Em at 11 Months

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

This month has been hard. Probably the hardest month to date. I feel bad about that too because as I read through blog posts over here, I didn't do a great job at hiding it. I've been talking about meals that are easy to throw together because my kids have been cranky, and wanting five minutes to myself in the bathroom. I feel bad that those are the posts that I have to look back on to remember Em's 11th month, but there really have been amazing and great things happening too.

I'll start with the hardest thing. Sleep. There has been pretty much none of that going on over here for the last month and it's really taking a toll on me. Em has been rolling over in the middle of the night and then gets mad and screams until someone comes and rolls her back over. But as soon as you leave the room she rolls herself over again and gets mad. We went through that entire cycle for three hours straight the other night, and when you put that on top of the lack of sleep you've gotten the entire month, you start to lose your marbles. Luckily I held it together but exact quotes to Derek from that night, "You have no idea how hard I'm trying to not swear right now...", and, "I'm sleeping in a hotel room all by myself on Friday night and I don't care what you say". Luckily I didn't swear, and  I don't have any real plans of ditching Derek with the kids by himself.

On a more pleasant note, Em started eating diced solids this month! She's been doing really great with pureed foods for a while, but we finally got her to eat baby cereal puffs, and diced peaches. Kinsley does still have a lot of difficulty eating other diced things though, or even lumpy semi-pureed things. She'll gag and then start choking and we have to rip her out of the high chair, do the Heimlich, she barfs all over the me and the floor, and that's just how that's been going. But it's a step in the right direction. She's getting there, and getting better with eating everyday.

Her physical therapy is going great! Originally we were supposed to be going twice a week every week for the first two months but the therapist said that she actually only wants to see her once every two weeks. Each time that we've gone in she keeps telling us that she can feel how much stronger Em is getting which is always great to hear. We're so close to sitting unsupported. I really think that we can get there before her birthday!

Em finally got her first two teeth this month! This is the first time that she's beaten her older brother on a milestone. Jay didn't get his first tooth until a week before his first birthday so she definitely beat him on that one!

We took Em for her nine month appointment last month (we were behind from moving and neeed to space immunizations out properly), and her height is still going strong. She went from the 98% to the 99% for height. She's rocking the 60% for weight which means that all her clothes fit her length wise but her waist is too narrow and they fall off. And this is why we only ever dress her one onesies because nothing else fits right. The only 9 month milestone that she can currently not do is sit unsupported for 60 seconds. The only 12 month milestones she cannot do is pull to stand, and crawl. Other than that she is right on par. She can lean over and reach for toys. If you take a toy from her she pulls back and puts up a fight for it. She can play peek-a-boo, say "mama, dada, baba". She can stand at the couch for 30 second increments without anyone holding her. She's a champ you guys. She has so many great capabilities. 

The Entire Em Series:
Why We Bought Em A Wheelchair


Monday, July 27, 2015

We take our own family pictures often. We plan on pulling the plug and paying a real photographer $300 to take amazing family pictures of us once Em is up and walking, but until then, we'll do it ourselves. We usually take family pictures once, sometimes twice a year, and this is a tradition that we've been doing since we got married. Derek bought me my first DSLR camera for Christmas in 2011 because he knew I wanted to get serious about blogging, and we've been doing our own family pictures ever since.

They haven't all been super amazing looking. Some years look better than others. This weekend we took another round of pictures though, and it was that moment where I really feel like I got everything figured out to a complete science. Let's go through the evolution of our family pictures for a moment so you can see where we've been, and where we're headed. 

As you can see, the pictures we took this last weekend came out immensely better than our previous attempts. I always think it's 10 times easier to take pictures for other people than it is for yourself, but here are my tips for making the most of your DIY portrait session:

1) Know what pictures you want ahead of time: I went into taking the pictures knowing I wanted one good picture of Derek and I, and one good picture of all four of us together. Setting the bar low means there isn't a lot of room for disappointment, and I always tell myself, all you need is one good picture. I also know I want pictures of my kids by themselves too, but I plan on doing that next weekend to break it up into smaller bits. Breaking it up means that your kids won't be screaming halfway through the session (hopefully).

2) Find the light and put it behind you: I find the best lighting is about an hour before sunset, so if you can take pictures then, do it. When we got to the park this weekend, the first thing I did was figure out where the sun was, and then made sure we had our backs to it. I don't know how many times we've taken pictures and our faces are so washed out, they look terrible. Also, if you can find a place that has more shade, with the light behind you, that's golden. I find it a lot easier to add more light and warmth to a picture during the editing process than it is to make a picture darker and fix the washed out problem. 

3) Use a tripod: This was the second time we've used a tripod, and the first time we used it correctly. I can't even tell you how much easier it made everything. The first family picture up top where I'm pregnant, the camera was on a tree stump, the next one it was on our car seat, the following one a picnic table, and finally the last two, a tripod. While you can clearly make due without one, you have a lot more options for heights and positions when you do have one. Also make sure the levels are all centered, and have your husband level it off if it's not. I say that because I'm not an engineer and needed him to fix it for me. We bought one from Walmart a couple weeks ago and love it so far!

4) It's OK to use auto settings: While I'm slowly learning to shoot in manual, I almost always shoot our family pictures in auto. Specifically Canon's Creative Auto (CA) setting on the Rebel cameras. I almost always do Creative Auto > Warm with the two warm bars selected > full background blur > self timer continuous:10 > no flash.

To set all this up, once in creative auto I press the "Q" button, right above the "up, down, left, right buttons". Once pressed it will highlight the "standard setting" option. Push the right arrow button three times and "Warm" will be selected. Then push the down button and there will be a meter with three options, I usually leave it on the default of two meters filled in, but you can easily adjust this to your needs. Hit the down button again and this will be your background blur section. The more to the left you go, the blurrier the background, the more to the right, the clearer and sharper the background. I usually always go with the blurriest, or second blurriest option. Next, push down again to the next setting and it will say, "driver/self-timer mode", select it, and then go all the way to the right where it says, "self timer: continuous" and then use the up arrow to crank it all the way to 10. This will give you a 10 second self timer, and 10 shots will be taken, giving you more time and options to get everyone in place. Finally, after that is selected, push to the right once more for the flash options, select that, and go to the right and select the no flash option. You can see all these changes made in the pictures below. 
5) Positioning: Know what pose you want to do ahead of time, and make sure it's one that you can easily run in and out of if you're the one working the camera. If you have a remote shutter then this isn't the biggest deal, but I don't- so this is important. I make sure that my husband is standing in the shot with our smallest baby, and tell my son ahead of time that I'm going to run over, pick him up, and we're going to smile for the camera. Once my husband is in place I have him hold his other fist up relatively where my head is going to be in the picture so I can get the camera to focus on not only him and the baby, but where my son and I are going to be too. Once everything is in place, I focus, and press the shutter, and run in for the kill. I make this sound easy, but this weekend it was literally a miracle that on our second round of 10 pictures, we got both kids looking at once at the very last picture, and called it good. Remember, you really only need one good shot. 

6) Editing: I don't use Photoshop or anything fancy to edit my pictures. My husband has been telling me for years now that I just need to pull the plug and buy Photoshop, but right now I feel like I can still do what I need in Windows Photo Gallery, and it's free on every windows computer, so I'm happy with that. When editing my pictures, I open "Photo Gallery" on my computer, click the picture I want to edit, and then make these typical adjustments:

I click the "fine tune" tab, and then add a little brightness and a little contrast. These pictures were pretty cool toned, so I cranked the photo temperature up pretty far. Then, when you scroll down on the editor just a little further down from the temperature, you'll see saturation, where I add a little bit more to put some color back into our faces. 

There you have it! Those are all of my steps for how we take our own family pictures! If you have any more questions, please feel free to let me know! I hope this post was informative for some of you and has encouraged you to get out there and attempt your own pictures too! This was definitely a long process to get to the point where I really felt our pictures were turning out "good", but practice makes perfect! 

If you're interested, we shot these pictures with the Canon Rebel T5, the 50mm f 1.8 lens, and the Targus 58'' tripod.

The Perfect Striped Dress

Thursday, July 23, 2015

It should be no surprise to anyone over here that I love JustFab.com. This post isn't sponsored by them, and they don't even know who I am... I just genuinely love them. They're an online store that sells shoes, and most recently clothes too. Over the years I've collected these oxfords, these black boots, and these brown boots from them. I was pleasantly excited this month when I found this striped dress with 3/4 sleeves and a knee length hem! I swear they know how to suck me in over there. 

I love this dress because it can be worn so many different ways! Remember last year when I wore this red dress probably a lot more than I should ever admit to? They're one of my favorite pieces to own because styling them is so effortless. Prepare yourselves to be seeing this one all over the blog this summer and fall. You've been warned. 

This is how I styled this dress for church on Sunday. I paired it with my favorite statement necklace... are you guys getting tired of seeing that? I also paired it with my new gray flats from Mox Shoes. Remember to use the code "flamm10" for 10% off your order until August 10th. I have to tell you guys. I really can't stop wearing these. I have literally worn them every single day since I got them aside from my running shoes when I'm working out. They're the only shoe I want to wear, and they go with everything. I cannot get enough!

Dress: JustFab
Necklace: Nordstrom (old, similar)
Flats: c/o Mox Shoes

4 Year Anniversary

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Today Derek and I celebrate fours years of marriage. It's amazing to look back on this last year and see all the changes that have happened. We went from being a family of three to a family of four. Derek finished his undergrad and we moved to from North Carolina to Georgia. Derek started grad school. I went from blogging occasionally to turning it into a full-time job. Em has done nothing but surprise us day after day with how much she has progressed. Jay has grown into this little boy who is so caring, and so sweet. It's been a year of miracles, of good times, hard times, times of laughter, and times of tears- both happy, and sad. Most importantly, it's another year that we've been together, another year in the books for our family, and I can't wait to see what's in store for us over the next year. 

I know that I don't talk a lot about Derek over here but I'm going to get a little sappy for a second. This man has worked and done school full time our entire marriage. He works so hard to provide the best life he can for me, and for our children. Everyday when he comes home from work he still has a smile on his face and turns into dad mode at the drop of a pin. He puts 100% into everything he does and it's a trait that I really love and admire about him. 

He encourages me so much with this blog. Me working full-time wasn't something that we expected to happen, or that we expected that we would need to happen, but it's blessed us so much. We've been able to stay on top of most of Em's medical bills because of it which has been such a burden lifted off of our shoulders. Because my kids and being there for them during the day always comes first, it's meant that there have been a lot of late nights over here the past few months, and Derek is always right there encouraging me, and helping me to meet deadlines, even if it means he only gets a few hours of sleep before he has to leave for work in the morning. 

Some may say getting engaged after dating for six weeks (we were besties for about 7 months before that), and then married three months later was a crazy decision, but it's the best decision that I've ever made in my entire life. 

DIY Ice Cream Cone Garland

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

In less than a month Em will be turning one. This first birthday feels so incredibly special because at this time last year, we never would have dreamed of celebrating this day. We're planning on having a low key ice cream party at home when Derek gets home from work on her special day, but I still want to go ahead and decorate the house a little bit for the occasion. 

We decided to have an ice cream party because Em just barely started eating solids this last month, and we're not incredibly confident in her ability to eat cake without choking, so we thought an ice cream party would be a safer alternative. Once I had the ice cream party idea, I decided that all the decor, and theme of the evening should be ice cream related. 

I was googling ice cream decor ideas and this ice cream cone garland came up in google images, but then the link from the picture to the website didn't work, so I don't know where this idea originated from, but I just winged it from the picture that I saw, and I think that it turned out great! If you're in the market for an ice cream cone garland, than just follow the tutorial below!

2 different colors of yarn
12 ice cream cones
red pom-poms
hot glue gun & glue
12 pieces of printer paper

Crumple one piece of printer paper into a ball.

Wrap one color of yarn around the ball of paper until you get a ball that is about the size of a scoop of ice cream. Once you got your ball of yarn to the size you want, tuck the loose end of yarn undeer the other threads so that it's not sticking out. 

Run hot glue around the edge of the cone.

Lightly press the ball of yarn into the cone.

Place a dot of hot glue on top of the ball of yarn, and then place one of the red pom-poms on top. Repeat this process 11 more times until all the cones are filled. Remember to do 6 cones in one color of yarn, and then 6 cones in the other color of yarn.

Once you have all your cones filled, run the twine through the backside of all of the cones, preferably through pieces of yarn that are running vertically so that all the cones hang on the string in the same direction.

Carefully hang the garland in a secure place being sure to not crack or chip any of the cones!
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