My first photo shoot: Vanessa and Jason’s Maternity Photos

So I never had any aspirations to become a photographer. Then I met Leon. Leon has opened my eyes to all sorts of new adventures and I have officially caught the bug. I offered to take maternity pictures for our dear friends Vanessa and Jason (who are expecting their little one in three weeks!) since they weren't planning on having any done professionally. I was like, "Hey, you're going to want these later, and I have a new camera that I need to practice using, how about we do this!" And to my amazement, they agreed! And I had a blast. Not to mention, it's hard to take credit for anything when you're working with people who are THAT PHOTOGENIC. They were super comfortable with each other and in front of the camera, which was a huge help for someone who's never done this before!

I'm super excited because I'm sharing a garden plot at the Agritopia Community Garden with Vanessa, so we'll get to spend some quality time together as new moms with our little ones. She and Jason decided not to find out what they're having, and everyone can barely wait to meet this sweet baby of theirs! I don't know how they can stand not knowing. Haha. Anyway. Here are a few of my favorites from the shoot. Enjoy!

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Thanks for letting me capture this time for you guys! Can't wait to meet my newest photography subject in a few short weeks! 😉

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Going bald.

Holy cow… I have never lost so much hair in my entire life. I've heard that it's common to lose a lot of hair after giving birth and weaning, but for goodness' sake… this is ridiculous. I have to add that it doesn't help that I haven't had a haircut since July of 2008.

JULY. OF TWO-THOUSAND EIGHT.

And now it appears that half of my hair has taken up residence anywhere else except my head: my hairbrush, the drains, the bed, tangled in my daughter's fingers when she yanks it out by the handful. I'd like to keep my long, luxurious locks, thankyouverymuch. That's one thing I loved about pregnancy: it does a real good job at creating amazing hair.

Then you give birth, and it all falls out.

Another reason I could be losing so much hair is that Linnea is at that stage where she grabs on to EVERYTHING with an iron fist, and this includes my hair. I haven't blow-dried my hair in months because, really, what's the point? And jewelry? Or dangly earrings? OUCH. I don't think anyone has any idea just how long my hair has gotten because I have it hidden away in a bun or pulled up in a high ponytail. Add to that the gnarly gray hairs that are creeping their way into my life and… yeah. It's time for a change.

Here's a few pictures of styles I'm pondering:

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This one is probably my favorite- bangs are a must!
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I don't think I'm daring enough to go super short, but I am terrible at doing hair so I need something low maintenance that fits my hair type! Stick straight, on the oily side, and fine. Feels impossible sometimes! Any ideas or advice? Shampoo or hair color recommendations? I can rock makeup like a champ but when it comes to hair I have NO IDEA WHAT I'M DOING. Help!

Home stretch.

Today was the second in my weekly checkups before baby L.J. arrives, and all seems to be right in the world. Aside from testing positive for Group B Strep, which fortunately is common and simply requires that I be on antibiotics during labor and delivery, everything else is progressing as expected. I've started experiencing pre-labor, which is nothing to get your underpants in a bunch over as it's not the same thing as the first stage of labor, but still it's a good sign that we're on track for an early January arrival. Basically, the baby's head is in position for delivery, I get up to pee about five times every night as a result, I get crampiness and backache very similar to the ones I got when Aunt Flo stopped by, I've started having painless contractions, and according to the doctor, I'm dilated to 1 cm (out of 10). Baby girl weighs in at a little more than six pounds right now, and the doctor says that if I don't deliver in the next ten days (which is an unlikely scenario anyway), she'll be around 7.5 pounds at birth. The doctor guessed we're in for another two or three weeks, which puts us right at her due date- and although I have just had this "feeling" that she would be early, I have no complaints about her being on time because overall I feel pretty darn good.

That, and we still have some things to take care of in order to be ready for her to actually be here.

The nursery, however, is nearly finished. Cody has been working tirelessly to get our old dresser sanded and painted and ready to be filled with all sorts of baby clothing goodness. Man, is this kid gonna be dressed well. I've been sewing up some goodies and still have some projects on deck that I'm hoping to tackle sometime in the midst of the holidays, my husband's 30th birthday, the new year, and the birth of our child… deep breath. It's not like we have anything going on…

My baby shower was last weekend and I couldn't have imagined it more perfectly than it turned out to be. At some point I decided that I was going with a vintage bird theme in the nursery, and that theme was carried through in my shower, complete with carefully decorated birdhouses, bird nest cupcakes, a scrapbook full of notes, advice and encouragement from attendees, and a photo collage of some of our maternity photos from our shoot with Session Nine. Everything was set up so beautifully and in such an incredibly thoughtful way that I had to hold back tears when I walked in, I couldn't believe the effort and care that was put into everything. My BFF Amber, who flew out from Laguna Beach to throw the shower along with my dear friend Kelly, went above and beyond to make little Elska's shower absolutely perfect. My mom and grandma made the delicious food, Jessica was there taking pictures, and Renae was there helping set everything up as well. All I can say is that I have the absolute best friends a girl could ask for- and baby L.J. is going to have a whole slew of Aunties doting on her when she makes her debut in the very near future!

I didn't take any pictures at the shower because Jess had that part covered, so once I get those from her I'll be sure to post them for your enjoyment. Also, stay tuned for maternity pictures- those turned out beautifully as well. My blog is so boring because I never have any exciting pictures to post! Ha! Rest assured, that will be changing soon- after all, we'll have a precious new photography subject in our household.

Dream land.

I've been feeling relatively normal for being as pregnant as I am-
almost eight months now- that it almost feels like one day, I'll be
going about my business as usual, then I'll go into labor and we'll
suddenly have a kid. Almost like we'll be going from our normal life
with just the two of us and our dogs to the huge transition of life
with a child. OK, so yes, of course that is obvious… but most
pregnant women I have known have been miserably anxious to get the kid
out already, and for some reason I've been fortunate enough to not have
experienced the majority of common pregnancy side effects. While I count my blessings for that, I feel like
I've lacked the transition phase that comes with the typical pregnancy.
I'm not sure that makes sense to anyone but me, and of course we have
spent the past several months adjusting to and preparing for and
embracing this forthcoming change, but it still feels like a huge leap because I feel way more normal than I think I should.

With less than six weeks to go until her due date, my head is spinning
with to-do lists and ideas and anxiety and eagerness to meet this
precious little girl. My shower is coming up and I couldn't be more
excited. And in spite of the reality of it all, I completely feel like
I'm living in a dream. The fact that we are thisclose to the arrival of our baby is surreal to me… still. We have been working diligently on the nursery for the past couple of weekends and when I stand next to the newly-built crib or sit in the glider I still can't fathom the idea of there actually being a baby in that crib, or in my arms as I rock back and forth. I still wake up wondering how this is my life. Not in a bad way- not in
the sense that I don't want this life. I wouldn't trade any part of
what and who I have in my life, not even for a day. I suppose I'm simply
in sheer awe of it all.

Perhaps on a chilly day in January, when I look into the eyes of our daughter, I will wake
up from this dream. I don't think anything will make my life more real,
more complete, more purposeful than moving forward in this journey
alongside my dear husband. We have had a very difficult first two years of marriage, but not the type of difficulty that has torn us apart- although it almost did. Almost. But, amazingly, in the end we only became closer and our love and appreciation deepened for one another, which fills us with hope for the future and confidence to take on what lies ahead. In spite of everything we have been through,
all we have lost, and the uncertainty ahead of us, all of those things
pale in comparison to our new life, one that is of
more worth than I'm sure I can even comprehend right now. Maybe I will understand it someday, but right now I'm in a whirlwind. God is moving
in our lives every day and we are so thankful for that. What can
possibly be more exciting?

Five Favorites and an update.

I've been out and about a lot lately and have come across so many things that I just have to share, if only to keep my finds in one place. Here's what I'm loving these days:

1. True Blue Spa Shea Cashmere Body Cream is so completely delicious smelling that sometimes I'd rather eat it than wear it, but that's neither here nor there. (I'm pregnant, not stupid.) I've been slathering this on the belly ever since I got it, and it's simply devine. Definitely a good find for the massive expansion coming my way in the winter months.

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2. Anything by Lotta Jansdotter. Most specifically, Simple Sewing for Baby.
LOVE her prints, love the simple Scandinavian style, can't wait to make Elska little outfits and goodies inspired by Lotta's designs.

3. Philosophy: The Microdelivery Exfoliating Wash. I have been using this on and off for the past couple of years and no matter how many times I switch it up I ALWAYS go back. I went out today and purchased a giant bottle of it that, no joke, will probably last me for at least a year. It's gentle but nothing makes my skin feel smoother than this stuff. It's amazing. Don't think I'll ever use anything else.

4. Hot fudge sundaes from either McDonald's or Dairy Queen. This has been the latest in a series of random cravings, and it's safe to say I want one of these for dessert every single night. In fact, I want one right now…

5. And last but not least, Elska's hiccups. I always heard pregnant women talk about their little ones getting the hiccups, but I never could imagine what that felt like. It's like a constant, rhythmic tapping that lasts several minutes, and I love it! I just think it's the cutest thing ever that before they're born, babies do these people things, and it's not like this should surprise since they are people, after all, but it's just adorable to me.

I'm happy to report that the pregnancy is coming along quite nicely- no major bumps or even hiccups, if you will (because I will). The doctor said we most likely won't be having another ultrasound unless we either want to pay for it or have insurance that will cover it, which really bummed me out but hey, it means we have a healthy little girl growing up a storm in my belly and that's what really matters. I will say that the belly is starting to feel quite heavy, but I don't look huge (yet). Most people find it hard to believe that I'm nearly seven months along, but when I look in a mirror it's really not all that shocking. I asked the doctor if I look normal and she said that since I'm tall the baby has more room to grow- and isn't forced to grow out instead of up and down. Whew. I have to say that even if no one else thinks I have gained that much weight, I can certainly feel the extra weight not only in my belly, but in other places as well. I've been trying so hard to use my regular wardrobe for as long as possible, but it's safe to say I'm at a point where I can't do it much longer, if at all. I own a grand total of three maternity shirts, one sweater, and two pairs of pants and I'm not sure how much I'll be able to rotate those items out before I start looking like a hobo.

We have successfully cleaned out the nursery-to-be, and are planning on starting the painting process this weekend. I am SO EXCITED! I have so many ideas for her room I can barely contain myself. I'm not big on bright colors (en masse, that is), so we're opting for a softer palette for the little one's room- one that can transition nicely into her later childhood years. Hopefully she'll like it when she's old enough to determine what she likes. I'm scouring Etsy for ideas and inspiration.

We also got our registry started and I will be the first to say it was completely overwhelming. After three hours and not even half the store covered, we had to bail out of there before our heads exploded. Not only was the selection daunting, it's safe to say that we have absolutely no idea what this baby will need or require when she arrives. We spent more time laughing at the pictures of women on the phone, reading and otherwise multi-tasking on the packaging of a pair of breast pump attachments than we did trying to figure out what exactly we needed out of a breast pump. I know that's what 14-year-olds do but we didn't feel much older than that given how clueless we were.

So, here we go: two trimesters down, one to go. Let the adventures begin.

Overwhelmed, but it’s OK- I have pickles!

Goodness, I've been terrible at keeping up with this thing. For some reason, last week was incredibly tough- I have been scheduled to come into work an hour earlier than usual because our busy season is starting, and while it means more money in the bank, it cuts into my productive time that I spend working on my business. Add to that the fact that I am finally starting to feel pregnant- lower back aches, pinched sciatic nerve, and a full-blown belly that gets in the way of everything- and I come home from a measly five hour shift feeling quite exhausted. It's a double-edged sword, and I don't mean to complain. I'm thankful to have a job working with good people, but I can't help but be nervous that the clock is ticking LIKE MAD and I can't give 100% to getting No Strings up and running as quickly as possible, and that's the one thing that I will be doing to earn income once Elska (that's her nickname!) arrives. Working outside the home is not part of our plan. And it's getting harder and harder to be on my feet all day the more pregnant I become, but we need my paycheck.

More than that, I need clients! Send 'em my way, people. I can't wait to help small businesses get ahead in this tough economy.

I'm happy to say that I have generated some interest, and I'm doing some work for a friend that will help me nail down certain processes complete with constructive criticism. I am so excited to actually start working with paying clients and building a name for myself, so for now I'm working on marketing and networking- a full-time job all on its own. I have a lot of support and great ideas from friends and family that I'm sure will help me along the way.

But enough about No Strings. This is a mom blog, after all!

I am five days away from the start of my third trimester, and I cannot tell you how shocked I am at how quickly time has flown. We have been in consistent adjustment, covering all the bases including fear, elation, joy, amazement, and just feeling plain overwhelmed by all we have ahead of us. At the very end of September, there was a morning when I had the epiphany that, HOLD ON A SECOND, let me do some math, (October 10 through November 10) + (November 10 through December 10) + (December 10 through January 10) = THREE MONTHS UNTIL OUR DAUGHTER IS BORN. I then woke up Cody (it was before 6:00 a.m.), shared my startling revelation, and launched into full-blown panic mode complete with the urgent desire to jump out of bed and immediately start organizing EVERYTHING in our house, starting with the nursery-to-be. I suddenly realized that I have done very little to prepare for this huge change, and who on earth expects that she will just "wing it" when handed a newborn who is completely dependent on her? Yikes. Definitely have my work cut out for me.

In a nutshell, it's been hard not to feel a bit overwhelmed these days. I suppose last week was particularly hard because I was consistently robbed of precious time I needed by all these things that were totally out of my control- time I must devote to not only preparing for baby, but starting a business too. I don't like feeling like I'm spinning in a tornado, grasping on to anything I could that I would be able to cross off my to-do list. I'm sure that this isn't necessarily going to get better once I have a newborn in the house. Therefore, I can't help but wonder if I'm being groomed for this next stage of life by the presence of the unexpected. How I handle it now will prepare me for the juggling act I have ahead of me. I'm not gonna let it get me down!

For now, here are a couple of updated pictures:

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Hugs for Elska! 27 weeks!

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Yes, I am eating out of a jar of pickles. Yes, I know how cliche that is. They were my Amma's famous bread and butter pickles, made from Cody's grandma's cucumbers from her garden. Simply heavenly! You'd eat 'em by the jar too.

Belly update: My belly makes funny shapes, like triangles and squares, when Elska stretches out and punches her dad in the hand when he antagonizes her. Haha. I actually love that she responds to him- he's just going to an amazing dad. She's really quite active- especially right before bed and right before I wake up. She isn't big enough now (about 2 pounds and 15 inches long) for her movements to keep me up or wake me out of my slumber, so for now I'm just enjoying the sensation of feeling her moving around in there. That will be the biggest thing I will miss about being pregnant- it's just amazing to me. I also figured out that this rhythmic "tapping" sensation I get every once in a while must be her hiccuping- it's SO cute! I've felt it many times before but never made the connection, because it's a different type of movement than her usual kicks and somersaults. But I love it. I love her. She's just the sweetest thing ever.

Aches and rain.

I've noticed the past couple of days that my right wrist has been hurting, like I strained it or something. My first thought was carpal tunnel syndrome, which apparently likes to rear its ugly head during pregnancy for various reasons- mostly because your body is swelling in all kinds of odd places, LIKE YOUR WRISTS.

…?

I'm not sure the pain I'm experiencing necessarily fits the symptoms of CTS, but it sure does hurt. I'm hoping it's just a temporary thing that will go away in a couple of days, otherwise I'm in trouble.

In other news, I get my sewing machine this weekend! YES. I glanced at it briefly when we moved Amma into her apartment a couple of weeks ago, and it is safe to say that I am going to need a semester-long three-credit course just to learn how to use the thing, but once I do, no one can stop me from the projects I'm gonna tackle. I've had piles of fabric sitting around waiting for this moment… It will be glorious. I am so thankful for such a generous grandma who saved some pretty amazing items to give to my mom and me after her journey out west 🙂

Still narrowing down names… and I fully plan to return that baby name book I purchased last week. When, between you and your husband, only ten names are worthy of consideration, it might be time to check out other resources. Either that, or change your last name to something that doesn't rhyme with pretty much every girl name out there… hahaha. Because we totally have that problem. In spite of that, we have narrowed it down to some truly beautiful names and we are having a rough time choosing only one. For the record, the "psychic name," as I like to call it, is still way up there on the list. Now the question is whether I can keep it a secret or not… because once we know what her name will be, it will be nearly impossible for me to keep it in!

And finally, it's RAINING!! Woo hoo! If you have spent any longer than a year living in Arizona, you would know that rain is worthy of a parade-style celebration when it actually happens. It's happening big time right now and I would love to go frolic down the street reveling in its glory, but the lighting and thunder are keeping those impulses at bay… for now, at least. THIS IS EXCITING STUFF, PEOPLE.

Perhaps my wrist pain is a weather predictor? Here's hoping…