The Early Bird Gets the Discount

Though we’ve not even reached Thanksgiving yet, my husband and I took our younger son for Christmas pictures this past Sunday.  It seemed a little premature, but we saw that Portrait Innovations was offering an “Early Bird” special, of a single-pose 42 portrait package for $14.99 – being offered until November 20th, 2016.

The Early Bird package consists of [one 10×13,  two 8x10s, four 5x7s, four 3x5s, sixteen 2x3s, five 5×7 greeting cards, and ten gift tags] plus a choice of either an 11 ounce photo mug or holiday ornament for $14.99.  While they do not charge a sitting fee, they do add a handling fee of $6.99 per session.  You can opt to have a single child, or the entire family in the poses for the same price.

This offer serves a dual purpose – save money (always a plus!) over the regular price of $24.99, and beat the crowds (In previous years, we’ve gone after Thanksgiving, and boy was it crowded!). We were motivated to get the holiday pictures taken earlier than usual.

While convenient appointment scheduling is available both online and by telephone, we opted to just stop in and see if they had availability as a walk-in.  We arrived at 11:15 am, and were given an 11:30am time slot.  Perfect! I was able to primp my little fella, and afterward he got to play at the block table with a couple of other children while the photographer assigned to us got ready.

The photographer was very pleasant, and worked well with our son.  It’s been our experience on previous visits that all of the photographers are great with the kids, bringing out some adorable expressions and smiles.  Our son warmed up to him quite quickly, and we were on our way to some very cute photos.

I appreciate that they offer the traditional Christmas tree, fireplace background as well as a separate background with snow covered trees, giving both the Christmas and general Winter theme.  This, for me, gives extended displaying of the photos – prefer to have holiday themed items packed away after the holiday, so also getting a snowy background carries us through until Spring.

When the photo session was completed, we were ushered back to the waiting area (more block play for our little guy) as the photographer got the station ready for viewing.

Then the hard part came: choosing from among the photos.  Once pared down to 15 or so poses, we chose our package pose.  While I had gone in with the mindset of purchasing only the basic package for which I had the coupon, I did end up purchasing two more poses (they were too adorable to pass by 😛  ).

Pictures are printed on-site, so we went home with the package.  The only component that we didn’t bring home immediately was the free coffee mug, as that is not produced in the studio.  For that, we were given the option of ship-to-home (for a shipping fee) or free pick-up at the studio. (I opted for the free pick-up since we’ll be back in the area – and I’m frugal 😉  )

We were very happy with the poses, prints, and staff.  The Early-Bird special was a great option for us, and I’m all set for mailing the Christmas/Winter pictures when I send out holiday cards after Thanksgiving.


Disclosure: I have not been compensated for this post, and we did not receive any incentive for the post or opinions – my husband and I paid for all of the photos that we purchased using only the coupon offered to the general public.  We had not been asked to review this offer, nor had we been asked to review the company.  I am offering my experience with the company and offer on my own; all opinions expressed are solely mine.


Image: public domain []

A Sign Led the Way

With my elder son, I had taken so many things for granted: all of the ‘firsts’ that as a new mom, I had simply anticipated were ‘standard’ and in a way guaranteed without question.  While I was joyful with each of his milestones being met, I didn’t fully comprehend what a gift each of them were – and how each was, contrary to my myopic viewpoint, absolutely not guaranteed to be met without question.  This is a lesson that I learned fully with my younger son.

Little Llama the Younger was born with health issues the nature of which I hadn’t experienced before.  As the time passed, it was determined that even in the early months, he would benefit from physical therapy.

The milestones that Little Llama the Elder had reached with ease, were not as simple for his brother.  Each was a struggle for him, and again while I beamed with each accomplishment as I did with my elder son, I had gained a deeper appreciation for the gift that each milestone being reached truly was.

This was made clear yet again when, as his health issues steadied with the aid of several medications and the guidance of a pediatric gastroenterologist, his feeding and speech issues came to the forefront.

He was unable to consume more than liquids, and his speech was delayed. He was saying Mama, Dada, baba, with a sprinkling of gibberish intermixed.  He was frustrated – he couldn’t communicate his needs or wants to the degree other children his age were, and I was doing my best to discern what it was he wanted (not all too successfully).

It was about this time that the physical therapist who continued to see him weekly had mentioned in passing how some of her clients who also had children with language delays had looked in to sign language.

I was skeptical, but willing to try anything that would enable my little guy to be able to better communicate.  I Googled, I scoured YouTube and the local library.

Then, I found it.  Baby Signing Time, a dvd series focused on the instruction of American Sign Language for children ages 0-2 years of age. Rachel Coleman, donning an orange sweater and a sweet smile, sings as she and a variety of toddlers and babies demonstrate each ASL sign.  My son was mesmerized.  More importantly — he was learning to sign, and communicate.


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We purchased the 4 dvd set, as well as the accompanying books, flashcards and wall charts, and each was immensely helpful.

He picked up the signs quickly, and the first time that he was able to communicate that he wanted ‘milk’ I thought I’d cry.  He was so happy, so proud!  When he added ‘more’ after he had finished the milk I’d given him — I knew that this was the answer.

We watched together, learning the signs, and his vocabulary, in sign, blossomed.  My little boy was able to “speak” to me, and I was elated with the progress.

I wanted more.  I wanted him to have the richest, most broad vocabulary he could have. I didn’t want him to miss out on a single word.  Again visiting the Signing Time website, I purchased the Signing Time series, volumes one and two.  The information shared that it would teach over 1,000 signs.


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While the Signing Time series has the suggested ages of 3-8, I purchased it anyway.  Though he was well under the age recommendation, I thought it would, at minimum, be good for me to ‘get a head start on’ for when he was old enough.  I am so glad I didn’t decide to wait until he was older, because he absolutely loves them!

He would sign ‘baby time’ when he wanted to watch a Baby Signing Time dvd, and he’d sign Alex and Leah’s name sign when he wanted the original Signing Time series.

It provided fun, engaging instruction in American Sign Language.  It was clear that ASL was the key we needed to unlock communication for my little boy.  It was also clear to me that, for our family, the Signing Time resources were holding that key.

It was an absolutely amazing transformation.  My younger son had gone from speaking only a few words, to being able to sign complete thoughts.  He was able to convey feelings, wants, preferences, and observations.

As his feeding issues were being addressed and he was able to consume solid foods, he would begin to sign what he wanted to eat, or to drink.  We’d go through the grocery store, and he’d sign the foods and items of learned signs.  Each evening, he’d sign ‘stars’ and ‘moon’ when he wanted to go outside to see them.  He’d sign ‘bike’ or ‘car’ as they passed by while he rocked on the front porch with my husband.  He’d sign ‘outside,’ ‘play’ and ‘grass’ when he wanted one of us to take him to play in the backyard.

He was so engaged, so excited.  For a brief time, he even tried to teach our cat to sign (unsuccessfully, in case you were curious as to how his attempts turned out).

Shortly before Christmas, we learned that the Signing Time product line was offering the Signing Time Christmas Collection on sale.  It became a fantastic resource for us, and we learned so many signs relating to items and events surrounding the holiday and winter season.  It was wonderful to be able to have him more fully enjoy the holidays since he was able to communicate using ASL.


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Then, one special day, something tremendously wonderful happened —  as he was signing, he began to verbally speak some of the words as his little fingers and hands formed the signs.  I cannot even begin to express the joy of hearing his sweet little voice SPEAKING, and in more than mama, dada, or baba.

Today, three months shy of three years of age, you’d never know that he ever had a speech delay.  He speaks well, and in sentences.

Did we discontinue signing after he began speaking, and speaking well?  Absolutely not.

We expanded.  We moved on to the preschool series, Rachel and the Treeschoolers, Potty Time, and Signing Time Sentences.


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Why? We chose to do so because Signing Time had become such a part of our lives, and we noticed the continued benefit.  What we initially turned to in a moment of need, had developed in to a continued learning experience, wherein he’s learning a second language.

The Signing Time series, and other offerings of Two Little Hands productions, were such a blessing to my family — through them, my little boy was given the gift of communication, and for that, I am forever grateful to the production team, and to my little boy’s rockstar in the orange sweater, Rachel <3



Disclaimer: I have received no compensation for this post or the opinions contained therein.  I purchased all of the resources mentioned, as well as others, using only the general public offers that they extended on their website or via general email offers. All viewpoints and experiences are my (and my son’s) own, and I’m not in any way suggesting that the series or products will yield the same or similar benefits as they cultivated for my family. Signing Time has been a true blessing to my family, and I wanted to share our experience, in hopes that it may lead others to the assistance they may be in need of themselves.

V-Stitch babyghan with Flower Border

When I saw the crochet flower edging on Dearest Debi’s YouTube page, I knew it was something I wanted to try.

I was making a baby afghan for a baby shower, and thought it was the perfect opportunity to give it a whirl!

I made the body of the baby-ghan with a basic V-Stich stitch, then trimmed in single crochet.  Debi’s pretty flower stitch was added as the border.

My babyghan:



While it was my first attempt, I think it came out pretty well.

The no pattern required V-Stitch worked up quickly as one would anticipate when beginning, but I was impressed with how the flower pattern worked up.

The designer has the pattern both as a tutorial on YouTube, as well as in written form on her blog.  After watching the video, I printed out the pattern, and began.  It worked up more quickly than I thought, I believe in part to the clarity of the video instruction and written pattern.  After a few flowers, I was breezing through the border, and I was finished before I thought I’d be (I tend to be a pokey crocheter).

If you’re looking for something new and unique for a baby shower or upcoming holiday gift, I highly recommend swinging by Dearest Debi’s website or her YouTube page to check out her Crochet Flower Edging design



disclaimer: I don’t own the pattern – Dearest Debi does 🙂 I am linking to her page because I feel others may find the design as fun and pretty as I do ~ I’m sharing my experience with using her pattern, and showing the results I had with it via a picture of the babyghan I made with a basic no-pattern-needed v-stitch, and Dearest Debi’s border.