Saturday, August 31, 2013

Things I Learned in August

Inspired by Emily Freeman’s series and a tradition in my besties’ annual letters, I’m sharing a few of the things I learned this month.


1. Downton Abbey really is good.

I realize most of you have known this for at least three years. It was stubbornness that had me ignoring all the admonitions to give it a chance.

I grew up watching Upstairs and Downstairs, and it looked like a rehash. I find romanticized views of old England, including my own, tiring. Would it whitewash all the imperialism, classism, and sexism? A British version of “Gone with the Wind”? (and yes, in many ways, it is---at least in season one, but I suspect turmoil ahead). I already watch Parenthood, so why add another family drama/soap opera? It took a combination of Brian’s long fire assignment, a high recommendation from Christy, my love of Maggie Smith, and no new episodes of anything for the summer to get me over my stubborn hold-out.

2. If you’ve paid for Amazon Prime, you can stream the entire season of Downton Abbey on your laptop!

Again, perhaps you already knew that. I checked out Season 1 from the library, and then added my name to a long wait list for Season 2. That night I looked it up on Amazon and saw this beautiful sight:


Watch now? For free*? Don’t mind if I do!

*Amazon Prime is expensive so not exactly free, but it feels free since it had nothing to do with that purchase.

3. How well I eat during the week is directly tied to how well I prepare on Sunday. See lesson #10 from what I Learned in June.

4. Seamus Heaney, the brilliant Irish poet, passed away. I just learned that this morning. I’m sad, but also grateful he gave us all so much before he left.

Here’s a link to his poem, The Rainstick, with a hat tip to Tara Mohr. Brian brought the boys a rainstick after a fire assignment in New Mexico last year. I still remember the first time we held one back in Tucson years ago. My favorite line:

Upend the stick again. What happens next

Is undiminished for having happened once.

5. Dogs don’t chase mice or at least ours doesn’t. Deer, birds, and the poor grasshoppers who get inside our house. But mice, not so much.


Drawing by Patrick Owsley

My sister Elizabeth rightly pointed out this should have come as no surprise, given Spike and Jerry’s coalition.

6. Picking out paint colors for six different rooms might not be best done with all your kids in tow after four hours in the car and with two more still to go.

clare sage

The jury’s still out on this one.

Maybe it was the best way to do it. I had pinned all my favorites, assuming we were going with Benjamin Moore (because it’s available locally) and then Brian surprised me with a stop at Home Depot on our way home from Denver. There was a big sale on paint, so we tried to decide on the spot.

I love two of the colors we chose (Bon Voyage and Clary Sage), but the orange on one wall in the laundry room might give a color cast to everything in the room. And Silver Drop, the color for the main living space and hallways, might be too light.

I had picked out Dolphin Fin, a light grey, and Brian asked that we go up one shade. So far everyone who’s seen it assumes we painted the walls white. I’m hoping trim and carpeting will make a big difference.




7. Aidan might have a future as an actor.

2013 08 03_2373 aidan as a hoodlum 

8. This stuff is yummy. If you have a Costco near you, 2013 08 02_3930 copyget some and enjoy it for me. We’re going to try to make some ourselves.









9. If you need a good cry, just listen to Barber’s Adiago for Strings.

How is it possible I’ve heard this all my life and never really listened to it until this month? I read Katrina Kenison’s beautiful posts about her friend Diane, one of which mentions this song. Kenison’s writing always makes me more keenly aware of the fleeting nature of time, specifically this time while my boys are still young and with us daily. Is there any lesson in life that doesn’t come down to letting go?

10. web2013 08 21_three boys stepping out

I am both ready and not ready at all for this next stage of our lives.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

The Great Big Giveaway


I have partnered up with some amazing photographers and vendors to give one lucky winner the choice of a 32gb iPad or a $600 B&H Photo Video Gift Card!

We wanted to do a fun giveaway as a way to thank all of our Facebook friends and clients. Alone we couldn’t do much, but together we can offer an amazing prize.  We’re offering my own top two “Wishlist” items: an iPad OR the option to buy something awesome at B&H Photo Video!

Below you will find pictures and links to all of our Facebook pages, websites and blogs to make it easier for you to check out these great photographers and vendors. Below are the instructions to enter.

[If you’re hesitant to follow photographers who aren’t in your area, or you’re worried you’ll miss a good friend’s post with all the professional photos in your feed, here’s a tip. When you “like” a page on Facebook, the drop-down menu under “Like” offers the option to create interest lists as well as to check or uncheck “follow posts.” If you haven’t discovered this yet, it will greatly stream-line your Facebook time. However, if you want to hear about my seasonal specials—or see the newest Moab babies, be sure to have “follow posts” checked for my Facebook page!]

The rules for this giveaway:

1. You must like all of the participating Photographers and Vendors Facebook pages to qualify by logging in through your personal Facebook page. (If you win and haven't liked all pages, a new winner will be chosen!)

2. After all pages have been liked you will be able to gain extra entries for sharing this giveaway on Facebook, Pinterest and Twitter. These entries can be done daily to increase your chances of winning. You can share via Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest everyday for more entries through September 15th.

3. Winner will be announced September 16th back here and on Facebook! :)


Heather Richard Photography | Website | Facebook


Stephanie Anne Photography | Website | Facebook | Seniors FB


Karen Cooper Photography | Website | Facebook


Photographie J'adore | Website | Facebook


AutumnLouise Photography | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram


Hush Little Baby | Website | Facebook


Heather Harris Photography | Website | Blog | Facebook


Fotos by Nadine Photography | Website | Facebook


PintSizedPrints | Website | Facebook


Reaj Roberts Photography | Website | Facebook | Twitter


MadCris Images | Website | Facebook | Twitter | Pinterest


Jen Tarbox Photography | Website | Facebook


Susan Willis Photography | Website | Facebook


Hairbow chateau | Website | Facebook


Inspired by Grace | Website | Facebook


Ashley Torchia Photography | Website | Blog | Facebook | Store


Deirdre O. Keating Photography | Website | Blog | Facebook


JL Keeney Photography | Website | Blog | Facebook


Nicole Lopez Photography | Website | Facebook

20LillyoftheFieldLilly of the Field Photography by Tara Eveland | Website | Facebook

Amy Lorraine Photography

Amy Lorraine Photography | Website | Blog | Twitter | Facebook

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 19, 2013

Emmalin | Moab Utah Newborn Photographer

Now that the boys are back in school (all except Nolan, who is counting down the days to kindergarten!), I hope to catch up on a few summer sessions that never made it to the blog. Here’s a sneak peek at the most beautiful baby girl, Emmalin.

Moab newborn photographymoab utah baby photographermoab utah newborn photographerphotography newborn moab utahbaby girl Deirdre O. Keating Photography

“A baby is God's opinion that the world should go on.”  -Carl Sandburg

Sunday, August 18, 2013

The Peace of Wild Things

web2013 08 02_2465


The Peace of Wild Things

When despair for the world grows in me

and I wake in the night at the least sound

in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be

I go and lie down where the wood drake

rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.

I come into the peace of wild things

who do not tax their lives with forethought

of grief. I come into the presence of still water.

And I feel above me the day-blind stars

waiting with their light. For the time

I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

Wendell Berry

Thursday, August 15, 2013

The Rest of the Story

Part 1 of our camping trip to Warner Lake was featured in yesterday’s post. That was about the good stuff. This post is about the not-so-good-I-may-never-camp-again stuff.

You see, I was very hesitant to take my boys camping this weekend. I grew up in the suburbs of Chicago, and at heart, I’m a city girl. I fell in love with nature more via the words of Henry David Thoreau than I did via the woods themselves. Brian, despite also growing up near Chicago, didn’t need Walden to teach him about the power of nature. He has always felt more at home outdoors than indoors, and even when we first met in Chicago, he was intent on heading to the mountains as soon as he graduated.

I had never camped before I met Brian. He quickly remedied that.


We camped in Galena, Illinois. In Yellowstone National Park. Glacier National Park and Yosemite. We’d been married two months when we took assignments with the Forest Service on Mt. Graham in Safford, living in a rustic cabin at the Columbine Ranger Station for the summer. One way to solidify a marriage is to be cut off suddenly from all friends, family, even mail and radio stations (since this was back in the day when people used mail and radios). We celebrated our first anniversary camping in the Dragoon Mountains of the Arizona desert, and another camping on Humbug Mountain on the Oregon coast.

29935-Ph-SK-038_thumb2 29935-Ph-Y-012_thumb2cute-boys-camping_thumb2

All of which is to say, I’m not a camping novice. I can do rustic. I did live in a Russian village for two years with an outhouse and no running water, so I’m not some kind of Lisa Douglass type. And yet, in the 20+ years since that first Galena trip, I have never camped without Brian. Unless you count when the boys set up a tent in the backyard…or the living room.

camping-in-the-dining-room_thumb2            I did particularly enjoy that camping trip.

In June the boys listed their summer bucket list and, of course, included camping. Brian’s summer schedule is unpredictable, depending on where and when his fire team is called. So I thought it was a brilliant idea to rent the Forest Service cabin at Warner Lake for our last summer weekend. If Brian was away, I could manage. With no tent to worry about, even the August monsoons wouldn’t be an issue.

As the date moved closer, and the fires in Idaho confirmed that Brian wouldn’t be with us, I grew less confident. I usually prepare all our clothes and food for camping, but Brian does all the actual packing and all the “what-if” thinking. He’s also an intuitive guy who doesn’t have a master camping list. My friend Christy shared her packing list for river trips, which was a great starting point for me. Another friend, Natalie, laid out the biggest priorities: water, TP, food and bug spray. I packed and prepped food and felt ready as we headed up the mountain.

web2013 08 11_3827 boys at the cabin

As yesterday’s post showed, it was beautiful up there. Warm with a breeze. We didn’t see one mosquito. The boys ran, Duke barked at every deer, and I started to feel cocky. I made a fire and cooked steak and asparagus on it for the boys. We climbed in our sleeping bags and I read Harry Potter by flashlight to all three boys. They fell asleep and I congratulated myself. I can do this without Brian! We should make this an end of summer tradition!

And then the nightmare began.

We weren’t the only inhabitants of the cabin.

I tried to convince myself that the noises were coming from outside the cabin. I tried to pretend I didn’t hear them. Then Sean woke up and asked, “What’s that noise?”

I got up with a flashlight and went into the kitchen. Ooooh Lordie. They were on the table having a party.


Duke, who was begging us to let him take down every deer that ran through the camp, must have some sort of peace treaty with mice. He didn’t so much as bark at them. He did however stay up with me most of the night, despite my admonishing him with wishes that he was cat. Then worries about Hantivirus changed my mind and I considered him wise. The food was all packed up so they weren’t able to get into anything, but they’d been trying. When I flashed the light, they scattered. My scream woke up all three boys. I lied that the mice were all gone now and they could go back to sleep, which they did.

In retrospect, I should have piled us all into the car for the night but it was pouring with sporadic lightning and I didn’t want to leave our stuff alone in the cabin while the mice were at play---nor did I want to try to pack it all up in the middle of the night. So Duke and I sat on border duty all night. Every so often, a mouse would dart out---heading right for our bedroom---and dart back once I shown the flashlight on its face.

My apologizes if this fuss is ridiculous to you who can catch a mouse with your own bare hands. I get queasy even remembering it. My sons have caught frogs, snakes, spiders. I can handle any of those with ease. But not mice. I felt like Indiana Jones, only my lament was: “Mice. Why did it have to be mice?”

I couldn't wait for the sun to come up but it was raining most of the morning. I repacked everything before throwing it all in the van to be sure we weren’t bringing any unwanted guests home with us. We ditched the pancake batter and strawberries that I had prepped at home for a breakfast of hot cocoa and poptarts---out in the rain because anything was better than being in the cabin. Once it stopped raining we took a hike and made s'mores (the boys refused to leave the mountain without having made s’mores), then booked it home before another storm moved in.

I have never been happier to be home. Scrubbed/bleached/cleaned everything but still freaked out. Grateful we safely made it down the mountain despite my scary sleep-deprived state. And never camping without a tent again.

And I’ve come up with a better end-of-summer tradition: a guys-only camping trip! Duke and I will stay home, get out the flashlight and toast to our memory, and sleep in peace.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Photo+Quote| August Blog Hop

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air."

-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Each month a group of photography friends and I interpret a famous quote through images we have captured. Swimming in the sea is a challenge for a high desert family, but we did head to the mountains this weekend to live in the sunshine and drink the wild air.

web2013 08 11_Aidan and duke at the CabinwebNolieandAspenweb2013 08 12_3823 bumblebeewarner lake collageweb nolie water cabin2013 08 12_3810_01web2013 08 11_3834 seannolie warner lake

There’s a story not being told in these photos. We all know that every photo, every blog post, every story is always just part of a story. Yet, I’d hate to misrepresent our weekend by only sharing what was lovely. Tune in tomorrow if you want to hear the rest of the story…

Photo+Quote is a monthly series that I’m using to dig deeper into my own archives. On the 15th of every month we are challenged to pair a chosen quote with photographs.You can see how the other photographers in the series interpreted this month’s quote by following the blog hop to my friend Pam of P Squared Studios, San Jose, California, family photography at

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

4 Tips for Back-to-School Photos


Tips for Back to School First Day of School Photos

While I’m always sad to see summer end, I love the first day of school. Even more than January 1st, the first day of school marks a new beginning to me, time to start afresh with new ideas and new goals.

web1972first day of school

The first day of school always calls for new notebooks full of blank pages and backpacks stuffed with kleenex boxes and colored pencils. And, of course, for Back-to-School photos!

tips for back to school photos

Are you ready to snap a few shots before your kids board the school bus this week?  The first day of school offers an opportunity to capture a moment in time. And if you make it a tradition, I find children are more cooperative because they just know---this is what we do on the first day of school!

first and last day of school photo comparison

I love how pairing similar photographs can tell a story and capture the passing of time. Whether it be the changes that take place over the course of one school year (above: Aidan on his first day at Rock Tots in 2005 and the last day in May), or…

1st day prek 1st day 2ndG

…as seen on the same day several years apart (above: Aidan again, first day of preschool at Mrs. Pam’s and then the first day of 2nd grade).

Here are my 4 Simple Tips to capture a great First Day of School photo that you’ll treasure and that won’t add stress to that morning.

1. Prepare. Get your camera ready the night before and leave it out near the lunch boxes. Ready means your battery is charged and you have room on your memory card.

2. Decide ahead of time the best place to take your photos. The sun is a bit too bright and direct at our house in the morning---see how Aidan is squinting in those photos above. I still take photos in front of that same tree every year, but the harsh shadows aren’t flattering. I finally realized the shade on our deck makes for a much better location at 8 in the morning. You don’t want a busy background, like my photo below, so clear some space today.

photo tips for back to school photos

Photo tips for the 1st day of school

Much better without those busy chairs, isn’t it?

3. Any props you want in the photo? Have them ready to go. A mini chalkboard with this year’s grade. A shiny red apple. I love how a simple backpack or a stack of school supplies can add context. There are lots of free printables online, such as these and these, for your kids to hold too.

first day of school photo tips school supplies

4. Write down any must-get shots that you want.

I usually like a shot of the boys with their backpacks on the way to the bus. And, back when they were young enough to let me, I loved taking a photo of them with their teacher that first day. Plan on enough time to get a photo of each child separately as well as group shot.

first day of school

Above: September, 2011. Nolie, feeling shy with Ms. Tiger, whom he came to adore.

Here are two final bonus tips.

Bonus #1:  While the first day photos are a wonderful keepsake, but they aren’t worth stress. As Becky Higgins explains in this old favorite post, our children need us calm and centered more than they need us pointing a camera in their face that first day.

The best way to avoid any rush or stress is to prepare, capture what you can, and then let it go.

Bonus #2: After you kiss your smiling child goodbye, don’t look back. Especially don’t peek back in the window of the kindergarten door to get a shot of your child happily coloring at his or her desk.  Like me, you might end up shocked to see this in your viewfinders:

peeking in the window tears

I knew if I went back in, I would just make it worse. I stood outside that door for so long. It took all the strength I had not to go back in and comfort him. I remember watching the clock anxiously all day---but he came home skipping, and having fallen in love with the world of school.

tips for taking back to school photos

I wish all of us the same sense of joy and wonder as my middlest on his first day of kindergarten, and, as Nora Ephron so perfectly put it, “a bouquet of freshly sharpened pencils” too.

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