This past Thanksgiving weekend we took our first real road trip as a family of 4 (5 if you count the pup), and traveled to Willard, Utah  where we had a sweet 5-day reunion with my married in family. We rented a huge AirBnB house (toy room, trampoline and hot tub included) and spent our days eating delicious homemade meals and doing nothing more than enjoying each others’ company: working puzzles, sipping wine, and sneaking in a few fireside naps. And it is at this point in my weekend-description that I would expect my 2.5 year old to be bored to tears and begging for YouTube, but instead he surprised me… 

Day after day I would ask him what he wanted to play, how he wanted to fill our long hours together. And day after day he simply requested that ‘Mommy elephant’ come play with ‘Hansie-elephant’. 

Meet: ‘Mommy-elephant’ and ‘Hansie-elephant’…

FYI: ‘Elephants’ come to life when your hand is perched up on your finger tips in the shape of an elephant, trunk outstretched for effect. 

Each day we would steal away (typically underneath the over-sized kitchen table) and play, play, play! Sans toys. Sans iphones. Sans stuff. And each day, I witnessed my son chosing one-on-one time with me over a house full of toys. 

Our elephant-fingers provided hours of entertainment and laughter. They danced around like puppets. They blew their little elephant trunks. They buckled up in their seat belts and traveled around town. They explored the great outdoors. They visited pretend toy stores. They held hands to cross a pretend street. They practiced going potty. They even practiced ‘tooting’. Then, of course, they practiced flushing, washing, being ‘on their way’…(Thank you, Daniel Tiger). 

…But most incredibly, they turned precious little fingers into precious little memories. They reminded me (as this holiday season approaches) that all my children really want is TIME. Time with those they love. Time with ‘Mommy-elephant’. 🐘


2016 Mama’s Night Out, San Diego

This is my son, Hans: 

2016-08-03_Baybay is Born-253.jpg

Hansie-bear. Cute, right?

Hans is 2 1/2 years old and cannot (or will not) say the word “milk”.  He can repeat nearly every word in the English language, even the ones he should not, and quite a few in Spanish, but he still doesn’t say “milk”.  He does drink gallons of it, weekly. He drinks so much “milk” that we quit buying organic, because it just wasn’t in the budget…

So when Hans asks for his “milk” he still says “My Mmmmmm…” while giving us the sign for milk, fist squeezing good “Mmmmmm”!  This is adorable, and endearing, but has nothing to do with Pediatric Cancer, right?


While volunteering checkerboardSTUDIOS’ photography services to the 2016 Mama’s Night Out, San Diego, I had the privilege of hearing Parker’s Grandma speak on behalf of his parents.  Parker Landis is a spunky six year old kid living with DIPG, a rare and lethal childhood brain cancer with no cure.

This is Parker: 

parker landis.jpg

Parker is a kid that I have never met, a kid that I’m positive is a super-star, but also a kid that I previously had no connection with… But then his grandma said in the midst of her speech that Parker, for the longest time, could not say “helicopter”…

And that’s when it hit me. That’s when I lost it. That’s when I knew this could be MY kid. My kid living with brain cancer.  My Hansie-bear, who can’t say “milk”…That could be me up front giving a speech, begging fellow moms to support this cause that does not affect them and their children.  That could be me talking about Hans and his “Mmmmmm”, praying that he can live long enough to learn to pronounce it correctly, “milk“.

This is Mama’s Night Out: 


In preparation for the 2nd annual Mama’s Night Out in San Diego, I spoke with several fellow mama’s (really, really great mamas I might add) that admitted that they “just couldn’t attend”.  Emotionally, it was just too tough.  And first, let me say, I GET IT. I really do get it. This stuff is hard.


Really, really hard.  


There were moments that I had to hide behind my camera lens because I felt guilty.


I was near sobbing.  Crying so hard, when there were Warrior Mama’s right in front of me, pictures scrolling on the slideshow of their kids that are dying, or have already died.

It is so, so hard.


But then again…


…Our support…


…this community…


…and these moms…


…are so…


…so important.


After spending hours, laughing, talking, drinking, crying, and then laugh-crying with these women, I learned that these beautiful, strong, incredible women are just moms.


They are just moms that have been thrown into their worst nightmare.


They are just moms that look forward to waking up with their babies.


And they are just moms that look forward to those sweet moments when everyone’s head has hit the pillow and they can sip on a glass of wine, alone.


They are just moms.


They are just moms that need a hug.


They are just moms that need support.


And they are just moms that understand that sometimes this stuff is “just too hard” …


…but unfortunately, for them, there is no way out.


What was one evening of ‘tough’ for me, is a lifetime of tough for them.


And that makes me want to do all that I can to give back to these women, their families, and research for a cure for DIPG.


If only I had unlimited funds to throw at this horrible disease.


If only I could do more.


For now, I have a camera…and a blog. Please join me in spreading the word and helping stand up and fight the reality that is pediatric cancer any way you can.

Support | Share: Unravel


Follow | Attend: Mama’s Night Out

View all photos here. 



2016-07_Emma Maternity-29
My husband and I are partners. Partners in life. Partners in business. Partners in parenting. Partners in all the crazy. And while I typically use this blog to share our family, our work and our life’s passions, this weekend Geoffrey blew me away with his patience and talent, and I feel compelled to share one of the many blessings I have in my PARTNER! A blog post to say I love you. A blog post to say THANK YOU GEOFFREY.
white bar
If I were writing a post about photography (or even about parenting), I would advise each of you that 38+ weeks is NEVER the time to squeeze in a maternity shoot. In fact, the only thing a mother-to-be should be doing at 38+ weeks is laying in bed and deciding if she should go pee before telling Netflix that she would like to ‘continue’…
white bar

Continue reading

Sketch Relief – Panda Express 

With the adult coloring book trend circulating in full force, I figured why not try a little Sketch Relief. Took 20 minutes this afternoon to reflect on my time spent with my sweet son at the San Diego Zoo last Friday.

Super affordable season passes to both the San Diego Zoo and Safari Park make it really easy for us to pop in for a 2-3 hour excursion rather then exhausting a whole day with my rambunctious two year old. Hans and I flew solo, (Daddy had to work) and spent the majority of our time with the giraffes “g-affs!”, shared a packed lunch with a statue of an extinct wolf, shared an ice cream cone in near empty (weekday) patio, watched a camel ‘poooooo!’ and were able to spend a few precious hours to bonding over funny birds and fuzzy pandas.

Life is crazy with a two year old (and one on the way), but spending a few priceless hours with out any agenda really provided some much needed R&R, even more so then the Panda Sketch Relief (above).

Here is to uninterrupted moments with those we love.      ❤️🐼

The Ah-HA Moment

San Diego Here We Come

This was one of my biggest Ah-HA-moments-to-date…

I was browsing the AIA San Diego Job Board, and I was turned off again and again by Entry and Mid-level Architect/Designer positions.  One of them was even titled ‘Minion’.

I know, you think you are being funny and clever, but in reality the lack of respect for experience, motivation, and education was just OOZING from this joke of a title…  ‘Minion’, is that really all the regard my profession holds for someone who has just spent the last 5-8 years of their life preparing, day and night, to enter the ‘profession of their dreams’?  Come on, ‘a’rchitects.
A little respect, please.
:::End Rant::

Anyway, I was browsing the AIA San Diego Job Board, and came across a posting with the title ‘Senior Marketing Coordinator’, and as I read the description all I could think was OH-MY-GOD-THIS-IS-MY-JOB.  It was the exact description of the work I have been LOVING for the past 6 years, it was in San Diego, and it was not titled ‘Minion’.  So, I dropped everything I was doing, stayed up until 3am [what’s new?] whipped out my resume, portfolio, and cover letter just hours after seeing the ad, and BAM, landed an interview.

After going through a seemingly endless process, that I will not bore you with, I GOT THE JOB… but after all — OH-MY-GOD-THIS-WAS-MY-JOB to begin with…  So why was I so shocked? >>> Probably because they offered me a job that I love, are going to ‘let’ me live in San Diego, and are even going to pay me to do so… WHAT?!?! Amazing.

So, I started working for JCJ Architecture, from my home in WV, a little over one month ago, and now the time has officially come for us to pack it up and move to the West Coast.  Geoff and I are so totally stoked to move to San Diego, start our new life in Ocean Beach, and make a life-change that is precisely what we want.

Geoff is going to take on the role of ‘Stay-at-Home-Dad’ [guhhh, I know, I know…we are soooo trendy 😛 ] and begin taking on checkerboardSTUDIOS full time.  And I am going to take on ‘The Office’ once more! [channeling Peggy Olsen…]

Of course, I am feeling sad to leave my WV home, family and friends.  But gosh, I am also feeling so, SO GOOD, about life’s next big Ah-HA!

Stay tuned, next up: blogging the move!

Snuggles Instead of Pies

If I were being completely honest, the last time I felt pure, unexplainable joy during the Holidays was probably a year that I still believed in Santa and purchased my family’s gifts from my Elementary School’s make-shift Dollar Store.

As enjoyable as Christmas with my ever-growing family can be, pure joy has not been on the menu for some time.

Presents, yes.
Warm hugs, yes.
Fireside chats, yes.
Food that warms your soul, yes.
Great friends, yes…

But PURE JOY, not so easy to come by.

But this year was different:

This year I finished my shopping on Christmas Eve at 3pm. This year I only sent 25% of our Christmas Cards. This year I invited my family into a dirty house. This year I ‘bagged’ 90% of the gifts. This year I doubled the flour in TWO apple pies… Oops. This year the apple pies were disgusting. This year I wore my hair in a pony-tail. But this year…. was full of pure, pure JOY.

My husband asked me if I had smoked pot before this year’s family gatherings…

My mom joked that I had consumed a cup of Christmas ‘cheer’…

No, I didn’t smoke anything. And Yes, I was completely sober…

So what was different?


I experienced the joy of Christmas through the eyes of another. My younger, wiser, 9 month old son.

This year his laughter filled all the voids.

He cackled as he saw his reflection wearing an elf outfit. He cooed as he tried new foods for the first time. He babbled while his Grandad prayed. He sang aloud during the Candlelight Service. He found hilarity in cardboard boxes, wooden spoons, and ceiling fans. He clapped when he was happy. He slept when I was tired… He made me realize that everything I was doing for the holidays, and even for others, paled in comparison to the pure joy that laughter, relationships, and love can bring.

His joy set an example of peace and simplicity, and for that, I am so very thankful.

I enjoyed snuggles instead of pies, hugs instead of presents, and laughter instead of stress. And what a magical Christmas it was.

Merry Christmas friends and family. I hope you have a wonderful New Year full of laughter, love, and PURE JOY.



I am The Poof


I’m not sure when I became so comfy.

Maybe it’s my softer than usual post-baby-belly? Or maybe it’s because I constantly smell like food — smashed baby food and dried breast milk have become my constant aroma… But you can go ahead and call me the ‘Poof’, the Poof chair that is. You know, the GIANT BEANBAG chairs that don’t fit through doorways and swallow you whole until you’ve digested your Thanksgiving dinner? Yes, the ‘Poof’, the worlds most comfortable human being.

I realized tonight that I am my family’s snoozing point, their ‘Poof’. If it’s not the baby, it’s the dog, and if it’s not the dog, it’s the husband… Sometimes I think if I just sprawled out on the floor, all by my lonesome, the beings would sniff me out and pile on.

I am the dumping ground for all Zzzzz’s, toots, slobbers, wet noses, dirty paws, and hairy beasts.

And tonight…I got frustrated.

So frustrated, in fact, that I passed off my crying baby to my hairy beast of a husband and plopped myself down on the hardwood floor, ALL BY MYSELF — for an entire 90 seconds. Then I was wallowed by the dog and succumbed to the fact that my boobs bring joy. So much joy that I got back up and nursed my little boy until he fell asleep in my arms. He cried and he nursed, but then… he fell asleep. And in my whirl-wind of frustration I realized that I am the ‘Poof’. One giant Poof, where all beings go to sleep.

Then I smiled. Because I am not just any Poof, I am the Momma Poof…

Yes. I get the slobbers, and the poots, and all those dirty paws, but I also get the love. All that love! The puppy love, the baby love, AND the hubby love. I get all the snuggles, all the kisses, all the laughter, and all the love. And tonight, I am the luckiest girl in the world.

Go ahead family…lay on me, breathe on me, fart on me, sleep on me. Do what you gotta do, because all I’m going to do is love on you, and cherish every stinky, slobbery moment.