This weekend was Liv’s first birthday and we celebrated with a farm animal theme. I wanted to make it a little more girlie so I found these amazing animal prints from Etsy. I love them so much I think I am going to use them to decorate her room once it’s done!

We don’t have a big house, certainly not one for entertaining both sides of the family. Just our immediate family alone is around 40 people. Plus, on my husband’s side most of the kids are grown so parties are much more laid back and um … quiet. On my side, not so much! We have all the babies. So it’s way more rowdy and LOUD! It’s just easier to do two parties even though it ends up being more stressful and probably more expensive in the end.

Since the house isn’t too big, there’s not much to decorate, but I do like to make use of the shelves in the dining area as well as the kitchen counters whenever I can. We get a ton of light in this house so it always looks so pretty decorated.

I had printed a ton of pictures, but they didn’t end up coming in time so I just strung up whatever I could find of Olivia. This is the perfect time for a reminder to print your pictures!! This way you’ll never run in to a jam when you’re decorating! Lol.

I had seen a beautiful balloon garland on Pinterest and decided to use the colors as inspiration to make my own. It was actually super easy! Party City sells a tape that you can use to DIY. Amazon also has a ton of options. You just blow up the balloons yourself and pull the end through a hole in the tape. That’s it! I did have to re-do mine because I put them too close together at first and I couldn’t get it flat against the wall. So you may have to experiment a little, but it really is easy. I also stuck in a few eucalyptus branches where there were holes to fill it out a little.

My intention was to make an actual garland that would go around the big window in my kitchen, but we have a light that hangs down over the sink and it was just too hard to get it to work so I gave up and did the sides of the window.

I didn’t do much else for decoration aside from putting out some fun desserts. I had these amazing cookies made from 2 Sweet Cookies by Lori and Nicole. They were so darn cute I didn’t want anyone to eat them!

And lastly, I purchased this adorable Pin the Tail on the Lamb printable for the kids to play. I love that it matched the floral farm animal theme we had going on!

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Let me start off by telling you that we love Disney. Maybe it’s inspired by my niece Danielle’s obsession with all things Disney or because the girls grew up watching Disney movies and playing with princesses. Whatever the reason, we’ve been there several times and have always had a positive experience. This time around was different.

We planned the trip with my sister in law and her family as a way to celebrate Olivia’s first birthday. Liv’s cousin and baby BFF is less than 3 weeks older than her and we wanted to do something special for them. Disney was the natural choice!

An extra special trip

When we had the dates picked out, I decided that I wanted to gift a ticket to my mom for Christmas (yes this trip been booked and paid for since before the holidays!). We never went as kids so I wanted her to come for the first time. Eventually my sister said she wanted to come and our vacation turned into a big family trip.

I was so excited to get to show my mom and my sister how fun and special Disney was to us. My sister has never been either so they looked to us to plan all the fast passes and character dining. Not only were we celebrating Olivia’s first birthday, but Jaime turned 12 on our trip and my sister’s husband had a birthday too! It was going to be extra special!

Everything started out as I imagined. Getting to see the castle and the characters through the kids eyes is so much fun. It was rainy and cold the first 3 days, but we made the best of it. I was excited for the sun to finally come out so I could put Liv in all the cute outfits I bought and take pictures.

On Wednesday, we headed to Animal Kingdom in the morning to hop on the Kilimanjaro Safari ride. The sun was finally shining and it was a beautiful day. We saw alligators, hippos, giraffe, lions, a cheetah, elephants, and more. The ride was super bumpy so Liv was holding on to me most of the time.

And that’s where it all goes downhill …

Towards the end of the ride, right as we were about to get out of the car, she threw up all over the $50 Minnie Mouse sweat jacket I had just bought. We rushed her out of the truck and got cleaned up as best we could. In hindsight, the Disney employee directing everyone off the cars never even came over to see if we needed help.

Initially I thought maybe it was the ride itself, but as we walked towards the bathroom to wash our hands, she vomited again. That’s when I started to worry. Could it be the stomach bug? I’d heard that is was going around Disney a while back so we tried to be extra careful about watching hands and not touching things.

She vomited again outside of the bathroom so Anthony and I decided it was best to leave the park. I got really upset and walked away from the group with the baby so the kids wouldn’t see my crying. While we were off to the side, she vomited again. I was so sad to leave my girls, but I knew they were in good hands with my mom, my sister, and her husband ( all of which who have never been to Disney before so they had to navigate the park on their own).

The only time I felt really scared

As we started to walk towards the exit, she vomited again. The poor thing was just bringing up bile now and it was awful to watch. We decided to head to the first aid center instead of the exit so we popped in to a store to ask where it was. A nice man walked us there and as we followed him, I felt the baby go limp in my arms. I asked my husband if she was ok and he looked worried. For a split second I wasn’t sure if she was breathing and I was terrified. We stopped and after a minute or so she opened her eyes and I felt so relieved. It was one of the scariest moments of the whole day. She was out of it at this point. So exhausted from vomiting. And there was nothing left in her. We tried to give her water as much as possible, but she would vomit each time.

Inside the first aid center, we went over what happened and they gave us some water. We were told to stop giving water to the baby and to let her tummy rest. This was contrary to what everyone else would tell us later that day and in the days following. I was trying my best to keep my composure, but tears kept welling up. We were able to schedule a ride back to the hotel and were given some towels to take with us in case she vomited again.

Our ride was a Lyft service and we only had 5 minutes to get to the exit. We tried to hurry, but she got sick again so we had to stop and take care of her. Twice the Lyft driver left before we were able to get to the pick up point. We were trying to schedule another ride when a Minnie Van driver pulled up and dropped someone off. My husband asked him if he could please take up back to the hotel and explained the situation. Thankfully he did and we were lucky to find out that he was an EMT so he told us about Disney’s 911 service. It’s totally free and they’ll come to the hotel. So we called them when we got back and an ambulance pulled up outside the lobby. They asked us a bunch of questions, took her temperature and we were told we could either take her to urgent care or go straight to the emergency room.

I assumed we were dealing with the stomach bug so we figured it would run its course. I said no thank you to waiting for hours in a doctor’s office or emergency room and opted to go back to the hotel. My husband and I just prayed we weren’t the next ones to go down. We let her rest and pumped her full of water and electrolytes. We also gave her a bath because she stunk like vomit. She continued to vomit until about 6:00 in the evening and then slept on and off until the morning.

A day of waiting

In the morning we called Disney 911 again because she wasn’t perking up as much as we had hoped. They took her temp and still nothing. This time we accepted transportation to the urgent care center just to be safe. She was super sleepy and barely opened her eyes all morning. We got to urgent care around 9:45 and didn’t leave until 3 hours later. The doctor there checked her lungs and ears. Both were clear. He checked her throat with a tongue depressor and she gagged and vomited again. He thought her throat looked kind of red so he wanted to do a strep test and test for the flu. (I don’t know how, but someone needs to invent a better test for strep). He shoved the swab in her mouth and she ended up coughing in his face. The doctor actually jumped back and said “ugh!” Pretty professional, huh? When he was done he literally ran to the bathroom and started washing his face and hands. My husband and I just laughed. Maybe he doesn’t have kids. The flu test was easier thank goodness. Just a swab in the nose.

We waited for those results, but both came back negative. He said we had two options – we could give her tamiflu (even though she tested negative for the flu) or go straight to the ER for further testing based on her demeanor and the fact that sometimes tests can give you a false negative. He said parents throw the word ‘lethargic’ around quite a bit to describe sleepy kids, but that he considered Olivia to be the true definition. I knew I wasn’t going to give her meds so we opted for the ER to be safe.

Liv’s first trip to the ER

When we got to the emergency room, she was seen fairly quickly and we waited in a triage room for a doctor to come by. We were asked all the same questions and they checked her temp and listened to her lungs. When the doc came in, she recommended an IV to get her hydrated again. The one thing I was terrified to hear. How the heck are they going to stick a needle in my baby’s arm? How are they even going to find a vein? She’s so tiny!! And what about when she screams and cries? She’s never going to just sit there and keep her arm straight.

Thankfully it all happened pretty fast and both nurses were so sweet. I asked them if they had ever done this to a baby before and they assured me that they have. I held her while they tied off her arm to find a vein. The tiniest little vein. I couldn’t watch so I turned my head and held her as tight as I could. I felt her body stiffen and she let our a big cry, but we did the best we could to comfort her. I held up fine while the nurses were there, but as soon as they left, I was a puddle of tears.

They had to put a board on her arm so that she wouldn’t bend it. And it was all wrapped up in a yellow bumblebee bandage. She got hooked up to the IV and it ran for an hour while she slept in my arms. They also tested for the flu again and took some blood.

Liv’s first ambulance ride

Eventually the doctor came back in after the IV stopped and told us that she wasn’t responding as well as they hoped so she recommended that Olivia be admitted to the children’s hospital in Orlando for more testing. I was crushed. My poor baby. She had been through so much already and now we had to spend our last day in Disney in the hospital.

They wanted to do one more round of fluids before the ambulance came. Another hour went by while she slept. I was getting anxious at this point. I just wanted to know what was wrong with my baby! After that bag finished she ended up having some explosive diarrhea. I was undressing her and cleaning everything up when the ambulance arrived. I didn’t even have another outfit because I had no idea we’d be out all day.

I was told to just keep her in the clean diaper because they were going to hook her up to something. You should have seen the giant gurney they had for such a tiny baby. It was all happening so fast. They put these little sticky things on her. Two on her chest and two on her legs I think. She was put on the gurney and now she was crying because there were a bunch of strangers all around. She started to get really upset so the one gentleman squirted a small thing of sugar water in her mouth to try and calm her down. It worked momentarily, but she was still scared. It broke my heart to see her bare little body all strapped in. On top of all that we were told that only one of us could ride with her in the ambulance. And not even in the back!! I had to sit up front while my baby girl was strapped to a gurney in the back with 2 strangers.

Once I was in the ambulance, I heard them bring her in the back and she cried a little, but was silent for the rest of the ride. I tried to peek through the little window, but only saw the back of the gurney. We finally made it to the hospital and I watched and they wheeled her out of the back of the ambulance. She looked even smaller to me now. She was quiet until she caught a glimpse of me in the elevator. My mama heart was being ripped out.

Hospitals aren’t a good place to rest

We were finally in a room and I could hold my baby again. They took off the yellow bumblebee bandage and put on a stiffer arm cuff so that she wouldn’t bend her arm and she was hooked up to the IV again for more fluids. I still had no clothes so they gave me a hospital gown for her. My arms ached from holding her all day. I called my sister to see if she could bring us some clothes and a toothbrush. My girls were texting me and they were so sweet asking if we were ok. They missed their baby sister and were worried for her. I am so so thankful that my mom and sister were there to keep everyone busy, but I still felt bad that they had to do everything on their own.

We spent most of our time in the hospital just waiting. Waiting for someone to come in and tell us what they thought, when we were going to see some test results, and when we could go home because we had a flight to catch the next day. We passed the time watching her sleep and trying to get some rest ourselves. If you’ve ever stayed in a hospital you know it’s not a place to get rest. They came in every hour or so to check on her. The hospital room was great, but the couch where parents are supposed to sleep was too far away from the baby. I tried to sleep but every time she coughed or whined, I jumped off the couch to check on her.

Our last day

The next morning around 7:00 a.m. the sun began to peek through the blinds and I knew we’d have to be up for the day. My husband and I were anxious because they still hadn’t told us anything. It was Friday now and she hadn’t vomited since Wednesday evening so we were hopeful. Around 10:00 we tried to give her a bottle and she threw it right up. My husband and I looked at each with this ‘oh crap!’ face. When the doctor finally made her rounds, we were nervous she was going to make us stay the day and we’d miss our flight home. She told us that the baby was doing better because she was having regular wet diapers now and she seemed more alert. She also told us that the flu test came back negative again, but that she did test positive for something called the Corona virus. It’s like a common cold for you and me, but can be harder on babies and older people. It’s an upper respiratory virus though so I was confused about why she’d be vomiting so much. We told the doctor about the bottle that she just threw up and she was hoping it was just an isolated thing. She said we should try to give her a little more about an hour or so later and if she kept it down, we could go home. Can I tell you how nervous we were giving her that bottle? I looked at her and whispered, “you gotta keep this one down baby girl so we can get out of here.” Thankfully she did and we got the ok to go home.

As if all that wasn’t bad enough

Eventually we were discharged and made it back to the hotel. We had about 2 hours to sit back and relax while we waited for the Magical Express bus to take us to the airport. As if we hadn’t been through enough already, our flight was delayed because of windy weather back home. The flight itself was the roughest one I’ve been on because of the wind too. The landing was pretty jarring. I couldn’t want to get off that dam plane and back home in my bed. By the time we got on the road, it was well after midnight. We were all exhausted!

We spent most of the day Saturday doing laundry and letting the baby sleep as much as possible. Sunday she seemed a little better. There were times she would start to play and then cry. She would smile here and there, but she just wasn’t herself. She was drinking her bottle fine and no more vomiting … until bedtime. She threw up her bottle and was like, “are you kidding me?” All over her crib, her blanket, the floor, my bed skirt. It stunk in my bedroom! I felt sick to my own stomach thinking we might have to go back to the hospital!

I called the answering service for my pediatrician and a nurse called me back. She didn’t seem super concerned about her vomiting again as long as she was still having wet diapers. I just couldn’t understand why she was having so many stomach issues with an upper respiratory virus. I made an appointment with my pediatrician for this morning and voiced my confusion to her. She agreed that she probably also has some type of stomach bug and prescribed Zofran to help settle her tummy and get rid of the nausea and hopefully stop any more vomiting.

So that’s where we are at now. I am hoping that as each day passes she’ll get stronger and start feeling better. She lost a little weight so we gotta fatten her up before her first birthday this weekend! Fingers crossed there is no more vomiting. And if I never have to see another doctor again I will be more than happy!

Some iPhone pics from the end of our trip.



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I have always loved reading. Even into my teenage years, I would curl up with a book and breeze through it in a day or two. Danielle Steele was one of my favorites. Probably because that’s what my mom was reading.

When I became a mom, one of my favorite things to do was read with my girls. I loved having books as a part of our bedtime routine and the same is true with Olivia.

I started reading to her at 6 months old and she loves books now. She’ll snuggle up in my lap and I’ll flip through the pages and either read the words, point at the pictures, or explain what’s going on. She doesn’t always have the patience to sit through the story so then I just let her flip through the pages on her own.

As we get closer to her first birthday, I’ve made reading a part of our bedtime routine just like I did with my older two. I pick out a stack of her favorites and then we say goodnight to each book and turn out the light. She loves it!

Instead of toys, I’ve asked family and friends to get her books for her birthday so that I can add to her library. Books are a great gift for a first birthday. Or any birthday for that matter! Here are some of the best books I’ve found for baby’s first birthday.

Before I dive in, I wanted to talk a little about what kinds of books are best for one year olds. Since babies are pretty hard on their toys, board books with sturdy cardboard pages are the best choice.

As they approach their first birthday, babies start to grasp some of the words we read to them. Reading starts to become more interactive which is always fun. The most meaningful words are usually the names and things from their everyday life — words like “doggy,” “mommy,” “daddy,” “milk,” or “bottle.” Point to the pictures and act out what you read. Wait and see if the baby will babble back to you.

Ok on to the list of best books for baby’s first birthday!

Birthday Wishes – Minnie Birdsong. We have this one and I’ve already been reading it to Olivia so that we can talk about her birthday and sing Happy Birthday too. She loves hearing her name when I sing Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday from the Very Hungry Caterpillar – Eric Carle. I love the bright, colorful artwork in this book.

One: A Birthday Book – Melanie Erin Morgan. I love that this book celebrates the special milestone of turning one and the illustrations are so fun.

Where is Baby’s Birthday Cake? – Karen Katz. I had so many Karen Katz books when my girls were little and I can’t wait for Olivia to read this. This is a great lift-the-flap book with lots of festive things to find.

You Are a Star – Ariella Aboloffio. This one isn’t a board book either. Lol! I know, I know, but I had to choose a few that parents would enjoy just as much as kids. I love the message to celebrate all the things you can do and the importance of finding your own voice.

The Wonderful Things You Will Be – Emily Winfield Martin. This isn’t a board book, but I had to include it because the message is so sweet. It’s about all of the things parents think of when they look at their children – brave, bold, creative, clever, etc.

Now You Are One – Minnie Birdsong. Use this book instead of a card! You can write a personalized message under the cover flap (you can also do the same with ‘Birthday Wishes’). The illustrations are adorable too.

Birthday Monsters – Sandra Boynton. This book is so fun and I love the rhymes! “You hear your door come crashing down—those birthday monsters are in town!”

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I can’t believe I’m typing this, but we’re in full on prep mode for Olivia’s first birthday. I sound like such a cliche, but I don’t know where the time went. A whole year has flown by already. 365 days! How is that even possible?

I think it’s so hard to process because I thought I was prepared. I have two other children so I know how quickly time passes. My oldest will be 16 in a couple of months. Just 2 weeks before Olivia turns 1, my middle child (who I always thought would be my baby!) will be 12! I’ve already gone through this so I tried to take it slow and reminded myself constantly to breathe it all in. And yet somehow I’m still floored that we’re here!

To celebrate this year and all of the changes it’s brought about, I wanted to do something special on Instagram. All month long, I’ll be sharing 30 lessons I’ve learned while photographing Olivia’s first year.

When I found out I was pregnant, that’s one of the things I was most excited about – having a reason to pick up my camera again. Just for me.

I love photographing my clients and their families, but over the years I’ve used my camera less and less on my own family. And that’s the very reason I picked up a camera in the first place – to document my children and their childhood. So this was going to be my opportunity to dive back in and feel creative again.

Well, as with most things in life, it didn’t exactly happen as I imagined it. From the day Olivia was born, I had to manage my expectations and let go of some of the photos I had been dreaming of. One of the biggest let downs was not being able to photograph my big girls coming in to the hospital room to meet their baby sister. Visitors were banned because of the flu. I was crushed!

I was able to capture them meeting her at home, but it took a little while for me to get over the disappointment.

So the lessons I’m sharing will all lead up to a guide that I’m working on for expectant moms who want to document their baby’s first year. All the tips and tricks I’ve learned along the way will hopefully help new moms document the first year in a creative, authentic way.

If you’d like to know when the guide launches, sign up here.

Come check out all the lessons I’m sharing over on IG too! Here’s what I shared March 1st, 2019.

It’s March 1st! Do you know what that means? It’s party time! That’s right. Olivia turns one at the end of the month and I wanted to do something special to celebrate. All month long I’ll be sharing 30 lessons I learned photographing her first year. When I first found out I was pregnant, one of the things I was most excited about was being able to document this baby in a way that I wasn’t able to with my other 2. I didn’t have a digital camera when Julianna was born. That was almost 16 years ago! Yes, I know, I’m old! Even 12 years ago, when Jaime was born, I was just getting in to photography and learning all about my new Canon Rebel. Now, with more than 10 years of photography experience under my belt, running a business and capturing other’s people most precious moments, I had the chance to do it beautifully and intentionally for myself. I had so many ideas! Wait, hold up, you didn’t think it was going ot be that easy, did you? The very first lesson I had to learn was to let go of all of my expectations. There were so many photos I dreamt about taking. One of them I was super pumped about was my girls coming to the hospital to meet their baby sister. I was crushed when I found out that visitors were banned because of the flu. Absolutely heart broken! That vision I had in my head was not going to happen and I had to come to terms with it. I had to let go. And, in the end, it worked out fine. I love the photos I did get at home, but it took a little while to get over it. You know when you build something up in your head and it just doesn’t turn out the way you wanted to? Has that ever happened to you?

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As if being a new mom and owning my own business wasn’t enough, I recently decided to jump into the world of direct sales. And it was totally by accident!

I follow Brittany Viklund on Instagram and was watching one of her stories. She was unboxing books that she had just purchased for her two boys and I fell in love with a bunch of the ones she was talking about. Olivia loves books and I am always on the hunt for cute ones to add to her collection.

She had a link to swipe up and shop so I did. It took me to her Usborne Books & More page. I had never heard of the company before so I dug around and checked out more of the books. Then I saw an invitation to join.

I hesitated at first. I thought back to all of the times a random friend had messaged me about a new business they started. Whether it was skin care or makeup, I cringed every time because I felt the sales pitch coming on and I didn’t want to be that person. BUT, then I thought back to how I even discovered Usborne in the first place. By watching someone I follow on Instagram talk about the books and how much her boys loved them. There was no sales pitch. She was just a mom sharing something she love. And that’s what sold me. Well, that and the fact that there are no sales minimums or quotas. I just had to pay $75 for a starter kit full of books and supplies and that’s it. I could do a little or a much as I wanted in term of sales.

So I took the leap! I signed up under Brittany’ team and told myself I would give it my all for the 12 week incentive period. I had a Launch Party on Facebook and was so grateful for family and friend showed up. Then I booked two more! The parties are super easy and fun! They are held on Facebook so you don’t even have to get out of your pj’s. You can show up with a glass of wine and learn all about the books and get a preview of all of the new titles. The best part is creating personalized wish lists for my guests. You just tell me your kids ages and interests and I put together a list of books they’d love. I mean, how can they call that work!

I just created my own wish list for Olivia’s first birthday! It’s huge because I couldn’t narrow it down. Lol! If you’re curious what’s good for a one year old, check out my list here.

If you’re curious about becoming a consultant, let me know. You can also check out my IG account @olivia’s_book_nook where I share more about reading and our favorite books.

Just one in a series of books called “That’s Not My.” This is “That’s Not My Llama.”

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