iphoneography : january part 1

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2014 challenge:

use my iphone to capture and edit unique perspectives on our lives this year

Frustrated with the lack of great personal photos from 2013, I am setting out on a photography challenge this year. Not quite a project 365 (where you must take a picture every day) but I’ll aim for about that many great shots in the end. I’m not averse to having two good shots from one day or none from another. Hopefully I’ll be motivated to pick up my “real” camera this year and get back into the groove of taking and editing my own pictures instead of just my clients’ pictures. For now, here are some of the first from my iphonography 2014 challenge.

new year's eve aftermath

new year’s eve aftermath

and so it begins...four kids in tennis

and so it begins…four kids in tennis

she finally gets her gymnastics lessons

she finally gets her gymnastics lessons

brothers forever

brothers forever

school's morning mist

school’s morning mist

windowsill

windowsill

18 mile ride

18 mile ride

wonderful weather for the outdoors

wonderful weather for the outdoors

cuddling on the swing with my baby

cuddling on the swing with my baby

daddy's favorite moment

daddy’s favorite moment

i spy four woodards...do you?

i spy four woodards…do you?

Happy shooting in 2014!

A New Year :: A New Start

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It’s been a long few weeks here as I seemed to have hit a wall in several areas of my life and felt kind of lost for a bit. But things are looking up! I’m feeling optimistic and motivated…

 

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  • a fresh start with Emmie. Our relationship is very tricky and our personalities clash in lots of ways. But I have a newfound determination to think before I speak, and to preface each interaction with her with the thought of “What would a loving mother do here?” and then just do it, regardless of what I’m feeling. (An idea I got from another adoptive mom’s blog.)
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  • exercise. 2011, 2012, and 2013 are all a big blur to me. I feel like I’ve been treading water for three years and we finally have some stability in our lives. Which means I can finally really make a decent effort at getting regular exercise into my weekly routine. In fact, wait for it… I’m training for a triathalon! My weakness is running so I’m starting there and will add in the swimming and bike training once I can run a few miles without dying! I found a neighbor who’s going to try it with me, and hopefully we’ll be ready at the end of August!
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  • spiritual life. It comes as no surprise that Satan’s been attacking me in the past few months. Speaking with Greg in church about fostering and adopting, teaching the women’s study on Wednesday mornings every three or four weeks, daily living in a way that goes against cultural apathy…none of these things please Satan much. So I’ve seen a surge of temptation and am feeling a dry spell spiritually. I remember feeling this once in college and coming across the following in C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters: (speaking from the devil’s point of view) “Our cause is never more in danger than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and asks why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”  So I’m heading forward and am joining a group of great christian women who are going through Jen Hatmaker’s book Seven, and trying the challenges. The goal is that with the monthly fasts from one excess or another, our spiritual lives would be awakened in a new way.
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  • food. First up in the challenges from Seven is a food challenge. My most dreaded challenge. Because I love to eat. A lot. And I like butter. But if you’re picking only seven foods to eat for a month, butter had really better not be one of them. Actually, I was already thinking about trying some juicing to get more fruits and vegetable nutrients into our lives, and a friend is trying a clean eating challenge with some kind of shakes, which I hate. So why not start out the year with a food detox challenge torture situation? The worst that can happen is that I’m miserable and lose a lot of weight in January. It’s only a month. And maybe it will jump start my food choices in a healthier way for the year.
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  • photography. Boy, was 2013 a crummy year in photography for me. (Feeling annoyed about this, I did scrape through my archives to find the 2013 pictures that I’m using in this post!) My favorite pictures were almost all for clients and hardly ever for me. I want to change that this year. I’m going to try to use my iphone to create some photography that I love, instead of just grabbing it to record the jog-a-thon or the Christmas program. I want to use my big camera more, too, but as for a creativity challenge, I’m trying it with my iphone. Hmmm….
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  • carpool. Okay, so this isn’t quite as momentous as any other things, but I have found another parent to split the morning kindergarten pickups with! Right now I get to school at 8:00 for Anthony’s start, stay until 8:30 for Emmie and Tyler’s start, then get home a little before 9:00, only to turn around and leave at 11:00 to pick Anthony up again. Two hours is not a lot of time! But now, two or three days a week I can stay home and he’ll be brought to my door at 11:45. Perfect!! And Emmie has settled in with her friends before school so I’m planning to leave at 8:00 some days instead of staying until the second bell. Freedom!IMG_1867

So for the first time in a while, I’m feeling good. Optimistic. Goal oriented. I do love a new year!

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Zion, Bryce Canyon, & Other Updates.

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  • what a busy February we’ve had. the boys had a five day weekend for president’s day, so we put together a last minute trip to Zion and Bryce Canyon. So gorgeous! I just didn’t remember how beautiful they were and Greg had never been. We both agreed that it just might be the most beautiful place we’ve ever been. The snow on top of the orange cliffs with the bright blue sky…oh my.
  • I managed to strong arm the boys’ teachers into letting me volunteer a few times in the past month. I don’t know why these teachers don’t seem to want any help. But between the volunteering and women’s bible study at church and watching Midge a couple times, February has flown by.
  • Speaking of Midge, would you pray for her? The crazy social worker continues to wreak havoc on Midge’s life. When we were her foster parents and de facto parents, we pushed as hard as we could against everyone we could reach to try to convince them of Midge’s need for stability and permanency. Now there is absolutely nothing we can do about it but pray. Although everyone tells Midge’s father that he will have full custody, the social worker increased Midge’s mother’s visitations when Midge moved in with her dad. For the first two months she was adjusting to a new home, a new primary caregiver, losing her family and all familiarity, and also visiting with her mom in a new facility for three hours, three times a week, up from the two hours, twice a week that she had when she was with us. Last week, the social worker pushed for yet another one month extension in court, and has ordered Midge to visit with her mother, unsupervised now, three times a week for six hours each time. What? What is the purpose of these increased visits? If everyone is telling father that he will get full custody, why increase Midge’s visits with mother, who has been screwing up regularly for the past almost two and a half years? Being with her mother…(who, by the way, drove Midge around in a booster seat on her first visit!!! she’s two!!!)…would be the very worst thing for her. I am afraid that the social worker is trying to drag things out again so that she can give the parents joint custody, even though she won’t admit this to anyone. I am so worried about Midge’s future, as well as the instability she has to live with right now. Doesn’t anyone in the county (who’s actually able and willing to do something about it) really care about her? Please pray for her. God loves her, knows the future, and knows the intentions of everyone involved. I’m so thankful that HIS intentions are the ones which will stand in the end.
  • As for our future placements, we had to postpone the meeting with our agency that we were supposed to have two weeks ago because Jake was sick that day. I’m trying to be patient with God’s timing here. We’re now supposed to meet on Monday and will find out if the criteria we have for our future placements are feasible through our current agency. I’ll keep you posted.
  • since I cannot do anything for Midge but pray, I am trying to work on the things that actually CAN be done before we get any new kids in our house. So, priorities: home and health. Home: I have a short list of major projects I want to get done before we get any long term placements. Cleaning closets, purging craft supplies, finishing decorating projects, etc. I’m also trying to get my body to a good place so I can focus my energy on the new kiddos when they arrive.
  • And although photography growth doesn’t top my list of priorities, I’ve been shooting fully in manual mode since January. I also finally decided to try out Lightroom as a way of cataloging and doing quick edits on my photos. all the photographers seem to use lightroom, heading only in photoshop when they really need to do extensive edits. everyone says it saves time. so maybe I was a little optimistic when thinking it would save me time right away, because it doesn’t! I don’t know how to do anything in Lightroom yet, and I spend so long just trying to figure out how to get it to do what I want it to do, that it would really be faster for me to just edit in Photoshop to begin with. I’m trying to be patient and think of the long term benefit of it all. My new header above is one of only a few photos I’ve somewhat successfully edited in Lightroom. Here are a few others from our trip.
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our Zion backyard!

 

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Sunset out the back window.

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snow play in Zion!

 

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Our family…still doesn’t look right with just four of us.

 

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zion cliffs reflected in the Virgin River

 

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Our first glimpse of Bryce Canyon!

 

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Bryce Canyon

 

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The treacherous beginning of an icy Bryce Canyon hike…almost lost the boys over the first switchback’s dropoff as they ran ahead in the ice! I was nervous to go any further!

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But we kept hiking in, and went carefully back and forth down these switchbacks which were pure ice and red mud.

 

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The bottom of the canyon…snow play, snacks, beautiful hiking.

 

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Heading home.

Since She’s Been Gone…

 

The Weekend Trip:

 

The Ranch.

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The Safari Park.

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The promise.

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The Velveteen Rabbit.

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The Sympathy Flowers.

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The Gingerbread Houses.

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The Beach.

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With the cool chicks.

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The Programa de Navidad.

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The Crafts.

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The Snowflake Cookies.

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The Kindness of Friends.

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The Four of Us.

Still here.

totally unrelated to the post. but newborn portraits make everything in life better. my favorite from last weekend’s newborn portrait session in my new photography venture

Still here, living life day by day. Two weeks and one or two days left with our girl. I have found a good support group of foster and adoptive parents that meets once a month at the church down the block and truly understands the extent of the loss we are experiencing. We have such a large network of friends and family that are offering help constantly. The only problem is that I don’t really know how they can help. Lots of people have offered to have the boys over to play, but being with them is one of the best distractions I have.

I am adding up all the great things I’m going to “be able to do” once Midge has left. I’m going to get up early to have my own prayer time, something that I dropped when I started doing bible reading with the boys at breakfast, which I also dropped when I got mad at God for taking Midge away. So bringing back my prayer time, the boys’ bible reading at breakfast, which I will have woken early enough to make healthy and nutritious. I will get back onto doing my Spanish Rosetta Stone and figure out some other ways to boost my Spanish practice. And I will keep the house clean with all my spare time. And start playing tennis with my friend again. And take up walking in the mornings for fitness and plan my meal menu again and shop for the right ingredients so I’m not scrambling a half hour before dinner. And I’m going to get involved with my quilt guild again, something I do love and haven’t made time for. And I’m going to make outdoor exploration, hiking, experiences etc. a regular part of our lives again. And I’ve been thinking about practicing piano while the boys are at school, as their new piano lessons have inspired me.

So in conclusion, we will be well fed both physically and spiritually, our house will be clean and bilingual and full of music, and I will be fit and our family will be back into nature. Okay. That’s settled. It will be all sunshine and perfection around here. ha ha ha.

But when a friend comments about how much free time I’ll have when Midge leaves I feel like I’ve been slapped. What a horrible thing to say. And I know she meant it as encouragement and in love…she doesn’t have a mean bone in her body. It reminds me of what C.S. Lewis said in A Grief Observed, about friends not knowing what to say, italics mine.

“I see people, as they approach me, trying to make up their minds whether they’ll ‘say something about it’ or not. I hate it if they do, and if they don’t. Some funk it altogether. R. has been avoiding me for a week. I like best the well brought-up young men, almost boys, who walk up to me as if I were a dentist, turn very red, get it over, and then edge away to the bar as quickly as they decently can. Perhaps the bereaved ought to be isolated in special settlements like lepers.”

I can understand that. I can stand at the park with my friend whose son might have cancer and we can understand one another. (Praise God, the test came back negative since this encounter!) With my friend who is going through a divorce, I can see eye to eye. Great hurt unites us with others who hurt and can divide us from those who don’t, or haven’t in a long time. Grief and loss bring with them a compassion for others that might not be acquired in any other way. I don’t know.

If anything, our circumstances have brought us to recognize the hurt in others around us more acutely than before. Or maybe they are more willing to open up to us about their hurt because they see that we are hurt, too. Either way, an increase in compassion is a good thing. But please don’t tell me that maybe that’s why God is doing all of this. I think that’s one big lesson I’ve learned: if someone wants to see the silver lining on their own gray cloud, that’s one thing. But don’t try to point it out to them. They’d much rather just have blue skies.

Twinkle Lights Family Portraits!

Photography: such a beautiful distraction! You already saw the portraits I took of my own boys in the last post with this backdrop I created for my photography business. I had such fun trying out this portrait setting with a few family friends, too! If you or someone you know in the Orange County, CA area is looking for last minute family portraits for Christmas/Holidays, check out my facebook page to sign up! Here’s the information flyer:

Underwater Photography!!

This is my first time double posting here from my new photography website/blog. But I just HAD to share the fun I had today at the pool with my new underwater camera.

I have been fascinated for a long time with underwater photography. Not the scuba diving, snorkeling, fishy variety, but the ethereal artistic sort of underwater photography. There’s something magical about the way things and people move underwater and the way the light refracts and reflects to give off the strangest shimmering. And oh, those bubbles! I love it.

So for my birthday I got a casing for an underwater camera, and today I got to play with it for the first time.

What fun. I can definitely see this becoming a regular part of my photography for pleasure, and maybe even my photography business. If the clients understand that there are no guarantees when it comes to wet shooting, and if they, like me, love that other-worldly look in their portraits, I think we could have a really great time together!

Here are my very first underwater favorites.

I took these last three in the jacuzzi, where the heat made for a really cool looking steamy effect.

I REALLY needed a little bit of fun, creativity, and distraction today. God always provides when we need it most. Not to mention that I finally get to post some pictures of Midge…courtesy of the natural distortion of underwater photos!

180.

As it turns out, I am not crazy. I am, however a list maker. A goal-oriented person. A “find any excuse to start a new project to inspire me” kind of gal.

As I looked at this talented woman‘s project 366 (a photo a day for the whole year) I was inspired. I’d like to get back into photography, something that’s been on the back burner this year. I’d like to be challenged and see growth in that area.

And it struck me that if I start the project now, it would be a project 180 (starting tomorrow, July 5, 2012) instead of a project 366.

Nerd Alert! That number 180 triggers mathematical thoughts. A U-Turn. A complete change of direction. My mind wanders from math to spirituality.

180 days = six months. Six months from now we will probably not have our beloved baby Midge any more. I am going to need strength, endurance, hope, and focus to survive these six months. I want to do these six months well. I don’t want to fall apart as if I have no foundation. I want to shine. Even if God chooses to do a miracle and lets us keep her, I want these six months to be a testimony to His strength in impossible times. I press on to reach the end of the race and receive the heavenly prize for which God, through Christ Jesus, is calling us. Phil 3:14

For you died to this life, and your real life is hidden with Christ in God. Col 3:3   I expect to be persecuted for following God during these six months. I expect heartbreaking calls to burst into my happy mornings with the kids. I expect that as I follow Jesus into these hard places, I will be persecuted and beaten down just as He was. I expect to break down often and take His hand as He pulls me back up into the fight. I expect to cry. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. Phil. 1:29

And I will remember that these days are here because He wants them to be. He has a plan for Midge’s life and ours. He knows the way it will end months and years from now. And He is good.

180:

180 days to practice turning from

worry to trust

self-pity to gratitude

distraction to focus

180 days to survive losing Midge, if that’s what God has for her and for us. 180 days to thrive spiritually in the shadows of life.

And 180 days to challenge myself artistically with my photography. I don’t have any expectations of taking photos every single day. On days that I miss, I will work on a creative expression of the verse that God has given me for encouragement that morning. On days that I do take photos, I want to try a different approach. I’m going to try the Manual mode of my camera (yikes!) and crop the photos to square (another stretch for me!) and present the ones here that I can (the non foster kiddo shots!)

I have seen God working more in the past two years than ever before. Following Him has taken me into battlefields I’d rather avoid. But it has also brought me closer to Him as I hang on for fear of being lost in the mess of this world. I have seen God work in my heart these past two years. I want to see God work in my heart during these next 180 days, most likely the hardest of them all.

He is good.

180 :: trust-gratitude-focus

Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. Before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the center of your life. Phil 4:6-7 (the message bible)

Devote yourself to prayer with an alert mind and a thankful heart. Col 4:2

Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. Phil 1:11 (the message bible)

And I Officially Discover I’m Crazy.

Today is the last of an eight day stint as a mother of six. I have thirty minutes remaining until rest time is over and the house gets loud and crazy again.

Yet here I sit, browsing my blogs (eye candy!) and wondering if I should start a photography Project 365 mid-year. (Would that make it a project 180?) I can’t help myself. I am crazy. But this woman’s photography is so inspiring…

I promise that after the kids leave this afternoon, after I begin and finish picking up the messes, after I try to de-stickify the breakfast nook floor, after I get in a few uninterrupted conversations with my three, after I send off my three beloved foster kiddos to their new mom and dad, after I get over the fact that it could be many months before I see them again, after all of that, I’ll come back here and share some photos from my past two weeks. Promise.

Summer on the Brain.

SO ready for summer. The boys and I are counting down the school days (11 including today) and I’m fine tuning the summer calendar to make sure we get it all in. The weather around here is helping, too. Perfect days in the eighties. And who wouldn’t be ready for summer when you get to look at these freckles on these beautiful faces every day…

Joshua Tree in Photos

Can you tell how the boys felt about our RV rental? It's our first time.

Nothing sweeter. (We only let them "roam" the RV once we were into the desert.)

Those rocks just call your name...here's Greg as soon as we pulled into our campsite.

And a few minutes later, all three "boys" were atop the rocks across the road!

Desert nature. Good weather...hot but breezy on days 1 & 2, cooler with sprinkles on day 3.

The whole gang...friends from church met up with us there. Lots of kids to play with means lots of time for adults to relax and have real conversations!

Wildlife...chuckwallas here and there on the rocks.

A desert tortoise on one hike...and we saw a jackrabbit the size of a small dog bound away!

Evening. Nothing is better than pure joy on a child's face.

Spooky kids...a little too young for ghost stories, but plenty old enough for flashlight fun!

Morning. Beauty. Perfect for gathering around a fire to roast lil' smokies for breakfast.

Breakfast together in the outdoors is one of the best things about camping. You can't help but be in awe of God and his beautiful creation here.

Nature. Like the angels got tired of carrying rocks around the world and just dumped them right here for us to enjoy.

Lots of little rock climbs, but this was the big one. We went to the spot shown with a black arrow, almost at the top. With all six kiddos. Probably not the safest idea. But incredibly fun!

Rock climbing is a bit harder with a little girl strapped to my back! She did so great the whole vacation.

We didn't believe Tyler for a minute when he said he saw a baby snake. Jake must have climbed right over it moments before, and our friend thinks it's a rattler. Oh boy. God was watching out for us on this one! Good eye, Tyler!

What a beautiful little Easter getaway for us, celebrated in God's creation!

 

Laguna Escape.

Just a few words today to go with my photos from my little getaway last week at Aunt Krissy’s house in Laguna.

Starting with a gorgeous little quiet respite on the porch on the chilly (for us) day.

Krissy’s is the right house to go to for artful, peaceful, interesting vignettes here and there.

A quiet dinner with Kris and Stan, followed by some HGTV with Kris and an introduction to the strangest new (to me) show called Oddities.

That night and the next morning, I devoured this book. A good, quick read. I recommend it. Of course, having total quiet and no interruptions always helps the book reading experience. And good morning coffee made by someone else and enjoyed in a clean, peaceful home. That, too.

Then on to the craft of choice…stenciling some shirts from the second-hand stores for the kiddos.

And a few iron ons, too.

My cousin Michele came for a few hours to relax, too. We always joke that we’ll see each other again when Beach Nights begin. It’s a little too true for my liking. We always have fun chatting. So nice to have family as friends. They are the best kind.

My gracious hosts in the back and our friend Hilde in the front. Don’t you think everyone should have a Norwegian hula dancing yoga teaching traveling massage therapist like Hilde as a friend? I do. Thank you, Aunt Krissy, for treating me to the massage.

Sometimes my mind won’t keep still during a massage, so I used this time for prayer. To refocus. To hear from God about how He wants me to move forward from today. It was such a wonderful hour.

The food is always beautiful, too. Crab salad a la Krissy.

On the way home I explored the canyon in springtime. Although my footwear was inappropriate, I took in a little bit more beauty and silence before heading through the canyon towards home.

Then an hour of browsing at the local quilt shop, an hour of wandering the library, a forgotten love of a place, and then home for dinner with my family before they headed out for tennis lessons.

And back to real life. It comes quickly and hard. I am thankful for moments like these, and vow to seek them out more often during rough times in life.  And to notice the everyday beauty at home more often.

Six Weeks…Finally!

I finally got my hands (photographically speaking) on my good friend’s Thanksgiving day baby. What a sweet boy, and such fun to photograph a newborn again. Earlier that day I was supposed to deliver her husband’s wallet to him at church after he left it at our house the night before. Instead, I was moved by the guest worship leader and stole $5 out of his wallet to buy a cd after the service before giving it back to him. When I didn’t have a $5 bill to give them later as I shot their newborn, I joked that they could pay me $5 for the photo session. We got a good laugh. And it made me so happy when I emailed Momma some of my favorites and she said it was the best $5 she ever spent.

My favorites are the boy in a basket shots. For some reason the black and white treatment of those feels timeless, like the JFK shots with his son under his desk. And does it make me have the baby itch? Not a bit. It makes me even more grateful that Greg is finally going for the little snip-snip this Friday. But I’ll continue to love on other people’s newborns with enthusiasm, before heading home to my own warm bed with a full night’s sleep. I know that in the end, newborns are always worth it. And this one is sure a cutie. Welcome Baby M!

 

Indecisive.

It’s a good thing I’m not in charge of choosing this family’s Christmas card photos. I had a great time last weekend shooting some of our closest friends…and even with four kids, there were quite a few good family shots. What a photogenic group they are! If I ever become a professional photographer, I’m really going to have to learn how to cull down the number of proofs I offer a client. I’m just so indecisive. There are the usual family shots that look good with standard color (with editing, of course.)

And the obligatory kids shot…those girls are the sweetest smiles around!

But then how do I decide which photo to show a client when there’s this original with simple edits…

…compared with this one with some actions to add some cool effects? I love them both! This year was my first time trying some shooting into the sun and I really like the effects I was able to get.

The easy thing about shooting from the back, of course, is that nobody has to be smiling for it to look good. I love both of these below, one because of the halo effect on their hair, and the other because of the coloring and the framing of the tree with the sun looking starry.

 

This is one of my favorites…the colors and the sun and the looks on their faces all make it just what I was trying to achieve.

But this one would probably be my Christmas card choice, if only because everyone is smiling, and I know how important that is on a family card! So even though the composition and lighting aren’t as great as some others, this one’s a keeper.

And one last walking away shot…the tree, the lighting, the way they are shortest to tallest and shortest again, even the shadows…I like it all.

But my very favorite is the one at the top of this post with everyone lying (or is it laying?) down in a circle. Their smiles are totally natural and the color and composition are fantastic. If it were me, that would be my Christmas card. But then what do you do with these great individual and couple shots?

I always love getting a good picture of couples who’ve been married a while…often it’s been years since they had a good portrait of just the two of them. I love this one.

But what about the sibling shots? I say, go with a multi photo layout card and use them all!

Angie, I can’t wait to see what you picked!  Merry Christmas card making!

Family Photo Shoot.

Last Friday, I roped my brother-in-law into swapping photo shoots with me. I think he got the raw end of the deal…it is WAY easier to shoot photos of two adults and one cheerful baby than it is to shoot two adults and three kids like mine! Midge is the worst photo subject ever. She doesn’t respond to any funny sounds you make, refuses to stay in one place, doesn’t look at the camera…what a handful she is! Hence, the photo above of our family without her in it…she was running around getting into everything when that photo was shot. Even with the challenges, Rob did a wonderful job and with the help of photoshop, I was able to get a couple family shots that I like from that day. I also took a lot of shots of my three little ones that I was happy with. Rob and Amy’s little family of three, on the other hand, has a million cute shots. No photoshopping necessary! Thank you, Rob and Amy! Here are my favorite shots of their family, and a couple of ours.