Being A Yes Mama


I say no to my kids all.the.time. every single day.

“No, you may not watch more tv. ”

“No, you may not stay up later.”

“No ,you may not have any candy.”

“No, you may not swing from the ceiling fan.”

“No. No. No. No.”

Sometimes I get sick of my own voice. ( Imagine what my kids think! )

I say no so often that it ends up being my default answer. I even say no sometimes without even thinking about why I am actually saying no in the first place! Which can be problematic right?

I realized just how problematic the other day when I told my son,  “No, you can’t have more salad.”

UM WHAT? He looked at me like I had two heads.

Just in case you are wondering, I recanted and gave the boy more vegetables. I seem to eat my words a lot around here.

Which is why I have been trying something new out this week . I am saying, “Yes.” more. Not to everything of course, I have to draw the line somewhere. Playing on the street sounds like a good boundary. But I don’t have to always say no either. It feels good to relax a bit and just say “Yes. Why yes you may.” Then I get to watch my kids astonished reactions. It’s quite amusing. I think they are wondering where their real mother went off to. But I’ll venture to guess they don’t want her back! Their new “Yes!” Mama rocks.

I have already felt a slight shift in our relationship. For one, I am saying yes to things I normally wouldn’t have, like making tents in the playroom, and letting them make their own lunch; things that by nature are messy but oh so much fun. I am also finding that my attitude is becoming more positive, and the kids are noticing. They seem to be less apprehensive about approaching me with requests and it feels good. I love seeing their faces light up when I say yes. It also makes the unavoidable “No’s ” more tolerable.

Things are happier around here. I like it that way.


Tips For Taking Awesome Images of Your Little Ones

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Ever get out the camera to take pictures of your sweet kids, only to discover they aren’t so hot on the idea? Before you know it one of you ends up angry, the other flustered? And the only image you capture is of a frustrated, scowling, screaming,  ( albeit cute ) child?

Uh huh. Over the years I have been there SO many times. Here are just some of the things that I have learned a long the way . I hope that they can be some help to you too!

1. Keep your expectations low. REAL low. Little ones tend to have a mind of their own. If they want to smile, they will. If they want to jump, they will. If they want to be all cutesy, they will. If they want to pull their sister’s hair, they will. If they want to pick their nose…you guessed it,  they will. If they want to play, they will. Which brings me to my next point…

2. Let the child just play. Join her world. Don’t expect her to join yours. Follow her around- even if that means putting on a pair of running shoes to keep up with her. Offer a cute chair or stool to sit on but, don’t expect her to sit. Especially if she is one or two. The quickest way to end a mini shoot is making a toddler sit still. I promise.

3. Sing songs, tell stories, and act like a complete lunatic. That will grab her attention. Maybe the neighborhood’s too- but who cares . Capturing that genuine belly laugh on camera is worth the embarrassment!

4. Show your child what you are doing. Let her see sneak peaks of herself, and encourage her to let you  take more.

5. Kids LOVE nothing more to be in charge. Act as if she is. Often, during professional shoots I will allow a child ( eep! ) to take over my camera and take a few pictures of her family by herself. Trust me. It never fails.

6. Choose your locations wisely. Wide open spaces are perfect. Kids love to explore . Some of my favorite locations are wild fields, and beaches.

7. Choose your timing wisely. I cant stress this enough trying to shoot during nap time or right before meals,  will end badly. Trust me. It just will.

8. This is a hard one for me but try not to treat your camera like it is an extension of your arm. Live in the moments with your kids. Build memories in your heart too. Those are the memories you both will treasure forever.

9. This is the one occasion that it is more than ok to bribe. In fact – I encourage it.  Bribe Bribe away. I have seen a single piece of candy work magic on the grumpiest of kids!

10. Know when to count your losses. Sometimes it’s better to just put the camera away and try again later.

* A big thank  you to my little niece, Baby G, for allowing me a mere five minutes this morning to capture some of your cuteness! Tia LOVES YOU! And I LOVE  your hugs and kisses. Can never get enough! *






Real Life.

Last week I had it all together.  My life was so put together that I was considering writing a bestseller on how I managed to to be so awesome.

And then this week happened…

Last night’s dirty dishes are hanging out in the sink, while this morning’s breakfast mess is still decorating the kitchen table.  Laundry- clean and dirty is piled high. I have a stack of sessions waiting to be edited, emails needing replies, and I’m long overdue for a visit at the bank. I have no clue the last time my kids showered, or flossed their teeth, or if they completed Monday night’s homework. I only went to the gym twice this week, and after one visit, upon returning home, I promptly ripped into a bag of Doritos, opened a cold coke, and went to town! No shame people. No shame.

This morning was my lowest point. I woke up late AGAIN, which never bodes well with anybody five feet away from me. Bella . Poor Bella, happened to be the closest to me this morning.  She never saw it coming. A  combination of eight year old drama, a missing hair brush, and lunches that still had to be made, put me over the edge.

I yelled. Poor girl. I yelled at her for yelling at me. Awesome Parenting.  I am sure in her eyes I resembled a two headed monster that was spitting fire in her direction. She ran for cover. Smart girl.  I quickly put away my fangs and went to her to apologize and shower her with love.   Sigh- and last week I was going to win Mom of the year award.

Let me just say it.

I really don’t know what I am doing.

Being a mom is hard. And as soon as I think I’ve got it nailed down.  I discover I don’t. In fact, I now know less about parenting than I thought I knew eight years ago. In fact, the only bestseller I should be writing is “How NOT to parent 101.” I’ve made so many mistakes .

Earlier today, as I went to the fridge to grab yet another coke, I found a little note on the fridge:

“Mommy, Im sorry for this morning. Love, Bella.”

Oh  my sweet little heart. She really had nothing to apologize for. I was the one who lost my cool. I was the one who started the morning late. I was the one who misplaced the brush, and I was the one who waited last minute to make their lunches. Les grande sigh. That girl deserves another hug and a million kisses.

And I need a whole bucket full of grace- though I don’t deserve it.

Here is to a better day tomorrow.

Dugans In Duluth – 2013































Going through these photos have been pure pleasure. We try to go to either Stillwater, or Duluth, or both every fall. Michael and I honeymooned near Duluth- so it’s so special for us to take our family there as often as we can. We don’t do anything extravagant.  We walk the pier. Eat fresh donuts. Play at the beach. Watch the boats come in…It’s a perfect tradition and traditions make this sappy mommy happy.

So do pictures of my kids- but honestly sometimes it’s a struggle for me to bring my camera on outings. It’s heavy, cumbersome, and makes it difficult to engage in the moment. However when I leave it at home, I am filled with regret more often than not.  I am sure I am not the only photographer with these sentiments. However this year I have made it a priority to BOTH enjoy the present with my family, and to capture as much life as I can. It’s a balancing act- one that I have far from perfected. Handing over the camera to Michael helps some, and so has knowing when to just put it away. Caleb’s grumpy looks are usually a pretty good cue!

Many of these images will be printed and hung in my home. I could stare at them all day long.  I am absolutely gaga over the one of Michael and Caleb skipping rocks together. I adore the one of Lili spinning- it captures her free spirited personality SO perfectly. The sweet shot of my girls playing in the sand together from afar – makes me want to cry- I am so thankful for their growing friendship. Also, when in the world did my Bella grow up to be such a poised young lady? And as much as I loathe being a photographer’s subject, Ill forever treasure these pictures that Michael captured of me with my children.

The longer I am a mom, the more aware I am of how quickly the days come and go. It makes me sad, but also grateful for all of the special memories we are making as a family. I’ll hold them tight and Ill hold them close. Forever.