One of the joys of parenthood, for me, is around the holiday season; yes; it is fun shopping for gifts for my boy, a selfish endeavor, I get overly excited to design and send out our holiday cards. My whole life we received holiday cards from families with their gorgeous family photos on the front, and a small large part of me couldn't wait to have my own children to show off share on our holiday cards. When Minted approached me about trying out their holiday cards this year, I couldn't have been more excited. With a plethora of gorgeous designs for every family type and holiday, Minted is the number one spot for picking out your holiday cards.

However, I'm going to be honest with you: there is one thing I absolutely adore about Minted. You can upload your photo and see it on every design! In one place! You don't have to click your favorite designs, upload your photo...and then realize it doesn't work with the card design. Now, all you do is upload your photo and bam! You can see how it would look on all the designs at once. Brilliant! 

See what I mean? I have a ton of photos from our family shoot with Molly Leon Photography, and this is one of my faves. Check out that boy's smile! But more importantly...see how awesome it looks on all those designs!

Not only are there hundreds of holiday designs to chose from, but you can pick a color scheme, and of course, totally personalize the card for your family, too. You can chose a flat card (which I love), a folded card, the type of paper, the envelopes, the shape of the card...basically, you can spend all of naptime playing with your holiday cards on Minted and still need to finish up at the next naptime. 

Some of my favorites: 

Another reason I love Minted, from a work-at-home-mom standpoint, is that it employs independent artists to create their designs; hailing from 48 states and 43 countries, as they say, "They are illustrators and textile designers, painters and packaging designers, marketers and stay-at-home moms. Some have design degrees, and others are participating in Minted competitions to learn design for the first time." I love that! Minted isn't just about creating beautiful artwork out of your photos, but it's about creating artwork which fits your lifestyle, and which will no doubt become a family heirloom. 

Lucky for Lovely readers, Minted has generously offered us a fantastic deal! Head over to Minted and pick our your holiday cards today, use the code MINTEDFFA6 for 10% off your order and free shipping! Did you know there's only 48 days until Hanukkah and 55 days until Christmas? It's high time to order those holiday cards! 
This post was sponsored by Minted, but all opinions are my own!

When I decided to put my teaching career on a hiatus and stay home with Weston, I knew there were going to have to be changes made to our daily life in terms of finances. Back when we were DINKS (duel income, no kids--and I really hate that term), we didn't spend too frivolously, as we were used to times with less money coming in (say, when Eric switched jobs, or when I didn't get a raise), but that being said, we were known to order in, or go out, for many meals, buy each other nice gifts, and shower our loved ones with treats. However, when I took on my new role as Howell House Manager, I decided that while I knew we weren't going to have all the money in the world, I wanted to use the money we did have to have the best life possible. Over the past few months I've come up with ways to save money, either in big ways, or small, and I thought I'd share some of my little tips with you all today. That being said, I still have a lot of learning to do, so please share your little money saving tips in the comments, on Facebook, or twitter!

  1. Online grocery delivery: I've been a big fan of Peapod (a major online grocery delivery service associated with Stop&Shop) since my college days when I would order food to my dorm and cook for myself. Now that I'm planning meals and budgeting for my family, I've found there's no better way to do it than online shop for groceries. Why? Well, Hint Mama shares her reasons and hints for online grocery shopping, but I think my favorite reason is that all the sales are in one place! Who has time to stop and look at every single sale when they have a squirmy 14 month old in the cart? And furthermore, who has time to stop and read ingredients on every item? With online shopping, you can set a budget for yourself, shop the sales, and check out the ingredients in one place: straight from your computer or phone! Hop over to Hint Mama's comment section and see the hint I stumbled on with Peapod which saves me a ton of money every week! There are so many reasons why online grocery shopping is amazing: you can do it from your phone, you can pick a delivery time which works for you, if something arrives not up to your standards, you can call them and let them a busy mom, I am a huge fan of Peapod. And, the more you spend, the more you save: if you spend a certain amount every 6 months, you become a VIPea member, which means savings on your delivery and special deals. 
  2. Snap by Groupon: Speaking of groceries, have you seen the new phone app by Groupon, Snap? Snap is one of those money-saving tips which saves you little tiny bits over time, which quickly add up! Snap is simple to use, and makes you think about what you're spending, which is a huge plus for me. Download Snap to your phone, check out their offers: often times, the offer is as simple as .25 cents back on bananas, or recently, $1 off any bag of candy. Many of the offers are not brand specific, meaning you can shop at your regular places and save money! Once you have your receipt, you "snap" a photo of it, upload it, tell them the offer you're saving on, and the money goes in to your account (once it's processed). So far I've saved $1.25, which is more than a cup of small coffee at McDonalds, so there ya go! It's a really neat app, go download it and try it out! 
  3. Ebates: Another long time love of mine is Ebates; Ebates works by offering a small percentage back on thousands of online stores if you click through their link to the store. For example, when I shop online at Target (here's a tip: Target has free shipping now, so use Ebates to shop, get the free shipping, have items delivered right to your door, and you won't waste another $56 dollars in random crap you don't need at Target!), I go to Ebates first, type in Target, see if they have any sales running, click to shop at Target, and get my percentage back when I complete my purchase on Target's website. I've been using Ebates for years and have saves hundreds of dollars! They have a huge, huge number of stores, and I highly suggest only shopping through Ebates this holiday season (they have a double cash back day around Thanksgiving!). 
  4. Snapfish: Did you know if you download the Snapfish app to your phone you get 100 free 4x6 prints a month if you upload and order from the phone app? You do have to pay shipping, so it comes out to about half price a print, but if you need photos, that's the way to do it! 
  5. ThredUp: I'm a huge fan of getting rid of items I don't use, especially clothing. Recently I sent in a bag of clothing to ThredUp; ThredUp is a second hand clothing website. You request an empty bag, fill it with whatever designer clothing and bags you want to get rid of (you have the option of requesting them back, for a price, or donating them for free, if they cannot accept them). Whatever they think they can sell, you get paid for! Once they go through your bag and figure out what they can sell, you get money in your account. I bought myself three new shirts and a pair of sneakers for Weston with my payout! 
  6. Simplify: Honestly, one of the biggest ways we save money is to stop bringing things into the house. Weston has more than enough toys from his birthday and Christmas, I have enough clothes, we have too many books and DVDS as is! So, what did I do with our excess stuff? Sold it! There's a fantastic buy and sell group for moms in my town, so I often post things to sell, and often buy things I need for a fraction of the price. None of Weston's outdoor summer toys were bought for more than $20, and I sold baby things we weren't using to get the money for those toys. I keep a jar with the "buy and sell money" on the desk, and if I want to buy him something used (like the kid's baby grand piano we bought for $40), I use money I made selling old things! 
  7. YNAB: When I left my job I reached out to some mama friends about keeping a budget and many of them replied with "YNAB!!!" When I finally figured out that YNAB = You Need a Budget, I downloaded the program and never looked back. YNAB works in this way: every dollar you take in or out has a "job," even if it is just to go into savings. I love that it's not linked with my bank account, but still keeps me accountable in my daily life. I have a ton of categories and change my budget as need be throughout the month. I love the YNAB four "rules," enjoy reading their forum, and watching their videos. They make saving money sound doable! I highly recommend trying their 34 day free trial if you need to start thinking about a budget. 
  8. Meal Planning: First of all, I hate the crockpot. I am horrible at making crockpot meals, and quite often the crockpot meals end up making me spend more money since I screw up, no one wants to eat them, and we order in. Therefore, I started meal planning, and it does help me save! I don't meal plan to an extreme, but in a more general sense: if I know I won't be home until late one night, I plan to make dinner ahead of time, like a pasta and meat sauce, so Eric can eat it when he gets home from work. I try to plan how much meat I will need for the week, how many potatoes we will need, etc. This helps me majorly when I online shop for groceries. The other day, for example, I did not plan ahead, ran to the market in a starving hangry stupor and spent $80. Uh, bad. So, have a general idea of what you're going to make, it helps! 
  9. Sell Those Gift Cards: A few years ago I wanted a new Mac desktop, but I didn't have the money to buy one, I knew I had to think creatively, so when I stumbled upon an old wallet full of unspent gift cards, I googled "gift card exchange" and came upon CardPool. You can sell (and buy!) gift cards and make cash! Need to buy something specific but want to save a little? Buy a gift card for a fraction of the price to the store you need! Cool, right? 
  10. Don't go into Target: Simply put: do not allow yourself to go into a Target. Any Target. Anywhere. Don't do it. 

Photo: The Bionic Woman on set! 

Today we have a moving guest post from NYC resident, Susan; this letter she wrote to her doctor about trying to conceive, is truly beautiful and heartbreaking, and should become a must read piece for any person trying to conceive and feeling down. Thank you for sharing your heart with us today, Susan! 

Dear Dr. S:

I’m writing to thank you for your help, guidance and wisdom while I was trying to conceive. You may not recall, but my visits to your office are as clear to me as your scribbled notes are illegible.

My husband and I first met with you in the fall of 2010. I was 40, well into the “advanced maternal age” territory. But despite this, you encouraged us to try on our own. We did, and in fact got pregnant naturally in December 2010: 6 months after we had started to try.

While I miscarried at 6 weeks, everyone (including you) told me getting pregnant was a great sign. Of course, you also told me that I had to get serious about getting pregnant. Wasn’t getting pregnant – even briefly – a strong indicator that I was serious?

Unfortunately, I was distracted. When we started trying to conceive, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. By April 2011, his health had spiraled downward. I was too drained to create a life while watching his slip away. He succumbed to the disease on June 30, 2011. Even as we kept trying for a baby, my heart wasn’t in it.

I finally returned to your office in September 2011. You lectured me for waiting and reminded me of the diminishing returns on my ovaries. You pushed me to get more aggressive. I tentatively stepped into the world of ART – Assisted Reproductive Technology. We had success on my very first clomid-medicated IUI (intrauterine insemination) cycle, but after a promising 6-week ultrasound, I began to bleed and felt a familiar, unfortunate ache. This started on Saturday night and by Monday morning you confirmed what I knew: another miscarriage. My husband was shocked. I stared at the ultrasound image, a sad, small clump of cells that refused to grow.

After that nightmare was over, you suggested we try IVF with testing of embryos before implementation. But I wasn’t ready to take the leap to IVF. I’d been pregnant twice in 9 months. While I worried about recurrent miscarriage, I didn’t think that getting pregnant was the problem. You agreed, but didn’t stress how much of a problem staying pregnant could be. It wasn’t until a couple more failed IUI cycles that you dropped the bomb, just shy of my 42nd birthday.

You said my AMH (anti-mullerian hormone) numbers were now undetectable. I had the ovaries of a woman over 45 and even IVF with testing wouldn’t help. In your opinion, donor egg was my only option. The odds of success with my own eggs were less than 3 percent. Without a donor, you could no longer help. You wished me luck on my way out the door.

I was at a critical moment in my pursuit of parentage. I was ready to give up, but my husband and friends encouraged me to get a second opinion. One friend recommended the clinic she’d used to get pregnant, specializing in “last resort” patients. Under their guidance, I started taking a DHEA supplement -- linked to improved egg quality and outcomes -- and my AMH numbers were suddenly measurable again. My husband and I also began to explore adoption.

Before I could dive in, or begin an ART cycle with the new clinic, I got pregnant again. The third time had to be the charm, right? I followed a daily ritual of medications that included bruise-inducing shots in my belly and steroids. I used music to calm my nerves and said a constant mantra of “stay, be healthy, grow.” It failed to change the outcome: not viable.

Your words rang in my head.

Our doctors at the new clinic remained hopeful, but didn’t push IUI or IVF. They told us to keep trying on our own (taking the DHEA and getting my AMH levels monitored). This was July 2012 and we decided to wait until the end of the year to try ART again. Circumstances beyond our control, including a bad taxi accident on New Year’s, contrived to push our next (and possibly last) assisted attempt to mid-February 2013.

I tested positive on March 11, 2013. Despite the bold “PREGNANT” on the store bought test, I wasn’t optimistic. I was batting 0-3. Your words haunted me, especially during those first weeks. Through my early ultrasounds, where I could see that clump of cells getting bigger, tentatively taking form. Through that first glimmer of the heartbeat and its rhythmic sounds. Each milestone gave way to the long wait for the next one. Sure, we had a heartbeat, but what if the genetic screening indicated serious chromosomal issues? What about the 20-week ultrasound? I was never fully secure that my journey would end with a baby in my arms. Even as my due date neared, I would still qualify any mention of a future child with “hopefully.” But unlike when I sat in your office in March 2012, hope had crept in, taking the form of the little being growing in me. He defied my age, my eggs, the crazy odds and your words and was born on November 7, 2013.

I considered sending you a birth announcement, but was never sure what I would say. Gloat that you were wrong? That never felt right to me, because I know that despite the birth of my son, you weren’t wrong – I was incredibly lucky. You didn’t want to give me false hope and offered a perfectly valid and beautiful option in donor egg. You had the power to change my life, to turn me off one road and onto another. But ultimately, you couldn’t decide what was right for me and my family.

My hope is that the next time a 40 plus woman with “poor egg quality” is in your office, you are willing to see past the statistics, to view her as a person versus an age, a hormone level or both. She may end up surprising you.

Susan Thea Posnock’s infrequently updated blog, PosMeter can be found at An archive of her film writing can be found at

She lives with her husband and son in New York City.

Today's guest parenthood post is from Kelly, mama to an active 10 month old boy from the Twin Cities metro area. She's sharing with us about being a new mom and traveling with her son for the first time! Were you nervous to travel with your baby the first time? 

Notes on a Road Trip: A First Time Mom Faces Her Fear of Travel with an Infant

It is 3:30 AM and I am looking in the bathroom mirror through blurry, tired eyes that no amount of concealer could make look bright and lively, and thinking to myself that one of the ways to get my ten month old son to sleep would be to put him in the car and drive around for a while. It is 40 degrees outside and I am exhausted – this is not a good solution. I need to sleep, too, and how would I eventually get him out of the car seat, into the house, and into bed without thoroughly wrecking his peaceful slumber? On the road trips we took recently, he slept soundly in a way that he does not in his crib, so this may be what I need to do. I scrap the idea, though, and go back to his room to sit with him in my lap and let him snooze, wondering just how much coffee I can ingest without getting sick.

When I was pregnant with my son, I had similar visions of other first time moms – babywearing, making all of his food, washing every stitch of clothing before he wears it, sleeping while the baby slept, regular showers and meals, the list goes on and on. Then they handed me a squirmy little bundle that needed my eyes on him around the clock, and many of my notions went out the window. One of those notions was that I would take him everywhere with me. I would not stop going the places I wanted to go; he would just come along for the ride. I quickly saw that it wasn’t meant to be. After a few difficult trips in the car to the pediatrician a mere 15 minute ride away, I soon developed a fear of driving anywhere with him. I hated the idea of making a run to the grocery store. I was afraid he would kick and scream the whole ride, the whole way through the store, and the whole way home. All of this crying would leave him inconsolable and leave me feeling guilty and frustrated.

So when two commitments came up that required us to travel out of town two weekends in a row, to destinations that are four to five hours drive each way, with a baby who wasn’t fond of car rides, I got a sick feeling in the pit of my stomach. How do we get out of this without hurting someone’s feelings? Couldn’t my husband just go and leave us at home? No. We were going to travel as a family; we just needed to figure it out.

In the weeks leading up to the trips, I planned out in my head how we were going to pack, and our strategies for handling difficult situations. I plotted out rest stops on the map in my head. The time to prepare seemed to be going far too quickly and before I knew it, the weekends were upon us. I laid out everything I thought we would need, and eliminated the things that we could just pick up somewhere along the way. The mountain that remained was intimidating, but I also felt more comfortable that we would have the things necessary for the majority of situations that would arise.

The morning of weekend one, we packed the car until we could barely see out the rear window, and backed out of the driveway. I sat in the back with him, thinking this would be the best way to keep him occupied and happy. I felt my body immediately tense as we left the familiar ten mile radius of home and merged onto the eastbound interstate. A half an hour in and I was already tiring from the car ride itself and from entertaining the baby, who for some reason I felt the need to keep distracted although he wasn’t fussing. But then it happened – he got a little cranky. Oh no, here it was, the moment when the car ride would become tears and frustration for everyone involved! I started regretting leaving the house and wondering if it was too soon to turn around. What do I do? Mayday! SOS! I reached for the pacifier, which I had planned to save for big trouble, handed it to my son, and… he popped it in his mouth and dozed off. Silence. That was close. I decided to close my eyes and relax as well - I needed to conserve energy for when he woke up.

An hour passed, I woke up from my doze, and looked at my son who was still peacefully sleeping with the pacifier lying on his lap having fallen out of his sleepy lips. My husband remarked that he was feeling a little tired himself because everyone was so quiet and content, but he had gotten a burst of energy to continue on. I busied myself with all things smartphone and readied for when my son awoke, hoping it would be closer to our destination.

An hour from reaching our endpoint, he opened his eyes, hungry and needing a change, but happy. We stopped at a rest stop, got out, stretched our legs, took care of his needs, and got ready to go again. He went back into his car seat with little resistance and played contentedly with his toys. I felt simultaneously proud of him for being a good traveller, and proud of myself for making it this far, not having hung onto the door frame of the house, my fingernails leaving tracks as my husband pulled me by the legs, yelling, “ You are going and that is all there is to it!”

We arrived at our destination with baby content and rested. Everyone took turns meeting him and playing with him, and my husband and I sat back with sighs of relief over all we had accomplished in the last several hours. Aside from his one small meltdown when we went to change our son into cooler clothes, the afternoon was fairly uneventful.

Did I mention we hadn’t planned whether we were going to spend the night or drive all the way back the same day yet? No? Probably because I didn’t want anyone to stop reading and think I was a lunatic with that level of non-commitment. We had planned on getting a hotel room but everything local was booked months in advance for a college football game and some sort of marathon, so we would have had to drive back part of the way anyway. We decided to play it by ear. Early evening rolls around and everyone heads out to a restaurant downtown, without a reservation, hoping we can sit down to eat immediately. I knew this was unlikely but we joined the crowd anyway, and arrived at an establishment that looked more like a bar than a restaurant. While we debated about the likelihood of there being a changing table in the restroom, we were informed that there was a very long wait for a table, and the chances were good that our little guy would turn into a pumpkin before we even got to order. His bedtime was quickly approaching, my husband and I were staring down another car ride back, and we weren’t very interested in this activity anyway. We had everything we needed in the car in case we needed to stop for the night, so we decide to throw caution to the wind and venture back home. After our initial drive, I was feeling more confident, especially since the sky was darkening and the lack of a decent afternoon nap was likely to have our little one dreaming in no time.

We said our goodbyes, got on the road with me in the back seat again, and before we even hit the border of the city and merged onto the interstate, he was asleep, and he stayed that way ALL THE WAY HOME. I was a little concerned he would wake up when we got home and not want to go back to sleep, but this was the least of my worries because we would be in comfortable surroundings. Success! It could not have gone better.

Weekend two quickly arrived and still riding the wave of confidence from the previous weekend, we packed up the car again and headed to our next destination. This event was about the same distance away and the drive from home goes just as the previous time, with the exception of a little more fussing at the end. He had had enough riding in the car and so had I at that point. The week had been particularly challenging and exhausting, and I just needed to get some rest. I was hoping this get away would go well and be just what I needed.

We got to the little resort we were staying at, unpacked and settled in, and our little guy crawled around happily, exploring the new environment. About an hour later, we headed out to visit friends and family, and have dinner. Once again, dinner was late, but this time, our son was not having it, and I realized that, GASP, I didn’t bring the pacifier OR enough formula. I had become overconfident in how well things had gone the weekend before and now I was unprepared. My husband was able to soothe my son to sleep just long enough for the food to finally arrive, so I devoured it in record pace, and didn’t even think about the possibility of dessert. My son awoke and decided he had had enough of this mess, and proceeded to break out the big tears and choking sobs. Time to go – mom fail. He was overtired and needed to go to bed immediately. We got back to our resort where he had a bottle, and went right to sleep. My husband and I stayed up another hour discussing the day’s events and how to handle the wedding we would be attending the next day. He would be standing up in the wedding leaving me alone with my son in church for the first time. It was going to be interesting.

The night seemed to go by far too fast and since my son is used to waking up at 5:30 or 6:00 AM every day, he stuck to the routine and was ready to get his day started before the sun was up. I went to pick him up and discovered that his pajamas were soaked through with pee from a leaky diaper. I stripped him of his clothing, cleaned him up, and put him in a little outfit that seemed fine when I packed it but now seemed small and uncomfortable on the poor guy. It was only temporary though until he put on his dress clothes, so I made a mental note to pack extras for him next time. That was when I realized that I only packed one pair of pajamas for him that were now dirty and I did not have time to wash them. Ugh. Ok, I can handle this.

The lack of sleep, the long car ride, and the busy week had caught up to me and I was dragging. My husband set out what he needed for the day and I announced that a shower is what I needed to wake up and get a move on. I headed into the bathroom and discovered the situation that would truly be the root of Mommy Meltdown 2014. This resort, unlike any other place you make a reservation and spend the night, had no shampoo or conditioner. Normally I bring my own but I threw caution to the wind this time and skipped it, assuming it would be there and I could save some suitcase space. The office must sell these items in their little store, and it didn’t open for another forty five minutes, so I would have to wait it out. Fine.

The forty five minutes passed and my husband ventured out while I went to change my son in the bedroom. As I put a new diaper on him, I could smell the pee soaked pajamas hanging in the corner and my stress level started to rise. I felt terrible. I was exhausted, my son would have to wear stinky pajamas, and I needed a shower ASAP. I was away from home, facing a day of managing my active son by myself at an event where I only know a handful of people, and I was self-conscious about how I would look in my post baby body, which was another issue for another time. Then it happened. My husband walked in the door, stood in the doorway to the bedroom and stated that the resort store did not sell shampoo and the closest place to get it was TEN MILES away. That was it. I lost it. I burst into tears sobbing about what a terrible mother I was having not packed enough things for my son, how I couldn’t possibly shower effectively without shampoo, and that I was just so, so tired. I was in shutdown mode. My husband promptly grabbed my son and sternly said to me, “Go to bed. Now.” He walked out without another word.

I hauled myself crying into the bedroom and shut the door, not sure I would be able to sleep because I couldn’t stop the flow of tears. Things were already a mess. How was the rest of the day going to work? I sobbed until I eventually dozed off. Things had gone so well the previous weekend and now everything was a disaster. What happened? All of that confidence I had gained was fading. Traveling with my son was once again stressful for me, and it was an awful feeling.

Two hours later my husband returned from town with our son and a bottle of shampoo in hand and the day moved forward. We made it halfway through the wedding ceremony before going to the mothers’ room, which is further than I thought we would get, and aside from a stop back at the resort during the cocktail hour so my son could get a nap and work on his constipation issue, all in all the day was fairly successful. I managed to keep him mostly content and he charmed everyone he encountered. Sure, dinner was a challenge and there was no dessert for me again, and he cried the hardest I have ever heard him cry as I drove him back to the resort that night because he was so tired, but we survived. I survived.

The trip home for the little fellow was much like the trip there – a long nap, some entertaining needed from time to time, but overall, nothing that we couldn’t handle. My husband and I took turns sitting in the back with him, decompressing from all of the activity that had been keeping us busy the last two weeks. Looking back on these two road trips as the sun warmed my face through the windshield, I felt more warm fuzzy feelings than anything negative, and I knew the memories would be good ones.

In the end, I realized that no matter how prepared you think you are, and how much you pack, there will likely be something you didn’t think of or a scenario that will arise that you aren’t sure how to handle. All you can do at that point is improvise, and try to make the best of a tough situation. Try to keep a smile on your face no matter how hard it is for the sake of the little ones. Eventually, kids will start remembering these trips, and you want them to look back on them fondly, not be telling their friends stories about how mom and dad argued over who didn’t pack enough underwear. If your anxiety and emotions do get the best of you, you may look back on the trip and wish you had shrugged some things off and just enjoyed the time away, even if it involved pee soaked pajamas, constipation, and no shampoo.

Don’t let fear stop you from making those second trimester daydreams of adventures with your baby a reality. The more unique situations you encounter with your child, the better prepared he will be for the future and all of the new experiences coming his way. You want him to take cues from you to approach things with an open mind and a positive outlook, right? Our parents likely didn’t put so much pressure on themselves, so why should we?

But do pack extra clothes and bring the shampoo – I cannot stress that enough.

Kelly Kirar is a working mom and wife living in the Twin Cities metro area. In those rare ten minutes when she is not chasing an active ten month old, she can be found under a pile of endless laundry overanalyzing her fantasy football team’s losing record. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram

Lovelies, I am so excited about today's guest post from Gini, a mom of two from Atlanta. She's a MWAC: a mom with a camera! She's sharing her tips for being a click-happy mom today; 
what are your tips for photographing your kids? 

You just had a baby.  That baby is the most beautiful thing you have ever seen.  You want to look at her all the time.  You want to capture every. single. moment.  You are about to become...dun, dun, dun, A Mom with a Camera!  MWACs have gotten a bad rap for stealing business from professional photogs, but in this posting, I’m just going to give you some simple tips for taking lovely pictures of your sweet bundle of joy.  These tips and your efforts won’t replace the skill and knowledge of a professional photographer, and you should definitely have some professional shots done if that is within your means.  But if it’s not, or just not your thing, read on to find out how to capture printable memories for all to enjoy.

Let me backtrack a bit to the night my husband and I brought our first born home.  We left the hospital, stopped by the pharmacy to pick up those all important pain meds for mommy’s c-section pain, and drove up at home.  Daddy carried baby into the house while I took some shots with our little (great, but small) point and shoot camera.  We got settled in and my husband looked at me and said those fateful words, “I think we need to get a better camera.”  Off to Best Buy he went the next day and home he came with the base model Canon Rebel xs.  This is his first shot ever:

Just look at that beautiful baby girl.  We were hooked!  A few months pass and he suggests I pick up the camera and learn to use it.  So I did.  Here’s what I learned:

1)    Read your camera’s manual and become familiar with the settings on your individual camera. Canons and Nikons are set up differently, so I won’t run through all of the settings here.
2)    TURN OFF THE FLASH!  No one needs flash.  It’s harsh and unflattering.  It wakes and startles babies.  It throws shadows where no shadows need go.  Just turn it off.  Natural light is best.  It’s soft, forgiving, and it glows.  Get in front of a window, go outside, up your ISO.  What’s that you say?  What the heck is ISO?  Keep reading...
3)    Up your ISO.  ISO settings depend on the amount of light you have coming into the camera.  If you’re in a low light setting, you need a higher ISO.  However, higher ISO settings introduce noise into your photos, which is basically that grainy look some pictures have.  You can walk the fine line between high enough ISO and low enough noise, or you can use a software program like Lightroom or Photoshop to help reduce the noise afterwards.  In the meantime, you can put the ISO setting on auto, or manually adjust it and play around with it to get the look you want.
4)    Up your aperture, which actually means to dial down the number.  Upping your aperture opens little “eye” of your camera, allowing for that lovely blurred background.  This helps fade away any unsightly burp cloths, dirty diapers, or other hallmarks of a new mom’s unattended house!
5)    Make baby comfy.  You can use all sorts of fancy props, but if they aren’t comfy, baby won’t cooperate.  Same goes with the timing of your shoot.  You'll want baby to have a full belly and be sleepy.  You can use pillows, blankets, rolled up towels, baskets, even your own bed to create a photo worthy backdrop.  I used an ottoman piled with those thin pillows from the hospital, a heating blanket on low covered with towels, and then my fluffiest, softest baby blanket.  Here’s my second born in a basket:

Here’s a pull back of one of my early set ups:

I used a length of felt draped over a bench in front of the large window in the front of our house. 

Above all else, just get in there and take some pictures.  You can work at your skills while you are taking pictures of your little sweetie, engage in a little trial and error, and come out with some winners here and there!  I practiced as I went and have awesome friends and family that have been my guinea pigs.  Good luck!

I’ll leave you with a few of my favorites I’ve taken over the past few years, and hope they inspire you to become an MWAC!

I’m a 37 year old mommy to Kenerly (4) and Graham (1).  I teach middle school special ed and live in the metro Atlanta area.  I’ve been married for 12 years to Michael, and it just keeps getting better and better.  My passions are teaching, reading, crafting, and photography. You can find Gini on Pinterest, Instagram, and Facebook