I need to respond to some questions we have received about adoption and other topics. This may not be the most exciting of posts, but here goes ...
I was asked if we would post our birthparent letter that we included in our profile on the itsaboutlove website. I won't post the entirety of the letter here, but everything that was in our birthparent letter is included on our adoption blog under the "Letter to a Birthparent", "Our Story", "About Paul", and "About Amy" pages. We added some extra detail and photos for the blog, but our birthparent letter was a condensed version of the information there. It was important to us to keep the letter shorter than two typewritten pages.
Another question that was asked of us is how we handled the whole "working mom" thing with the adoption profile and with Kayli. For those who don't know, when filling out the adoption profile on LDS family services, there is a spot where you check a box for each parent as to their expected employment status post-adoption. I debated over what to do because birthmoms can enter search criteria that will elminate any couple from consideration if the wife plans to work at all post-baby. I asked adoptive friends about it, we prayed about it, I asked our caseworker about it, and ultimately, we checked the bottom saying that I would stay at home post-adoption with the plan that I would bring up my career plans with any potential birthmom who contacted us so that we were being completely forthright. In the end, I don't think Kayli used that search criteria at all in her decision (I know that she did narrow her search for couples where both the husband and wife were returned missionaries though).
We talked with Kayli about my career plans in our first phone conversation and she wasn't taken aback or shocked by anything because she already knew how much I valued education and what I did for work already. Plus, it helped that Kayli had been a nanny and her mom (like a LOT of moms) had worked for at least some portion of the time while she was raising kids. All that said, I have since read a number of blog posts about birthmoms who really respected the wife who planned to maintain a career in order to protect and provide for her family along with her husband. Also, the plain honest truth is that adoptions are very costly and if a couple wants to have more than one child, the simple fact of the matter is that often the wife is going to need to keep working so that the family can save up for future adoptions, even after their first one goes through. Adoptions outside of LDS Family Services regularly cost $25k to $45k, even if they are not international adoptions, and that isn't exactly a sum that most of us have lying around in the bank without some significant planning and sacrifice.
I was asked how far in advance we started looking at childcare providers for Clara and the answer is not very far. In fact, when we first brought Clara home, I told everybody who asked that I absolutely was not going to even think about that for the first four months of my maternity leave. I just wanted to enjoy my time with our wee babe (who is not so wee anymore at almost 5 1/2 months!) without stressing over the fact that at some point, I would have to be separated from her for a portion of the day while I went into the office and someone else fed her lunch and put her down for a nap. Luckily, because there are so many working moms in our area, it was easy to find good referrals and I really just started looking into childcare for Clara a couple of weeks ago, around the 5 month mark.
Camera & Lenses
The number one question that we get asked over and over is what kind of camera and lens do we use for the photos that we post on the blog. We own a Canon EOS 5d Mark II and we totally love it. I shoot almost everything with our 24-105mm lens, but we also own a good telephoto lens and a wide angle lens that Paul pulls out for scenic or wildlife shots. The telephoto lens is crazy fun because you can zoom so far and get so much insane detail. We also own a 50mm lens, but we didn't buy the same quality of lens as our other three lenses and the difference is so obvious that neither of us bother with the 50mm lens.
Another photography related question we sometimes get is whether we have any tips for taking high quality photos. The answer is yes, and they don't all have to do with buying an expensive camera. But first I should make the disclaimer that neither of us are professional photographers and we are entirely self-taught, so I don't have any technical explanation for apertures and f-stops and stuff like that which just gets me confused.
The very first thing I learned about was the rule of thirds. It improved my photos dramatically. I won't explain it here, but if you just google "photography rule of thirds" you will get tons of hits with good examples. Many cameras like the Canon G7 Powershot (our little point-n-click camera that I used to use all the time but don't use so much anymore now that I am better with the 5d) have a feature where you can actually turn on a grid that divides the screen in thirds both vertically and horizontally. I used that feature for a few months, lining up subjects on one of the grid lines in order to break the bad habit of centering on every single photo. Our family photo from Hawaii that we took from the tripod on a timer is a good example of following the rule of thirds. The sky takes up the top 1/3 and the land takes up the bottom 2/3 of the photo, while we are standing to the left of the photo rather than dead center of the shot. It is just a lot more visually appealing.
Our second trick to getting good photos is actually in the editing phase. We actually shoot in "camera RAW" format, which has to be "developed" on the computer before we can post anything to the blog, similar to how actual film has to be developed. As part of that process, I tend to use Photoshop to make a few color corrections by increasing the blacks (just a little) and sometimes touching up the brightness or temperature of the photo. I've seen tons of photographers go WAY too far with these editing features, but when used well they can really improve an image that somehow didn't turn out quite as colorful or bright as you remembered the actual thing as being. There are free photo editing programs (like Picasa) out there that can do similar things on a much more limited scale that I used when I started out to get the feel of how to edit photos before switching to Photoshop, which is more complicated but gives the editor much more control over the development process.
My last tip is straightforward: take more photos. I mean this in two ways. One is that the more you practice, the better your photos will get. The second way is that if you take 10 shots of an image rather than 1 shot, you are going to increase the chances that one of your shots will turn out good. This is especially helpful when working with people.
That's it for the Q & A session friends. Yay for Saturdays, right? I am almost done taking down Halloween decorations but got distracted taking photos of Clara with our giant black spider and giddily reciting "Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffet..." for her while Paul is off at a Scout service project.