Stranger Things and Childhood Memories

 
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Working out the puzzle of creating lasting childhood memories 

As a mom who not only runs a small business, but also has a full time (okay, more than full time) day job, it can be an uphill battle to make sure I'm spending enough quality time with Ben. Not just movies and meals (though those things are fun and important too), but really creating some good childhood memories for him. 

I was talking with my Dad about this the other day, and it seems to me that the childhood memories that really stand out for me, the good ones anyway, are the things that were out of the ordinary. The strange but harmless situations in childhood that seemed so special that they've always held a place in my heart and in my mind. 

Like the times my Mom and I drove cross-country to the Teton mountains each summer for a retreat and stopped at every roadside attraction along the way. Or the time my Dad and Stepmom decided on a whim to take my Stepbrother and I for a walk to the park, at midnight, in the rain, in downtown Dayton, OH, and let us play in the mud and on the park for 30 minutes or so and then walked us back home. Or holding a 'seance' with pre-teen friends at a sleepover with a ouija board  and some candles after watching 'Hello Mary Lou: Prom Night II', a most ridiculous horror movie. Or the time Dad spent a spring break with me in my senior year driving around to different historical sites and museums in Ohio and reading (re-reading for him) and comparing notes on The Frontiersman. 

Sure, you remember the really bad stuff, and the normal nice stuff is there too (like hugs and lunches and such), but some of my absolutely favorite childhood memories are special things like that, and I want to give Ben those types of memories too, so this past Saturday, on a whim, I took him to House on the Rock (which was also my first time visiting even though I've lived in Madison 11 years now). I took him to a special place for lunch, and then we went and explored the House on the Rock attraction (the whole 9 yards, all of the exhibits, the gardens, etc.) It was weird as hell. If you haven't been there, and you live in Wisconsin, you should check it out, if for no other reason than to experience the weirdness.

Strange things make for strong memories, and I think Ben is going to remember touring this weird place with me when he's older. Maybe he'll think of it fondly, the way I think of visiting weird or unique places with my parents. I hope I can help him create some lasting memories, the kind you speak of with happiness (and not in a therapy session, though I'm sure he'll have some of those too because being a parent doesn't come with a manual and we're all screwing it up sometimes). 

What sorts of memories do you really want to make with your kids? Are there any special locations or experiences you really want them to have? Books you really want them to read? Music you'd love for them to listen to? Go out and make it happen, one experience at a time, and I'm going to try and do the same. 

--Sam 

 

 

Fall Family Portraits at Home

 
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A rainy day blessing in disguise

On family portrait day, the weather was abysmal. Kris + John didn't let that keep them from getting family portraits taken, so I headed over to their home to do an in-home session instead of an outdoor session. I love in-home sessions because their so unique to each family or couple. When hanging out with Kris, John, and the kids (Jax and Daria), I got to photograph them playing Exploding Kittens (while ones of their cats made a hilarious guest appearance), and then got to photograph them telling secrets, having tickle fights, and heading outside for the 5 minute break in rain that the day offered at the end of the session! 

It was so nice to see Kris, John, and the kids again, and to get to hang out with them! Enjoy the photos! 

--Sam 

 

Mary + Tanya: A Cozy and Colorful Engagement Session

 
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A super fun Session on Willy Street 

Have I mentioned before how lucky we are when it comes to our clients? We seriously work with the best couples (not that I'm biased lol), and Mary + Tanya are definitely another exceptional couple on that list! They were so fun, quick to laugh (a trait I love in other humans), and were so sweet and intimate with each other, that they were just a joy to photograph. The session included running into a coworker of mine canvasing to make sure people are registered to vote (hi Jane!), a 'stolen' scarf and some gifted mittens, and the world's quickest wardrobe change behind a random house on Willy St. With adventures like that, how could we not be excited about their wedding next May?! 

--Sam 

 

Family Portraits in the Park

 
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Erin + Dan and the kids had family photos taken in a park that means a lot to them

I love it when people have photos in places that are significant to them. Erin + Dan (and the kids) took fall family photos in the park behind their house, because it's where the kids play almost daily, and where they watch the sun set each night. 

The kids, Grace, Ben, and Isaac, were super fun and goofy, and really got into the game of Rock, Paper, Scissors they were playing. They climbed all over stuff, flipped out of swings (I used to do it too but now that I'm an adult who has seen an ER bill, this is terrifying to watch!), and were generally pretty freakin' awesome. I was also super happy to get some photos of Erin + Dan. I really love it when parents get some of just the two of them during family sessions. 

Enjoy the photos, and some of the last of the fall colors!

--Sam 

 

Evan, Tia, + Brynn: Fall portraits for three child adventurers

 
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These three siblings had fun and personality to spare! 

So, if you don't live in Madison, then you might not know that for a mid-sized city, it's got a really small-town vibe, in that everyone knows everyone else, normally with no more than 2 degrees of separation. Laura, mom to Evan, Tia, and Brynn, used to manage a Starbucks in Middleton, back when I was an assistant manager at another Starbucks in Middleton, and Rob actually worked for her right around the time we had Ben. Flash forward 10 years later, and Rob and I have now photographed Laura's sister's wedding (which you can check out here) and probably now have more mutual friends than we did when we all worked together! 

On the day of the photos, we met at the UW Arboretum (and let me tell you, we were not the only ones taking in the gorgeous scenery!) and headed to one of my favorite spots in the whole place (I love Birch trees). Evan, the oldest, loves trees and was really excited to get photos hanging out next to trees, climbing in trees, really anything related to trees, which was awesome! Tia, the middle child, and Brynn, the youngest, both had tons of ideas for photos they wanted taken, and we got to take some fun 'flying' pictures, and lots of leaf throwing pics, which are my favorite! The kiddos also obliged me by telling some pretty funny jokes, and generally were fun, adventurous kids, who mostly got along with each other. ;) Thanks to Laura and her family for having me come take photos with them! 

--Sam 

 

I'm So Tired...

 
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...I haven't slept a wink

I used to listen to the Beatles' song "I'm so tired" on repeat when I was up with Ben (3-7 times a night) for the first two years of his life. It was oddly comforting. 

I go through periods in my life where I experience fairly extreme fatigue. In fact, I don't think I've felt "well-rested" since before Y2K. Now is one of those periods. I've been so exhausted lately, it's hard to keep my eyes open even while I'm walking, and it takes real effort not to fall asleep in the middle of conversations. Hence why I missed a blog post last week, and have been MIA on Instagram.

Being this tired has me musing about how it can be so easy, particularly on Social Media, to pretend like life is really glamorous, and that we're all really successful and happy and awesome all of the time. Well, I just want to be honest with you all and say that, just like every other human on the planet, life is not always easy or glamorous in my experience. It's hard, messy, complicated, weird, beautiful, fierce, and delicate, all at once, and I don't always feel successful or happy even. It's a white-flag-waving kind of week (or month or whatever), the kind that makes you say "Enough! Enough!" and maybe cry a little (and maybe eat too much chocolate, I dunno, you do you), and so it's time to just be real. 

So, with that in mind, here I am. Life is not glamorous or easy, and I'm not feeling particularly successful right in this moment. I'm breaking out, I'm exhausted, my health is not amazing at the present time, and I feel vulnerable and on edge. 

Life isn't a perfect 280 characters on Twitter, it's not an amazingly curated snapshot on Instagram, it's not a well-liked post on Facebook; It just is what it is, and the best thing, I think, we can do for one another, besides the basics like being kind, not murdering people, and disavowing racists and nazis, is to be honest when things are hard instead of always feeling the need to pretend they're perfect. They're not perfect. I'm letting you off the hook, blog readers. My life isn't perfect, yours isn't either, and it's totally okay to be honest about that.  

Go forth, my friends, and let someone else off the hook today by being real, and imperfect. I bet they need it. 

--Sam