially close with Logan. He listens to her every command, and they’re great buds. It’s pretty adorable..they’re in-step and everything! See pics below:

It’s Almost Birthday Time!

It’s almost McKenzie’s birthday! I can’t believe she’ll be 4. Time is running away, and I just wish it would slow down. She’s such a sweetheart. She’s seriously the most genuinely kind little kid I know. It’s hard to believe that 4 years ago right now I was ridiculously pregnant waiting to pop. I was nearly 2 weeks overdue when she made her arrival…who knows how long she would’ve waited! But she was born on Sunday, August 24th at 7:54pm. And our lives have never been the same. ♥

SOOOO anyway, I just learned how to do collages with Photoshop (I have CS5). I used this tutorial. It’s so much easier than I thought! What a relief. I was sick of the tiny pictures. Haha. I took these photos last week Friday before our trip to Milwaukee. I love this outfit! And it was super-reasonable too, around $18 total:

  • Hoodie: Oshkosh, $9.99 (on sale at Target)
  • Undershirt: Thrifted, $1.99
  • Jeggings: $3.98 (on clearance at Target). These are a little short on her because they’re 3T, but if you cuff them at the bottom–voila! You now have Jegging-capris.
  • Shoes: Thrifted, $1.99 local Goodwill. I always throw shoes in the wash and they look brand-new!

This year for her birthday McKenzie and I are flying to visit Grandpa Jeff in Laguna Niguel, California. Sadly, Jon needs to work so he’s staying behind in WI. We’re gonna have a little shindig at Grandpa’s place with a few local friends. It should be fun. Birthdays are always fun when you’re little! Then on the weekend we always go out on his boat in the ocean and see dolphins and seals…she’s gonna have a blast. AND he has a pool and beautiful playground at his community center.

Lemme just say: McKenzie has improved SO much at swimming this summer. We have a pool here at our condos, and she’s a little fish. Last year she used those ridiculous little arm bands with a circle-floatie. They were nice and cheap, but I definitely did not feel safe having her more than an arm’s reach away. When we were at the pool one day another kid had a Puddle Jumper…they are seriously the BEST! She has so much more confidence in the water when she wears it. Now we never go to the pool without it…and it’s Coast Guard approved, which makes me feel good too. Granted, she still goes under if she jumps in, but it brings her right back up (but doesn’t like going underwater anyway). I don’t know if it’ll fit in our luggage for our trip to California, but I might just buy one there since they’re cheaper than a baggage fee! ;)

Fall is right around the corner…

Fall is without a doubt my favorite season. I love the changing leaves, the wind blowing, the crisp air, Halloween, picking pumpkins. Not too hot. Not too cold. I’m getting excited just thinking about it! And one of my favorite things about fall is the style. I love using layers, and it’s obviously great for the kiddos as well! If they get too warm, it’s so easy to just peel off a layer. Super functional.

So I did this photo session with McKenzie last year in October, planning on using it for a Christmas card…which didn’t end up happening, since we used a pic from my graduation. Oh well, I still love these pics. It was such a fun day. I got her all dressed up and we just walked around outside our condo, me snapping away…she played and I stalked her. ;) It was really my first time using the new camera (Canon 60D) and I was definitely still learning, but they turned out really nicely.

Anyhow my point is, this outfit is a great example of layering for kids. I’m not certain of the brands, but I know the whole outfit was around $27, which is definitely on the higher end for me. But hey, it was going to be our Christmas card. Granted, these aren’t clothes I’d want her to wear to school and get dirty (come on, I’ve gotta be practical), but I think it’s a perfect Fall ensemble. It’s great to use solid colors in an interesting way. Even though the vest is all off-white, the cable-knit pattern adds a great touch. And after I got the jeggings, they became her winter staple. She refused to wear jeans because the jeggings were a lot more comfy. Which was fine with me because jeggings were “in” (although, I find them less excusable on an adult). Haha. Anyhow, this outfit could even work for a boy. Vest, long sleeves, jeans, and some brown shoes. Very practical and it can be worn for almost any occasion…even pumpkin picking! I hope this gave you some great layering ideas for fall! Having outfits in mind in advance always makes getting kids dressed more quickly in a pinch.

  • Vest: $12.99 (new from Marshall’s)
  • Jeggings:  $7.99 (Target)
  • Black ballet flats: Old Navy $<$10
  • Red shirt: $1.99 thrifted from Goodwill