Tag Archive | Karen Hendricks

Priceless Treasure: Tips for Great Family Photos

By Karen Hendricks

Photographs are some of our most treasured possessions as parents, right? From sweet baby pictures to fun vacations photos; photos of Christmas celebrations and special holidays, to treasured photos of loved ones who have passed away… Photographs can instantly transport us to another place, another time, directly into a precious moment.

I feel extremely blessed that photography, one of my favorite hobbies, also intersects with my job. Over the years, between photography classes in college and practical “on the job” training, lots of tips picked up along the way translate better-composed, more meaningful family photos as well.

I’m happy to pass along a few of my favorite tips, but first let me dispel a myth. Okay, it’s probably more of a pet peeve! People often say, “Wow, your camera takes great pictures!” So let’s set the record straight: People take great pictures; not cameras. Yes, a good quality camera certainly helps… but training the eye behind the camera is even more important! Glad I got that off my chest… Now for four fab photography tips:

1. Look them in the eye. In other words, get on the same level as your child(ren). This is especially important when photographing young children. Yes, it means crouching down or getting on the floor and risking not being able to get up gracefully (I’m speaking from experience)… but if you remain standing and shoot downwards at children, they will appear out of proportion or distorted. Getting down on their level allows you to capture their sweet features in a more natural way.

Looking in my children's eyes: Can you see the sparkle and excitement in their eyes?!

Think of how different this photo would look, had I remained standing, shooting downward… Instead, it’s a fun picture focused directly on my children.

Being in the splash zone of the Slip 'n Slide made for another exciting water shot!

Being in the splash zone of the Slip ‘n Slide made for another exciting water shot!

2. Use natural lighting as much as possible. Skin tones, especially for children, look absolutely radiant when natural light is used as opposed to harsh lighting and the camera’s flash. Experiment and try turning your camera’s flash off if you feel there is enough natural light present. Your subjects will also thank you for not blinding them!

This was a spontaneous moment, as my son peeked through the blueberry bushes. I opted for natural sunlight as it filtered through; the flash would have filled in the shadows but probably washed out my son a bit too much. Leaving the flash off helps preserve the feeling and memory of how he peeked through the bushes!

This was a spontaneous moment, as my son peeked through the blueberry bushes. I opted for natural sunlight as it filtered through the leaves; the flash would have filled in the shadows but probably washed out my son a bit too much. Leaving the flash off helps preserve the feeling and memory of how he peeked through the bushes!

3. Try the “rule of thirds” whenever possible. Ok, this may take some training and getting used to if you’ve never used it before… but basically the rule of thirds divides your photo into nine imaginary blocks. The points of intersection are the places where your eyes naturally gravitate when looking at a photo. So, taking Photography 101 and applying it to your photos: Try to place your subjects (aka your family) at those intersections whenever possible for better-composed photos.

Instead of filling the entire shot with my daughter, I opted to place her in the upper right-hand third of the photo, exactly where she was placed on the tennis court.

Instead of filling the entire shot with my daughter (zooming in with the lens), I opted to place her in the upper right-hand third of the photo, exactly where she was placed on the tennis court.

Here, my son is in the lower left-hand third of the photo with a mountain vista behind him.

Here, my son is in the lower left-hand third of the photo with a mountain vista framing the shot behind him.

4. Candids are king. Keep your camera handy and capture spontaneous fun as it happens. Your photos do not always need to be staged (aka: “Look here and smile!”). Feel free to snap candid shots of your family in action, even if they are not looking directly at you. Sometimes these are the most priceless photos because your family’s expressions and emotions are genuine.

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A rare moment: All three of my children were laughing uncontrollably, translating into a photo of pure joy.

Cousins say "cheese:" This photo combines two tips, the rule of thirds and the idea of being on level and eye-to-eye (at least with the bottom portion of the slide!).

Cousins say “cheese:” This photo combines two tips, the rule of thirds and the idea of being on level and eye-to-eye (at least with the bottom portion of the slide!).

I hope these tips inspire you next time you are clicking with your camera! Feel free to share some of your tips and tricks, below, as well. 

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Rediscovering the Margins in Life

By Karen Hendricks

ikea clock

Photo Credit: Ikea.com

This week marks a milestone of sorts… it’s been exactly a year since I left a (more than) full-time, wonderful but crazy position in public relations. And during the past 365 days, my life has gotten back on track. My health is healthier, my family feels closer, my friendships are deeper, and my home-based business and  freelance work is extremely fulfilling. What an amazing turnaround. And it all revolves around TIME.

How often do you think about TIME during one day? It’s not on our side! Is there ever such as thing as having “extra time” in today’s fast-paced life? (Rhetorical question!) Time goes by too quickly, and those of us with children growing right before our eyes can attest to this fact on a daily basis. (Thank goodness the weather is getting warmer and I don’t have to see the bottom of my son’s jeans creeping ever higher into ankle territory. Shorts are becoming  a part of the daily wardrobe, yahoo!)

My children are growing up, like yours, in a fast-paced, digital world. There isn’t a need for good old-fashioned notebook paper that often, although we do keep a stock in our house for homework. I remember going through reams of notebook paper during my school years! So the word “margin” will forever be tied to an image of notebook paper for me.

One of the wonderful additions to my life, during the past year, now that I have a more flexible schedule and a few pockets of TIME for myself… an amazing women’s group that meets weekly at my church. What an inspiration this group is! Right now we are reading the book Margin by Richard A. Swenson, M.D. The subtitle is Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives. Wow, who couldn’t use some of that advice?! No wonder it is a best seller… given our hectic lives and crazy calendars.

Swenson calls “margin” that “space that once existed between ourselves and our limits…. When you reach the limits of your resources or abilities, you have no margin left.” Some of the best stuff in life happens in the margins, in our unstructured time. This is the time where families enjoy time together or friends pick up the phone or stop by. Basically, relationships grow, within the margins of our lives, according to Swenson.

Think about the margin you enjoy… or are lacking… in your daily life. Do you recognize or ignore your limits? Do you schedule your entire day from start to finish? Or do you have some wiggle room, down time, time to just BE?  My margin is probably not as wide as it should be, but I do have a sliver. And I’m holding onto it!

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How wide are the margins in your life?

 

Tie-Dye Easter Eggs

By Karen Hendricks

Just like your favorite t-shirts: tie-dye Easter eggs.

Just like your favorite t-shirts: tie-dye Easter eggs.

It doesn’t matter how old you are, it’s still fun to decorate Easter eggs whether you’re 3 or 93. With two teenagers and one almost-teenager in my household, there’s a lot of growing up, going on. As much as I enjoy and celebrate my children growing up, notching accomplishments and developing character, there are aspects of childhood left behind that I dearly miss–such as making craft projects together, coloring, painting and drawing. So the wonderful, annual ritual of making Easter eggs brings us back together for a “craft project” of sorts once again.

We have had fun making a wide variety of Easter eggs through the years, but one of our favorite methods is tie-dyeing Easter eggs. The colors are brilliant, each egg’s pattern and coloring is unique, and there is no right or wrong way to tie-dye… So it’s a winning formula.

Tie-Dye Easter Eggs:

You will need: food coloring, vinegar, paper towels, foil and hard-boiled eggs

1. Protect your work surface with newspaper. Tear off a piece of foil that’s slightly larger than the size of a paper towel. Place a paper towel on top of the foil. Pour a few drops of vinegar (3-4) towards the middle of the paper towel. Put 8-10 drops of food coloring in the center area of the paper towel, allowing some of the colors to overlap slightly, spread and mix.

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2. Place a damp egg on the paper towel and very gently, press the foil around the egg until it is wrapped.

3. Carefully peel back the foil and towel and place the egg on a clean paper towel or a stand to dry completely. You can usually color 3-4 eggs with the same foil/paper towel before the colors muddy and/or the foil becomes worn. You can vary the effects, the color combinations and the folds in the foil.

The end results - eggstraordinary!

The end results – eggstraordinary!

Tip: Use rubber gloves so your fingers don't get stained.

Tip #1: Use rubber gloves so your fingers don’t get stained.

Tip #2: Use upside-down egg cartons as stands to let your eggs dry.

Tip #2: Use upside-down egg cartons as stands to let your eggs dry.

Show us your Easter eggs! Snap a photo (or two) and upload them to our Facebook page to share your family’s creativity.

Wishing you and your family a wonderful spring season and a Happy Easter! 

Marissa Mayer: Feminist Failure?

By Karen Hendricks

Photo Credit: Peter Kramer, Associated Press

Photo Credit: Peter Kramer, Associated Press

My head is spinning from the Marissa Mayer news coverage this week. To those moms who don’t have time to follow the news, I apologize. I’m a news junkie. But I know there are days when it’s hard enough to remember what month it is, let alone find the time to keep up with daily current events. However, in this case you really ought to know what’s going on because there’s a ripple effect touching women everywhere.

So here’s the play-by-play:

  • Marissa Mayer is the CEO of Yahoo who made headlines for announcing her pregnancy the same day she was appointed as CEO in July 2012. (A new female icon is born!)
  • A long-time Google executive, Mayer created anticipation and excitement at Yahoo! Could she turn around the struggling company? (A female CEO who is not only smart-as-a-whip but beautiful and pregnant… awesome!)
  • Leading up to the birth of her son on September 30, Mayer said she would take as little maternity time as possible, only two weeks. (Hmmm… Superwoman? She’ll change her tune once she gives birth!)
  • But return to work in two weeks, she did, with a nursery installed next door to her office for her son, to boot. (Very cool, however this is not something the average working mom can relate to… <understatement>)
  • Then the mother firework of all ear-popping, sky-blasting pyrotechnics: A week ago today, a memo circulated at Yahoo, ordering all employees who worked from home to either quit or begin working in the office full-time by June. (Hello? Does Mayer not understand feminist loyalty and her leadership role as a female CEO?)

There are a multitude of angles to this story, and I’ve compiled a bunch of them from this week’s tops news coverage:

Is Mayer out of touch?

“Many women were appalled at the Yahoo news, noting that Mayer, with her penthouse atop the San Francisco Four Seasons, her Oscar de la Rentas and her $117 million five-year contract, seems oblivious to the fact that for many of her less-privileged sisters with young children, telecommuting is a lifeline to a manageable life,” writes News York Times Columnist Maureen Dowd. She continues, “The dictatorial decree to work ‘side by side’ had some dubbing Mayer not ‘the Steinem of Silicon Valley’ but ‘the Stalin of Silicon Valley.’”

Is Mayer courageous?

Business Insider’s Nicholas Carlson quotes a source familiar with the situation at Yahoo as saying, “Yahoo has a huge number of people of who work remotely – people who just never come in.  Many of these people ‘weren’t productive.’… Mayer saw another side-benefit to making this move. She knows that some remote workers won’t want to start coming into the office and so they will quit. That helps Yahoo, which needs to cut costs. It’s a layoff that’s not a layoff… ‘She’s turned out to have a lot of courage. She’s dealing with problems no one wanted to deal with before (according to the source).’”

Off with her head!

“But there really isn’t anything more annoying than an extraordinarily lucky genius with movie star looks and a $127 million contract acting as if what’s easy for her should be easy for everybody else,” writes Margery Eagen in the Boston Herald. She continues, “She’s a mega-celebrity, superstar CEO with a tin ear and a preachy mouth. In a few short months, she’s gone from 21st cent­ury role model to Marie Antoinette.”

Would it have been different coming from a male CEO?

Sheelah Kohlhatkar of Bloomberg Businessweek summarizes, “No one knows whether the decision to require all Yahoo employees to work in an office will prove to be positive or negative for the company; it may be personally disastrous for some of the individuals affected and the best thing that ever happened to others. But if one of the hundreds of men running American companies had made a similar move, it’s unlikely that anyone would have even noticed.”

O, the irony!

Similarly, The Washington Post’s Ruth Marcus writes, “How ironic that a technology company, dedicated to enabling connectivity, would enforce such a retrograde, back-to-the-assembly-line edict. It reflect a bricks-and-mortar mindset in an increasingly cyber world. How depressing that this edict comes from a female CEO, albeit a seemingly bionic one. You have to wonder whether this is Mayer demonstrating that she is as tough — or as boneheaded — as any guy.”

A step backwards despite advances in technology?

Gender issues aside, Max Nisen of Business Insider also mentions the growing trend of telecommuting: “What’s pretty clear from details that have emerged is that Yahoo did an exceptionally bad job at managing its remote workers. People who worked from home were apparently unproductive and so disconnected from the company that people forgot that they worked at Yahoo at all… But rather than try to deal with those issues, Yahoo’s chosen just to end remote work completely. That’s understandable. Mayer’s trying to clean house and completely change a company that’s had several CEOs in quick succession. But she may have created a long-term problem. Advances in technology, changes in preferences, and an increasingly globalized workforce mean that the trend towards remote workers and fewer offices will only grow in the future.”

Ok – your turn… What do you think? Was Mayer’s announcement a good business decision? Is she insulting women with her actions? Did she do long-term damage to those who telecommute? Ultimately, is she a role model?

Christmas Nostalgia

By Karen Hendricks

One of our family’s favorite Christmas traditions can be found above our kitchen sink, in our kitchen window:  a traditional Advent calendar made in Germany.  My wonderful Aunt Cyndy sends us a crisp new one every year and we cherish opening a new set of tiny windows, letting in the light of the Advent season as we prepare for Christmas, year after year.  We appreciate the fine details, the sweet illustrations and smattering of glitter sprinkles across the calendar.  It’s a thoughtful gesture that Aunt Cyndy has maintained for close to 20 years.  Not only has the Advent countdown become a tradition in our family, but in a way, it ties us to our German roots.  Even thought my family has lived in America for 14 generations, it ties us to our past in a nostalgic way.  At Christmas perhaps more than any other time of the year, those ties are to be cherished.  Today we opened the window marked “24,” the final window for 2012.  The windows are letting in as much light as possible.  We are ready for the birth of Jesus Christ, light of the world.  Christmas blessings to all!

Enjoy the JOY of the season and cherish your traditions, whether they are long-standing or brand-new ones you are establishing!

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Everything Goes Better with Peanut Butter

By Karen Hendricks

One of my favorite benefits to working from home and setting my own work schedule is the gift of time that I can give to my children.  The trend is for moms to go back to work, if they aren’t already working, when their children are teens because “teens can take care of themselves.”  I understand and appreciate this viewpoint, but personally I think it’s even more important to be around and available to your teens than perhaps when they were preschool or elementary aged.  Teens aren’t as physically draining as toddlers or primary-aged children, but they are definitely mentally draining!  There are so many decisions, issues, forms of peer pressure and other serious topics to talk about with your teens.  I wish all parents and teens had more time together during these critical years.

I especially enjoy being home when my kids come home from school and hearing about their day.  (Those topics could form another blog altogether!)  After-school snacks help to make the conversations flow. One of our favorite (and healthy) snacks is Peanut Butter Apple Dip with sliced apples.  My kids are WILD about anything that contains peanut butter.  (Apologies to those of you with allergies.)

We’ve been making this recipe since my oldest daughter Katie was a toddler and I honestly don’t remember where it came from.  I have passed it along to many friends and family members through the years.  It is so good and so easy that all of my kids know how to make it themselves (which I appreciate too).  My daughter Kelly just made some yesterday.  Not only is it a great dip to have on hand for everyday snacking, but it’s perfect for upcoming holiday celebrations too. 

PB Apple Dip

Peanut Butter Apple Dip

1 package (8 oz) cream cheese, softened

1 c peanut butter

3/4 c packed brown sugar (the original recipe calls for 1 full cup but I dial this back a bit)

1/4 c milk

Mix well with blender and enjoy!  Makes approximately 2 1/2 cups of dip.  Great with apples and graham crackers.

Tell us about your after-school snacks and rituals – just click on “leave a comment.”  We always read and appreciate your insights!

Celebrating A December Birthday–Blessing or Curse?

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

Copyright (c) 123RF Stock Photos

By Karen Hendricks

I had a dream—you know, the vivid, completely real kind, that give you pause when you wake up (was that real?)—and in my dream, I had a daughter born on Christmas Day.  At the time, about 14 years ago, I didn’t even know that I was pregnant with our second child.  But lo and behold, my dream almost came true!  My daughter Kelly was due on December 18 and arrived a bit later, on December 30.  What a beautiful, blessed, magical time of year to bring a child into the world.  But what a stressful, hectic, over-scheduled time of year to celebrate a child’s birthday.  After a few years of experience, I’m happy to share a few tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way… and I would love to hear your experiences and tips as well!

Having a child with a December birthday is both a blessing and a curse.  The challenge is to focus on the many positive benefits of having a December birthday:

  • With holiday get-togethers occurring throughout the season, your child is probably able to see more friends and family around the time of his/her birthday.
  • There’s a festive electricity running through the month of December—what a fun current to have running through your birthday celebrations.
  • In terms of shopping for your birthday child, you can enjoy some of the best sales, prices and shopping of the year!

Having a December birthday can easily get lost in the holiday shuffle.  So here are some pitfalls to avoid:

  • If you’re planning a party, send the invitations out as early as possible.  I know this sounds easy-said-than-done, but try your hardest to make your child’s birthday party a priority before the hectic holiday scheduling hits.  If the party will be held in December, save the date in November and begin planning then, or even earlier.
  • Prepare your child so that he/she knows there’s a good possibility some friends won’t be able to make the party due to holiday conflicts.
  • Or, delay the party until schedules slow down in January.  The date would surely stand out as a bright spot once calendars are turned to the new year.
  • If you’re making birthday treats for your child’s classroom, sports team, etc:  Make them truly birthday-themed; not holiday-themed.  Go with your child’s personality, his/her favorite colors and flavors in making birthday treats so they stand out distinctly from holiday goodies.
  • Likewise, when wrapping birthday gifts, use birthday paper even if the Christmas paper is handy.
  • Regarding gifts:  Receiving birthday gifts on top of Christmas gifts sometimes equals “gift overload.”  Often, what we’ve found works best for Kelly’s birthday are trips, experiences or tickets to special events.  Rather than giving her “things” for her birthday, we try to focus on spending special time together on her birthday or thereabouts, doing things that she enjoys.  One year it was very mild on her birthday so we visited the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. and it was a lot more enjoyable than during the crowded summer season.  I think “making memories” and spending time together is even more valuable than material gifts.

The holiday season is a time of giving… so consider a birthday party that gives back.  One of Kelly’s most memorable birthdays was her 9th.  She’s always had a love of animals, and our family was collecting items to donate to our local SPCA for Christmas.  Those ideas merged with a birthday party we were planning for the end of December.  We hit upon the idea of doing cat-themed face-painting as each girl arrived and then snapping photos of them.  Rather than bringing presents, Kelly asked each friend, via the invitations, to please bring donations for the SPCA and she listed some of the items requested.  We also found unfinished wood picture frames in cat shapes at a craft store, which we could have the girls paint for an activity.  And we supplied cupcakes with lots of goodies that the girls could use to decorate in cat or dog themes.  While the girls decorated and munched on their cupcakes, I downloaded and printed their photos.  My husband helped me insert them into their painted photo frames, dry and ready to take home. What a fun party!

These party girls and their donations were the cat's meow...

These party girls and their donations are the cat’s meow…

The icing on the cake (so to speak) came a few days later when we packed all of the donations up and delivered them to the SPCA.  Kelly was so excited to see the results of her party.  As her mom, I was so proud when the staff complimented her on her thoughtfulness.  They asked permission to feature a story about Kelly on their website, and that led to a local newspaper writing a feature story on her as well!  Many people commented that they were inspired 1) to know that not all young people are self-centered and 2) to consider hosting similar parties to benefit others.

The birthday girl:  Kelly felt that she made an impact on the lives of animals housed at our local SPCA.

The birthday girl: Kelly felt that she made an impact on the lives of animals housed at our local SPCA.

How do you make December birthdays meaningful, especially for children? Please comment and share your ideas!