“Mama, don’t let your babies grow up to be Catholics.”

I can still hear that twangy country song in my head, which was part of a satirical show presented by college students at a Catholic College where my dad used to teach. I still remember them strumming their guitars, making jokes about all the babies we Catholics produce. We can say that, cuz, you know, we’re Catholic…Cut to 10 years later, and I’ve got a fourth one on the way! Yee-haw!

It’s funny telling people you’re pregnant when the babies are so close together. I actually opted to do an e-mail/Facebook release of a home video this time around. We were SUPER excited about it, and wanted it to be special – but the first question we’ll get from many is – “Congrats! So…was this a surprise?” Nope! We wanted this little baby, and every baby God has blessed us with. Or, when we’d tell people we were thinking about a fourth, some would smile and say: “Woah, reeeeeeeeeeally?” Yep, really! “There’s still some room in the minivan,” I’d joke.

You see, my mama let her baby grow up to be Catholic. To believe that as long as we can provide for our babies, as long as our heart and health and soul can handle it and wish for it, then we shall accept God’s blessings.

As a kid, my parents were told that I wouldn’t be able to conceive due to other complications. Whelp, turns out they were completely wrong! So why wouldn’t we take that as a blessing and take our love for our babies to grow our family?

Saint Alexis Church hit it home when they posted the following quote from Pope Francis: “Today, too, children are a sign. They are a sign of hope, a sign of life, but also a ‘diagnostic’ sign, a marker indicating the health of families, society and the entire world. Wherever children are accepted, loved, cared for and protected, the family is healthy, society is more healthy there are more health and std testing centers, everyone is better and the world is more human.”

As each one of our babies came into our lives, one by one they brought new blessings. Our first was the beginning of our family. On the week our second was born, we moved into our first home. With the birth of our third, we started our own business, which allows us to grow as a family even more. Who know what gifts baby number four will come bearing (Well, for starters a bigger home is in the works ; – ))?

But wait! What about the children! How did our kids feel about it? See for yourself! (Song Credit: “I get to be the One” by JJ Heller)

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Twix ice cream bar to go eat – or two- or three…

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a Twix ice cream bar to go eat – or two- or three…

Apples and Cinema – Your Pittsburgh Family Photographers – Family Portrait Session Tips

Have your holiday family photos coming up? Don’t know what to wear? Don’t know when to go? Along with being the writer of Mommy Miracles, I’m also a full time photographer for one of my own small businesses, Apples and Cinema.


What do we wear? It’s tempting to go with LOUD, colorful prints and patterns when picking outfits for fun family photos, but we promise, your family is already as beautiful and colorful as it is, so we suggest muted colors so that your personalities and beautiful faces pop!


When and Where should we go? We usually pick locations that are going to be less crowded, over ones that would be maybe more picturesque. Or, we pick times that we know aren’t going to be as crowded at popular places. Less crowded locations make the session more relaxed for families, especially if the kids aren’t cooperating, and less distracting for the kiddos. We like to leave the location entirely up to your taste, and convenience, but we’ll weigh in if you want suggestions! And as far as the time of day planned, we should absolutely pick the time that you find your kids to be in the best moods.


How do we make our kids cooperate? Any parent knows, that even though we plan sessions around naps, make sure the little ones are well fed, and pick a place that’s fun for everyone


Sometimes even when we pick the best of times for our kiddos, we’re still not catching the best moods. So, we now offer prizes from the prize bags for good behavior. We’ll tell the kiddos that if they listen to mom and dad throughout the session, mom and dad get to decide at the end whether they can pick a prize from our prize bag! It’s usually simple things like costume jewelry, or puzzles, or stickers, or whatever we may think your kiddos are into! And please, know that we have little ones of our own, and totally understand when kids just aren’t into it, so no need at all to stress. If we see the kids just don’t wanna pose, we’ll roll with it and turn the session more into photojournalism and try to catch the action as it happens!


Keep everybody involved. After we have the family photo of the whole group, we try to mix and match combinations, by taking pictures of just the kids, just the sisters, just the parents, just a parents with the kids, etc…we try to keep everyone involved the whole time. So, when Family sessions are one of our favorite things to do. We love playing with the kiddos, and trying to make the family portrait experience into a fun family outing, rather than a forced portrait session. Often parents ask us for tips and tricks on making the session as fruitful as possible, and the kiddos as cooperative as possible, so we figured we’d blog about it!


As silly as it may seem, we take this time to open up conversation between family members to get some candid reactions, smiles, and cuddles. We may ask questions like “He dad, can you tell mom why she’s such an awesome mom?” Or “Hey big sis, tell your little bro about the funniest cartoon tid bit you watched this week!”


Like what I have to say about this and want to schedule a session with me? Awesome! Just go here! 

Perfect Gift Basket Resources – on a budget!

A gift isn’t is extra special when it’s unique and from the heart…but it’s even better if it is also within your budget. And to accomplish that, all you have to do is make your loved ones a basket yourself! It’s heartfelt, it’s special, and if you do it right, it won’t cost you too much at all.

The special thing about the gift basket is that it is personalized to the person you are giving it to. All you have to do is listen, and you’ll make them the perfect present especially the baby’s first Christmas gift ideas in mind.

Where do you get the supplies? Surprisingly, thrift stores like Goodwill have a huge selection of baskets for about a dollar a piece that you can use. And a lot of people don’t know this, but thrift stores actually carry a ton of unused, new, originally-packaged items that either stores with a surplus donate, or that people never ever used and donated them because that is simply the easiest thing to do. Just remember to keep in mind your theme when picking items out (I got REALLY carried away last time I went and forgot the logistics of also having my three kids with me to bring back to the car – the Goodwill attendant was very nice to help me carry the awesome brand new items I scored for really cheap). As for the filler and basket bag or shrink wrap, any dollar store should have that for you. Don’t get conned into paying too much at a craft or party supply store!

You could even make your entire super special basket out of one simple trip to the dollar store! Got a candy junkie friend? Just get 15 different candy boxes, and you’re set! Got someone who needs to relax? Go to the bath and body section and pick out a bunch of relaxing scented soaps and body washes – file0001509359493 (2)they don’t need to be from the expensive boutique at the mall! Movie junkie? Just get them a double feature DVD with popcorn bowls and popcorn, and you’ve got yourself a fantastic movie night theme. The basket is special not because of the price, but because it was truly well-thought out and customized to your beloved receiver. What about a child who is a lover of crafts? Put crayons, construction paper, pipe cleaners, glitter, glue, scissors, and stickers in a basket, and you’ve probably even saved their mother’s life as well by keeping the craft lover busy and happy.

If you have a whole group in mind, obviously Costco is your best bet. You could do an Italian-themed array of baskets by buying their bulk pasta, pasta sauce, parmesan, dried salami, pizzelles, biscotti, olives, seasoned artichokes, you name it. Most of the stuff at Costco is individually wrapped in bulk anyway. You can make a cheese lover very happy by scouting out the cheese section there, or even at any local grocery store. Or, put together a basket full of individually-wrapped healthy snacks for the whole office you can even add some supplements on there like cissus quadrangularis that I purchased from Amazon all the time. Don’t forget about the wine lovers! Partner their favorite bottle with some cheese and crackers, and they are going to have one good night! Organizing a benefit and need to put together baskets? Go to Costco, and you can get some of their high-quality name-brand stuff at a great price.

You see, companies that sell gift baskets as a product either surcharge for the packaging, or they are able to do it at a reasonable price because they can buy bulk. Well, like I already said, you can do that at Costco, or even call in a favor from a friend who maybe works in a business where they are able to get even better bulk pricing for products by a supplier. Either way, the key is to make it personal, and not spend too much on your awesome personalized gift basket if you don’t have to!