If you can't laugh with me, I give you permission to just laugh at me; at the risk of looking totally ridiculous, I'm posting this week's attempt at "the belly shot" and revealing the foolishness sometimes involved in the creative process... For weeks now I have been toying with the concept of Mother vs. Warrior. I guess it started when we confirmed that baby number 3 will be our third boy. I was trying to visually combine the pregnant silhouette with the number 3, in a way that depicted strength and calm. Originally I wanted to pose in the Warrior 3 yoga position, but this turned out to not be the most flattering of yoga poses, actually minimizing the appearance of my growing tummy. So then my yoga instructor suggested that a headstand, of all things, would surely accentuate my 27 week old bump. I'm pretty adept at this pose, so not an impossible suggestion, I'll try anything once. With the sun sinking low and in good position for silhouettes, I ventured solo up to the top of a nearby mountain, with these yoga thoughts in mind. I learned several things, all of which I am so grateful I learned on my own, without an audience:
1.) When attempting silhouettes with limited daylight, seriously consider taking an assistant. How else are you going to know for sure if you are in profile, in front of the sun, and yes, it sometimes takes longer than 10 seconds (the self timer...)for a pregnant woman to achieve a proper headstand.
2.) When running between camera and yoga mat, in the desert, keep your damn shoes on. I got one shot off before planting a nasty goat head "pokey" in the arch of my foot!
3.) If you think to yourself, a pregnant woman doing a headstand on the top of a mountain might just end up looking silly, you are probably very right.
4.) Get pregnant in January, so when you attempt such a shot at 27 weeks you're not freezing your butt off in the blustery winter wind.

This first shot must mean that my milk will be plentiful, or that love for the baby radiates from my bosom. I'm just happy the sun flare didn't line up to become nipples!

A headstand, yes, a great idea! White socks, also a fantastic idea. Purple yoga mat, sort of unavoidable, what else was I going to put my head on?! Not in profile? Where is that assistant when you need them? Asking a passing hiker to assist in my endeavor - NEVER! I packed up when a second car arrived in the parking lot...

The only decent capture from the day, though armless, and totally lacking creativity.

And today, when not even trying, hiking down a dirt road in Garden Canyon with The Baby, at a painfully slow pace I might add, I saw our shadow, our hands clasped together, and snapped a single frame. It wasn't until I got home and downloaded the image that I saw how my wide angle lens had made my legs look amazingly skinny, and my belly ever so noticeable despite the North Face parka I was wearing. NEATO! Focusing on a shadow as a form of silhouette opens up a new door of thought!

Hope I made you laugh. A Happy New Year to everyone! Since the ball dropped in New York 40 minutes ago, I guess I can go to bed early and call it a year!

We've been battling a series of colds and bacterial infections since Christmas, rendering the children unable to attend the gym hourly care, the McDonald's play area, or any other communal play zone that we would usually frequent during long vacation days. Probably for the best as today we found ourselves out communing with nature, the boys excited to give their new binoculars a go, always anxious to make tracks and poke at various animal scat with Grand Bob's nifty hiking poles. We went to the San Pedro River Riparian National Conservation Area, about 20 minutes from home, perfectly flat = great for little legs, and plenty of flora and fauna to entertain. For Christmas I was gifted a new Sigma 10-20mm F4.0 wide angle lens, a toy that I am still, well, toying with. It's an odd sensation to be about 3 inches from the children and still have their whole body in the frame, or to be pointing the camera up to the sky and still see the ground by my feet. I forced myself to stick to it today and was rewarded with a handful of interesting shots. Have you ever wondered "to where does tumble weed tumble??" Today I found out; the Riparian area is along the San Pedro River bed, which forms a sort of natural boundary across the desert. Just before the towering Poplar trees there stood a wall, basically comprised of tumble weed! Though it didn't photograph too well (third image down), and I'm determined to go back and do it justice, it was a pretty neat sight to see, all the tumble weed captured among the various trees. These are my favorites from the day:

Wasn't I surprised to find my favorite side splitting family photograph featured as an example for the I ♥ Faces photography site “Hilarious Outtakes” Week! When you take as many pictures as someone like me tends to do, it's really hard to pick favorites, and with young children in your midst, there are bound to be plenty of awkward and hilarious images. I weighed the pros and cons of posting client outtakes, as well as outtakes featuring senior ranking members of the military, and thought that maybe it was safer for my business to stick to family. So I decided on a theme (before I even saw my favorite picture as an example on the site!) My theme is: The Child Who Missed The Memo: Hey Kid, Your Mom Is A Professional Photographer, Smile! My first born is a total ham. My second born, the baby screaming in Pop Pop's lap on the I ♥ Faces page, is still warming to the camera... Thank God I am one of those Mom's who actually LOVES the quirky images, sometimes more than the smiling ones, because quirky is what I end up capturing 99.9% of the time!

Entry 1: You can dress me up, but you can't make me pose...

Entry 2: Those precious months when you battle with everything going in the mouth...

Entry 3: Perfect clothes, great haircuts, nice scenery, total mutiny from the blues brothers! This SHOULD have been my Christmas card!

Entry 4: Seriously, an honest sibling shot if I have ever captured one!

Entry 5: Family portrait 2009, and guess who doesn't want to cooperate, again...

The totally sweet part about this weeks contest? You can post up to 5 photos - so five times the laugh awaits you over at I Heart Faces:

I didn't think this post was going to be possible... On Monday I wrote "Ba Humbug" on Facebook, feeling completely scrooge like at the coming week and the accompanying activities. I told my super sweet, carol humming husband that I didn't know where my funk was gathering momentum, that maybe I was jealous of the East Coast and their two FEET of the fresh powdery snow of my youth. Our last "White Christmas" was in Korea in 2006. I had no enthusiasm for holiday baking; I already resemble Santa with my 26 week pregnant belly. I couldn't fathom hanging one single decoration more; the kids are having a field day plucking them off the tree and playing with forbidden light sockets. I confess that I haven't wrapped a single present for under the tree!

Despite the weather channel's recent forecast of "no precipitation for the South-West until after the New Year", we awoke to the most beautiful sight- a fresh blanket of powdery white snow covering the mountains and our entire neighborhood! Talk about an elevation in mood, I simply could not believe my ambivalent husband telling me it had snowed, I thought he was just trying to get me out of bed sooner! Suddenly I was watching my kiddos re-live the Christmases of my own childhood in Upstate New York. So eager to rush out into the snow we had to keep dragging them off the porch an back into the house to dress. We had to go door to door in search of boots to fit The Boy, the kids wore bread bags all the way up to their hips under sweatpants in the absence of true snow pants, the Swedish neighbor provided us with an old sled (what? you don't like my photo developing tray sled?), The Baby spent the morning asking us to "wash off snow" from his mittens, and in the end, my husband had to run the kids around a large parade field until he was breathless, in lieu of a quality sledding hill. But smiles were in excess and my memories of sledding, snowmen, snow forts, frozen toes and fingers, hot cocoa & Christmas cookies, and the family advent calendar almost down to it's final ornament, were all reinvented in our own quirky way. Here are just a couple of my many favorite shots from our morning adventures:

Just like I thought, an honest dusting of snow camouflages all the tacky white foam that has peeled off my berry wreath...

The Baby's first ever snow!

Our desert landscape doesn't see snow often, so I was thrilled for a few moments to capture the natural beauty of the area.

Prickley Pear cactus with the snow capped Huachuca Mountains in the background.

Agave cactus; the "saw" blades poking through the snow reminded me to tread very carefully through the hills, can you imagine not seeing one of these on a hike?!

Gotta love those froggy boots! I wonder if they even make a snow version of these classics, they have seen more action than any other footwear in our household!

Rosy cheeks, what could make the morning more perfect?!

With the help of GrandBob, The Boy finds a suitable, cactus free, hillside to try out sledding for the first time.

The gorgeous Huachuca Mountains; now I am officially ready for Christmas, and maybe even a viewing of Dolly Parton's "Smokey Mountain Christmas"...

Okay, you know you're smitten with the weather when you photograph a tree branch and just think it is the prettiest thing you've ever seen....

My very enthusiastic husband, and thank God for his energy!

Mmmmmmmm, nothing beats coming inside to a warm cup of cocoa and fresh sugar cookies. Don't forget to count the marshmallows and make sure that you and brother have the same number!

Is it too much to ask for snow tonight, and again on Friday? Christmas may have come early for Mommy this year ;)

Merry Christmas to everyone, especially the 25 people who read my blog on a regular basis, this post is FOR YOU! Hop on over to I ♥ Faces to see more holiday traditions from around the world!

Last weekend I found myself back in my make-shift studio for the last time taking Holiday portraits. Saturday was reserved for "Santa Paws"; let's take the challenge of photographing babies and add in the challenges of photographing pets, why not?! Santa and I finished up at lunch time and to my suprise I had some late afternoon clients who wanted a session even though the big man had headed back to the North Pole. I was just tickled to see this tiny Santa, just 6 months old and barely sitting up on his own, and his adorable and totally mellow canine companion, who, like the Baby, had a hard time sitting up on his own. "Um, Mom, I need the puppy sitting up and alert, not playing dead, dead dog doesn't translate to the camera... um, okay, alert puppy is licking the baby in the mouth...." These are just three of my absolute favorites from the mini session. Can a baby's first Christmas get any cuter?!

It's I ♥ Pets week on my favorite photography website I ♥ Faces! Now, we don't have pets, I would love to have a dog, but the military lifestyle of moving frequently and possible tours overseas doesn't really jive with being a dog owner for right now. So any chance I get to cuddle and chase someone elses dog is a welcome treat! This particular pooch was involved in one of my recent family photo shoots. She was camera shy and hard to catch still, until her Mama got her to "point" as hunting dogs will. I was thrilled when I got home and found this image, with the doghouse in the background no less!


Hop on over to I ♥ Faces to see some other incredible animal photos for this week's contest!

On December 6th of this year, the Fort Huachuca Spouses Club, to which I belong, hosted their annual Holiday Tour Of Homes. The tour takes place each year on Grierson Avenue and Henry Circle, one of the oldest areas of Fort Huachuca. The historic homes are all reaching 100 years old, some are well over 100 years actually, and serve as the residences for several of the posts field grade officers. Rumor has it, those who participate begin decorating their main floors shortly after Labor Day, some trees boast over 500 ornaments alone! After hearing of all the hard work and artistry that goes into decorating for such an event, I volunteered my time and energy to photographing each of the homes in detail, for both the participants as well as the post museum to keep in their archive as a record of Christmas, 2009. What an undertaking! I initially thought that this effort would take about 15-20 minutes per house and a little extra time for editing. After an hour and 15 minutes in the first home on the Saturday before the event, it became obvious that I could easily spend a day photographing each residence! There were so many clever details and gorgeous trimmings, I didn't know where to start. Let's add in the fact that many of these homes have cavernous 11 foot ceilings and interior rooms that see little natural light, requiring the use of a tripod and a 25 second time delayed exposure. By the end of the weekend, between a promotion ceremony, my son's second birthday, and the Tour of Homes, I had taken over 1700 pictures... I am slowly working my way through the Tour images to create a keepsake album for the participants, but for now, here are just a handful of my favorites. I confess, I came home on Sunday afternoon after shooting for 4 hours straight and I felt compelled, perhaps guilted even, to decorate both my fireplace mantels and my banister. These extremely talented homeowners taught me that I have a lot to learn about making a "Home For the Holidays".

As I was preparing this sneak peek I got thinking about military life, as it pertains to the Service Member in contrast to their family members. Some people might think that when you join a military service, it is an individuals choice, that it will only go on to effect Private X and his/her life. Goodness knows, I didn't consult my own parents when I decided to marry into the military. But in the end, the family is just as effected by the training, the deployments, the missed holidays, the constant moving around the United States and sometimes around the world. The family is in near constant worry over the Service Member's safety and well being. We, the family, are proud, but seldom physically rewarded; for often times the most important accomplishments of a member of the military cannot be discussed openly for security reasons. Often times these accomplishments are made "in theatre", a place to which we cannot relate, they are shared with the "other family", their "brothers and sisters in arms". There is a handful of days however, that we are sometimes fortunate enough to share the celebration, a promotion ceremony falls on one of those days. The promotion to a higher rank is an exciting time, an honorable time, a time to reflect on all that you have accomplished. As this young woman was pinned "Major" by her mother and sister, I could hear her mother saying softly to her "wear this rank with honor and dignity, respect..." There was a large crowd in attendance but at that single moment it was once again just an extremely proud parent and her child, sharing in the accomplishments of the days passed and the responsibilities that lay before her. I left this day feeling honored to have been invited to share in this family's joy and pride. When you share your child, your spouse, or your sibling, with an entire country, you sometimes feel like these special moments should belong only to you. Congratulations Major Brooks, and best of luck to you, though your intelligence and outstanding leadership has clearly surpassed your need for "luck".

My big brother is a fireman in Upstate New York. So it's no wonder that my own boys have taken up a fascination, no, an obsession really, with the occupation, especially The Baby (who is named after the fireman). I had an Elmo party all planned when the soon-to-be two year old announced "Firetruck party! Go fire station Now!" What is a mother to do? The big day was yesterday, waffle breakfast followed by presents, all various sizes and makes/models of the big red engine itself. Then off we strolled to the local fire station, a mere quarter mile away from our house. That is probably the coolest thing about living on a small military installation, it affords you opportunities that people in larger cities just can't manage. We peeked into the Chief's office and asked if we could just look at the truck and got the red carpet treatment. Fireman Steve must think I am a fire station stalker, as I believe he has treated my children to a tour of the trucks at two stations and the grocery store at least twice before. But I have to hand it to the Fort Huachuca Firemen who drove us around the block, had The Boy making announcements over the radio, and showed them around the Firehouse with such enthusiasm that The Baby, who has never before wanted to get inside the engines themselves (he always starts to cry!) was not only sitting alone in the driver's seat, but had to literally be pryed away from the visit with all my strength. I spent most of the weekend just watching The Baby, no longer a baby at all, seeing all the amazing ways he has developed. We've gone from the newborn stages to the humorous obsessions, like the tool belt he has been wearing all weekend, even over his pajamas. It's just amazing how time really flys. Happy Birthday Baby!