This is You at Seven (My Family)

You have a newfound and strong sense of right and wrong and have many proclamations to go along it. You are Pokemon card-obsessed, though Magic® cards might be the new hot thing to collect. You read Dogman books over and over and still choose Legos over any other playthings. You received your first camera this year and have taken to using it, even declaring that you have a “style”. You are trying on being a “good boy” at school and are quick to name others as “naughty”. You are a bona fide social butterfly but will hunker down in your quiet reading alcove (aka the closet) to have solo downtime when you need it. You often talk of wanting to help people out and have refined your future robotic engineering goals to include the making of service robots (which according to you will be “way better than service dogs”). You told me last week you like to have “empathetic fun” and explained that it meant having fun but stopping and helping if someone got hurt or sad. You still want me to scratch your back each night before giving me so many kisses goodnight. When I catch a glimpse of your long legs and confident stride, I have to steady myself and believe that it is indeed you. I know your outside world is getting wider and I feel you changing. For now though, I want to hold on as much as I can to the way you feel right now - the way you sound, your smell, the way you move. Happy birthday, Sebastian - my newly seven, somewhat big, but still baby boy.

Travel With Kids, Spain and France Edition (My Family)

A few months ago (aka a lifetime ago!), we spent two weeks traveling around Spain and France. We ate our weight in cheese (and washed it down with dry red wine and cold cider), visited beaches on both the Mediterranean and Atlantic coastlines, saw too many beautiful and sacred buildings to count, and watched our dear friends wed each other in a castle in rural France. My only regret is that I did not document nearly enough but below are a few photos I’ll treasure from our trip, and some shaky, shaky video.

P Family (Family Shoot at deYoung Museum)

This family was my last family to photograph in 2018. Coincidentally, they were one of my favorites of the year. It’s funny, as our shoot neared its end, I realized I was dragging it out a little, not quite ready to say goodbye. I love that. I’m looking forward to a break and some rest with my family and am ready for 2019 with wide open arms. Happy holidays, y’all!!

This is You at Eight (My Family)

Eight means asking complicated questions and calling my bluff. Eight means watching scary movies and later being too scared to walk to your bedroom alone. Eight means reading graphic novels and writing story books of your own. Eight means basketball and capoeira, and a slight pre-occupation with the adornments of said activities. Eight means role playing games and doing chores unprompted and origami and so many paper airplanes. Eight means bringing me home love notes that I squirrel away and look at often. Eight means helping your little brother do things like read, make art projects, and be brave. Eight means resisting hikes and loving them once we're there. Eight means swinging wildly between boldness and timidity. Your rich imagination is your strongest gift, my boy. Let's continue to stoke that fire as imagination is the key to opening the doors that life puts up for you. To quote you, I love you more than a hundred million stars. Happy Birthday, Julian!

M Family (Family Shoot in Marin Headlands)

Each year I photograph this family and I always look forward to it. It's a special treat to photograph families I know well, and this family is a near and dear one. Mama Hope is one of my closest friends and a model for creating a balanced life of family and creative career. We share a love of good design, raunchy humor, and stiff cocktails. Our eldest kids share the same birth date and our youngest kids share the role of family comedian. Our husbands are both chill, handsome nerds. I'm honored to be your family documentarian, Menghermanns. Love all of yous!!

C Family (Day-in-the-Life Home Shoot in San Francisco)

First things first: I LOVE doing Day in the Life shoots. They are some of the most creatively satisfying and emotionally recharging experiences I have as a family photographer. They allow me the time to settle in and observe what's really happening... kind of like staring long enough at the horizon line and slowly beginning to notice details you missed before. For this family, I quickly noticed that the girls' favorite spot to be was on the giant butcher's block in the kitchen. I noticed that they have a mama with a patient, gentle demeanor and a never-ending supply of quiet back scratches, tiny kisses, and reassuring touches. I noticed that they have a baba, while a little reserved on first glance, whom is warm and silly and deeply attentive. I noticed big sister Emily is reflective and thoughtful (ex. while looking at photos of herself on the fireplace mantle, she asked her mom if she should start smiling more for photos). I noticed little sister Anna has her own agenda most of the time but pauses to be goofy. I saw this family. I'm grateful that they let me.

This is You at Six (My Family)

You are our family's comedian and recently, the class clown at school. You are uncannily articulate, predictably good-natured, and have appropriate Virgo-level stubbornness. You are curious about all things science and nature and Lego. You grasp concepts like gravity, infinity, air resistance and space travel. You l-o-v-e school so much that you don't want to come home in the afternoon and often demand-request that I "come back later!". You enjoy meditating with me before bed, taking your posture and breath very seriously. You create habitats for your stuffed animals so they can be comfortable and safe and have an accessible toilet. ;) You sometimes sing to yourself in slight vibrato when you think no one is listening.  In your eyes, your big brother hung the moon, sun, and stars, despite how much he does all the mean big brother things to you. Your little butt wiggle dance moves are still the cutest thing in town. You come to me first thing in the morning for cuddles and back scratches and the whispered sharing of dreams. This feeds me in ways you might never understand, Sebastian. I'm humbled to be guiding such a wise little spirit and I'm happy to celebrate another year of YOU. Happy Birthday, baby boy!!!

The End of Summer (My Family)

We're in our final days of summer break over here (school starts on Monday!) and I'm taking a moment to reflect on what felt like a fast and somewhat uneventful summer (for our family at least). We took no big trips, we did no major house projects, the boys were in summer camp every week that we were in town. But... we did see lots of family. We spent time with friends that we love dearly. We made mindful parenting and marital connection top priorities. And we made it through the summer without injury or illness. So that's something! I often feel a little wistful at summer's end, like I was supposed to DO something or GO somewhere really special. Then I remember that this is the real work of living: to find enough in the ordinary, to see the miracle in the mundane.

W-W Family (Family Home Shoot in Montara)

I'll share a secret with you that might sound a little odd: when I find myself in ideal settings to create (a light-filled home, a quiet and unscheduled day to myself, a peachy soft sunset), I often get paralyzed. I think it's partly a matter of feeling like I have too many options, and I also think I see the perfect set-up and feel like anything created that is less than perfect won't cut it. I can almost always push past the paralysis pretty quickly, but it is curious to me. A couple of weeks ago, I met a new-to-me family in their gorgeous, light-drenched home near Montara Beach. I walked in, said a little thank you to the universe for this gem of a setting, and then had a hard time knowing how to begin. Thankfully, once I took a few shots and got into my flow, this sweet crew led the way. Thank you, W-W Family, for being so easy to photograph and inviting me to spend a morning with you.

10 Years (My Family)

Last night, my husband Ignacy and I went out to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of our first date. He surprised me at dinner with a printout of our email and IM correspondences from the first few weeks we knew each other. It felt so good to revisit the details of our first days and weeks, and we both cringe-laughed at the ridiculous attempts we both made to seem smooth/intelligent/adventurous. I'm still rolling my eyes at how much I said the word the "yummy". But a thing that really stood out in those messages was how we both had such a passion for photography. You see, I had purchased my first DSLR (shout out to the Canon Rebel series!) only a few weeks before meeting him and was so excited about learning and shooting as much as possible. He'd been a serious hobbyist for years at that point and I found that hugely attractive. I remember him mentioning that we should go do some night shooting together and that I could use whatever equipment of his I wanted. Way to sweet talk a girl, amiright?! It was Ignacy who taught me my basic technical skills. It was Ignacy who enthusiastically took photo trips with me (around California and the world!). And it was Ignacy who encouraged me to quit my very safe job in academia to pursue photography as a career. Thank you, love, for always gently nudging me forward and helping me believe in my talent. I love what I do and I love that you helped me land there.