Week 171: World Tour, Soccer Mom, and Rapid Growth

Since I was basically gone the last two weekends and left Geralyn to take care of the kids by herself, I decided it might be wise to grab Sam and go away from the house to deliver a little respite before anybody got hurt. The weather was nice so I had a number of options open to me, but I decided that a certain two-for-one admission coupon to a local children’s museum needed to be used before it burned a hole in my pocket. I had misgivings as soon as I pulled up to the place, situated as it was in a nondescript strip mall between a nail salon and a check cashing place. And I didn’t think that the Louvre or the Guggenheim have empty four packs of Jack Daniel’s Country Cocktails abandoned in the middle of their parking lots.

But actually, it turned out to be really cool. Each room of the place had a different theme associated with a different country, with various buildings, props, and best of all toys that followed the appropriate theme. It wasn’t large so that the entirety of the children’s planet consisted of China, Senegal, Mexico, the Philippine Islands, and a gift shop, but it was really cool in that it was the kind of place I could just turn Sam loose and let her go bonkers. Everything was interactive, and the running theme was that you were supposed to mangle and manhandle stuff up instead of just look at it. The China room, for example, even had costumes you could dress up in and a kid-sized kitchen where you could prepare a traditional Chinese meal. There was also a Chinese market, where Sam tried to sell me a five pound drum of Shark cartiledge as a “cure for boogers.”

It was in the Mexican village room that I had another one of those parenting epiphanies. They had a station where you could make your own little parade decorations out of paper, streamers, a straw, scotch tape, and spit. There was a little sign that explained how you were supposed to neatly cut out the shape from the paper, glue streamers to it, et cetera, but Sam rebuffed my initial attempts at showing her how to follow the directions. She opted instead to just hack the crap out of the paper with the scissors, slather the whole thing with glue, and tape on no less than four handles. As I usually do in such situations, I just shrugged and let her do her thing. She was focused and seemed to be having fun figuring things out on her own.

Then along came another little girl, this one perhaps four years old, and her mother. I glanced over at the mom as I scooted to make more room at the table and had to suppress a little snort of laughter. This was a stereotypical soccer mom –blond hair done up, fashionably oversize purse-slash-diaper-bag slung over her shoulder, wearing makeup at 10:00 on a Saturday morning, and sporting what was probably a $200 jogging suit that tapered down to the tops of pristine white tennis shoes.

“Here, honey,” Soccer Mom said, grabbing at the materials in the girl’s hands. “Let me show you how to do it.”

“Mmmmrraaaahhh!” said the girl. It was at this point that I noticed this four-ish year old girl was sucking on a pacifier. She angled her body away from her mom and tried to glue some streamers on to the paper.

“No!” Soccer Mom said, trying to reach around her and grab the paper. “You have to cut the little smiley face out of the paper first! Honey. Honey.”

“Mmmmrraaaahhh!” repeated the girl.

“Look, here. See, here’s a picture of how it’s supposed to look. Honey!”

“Mmmmrraaaahhh!”

At this, Soccer Mom threw up her hands. “FINE!” she said, and walked away.

The little girl watched her go, then looked over to me and Sam. We just looked back at her, apparently neither of us able to think of anything good to say. After a moment, Sam passed the girl a fist full of straws, which she accepted as she sucked on her pacifier thoughtfully.

Although she did not accompany us to the children’s museum that day on account of my inability to lactate, Mandy is also doing fine. When we found out that we were having another girl, one of the perceived benefits was that we’d be able to save a lot of clothes because of all the hand-me-downs from Sam. This theory looked good on paper, but if you haven’t noticed, Mandy is a bit more shall we say better equipped to survive a long winter than Sammy was. There are entire boxes of size 0-6 month clothes that Mandy basically just skipped. If she continues on this trajectory she’ll be eleven feet tall by the time she’s three years old. Still, she wears it well, and who cares? She’s healthy.

The last thing I want to mention this week is that I love this picture of iSam listening to my iPod.

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6 thoughts on “Week 171: World Tour, Soccer Mom, and Rapid Growth

  1. What gear/settings are you using for the pictures of Sam in the Chinese outfit? That seems like a very challenging lighting condition…
    I try really hard to get good indoor pictures of my little one, but have a really hard time getting the exposure I need indoors. ISO 1600 with some heavy noise reduction? Prime lens with low aperture setting? Flash gun? RAW?
    Thanks,
    Kevin

  2. Nothing too fancy. ISO at 400-800 and a speedlite flash mounted on the camera. I never direct a flash directly on the subject; I’ve found it looks much better to bounce the flash off a ceiling or wall to keep it from blowing out details in the face or giving it unnatural, uniformly lit look. External flashes (I use this one) let you rotate the head to direct the flash. I also use a diffuser (basically a semi translucent piece of white plastic that fits over the flash head) if I’m up close. This diffuses the light and makes it less harsh.
    And as a last resort, there’s always post production in Photoshop. In this picture of Sam, for example, her face was too brightly lit relative to the rest of her. So I used a layer mask and curves adjustment layer to select only her face and dim it a bit. You could do the same thing with the dodge/burn tools, but they’re less precise.

  3. “Let me show you how to do it” Yeash, there is no four-year-old in the world that can’t figure out how to have fun with paste, straws and paper. How strange for the mom to get pissed off.
    When you say you bounce the flash, do you have to hit something close or is it bright enough to fill a room? For example, in the photo of Sam carrying (noodles? rice?) did you just aim the flash at the wall to the right of her?
    Great pictures, my favorite is the iPod shot. As a geek, I get some kind of thrill every time I see my daughter enjoying an electronic gadget like and iPod or a Nintendo DS.

  4. Well, you need something to bounce it off of. It won’t work as well outside or in a room with a really high ceiling. And yeah, in the pic of her holding the canister I bounced it off a wall to my right.
    I actually know very little about strobe, flash, or studio lighting, though. I’ve kind of adapted techniques for shooting a toddler who doesn’t like to stop and pose for the camera very often. Or ever. I just take a thousand pictures and hope for one that turns out okay.

  5. 1. *wistfully* I only wish I had something valuable enough to convince you to be my personal photographer for a week. GORGEOUS shots. Out of this bunch the newer iPod iSam is my fave.
    2. I came to Sam’s site after her infancy and haven’t let myself go through the archives yet (I have to get work done sometime). Looking at the older iPod picture, I was quite struck at how much infant Sam resembles infant Mandy.

  6. Thanks, Patti. You’ve got some great shots of Kai on your site, too. It cracked me up that the first three I clicked on are all of him totally zonked out in various places and various positions. He gets a bit more active after that, though. 🙂
    I actually don’t think Sam and Mandy look a whole lot alike, even when comparing pics at the same age. Enough to be sisters, sure, but I think they have a few important features (brow, mouth, eyes) that are fairly different. Maybe it’s just because I see them so often and have made a hobby out of studying them.

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