After having Em, I decided to take up photography as a new hobby. Nate and I equipped ourselves with a nice DSLR camera so that we could thoroughly document our little girl’s development and share photos with our families, who live painfully far away.

I have since become a camera junky. I learned about apertures and shutter speeds, learned how to balance the ISO to get bright pictures but avoid graininess, learned about the rule of thirds and how you can break any of the rules, learned about the value of light, especially in the eyes of a subject. What I didn’t expect to learn was that a camera can change the way you see the world.

A camera is a funny thing. You can take a picture of a pretty scene, but to me the best pictures are the ones that convey an emotion or capture the essence of a moment. When you spend a lot of time with a camera, you start to look for that emotion, that essence, in the things you see around you. It changes the way you look at the world. Try to go around and distill the core essence in the things, the scenes, you see around you. Now go have lunch with a friend or a coworker. Now watch your spouse do the dishes. Watch the people in your life do the same things you have seen them do many times, but with a keen eye for an emotion or a “moment”. All of the sudden you see the support of your coworker, the helpful way our spouse did a chore without being asked, you see reasons to be grateful. Or you see the distraction in your friends eyes and you become a more mindful listener. Maybe, even more simply and just as meaningful, you notice your husbands amazing eyelashes that have always been there but seem more beautiful when you see them with your new photographer glasses.

I guess what it all comes down to is this: Look for beauty and you will find beauty. Look for the clues in your shot that convey a message, meaning, or emotion even when you don’t have a camera in your hands and you will find yourself presented with the opportunity to be supportive or supported. Look for a moment to appreciate and you will find them abundant.


Summer in the Desert

As a Minnesota girl, summer to me has always been synonymous with green – green grass, green leaves, burgeoning green gardens – but during our three years in the desert I have had to make some adjustments to the way I think about summer. Here, summer means unrelenting and oppressive heat. Weeks pass with highs above 100 and evenings bring little relief. This past week we haven’t even had the benefit of being a “dry” heat (though that makes little difference when it is 115 degrees outside). With a little time and a little effort, however, I have come to find some beauty in the Arizona summers. It isn’t an in-your-face beauty like the green grass and bright flowers that marked my childhood, but it is there if you look. For example, a little bit of green hiding in our front yard…

And although the leaves on the trees are a little less fluffy and a little more alien, they have an architectural element that is, in its own way, quite beautiful. Not to mention the unrelenting sun does have a tendency to make everything sparkle.

Of course, when all else fails, you can bring a little colorful life inside…

(Random side note: I’m not allowed by buy lilies because Nate says they smell like a hospital…)

And of course summer in Arizona brings a whole new experience for me in the shape (and color) of dust storms (or, more aptly, “haboobs”). This photo was from last week’s dust storm, which was the biggest one we have personally experienced since moving to the desert. It feels pretty eery and almost apocalyptic to watch a relatively blue sky turn orange within a matter of minutes!

(No weird white balancing or anything there – that is a pretty accurate representation of what was going on outside!)

And, of course, Friday took us to week 18 of Emmy’s photo-baby-book-project. I managed to get the pictures right after waking up from a nap, which happens to be when the Little is at her happiest.  This means lots of smiles and a very difficult time choosing an official 18 week picture!  The close contenders first…

However, for the sake of variety, I went with this adorable option for the Little’s official 18 week photo (those chubby little arms look downright edible):

Whether the Land of 10,000 Lakes or the Valley of the Sun (or anywhere in between), I hope you take some time to find the beauty around you!

Out On the Town

As Em gets bigger, I am getting more and more confident taking her out into the world. It is really important to me that she gets out and experiences the world with me – I’m not willing to put her in a separate “babies-only” corner of my life. For the first few weeks, I found myself getting really anxious about taking her anywhere for fear that she would have a meltdown or I would forget something we needed. It is probably a combination of Em’s affinity for babywearing and her current age, but she is becoming an easy and pleasant companion on outings!

Speaking of babywearing, we have transitioned to a ring sling as our tool of choice! I also learned a lot of tips on proper babywearing and positioning (and found out that I have done a lot of things wrong!). I’m loving this dupioni silk Taylormade ring sling (and Em seems to like it too)!

(Self-portraits in the bathroom mirror, oh yeah.)

So Wednesday, sling in hand, we headed out for a few different adventures. After taking a bath, that is…

First stop: Baby’s first Ikea trip! I am kicking myself that I didn’t take pictures (Ikea is totally my favorite store), but I didn’t want to be *that* person. 😉 One of these days I will update my phone to something that can actually take decent pictures… Anyway, next stop was a fabulous lunch with some of my favorite people!

People who happen to love babies, my baby included!

The incredibly adorable Zakiyy was even able to join us, along with his awesome mama, Nisa!  Zakiyy and Em were born three months apart and we already have plans for them to be best buddies.

These are some very special people who have played a big part in keeping me sane and motivated while trying to raise a newborn and finish my PhD.  As an illustration, while I was home on my 6-week maternity leave, Nisa and I exchanged somewhere close to 30 lengthy emails.  It might not seem like a big deal, but this communication with the outside world kept me from feeling overly isolated while I was still nervous to leave the house with my Little in tow.  Thank you for keeping my company from a distance, Nisa!  Let’s plan on recreating this picture when our kids are teens.  😉

The week ended with more ottoman naps (fully supervised by Dad and Maggie, don’t worry)…

And, as usual, a weekly photo shoot on Friday.  First, the outtakes…

And Em’s official seventeen week (aka four month!) photo…

Whether out on the town or in the comfort of your home, I hope everyone had an awesome week!

A Festive Fourth

The Fourth of July has always been one of my favorite holidays.  Fun traditions, food, family, friends, and none of the obligations of over-the-top, fussy meals or expensive gifts!  This year followed suit and delivered in the same big way.  Even though our immediate families are way too far away for our liking, Nate and I always feel so blessed to have a close net of family and friends here in the desert.  Em has been welcomed into this group with open arms and this holiday was no exception!

I love the casualness of Fourth of July celebrations.  Don’t get me wrong, I am a big fan of birthdays, Christmas, and any occasion that allows for happy gatherings and good food.  But there is just something about a mid-summer holiday (especially a mid-week mid-summer holiday!) that strips away the pageantry to allow for real fellowship.  And explosives…

Yes, I was good and stayed calm while Uncle Ryan hammed it up and introduced my Little to her first firework!  She was a trooper when it was lit (out of her hands, of course) and didn’t even flinch.  Looks like all of those months of hearing barking dogs are doing her good!

This is our village.  As in, the one it takes to raise a child.  And, man, are they good people.

Baby Girl even managed to cause a minor Facebook scandal with a little game of “Whose baby is this?!”!…

(She’s ours, but you guys can borrow her!)

In other baby news this week, we switched out the Little’s baby swing for her high chair after catching her in the process of launching herself over the side of the swing.  She isn’t quite sure how she feels about the highchair yet.  She looks tiny in it, bringing up images of Lily Tomlin as Edith Ann (will anyone get that reference?).  It is crazy that she will be using it to start eating solids in just a few months!

Her favorite place to hang out (and even nap) is still on our ottoman, which she is quickly outgrowing.  We are on the hunt for something bigger!

And of course, Friday was weekly picture day!  This was the first week for us to try incorporating a prop – an appropriate American flag.  Em had a ball waving that flag around, making for a difficult picture to capture.  As usual, we had a fair number of outtakes…

And Emmy’s official 16 week picture!  We will call it “The Sweet Taste of Freedom”…

Daddy even helped with the picture this week!…

This week has also brought slightly more tolerance for tummy time.  We are making progress!…

And tonight brings boys around my dining room table, partaking of a rousing (and long) game of Settlers of Catan and my specialty homemade pasta sauce currently cooking away in the crock pot.

Em and I opted to hang out in the living room, playing with toys and blogging, respectively.

I hope everyone was able to spend this casual and low-obligation holiday with their village, in whatever form that might take. Whether it is multiple generations of close family, a loving spouse, or even just a cuddly puppy, take the time to look around and appreciate the fellowship (and an extra helping of dessert – it is a holiday, after all).

Fifteen Week Photo Shoot

Here are the outtakes from this week’s photo shoot. No big smiles this week, as the Little was pretty sleepy this afternoon!

Wake Up Call!

Emmy seems happiest right away in the morning. Whether waking up next to mom or in her crib, I always get the biggest smiles in the morning (and some cute bed head, too)!

Diaper Laundry

Another benefit of cloth diapering…a very cute and colorful clothes line! Thanks to my dad’s help, we are able to take advantage of the fact that it feels like an oven outside and we have a pretty little garland of diapers to admire!

Time flies!

Today I finally dressed Emily in the very first piece of baby gear I ever bought for her. At 11 weeks pregnant, not knowing if we were going to have a son or a daughter (though I always had a feeling she would be a girl!), I bought the softest, organic cotton onesie from Gap with a cute embroidered hedgehog on the front. It was a thrill to think of my future child wearing it and was awesome to finally see it on her (even if she spit up all over it 15 minutes later)!

Just another afternoon photo op!

Em was looking particularly cute the other day, so of course I went for the camera. We were quickly joined by her buddy and personal body guard Maggie!