the gift she left us

i think i've re-written this post 10 times now.  i'm not sure i could ever express my complete gratitude to jen, for capturing my own family's photos.  these are a few of my absolute favorites. i hope that one day my children will look back on these and see our family's absolute love and joy for one another.  we are so very blessed!! \

you can see more of our photos here.  thank you jen.  deeply and truly, i thank you!!  i hope that one day i can return this most amazing gift you have given my family.




family favs | 2011

sharing some favorites of my kids from this past year.  my goal was to narrow it down to 20 images; however, i didn't quite make it.  28 images | 35 photographs...

one of the best changes i made with my photography in 2011 was to take more everyday photos of my kids.  i plan on doing even better in 2012.

it's that time of year finish and upload my family's annual book. makes me teary as i look through our family photos from this past year and put together our book. and i so love that my kids look through the books over and over again, giggling as they flip through the previous years' books.  they just happened to be flipping through the books today -- showing me all the pages that bring back memories or simply make them laugh. :-) mmmm...i treasure these books more than i can even express. worth every bit of time it takes to make them!! not to mention, they make fabulous christmas gifts too.

here's this year's layout...

[larger version HERE]

and here's a few of my favorite page spreads...

makes my heart so very happy!!!

more than the sun...

today, the kindergarten classes had a mother's day celebration -- muffins for moms.  when we arrived in the classroom, the moms walked around the room to find their place, based on locating the drawing their child made of them.  then we were all served muffins and juice and we received hand made stationary cards as our mother's day gift.  so, so thoughtful and special!! couldn't help but laugh, when i saw ryder's drawing of me.  i think he got everything just perfect.  :-)  and sigh...i love him more than the sun and the moon and the stars.

i'll be away for mother's day but wanted to wish all you mommas out there a fabulous mother's day!!  i'll be in salt lake city, utah for the weekend.  i will miss my family but i'm super excited to do tons of shooting, along with lots of laughter and sharing with friends.

also, here's a couple photos of my family taken by my beautiful friend and amazing photographer, leah, last week.  i am so blessed to call leah one of my best friends and cherish her so!!

if you are unsure about having family photos taken (for whatever reason), please read the perfect time post. i hope it will give you the push to get them done SOON!

getting my shit together

in my efforts to begin organizing myself for the year ahead and yes, getting my shit together, i just wanted to share a bunch of...stuff.

first, i want to share a bit about facebook (FB)--an online community full of networking opportunities and a wealth of information.  if  you've never been there, i highly recommend it.  it's amazing the help i've received from folks on FB...and the friends i've found or who have found me.  here's my personal page and business page.

since not everyone, who reads my blog, is on FB, i decided to share a few things here that i recently discovered and|or shared on FB just today.


i'm finally feeling better today (after suffering from a terrible stomach flu on new year's day.  what a way to bring in the new year, huh?!).  i was actually recovered from the puking yesterday, but the dehydration was still hugely kicking my ass.  so now that i'm better, it's about getting organized.  and that begins with grocery shopping, since i have nothing in the house.  not having a clue what i wanted to cook for the week, i posted on FB, inquiring if anyone had any great recipes they could share.  and i learned about these great recipe sharing sites:

smitten kitchen orangette allrecipes (actually an old fav)

i've printed out some super yummy recipes and will head to the grocery store in a bit (after the construction guys are done working on the walls in our 5th bedroom). my plan is to buy a clipboard and put it on the kitchen wall with the week's recipes clipped. kind of like this (love her series of inspirational clipboards).


our KS house is already rented and we're looking at real estate in tampa. this whole thing is rather surreal. we've been here six months and are moving in six months. oh. my. gosh!!

steve is dreaming of building in tampa, although i'm not sure it's going to be possible in the area we want to live.  our location options are based on the communities middle and high school (kiele's school is our priority).  and for the moment, we're house hunting in the 33629 zip code of tampa (palma ceia area).

but, if we magically happened upon cheap land, here's a couple homes that steve and i would love to build.  maybe after our sailing adventures. sure can't hurt to dream! the spirit of palo alto the Xhouse 2


i'm planning my spring trip back to san diego for client shoots, sometime in april or early may (leaning towards late april). if anyone is interested in a client shoot during that timeframe, please email me. i also plan to do client shoots in san diego and NY in the fall. it's so exciting to have clients across the nation. i guess that's one of the perks of being a military-family photographer. needless to say, i'm blessed and grateful.


speaking of grateful. my plans were to start my grateful | 365 project on jan 1st; however, my stomach flu trumped that idea. and so i begin today.  you might remember me blogging about hailey's inspirational 365 grateful project in the past.  my plan is to do simple iphone photos for this project and will print them (probably in a 5x5 book) at the end.

today (01 | 365), i am grateful that my kids play so awesome together. sometimes it amazes me. don't get me wrong, they do have their fair share of typical sibling bickering, but most of the time, they play like this. and it melts my heart.

from coast to coast...

and somewhere in between.  our next assignment is...tampa, florida!!

so here's the deal -- steve is penciled in for a three year tour at macdill AFB in tampa, FL. however, pencils do have erasers and that's the reality of military assignments. nothing is ever a 100% sure thing, but we are pretty darn sure.  take that for what you will.  that's basically what i do. when steve told me, i was like

are you sure? so does that mean we're actually going? your name is officially attached to that job? it's kind of, sort of a sure thing? you're really sure?!

his reply, right.

one issue is that steve and the other guy's (the one steve is replacing) timing doesn't coincide, so we're not exactly sure when we're moving. best guess is sometime between june and september; however, the kids and i will for sure be there prior to 2010 school starting. the detailer said that he should be able to cut orders for steve (hard copy versus penciled in) the end of january. that will be that much firmer. our plan is to go to tampa during spring break to look for (and hopefully) buy a house.

actually now that i'm typing this...not moving in june would complicate things a bit because we really need to rent our KS house out in june (when the next class arrives). so it would probably be best that the kids and i left in june, even if steve can't.  he would probably just rent an apartment or something until he could assume the job in tampa. aye!

i've already researched schools (the first thing i always do when PCSing) and south tampa has some really great ones, which is a huge relief. i'm not so worried about kiele anymore, since her transcription services are now so well established on her IEP (beyond california).  it will happen. and if by some chance the school chose to challenge kiele's IEP, i'll be in court until kiele receives transcription (without a doubt, we would win!! i really am that confident about it at this point.).

it's crazy that i've lived in: detroit, MI washington DC biloxi, MS tucson, AZ ft walton beach, FL (where i met steve) whidbey island, WA san diego, CA lansing, KS and soon...tampa, FL.

we're super excited, as we've heard nothing but fantastic things about south tampa. normally i would say that i'm dreading the humidity because of my curly hair that i straighten every day, which turns yucky-frizzy-curly in the humidity dreads have pretty much remedied that issue.

in celebration of getting back to the warm and the beach, i share some of my fav beach photos from 2009.


just had to share

i meant to share this TIME article quite a while ago.  i had read it in november, while at kiele's last cochlear implant appointment.  it's such a great, super interesting, slightly controversial article. if you don't have the time to read it right now, print it.  and read it later.  totally worth the time to read. so much to think about. and then today, i came across this blog post. i wasn't aware of this blog before, but will definitely be following it from here on out.

i have to admit. i totally believe in free-range parenting. and i'm not afraid to discipline my children in public either. even if the old man in line behind me at the commissary disagrees with my public nose-in-the-corner disciplining for a purposely squished loaf of bread and tells me that i'm going to damage my children forever. my response:

i'm sorry you don't agree with my disciplining of my children.  but i have a well-behaved, kind, loving, good-natured 12 year-old, who seems to be doing just fine...and she was disciplined.

my free-range kids, who surprised me with this snowman a couple weeks ago...

feeling artsy-fartsy crafty

as long as i can remember, i've loved crafting.  when i was 10 or so, i so vividly remember making my aunt two large poster drawings for her new baby's room; i drew and colored them and was so very proud.  and i always loved cross-stitching.  i just loved working on any craft in general.  and now, my kids are the same way, including ryder.  they. love. crafts. as an adult, after getting out of the air force, i began digitally scrapbooking.  and when i was pregnant with ryder, i was a quilting fool.  and then, we moved to san diego and in 2006, my craft became photography, which i believe was my ultimate calling.  however, i still long for other non-photography-things crafty.  the problem?  time, of course, which i plant to elaborate on in my next blog post--the whole being a mother and work-from-home-photographer thing.  it definitely needs it's own dedicated blog post.

lately, i've been seeing all sorts of fabulous craft projects (via facebook and my google reader).  i long to get back to that place, where i am working on cool handmade projects.  and i want to do cool craft projects with my kids.  i want my kids to see the beauty and value of a handmade gift.

so this morning after breakfast with santa, we headed to walmart (the only craft-like store within 40 miles), in hopes of purchasing a bunch of craft supplies. and we did!  we bought items to make felt polaroid christmas ornaments, wooden ornaments and sun catchers for the kids to paint and some quilting supplies.  unfortunately, i had given all of my quilting stuff to good will (unfinished quilts, tons of fabric, patterns, cutting board, etc.), after not quilting for a couple years.  :-(

here's a few projects that i totally love and plan on doing over the next few months.  i'm so excited!!

i personally think there is nothing greater than getting a handmade gift at christmas time!!  i hope others do too.

felt polaroid christmas ornaments , tutorial by katie.cupcake

promendade market tote, pattern by denyse schmidt quilts

felt ball wreath, by pickles (i plan to hang mine all year long ;-)

here's a quick iphone pic of a hanging wall quilt i did for kiele in 2004.


the ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not be questioned.- maya angelou

this amazing woman took our family's photos this past saturday.  i can't even begin to express how much i treasure my own family's special i think these photos are!!  i photograph so many others and often, by the end of the year, i'm wondering if i'll have my own family photos to cherish.  i've only seen two so far from our session...and i love, love, love them.

and you see ryder's smile?  yep, that really is his camera smile.  i've completely warped my son, to the point that he doesn't know what the heck to do with his mouth anymore, in front of the camera.  and so, i adore this shot even more--with all of us smiling, in our own unique way.


the other day, i visited cheryl jacob's blog and read this...

every time you photograph someone, you tell them,

you're important enough to remember. make the most of it.

how profound is that statement?!!  just think about it!  something i want to share with every one of my clients.

most of you know...i greatly admire and respect cheryl jacobs! she is the one, who in the beginning of my photography journey, offered me confidence and pushed me to move forward. she encouraged me that it's okay to be different; it's okay to be myself. cheryl is one mad talent, not only with photography, but also with words.  if you don't know her, you should definitely check her out.  and she's all film.  love her!


then i moved to my good friend|photographer|military spouse's blog (we were stationed together and friends pre-photography) and read this: knowledge is power. both our husbands are explosive ordnance disposal officers. both are up for the same career promotion. both our husbands are two of the hardest working naval officers i know. both our husbands feel the same about the whole promotion thing, as so eloquently shared in shawn's blog.

steve should find out if he was picked up for executive officer|XO in the next couple weeks. once we know that, plans will begin for steve's next assignment. options vary greatly, depending on whether steve makes XO or not, which is why we have to wait for the board results. we're hoping to find out our next assignment in january or february. to move again in june.

most of the time, i try not to go to that place...of moving again. i bury it in the back of my mind because thoughts of moving are accompanied by anxiety. but tomorrow, we have prospective renters coming to view our house. and so, the buried thoughts are trying to surface. and i'm trying hard to push them back where they belong, for now. it's a tough battle, but i think i'm winning.

each and every day... i think about how grateful i am that we did this move together, as a family!! it was so very, very close to not happening. and every day, i remind myself to cherish and focus on this amazing!

will you ever?

i don’t think you will ever...fully understand how you've touched my life and made me who i am. i don't think you could ever... know just how truly special you are. - erica jong

i have this thing. always have. i'm good at blocking things out. the bad things. the things that have been difficult in my life. i put them in a place, a place where i can't find them and they cannot escape. it's part of my personal survival mechanism in life. how i survived my past. i's not exactly a good thing but i've become very good at it.

well, i have this thing with leaving too. this coping mechanism. if i keep telling everyone that i'll see them again before i go (truly believing that i just might), then i might not have to say an official good-bye. well this all hit me today. as i arranged to meet one of my greatest friends here in san diego, for a last play date together, because she is going out of town tomorrow and if we don't see each other today, i won't see her before we leave.

damn. that screws up my ability to say, i'll see you again before i go. because i won't.

this play date arrangement all happened via email, while i was editing max's family's photos. and all of a sudden it hit me--the moving, the leaving. it hit me like a train and the tears began to uncontrollably flow. i couldn't keep them in that magic place, unable to escape...and i breathed and let them flow.

i have made some of the best friends i have ever had in my entire life, while here in san diego. and while i know for certain that i will see most of them again, it just doesn't matter...this leaving thing just sucks!


long overdue, i am working hard to finish max's family's photos, to get the photos to the them before i leave. in the beginning of the year, i had told andy and melis that i really hoped to do a family photo of them before i left, if and when they were ready. in april, they were ready. i knew they would include max's shark, bruce, in the photos (always), but i had an idea for them to release seven orange balloons--max is forever seven and his favorite color was orange. they agreed. we walked around and shot all over balboa park, one of max's special places. a couple hours later and almost to our cars, melis says, darn, we forgot about the balloons. no worries, just get them and we'll photograph them somewhere here [near the parking lot], i replied.

and we did. i photographed the family releasing seven orange balloons for max to catch and hold onto in Heaven.

while editing the photos this morning, i came across this one, which literally took my breath away. it was my test shot for lighting. i'm not even sure what i focused on in the was just a test shot. but it wasn't; it turned out to be much, much more than just the test shot. it's like the light is pulling the balloons, calling for them. how did the wind of the balloons and the light of the flare line up so perfectly?  i have to believe it's max's light shining down, letting them know that he's okay. and did andy see it? did he see or sense something that was beyond what he even knew at the time? all the other balloon shots i have...not a hint of wind.

the first shot, just testing the light


the moment the balloons were released, beginning to float away


watching them float to Heaven. to max.

will these people that have come into my life and changed my life forever... will they ever know how much they mean to me? how special they are? how they have become a part of my soul?

i hope so.

max, i miss you little buddy!

there's no place like home

i long, as does every human being, to be at home wherever i find myself.- maya angelou

well, i survived the two birthday parties last weekend.  and now we're on the brink of another weekend.  how did that happen?  another week came and went and i didn't keep up very well. damn. and now, only 11 days remain for us here in san diego.

but, but, but! the super exciting news of the moment... after a few counters back and forth, we are in contract for this house (photo taken by realtor, not me).  

yep, we are.  if all goes through with our pre-approved loan, we will live in this home by the end of the month.  our home. together in kansas.  even if it's only for a year.  no wait...11 months. it will be ours, all ours.  after that, we will rent it.  to others, just like us--but not as daring or risky or crazy enough--to buy, when only living there for umm...less than a year.  you see, my husband has this entrepreneurial spirit and that includes real estate investing. one day, he'll even own a he continues to share with me.

i nod my head, yes honey.  but you watch.  he will.  i guess that means i will too.

so hell yea to 2500 square feet, four bedrooms, three full bathrooms, a two-car garage and hopefully a linen closet (forgot to check on that). and we will say good-bye to a 1500 square feet of house that has been good to us and taken care of us for the past 3 1/2 years (we've actually been here 4 1/2 years but cat pee, gopher, rat, maggot and fly infestation (left to us by the previous home owners) caused our relocation from our first san diego house, after a year).

we will miss you dear betty street house.  you have taken such good care of us and left us with so many wonderful memories.  and i thank you for that.

sometimes i really wish i was a superhero

we can't really relate to a superhero, but we can all identify with the person, who in times of crisis, draws forth some extraordinary quality from within himself and triumphs, but only after a struggle.- adapted from timothy dalton

yesterday, i confirmed to steve that we [the kids and i] were staying here in san diego, while he attended CGSC in KS.  and while not saying much, he nodded with agreement.  this morning, i awoke to a few more blog comments and by 6:30 AM, confirmed that we should go with him to KS and i will make things work for kiele.  i feverishly and passionately completely switched gears and contacted the leavenworth school district, forwarded kiele's IEP, researched houses for sale in KS and ended up in contact with the KS deaf itinerant teacher, who is supposed to be calling kiele's CA deaf itinerant teacher today.  it all seemed to happen in an instant.  without my thinking.  in a blur.

it just happened. just. like. that.

and now, the only thing that is certain is that my husband must think i'm nuts and beyond frustrated with me and my confirmed wishy-washiness.  i've pretty much been in tears every day.  a lump in my throat.  completely sick to my stomach.  this decision sucks.  moving for one year isn't easy for a 7th grader period.  moving for a year is that much more challenging, with a 7th grader with special needs.  i say that and then simultaneously remind myself that i've NEVER made excuses for kiele and her disability...and have always taught her that she is just like everyone else and anything and everything is possible for her.  and well, i guess that should include a one-year move to KS, right?!  damn it...if it were only that easy.  but maybe it is. this, my friends, is what i battle with minute-by-minute, day-by-day.

and then this afternoon, i went to my google reader and read this, by boho girl (one of my favorite blogs)--

Yesterday I walked around quietly and in mindfulness that all of the hard work. All the pain. All of the weeping. All of the tear soaked pillows. All of the confusion. The unanswered questions. The fear. The longing. The aching of a wounded heart. All of it has purpose in my life now. The idea that our pain, our trials are present in our life not only to help mold us into our most beautiful and true selves but to help others do the same, is humbling me to the core.

Sometimes in our pain or in our stories, we feel so isolated and alone. But our stories aren't just about us. Our stories are happening for others to learn from, love from, grow from and with this knowledge, it gives us more purpose. And with this purpose, we have more reason to keep going.

I'm going to keep it simple today and just say that...because that is enough to move mountains in our lives. In my life. Truly.

Today I marinate in the serenade of life purpose.


maybe this is exactly the path i'm supposed to be on--the path i'm meant to pave. could it be that my journey is to open doors in other states for DHH children? am i just scared to knock those doors down and follow that rocky path? am i just preferring to continue down the path that has become comfortable versus taking the rocky road i'm truly meant to be on?

and i do believe that this story goes beyond me, which is why i continue to share, through my own personal struggles and frustrations.  i know that there's others (military families, families with special needs children and who knows who else) that can benefit from these struggles.  and frankly, while i like to sometimes think that i'm supermom and can do it all...i'm not and i can't.  i'm just me...trying to get through life and be the best i can be.

no matter what happens, i promise you this...i will stay strong and i will keep going.  whether in CA or KS, i will draw from within, use my own personal superhero(ish) qualities and be triumphant in the end. i promise you...i will!

thanks boho girl... i thank you for saying exactly what i've been thinking...and trying to say myself (even though our stories are so very different).   love you. let us marinate!

preparing for kansas

it's official. steve will be attending command and general staff college, at fort leavenworth KS, as a geo-bachelor.  i took this shot of him today, while he was looking for housing options in KS.

this has been one of the most difficult decisions we have had to make--having our family be apart again, for another year, after having just finished a 7-month deployment. having our family apart by our choice.  this journey of ours has been an emotional roller coaster filled with ups and downs...frustration and tears, to say the least. one minute we're excitedly ready to put an offer on a house in kansas...the next, i'm in tears and steve is going to kansas by himself.

i have read, re-read and taken to heart every comment, email, suggestion, etc. that others have offered. and i thank you! yesterday, i was able to get a second and third opinion from two special education lawyers--both agreed that the best thing is to ensure that there is no break in kiele's receipt of transcription services. and both agreed that home-schooling kiele for that one year would raise many difficulties, at the school that kiele would attend after kansas. steve also explained our situation to the detailer (the assignment coordinator) and there is no way that his orders can be changed, at this point.

one thing that has been mentioned a few times is asking the kids what they want.  have i done that?  no, i can't say i have.  if this was a normal situation, i would...but it's hard for adults to understand kiele's schooling situation, let alone children (12, 6 and 4 years old).  i also choose not to put that burden on them.  i even struggle with the fact that i don't want kiele to feel that she is breaking up our family because it's for her DHH schooling services, so i am very cautious about what i say and how i say it.  even when discussing things with steve, i shared with him that i don't want him to resent me because of this.  his reply, i would never.  and i don't want kiele's schooling to get screwed up because of a move to KS and it be my fault.

so you can see, it's emotional and complicated. and well...we are the adults/parents and some decisions are ours to make. while i do believe that the input of my children is so important, i think this situation goes beyond what they can completely grasp and/or comprehend.


but the one thing i still struggle with is this--steve contacted the ft leavenworth housing office to inquire about geo-bachelor housing. yes they have it, but for a price--an unfurnished house on base for $1500/month. WHAT THE HELL? oh yes, three guys can room together, but that's still $500/month per guy. and what about furnishings? remember, these guys would all be geo-bachelors, with their families elsewhere.  we have some extra stuff that we'll send with steve (a mattress, a table, a grill, etc.) but still...i just don't get it. in the past (when i was in the air force), geo-bachelors would be given a room with a bed, bathroom, dresser, TV and kitchenette for free (kind of like a dorm room). of course, we get no extra money for being apart. we just have to spend a shitload more, that's all.

and the one thing that might just throw me over the edge is if steve gets to his next assignment, after kansas, and has to deploy right away. if that happens, i very well might have to start taking some prescribed happy drugs. that...would throw me over the edge.


this whole thing is just so damn hard. hard to let go of that dream of being complete, for another year. that dream of having our family together again. i'm working hard to get over the lump in my throat, the knots in my stomach, the tears that randomly well in my eyes, to begin focusing on the positive--we are healthy, we are strong, we will be able to talk daily and hopefully see each other monthly.

mid june, we will drive with steve to kansas, making a family vacation out of the trp. we will hopefully stay with steve for 2-3 weeks. after that, we will hopefully see steve one weekend a month and all holidays. in december, we're thinking that we'll take a kick-ass trip to new zealand (somewhere fantastic) because...damn it, we deserve it.

we're not in kansas anymore!

and i return with my dream of our family remaining a complete family pulled out right from underneath me. just like that. yet from my own doing.

we left for kansas friday morning, so excited about the thought of finding a home, where we could live together under one roof.

we finally made it to KS at 7:30 PM, four hours behind scheduled arrival because of severe thunderstorms, high winds and hail. saturday and sunday, we spent morning to night looking for homes. about 50 all together. exhausted, we were pretty sure that we were going to put in an offer on a home we found in lansing, KS.  on our way back to the hotel sunday night, we spoke with the deaf/hard-of-hearing (DHH) special education lawyer that we had been working with over the months. she shared a bunch of info with us, e.g. out of 90 DHH cases that had gone to due process in her area, only one partially won. that's not good all!  frustrated, i flat out asked her,

do you think i'm stupid for doing this move for only a year. after a long pause, she said, you want me to be honest? i don't think it's the best idea. me: really? her: people are still having to fight for transcription in CA, where they have supporting case law. what makes you think that they're [the school district] going to give kiele transcription with no supporting case law. and if you end up going to court, it will take more than a year.

while that was super hard to hear, we were so thankful for her honesty. i told her that we might not have to discuss this any further and i would call her back in 5-10 minutes, after i talked to steve.

while still en route to the hotel...we talked. i cried. and then decided that steve will go to KS, while the kids and i stay in san diego. and with that decision, my stomach instantly tightened in knots and my heart ached.

later in the evening, we attempted to have a nice dinner, but it transpired with little conversation or happiness--a sullen mood and more tears. my mind was (and continues to be) flooded with thoughts... alone. sadness. am i making the right decision? what about the little ones? what about steve? how can i do this to the family. how can i not do this for kiele? i have to do this. it's only a year.

on the flight, about an hour from san diego, i looked at steve and said, we're going to be okay. he said, i know we will. but the kids are at such a great age for doing things. i should be with them...especially with all the time off i'll have in kansas. with tears welling, i know. i know.

when we picked up ryder from preschool, after our flight today, the first thing he said, with a tight hug and the biggest smile on his face, did you find a house with a pool?

fighting back the tears, i replied, no, we didn't find a house with a pool. we're not going to move to kansas anymore.  well daddy is. daddy's going to be going to kansas by himself but he'll visit us as much as he can. oh, he replied.

and so, we will do our best. i will find the light again. i will be optimistic again. but that will take time. for the moment, i'm nothing but numb. looking at another year apart. and well...that pretty much just sucks.