Sunday, March 15, 2020

Studio Photos with Pearl Photo & Design

I always know that whenever Vanessa shoots photos of our family, that they will turn out incredible. This fun studio session we did at her house was no different! I wanted to write about our experience in case any of you are looking for a photographer in the area and are wondering what it's like to work with Vanessa at Pearl Photo & Design (spoiler alert: you'll love it). Be sure to check out info on her Mother's Day event here!

Vanessa's indoor studio that we shot at is a room adjacent to her family room. This immediately was less intimidating for the kids since it felt like they were just playing in a friend's house rather than in a studio inside of a building. Henrik could go in and out of the studio room as he pleased and play with toys in her family room and basement then come back in and join us when he felt up for it.

At first I was nervous since Henrik definitely has his own opinions on when he wants to do something (and when he REALLY doesn't want to do something), but Vanessa is so great at interacting with kids (she has three of her own!) and helping them feel comfortable so their personalities can shine. She went down into her basement to set up a show for her kids and instructed Henrik to hide and surprise her when she came back up. Henrik opted to hide under a white fuzzy blanket in the studio so when she came into the room and he was still hiding, she was able to get her camera all ready to go. Then she snapped a bunch of pics as Henrik jumped out and surprised her. Little games like that were a great way to get Henrik to interact with her and be animated. She would suggest he give Piper a hug (which he would do) or hide behind one of her curtains and pop out. Then when he was not as compliant, she never pushed him. We followed his lead and worked with what he was willing to go and got some great shots out of it.

Piper was feeling a bit clingy (also not surprising) and wanted to stay with me for the most part, but Vanessa had lots of good ideas for different poses we could do so Piper was comfortable. We got a few pictures of Piper by herself too before she decided to crawl back over to me. I couldn't believe we got as many as we did with her smiling and being herself!

Vanessa is so great at interacting with kids, finding ways to help them have fun while taking photos, and making them laugh. She also really values having parents in photos with their kids (moms in particular since we're generally the one taking photos on our phones at home!) so she made sure I was in plenty of pictures too. This is what makes her Mother's Day event so successful!

She is energetic and knows how to make everyone she photographs feel comfortable and at ease. PLUS she is just so talented haha. We always love how our photos turn out and wish we had more wall space to hang all the prints on.

It's so important to me to capture moments with my kids since life tends to move too quickly most days and I love that these photos so accurately represent my kids' mannerisms, personalities, and our eternal bond. She'll be doing family photos of us in a few weeks outdoors and I can't wait to share those photos with all of you too!

If you are looking for a photographer (particularly if you have kids!) definitely look into booking a session with Vanessa at Pearl Photo & Design! I promise you will love how they turn out. She has a Mother's Day event coming up that I HIGHLY recommend signing up for! Learn more about that here, see more of her work on her Instagram page here, and follow her on Facebook here!

And now, for the photos! I am in love with all of them. Thank you, Vanessa!

Piper always sticks her little tongue out like this and it KILLS me. So glad we caught it on camera!

Popping out from the curtains

Crawling away haha

This blog post was sponsored by Pearl Photo & Design. All opinions expressed are my own. 

Wednesday, March 11, 2020


I've been thinking about writing this post for a few weeks now and I'm finally having a quiet moment to get to it (I wrote the bulk of this at 10 pm on New Year's Eve and now I'm publishing it like three months later hahhahaha).

While I was in the hospital before being induced with Piper, Chris and I were watching "Nailed It!" on Netflix (a ridiculous yet entertaining show). There was a woman competing on it who talked about how in her line of work she constantly would have to adapt and overcome in order to succeed and that was going to be her approach to winning the competition. I thought a lot about that phrase, "adapt and overcome" and decided it would be a fitting mantra for the upcoming 2019 year. I knew 2019 was going to be difficult and filled with constant adjustments, but I also knew it would be wonderful.

Babies change SO MUCH that first year and are extremely demanding, Piper was no exception. There were many times when I thought we had found a good schedule and rhythm only for something to change and then we'd spend weeks trying to find the new normal. She was relatively easy the first six months, but required a lot of naps and didn't like to be separated from me (she has never taken a bottle so I've always had to stay relatively close by). January-May, my cousin was able to come over several times a week and help me with the kids. She was such a blessing for me and helped tremendously as I balanced my new role as a mom of two. She was able to keep an eye on Henrik and keep him entertained while I fed Piper and got her down for naps and was an extra set of hands while I tried to do dinner prep, laundry, and other tasks. She had her first baby at the end of May but we still get to spend time together with our kids, which is great. She played a huge role in helping me maintain my sanity those first few months with Piper. My hormones were a mess and having someone around during the day a couple times a week was great. It was hard to make it over to my mom's house with both kids so being able to stay home and have my cousin come here was amazing.

Henrik was a bit rough with her in the beginning (she took a few bonks to the head/slaps to the face) but he generally knew to be gentle with her and outgrew the more physical stage quickly. I was shocked at how well he (overall) adjusted to having her here.

Piper slept great until we transitioned her into her crib, unswaddled. Shortly thereafter, she started teething. Then hit a sleep regression. Then got sick. Again and again and again. September-December was very difficult for Chris and I because of how tired we were all the time. We were both extremely sleep-deprived thanks to Piper and frustrated because we couldn't seem to make any progress with her. Finally shortly after she turned one, we hit our breaking point (Piper started demanding that I stand and rock her for 45 minutes before each nap and bedtime) so we did a gentle sleep-training method with her that ultimately taught her to fall asleep on her own and sleep through the night within two weeks. We are extremely grateful that she is sleeping so much better now and we are all much happier and healthier because of it. I'm not nearly as stressed or anxious as I used to be when Chris left town for work because bedtime is much easier to do by myself and I don't have to worry about waking up multiple times through the night with Piper.

It has been such a joy watching Henrik go from young toddler to more of a "kid". His vocabulary has expanded a ton this past year and he talks constantly. Him being able to communicate better with us has made a big difference. He's hilarious and imaginative and a fabulous big brother. He loves to play and help with any sort of project or task. As any parent of a toddler will tell you, there are moments where he makes me want to scream and pull my hair out. But usually those moments are just that. Moments. They pass quickly and then he does something sweet and adorable and I forget I was ever frustrated. Everything he does is a normal part of his development and I can usually tolerate it if I remember that. He has very high-highs and low-lows, but he can generally get over his sadnesses pretty quickly.

Chris's work has been crazy. He started off the year still working his full-time job in addition to working on the start-up he's been part of for the last four years. His demands with the start-up grew exponentially and as they saw more success and raised more money, we decided it was time for him to leave his day job and commit to the start-up full-time. It was a bittersweet decision, but the right one. Having Chris only work one job instead of two has been a huge blessing.

In the fall, Chris had to travel for work a TON. Almost every week for two months. It was really hard on all of us, but worth it. Thankfully, my parents were mostly around to help with the kids and when they couldn't be there, we relied heavily on several friends to help me with the kids. I couldn't have done it without them.

My anxiety still tends to affect me in some capacity most days, but I'm re-learning how to cope and find healthy ways to de-stress and focus on other things. If I let it, my anxiety becomes all-consuming and affects my parenting and time with Chris and the kids. I'm not as focused and tend to worry about small things too much. But Chris continues to be incredibly supportive and helps me talk through the hard moments and watches the kids most weekday nights so I can go to the gym. I've learned that exercise helps me a TON (both physically and mentally) so we have made it a priority to try and get me there as often as we can.

I've also tried this last year to really step back from blogging and social media business commitments and use it as more of a fun hobby (that isn't as stressful). Photos, editing, writing, etc. take a ton of time and effort, too much for me to handle now with the kids. My goal is to try and simplify our lives as much as we can so I can focus on enjoying these years with Henrik and Piper while still having a bit of an outlet; hence I haven't posted on the blog in just over a year hahah. I still continue to post once or twice a week on Instagram and do the occasional collaboration, but as just about any "influencerrr" will tell you, the Instagram algorithms are constantly changing and extremely frustrating so I try to just post when I feel like it and like what I have to share rather than pressuring myself into posting everyday.

I do have some cool collaborations and projects coming up that you'll see here and on my social media, which I'm excited about! For now, I have a bit more time in the evenings and on weekends than I did a few months ago so I feel better about having a few projects that I'm genuinely eager to share with all of you. Stay tuned!

As always, thank you for the love and support! Many of you ask about my blogging and it's nice to hear that at least a few people are still interested haha. I know this post wasn't terribly fascinating, but it seemed like a good time to update you all on our life and past year.

Above all, I'm so grateful for this life I'm living. My kids are Chris and I's world and Chris continues to astound me in his various roles. I love him more everyday and am so blessed to grow and learn with him. He's so supportive and has given me the best gift I can think of, which is to be home with our children.

Thursday, March 7, 2019

Piper's Name & Life Update

Shortly after having Henrik, I shared the meaning behind his name and how we came up with it so I thought I would do the same for Piper, in case any of you are curious :)

When I was in high school, a leader in our church came to stay with us for a conference. His name was Paul Pieper and he ended up becoming a good family friend. While he stayed with us, he gave my sister and me some very valuable advice regarding how to choose a husband. His advice ultimately altered the entire course of my life and helped me to know that Chris was the one. So when Chris and I got married several years later in Utah, my dad reached out to Elder Pieper to see if he would be available to marry us and he very graciously agreed to despite his busy schedule. That day he gave us even more great advice about marriage. Elder Pieper had a profound impact on both of us and we are so grateful for him.

I had always loved the name Piper (one of my best friend's little sisters is named Piper as well) so years ago, my mom suggested if we ever have a girl to name her Piper after Paul Pieper. I loved the idea and meaning behind it. Thankfully Chris did too so we decided that would be her name. It serves as a constant reminder of the advice he gave us and that God loves us. I truly believe that Heavenly Father brought Elder Pieper into our family's life to help and guide me as well as my family members. 

For a long time, I thought we would give our first daughter my middle name, Lynn, which comes from my paternal grandma's name, Carolyn. But when we found out Piper was due on Christmas, I thought it would be fun to give her a middle name that related to Christmas somehow. We toyed with a few options but ultimately settled on Noel. You may be wondering why we didn't choose the feminine spelling, Noelle. The reason for that is my full name is 15 letters long, Chris's full name is 20 letters long, and Henrik's full name is 20 letters as well. I like things to end in 5 or 0 (because I am OCD) so when picking out Piper's name, Piper Noel Stoker was 15 letters whereas Piper Noelle Stoker was 17. And I just couldn't allow that. I fully acknowledge it's weird but there it is haha. We have to continue the pattern! 

Things are overall going well. Having two kids is certainly challenging, I have had more than a few breakdowns haha. But I wouldn't change it for the world. Henrik is such a wonderful big brother and is quickly learning how to be nice to Piper and be helpful. He loves to stroke her and say "hiiiiii" and bring me burp cloths when she spits up (which is quite often). It's sweet to see him becoming very protective of her. He also likes to tell people how she cries. "Baby, ahhhh!!! Ageeen". Which, loosely translated, means "Baby cried again". 

Getting kids in and out of the car is by far the hardest thing. We don't go many places other than my mom's house because I just can't handle the two of them on my own outside of a house haha. Someday we will get there!

Our usual routine is Henrik wakes up around 8/8:15, he watches Elmo's World in his crib for about 30 minutes while I feed Piper and get ready. Then Piper goes in her Mamaroo to sleep a little longer while I get Henrik dressed and fed. Then we play either at our house or we go over to my mom's house. At home, Henrik is an expert at helping me fold laundry and do dinner prep. We play/do household chores until noon ish then I feed him lunch and get him down for his nap. While Henrik naps, I try to get Piper to sleep so I can sleep. It usually works, ish. I don't sleep for very long and often just as I am falling asleep, Piper wakes up. But it's better than nothing!

Henrik then wakes up around 3:30 and we play, Facetime family, and finish getting dinner together. We try to eat between 5:30 and 6 once Chris is home then I make sure Piper is fed and happy before going to the gym. Once I'm back, we play some more as a family, give baths as needed, then work on getting both kids ready for bed. Chris handles Henrik's bedtime routine while I take care of Piper. We read scriptures and say a prayer as a family then put Henrik in his crib by 9. Piper is usually awake while I shower so Chris hangs out with her then I feed her again and she is generally officially down for the night around 10 or 11. Chris and I watch a show together (Jeopardy, The Bachelor, or Suits) then off to bed. 

Piper has been a rockstar sleeper at night and will sleep between 8 and 11 hours straight. It probably won't last so I am enjoying it while I can haha. Piper is a sweet little girl who lives to smile and be with us. After dinner, she becomes a bit more high maintenance and loves to be held but usually Chris is home by then so we can take turns holding her. We often eat dinner in shifts, but it works. 

The hardest part about this phase right now is Chris's travel schedule for work. He's been out of town a lot and has two more long trips coming up. Thankfully, I have my parents and several good friends who are always willing to help out. Bedtime is by far the most difficult part to do by myself because Piper is so unpredictable. One time I tried doing it on my own and all three of us ended up crying at the same time haha. I'm hoping I'll get better at handling the two kids without Chris as time goes on and they get older, but mentally it is hard to be without my best friend/co-parent. I'm extremely grateful I have help available when he is away or else I'm quite sure I would lose my mind. 

As I mentioned earlier, I have a fair share of mental/emotional breakdowns haha but things are getting better overall. My hormones are stabilizing and I'm figuring out coping mechanisms to help me when I feel overwhelmed. Two kids is certainly difficult, but oh-so rewarding. I lay in bed at night scrolling through photos of them and thinking about how much I love them. It's a beautiful feeling. 

Here are some photos from her birth (by Victoria Rayburn Photography) and newborn session (by Pearl Photo & Design) because I am obsessed with all of them and I never want to forget these moments. 

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