Beauty in Imperfection

The smell of fresh herbs and veggies just pulled from the earth, the sound of giggles and squeals from a toddler full of life and an old house with squeaky floors and endearing character. A kitchen full of dirty dishes from food made with love, a teenager with both attitude and tenderness and a husband and wife who share a passion for food and love for their family.

This session filled my soul. 

Cheesy? Wouldn't be the first time. :) This evening just filled me with so many feelings that are hard to express. But here's my best shot.

Imperfections, struggles and quirks give our stories color, texture, character and heart. 

If we all lived in brand new, spotless homes with white everything and green plants, if we were all the same size and everything came easy to us, where would the richness be?

Richness comes in variety. Beauty and strength are born from struggle.

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Even though I preach that life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful, sometimes I still get frustrated that my life doesn't look like the ideal, what I think it is "supposed" to look like. 

But diving into someone else's life for an evening and seeing all the beauty in their imperfections was a breath of fresh air. I went away with more compassion and love for all of the many imperfections that give my life color and character. 

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Is there anything more beautiful than an ordinary evening spent in your own backyard with the people you love? I don't think so.

If you want more out of your family photos than standing in a pretty field with matching outfits, bribing kids to smile with candy, then I'm your gal.  

Let's capture the heart and soul of your family. Imperfections and all. Let's make frame worthy photos of the moments you want to remember. I can't wait to hear from you!   

Lemonade Stand | 5 on 5

If you haven't read the book I am Malala, you need to. Read the Dressmaker of Khair Khana while you're at it.  

When Madi told me how excited she was to start Kindergarten we talked about how girls in other countries aren't allowed to go to school. 

She was more angry than I expected. I told her we could do something to help.

A few weeks ago we had a lemonade stand to raise money for the Malala Fund.  I was so grateful when neighbors, friends and family showed up to support us.  

We may not have raised a ton of money, but we learned a lot. 

The girls learned about entrepreneurship, counting money, and communication skills. 

They learned that they can take a stand. They can do something to help right the wrongs they see in the world. 

Even a small effort is better than nothing. 

I learned (or remembered) the importance of community. 

Social media is a great tool, but nothing can replace in person connections. 

I was grateful for a chance to visit with friends, neighbors and family. 

I heard wonderful news and terrible news, gave lots of hugs, and felt so grateful for the people in my life. 

Through the good and the bad, we all need each other. 

Thank you so much to everyone who came to support us! We'll be doing it again next week, so send me a message if you want the address. 

Now head on over to my friend Melissa's blog (St. Charles, MO Documentary Family Photographer) to check out her story this month. 

Her Hands

At every session I think 

"What little details will these kids be glad I captured 30 years from now?" 

I mean I think about the parents too, of course. Because what parent doesn't want every detail of their children captured? The huge smiles down to the chubby hands and quirky personality traits. Capturing kids is the easy part. 

But I also think about what the kids will want to remember about their parents. Probably because that's something I can relate to right now.

What I wouldn't give to watch a day from my childhood from an outside perspective. Like peering in through a window. Being a fly on the wall. Ebeneezer Scrooge style. But less creepy. 

Memories are so fleeting.

So in this film, I captured their mother's hands. Because those hands have selflessly rocked, fed, clothed, comforted and cared for this family from the very beginning. 

It's something they might not even think about until they look back years from now and think "wow, Mom's hands look so different now." 

I hope it'll spark a little more gratitude for everything those loving hands have done for them throughout the years. 

This is the third year in a row I have photographed my wonderful cousin's family, and I love watching them grow and change. This year, making both a film AND photos for them was even more fun. 

I can't help but think of our childhood days together, running around hunting for leprechauns and playing "house". It is a beautiful thing to see her now as a real, grown up wife and mother. You're doing an amazing job, Angie. 

If this kind of session speaks to you, let's brainstorm what your own could look like! I have one more opening for Summer, and two more for Fall. 

Fishing with Grandpa | 5 on 5

My brother always says "if you want to remember something, take a picture of it. " 

Well, duh. 

But when I think about it, my clearest childhood memories are the ones my family has talked about over and over throughout the years because we have pictures of them. 

I already see this happening with my kids. They talk about "memories" from when they were babies that are really from the pictures in our photo books. Moments I know they were too young to remember, but that we've talked about because we have pictures of them. 

In a way, I'm writing the story of their childhood for them. The moments I record are the ones we are going to talk about in the coming years, and the ones they are going to remember best.

 And this is definitely one I want them to remember. 

For the last few summers my Dad has taken my girls to a local trout farm to teach them how to fish. This year Madi looked forward to it all winter long. 

My Dad even bought them princess fishing poles this year, which added to the excitement. 

I love how beautiful and serene this little trout farm is.

Chloe was so excited at first, and even caught the first fish. Then a fly landed on her and the rest was history. She just wanted to be held after that. She has a sudden fear of bugs that came out of nowhere.

She asked me "mommy, what if all of the fish flop onto land to fight the humans??" 

I guess bugs aren't the only things she's scared of lately. 

Madi, on the other hand, had the time of her life. She loved touching the fish before Grandpa released them back into the water. She learned how to cast by herself and didn't ever want to stop.

At one point all of the fish were crowded in one spot and Madi blurted out "I'll bet they're all waiting in line for a fish restaurant!" She couldn't stop laughing after that. I love her laugh.

Grandpa is pretty sure he has a new long term fishing buddy.

This picture basically sums up the last 3/4 of the trip. Madi and Grandpa contentedly fishing away while Chloe watches them, whining about how bored and scared she is. 

I've said it before and I'll say it again. I'm so, so grateful my girls have such wonderful Grandparents who are involved in their lives. 

I know this memory will be a treasure someday. 

Next up on the blog circle is Nicole Austen, an Orlando, Florida family photographer. Go check out her beautiful work!

And a bonus picture, just because sometimes I like proof that I was there too!

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Welcoming Baby Rigby

Wanna know my favorite part of this session? 

When Scott, the awesome Dad, excitedly called from across the kitchen "hey, come get this! I'm going to see how high I can flip this pancake!".

Well it was a tie between that and all the precious newborn goodness. Oh, and those lively, animated older brothers who are so ridiculously endearing.

 No, actually it had to be the beautiful Mama with a heart of gold who glues this family together.  

She might have felt overwhelmed with her energetic boys and like she was lacking some patience, but that's not what I saw. I saw a mom who takes the time to talk to her kids at their level, help them work through big emotions, and treats them like they are important. Her overwhelming love for them is so visible.

 I always leave her presence wanting to be a better parent. And that's the truth.

Ok, ok, I can't narrow it down. I loved it all. And honestly the fact that I get to hang out with families like this and capture the love in their homes makes me jump for joy every single day. 

*press play to see all the goodness*

Ready to bottle up your favorite moments so you can savor them for years to come? 

Let's talk. I can't wait to show you how beautiful your life is.

Twirling, Pancakes and Bubble Baths

Disney music, twirling, pancakes, bubble baths, swings, adorable giggles, a few tears and a whole lotta love. 

Ordinary days are the most magical ones in my book. 

Press play to see a Saturday morning with the Bair family.

My heart is full of so much love for this family.

I went to high school with Jordan and Courtney and have always thought the world of them. It was the best thing ever to step into their lives for a day and meet their darling little girls.

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One thought keeps trying to burst out of my head while I look through these pictures. 

Jordan and Courtney,

You are doing SO much better than you think you are. Even if you think you're doing pretty well, you're doing even better than that. 

You are rockin' this parenthood thing, and this being good humans thing. You're doing all the important things so right. In my humble opinion. :) Thanks for letting me capture a little piece of your beautiful love and the life you've created. 

Wanna know a secret? 

Your life doesn't have to look like anyone else's to be "good enough". 

I PROMISE you it's beautiful just the way it is. And so are you.

Want me to prove it? Book a session! I'll show you the magic that's hiding in your ordinary.

Want to see more sessions with both photos AND a film? Take a peek here and here.

FIVE Things I Probably Shouldn't Tell You

1. I dress in a t-shirt (usually striped) and jeans every day, don't wear much makeup, am not very crafty, and interior decorating is not my forte. Simple is my jam.

All of my crafts turn into Pinterest fails. Not even kidding. Both times I was pregnant with my little girls I spent hours trying to make bows and never used any of them. 

2. I was a drum major in my high school marching band (nerd alert!) and still catch myself directing songs in my head.

3. I laugh way too loud, I'm clumsy, and I give awkward hugs at inappropriate times.   

4. Relationships are everything to me. I love humans! My family and my friends are my world. I fall in love with every family I photograph. 

5. My life is nowhere near perfect. Organization is a struggle for me, my husband is still in school (going on 10 years), we live in a super tiny house, sometimes I have no idea how to handle my kids, and I have a hard time balancing my life and keeping up with everything.

Basically I'm a real person just like you (surprise!) trying to do my best at life.

My motto is "Life doesn't have to be perfect to be wonderful." No, my life isn't perfect. But yes, it is wonderful! I love my life for what it is. 

Why am I telling you all of this? Because who I am is a huge part of my photography. Styled photo shoots and cute props aren't my thing.

Telling meaningful stories of real life through my photos- THAT is my thing.

My favorite kind of people are laid back and happy to just be themselves. They let the kids jump on the bed, wear mis-matched clothes and play in the mud. They want pictures to remind them just how wonderful their crazy life is- despite the imperfections. 

If you're shouting "YES!" right now (maybe jumping up and down a little, it's ok), get in touch! Let's make magic together. 

Photo of me and my girls by the talented Dayna Turnblom.

Photo of me and my girls by the talented Dayna Turnblom.

Perfectionism | 5 on 5

My heart was pounding, I couldn't seem to get enough air, and I was pretty sure it was the end of the world.

I was in 5th grade, and was having a little panic attack over division homework I didn't understand. My Dad (who was also my teacher) grabbed my hands and made me do an embarrassing dance with him around the room while he sang a silly song. I don't remember the song (other than it had fart noises in it), but I do remember him telling me I was a perfectionist and I couldn't stay in his class unless I relaxed.

I wore the label of "perfectionist" as a badge of pride for years. 

I thought being a perfectionist somehow put me a step above other people because I was hard on myself and would only be satisfied with the very best. 

Fast forward a few decades later and I'm realizing the many ways perfectionism negatively affects my life. I'm trying my best to let go of it.

Among other things, my perfectionism stops me from sharing my "imperfect" pictures. I have a very hard time sharing a picture that is missing a "wow" factor, or is flawed in some way. 

But this month as I was going through my many pictures, I thought about what motivated me to pick up my camera each time. Even though I see the imperfections in each of these images, they all tell a specific story that I wanted to remember.

This was the day Madi had her shots for Kindergarten. We celebrated her surprising bravery with a Slurpee.  I couldn't believe how much she was growing up and changing, and how different that experience was from her shots when she was a toddler. I hate the distracting objects behind her in this picture, and almost didn't share it because of that. But this picture will forever remind me of feeling simultaneously proud that she was becoming so brave and independent, and sad that my little girl didn't need her mommy quite as much anymore.  

I've never had a close relationship with any Grandparents, so I absolutely love documenting the relationship my girls have with theirs. I think they are the luckiest little girls in the world to have such loving, involved Grandparents. I waited quite a while to capture this exact moment when everyone was doing something interesting that added to the story. The minute I pressed the shutter I knew it would be my favorite, but I haven't shared it because I thought it might be boring to other people. 

We all adore my little brother Matt. This day I picked him up from the airport after he flew in from England. Even though he was jet-lagged and still had a few hours drive home, he still made my girls' night by playing with them in the backyard before he left for home. The focus is soft in this picture, I struggled with the edit didn't feel like it was "share worthy", but to me it is so meaningful.

My mother in law visited for a week and we took the girls to a children's museum together. Chloe couldn't quite reach the ball pit, but she didn't let that stop her. I took this picture because I wanted to remember the funny moment and how little she seemed. I didn't share it because I didn't know if it would make sense to someone who wasn't there.

Obviously when I saw Chloe eating her breakfast with a crown on I had to grab my camera. I love her imagination, that she and Madi are ALWAYS in the middle of a game, and how small she looks next to the boxes of cereal and milk. I did end up sharing this picture on my personal Instagram (where I share all my imperfect photos and phone shots), but wasn't sure if I liked that she was looking at the camera. Silly, I know. 

Over and over again it is the ordinary, everyday moments that inspire me to pick up my camera. And every time, the meaning behind the picture matters so much more than the technical imperfections. 

Are you a recovering perfectionist too? If so I'd love to hear about how you deal with it! Seriously. Leave a comment or send me a message. 

Now hop on over to my friend Jennifer's blog (a Maryland family photographer) to see her gorgeous pictures. 

Quiet strength

I could feel it the moment I walked in the door. 

Quiet strength. Love deepened through suffering. 

Soft evening light streamed through the window and music played softly while Mom finished dinner (with a few interruptions from the little ones who always want to be near her). Contagious giggles flooded in from the other room where Dad played with the kids.

We chatted, and I tried to take it all in. Everything they have been through since welcoming their sweet little boy into the world, including not one but TWO heart transplants, a feeding tube, and trying to help their non verbal little guy learn to communicate.

Despite it all here they are. Pushing forward, doing their best and giving their all to a little walking miracle and adorable baby girl, and finding so much joy amid the struggles of everyday life. (And don't think I say "adorable" lightly here- I probably babbled on about how cute she was for 3/4 of the session.)

Press play below for a little peak into their lives. Warning: you might fall in love with this little family just like I did. Especially the giggles and waving.

I always feel a bit nervous and full of butterflies when I walk in, but after a session gets flowing I'm in heaven. Talking about life, getting to know new people while keeping my eyes peeled for all the beautiful light and little moments that tell a bigger story. That's my jam. 

Switching between photos and video is my new favorite thing. It's a win-win. You get to see your life in motion (priceless), and also have beautiful photos to hang on your walls and preserve in books (also priceless). 

I love humans. There are so many wonderful people in the world, and for some crazy reason I get to document the lives of some of the best. 

Dying for more emotion and meaning in your family photos? Want to freeze this stage of your life so you can re-live it for years to come? Let's make it happen! Perfect house and calm, well mannered kids not required. I like you just the way you are- beautiful mess and all.

I have a few spots left for Summer, and my Fall schedule is filling quickly, so let's get that session scheduled!