Taking Better Photos of Your Kids- The Camera Accessory and Budget Lens You NEED


As much as I love my husband, he is teerrrrrrrible at giving gifts. Like really bad. Like doesn't ever buy anything for birthdays/anniversarys/etc. bad. Ha! 2 years ago for Christmas Joe bought me a gift to make up for all the gifts he had "forgotten" to buy me over the years. The one thing that had been on my list forever... the one gift I had secretly been dying for was given to me.  That Christmas he absolutely shocked me, and I opened a box to see he was ordering me my dream camera! I could not stop crying. It was such a perfect present!

I am FAR from a professional photographer, but I have two things I've bought that have made a WORLD of a difference in my photo quality.

1. The Nifty Fifty: You. Need. This. Lens. The Canon EF 50mm f/1.8 STM lens. I can't even begin to say what a (insert best Donald Trump voice here) HUGE difference this is from the kit lens that comes with the camera. It produces sharp images even with a toddler that is constantly on the move. The images look so much brighter and airy than the kit lens photos. One thing to be aware of: This lens is a fixed lens. It doesn't zoom in or out. At 50mm you do have to stand a bit further back than normal. However, this lens is totally worth it. It's price point makes it a great budget investment!

2. The Lightscoop Deluxe: When I was originally looking at these I couldn't find any unbiased reviews. Everyone that had written the review seemed to receive it for free or be directly on the Lightscoop website. I decided to just go for it since Amazon's return policy is fantastic. This was worth EVERY penny. I cannot say enough good about it. My photos turn out with incredible lighting every time! The camera's flash always gives such an unpleasant blown-out look to photos, and this is the perfect fix. It folds up small enough to fit in a pocket, and I keep it with me at all times. My Grandpa gave me his super fancy canon external flash and honestly I still prefer the lightscoop. It's that good.

Here's some pictures that have used both the lens and lightscoop together. Again, I'm not going to claim to be a professional anytime soon, but I love the way they turned out!

5 Beauty Products You Need to Try Under $15!


When it comes to beauty products I want them to do two things: 1. Go easy on the budget and 2. Be something I'll have no hesitation to buy again. Here's FIVE products I'm absolutely loving right now. Best part? They are all under $15!

1. Fake Bake Tanner: This stuff is absolutely amazing. Within one use I looked golden tan with not an ounce of orange. It smells like the beach in a bottle, and if you have ever used self tanner you know how huge that is. Self tanners always STINK to me. This one smelled great! It comes with a fabric mitt to spread it on evenly and plastic gloves so you don't end up with awkwardly tanned hands. I will definitely purchase this again once I run out! 

2. Maybelline Fit Me! Dewy and Smooth Foundation: My cousin Melody recommended this to me when talking about foundations that won't dry out the face. It does exactly what it says: gives me a dewy look without a high price point. It has great staying power and costs me under $6! I couldn't believe how much I loved it after using foundations at a much higher price point!

3. Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs: If you're in a pinch, this product is wonderful! I had come across it on a few big blogs I read and decided to give it a try. I've already bought it twice and can't even tell you how fabulous it is! It even stays on if you are going in the water... Perfect for my pasty self at the beach! 

4. Batiste Dry Shampoo: I'm a momma... Showers aren't exactly frequent over here. My hair is pretty prone to looking oily, and this stuff takes care of it in a snap! 

5. Black Miracle Hair Treatment: This stuff came in a sample box from Amazon prime. It is unbelievable. It made my hair silky smooth! It looked like I just had a professional blowout at a salon. When I went to Amazon to purchase a full bottle I couldn't believe how cheap it was! It is a GREAT product! 

Any other product recommendations for me? I'd LOVE to hear yours! 

The Present Parent: Saying Goodbye to Screen time


Screens. They are everywhere. We are constantly looking at them, checking them, and updating them. Our worlds revolve around a virtual one.

Months back, sitting at a restaurant with my family, my husband motioned over to the woman and her young son next to us. The woman hadn't looked up once from her phone. The little boy was clearly dying for her attention and he tried to show her what he colored, but she couldn't be bothered. I remember feeling hypocritically disgusted.

As I was feeding my toddler lunch, I realized that I had hardly looked at him the whole time. What could have been a fun growing time full of giggles and memories was spent facedown checking social media outlets. I am no different from that woman at the restaurant! Is it a bad thing to be involved in social media and screens? No. But when it takes away from living in the here and now? That's where we have trouble. I fear we are living in a generation of people who will get to the end of this life desperate for a do over. A generation of people praying to go back to be present. To see the memories playing out before them that they didn't look up for.

Being completely transparent: Giving up screen time is tough for all of us. It's the easy way to amuse my son. It gives me the "break" I so desperately crave. I'm never going to be one of those mommas that says screen time should be forbidden, because let's be honest... sanity is also kinda a big deal. I decided to come up with 10 things that we can replace that time with to build memories and cut the addiction.

1. Buy a Zoo Pass: First, I know this is not feasible for everyone. Our family has a very limited budget, but this is something that paid for itself. Our zoo membership (for us and up to six kids!) was only $79. That paid for itself in two visits! It's not easy to go anywhere with a two year old and a 3 month old, but seeing my sons eyes light up when he sees the animals was worth that price alone. Our phones are put away, and we are making memories instead of scrolling through Facebook posts. It's pretty nice being there for his moments instead of reading about others moments.

2. Go outside: Simple as that yet most days it's the last thing I want to do. Our neighborhood is great and has a park PLUS an elementary school's park to take advantage of. For a short walk or drive you can burn off some energy and soak in the giggles. The other day as Liam gleefully giggled across the field to the playground I remember thinking if God sees it fit to take my memories someday, I hope he leaves me with that one. The little boy in all his 2 year old glory grinning ear to ear, dressed in his favorite Mickey Mouse ears, and backpack on as he ran excitedly to the slides.

3. Dance: Turn up the music, dance like a nut, and make a fool out of yourself with your kids. We laugh until our stomachs hurt and my son has become quite the dancing machine!

4. Limit your screentime to naps and bedtime: When your kids are as young as mine, naps are a pretty decent portion of the day. That means I have plenty of time to catch up with friends and family during that period of the afternoon. Personally I'm trying to limit my time when my husband is home as well to make sure I'm putting in a conscious effort to connect with him rather than mindlessly scrolling.

5. Take a mini-cation: Whether this comes through a $10 camping site at the beach or a hotel, make it a point to get away from everything with your family. We just booked a $99 1 night 2 day stay at Great Wolf Lodge and I'm SO looking forward to leaving my phone in the room while we have fun together!

6. Go the the Library: Something I need to take advantage of myself! Before having Liam we were ALWAYS at the library. I'm talking at least once a week! They have free books, movies (even though I'm trying to cut down on that area!), and audio books. Many offer fun events for kiddos throughout the week.

7. Rent some audiobooks: Going from the point above, audiobooks have been great for me lately. They allow me to play with the kids while I listen. Win for everyone.

8. Do a silly workout together: Youtube family workout videos. They are often hilarious and I think I laughed harder watching my two year old try to do the moves than I would ever have laughed at a show. We get exercise and laugh together. It's a blast!

9. Go for a walk: Not sure there's much else to say on this one. Busting out our strollers or wraps and going for a walk seems to lift our moods and reconnect us.

10. Color: They make coloring books for adults now, folks! Sit down with your kiddos and color! It's a blast, it relives stress, and your kid will LOVE spending that time with you.

Personally? I'm going to make it a point to be here. In this moment. In this life. I want to be present. I refuse to get to the end and say "Man, I wish I would have been there." Does it mean we won't spend anytime in front of our phones and television? No way! It means that I will make a conscious effort to spend more time interacting with people in person than I do with my phone as my third hand. My kids will hopefully never feel like their mommy has more important things to do than be with them.

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