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One of my dearest friends lost her husband to cancer last year, and her sweet son Cade lost his Daddy. So did his two older children. And his parents lost their son, and the fire department he worked for lost an amazing asset, and everyone who knew him lost a friend.

But I can tell you right now, if a year after his death, Mickey looked down and saw Annie curled up crying her days away, he’d reach through the clouds and smack her on the back of the head. Because that is NOT how he would want his sweetheart and his children to be living their lives.

And so, just like they’ve done every year since Cade was born, Annie brought her boy out to me for family pictures around Back to School time. And while we wanted to make sure Mickey’s memory was honored, because he will NEVER not be a part of them, we also wanted to make sure these pictures show who they are right now. They are happy. They are loved. They are together. They are strong. And to me, they are seriously some of the most wonderful people in the world.

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OH that big ole grin just kills me… I love that kid! And his Mama!:)Here’s to another year of making amazing memories together.

  • LeAnn - Beautiful!!!

  • Ann - OK – I needed a tissue alert. Such a sweet set. Cade is adorable.

Sweet Huston was SUCH a cuddly baby… in fact, so cuddly that he got seriously bummed out anytime I put him down. Luckily, I am ALL ABOUT the baby snuggles, and in time, with a quiet house and warm blankets and snacks and all my favorite lullabies, he and I were able to work together to make some beautiful images for his parents & grandparents. Babies grow and change so fast at this age… I bet he doesn’t even look like this anymore in just 10 days!

A few faves:

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You guys are absolutely precious. I’m so excited for you, and I can’t wait to watch Huston grow!

  • Leslie Martin - We LOVE these images! As always, THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU for capturing the very best moments of our lives with such beautiful photos!

  • JoAnn Martin - Good luck picking a favorite. They are all so wonderful!

  • Vickie Lukens - What adorable pictures. Chelsey, as always you did an awesome job of capturing the perfect moments.

I can’t believe Miss MK is a year old.

Of course, when I think about it like that, I can’t believe it’s been four and a half years since we shot Megan & Guy’s engagement session, three and a half years since their wedding, and nearly 2 years since Megan texted to announce that this precious princess was on the way. Basically, time moves really fast around here.

Megan & Guy asked me to do a little session to celebrate their girl’s first birthday, and totally trusted me to come up with something that would really show off her spirit. Sure, we got some cutesy photos with her adorable birthday crown, but I mostly focused on letting this joyful, curious sweetheart splash & play in the creek while her Mommy sang her favorite songs and her Daddy held the bribery cookies. All in all, a beautiful evening.

Happy birthday, little lady!

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We love all three of the Grivas’s… can’t wait to see you soon!

  • Megan - I can’t even thank you enough for these beautiful pictures of our sweet girl. These images display her gentle and happy personality so perfectly. Thank you, yet again. Love love love!!!

  • Cara - Love these! They really did capture her beauty! Love my sweet niece.

I was so excited when I got the call to come meet Miss Bobbie Lynn. I haven’t seen her mama & sister for years, but I love keeping up with them online, and I just knew this new little girl would be just as lovely. Alyssa wanted the session to be less “posey sleepy baby”, and more like what it looks like when they’re all just hanging out at home. I can totally make that happen, especially with such a snuggly family, beautiful light, and a curious kitty!

Here are a few stand outs…

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Alyssa, your family is just so beautiful. I’m so happy you’re happy… and can’t wait to see you again in the spring!:)

Welcome to the third Road Trip recap post. This one wraps up the last week of our trip (a little longer than that). Mack¬†might post something for tomorrow’s blog if he feels inspired, but if not, I’m pretty sure 3 blog posts worth of adventure photos will totally work. ūüėČ

We left off yesterday after hiking at Mt. Baker near Bellingham, Washington. Before we left the state, we absolutely HAD to go up and take the kids to the border.

I mean, we weren’t going INTO Canada, but from Peace Arch State Park, they can technically be standing in Canada, so it’s close enough to make them officially international.

What we didn’t count on was getting confused by the lines in traffic, and instead of turning sharply to head to the park, we turned slightly¬†and ended up in the border crossing line, unable to escape. So there we sat for 45 minutes, singing songs and telling the kids about Canada, until we got to the booth and explained that we really had no interested in going INTO Canada, we’re just stupid and trying to turn around.

Aside from the usual questions they ask to make sure we’re not carrying AK-47s and a stash of narcotics, it was no big deal. They actually opened some traffic barriers so we could sneak closer to the front of the line going back into the US, instead of waiting for another hour and a half.

The real funny part was the looks of disbelief on the US Customs agents when we explained why we were trying to get back in. “Do you have passports for the kids?” … “No, do we need them?” Not technically, but if we want to verify the identify of everyone in your party…” “Well, I didn’t actually want to go to Canada, and now I’m just trying to get back to AMERICA, where I live, which is 20 feet away, so if you’d kindly just get out of my way, this 5 year old really has to pee.”

And that’s the story of how our kids spent their first trip to another country.

Let’s move on to some photos now,¬†taken after we got completely and legally back into the United States and needed to run off some stress before the drive to Montana.

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Have I mentioned that I love this little Polaroid? Sure, it’s not super sharp, but I’m not using it for something I’ll deliver to a client… I’m using it for nostalgia. I love having pictures of my little family on an American Road Trip that feels like the same photos my parents have from their childhood. These are going to be SO much fun in our big album.

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Our Bellingham hosts, Sean & Sara, highly recommended that we make our trip to Butte a little longer by avoiding the highway and driving up and through the Cascade Mountain Range. We thought, “Oh, ok, it’ll totally be worth two extra hours”. But that turned into 4.5 extra hours because I had to stop SO OFTEN to take photos. This water… these views. I’m thoroughly obsessed. This area of Washington is now my retirement plan, and I am quite literally putting it on our office dream board of places to shoot a wedding. GIMME.

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Jack heard stories about us drinking out of a rushing mountain stream in Taos this past June when we were hiking, as rain & snow had all the rivers swollen and state signage said it was safe to drink. He said that was his ONE goal from this trip… to be able to drink from a stream. We found this waterfall, and he decided it would do. I love these little weirdos.

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What good is a roadside gorge if you can’t pull over and chunk rocks down into it?

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Leaving Washington and heading into Idaho was completely surreal… honestly, we didn’t even get out of the car in Idaho, so I don’t feel like it’s fair to cross that state off my visiting list.

OH WAIT! No, we totally did stop to go to the bathroom. There. I’ve officially been to Idaho.

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We stayed that night in Butte, Montana, and it wasn’t a long drive to get to Yellowstone the next morning. The kids were so excited to set up camp and spend three solid days exploring our country’s first national park.

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Geysers and hot pools, you guys. Coolest thing EVER.

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On our way back to camp one night, we saw this river on the side of the road, and it looked “get-at-able”. So we went!

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We practice what we call “free range” parenting, in that we love our children and do our best to train and protect them, but we also let them make their own mistakes and go on their own adventures. I was watching Dorothy closely as she played on these rocks, making sure she didn’t get too deep… when a woman pulled her car over and SCREAMED from the road, “OMG! Watch your baby! That river will sweep her away and she’ll drown!!!”

Dorothy looked up at her, then at me with a questioning eyebrow, and I told the good-intentioned stranger, “Thanks! I got it.” She huffed and drove away.

And miracle of miracles, Dorothy managed to survive.

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This is another off-trail hike… actually, come to think of it, we didn’t do any ON TRAIL hiking in Yellowstone. We saw this waterfall from a lookout point, but weren’t satisfied with the view, so we drove back up the road to see if there were any places to leave the car. We found one, and we all scaled the side of the hill to get down to the river. It’s SO nice to be the only people in a magical spot like this!

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Before bed on our second night, we found a swimming hole. It was cold at the banks, but warm near the waterfall where it was being swirled by geyser runoff. The kids swam and swam and swam until I thought they would pass out from happy exhaustion.

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Our last day started with Bison… lots and lots of Bison.

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They’re so weird and loud and ornery… I could have watched them for hours.

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We took a guided fishing trip around the lake, but a cold front with a storm blew in just as our appointment got started. We caught A fish. One. And gave it to another boat that had three people and had only caught two. So whatever, no fresh fish over the campfire, but it was fun!

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The drive from Yellowstone to Denver took us through Grand Teton National Park, and now that’s on my bucket list, too. The more I see of the world, the more I NEED TO SEE of the world!

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The majority of the drive was just flat… but at least it was FAST. We did have to pull over a time or two for cattle driving across the highway…

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But the kids slept right through most of it.

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We got to Denver and were warmly greeted by the DuBois family. This is another online friend I’d never met in person, but Amy was such an absolute doll. We stayed in their basement apartment and got to do laundry and have drinks, and the kids had OTHER kids their ages to play with. It was such a perfect little stop.

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Our last stop of the trip was Hacienda del Sol, in Taos. We fell in love with this beautiful property when we shot Jess & Ashley’s wedding here in June, and we were STOKED that they asked us to come back anytime and trade photography of the B&B for a free stay. The kids loved every second of it, from delicious breakfasts and exploring the downtown shopping, to hiking up mountains and braving river crossings (with the help of our own Gandalf, of course).

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The last day was long… so long. Jack was tired of his sister, sister was tired of missing her bed, I was tired of watching my To Do list grow, and Mack’s butt was tired of the car. But we made it from Taos to home in great time, and settled in on our OWN couches for the first time in three weeks. Mack documented our mileage (shown here with starting mileage the day we left), and one last video diary from the kids.

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And just like that, it was over. A trip we’d been planning for a year, now it’s just a memory. I’m so glad we took so many pictures… not just because it’s fun to share them, but because I know that little stories, tiny moments… those will fade with time. I want to remember as much as possible, and help my kids remember it, too.

I also have to say thank you to you guys… our clients. If it weren’t for your support of McGowan Images, at least one of us would be having to work a “real job” to support our family, and a trip like this would never be possible. We’re not rolling around in dollars, and we live in a very old tiny house… but we can give our kids TIME like this in the summer, and that’s something we’ll never take for granted. Thank you for your patience¬†while I was answering emails on the road, for your understanding¬†while we’re getting caught up on editing, and for your constant encouragement that we take care of ourselves and these kids. I know that not everyone in our industry… even in our DFW market… is blessed to have clients that¬†actually care about them like ours do. We really really really appreciate every single one of you.

And now… time to start Summer 2016. ūüėČ

  • Adria - Gorgeous, gorgeous stuff and such wonderful memories for your family! I’m sad that this series of posts is over! Is it wrong that I’m not-so-secretly hoping you including me in the sure to be epic summer 2016 plans?

    Also, I once let my kiddo open the front door. I knew who it was (pizza delivery), and I was 5 feet away. The delivery dude yelled at me for allowing her to do that, and momma bear came OUT. You let me worry about parenting my own kid, thankyouverymuch. Proud of you for allowing your kids to make their own mistakes and for not letting that meddler meddle.