I’m giving away a phone that can survive a little swim. (sponsored)

(GIVEAWAY OVER! Winner has been contacted and will be announced soon!)

Hey there.

Ever dropped your phone? In water? Yeah, me neither (LIES.)

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missing burritos.

I can only assume that when you lose someone close to you, it’s pretty common to be blindsided by sadness on occasion.

I really miss my Aunt Cheryl.

There have been so many times that I have picked up my phone to call her only to realize she’s in a place without phone service.

I’m happy she’s there, I really am. But I miss her so much.

While I was in Utah I considered taking Vivi to her headstone but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. All that headstone marks is where her body is. The part I loved most, her spirit, is up in heaven and very much alive in my little baby who is named after her. Before she passed, I always stopped at a 24 hour Mexican place in downtown Salt Lake on my way to her house. I always ordered Cheryl a burrito with beans and rice, I always got the tacos. I would drive it up to her, smother her burrito in hot sauce, cut it into little pieces, she’d pop open a caffeine free diet Dr. Pepper, and we’d talk for hours about everything.

I stopped at our Mexican place one afternoon two weeks ago. It was my first time ordering just the tacos. It was also my first time turning left out of the drive-thru, not right.

Not right.

None of it felt right and the tacos tasted funny.

I know I’ll see her again, but sometimes I want to be selfish and have her back here with me so my tacos taste better and I don’t have to cry when I look at my phone.

Aunt Cheryl and me, about six years old.

the fifteenth seven days

sunday.

harley and vivi

vivi and tiny gramma

monday.

tayden yawns!

Vivi attempting to poke tayden.

tuesday.

vivi overlooking her airport kingdom

wednesday didn’t happen, here’s why.

thursday.

vivi bedhead

thighs of POWER

friday.

toes in the grass

saturday.

on the loose in the buff

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the fourteenth seven days

the thirteenth seven days

the twelfth seven days

the eleventh seven days

(let’s just accept that the eight, ninth, and tenth may never happen)

the seventh seven days

the sixth seven days

the fifth seven says

the fourth seven days

the third seven days.

the second seven days.

the first seven days.

three times the babbling.

thighs of POWER

On Big  Babble:

More about my side of the family and why they’re so great.

Addie doesn’t like candy. It’s strange (and somewhat wonderful.)

On Baby Babble:

More photos from Tayden’s birth and first day.

Vivi’s 14th week on Babble.

I found a 30 year old can of formula at my dad’s house, just how much has it changed?

My flight back to Utah with Vivi was…erm…difficult.

On Daddy Babble:

Supporting a wife with milk duds.

One of many times Addie lawyered Cody.

Cody loves my pussycats.

(Hey, why do you Babble so much? Answered here.)

 

what I’ve learned (so far) from taking photos (almost) every single day this year.

Hey there, nice camera. What is that? A 60? A 600? What size card have you got in there? Have you figured out backlighting yet? Oh, you’re still shooting on the green square? That’s cool, I call the green square the Cody setting. He knows if he wants to use my camera and I’m not around to dial it around to that little hollow green box and snap away. But he also knows about the rule of thirds and not to cut people off at the ankles. I’m pretty impressed with what he’s learned so far.

He took this photo, he’s very proud of the non-ankle cutting and the thirds.

My ladies and me.

(50mm f/2.8 1/60 ISO 200)

He even held the camera straight, which is something I cannot do to save my life half the time.

This photo is kind of the perfect example of what I want to write about today, we’ll call it “What I’ve Learned From Taking Photos Every Single Day This Year” (Well, almost every single day, I can think of two that I missed entirely, today included. No biggie.) I have shot with my 50mm f/1.4 for probably 90% of the time this year. Every single photo from Paul’s birth, our trip to Florida as well as every photo I took in Utah last week (including Tayden’s birth) was taken with my 50mm. If you don’t have one, you should get one. A 50mm f/1.8 will run you about $100, if you can swing it, the f/1.4 has a much faster focus and a far more solid feel to it. If you can, take your camera into a camera shop, try them both out and give them a feel. If you like shooting big epic landscape photos I’ll refer you to my mom, that’s kind of her thing.

vivi and tiny gramma

(50mm f/2.8 1/500 ISO 250)

So you have your 50mm and if you’re anything like me you’re firmly rooted in the belief that the lowest f/stop possible is a must. Sometimes it is. But most of the time it is not. One of the biggest problems I was having in January were these adorable photos of Vivi where nothing was sharp. They looked good enough on screen but if you really zoomed in they were blurry. I was shooting with the lowest possible f/stop and what that meant was I had a VERY narrow allowance of what was actually in focus before everything else dropped off into bokeh (out of focus.) If she moved the slightest bit I’d focus on her eyebrow, making her eyes out of focus. Or if I focused on one eye but she was at an angle the other eye was out of focus. It was infuriating. If you’re far back from your subject low f/stop isn’t such a problem, but up close and personal it matters. Rather than shooting at f/1.4 I bump it up to my new favorite, f/2.5 and turn up my ISO (usually around 400) to compensate for the loss of light with the low f/stop. Today’s cameras are so great that you can get up into pretty high ISO before noise ever becomes an issue.

miss vivi and her chiclets.

(50mm f/2.5 1/800 ISO 320)

Suddenly all of Vivi’s eyeballs were in focus while the background stayed lovely and blurred (go ahead, click on ‘view all sizes’ and view it original. I DARE YOU.)

If you’re in the super bright sunlight and you shoot with Canon, keep your ISO at 100, Nikon 200. Adjust everything else accordingly. Nothing will give you better brighter colors right out of the camera as having your ISO as low as it can go for the conditions that you’re in.  Perhaps there’s a better way to take pictures of a dog attacking a tennis ball, but my parents seemed pretty happy with the way I did it.

Bailey

(50mm f/2.2 1/1000 ISO 800)

I bought myself a new camera in January. I didn’t make a very big deal out of it because I’m still convinced it’s the person running the camera that has more to do with how photos come out than the equipment used. I shot with a Canon 40D for years and after going to a Zack Arias workshop I decided to keep on going with my 40D until I outgrew it, Zack’s greatest bit of advice. I pushed that camera to its very limits, I know how everything works on it and I know its limits. The thing I outgrew the most was the ISO, the 40D can only make it to 1600 ISO, my new 7D can be pushed to 6400, meaning I can practically take pictures in pitch dark (not really, but it kind of feels like it.)

sleepy addie

(50mm f/1.6 1/60 ISO 4000 (I know! SHUT UP FOUR THOUSAND!))

If you want to get better at taking pictures, learn how to use what you have, don’t just keep wishing, hoping and going into debt for the next latest and greatest camera thinking that will make you better, it won’t. It will just make you a mediocre fauxtographer with overpriced equipment. Moving from my 40D to my 7D was like moving from a 3 bedroom townhouse to a 5 bedroom home. I have plenty of room to grow, and at times it seems like a little too much.

harley

(50mm f/4.0 1/320 ISO 200)

Learn to love your histogram. Speak its language. If your camera has one, use it. I use mine 80% of the time to tell me how I’m doing rather than relying on the preview. I used to use highlight alerts but that’s not the most reliable way to tell how good your exposure is. Here are a couple of articles that explain a histogram better than I can (seriously, I’ve tried. I’m awful at it unless you’re sitting right next to me.) this one does a pretty good overview of your in camera histogram while this one covers your post processing histogram.

Not every photo is going to be perfect every time, all that really matters in the end is that you’re there to take it and that you enjoy doing it.

POKE!

(50mm f/2.8 1/800 ISO 100)

********************

Overwhelmed? Yeah. Me too. The good news? I just typed in ‘histogram’ over at Clickin’ Moms and got 7 pages of results, which sounds overwhelming, but each question can be narrowed down to post processing software used, camera used, level of skill and just who asked or answered what. I know a few of you have signed up (I get emails when you do! It’s so exciting to see who’s drinking the learning about my camera cocktail!) but if you haven’t…

www.ClickinMoms.com

Get a free trial with the code ‘MOOSHTRIAL’

Ready to jump in viewfinder first? Get 20% off with the code ‘MOOSH20’

Hope to see you over there!

Thanks to Clickin’ Moms for having me as an ambassador and providing me with a membership to the Clickin’ Moms forums. All links to Clickin’ Moms are affiliate.

and then cody started babbling…

babywearing on the beach.

‘Tis true.

Last week Cody began writing for Babble’s Dadding blog, if nothing else he’s about to get schooled in traffic goals, judgement and this crazy cool community that I’ve been entrenched in for years (he may also get an idea as to just how hard I work.) I’m excited you get to learn more about the man that has made me who I am and helped me make these two little girls we call ours.

Dads are funny creatures, tough on the outside, gooey on the inside…and oh how I love Addie and Vivi’s dad.

In his first post he introduces himself and tells you a bit more about himself.

In his second post he tells you what it’s like to be the dad to his best buddy Paddy Wagon.

Third he tells you about Vivi and how I threw my pregnancy test at him.

Fourth he gets kind of lawerly and discusses guns and their place in homes with small children.

Fifth up? He calls me lovely (and Paco Cheese Face.)

and last but not least, he may have kept the baby alive, but Addie didn’t bathe for a week.

 

 

the fourteenth seven days

sunday. (tutorial for the eggs here!)
silk dying eggs

monday.

Addie and Tayden

tuesday.

grandma flower's flowers

Tayden and Addie

wednesday.

bailey the flying sheltie dog

thursday.

the window

friday.

vivi and the coke
(She didn’t drink any or cut herself. I could tell one of you was worried.)

Bailey

saturday.

tayden's wrinkly head

tayden

funny face

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the thirteenth seven days

the twelfth seven days

the eleventh seven days

(let’s just accept that the eight, ninth, and tenth may never happen)

the seventh seven days

the sixth seven days

the fifth seven says

the fourth seven days

the third seven days.

the second seven days.

the first seven days.

tayden.

Taped to the door of room 7 was a plain piece of paper that read “Shannon Michaels is breezing through this process with hypnobirthing.

Now I’ve heard good things about hypnobirthing, but knowing what my sister was going through two doors down made me want to burst into Shannon’s room, kick her support person in the ankles, and begin singing ABBA at the top of my lungs.

I took all my frustration out on Shannon’s smug little sign because I couldn’t do anything for my sister. (Well, I did some things, but nothing that felt even remotely useful despite her claiming it was.)

For any of you unfamiliar, I have one sister who is 22 months older than me. She’s the best sister I could have asked for, we’re a swell little team with quiet voices and substantial noses. She’s never been larger than a size 2 in her life and the next most surprising thing after finding out she was pregnant was seeing her sprout boobs, real. live. boobs, around 5 months. (Pregnancy! Whoo!) She is a very petite person and her pregnant figure was nothing short of adorable and full of baby. From behind no one would have never guessed what was looming out in front.

emilie, 39 weeks.

When she said she was going to try for an unmedicated birth I thought “GO YOU! But you do remember bruising a rib coughing that one time right?” Unmedicated labor fit her M.O. so I wasn’t surprised. When she’s sick she drinks tea, I take NyQuil and say sayonara cruel world. When she orders Thai she asks for the tofu while I ask if there’s an option to get all the meat. She takes herbs, I take drugs. She drinks spritzers while I drink Mexican Coke. She eats beets and thinks they’re delicious. I like cheeseburgers, she likes miso soup.

sissy's house.

She was there for my labor with Addie and knew what a pleasant person I became after my epidural so I never said anything more, she knew the option was there.

Her water broke just before 3 am on April 2nd. She had already been in early labor for what seemed like the entire week, and certainly since the previous afternoon (April Fools sucka!) She was big and uncomfortable but once we were all at the hospital she went straight into listening to her body, making all the adjustments, bossy demands and movements necessary for her to be (somewhat) comfortable. After several hours of swaying and groaning I thought “Hot damn, she’s OWNING this birth thing! No drugs for her! This birth is going to be powered by ice chips and counter pressure alone!

Tayden's Birth

Tayden's Birth

She didn’t progress a whole lot. 2 cm when she arrived, 4 cm after several hours and only 5 cm after several very, very long and painful hours. She was exhausted. We all were, but she hadn’t slept for almost 36 hours and she hadn’t slept well in at least 4 months. I could tell she was scared, I was scared. I wished I could take it all away for her. That I could do it for her. I’d done it twice, I could handle it! Let me do it! But that’s not how this birth thing works.

Tayden's Birth

She never said the words out loud, but we knew what she wanted, and truthfully it was getting to the point where we all knew that’s what she needed.

Her birth plan went from ‘Unmedicated Childbirth’ to ‘Kicking Birth’s @$$‘.

Even after medication she was still uncomfortable but able to rest. She was checked again we were all surprised to hear she had progressed to a 9 and the nurse said she’d be pushing within the hour.

Tayden's Birth

Is pushing hard?” she asked me.

Nope. It’s like pooping.” I responded.

Oh, how I regret those words.

Her doctor told her most first time moms push for an average of 45 minutes to an hour. I stood to the side and thought “Pfft. You haven’t seen my family give birth. We practically SNEEZE babies out.”

After watching her push for nearly two and a half hours I was choking back tears and wondering what gold trimmed and diamond encrusted present I could buy her that would show her how very, very sorry I was for ever saying pushing is like pooping.

Tayden's Birth

I’ll spare some of the more personal details that would make your bits clench in solidarity and say he made it out.

All 9 lbs. 6 oz. and 22.5″ of him.

Tayden's Birth

My tiny sister birthed a baby that was nearly 9% of her pre-pregnancy body weight.

No one saw that coming.

I knew I liked her husband but boy if I didn’t fall in love with him even more as I saw the love he had for my sister and their new son during those crazy intense 12 hours.

Tayden's Birth

Tayden's Birth

In the end she got her baby. A perfect little man with a full head of dark hair, thigh rolls, a dimpled chin and chubby cheeks.

Tayden's Birth

*********

We had a talk tonight over sushi about how we have these things we get to keep.

We have husbands with whom we are madly in love with.

We have homes with mortgages in our names.

We have the jobs we dreamt of as little girls.

And now we have these perfect little children that we get to keep for as long as they’ll have us.

I always knew my sister was a good one, but I never knew just how strong she was until yesterday.

sissy n' me 1985

my sissy.

I love you sissy, and your little men too.