Archive for the ‘Photography’ Category

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.

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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

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Evan hatched some Pokemon eggs on our way home.

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

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DO YOU SEE IT? FALL IS COMING.

Saturday: Ledyard Fair & Taste of Italy

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Her best life, for sure.

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Giant meatballs!

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Seafood ravioli in lobster cream sauce!

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Garlic knots!

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Sunday: Mystic Eats

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Abbott’s lobster roll

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Del’s frozen lemonade

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Mystic Pizza

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Carolina pulled pork slider with sweet pickles

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Clam fritters with garlic aoili

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Mystic Drawbridge ice cream

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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…

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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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Me: HONEY QUICK GIVE ME THE CAMERA SO I CAN CHECK THE SETTINGS BECAUSE I’M ABOUT TO HAVE A BABY

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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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Can You Ever Just Be Whelmed?

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

SHORT VERSION OF THIS INSANELY LONG POST: I did not accidentally have a baby while my husband is gone and our van is dead. Hopefully next week I will get a new minivan and a baby. 

Now that this week is 90% over, I no longer feel – both literally and figuratively – like I am drowning. Now it’s more like I’m treading water while holding half a pool noodle and also a baby. It’s been a really, really hot summer here in CT, sauna-levels of hot and humid, except you can’t just sit around wrapped in a tiny towel and the warning not to spend more than 20 minutes at a time in the heat can’t be followed because you can’t leave. In past years we’ve had a week or two of this weather, but not so many days in a row I lose the ability to leave my bedroom. Our house feels both way too big (how can I be expected to walk down a flight of stairs EVERY TIME I have to pee? why is there no way to air condition the open main living space?) and way too small (GET AWAY FROM ME CHILDREN) and I actually cannot wait to go to the hospital to give birth. Not because I like the hospital. I hate the hospital. Not even because I want to meet the baby. Obviously I do. But mostly because they have air conditioning AND a bathroom only 3 steps from the bed. HEAVEN.

Last week was a culmination of everything that could go wrong (besides actual baby-related stuff) all happening at once. It was hot (did I mention that yet?) and I had to drop Evan off at Seaport camp every morning with 2.9 other children in tow. There is not drop off line. You park across a busy street, take everyone in with you, sign one kid in, then have to convince everyone else to leave again when what they really want to do is play at the Seaport. Last year I had no problem staying. This year I felt like I was going to die just from crossing the street, so spending several hours walking around just wasn’t possible. I am literally unable to chase Linc if he runs away and he is deep in a running-away phase. Have I told you he also refuses to wear shoes? Because that’s also true. So no shoes, doesn’t listen, bolts at every chance AND at a waterfront location is just asking for trouble. What I’m saying is that week was already stressing me out.

Then our downstairs fridge stopped working. Good news: we hardly ever use that fridge. Bad news: we hardly ever use that fridge, so I have no idea what was in it or how horrific it currently is. Pretty horrific, I’m guessing. I can’t deal, so I’m waiting for E to get to it so he can deal. In the meantime, I’m just not opening the basement door.

Anyway, back to camp, sort of. On Thursday when I dropped Evan off, the oil light in the car kept turning on and off and on and off. Since we had the car serviced and the oil changed LITERALLY 9 DAYS AGO I planned to call the car place when we got home and ask them to take a look. But by the time we got home it had stopped happening and I figured it was a glitch, the way my airbag light and my tire pressure lights are always on (I’ve had them checked multiple times, there’s actually nothing wrong). On Friday, on the way to drop Evan off, it started happening again. This time I called E at work and asked him if he could call the car place and make sure I could drive straight there after drop off because maaaaaaaybe this was an actual problem. But how could it be? We JUST changed the oil. Surely they would have noticed a major issue. He called, they made an appointment and told me to bring it in. After I hustled the children back to the car, I decided to take the fast way – the interstate – back to town instead of the back way – country roads – because I wanted to get there as soon as possible.

I’d been on the highway less than 3 minutes before I realized my car wasn’t accelerating. It was barely running. I pulled onto the shoulder and burst into tears because I KNEW how screwed I was. The engine wouldn’t turn over. I was stuck on I-95 with 2.9 children.

Luckily, E was still in his building and not unreachable (he is very often unreachable at work) and someone found him and he came to rescue us. Or at least he came to provide a car with air conditioning that worked to sit in while we waiting for AAA to come. And waited. And waited. And waiting. Eventually the state patrol truck came to check on us and suggested we put oil in the van. A while after that I called AAA back and they couldn’t find a record of my call (of course) so they put in the request again (of course) and then I got a text saying my request had been canceled (of course). So when the van started, we decided I would put the kids in E’s car, he would drive the van, and we would try to get to the car place. We made it to within 5 miles of the car place before the van died again, for real. So dead. RIP Minivan. We used the car to push it off the road into a parking lot where we could wait for AAA. AGAIN. This time, they managed to actually put my request through and we got updates from the tow truck so we knew we had time to run home, let Caroline pee, grab lunch and go back to the parking lot to wait some more. After we got the van to the car place and the kids home (Evan was still at camp) we both made calls to reschedule the rest of our day.

Later, the car place called to confirm that our van was in fact a giant blue brick and replacing the seized engine was going to cost twice what the van was worth. It turns out there was a huge hole in the oil pan. I’m still not exactly sure how an oil pan that was looked at NINE DAYS AGO can have a huge hole in it, but they assured us it wasn’t their fault. I don’t have the energy to argue, especially because I am SURE the only way they would agree it was their fault was in small claims court and I can’t prove anything. I mean, Judge Judy would TOTALLY be on my side, but I don’t know about real life judges.

So after we took a break from that disaster to go see the show at Foxwoods on Friday night, we spent Saturday looking at new vans. It was horrible, because car shopping is horrible and children are horrible. Plus it was a million degrees and most car dealer lots are already as hot as balls, so when it’s even more hot than usual standing around looking at cars is almost unbearable. And there’s no good way to test drive anything when it means moving over 3 car seats every time. We did not buy a van. Our current car is a Ford Fusion, which means yes, we do all fit in it well enough to drive around to dealerships, but NO, we are not going to fit as soon as I have this baby. We have to have a new vehicle. We definitely want another minivan. It shouldn’t be THAT hard to buy something. But we failed on Saturday.

But why didn’t you just buy a car on Sunday? you ask, like a normal person. Oh, right, because my husband left for a week on Sunday morning. Because who doesn’t schedule work travel when their wife is 38-39 weeks pregnant? SEEMS LIKE A GREAT TIME TO BE HALF WAY AROUND THE WORLD. (It’s not his fault, just add it to the list of ways the Navy DGAF.) On the one hand, it means I can use his car this week while we browse internet listings for a van. On the other hand, if he was here we could just buy a van. Putting 3 kids across the back of a mid-size sedan is awful, especially because we still have Linc rear-facing aka perfect head-kicking height for his brother. Plus there’s not room for things like “the groceries a family of soon-to-be-six actually needs to feed themselves for more than two days”. It’s stupid. Everything is stupid. I just want a car that works.

Also, we have a fruit fly invasion, the garage door isn’t working, the a/c is about to die from overuse, the shower drain is all backed up, the shelf over the washer and dryer collapsed, the dog won’t stop eating used diapers, Linc has a rash, I’m pretty sure I have a mild kidney infection again, my heartburn is unbearable, the kids are ALL sleeping in my room, my pelvis feels like it’s going to split apart and I am still pregnant. Plus last night I realized I have done NOTHING to get ready to have a baby. I didn’t buy a new Boppy – the only thing I was actually going to buy – I didn’t find the bin that has the baby clothes, I don’t have any diapers, I haven’t even begun to pack a hospital bag. I am an actual disaster who probably should not be adding another child to her life but IT’S TOO LATE NOW.

I keep trying to focus on all the ways I am very, very lucky. We can (mostly) afford to replace the van. It’s not ideal, but it won’t be impossible. The day the van died, E was here and reachable and able to take over 90% of Dealing With It because I didn’t feel at all capable. No one got hurt. We do have a space in our house with a/c and we aren’t suffering from heat stroke. I’ve been able to put almost everything on pause and just keep the kids ALIVE this week while waiting for E to get back. I didn’t go into labor with no back-up plan while he was gone. In a week my mom will be here and she can help with finding the bin of baby clothes and making sure the kids eat something besides carrot sticks and popsicles while I lie down not handling things. And soon I will have a nice, new, clean, van with FOUR car seats installed so I can have this baby without also having a panic attack. I’ve gone from completely overwhelmed to at least capable of talking about it without crying in the course of a week. I feel like that’s about all I can ask for right now. My goal for today is the hospital bag, finding the rock-n-play, putting away enough laundry I can see the nursing chair and once again, keeping my children alive. Tomorrow, van shopping. Then I can be just plain whelmed.

p.s. Still no name for this baby.

p.p.s. God bless the lake for keeping me from completely losing my shit this week, so please enjoy these lake photos.

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p.p.p.s. My new updated WordPress says the readability on this post “needs improvement”. CAN YOU NOT, WORDPRESS?

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