Long's Christmas Photographs

Look at how damn pretty my friends are! Jordon and Elisha Long are two babes who fell in love a million years ago and have been adventuring beautiful places together ever since. With Jordon's love for travel and restoring cars, he decided to resurrect this old school "creeper van" into a mobile bedroom so they could jump in the van and roll out when ever they pleased. She's called the' Vandura' and she has her own Instagram account: @sweethomevandura. Check out their adventures!

In December we took the Vandura up into the Hills to Hillcrest Tree Farm for some fun winter photos! Jordon adorned the van with beautiful garland and hung Elisha's hand made wreath. They sprinkled some twinkle lights around and it became Christmas time in the Sweet Home Vandura! I'm super in love with Elisha's dress from Wild Moon Collection. It's perfect on her. And, look at sweet Maddy girl on their lap. It's not a family portrait with out Maddy! 

Enjoy!

 

The Accident That Changed Us...

 

Recently my family went through a life altering experience that we are just coming out of only 4 months later... While I've never really shared what happened, I was covered in prayer, help, encouragements... people I didn't even know sincerely prayed for my family just because they decided to care. That's really huge if you think about it. We don't always choose to care for people, but so many did and I am thankful. Here's what happened…  

A truck hit their car. It rolled numerous times. Wedged on it's side between two light posts on Main Street, my kid's daddy raised them up and out of the car through the window which was now above their heads and busted open. I have terrible visions still of them suspended by their seat belts, just hanging there covered in fear and blood waiting to be saved. I'm shaking just typing this. I wasn't there but that's the picture I made up from the details the kids have shared with me. They said some people just stood there and watched. Some jumped in to help. To the lady who quickly grabbed a towel from her trunk and cleaned the blood off my sweet son's face and kept him calm while the others were getting lifted out of the car, THANK YOU. I wish I knew your name so I could hug you. 

The impact was on my daughter's door. It shattered the window glass into her face and forced the door into the car somehow thrashing her foot. The boys walked away with some scrapes and a traumatic experience that would stay with them for some time to come and poor Lily nearly lost her foot. Their dad is an EMT. He handled it, with all the fear and adrenaline, he handled it. I'm so thankful that it was him and not me. The moment I heard him tell the ER Doc that he, "put it all back in..." referencing Lily's foot, I was incredibly grateful that it wasn't me in that position. 

He called me from the ambulance and with panic in his voice ordered me to the ER. I didn't ask questions, I just flipped my car around and drove stupid fast to the hospital. This would also be the day I stopped nursing my 18 month old and our first night apart, we weren't ready for that. When I got to the hospital, the boys were separated from Lily and their dad, a nurse kept them company while they waited for me. As you can imagine, the second I walked in they exploded into tears and folded into my arms like limp noodles. In that moment they were babies again and never needed me more. It was in that moment that I remembered what I was made of. I've never been a mom more than that night.

We were in a busy hospital, first responders lingering everywhere to make sure we were all ok, doctors in and out, nurses poking, and checking, and monitoring... It was crazy chaos. All I could think to do was to take control of the atmosphere in the room so my boys would feel safe. I put my biggest smile on, tempered the mood of the room with distractions and juice boxes and held them tight until I could get in to see Lily. And then, I had to do it all over again. She was cut up, bloody, and her foot laid there exposed and dismantled. I couldn't look. I just held her. 

Most of the evening was made up of comforting my babies and quick trips to the bathroom to let my tears out and catch my breath. It ended with a 12am trip to Valley Children's in Fresno for surgery and a long stay. Lily's treatment continued with 2-3 trips each week to Valley Children's, additional surgeries and procedures and now 4 months later, she's out of the wheel chair running and dancing. It's an experience I'll never forget. I won't forget how I felt in my chest watching my daughter endure pain at levels I've taken epidurals for. I won't forget my boy's faces when I walked in the ER or the nights that followed when they had flashbacks and couldn't sleep. And I'll never forget how lucky we are that everyone is alive and well, every time I look at Lily's scars I'm thankful. 

Her foot will never be the same. She's had skin grafting so most of her foot looks like a burn victim. It's brought us into a lot of conversations about beauty. We decided that her scars are reminders that she was saved for great things. She's worked through the embarrassment already and is now ready to let it be seen so she can proudly tell her story when asked. I'm so proud of her. 

 

This is my take away from all of this. No one is immune to tragedy. No one is promised anything or any day. I have also been reminded of the hard truth that IT'S OK WHEN BAD SHIT HAPPENS. When you have an eternal perspective, you can walk through hard things, unfair things, life changing things with a different mind set than you would if eternity wasn't promised to you. This place is temporary. The stuff that goes down here may mess us up, shape us, teach us, rearrange  us... but it doesn't change the trajectory of where we're going if we believe in Jesus Christ, Father God and Holy Spirit. I hate the hard shit. I get a lot of it. But I get to choose how I show up in it and after it. That's important. 

So hug your babies. Forgive people. Laugh as much as possible. Don't sweat the small stuff. And have lots of kitchen dance parties with your kids before they turn into 15 year old jerks! That's my plan anyway ;) 

Seth + Alisha | Yosemite National Park Engagement Session

I strapped on my $8 yard sale baby carrier, put Ren inside and joined my new friends Seth and Alicia  in Yosemite last week. They asked me to shoot their engagement session in Yosemite and I gladly said, "Um yes!" It's the best place to spend a Sunday. Here's a few from our time at Tunnel View and our hike to Taft Point. I LOVE lovers in the mountains....

Alexis + Blake | Visalia California Engagement

Meet Alexis and Blake. The day I got to photograph these lovers was about as hot as Alexis is in that yellow romper and those blue shoes. It was literally smoking outside. We spent time shooting in the studio to keep from the heat and I'm so glad we did because those are my favorite images from the day. We laughed the entire time. Like belly laughed. I think there was conversations about inappropriate things... vegetables... farts. Yep. It was a good time. I can't wait for their wedding this fall for more laughs and dirty jokes!

Zack + Saskia | A Vibrant and Modern Kingsburg California Wedding

After an adventurous engagement session in the Cambria Mountains, I knew this wedding would be a great one. But it was more than that. This wedding was absolutely breath taking. Amazing details, fabulous vendors, and the bride and groom of course were stunning. It took place on the Kings River in Kingsburg Ca. in the beautiful backyard of the groom's parents. The most memorable detail was an oversized circular swing covered thick in florals and foliage. It was epic and made for some amazing photographs. Take a look at all the goodness from Zack and Saskia's vibrant and modern river side wedding... 

Emily + Bryce | Bakersfield California River Side Wedding

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Emily + Bryce

A timeless and romantic wedding set in Bakersfield California.

When I met Bryce and Emily it was at a Starbucks in Visalia. I had all 4 of my kids with me, including one infant, one 4 year old who is still in his terrible 2's and the older kids who are usually reliable when it comes to knowing when and where to act like an animal. I set them up with snacks and Frappuccinos, an iPad and books.... The consultation was going, well until the 4 year old who was still in his terrible 2's, decided he needed to use the restroom. This is the moment I new that Bryce and Emily were my kind of people. Bryce volunteered to escort my pee pee dancing son to the little boys room so I could finish my conversation with Emily. At that point I new I would most def be hiring them as my clients but I was not confident that they would be hiring me as their wedding photographer. I mean, their wedding consultation included 4 children, lots of interruptions, and an escorted trip to the restroom by the future groom. But, I was wrong. With in a few weeks we were shooting their engagement session and I couldn't have been more thankful and happy that my life did not intimate them. They embraced me as a persona and as a business. I'm so glad they did because look at the magic we created.... 

Hair & Makeup: Alivia Daniels

Dress: Ladies and Gents Formal Wear

Cake: Gimme Some Sugar Cakes

Cup Cakes: Elizabeth Monroig

Coordinator: Morgan Landry Strong

Florals: Sun Country Flowers


Baby Allie Avery & Family | Newborn Home Session Clovis California

It's always great when you give birth to one child and then the other breaks his leg on a trampoline, right!? At least he got a bright green cast that matches Mom's dress for family photos!

I love this family. They seem to love me too because they keep letting me document their sweet family each year and it's such a privilege. Take a look at baby Allie Avery and her precious family.... 

xo

Kathryn + Eric | Yosemite National Park Adventure Wedding

It's all about the details! This wedding showcased the most amazing details from family heirlooms to super fun cabin vibes that guests will treasure forever. The jewelry, the hanky's, the ceremony rug... everything had meaning and history that created such a beautiful atmosphere for celebrating love. My favorite detail was the dress that Kathryn wore for her rehearsal. It was her mom's dress, tailored for Kathryn's size and style. We created a first look so that Gene could have a moment to take in that gift. It was beautiful. 

If you're planning a wedding, take a page from Kathryn and Eric's book. Make the details count, plan them with love and intention. It really does make all the difference in the atmosphere you create for your guests. Pinterest perfect has it's place but don't forget to style your day in a way that reflects who you are.

Here's look at Kathryn and Eric's day, Enjoy!

Heaven Babies | My journey through miscarriage

Out of the 7 babies that have entered my body, only 4 are here with me today. 2 miscarriages and 1 ectopic pregnancy took 3 of my babies to Heaven. I don't know why miscarriages happen. It's the first question I'll ask God when I get to Heaven. I do have a lot of theories, I've collected them from all of the people who freely gave me there's. I know they meant well but if I'm honest, most of them made me more confused and and sometimes angry. Does anyone really know why babies come and go from our bodies before we get to know and love them? I don't think anyone truly has the answer and I wish we'd all stop trying to make up the answer in efforts to fix someone's pain. You can't fix that kind of pain with any explanation. It's unexplainable, unbearable pain that absolutely has to be felt and lived and processed before it can be tucked away into our heart. We put the memory and ideas of that little person in a safe place, never to be forgotten but also not altering our joy or sanity in the present. Then, we go on with life. 

It's really a strange thing, to go on with life with out someone who was supposed to be with you. And yet they are with you. I have friends who have babies the same age as the ones I've lost. Each time I see those babies I'm reminded of my precious little ones. They are always in my thoughts, always with me. It hurts less today to think of them, but I do think of them often. 

All of my losses were different. My first one was before I had any children. The loss was so significant. It was as if someone stole my baby. Someone took from me what was so precious and belonged only to me. It was a long loss. 7 days of "maybe I'm loosing this baby to I'm loosing this baby and finally, I've lost this baby." Absolutely agonizing. The words, "not a viable pregnancy" only made me angry at my doctor. It felt like she took the life out of the living being in my body by referring to him as a pregnancy. In my heart, he was a person and he was gone and "a little sensitivity would be great, Doc. PS, you're fired. I'm not a project in your lab, I'm a person. " Yes, I said that to her. Unapologetically. 

The second miscarriage happened after my second son and during an extremely difficult time in my marriage. I went through it alone. No one really knew I was pregnant and my husband was in a different world. I had to put my boots on and take one for the A-team. There were babies to raise and a marriage to save. "Get off the bathroom floor and go do work, Kelli." That's what I said to myself. 

My last loss was an ectopic pregnancy. Baby was growing in my fallopian tube and about to rupture. It was my birthday and I didn't even make it home from dinner with friends before I was doubled over in the parking lot with the worst pain I had felt since child birth. I took some tylenol and went to bed praying that what I knew was likely would not be my reality. I called my doctor the next morning and she ordered me in immediately. An ultra sound confirmed that my baby was not where she was supposed to be and at any moment could endanger my life. An OR was booked and in 1 hour I found my self in a hospital gown on an operating table about to remove a living baby from my body. I could not reconcile that with my heart. I knew the facts but my heart  was broken over it. Just before the surgery started I asked for the doctors and nurses to clear the room, I had to get to God, He felt far away in that moment and there was no way I was going under with out knowing the creator of that baby in my body was near and not going to hate me for what I was about to do. But I couldn't pray. I couldn't think. I was nearly hysterical. I called my dear friend because I knew she could get to Him for me. That's what friends do. We hear and see for each other when our sadness and fear overwhelms us. And she did just that. She was already in prayer and already had a word from God for me when I got her on the phone. The word that would put my heart at peace long enough to do this impossible thing I was forced to do. She cried with me. She cried so hard with me. Have you ever experienced that? Someone feeling your pain with you? It's such a gift and so comforting in an uncomfortable moment. It's love. 

After that loss, I was a mess. Angry as hell and so confused. So much so that I hired a therapist to help me process. I highly recommend therapy to anyone processing through great loss and pain. We all need someone to steer us through losses like that because, let's get real, grief can make you crazy. Like certifiable sometimes. No one should have to do life; mother children, run a business, and keep their world spinning while in that kind of mourning. We absolutely need help. We need truth. We need love. We need. Period. 

What happened next is for another post but I can tell you that today, 4 years later, the grief has been grieved and my heart isn't as sensitive anymore. I can smile when I think about my Heaven babies. When I go to the doctor and I fill out the stupid form that asks how many pregnancies and how many living children I have, I proudly tell them I have had 7 pregnancies and 4 beautiful children with me today. I imagine my Heaven babies growing up watching me and knowing me from a distance. One day we will all be together, I won't be a stranger to them and they have not been orphans. It will all be made right. 

My hope in sharing these stories is not for my own comfort but to extend that to another mommy who needs it. I hope that if you're reading this with a sting in your heart and tears on your face you will know that you are not alone and you matter. Miscarriage isn't something  you should just get over and move on from. It deserves to be given time and attention. And, if you need to process through your own loss with someone who might relate to your story, I'm here, talk to me. I mean that with all my battle wounded heart.  

That Expecting Momma Glow... | Visalia California Sunset Maternity Session

Just give me some olive trees, an expecting momma and a sunset. That's all I need to capture some lovely photographs. Meet Cassandra. She's about to be the momma to a baby boy. As we photographed Cassandra's maternity session, I brought Ren along, he ate her flowers, ate a stick, and nearly escaped his stroller into the orchard. Cassandra didn't mind my boy being a boy. We powered through and captured all her loveliness as the sun was glowing behind her. She's a beautiful momma and I'm so thrilled for her growing family. All the best Cassandra!!

The Beauty of a Mother

 

I've recently been on a journey. A very multi-faceted journey, with my self. A lot of change, do-overs, reflection, repentance, forgiveness... I could go on and on... It's been a couple years full of big losses. I lost a baby, I lost my marriage, I lost my future plans, I lost my (day) job, and ultimately I lost my self. What's been the biggest challenge in healing from those losses has been how little any of them had to do with me. I had zero say, zero control, and little involvement in those precious things being taken from me. With the exception of my self. Losing my self was all me. I lost me all by my self. 

Life has felt much like an uphill climb in severe wind; lot's of resistance, lot's of challenge, lot's of tears. I do, however, feel like I'm nearing the other side of that season. And as a very wise person once told me; "Make it count. Otherwise, it's just useless pain so make it count." I'm not sure exactly how to do that but I'm starting to have some ideas and it feels really good to give all of that pain some purpose. 

I say this humbly... Often I hear people tell me that they don't know how I do it. Referring to being a single mom... I don't either some days but I do it anyway, somehow. I do know this: Women are really strong. We are really soft and really strong. We are protective, we are fierce, we are selfless. There is a lioness that lives inside us that is a force to be reckoned with if tested. It will survive us through terrible and incredible things. The difference between me and some women is that I have had to discover that part of me where other women have not. Some women have not had reach down inside the depths of their being and pull out untapped resources to help them conquer or just survive extreme circumstances. That's a good thing. I know that if they had to, they likely would find, within themselves, the very same strengths that I have found to get me from glory to glory or even just minute to minute. 

All of this to say, regardless of the hand life has dealt us, I think every women needs to know their value, their beauty, their unique footprint that is necessary to this world. When I photograph mothers with their kids, my heart is full. Because I love my kids so incredibly much, I know the gift it is to have documentation of that love. We all know how thankless the job of mother is. We do so much planning, thinking, strategizing, organizing, facilitating.... to make a single day happen. And it's all in the quiet of our heads and hearts. Our kids have no clue what we do to make their world go round. But, we don't do it for the thank you. Moments like this one I captured of Meg and her sweet baby girl,  are what I live for in this job. I see this image and I see how lovely Meg is. I don't know the story she carries in her heart. I don't what she has survived or conquered. I do know that she's beautiful and full of love. And then my next thought is, "I hope Meg sees what I see. I hope she sees how lovely she is." 

 

I know how hard it is to see ourselves as lovely. I battle this as well. Life circumstances or even the day's circumstances sometimes communicate a different message to us about who we are and what we're worth. It's my hope that with all that I've overcome and continue to learn as a result, I will be able to use my camera and a 1 hour session to show you mothers and maybe even remind you fathers of the precious beauty that mommas hold. We are life givers. We are worth a little positive thinking and even celebrating. 

If you've forgotten that you are precious, if you've forgotten that there is still beauty left inside you that is worth being seen, l'd love to remind you. Throw on a dress, grab your kids and come to the mountains with me. Or come to the beach or the park down the street... Just come with me anywhere and let's document what's true: You are lovely and lovable. You are soft and strong. You are fierce and beautiful. 

Freitas Family in Montaña de Oro

All the heart eyes for the Freitas family. Baby Logan is a dream in his little bow tie! I adore this sweet family and so honored that they joined me for a beach session last week. The weather was everything we could have asked for. Montaña de Oro is my favorite beach, there's nothing like it really. When the coast meets the lush green hills, it's perfection. 

Cactus + Blossoms, Senior Photos with Trinity | Visalia California

She's so vibrant and lovely! The blossoms couldn't have been more perfect to capture Trinity's jovial personality. I love this season of life... Young, vibrant, adventurous... So much to do and learn and explore. All my best wishes to you Trinity, you're a lovely human and the world is lucky to have you!

Adventures With Alyvia | Senior Photos Three Rivers California

Alyvia is a gem! She called me in hopes to go somewhere adventurous and capture her free spirit for senior portraits. She brought a killer suede  jacket, a beautiful smile and we went to work. It was most definitely a memorable day. Not just because Alyvia is incredibly beautiful.... We were serenaded by a transient with a boom box blasting jazz music who took one look at her and was clearly in love, I dropped my phone in the river, Alyvia didn't hesitate to jump in for it, and I'm pretty sure she needed a damn good pedicure after this session because she literally frolicked around the hills and rocks bare foot for 2 hours. I love days like this. There's something next level beautiful about a young women who knows who she is and knows her worth. You can see it in these photos. It's magical. 

Organize Your Family Photos... you're welcome.

Hey mom's and new wives... This is a digital world we live in. You need this I just know it.

Here's a few ideas on how to keep your photos safe and organized. 

  • Store them on an external hard drive that you keep in a safe place not just your computer. This will save your computer's storage. I just bought a new one on Amazon and with Prime I got it the same day. 
  • Back them up virtually. Check out this guide to choosing a back up site. 
  • Keep your folders organized. That could be by date, by holiday, by event... Tittle it so you know where to look for what you need. Then organize those folders by year. 
  • Every time you export photos from your camera or phone, put them in the correct folder on your hard drive and then immediately back it up. 
  • Take the time to print your photos. Prints, albums, canvases, what ever, just print them! Mpix.com is the place to do that at the best price with the best quality. I recently started making it easier on my clients and am offering print ready galleries of your photo sessions. You click the link to your images and follow the prompts to order prints at cost. Now there's no excuse not to order prints of your photos. I also love Artifact Uprising for more boutique type products. Don't forget to print your Instagram photos. Instagram is the highlight reel of our lives. We post the best and most memorable stuff on there. Make books of them because Instagram could very well end up like My Space and be laughed at and forgotten one day along with all your sweet filtered photos ;) Check out the Mpix App to print from your phone. 
  • Start albums or boxes of prints for your kids. Wouldn't it be amazing to gift them their whole life in print one day!? 
  • When you print them, store them just like you do the digital copies. Categorized and in a safe place. Photo boxes, photo albums.... Many print labs make wooden boxes for your photos. 

There's a million questions you could ask with in each of these ideas, depending on your tech knowledge and organizational skills. If you need more help, feel free to ask! I'm happy to help. 

Kennedy McClain | Visalia California Senior Portrait Session | Visalia Lifestyle Photography

She is as lovely on the inside as she is on the outside. She's the daughter every mother dreams their little girl will grow to be. It was a privilege to capture that in a few photographs. 

Kennedy McClain...

Carly and Mark... together forever | Central Valley California Engagement Session | Visalia Wedding and Lifestyle Photography

Together forever, that's what we sign up for when we say yes to marriage. It's not an easy road but it's a good road. If you asked me how the H... two imperfect people can even do that I'd tell you this... Love well and be lovable. Respect and be respectable. Do this, and you'll be golden. 

These two say yes to forever this fall. I'm excited for their adventure together. 

x- kel