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Entries in mommybites summit (2)

Monday
May312010

Will you help?

Photography creates and strengthens connections.

Not only do I believe this but I know it and experience it daily. My experience of this in the first few months of my son's life was one of the major driving forces behind my desire to become a baby, child and family photographer, and it continues to fuel my passion to work with families to capture true moments and create artwork they will treasure for a lifetime.

Yes, I'm still thinking about Dr. Hallowell's keynote at the Mommybites Summit where he spoke of his belief that connection is one of the key childhood roots of adult happiness. To be honest, I had not explicitly thought of baby, child and family photography in that context but it rang so true!

How does photography connect?

Well first there's the experience of taking the photograph itself. The photographer (parent, relative, friend or professional) connects with those that they photograph, and those being photographed connect with each other. Those are two powerful connective experiences right there.

But take it further - a good photograph captures and embodies that connective power so it can continue to be experienced for a lifetime and beyond. There's a reason most people have a favorite photo of their family on their desk at work. There's a reason people have family and personal photos in their home. Seeing those photos make you feel good. Seeing those photos strengthens your feelings of connectedness. Seeing those photos help you see yourself at your very best, a boost we can all use from time to time.

I'm a big propononent of personal photography. My advice to parents, especially new parents, is (amongst other things) "take lots of photos!" Obviously, I'm a big proponent of professional photography too. In my ideal world, everyone would have the opportunity to work with a professional photographer who can really create beautiful artwork.

Help-Portrait is a community of photographers brought together to use their photography skills to give back to their local community by taking portraits of people in need. The process?

1. Find someone in need
2. Take their portrait
3. Print their portrait
4. Deliver them

Too see just how powerful this process is, view this short video of one of the early Help-Portrait events:

I've been thinking about doing something like this for almost as long as I've been thinking about being a photographer, but I missed the first Help-Portrait event, and the next one isn't until December.

So instead, I'm creating my own event - on June 19th, 2010, I will be photographing 12-15 Baby Basics NYC families at a picnic that is being planned for them and I need your help. I'd like to give the families prints and products of the same quality that my clients get. I am more than willing to donate my time and resources, but need some help covering some of the costs.

I've also been planning on ways to expand my services and offerings to reach beyond those in the NYC area, so, with these two things in mind, I am very excited to announce that I am now selling fine art prints and products, and all proceeds from your purchases in the month of June will go towards the Baby Basics NYC portrait event! I am starting out with the acfp spring series but will be unveiling a new series every week this month! You can choose to have your prints matted, framed or mounted on a beautiful bamboo plank. This is your chance to get a little taste of the acfp experience and support a great cause. Alternatively, you can also make a direct donation.

Visit the store to find out more and make your purchase now!

nyc baby, child and family photographer alethea cheng fitzpatrick is based in brooklyn and specializes in contemporary, natural light portraiture. view her portfolio of babieschildren or families or send her an e-mail here!

Friday
May212010

Roots of happiness, mother-in-law relations and toddler tantrums - The Mommybites Summit


Connecting, exploring, and playing with the kiddo today.

If you follow me on twitter (or have noticed my new twitter sidebar) you'll know that I went to the Mommybites Summit last night, hosted by babybites, a social and educational community for moms and moms-to-be. I'm a babybites brooklyn member and attended many great new moms luncheons last year - in fact, it was at my first new moms luncheon that I made the connections that lead me to my mom's group and babybites brooklyn will actually help you form a new mom's group now (and in Manhattan, babybites runs support groups). Definitely a resource I recommend.

But back to last night - it was a great event! There were talks and vendors and food and drinks and swag and I for once left my camera at home and kicked back and enjoyed myself. I attended the keynote as well as two other talks - all were inspiring and interesting and provided lots of food for thought. I also squeezed in a quick round of all the vendor tables and it was great to see some familiar faces as well as some new ones.

Actually, I would have loved a bit more time to mingle (maybe a full day event next time?!) but I wanted to attend as many talks as possible, and I came away with so many helpful notes I thought I would share them here. I'd love to hear about the other talks I missed!

A big thank you to babybites for organizing this event and to all the speakers and vendors for a fun and informative evening.

The Childhood Roots of Adult Happiness

Dr. Edward Hallowell, author of a book with the same title as his talk, gave a keynote speech that resonated strongly with the audience, myself included. He outlined a plan for parents to give their children the best chance at lifelong happiness:

1) Connection
2) Play
3) Practice
4) Progress
5) Recognition

He particularly emphasized connection, urging parents to give their kids as connected a childhood as possible, not only connecting with them yourselves but facilitating as many opportunities for positive connection as possible - with family, friends, pets, school, activities, teams, clubs, the past, the spiritual (not necessarily religion but "that which is beyond knowledge").

He also talked about the importance of play - of imaginative engagement and exploration, including down time, free time, empty time, so that play can be repeated over and over and becomes practice, which leads to progress and recognition which feeds back into connection.

He said that our job as a parent is not so much to worry about grades and good schools and being "at the top" but to make sure our kids are making progress at something that is challenging and meaningful to them. It's the confidence, self-esteem and optimism that results from this that are the building blocks for happiness.

It's important for kids to make a dream come true - in other words, to imagine something and then to make it happen. It's important for them to have someone who believes in them. It's important that they are in a learning environment that isn't based on fear.

He also said that happiness is not about having what you want but about wanting what you have, and that if you're enjoying your kids then you're doing it right!

I think one of the reasons Dr. Hallowell's talk really resonated with everyone is because a) it makes sense and b) it sounds fun, but also c) doesn't it sound great and don't we all want these things? We could all benefit from following this "plan" for ourselves as well as for our kids.

“Oh,______! My Mother/Mother-In-Law is Coming!”

This talk was given by Karen Rancourt of Rancourt Parenting, herself a grandmother, and I think everyone can relate to the more negative fill-in-the-blank words that most typically would come to mind in this context! However, I have to say, things have been great with both my mother and my mother-in-law (and I'm not just saying that because they could both be reading!) but this turned out to be a really interesting topic anyway.

Karen has been kind enough to share her MommyBites presentation here. Because of the limited time frame, she focused on her guidelines which she has written both for new/young moms, and for moms/mother-in-laws once there are grandchildren involved. If things are going pretty well with your children's grandparents (and often there are more than two sets involved) chances are these guidelines are already more or less being followed, but I think they're worth checking out anyway, and definitely so if things are more rocky or you are an expectant parent or grandparent and worried about how things might go.

Many key points were made that really rang true for me. Karen was adamant that first and foremost, it's the new/young mom that's in the driver's seat and moms/mother-in-laws need to respect that and, as she said "defer, defer, defer." At the same time, the new/young mom needs to lighten up a little if things are not done exactly as you would (I think the same is true with spouses and other caretakers - no one is going to do it exactly as you would, but it doesn't mean it's automatically worse).

Also, new/young moms should not try to get their mom/mother-in-law to agree that they are "right" - they only have to agree to honor your wishes when they are with your children. I think the same is true in reverse as well - a lot of conflict arises when moms/mother-in-laws try to pursuade their daughters/daughters-in-law that THEIR way is right. I really appreciate that my mother and mother-in-law have both been very sensitive in this respect, and I think it's the main reason things have gone as smoothly as they have!

(And yes, it's hard to lighten up when you have a newborn, impossible even as a first time mom, but it does get easier!)

Everything Toddler

Marsha Greenberg's talk on "Everything Toddler" and was very helpful as I feel like I'm entering a whole new world of parenting. Marsha painted a very vivid and colorful picture of how a toddler experiences the world. She said that every toddler varies in how flexible they are and how big their moods are, and that you should try to understand where you toddler falls on that scale and be adaptive to their needs. "Tolerate your toddler's feelings," she said, which means that, especially with younger toddlers, you let them go through what they're feeling and redirect rather than try to talk them out of a meltdown.

She talked about how children learn through play, and how important it is to spend time on the floor with your toddler, following their lead and reciprocating. If you want to build towers and they want to knock them down, then that's what you're going to do - build towers for them to knock down.

Her final message was to "get out of your partner's way". Give your partner the dignity of struggling to find their own parenting style and build their own relationship with your child, she said. It's easier to parent with two wholes rather than two halves.

nyc baby, child and family photographer alethea cheng fitzpatrick is based in brooklyn and specializes in contemporary, natural light portraiture. view her portfolio of babieschildren or families or send her an e-mail here!