Category Archives: Photography

Jenna’s birth story

I can’t believe it’s taken 3 1/2 months, but I finally took the time to finish typing up my birth story. Steve even sent me his version (which he sent to me a week or so after Jenna was born) so I’ll post them both before it gets ridiculously long….

Steve’s version:

On Thursday evening, I came home from work and played with Caleb for a bit while Eve made dinner. I took him to the playground but a bee scared him and he wanted to go home. After we got back, we sat down to eat and asked my routine question to Candace of how she was feeling. I had been asking this question for two weeks and expected her normal response of “normal,” but she said she was having contractions. She was timing them on her phone and they were already around 5-7 minutes apart. I was surprised because during her first labor she could never decipher when the contractions were starting or stopping.

My mom had planned to watch Caleb while Eve, Candace and I went to the hospital. I tried to text my mom a “heads up” but I accidentally texted Eve instead (they’re both in my phone as mamma XX). When I realized my mistake an hour or so later I called my mom. She had driven a friend to a hospital in DC and was on her way back to Hagerstown. She offered to pick up Caleb on the way since she was close to the house but we were already getting him into bed. We changed plans and asked Eve to watch him when we went.

Candace continued to labor at home (mostly in our bedroom) while I sat downstairs and watched the NFL draft. Around 11 Eve came down and said that we should probably leave soon. I went to ask Candace  who finally gave in after not wanting to go to the hospital too early. We got dressed and packed the car and headed to Shady Grove Hospital.

At 2335 we checked  in at the front of the L&D ward we were taken back to triage. The exam (with a nurse that had been in the Army named Heather) revealed that Candace was already 7 cm. We were shocked since it took around 30 hours to get to that point with Caleb. Candace asked me to text the birth photographer. I told her I didn’t think she’d make it in time but Candace told me it would be at least three more hours since she probably wouldn’t advance faster than 1 cm per hour.

Once we got to the labor room I mentioned to the nurses that we were storing stem cells and that  I would get the kit after we were settled. She “highly advised” that I go get it immediately since the baby was coming sooner rather than later. I ran to the car (literally) and grabbed the collection kit. I was in such a rush that I dropped it but it seemed ok.

I got back to the room and the nurses were calling for the doctor. They were having trouble locating him even though he was in the hospital. At this time Candace was having what seemed to be more painful contractions and I offered her my hand to squeeze. She was starting to yell through the contractions. I grimaced because I don’t like seeing her in pain but she thought she had hurt me and apologized. I told her my hand was fine but she keeps chiding me about it!

At about 1:00 we were laughing about Jenna being born close to the same time as Caleb. The nurse asked when he was born (1:08) and she said we might make it at the same time. I couldn’t believe it since Candace pushed for an hour with Caleb. The nurse said Jenna was REALLY low. She asked Candace if she felt the need to push but only a little bit at that time.

Finally the doctor came in and started setting up. He broke Candace’s water with a long tool and she nearly instantly screamed “I feel the need to push!”. They told Candace to hold her legs up with her hands, bring her head to her chest and push through the contractions. The nurse would count to 10, have Candace take a breath and push again.  Candace was screaming as loud as I’ve ever heard anyone as she pushed but it only took three contractions for Jenna to wriggle out. First I saw some white fluid that I didn’t notice with Caleb. On the next contractions I saw very similar patch of black hair like with Caleb. Finally her head came out with her hand on her ear. The doctor had to use a hand to assist her out in that position. She opened one eye and started screaming before her shoulders and arms were all the way out! The Dr. asked me to cut the cord which I did of course.

Once she was out the nurse started wiping her down. I was very eager for the girls to have skin to skin contact but Heather said it would be ok for them to wipe her down first. Candace got to hold Jenna for a minute before they weighed her and measured her. (The doc drew the cord blood and tissue at this time too). I asked if her head was small since Caleb and I have small heads but she just said it was normal for her size (7lbs 3 oz). Once the dr. finished stitching up Candace, they allowed her to nurse. They did all the administrative details and then we were moved to the mother baby ward around 3:00.

Friday is a blur other than trying to take Caleb to dinner but him wanting to go back to the hospital. On Saturday I drove to Ikea to get “Jenna’s” present for Caleb – a circus tent he wanted. Caleb was very happy but did not want to leave the hospital. It was obvious that he was really missing Mommy. I had to carry him crying to the car crying around 5:00. It broke my heart as he said “Daddy, I’ll be good” and I tried to explain to him that he was good and it wasn’t his fault that we had to stay another night in the hospital.

Throughout the stay Jenna cried very little – almost only when she was hungry. One night she was crying so I wheeled her around a bit and that seemed to help. Mostly she just wanted to be held so I would read with Candace’s IPAD in one hand and Jenna in the other.

Finally Sunday morning we got to go home. Pua Pua had helped Caleb make a sign that said “Welcome Jenna”. The joy on Caleb’s face when we walked in the door and he said “welcome home Mommy! welcome home daddy!” was amazing.

I’m so lucky to have my family of (gulp) four! I love each of them more than I possibly could have imagined.

My version:

On Thursday, May 8, I was 39w5d. I remember seeing something online about some a study of how a majority of second time moms delivered by then. For about two weeks leading up to that moment, I was trying out all the old wives tales on inducing labor. I was eating pineapples (core and all), eating spicy food (I had Thai food when I went into labor with Caleb), walking, having sex, using clary sage aromatherapy, massaging certain pressure points and even doing some silly yoga dance.

On that morning, I woke up and made Caleb lunch for school and then woke him up so I could get him ready to go. My mom came with me to drop him off and then we went to my doctor’s appointment.  I was 3cm dilated with a soft cervix and Jenna’s head was down low. Last week, I was 2cm dilated, 1cm the week before that and completely closed before that so it looked like my body was making some progress. I asked what their induction policies were and she said since I was over 39w, I could ask for one at any time. I declined since I really wanted to avoid any medical interventions so she said to schedule another weekly appointment though she doubted I’d make it and though I would deliver within the week. Hooray!

Afterwards, my mom and I stopped by the grocery store since my fridge was pretty bare. We also stopped by the Chinese grocery store that opened up down the street which she really liked and got ingredients for her hot & sour soup…yum! I looked at my watch and it was time to pick up Caleb so we went to go get him and he was really excited to show me some seeds he had planted for me for Mother’s Day and a painting he did. His teachers asked me when I was due and they were both surprised when I said in two days! They asked if I meant two weeks—nope, two days.

The rest of the day was pretty laid back. My mom was cooking, Caleb and I would relax in my bed while I would semi-nap (I was really sleepy these days since I would usually wake up a few times during the night) and Caleb would play on my iPad or snuggle for a bit.

The last pic I took of Caleb before he become a big brother!

The last pic I took of Caleb before he become a big brother!

Steve came home from work and right before we sat down for dinner at 7pm, I felt my first contraction. I took out my phone and started timing them with an app and the next one came 5 minutes later. And so did the next one. I started thinking, “this is early labor,” but I didn’t want to say anything in case they stopped so I just kept timing. We sat down for dinner and Steve eventually asked me what I was doing and I said, “timing my contractions.” Ha! Both him and my mother had a look of shock and asked how long they had been going on and how far apart they were. By then, it had been about 30 minutes and they ranged from 5-7 minutes.

After the first hour, the contractions averaged about 45 seconds long and started to get longer between contractions so I thought maybe they were going to stop. But, they kept coming so I decided to take a hot shower and text my birth photographer. After I was finished, the contractions were still coming so I decided to take my last pregnant photo and pack the hospital bag between contractions. By this point, they weren’t bad and I could breathe through them silently. We got Caleb ready for bed and each read him a nightly story though sometimes I’d have to stop reading during contractions.

During the third hour of contractions, they started to come sooner—every 3-4 minutes. I was still breathing through them, but would wince. My mom saw me and mentioned that I should go to the hospital. I told her that I was ok and wanted to labor at home as long as possible. She ended up telling Steve the same thing and so at the start of the fourth hour of contractions (11pm), we packed the car and headed to the hospital. I snuck into Caleb’s room to give him one last kiss since it would probably be the last time he’d be the only kiddo in the house.

Our original plan was to have Steve’s mom watch Caleb while my mom and Steve would come with me to the hospital, but since Steve’s mom had spent the bulk of the day driving a friend to a hospital in DC and with my contractions coming closer together, we decided to have my mom stay with Caleb and it’d just be me and Steve.

The good thing about leaving at 11pm was that there was no traffic! I had about 4 or 5 contractions in the car that caused me to grip the door handle and close my eyes. When we parked at the hospital and started walking to the door, I had to stop and hold onto Steve during contractions. When we got to the door, I had to stop and breathe through another one. I had quite an audience since we had to enter from the emergency room entrance and a lady asked if I needed a wheelchair. I declined and we continued over to L&D to check in. I had to fill out a few forms despite pre-registering online which sucked while having contractions, but they took us back to triage where I changed and got hooked up.

Heather was my L&D nurse and she lead me back to the area where we’d be hanging out and gave me a gown to change into. As I walked to the bathroom, I had a contraction and had to lean over to breathe through them before continuing on and changing. I went back to the bed where Steve and Nurse Heather were waiting for me and I got hooked up with monitors for Jenna’s heart rate and contractions. It was really weird because whenever a contraction would come up, I could feel the monitors on my stomach shift.

The triage “rooms” were separated by curtains and we could hear what was going on with a couple across the room—apparently it was really early in the pregnancy for one lady and her water broke. The nurse was trying to tell her that they’d try to stop the contracts. I hope everything was ok with their baby!

Nurse Heather checked me and said I was 7cm dilated already! Steve and I looked at each other in SHOCK and I told him to immediately text the birth photographer. With Caleb, it took FOREVER to dilate to 4cm even after augmenting my labor with pitocin and by then, I was crying and puking during the contractions. It was totally different this time around.

We ran through some questions and one of them was asking if I wanted an epidural. I said, “no, for now, but I might change my mind.” I didn’t want to go through the guilt I did with Caleb where I was all set on a natural birth and when things weren’t progressing, I cried when I broke down and asked for the drugs.

So with that said, I was admitted and moved to an L&D room. The nurses were calling and looking for the OB from my practice that was on call that night while my contractions were getting more and more intense. I started moaning and groaning through them with one hand gripped tightly onto the bed and the other holding onto Steve’s hand. I’d shut my eyes and tell myself, “loose lips, loose hips,” which was something we learned from our birthing class with Caleb. It helped me unclench my jaw and try to relax (maybe that’s why I was actually dilating so quickly??). I sat upright and was honestly afraid to move for fear that it’d made the contractions more intense so I stayed perfectly still.

We planned on doing cord blood and tissue banking, but Steve had left the collection box in the car. Steve asked the nurses if he had time to go to the car and get it and they said that he did, but he better hurry up. So, off he went while I powered through a few more contractions.

Nurse Heather checked me again between contractions and said I was already at 10cm and would be ready to push as soon as the doc was in. SAY WHA?! We checked into the hospital an hour ago and I was ready to go. I could have sworn that people usually dilated 1cm/hour, but holy heck, I wasn’t expecting to be ready to quickly especially since my labor with Caleb was so long.

Steve pointed out the time and made a comment that it’d be funny if Jenna was born at the same time as Caleb (1:08am) since it was 1am now. The nurse commented that it could be possible! When Dr. Simmonds arrived, he broke my water and I IMMEDIATELY felt the need to push. I even yelled it out, “I have to push!”

From that point, I was told I had to grab my thighs, put my chin down and push during the contractions. For some reason, I would either forget to push or have my chin up, but for whatever reason, I couldn’t get things together and do everything simultaneously. I kept closing my eyes, but at one point, I thought to myself that I should open them so I did and saw the lights coming down from the ceiling. I kept thinking I was on an alien space ship. It was like an out of body experience. And at some point, I thought to myself, “maybe I should have asked for an epi….”

I got my mind in gear and was finally able to focus on what I had to do…grab thighs, chin down and push during contractions. The feeling was so intense that I started SCREAMING through my contractions. The pressure between contractions was unreal. After three contractions, I felt Jenna’s head come out and a huge relief of pressure came over me. I heard her crying as she came out and when they laid her on my chest, the first thing I commented on was on her huge chubby cheeks and hair! That was totally unexpected since I had barely any heartburn! And so she was here. Jenna Mackenzie born May 9, 2014, at 1:10am weighing in at 7 lb., 3 oz., 20.5” long. Just a day shy of her due date. And completely med-free! I felt on top of the world.

Steve went with Nurse Heather as they took Jenna to get cleaned up on the other side of the room when in walked our birth photographer. She had missed the birth by just minutes, but she was able to get some family shots and candids. You can visit my photographer’s blog for more pictures.


Jenna being weighed taken by Meagan Sheffler Photography

Daddy and Jenna taken by Meagan Sheffler Photography

Daddy and Jenna taken by Meagan Sheffler Photography


staring in awe of our baby girl taken by Meagan Sheffler Photography

The nurse commented that since my labor was so fast, Jenna had a nice, round head. As they handed me my baby, we immediately did skin to skin and I started nursing her. I had forgotten how powerful their ability to suck was!

The hospital I delivered at is the first “baby friendly” hospital in MD where they encourage skin to skin, breastfeeding, and they don’t bathe the babies until the next day in order to not stress them out. A nurse came by to check Jenna out and also commented on her round head. She said it was the best one she had seen all day! Afterwards, she asked if we wanted to do more skin to skin or swaddle her. I said to swaddle since Steve hadn’t had a chance to hold her yet, but when the nurse came back to measure her body temperature, she was borderline so we said to forget the swaddle and do skin-to-skin from now on.


But first, let me take a selfie…

We moved into the recovery room at 3am and I would just nurse and hold Jenna—taking in the fact that I was now a mother of two kids! Steve slept for a bit on the pull out bed and after nursing Jenna, I finally got some rest myself, though never for very long. Jenna made all sorts of noises through the night especially grunting! A few times I caught her choking and coughing. The nurse said it was amniotic fluid and since they came out so quickly, there was probably a good amount left in her stomach that she had to work out. So because of that, I pretty much stayed up to keep an eye on her.

The next day, my mom, Steve’s mom and Caleb came to visit us at the hospital and we all had lunch together. I couldn’t wait to see how Caleb would interact with his new baby sister and he immediately wanted to hold her and give her a kiss. It was really sweet and I could tell he really missed me. I had him sit up on the hospital bed with me while we snuggled together.


Checking out his baby sister


Proud big brother


Our family of 4!

Between the hours of 1pm-3pm, the hospital has “quiet time” where they encourage not to have visitors and dim all the lights so that everyone can get some rest. My mom took Caleb home, but brought him back later when Steve said that he’d take Caleb out for some one on one time for dinner. They went to Wing Stop, but as soon as they ordered, Caleb said he wanted to go back to the hospital so they ended up packing all the food and he ate his food up on the bed with me.

Roxie stopped by that evening and got to hold Jenna for a little while and meet her new goddaughter!

The nurses come by nightly after 1:30am to weigh the babies and Jenna was losing weight, but still not quite the 10%. She was nursing every 2-3 hours, having wet diapers, the norm.

The next morning, Jenna’s pediatrician stopped by to check her out (same one Caleb goes to see). They didn’t do this in TX so it was nice having them come to us. Afterwards, Steve stopped by Ikea to pick up Jenna’s gift to Caleb. Back when I was pregnant and trying to jump start labor, I had taken Caleb to Ikea and walked all around the store where he fell in love with a circus tent. Steve ended up buying that tent and having it ready when Caleb and my mom came for lunch again. He was SO happy when he saw it that he made Steve play with him inside of it…lol.

I could tell Caleb was getting restless being stuck in a hospital room so after getting a few snuggles in with me, my mom took him back home. And we were back into the same routine of diaper changes, nursing and skin to skin time. Our friends Gloria & Tom along with their two kiddos stopped by to visit. Brian also stopped by and stayed for a while–both him and Steve got to catch up on sports on the tiny TV in our room until Roxie came by again after work to hang out and have some food.

The next morning was Mother’s Day and our pediatrician came by again to check Jenna out and talk about the next appointment when we’d bring her in. After running down a check list and getting briefed by our nurse, we were being discharged! I couldn’t wait to get out of there–I was beginning to feel stir crazy. I just wanted to be back home in my own bed with my lil’ guy who was now a big brother!

We had discussion of what Jenna’s homecoming outfit would be. I was leaning towards a pretty floral sleeper, but Steve wanted the patriotic anchor dress. We ended up going with the dress since Caleb went home dressed up in an outfit and it was also really warm that day (humid and 80’s).


Heading home in her pretty dress

We got discharged around 11am and we packed up the car and went home! Caleb was so excited to see us and brought us to the kitchen where he and my mom had made a banner that said “Welcome Jenna.” After dropping everything and everyone, I drove over to Target to pick up a few items and drop off my prescriptions for iburprofen and oxycodone. I took an oxy when I got home and oh man, I felt woozy and dizzy. I could barely stand up straight so I decided to only take only if I needed it and only before bed.

Steve’s mom drove down with lunch and we all just hung out and got used to the idea of being a family of four.

The next couple of weeks went by in a blur. I was not looking forward to waking up every couple of hours to nurse Jenna, but since my milk came in on day 2, she was chowing down, pooping like crazy and gaining weight! When we went to the pediatrician the day after we got home, Jenna had dropped to 6 lb, 10 oz. from her birth weight of 7 lb, 3 oz. By her two week check up, she was up to 7 lb. 12 oz. so she was already up to her birth weight and then some! Hooray for super milk.

I shot Jenna’s newborn photos – 9 days old

siblings watermark

my two beautiful kids – Jenna 10 days old, Caleb 3 years, 3 months old

She was a pretty good sleeper. For the first couple of weeks, I never had to set an alarm–she would wake up every three hours almost to the minute. It wasn’t until she got her shots at 2 months that she started sleeping through the night. She averages 8-10 hours before grunting and sort of waking up before I nurse her and then she’s out for another couple of hours.

As for putting her to sleep, so much easier than Caleb was! I would give her a bath, nurse, swaddle, burp and set her down in her bassinet with the Baby Shusher on. Sometimes she’d talk to herself, sometimes she’d just stare into outer space, but she would put herself to sleep. With Caleb, I always had to nurse him to sleep.


First bath at 6 days old when her umbilical cord fell out

And now that I have two, it’s funny to see how they compare. Jenna is more laid back than Caleb. She’ll actually tolerate a car seat i.e. if we’re out for dinner. Caleb would ALWAYS cry and we’d have to hold him–learning how to eat with my left hand or taking turns eating and holding him. They both love bath time, but Jenna hates getting her ears cleaned whereas Caleb would always strangely enjoy it. Caleb was always a good nurser whereas Jenna is more finicky–often only nursing one side at a time.


Caleb vs Jenna

I’m sure I’ll post more, but this entry is getting ridiculously long so I’ll just end it here and hopefully pick up soon!

my final progression photo

my final progression photo

Jenna is 1 month old!

I started typing up my birth story on my laptop. I’m already three pages into it and still need to finish it. Ugh, I hope I can finish it soon before the details fade.

But, Jenna’s already a month old! Holy cow. Time has flown by so quickly and we’re enjoying every minute of it. She’s already been on a road trip to Chicago, next week is Pennsylvania to meet her great grandma and then Austin, TX, at the end of the month.

She’s chubbing up nicely! We weighed her informally on the bathroom scale last night and she’s already at 10 lbs! She’s outgrown a few newborn sleepers, but can still fit in some outfits and we’ve ventured into the 0-3 clothing some. We’ve been cloth diapering full time since we’ve been home from the hospital and when we visited my friend, Lisa, in Chicago, I brought my entire NB stash and was able to make it through the entire trip only washing the load once with a few left to spare.

Jenna is a pretty laid back baby. She sleeps 3-4 hours stretches (sometimes 5) and grunts when she’s hungry. I wake up, nurse, and she’s back out. She poops soooooooooo much! The pediatrician reminded us that BF babies tend to poop at almost every diaper change, but I totally didn’t remember it being like this with Caleb.

It took a few tries, but Jenna is now a fan of bath time! She cries when I undress her, but as soon as she’s in the warm water, she just relaxes. She loves getting her hair washed and one time, she slept through her entire bath…eyes closed and everything!

Here are a few pictures until I can get my act together and finish my birth story.


3 weeks old


before we left for our road trip to Chicago


in Chicago for a Ragnar race


comparing Caleb vs Jenna–they look so different!

Full term

As of this past weekend, I am full term at 37 weeks!

We started off the day with another cherry blossom mini session :) This time, it took place in Besthesda in the Kenwood neighborhood where the streets are lined with cherry blossoms. There was rain this week so a lot of the blossoms were lost, but there were still a few trees still with their flowers. Hopefully the photos came out ok!

The weekend before was peak bloom at the Tidal Basin. We all got up before the sun was up to try and beat the traffic into DC since it was a weekend and the last day of the cherry blossom festival. Caleb was a big GRUMP so there had to be bribing with candy. We found free parking (woot) that was close to the Tidal Basin, but was just under a mile from the meeting spot with our first photographer. So, we basically had to BOOK IT.

After our photo session, I tried to take some photos during our walk back, but Steve wanted to get home and Caleb was tired so I didn’t take very many photos. But, I did take a few because we were there. And the scaffolding is finally gone from the Washington Monument so I needed a pic of that!

Steve & Caleb at the Tidal Basin, the Washington Monument, me & Caleb at the Jefferson Memorial

Steve & Caleb at the Tidal Basin, the Washington Monument, me & Caleb at the Jefferson Memorial

We got home and attempted to nap, but Caleb’s short nap in the car left him WIRED so no one got rest. I changed into a maternity dress for my baby shower hosted by my mother-in-law, Barbara, and Roxie! I must have pushed myself too much that morning at the Tidal Basin because my back completely gave out. I had to sit and if I tried to stand up and walk, shooting pains occurred in my lower back.

The shower was lovely! Jenna got a lot of gifts even though we told people we didn’t need gifts. And there was a lot of food. We are certainly very lucky and they always go above and beyond for us.

Steve stopped to buy me some Bengay patches for my lower back. They were a godsend and I felt SO much better the next day. Which was good because I was cooking an entire Passover spread that was paleo-friendly! I made Pioneer Woman’s brisket, roasted a chicken, roasted brussel sprouts with balsamic vinegar, roasted butternut squash with sage, made chicken broth for the matzo ball soup with both traditional matzo balls and paleo one made from almond flour, and made Steve’s nana’s fruit salad. We also had gefilte fish, pickled herring and I made charoset. For dessert, I made a coconut cake with cream cheese frosting. Nom nom nom. I spent 4 1/2 hours straight on my feet in the kitchen.

Steve’s mom bought new haggadahs for us that had a lot of pictures so it made the Sedar easier to follow especially for Caleb. I couldn’t believe it was already Caleb’s 4th Sedar!

Caleb with his yarmulke, new kid-friendly Haggadahs, paleo matzo ball soup made with almond flour, Steve and our Sedar plate

Caleb with his yarmulke, new kid-friendly Haggadahs, paleo matzo ball soup made with almond flour, Steve and our Sedar plate

The next day, we went to the synagogue for their community Sedar. Steve’s mom helped cook for the 100+ people that showed up and poor thing did not get to sit down to eat a hot meal! I told her next year to sit out on the cooking and enjoy it. Caleb could not get enough matzo.

Then this past weekend was Easter! We went over to Crina and Mounir’s house for an Easter lunch and the kids did a small Easter egg hunt. Caleb was all over that! There was sooo much food and everyone ended up falling asleep (myself included) before dessert…lol.

When we got home, I got into nesting mode and decided to clean all the bathrooms with bleach and scrub everything on my hands and knees. Steve saw me and said, “this is why we hire someone!” Ah well. I feel better now that the bathrooms are clean. The next thing on my agenda is moving some of Caleb’s toys from the main family room down to the basement playroom so I can bring some more baby items up like the swing.

I already shampooed the carpets and have the bassinet set up in our room. I still need to pack the hospital bag, but I have a mental list of items I need to pack. Sometimes I feel like I have no time and that this baby could come next week (same gestation as Caleb) and other days, I feel like I have plenty of time and I should just do one thing a day. Argh!

Caleb is 3!

This week on February 25, my big boy turned 3! This day sort of snuck up on us and we had his birthday party the weekend beforehand. This year, we decided to have it at a bouncy house per his request and for once, we didn’t have to clean up afterwards :) That was a big plus being 29w pregnant!

The night before his party, I stayed up late so I could bake him a special cake from scratch…a 3 layer yellow cake (it had 8 egg yolks in it) and strawberry swiss meringue buttercream frosting. I put sprinkles on the side and wrote a simple “Happy 3rd Birthday, Caleb” on it. The entire cake had 10 sticks of butter! I also made him a shirt since the one I had ordered from Etsy didn’t arrive on time. I sent Steve scrambling for materials at Walmart at 9pm, but it all worked out in the end.

Caleb with his cake and shirt made by yours truly :)

He had so much fun at his party! We had about 12 kids there and it was nice because we had the bouncy house place to ourselves (no crazy kids plowing over the little ones) and they could run around and explore everything. After 30 minutes, we moved into a second room with more bouncy options. When the full hour was up, I tried to get a group photo, but Caleb refused to smile because he was sad the bouncing was over.

Then, it was time for food and cake! I ordered cupcakes for the kids, but Caleb didn’t want any–he wanted my strawberry cake!! It melted my heart :) We had pizza and a fruit platter for the kids and pizza, baked ziti and salad for the adults. The cake was a big hit (yay for butter) and there was nothing left at the end of the party.


birthday boy with his mom and pops

On Tuesday was his actual birthday so when he woke up, I sang “happy birthday” to him. I made him some birthday pancakes (inspired by another March mama, Rebecca, where she posts a recipe and shares pics of her cuties). I didn’t have yellow cake mix nor Bisquick on hand so I was Googling to see if there was something I could make with the items I already had at home. It was snowing so I didn’t really want to head out to the store, but I used this recipe and it was great.

Caleb and his birthday pancakes

Caleb and his birthday pancakes

So, next we got cleaned up and I set up an area for Caleb’s 3 year interview where there are 20 questions that he answers and the idea is to ask the same questions every year. I’ve watched this video so many times because it’s just so funny! His answers, his tangents, his mannerisms (how he crosses his legs, tapping his chin while thinking), I love it so much!

1. What is your favorite color? pink & green
2. What is your favorite toy? dinosaurs
3. What is your favorite fruit? cantaloupe, pineapple, bread (ha), watermelon
4. What is your favorite tv show? Team Umizoomi
5. What is your favorite thing to eat for lunch? noodles, broccoli & chicken
6. What is your favorite outfit? shirt, pants, underwear
7. What is your favorite game? hide & seek
8. What is your favorite snack? fruit leather
9. What is your favorite animal? cow & pinkfoot (from Bubble Guppies I think)
10. What is your favorite song? ABCs
11. What is your favorite book? Frederick
12. Who is your best friend? Aidan & Aaron Patrick
13. What is your favorite cereal? banana (banana Cheerios) & elephant cereal (Wegman’s organic frosted flakes)
14. What is your favorite thing to do outside? play in the snow and throw snowballs at Daddy’s face
15. What is your favorite drink? water, milk & lemonade
16. What is your favorite holiday? I don’t know
17. What do you like to take to bed with you at night? brown doggy
18. What is your favorite thing to eat for breakfast? marshmallows (?? LOL)
19. What do you want for dinner on your birthday? cake
20. What do you want to be when you grow up? a doctor

And then I snapped a few photos because that’s just what I do!

my 3 year old!

Caleb at 1, 2 and now 3

He’s such a little person with so much personality! I love the things that come out of his mouth now. Just the other day, I told him he talked too much and he retorted with, “No, I don’t. You talk too much. You always say ‘blah blah blah'”. It took me back and Steve just laughed his butt off.

Caleb’s currently in a parents day out program once a week, but just got accepted into their preschool program that will meet three times a week starting this fall. He’s currently taking karate and swim lessons, too. When did my lil’ guy get so big?


film photography: the lost art

My Grandpa passed on May 21, 2009. Years later, I stumbled upon one of his old cameras: a Canon AE-1 Program SLR. It was in great condition having been kept in a case. My mom told me it used to take my Grandpa forever to snap a picture that usually most photos were snapped when they were mid-sentence of “are you going to take the picture?” lol.

It had two lenses with the camera. A Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens and a Sears 135mm f/2.8 lenses both in excellent condition with the 50mm having a filter on it and the 135mm still in the box.

The camera sat in my closet for at least a year. I always had intentions in using it, but with everything being in digital, going out to buy film was never high on my priority list.

Then, a fellow March Mom, Bre from BreWrites, mentioned about getting a disposable camera to take some pictures without all the fancy features that cameras nowadays have. So, that inspired to finally go out and buy some film!

I ended up going to Target because it’s right around the corner from my house and online it said they had it in stock. I went to the camera section and asked the clerk where I could find film. He looked at me as if I had three heads! I then spotted a 3-pack box of Kodak film. I’ll take it!

I went home to watch some YouTube tutorials, brush up on my film loading skills and figure out what all the camera buttons did.

One thing I did NOT read up on were the types of FD lenses out there. The 50mm was easy and similar to attach to the camera–similar to digital cameras and lenses today. The 135mm lens was another story. You didn’t twist the lens onto the body, instead you turned a ring. Thank goodness for the internet.

It took me about three weeks to go through two rolls of film. I think I was far more conservative using film because once you use it, it’s done. Plus, having to manually adjust the settings takes time to snap a photo. There is an “auto” feature, but I decided to adjust the shutter speed to whatever I could get it closest to shoot wide open either at f/1.8 or f/2.8 depending on the lens. Then, manually adjusting with the prism type view finder was interesting and I just had to use my best judgement on whether or not it was in focus. Though that doesn’t always work with a toddler on the move!

I got my photos developed at Costco because they still offered one hour developing services and were relatively inexpensive (about $8 for a set of 5×7 and a CD). I liked that they offered lustre as a finish, too!

So, I went through my photos and my initial reaction was “wow, the camera still works” (it’s older than me!!) and my second reaction was “man, I suck at manually focusing”. Though amongst the piles of blurry photos, I got a few keepers. These photos have not been edited aside from cropping on a few to show the true color, contrast and exposure of film.

Will I keep using this camera? I think so until film becomes hard to find or it becomes too expensive to develop since it is slooowly fading away it seems. Eventually, I think it will just sit nicely on a shelf. I’m just glad I’m able to have something of my Grandpa’s that is a camera of all things!

So, does anyone else shoot film? Or is it a dying art?


Project 365, Day 56: my little pirate is 2

February 25th. A day that will forever etched in my brain because that’s the day Caleb entered the world! It’s hard to believe he’s now 2. It feels like just yesterday, he was a baby wrapped up like a burrito :)

Caleb at 12 hours old and 7 days old

The day was a pretty mellow one. I didn’t sleep that night because I had a Thai iced tea during dinner so that kept me up until 3:30am. Caleb woke up at the same as Steve getting ready around 7am so even though I was dead tired, I jumped out of bed to wish my lil’ guy a happy, happy  birthday!

I made breakfast and then we Skyped with Bubbie and Zeydie for a bit. Then, I set up our spare room for Caleb’s 2nd year photos in a pirate theme (which is the theme for his party this weekend). I set up some seamless paper on my backdrop stand, set up a crate I bought from an antique shop and some netting I had bought as a party decoration. Even though it was bright in the spare room, I set up a wireless flash and bounced it from the ceiling.

Caleb wasn’t really in a picture taking mood so there was some bribing going on (hence, the jelly beans in his mouth in almost every picture). I got a lot of funny outtakes that really show off his personality and at least one picture of his sitting and smiling. So overall, I’d say the shoot went really well!

My winning pick and photo of the day!

Deciding that he didn’t want to sit anymore

My silly pirate :) My favs of the outtakes!

After we got our photos done, I had Caleb relax in my bed with his LeapPad 2 while I got ready. I had spent the morning setting up his LeapPad to be more kid friendly with him by downloading a few more apps. They had a buy 2, get 1 free sale going on so I bought 6 apps. I also found a few codes online for a free ebook called Book of Awesome Stuff (code 5813-1140-1518-1413) and Alphabet Stew game (code 5813-0790-4610-4973). Both codes were still working as of 2/25/13 and not sure when then will expire.

Even though he’s only 2, he did a pretty good job navigating around the menu already though I’m sure most of it is just pure luck since he really like tapping the screen with the stylus. When I finished, I got into bed with him and we read a Dora ebook. Once we finished, he said, “all done,” grabbed the LeapPad and shut it off. I guess it was his cue that he was tired since it was around nap time. I was all for that especially running on less than four hours of sleep. We napped three hours. It was awesome!

Shortly after we woke up, Steve came home early from work. After Steve changed (with help from Caleb who picked out his outfit), we took a few pictures in the pirate set up. Caleb was not a fan of the sticky mustaches…lol.

Daddy & Mommy with the birthday boy!

My mom called to wish Caleb a happy birthday and we got ready to head out for Caleb’s birthday dinner! I saw signs for a new hibachi place in town, but when we got to it, it turned out to be one of those fast food/take out places. We ended up going to Ziki Japanese Steakhouse with Brian and Roxie meeting us there.

As soon as we pulled into the parking lot, I heard a big slosh and Caleb started to cry. I thought he had opened the cap to his milk and dumped it all over the place–and then the smell hit me. When we parked and I got out, Caleb had apparently threw up a TON of the most FOUL smelling thing EVER all over himself and the car seat. I could see cottage cheese-like liquid leaking from the car seat onto my seat.

Caleb was really upset so the first thing I did was unstrap him and get him out of the mess. I took my jacket to do my best at wiping him down and cover the car seat since the smell was horrid. Steve went to Kohl’s around the corner to buy him an outfit since his shirt and pants were soaked.

We went inside to wait with Brian and Roxie and Caleb’s mood shifted to being happy. Steve finally returned and I went to change Caleb in the bathroom and we finally got to sit down for our meal. This is probably Caleb’s third time in this type of restaurant, but he LOVES the fire show. And whenever the chef pretended to throw something towards Caleb, Caleb would immediately stick his hands in his mouth…lol.

The meal was great and we went to get some fro-yo at our favorite spot, 16 Handles. I guess I forgot to mention it was Caleb’s birthday because you get up to $6 worth for free so we ended up taking a container home with us–sah-weet!

Steve gave Caleb his bath while I went to clean the car and car seat…yuuuck. We both went to read Caleb a story, but before Steve could even finish his book, Caleb grabbed it and said, “night night.”. He was ready for bed so we both gave him a kiss, said our goodnights and left his room.

Happy birthday, my sweet boy :)



Project 365, Day 12: photographing my first wedding of 2013!

I’m totally cheating with today’s photo because I took it with my iPhone…haha! Sure, I could have used a photo I took today, but that would require me sifting through 1000+ photos. And also getting up from my butt to get the memory card :)

This is my usual get up. I wear one camera in a holster and one camera in a Black Rapid strap. Before the holster, my shoulders/neck would be KILLING ME! Now, it’s much, much better. My feet still hurt by the end of the day though. I see a massage in my future!

Project 365, Day 2: Paleo-friendly beef stir fry

Caleb woke up at 2am so Steve brought him into bed with us. At 6:30am, he started vomiting. In bed. All over me and the bed. After cleaning up, it happened two more times so we got up for the day while Steve got ready for work.

I made Caleb some toast which ended up being fed to the dogs. I gave him some apples in which he ate and then threw up, twice. But each time he threw up, he was totally fine afterwards. I made him some ginger tea just by boiling some ginger slices and sweetening it with a bit of coconut sugar. After that, no more episodes!

We were both exhausted so after a small lunch, we both laid down for a nap for three glorious hours.

Anyway, I made a paleo-friendly beef stir fry for dinner. It’s not much different from your traditional stir fry recipe with exception of the soy sauce. I swapped it out for fish sauce instead and added some water. End result was tasty, quick and easy!

Paleo-friendly Beef Stir Fry

2T of fish sauce
2T of water
1T of freshly grated ginger
1/2T rice vinegar
1/2T honey
1/2T sriracha or chili sauce
2-3 minced cloves of garlic

2-3T of coconut oil
1lb of steak (I used sirloin) cut into bite size pieces
1 onion sliced
1c of mushrooms sliced
1c of broccoli florets
1c carrots sliced

Mix all the ingredients for the sauce. After cutting the steak, put it in a Ziploc bag with about 1/2 the sauce and let it sit for about 30 minutes. In a wok or large frying pan, saute the steak in coconut oil for a few minutes. Remove and add veggies to the pan with remaining sauce. Cook for a few minutes, add back the steak and serve. If you’re a moderate paleo, you can cook up some brown rice, otherwise enjoy!

Happy New Year! Project 365, Day 1

Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you had a great weekend. I’ve been MIA for a bit during the holidays between cruising to the Bahamas (will recap that later), a few photo shoots, guests in town and sicknesses, time just always escapes me.

2012 was a great year for me and my family. Caleb celebrated his first birthday, Steve graduated with his dual masters, we moved to MD, I got to travel around Iceland, I turned 30 *gulp*, Steve’s parents bought a second home in MD, Steve got promoted to Major, my photo business celebrated its first anniversary, and Caleb went on his second cruise!

With the start of 2013, I decided to tackle Project 365 again. I’ve attempted it three times in the past and only accomplished it for one year, 2009, which was the year Steve was deployed.

For my first picture of the year, it’s a photo of my beloved workhorse camera, my Nikon D700. I’m actually sending it in for service tomorrow since it’s started acting wonky and draining my batteries in a matter of hours. I’m not TOO worried since I just bought myself a Nikon D3s!! I’m really excited for it to arrive in the mail and once my D700 arrives back from service, my D300s will be up for sale (anyone interested?).

As for my New Years Eve, it was rather uneventful. Hina, a close friend from college, and her husband drove down from NY a few days ago and we all went to Ben’s Chili Bowl since it was a place the President had eaten before. Well, later that day, Steve started feeling nauseous and vomiting while Hina and Asif weren’t feeling all that great. We cancelled our dinner plans, went back home where I made a Chinese herbal soup for everyone. Steve and Asif went to bed early and Caleb followed shortly. Hina and I ended up watching a lame horror flick, watching the ball drop on TV and toasting with sparkling apple cider.

Here’s to another happy and healthy year!

Tips on taking Christmas tree bokeh photos

Well, it’s that time of year where everyone starts to take bokeh-filled photos in front of their Christmas tree! What is bokeh you ask? It’s the out of focus points of light created by your lens. Usually, they’re spherical like this:

Taken in front of our Christmas tree
Nikon D700, Nikon 50mm f/1.4G lens, shot at ISO 2500, 1/200 sec, f/1.4, ambient light

Here is another example of bokeh. This was taken in Chinatown in Washington DC. You can kind of make out the shape of Friendship Gate, but all the circles are made up of headlights of cars, street lights, and reflections from all of the above. To get this area out of focus, I switched my lens over to focus manually and purposefully made everything out of focus.:

Nikon D700, Nikon 24-70 f/2.8 lens, shot at 62mm, ISO 1000, 1600 sec, f/2.8, ambient light

You can even create your own shapes of bokeh! Here is a great tutorial. I used construction paper and crudely cut out a small heart with a steak knife (not advisable). My hearts were a little fuzzy around the edges, but you get the idea! EDIT: Apparently, I forgot how to cut hearts out properly. If you fold the paper in half and then cut, it’s a lot easier (see picture on the right). It’d probably work best with a hole punch or you can just buy the kit offered by LensBaby.

Nikon D700, Nikon 50mm f/1.4G lens,left shot at 2500 ISO, 1/25 sec, f/1.4, ambient light, right shot at ISO 640, 1/50 sec, f/1.4,  flash triggered wirelessly & bounced

To take your own bokeh pictures in front of the Christmas tree (or any background with a lot of light sources), here are a few tips to help you out:

  1.  Put some distance between your subject and the tree. For my photos, Danbo (my toy model), was about 3 feet from the tree on the coffee table. To get bokeh, you’ll want the lights to be out of focus so the further away, the better.
  2. Shoot with a lens with a wide aperture. A popular lens for Nikon, Canon, Sony, etc. is the “nifty fifty” 50mm f/1.8 lens which can be found around $100. All my photos were shot with a Nikon 50mm f/1.4G.
  3. Increase the ISO. Since the lights are behind you, you’ll want to bump up your ISO to try and make sure your subject’s face isn’t pitch black. If your photos are too noisy, you can try to place a white poster board or anything bright to try and reflect some light back onto your subject. In my living room, we have windows so I have my subject face in that direction. If you’re really adventurous, you can set up an off-camera flash and bounce it to get some light to your subject’s face.

This is the set up I used for my son because I know he wouldn’t sit very still. I aim it towards the ceiling behind me and it bounces back a soft light. I used a cheap Yongnuo flash ($60–just a note, I wouldn’t use this on a camera since it doesn’t have TTL capabilities, purely manual), Pocket Wizards to trigger the flash, light stand, and bracket.

These were my photos with my son. He only sat still for about three minutes, but he was a good sport.

Nikon D700, Nikon 50mm f/1.4G lens, shot at ISO 500 1/60 sec, f/1.4, flash triggered wirelessly & bounced except for the main photo which was with ambient light and adjusted in PS.

So, have fun and experiment with taking lots of pictures with bokeh!