Friday, March 25, 2011

‘Tis Always the Season. . .

When we started on our Crinkled journey a couple years back, we knew we had a marketable product: a fine assortment of holiday cards to help folks share their seasonal cheer with friends and loved ones. With all the hustle, bustle and last-minute Christmas crunch associated with year’s end, our Crinkled cards made life a little easier for shoppers looking to share good tidings, well wishes and personalized holiday greetings.

But we wanted to do more than that.

So in August of 2009, we teamed up with Children’s Hospital of Alabama to help their funding for treating critically ill and injured kids. We donated 10% of proceeds from supporting orders to the hospital’s general fund. In the fall of 2010, we expanded our partnership with a unique holiday campaign, featuring a whole line of Christmas cards drawn by special kids treated at Children’s Hospital. Twenty-five percent of these orders went toward helping young patients get better, and feel better. And that feels good!

This year we’re excited to join the mission of another very deserving organization. For more than 30 years, King’s Home, formerly The King’s Ranch and Hannah Homes, has been a haven for abused women and hurting families. Because of their ministry, thousands of youth, moms and at-risk children have received food, clothing, shelter, and a new start in life. In a few months we’ll introduce our new line of holiday cards to benefit King’s Home; all card designs will feature drawings made by kids rescued by this good charity.

Christmas is a ways off yet, but at CrinkledNose.com, we’re looking beyond the approaching months and passing seasons. Yes, we’ll print plenty of cute custom cards and special event announcements in the days ahead, but what we truly share with others should be much more than that. For us, looking ahead means reaching out, past the temporal, toward the enduring. In truth, that’s what ultimately keeps us all.


~ By Jean Bowick

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

One woman’s trash. . . is a(nother) man’s problem

I’ve discovered if we leave things out on our carport, people will take them. Even stuff you’d think nobody would want. Sure, we left some stuff out there we clearly shouldn’t have – our brand-new, gas-powered weed-eater, for example, and my son’s $200 mountain bike. But why would somebody want to steal a gap-toothed rake, or a busted water hose?

One time somebody actually stole our trash can. Strange enough in itself, the can went missing for a couple of weeks, then inexplicably found its way home again. Wish I could say the same for our patio furniture. But then trash seems to be a recurring issue at our house, so I guess it’s only fitting that the can is the one item that, so far, has reappeared.

Twice a week we dutifully put our trash out at the street, hoping the city will get it before the neighborhood dogs do. For some reason the trash collectors often skip our house – the scrap thieves, however, are much more reliable.

Recently, I figured out a way to work this to my advantage. We had an old, broken-down washing machine. Not worth fixing. We just wanted it gone. No point in hauling it to the dump, I figured – if we just put it in the yard, somebody will take it. Sure enough, by lunchtime, the washer was gone; the trash, meanwhile, still sat at the street.


Fortunately, I have a personal hotline to my designated city official for handling these curbside breaches and slipshod trash service. Well, not really, but I can pick up the phone and throw around my tax-payer status, making emphatic (if idle) threats to go to the media, mayor, or (if I’m really feeling the spirit) a fanatical activist group, if somebody doesn’t get their butt over there and get my garbage.

Trash talk.

Which, to be truthful, is about as involved as I like to get with the actual “trash” scenario. I, like intelligent women everywhere, deem anything trash-related – along with pumping gas, heaving heavy luggage and killing spiders – as a “man’s” job.

Childbirth notwithstanding, my exemption from these unpleasant duties makes me glad to be a female – and the mother of a son. Yes, there are many other, much more important reasons I’m thankful to be a mom. I do have the best kid in the world (all bias aside); there’s an abundance of homemade holiday cards, school photos, honor roll ribbons (okay, not as many of those), milestone mementos and magnetized, original kid artwork adorning my refrigerator right now to prove it. But having a son is extra good for a mom, because when an adult male (i.e., father) figure is not available, male offspring can handle all the designated man chores we of the fairer sex are much too “delicate” to deal with personally.

But then, being delicate doesn’t mean we can’t get rough-and-tumble when we need to be. Just watch how a mom transforms when somebody tries to cross her kid. I myself can go martial-arts on somebody pretty quick – I’ve watched enough Walker, Texas Ranger to throw a real hurting down – when the trash-talking alone doesn’t get the job done.

Basically it comes down to this. We throw our trash out there, literally and figuratively, and just hope for the best. Scavengers can have (and do have, actually) my barbecue grill, but they can’t have my child’s handprint cut-outs on the refrigerator. My son has a thing about leaving empty food cartons in the fridge, though – the scavengers can have those. Assuming they make it to the trash can, of course, and the canines don’t get them first.

~ By Jean Bowick

Expecting a boy, hoping for healthy

Here’s the deal. My wife is about to pop any minute now – seriously, maybe before I finish this post. She’s beginning to nest, and yesterday she asked me if I had the baby announcements designed yet. I was afraid to remind her that the baby wasn’t even fully designed yet. According to www.babycenter.com, at 37 weeks, she’s already considered full term. Pretty soon, I’ll proudly announce to the world, “It’s a boy!” Or, in case our ultrasound tech was off her game four months ago, I’ll surprisingly proclaim, “It’s a girl!”

Like most parents-to-be in our position, we don’t really care what flavor baby we have. We just want a healthy baby.
Everyone is required by law to say that. Truth be told, however, I wouldn’t know what to do with a girl if we were to be surprised with one. Every little girl who’s ever lived in our neighborhood has totally wrapped me around her precious little fingers. My neighbors, for crying out loud! What sway would my own daughter have over me, when my own flesh and blood looked up at me and batted her eyes? So it’s a good thing we’re expecting our second baby boy.

I’m experienced teaching a boy to play ball and dig around in the dirt and chase frogs and use power tools. I’m reminded by the women in my office that girls can also do those sorts of things. Of course they can. I know that.
Everybody knows that. But the question that nags at my subconscious is, “How would I do at teaching my daughter such boyish stuff?” And what if she wanted to play dress up? What would I do?

Not to mention appropriate discipline. My wonderful wife reminds me every so often that I’m not the most empathetic person in the world. How would I handle my daughter’s bad hair day in the rush to get out of the house in the morning after she’s already delayed us by swapping outfits seven times? Would I snap and yell, grab her by the (bad) hair of her head, or would I appropriately discipline? I’ve seen other fathers do a wonderful job raising their daughters. It must be possible. It just seems so hard from my vantage point.

So as any good husband who’s also the creative director of a photo card company and marketing firm, I actually have completed the new design for the magnetic, photo birth announcements. They’re blue. Big shocker, right? I just hope that’s the only shock we have over the next few days.


~ By Ben Fineburg

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Tips for photographing your newborn

As a repeat daddy-to-be, I've put together some helpful tips to prepare for one of the most important parts of the big event: taking pictures of the little one. With all due respect to my wife, I expect delivery to go as well as the first one. So, I’ve got my camera ready to capture the shots for the all-important photo birth announcements.
  1. The best time to shoot the photograph is after the newborn has been fed and put down for a nap. The shutter sound shouldn’t bother baby, and you’ll be able to gently position the head, hands and feet for the right pose.
  2. Whatever you do, don’t flash! The flash may ruin the composition, but more importantly, it may disturb the baby, and you’ll be too busy bouncing and shushing to get your shot. Then you’ll be too tired and have to put it off until you: a) get a nap, and b) drink a double-shot espresso.
  3. Diffuse the light on a bright day with a white sheet or curtain.
  4. Using a wider aperture will allow you to shoot in lower light.
  5. If you want to accentuate the tiny features, juxtapose baby’s hands next to mom’s or dad’s hands. Let the composition show comparison and just how tiny and delicate baby really is.
  6. Black and white baby shots are both dramatic and sweet. There are good color shots you can get, but black and white photography is safer for newborns, especially for a relatively new photographer.
  7. Focus on a single feature and blur the background. Try this with face and later hands and even feet for a creative touch.
  8. Spend a few moments getting rid of bottles and boppies and use blankets and soft toys for a nice texture.
Remember to find a birth announcement that complements and accentuates your photography. Adding a magnetic back is an easy, added touch that makes your baby announcement easy to display, right on the fridge. Check out www.CrinkledNose.com for our growing selection.

~ By Ben Fineburg

Monday, March 7, 2011

Baby 2.0: A seasoned daddy’s perspective

In about four weeks or so, my wife of 16 years will give birth, God-willing, to our second son. Our first son is in the 4th grade and is a sweaty, active kid who loves sports, playing Wii, and watching Seinfeld re-runs (go figure). I’m not new at this daddy-thing. I feel like I’ve got things covered.

Truthfully, I’m not even nervous. Ten years ago, I was crazy with fear thinking, “How could anyone trust me to care for a kid?” Now, not so much.

What’s made the difference this time around? I think it’s the fact that we realize that new parents tend to overbuy for baby. Think about it. We buy wipe warmers, boppies and diaper genies, and we make sure our classic Pooh mobile matches the sheets and the pad thingy that runs around the inside perimeter of the crib. Seriously, how much of what we buy for baby is really necessary? How did babies survive for 10,000 years without all this stuff?

This time around we’ve decided to simplify a bit. We didn’t go all crazy with the nursery. Our first child had a mural on his wall, for crying out loud. We’ve got a crib, a rocker and some of my first son’s leftover toys. You know what? I don’t think the newbie will even notice that he’s missing the mural or that his plush toys have a few stains.

As a seasoned daddy veteran, what we’ve decided to do with kid 2.0 is take pictures and share them. Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist with the first one. What’s better for our family out of town than sharing the big announcement? So we’re going to share more pics. We’re going to print his grinning face (even if it’s just gas-induced) on magnetic birth announcements with the family all around and send them to our loved ones who can’t be there at the hospital with us.

We’re going to take advantage of today’s information age with instant online updates (PUSH, HON! PUSH!) and we’re sticking with the more traditional printed baby announcements too. Frankly, I still have some year-old magnetic announcements on my fridge today from some of my best friends. When I walk by their baby pictures, I smile.

Hopefully, if all goes well, two things will happen. First, my kid won’t come out looking like an alien baby (really, that’s more of a pipe-dream). Second, when we send his pictures out to my family in New York and Mississippi and Texas and Maryland, they’ll put his grinning mug on their fridge and smile too.

~ By Ben Fineburg

Being a dad in a mommy's world

I am a man. I am also a dad, and I help run a website dedicated mostly to mothers – we make customized photo cards for Christmas and other holidays and special occasions. That fact alone puts me in a strange position.

I am a marketer. I don’t sell chainsaws or build tractors like my friends at Caterpillar. I do change light bulbs and air filters around the house. I mow my own lawn and teach my kid to play sports (my son is currently on a 3rd and 4th grade basketball team and is district champion in the 25 yard breaststroke). I am a man and I have a man card to prove it.

But my job and my manliness often interact in funny ways. Our website – wwwCrinkledNose.com – is viewed by women around the world. We sell photo Christmas cards, personalized note pads and magnetic photo calendars almost exclusively to women. I’m no relationship expert and my Y-chromosome sometimes gets in my way of effectively communicating with my target audience. I think this puts me in a not-so-unique position and begs an important question: how can I be a manly man while working in my very feminine work environment?

Now, don’t get me wrong. I’m not the definitive source for answers and I don’t like to talk about my feelings any more than I like to record names of gift givers while eating chocolate biscuits at baby showers, but I’ve collected some thoughts on the subject. My hope is that a few manly men will read, and some will be a little prouder of their role in mommy’s world.

Moms are better at some things than us guys, but that doesn’t mean we can’t try. Moms make the ouches and booboos go away better, but we get to scare away the bad guys. When your kid has a monster under the bed, whom do they call? You, dad. Even though we can’t coordinate an outfit for our daughter’s first day of school, we can still be there with the camera and a good luck hug. We can pick them up from practice and take them to the dance. Our kids don’t need another mom. If they’re blessed enough to live with both parents still, they need one of each of us.

For that matter, our non-emotional response is sometimes what our kids need in moments of stress and anxiety. With grease under our nails and stains on our shirts, we’re perfectly equipped for plenty of these times. Who jump starts the car when it needs it and who shovels the snow so they can get to school? We do. Not that women can’t, but that’s our job, and doing it makes us feel more like we can be there and in some weird way bond with our families.

So no, I will never be the nurturing, compassionate figure in my family that my wife has become so effortlessly, but I can and will play an important role, a dad’s role in mommy’s world.

~ By Ben Fineburg