Portraits: family photos at green bay botanical gardens

Ten years ago on this day, Emily and I were in Italy together studying art history and printmaking. It’s strange for me to think about years later with graduations, weddings, homes, art-making, jobs, and babies filling the time in between. Now we photograph Emily’s family and she watches our baby, Juniper. There are all these versions of ourselves keeping in contact though memories and photographs, and I can remember exactly what it felt like to sit side-by-side sketching in Florence, or walk the streets while trying to make up rhyming songs about what we were doing (something Emily was always much better at than I). Now the photos include our families and the rhyming nonsense songs have a captive audience (Charlotte, Nora, and Juniper). So amazing how time works.

Happy first birthday, Nora!

Weddings: lauren & zach, meyer theatre and tundra lodge, green bay

The moment we met Lauren and Zach we knew we wanted to be a part of their wedding. They are interesting, down to earth, and fun to be around. They love dogs, music, bourbon, and the outdoors. Lauren and Zach’s wedding was such a blast for us because it was a creative challenge. The intimate Meyer Theatre ceremony meant we got to play with the drama of stage lighting; afterwards we photographed in the center of the theatre with dramatic flash and backlighting, and from there we went downtown into full sun on Washington Street, the Citydeck, and Lambeau Field. It was like photographing three short weddings in one and we are SO excited about the results!

Their reception was held at Tundra Lodge and was full of excitement with a dessert bar (including a Wisconsin Badgers cake, Lauren’s pride and joy), and dueling pianos for entertainment. They set the stage, and their guests brought the party. The dance floor was never empty and Lauren and Zach were always front and center. Congratulations, Lauren and Zach! It was our pleasure to be a part of your special day!

Portraits: spring mommy and me session at green bay botanical gardens

Spring in Wisconsin is unpredictable. Sometimes it’s 85 in March, and sometimes we get three feet of snow in April. After a long winter (and a few trial versions of spring), May is a welcome month. The leaves start to bud on the trees, fruit blossoms appear, and the gardens burst with tulips and daffodils. We held this year’s Limited Edition Spring Sessions at Green Bay Botanical Gardens to capture this beauty. Lucky for us the day was warm and sunny, and it couldn’t have been better weather to be outdoors capturing happy families and playful kiddos.

These images are from Jen and Briella’s mommy and me session. The pair had never had professional family photos done together and this was a way for them to mark this time in their lives as they prepare for a big move across the country. Their session was casual and fun, and you would think they were experienced in front of the camera — Briella even came up with her own pose she wanted to do! Sending this family best wishes on the move! Stay posted for more family sessions from our 2018 Limited Edition Sessions!

Portraits: spring family session on the green bay citydeck

During spring 1.0 this year (the one before stowstorm Evelyn dropped 30 inches over Northeast Wisconsin) we met up with the Ortiz family for their spring session celebrating Lizzy’s 3rd birthday and Laney’s sitting milestone. It was a sunny afternoon with beautiful waterfront views from the Green Bay Citydeck.

Laney loved being tossed in the air by daddy and snuggling against mommy. Lizzy was ready to run and play. She spotted birds and fish and wanted to be a part of every game or idea we came up with. Rachel told us that for the next few days after their session, Lizzy was practicing setting up her stuffed animals and dolls for “picture time”. Too cute!

The grass is growing and the trees are starting to bud, which means photography season is here! Looking forward to seeing all your smiling faces and growing kiddos for 2018!

Personal Post: breastfeeding, the hardest thing I have ever loved

As a pregnant woman, the idea of being a parent was still beyond my understanding. I could barely grasp the concept of life with a baby, let alone imagine what our baby would be like in personality and temperament. My conception of motherhood was theoretical at best, and so I didn’t make big goals or dedicate myself to parenting philosophies, and, if I’m being honest, I never felt 100% committed to the idea of breastfeeding. I planned to try it, and imagined it to be a sacrifice I might make for the wellbeing my baby. If it didn’t work out, it didn’t work out.

When Juniper arrived, breastfeeding was off to a rocky start with latch issues, low production, and discomfort. The nurses would put her to my breast and she would partially latch while pressing her tongue to the side, sending waves of pain. I would attempt to pump instead, and fifteen minutes later the bottle would be completely empty; I would run my finger along the flange to pick up residue and that would be all I could feed my baby. I was discouraged, but the nurses said not to worry, my milk would come in.

Juniper’s latch improved and my milk came in a few days later. The pain wasn’t as severe and I thought things were going well. I loved holding my warm, sleeping baby against my body. The only thing I couldn’t figure out was why she would scream partway through nursing. At her first doctor’s appointment, I found out she had lost 12% of her body weight (beyond the acceptable amount) and was crying from hunger. When she would cease to nurse, it was out of exhaustion rather than fullness. I was crushed. I remember leaving the hospital room with a brave face and slipping my sunglasses on in the lobby, hoping they would cover the tears streaming down my face.

I felt incapable. My body couldn’t provide what my baby needed… and what kind of a mother was I to listen to her scream and not understand she was still hungry? I was full of ugly thoughts. Nobody ever mentioned anything to me about how difficult breastfeeding could be beyond the initial discomfort. I fell into the appealing trap of thinking breastfeeding was natural and womanly, and therefore something my body should just be able to do. In my mind, it had simply been a choice women made – “Are you planning to breastfeed or formula feed?” I was deceived in the same manner women are when they imagine starting a family to be nothing more than a decision born of will and fortitude, overlooking challenges they may face like infertility, miscarriage, or simply life not going as planned. But it wasn’t simple, and I couldn’t will my body to do anything. And, if you don’t know already, breastfeeding is f*cking hard.

I gathered advice from everywhere I could get it: lactation consultants, pediatricians, nurses, friends, forums. I was pumping after every feeding and power-pumping at night. I took every supplement, drank every tea, and made every lactation recipe you can imagine. I ate endless bowls of flavorless oatmeal, changed my diet, drank water, and put Juniper to my breast over and over and over again. And guess what… I still didn’t make enough milk for my baby.

The truth is, I didn’t think I’d feel so invested. I imagined that if it didn’t work out, I would feel like it just wasn’t meant to be, cease breastfeeding, and move happily along to formula, but that’s not what happened. And it wasn’t “mom guilt” that kept me going; nobody does something that hard for any reason other than love. Once we made it out of those initial days of darkness, I found that I loved nursing Juniper. I loved how she closed her eyes the moment she latched and how her whole body would instinctively relax. I loved being skin-to-skin with her and making something that would provide nutrients and antibodies to keep her healthy. Nothing made me feel more connected to my brand new baby. It was my favorite way to love her.

We added formula to her diet to get her weight up and her bilirubin levels down. We started with a syringe, hoping we only needed to supplement a little for a short while. When that wasn’t enough, we used an SNS tube so I could breastfeed and supplement at the same time. And when it was clear that supplementing was going to be longterm (and quite honestly that “supplement” wasn’t even the right word because formula was, in fact, half her diet), we gave ourselves over to bottles.

I wanted to make breastfeeding work, and so I was up in the middle of the night nursing, supplementing, and pumping in succession every few hours. I was exhausted and hormonal, and doing my best while feeling like a failure.

I was surprised by my passion for breastfeeding, and overwhelmed by my inability to produce the amount of milk Juniper needed. It had been months of trying everything to increase my supply, and with the nurse-bottle-pump cycle, I was starting a two hour routine over every three hours. So I let it go. I let the stress and the pressure go; I let myself get some sleep, and began to consider formula part of our permanent plan. I cried many tears, but I knew Juniper was going to be just fine and so was I.

Breastfeeding is heavy with emotional baggage. Whether you have an undersupply, oversupply, or skip breastfeeding altogether (by choice or otherwise), there is no denying that the feelings associated with it are complicated ones. The babies we grew, who relied on us for everything, are now out and about in this great big world, receiving care from people other than us. Breastfeeding can be the red ribbon that keeps us connected just a little bit longer — something only we can provide.

I know our breastfeeding journey will end at some point, whether it be a few weeks or a few months, and when I think about it too much, it’s hard not to flush with tears. It’s a reminder that our babies grow up, and motherhood is a lifetime of letting go little by little.

I continue to nurse Juniper on demand and fill the gaps with bottles. Initially, supplementing made me feel like I couldn’t celebrate our breastfeeding milestones, in that same ugly way we women so often feel we are not enough, but I am fighting against that, and celebrating five months with my baby girl. Although five months means she is all waving arms and wiggling toes, when she latches on she closes her eyes just like she did when she was new and tiny. In that moment, we belong to each other.

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Photos above celebrating five months of breastfeeding in sunny Flagler Beach, Florida.

Personal Post: the gift of curiosity

Since it’s off season for us, I have yet to really try my hand at the artful act of balancing life and work. It’s an intimidating task and one with few examples to follow as my job doesn’t give me a 9-5 schedule or any difference in work and living space. This is both a blessing and a curse as it means I can work in my robe and pajamas (please don’t come knocking on my door unexpectedly), but I have to use my judgement to know when to call it quits, shutdown the computer, and turn off email notifications.

On the slow days I’ve been thinking about the kind of parent I will be. And although it’s likely I have little choice in the matter, I can’t help but consider what I want Juniper to receive from me beyond a warm house and a full belly. And it comes down to one thing: curiosity. The gift I most want to give to her is the ability to look at the world with an open heart and curious mind — exploring, daydreaming, wondering. Curiosity means probing into the things we take for granted and asking questions. It means walking off the path, getting dirty, and breaking rules.

Juniper comes from a long line of well-intentioned rule-breakers who are curious to their core. Curiosity leads to passion, and when people we care for love something with great passion, we learn to appreciate what they love because their loving it makes it special. There are a million things I want to share with our baby girl: hundreds of books I want to read, scores of cities I want to bring her to, and many acres of land I want us to explore. But whatever her interests, whether they overlap with mine or not, I hope to pass along this great gift. That way she can love whatever she wants to love and chase whatever she wants to chase, and curiosity will call her to dig deeper every time.
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Film Scans above from hikes in February 2017 at Cave Point, Newport State Park, Potawatomi State Park, and Whitefish Dunes in Door County.
In the top photo I am pregnant with baby Juniper but don’t know it yet. <3

Personal Post: when the new year means grace over goals

In my twenties I spent every new year setting elaborate resolutions. There were categories for the resolutions (adventures, skills, business achievements, etc) and every goal had to be set in measurable terms. I would write them down and exchange them with friends so we could keep each other accountable. [Type A? Who, me?] Every year was going to be my year. I was going to “hustle”, and “crush it”, and through the magic of goal-setting I was going to miraculously transform into my best self, finally reaching my greatest potential. Every year.

Then came 2016, and it was hard. There were many small challenges, but mostly, I spent the year coping with the miscarriage we experienced in spring. I was devastated. Never had I invested so much hope, and experienced such great loss. It was 12 months of just trying to keep my head above water. So when 2016 ended and it was time to write my 2017 resolutions, I came up dry. I didn’t want to jot down how many books I was going to read, or elaborate on a skill I was going to learn. I didn’t want to set arduous business goals or demand some new level of personal growth. I couldn’t get myself to write a single resolution because I spent 2016 learning how little control I have over the most important things.

I think sometimes we set resolutions – new year’s, or otherwise – believing we can bend the universe to our silly, human will. And as an introvert, I get it. There is nothing I want more than a great plan which falls into place as designed. But while we’re busy trying to figure out how to do more and be better, we ignore the grace that comes with understanding we can only work for so much. It’s goal-setting season again, and although I’m not casting resolutions aside as humanistic hogwash, I am examining my ambitions more carefully. There will be plenty of good and plenty of bad in my life, and I feel certain that the biggest of each will not be mine to choose.

So cheers to the year that brought us our beautiful baby girl, a blessing beyond measure. We are one year wiser, two months sleepier, and incredibly grateful for both goals to achieve and gifts that were never made to be earned.

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Top photo by Riverland Studios. Middle photo by KL Creative.

Seniors: emma, areva ridge acres horse stable, de pere

Emma’s session was originally planned for Lambeau Field (she’s a huge Packers fan), but with a rained out session and a change in plans, she decided to move to the stable to share one of her other great loves: horses. Emma has been showing horses for six years and has been riding since she was a little girl. It was only natural that her partner, Harley, got to be a part of her session. We ended up with a perfect, sunny evening, and Emma’s boho floral dress was the perfect fit for a location with fields, barns, and fenceposts.

Portraits: fall family session at barkhausen waterfowl preserve, suamico, wisconsin

We were so happy to meet up with this family in early fall. It had been a few years since their last session and so much had changed. We walked the trails at Barkhausen Waterfowl Preserve in Suamico and took portraits of Kayla, Mike, and Dezi. There was a lot of teasing and playing as well as noticing things in nature. Although we needed to duck out of some unexpected rain partway through the session, everyone was in good spirits, and the night ended with beautiful sunshine peeking out from behind the trees.

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