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When I walked in through the door, Elena greeted me excitedly with a hanging tooth. She just couldn't wait for it to fall off. Mom was still getting ready, so I told her to take a deep breath as she finished getting ready. I played and took photos of the kids up stairs, and Elias said the most sweetest thing to me. He said, "Wow, this is the funnest photo shoot ever!" It made my heart jump, and I just loved the honest feedback. After they each showed me their rooms, we played super hero, chase, and did a little dancing. 

We went back downstairs, to enjoy some scones and Abuelita (Mexican Hot Chocolate). Mom and Dad prepped their coffee, as the kids devoured their snack. We had all these fun random moments of laughter as the awkwardness of "what should we do" began to dissipate. It began to flow, and was super natural.

I wanted to make sure that we photographed lots of the activities they love enjoying doing as a family, which is eating, painting, dancing, and a newly discovered activity: playing video games. My greatest goal while being there was to photograph them with minimal guidance, create authentic photos, and for everyone to have fun. And friends, it happened....


I asked Karina a few questions about their family and here's how she responded:

What are you loving most about this season of life?

I love seeing our kid's personalities form. It's so interesting to me how the kids can make up games and their own fictional worlds during play time.

What's a current challenge for you guys in this season of life?

It's always a challenge to balance how much we DO (work, school, soccer, violin, ballet, etc.) with how much family time we spend together.

What makes you laugh?!? (mom and dad)

Our kid's can usually make us laugh. It's funny how we can be stressed, but the kids being silly can pull us out of that mindset, if at least for a little bit.

Well friends! Check out my favorites from their session and I hope you love them as much as I do.



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When I was transitioning into our new brand, Nicole had reached out to me about doing a session with her family. I knew I wanted to photograph them with our new approach but didn't quite have my process ready. I asked her if she was willing to hop on a phone chat with me and she did. We had the most amazing intentional conversation, about life, her new transition into staying home with the kids, marriage and more. It was one of those conversations, that flowed perfectly, almost like it was for a podcast or something...haha! It was so natural. I felt this instant connection to her, and her family, and knew that our time together would be not only fun, but full of intentional moments that was genuine to who they are as a family.

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I did ask her a few questions and here's what she shared:

What does family mean to you?

To me, family is an environment you create. And ideally, it's one that is a safe place to land. A place to be challenged, be encouraged, and ultimately to be all of who God fully created you to be.

What are you loving most about this season of life?

We are loving that we have the opportunity to focus on our marriage and on our kids during this foundational time in their life.

What do you guys love doing together?

We love to paint, do crafts, read, go to the park, and BAKE!!!

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During our chat one thing that stood out to me the most was how Nicole spoke of her hubby. She said something along the lines of, "For so long I was focused on my career, and now I'm excited to partner up with my hubby, and support him in his dreams as I stay home with the kids. They are growing up so quickly."

So, I really wanted to capture all of who they are and love to do as a family, but I also wanted to get some shots of just them two together. Because finding your groove as ONE with kiddos, and the craziness of life can be challenging.

Well friends, I hope you love this session as much as I do!



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Please share your story:

I’m an author, artist, dancer, cellist and mother. But I couldn’t say that so concisely eleven years ago…I only found and redefined myself in 2014. Before that, I was Octavia, the cellist, the French major, the world-traveler, Miss Michigan.
After college, I competed for Miss America and when I came home without the crown, I married my love and we moved to Chicago to begin our life together. We were surprised to become parents within our first year of marriage and panicked, suddenly desperate to do everything “right.” The shoulds we were both raised with were that good wholesome Christian families were homeowners in the suburbs with a dog and van. Check, check, check and check.
As we began to complete our American Dream checklist, I realized the more we checked-off, the bigger the void in my heart grew. My husband felt a strong calling to become a pastor of a small urban ministry center and I supported it wholeheartedly. I felt a strong calling too – whether corporate or academic, I felt I had so much more to give than birthing children, although that had become my life.
I went to graduate school. I dropped out of graduate school. I started a full-time job. We had another child. I quit the full-time job to be a full-time mom. But something was wrong. I wasn’t like those moms that are fulfilled being moms. They were so happy with their children, nestling securely in their roles as homemakers. Content. Placid. They LOVED being moms. I loved being a mom, too, but that wasn’t all. I couldn’t place my finger on it, but I was far from content. I was lonely and isolated. So I made up some friends; I started writing books.
While writing was my creative outlet, my scientific side was also understimulated and I wanted to have a career that provided more paycheck than risk. I felt called to healthcare and began my post-bac pre-med coursework. I was desperately searching for myself. I was depressed. I was hopeless. I was bored and unsatisfied. I wanted more than my suburban prison with really cute cell mates. I wanted friends. I needed a bigger purpose. I needed to contribute to the world outside of my home. I had drive. I had zeal. I had a full tank of gas but no GPS.
I was pregnant again. I started designing nonprofit youth programs and writing grants to fund them. I lost my third child. I was still taking my classes, teaching private cello lessons, working part-time coordinating a STEM grant at a community college, working part-time at the ministry center, running the grant programs I designed and wrote to fund, and then, yes: enter child number four.
We had our fourth child.

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I finally got into the medical program for which I had been applying for years. And my husband and I came to a crossroads. He didn’t understand why I wasn’t satisfied. He didn’t understand why I wasn’t fulfilled making our home my career. We went to counseling. We tried going on dates. We tried getting to know each other again. And we realized the very hard and sad truth: I would never be the wife he wanted. He would never be the husband I wanted. He would never be satisfied with me being myself. I would never be satisfied with him being himself. So, now what do we do?
We got a divorce. I wonder if divorce is harder when neither one of you is the Bad Guy. I dropped out of school and feverishly took to finding my footing in a way that I could live in the city, near friends, and finally realize my larger-than-life dreams of serving others, writing books that are more paycheck than risk, and still being a creative and nerdy mom.
As my circle began to learn about my divorce I realized I was part of a secret sisterhood of silently suffering beauties – wives, unfulfilled by their relationships, and suffocated by the shoulds of motherhood. I began blogging to help myself and others navigate the treacherous and uncharted trails of unexpected emotional trauma. I called the blog Road to Relovery ( and continue to write from my experience of being a single mom of three, trying to honor God and myself and my children with every decision I make.
Finally, here I am, three and a half years post-divorce, successfully co-parenting with my once-husband, successfully working in a career that is more paycheck than risk and uses both my writing skills and healthcare passions to serve one of the country’s leading children’s hospitals; and I’m about to release the first episode in my sci-fi fantasy series, The Hibouleans, with nine more episodes already written – and I’m working on my next biblical fiction novel, Hem. I’m proud of my journey, not only because I am being more true to myself, which helps me be a better mother to my boys, but also because I didn’t have to choose between God’s calling for me and the weight of the shoulds.

How has your story shaped who you are today?:

I am a better me -- author, artist, dancer, cellist and mother. My dreams are coming to life. I am flourishing. My children are thriving. And I feel like I've only taken the first step.

What compelled you to want to share your story with us?:

I have had a colorful reset to the adulthood chapters of my life and I know there are other moms out there that can benefit from knowing they are not alone.

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What encouraging words would you give to someone who shares a similar story?:

Marriage: it is scary; it is NOT what anyone says. It takes work, no matter what. Your relationship does not define you; you define it and your partnership should serve BOTH of you, not one more than the other. Neither of you should need each other; rather you should want to be with each other and make the decision daily to honor each other and make your relationship work. And finally, whatever blessings and scars you each bring to your partnership from your childhoods, remember that you define your own culture for your family. You determine your traditions, your norms, and your boundaries.

Parenting: there is no manual to parenting, but you can't parent well when you aren't well yourself. If your goals, career, or relationship is detracting from your ability to be your best parent to your children, then that factor needs a reset and an adjustment. You can only be your best parent to your children when you are your best self. Take care of your kids by serving yourself, setting boundaries for yourself and your children, and by carving time for your own spiritual-mental-emotional health BEFORE you burn out! Be gentle with yourself and your children. Always lead with love and be the parent you wish you had when you were a child.

Dreams: a dream deferred isn't a dream denied (Langston Hughes), but don't martyr yourself in the name of fulfilling everyone elses expectations of you. It's OK if you're that mom or dad that isn't fulfilled by being a parent. I wasn’t. And it’s OK. When a tree grows a new branch, it doesn't cut the others off. Parenting is just one branch of the tree that is you, and all branches need nourishment and sunlight in order to bear beautiful fruit. You are a better parent when you are your best self and if your best self finds fulfillment outside the home, don't deprive yourself of that light -- and don't let anyone else tell you you're


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My niece loves her mommy, and eating breakfast together. So I wanted to play around a bit and capture a moment that is so special to them. You see, it's not about perfect photos, but rather being photographed in a way that really showcases who you are as a family. And for every family, it will be something different. And for these 2 breakfast is their jam, it's the time they connect, and just be!


Family Photos by:  Ed and Aileen Photography

Family Photos by: Ed and Aileen Photography

There's something about planning for a photo shoot that gets beyond stressful and crazy. Have you ever asked yourself why?!? For me, when I dug deep, I came to realize that I had this expectation of perfection. I wanted everyone to perform. I wanted my husband to be on the same page as me. I wanted my girls to cooperate, and do what the photographer told them to do. This was an ongoing expectation for years....

Well this past July, we had our annual family photo shoot, and I was determined to approach it differently. I'm excited to share the freedom I found when I took a deep breath and let go!

Step 1: Identified my why?!?

Okay so you may be wondering...."What the heck does that mean?!?" Well, I believe each of us should have a "why," when doing a family session. It helps to keep us grounded, and focused on the purpose of why we are doing this, and it helps us to move away from the perfection, bribing, etc. Every family's why will be different. For some it may be to celebrate an addition to the family, for others it may be because you walked through infertility, and you want to document this miracle, for others this may because your in the midst of transition, and so on. Whatever your why is, remind yourself of it, and cling ever so tight onto it! Here's our why: We were in the midst of so much transition, between our oldest being a tween, with hormonal changes and all, to our middle child about to start kindergarten, to our little one no longer being a baby. So much change was happening, and I wanted to capture the essence of what that looked like for us as a family while doing all the things we love to do together. 

Step 2: Found a photographer who is on the same page with what I was looking to capture. 

I told our photographers that I wanted to celebrate this season of life that we are in the midst of, and that our home is a place of safety and togetherness. That I really wanted that to be the focus. The real us!!! And they were all for it.

Step 3: Styling our outfits

For some you may not resonate with this step and that's totally okay! Feel free to move onto step 4. For me though, I love styling, and I love coordinating our outfits. Now that doesn't mean go spend hundreds of dollars on outfits. We personally live on a small budget. I think I got our outfits for less than a 100 bucks at Target. The most important part when it comes to styling is making sure that you stay true to yourself. Ask yourself, "Is this something I'd actually wear while out with the family or with friends?" If you're honest and say no, then keep looking. The point in this is to be intentional and focused on your why, and getting lost in shopping can steer us away from our why. Also be aware that perfection can easily creep in. For me, I had to constantly remind myself of our why.

Step 4: Created a plan by asking myself, "What do we love to do as a family?"

This is such an important step, because each family spends their time differently, and depending on the season of life you are in, I'm sure you have some special things that you love to do together. So why not have those special family things captured?!? For us, our home is a place were we can just be. We love cooking together, having snuggle parties in our bed, having hammock time, playing and singing together, and so much more. I wanted all of this photographed, especially since it coincided with our why. 

Step 5: Committed to no arguing on the day of our photo shoot

You guys this is a huge one!!! I can't tell you how many times we've gotten into arguments right before a photo session, and man has it messed up the flow. Everyone is holding grievances against each other. The kids are stressed. I'm stressed, and everything just feels forced. But this time around we just had fun with it. I even took a moment to look at the mirror to encourage myself, and gave myself permission to have fun.

Step 6: Just have fun with it!

Now, I'm not going to lie, the house wasn't as cleaned as I would have liked. I had an outfit malfunction, and so much more. Instead of focusing on what didn't go as planned, I took a deep breath, and let go!!! And boy did we have fun! We laughed, tickled and played together. By the end of the session, we were shocked at how fun it was. And can I just say....the photos turned out to be everything we wanted.....I may have even cried! They represent us in the most authentic way ever.

All in all friends, there's such freedom in letting go! I hope that when it's time to have your family photographed that you would dig deep, find your why, and allow yourself to have fun while letting go of perfection.