My own day(s) to shine

It's a fact that most photographers have generous amounts of photos of their loved ones. The sad truth is they are rarely in them. Every milestone is well documented, but missing one key element, the one behind the camera. This was my case as well. I have so few photos of Lucca and me together. This last year has been such a huge one for my family. It's been one of the most challenging years of our lives. It's also a fresh start. A chance to make new memories, celebrate new milestones and create a new home.

Jon is a good friend I met through photography, who gave me the greatest gift. He came to Seattle and spent the weekend documenting this crazy, chaotic, fun, loving life we have. This new life we're carving out together. We ate sushi, wandered Pike Place Market, roasted marshmallows at the beach, and took a ferry to Vashon. Smashed between our adventures, was us just being us. Our bedtime routine that I've often longed would be captured, Lucca jumping into the car to get away from Pepper chewing his boot, bed head pancakes, talking with Lucca about his school work and singing our post bath "washer machine" song. These mundane everyday moments are where the magic of who Lucca and I are. These rituals make us unique.

Jon, Thank You doesn't even come close to express how much these moments mean to me.  It was such a special weekend, please come visit us again soon!

Heather, Lucca and Pepper.

A day in the life of Peter, Sandra, Dexter and Harvey on film // Seattle Family Photographer

There's really nothing I love more than capturing a family being a family.  That's why I'm so passionate about the "day in the life" sessions.  I get an inside view of what bonds a family, their connections and even quirks.  When I got the opportunity to do a session with Sandra and her family, I was so beyond thrilled.  Sandra has been a friend and fellow photographer for a few years now, and I knew her family was fun, but I didn't know how fun.  I mean, what's better than a day that starts with monopoly, followed by kites in the park and dinner at Chucks with a food truck and a beer.  This family plays hard and loves deep!  Oh, and did I mention that both Dexter and Harvey shoot film cameras, sure fire way to my heart!  

My dearest ginger on film // Seattle Family Photographer

I'm going to attempt to find words…I've written and deleted this about 5 times. I was in Texas at a photo retreat when I got the call.  Heather, my best friend, had been taken to the ER. They found a brain tumor and she was scheduled for emergency surgery to remove it.  My heart stopped beating.  My world was rocked, because Heather is my rock. We've been friends for well over a decade, and most of my best memories are with her.  We've seen over 100 concerts together, traveled overseas, been on multiple road trips, cried through heart aches, celebrated new loves, moved to Seattle, completed two marathons and birthed two beautiful babies.

It's so hard not to ask "why" when something like this happens.  Heather was diagnosed with Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), which is very rare, especially for a female her age.  Why her, this new mom who fought like hell to get her little Sofia?  Why her, a pediatric oncology nurse who specializes in brain tumors?  That right, she takes care of sick babies with cancer?!?!  I still have no answers to those questions.  What I have learned is despite being scared as shit, she has stood tall.  She braved radiation, courageously shaved her head, graciously opened her heart and home to family and friends wanting to help and embraced this new life.  All this while caring for a beyond adorable 6 month old.

I've never loved someone with cancer, not like this.  I've seen that it can bring beautiful gifts and can be an ugly monster.  It can be a reminder to cherish every moment, to hold those close a little tighter, to stop and breathe in the new blossoms of spring.  It can also steal your energy, your hair and your days as you spend them in treatment.  It comes with a suitcase full of emotion; compassion, fear, anger, gratitude, emptiness, courage, resentment, love and compassion.

Heather, my dearest beautiful ginger.

Thank you for letting me share in this journey with you.

Thank you for letting me hold a small part of it for you.

Thank you for showing me true courage.

And Thank you for letting me do the one thing I know how to do, honor you through my lens.

You are my rock, my person and I love you more than words...

 

 

A birthday party for mum on film // Seattle Family Photographer

I've photographed this family four times and every time it's a new adventure.  We've travelled to Vashon Island, played with Conkers (a Brittish game), and dressed to the nines as Kiss for Halloween.  This time was a special treat as Dom's parents were in town from England AND it was Marion's birthday party.  Add in their perfectly styled house, dream backyard, card games, a delicious cake and you have a recipe for awesomeness!  This family knows how to love fully, play hard, be silly and do it all looking fantastic!  

My other family on film // Seattle Family Photographer

Serena is my sister wife, Mike is my brother from another mother and Jack and Sam are my two adopted kids.  You quickly become family when you sail (or motor due to lack of wind) through Greece with a 2 year old in 110 degree weather with no AC.  Serena is kind hearted, patient, loving and has mastered unconditional love.  Mike is sensitive, determined, a great listener and an amazing husband and father.  They are the type of couple worth admiring.  And Jack and Sam stole my heart long ago.  I'd be lost here without them.  Thank you both for your amazing friendship, support, compassion and love!  

Apples, pumpkins and families on film, oh my! // Seattle Family Photographer

This is a bit of a throw back post, but better late than never.  My family has been going to this farm for 5 years to pick pumpkins, so it was special to share it with these lovely families.  Nothing makes me embrace fall more than apple orchards, pumpkins, blue skies, cider and adorable kiddos.  I'd say these mini-sessions were a success!  

Cobwebs

It's been months since I've blogged, 6 months to be exact.  I've even contemplated whether I wanted to come back to this blog.  Somehow, with life being as it is, it seems petty, inconsequential.  The last six month have been downright shitty.  In six months I've stared death in the eyes as Lucca seized, my husband lost his job, I moved out as my marriage fell apart and my best friend was diagnosed with brain cancer.  It's been full of pain, sorrow, grief, self-doubt, numbness, anger, self-destruction and fear.  It's effected my family, my friendships, my motherhood, my creativity and my career.  And although some days I wasn't able to see life's gifts as they were presented, I'm starting to pull the cobwebs away and see light.  I've realized that within the darkness, small treasures lie waiting to be discovered.  

Lucca crushed the monkey bars.  He now can tie his shoes all on his own.  He loves walking on opposite sides of the street, proving his independence.  He learned how to read and write and can chop parsley like a boss.  I got the directors choice in a gallery show.  My best friend and I can still laugh at our inappropriate jokes and dish on life.  Through her illness, my friendships have a new richness as we navigate this journey together.  And yesterday I shot six rolls of film, which was the first day inspiration has found me since November.  These small gifts are lifting my spirit.

 

So, is this blog petty, inconsequential?  Only if I don't show up authentically.  I've hesitated blogging, because what I had to write wasn't happy or pretty.  But, if I'm not willing to be vulnerable and honest about my life, how can I ever ask that of others?  At the end of the day, this is life.  My life.

 

Staring death in the eyes

 

On Tuesday afternoon my love gave me the biggest scare of his/my life.  On the way home from the store, he had a Febrile Seizure.  I'm writing this for you moms and dads out there, not to scare you, but to inform you.  I didn't know anything about seizures, and although this is scary shit, information can be comforting.

 

Luccas temperature spiked too quickly, which is what causes Febrile Seizures.  I looked back at him in the car, and his arms and legs were flailing.  I knew instantly what was going on.  I pulled over, called 911, and frantically tried to do something.  I tried talking calmly, begging him to look at me, I tried yelling and demanding he not die and look at me, I tried pleading with someone larger than me.  Nothing worked.  His head was arched back, his eyes either rolled back in his head or staring freakishly at something other than me.  It almost seemed like his eyes were trying so hard to figure out what was going on, trying to find a home.  They looked scared.  He was frothing at the mouth, his jaw clenched, his breathing blocked and his lips turned blue.  Standing there in the back of the car, I didn't know whether to move him, let him be or administer CPR (which I don't know).  I wanted to get out of the car and stand in the middle of the street and scream for help.  But I was helpless.  I stood there, resolved in the fact that my child was either dying, or would live brain dead for the rest of his life.  I was broken, completely broken.  When his seizure ended, he went limp.  He was in a comatose state, I couldn't wake him, couldn't get him to respond.  That's when I really thought he had died.  The EMT's arrived and I collapsed on the sidewalk.  Everything came out, in a visceral way.  I sobbed like I've never sobbed.  I grieved every time I'd ever been on Facebook rather than seeing him, I grieved my mistakes, I grieved spending too much time at the grocery store that day, when I should have been at home snuggling my boy.  I grieved his spunkiness, his stubbornness, his snuggles.  I grieved him.

 

Once at the hospital things stabilized and that's when I began my wealth of knowledge about seizures.  I hope no one has to witness a seizure, ever!  They are crazy, scary and violent.  But, as I've learned, they are livable.  Luccas specifically was due to his temp raising too fast, which is common in kids 6 months-6 years.  It has nothing to do with how high the temp is, just how quickly it raises.  He is now at an increased risk of reoccurrence (30%), so needless to say I'm now that annoying, medicating mom.  Here's what I know now and what I want you to know.  If someone seizes, put them on their side, away from anything that can harm them and time it.  Do not put anything into their mouth to stop them from biting off their tongue, they could bite that object off and choke on it.  Afterwards, there is a period where they pass out.  Poor things have just used up all their juice.  Imagine crossfit times 100 while doing 100 SAT tests in three minutes.  There is nothing you can do to prevent a seizure, nor anything you can do while it's happening.  We've been advised to call 911 as soon as it happens, and if it lasts less than 5 minutes, have his stats checked and then he's clear to stay home.  If it lasts longer than 5 minutes, it's an auto transport.  Most people clear themselves in and out of the seizure just fine.  It's really the people who witness it (read me) who need meds.

 

Here's a link to more info:

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/febrile-seizure/DS00346

 

Outside of the clinical stuff, I can say it was the worst day of my entire life.  I look at my little guy in a whole new way.  I thank the universe for sending him to me, and for him trusting in me to be his mom.  I've been his mom for 5 years, but three days ago, that definition changed.  I took him for granted, the time I had, the gifts he gave me.  I hope it doesn't take another look into deaths eyes to humble myself again.

 

Lucca, you are, and always have been, my heart, my compass, my adventurer, my breath, my laughter, my champion, my failures, my greatness and my teacher.

 

I love you, just as you are.  Thank you for staying with me on this journey.

Mom.

 

ps.  please don't do that again, but if you do, we'll politely say NO THANK YOU!

 

 

My little Lucca on film // Seattle Family Photographer

Lucca, today you turn 5. Oh, how I adore watching your personality grow.

You are my adventure partner, ever willing to try new things.

You are my snuggle partner, always needing to connect.

You are gregarious.

You love your super heroes and swords just as much as your fuzzy friends.

 You are sensitive.

You are stubborn.

You are my living room dance partner.

You are my sous chef.

You use words like qualm.

You light up when you are proud.

You hop, skip or run everywhere, it's no wonder you're so skinny.

You like sticks, rocks, bugs and messes.

You are a total extrovert, always wanting to be in the action.

You are tender and loving.

You love riding your bike, racing and scooters.

You still enjoy holding my hand, which I'm ever grateful for.

You are my soul, my muse, my joy, my everything.

Happy Birthday my dear son.  You make me a better person, make my days brighter, make my heart overfill and my days anything but boring.  Thank you little one, for being exactly who you are.

Mom.

details vs. moments?

There's something that's been on my mind for quite some time now and I need to give it a voice. It's the direction I see family (and wedding) photography going.

Recently I came across a photo session of a little girls second birthday.  Out of 30+ photos, only three had people in them.  The rest of the photos were banners, flowers, invitations, balloons, signs, donkeys, etc.   Where were the proud parents, the melting down two year olds, the messy cake eating?  Where was life?  In this new world of consumerism have we traded capturing moments for capturing details or life perfected.

 

I got into photography because I wanted to capture my son authentically.  I wanted to remember the good, bad and everything in between.  The reason I started photographing other families was the same.  I want to capture how your child eats strawberries, how they light up when they're proud, how they run wildly.  I want to capture your weekly trips to the coffee shop, snuggle sessions or pizza parties.  I want to photograph what makes families unique, because at the end of the day, or my life, I want to look at a photograph of Lucca, and know why I took that photo.  I'm trying to preserve moments, because they are fleeting and one day Lucca won't need me to push him on that swing.

 

So, why am I writing this?  Because I'm a struggling photographer who is frustrated with consumerism.  Don't get me wrong, I definitely try to get my clients to look their best when we have a session, have outfits that coordinate with one another.  But once those outfits are on, I try to photograph them being a family.  And for me, being a family doesn't always mean saying "cheese" into a camera.  Being a family in our house is messy, chaotic, fun, loving and quirky.  Why I'm writing this is because I know I can't be alone, yet when I look online, I see so many overly posed, propped and perfect photos. I know my clients are out there. They want their Saturday morning documented, not because it's prefect but because it's special to their family.

 

Lastly I'll share this.  For Lucca's first birthday I went to the nines.  I made the banners, the cupcake toppers, pinwheels, masks, the whole shebang.  When I look back now, 4 years later, I don't care one bit about those photos.  I look at the ones of him with cake smothered all over his face, the small moments with his grandparents, the excitement of getting a tricycle.  All this to say, that I too got caught up in the Pinterest frenzy.  But for what?  The photos I treasure are all fragments in time and each one brings back a specific memory.

 

I'm passionate about what I do, which is why I'm saying this out loud.  This is what I want to be doing, this is what I think I was meant to do, hopefully I have many more moments to capture!

 

H.

 

Joshua Tree part one // Fine Art Photographer

I had this idea to plan a retreat with some photographers I admire in hopes to soak up some of their knowledge and talent.  That was the plan, and that definitely happened.  What I hadn't planned on was meeting lifelong friends who's instant bond didn't need explaining, a group of people who understood and accepted me.  They are insanely talented, perfectly crazy, hilarious, supportive, inspiring and honest.  It was an incredible experience, one that left me with loads of memories, inside jokes, photos, friends and a new annual tradition.  They are my elephants, the video at the end will explain why.

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=1G4isv_Fylg

 

Letter to Lucca // Fine Art Photographer

 

My dearest Lucca,

You are growing up so quickly, and I haven't written you in a while.  You are such a loving, affectionate, vibrant little boy.  You have a zeal for life, a curious mind and a strong soul.  You are stubborn and emotional, both of which will serve you well in life.  You are our herder dog, always wanting everyone to be together and happy.  You love superheroes, bugs, soccer, reading and snuggling with a movie.  You are learning how to spell and can do double digit addition.  I love watching you grow, each day brings new conversations and milestones.

Thank you for always helping me cook, letting me take copious amounts of photos of you, dancing with me in the kitchen, picking me flowers and being my partner in any adventure.  Thank you for trusting me to hold your vulnerable, tender side.

I am so blessed to be your mother.  You are perfect, just as you are my crazy one.

Love you to the moon and back.

Mom.

Sam, Grace and Rex on film // Utah Family Photographer

While in Salt Lake I got to take portraits of Sam, Grace and Rex.  It's such a privilege to witness children's guards come down, that's when I get to authentically capture their personalities and connection.  At the end of this session, Grace gave me a huge hug and I overhead Sam tell his mom, "she's cool".  Success!

Luccas' Rituals on film // Seattle Family Photographer

 

I started shooting when Lucca was born in order to capture his childhood.  I had no vision and mostly copied photos of other people.  As my voice grew stronger, I realized I wanted to capture his rituals and our traditions more than anything else.  One of his morning rituals was to eat his vitamins (called ga-ga's)  while watching a morning show.  He ate them methodically, biting off the top half first, and then placing the bottoms for later.  Much like some eat an oreo.  He's now outgrown this ritual and can say "vitamin", but I'll have this image forever.  It's small and subtle, but I treasure it for how it makes him unique.  To me, this simple image is precious.

 

If you have a ritual or family tradition you want captured, please contact me.  This project has led me to shooting a family trip to Vashon, pumpkin patches, Sat. morning pancakes and game night.  I'm passionate about giving familes images that are a window into what makes a family, their family.