Thursday, December 13, 2012

The Power of Pants, or Why I Have the Best Husband on the Planet

Its been bothering me for a while...

Everyone that has ever had a baby knows how frustrating it is to seemingly watch all your friends who had babies around the same time that you did fit back into their pre-pregnancy size with no problems...

Well, when I found out I was pregnant with the Cupcake when the Little Diva was 2 months old, I gave up any and all hope of being able to fit into ANYTHING that I wore being pregnant. I owned exactly 1 pair of jeans that we had purchased about a month after I had the Little Diva...and somewhat begrudgingly pulled out my maternity clothes again...

We did buy 1 pair of maternity pants because it seemed like all of my maternity stuff was actually too big during this pregnancy. In fact, I was still wearing maternity items that I'd had to put away after about week 28 of pregnancy with the Little Diva...I was holding out hope that I would shrink down even more after pregnancy with the Cupcake...especially because the one pair of jeans I'd purchased after having the Diva, still fit (they were tight, but they fit).

I didn't end up that lucky.  I thought, however, that since my one pair of jeans was VERY loose that I was squarely into one size.  Some friends of mine were having a yard sale and decided to let people go through all their leftover items for free at the end of the day. I scored 6 pairs of pants in that size, along with some cute tops. I went home excited to finally have a wardrobe again...only to be met with defeat. Only 1 pair of those pants fit...and they were TIIIIIGHT.  I was in tears and frustrated. My sweet husband reassured me and reminded me that I'd just had a baby 2 months before and I needed to be gentle with myself.

My frustration mounted. I only had 3 things that fit on the bottom (all the shirts I snagged fit great)...2 of those things happened to be the same skirt in different was getting tiresome to not have enough clothes to wear. Faith has started into her toddler stage, so let's just say that any outfit I wear doesn't exactly stay clean all day...

I'd become the mom I swore I would never be...wearing pajama pants most of the time because they were the only things I had that fit well. Its been like this for the last 2 months...I've been trying to lose weight to fit into those pants I got for free because I knew that it would be much easier on us financially...and I'm cheap, veery, veeeery cheap... All of them are in really good shape, so it was hard to justify buying anything else even though they didn't fit...but trying them on just made me even more sad and feel more desperate.

Finally, yesterday was the boiling point. I didn't want to wear pajama pants again...I just couldn't do it. I was sick of feeling like a scrub...I had ONE clean skirt and I was wearing it! I didn't care that it was only 50 degrees outside! I was trying to get everyone ready to get out of the house and head to the grocery store and decided to change the Little Diva's shirt. She had gotten chocolate milk all down her front. I pulled out my bottle of homemade spray and wash to douse it to get rid of the offensive chocolate specks and drizzles that were taunting me...only to have the bottle explode on me, leaving LARGE wet marks where the spray and wash had hit it. Here's the thing about the homemade spray and takes FOREVER to dry because there is no water in it...I knew that my hopes for looking not like a scrub at the grocery store were add to my frustrations, I found that I also had no clean pajama pants in my drawers. I remembered folding some and stomped into the living room to grab them.

Jeff was so patient and loving. He tried to grab me to comfort me in my town tear stained state (yes, I was crying over pants) but I pulled away and said through clenched teeth, "Just let me get dressed, please."  I immediately felt bad for displacing my stress on him. I went back, grabbed him and kissed him and said a quiet and penitent, "I love you."  He smiled and said, "I love you too."  I went into the room and sobbed a little more as I begrudgingly pulled the pajama pants on and changed my shirt (can't exactly wear a frilly blouse with pajama pants...)

We got into the car and started to drive. Jeff didn't turn where he should have to head to the grocery store...he kept driving down the road....I had no clue what he was up to.

We pulled into the strip mall that has our usual Target and a few other stores. The whole while I was thinking, "What do we need at Target? I thought we got everything...

I asked Jeff what we were doing. He just said, "You'll see."  He pulled into the part of the parking lot that was in front of Ross Dress for Less. He turned to me and said, "We aren't leaving here until you pick out 3 things."  I kissed him, hugged him, and sheepishly thanked him and reluctantly started to shop (I'm cheap...I admit it. I HATE spending money...)  I grabbed pairs of pants in two sizes that I thought I may fit into and went into the dressing room. I was flabbergasted to find that one of the smaller size fit and one of the bigger size fit...but the smaller sized pants were $30...I haven't spent $30 on a pair of pants since I was 16...that is pricey to me. I kept looking for other pants...I tried on every style of pant that they had in the size that I thought would fit best and still only ended up with the two pairs I'd found initially. I started looking at other things and jokingly said, "Well, you said 'three things' you didn't necessarily say that they all had to be pairs of pants...) we looked through the lingerie section and joked with one another and then I said, "Well, what do you think?" He said, "I think we have two things, but we can go."   We paid for the pants and left the store.

It seems so shallow that a trip to the store and a few pairs of pants could totally change my mood...but Jeff knew I'd had all that I could take.  I am so blessed to be married to a man who is so patient with me, even when I have outburst about clothes like a pre-teen/teenage girl.  I'm even more blessed that he is willing to put aside his ultimate goals with what money we do have (right now we are trying to save for a trip to Idaho for Christmas, and we also would like to pay his brother back some of the money we owe him...) so that I can feel a little bit better about myself.

This morning, I laughed to myself when I thought about how excited I was just to put on a pair of new pants that actually fit...I wasn't going to have to pull them up every 5 minutes like I do when I wear the other pants I have from last year...and even though I'm not the size I had hoped to be at this point, it definitely changes your outlook on your body shape when you get to wear clothes that fit.

Bless my husband for putting up with me...bless him for being thoughtful, and bless him for loving me through all my "ugly" times.  I love him so much...Its amazing the power a pair of good-fitting pants has on your confidence...but its even more amazing how much power a sweet, loving husband has ...I only wish that I had changed my attitude sooner, I wish I wouldn't have pulled away to let myself be angry (especially because I wasn't angry at him, and I worry that I made him feel like I was)...I don't need him to buy me things to make me happy, that is for sure...but the gesture of perfect love that was made by trying to show his wife that he cared and saw her needs (no matter how shallow they were at the time) was definitely what I needed.

and that's all I have to say about that...

Hugs and loves until next time darlings!

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Too Many Changes

My kids need to put on the brakes!

There are too many changes happening in my house and this mamma just can't keep up. I suppose tons of changes happening all at once is a blessing. It means that I don't have time to sit and be sad that they are growing up and getting bigger.

In the last month, the Little Diva has begun to walk. It was slow going. Jeff thought she would be walking sooner, I thought we had another month of her coasting along has ended up being in between the two predictions. She is getting better at walking and now can get up to stand and walk without anyone helping her or finding a piece of furniture to pull herself up on...

You would think that walking would be enough for this kid, but you're wrong...

No, she now insists on feeding herself and gets very testy if what she is eating isn't the same as what mom and dad are eating. There is no tricking this kid either. Last night we had pizza from Little Caesars... I was trying to keep her away from the pepperoni...I gave her a bowl of Spaghettios. She happily chomped on them, until she looked over and saw the pizza...she then started dumping her bowl out and tried to throw it on the floor as she whined. I cleaned her up, insisting in my head that if she didn't want to eat what I gave her, then she could just have a bottle and go to bed...well she walked over and whined as daddy took a big bite of his pizza slice...we caved and let her eat bites of the cheesy parts and finally Jeff gave her a crust to gnaw on...and then another (this kid has an appetite!)

If that wasn't enough...she found some crayons and a coloring book that her Grandma Nielson had given her (we were saving it for until she is older because, at the time, she just didn't get it...), she brought them to me. I sat down on the floor and tried to show her how to color again...she picked up a crayon and started lightly marking the pages with various was just too much!

Let's add to that the developmental milestones of the Divine Cupcake...she now EVERYONE and EVERYTHING...and she is my little piggy (literally, she makes little piggy grunting noises when she is hungry). Everyone comments on how small she is, but compared to Faith at this age, she is a gargantuan!...This morning I made the sad realization that its time to pull out the 3-6 month clothes...I only convinced myself to put the newborn stuff away last week!

In short, this mommyhood thing is going all too fast.  I admit with sadness that my girls are growing, but then there is that part of me that is cheering them on as they learn how to do new things.

Faith is getting to be so "fun", for lack of a better word.  She still isn't talking but is very expressive with her gestures and loves to play. She thinks that I am the funniest person on the planet and laughs every time I even remotely attempt to be silly...I work my hardest to remember these little things because one day I know she will think I am lame and embarrassing...and it seems like that day is coming all too soon.

I guess I just need to find a way to stop time from moving forward...gee, where is Einstein when you need him? (I'm sure there are several moms out there that would love to hear if I figure that secret out...) In the meantime, all I can do is try to take pictures (mental and on my camera) to remember these little moments that are so full of wonder for two special little spirits.

Hugs and loves until next time darlings...

Monday, November 19, 2012

Accountability : the Road to a Healthier Me

I hate the way my body looks right now...there, I said it.

Its hard to be gentle with yourself after having a baby when you have friends who had babies around the same time and look like they are back to their pre-pregnancy size...I, unfortunately, did NOT win the genetic lottery when it comes to my body shape or metabolism.

I will frankly say that there have been many afternoons and evenings when the girls are settled that I have snuggled up in my husband's arms and sobbed- apologizing that he has a fat wife...

Phillie is 2 months old. I shouldn't feel so badly. I know this in my head, but my subconscious keeps whispering majorly negative thoughts and its hard to say that being 2 months post partum is an excuse...

Its also almost IMPOSSIBLE to work out.  In fact, I have a baby in one arm as I am typing this (the other is taking her nap).  Between Phillie "hulking" out and wanting to be held because she is bored, and Faith eating anything and everything she can find on the floor (and something is always there no matter how many times I vacuum) I always am on high alert as a mommy.  I did start trying to fit in time for my exercise video, but try explaining to a 2 month old that you need a 1 hour time span where she doesn't need something...LOL

I know that nothing is going to change unless I change it.  However, being in mommy mode 24/7, its hard to figure out how to implement the short, I just feel...trapped...trapped in my body and a situation that seems almost impossible to overcome...trapped with NO clothes that fit right and trapped hating what I see when I look in the mirror...

I write about this because A) I need to be held accountable, because I don't believe the situation is as impossible as I'm making myself believe that it is.  There has to be a way around it...and I think I may have found it. and B) I'm sure there are other mammas out there that are struggling with the same problem.

How do you find time for yourself and your health when you A) have 2 kids that are small enough that between them your attention has to be focused elsewhere B) only have 1 car so you can't really go anywhere when your husband is gone to work (that includes the work out group that your church has...)  C) don't have money for a gym membership and D) are up all night with a baby and just feel like you have NO ENERGY

Well, I decided that I was sick of feeling sorry for myself. I was sick of hating my body. I need to set a better example for my girls. They need to see that you can be beautiful no matter what your shape, that being HEALTHY is the key, and I'm sick of crying to my husband (he is so sweet, but I'm sure he is sick of hearing it and sick of reassuring me that he still finds me attractive and isn't embarrassed to be seen with me....he just is too sweet to say it...)

I set to Pinterest in my free time to try to find a workout routine that A) wouldn't require me to buy a gym membership or a lot of home work out equipment and B) could be fit in at intervals during the day when I can find 10 or so minutes where no one is crying and my house is in reasonable order.

I found 1 great pin (forgot to repin it because I closed the window after I finished reading it.) It basically said that if you make a few small changes, you can lose 10 pounds in a month. It had a list of 72 changes you could of them was making sure you had more than enough water in your that is my first new goal. I need to start getting better about drinking water. Its been more tricky than I thought it would be. I barely have enough time to remember to feed myself lunch, let alone keep track of how much water I've been drinking...

but I have decided that excuses are for losers:

Today is the day that I vow to be more aware of my water intake.

It also suggested replacing 1 of your sugary snacks (like a "healthy" granola bar)  with something healthy like vegetables or fresh fruits.  So that is part of my next goal:

I vow to be more aware of what food I am putting into my body and to be more vigilant at making sure I get enough fruits and veg in during the day.

My last goal is to find ways to work out. Again, Pinterest didn't fail to come through. I found this pin that has a list of exercises that can be done throughout the day. There is a new list of goals for every day of the week. The blog I got it from suggests that you can either split up the exercises throughout the day, or try to do them all at once. My goal is to try to do each list at least twice throughout the day; however, after today, I'm thinking I will have to work my way up to that. For now, my goal is to do the whole list once, and, after its done, and I find myself sitting nothing throughout the day, to do sets of the exercises while I've got time. This way I can burn more calories during the day and am sure to get in enough exercise to encourage weight loss:

Here is a picture of the Sunday regime, but the rest of the week can be found HERE.

I know that in order to change my outlook, I need to change me. I need to prove to myself that I can make a change to help me to change my situation....even if that change is small and not what I had hoped to be able to accomplish (curse me and my need to be an over achiever!).

So...any other mamma's out there eager to join me? I'd love to start a Facebook group for us so we can share how we're doing with our goals and how we're feeling emotionally about ourselves (good and bad). :)  I think it helps to have support. I'm not one who enjoys a work out class (I had a horrible experience in high school...I will elaborate in my next post about getting into shape), I usually am driven enough to work out on my own, but it always helps to have someone to talk to about it and share/commiserate with.  Tell me what you think mammas!

Hugs and loves until next time darlings!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Thankful Thursday

As Thanksgiving rapidly approaches, I have been taking a step back daily to try to focus on what I'm thankful for.  Its been amazing to really focus on one thing throughout the day that makes me grateful, so when times get tough, when Phillie is screaming because Faith is trying to pick her nose while I'm not looking (totally happened today BTW), I can smile and think , "You know what, this is just a drop in the bucket. There are so many good things in my life!"

The Lord has blessed us abundantly. We've been able to sell a bunch of things that were just taking up space in our house and raise some money to buy Christmas presents. Jeff's job blesses us, and we are always able to pay all of our bills and get the things that we need, but sometimes ( a lot of the time) the things that we WANT have to go by the wayside until we can save.  We were a little late with Christmas saving this year and, while we'd managed to eek out a budget, the extra money that we've been able to make from selling things we didn't need or use anymore will and has made Christmas shopping a little easier. In fact, we may (and should) be able to put the money we eeked out of the budget for Christmas, into savings instead of spending it...and considering that our savings was wiped out by needing to buy and then fix our car, its nice to know that we will have a little in matter how little it is.

I've also been blessed to find gently used toys (toys that I would have purchased at the store for full price anyway) for VERY cheap through a yard sale Facebook group that I'm a member of.  Over a thousand people from my area are members of this group and we buy and sell to one another. (This is how we were able to sell the items we didn't need anymore).  I sat down and worked it out and I have saved over $110 buying these toys used. Two of the items don't look used at all, the one that does look used has so little wear that you really have to be looking to find it.  It has been really, really hard not to pull them down and let Faith play with them...I am super excited for her and Phillie (even though Phillie won't be able to appreciate what we've purchased for a few months).

We've also been blessed by people in our community. Faith moved into the 12-18 month size category and I was severely lacking much of anything for that size for her...and I found that I didn't have as much 0-3 month stuff for Phillie as I thought. I'd gone to a few yard sales, but I hadn't really been able to find much on my own, and was beginning to wonder if I needed to start looking at things new, but knew we didn't really have the money to do that. Well, Heavenly Father hears our concerns, even if the prayer is only a passing thought in our hearts. I have a wonderful friend here in Henderson that has bins of baby girl clothes and receives new stuff from others all the time. She randomly asked if I wanted to go through a bin of clothes that she had because she knew she wouldn't use them. There was no way she could have known how grateful I was to her for her willingness to think of me and share. I am so grateful that she decided to act on a kind thought.

We also needed a new baby gate to put in our kitchen entry way. Faith eats EVERYTHING she finds on the floor, so we have had to ban her from the kitchen. It seems like no matter how many times I sweep or mop in the day, she always manages to find something (the same thing goes for vacuuming!).  I put out a search query on the yard sale group and had a few responders. The first responder offered us a swinging baby gate for $10 if it would work.  We went to pick it up and I sent Jeff in so he could decide if it would work.  Jeff came back out and the woman who had previously owned the gate came to meet me. She was so sweet and even gave us a referral to her sister who was a realtor for the area of Henderson that we want to live in (its removed from EVERYTHING and is like living in a small town...). Once we were on the freeway, Jeff divulged that she had given us the gate for FREE! I was floored. I was also glad that my husband knows me well enough that he didn't tell me before we were well on our way to our next appointment...I would have told him to turn around and would have insisted that she take SOMETHING (this baby gate is not a cheap one...).  God is good and blesses you in little ways all the time, but I definitely feel like we've had some HUGE blessings as of late.

I've also been fully enjoying being a mom of two, more than I thought possible.  While she is a handful, Faith is at such a fun age.  She babbles all the time. I have no clue what she is saying, but she always is talking to me. She is so smiley and loving. We can tell that she really wishes that her little sister was big enough to play with her. She tries to play with her all the time, but unfortunately doesn't really know her strength and doesn't really understand sissy's limitations.  Phillie, for the most part, will look at her briefly and then ignore her (unless she is trying to pick her nose or play with her hair, then we get screams of malcontent...from BOTH babies...LOL)  Faith has learned, however, if sissy is laying getting some tummy time on her mat, that she can lay with her or sit with her and chat. It is so funny and oddly fulfilling to watch her babble at her little sister and try to share toys with her... I am so grateful for Faith and her loving and tender nature. She is very caring about her sister and if Phillie is crying, she always crawls or coasts over to where she is to make sure she is okay.  Here are a few pics of my girls "playing" with the baby gym together.

Faith gets super irritated when meal time comes around because she wants to eat what we're eating. Fortunately, I've been able to find a few things at every meal that I'm brave enough to give her a bite or two of. I've also been trying her on more "meal" type foods lately like Chef Boyardee raviolis.  She LOVES that she gets to eat big girl food!

Here are some fun pictures of her first attempt at eating Chef Boyardee. She LOVED it...the problem was that she forgot that she needed to swallow and would want to fill her mouth too much. We had a few scary choking moments, but we figured out that every couple of bites we needed to hand her, her sippy to take a drink.

I am also one lucky mamma when it comes to Phillie too! She is 2 months old now and is starting to get her own little personality. There is nothing more satisfying than getting her to smile at me or watching her smile at daddy.  Poor Phillie has really bad reflux. We found it at her 2 month appointment and the doctor gave her a scrip for Zantac. I am very fortunate because Phillie isn't majorly fussy about it. (I've known lots of babies with reflux, and they are usually colicky on top of it...that is not Phillie) My heart breaks every time she gags or has troubles breathing when we lay her down because of the acid in her throat.  I'm hoping that, with time, the Zantac will cause some real improvement, because, if it doesn't, it could mean that she has a pinched larynx and would mean a referral to an ENT.  I continue to pray for her and for some relief for her. She is so calm for the most part when it comes to bearing her burdens. She is a special girl and I am so blessed to be her mommy.

I am one very lucky woman!

Hugs and gratitude until next time darlings!

Saturday, November 3, 2012


Grief is an interesting emotion...I don't know if you can really call it an "emotion" because the reality is that it is several emotions rolled into a giant ball.  Like a bouncy ball losing air, the emotions seem to dissipate little by little, but, like a deflated bouncy ball, it stays in your heart, never really going away.

My experience with real grief came much earlier than some peoples' experiences...earlier than a lot of my friends.

When I was twelve I had the horrifying and heart wrenching experience of literally watching my father die.  Its not something I like to dwell on or talk about, but it definitely always makes the end of October difficult.

I wasn't as vocal about my grief as some of my siblings were, I dealt with it in my own way.  I internalized it, and kind of became a zombie in my own life. I let the grief choke me, consume me.  It wasn't until I was 18 that I was able to let go of my anger. Most people that knew me before that time probably wouldn't have called me an angry person, they wouldn't have even was deep, it was like a festering wound on my heart that wouldn't go away...How did I let it go?  Someone was able to see through my facade. A loving Heavenly Father...even though my anger was directed towards him.  I couldn't see why He would do that to me, to my family...He was always there, just waiting for the time to come when my grief ball would be deflated enough for me to notice it.

Since then, my grief ball has been sitting on my heart. Some experiences inflate it again a little bit...high school and college graduations, my wedding, the births of my inflates as I wish and wonder what it would have been like to have my dad here to celebrate with us. However, it usually deflates as fast as it inflates. My wedding is a perfect example. The whole morning everyone thought that I was just really stressed out, and in some ways I was...we had an unexpected blizzard, so my plans for taking outdoor pictures at the temple were almost completely thwarted (thank heavens for my awesome bridesmaids, groomsmen, husband, and photographer who were willing to brave the snow anyway)...but it was much deeper than that. I missed my dad. I wanted him there. I wanted him to crack a joke about the blizzard and how it meant good luck or something ominous...I needed him and he wasn't there...

But, once I was in the temple, kneeling at the alter and being sealed for time and all eternity to the most wonderful husband on the planet, my heart was healed and my grief ball deflated when I could feel my dad there. There were a few empty seats on the front row, one right across from me, and I KNEW he was sitting there. I KNEW he was watching and that he loved me and was so, so happy for me...

Moments like this make the grief ball move to the size of a speck, and then it stays as a small speck for 362 days of the year...October 28 is the day that it seems like there is an air pump connected to my grief ball. October 28, my dad's birthday...and then the nightmares come...reliving those terrifying moments from my childhood doesn't exactly make for a decent night's sleep. October 30 is usually the worst...the actual anniversary of his death...which always makes me all the more determined to have an awesome Halloween..I need to celebrate and allow myself to stop focusing on my grief ball to give it some time and reasons to deflate again to speck status.

I always think I'm prepared. In fact, I try to schedule things for that day so that I am so busy that I will forget to recognize what day it is... the last 2 years I 2010, I was getting married and completely wrapped up in wedding plans, last year I had become a mother for the first time and was so sleep deprived that I slept through  most of the 28th, 29th and 30th and didn't have one nightmare... So, I was tricked into believing that maybe that part of my grief was over...

It was frustrating to realize I was wrong.

However, God is good. He knows what we need. He blessed me with the BEST husband on the planet (I think I mentioned that earlier, and maybe about a half a million times since I've married him).  Even when I think I'm hiding my grief well, he recognizes that something is off. He takes me into his arms, and reminds me that I am so, so loved, and so, so lucky...and all those thoughts and wishes that my dad could be here to see the holiday season with me and my sweet little family start to melt away.

Maybe someday, those nightmares will turn into sweet dreams where I can see him with us.  That is my prayer...because I know he wouldn't want me to have nightmares about the night he died anymore. I know he wouldn't want me to be sad.

He is in Heaven, he is doing the work of the Lord. He is with me when I need him, because, if watching Jeff with our sweet little girls has taught me anything, its taught me that a real daddy is always there when you need him.

I am so grateful for the blessings of the temple, and the restored priesthood that makes them possible. I am so grateful to know that I am a part of my dad's eternal family and that I will see him again, be with him again, laugh with him again, and be able to talk and joke with him again.  I am so grateful for a loving Savior, Jesus Christ, who gave His life so that we will be able to conquer death. I am grateful for the gospel and the peace I have found because of its plain and simple truths.

For those of you suffering in silence, internalizing your little grief balls (of varying sizes), I say, do not lose hope. You can't lose hope. It does get better...and while some of your pain will linger, it will lessen with time. Don't forget that you are loved. You are not being punished, you are not forgotten.  God is there and he will heal you when you are ready to let him in.

Know that there is life after this life. Know that we will all be resurrected with perfect bodies and, through the power of God, the restored priesthood, it is possible for us to live with and be with our lost loved ones again. God is a god of love, he would not, and could not part us for eternity.

Have faith, have hope, and know that you are loved.

Hugs and loves until next time darlings.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

October...Like a Leaf on the Wind...

This month seems to have flown by with fine frenzy.  Its been so busy that I haven't had much time to sit and breathe, and (most days) clean my house...

Between my birthday, Faith's birthday and Halloween its just been GO GO GO.

I won't lie, I felt a little guilty about Faith's birthday.  I did make a pretty decent birthday cake, something I haven't done in a few years...

but the decorations I'd planned and my hopes for trying to make the day seem much less like every other day seemed to be thwarted at every turn. Jeff kept reminding me that she was only turning one and that she wouldn't remember hind sight, I wish I would have stopped worrying so much and would have allowed myself to drink in little moments of the day more.

In the end, I think she had fun eating cake off of my fork (we did let her get messy by trying to encourage a cake smash, but, true to form, my little diva HATED getting her hands dirty. She managed to eat so much icing off the top that the sugar made her gag and after that she cried and begged to be cleaned up.) and thoroughly enjoys her new little piano toy.  Its not as annoying as I was worried it would be. She chooses her moments to play it and moves on to something else.

All in all, its been a wonderful year getting to know my Little Diva.  Its so funny how much you can learn about someone who can't even talk yet.  She is so expressive and its fun to see how much her looks can say. Yesterday we took her for her 1 year well child exam. The nurse shyly asked if we would allow Faith to have a lollipop. We'd let her lick them before, but never just full out given her one. I, of course, said yes. After getting poked, everyone deserves a little prize, right? 4 shots later, it was funny how fast her tears were gone when we opened the lolly and put it on her tongue.   It took her some time to figure out that you hold the stick and the colored part is the tasty part (let's just say she got VERY sticky) but she started to get it like a pro by the time we were out the door of the pediatrician's office.  Of course, since it was her first lolly and I didn't want to sit in the back to supervise to keep her from biting off the candy and choking or getting everything in the car sticky, we had to take it away while we drove to our next destination...The look, coupled with the alligator tears that formed in her eyes, was priceless. I should be ashamed to admit it because she was so CRUSHED, but I was amused and giggled as I got into the car.  Her look said it all:

"You just let them put 4 of those sharp, pointy things in my legs, and that REALLY hurt. You give me this delicious thing to make me feel better, but now you're taking it away?!?! WORST DAY EVER!!!!"

Never fear, she only cried for about 30 seconds... and then was over it. However, the smile we got when we got to the grocery store and gave it back to her was just as priceless.  We had tears again in the grocery store when we had to take the last bit of it away because she was down to mostly the stick and I didn't want the now sharp candy to be bitten off and choked on...that would have been fun (NOT).  Again, 30 seconds of discontent and she was over it.  I'm grateful that our work at home not giving in to her random temper tantrums (yes, she's already started having them) has helped her to realize that tears are fruitless and that the mamma and daddy's wills will be done! (We can only hope that this realization sticks and makes the Terrible Twos not so terrible!)

My birthday was next on our list of fun.  It totally ended up being one of the best birthdays I've had in a while, and was filled with completely unexpected surprises.

The biggest surprise came the day before my birthday. Jeff asked if I wanted my present a day early. I was a little taken aback because I thought we had agreed that I was getting my haircut as my present. I told Jeff that if he had gotten me something else that I wanted to wait so that I had something to look forward to, but he was insistent that I get it that night.

Jeff brought in a box. I opened the box to find a box for the fancy pants camera that I've been wanting for months! Its basically a point and shoot with all the functions of a DSLR ...and then some.  Not only does it do what a DSLR does, but it will do it at the touch of a button...I don't have to sit and mess with ISO and aperture to get certain affects (I can if I wanted to...),  for example, it has settings to automatically blur the background of images, and to shoot fireworks...I just have to go to the menu and select the setting I want.  My camera also can automatically photoshop out blemishes, can shoot with just one color and the rest in black and white(meaning those fancy pics in  black and white with one color (like a red rose) highlighted won't take tons of time in photoshop to produce), and will wait to take a picture when you click the shutter until all the people are smiling, or will wait until all CHILDREN are smiling...I'm still learning how to use all the settings because it really does SO MUCH...the honest to goodness truth is, I don't need to be able to change lenses with this camera because besides the nifty menu settings, it also has a lens that is the equivalent of 3 DSLR lenses...

I was shocked and almost started crying when I saw the box. This camera is NOT cheap. In fact, it costs as much as an entry level DSLR.  I was thinking we wouldn't be able to afford it until January...and even that thought was disappearing as Jeff was talking about us moving into a different apartment and using his extra paycheck to pay for that...needless to say, I wasn't expecting to get it any time soon.

Of course, Jeff being Jeff, he couldn't just give me the present, get me teary-eyed and leave it at that...I sat for a few minutes to soak it in, and then I picked up the box to pull out my new seemed awfully light, but I didn't think much of it...I opened the box to find.... my old, crappy camera staring back at me...

Thinking that Jeff had played a cruel prank and hadn't really gotten the camera, I told him I hated him (of course, he is proud of himself for that...) Then Jeff said, "Do you not like it?  Well, maybe you want to see what the Munchkin and Boo Boo got you."  He pulled out a camera bag...which had my camera in it.

He then explained how we were able to afford it.

Jeff got a second job fixing audio/video equipment by contract.  Instead of contracting for an amount, he asked that they purchase my camera before my birthday as payment for his services.  His bosses were happy to do it.  They offered to get me a more expensive DSLR, but Jeff knew that this was the camera I wanted and said that he wanted me to have what I wanted (I would have been happy with either of them, but I am happy that he stuck to his guns. Yes, I could have had a more expensive camera, but I wouldn't have had all the fancy features to play with and figure out...LOL).  I just have to say, that I seriously have the sweetest, most thoughtful husband in the world. Yes, the money for his services would have been nice since we have 3 hospital bills we are trying to pay off right now, but he knew we would have the money to pay our payments and wanted to make sure that I got something that I'd been really wanting for a while instead of settling for what was practical like I normally do.

Jeff then informed me that I should have the girls ready by the time he got home from work the next day because he'd already found a babysitter for the girls and we had to drop them off to go on a date...I was dumbstruck and, of course, asked my signature question, "Are you sure we can afford it?"  Jeff said, he was sure.  He also informed me that I was STILL getting my hair cut on Saturday.  I asked my signature question again, he laughed and said, "I wouldn't say that you could if we couldn't."

I jokingly said that he should really spoil me and use one of his PTO days to stay home on my birthday and snuggle with me...Jeff decided that was a good idea too.

In short, I was thoroughly spoiled. We spent the day doing everything and nothing. We went to the park and tried to do a photoshoot with the girls. Of course, it was right before Faith's naptime, and Phillie decided to be hungry, so it didn't work out so well, but I did get a few good shots...
parenting is hard work...LOL

Later, we dropped the girls off with the Bloods (thank you again to all of them for loving me and my family enough to watch my girls at bedtime!) and went to dinner at a place we hadn't tried before called the Elephant Bar. We actually enjoyed the ambiance quite a bit. The food wasn't AMAZING, but we liked it enough that we want to go back and try some other things on their menu.  The restaurant is located in an outdoor shopping complex called The District. For those of you from Southeast Idaho/Northern Utah, or familiar with Salt Lake, it is somewhat like the Gateway seems to have mostly high end stores that WE wouldn't really shop in, but it was fun to window shop.  Of course, they did happen to have one of my favorite clothing stores on the planet, Downeast Basics.  I usually walk past a Downeast, drool over the clothes in the window, and keep walking because in general it is a little more pricey than I like (you're talking to a girl who sometimes thinks that Ross Dress for Less is too expensive...)  Jeff surprised me again and made me go in the store...and then told me to try on the things I liked.  I had a small moment of glee when a size 10 dress fit (it was tight, and Jeff had to zip it up for me, but it fit)...He then made me pick my favorite thing I tried on and he bought it for me. I walked out with a VERY cute wrap around mustard yellow gingham print shirt.  ( I will also say that clothes shopping with my husband is always a pleasant experience. He always gives me an honest opinion, so if I'm struggling to pick something out, he always knows what to say to make me feel confident in going one way or the other. I love you babe.)

We thought about seeing a movie, but realized we hadn't seen the previews for ANYTHING that was in the theater, so we had NO CLUE what any of the movies were about.  We laughed a little about it as we walked out of the theater and headed for some cheesecake and to get the girls.

Our ward Halloween party came next.  We went shopping for stuff to make our costumes on Thursday night (the party was Saturday). Jeff didn't disappoint and had some really good ideas for how to make the costumes easier to make and cheaper.  We were Mr. and Mrs. Pacman and Faith and Phillie were the ghosts.

I hand sewed the little handkerchief style dresses for Faith and Phillie on Friday (since I don't own a sewing machine...) and then made the T-shirts by attaching the felt pieces using an iron on applique fusing sheet. The way the T-shirts turned out was Jeff's idea.  I was going to go to Goodwill and try to find a black t-shirt for each of us, but Jeff thought that may be a tall order. He suggested we take advantage of Jo-Ann's sale and get a white T-shirt for $3 and some black felt to go with the yellow I was already planning on the end we spent just under $20 cumulatively for all costumes, making each costume cost about $5.  SCORE!

Of course, I need to show you my new 'do!
SO MUCH BETTER than the last haircut. I'm glad I have good friends who told me where to go this time around. I think I found my new "place" here in Henderson. I was worried I never would find anyone to replace my awesome stylist friends that I left behind in Idaho.  (P.S. notice how awesome my skin looks in this picture...No, its not a new skin regime...its my camera's anti-blemish soft skin technology...take that Photoshop! LOL)

The picture makes it look shorter than it actually still reaches my shoulders on the sides. I do wish the bangs were a little shorter and a little more angular, but I figure it will make them easier to trim when the time comes (since I will have to do that myself).

Well, motherhood calls.The Notorious Pacifier Bandit (a.k.a. Little Diva, a.k.a Faith McKynzie) has struck again and I now have two crying children (because she always gets scared and cries when Phillie cries...)

Happy Halloween darlings! Hugs and Loves until next time.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Creatively Lazy: Christmas Tree Edition


Saturday, we went out yard selling....

And we managed to pick up this monster for a steal of a deal

A 7.5 foot Christmas tree that usually retails for close to $200 for $10???? Ummm...yes, please!

Well, on Monday, Jeff decided to set it up to make sure our steal of a deal wasn't too good to be true...

It wasn't. Besides needing to tape up some of the ends to keep the string that is wrapped around the branches from unraveling, it was in pretty much perfect condition.

Then, Jeff said the words that got my wheels a-turnin'...

"I'm just going to leave it up. I really don't want to have to haul it out of the closet again. It's heavy."

I couldn't just leave an empty Christmas tree sitting up in the corner of my living room.  When guests come over what do you say? "We were just too lazy to take it down..."?

My brain worked in its brilliant fashion and I not only came up with an awesome excuse to put the Christmas tree up in October and LEAVE it up....but also some really neat family traditions that I'm pretty sure we're going to carry on...

So...for all of you that want to space out your holiday decorations, these ideas are for you.

Why not have a Halloween Tree?  Stay with me here...

Think of the movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas.  Watch the movie and put up your tree along with some Halloween ornamentation so that you can please Jack Skellington the Pumpkin King.  on Halloween Night, you can even take it one step further and leave some gross out candy under the tree or something. (Our kids are too young to appreciate it this year, but you can bet your bottom dollar that it WILL be happening when they are old enough.)

Decorations don't have to cost a million dollars either. If you have a steady hand, you can do what I did and, using some craft foam, draw some caricatures of Nightmare Before Christmas characters or, if you're less steady with a sharpie, you can print out some Nightmare Before Christmas or Halloween coloring pages, color them and, using the sticky back foam, make some Halloween ornaments that will last for a while.

Since its mostly for your family enjoyment anyway (and to stop guests from wondering why on earth you would set your Christmas tree up at the beginning of October), you don't even have to cover the whole tree.  I'm still planning on making a few more with my husband when he gets home (since he enjoys drawing, I wanted to let him in on the fun...) but you can see that it looking pretty decent and I've just covered a section of the tree. A few more ornaments and some artsy fartsy fun with my hubby and we will have made it look all the way decent...

And, because I figured you should see some of my free-hand artwork, I decided to zoom in and take a picture just for you (because I know you're just dying to see it!)

So, what do you do for November? do a Thankful Tree.  Everyone in the house takes a piece of construction paper and writes on it what they are thankful for that day.  You can either wrap it around a branch and staple it, add some string, or make a chain that will snake around the tree or along the front of it.  At Thanksgiving dinner, remove the "thankful notes" and read them at the table. It will be awesome to see all the things you've had a chance to be thankful for throughout the month.

My family tradition has always been to decorate the Christmas tree after Thanksgiving dinner.  It was one tradition my biological dad had started with us before his death, and one that my step-dad really enjoyed and kept up after he joined our family. can just pull out the Christmas decorations and let the kids go to town...

A big hello to all my creatively lazy peeps out there...I hope you enjoy using this idea...and YOU'RE WELCOME...LOL

Hugs and loves until next time darlings!

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

2 princesses, 1 month, 1 tired mamma

Its hard to believe its already been a month since Phillie joined our family.  The first few weeks were tough as I was trying to adjust to almost NO sleep (since Faith was still waking up at night too) and feeling like I had little to no control over my household. I was super grateful for the help of my parents and Jeff's mom, but I also was stressed over it. I felt bad that they were doing everything in my house and taking care of Faith and I also felt somewhat helpless...if Faith started being testy, because other people had been taking care of her, if I was out of my room and trying to spend time with her, I didn't know if she was hungry or tired or teething...and with SO many cooks in the kitchen, I would ask and ask and ask and it would seem like no one became a guessing game like it was when she was a newborn and to have to deal with that with two babies was a lot to handle. (My hat is off to all those mama's of twins out there, really.)

So, in this last month there have been changes, and we've been learning. Learning how to navigate life with 2 babies at different stages of development with different needs and learning more about both of them as individuals and how to meet their emotional needs as we meet their physical needs.

I'll start with this little princess:
Its hard to believe that my Little Diva is almost a year old.  Its equally hard to believe that I looked down at her little 2 1/2 month old face in fear and panic when I realized that Heavenly Father had already decided that it was time for her to be a big sister.

I have to say that I couldn't have been blessed with a more easy going, happy baby.  I was so grateful for this as I went through horrible morning sickness, and later, a HUGE belly getting in the way of everything. For the most part, my little Faith is patient, loving and kind. We're human, and we all have our moments where we aren't as awesome as we can be, but I can honestly say that her less awesome moments are so split up that I never can remember and look back to remember the last time she was difficult.

Lately she has been my little shadow. When she's been awake she has wanted to follow me everywhere. This is difficult when I'm headed into rooms that haven't been cleaned the way they need to be in order for her to safely follow...she still tries to eat everything she finds on the floor, whether its food or not...we have at least 1 episode where she chokes a week, but we're also getting smarter about what we leave laying around, and are doing better about making sure floors are vacuumed either during a naptime or after she goes to bed at the end of the night.

 We've been working on trying to get her in to see an allergist, but so far we haven't had much luck. They either take our insurance but aren't accepting any HMO patients right now, or don't take our insurance and, unfortunately, we can't afford allergy testing out of pocket.  Until we can get her in to see an allergist, we are under strict rules from her pediatrician not to give her anything new, as we now know that she is prone to severe allergic reactions. This makes dinner the toughest part of the day. She wants so badly to be a "big girl" and gets super frustrated with her inability to communicate what she wants, or our inability to give her what she wants. Part of her quest to be a "big girl" involves eating what mommy and daddy are eating and, unfortunately, we can't allow that right now.  There have been many meals where I've thought, "I would love to grind this up in the baby bullet a bit and give her a chance to eat it." but, in order to keep her safe, I can't.

Hopefully, after we relay our plight to the pediatrician at her 1 year appointment, she will be willing to just do some allergy testing in office to tide us over until people are ready and willing to take HMO patients. Unfortunately, I didn't have much luck getting her receptionist to be helpful when it came to figuring out what to do...

Another way we're trying to help her become a "big girl" has been the ever so difficult task of making her cry it out at night.  I know that the topic of "crying it out" is a controversial one for a lot of parents. I went back and forth about what to do.  Faith was waking up twice a night expecting a bottle...before this, we'd had stretches of a couple of weeks where she had slept through the night, so I knew she was fully capable of making it. After talking to my older sister, who is a nurse, it became clear that the reason she was waking up expecting a bottle is because I was giving in and it had become a habit.  So, I bit the bullet and decided to stick with it- I'd tried before, but after being awake while she screamed for 2 hours, I gave in and gave up...part of me wonders now if she just wasn't ready yet). So far the first night was the worst, but she has pretty much slept through the night every night since. I have also gradually weaned her down to only wanting a bottle first thing in the morning. She used to wake up at 10, 1 and 5 wanting a bottle.

I took away the 1 AM bottle first, and, after that first horrible night of listening to her cry for 45 minutes, she has slept through until 5 AM. The last 2 nights, I've taken away her 10 PM bottle and, so far, as with the 1 AM bottle, the first night was the worst (she cried for about 20 minutes),  and last night she only cried for a few minutes and then went back to sleep.  I still give her the 5 AM bottle, but that is merely for my own selfish purposes. She sleeps longer in the morning after she's had it so, while its an interrupted sleep, I get to sleep in a little bit.  So far, its only been one night of yucky and now she sleeps...of course, it leaves me wondering why I didn't do it sooner, but I think I wasn't ready to have to listen to her crying for an extended period of, its happened out of necessity. If she wants a functioning mom, she needs to sleep.

(Its a fair trade, I decided not to breast feed Phillie because I knew I couldn't be unavailable for 45 minute periods several times a day with an 11 month old to chase (believe me, it was a hard decision to make, but my panic attack when I got home from the hospital when it was time to feed Phillie was the final push I needed...) If Phillie has to miss out on something, its only fair that big sister had to give up her night time feedings, that she really didn't need anyway.)

She has also entered the almost toddler phase of her babyhood...she is getting into everything and learning boundaries...or should I say, we're trying to teach her boundaries (emphasis on the TRYING).  We've been utilizing "time out" to try to teach her the meaning of the word "no,"which, unfortunately, we are still trying to conquer.  I discussed it with Jeff and told him that we may need to change our "time out" tactics.  I usually give her a warning using the word "no" and try to give her a chance to remember what we'd learned the day before. Then, if she persists, I remove her from the temptation, say "no" and walk her to "baby jail"...aka the pack and play that she sleeps in when we go out of town.  Sometimes when frustration occurs, one or both of us forget to give her a warning or to say the word no as we remove her from the she just gets put into "baby jail" and probably doesn't understand what the deal is. We have agreed to do better at making the discipline more consistent so she can grasp the meaning of the word "no", especially because we need her to learn it to keep her safe.

For now, we say "no", she looks up at us and smiles her 4 toothed grin and we have a hard time being mad at her...I'm telling you, that cheeky little smile makes it really hard to take her to time out, but she has to learn that "no" means business!

She loves her baby sister. Sadly, she also wants to play with her so badly that her 4 little teeth are aching. She tries so hard to play with her when we have her on the floor for tummy time, and what usually ends up resulting is both girls screaming- Phillie because Faith hurt her unintentionally and Faith because Phillie's screaming has scared her...
Daddy had some luck over General Conference weekend getting them to "play well" with each other. Faith would try to hold Phillie's hand and Phillie would try to eat Faith's hand...I suppose you could say that this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship...

Hopefully, in a few months, they will be able to interact a little more safely and there will be less screaming in the house...LOL

Speaking of fun over Conference weekend...Jeff had his favorite blanket out and Faith wanted to snuggle up in it...Don't leave it to daddy to just share the blanket...
 I give you....Burrito Baby Faith...Since she stopped liking to be swaddled at 2 months old, both Jeff and I were surprised by how much she liked it.  She spent the better part of the second Sunday session of Conference chilling in her burrito on our Flip Flop couch that had been pulled out into the bed position...
She dug it...

Now onto this princess:
Its hard to believe she is already a month old!

When we first brought her home, she was so sleepy and chill and didn't want to eat much (most of the time we were lucky if we could get her to take a half an ounce at a feeding and we were really lucky if she'd take an ounce). She also wouldn't wake up and let me know she was hungry.  After taking her to the pediatrician, we were told that since she had already gained quite a bit of weight between birth and our appointment, they weren't worried about her consumption...I was just told to set an alarm for every 4 hours in case she didn't wake up so that she was getting enough. 

Her pediatrician would have been right on board with lots of people who suggested I just let her sleep through the night if she was going to sleep if she had been eating more than a 1/2 an ounce in a feeding...she didn't want us to start on a downward spiral when my efforts to make sure she was eating what she would when she was supposed to were making  so much progress.

After 2 weeks, she got to the point where she finally started crying when she wanted to eat...but she was still only taking 1/2 to 1 ounce at a feeding and was now waking up to eat every hour on the hour and was getting really REALLY gassy. I remembered a conversation I'd had with my little sister when she gave us all her Dr. Brown's bottles. She had mentioned that the reason why she didn't want or need them back was because of her experience with her daughter B. Apparently, if your child doesn't have colic, the Dr. Brown's bottles tend to make their gas worse because they get tiny little gas bubbles that they can't work out...also, the vacuum insert that is supposed to help remove air can make it harder to suck on the nipple and get food out, which means they tire out before they eat when their fill.  We decided to go buy some of the bottles that she had found worked really well for B.  We did it, and problem thanks Kiersten. Its nice to know that our random "mommy" conversations are always memorable for one reason or another so I can draw from your wisdom.

Phillie is now on the verge of eating 3 ounces at every feeding (which is quite an accomplishment) and sleeps for 4 hour spurts at night usually...I say usually because she still has her nights and times when she is a little gassy and her tummy gives her trouble (since she is only formula fed, let's just say we don't have ENOUGH poopy diapers in our house)...I did, however, find an awesome, AWESOME link with baby massage techniques and the ones that are aimed at the tummy all help with upset tummies.  

I actually decided to give her a full massage from head to toe last night because she had decided that it would be fun to be WIDE awake and keep mommy awake too. Every time I tried to lay her down she would scream and then magically stop when I was holding her...hey, we all have our needy days... 

It took 2 attempts of massaging her from head to toe, but she finally fell into a deep sleep, allowing for mom to sleep too...what could have been a really, really long night was merely a really long night...LOL

We are still learning quite a bit about Phillie's personality. She is very easy going...until you make her angry. The ongoing joke in our house is that Phillie is a baby you can see, we're not far off in our minute she seems a little worked up and on edge and the next...:

But, her Hulk moments aren't every day or all the time. She seems to be as easy going as her sister...

Besides, we can forgive her for her Hulk moments because she's just so darn cute...

All in all, I can say its been easier than I thought it would be.  I still have frustrating times when they both need something at the same time. I've just had to remind myself that its okay if one or both of them have to cry for a little while as I figure out how to give them both what they need in the quickest way.

I am so blessed to have such a caring, loving, and helpful husband...and two easy going babies. So far, we're doing just fine and I'm looking forward to getting to know both of my girls better and watching them build a friendship.

Hugs and loves until next time darlings...

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Sesame Orange Chicken Salad

I found a few recipes on the 'net and decided to piece them together tonight for dinner. I wanted something light, but I also didn't want to be hungry again in an hour...

Jeff, who isn't much of a veggie lover said the following comments about this recipe:

Me: "This is actually really good"
Jeff: "Well, it definitely isn't bad!"

Jeff: "We need to open a restaurant."

and the coup de grats:

Jeff: "That was a REALLY good salad"

Considering that getting him to eat anything green is an accomplishment in and of itself, I was pretty darn ecstatic that he really, really liked this salad and actually had 2 helpings! If there had been more, he probably would have had another.'s what you need (makes 4 servings)

For the dressing:
6 TBS honey
3 TBS rice vinegar
2 tsp Dijon Mustard
1 TBS sesame oil
1/2 c mayonnaise

Mix all ingredients together or shake in a spill proof container. Put in the fridge until you're ready to top your salads.

For the chicken:
2 lbs chicken
1 cup flour
1/2-1 cup milk
1 TBS cajun seasoning
1/2 TBS seasoning salt
Cooking oil

Cut chicken into bite sized pieces. Place into a dish and pour milk over the top so that the pieces are about half covered (I needed anywhere from 1/2 to 3/4 cup...I eyeballed it..)  Let the chicken soak for about 5 minutes in the milk. While the chicken is soaking, put the oil on to get hot (you'll want enough in the pan so you can fry the chicken pieces and have them covered about halfway), mix the flour, cajun seasoning and seasoning salt. After its soaked, put a handful of chicken into the flour and use a spoon to stir and coat the pieces.  Add to the heated oil and cook until browned and crisp. Repeat for the rest of the chicken.

For the Salad:
1 head Romaine lettuce, chopped
1/2-1 cup broccoli slaw
1 can mandarin oranges
2 green onions, chopped
Chow Mein Noodles

Toss the lettuce, broccoli slaw, green onions, and mandarin oranges together. Place in a bowl. Top with chow mein noodles and chicken. Top with the dressing... and voila!

This dish literally took me 15 minutes to throw tasted like I'd been working on it for longer than that, that's for sure.

Make sure to bring the dressing to the table. I thought I'd put plenty on our salads, but the chicken soaked in a lot of it (Jeff and I were most impressed with the chicken, actually. It soaked up the dressing, which was delicious, and stayed SUPER crispy! Jeff said I will have to use this chicken recipe to make orange chicken, buffalo chicken, and sweet and sour chicken in the future- its definitely an "all around" recipe. The breading didn't piece off, it crisped and browned and was delicious!)  In short, someone at your table, may want to add more dressing.

When my husband says something is on the "make again" list, I know its good! Give it a whirl, you may like it. :)

Bon appetit!

Hugs and loves until next time darlings!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

DIY Infant and Kids Photo Sessions

I have several friends, and one AWESOME sister who all are photographers. Through the years, I have been fortunate enough to glean some important information from them about photo shoots and how to get some good "basic" shots.

Because money is a little tight in our house, and a trip to Idaho Falls to have my sister take pictures of Phillie was DEFINITELY going to be out of the question, I knew that I would have to take her newborn pictures myself... using this same train of thought, I also knew that I would have to take Faith's 1 year pictures as well.  To be honest, I was kind of excited at the prospect, and after actually having done it, I can honestly say I can't wait to get behind the lens again and take some "Irish Twin" pictures of the girls in some special outfits we got them for the day that Phillie came home from the hospital. are the "good" shots that I managed to take on the days that I took pictures. After the pictures I will share some tips. They may not be 100% professional quality (I don't have a DSLR camera, in fact, my camera is a cheapo that I bought on Black Friday 3 years ago...the only positive thing I can say about it is that its 14 megapixels so I can make large prints- up to 16x20- without the pictures getting too pixelated.) but I think between what I know about using natural light, toying with my camera settings, and my free photoshop program (I'll talk about that later), they are definitely "wall worthy" fact, I have them on my wall right now thanks to Shutterfly and 50 free 4x6 prints.

Enjoy the cuteness first, then, if you think I did an okay job, you can read how I did it. :)

 are some DIY tips for a newborn/small infant (ie one that can't crawl yet ) photo shoot...

Where:  While you can do an infant photo shoot in front of the same set up that you would use for an "active" infant (ie a crawler) to child photo shoot ( to be discussed after you see Faith's pictures), I found a tip on Pinterest that I decided to try with Phillie's shots and it made things a lot easier than I think they would have been in front of a traditional backdrop.

My bed has this amazing, tall headboard that is tan, I used it for the backdrop for ALL of Phillie's pictures because I knew it would work color wise with all of the throw blankets I was using for Phillie to lay on.  Even if your bed doesn't have an amazing headboard that is padded and the perfect color, you could actually use your headboard to drape a blanket or sheet over the top and create the backdrop color you'd like to use. The beauty of using your bed as the base and the headboard as your backdrop is that baby is up higher and therefore easier to reach and there is a nice, soft padded area for baby to lay on cozily as you're setting up your next shots.

When: You want to take advantage of your natural light.  You want to use a space that has a large window to let the natural light in. The best times of day to use natural light are: 10:00 AM to noon (by noon the sun is too high in the sky and the natural light starts to make the pictures WAY too bright and you will get weird shadows that, no matter how hard you try, you won't be able to photoshop them out, and 2 PM to 4/5 PM (depending on if its summer or fall. In summer, you can eek out a little more natural light usage until 5 PM, but you may find those a little more difficult to photoshop.) I will say that Phillie's pictures were taken during the 10 AM to noon slot and Faith's were taken in that 2 PM- 5PM slot and my personal preference is 10 AM to noon...Phillie's pictures just had better light (not too bright) and were MUCH easier to photoshop...but my photographer friend that shared this tidbit with me said that she is able to get amazing outdoor and indoor shots during these times because the sun isn't too high in the sky...who knows, try both and maybe your personal preference will be different depending on your camera and what amount of light your source (window) lets in.   If you have good natural light, you shouldn't need the flash.

If you're shooting a newborn, its best to do the shoot when they have a full belly. This will make them sleepy and easy to pose...unfortunately, what is normally true wasn't true for my Phillie. She had a full belly, but was wide awake (of course, we found out that the bottles we were using were causing her to have extra air in her tummy...that's another blog- when do you NOT want to use Dr.Brown's bottles... oh, its coming, you'd better believe it...LOL) so she was harder to pose. I would get her set into the pose I wanted and she would lift her head and shift her body and mess it up! UGH...but I did manage to get some good ones, so I can't complain.

I also know that some photographers go so far as to set the thermostat to a certain temperature to keep newborns sleepy...I'm not sure what that temperature is, but I'm sure you could Google it if you wanted to be "hardcore" about your newborn photos.

Last "When" tip...newborns are only their sleepy "pliable" selves for about 2 weeks...after that, you won't be able to get the cute poses like you see on Pinterest or photography blogs where their hands are under their chins, etc.  So, the key is to get them done early...Phillie was 3 days old in hers. I was exhausted while I took them, but I have to say that it was a fun way to get a little boost of energy and bond with my baby.

What do you use?: First, you'll want some inspiration.  I found a plethora of inspiration on Pinterest. In fact, I went back through my photography board and found ideas that I forgot to use (which means we may have a 3 month photoshoot in our future so I can try...LOL)  I definitely had a clear picture of the things I wanted to use in my house and do for Phillie's pictures.  I didn't purchase anything special for her pictures, everything was stuff I already had.  The white fluffy throw on the base is a big, fuzzy white blanket that Jeff and I got as a wedding present, as is the leopard print throw on the base of some of the other pictures. The green base in the caterpillar pictures is the back of a Winnie the Pooh comforter that came with Faith's bedding set we bought a little while back, the hat box was a gift from my mother in law at my bridal shower (I've held onto it knowing that it would be a good photo prop, plus its pretty handy for storing my hair stuff and jewelry- I just dumped it out before the shoot...LOL), the swaddle wrap was a gift from my baby shower (thanks again Kathryn Barlow!) but you could even use a large neck scarf and get the same effect (that's what my older sister does),  the wicker basket was another wedding present...the Christmas lights we purchased shortly after we were married (we hang Christmas lights around the top edges of our walls in the living room instead of purchasing lamps and ended up having an  extra strand when we moved to Vegas.) I just draped the Christmas lights over the headboard and let them droop at different levels to make the background more interesting.  In order to create cocoons, steps and levels on the base for baby to rest on, I just used the pillows off of my bed.

Now, if you don't have what you'd envision using for your pictures, there's no reason to go to Pier 1 and spend a million dollars for photo props.... if you need baskets, blankets, etc. my older sister (a "weekend photographer"- a woman with another career who is a photographer on her days off to make a few extra dollars) gave me an awesome tip...and if I had a better camera and was ready to step into the world of "weekend photographer", I'd fully be using it all the time...don't be afraid to check places like Savers, Deseret Industries, and  other thrift stores for sheets, blankets and fabric to use as backdrops and for photo props like interesting pieces of pottery that newborns could fit into and out of easily or wicker baskets.  My sister purchased and AMAZING trunk that she uses for a child, family AND newborn prop that would have cost her a couple hundred dollars at Pier 1 or even Big Lots, but she found it at Savers for $25...she has also purchased adorable blankets and fabric to use as backdrops there, as well as other various photo prop items.

Now...there is one unanswered question I'm sure you have: "Where did you get the knit caterpillar suit?"  I made it...If you have a crafty hand, its not that difficult to learn how to crochet. I learned last year when I was pregnant with Faith and even sold a few hats and sets of things shortly after I learned.  When I decided that I was going to do Phillie's newborn photos, I knew I had to make at least 1 stellar photo prop for her newborn pictures since I'd made several for Faith's newborn photos.  About 2 weeks before Phillie was born I started on the set. Originally, I was going to make a giraffe set, but decided that a caterpillar with striped bunting would be even cuter (and less time consuming than sewing crocheted patches onto the bunting for a giraffe.)

I made up my own pattern, but if you're not experienced enough to do that, the internet is teeming with plenty of free patterns you can use. If you're not in the mood to teach yourself how to crochet, I'm sure you have a friend that does and would willingly make it for you for either a small fee or even for free because they love you that much! If you don't think you have a friend that does because crocheting is apparently an "old lady past time" (I definitely don't think so...I love it, and  know that I'm not an old lady...LOL) you can ask at your church or even have your mom or mother in law ask around if they know someone handy with a crochet hook or knitting needles that would be willing to make things for you.  The right little crocheted set in the right colors can make all the difference.

How: A good picture is all in how you set up the shot.  Take a few test shots of your backdrop and props to be sure that it will be composed well...there is nothing more frustrating than setting baby up in a shot and finding out that you don't like the way something looks "on film", this will save you lots of heartache and time reposing baby after you had to change your entire set up... You also want to take some test shots to determine if your camera settings are satisfactory.  Most point and shoot cameras have a portrait setting...however, if your camera is anything like mine, you may find that the portrait setting without the flash turns into a blurry mess no matter how hard you try to steady your hands.  I have a DIS setting. The icon on my camera looks like a little hand, this setting prevents shots from being shaky...they take FOREVER to process, but its well worth it. I also played with my light and ISO settings. I turned my ISO way down so that only the necessary natural light made it into the lens. I think I had it set to 20 or 100.  I set my light settings on my camera to cloudy and that looked good, also setting it to tungsten lighting...depending on the light in your house, your preferences may be different- that is the purpose of the test shot. Play with the settings, take a shot and if you don't like it, readjust until you do. It only took me about 10 minutes to find the right settings. I knew that I would want to turn the ISO down no matter what because I didn't want the pictures to look "blown out" or grainy (grainy pictures are usually the result of your ISO being set too high)  If you don't want to mess with your settings, you can always see if auto will work, just be aware that many auto settings automatically include using the flash and if you want that "portrait" finish in natural light, you will be out of luck if your flash is going off.

Don't be too afraid of posing baby. Remember, if you're doing your shots before that 2-3 week old mark, baby is still pretty pliable and will sleep willingly in the safe positions you put them into. If you're concerned about safely posing baby, here are a few good articles I found on Pinterest written by professional photographers. You can find them HERE and HERE.  Just remember that it will take patience and practice if its your first time...again, it also takes a sleepy baby for the most part ( a luxury that I really didn't have unfortunately...LOL)

So...onto the active infant and kids' set up....

First, here are Faith's 1 year pictures (I still may do a "re do" of this shoot because, like I said, I prefer the way the lighting looks between 10 and noon, and Faith, who is NEVER grumpy, decided that being grumpy during her photo shoot would just be too much will notice, however, that I got a few priceless pouty shots that will be super fun for her baby book later on.)

Where: Let me first reassure you that you DO NOT need a fancy PVC pipe or wooden contraption to hold backgrounds.  I simply opened my dining room curtains, moved my table out of the way and used push pins to stick my fuzzy leopard print blanket to the wall.  I just made sure that it was pulled taught so there wouldn't be any weird folds in it, and that it was flush with the floor. My carpet isn't the best, so I used my fuzzy white blanket as a base, but you could use sheets or even extra flooring. My older sister actually went to Home Depot and purchased a small box of snap together Pergo planks that she puts together to use for photo shoots. You'd be surprised by what a small area you actually need in order to get it into the photo. I know I have lots of friends that have been doing home improvement projects, so maybe, just maybe, if you happen to have any extra flooring lying around after your projects are done, you may be in luck with a classy way to cover gross carpet or tile that won't really match your aesthetic. You could even go to the dollar store and purchase some plastic tablecloths to use as colored backdrops if you're feeling festive...the point is, all you need is an open space with a good window and some push pins! So simple!

When: Just like with the newborn and small infant shots, test shots will be your best friend.  I wish I would have done a few more test shots before Faith's shoot. I think my nice, big dining room window is just in a bad place and gets too much light between those 2 and 5 PM hours.  I managed to photoshop it so that it was fairly decent, but photoshopping Faith's pictures was definitely more of a chore than doing Phillie's.  Maybe the day before, do some test shots in the area you're planning on using to determine what time the lighting will be best inside your house. If you're doing an outdoor shoot, it actually won't matter as long as you're setting shots up at the right angle.

What do I use?: It definitely helps to go in with a clear vision of what you're hoping to compose. I knew that the leopard print backdrop would be fun with the pink tutu that I had.  I actually had some other outfits I was going to use and I was going to hang up other backdrops (sheets, blankets, curtains), but, like I mentioned earlier, The Little Diva had opted to be a grumpy grouch...the first few shots she was her normal smiley self, but after she tried to stand up in the wicker basket and toppled over, it was ALL downhill from there...we took a break and when we came back she cried every time I tried to put the necklace on her, which made me sad because it really did add something to the pictures, but I opted for a semi-smiley baby over a necklace in the shot...

HOW?: Let's face it, active infants, toddlers and small kids can be difficult to say the least...the trick is to KEEP SHOOTING.  My rule of thumb comes from another photographer friend- they said they will take anywhere from 5 to 10 shots before they actually look through them to see what they got...they will delete the ones that for sure won't work, but you never know what you're going to catch if you're just hitting your shutter button 5 times in a row.  Some of my most favorite pictures that I got out of this session with Faith (like her pouty shots and her rubbing her eyes) came because I just kept hitting the shutter button and trying to get her attention...the other big thing? Don't be afraid to BE SILLY.  Faith gets excited and claps every time I sing an opera cadenza (which is how I got some cute shots of her clapping and smiling.) She may not have looked at the camera every time, but it did illicit a response so I got more than a picture of a baby sitting in front of a leopard print backdrop.  Unleash your inner child, make funny noises and funny will make the session more enjoyable for both of you!  Introduce a playtime element...I think my MOST favorite shot of the day is Faith playing with the ball with her tongue sticking out...I got that one by rolling the ball to her and then being quick to snap a few pictures while she played with it and tried to roll it back. If you can find a prop like a ball that will be fun to use for both of you it could help you get a shot of a great candid moment that can only be described as "soooooo my child..." LOL


Okay, so not everyone has a couple hundred dollars to drop on it...I know I don't...its an investment we plan on making one day, but for now I use a freeware program that is just as good, has pretty much all of the same basic (and some not so basic) actions to "clean up"a photo and make it look more professional. Its called GIMP and you can download it HERE.  I'll give you a quick run through of how I do a "quick edit" on photos to give them a little extra oomph.

1) In the color tab select brightness/contrast. Bump up the contrast by 10 or 20 (10 is usually enough if your lighting was good)
2) In the Color tab go to Color Balance...there will be "preset" color modes. Simply scroll through and preview them until you find the color balance that looks best to you.
3) The best color balance is usually a little yellow. Once you've found your preset color mode, turn down the yellow by moving it more towards the blue spectrum (again, I find that one click and moving it by 10 in the blue direction is usually the best.)
4) If there is a color you really want to pop (like a pink or purple or green, etc.) go into the hue/saturation option in the color tab. Select the primary color you want to adjust and then adjust the lightness tab ( you can mess with the saturation tab a bit if you want, but I find that, in general, just adjusting the lightness fixes most problems)
5) Go to the filters tab, select Enhance and then Antilias, this will readjust the photo to prepare it for other filters.
6) Go to Filters, select Enhance again and adjust the sharpness. You will be allowed to preview what the sharpness is doing to the photo...scroll down to a part of the picture that you can really focus on like an eye or finger to see what adjusting the sharpness is really doing so you don't turn it up too high.

Finally 7) is optional... if you find that your picture seems a bit too "bright" on one side you can go to Filters, select Artistic and then Softglow...on its own, this is actually a pretty fun, cool effect if you want to leave it the way that the program suggests. However, it can be used to fix the brightness...go to the edit tab and you will see an option to fade the Softglow. I usually turn it down  to between 25 and 35.  After this, go back to readjust the color balance. Reselect the preset color mode that you picked before and turn down the yellow again slightly...TADA!!!!!

You've just photoshopped a picture...congratulations! Of course, there are other fun things you can do, like desaturate the photo to make it black and white, you can make it look like an old photo (to make it look really old, you can use softglow first and then select old photo...its fun!) You can even select a big item in the photo that is a certain color and do the fun black and white on color with it, you will be amazed at how addicting and fun it becomes!

So...there you have it.  If you have any more questions, don't hesitate to ask!

Friends in the Henderson/Las Vegas area (and even possibly the Idaho area if you know I'm going to be in town) if this overwhelms you and money is tight, know that I am fully willing to "help a sister out." I have always had so much fun behind the camera, and will happily do shots of your kids for free so I can practice my "skills"....Also, Jeff is getting me a new camera soon (probably in January) and its going to be SA-WEEEET....and, the reality is that you'll be helping me out by giving me a chance to play with my new camera....seriously, hit me up! I sit home all day every day, so you'd be giving me something fun to do. Plus, we have the opportunity here in Vegas to be able to do outdoor shots year round! Babies, kids, family...I will do it all just for a chance to have some fun with you! YAY!

Hugs and Loves until next time darlings!