Kids & Pets

Blankets, Bears, and Baby Feet

You guys have asked some questions about taking our own newborn photos, making Teddy’s birth announcement, taking Clara’s four year photo & making her annual video, and what I got for Mother’s Day (spoiler alert: it’s a super sentimental photo book of kid quotes from Clara), so this post is a smorgasbord of all that documentation. As I wrote this I thought “maybe John and I are more ‘document-happy’ than most people” – you know, to take so many photos and make a yearly video, etc. But then I realized that most people with a blog probably lean towards a love of capturing things, and a ton of our non-blogging friends and relatives have phones and computers full of videos and photos of their kids. So I think it’s just easier than ever thanks to cell phones, and maybe we’re not that unusual after all.

We did stash our phones and break out the good camera to snap some casual newborn photos when Teddy was just a week old though, so here’s our favorite one on the cover of his birth announcement. We just used a template from TinyPrints, added the picture, and bought a few dozen.

As is the case with most photoshoots, it gets a lot less glamorous when you zoom out. Yup, we snapped the photo above while John stood between a giant box and a plant in the office.

Teddy was just seven days old when we did this, because we wanted to capture his sweet squishy newborn stage. Our amazing brother-in-law Todd (who’s a professional photographer) also offered to take some family & baby photos for us, so it was nice to know that the pictures we took wouldn’t be the only ones. It took the pressure way down, and made it nice and fun. John and I both got in on the shooting action, and we even got some sweet pictures of Clara and Teddy together.

As for the tools we used for our casual little shoot (professionals we’re not, so these really came in handy), we used the diffuser I got John for Christmas, a soft surface that we created with a pile of blankets and a Boppy on our office desk, and a step stool to help us take some shots from above.

The difference of the diffuser was pretty dramatic. The shot on the left is one we took without it – and then we held up the diffuser to even out the light and took another picture. These baby-in-a-basket shots make us laugh because he straight-up looks like he’s in the womb. I think good pro photographers can pull off setups like these, but after snapping a few we moved on to simpler shots of him sleeping, John holding him, Clara looking at him, etc.

We took these photos with our Nikon D3200 and our nifty fifty lens (it’s an AF-S Nikkor 50mm lens that we’ve had for a few years now). It’s great for shooting detail shots and creating that blurred background, but we never use it for full room shots (we use the stock lens that came with our camera for those).

We also tried to include things with meaning to us in the photos…

… like this sweet blanket that my brother’s wife Ali knitted for us (it was the first one she ever made – and it came out awesome!).

Baby foot intermission. I still contend there is nothing cuter.

I love this photo that captures Teddy’s cute hair and John’s wedding ring with a simple light background. I still can’t believe how much hair he had at birth since Clara had hardly any for a while.

Here’s one with eyes, was a total coup for us since he was still pretty sleepy and squinty at seven days old.

We also wanted to get some shots of Clara with him, so we used our bed as a casual background.

This one melts my heart. This girl LOVES her brother.

We liked these shots so much that we used a series of them on the back of Teddy’s announcement.

These photos were taken the next day, just randomly when they were laying in our bed.

They’re a pretty hilarious pair, these two.

Which leads us to Clara’s latest photo project picture. A bunch of you started asking where her four year shot was after we shared her birthday party (thanks for the reminders! It had completely slipped our mind between party stuff and general newborn happenings).

 

It’s pretty crazy to see how much she has grown since we started the project. One of our favorite things to do now is to take Teddy’s weekly photo and then look back at Clara’s photo from that same week. She loves studying his photos next to hers, and it’s fun for us to pick out a few similarities and differences.

We also got some pretty great outtakes from Clara’s four year photo. The one on the right kills me. She saw it and said “I look like a flamingo!”

And here’s her annual video (you can see the other three here, here, and here). Makes me all mushy and weepy. Sometimes I just want to freeze time.

And now for my mother’s day gift. It made me full on ugly-cry. John secretly put together a little photobook full of Clara Conversations for me.

Every page had me doing that smiling-with-tears-running-down-my-face thing. It’s one of my favorite things ever. And such a huge surprise. I have no idea when he snuck the time in to make it.

John even thought to leave the last page blank so Clara could draw our family. Look at us, all holding hands. I also like how Daddy is smaller than Teddy. And the Easter stickers are a nice touch too.

Update: John made/bought the book through MyPublisher, which is also where we order our family yearbooks (although this book is smaller and thinner than those).

How are you guys documenting things these days? Is your phone full of photos? Have you make any videos with clips and pictures set to music (here’s a post about how we make ours). Is anyone else sending out birth announcements? Is it weird that I keep them? I have dozens of them, from every friend and relative who has ever sent them to us, and I keep them in a big stack next to the cookbooks in a kitchen cabinet.

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Making Five Dollar Nursery Wall Decals

If Teddy ever forgets what letter his name starts with, he now has a whole wall to remind him. That’s right, it’s always “T” time in there. Har-har.

As we mentioned a few weeks ago, Sherry and I settled on a plan for a subtle accent pattern on the wall between the built-ins. Our original plan was to paint the Ts, like Sherry did for Clara’s raindrops. But after some of you suggested things like vinyl decals in the comments, we decided to give that a whirl instead. Vinyl has become a pretty mainstream option these days, especially for kids’ rooms. It’s removable and affordable, so we see the appeal. This tube – which is meant for Silhouette craft cutters – was $5 from JoAnn with a coupon. We don’t own a craft cutter, but that didn’t stop us from cutting simple line shapes by hand.

First we had to determine the size of our Ts. The wall space was around 88″ wide, so I figured some multiple of 4″ would make life easiest. But I mocked up two sizes with printer paper cut into 1/2″ strips – just to be sure that we both liked the 8 x 4″ version because it looked right (and not just because the math worked out). Thankfully we did.

With the size selected, next we had to lock down the arrangement. I cut out a few paper templates, taped them up, and we moved them around until we liked the layout. Happily, the pattern that we liked could easily fit into 4″ increments.

The next step was cutting a bunch of 1/2″ vinyl strips: some 8″ long, some 4″ long. I’m sure this would’ve been faster if we owned a craft cutting machine, but it wasn’t too hard to execute by hand. Here were our materials:

I started by making a simple guide on my board (three small pen dots on the wood at the zero inch, four inch, and eight inch spots). That way once the vinyl was rolled out, I could easily slice off an 8″ section.

With a 8″ section of vinyl cut and taped down on both sides, I used the ruler to tick off 1/2″ marks on both sides of the sheet.

Then I lined up the ruler to each set of marks and sliced through the vinyl (it took 2 passes – one to get through the vinyl, and one to get through the backing). Then I just moved down the sheet until the entire thing had been carefully shredded into 1/2″ strips. Making 4″ long strips meant following the same steps, and ending with one last cut down the center. I needed about 70 in total. It wasn’t particularly difficult work (sort of that auto-pilot, get-in-the-zone stuff).

Applying the decals to the wall was also pretty simple and repetitive. Since we were basically creating a giant grid on the wall, I knew that keeping things level and equally spaced was key. So I started at the top middle of the wall and worked in small sections, making pencil marks with a level and yard stick.

How I measured & marked the wall may be TMI for most people since it’s really specific to the shape/size of the decal you’re applying, but if anyone’s looking to recreate this look exactly, here’s the rundown. With my yard stick held vertically (and checked with a level) I marked the vertical spacing of each row – as seen below in the RED dots. Next I held the yard stick horizontally on each mark (again, checked by a level) and marked the middle and both ends of each T – as seen below in the BLUE dots. It sounds a lot more complicated than it was.

Then I used those marks to place the vinyl strips. You can sort of see my light pencil marks below, but I’ve added blue dots to help you see how they guided my placement of the 8″ strips. Once the long strip was placed, I used my center mark to add the 4″ vertical strip. I just eyeballed these since it was pretty easy to make such a short strip look vertical.

The vinyl was really easy to work with, so I’m glad we made that choice. It held tight to the wall with just a quick smooth of the finger and so far nothing has peeled up on its own (I started the project before Memorial Day and worked through last week, so some of the first strips have been up for almost two weeks). And just for kicks, I tried removing one to see what happened. It took a decent amount of work to get my nail under the edge enough to peel it off, and a decent amount of pressure to yank it off, but once I did it came off without damaging the wall. Initially when we considered vinyl vs. painting for the Ts, we worried Teddy might be able to peel them off when he’s older/more mobile, but I doubt Clara could remove one.

It was our first time working with self adhesive vinyl and I’m impressed with how crisp and grid-like the design turned out (something I’m not sure we could’ve achieved with paint alone). It’s nice to have some subtle pattern and interest between the built-ins. And the $5 price tag is pretty nice too.

We didn’t extend the T’s behind his crib, just because we thought the lines would look busy with all of the crib slats. But I did save some extra strips to add once he moves to a twin bed (we also have about a quarter of the vinyl roll left for backup). But let’s not jump that far to the future yet, okay? This kid is already 12 pounds. They really do grow up too fast.

I like that if we ever tire of it (or if Teddy requests something else down the line), we can just remove it and move on. Although it does make my geeky heart swell a bit to imagine what Teddy will see in the pattern besides his first initial. A bunch of squares for hanging his drawings? A bunch of cliffs for careening toy cars? A giant Plinko board?

Other than needing a light fixture overhead, I think we’re done in here for now. And you know we love a good before and after, so here’s a reminder of the carpeted pink-trimmed room we started with:

Did you guys finish up any projects this weekend? Or do anything outdoorsy? We squeezed in a few long walks and even slipped through a street festival on Sunday. Teddy loved the candied bacon on a stick.

Note: I spared you all from like two dozen T-puns that I was thisclose to unleashing throughout this post. Like how I think the wall fits Teddy to a T. And how I hope he thinks it’s T-rrific. And how I didn’t need a TI-82 to calculate the placement of my decals. Remember those?

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