Friday, May 30, 2014

We're Here

This week.  THIS WEEK.  Oh my goodness.  A part of me just wants to pretend the last seven days didn't happen, but I never said our life was perfect so I figured the mundane details are worth capturing as well.

Michael and I were both really looking forward to our three day weekend.  A few days earlier I opened my big mouth and mentioned how long it'd been since any of us were sick.  Idiot.  I woke up Friday with a sore throat and symptoms for seasonal allergies.  Sloane did the same on Saturday.  On Sunday we went to church, swam at a friend's house, and took long naps to cure our "allergies."  And then Monday hit and the men in our family woke up sick.  So.... maybe not allergies?

The cute Memorial Day outfits I'd chosen for the twins stayed tucked away in their closet.  Instead, we've worn pajamas for six days straight.  Today they are 19 months (another post coming shortly) so I pulled out the outfits, took some pictures, and we celebrated Memorial Day a mere four days late.

Did I also mention I had a slight panic attack with Jude (I'm not going into it) last Saturday that basically brought me to my knees for four days?  Ahh yes.

There is a point to this post.  On Sunday morning we trudged into church with two stuffy noses and the above fear weighing on my mind.  The Children's Director (who also happens to be a friend) asked me how we were doing.  I started to smile and cheerily say, "We're great!" but I just couldn't do it.  I looked at her and blinked a few times and she said, "You're here."

I'm here.  We're here.

That was it.  That was exactly what we were.  And the beauty of it?  Sometimes "we're here" is all you can muster. That's ok too. 

There have been several times this week I've thought about her comment and smiled.  Through this crappy week, we're here.  Through the tired tantrums (I'm referring to myself), the snot, the sleepless nights, the pitiful coughs... we're still here.  And if that's the worst of it?  I'd say we're doing pretty well.

I took this picture this morning and can't stop looking at it.  Pure joy, these two.

Thursday, May 15, 2014


I don't remember when Michael and I first discussed our future children but I imagine it was fairly early in the relationship.  We dated long distance for the first year so we were on the phone a lot and talked about some pretty serious topics in a short amount of time. 

I remember telling him I thought I wanted kids.  I wasn't exactly sure but they sounded nice.  And if we had kids, I wanted two.  A boy and a girl would be fun.  And did he know I thought twins sounded great?

When we went on road trips I always forced him to play this stupid game where I'd give two examples and he had to pick one.  "Do you want to live in NYC or Portland?"  "Cats or dogs?"  "Hamburger or pizza?"  It was harmless until one day I asked, "Five kids or none?"  He said none.  And in that moment, it hit me.

I desperately wanted kids.

It took a silly game to make me realize I did actually want kids.  Fast forward a few years and we were overly blessed with exactly what I thought sounded great: boy/girl twins.

We were done.  Everyone told us we were done.  We sold all of their baby gear.  Their clothes.  My pump.  Their carseats.


There is this voice in my head that keeps saying, "But..."  And when I try to pinpoint it, I end up confused and a little sad.  I look at our family and think, "What more could I want?"  I love our family of four.  I love that Jude and Sloane are healthy and happy.  I love that we can fit in our car or in a booth (one day), and that if our children need us, they each have a pair of arms that would love to hold them.


The thought of being done.  It hurts.  I never knew I would love being a mom as much as I do.  It is the most rewarding, exhausting, demanding, breathtaking gift I have ever been given.  Whether you have one child or five, whether you carry them in your belly or adopt, whether they come one at a time or two... when you become a mom, everything changes.

I want Jude & Sloane to understand they are enough.  But I also want them to know my mixed feelings on having more kids are because of them.  They changed me.  My life is better because they are a part of it.

So the next time you ask me if we're done and I pause, it's because I'm thinking about Jude's laugh or Sloane's hugs and I'm wondering if it's even possible to love another baby as much as we love our two. 


What if it is?

Monday, May 12, 2014

Photographing Kids: Tips From An Amateur

Last week I wrote this post for Twin Talk.  It's something I've been wanting to write for approximately 3.5 years and I'm glad I finally did it.  While I hope you saw it last week on Twin Talk because you follow us on Bloglovin, Facebook, and Instagram, I'm including it on my personal blog as well because it took approximately 96 hours to write and I'm considering it my third child.  Name to be determined. ;)

Right around Jude & Sloane's first birthday I started going through a year's worth of pictures.  Most were grainy, blurry, and dull.  I always kept my phone by my side to snap a quick picture, but the quality just wasn't there.  I made a New Year's resolution to use my nice camera (Canon Rebel t2i) as much as possible and I've been so pleased with the results.  I fell in love with photography a few years before the twins were born so it was fun to put everything I'd learned into practice.

I've received a few requests from Instagram and blog friends who want to know my "secrets" so I'm going to share what little I know to get decent pictures of people.  I've broken this post into two parts: Understanding Your Camera and General Photography Tips for Children.

Understanding Your Camera

The below information is based on my Canon.  Most Canon cameras are pretty similar but there are some differences with Nikon.  I know virtually nothing about Nikon so I apologize.

Many people buy a nice camera and keep it on the automatic setting.  While this will still produce a better picture than a phone, you're missing out on so much!  I'm not going to go into the science behind the following terms because we all have kids and no one has time to read all of that.  I'm going to tell you what I do and if you want to know more, I suggest purchasing Photography (or email me--I'm happy to go into further detail if you'd like)! 

I shoot in AV mode (Aperture Priority/Value).  It's located on the top of the camera and allows you to select the following (among other items)...

F-Stop:  This is what people tend to care most about when taking portraits.  The f-stop determines the amount of blur you have in the background (shallow depth of field = blur).  It can also allow a lot of light in the picture.  If you want an image to have a blurrier background, use a low f-stop (smaller number).   However, when you're capturing two or more subjects you don't want the number to be too small because it will make one of the subjects blurry.  If you are photographing one subject and they are sitting/standing perfectly still, you can go as low as your lens will allow (so basically, you can do this when your child is 18-years-old).  For two or more subjects, I suggest keeping it around a 5.  The f-stop value is located at the top of the camera screen.  To change it, use the small dial at the top of the camera.

ISO:  When you are outside during the day, keep your ISO at 100 or 200.  You'll need to bump it up to 800 (or 1600 at the absolute highest) when you're inside, unless you have a lot of big windows.  The higher the number, the grainier the image so be careful with this.  ISO is great for allowing more light, but it's at a (grainy) cost.  ISO is located behind the dial at the top of the camera.  Once you've pushed the button you will use the dial to select the appropriate number.

White Balance:  This is an easy fix that can dramatically improve a picture.  With options like "daylight," "shade," and "cloudy," it's pretty fool-proof.  While it also offers inside lighting options ("tungsten light" and "white fluorescent light"),  I find these make my images too blue.  If I'm inside I tend to keep it on automatic.  White Balance is on the back of the camera (look for "WB").  Use the dial to select the correct WB.

Shutterspeed:  If you shoot in AV, the camera determines the shutterspeed so there is nothing to do here (woohoo)!  I'd love to shoot in full manual mode but it's nearly impossible with two toddlers running around.  By the time you have everything in perfect alignment, your subjects are a mile away. The picture below used a terribly fast shutterspeed.  The train was moving pretty dang fast and it's in full focus.  Thank you, AV.  (Sidenote: Please notice my adorable nephew with his hands over his ears.)

AF Point Selection: This allows you to hone in on your subject regardless of whatever else is in the picture (this is great when there is something in front and behind your subject--the camera doesn't always know where it should focus).  In the picture below, I wanted Riggins to be in focus but I also wanted to include the flowers in front of him and trees behind him  Once you select this button (far right on the back of your camera) use the dial until the point is directly on top of what you want in focus.

Flash: Flash is the F word.  Just say no to flash.

Image Quality: Professional photographers and those who love to edit pictures should shoot in RAW.  It is the highest quality and makes for beautiful editing/manipulation.  However, the file is huge and takes up a lot of room.  If you're like me and just want some great images with little editing, shoot in high quality large (this looks like a smooth curve followed by the letter "L").  This is located under Menu.

Style: Picture style should be "Portrait" when you are taking pictures of people.  This is also located under Menu.

If you don't mind investing a little, these are my two must-have items...

50mm 1.8 lens.  It costs around $100 and you will not regret it.  They also sell 1.4 lenses but I don't think it's worth the extra $250.  It gives you one more "stop" of blur, but the depth of field is so shallow that someone's nose is in focus and their eyes are blurry.

UV lens filter.  While it has a few benefits, it's mostly to save your expensive lens.  Little fingers tend to find their way to the lens every single time.  It's inexpensive to replace a UV filter.  Not so much a lens.

General Photography Tips for Children

1.  Get down on their level.  Unless you're opting for interesting angles, the best pictures are taken straight on.  This also helps prevent strange shadows on faces and distortion.

Kaitlin & Leighton are straight in front of me

Unusual angle - Logan is above me

Unusual angle - Sloane is directly below me

2.  If you can, go outside.  Outdoor pictures (in my opinion) are better and much easier to control.  If it's a cloudy day, run (do not walk) outside and start taking pictures.  Cloudy days = no shadows, no squinting, and clear pictures, all while offering plenty of gorgeous light.  If you're inside, find the room that offers the most light.  My favorite indoor pictures of my kids are taken near our large windows that face east.  

Photo of Summer, Steve, and Siena taken on a cloudy day

Taken in the morning, directly next to our window

3.  Take 1,000 pictures.  Just snap away.  I always take a ton of pictures with the expectation that I will delete at least 80%.  In one second Jude can go from a ridiculously adorable face to a total drunken toddler.  If I didn't snap so many pictures, I'd only end up with the drunken toddler.

4.  Don't miss a picture because you're too far away or don't want certain items in the background.  You can always crop.  The same is true with lighting.  Don't love the lighting or shadows are too distracting on the subject's face?  Make it a black/white photo and the result can be stunning.





5.  If you are alone, do not spend more than five minutes taking pictures of your children.  After five minutes, they are frustrated and you are frustrated.  I've spent 15-30 minutes taking pictures of my kids and the first 10 shots are always the best.  If you have someone there to help you, do not spend more than ten minutes taking pictures (for the same reasons mentioned above).  My husband tells me this every single time and I always try to push it.  As soon as I look at the images I almost always end up deleting the last half.

6.  Right now a popular photography style is having the sun behind the subject.  This makes the picture appear hazy and can cast a beautiful glow on/around the subject.  It can also cause severe sunspots or sun flare, which I find distracting.  A lens hood can help with this.  Or, use the sun to your advantage and make your subject a silhouette with a bright background. The pictures of Sloane each have sunspots on the top left, which I do not love.  However, I like the overall affect and I think it makes her look pretty angelic.  :)

Silhouette shot of Emily & baby Gwyneth

7.  Give them something small (or big) to hold.  This can go one of two ways.  When I give my kids something to hold it slows them down a bit.  However, sometimes they are so interested in the object that they will no longer look at me.  When that happens, I move to the side and capture sweet profile shots.

8.  Let them look at the pictures you've just taken.  If Jude & Sloane start getting antsy, I'll put the lens cap on and show them the screen (while keeping a firm grasp on the camera).  They love looking at the pictures and that gives all of us a much-needed break.  Most of the time I'm able to shoot for a few more minutes.  :)

I hope this helps!  I'd love to hear your tips/tricks!

 photo Signature1_zps03a93080.png

Monday, May 5, 2014

Jude & Sloane | 18 Months

Jude and Sloane are 18 months! I would be a total train wreck except I absolutely adore this age.  It comes with its own frustrations and difficulties, but I can't get enough of our two little toddlers.  They understand so much and are so eager to learn.  Michael and I are constantly amazed at all they can do.  We are the very definition of proud parents.

Jude's stats at 18 months:
Weight: 27 lbs 10 oz (70%)
Height: 33 1/4 in (80%)
Head:  19 1/4 in (75%)
Teeth: 16 - I'm already looking for his 2-year molars
Nicknames: Jude the Dude, Bubby, Judy Blume (I can't help myself)
Diapers: Just switched to size 5

Sloane's stats at 18 months:
Weight: 23 lbs 14 oz (45%)
Height: 33 1/2 in (95%)
Head:  18.75 in (85%)
Teeth: 12  with three about to pop through!
Nicknames: Sloaney Bologna, Sloaney, Baby Girl
Diapers: 4

Jude is pretty proportional and Sloane has turned into a string bean (with a belly).  She has finally surpassed Jude in height (by a whopping .25 inches)--the only other time she has been taller than him was the day they were born!

We've had some struggles in this department.  Sloane isn't too picky and while she has her preferences, she will try anything you offer her.  Jude turns his nose up to most everything.  I would love to say the four of us sit down as a family and eat the same meal together but we're nowhere close.  We've also been slow to give them utensils for purely selfish reasons--I know the mess it'll create and I don't want to bathe our kids three times a day.  When they do use utensils they're quite good at grasping the concept (and the food).  That is my goal for the next month--really give them the chance to use the utensils and stop using their fingers.

*After writing this section I let them eat their yogurt with a spoon and they didn't miss a drop.  So maybe delaying it was a good thing and I got to bypass the messy part?  We'll see about that.  :)

They are still great sleepers at night, typically going down around 7p and sleeping until 7a.  We have yet to officially move to one nap, mostly because they're showing signs of still needing two.  There are some days we make it to noon without a problem, while other days they're yawning by 10a.  My type-A self who thrives on a schedule is going crazy.  However, I know this will not always be the case so I mostly watch for cues from them to determine whether it will be a one nap or two nap day.  I love that my babies love to sleep--I will never complain about that!

Watching these two play brings us so much joy.  Michael and I will sit on the couch and watch them chase, tickle, and tackle each other for long stretches of time.  Then they'll stop, run over to us and give us a hug, and then it's back to playing together.  Those sweet moments are THE BEST.  I know they say it keeps getting better but I honestly don't know how.

With that being said, playtime is not always relaxing.  Jude has taken his climbing skills to the next level and is FAST.  Even though Sloane has much longer legs, his arm strength is so impressive that he can pull himself up on things she can't.  He's lost his footing a few times and continues holding on by his arms.  Blows me away.  They both love to explore but they also enjoy "quiet time" with a puzzle or book.  Sloane is our puzzle expert, and can complete all of our puzzles in little time.  Jude will put in a few pieces but gets bored and leaves.  He still loves his books and will listen to the same one three times in a row.

We have two very active kids and I love it, but I do get jealous when I see other parents snuggling with their babies.  That is so rare in our house that when it does happen, I am THRILLED.  I enjoy those moments as much as they'll allow it before they're off to discover something else.

They still love to watch the garbage man, blow kisses, give hugs (not to each another--when you ask them to hug they give each other a shy look and run away!), "talk" to each other, watch Daniel Tiger and Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, climb up (and down) the stairs, do absolutely anything outside, and go on wagon rides.  

Jude is a daddy's boy and Sloane is mama's girl.  Jude still doesn't enjoy being left at the church nursery.  The workers say he cheers up within a few minutes but he now starts crying before we hand him over.  It's sad but we know it's great for him to be around other kids.  Sloane takes off and doesn't look back.  I know they say every child is different but it amazes me how different their personalities already are (and have been since birth).

Michael and I flew to Charleston this month to attend a childhood friend's wedding. We were gone for four days while Mimi & Papa took care of them at home.  It was the first time we were both away from them at the same time and it went so well!  We missed them terribly but knew they were in great hands.  We face-timed every day and enjoyed sleeping in, staying out, and having little to no responsibility.  :)  The reunion was absolutely wonderful.

Dear Jude,
My expressive little boy.  You are into absolutely everything these days and always run (never walk) from one activity to another.  Everyone who meets/sees you declares you "all boy" and they are so right.  When you're forced to sit still (high chair, etc.), I watch your eyes and they're always looking around to see what you can climb on next.  I love your sense of adventure and wonder.  You bring us such joy, Bubby.

You don't talk much at all--only say a handful of words--but you are able to communicate in so many different ways.  Right now you love to point out every car ("cah") that drives by (or is parked in the street).  You like to sit in my lap and point out all my facial features, and then blow me a big kiss that sounds nothing like a kiss but I will take every last one.

You still have such a judgy stare and strangers often ask what they did to "upset" you.  As far as I'm concerned, you can give that look to strangers and girls for the rest of your life.  I never want to share.  :)  You are still a big boy and are stronger than you realize, but I've noticed you can be gentle when you want to be.

Jude, you adore music.  It doesn't matter where we are or who we're with, if you hear a song you start dancing.  What makes this even cuter is oftentimes you don't smile but instead make your "dance face," which is very serious.  There is nothing funny about bopping up and down.  Nothing.

You got your third haircut this month and aged two years in the process.  I rarely get asked if you and your sister are twins--they definitely look at you as the protective older brother.  And you are, even if it is only by a minute.

Sweet boy, I adore everything about you.  Your soft hair, your beautiful eyes, your contagious giggle, your absolute love of life.  I thank God for you with every breath I take.  I love you, sweet boy.



Dear Sloane,
My sweet, silly, sassy little Sloaney.   When did you become a little girl?  Your dad and I were away from you for a few days and I swore you grew several inches.  Turns out you really have--you are so tall!  And you know you are something special because you walk with purpose.  Shoulders back, arms swinging, feet pointed, smile on your face.  And then you break into a run, collapse into my arms, hug my neck, and in that moment I am the happiest I've ever been.

While your brother is very hands on, you don't mind standing back a bit and watching before jumping into activities.  You love to observe and you pick things up quickly that way. 

You don't say many words, but your gibberish is precious and I dread the day it goes away.  You use big gestures and love to wave to everyone you meet.  Your favorite person in the world is YOU.  Whenever you see your reflection you break into the biggest smile and wave/blow kisses to the pretty girl standing in front of you.  I can't tell if you realize it's you or not but my goodness you are a big fan.

You have become quite sneaky.  For the longest time Jude was always stealing your pacifier and running away but now it is you.  I always feel a little guilty because I'll go to your room to tell Jude it is time to SLEEP and then realize he is upset because he's without a pacifier.  Meanwhile you are relaxed in your crib, using both pacifiers as finger puppets.  You are sly, little one. 

Your favorite thing to do right now is buckle yourself into the wagon.  It brings you such joy and as soon as it snaps you grin and clap for yourself.  Unfortunately (but fortunately), you have yet to figure out how to get out so you're stuck until someone can free you.  You love wearing my bracelets and "twirling" (nothing close to a twirl but keep trying).  You also love to hug and rock your baby, point out every spill in a five mile radius, and play with puzzles.  Your hair continues to come in, slowly but surely.  You love to brush it, which absolutely cracks me up.

I am so grateful YOU, Sloane Elisabeth, are my child.  My daughter.  I can't tell you how many times your dad and I look at each other and thank God for choosing us to be your parents.  What an honor it is!  I love you, sweet girl.

Love you both so much! Happy 18 months, sweet babies!  Love-Mom

For more bluebonnet pictures, CLICK HERE.

For more Easter pictures, CLICK HERE.

For more bluebonnet pictures, CLICK HERE. 

For more Earth Day pictures, CLICK HERE.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...