Random Neural Firings

the inner workings of a restless creative brain

Santa Photo Tips


Santa photo tips

This was our first time getting a picture with Santa. Standing in line, my son was nervous (he tells me he’s “tired” and wants to go to sleep – as if!) and other kids were crying that were ahead of us. But once he got on Santa’s lap, he was fine, chatting away. I don’t think he really understands who or what Santa is just yet. At any rate, I’m THRILLED with how the photo turned out!

Of course, being the former TV director that I am, I did a few things ahead of time to maximize our chances of getting a good shot. Here are some tips I learned from my kids TV days – and a few I probably just made up.

Santa’s always in red so don’t dress your children in solid red unless you want them to blend in. I know you spent a lot of money on that dress so if you want it to show up, pick a different color. Speaking of colors, generally speaking, all white can freak the camera lens out a little bit and your little one might look all washed out (or if you’re dark skinned, the camera might have trouble with the stark contrast). But – if your Santa has on a lot of white around his face, as this one does, then they have probably already lit the shot correctly for that. An all-white (or mostly white, just to be safe) dress could be very cute and complimentary to Santa’s outfit in that case.

Don’t be afraid to choose a fun outfit, or one that has sentimental meaning for you. If your son is wearing his favorite race car shirt, he just might be more comfortable, and you’ll have that special memory of the time he lived in that shirt. We were the only ones in line in pajamas, but all the moms around me told me they loved that idea.

Practice some facial expressions ahead of time. We do this naturally around here anyhow, as a game: Show me your happy face! Let’s all do sad faces! Angry face! The expression we used for this photo was his “surprised” face. (His on-demand happy face/smile looks forced right now.)

In addition to talking up the fact that hey, we’re going to go see Santa this week, I also pulled up photos of kids sitting on Santa’s lap to show my son. I felt that way he could better understand what it meant to “go see Santa.”

Just like any other time, let them take their lovey or a favorite toy. You can’t see it very well but Santa is holding one of my son’s stealth fighter jets in his hands.

Best of luck with your Santa shots. We got ours done early but that’s cuz this particular Santa at this particular Mall has, like, a 10-year waiting list, and we were lucky to get a reservation. I wasn’t able to get one last year.

What About a Wall-E Party?


My son won’t turn 3 till November but I’m already starting to come up with ideas for his birthday. Originally, I thought we’d go with an airplane theme because he’s been sort of into them (his PopPop has a plane and is doing all he can to encourage Hunter’s fascination). We live near a small, private airport that has a great playground and “hangar” with tables for parties. I thought this could be a fun place for a 3-year old party (although I dread the thought of carting food and decorations any further than my kitchen).

That was my thinking until my son started wanting to watch “Wall-E” all the time. Literally, first thing in the morning, he wants to watch and begs for it all day long (even watching clips on the iPad when we let him).

So maybe I’ll go with a Wall-E theme instead (assuming he’s still into Wall-E in a few months). But will try to resist all the official Wall-E party supplies and do our own thing. How about some of these ideas:

  • Take some of his old shoes, fill with dirt, plant an herb – line ’em up as a centerpiece
  • Mini Rubiks cubes for party favors
  • A Coleman cooler filled with “treasures” for the kids to take home
  • Sporks as the lone utensil
  • Boiled eggs decorated to look like Eve  
  • Sandwiches cut out to look like Wall-E , like these from Anna The Red’s blog  
  • Boxes decorated like trash, stacked up and strewn about
  • Will try and find someone to make a 3-dimensional Wall-E cake (like the 3-D bus cake I had last year)    

So there you have it! My early, early, EARLY stage planning. Poor kid’s room still isn’t decorated (and we’ve lived in this house a year now so really, I have no excuse) but I’m planning his birthday party.

Cutest Burp Cloths Ever – New Mommy Monday


Sure you can just use cloth diapers or any old towel to catch that spit-up, but I wanted cute burp cloths.  I figured if they were going to be laying around all over the house, they ought to match the decor.  I found TONS of cute burp cloths on Etsy — just like the designer ones at the baby boutiques, only less-expensive, plus you’re buying directly from the mom who made them.  I dug that.

Here are a few of my favorites (the photos are linked to the seller’s shops):

But some of my all-time favorites are the Monster Burp Cloths from Etsy shop Frank and Me.  I think this design is hilarious and the cloths are super-soft (made of fleece).  I also bought some of her little “swipers” (think booger-wiper or wash cloth) and a funny monster tooth fairy pillow for my monster-obsessed 4 year old nephew.  (Big hit!)  How cute are these?  These would be great to stuff in a shower basket for the next non-traditional momma you know.

Those burp cloths are fast-becoming my son’s “lovey.” Here he is cuddled up with them the other night. Isn’t this sweet?


Just a reminder: these are all items I actually own. Nobody sent me anything to review. Everything I blab about is something I own, know someone who owns, or want to buy.

The Nursery


When I was pregnant, someone asked me what theme I was going with for the nursery.  “Theme? What do you mean?” I asked, “Like Winnie the Pooh?” No offense to Pooh fans but cutesie themes made me gag worse than chicken (I didn’t have food cravings when I was pregnant but I had serious food aversions).

I wanted a modern nursery, stylish, but with some whimsy.  I figured that the nursery was for me: until my son was old enough to tell me that he absolutely, positively loves Thomas the Train more than anything else, I’d be choosing the decor.  Later, he can go all train-happy if he wants. (Just please, God, let it be trains and not NASCAR.)

OK, now that I’ve offended all the NASCAR Winnie the Pooh lovers, here’s what I decided on for the nursery:  black and white with pops of bright yellow.  My inspiration was one of my shirts. Y’all remember when INC (International Concepts) had a sea of black, white and bright yellow clothes?

I searched and searched for bedding in my chosen colors and found nothing. Most of the black and white stuff I found was damask which felt too girlie for me. (Even though the room was for me, I did want it to transition into a little boy’s room some day.)  Then I came across this set and thought it’d make a good base. Of course, I didn’t use the bumper or quilt, so that was a big waste of money. If you decide to go bumper-less, save yourself the money and buy a sheet, crib skirt, and curtains to match. Voila! Instant design. Get a rug, too, if you can find one you like.

Since I couldn’t find bedding with a pop of yellow, I went nuts and painted the walls bright yellow. No wonder the kid won’t take naps. One pregnant, insomnia-filled night, I decided I wanted a wall of black shelves so I searched and found nothing and decided right then and there that my husband should take up woodworking, which he sort of did, and made some built-in shelves. (They turned out great, Honey!) I also decided the baby should have something hand made from each of us so Christopher took some of his childhood Legos and made the Lego Dude on the ledge.  I have yet to make my hand made item. But I bought lots of stuff on Etsy that other people made. That has to count for something, right?

Anyhow, time for the pictures, which is what you really came for, right? Keep in mind, I am no decorator. It’s not as neat and tidy as those adorable rooms I see over at ProjectNursery, for example. But I’m proud of it. It’s different and it suits us.

And you know the best part? Since we’re moving in a few weeks, I get to do it all over again! (Seriously, we’re going to be in a rental while we build so I can’t do much but I’m thinking of going with a green wall color and buying some re-positionable wall decals to spruce it up a bit. It’ll be Nursery 2.0.)






Items in the Room:

Baby Cache Manhattan Nursery Furniture from BabiesRUs

Wall ledges from Michael’s

Canvas storage bins from Container Store

Artwork – free -from artist Kal Barteski (cheap frames from Michael’s)

Down East Midnight Bedding from Carousel Designs (only available in their outlet; if you want black and white, check out their Black and White dots collection, which is similar)

Dandelion wall decal (large) from Etsy seller LewasDesigns

New Mommy Monday – Car Seat Guidelines


We got a bit of interesting news on our last visit to the pediatrician: new guidelines from the American Pediatric Association recommend keeping toddlers in a rear-facing car seat until they are at least two years old! I thought it was just till they turned one, but apparently, it’s safer to keep them rear-facing as long as possible. <sigh> So what’s a new mommy to do? Buy the infant car seat for the first year, then put the munchkin in a convertible car seat (like the Britax Roundabout or Marathon), which is weighted to 35 lbs or so rear-facing. The Roundabout is rated to 40 lbs forward facing; the Marathon to 65, so you can spend the extra hundred bucks on the Marathon and it’ll last longer.

Now watch, by the time my son turns two, they’ll change the guidelines and say he needs to stay rear-facing till he’s three and in a car seat until he’s old enough to drive.

New Mommy Monday – Buy Lots of Bibs


This is something I wish someone had told me. I had no idea how many bibs I would need before the baby started eating solid foods! When my sister gave me a bunch of hand-me-downs, I went through and boxed up half of the stuff for Goodwill, including a lot of bibs. Thank goodness I saved some! I remember thinking, why did she send me so many bibs? If you have a spitter or a drooler (I had both), you’ll find it’s a lot easier to change a bib than an outfit. In the heaviest drool months, my son would literally soak 4-5 bibs a day.

So let’s talk about bibs. You’ve spent all this time and money buying cute clothes, only to cover them up with an enormous, ugly bib. Cuz most of them are ugly. Or have dumb sayings on them. So buy matching bibs whenever you can. Or mix-and-match them. (Zutano is great for this, too.) Buy more than you think you’ll need. Repeated washings will wear out the Velcro closure tabs.

Some manufacturers make teeny tiny newborn bibs. Those are great for about 3 months, but then you’ll need regular sized bibs. And when they start solid foods, you’ll want plastic-y bibs for easy wipe downs after meals. Most of those plastic bibs are HUGE and I think are made for toddlers. I found an Etsy seller who makes laminate-covered bibs that are just the right size for an infant. She doesn’t have a lot listed in her shop; just email her and she’ll tell you what fabrics she can make them in. She’s made two for me.

So Kate, next time you’re at the store, BUY BIBS. Trust me on this one. All right, let’s roll the bib photo show, shall we? Happy Monday!

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See the drool on the chin? About to soak his bib!




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