This letter is premature. You are supposed to be 33 weeks today. You are 33 weeks today. However, you are also 1 week old. Well, not old. You are so very young, unexpectedly so. This has been such a long week. Each day has been full of laughter, tears, and just plain-out exhaustion. All my knowledge of newborns feels useless with a preemie. I’m reading books again, asking doctors questions, and trying to figure out the basics of motherhood under the tutelage of NICU nurses who keep telling me, “She won’t break.”
We’ve had so many blessings in one week, the most of important being that you were born with strong lungs. One of my fears was that they were going to whisk you away immediately to the NICU; however, the nurse put you right up on my chest. You looked at me and I think we were wondering the same thing, “What just happened?” It was a quick and dramatic birth. I’ll tell you about it later.
You’re so very small, each of your features perfectly formed in miniature. Your NICU nurses tell me how adorable you are. I laugh that they have to tell NICU moms their babies are cute. No, is their clinical response, not all of their babies are cute; but, you are beautiful and also very sweet. I don’t protest because I think you’re just lovely. You remind me of your sister: You have the same chin, lips, and nose – all Sproul features. Still, I think you might look like me, if only just a little bit.
Leaving the hospital without you was surreal. It’s anticlimactic and lonely; It’s left me a bit raw. People fail as much as they succeed in providing words of comfort. It’s really been moms who have gone through a NICU experience themselves who know what to say. Come to think of it, it’s merely, “I’ve been there, too.”
Your dad and I take turns visiting you everyday so that we can split the kangaroo holds. We take photos and videos to email to each other. This week you are learning to take a bottle. You took 12cc’s during your dad’s visit today – a real accomplishment. He was so proud. I’m just excited you love you pacifier, something your sister never liked.
Talking of sisters, Auntie Mandie has been there for all of us. She held my hand while I labored and delivered you, visits you in the NICU all the time, and has even been washing all of your clothes and blankets at her house. I keep expecting her to tell me that she’s burned out, but she shows up consistently. She’s always ready to help and has patience in spades. I’m happy I gave you her middle name, Leigh. My intent was to name you after someone I’ve loved my whole life. Someone strong and intelligent, kind and loyal. Plus, you’re both “little sisters.” Our pediatrician has warned us that sisters being best friends is a mother’s dream, not necessarily our daughters’ dream. I’m not going to count on you two skipping through childhood hand-in-hand. However, I hope that you grow up to be close. A sister who is also a friend is your constant so many times throughout adulthood. You’ll need each other more than you know.
We love you very much, little Savannah Banana. (Your dad nicknamed you already). Grow strong so we can bring you home.
What I ended up loving most about this whole experience, is that I only later realized that I had, coincidentally, taken photos of Avery’s first egg hunt in the exact same patch of grass where I had my first egg hunt. In this last photo, you’ll see me at 10 & 1/2 months holding up my Easter eggs in triumph. Maybe it was that I had a lot more competition (Notice Natalie photo-bombing my pic in her own egg search) or that I just take things more at face value (Go find eggs hidden in a yard? That doesn’t seem weird at all. Yeah, I did it!). I just love how I’m beyond excited while Avery is simply curious about and pleased with her find. It’s so Sproul. Or is it Ernst? Or is it just like her dad? Well, it’s not like her mom!
Thanks, Livi and Sophia, for helping Avery with her first Easter Egg Hunt! My Auntie Rosa has been hosting the family Easter Egg Hunt for over 30 years and it would not have been complete without the next generation of Kirstine girls. Just remember that you cannot take her to college parties when she is still in high school like your mom did with Michelle! See you next year at the same place and, hopefully, at an earlier time!
Luckily, we have really wonderful friends and family who visited me in the hospital, have brought us food, taken care of Avery, and really just checked in on us regularly. Also, my mom. Moms are the best! Avery – if you are reading this years from now, know one thing. Be kind to your mom. I’m sure I will make mistakes, embarrass you, butt into your business, and maybe just really annoy you (most like during years 13-17). However, moms are the ones that come through for you. If you are lucky, so are sisters. Remember that when Savannah is stealing your clothes, pushing all your buttons, and wants to hang out with your and your oh-so-you-think-you’re-so-grown-up jr. high friends.
All is to say, here is the first of several belated posts.
If you look back into the archives of this blog, you will find several love letters to Avery starting with the Dear Baby Babe letters at Week 12. We are at 21 weeks today and I’ve written you all of zero letters. Between you and me, I think I went a little overboard with all those letters to Avery. I mean, how can we say, “yeah, that girl has never been pregnant before!” Let’s make fun of her together, shall we?” What can I say, I had a lot of time on my hands that is now spend running after your sister.
It’s not that this pregnancy is any less special. It’s just that first pregnancies are kind of like an initiation and you are already part of the club the second time around. My comadres don’t ask how I’m doing and then listen patiently as I tell them about every little happening. Instead, they give me a knowing nod and I respond to questions about how I’m doing with “I’m pregnant!” as I laugh. My body has already given way to things it fought off until the third trimester with Avery. I’m already sporting my super bedazzled FitFlops to help with the plantar fasciitis and my back massage pillow is my BFF.
As for kicks, I’ve barely felt any so far. My placenta is in the front this time, so we completely bypassed the entire fluttering butterfly feeling. I can go days without feeling so much as one little bump inside there. However, yesterday, as I was holding Avery for the second part of her nap, you started moving around. There I was, just grateful that I could catch a few minutes of rest, even if it meant holding a teething, feverish toddler and you started stretching out! It was a tiny reminder that two will leave little time for rest. I just hope I have time to hold you when you are feverish, too.
I can already see how there are certain characteristics that are caused by birth order. I’m bossy and Auntie Mandie is…wait, she’s really bossy, too! Well, I’ll say that I’m naturally bossy and being a teacher has really helped Auntie Mandie’s realize her bossiness potential! It’s being in-charge of the little ones that does it to you! Your dad keeps telling me, “In a year and a half, it will be so much easier because Avery and the baby will be playing together.” Yes, that’s a bit naïve. However, I really am looking forward to saying, “Avery, watch your sister while mommy goes to the bathroom…all by herself, with the door locked, and fan on so that I can just decompress for 3 minutes.” I’ll be really sad if you both end up crying at the door.
I’d feel really bad if I didn’t mention Patch. You know how I said he started sleeping on daddy’s half of the bed when I was pregnant with Avery? Well, either he really loves you or he’s just over babies, because he is all curled up to me at night on my side of the bed. In fact, I’ve woken up with his head draped over my back or legs twice this week. Perhaps he’s realized another little hand to feed him is on its way and want to be extra loving. Or, he’s just happy to have me all to himself – if only for bedtime. Like I said, birth order hones particular characteristics.
I had expected super crisp images. Instead, they were blurry? No. Out of focus? No. It took my me a minute and then I realized they was heavy sun haze in almost all of my images. Sure, it would have been easier to just photograph them in the shade. Luckily, I had done that at the end of the session. (Thanks for being so patient, Louis! ;) However, I was really stoked about the backyard images, because they were backlit. Seriously, who doesn’t love a backlit photo? Plus, all my “keepers” were exposed well. In my book, there’s no reason to waste a good photograph with proper exposure. So, after a deep breath, I began to process them one by one.
I had two options: 1. Hate on the sun flare by adding contrast and luminance. However, I just felt that the photographs felt phony. 2. Embrace the sun haze. Although far from what I had intended, I ended up loving the feel of these photographs. They are warm and evoked the love of this new, little Encinitas family.
*All photographs were edited in Lightroom 4.
Would I take photos this way again? Yes and no. I think that there is a particular mood that sun haze enhances in your photographs. For example, while I loved the sun haze in the first photo of Maya, I would have preferred to have taken a more crisp image of Maya and Louis (similar to that of Alli with Maya sitting down).
Here are three easy ways to limit the effect of sun haze in your photographs. You don’t need anything fancy!
1. Use your lens hood. If you don’t have one, get one from your local camera shop, Amazon, or B&H Photography. The $5 one works just fine.
2. Use a reflector. All it really takes is a white foam board available at your local Staples or paper store. You can spray paint one side gold and the other side silver, if you want to get real fancy. Okay, if you are photographing professionally, get the real deal. However, the foam board is great for mommytographers and I can guarantee that you won’t feel bad if your kids get it dirty!
3. Move around your subject so that they block the sun. Go ahead and review your images in the LCD screen. If your kid’s head is a big ball of light, take a big step to one side so that the sun is even more behind her.
Make it easy on yourself and shoot during the Golden Hour. Right now in CA, this is about 6:45 – an hour before sunset. Since you are probably up early, the hour after sunrise works well, too :)]]>
Mother’s Day 2012, oh how long ago you seem:
1. Lynda.com: Lynda.com is my absolute favorite online learning center for everything photography. At only $25 a month, it’s like a gym membership that you will actually use! The teachers are all top-notch (think Brooks Institute) and distill an incredible amount of information into easy-to-understand video chapters. These are very professional videos that you can review as many times as you like. I highly recommend Bill Long’s camera technique classes (My favorite is Understanding Exposure) and Chris Orwig’s photo editing classes.
2. Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson: In my opinion, exposure is the most important component in your photos. It also allows for a lot of creativity and room to challenge yourself as a photographer. Peterson is great at explaining the basics and complex alike. Even after reading it twice, I tend to pick it up every now and again to read a couple chapters for a little inspiration.
Prices start at $100. I love my Super Girl strap – $100. The strap picture below is $110. Look in the 2012 Collection for more affordable prices.
I found items 7 and 8 at Photojojo.com. I don’t have them myself, so I can’t personally vouch for them; but, if *someone* is reading their wife’s blog, I’d be ever to happy for any of these cool little items:
7. Canon Camera Lens Mugs: How cute are these mugs! The white mug holds 16oz. and the black mug (my favorite, honey!), holds 11oz. There are also Nikon options!
8. The iFlash Drive: I can’t be the only mom who lets over 1,000 photos collect and sit on their iPhone! I’m not going to own up to the number of videos of Avery. This iFlash drive looks like such an easy way to clear off your phone so that you can download your photos onto your computer without having to put in the time it takes to sync your iPhone. If you’re a bit neurotic like me, you take the time to organize your photos into folders as they download before backing them up on an external hard drive. This would really simplify things (or allow you to just fill up your drive; BUT, we won’t do that, right?! ;)
9. Photo Book: If you’ve invested in a professional photography session and purchased the digital images, here is your chance to get your full money’s worth! Just download all of your photos to the online printing center of your choice to create a beautiful book. No worries if you don’t have professional shots; just choose your favorite snap shots to create a book of memories that moms love! I’m in the middle of collecting my photos and going to use Adorama’s Mother’s Day 50% discount to create an 8×8 book.
10. Mommy In-Front of the Camera Day: Pick a special outing and give all camera duties over to dad (or grandma, grandpa, auntie, or uncle) for the day. It can be as simple as the local park or as exciting as Disneyland. Make sure you like how you look. I mean, hand the kids over so you can blow-dry your hair and choose an outfit that doesn’t have stains on it. Then enjoy the day while your personal photographer takes candid and posed photos. iPhone photos totally count!
I looked for an example and, besides the photo for Mother’s Day, this was all I could find on my IG feed. I’m not sure it even counts! But, hey, my hair looks great and my 4-legged baby is in the photo. Seth loves taking photos, so we will have to make this a project this month. (Don’t worry, honey, I won’t make you go to Disneyland, even though IT’S THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH!)
Happy Mother’s Day to everyone!
Getting pregnant when Cora was only 9 months was a surprise. Sarah kidded me that I should go ahead and get pregnant, too, because her new baby also needed friends. As luck or fate would have it, I ended up being a rather loyal friend and was pregnant again before Sarah was in her third trimester. For those of you doing the math, Avery and Baby #2 will be 21 months close.
I hope I look as great as Sarah has with her second pregnancy. She’s one of those women who are all belly. However, there’s no easy way to be 6 months pregnant and run after a 15-month-old. A few months ago, Avery and I were at Sarah’s and Cora’s home for a play date. After lunch, we all huddled up in Cora’s room for a little kiddie music and play time in a contained area. Sarah carefully balanced herself to sit down on the floor; but, it wasn’t long before we were both up attending to the girls. Sarah settled on the floor again, this time with Cora in her lap. Always honest, she looked straight at me and confessed that most days were hard. Very hard. Then, she burst out laughing: “I’m just happy I’m almost done. You still have a long way to go!” I started laughing, too. If you ever find that friend that can laugh with you when life throws you a curve ball, hold onto her! She is a rare gem.
Also rare is a friend who is so comfortable in-front of the camera. I asked Sarah if she’d be up for an impromptu photo shoot. I wanted to hit the beach at low tide, so the sun was a bit too high. However, when you have a patient friend who looks great on the other side of the lens, you end up with some pretty wonderful images. Without further ado, here is Sarah - 9 months pregnant with little Ivy:
UPDATE: Ivy was born on her due date, April 19th. It was quicker delivery. It was also easier. Much easier. Mommy and baby are doing very well.]]>
Me Before You by Jojo Moyes: I was mad when I finished this book. If I were a more empathetic person, I would have been happy for Louisa and Will. I won’t spoil the ending, except to say that it is a happy ending. It just depends what you mean by “happy.” In short, this novel is a love story between two people who couldn’t be more different. Will, once the dare-devil and man-about-town, is now confined to a wheelchair as a quadriplegic. However, it’s not simply a wheelchair; it’s a quality of life that of which is quickly deteriorating. Louisa, on the other hand, couldn’t be more ordinary. Of course, it’s rare that anyone goes through life without their own defining moments and Louise hides her scars under shockingly eccentric clothing. When Louisa is hired as Will’s caretaker, she sets out to show him how fulfilling life can still be for this man who can no longer bathe, wipe, or feed himself. Will, on the other hand, sets out to help Louisa realize her own talents and potential. It’s a novel that shows how love can change a person and, at the same time, must allow a person to make their own path in life and in death. Ah, and there’s the rub. This book won’t leave you unchanged.
After hearing Jojo Moyes speak at Warwick’s, I became an even bigger fan of Me Before You. Insightful and clever, it was incredibly interesting learning about how Moyes created such a believable cast of characters. Plus, it was just plain fun to hear about how other characters (ahem, the annoying boyfriend) were inspired by people she’s met (ahem, perhaps a former annoying boyfriend). Her background as a journalist proves to be an asset in presenting a contraversial topic in a compelling; yet, unbiased way. I’ll definitely be reading her next novel!
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern: I loved this novel from the first sentence. Such was the addiction that I gave true homage to the title be using all my free time in the evenings, and sacrificed many a night’s sleep, to immerse myself in Morgenstern’s fictional world. This is also a love story, but a much different kind than that of Will and Louisa. In TNC, Celia and Marco are recruited as children to train as magicians in order to and face-off in the most beautiful and imaginative venue – Le Cirque des Rêves. Simplifying this novel to just that one sentence is trite; however, there’s no concise way to express the intricate plot. I will instead clarify that this is not a battle between good and evil. Rather, this is a battle of talent, ingenuity, and beauty…of which the end result is meant to be the death of one of the competitors. Morgenstern moves this novel beyond simply a game to an illustration of the power of secrets, words, and stories. That’s the real magic Anyone who believes words matter will fall in-love with this story.
The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach: I hate to end this review on a bad note; however, I will summarize my feelings by quoting my notes from the top of chapter 37, “What has happened so far?” Mind you, that was 261 pages into a 512 page book. This novel promised to be The Novel of Our Generation! It’s a New York Times Book Review Best Book of the Year! Oh my, my hopes were high. Wow, was I let down. Indeed, it’s well-written; but, that’s the best I can say about Harbach’s effort. The relationships are unrealistic, I didn’t care about the characters, and, for crying out loud, how does a novel pertend to be empathetic, supportive, you name it, of a homosexual relationship when it applies a lame stereotype to one partner and makes the other partner almost seem predatory? Yes, I get that Harbach must be an expert on Moby Dick. No, I haven’t read MD. I thought about picking it up right after I finished TAOF, however, I needed to clear my head from this novel to give MD – a true classic and literary icon – its due.
Let me know what you thought about these novels (without giving away the endings!). I’d also love to hear what you are reading! To read a Book Club post, please click here.]]>
Anabelle: Annabelle is the kid who held it together during the entire shoot. She listens to her parents and always made sure to look at the camera. I’m guessing she get’s straight A’s and colors within the lines. Yeah, my kind of girl!
I think it’s always a debate for parents as to whether or their kids should wear their glasses in family photographs. When they are as cute as this purple pair, I say yes! However, it’s nice to be able to focus better in on those pretty eyes, too!
Mary Jane: After a little TLC from daddy and mommy, Mary Jane made a full recovery from cutting her poor, little toe on the beach and gave us some smiles. I have to applaud Auntie Erika for getting these kids to laugh. Mary Jane is your sweetheart middle child and I think I might just steal her name for Sproul Baby #2.
Whitney: Whitney Whitaker – With an awesome name like that, I think Whitney will end up as a news anchor on a major network. I used to be surprised that I always got my favorite portraits from the youngest child; however, they just end up giving me most of their attention and the most honest looks. I just love these!
Ellie: It took Ellie almost the entire session to warm up to the camera, so I went a little heavy on the portraits. She’s the Whitaker’s cousin. My cousins are like sisters to me and it’s easy to see that Ellie feels the same way about her girls. What a treat to get to spend a week with them while they visited San Diego!
This is what happens when parents tell their 2-year-old to do their “booty dance!” Cutest thing I’ve ever seen on a shoot! Yeah, I really got to know what kind of parents my friends are…the fun kind ;) I love how Ellie really uses her arms to move her tush side-to-side!