My Tween

Today my firstborn has “THE Talk” at school.

I’m not quite sure how we’ve reached this point already. It seems like just yesterday that my husband and I carefully pulled out of the hospital parking lot, each silently praying that together we’d figure this parenting thing out without doing much lasting physical or psychological harm to the itty-bitty thing sitting securely in the back seat. Martha was so tiny that we had to try to secure her wobbly little noggin upright in the car seat with several receiving blankets in order to get the “all clear” signal to be discharged. BLINK. She’s walking. BLINK. She’s bouncing onto the school bus without a single backwards glance. BLINK. She’s getting THE Talk.

They warned us, you know. From loving friends and family to well-meaning strangers in the checkout line at Target. “Enjoy it,” they said, “because it will go by faster than you can imagine.” I’ll admit it. There were times when I was so overcome with sleep deprivation, overwhelming frustration and a general lack of patience that I kind of wished the time away so that we could get to a calmer and more routine existence. Almost 11 years later, I realize that the day I find such routine with three children is probably the same day I’ll find a unicorn doing my laundry.

I find, instead, that I’m the mother of a girl doing her best to navigate the choppy waters of tweendom. A little girl no longer but not yet a young woman, she’s busy doing a complicated limbo. Some days I still see glimpses of the baby; after she’s had a particularly busy day, I might look in her bedroom and see her fast asleep with her arms thrown upward like she did as an infant. More often, though, I am seeing glimpses of the young woman she is becoming. Her legs are growing long and lean and her little, once-perfect-Chiclets-like teeth have given way to ones that will surely put an orthodontist’s child through college. Some days it’s just a certain look that passes over her face, but I know I am seeing a hint of the woman to come. I vacillate between wanting to yell, “Wait! Stop growing!” to cheering her as she successfully clears each challenging hurdle of growing up. “Time and tide wait for no man.” Or girl. And so rather than gnash my teeth over the “baby” I’ve lost or worry about the potentially scary days of teen parenting that await me, I think I’ll try to accept that all I can do is to just take a deep breath and be grateful for this brief intermission.


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Favorite Images of 2013/Quad Cities Family Photographer

It has been MONTHS since I last posted on this site. Facebook is about all I can seem to manage to handle these days, but the fault is really yours. Yeah…you heard me. YOURS. You’ve kept me hoppin’ since August!! I hope to play catch-up during the month of January when I will blog about my late summer and fall sessions and update my image galleries. In the meantime,  here are some of my favorite images from 2013. I tried to come up with 13 from ’13, but I just couldn’t cut some of them. It was a little like “Sophie’s Choice.” So I opted to choose my favorite color and B&W images. They are my favorites for a variety of reasons: it could be that the session was a lot of fun (“Don’t Mess With Her”); a first-time parent encountered the joys of their first formal portrait with a crying baby (you won’t have trouble finding that one…I love it because it’s REAL); I was trying out a prop for the first time (carousel horse); or because the kids are mine (girls kissing the boy).

The last portrait is my favorite from the year. To be honest, it’s not even close to being the “best” picture I took from an artistic point of view, but it summarizes why I do what I do and why I named my business Lilac Hill Photography. A dear friend of mine invited me to her home this summer to take a family portrait. Her extended family, including a great aunt from the East Coast, were in town to celebrate her parents’ 65th wedding anniversary. Her parents were among the first people we met at church when we relocated to the Quad Cities almost nine years ago and they always enjoyed (or rather, tolerated) watching our kids when we sat in front of them. So it was a no-brainer. Of course I would take the portrait!

My friend’s life was…shall we say…busy at the time. Life had handed her a lot of curveballs, all of which she handled with grace and the proverbial “patience of Job,” but even she admitted taking on entertaining the group for the weekend was a lot to handle. But she arranged it and together we took a number of family portraits of this large group on this very hot summer afternoon. To make a long story short, both her mother (center) and great aunt (center, left) have since passed away, and those family portraits taken on that hot, sticky afternoon have taken on a whole new importance as it was the last time they were all together as a large extended family. This is a portrait–although not technically perfect or remotely amazing–that will be treasured forever. I remember telling my friend’s daughter how envious I was that they were taking the picture as my own grandmother has passed away three months before my wedding, when we had planned to take the “big family portrait.” That chance never came.

Images represent so much more than just a visual appeal. They capture a fleeting moment in time. Newborns become fourth graders in a blink of an eye, crawling toddlers become sprinters on the high school track team, and those moments pass all to quickly. Don’t wait until you lose those final 10 pounds or your son gets his braces taken off before you decide the time is “perfect” for a portrait. Take out that iPhone, pocket-sized point-and-shoot camera, or the fancy new camera you got for Christmas and snap away. Snap away OFTEN.

Best wishes for a joyous 2014–may it be your  best year yet.





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Teddy & Me/ Quad Cities Family Photographer

The P-K family asked me to take their family’s portrait after seeing on Facebook images I took of a friend’s daughter. I recently spent an evening with them and their daughter, Anya, in their amazing backyard. Anya was a little tentative at first, but having some “lovies” around during the first part of the shoot seemed to help. Soon after she was chasing me around with her teddy bear. My favorite images of the evening were those that happened on the fly as this brown-eyed beauty toted her teddy around the yard. Here are some images from their session.


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When the Stars Align/Quad Cities Family Photographer

Want to know the one thing I hated about this session? Trying to choose my favorite images for this blog. Seriously. The stars aligned on a lovely Friday night in June and provided me with perfect weather, perfect lighting, and a perfectly fun-loving family. Those three ingredients combined resulted in some images which continue to make me smile. I hope you enjoy them, too.


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Life Unscripted

I was just chatting a few moments ago with a client about tomorrow night’s session. We covered everything from concept, clothing, and props to meeting time and bathroom details (there is no bathroom on location–eek!). She finished by saying, “We will be just playing along with how the children act; whenever I force things, it seems to look stiff and unhappy. I’m getting very excited!” In short, she hit the nail on the head, and in doing so, basically summarized my session philosophy: “Let it happen.”

Let me back up and put my “Mom” hat on for a moment. I’ve been there. Hey, I’m a Type-A, firstborn perfectionist. I’ve had visions of that perfect Pinterest-inspired, Christmas-card-photo-quality session. I’ve researched. I’ve prepared. And then I’ve shown up…with the kids…whom I’ve cajoled and bribed (and I admit it, maybe even threatened) en route to the session. And things have just, well, gone south from there. Before we even walk across the parking lot to meet the photographer, I’m burned out. My husband is tense (I am being kind) and I am pretty sure the kids are mentally making notes to put me in a terrible retirement home as retribution.

What I’ve learned while being on the other side of the camera is that the best moments make the best pictures, and those best moments are unforced and unscripted. If you are a control freak like me, your heartbeat is probably racing and you even may have a bead of sweat forming above your lip just thinking about letting go of not just expectations, but control. I know, I know…it’s hard. But that’s where trust in your photographer comes into play. It’s freeing, actually, to just “be” in the moment with your family, to let the real “you” be seen. The results are endless: a chubby little arm thrown around her mother’s neck; a big brother swinging his little sister around as she squeals, “Faster, faster!”; a father’s hand resting on his growing son’s shoulder as they wait patiently to join the large group photo.

Meet Addison (and her panda, Rascal). Her mother and I had a garden theme in mind. We brought a few props, a couple of outfit changes, and then stood back and let Addison be Addison.



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