Tips For Stress-Free Family Photos with Young Children

Tips for Stress-FreeFamily Photos withYoung ChildrenA few months ago I wrote a heartfelt Instagram post all about why I prioritize getting professional family photos at least once a year. Especially at these ages they are truly growing so fast and they are such different little people each six months. The thing about family photos is we do them for the end result, but it is certainly a big financial investment, and aside from that, we know that it can be a somewhat stressful experience. From trying to find the perfect outfits for the whole family, to worrying how the kids will behave for the session, it’s not exactly anyone’s preferred way to spend an afternoon. BUT, it’s ALWAYS WORTH IT.

Since we’ve done this a time or seven and I take family photos myself, I thought I’d give you my expert opinion on how you can temper the sting of family photos and give you my best tips for stress-free family photos with young children.

Let go of the “perfect” smiling photo: If you have ever tried taking photos with young kids you know it’s nearly impossible to get a photo of everyone looking in the same direction at the same time, let alone have everyone giving their best/cute smiles all at the same time. A photographer can work some magic, but they can’t turn young kids into obedient robots, so don’t go into the shoot thinking about just getting that ONE GOOD smiling shot. Not only is it far fetched, but to be honest, those photos are boring. Who wants everyone smiling perfectly at the camera when you can have this: 9982

Let them be little: The best photos are the ones that capture the spirit of your family. The only way you are going to get these shots is by letting your kids run wild and free, be themselves, play, giggle and smile. The less direction you give them the better, because the more direction you give them the more they really don’t want to follow those directions anyways 😉

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Don’t be above bribery: There will be times where you need your kids to cooperate to a certain extent (come sit on mommy’s lap, give your brother a big hug, etc), for those times, don’t be above a mess-free bribe like a jelly bean or a smarty (don’t use chocolate or anything else that has the potential to get their clothes and hands super messy). You can also plan to go do something fun after, like get ice cream, as a reminder to be on their best behavior during the photo session. Bribery is not my typical go-to parenting strategy, but I have no problem using it in desperate times!

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Stress less: Kids can FEEL your energy. If you are stressed and frazzled and clearly not enjoying yourself because all you’re worrying about is your kids listening or looking a certain way or doing a certain thing, they will pick up on that and all of a sudden taking family photos is going to turn into a really NOT FUN experience. Seriously, just take a deep breath and trust your photographer to capture your family in all their crazy glory. You don’t need to worry about your kids being super well-behaved or perfect listeners, they’re kids, they’re not going to be perfect sweet angels! Your photographer doesn’t expect that and neither should you. Just go with the flow!

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HAVE FUN! Truly, genuinely have fun! Go into it telling your kids they just get to play and have fun, and then follow suit yourself. Family photos don’t need to be stressful. Find a photographer who is good with kids and families, who will set the vibe for a fun session and bring out the best in your kiddos 🙂

{All photos by Fiona Margo Photography, who is based out of Bainbridge/Seattle and truly could not recommend enough. She blew us away with the photos she got, the process was painless and fun and our kids — and us parents! — had a blast with her!}

 

Are We Done Having Kids?

denfeldspring-112.jpgAre we done having kids? How do you know when you’re done? I’ve had this blog topic on my mind for oh, I don’t know, at least a year. And it seems like even longer than that I have had a pros and cons list running in my head.

Struggling to get two kids in the car for a playdate: con. Can’t handle trying to get another child in a carseat. 

Rocking a drowsy James in my arms before bed: pro. How can I NOT have another? This is too sweet! 

Going on vacation anywhere — on a plane or in a car — huge con. This circus is crazy enough as it is, I don’t think we could handle another. 

The thought of never again feeling a baby kick inside my belly, never nursing again, never giving birth and spending those two magical days in the hospital getting to know a newborn again? PRO — GIVE ME ALL THE BABIES.

I spend a lot of time trying to envision our family in twenty years and try to push all the incredibly hard times of the first year (and second year if I’m honest) out of my head and try to get a clear picture of what I really want. Do I want another baby or am I just nostalgic for what has come and gone? Do I see a bigger family sitting around our thanksgiving table in 20-30 years? What if Elodie and James absolutely hate each other when they grow up and they’re the only siblings they have? What if five years go by, or ten, and I live with regret that we never had a third child. You’ll never regret having a child, but you could regret not having one. I ask myself these questions over and over. And for a long time my answers waffled. Some days I was so sure I could not see us having anymore kids and other days I felt like we had to have another. I know I drove my friends and family totally crazy with my back-and-forth, and honestly I drove myself crazy!!

But James’ second birthday is approaching and I remember when he was an infant thinking that by the time he was two I would know. I’d be out of the sleep deprivation, things would be feeling more manageable and I would have a more definitive sense of what was ahead for our family. And here we are — just weeks away from James turning two and things are easier and more manageable (still hard for sure, but easier than year one and the majority of year two), and I still don’t feel the longing I would expect for a third baby. 

The truth is, after a lot of soul searching and many, many conversations with Corey, it feels like we’ve known our answer all along: Our family is complete. I truly don’t have that feeling that someone is missing from our family. I don’t yearn to be pregnant again and have a newborn again. I mostly just really mourn the loss of my child-bearing experiences. I so wish I could go back some days and relive them, but if I had another baby, I know when that baby is one or two or however old I would be sad again that I’d never experience all the wonderful parts of bringing a baby into this world again. While sleep-deprived life with a newborn is really freakin’ hard (especially when you have other kids to take care of), it is also pure magic. The newborn days with both of our kids are some of my most cherished memories. I will forever long for those days. 

So while we haven’t done anything permanent (yet) to solidify our decision, that day is most likely coming. For now it still makes me feel good to have the door very slightly cracked (like the tiniest sliver, guys), but I have a feeling we’ll be ready to shut it completely in the not-so-distant future. 

So what about you? How many kids do you have? Did you always know you wanted that many? Do you know you’re done? Was it a hard decision? I would especially love to hear from anyone who went back and forth between wanting to add a third and ultimately decided not to. Are you still happy with that decision? 

{Elodie: 11 Months}

Our little lady is going to be one in nine short days. NINE DAYS! Where has the time gone? Ugh… I’ll save all that complaining for later. For now, here’s what Elodie is up to just shy of her first birthday….

She loves to point at anything and everything.. and every time she does I am tempted to just bite that chubby little finger right off!

She took three steps over a week ago and now shows absolutely no interest in doing that ever again

She loves bread and cheese (yup, she’s mine!) but isn’t a fan of avocado (wait, maybe she isn’t mine…?)

She loves playing peek-a-boo

Is still too impatient for books – she bails about four pages in every.single.time.

She hates diaper changes, which makes us hate them perhaps even more 

She’s literally obsessed with daddy. If he walks out of the room, she cries, if he walks into the room she cries unless he is holding her, she gives him the biggest smile and laughs every time she sees him. I mean the girl is just madly in love with him – and I can understand why. Honestly, though, it does make me feel a little left out at times, but I hear these things go back and forth. I’ll just have to wait my turn for all that good love.

She says mama and dada (but not at the right people) and just kinda sorta started saying baby (we think).

She loves to clap her hands and wave hello and bye bye

We’re trying to teach her how to high five

She sleeps 11-12 hours a night straight. Still cries (hard) for 30-60 seconds right as we put her down and walk out of her room, but she calms down pretty quickly and then falls asleep within 10 or so minutes. 

She takes two 1-2 hour naps a day 

She loves Henry, but hates when he barks

She has started refusing her bottles at daycare 

She’s sleeping on a cot at daycare, but definitely still in her crib at home

She has five (almost six!) teeth

She’s wearing some 6-12 month clothes still, but is starting to venture into 12-18

Most of all, I hope I remember how madly we love this girl. Sometimes I wish I could record the conversations Corey and I have so Elodie could hear them later. It saddens me to know she’ll never remember this time in her life. We are constantly talking about how much we adore her, couldn’t love her more, think she’s the most beautiful angel. I mean, we’re seriously obsessed. I hope she can feel that love and will continue to feel it forever.

{Finding Out…In Dutch!}

Here’s the story of how we found out we were going to be parents… In Dutch 😉

Corey and I had talked about adding to our family for years. We were definitely excited to do so someday, but knew we didn’t want to embark on this journey while we were living abroad – both because we didn’t want to be so far from family when we did, but also because we wanted to spend our two years in Amsterdam really soaking up this adventure just us two. Needless to say, by the time we touched down in Portland at the end of June, we had one thing on our minds (okay, maybe more than one, but this was the biggest!): Starting a family!

I won’t go into the details, but come the end of July we knew that it was a possibility we could be pregnant. We also knew that you really shouldn’t take a pregnancy test until you actually have a reason to believe you might have a bebe in the belly (i.e. you missed your period – sorry, TMI!). So even though we were down in LA with my sisters and my mom and we knew we could be pregnant and it would be so awesome to share the news with them in person, I didn’t want to jump the gun only to be disappointed. Plus, I didn’t feel pregnant, and this was our first real go at this, so I felt like it would be a long shot. So yeah, long story short, we flew home Sunday evening (not so) patiently waiting for aunt flow to arrive on Monday. 

Come Monday morning, still no signs of AF, and still no indication that I was preggers, but being the impatient person I am, and knowing that technically that should be the first day I could take a test, it was the first thing I thought of when I shot out of bed that morning. I felt really silly, and like such an amateur (only first timers would be so eager to break out the pregnancy test at 6AM, right?!), so I didn’t want to tell Corey I was going to take a test. I had randomly bought a box of tests in Amsterdam that of course were never opened, just sitting in my suitcase, so I figured I’d just use one of those and nobody would have to know. I waited for Corey to hop in the shower and I quickly opened the box and tried to read the instructions. Gah! They’re in Dutch (and French and Italian and every other language but English… oh how I do not miss those days!), of course! So I figure, well this can’t be that hard, it’s a digital test so there aren’t too many options. Here goes nothing… 

Less than five minutes later, Corey still soaping up in the shower, I read the word “zwanger” on the digital screen. My heart started pounding. Now, I don’t speak Dutch but I’m pretty sure “zwanger” means pregnant. And I’m pretty sure that if I wasn’t pregnant that hugely important Dutch word would be preceded by “niet”, as in “not”… “not pregnant”. Holy crap! I think I’m pregnant!!!!!

I then did what any logical person would do. I knocked on the shower door. 
My poor confused husband! He had no idea what was coming. He opened the door, totally unaware that I was just about to share the biggest news of our lives with him. I held up a shaky hand (according to him – I hardly remember this!) and he squints and reads the stick. 
“What does that mean?!”
“I don’t know! I think it means I’m pregnant!”
“Google translate, google translate!” he shouts, his hair filled with shampoo suds. 

I scurry over to my phone and quickly do an all too familiar google translation for the word “zwanger”.

Answer: PREGNANT

Back to the shower… Phone in hand. Showing off the direct translation to Corey…And there it is. Pregnant. We’re pregnant! We’re having a baby!

An ordinary Monday turned absolutely extraordinary. Let’s just say I didn’t get much work done that day. While everyone went about their days, some with the Monday blues, I couldn’t keep a smirk off my face knowing my life just changed forever.

{We’re Having a Baby!!!}

So….
{It says “We’re Pregnant!!! – Too bad the flash blew out the handwriting!}

Yippee!!!! Oh my goodness, I can’t even tell you how happy and excited I am that I finally get to shout our news from the rooftops! We’ve known for over two months now that little baby Denfeld is on the way, so it is such a relief to finally get to share the news with the world 🙂

I’m 14 weeks along and am just now finally starting to feel better. The first trimester was pretty miserable (aside from the first two weeks where I felt nothing and was convinced I couldn’t actually be pregnant!). But all-in-all, I know it could’ve been much worse, so even though I was nauseous 24/7 for 6 weeks straight, I wasn’t in the hospital and I only threw up, like, 10 times or something. So I’ll consider that a win!

So that should cover the “How are you feeling?” question, and as far as the second question we always get – will we find out the gender. The answer is h-e-l-l yes! We can’t find out soon enough! We should know by the end of this month, so stay tuned. And no, I have no “mothers intuition” of whether it’s a boy or girl… I seriously have NO idea! I wish I did! So we’ll all just have to wait and see 🙂

More to come… For now I’ll leave you with my sorry excuse for a bump photo. I vividly remember when Ashlee was pregnant she would say how her baby bump would be so much bigger after eating a burrito, and I couldn’t believe that could be true. Could food really make the baby belly come out? And now I can tell you with great confidence.. YES it does. This was the day after I enjoyed a huge Italian dinner, hence my more curvy state. When I woke up the next morning it was almost like it never happened. Boo! I’m excited for this little one to make more of an appearance in the next few weeks!
{First photo by Laura Nelson Photography – can’t wait to share more of our shoot with her! She is ah-may-zing!}

{Made by Mama}

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you probably already know that my Mom is a talented designer. I’m lucky that her favorite clients happen to be my sisters and me. She has designed and made me countless things throughout my life – including almost every single one of my high school dance dresses and the most important dress of all, my wedding dress! I’ve never taken the time to showcase the things she’s made me in one place before, but today while reminiscing on some photos I felt compelled to do just that. This is a tiny fraction of the things she’s crafted for me. I look at these photos and feel so much pride for my talented Mama. She is so creative, inspiring and gracious. I miss her so much every day and getting to wear her creations certainly makes me feel closer to her when I’m so far from home!
I hope you enjoy this peek at a few of the beautiful clothes she’s made me in recent years!
{My Wedding Dress!!!}
{My Other Wedding Dress – yeah, she made me two – LUCKY!}
{Leather Jacket}
{Dress}
{Striped Skirt}
 {Color Block Dress}
 {Polka Dot Dress}
{Yellow Bridesmaid Dress}
{Jacket/Blazer}
{Maxi Skirt}
I LOVE MY MAMA! 
{P.S. She made her entire outfit except her scarf in the photo below 🙂 }

{Sister Time in Manhattan Beach}

After our two-year anniversary, I flew out to Portland the next day. I couldn’t go back to the U.S. without a visit to LA to see my sisters, so that’s exactly what I did for one weekend! I finally got to see Manhattan Beach, the adorable beach town my sister Anna lives in, and even got some pool and beach time, which is pure luxury for an Amsterdammer. One night in Manhattan Beach we saw the most beautiful sunset – it absolutely rivaled the ones I saw in Greece! It really did look like the sky was painted with watercolors. My sisters literally had to pull me away from taking photos because we were about to lose our dinner reservation! It was just so stunning. Lucky for me I just booked a trip back to see them again in May, so I’m hoping I see another amazing sunset or two!
  {Photos ©  Liz Denfeld}

{Munich Day Trip: Neuschwanstein Castle}

 We really used Munich as our hub for a couple great day trips — first, Salzburg, and then Neuschwanstein Castle.

We used Lauren’s awesome instructions on how to get there and they didn’t fail us!
We found ourselves in a bit of a time crunch upon arriving so we actually skipped the tour of the inside and went straight to the viewpoint, which we heard was the main reason to go anyway. While I don’t know what we missed inside, I can say that we left feeling like we saw what we had gone to see, so I guess that’s good!
Neuschwanstein Castle is one of those places you go that really makes you feel like you’re in Europe. It was the inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle and really does look like it’s straight out of a fairy tale!

 {Photos ©  Liz Denfeld}

{Barcelona: Parc de la Ciutadella}

Back in April when my Mom was visiting us in Europe we spent a four-day weekend in Barcelona. Nicole was living there at the time and let us in on the secret that Parc de la Ciutadella is one of the most beautiful city parks in the world. We spent an hour or so wandering around, hardly scratching the surface of it’s 70 acres. There were tons of locals lounging around reading, listening to music, dancing and just enjoying a leisurely afternoon. It was truly beautiful and absolutely worth a visit if you find yourself in Barcelona.
{Photos ©  Liz Denfeld}

{Salzburg: Downtown + Hohensalzburg Castle}

After strolling through the Mirabell Gardens, we continued on walking through downtown Salzburg and up to Hohensalzburg Castle. On the way we stopped by an adorable litte cafe for radlers and ice cream. It was a perfect break in the day, and the place couldn’t have been cuter!
 And I just couldn’t leave this one out…. 😉
{Photos ©  Liz Denfeld}