Wednesday, December 30, 2009

2009 in Pictures

January
(Waiting anxiously for Ella . . .my baby shower).

February
Ella arrives on February 1, 2009!

March

April

May

June

July

August

September

October

November

December

It was very difficult to only choose one picture each month. :)

Hope you had a great 2009 . . . I know I did!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Outtakes at I Heart Faces




This week is all about hilarious outtakes at I Heart Faces. My photos are all crazy expressions or faces I've caught on Ella's face when I've been trying to take her photo.

The first photo is from when she was only two or three weeks old.



This second photo is from when she was about 6 months old. I didn't know I caught this expression on camera until I was reviewing my photos later. I thought it was pretty funny how you can see Bill O'Reilly in the background - as if he said something shocking.


In this next photo, while I was trying to take some photos of her, Ella was much more concerned with the stick she found on the ground next to her. She was so proud of it!


I don't have much to say about this last photo . . . it was just a funny face she made while crawling after me and my camera.


I cannot wait to look through all the entries this week - I'm sure there are some great funny photos!

Monday, December 28, 2009

A New Way of Thinking

I knew that having a baby would change things. I knew that my life would never be the same again. I knew that decisions I would make in the future would be highly impacted by the fact that I would have a child.

I'm thankful for Ella for the focus she has brought to my life in many aspects. While I still have much to learn, she, in many ways really has shifted my way of thinking - which is a good thing.

For instance, I'm more focused on being frugal. Something I should have practiced before having Ella, but something that I am trying hard to practice because my husband and I have to take care of her. Plus, when you start to consider the price of diapers and formula . . .well, I'll just say, I'm very thankful I can find coupons for those items!

Sometimes I don't even initially realize how my way of thinking has changed. My husband and I were (well, still are) contemplating what to do with some Christmas money. One of the top items on our list: a new vacuum cleaner. Our vacuum is barely sufficient, and with a baby crawling around on the floor all the time who seems to be able to spot even the smallest speck, make her way to it, and put it in her mouth, we want something that will really clean the floor properly (any suggestions, by the way?). I also caught myself thinking about buying an ear or forehead thermometer, even though the regular thermometer we have is fine. I haven't had to take Ella's temperature often in her short lifetime, but I already want something easier to use. And the thought of having to take her temperature many more times, and the prospect of taking the temperature of future children, makes me want to spend the money on something I may have considered unimportant before.

Although I still need more focus in my life spiritually, Ella really has helped me mature some spiritually. I want to be the best example I can be for her; after all, I know she will be watching me and my husband, and it is our responsibility to bring her up in the Lord (Ephesians 6:4). I find myself wanting to listen to the experiences of other Christian parents so that I may learn from them. I'm interested in reading books like Your Mama Don't Dance, a Christian parenting book. I have a desire to work for an even stronger marriage.

I know that my life will never be the life I had before I had Ella. And I'm thankful for that. She has changed my way of thinking, helping form me into a better person. I know she will continue to teach me as I teach her. I'm blessed by her.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas to everyone! I hope you had a great time with friends and family - I know I did!

This was Ella's first Christmas, and amazingly, we had a white Christmas! It rarely snows in most parts of Texas, let alone on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, so this was really special. (I loved the beauty of the snow, but I certainly hope your loved ones were able to travel safely in any bad weather.) These pictures were taken on Christmas morning (in her new leopard outfit).




It was such a joy watching Ella experience the fun of opening presents for the first time, even though I still don't think she really had any idea what was going on. She certainly loved the boxes and the paper though!








Among many other things, I got a 50mm f/1.8lens for my camera . . . I LOVE it! I love how crisp and bright even my quick snapshots came out (like the one below).



Christmas is always special in so many ways, and this year was no different. We are certainly blessed by our family and friends!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

More

I wanted to do a proper blog post, but I'm finding that I really just want to savor my day off! So, just another video of Ella today (from the same time when the feeding time pictures were taken). One of my friends let me borrow Sign With Your Baby, a book about teaching your baby sign language. We've been working on one sign with Ella for several months now: the word "more" (as in more food, more bottle, etc.). She usually just laughs and smiles at us while we do the sign with her, but she finally did the sign a couple of days ago and I caught it on video (plus some other funny stuff). (The sign for "more" can be found here.)



Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Monday, December 21, 2009

Please excuse the mess . . .

Turns out my blog wasn't displaying like I wanted it to display in Internet Explorer and Firefox (I'm a Google Chrome girl, and everything looked fine there!). Please excuse the mess while I'm trying to get everything back in order!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Your Child May Grow Up to be a Doctor . . .

About a month ago, I was attending a college Ladies Bible Study. We were discussing what God desires in the home, from the roles of the husband and the wife to our responsibilities as parents. One comment that really struck me was the following: "Your son or daughter may grow up to be a doctor or whatever else, but what really matters is where they will spend their eternity." Wow! As a parent, sometimes it is easy to be so concerned with the physical things of this world, that we can lose our focus on what is really important. Would it be great if Ella grew up to be a doctor? Sure, but would it be great if she grew up to be a doctor, and chose not to follow the Lord? No!

At our congregation, we do a program for the children where the children study Bible facts for just a few minutes before our evening service begins. At the end of the session, the children complete two important statements:

  1. "A successful life  . . . is a life that gets me to heaven."
  2. "When I grow up . . . I'm going to marry a Christian."
These statements, while simple, help focus our children spiritually. The world doesn't measure success the same way we should as Christians. We are successful if we lead lives that will get us to heaven, whether we are a doctor, a lawyer, a CEO, or a stay-at-home mom. Marrying a Christian should help us lead that life to gets us to heaven. I certainly know I have been blessed by my husband, and I'm thankful that together we are trying our best to raise Ella in the Lord.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Cruising and Laughing

A few more cute videos of Ella . . . .

Here she is cruising along the furniture:

Here, she is pushing behind a push toy. I didn't capture it all on video, but at one point, she was pushing while walking on her knees . . . pretty funny! (Please ignore all the toys on the floor . . . that is what happens (at least at my house!) when you have a baby exploring!)

And, finally, one of the sweetest things on earth: a baby laughing! I love watching Ella and her dad interact . . .so precious!

Constructive Feedback Friday at I Heart Faces

I'm still very new to photography, as well as editing, so I'm really looking forward to today's "Constructive Feedback Friday" at I Heart Faces. I'm ready to learn from the great readers at I Heart Faces! I would love to know what I could do to get a better shot straight of out the camera, as well as any comments about the edit (and editing process).

This is the photo SOOC (I'm being brave and posting it pre-crop . . . please ignore my somewhat messy house in the background!). The background is a thick roll of wrapping paper. I wish it was wider, but it is all I had to work with at the time. She is facing a window. (Here is the image uploaded on Flickr).
Here is the EXIF data:
  • Canon Rebel EOS XS with 18-55 mm f/3.5-5.6 IS lens
  • f/4.0
  • SS 1/25
  • ISO 400
  • 24 mm focal length
  • Manual mode, no flash
First, I straightened the photo slightly (it seemed like it was taken at a slight angle), as well as cropped the photo.


Next, in GIMP, I cloned out the spots on the wrapping paper.

Finally, I opened the photo in Lightroom (I'm checking out the beta version right now) where I increased the fill light, as well as increased the blacks. I feel like it may be too dark in the bottom right corner (as well as too wrinkly).

Thanks again for the constructive feedback! Be sure to check out other entries in "Constructive Feedback Friday!"

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Coupons, Baby Food, and a Milk Allergy

I sure hope you don't get tired of reading about my great finds with coupons! :) I posted recently about a great deal I found at Target which was partially due to the coupons I had in my coupon stash. While specific finds I post about aren't always going to be current, the point I want to make is the following: you really can save money with couponing. I wasn't convinced of this at first, but as I've collected my coupons I've proven myself wrong.

My recent shopping trip to Walmart was another example of how I was able to stock up because of some coupons I had in my stash. Here is what I got for a total of $10.17 (before coupons).
  • Beech-nut Multigrain Cereal - $1.72
  • Beech-nut Let's Grow Arrowroot cookies - $1.78
  • Beech-nut Let's Grow Banana cookies - $1.78
  • 2 Beech-nut Let's Grow Tummy Trays (Turkey Vegetable) - $1.72 x 2=$3.44
  • Beech-nut Cinnamon Raisin Granola Stage 3 Baby Food - $0.82
  • Beech-nut Whole Grain Cereal with Raspberries Stage 3 Baby Food - $0.63

I had two coupons for BOGO (buy one get one free) of the Let's Grow line of products. I also had a coupon for a FREE container of cereal (up to a $2.00 value) as well as a coupon for two FREE jars of baby food (up to $1.50 value). My coupons for these products totaled $6.61.
  • 2 BOGO of the Let's Grow products. I bought a total of 4 Let's Grow products so I got 2 of these items free -$1.72 x 2 = $3.44
  • 1 FREE container of cereal - $1.72
  • 2 FREE jars of baby food - $0.82+$0.63 = $1.45
So, my price for all seven of these items after coupons was $3.56 ($10.17-$6.61).

On a somewhat different topic (but not completely), we're pretty sure that Ella has at least a milk-protein intolerance (if not an allergy). Ella has been on formula for a long time (maybe someday I'll write about why I'm not nursing, but I won't bore you now). We tried many different types of formula . . . she spit up terribly on all of them. I started adding cereal to her bottles (because I had read that would minimize spitting up). We discovered she did best on soy, but she still spit up a lot. I discussed this with the pediatrician, and he suspected she was lactose intolerant because I'm slightly lactose intolerant and she did better on the soy formula. He also said he expected her spitting up problem to get better as she got older; after all, some babies just spit up a lot. Months went on, and Ella was still spitting up - A LOT. I was always covered in spit up and smelled like soy formula (which smells disgusting, by the way). I figured this spitting up was just normal, although the other babies around Ella's age didn't seem to have this same problem.

Then we introduced yogurt to Ella . . .she loved it, but the spitting up was 10x (ok, maybe only 5x) worse than before. We tried a few different times, confirming that the yogurt was the cause for the increase in spit up. I talked to the pediatrician at her next appointment, and, after describing the issue with the yogurt, he mentioned the possibility of a milk protein intolerance or allergy. He suggested we try different dairy products to see how she reacted to them. One day we noticed that Ella got a rash on her face where cheese had touched her face. We also noticed an increase in the spit up when she ate anything with milk in it, but this spit up was just above her "baseline" of spit up she always had. Then I read about Gerber cereals. And I read that Gerber cereals contain milk-protein even though it is not listed in any way on the ingredient list. We'd been adding Gerber cereal to Ella's bottle from a young age to help with the spit up problem. We stopped adding Gerber cereal to her bottle. Ella has virtually quit spitting up. She is like a completely different baby in that regard. Now, as she's trying all sorts of new table foods, I'm careful to pay attention to if something might have milk in it. Now, to tie this in to my post about the Beech-nut products . . .

This was my first time buying the Beech-nut brand of baby food products. I was really excited about purchasing them for Ella because I had read that they didn't have any type of milk protein hidden in their products (if it is in it, it is listed). We gave Ella the Beech-nut cereal at lunch today, and she didn't have any issues spitting up this afternoon. Tonight we gave her some of the cookies (I'm not sure which ones, my husband gave them to her), and the spit up came back in full force. :( I honestly don't know if the issue was with the cereal or the cookies (or possibly both). I suspect the cookies because of when she spit up, but I'm not sure.

This process has taught me something as a new mom: if something doesn't seem right with Ella, it probably isn't. I was really concerned with her spit up, but was told it was normal by the pediatrician. To his defense, I really don't think I was categorizing the spit up properly, but I didn't know at the time. What I've been calling spit up is probably more accurately described as throw up, but I honestly didn't realize it. Now I know . . .

(Side note: The price of jarred baby food is one of the reasons I chose to make Ella's baby food (well, most of the time!). Check out my blog about making her baby food.)

****Update**** My husband looked at the Arrowroot cookie box . . . below the ingredients, in red lettering no-less, it says it contains milk. I have no idea how I missed this before . . . I looked carefully (or so I thought) at the ingredients list in the store. Oh well, now I know! The banana cookies, however, did not contain milk and Ella loved them!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ali aka Scooter


I was excited to see that it was "Pets Only" week at I Heart Faces. I have two great dogs (too bad I couldn't get both of them in the shot!): Ali and Reeses. This picture is Ali, a mutt that my husband and I rescued several years ago. She had been abused before we got her, so she was kind of shy at first, but she's always been the best dog I've ever been around. Sadly, one night we came home and Ali just wasn't acting like herself. She seemed like she was hurting, but we couldn't figure out what was wrong with her. It was really late, so we didn't take her to the vet that night. When we woke up the next morning, Ali couldn't move her back legs. We took her to the vet and he diagnosed her with Intervertebral Disk Disease. She had to have emergency surgery to have any hope of restoring movement in her lower half. Unfortunately, even after the surgery Ali still does not have the use of her back legs. With that said, she can get around amazingly well for a partially paralyzed dog. She "scoots" everywhere (thus the nickname "Scooter"). If she looks like she's crawling in the picture it is because she is...I think she can crawl/scoot faster than some dogs run! :)

Be sure to check out all the great entries at I Heart Faces!

A Joy of Parenting: Watching Ella Learn

Even though Ella is only 10 1/2 months old, I've truly been blessed by her. She has already taught me many things, and brought great joy to my life. One of the many things that always brings a smile to my face is seeing her learn to do new things. It is sometimes hard to imagine that 10 1/2 months ago she couldn't even hold her head up, and now she is saying her first words, crawling, pulling up, cruising along furniture, and doing many other things.

This first video shows Ella doing one of her newest tricks: "touchdown!" She also shows up she can pull up, and even stand up (on a crib mattress no less) without holding on to anything.


This second video shows Ella playing with one of her toys, her cookie jar. When she first got this toy, she liked hearing the music and watching the lights, but really couldn't do anything much with it. Now she can place the pieces inside the cookie jar, know to look inside to find the pieces, and take the pieces out. Hopefully one of these days she'll learn to match up the shapes with the cut-outs on the sides!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Singing to Ella: Bible Songs

This past quarter, I taught Ella's cradle roll Bible class. During that time, I learned a number of great songs to teach her about spiritual things. While the songs are very simple, many have great messages embedded in them, teaching important spiritual lessons. Here are a few of the songs about the Bible that we sang during Bible class, and that I also sing to her on a daily basis.

  • This is the Bible, God's written word.
    It tells that God loves us, it tells that God made us.
    This is the Bible, God's written word.

  • The B-I-B-L-E, yes that's the book for me
    I'll stand upon the Word of God, the B-I-B-L-E.

  • (Tune: Mary had a little lamb)
    Read your Bible, pray everyday, pray everyday, pray everyday.
Read your Bible, and pray everyday, and you'll grow, grow, GROW!

  • Oh, we love to hear (or read) the Bible, the Bible, the Bible!
    Oh, we love to hear the Bible, for it is God's Word.
  • It tells that God loves us, it tells that God made us.
    Oh, we love to hear the Bible, for it is God's Word.

    Oh, we love to hear the Bible, the Bible, the Bible!
    Oh, we love to hear the Bible, for it is God's Word.
    It tells of our friend, our friend's name is Jesus.
    Oh we love to hear the Bible, for it is God's Word.

  • (Tune: The farmer in the dell)
    The Bible is God's Book,
    His words are written there.
    I'll keep it in a special place, and handle it with care.

  • Two little hands to hold my Bible,
    two little hands to hold my Bible.
    God gave me my two little hands to use for Him!

    Two little eyes to read my Bible,
    Two little eyes to read my Bible.
    God gave me my two little eyes to use for Him!
  • As Ella grows up, I hope to use these songs as one of many ways to teach her about God's Word. Consider the importance of the words of some of these songs: how reading the Bible and praying everyday will help us grow; how God's Word is special, and that we need to handle it carefully; how the Bible needs to be our foundation; how we should have a proper attitude about reading the Bible; and how we are created to serve God.

    Sunday, December 13, 2009

    Swagbucks Update

    Previously, I've mentioned a site called Swagbucks. With Swagbucks you search using their site (powered by Google and Ask.com) and you have an opportunity to win "swagbucks" which you can then redeem for prizes like Amazon gift cards. I haven't been using Swagbucks for very long, but I just redeemed a $10 Amazon gift card, and my husband just redeemed a $5 Amazon gift card (he hasn't been using it as long as I have). These will certainly be handy for Christmas shopping! If you aren't using Swagbucks, just click the banner below to get started!
    Search & Win

    Saturday, December 12, 2009

    Baby Food Making Gear

    If you ask any parent about what tools they use to make and store their baby food, you'll get some differing opinions about what works best. When I started making baby food, I did some research about the different products that people used, and I chose products that I thought were quality products, but also a good value for the money. After all, one of the many reasons I wanted to make Ella's baby food in the first place was to save money and it wouldn't make sense to spend a ton of money on equipment.

    Here I've listed the products that I use to make and store my baby food.


    Black & Decker Food Processor You'll need something in order to blend the baby food. I chose a food processor over a blender (although some recommend a blender) because my blender just wouldn't be able to get the smooth consistency I wanted (especially for when Ella was younger). I've put this food processor to the test, and I've been very pleased with its performance.


    Oxo Good Grips Ice Cube Tray I didn't buy the ice cube trays with covers (I just covered them with foil when I froze the baby food), but I think these covers would be very handy. I had a total of three ice cube trays, which worked well for the way I made my food. I usually only made one fruit or veggie every few days. If you are more of the type to take an evening and make several fruits and veggies at one time, you'll need more than three trays.



    Rubbermaid Easy Find Lid Square 1/2-Cup Food Storage Container These containers are great for feeding/storing/bringing baby food along in.


    Playtex Fridge-To-Go Bottle Holder Even though this cooler is specifically for bottles, I like to use it to carry my homemade baby food around if we are out and about.



    Glad Press'n Seal I use this to store my baby finger foods (more posts on this coming down the road!). This stuff is great (for many uses besides baby finger food storage).


    Hefty One Zip Gallon Freezer BagsYou'll need some way to store the frozen baby food cubes. I like these freezer bags because they are easy to get in and out of - and sometimes I only had one hand to work with. :)



    Rachael Ray 5-Quart Pan and Pyrex Bakeware Ok, so you don't need these exact items, but I used both of these items to cook my fruits and veggies. The Rachael Ray pan is one of my favorite pans to cook anything in!