Monday, January 31, 2011

Missing. In. Action.

Why hello, little blog. It certainly has been a while, hasn't it? Between blowout diapers, picking chunks of spit up out of my hair, and chasing around a toddler, I've had little time for anything but showering and trying to fit in time to run a brush through my hair. Life is hectic and crazy, but I love it!
I've been practicing with my speedlite and 28-75mm lens recently, and am pleased with the way things have been turning out. What a difference an external flash makes in the dead of winter in dreary, gray Pennsylvania!
In other photography-related news, I've found another forum ( that has been keeping me occupied while nursing Sarah and watching countless episodes of The Mickey Mouse Clubhouse with Hannah. I've learned so much from the Internet that I doubt how much I really needed the photography books I have. Between the two, I feel that I retain more information from the message boards I frequent. This may be due in part that the minute I put a book in my hand, Hannah begins calling out "MAMA!" in her sing-song, high-pitched, 150 decibel voice. She is so stinkin' cute! How could one not respond by putting down the book and addressing her needs that very second?!
ISBJN is my name on a photography board...don't mind it. I didn't feel like adding a different watermark to post on the blog.

Hannah is napping, as is Sarah. The house is quiet and I'm peacefully sitting in my spot on our couch checking out the sunshine glimmering off of the crisp, white snow in our backyard. Our furnace broke this morning, and upon realization of this problem, we hurriedly turned on our fireplace. Although it was cool in our home for a few hours (64 degrees to be exact!), the soft glow of the fireplace made for a very homey feel. It's moments like these that make me not mind the winter months so much. Tomorrow they are calling for ice...that's another story altogether. It may mean a few more hours at home for Daddy, and for that we can all be grateful!
Our furnace is fixed (only $137 later, thank God!) and we are now cozy and warm once again in our house.

This is possibly the most random post to date. Just sayin'.

That's all for now, as I believe I may have just heard Hannah whispering upstairs. I'm kind of hoping for another half hour of nap time for her. We shall see!

Stay bundled and warm, close by the fire and family, and enjoy these wintry days.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Missing. In. Action.

I have already missed several days of my "daily" photo blog. :( I have taken pictures daily, but I can not seem to find the time to upload, resize, and post them to my blog. Having a toddler is one thing, but as I'm finding out, having a toddler and a newborn is a new challenge.
I'm not at home right now, which is why I have a chance to post. We're at my parent's house watching the Steelers play the Jets! GO STEELERS!
Anyway, I'm hoping to have a few minutes this evening to upload a few the pictures I've taken over the last week. There are quite a few that I love. Shooting in manual is much more enjoyable for me. I feel so much more creative, and it has inspired me to bring out my camera multiple times throughout the day instead of allowing it to sit on the end table or in the camera bag.
Gotta get back to the game! Hope to post later!!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

No pictures today. :(

So, yesterday I completely used up every last bit of memory on my card. We have an external hard drive, but it's full.
Sooo, Micah went to Best Buy, picked up a 1TB external hard drive to back up all of my pictures, an additional memory card for my camera, and some candy from the candy store. ;)
Little did we know that backing up our entire computer would take as long as it did. Unfortunately, by the time I could reformat my current card, I was just too unmotivated to shoot anything worth publishing on the blog. I did take a picture of our window blinds and a lamp, but it was a half-hearted attempt at a picture, and you can tell.

Baby Sarah hasn't slept well for the past two nights, and I'm feeling the consequences of the lack of sleep. In the last two days, I've gotten a total of six hours of interrupted sleep. I don't know what happened, because we were on a roll with good nights. She's just too curious and needs to make sure she isn't missing anything...even if it is between the hours of 2 and 6am. *Le sigh*
Tomorrow, I will be back in the swing of things (hopefully) and will have something worth posting (hopefully).

Short and Sweet.

I have next to no time to blog, let alone upload pictures since I am now the proud mother of a 21 month old and a 3 week old.
This may be a short post, but I do have another picture taken in full manual mode. Once again, not perfect by any means, but this photo challenge is to stretch me and allow me to see the improvement throughout the year.
(This was taken yesterday, January 18th)

Sarah, three weeks old today!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Gone Manual...

...and lovin' it!

OBVIOUSLY, I have a long way to go. I'm just happy that I took a picture in full manual and it wasn't completely black or blurry, or just plain horrid. It's not the best, but it's a start!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Lazy Sunday...

...that's just the way we like them!
Sarah slept well again last night, making it from a little after 11:00 until 5:00 this morning. Although I got several hours of uninterrupted sleep, I still felt utterly exhausted when she awoke to eat.
In attempts to wake myself up, I showered, got dressed, did my hair and makeup, and made my way to our family room, Sarah in tow. It didn't help. By this time, it was almost 7:30 and I had been up for 2 1/2 hours. I surfed the web, fed Sarah again, then resorted to the baby swing.
She fell asleep, and slept for an hour. Ugh. I was still exhausted, and irritated that she and I were the only ones up in the house. Hannah and Micah were still tucked warmly in their beds, and there I sat, sleepy with a wide-awake newborn.
Fortunately, after one more feeding, she gave in to her heavy eyelids and fell asleep on my chest. I hate to admit it, but when my eyes focused in on the clock a few hours later, it read 11:00. Oh, how I hate to sleep away my day. At the same time, I know my body is still healing (after all, she's not quite 3 weeks old!) and I won't feel this exhausted forever.
Since I got such a late start on my day, nothing exciting has been accomplished. Bathrooms were cleaned, the kitchen was scrubbed, Sarah was bathed (her first real bath since she is now umbilical cord free!) after a spit-up mishap, and Hannah was put down for a nap...which she is still taking. Micah and Sarah are napping as well, and here I sit. Although I am tired, I refuse to waste any more of my day sleeping.
I've messed around with my camera today, as that was my New Year's Resolution. I completed Week 2's lesson today and am quite satisfied with myself...tee hee.
I feel like I've learned so much over the last few weeks, just by reading. Reading can only take you so far, though. For the first time, I can honestly say I'm enjoying the practice as well!
So, with no further adieu, my pictures for today - Day 2 of my photo challenge!

shutter speed 1/80 aperture f/5.6 iso 1600

Now, I froze the water droplets:

shutter speed 1/1000 aperture f/1.8 iso 1600

Pretty neat! I was excited about this!

And now a picture of two of my three loves...the third love was tucked warmly in her big girl bed snoozing.

Good night! ;)

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Photo Challenge: Day 1

Okay, little did I know that I had to revamp the html code of my blog to support uploading bigger pictures from Photobucket. This may seem like an easy task for anyone who has done it before, or probably just anyone in general, but I'd be lying if I told you it took me any less than an hour to reset everything...and we'll still have to wait and see if it works.
So, supposedly I'll only have to change those settings once...whew! I've opened my Photobucket account, uploaded my picture from today, and am ready to upload it to my blog.
Here goes nothin'!
Baby Sarah was ecstatic that the Steelers won!

Okay, so there are several things wrong with this photo that *I* see. Any other opinions would be greatly appreciated. First off, this photo is HUGE. I don't mind it because my baby is gorgeous. I'm adding "resizing" to my to-do list. I know there is a way to do it, I just have to read up on it.
Secondly, the coloring is off. I'm pretty sure I had my WB (white balance) set to Tungsten lighting, my ISO was bumped up to 1600, but other than that, I have no clue what I did. I'm adding that to my to-do list as well.
It's not tack sharp...I only know what this means because I just started reading my Scott Kelby book that my bro got me for Christmas. Thanks, Mark! I need to work on that as well.
Let's hope I/we see drastic improvements in the next several weeks!

Okay, so I'm still trying to figure out how to downsize my monster pictures, but in the meantime, I played with some editing on my computer, and got this as a result:

Shutter Speed 1/50 Aperture f/2.0 ISO 800 Canon EF 50mm f/1.8
A little better, don't you think?
OH! And I figured out my settings! Yay!

I'm back...again. Someone on the photography board on The Bump was kind enough to share a website with me explaining very simply how to change photo size. I'm going to try this again:

I think it worked! Okay, so now onto bigger and better things!
Next post will involve the second week's lesson from Two Peas. I'm so pleased with how the pictures turned out!

I need to challenge myself...

So, about a year ago, I convinced myself and my dear, sweet husband who, despite my many crazy ideas of new things I have to try to learn, that I needed a DSLR camera. For those of you who don't know what a DSLR is, let me take my very LIMITED amount of camera knowledge and lingo and tell you! It'll make me feel smart, if nothing else, and hey, I could really use a boost in my ego! DSLR= digital single lens reflex. Ta-da!! Now, if you ask me to explain to you what that all means, I'd have to excuse myself and google it to give you a somewhat educated answer.
So anywho, back to my rant. Are you bored yet? Interested? Intrigued? Can you tell that Sarah slept a whopping seven hours straight last night without waking up to eat and that I have way too much energy during the girls' naptime? Fun.
So I bought this camera. This camera that I thought was going to take way better pictures than my "crappy 'ole point and shoot" ever could. Boy was I wrong! After picking the thing out at Best Buy...very, very, VERY uneducated on anything and everything DSLR, I realized quite quickly that I had no clue what in the world I was doing. What a shame. And here I thought I was going to buy this fancy, expensive camera and just Voila! Instantly beautiful portraits and candids of my dear family. WRONG again.
I spent the first few weeks using every spare second of free-time I got (which wasn't much, given Hannah was all of 8 months old) to learn the basics of this new object of beauty. I have to say, my first few shots weren't all that bad. I don't have the eye I should, I'm sure, and someone more knowledgeable and experienced could probably find a whole heck of a lot wrong with my early shots, but I still like them!

Not bad, eh? I didn't think so, either. This picture is still my all-time favorite shot that I've gotten *with the kit lens* on my DSLR. That's actually a real shame, since this picture was taken on the 24th of January...last year. You'd think in the year that I've owned the thing that I may have improved just a tad...I think you are sadly mistaken...unfortunately.
I suppose it's my fault. Actually, I know it is. I'm more into reading photography blogs and books and drooling (no, seriously) over their gorgeous photos and wishing I could take the my camera sits either in it's bag, or on an end table in the living room...turned off and un-touched. Is it any wonder that I haven't improved? It's very possible that I may have even gotten worse over the last year, as all of the reading I've been doing makes me think I know what I'm doing and what I'm talking about. I don't.
So anyway, enough of the rant.

Here's the plan. I'm too late to start a 365 day photo blog...since there are, you know, 351 days left in 2011. SO, I'm going to challenge myself (muscles flexed...ahem...the little that I have left after 9 months of pregnancy, lots of ice cream and couch-sitting, and no exercise) to a 351 day photography challenge. That's right, folks. From this day forward, I do solemnly swear to take at least one photo a day, which I will then upload into my computer and onto this blog. Any fellow picture-takers out there (I wouldn't dare call myself a "photog") feel free to critique, but be kind, as my post-partum hormones are still raging. Even if you aren't into this whole picture evaluating, feel free to leave a comment for me. If you like a picture, let me know. If you hate it, keep it to yourself...just kidding.
Seriously, I want to improve my "skill". I want to capture my children the way I see others capture their children...aka Kelle Hampton ( for example. She rocks. I want to rock out my DSLR, too. For the sake of memories!
So here it goes! And you know what kind of stinks? I haven't taken a picture yet today. I could just say that I am changing my challenge to a 350 day challenge, but that sort of defeats the purpose, right? No more procrastination!
In addition to this challenge, I will also be completing a 12-week tutorial to better photography. Google Two Peas if you are interested.
So here it goes, world...or more like the four followers I have on here! I'm ready to conquer the challenge! And I'll start today...but I'll have to wait until after naptime, as my two favorite subjects are catching a few winks. I WILL post at least one picture later!

And so it begins!

Yikes...what have I gotten myself into?!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Oh so sweet.

There is a baby snuggled close and sleeping on my chest. There is a content, adorable toddler sitting to my right, playing with her ABC puppy. I have a husband who, in the midst of a snowstorm, is at the store picking up ingredients for this week's dinner. Life is sweet.
We spent the day today nestled close together by the fire, playing with puzzles, dolls, and the like. The weather is cold and dreary, the snow continues to fall, and we are inside enjoying every minute of it.
Nothing got done today. No pictures were hung on the walls. The few remaining boxes that are piled haphazardly in the spare bedroom were not unpacked. My bed was not made. Clothes were not washed...but they were folded. Although nothing on our list was accomplished, I feel pretty good about today. We spent it as a family and that in itself is rewarding enough!

There is a pot of creamy crab soup bubbling away in the crock pot, warming for dinner. Comfort food, which is perfect on this cold, January evening...

Hannah is growing up so quickly! Since Micah was off from work today, we decided last night was as good a night as ever to try out her big girl bed. Micah cleared out the room of anything she could possibly get into that could cause bodily harm. He moved the changing table into Sarah's room, and brought the toddler bed into Hannah's room.
He kept the door closed until he was finished setting everything up, then opened the door and yelled "Suprise!" Hannah now yells suprise at random times during the day. Adorable!
Suprisingly, Hannah went down for the night with little more than a few shed tears. I layed in bed with her for a few minutes, stroking her hair and talking quietly to her about how big she was. Blankets were tucked and straightened, the little soccer ball she insisted join her in bed was placed in a designated spot, and "kitty" was tightly hugged. The lights were turned off, and I shut the door...only to hear wimpers and cries.

I took advantage of my *almost* flat abdomen and layed down on the floor to peak under the crack at the bottom of the door. Not an easy feat when you are newly nursing a baby. It wasn't the most comfortable of tasks, but I'm a Mom, and duty called.
I stayed sprawled out on the floor for a good ten minutes while Micah rocked and bounced a fussy Sarah downstairs. I saw little feet venture out of her big girl bed...just once. Then I saw those feet disappear as she climbed back in. That was it. The rest is history. She slept from a few minutes to 10 (I know...late bedtime. We've been lenient with this since Sarah's arrival) until almost 9:00 this morning. I'm so proud of her!
Naptime wasn't quite as smooth a transition, but we knew it wouldn't be. I stuck with the same routine as bedtime the night before, but she wasn't having it. She wanted to be awake. She knew Daddy was home and that he had the baby and she wanted to be with them. I shut the door, took my post flat on my belly, and watched as little feet ran to her toy basket, then back into bed, then out again. She ended her protest by banging on the diaper champ (note to self: must remove before bedtime tonight!) then climbing back into bed. She took a great nap. Two and a half hours...and woke up very happy and ready to finish off her day with us.
So here we sit. Cuddled up on the couch awaiting Daddy's arrival home from the store. I haven't moved for a good three hours, as Sarah and I napped this afternoon as well.
It is in these cold, wintry days that I'm sure I will find my fondest memories. The early days with Sarah spent just "us girls". Daddy's days off and the adventures he brings. I'm cherishing everything. I know I'm going to blink and they will both be grown up.
I don't want to forget anything about this most precious time in our lives. As I peer down at tiny eyelashes on soft, closed eyelids, my heart is full. As I look over at my curly-haired girl perched on the couch, I feel blessed. And I am. Life is oh so sweet and I thank God for His many blessings.

It doesn't get much better than this.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Some semblance of normalcy.

That's right. We're getting back into the "swing of things" here. We're settling in and welcoming our new family dynamic. Life's rolling along, and we're just following it's lead.
The girls are doing wonderfully. Hannah is adjusting to her big sister status with little more than an occasional meltdown. I'm so proud of her. She hasn't regressed in any way, and for that I am grateful!
Sarah is also doing well. She's not as good a sleeper as Hannah was at this age, but she's getting there! I think she's going through a growth spurt, because the last few nights, she's been up almost every two hours to eat. I don't mind it. Once I rub the sleep from my eyes and see her little face, I'm instantly overjoyed and cherish the late-night bonding we have. Just the two of us.
In other, less exciting news, I've lost close to 20 pounds! Not too shabby for 12 days post-partum! I still have quite a ways to go (at least another 20 pounds and a LOT of toning and re-shaping) but I'm on my way. I don't let it get to me. I definetly won't be spending my precious time off with my girls worrying about weight loss. ;)
I did take a ton of pictures over the last several days, but I've had neither the time nor the motivation to get them from the camera to the computer. Eventually I'll be in the mood and upload them to my blog. Perhaps today, if both girls nap simultaneously, and if I don't feel the urge to do the same, I'll upload.
There is so much I want to get done. I have photography books to be read, pictures to take, a blanket to sew for Sarah, a blanket to finish crocheting, decorating the new house, and not to mention cleaning, laundry, cooking...etc. The list goes on, as it always does.
We got a lot done yesterday, as we were expecting company. Pictures were hung in their designated spots, carpets were vaccuumed, floors were swept, furniture was dusted, and bathrooms were cleaned. We got several more boxes unpacked, and the ones we didn't get to were placed away in our fourth bedroom where they will be out of sight.
And that's about all I have time for right now. Hannah is reading her ABC book and "Mama-ing" me to high heaven. She wants to know what every picture is. I guess I'll tend to my motherly duties and help her out..;)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Sarah Grace- A Birth Story...

I've been in hiatus the last few days, and I've had good reason. I've wanted to write this post from day one, but lack of sleep, sheer excitement and joy, and the feeling of not wanting to miss a second of my new status of 'Mommy of 2' has kept me away from blogging.
Things are settling down here, and all of us are getting used to our new routine. Sarah is sleeping soundly in her bouncer, and Hannah is eating breakfast and watching Mickey. Ahhh, a few minutes to tell her story! Here it goes!

December 27th started out as all of the others had that month. Slight discomfort, inconsistent contractions, and me feeling huge, uncomfortable, and irritable. I woke up that morning thinking the same thing I'd been thinking for the last week, Well, I'm still pregnant. I got out of bed around six, got showered and dressed for the day, and headed downstairs to soak up a few minutes of solitude and quiet before I started my day.
I was greeted with kicks and squirms and shifts in my belly. She was awake, too. I'm not sure exactly what I was thinking in those few moments of quiet, but I'm sure I smiled, patted my round abdomen, and took mental note of the feeling of a baby moving inside. I knew it wouldn't be long before she'd be here.
All day long I had contractions. Some timeable, some not. I did laundry, tidied up the house, prepared lunch for Hannah...the usual. Nothing significant in the way of labor, though.
Around suppertime, I started to feel a little queasy. The contractions were increasingly uncomfortable, but still not timeable. We put Hannah to bed, and Micah and I settled in on the couch to try to relax.
Around 11:00, I called the doctor. I was pretty uncomfortable, and my contractions, although no totally consistent, were timeable.
We headed into L&D and they hooked me up to a monitor. My nurse that evening was less than pleasant and I could tell she was beyond irritated that I was there. My contractions continued once I was hooked up to the monitor, but they were so inconsistent that I heard what I knew was coming and what I dreaded to hear...This isn't real labor. We're sending you home.
Even though my contractions were more uncomfortable when I left than when I came in, I was only dilated to 1cm. I begrudgingly dressed and we headed to the car, me in a wheelchair with a few doses of sleeping pills (which I tried to refuse, but nurse cranky insisted I take).
We got home around 1:30, and I'm pretty sure I slept very lightly until around 4:00am. It was at that time that I started timing my contractions. Around 5:30, I had to get on all fours in bed to breathe my way through them. I'd take position, breathe for the 45 seconds to 1 minute, then roll back onto my back and catch a few winks before the next one hit between 4 and 8 minutes later.
By 6:30, I was absolutely miserable. At this point, I was moaning in pain with each contraction, and resorting to all fours was no longer alleviating the pain. I decided around 7:00am to call the doctor. I had held off because I did NOT want to head to the hospital and then be sent home again.
I called the on-call line and was told that the on-call doctor would return my phone call shortly. I waited what seemed like an eternity, struggling through each contraction.
Finally, at around 7:30, a doctor who is not my own, returned my call and told me to head in.
I got dressed, taking multiple breaks to grab onto the bed or nightstand and moan through the contractions. They were so painful at this point that I couldn't stand them. I could barely walk down the steps to get to the car.
We jumped in the Explorer, and Micah turns to me and asks, "Do you think we have time to stop for coffee?" Ummm, really? I told him NO and we headed for the Medical Center.
Of course, when we hit town, we hit traffic. Lots of it. It was almost 8:00 at this point, so motorists scurrying (or not) to work were everywhere. We hit every redlight, got behind "pokey Joe", drove under the speedlimit for a few miles...all the while I'm climbing up the door of the Explorer in pain.
I've never had pain like that in my life.
We got to the hospital, and upon instruction from the on-call OB/GYN, we went to admissions. I walked from the car into the hospital in hopes that, if this wasn't real labor, that it would help me along.
I had a few contractions in the parking lot that required Micah to hold me up under my arms and rock me through them.
Once in admissions, I was instructed to have a seat at the window to get checked in. I'm thinking, are you kidding me? I'm clearly dying and you want me to check in?!
Wouldn't you know, a contraction hit right before I took my seat. There, in front of a waiting room full of people (how embarassing!), office staff, and the young kid who was supposed to check me in, I moaned and groaned, and grabbed for the wall and Micah's hand, and rocked...for the one minute the contraction lasted.
The young man turned as white as a sheet, grabbed a bariatric wheelchair, told me to sit, then looked at Micah, almost in a panic and asked if he'd like to take me to L&D. Micah obliged.
The kid banged me off the wall trying to get me out the door, but we were soon off with Micah racing down the hall to Tower C elevators, me in the wheelchair moaning and groaning and squirming. I'm sure we got some looks, but we made it.
I got hooked up to the monitors, they checked me...5 CMS!! Thank you, Jesus! I told them I wanted the epidural, so plans were made for one. In the meantime, the nurse gave me Stadol via IV. Instantly, the room started spinning, I got warm, and I started having strange thoughts...that stuff is powerful, but doesn't do much in the way of pain management, unfortunately.
Within ten minutes, I felt the most tremendous pressure. I had had a few VERY intense contractions that apparently had done their share in helping me dilate. I yelled to the nurse that I was pushing. She checked me...9 1/2 CMS! I was pushing, but it was my body. I really had no control over what I was doing. It was too late for an epidural and I panicked.
My doctor ran in at the last minute, throwing on his gown and taking his spot to delivery the baby. I felt everything. I felt her crown, her shoulders, and then the relief of it all being over. The minute she delivered, the pain was gone and I felt peace. She was here.

Sarah Grace December 28, 2010 8:59am 7lbs 3oz 20 inches

The first time I held my precious little girl

She arrived in perfect time. On her due date. She's destined for great things, my girl. She's here for a purpose. She has a high calling on her life, and it's already evident.

My heart is so full!

And my Hannah? Her heart is full, too!

And my husband? He's the best Daddy. A picture of our Heavenly Father's love for us...

We are so blessed.

My home feels full. It feels more and more everyday like a dream. It's a good dream, and I get to live it. I have a wonderful, loving husband. A beautiful home. Two beautiful, healthy, amazing daughters whom I love with my entire being.
And life is good. It's real good. And we're living it up. All of us. All four of us.

...a baby is stirring in her bouncer...