Their sixth anniversary is coming up in less than two weeks (one of the first weddings I had photographed!) and, this year, they have a whole new level of thankfulness, respect, and love in their household. After years of struggling with infertility and a journey through doctor’s appointments, egg retrieval, and embryo transfer, there was a positive pregnancy test. I was so honored to document the tail-end of Lisa’s pregnancy at their maternity session in July and I got to step into their newborn world a week ago and photograph their beautiful little daughter, Vaida, in a lifestyle session.
At the time of making this list, I have a 9-week old little boy. These are some of the items that I can’t imagine living without during these first 2 months. As he grows, my list of essentials will change, but for a newborn, these are my must-haves. I’d love to hear what you have on your list.
1. Aden & Anais swaddle blankets – Before having a baby, I thought these blankets were overrated. There were so many cheaper options for blankets after all. But the thing I love about these blankets is that they are huge (do you know how long babies become when they are trying to kick out of a blanket?) and thin. They are the perfect weight and size for cuddling up with your little one and are absolutely worth the money. We haven’t actually used them for swaddling (see item 4), but we use them for just about everything else. They last forever and stay intact. I can’t tell you how many spit ups, poops, and pees happened in these blankets and yet they look like new.
2. WubbaNub pacifier – You can get the actual pacifier in a two pack for $3. So it initially seems silly to pay for this pacifier which only has the addition of a little stuffed animal on it. But the thing is, those other pacifiers get lost. They pop out and disappear. It’s hard to lose a pacifier that has a stuffed animal attached to it. The other bonus is that the weight, however slight, of the animal helps hold the pacifier in place when babies are tiny and accidentally spit them out really easily. And do you know how cute it is to see your little baby holding onto a little giraffe (or whatever animal you choose) with his big eyes looking up at you as he munches away on his pacifier? It’s adorable.
3. Medela Breast Pump – I was under some crazy illusion prior to giving birth that nursing would be a piece of cake. What could go wrong with nature, I naively said. Turns out, lots of things can. Thankfully, I had the foresight to get a breast pump since our insurance covered it 100%. Now I pump and give him breast milk in a bottle about half the time and nurse him the other half. And this mama feels such relief over how much easier our system is than trying to exclusively breast feed. To note: breastfeeding supplies are now tax deductible so even if your insurance doesn’t cover a pump, you’ll be able to write it off.
4. Sleep sack – We knew we’d be getting one of these from the hospital, but I would highly recommend getting at least one additional sack so you can swap out for laundry. The sleep sacks are amazing, especially for little babies. You can read more about the moro reflex here, but basically, if a baby is sleeping on his/her back, he/she should be swaddled to get solid, deep sleep. Henry hates having his arms tucked in so I finally figured out that I need to put him in the sleep sack, but leave it unswaddled until he’s almost asleep. Then I tuck his arms in, velcro him shut, and put him to bed. There were still several mornings or post-naps when we find his arms out though, our little Henry Houdini. (I have tried several different methods including leaving his arms out of the swaddle, using this swaddle, and leaving him completely unswaddled. He sleeps the best in the sleep sack despite his resistance. (As he grows, we’ll be transitioning out of this swaddle so I’ll have to figure out what will work best at that time.)
5. Rock ‘n Play – This came highly recommended and we love it!!! We discovered right away that because newborns are so curled up, Henry would just roll to the side in his little swaddle instead of staying on his back. We put him in here for all his sleeping and it kept him in that snuggled state. When we had so many problems with him having gas, we went back to this (after having gone to the crib) just so it would keep his legs slightly bent up and keep him comfortable. I don’t like a lot of huge baby equipment so the other thing that is great about this is that it’s really lightweight and folds in half for easy portability and storage. This is also great for babies struggling with colic/acid reflux problems.
6. Infant Gas Relief drops – Babies are gassy. Some more than others. And ours would cry and cry in pain. These drops became our life saver. Not only did he love the flavor, but it would help relax him and he would soon start farting and pooping and feeling better. The first 6 weeks were the worst for us, and thankfully, babies do grow out of this as their digestive systems mature.
7. Flatfold cloth diapers (for burp clothes) – I didn’t like any of the regular burp cloths we had. They were all too thick and small. But these? These were huge and could catch spit up! We use them in a diamond direction so a corner is over our shoulder/back and the widest part across our chest/shoulder. Keep in mind, these are thin cloths though so if you’re trying soak up milk (babies are messy when eating!) or major spit up, it will soak through. (We use these thick burp cloths for feedings when he drips milk everywhere, then switch for burping.)
8. Bottle drying rack – I love this one by Boon because you can stack things however you want. Between bottles and breast pump parts, this drying rack has seen it all. There is a larger version available as well (the “lawn”) and if you have the counter space, go for the larger size; you’ll use it.
9. BabyConnect app – Reality is that when you have a child, your life suddenly revolves around the clock and you simultaneously lose track of time. So when you need to know when the last time was s/he ate or pooped or slept, you end up having no idea. This app not only keeps track of everything, but also has the capability to keep track of milestones (rolling over, smiling, sleeping all night, sitting up, walking, etc.), health & medicine, photos, and so much more. There are a lot of baby app options available, but the selling point of this one is that there can be more than one user. Both parents can enter and record from their own phones. You can also add other care providers like a nanny or babysitter. It costs $4.99, but both Kevin and I have said many times that it was well worth the money. Also related: at doctor visits, you will be asked how many poops your child has, how often s/he eats in 24 hours, etc. The app has an easy graph that shows you all of this data instantly so you’re never left sitting there racking your brain trying to remember how many diapers you’ve changed.
10. Noise Machine – You can get any noise machine you want; there’s nothing magical about this one. There are several reasons to have white noise for nap/bedtime. Here are mine: 1) babies are used to tons of noise in utero (the whoosh-whooshing of your heart beat for one) and the white noise helps them feel at home, 2) getting a child used to sleeping through noise is immensely helpful when you’re out and about and can’t tip-toe around, 3) we’ve been using white noise for naps and nights since we brought Henry home. I try to make a very clear transition in that I turn it off when I get him up and turn it on when I’m getting him ready for bed. I never use it when it’s not time to sleep. What has happened now is that when I turn it on, it has become a signal to Henry that it’s time to go to sleep. Any of these routines you can use to aid in sleeping are invaluable!, 4) lastly, having Henry so accustomed to sleeping in white noise will [hopefully] make travels much easier. Ideally (we haven’t tried this one out yet, but have heard success from others), he’ll be able to sleep anywhere if he has the sense of “home” with the noise.
11. Changing pad liners – Because your baby will projectile poop onto your beautiful changing pad cover and stain it even though you will try every stain remover imaginable. Not that I know that from experience… (Also, you may want to have some carpet cleaner on hand. Trust me. Somehow, [sh]it happens.)
12. Onesies (these were my favorites) – We had a winter baby, but even though it was negative temperatures outside, our little guy did not like to be hot. Sleepers were great for running errands and being out of the house. But if we were home, he lived in onesies. They are the easiest articles of clothing for changing diapers (especially after the night feedings when we wanted to keep him as uninterrupted and asleep as possible) and, since we lived and breathed by our SleepSacks, he was always swaddled up for sleeping/napping. In fact, if I had him in a sleeper inside the SleepSack, he’d wake up screaming because he’d be too hot. (I wasn’t kidding when I said he didn’t like to be hot, my little warm-blooded boy.) So we onesied it up a lot and put socks on his feet. (My favorite socks were these adorable baby knee socks; they never fell off!)
13. Young Living Lavender Essential Oil – I had long been skeptical about the essential oil whispers. But then I had a baby and was desperate to keep him healthy during the winter. Lavender has been my favorite essential oil for him as it has helped with a lot of things, including keeping him healthy amid our flu-infected house and calming him during his horrible gas bits. I mix 1 drop of lavender EO with 1 tablespoon coconut oil and follow this massage routine before naps/bedtime. It has helped with his gas as well as his sleeping. I also rub this on the bottoms of his feet every night. Here is a list of EO’s that are safe for babies as well as how to use them.
14. Mustela No Rinse Cleanser – I would love to give little Henry a bath every night because he loves it so. But I also don’t want to dry out his sensitive skin and give him dermatological problems so we use this amazing cleanser on the no-bath days for a quick refresh. It smells so good and is really gentle. We also used this the first week he was home before his umbilical cord fell off since we couldn’t give him a bath yet.
15. Lily Jade diaper bag – Admittedly, I don’t have a Lily Jade…yet. (This is the one I’m eyeing; the backpack feature alone is worth the money!) The thing I love about these bags though is that they are huge and super organized. Bonus: they are really cute, high-quality bags that don’t scream look-at-me-I’m-a-mom. Because these bags are a little pricey, I got really clever and purchased the insert (“baby bag”) and put it into an existing purse I already had that I loved. So now I have an awesome bag that I had pre-baby that is really organized on the inside for everything I need for little Henry. If you can swing it, I’d highly recommend purchasing one of these diaper bags. You’ll never believe how much stuff you need to carry around and the backpack-wearing options of some of these are amazing. (Read: hands free! You’ve got enough things to carry with your arms.)
Let me know in the comments what you can’t do without!
After a busy afternoon at Blues & BBQ with my younger brothers, a subsequent trip to Ghurties, and some loud car-singing just to annoy Payton, I took a shower and laid down on the couch.
I was getting settled in for a quiet evening by myself (Kevin was working Blues & BBQ all day) when my phone rang and my older brother’s name popped up on the screen. I grabbed my phone, thinking he was going to give me some baby news.
It was baby news indeed. My brother and his family had all been out for dinner to celebrate Mel’s birthday when her water broke. Matt & Melanie left immediately to go to the hospital, leaving the kids with a friend who had been with them for dinner. While the kids finished eating, I got out of my pajamas (yes, it was 6 PM and I was in my pajamas on a Saturday night) and went to pick them up at the restaurant. They were abuzz with excitement. Not only had their server given them free cupcakes so they were on a sugar high, but, mostly, they were so excited for their little brother to be born.
I got riddled with comments during the car ride home including, “We went out for mama’s birthday and it’s going to be the baby’s birthday now!” (Hogan) and, “When mama said her water broke, I thought she meant she spilled water.” (Kylie)
In the meantime, Jordan was in Kalona breaking into Matt & Mel’s house via a window to get their camera, video camera, Melanie’s hospital bag, and jammies for the kids. He made the rounds, dropping off the stuff at the hospital and the pillows, pajamas, and toothbrushes at our house.
Since we live in a small condo, I knew we’d never be able to last all evening with all of us inside, plus, I’m an advocate for non-TV activities and the only kid-friendly things I have here is the Wii and some old books from my childhood, which apparently are not cool as they had no interest in reading them. So we had a little meeting wherein I said that we weren’t going to play Wii until we went outside and took two laps around the pond.
Twenty minutes later, I was having a panic attack as they were dipping their toes in water so that fish will come and nibble them. I said to myself, “Self, you are not prepared for motherhood. This is an uncontrollable situation.” Keep in mind, these kids are probably the most well-behaved children ever, but they are still children. And I was still in charge of their safety.
All in all, I somehow managed to keep everyone safe (while they rolled their eyes and said, “We’re not babies, Aunt Emily”), we saw Kevin at Blues & BBQ, visited the petting zoo there (where they got to pet a deer, which they have always wanted to pet), and sat on the grass to watch fireworks.
We got the text around 9:10 that their little brother, Ashton Brent, had been born at 9:03. Matt thought that the kids probably wouldn’t be able to sleep until they saw him so, after fireworks, we packed up into the car and went to the hospital for a quick visit before bed.
It took quite a while to get into the hospital as all of the main doors were locked and we had to keep walking around until we found the emergency entrance. I walked through the doors and had an immediate wave of déjà vu from last September when I had last walked into that hospital—also late at night—to say goodbye to my grandma. Having the kids with me helped me keep my emotions in check, but I did take an extra deep breath as we walked by the ER room where my grandma had laid before being transported to the Hospice floor. In strange irony, I thought to myself that life had come full circle. I was last there to say goodbye and to mourn the heartbreak of the end of life and now I was there to say hello and to welcome with joy the beginning of life.
We found Matt, Mel, and Ashton in Labor & Delivery and little Ashton was immediately swarmed with loving little hands and lots of “my turn!” Melanie looked fantastic and I thought to myself, “Self, you will never look as hot as Mel does one hour after delivery. That’s not fair.” Ashton was a little peanut, all wrapped up like a little papoose, and absolutely perfect with thick black hair and long eyelashes. He made squeaky little newborn noises, which are my absolutely favorite!
We only stayed for a bit since it was already 11:30 and clearly past all of our bedtimes. I got the kids all back into my car and home, got jammies on, feet washed, teeth brushed, beds made—including a couch-cushion bed for Kylie—night lights on, and bedtime prayers said.
This morning, with Kevin’s encouragement, they woke me up by jumping on the bed. We lounged in our pajamas and watched Cars 2 and ate cereal. Mid-morning Matt stopped by to pick them up to go back to the hospital; they couldn’t wait to see Ashton again and we kept reminding them that they would be able to take him home with them.
My parents are coming back from their Alaskan cruise today and my mom is absolutely antsy to get her hands on the baby. Meanwhile, this aunt is feeling pretty great. I had so much fun with Hogan, Kenna, and Kylie and felt like we had successfully navigated the very first sleepover in the Crall house. And little Ashton fits perfectly into my arms. I couldn’t be happier. Next up is little Whipple in September. I LOVE all these baby-sized additions to our family.
“My legs keep quivering.” (Hogan, who was so nervous and excited to see his little brother)
“Ashton is sooo cute.” (Kylie on repeat for several hours)
“I don’t know how anyone couldn’t love him!” (Mckenna speaking truth)
“We might think he’s a burgler.” (Mckenna, in reference to me warning them that Kevin would be home really late so if they hear him come into the house, not to worry.)
I met sweet little Sydney when she was just brand new. It’s truly amazes me every time I get the chance to see babies grow; their personalities come so quickly and they go from cuddly little infants to giggling, spirited little ones in what seems like the blink of an eye.
As before, one of my favorites parts of this family is their easy interaction. One of my all-time favorite shots was taken when Sydney was a baby (this one) and their family ease is even more evident as Sydney grows. Case in point:
I just love to watch their interactions! We scheduled the session early in the morning, which was great for two reasons: 1) it’s Sydney’s favorite time of day and 2) the light was so amazing!
Saturday brewed a delicious day of blue overcast skies and warm temperatures. I met up with Garrison, his parents, grandparents, and aunt in Iowa City to take his 18 month photos as well as grab a few family photos. Garrison’s sole interest was not in photography–no surprise with a toddler–but with baseballs.
Garrison is always, without fail, one of the most stylish kid I see. That credit goes to his mother who is an interior decorating genius and it would be my dream to scavenge her closet and house.
There’s no way I could narrow it down to 10. I just couldn’t. This year I had so many great experiences with so many amazing clients. From thousands and thousands of photos, I have picked my favorite 15. And I’ll tell you why each one made the list. Interestingly enough, or maybe not, most of these photos are my favorites from the year because of the emotion expressed or my emotional connection to the people in the photo. Some of these photos are not technically my best work, but in the end of the day, they portray an emotion that speaks to me in volumes.
In no particular order.
Andrea & Drew
This photo was an instant favorite because of the way the light wraps around Andrea and Drew. This shot is pretty much SOOC (straight out of camera) and I love my composition and lighting with this photo. Plus, these two just had me laughing the entire shoot so I am connected to this photo for sentimental reasons as well. I cannot wait for their wedding this next year!
Lisa & Andrew
Gosh, this lady can work it! Lisa owned that little seductive smile and those beautiful shoulders. She trusted me without question and, as a result, I was able to get this and so many others that I wanted to add to this “favorites” collection. I also love how the light skims over her and then hazes in the bottom part of the photo. And her eyes. Oh, her eyes…
This is my best friend, Sara, and we made a day of this fun styled shoot. I went over to her house and did her hair and makeup, then we, along with her sister, went out around town to take some photos. I wanted to make her feel comfortable and beautiful and, in the end of the day, we were laughing more than anything; that’s how much fun we were having. Sara is gorgeous and I could’ve put any one of her photos in this collection. I love this photo particularly because in my head I can see Hanna, Sara’s sister, to the right helping make the “breeze”.
Tara & Jake
Oh my gosh, this photo captures the essence of happiness to me. Tara and Jake’s smiles makes me smile! This was shortly after the ceremony, on the way to the reception, and I spotted this glass wall and asked them to stop in front of it. I’m so glad they did!!
Dana & Blake
Dana and Blake’s wedding was on a blisteringly hot day, but you’d never guess it by seeing these two. Even during their engagement shoot, it was very evident that Blake adores Dana and I love how this photo captures that. I love everything about it; the way her hair falls over her left eye, his little smile against her forehead, her blue eyes…
Midori & Aaron
It was spot-light sunny outside for Midori and Aaron’s engagement session, but I had to get a photo of them sitting on the dock where he proposed. By having them lean together, I was able to expose for their faces and get just what I wanted…and more! Their smiles are so natural and, since I was using a long-zoom and shot from quite a distance, I couldn’t hear anything they were saying. So this photo will always make me curious what was said between them to get this beautiful reaction from both of them.
Emily & Brian
Right before the doors were opened for Emily and her dad to walk down the aisle, I snuck this shot through the etched glass in the door. It was happen chance timing that Emily looked at me right when I clicked the shutter and I just love everything about her expression; the excitement, the happiness, the nervousness, the giddiness. The emotion in this photo is enough to solidify its placement among my favorites of the year.
Karissa & Brandon
Karissa and Brandon were so much fun to hang out with! Karissa gave me the prettiest smiles and Brandon had no problem snuggling up to her. Though both of these are favorites, I love, love, love how she’s looking up at him in the photo on the right and easily they fall into each other.
Amber & Travis
Her eyelashes, her smile, his hand on her neck, the gorgeous bouquet in the background; there’s nothing in this photo that I don’t like! (Yes, that was a double negative; sorry!) I adore this photo. Enough said.
Amber got into 2 of favorites. The back of her dress was exquisite and I love the composition of this photo, with the focus being her dress and then a surprise of just a little of her face visible. When I look at this photo, I think of elegance.
The Young Family
I had this idea in my head, but not even my idea could compare with how tender this photo came out. I love the light spilling over them, I love how Jackie is holding Baby S’s little fingers, I LOVE every emotion in this picture. When I was thinking of favorites from this year, this was a no brainer.
Keri & Drew
Their expressions here are magical. I loved their wedding from start to finish and this capture was the cake topper for me. Seeing this image of them so magically in the moment and in love makes me smile every time I look at it.
She was born to be a model. Honestly. She’s naturally so sweet and genuine and beautiful. The green in the evergreen trees behind her pulled the perfect skin tones and her eyes are captivating. I could photograph this girl every single day. As easily as she does this serious face, she equally breaks into a gorgeous smile.
The Hoeper Family
The light was edible. So I just asked them to hold hands and walk to our next spot, a few trees ahead. I don’t even know that they knew I was taking a picture, but I love their body language in this picture. I can see their personalities in the way they are walking; the leader, the follower, the dreamer…it’s all there! I want to run up and catch them and give them all a huge hug. Which I’m pretty sure I did right after I took this.
Abi & Harrison
Abi has perfect styling and the pop of her red coat was all that these photos needed. It makes me love the muted, natural tones in the background. These two brought so many ideas of their own and let me bring them to life. I can’t wait for their wedding because I know it’ll be even more fun (is that possible?) than their engagement session!
I can’t wait to get started with 2012! It’s going to be a great year; I know it already.