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!

5 on 5 | Family Night

Monday night is family night. 

Sometimes we learn a scripture story or have a little lesson, but sometimes we mix things up and go on an adventure together. 

Last Monday was a stormy day, perfect for a family trip to the aquarium. 

I could sit on that ledge and stare at the fish for hours. Without kids, that is. They will sit there for about two minutes if I'm lucky.

Sometimes I wonder if their favorite part of the aquarium (or the museum, zoo, or park) is the snacks. Eating goldfish at the aquarium is far more exciting than eating goldfish at home, apparently. 

Madi was scared of this rope bridge for the longest time. Now when she crosses it she repeats to herself the whole way "I can do it. I've been through it. I'm stronger than I know. I can do it." We've been talking about how powerful our words are, and I love that she's taking it to heart. And of course she has to throw a few rhymes in there. 

I always struggle with whether to bring my big camera or leave it at home. Sometimes I get a little bit carried away with taking pictures and forget to be in the moment. The struggle is real! 

I'm always grateful to have the pictures afterwards, but I do wish I would've thought to hand my camera over to my husband and get in a few shots. Hashtag mom life, right? Which is why even though I love documenting my own family, I know how important it is to hire another photographer occasionally so I can be in the story too.

Now head on over to my friend Jenny's blog (a Southern Michigan Documentary/ Lifestyle Photographer) and see the beautiful story she told this month. 

If you want to see more of my 5 on 5 posts, check out last month's here. I'm grateful that this project has kept me accountable for documenting my own family's stories. 

More Than Enough

I was positive I could never love another baby as much as I loved my first. I didn't think my heart was capable of holding that much love. 

Then they handed her to me- my second, perfect, precious baby girl- and I knew I was wrong. The same intense, unconditional mother love I had for my first child doubled to include my second. 

It turns out love is infinite. It knows no bounds.

Spending an evening with the Hair family re-affirmed this truth. Even with 9 kids, Andy and Wendy somehow still have more than enough love for every single one of them. 

The culture of love, support, and compassion in their family is beautiful, and so encouraging. 

Press play below to see a little peek into their lives.

My favorite part was watching how caring and attentive the older siblings were with their younger brothers and sisters. Despite the age gaps, they obviously adore each other. They're all following the loving example of their wonderful parents. 

I switched back and forth between photo and filming during this session, and I'm so glad I did! Photography will always have my heart, but these family films preserve feelings and memories on a whole new level.

If you are dying to have a family film and photo session to document this season of your life, get in touch! I'd love to hear from you. I am taking a limited number of sessions this summer and they are filling fast! 

Bottle It Up

What if you could step back in time and re-live a day of your childhood? Imagine being able to see what your home and parents looked like through adult eyes, hear the laughter and feel the love that surrounded you. Imagine seeing your mom's hands care for you, or the adoration on her face as she showered you with kisses. Imagine seeing your dad tickling you as you squealed with laughter.  

Now you can give this gift to your kids. 

A few weeks ago I joined the Hales family for an ordinary Saturday morning at home. The sun was shining, the trees were blossoming, and I felt like I stepped into a little piece of heaven within their warm, loving home. 

I created a film and photos to bottle up a little bit of this wonderful season of life for them. Press play and take a little peek.

Britney is a talented photographer and videographer herself, so why would she want someone else to do this for her? Because now SHE is in them. Now her kids get to see the full story, the story that she plays a major role in. 

If you are dying to bottle up the season of life you are in, let me know! My summer schedule is filling up quickly, so let's snag you a date before they are gone. 

Welcoming Baby Carter

"Would you rather do the pictures in a studio?"

"No, let's do it at my parent's house. This is the stage of life we're in right now, and I want to remember it."

This conversation I had with Heidi when she contacted me about booking a newborn session made my heart soar. Isn't it wonderful when your oldest, dearest friends keep popping into your life? Heidi was one of my best friends in high school, and she continues to teach me things, inspire me, and bless my life. 

Austin is in medical school, so after living across the country for a few years they have been able to stay with Heidi's parents for a while before their next big adventure (aka cross country move). 

In this Pinterest fueled world where we all feel the pressure to keep up "picture perfect" appearances, especially when it comes to actual pictures, there is so much beauty and freedom that comes from embracing your life just the way it is. 

And the best part? These adoring, doting Grandparents were able to be included in the session too.

My very favorite part was when Heidi cuddled up next to her parents on the couch and everyone realized that baby Carter has Grandpa's chin, and Grandma teared up. It was such a beautiful moment.

Can you imagine having pictures that really captured what life was like for your family when you were born? The home you were brought to, and the love that surrounded you there? To me, those pictures would be priceless. 

5 on 5 | Muffins

It was a quiet afternoon.

Chloe was napping, and after a 30 minute quiet time (aka "mommy needs to lay in bed by herself and regain her sanity" time) Madi was ready for my complete, undivided attention again. Just like she has been since the day she was born. (Seriously though). I really wanted to clean my kitchen and make dinner, so I asked if she wanted to make muffins ALL by herself. Secretly I didn't think she could do it, but really just wanted her occupied so I could get things done. 

But she did it!! I read her the recipe, and she did everything except for chopping the apples. Then suddenly I realized how crazy fast she is growing. How a few months ago she couldn't pour the vanilla while holding the spoon without spilling it everywhere, but now she can. So I grabbed my camera and took some pictures.

I want to remember my Madi when she was big enough to make muffins all by herself, but little enough to still want to be near me all day long.

I'm pretty sure half the batter made it in the pan, and half went in her mouth. That's what we called made with love. But don't worry- we didn't share these ones. 

And just because I love it when friends share recipes with me, here is the recipe to these yummy muffins. If you have a powerful blender and like making healthy snacks for your family, you'll love them! You're welcome! ;) 

Now it's time for you to head on over to my friend Jenny's blog (a Southern Michigan Documentary Photographer) to see the beautiful story she told this month.

5 on 5 | Alive

After a long, snowy, gray winter (the gray part kills me more than the snowy part) the sun finally came out. And now I feel alive again!

It's funny how you don't even realize how cooped up and blue you feel until you get outside and see those gorgeous skies and feel that beautiful, glorious SUN. 

To celebrate, I surprised my girls with a picnic at our very favorite place- the farm.

I even climbed up into the tree house, awkwardly squeezing into the tiny entrance so we could have a magical picnic inside. It ended up being more like a cramped, "don't let your food even get close to the ground or walls because they are super gross" kind of picnic, but that was ok too. 

We finished our food, played "duck duck goose", and then emerged from the tree house covered in dirt and yogurt to find a friend playing below. A little embarrassed I laughed and told the mom "oh, the girls begged me to go up there with them" which was a total lie. Sometimes I just like to revert back to my childhood a little bit. 

I'm not sure who had more fun. The girls making "collections" of rocks and sticks and getting lost in their imaginary world, or me quietly watching and taking pictures of them. 

The trip wouldn't be complete without not one, or two, but three trips to the bathroom for this little newly potty trained girl. We probably spent half our time trekking to the bathroom and back. But hey, she didn't have an accident so I'm not complaining! 

To make this picture I squatted the same position for 20 minutes while they chatted away, just waiting for them to look at each other at the same time. I was about to give up when BAM the moment happened. 

I thought for a minute about how funny I must look, but I didn't even care. Photography is my play. It felt so GOOD to be out there soaking in the sun, getting lost in my own little world and making art just for the pleasure of doing it.  

Because it's ridiculously hard to tell this story in just 5 images, you can check out the rest here. :) 

Now head on over to my friend Margaret's blog (a Documentary Photographer in Spokane, WA) to see the adorable story she told this month. 

Welcoming Baby Simon

Five years ago my husband and I took our brand new baby girl to a photo studio to get our first "official" family pictures taken. 

Honestly, I treasure those photos. And every single other photo shoot we've done. Because I love pictures and think they are important. 

But something my husband said afterwards has been stuck in my head ever since. He said "I wish we had pictures that were more US."

Now, five years later, THESE are the kind of pictures I wish I had to document that time in my life. 

Pictures that captured not only our faces, but the home we brought our baby to and the love that surrounded her there. What our life looked like and felt like during that stage. 

I have to confess that before this session I thought I'd be pretty content having all girls. But now I feel like I need a boy. Have you ever seen cuter little boys?? I haven't. My camera couldn't stay away from them. 

Baby Simon is so lucky to be born into such a beautiful, warm, loving family, and I feel so lucky to have been able to document this special time for them.