13 October 2014

Worth A Thousand Words







Weddings, engagements, newborns, kids, families...

This is but a handful of favorites from the past several weeks. Nothing really compares to photographing people, together, enjoying themselves.


(Please note: I am fully booked for the remainder of 2014. Currently accepting inquiries for 2015. Visit the rates page to view updated session info & pricing.)

01 October 2014

Let's Talk About...Fertility

I always figured that when we were ready to have a baby we could do so according to our own desired timeline.

That timeline passed several months ago.

I've wanted to write this post for a while now, but couldn't quite muster the full resolve. Putting things on the internet is permanent and makes me feel vulnerable. Discussing something as private as fertility issues on a forum as public as a blog scares the crap out of me.

But, here we are. Let me start from the beginning.

About a year ago, Tiho and I decided we were ready to bring a baby into the world. I have irregular cycles, so we assumed it would take at least a few months of trying. We agreed to casually try for six months in order to avoid putting too much pressure on ourselves or the process. During that time, I was charting my cycles to track ovulation. Come June, we still weren't pregnant and I'd only had three periods since December 2013 (that means I'd only ovulated three times in a seven-month timeframe, and therefore, only had three chances to conceive).

I knew something might be wrong but was secretly hoping that traveling to Europe after a busy school year would help me chill out and jumpstart my cycle (my body/cycles are majorly affected by stress). Moreover, many well-meaning people who knew we were trying to conceive kept telling me to "just relax and it will happen." Lo and behold, I got my period on our last day in Paris. According to my charts, I hadn't ovulated since my previous period, which meant it was an anovulatory cycle: essentially, the past two months of trying were in vain (I never had a chance to conceive because I had never ovulated). I cried hard at that realization. It was one of the first times in the process where I felt that something could be legitimately wrong. I resolved to make an appointment to get checked out upon our arrival back in New York.

In July, I sobbed in my OB's office when I informed her we were trying to have a baby and it wasn't working. I tearfully told her that after a lot of online research and careful tracking of my own symptoms, I was pretty certain I might have Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome, commonly referred to as PCOS. After several blood and hormone tests as well as a sonogram to check my ovaries, it was confirmed that I did indeed have PCOS.

So what is PCOS? It's tricky to explain because it manifests differently in different people but accounts for infertility issues in 1 out of every 10 women. A big part of the problem with PCOS is insulin resistance due to endocrine abnormalities. Resistance to insulin increases the body’s blood sugar (glucose) levels which effects normal ovulation by preventing the body from releasing an egg, or, limiting the maturation process of the released egg. This directly affects fertility and the ability to conceive. You can read more about PCOS here, here or here, but what I just explained is pretty much exactly what's happening in my body. The good news? It rarely results in untreatable infertility, meaning it is very likely I can get pregnant on my own without the assistance of fertility drugs: it just will take awhile (my doctor told me that for my specific case, it really all comes down to timing. If a "normal" couple typically conceives within six months, my timeline may be double or triple that).

What happens now? Since August, I've drastically changed my diet (cutting out gluten & refined sugar) to help regulate my blood sugar abnormalities. I also stopped eating dairy to decrease any inflammation in my digestive tract. My doctor put me on a low-dosage of a medication that controls the presence of glucose (sugar) in the blood. It is commonly prescribed to women with PCOS who present with insulin resistance like I do. Maintaining my stress levels goes hand in hand with all of this, which is why I've placed emphasis on regular yoga, meditation and a decreased workload. For me personally, over-scheduling and/or lack of sleep is a significant stress trigger. I just had my first acupuncture session this week to explore whether alternative medicine can play any part in treating my PCOS (I believe it can). I am not opposed to modern fertility drugs and will certainly embrace them if I'm unable to regulate my cycles and conceive naturally in the next few months.

I am doing my best to remain optimistic and enjoy life. 95% of the time, I'm at peace with everything and in a good mental place. Of course, there are bad days plagued by sadness or anxiety, something I'm sure anyone dealing with infertility or other medical issues will understand.

The thing is, I know in my heart that we will conceive: I've never for a moment doubted that. I now believe that this baby will come when he or she is meant to come. It's not going to be within our "perfect" timeline, but I'm learning that I need to be okay with that. I don't have ultimate control over anything: none of us do.

I choose to share all of this here because I've found tremendous support from people in my personal life who know what's going on. Keeping it all inside isn't healthy, and part of the journey for me is learning how to rid my body of toxins (both physically and emotionally). Especially now, I find it cathartic to talk about my own struggles openly instead of battling them privately.

Thank you, as always, for listening.

29 September 2014

Three Years

"For you wake one day, 
Look around and say, 
Somebody wonderful married me." 
-Fred Ebb

Happy three, my love. There are sunflowers on the table today in honor of us.

26 September 2014

Park Güell // Barcelona






Hands down, the most magical place in Barcelona we visited was Park Güell, designed by Spanish architect, Antoni Gaudí. It feels silly for me to try and describe the beauty here, because truly, there aren't adequate words.

I revisited my folder containing over 1,000 images from the Barcelona portion of our trip and felt immediately drawn to this set when deciding what to share first. The reason I'm not looking at the camera in any of the above pictures is because it was approximately 900 degrees and oppressively sunny, which made looking directly upwards or outwards almost painful (I promise I was happy!). That's also why I have a scarf turban on my head--sunblock alone wasn't cutting it.

I couldn't stop zeroing in on the mosaic tile work located in the main terrace area of the park. I remember thinking, damn, there's no way I'm going to get any decent shots with the midday sun and hoards of people around (obviously less than ideal photo conditions), but I'm pretty thrilled with these.

Gaudí is that incredible.

//

P.S. Lots of Barcelona (and more Paris) coming soon.

16 September 2014

Inventory




Mid-September, as it stands:

Making : Lists.
Cooking : Black bean quesadillas and sweet potato fries.
Drinking : Honey vanilla chamomile tea.
Reading: Nothing good, currently. Book suggestions?
Wanting: A new leather tote bag.
Looking: At my overstuffed lipstick pouch and how all I really need is one great red.
Playing: With four-year-olds. Year seven of classroom teaching is officially underway.
Wasting: Paper. Glue. Paint. Hours on pinterest. (See previous).
Wishing: For emails to answer themselves.
Enjoying: Oversized cozy wool socks.
Waiting: For the universe to give me a sign.
Liking: Almond milk. Surprisingly!
Wondering: What to get Tiho for his 29th birthday next month.
Loving: my husband, and how he's such a supportive partner in every way.
Hoping: That I'm able to slow down and savor fall.
Marveling: At how much the human body is impacted by diet. (RIP gluten).
Needing: A haircut.
Smelling: Cinnamon applesauce.
Wearing: My new ankle boots.
Following: The scent of coffee brewing in the morning.
Noticing: How much shorter the days are becoming.
Knowing: That everything happens in its own time.
Thinking: About Acupuncture. I'm scheduling my first session soon and feeling a little nervous.
Bookmarking: Curriculum ideas.
Opening: Hand-written letters from my grandmother. Reading them causes me to miss my other grandmother.
Giggling: At the ridiculous things people post on social media. 
Feeling: Optimistic.



[Original post inspiration herehere].

14 September 2014

Sunday Best




"Sunday is the golden clasp that binds together the volume of the week." 
-Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

For your reading pleasure...

How to be Polite. "The good thing about politeness is you treat people exactly the same. And then wait to see what happens."

The Art of Exclusion, or, how to get your life back.

What French Kids Eat for Elementary School Lunch. (Four courses, served consecutively, complete with table settings, bread baskets and water pitchers).

41 Random Facts About NYC That Will Blow Your Mind. #23: Albert Einstein's eyeballs are stored in a safe deposit box in the city.

A Monet of One's Own. The experience of building a proverbial art collection.

Kiss Someone You Love. A photo/video project.

Happy Sunday. May yours be golden!

09 September 2014

What To Buy Your Preschooler

I am often asked my opinion about the "best" toys for kids.  "What should I buy my toddler for his/her birthday?" "What should my child entering kindergarten be doing in her free time?" "I want my kid to play but also be learning something!"

Guys, I know. I find this to be a nearly impossible question to answer adequately, as young kids are all so different, with varying interests and needs. Moreover, something appropriate for a two-year-old is very different than a toy or game for a four-year-old. That being said, I really sat down to think about the top recommendations I feel comfortable delivering to parents and inquiring gift-givers. This list is in no way comprehensive and based purely on seven years of practice as an early childhood educator. I tend to believe that less is more when it comes to toys. Children truly don't need a lot to learn and discover: in fact, I stand behind my opinion that the most popular toy of all time for a toddler/preschooler is an oversized, empty cardboard box. So, there's that.

Anyway, lest you care about what's inside of that box, herein lie a few additional classics:

ONE: Masking Tape. Yes, tape. I always have several large rolls of colored masking tape out in my classroom writing center. It builds fine motor control and provides endless amounts of open-ended artistic exploration. It's not terribly difficult to cut, making it appropriate for little hands just learning how to properly use scissors. I always plan a few more teacher-led projects around it (like this), but most of the time, my kiddos enjoy using it in their own creative ways (making envelopes with paper, layering designs, or just snipping away). You can purchase craft tape anywhere: I love this big wooden dispenser for both its aesthetics and usefulness.

TWO: Playdough. It's the best! I'm encouraging you to move beyond the iconic play-doh brand you all know and love by making your own. It is so easy and cheap to do (we make a fresh batch every week) and change it up by adding liquid watercolor, scent (such as peppermint oil) or even glitter. My kids love playdough and manipulate in so many incredible ways. I like to provide a variety of tools for them to use alongside it: think outside the box! For example, during a Dr. Seuss unit last year, we provided playdough with colored pipe cleaners for the children to make wacky 3D sculptures. They LOVED it. Here's the basic playdough recipe we use in school. If stored in an air-tight container, it should stay fresh & malleable for several weeks:

  • 2 cups flour  
  • 1 cup  salt
  • 1 TBS vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp. Cream of Tartar
  • 2 cups of water
Mix everything in large saucepan over medium heat until dough forms. Remove from heat and carefully knead on flat surface until dough is soft. Feel free to add food coloring or oil extract to change the color/scent. A few drops go a long way!

THREE:  Books. Okay, so maybe this is cheating, but I couldn't resist. I am a devout collector of children's literature and consider it to be one of the key elements in any early childhood setting. There's not much to say other than you can't go wrong with a pile of great classic picture books. Here are a few personal favorites. Go to the local bookstore and plop yourself down in the children's section. Don't be surprised if hours pass while you get lost in the stories and illustrations. The only way to create readers is to be one.

FOUR: Wooden unit blocks. Every classroom or play space needs a set of these. We keep them on an open shelf all year clearly labeled for the children to freely take out and build. I also provide baskets of block accessories such as wooden people, tunnel structures, animals, cars and building toppers. Block-building instills fundamental skills in young learners including but not limited to: architectural & spatial planning, collaboration, fine motor development, balance, design, hand-eye coordination, creative thinking, shape identification, social & language skills, etc. etc. This list is never ending. Here's a classic set, and here's a more wallet-friendly smaller colorful set. For gift-giving, this set is absolutely gorgeous!

FIVE: Trains. I'm taking creative liberty here and also lumping in other vehicles such as small cars and trucks. My three and four-year-olds adore trains and regularly set up the most elaborate tracks all over our rug. There are so many great train sets out there, but my favorite is BRIO. (Track set here, assorted trains here). Simple, classic, well-built and beloved. Ikea also sells a basic train set for under $20. Can't beat that.

SIX: Puzzles. I have a confession. I dislike doing puzzles. At clean-up time, whenever there's a puzzle that still needs to be put together, I call one of my students over to do it. For whatever reason, I've never had the patience for puzzles, but that doesn't mean I don't recognize their value for my kiddos. Completing puzzles strengthens hand-eye coordination, shape recognition, memory,  and problem-solving, among many other things. There are so many amazing, high-quality puzzles available everywhere. I love these chunky 3-D alphabet puzzles for their added challenge and pleasing aesthetic! Additionally, here is one of my favorite Waldorf-style wooden color wheel puzzles. Beautiful.

SEVEN: Magna-Tiles. Without a doubt, these are the number one manipulative my students continuously play with day after day, week after week, month after month. Transparent magna-tiles, man. Buy a set, and I promise your kids will happily engage them in creative open-ended play from age two until at least age six. Don't purchase less than the 120-piece set. You'll want them all.

EIGHT: Sensory Table/Bin. Young children learn by doing. Humans in general best retain information when engaged with their senses. Sensory tables (or bins) are so awesome because they can be changed whenever you want. Sand, water, rice, dried beans, shaving cream, seeds, goop, etc. etc. I typically update mine every two weeks or so. Sometimes thematically (corn kernels with trucks after a trip to the farm) and sometimes not. Without fail, the sensory table is always a popular center during choice time. In the winter, we've added huge bowlfuls of real snow and droppers with warm water for the kids to explore the concept of melting. In the warmer months, we've made a fresh water "pond" complete with lily pads (laminated green shapes), rubber lizards & frogs, small boats, etc. to investigate the concept of natural habitat.  Invest in a good quality sensory table, and truly, the only limit is your imagination. (I'm not kidding: plug in "sensory table" on pinterest and guaranteed you'll get sucked down the rabbit hole).

****

Whew. If you read all that, you deserve a cookie. Happy playing!

02 September 2014

Self-Care

September is my restart month. Birthday on the 1st, a new class of kiddos a week or two later, the official turn of seasons a week after that. I've been around this block a time or two, and fully recognize the necessity of prioritizing self-care while readjusting to new schedules and routines.

Here are five ways I plan to stay healthy + sane this fall:

1). Planning easy, nutritious meals every Sunday & making sure the fridge and pantry are stocked with essentials. I recently made the decision to go mostly grain and dairy-free (another post for another day). In order to do this and not turn into a complete crazy person, I know how vital it will be to plan ahead. In the past, I've always tried to commit to weekly meal-planning but then very quickly end up dropping the ball. This time around, I'm prepared. We have a meal calendar posted on the fridge, rotating grocery lists and a thorough document in a shared folder on google drive dedicated solely to meal ideas and inspiration. I'll be bringing all of my snack and lunch ingredients to work every Monday so I don't have to think about it again until the following Sunday. One less thing to worry about each morning.

2). Leaving one full weekend day free (a stay at home/local errands only day). This is hard, especially with the photo business. Once school starts up again, my teaching schedule limits photo sessions to Saturdays and Sundays. Last year, I made the mistake of over-booking every weekend in order to capitalize on revenue. That meant there were several weeks where I worked seven days in a row with virtually no break. This year, I know that while the money may be tempting, my sanity is infinitely more important. Therefore, I'm limiting my fall availability to no more than six sessions per month (preferably scheduling two back-to-back sessions on the same day each weekend). This will mean turning inquiries away, and I really hate to do that, but I know that I must in order to function properly and deliver clients the most optimal experience.

3). Treating myself to a monthly manicure/pedicure. This one is certainly a luxury, but always feels so wonderful for the hour I'm in the chair. Not much else to say about that.

4). Going to bed by 10:30 every weeknight, sans phone or laptop. Doesn't sound hard, but man, I tend to get a second wind around 10:00 PM and then end up sabotaging myself when I look at the clock, realize it's well after midnight and panic about the maximum 5.5 hours of sleep I'll get that night. Not good. My alarm goes off at 6:00 AM. Repeat after me: a rested Kayla is a happy Kayla. So, 10:30 it is.

5). Commit to two weekly yoga classes and one meditation class. I talked more about yoga in this post, and I know how good I feel when I practice regularly. Thankfully, my sister keeps me in line and always accompanies me out for tacos afterwards. Win win.

Let's recap: eat well, get enough sleep, exercise regularly and value personal leisure time.

Sounds about right, yeah?

P.S. 55 Gentle Ways to Take Care of Yourself When You're Busy Busy Busy. Such great tips!

27 August 2014

Magic Hour // Paris





Did you notice that I completely stink at making time to edit personal photos now, thus failing to share any from the Paris + Barcelona portions of our European trip two months ago? Glad we got that squared away. This post is me attempting to get my shiz together. You'll probably see the rest of the photos by Christmas.

**

The most pressing problem we faced while in Paris was where to position ourselves the hour before sunset each night in order to take advantage of prime photo-taking light. If I'd had it my way, we'd utilize a cloning machine to be everywhere at once, or better yet, a time-traveling machine enabling us to relive the magic hour over and over again.

Alas, strolling along the seine proved to be the optimal choice.

I've decided that on our next visit to Paris, I'm only taking pictures at dusk. At the very least, it would mean a lighter bag and more time for baguette consumption during the day.

P.S. What's funny about these pictures, relative to my disclaimer above, is that I barely touched them in post-processing. The light in Paris is sublime.

25 August 2014

A Good Day



Our friend Ina, who lives in Bulgaria, spent six weeks of her summer working in Boston providing her the opportunity to drive down to stay with us for a weekend earlier this summer. In honor of her visit, I planned a jam-packed Saturday to show her some of our favorite spots. I always have fun selecting activities that are catered to visitors' individual interests. If there's anything true about New York, it is this: there is something here for everyone.

We began in Williamsburg, where we sampled craft beers and toured the Brooklyn Brewery before walking a few blocks over to Smorgasburg, where we lounged on the riverfront and stuffed our faces with lobster rolls, donuts, coconut milk, truffle fries and oysters.

After the gluttony, we rode the L back into Manhattan and walked the entirety of the Highline, exiting on Gansevoort to stop by Bubby's for snowballs (I recommend the lemon/strawberry combo or sour cherry).

As the daylight tapered off, we headed back across Manhattan to catch improv comedy at Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in the East Village. By the time the show let out around 10 PM, we were hungry again, but satisfied shortly thereafter with falafel from Mamoun's on St. Marks Place.

It all came together to create a quintessential NYC summer day that left me feeling extra appreciative because this city is just so good when it wants to be. And for now, in this season of life, I'm grateful to have that.