let’s talk family photos

what’s the saying, “do as I say, not as I do?” this is one of those times I hope to impart some learning from my own mistakes. the subject: family photos. well really, any photos where you are paying a professional photographer to capture an important moment in your life – engagements, weddings, newborns, families, furbabies, etc!

I will start by saying, I love family photos…when they are done! HA! but seriously, it’s always a joy to get back the photos and see little moments in time captured so beautifully and to ACTUALLY be in the pictures! raise your hand if you are always the one behind the camera and not in front?? that’s me to a T. however, I will also say that family photos are also a source of stress and don’t always go according to our picture perfect plan. I’m here to share some lessons I have learned over the years in hopes to spare you some heartache.

LESSON 1: location is not that important.

don’t stress over your location. it’s not THAT important, unless it is. here is what I mean.

our wedding ceremony was held at the church I grew up going to. it’s not the prettiest of churches and doesn’t offer many spaces on the exterior that I (read that again, I) thought was pretty or worthy enough to use for pictures. I spent a month trying to scout locations nearby and coordinate timing with transportation and the photographer to make it all “work.” well guess what, it was a massive waste of my time and SO MUCH STRESS. I finally went to our photographer saying, I just don’t know how to make an alternate location make sense. and you know what she said, “don’t worry about it! we’ll get exactly what you want working with the grounds of the church.” I didn’t believe it was possible, but she’s the professional and worked her magic. what IS important, the overall look/vibe you are going for. communicate with your photographer if you want outdoor, indoor, grassy, rustic, industrial, field of flowers, etc. then let them do the heavy lifting. odds are, they have a few locations in mind that will fit your theme and suggest what they know will work great for lighting. it’s amazing what a photographer can capture within a sliver of grass, or against a brick wall, or tucked behind some basic bushes. I am being serious!

now, here is an example of when location matters…. this was worth every freezing minute of our session. but this is what we wanted!

LESSON 2: plan your outfits to be coordinated versus matching AND well in advance.

okay, before everyone says “duh, stefanie.” let me explain. first, in my opinion, I find coordinated outfits to look better and more timeless than the “matchy matchy” outfits, especially for family photos. think more of an overall color family versus just everyone wearing blue or white. some of my favorite pictures are from our family shoot last year and I just loved how the overall color scheme worked instead of having everyone in jeans and a red sweater sort of thing. catch my drift?

coordinated, not matchy matchy

next when it comes to outfits, pick the toughest one to dress first, then work around. for most of us moms, the most difficult person to find something great for is ourselves. so start there! pick something you LOVE and feel great in. then coordinate the rest.

and last when it comes to selecting your outfits, plan for spares and extras. I have made many mistakes with this and FINALLY feel like I am prepared for the worst (but always hope for the best). for example, if you are outside in the fall or winter, make sure to bring outwear for the whole family that you would be OK with being photographed. remember how I mentioned we froze earlier, well we FROZE during that maternity shoot because we didn’t bring any coats, the next time we froze was with landon as an 18 month old because again, didn’t bring anything appropriate for photos! learn from me. also, pack a backup for everyone especially if you are photographing with kids. it will never fail to have a diaper blowout or potty accident when you are least prepared. or the time we were taking landon’s newborn photos and he peed all over me….yeah…I didn’t have a spare prepared so I did the rest of the photos in a pee soaked shirt and we carefully placed his body in ways to disguise it.

LESSON 3: bring toys and snacks to keep your kids happy.

if you plan ahead, you can make this work well even if there is a tonka truck in your perfectly planned and curated photo session. I didn’t understand the need for toys and snacks until we had a very testy toddler who HATED anything to do with pictures or a stranger. sound familiar? I remember feeling bummed (i’ll get to the attitude lesson next) that we had a bright blue snack cup in our pictures because we needed anything to stop him from crying and to be distracted. i wish i had planned for it to be IN the pictures… that is why I say, if you plan ahead, you can make things blend better – like buy a stainless steel snack cup or bring a brown ball instead of an orange ball so it’s not so obvious. bring whatever will keep your kids happy because nothing is worse than the screaming, crying, freezing child who refuses to smile one time… although we had that and I still love the pictures (more on that next).

LESSON 4: it’s all about your attitude!

nothing goes according to plan, so just roll with it! if you keep your expectations in check, you will not be so stressed when it feels like it’s all a disaster (because it will feel like that)! for me, this has been the biggest lesson learned. it starts with the fact that my own, adult husband, has a bad attitude about taking photos. sometimes it feels like I am dealing with three toddlers! but in all seriousness, it’s not his thing and I understand that. SO we agree to put on our best faces for the time allotted and PRAY the kids cooperate at least a little. they are the wildcards you cannot control. chances are that even through all the crying, fussing, tantrums, etc. your photographer will snap a good one. AND even if they don’t, I have come to embrace it all in the season you are in. it is all a season. I have embraced it so much that I sent out christmas cards last year with a tearful landon alllllll over them (because even when he’s crying, he looks cute). I have also changed my attitude so much about embracing our seasons that I PLANNED to bring his golf club for this year’s pictures. to my surprise, we didn’t need the basketball or golf club! I was SHOCKED in the best way possible!

LESSON 5: pick the right photographer and package for YOU.

this one also seems like a no brainer, but it wasn’t always so simple for me. the photographer we have been using lately offers 15 minute, 30 minute and 1 hour packages ALWAYS. she doesn’t have to have a day full of “mini” sessions for me to snag the shorter time slots. this is one of many reasons why I love her. I used to think we needed an hour. false. you really could get away with 15 minutes and come out with so many options. what I have settled on for us is 30 minutes. it’s the perfect amount of time to keep everyone in their best moods. plus, it’s just the right amount of time that we can scoot around to different spots within our location to get new backgrounds. also, in regards to your photographer, find someone whose style provides what you need. it’s more than just the overall look of their photos. I mean that mostly in the sense of direction you will get from him/her. do you want someone who will just follow your lead? or do you need someone who likes to help with poses? mike and I are not very affectionate people in public or in front of other people, so WE need someone who can give us a little direction otherwise we just feel uncomfortable and awkward. I know that’s not everyone! and I will say that is not every stage of life or event. for example, our wedding, we didn’t need much direction! it’s a day all about our love and we wanted it documented naturally. family photos, that’s a different story. we want more direction so we can get good, smiling shots of the whole family and the boys.

the last thing I will say is to know your audience, aka your partner or kids, and know when to call it quits! just because you paid for an hour, doesn’t mean you should use the full hour especially if the entire crew is crying or not cooperating. same thing in reverse, if you paid for 15 minutes and it’s going great, ask if you can extend and pay for more time! this is also why we only do paid sessions one time per year – it’s just not worth it to ME.

I hope this helps a few of you out there stressing over that so called perfect family photo. don’t let instagram fool you, we are all on the same struggle bus. and if you are one of those moms with the unicorn kids and husbands who LOVE these sort things, cheers to you! I would love any tips on how to train my crew lol

a difference i wasn’t expecting

i intended to write this post for Brady’s one month, but here we are two weeks later and our little bug is 6 weeks old and NINE pounds! whoop, whoop! it’s crazy to think Landon was only few ounces smaller than this when he was born…woah.

i’ll kick off this post with all things medical for Brady. i have been getting a lot of questions about his appointments, so i figure i’ll clear that up and then move on into what has been on my mind and heart.

medical updates – Brady continues to do well with eating and gaining weight. his main specialist we see is his cardiologist to monitor his heart, breathing, and weight gain. surgery is still on the horizon, but as long as he is doing well, we will push it out as long as possible. that could mean 4-6 months, 9 months, 1 year, etc… this definitely drives my “planner” side a bit insane! the plan is no plan as of yet.

we are on a “typical” schedule with his pediatrician at this point. next appointment will be when he is 2 months. we graduated from heavy monitoring for now. we also are able to feed on demand at night, which means we are going 5 and 6 hour stretches now and feeling a little more human.

yesterday, Brady had an appointment with the director or the Emory Down syndrome clinic. it just so happens that the doctor is also the director of the new X and Y Chromosome clinic (side note: of all their patients, they have only one other little boy with both Klinefelters and Down syndrome). after her initial examination, we have been referred out to ENT, ophthalmology and swallow study. i had a feeling we were in a little calm before the storm.

we have our evaluation next week with Babies Can’t Wait and we will see which therapies Brady qualifies for. initially, we anticipate PT once per month, but depending on swallow study results, we could be seeing OT and feeding therapy more often. PHEW.

now on to what is really on my heart. it’s something that i had feared during my pregnancy, but never anticipated would be so different.

who does Brady look like?


with Landon, there was an overwhelming response of friends and family saying “he is a mini-Mike” or “he looks just like you!” or “i see so much of your family in him!” with Brady, there was hardly any of that.

our families, of course, made these comments and compared similarities between Brady’s features and our families/Landon. but from other friends? i can probably count on one hand the number of people who mentioned which one of us they think he looks like. when i think about that for too long, i get sad.

when i look at Brady, i don’t see Down syndrome. i know i am his mom and i am blinded by his adorableness and my love for him, but this was also something i feared while pregnant. will i look at him and only see Down syndrome? will i be able to see beyond his diagnosis?

it’s silly to me, now. so i do understand why it might not be as easy for others to see or talk about or feel comfortable mentioning to us. that is okay. i am here to educate, enlighten, and hopefully ease the discomfort so that your next interaction with someone in similar shoes as us might be easier.

here is what i can tell you about this topic: babies with Down syndrome do have some distinct facial features like almond-shaped eyes and a slightly flatter nose. however, babies with Down syndrome look more like their family member than they resemble one another. Brady WILL look like our family/his siblings. good thing i don’t have to worry about him inheriting a full blown DiLegge nose! HA!

if you need a little help seeing it, i encourage you to follow a few other mommas and kiddos on Instagram:

you will see just how much the little ones look like their mommas and dadas.



photos curtesy of Perfectly Bliss Photography



37 weeks

37 weeks officially.

37 weeks we have been praying over this baby. 37 weeks of envisioning Landon as a big brother. 37 weeks of worry.

we are just 10 days away from little bug’s eviction date (January 3). one more BPP and NST separate us from this little guy’s entry. ready or not, this baby is coming! it feels a bit like the first time, but riddled with a lot of unknowns. i am grateful for my teammate and biggest supporter, Mike. he’s made me feel much better knowing we both have similar feelings about all of this, but just like any other pregnancy and baby, we will survive!

good news, we have named little bug – we are keeping it a secret until delivery day. more good news, he’s been passing every BPP with flying colors. THANK GOD! i need him to stay in until at least Mike gets home and preferably after Christmas. we at least have diapers in his size and an outfit for going home. now i just need to get that hospital bag packed and the nursery finished…oops. hospital bag is number one priority!

sharing a few more photos from our mini family/maternity shoot with Rachel from Perfectly Bliss Photography.


getting real.

i don’t want this to be a long winded post, but it just might. there has been a lot going on over here as we are in final preparations for this baby (and the holidays) and things are starting to get real. real, real.

so far, little bug has passed 3 BPPs and 2 NSTs. i go friday for my NST this week – i am praying that he will be awake so the appointment can be somewhat quick. i just can’t be on that monitor for an hour anymore…NOT okay. seriously contemplating rolling into the OB office with ice cream and donuts to get him to do some flips for us while i am there. come on little man, please cooperate!

in all seriousness though, things are getting real. we are two weeks from Christmas and three weeks from meeting our baby (should everything stay the course). this blows my mind. to sum it all up, i am stressed. i am trying to get everything done in time and i am quickly realizing, that won’t happen. not only because there is not enough time, but also because my body is not having it. between the braxton hicks contractions, low back pain, and lightning crotch (sorry for the crudeness, but this is a real thing and what it is commonly known as), my body is trying to tell me to stop.

but how do you stop? how can you stop? most of the week i am a one woman show with a toddler who wants to play and be held. an almost 30 lb toddler that needs a bath every night, lifted and lowered into his crib for naps and bed, constant diaper changes, and up and down the stairs. aside from the physical stress of being this pregnant with a toddler, i still have to assemble the dresser and organize clothes in the nursery, finish Christmas shopping, wrap gifts, pack a hospital bag and about 100 other things i intended to do before the holidays. looks like 90% of this will have to wait. my body is just saying NOPE.

the physical stress is draining. the emotional stress is equally as draining. as we approach the final weeks, i am confronted with a lot of fears and unsettled feelings. some days feel like i am back at week 13 when we learned the news about our special little dude. some days i battle those ugly feelings and then i feel guilty for being back in that space. this baby doesn’t deserve that. i also struggle with the feelings of adding another baby to the mix. my time with Landon will be different and that makes me feel sad at times. Landon doesn’t deserve a distracted momma.

i am also facing the fear of this delivery – the actual physical delivery of this baby. my first labor was pretty awful. Landon was too big for my body and we didn’t know it. this lead to a number of complications and interventions including a vacuum assist, episiotomy, and shoulder dystocia. sparing you any more of the gory details, let’s just say it was traumatic for me, mike, and baby. at the end of the day, everything turned out okay, but it very easily could have been a much different outcome. i know we will have a better understanding of little bug’s size due to all the growth scans we have, but there is still an element of error and unknown. i don’t want to go through that again and i don’t want to put another baby at risk like that again. every night i pray for a safe delivery. we’ll decide in the coming weeks how we plan to go about delivery when we get a clearer picture of bug’s size.

to end on a more positive note, God is working His magic. i would not be able to get through this without the love and support of my husband. for him, i am eternally grateful. my little family is my everything and they get me through the toughest of days. and my friends – man, am i lucky. the constant check-ins and texts really mean the world to me. i don’t know what i did to deserve all of you, but thank you.

remember when i mentioned we took family photos that were disastrous? well, our photographer is SO talented, she captured some really beautiful gems (snack cup and all, because this is real life people)! not only is she talented, but she is also an incredible human being. God put Rachel in our life for a bigger purpose and He’s already showing us why. Please check her out if you are in the Atlanta area (and tell her I sent you)!

Photos: Perfectly Bliss Photography


the final countdown

it’s me again. sorry, i went dark for the last week plus (by accident). we have had a crazy week and keeping up with my updates kind of fell by the wayside. i’ll start from the top though!

first, we had a lovely visit with my in-laws. Landon just loves all the attention he gets whenever they are in town. literally all eyes and hands on him ALL day and night. that cute little stinker knows how to work his crowd. while here, we visited the Pink Pig, which he was NOT a fan of (see below) and the Garden Lights exhibit at the Atlanta Botanical Gardens. he, and everyone, absolutely loved the botanical gardens. it was seriously magical. don’t let his face fool you in the photo from the botanical gardens. he LOVED it. i think he just doesn’t like taking photos with me…more on that later.

the pink pig

seriously he was loving the botanical gardens


my MIL and i worked on some nursery projects as well. we thinned out the faux fiddle leaf fig tree and started painting the infamous green dresser. y’all, i decided on a paint color and i love it. now i just pray, pray, pray that this actually works and doesn’t chip off right away. it’s been a rough go with the paint already, but i am blaming the wet weather and cold weather for that. i just don’t think it is actually drying completely. we’ll see.

this past week, i did get a little ME time. it was long overdue. i had a lovely dinner with some college girlfriends that i haven’t seen all in one sitting since moving back. my heart needed that big time. i also got to escape for a hair cut (which took WAY too long, but oh well) and lady hawks holiday dinner while the team was out of town. all in all, a great week for Landon and i, full of lots of love and fun. only downside, we are still sick. ALL of us.

other life updates before i get to the pregnancy related ones, we failed at our rain date for family photos AGAIN because of….wait for it….RAIN. UGH. then due to Mike’s schedule, we had to schedule them for Tuesday evening. bright sunshine, but freezing. i did not adequately plan outfits for us for freezing temps because we were planning to take these a month ago, so the joke is on me. i only have myself to blame for the cranky husband and crying toddler because everyone was too cold and i thought we could “tough it out” for 30 minutes. NOPE. there’s no toughing it out when you are a toddler who doesn’t understand why we are running around in the cold weather with some stranger following us. luckily, our photographer is INCREDIBLY talented and was able to catch a few smiles and beautiful shots of our family (and my belly). we just might be those people with bright blue snack cup front and center in the photos. anything to keep L happy. i cannot wait to share them with you soon. lesson learned – be prepared with cute outerwear for the family just in case.

little bug/pregnancy updates – it’s the FINAL countdown. t-minus 4 weeks and there will be a baby here. that is NUTS. time to kick our butts in gear and really get things moving with preparation (aka buying diapers, laundering clothes, finishing the nursery, getting the car seat ready). we started our weekly testing last week and since have had two BPP tests and one NST (my second is today). little bug passed his BPP tests with flying colors, scoring an 8 out of 8. the NST was a bit of a different story. he’s not very active in the morning and that is when these tests are occurring. basically, he decided it was the perfect time to nap when i needed him to be active. so what should have only been 20 minutes on the monitor turned into 1 hour on the monitor. thank goodness he ended up passing, but that was stressful. i’m planning to make sure he has all the reason to be awake for the test today.

things are feeling a bit more real and a bit scarier. he’s nice and protected on the inside. it’s the outside world that terrifies me. with cold and flu season at it’s peak, i worry about protecting him and keeping him healthy. we are already a house full of germs! i am working on us first so that we can be 100% when it’s time for his arrival. i started diffusing essential oils last night and will continue to do so until we are all feeling better. if not, medical masks are waiting in my Amazon cart. that is not a joke. if you have any essential oil blends/tips that you love, please send them my way! i am a total newbie, but hoping to fall in love with them like everyone else.

i promise to keep you guys updated more frequently now that we are in the home stretch. i’ll be sure to post my NST results on IG if you follow along there. again, thank you all for the love and support during this journey. we are getting close to meeting our little dude and navigating the new road ahead. this anxious momma appreciates the hugs and encouragement.