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!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Count Your Blessings

Phillie came home a little over a week ago, and I pretty much feel like a walking zombie. Between getting up to feed her and Faith in the middle of the night, let's just say that I'm not getting much sleep. I do try to take naps during the day, but haven't been so successful as my mother in law is still here and I feel kind of like I should offer her some sort of entertainment (I'm sure I'm not doing a very good job of it, though.)

I also have been shirking my chores in an attempt to get some extra Zzz's, but that creates other problems as the Little Diva pretty much picks up EVERYTHING she can find and tries to eat the last two days alone she's tried to eat wire, a thumb tack and a scrap of ribbon (which she successfully managed to get in her mouth and choke on....)  Needless to say, between sleep deprivation and trying to learn how to navigate life with 2 babies, I've found myself feeling pretty overwhelmed and losing my patience fairly easily...I hate it, because in the back of my head I KNOW that I don't need to over react to things, but I just don't have the energy to stop myself and breathe...I've said things I regret and I've been harsh with people who have only been trying to help...

Well, the Lord definitely has a way of putting things into perspective...

I stumbled upon the blog of another mom via Pinterest and when I read her story, I couldn't help but say to God, "Message received, I have been thoroughly chastised."  I read the story of how they found out that their 10 1/2 month old daughter had cancer and 17 days later, she was exactly 11 months old.  For added kick, I was feeding the Divine Miss Cupcake as I read... As I held my little Phillie closer, it took everything in me not to run to Faith's room and pull her out of her nap to hug her extra tight.  As I read, all I could think of is the fact that Faith is EXACTLY that age, she will be 11 months tomorrow.  I couldn't picture losing my smiley, happy girl so quickly...or watching her be that sick...the ER last week was almost more than I could take....

So, I am reminded that I need to count my blessings. I have two beautiful baby girls to love and hug every day...and, in spite of sleep deprivation, I need to take time to remember that "this too shall pass" and that sometime in the future I will be longing for these sleep deprived days where all I want to do is lay on the floor and let Faith play with my nose (she squeezes it, and I make honking noises...she gets a kick out of this for hours...), I will wish that the Little Diva was throwing a temper tantrum over the fact that I won't let her hold my phone, I will long for the times when Phillie would snuggle up close to my chest and sleep in my arms...

The Divine Miss Cupcake- 3 days old
the Little Diva- (almost) a year
I am one lucky mamma...

Hugs and Loves until next time...

(P.S. these pics are previews of the newborn and 1 year photo shoots I did with my girls. I realize that I have friends and family that aren't on Facebook and haven't seen all of them yet and I've had a few Facebook messages asking how I did it... For those of you who asked, I will be blogging about it soon, I promise...and for those of you who just want to look at the cute pictures, I will be posting as many of them as I can here soon.)

Friday, September 14, 2012

Quite the Adventure...

Well, I thought that I was going to have enough on my plate with bringing home a new baby on Monday and adjusting to life with 2 babies under the age of one...but of course, the Lord has other plans, and like the amazing reality show producer he is, he found a way to spice things up even more for the eager viewers that tune in to watch me and cheer for me from heaven...

Last night happened... and I'm sure friends, relatives and loved ones waited to see how things would turn out in breathless anticipation...

Like any normal dinner time, we made the decision early on if we had anything that could be "shared" with Faith. We have some fresh food feeders and they have been helping her to learn how to chew, while giving her opportunities to eat foods in their "normal" forms without me it has always been a win/win situation...

We were having steak.  I chopped off and end piece and put it into the feeder (something we had done before with no issues) and handed it to her.  About 10 minutes into dinner, the Little Diva started gagging...we didn't worry too much. For starters, the food was in the feeder and had no way of making it into her mouth to be swallowed. At first, I figured she had just been her overzealous self (because she loves to chew on meat in the feeder usually) and had gotten it too far back in her mouth. However, the gagging continued. I looked over at her to see that she was getting a contact rash around her lips and her neck was breaking out into hives...

This wasn't new either, I'd seen it happen before with foods she was allergic to. We would take it away, give her some water and watch her for an hour or so to make sure it wouldn't get worse (which it never had.) Of course, I was perplexed how a piece of steak would cause her to break out...but whatever. She gagged and spit up a bit and we pulled her out of the high chair.

We gave her some water, but then opted to give her a little Gatorade as a treat (again, something we'd done before with now problems) Well, I was watching her and noticed that the red rash was travelling up the side of her face. I decided to give her some carrots with her allergy/asthma medicine mixed in (something we had to do anyway) to help combat the rash. I knew it would take a little while to kick in, but I figured it wouldn't hurt.  One spoonful of carrots went down, but then the second spoonful confirmed my fear- her airway was starting to close off. She started choking on the carrot puree and then threw up... I ran for her nebulizer to see if I could help her constricting airway at all with her albuterol while Jeff and our parents cleaned her up and watched her.

We didn't make it through much of the nebulizer treatment because I noticed that her eyes were starting to swell shut and get hives around them. I looked up at Jeff and said, "We need to take her to the ER now." Jeff quickly turned to find his keys, I passed her off to one of our parents (its all a bit hazy I don't know if it was my mom, Jeff's mom, or my dad...) and ran to find her insurance card in my wallet because I was thinking I would stay behind to take care of Phillie since I've basically been completely in charge of her schedule since we got home...but in the end, I couldn't let my baby go to the hospital without me.While I was grabbing the insurance card, Faith vomited again in our bedroom as Jeff carried her around collecting the rest of the things that he needed like his wallet and keys. He whisked her down the stairs and asked someone to clean up the vomit on the floor,  I blurted out quick instructions for taking care of Phillie and ran down the stairs and out the door to the car.

Jeff had Faith strapped in, but I couldn't get into the car on the driver's side (our garage is a snug fit for a single car at best) Jeff told me I would have to wait to get I paced...I then asked Jeff if he had his phone because I didn't have mine. He said no and went into the house to collect his phone. I opened the passenger side rear door where Faith was sitting and stroked her hair. She was having a hard time breathing, her eyes were weeping and she was rubbing them. Her face was turning red and swelling up. It seemed like it took a million years for Jeff to get his phone. I was getting frustrated waiting, wondering why it was taking him so long.

Just as I was getting ready to go shout from the bottom of the stairs that we didn't have time to lolly gag, Jeff came through the door like a white knight. He pulled the car out of the garage and I hopped into the back...he told me to put my seatbelt on...minor problem...after moving some furniture or something else large, the seatbelt was pinned behind the I was seatbelt-less...but I wasn't about to sit in the front. I needed to watch my baby...I hoped that if a cop was mean enough to pull us over, he/she would understand.

Jeff sped to the hospital, in spite of my pleas for him not to...I'm sure he was in the front thinking that he just wanted and needed to get her there and that if he had to speed to do it, so be it...and I was in the back thinking, " If we get pulled over, its just going to delay us getting to the hospital more and could mean the difference between a few hours in the hospital or more time, and I'm not wearing a seatbelt and if he rear ends someone on Boulder Highway because he doesn't see a stop light, I am toast!"

I tried to keep Faith occupied by singing her favorite playtime songs: The Eensy Weensy Spider, Popcorn Popping, etc. She stopped crying and smiled at me as I sang, but you could see that behind that smile was the "sicker than a dog" face that has been terrifying mothers for centuries...We got to the hospital and Jeff didn't even park the car. He cradled her and ran in with me close behind. He held back while I ran to the admitting window and said that my baby was having an allergic reaction. A few nurses ran to the front to assess her and they bumped us to the front of the line to check in.  A doctor came up front to look at her because her oxygen levels weren't bad, but they weren't good either and he wanted to assess if they needed to pull her back right away or not.  Apparently, her reaction was slow enough that we didn't need to be rushed right back.

Here is the funny thing...even though she was having a hard time breathing, even though she was red and puffed up, she was still smiling at everyone and being her normal friendly self. She charmed all the ladies at the front desk and the nurse that was taking her vitals to make sure she was okay.  Even in a crisis she is a social butterfly.

Her reaction started to wear off a bit before they got us back into triage. She wasn't wheezing anymore (thank heavens) but she was still covered in hives and her face and eyes were still swollen.  The doc looked her over and said he thought we'd be able to give her oral medication since the swelling was starting to go down and that they would watch us for an hour and send us home, the little albuterol she'd had, had helped to keep her airway from closing all the way (thank heavens for quick thinking)...

Well, apparently the swelling hadn't quite gone down enough...

The nurse who treated us asked if she took medicines well...and normally the answer to that question is yes...but her little body was just not ready to swallow ANYTHING yet...she fought the medicine when she realized she couldn't swallow it. She spit out most of the liquid Benadryll and we decided to take a break because she was sobbing uncontrollably...after our break, we laid her back and I tried the old "baby" technique of squirting the steroid medication by the side of her cheek so it would bypass her tongue and she wouldn't be able to spit it out...Well, she gagged and then SURPRISE more vomit...a lot more vomit...all over me, all over the nurse and her chart, all over everywhere...the nurse went to talk to the doc. When he came back he said that he was sorry but we were going to have to give her some shots...All I was thinking was, "Don't be sorry, I don't need an explanation. I WANT her to have the drugs!" I even said what I was thinking out loud. Our nurse seemed surprised that I wasn't more worried about her getting shots- but at that point I knew it was the only way that the meds she needed would be in her system and I would rather her have 2 minutes of pain than a night in the hospital...

A few minutes later, our awesome nurse came back with another nurse. The ER was full so we'd been sitting in the hallway.  They had to take us back to the L&D ER suite (the only room that wasn't being used.) to administer the drugs. The counted to 3 and gave her shots in both legs at the same time so that we didn't have to poke her two different times in a row.  By that point, Faith had fallen asleep so this made her a VERY unhappy camper.  They apologized that they didn't have another room and said they couldn't let us stay in that one just in case they needed it and asked if we'd be willing to sit in the hall and try to calm her down again.  We happily complied. We were just glad that they hadn't made us wait until there was a room to treat her.

Faith screamed and all the nurses came by and lamented with her.  One of the nurses that had given her the shots came back and tried to make her happy with a glove that had a face drawn on it...she screamed even louder...we all laughed and I thanked the nurse for her efforts and explained that it was just way past her bedtime and getting the shots hadn't helped much. Eventually, she fell asleep, but people would approach us and wake her up, but she finally stayed quiet.

The doctor came back to look at her, her rash was almost completely gone (except for a few patches on her neck) and so he decided to let us leave a little early.

Of course, I had thought that with a shot of Benadryll in her system she would sleep through the night, but I wasn't so lucky...and of course, Phillie decided to let me know that she knew I was gone and to make up for lost time...We played the in bed, out of bed game until 1 AM, Faith woke up at 1:30 wanting something to eat, and then Phillie woke up at 2 wanting to eat and then we played the in bed, out of bed game until 4, and Faith wanted to eat again at 4:30...So, I am one tired mamma... one tired mamma who doesn't nap and feels like she can't because Faith's throat is still a little swollen and she still is gagging intermittently on her bottles (I have refused to give her solids today because I don't want another throw up fest because of the gagging), plus I have to set a timer and be on top of Phillie's feedings since she is so "easy" that she doesn't want to bother me when she wants to eat...

I'll get this down, right?

I love having company, but part of me thinks it may be easier when there aren't as many "cooks in the kitchen" because I will know when both girls have eaten and be able to get a  REAL schedule for the girls. I am grateful for the help and so glad that my parents and Jeff's mom could come to help, don't get me wrong, but I'm also OCD about certain things and in my sleep deprived state I find myself having more than a few "open mouth, insert foot" moments when people are just trying to help and then I feel bad because I know I've hurt my mother's feelings, Jeff's mom's feelings, and my dad's feelings...sadly, I have a hard time letting go because, to me, its just easier to do it myself because I know that things will get done the way that I know that they work... I know there are other ways that things will work, and I keep trying to remind myself of that, but its hard to let go when you're a creature of habit who likes things in a certain order...

Someday I will conquer my OCD tendencies, but that won't be any time OCD tendencies help keep this house in order and right now I feel a little like we're living in chaos since I'm not on my regular schedule...

So why not have a trip to the ER...let's add to the chaos- maybe then I will learn what God is trying to teach me...maybe...

Hugs and loves until next time darlings.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Philadelphia Marie Came to Be

I decided that I had better sit down and write out the birth story for our latest addition before details become a bit hazy... so, you'll have to excuse my typos and any major grammatical/spelling errors that I make as I am still sitting in the hospital and severely sleep deprived (we all know that you sleep more at home than you ever will in the hospital!)

My parents were super sweet and surprised me, calling on Friday to say that they were on their way to Vegas. Originally, they didn't believe they would have the money to come but they somehow managed to make it work. Their arrival made it possible for the Little Diva to stay home with them instead of us having to drop her off with someone. I had so many offers (as the Little Diva is a very popular little girl) and I am extremely grateful for each and every one of them.( I am also extremely grateful for the people that took care of her when we went into the hospital thinking that I was in labor...)

So, what led to Friday's surprise and Saturday's warrior????
6 lbs 4 oz, 20.5 inches long, born at 8:22 PM 


Sunday, September 2, was NOT a good day.  I felt gross and funny, but opted to try to go to church. While we were sitting in sacrament meeting, I started getting dizzy and had a cold sweat come over me. I thought I was going to pass out. Jeff could tell that something was wrong, but after denying it, I finally realized that I couldn't take any more. I leaned over and told him that we needed to leave ASAP. So, right after we partook of the sacrament we were out in the foyer and then off to the car. Jeff helped me up the stairs, and took care of the Little Diva (who went down for a nap) while I laid in our bed and tried to get the world to stop spinning.  He even made me lunch!  I felt this way for the majority of Sunday...then the contractions started...I'd been having contractions off and on for weeks, but this time they seemed different...but I waited it out.

I contracted all night, only getting about 30 minutes of sleep tops.  I decided that they were close enough together and consistent enough that we needed to go to the hospital. Of course, we were so blessed because the Olson's came to the rescue just like they said they would and took Faith early in the morning so we could go. We go to the hospital, they hooked me up to machines, and we waited....they were only going to keep me if I was progressing...well, the contractions were really hard, in fact, they were so hard that the nurse had to come tip me on my side because baby was NOT liking hour rolled by, the nurse checked and was flabbergasted! I hadn't progressed at all...she sent me home but assured me because of what she was seeing that we would be back later that afternoon...

Obviously, since Philadelphia Marie is a Saturday baby, that didn't happen...

I contracted 3-5 minutes apart, with each contraction lasting a minute to a minute and a half,  regularly until Wednesday night.  I saw my doctor on Tuesday and when he checked me and realized that I STILL hadn't made any progression and my contractions were showing no signs of stopping, he was kind enough to take pity on me and schedule an induction for as soon as he could.  He even tried to see if there was a way he could fudge the dates a bit so that I could be induced on Thursday instead, but he couldn't get around the fact that everything had thoroughly been charted with my due date as Sept. 15.  Saturday was the earliest he could schedule the induction because of medical board policies and rules... Fortunately, the contractions did taper off to be 10-15 minutes apart on Wednesday night, so I was able to semi function after that, but they were still painful, so Saturday wouldn't come soon enough.

Wednesday night, my phone was ringing and it was in the diaper bag. I tripped in my living room and felt a gush of fluid when I landed halfway on  my stomach, hurting my leg! Again, we made the tour to Labor and Delivery. I am so grateful to the Moores and the Olsons for again, being so willing to come to my aid. The Olsons ended up winning the pleasure of Faith's company for the night...I wasn't convinced it was my water breaking, but Jeff ended up not being my water being broken, but they did keep me in the hospital pretty late to monitor and make sure baby was okay from the was this night that I began to appreciate the fact that we had to schedule the induction at a different hospital. The hospital we were at (which was the hospital we were originally going to deliver at) was so busy that they had a post-partum mother recovering in a labor triage suite...So, while we were sitting there listening to our baby's heartbeat (and I was enjoying the added awesomeness of my contractions picking up again...) we also were listening to a new mother tell her birth story to friends and family and her fussy newborn (it was a very harrowing story, at least it passed the time as I breathed through pain...) The nurse took pity on me and offered me an Ambien because she could see how much pain I was in...I took it gladly, and the Olsons were kind enough to keep Faith overnight.

Thursday and Friday couldn't seem to go fast enough...especially Friday after we found out that my parents were coming...

and then, even though it seemed like it took forever, Saturday had magically arrived.

We had quite the eventful morning, preparing my parents for taking care of Faith and giving them all the information that they needed...and then we were off for our 9 AM induction appointment.

The hospital was a little late bringing us back for the induction and, other than it taking 3 attempts to get an IV going (OUCH!), things seemed to be pretty normal.  I handled contractions pretty well for the first 3 or 4 hours, but I'd already prepared myself and I knew that I was going to ask for the epidural this time as soon as the contractions were bad enough that I was crying and had the thought of , "Jeff, help! Come save me." (P.S. I love the fact that in my irrational states of pain I believe my  husband can make it go away...just shows how much he loves me and how much he takes care of me that my subconscious would believe he could make it better.)   I actually didn't get to that point until about an hour after they broke my water to get things moving.  Apparently, I hadn't had enough IV solution yet for them to give me an epidural (I don't think they were expecting me to get to a 3 as quickly as I did after they broke my water.) So the nurses had to quickly hang some saline bags and turn up the drip on them so that the anesthesiologist could come in and work his magic.  Jeff was surprised I didn't try to hold out longer, but the nurses were right in sync with me and said, "Daddy, I can promise you that once you do this once, you understand that its not worth it to try to be a hero..."  In between contractions, I laughed with them because that was the exact reasoning I had in my head at that moment in time.

The first time I'd had an epidural, they had me lay on my side in the bed. This time, I got to experience it sitting up. The anesthesiologist and nurses said that I would like sitting up better...they were wrong...I can honestly say I prefer laying down. It was harder for me to stay still and in the right position sitting up. I blame it on my opera singing ways- its really impossible for me to sit with slouched shoulders for very long, I naturally start trying to sit with good posture, its just ingrained in me at this point. It also took the anesthesiologist much longer to get it in than my last epidural experience...but he was super nice and was cracking jokes the whole time to try to put me at ease and that was nice. The anesthesiologist I had with Faith in Idaho was nice, but he didn't talk much while he placed it so I really didn't get the glimpse of his bedside manner that I got of this anesthesiologist's.

The epidural also took longer to take effect this time (with Faith, the numbness was almost immediate. This time it took about 20 minutes.)  I was good for an hour or two, and then it completely wore off on half my body. Of course, at this exact time, baby started not tolerating the contractions well, so they started flipping me on my side to see if they could get me in a position that baby would like better before turning to the oxygen mask.  They started by flipping me on the side where the epidural wasn't working to see if they needed to tip the medicine to that didn't work...and then I got to sit through about 45 minutes on the other side with no epidural on half my body... Finally, I said I couldn't take it anymore and the nurses could see that flipping me back and forth wasn't working to fix it, so they called in the anesthesiologist. He was kind enough to give me another dose and they flipped me back over to the side that wasn't working to see if they could drip the medicine that way. They also had to put the oxygen mask on me to see if they could keep baby's heartrate up during the contractions because it kept dipping...they even brought a surgical nurse in for consult just in case (talk about wondering if I was headed for a C-section)...Fortunately, both measures worked, but I was WAAAAY WAAAAY numb (like more numb than I'd been when I had the epidural with Faith.) My legs were completely dead and the oxygen was doing its magic and baby's heart rate was staying up for the most part.

About 20 minutes after the new dose of epidural took effect (affect? Sorry, I know there is a difference and I'm sure I'm getting it wrong, but I am too tired to want to look it up to make sure I'm using the word right...grammar nazis, forgive me.) The nurses came parading into the room, based on my contraction pattern and baby's heart rate they decided they needed to check me...lucky me...I was complete...complete and so numb that I couldn't feel to push...I thought I was sunk for sure and that I would have to give up the champion pusher medal that I'd won with Faith (she was out in 30 minutes after the midwife got there to catch her.)

It was also shift change. The sweet nurses I'd been working with came to say goodbye and my new nurse came in.  She was so sweet and so positive! She looked at my legs and moved them and said, "WOW! Those are dead legs! Okay, we will get through this, because you are complete and baby is in position for you to push- you have labored down as far as you can go. We can do this and I am going to help you!"

By some miracle, even though I couldn't feel a thing, I was STILL worthy of my champion pusher medal. For about 20 minutes, the nurse would tell me when I was having a contraction and try to give me a reference point to push to and the look on my sweet nurse's face was priceless. She got up and said, "I'm going to go call Dr. Kramer, apparently you really know how to use your muscles in your abdomen and around there because if I have you push anymore I am going to have to catch this baby." She called the doc and came back in to sit with me. By this point, I was starting to feel the pressure, so I knew I needed to push  but it wasn't overwhelming like it had been with Faith, so I knew that I must be really super numb.  We waited for 30 minutes for Dr. Kramer (darn Vegas traffic) while my nurse monitored my baby's crowning head, just in case she did have to catch her.

Dr. Kramer arrived and said, "I thought you were going to wait until tomorrow to have this baby, but I guess I can deliver you now. I can live with that." We all chuckled, he got things ready and 4 pushes (and some chastising from the doctor for pushing too hard when he needed me to just push a little- I mean, the man was trying to keep me from tearing and I was making it near impossible, especially because baby's head was much bigger than he'd anticipated...) later, Philadelphia Marie was here.  Dr. Kramer was a champ and stopped my crazy pushing ways just in time to keep me from tearing beyond superficial wounds...and just like that it was over.

Of course, about an hour later when they wanted to move me from the labor suite into my recovery room my poor nurses got to have a "Weekend at Bernie's" moment when my legs wouldn't work and they had to be on either side of me to get me into a wheelchair to move me...and then I had the fun of dealing with post partum contractions (which, in my estimation seem worse than the contractions when you're in labor!)

The first night was tough. They forgot to order my pain meds and so they had to wait for the pharmacy to draw up the orders and so I was in tears and begging for Jeff to save me (literally, I woke him up begging him for help and he could do NOTHING, poor guy.). They finally came with the meds but a few minutes later I had a wave of nausea come over me along with those awesome post partum contractions that was so bad that I thought I was going to toss my cookies everywhere...the nurse came and gave me some IV nausea medicine.

The pain pills didn't seem to be working, but eventually exhaustion won the battle and I fell into a restless sleep. Around midnight they brought baby into the recovery room to stay with me and all I could think between contractions was, "Yeah, right, there is NO way I am getting out of this bed..." but I let them leave her and it all worked out anyway because she pretty much slept the whole night and finally, the pain meds kicked in.

Since then, I've been in very little pain  (as long as we've been staying on top of my pain meds), I haven't been swollen at all (My legs and feet were so swollen with Faith that my toes looked like sausages...), and I've been able to, all in all, things have been much easier this time around.

So...What's in a Name?

I've had a lot of people asking about Phillie's name.

Here is the truth...around 20 weeks, after we found out we were having another girl, the great debate began. Jeff and I have all of our boy names agreed on, but we struggle when it comes to agreeing about girl names.  After a few days of throwing names out there, I was wondering if we would be in the same situation we were in with Faith- having a baby but no name for her and crotchity nurses getting testy with you because you haven't picked one yet.   One particular day, I had put Faith down for a nap and decided to try to see if I could nap myself because I wasn't feeling well...I had a dream. I don't remember much of the dream, except the end. Jeff was holding the baby, I was filling out the birth certificate and I said, "Jeff, are you sure that you're cool with this being the name?" and Jeff saying, "Yep, this is it! Its the name!" as he held the baby and looked down at her lovingly...and I filled out the name Philadelphia Marie Nielson on the birth certificate.  I woke up and laughed to myself....Philadelphia...right... I told Jeff when he came home from work and we both laughed about it...but then, I just couldn't shake it.

For 2 or 3 weeks, I kept thinking of names but coming back to Philadelphia Marie, it wouldn't leave me.  So, finally, I brought it up to Jeff one night. I told him that I hadn't been able to shake the name since the dream and I said, "Seriously, tell me what you think of the name." and his response was something to the effect of, "Actually, I really like it, if I'm being honest." I said, "Well, should that be her name then?" and he said, "Yeah, I think that would work for me."

And there you have it...Phillie had her name.  Of course, we didn't tell anyone. We didn't want a lot of opinions about it because I think we both just felt right. The sense of urgency and the desire to even think of other names was gone...We knew we were waiting for Philadelphia Marie...

And boy oh boy was she worth the wait. :)

Hugs and Loves until next time Darlings!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Parmesan Crusted Chicken Marinara

This is kind of a take on Chicken Parm...but its so easy and so restaurant quality delicious, its almost criminal NOT to post the recipe and share.

As my camera is packed away awaiting my induction on Saturday, I couldn't get a picture of it, which is a real shame, because it really does look like something you'd get at a restaurant and just looking at it definitely made me and hubby drool!

Here's what you need (this makes 4 fairly decent sized portions- if you have big eaters in the house, you may want to double it...)

2 large boneless skinless chicken breasts butterflied in half
1/4 c mayonnaise (NOT miracle whip, it will be too sweet.)
1/4 c parmesan cheese
1/4 c plain bread crumbs
1/2 TBS onion powder
1 TBS garlic powder
1/2 TBS garlic salt, plus more for sprinkling later
1 TBS dried parsley flakes
1 jar your favorite spaghetti sauce (I used my homemade freezer sauce that we love, it was a quart of sauce)
linguini/spaghetti noodles (whatever floats your boat.)

Heat your oven to 425 degrees. Place the butterflied chicken breasts on a greased cookie sheet or other type flat baking pan (I used my pizza pan because it was handy and a squirt of Pam)  In a small bowl mix the mayo and parmesan cheese. Spread this mixture over the top of the chicken breasts, coating them generously. Once that bowl is empty, you can go ahead and use it to mix the bread crumbs and the spices, then sprinkle them generously over the chicken.  Sprinkle with one finishing touch of garlic salt.  Bake for 15-20 minutes. The crust will get golden and then chicken should be cooked through.  (See what I mean could also just use Seasoned Italian Breadcrumbs instead of making the breadcrumb mixture if you want to make it even easier. I didn't have Italian Breadcrumbs on hand, so I improvised...but I'm so glad I did...)

Boil your pasta and heat your sauce while the chicken is baking.

To plate, put a bed of pasta down, layer with sauce and then place the chicken on top....

DEVOUR and contemplate seconds... or thirds, or fourths(because its that good...)

SO easy, SO'll never want to go to the trouble to make traditional Chicken Parm ever again.

Bon Appetit Darlings!