Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

San Francisco Whirlwind

Friday, October 14th, 2016

This post is going to be long and rambling but also full of pictures because I currently have 30 free minutes and who knows when that will happen again, so I’m just doing this all at once.

We survived flying to California with 4 kids! A 5 week old who basically just eats and sleeps is a very easy traveler. School-age kids who whine until you buy them in-flight entertainment are slightly more difficult but still manageable. A 2-year-old is awful. He only slept on the way home after hours of rolling around and crying. Ok, it wasn’t hours. But it felt like hours to his two parents who were desperate to get him to be quiet so we could nap for at least a few minutes.

I had been really worried about the logistics of our travel, but it worked out well. We brought our Joovy Caboose stroller and both car seats to the airport, along with a Tula baby carrier and a babywearing wrap. After we parked, we loaded everything we could onto the stroller, I wore Linc on my back and we had the kids pull our rolling carry on. At the check-in counter, we checked two big suitcases and Linc’s car seat in a car seat bag. At the gate we checked the stroller and Finnegan’s car seat, so I wore him in the wrap and E wore Linc. On the plane itself, we each had a personal item, I ahad the diaper bag and E had the rolling carry-on with all our wedding clothes. It all worked in reverse in San Francisco perfectly. If we hadn’t been flying direct, we would have also gate checked Linc’s car seat (I was very worried they might lose it).

I won’t tell  you about the bathroom incident on the plane ride, but let’s just say I recommend packing at least an extra set of underpants (if not a whole extra change of clothes) for EVERY child.

For our stay, my parents rented a house from Home Away or Air BnB or one of those places, so our family could all stay together. It was the 6 of us, my mom and dad, my brother, my grandmother and my uncle. A house was SO much nicer than a hotel for a lot of reasons. The big kids had their own room, there was a general area we could all congregate to watch TV or have snacks, we kept the fridge stocked with milk and Diet Coke, and when Finn cried in the middle of the night there was space to take him so he didn’t wake EVERYONE up. I will definitely look for houses vs hotels for any future family travel.

On Friday morning, we had some free time before the wedding obligations and since everyone was on East Coast time we were awake and ready to explore by 8 am. Our first stop was Battery Spencer, an old fort overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge. I needed to readjust my expectations of “old” for the West Coast – in Connecticut, 1700’s is old. Battery Spencer was built around 1900, so just slightly old. The actual fort wasn’t impressive but the views of the bridge were AMAZING. It was easy to find, an easy walk from the parking area, and totally doable both with the kids and the stroller.














After our visit to the fort, we took a very very narrow, very very very VERY windy road through the hills down to Muir Woods. It’s a really popular National Park with a remarkably small parking lot, so we parked in the second overflow lot. Since none of our group had been there before – and there was no cell phone service in the valley – we didn’t know if it was going to be stroller-friendly or not. So I let the kids go ahead with my parents and E hung out with me while I fed and changed Baby Finn, then wrapped him up on my chest so we could go stroller-free. For the record, the main path is a very wide, well-tended boardwalk, so the stroller would have been fine. There are lots and lots of trails but if you do the main one you never have to really hike at all. It took ages to find the rest of my family because our phones only worked half a dozen times in 2 hours, but eventually we met up again.

It was amazingly beautiful and the weather was perfect – nice and cool and quiet. I suspect it’s like that a lot down in the woods. I would very much like to go back some time without so many kids so we can do a full hike up the mountain (hill?) and down to the beach. I have major regrets that we never made it to a beach in California.

P.S. The National Parks offer a year-long pass for active duty military that lets them (plus 3 dependents) in for free. At Muir Woods, kids under 15 were also free. They gave E the card right at the register, no planning ahead needed, so we enjoyed our day for zero dollars.















I told Caroline this was the area where she could say anything she wanted and she said she wanted ice cream for lunch.

The rest of Friday was the wedding rehearsal and the rehearsal dinner. I’ll spare you too many family photos, but the location (the groom’s parents’ newly renovated smart house) was so beautiful.



They had these instant Fujifilm cameras around for guests to take photos. It was a great idea, except for all the photos the kids wasted (and the ones I wasted. Backlight does not mix with instant photos).




At about 6:30 pm I made the call that we were done. Taking my kids at their best to a fancy restaurant is tough. Taking my kids who were still on East Coast time after 5 hours of running around is impossible. Evenings are Finn’s fussy time too, so I was at the end of my rope, patience-wise. I felt like kind of a jerk skipping the dinner when I was the maid of honor but I am 100% sure everyone enjoyed themselves a lot more without us there.

And then Saturday was wedding day! I was not the wedding photographer. I wish I had been, but only if someone else had been maid of honor and some other someone else had watched all of my kids all day, because there were so many beautiful details to photograph (not to mention the bride!!) and I didn’t get any of them because I was busy being IN the wedding. I’m just super jealous someone gets this gorgeousness in their portfolio and I only have a handful of pictures to document it.

















This is my brother, who has a promising career in leaning casually.





The catering was actually done by someone we went to high school with, so in my head she’s 15 years old and performing in The Wiz with me. But it was INCREDIBLE. The best food I’ve had in years.




The day after the wedding, the bride and groom hosted a brunch with lots of delicious food at Mountain Lake Park in the city. They even picked up In-n-Out burgers for us (although, I’m not gonna lie, Five Guys is still my true burger love). The kids had a wonderful time running around and tiring themselves out. The California trees were great for climbing and we found a pre-made fort slash fairy house in one of the groves. I’m definitely dreaming of moving to San Francisco and selling my soul to afford an apartment that backs up to that park. I might even bring one or two of my kids.














While I made them pose for this photo, literally every other person at the picnic started asking them SO WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE KIDS LOOK HOW CUTE YOU LOOK AS A LITTLE FAMILY I BET THAT IS WHAT YOUR KIDS ARE EVEN GOING TO LOOK LIKE???!?!?!?! Apologies to you both, guys. Please remember I said NOTHING about you having kids at the wedding or during my speech.

And then we said goodbye to San Francisco.


The last known photo of Everest. We can’t find him now, so I think he got left at those chairs during the shuffle to get everyone and everything on the plane. I think I’m more upset than Lincoln was.






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5 Tips For Taking Newborn Photos Yourself

Wednesday, September 21st, 2016

Here’s my first piece of advice when it comes to newborn photography: HIRE AN EXPERT. This is one case where you truly cannot recreate what you see on Pinterest on your own. The time, training, expense, and expertise that goes into becoming a great newborn photographer cannot be replicated with a how-to post on the internet. If really beautiful newborn photos are important to you, they are absolutely worth the money.


This is professional work. Hire someone for this.

I’ve never hired a real photographer for my newborn photos before. All I have from when Evan was little are snapshots. A friend and I tried to take newborn photos of Caroline but they’re mostly Pinterest fails. The photographer I did hire (for so little money it doesn’t even count) was not an expert and our shoot was a disaster. With Linc, I was so confident I could do it on my own I spent an enormous amount of time and effort trying to make what I was picturing in my head a reality. I never even came close. I am very glad I have those photos and some even live on my walls, but I wasn’t (and will never be) an amazing posed newborn photographer.

Newborn photography is also physically taxing and if you’re trying to do it while you should be recovering from birth, you’re going to get tired and sore very quickly. Every time I’ve photographed a newborn I’ve ended up absolutely dripping in sweat and feeling like I’ve run 10 miles (I can’t run 10 miles). Even if you’re feeling pretty good, the bending and crouching and twisting and kneeling and physical work needed to get the results professionals do for 3+ hours is exhausting and you will definitely feel it later. Just one more reason why hiring someone is worth the expense.

So with Finnegan, my last baby, I hired a professional. A professional who isn’t me. Fellow Connecticut photographer Stefanie Cole came to my house, worked super patiently with my cranky baby, and delivered a gallery of absolutely stunning images. They are art. I want them all on my walls. I am so grateful for her and her talent.


That being said, with a newborn in the house I can’t resist taking his picture. Since he’s my fourth baby and about the 40th newborn I’ve photographed (even though I’ve moved away from posed sessions) I feel like I have some experience worth sharing. So here are my 5 tips for taking newborn photos yourself.

    1. Pick the right time. Here is one advantage you have over a scheduled session – you can take pictures of your baby 24 hours a day. Newborn sleep schedules change all the time. Be prepared to take your baby’s pictures the next time you’re expecting them to be sound asleep. Get them stripped down to just a diaper, then wrap them in something picture-appropriate, like a pretty swaddle blanket, a plain white onesie, a scarf or a newborn wrap you bought on Etsy while you were dreaming of newborn photos. Then feed them really well, snuggle them close, and wait for that totally-limp-arm stage where they won’t notice you snapping away. tips to take your own newborn photos
    2. Pick the right spot. You want to find a corner of your house where there is a lot of light, but not direct sun shining in patches. If you have just one big window, you’ll get dramatic, directional light like I did in these photos. If you have a corner with several windows, you’ll get more even, brighter light. A room with white/light walls is even better. Turn off your electric lights and try just using the natural light from the window – your colors and shadows will look more natural. tips to take your own newborn photos
    3. Pick the right background. Professional newborn photos are often posed on a beautiful seamless background that fades out in every direction. That look is about 75% skill and 25% Photoshop. I don’t recommend trying it on your own. So instead of trying to recreate it, put plain white sheets and a plain duvet on a bed and use that space. If you have a beanbag chair, throw a blanket over it and shoot from above instead of the side. If you don’t have a beanbag, make a nest of pillows. If you want something fancier than a blanket, the fur throws most photographers use are called “flokatis”. Genuine sheep ones can cost big bucks, but look at Wayfair, Overstock or Rugs USA for deals. Cream, gray or brown are beautiful colors for newborns. Don’t use fleece, don’t use anything with too many bright colors, and don’t use anything that needs to be perfectly smooth (texture is your friend). DON’T try to stuff the baby in a bucket or a basket or on a tiny chair or in crazy poses. Lay them on their back or side, curl them up a little, smooth out their hands until they are relaxed with their fingers flat. That’s all you need. Besides maybe a cute hat. tips to take your own newborn photos
    4. Pick the right angle. This means don’t shoot up your baby’s nose or from their feet. You want them to look proportional and highlight just how tiny and precious they are in their first couple weeks. Shoot from above when you can, or close ups of all their precious little parts. Imagine the light and your camera is water flowing over the baby from their head down and try to follow that angle. Zoom (or move) in close, then take the same shot from as far away as you can. Turn your camera so the baby is vertical, then at an angle, then horizontal. Some photos will work and some won’t, so don’t be afraid to take a lot and look through them later. Trust me, no parent has ever said “Man, I wish I didn’t have SO MANY pictures of my newborn.” tips to take your own newborn photos
    5. Pick the right equipment. In this case, the right equipment is the camera you have. It might be your phone. It might be the DSLR you got for Christmas 2 years ago. It might be your old point and shoot. The best camera to capture an important moment is the one you have. IF you have a fancy camera and lenses to choose from, a 50mm 1.8 is a great newborn choice. You can shoot in A or AP mode with your f-stop set at 2.8 or just shoot in auto with the flash turned off. If all you have is your iPhone, tap the screen on the part of the baby you want to focus on and it will adjust exposure. Editing apps like PicTapGo, Afterlight or Colorstory can help you edit. But keep it simple – remember, you’re not creating crazy effects or fake tilt-shifts or selective color. You’re just capturing your beautiful new baby as they are.

It’s also important to remember if your baby is grumpy, fussy, uncomfortable or otherwise unhappy you can call it quits and try again some other time. Do it tomorrow. Do it next week. ALL the day with a newborn are both so long and so short, you will barely remember them in a couple years. It’s not like if you don’t get these photos when your baby is exactly 2 days or 2 weeks or 2 months old you’ve failed. Just do the best you can so in 5 years when you send your tiny newborn off to kindergarten you have something to look at and cry over. That’s totally normal, right?

Good luck! Let me know if you take any newborn photos, I would love to see them!

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Best Weekend Of The Year 2016

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

The best weekend of the year, when New England finally remembers what makes it the best – fall weather! food! small town fairs! – and gets its act together for the next 2 months.

Past years: 2015 part 1 /part 2  2014 2013 2012

Friday: Greek Food Festival




Evan hatched some Pokemon eggs on our way home.









I can’t pronounce the Greek name of those cookies, but I imagine they translate to “OMG SO MUCH POWDERED SUGAR”.



Saturday: Ledyard Fair & Taste of Italy






















Her best life, for sure.










Giant meatballs!


Seafood ravioli in lobster cream sauce!


Garlic knots!




Sunday: Mystic Eats


Abbott’s lobster roll


Del’s frozen lemonade


Mystic Pizza


Carolina pulled pork slider with sweet pickles


Clam fritters with garlic aoili










Mystic Drawbridge ice cream


I’m pretty sure when your face looks like that after the weekend, it’s been a good time. Poor Finn was either attached to my body or sleeping the the stroller the whole time and is in none of this year’s photos. Just think, next year he’ll be able to eat most of this stuff and enjoy himself much as we do!

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Finnegan’s Fresh 48

Wednesday, September 7th, 2016

Fresh 48 sessions are my favorite kind of photo sessions, whether it’s my own baby or someone else’s. These are the rest of my pictures of Baby Finn from our time in the hospital. Well, our first time in the hospital. We had to go back to spend some time under the lights for his bilirubin levels, which wasn’t fun for anyone. But now we are home and can finally start settling in.

I would apologize for the number of photos in this post, but I’ve been writing this blog for 8 years now. I’m pretty sure I’ve already scared away everyone on the internet who DOESN’T want to see 60 photos of babies.

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Welcome To The World, Finnegan!

Monday, September 5th, 2016

Introducing our fourth child…

birth announcement

My birth story is decidedly average, with nothing super interesting or noteworthy happening. But since I like reading birth stories no matter what, I’m assuming other people do too.

My due date was August 28th, and although I’ve been preparing myself to go at least a week late (I did with both Evan and Linc) I was SO SO DONE when I got to my weekly exam on Monday the 29th. DONE. I had enough of the heartburn and insomnia and peeing every 20 minutes and sciatica and pelvic pain and throwing up (I was still throwing up every morning when I got out of bed) and being incredibly uncomfortable 24 hours a day. I had made it past all our vacations and commitments and E was back from his work trips and my mom had just gotten into town to help with the kids. So basically, everyone was sitting around waiting for me to have a baby but I was in too much pain to walk 10 miles a day to start labor.

I’d been taking evening primrose oil for a while, since it’s on The Internet’s List Of Things That Might Start Labor But Who Actually Knows. I’d also been drinking gallons of red raspberry leaf tea, eating all my food with extra hot sauce (and then crying myself to sleep because my heartburn was so bad) and doing as much walking as I could handle. I’d had a couple of evenings of steady, increasing contractions but they always faded away before I seriously considered going to the hospital. I had refused any checks to see how far along I was because in the past they’ve always been very discouraging, so when I went in at 10 for my appointment I didn’t know what to expect. OK, that’s not quite true. I knew I had either a UTI or a kidney infection. I knew my midwife wasn’t against induction. And I knew if she offered me one I would say yes.

I was right about all those things. My UTI turned out to be caused by e.coli, so I needed treatment. (Sidebar: it must be some sort of non-terrible e.coli though, because I wasn’t any sicker than I regularly am with a UTI. I wouldn’t have even treated it beyond cranberry juice and Tylenol if I hadn’t already been under a doctor’s care.) My blood pressure was high enough that it fell in the hypertensive range and I needed to go up to L&D for a non-stress test anyway. And my midwife could see how tired and stressed I was. Right after I got upstairs she came in and said “So do you want to have a baby?” Yes, yes I do.

If you had told me before I had my first child that someday I would happily and joyfully agree to an almost-elective induction, I would have called you a liar. And at the time I would have been right. But 3 births later, I was perfectly comfortable saying yes. I had a few moments of doubt when things got slow and I didn’t manage to have a baby by 8 pm (which had been my secret goal). I’m not someone who enjoys or longs for a natural, unmedicated birth. I think people who do are amazing and with my second pregnancy I briefly thought about giving it a try, but that one ended with pre-eclampsia and a definitely-medically-necessary induction. I used to think I’d like to know what it’s like to have my water break spontaneously, and then that happened with my third pregnancy, where I almost ruined our mattress and carpet. So this time, my only real wish was to get the baby OUT.

I went to the hospital around 3 pm. I hung out, E left to wrangle the kids and gather up the stuff I forgot, I bounced on the birth ball (I really loved the ball, I wish I had bought one for home), eventually they decided I was definitely progressing so they would start pitocin and break my water. A little later I got an epidural, hung out some more, finally agreed on a name with E, and waited. I ended up with a very slight fever (possibly the UTI, possibly something else?) and they stopped pitocin for several hours which let me get some sleep. But I woke up on Tuesday and felt like having a baby, so we started again. The doctor on call was one of the good ones, he was patient and trusted me to trust myself. Despite the fact that their monitors weren’t showing the contractions super close together, I could tell they were strong and if I were to try pushing things would happen. I secretly tried pushing. Things happened. So I told the nurse and the doctor and they did all the room switch-over stuff for birth and then everyone waited while I did a practice push to prove I could get the baby out. They were all very impressed with my pushing skills. It’s really the only part of birth I’m particularly good at. I was so good at it, my husband and my nurse forgot to help me hold up my legs and I remember thinking “this is nonsense, I don’t want to hold my own legs AND do all the work!” But everything happened so fast I didn’t have time to vocalize my complaint before I had a baby!

The doctor called him a bruiser. Everyone made sort of terrified faces at how enormous my baby was. My guess pre-birth was that he would be 9 lbs 4 oz AT LEAST and E said no more than 9 lbs, so even though they gave us lots of time to cuddle and nurse before they took him off to the scale, we really wanted them to weigh him. 9 pounds 13 oz is a LOT of baby. Plus also I was closer, so I win.

Because they had given me antibiotics while in labor, we had to stay for a minimum of 48 hours. Then his bilirubin levels came back high and they kept us another night. We finally got to come home…but right now as I type this E and Finn are back in the hospital so Finnegan can spend some time under the lights to help him get his bili levels down. I managed to pump so much milk in the past couple days trying to stay comfortable as it came in (I have oversupply issuses, which sound silly, because most people worry about undersuply. But let me tell you, oversuply is nooooo fun) that E can stay the whole 24 hours without me having to go back. I’m not going to completely abandon him – my natural urge to stay near my baby combined with the mom guilt of letting other people take care of him plus the fact that this breast pump is just NOT as effective as an actual baby means I’m eager to get back and nurse and cuddle and spend some time with Finn. But I really really reallyreallyreally REALLY really really appreciate that E is willing to do this part. He missed a lot of stuff after Linc was born because he had to go to sea (including a nearly idetical trip back to L&D for 24 hours under the lights) and the experience of doing it alone was really hard for me. It sounds silly to say “traumatic”, but the second I heard Finn’s bili levels were high I started feeling anxious and I’ve barely slept since then. I don’t like hanging out in hospitals.

Fingers crossed that 24 hours is all Finn will need and then we’ll just be done forever with the birthing center at our hospital.

I meant to do a really good job documenting this birth, but it turns out that’s hard to do. I felt very distracted and had no desire to pick up my camera at all until several hours after all the birth stuff was over. But I did take a few. I’ll have the official Fresh 48 photos up later this week too.

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I never made it in for a pedicure pre-baby. Now I probably never will.

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These cups full of crushed iced and water are the BEST part about the hospital. I love that ice.

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All the kids really love holding the baby. It’s adorable.

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Thank you to everyone for the well wishes!! We could not be happier to be a family of 6 and hope we will all be back under one roof again soon.


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