Welcome Rebecca Danzenbaker: Guest Blogger and Family Photographer Extraordinaire!

I’m honored to be the guest blogger on Michelle Renee Photography’s blog today! Check out my tips for taking better photos of your children. 🙂

Michelle Renee Photography Blog

Here in Virginia, our kiddos returned to school today.  It’s hard to believe that summer is already coming to a close.  I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a little bit sad to see it go.  That being said, I also have to admit that I’m super excited about what lies ahead…cooler weather, football games, Disney, the holiday season, Nolan’s first birthday, and did I already mention Disney?  Yes?  Just checking.  I’m sure you have your own reasons for looking forward to the next several months, and if you are anything like me, I’m sure that many of those reasons have to do with your families and how you will spend time together.  From apple-picking and hayrides to amusement parks and Halloween, families often spend the fall engaging in activities together.  Having fun together.  Making memories together.  And let’s be honest!  Who hasn’t wanted to bottle up one…

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What a Wonderful World

I feel like I cry all the time now.  Granted, it happens more at a certain time of the month and likely my constant sleep-deficit contributes to it, but almost daily, I tear up a little.  I can probably trace it back to when I became pregnant for the first time.  That’s when life became a little more meaningful and all of my worries and stressors were multiplied.  I would be driving down the street and think, “What if my husband gets in an accident on the way home, and I’m left a widow and my children, fatherless.”  Or I’ll freak out over all of the things that I need to squeeze into a day or a week and become completely overwhelmed.  Or I’ll start to feel guilty for not being the Best Mom In The World for reason #3,454,234.

Those tears are pretty rare, though.  The ones that come more frequently are ones of happiness, wonder and gratitude.  I am one lucky woman.  I have THE Most Incredible Family and THE Most Incredible Friends a person could ask for, topped with a husband who guides and supports my decisions and helps me to stay grounded.

I saw an elderly couple walking down the street this weekend with canes in hand.  They were keeping slow, perfect step with one another, and I started imagining all of the things they must have lived through together.  How they probably had children and watched them grow up. .. the places they’ve seen and people they’ve met, the stories they could tell… I thought how much I would love to hear their story and how much I want to grow old alongside my husband.

None of us knows what tomorrow will bring, but I’m lucky that I get to record a bit of people’s pasts.  I am truly honored by the people who choose me to document a part of their history.   I imagine them showing their photos to their own children and grandchildren and telling stories about their families by remembering those perfect moments.  I count my clients and fans among my many blessings, and so I thought it was time that I say thank you!

This is my biggest contest yet!  I have partnered with two of my friends, who also run their own businesses, to bring you a prize package worth over $400!  But the best part is that you can win up to $100 in prints for a future OR a previous session just for entering and asking your friends to vote on your photo!

The details of the contest can be found on my Facebook page.

In the meantime, let me introduce you to my friends’ businesses.  My dear friend, Janelle Petti, has recently begun to sell Shaklee products.  I hadn’t even heard of Shaklee until a year ago (though they’ve been around for over 50 years), and I am now a huge fan of their products.  They are simply amazing!  My favorites are the Cinch shakes, which are just perfect for a quick, healthy and tasty breakfast when I’m running late in the morning, and their cleaning products, which are completely organic and are used in the White House.  My husband takes their vitamins and power drinks, which are also used by the US Olympic team.

Janelle will be contributing this $115 Get Clean Kit, which is one of Oprah’s “Favorite Things” and was featured on Rachel Ray.

Visit Janelle’s Shaklee store to learn more about the products.  I highly recommend the Shaklee membership, which gives you a great discount on products and a super sample pack of their stuff.

Another dear friend, Jen Kundrod, started a Mary Kay business last year and has been rocking it!  I have been to two Mary Kay parties, and was a little hesitant going into the first not knowing what to expect, but had a blast!  Jen will be giving away a $100 gift certificate for Mary Kay products as well as a pampering session for you and up to five of your friends.  You will love this!  It’s so rare to take time these days to have fun with your friends and feel beautiful, but we all work so hard and deserve it!  Please take a moment to visit her Facebook page and click “like” to stay in the know on her many specials.  You can also browse her store here: www.marykay.com/jenkundrod to plan out how you’ll spend your $100!

I will be giving away a $200 gift certificate to be used on prints and other products following your photography session.  But the best part is that everyone who enters is guaranteed to receive a $25 gift certificate from me ($35 if you enter a photo that I took of your family), plus you can add an additional $5 to that certificate for every 10 votes you get, up to a total value of $100!  The gift certificate can be used on a previous session, too! (current pricing applies)

So don’t delay!  Enter the contest and win all of these great prizes or, at a minimum, get a gift certificate to spend on prints that you can share with your family for generations to come.

Speaking of sharing photos, I’m way far behind on blogging my sessions, so look for another post, hopefully later this week, with some photos of the Gates family!

Sisters

I know it’s a month past Christmas, but I thought I’d go ahead and share that one of my own personal holiday traditions is that I always sit down by myself every year and watch White Christmas while I wrap gifts (promptly followed by Holiday Inn because I have so many gifts to wrap… and I usually stop to watch all of the musical numbers).  The second song in White Christmas is called “Sisters,” and it’s pretty funny, especially when Bing and Danny Kaye lip sync it later.

The song makes me think about my own two sisters.  We are very close in age (all born within three years), and my younger sister and I shared a room until my older sister went to college, which made us very close (many times too close for comfort!).

Here we are circa 1979.  Strange that my hair looks almost the same now.  (God bless that photographer.  Tracy looks like she was about to jump out of the shot.)

I am so grateful for my two sisters –  my oldest, Karen, whom I always admired growing up for her fashion sense and knowledge of the world awaiting me, and my youngest, Tracy, whom I always envied for her searing wit and sense of humor.  I wish that I was able to see them more often, but I can always count on their support and love when I need them, which is such a gift.

Here are some photos that I took recently of two very cute sisters, Annie and Sophie (and their little brother – not pictured here, but who is in many other cute photos!), on an incredibly chilly morning in DC.  I chose to extract just the sister photos for this post because they exhibited such a beautiful bond that reminded me of what I feel for my own sisters.

These photos use the “Purple Grunge” texture from French Kiss Textures, and I love how it goes so well with their adorable Matilda Jane dresses!

By the way, if you haven’t yet entered my contest for a free photo shoot (I’m giving away TWO), you still have time to do so!  Click here to enter!  Winners will be selected on Sunday evening, February 5th!

With a Little Help from My Friends

My son, Chase, has been having a rough time at school. Over the past couple of weeks, his teacher has told us that though he’s very bright, Chase has been shouting out and isn’t following directions. Then, on Friday, his teacher called me at lunch time and said he had pinched a child and written in another child’s library book. Then, she called again that afternoon and said that he had scratched a different boy at the very end of the day. I can’t tell you how out of character this is for my son. I don’t remember him hurting another child in all of preschool, and he’s always made friends and played so well with others.

I was so shocked by the first call that I sat in the office where I took the call with tears running down my cheeks until I could pull myself together.

The questions kept mounting… Where was this coming from? What changed? What can we do to fix this? Will he be held back? Did we start him in Kindergarten too early? And my worries turned more personal… Will other parents, who we’re just starting to get to know, think my child is a trouble-maker and not want to invite him over? Will we be ostracized?

On Saturday afternoon, I met with the Heinzer family for a photo shoot. They are at the same preschool Chase went to, and Chase is great friends with their son, Jacob. Seeing them brought on so much nostalgia for the good ol’ days and more doubt in what was already a tough and much-debated decision to go ahead and start Chase in Kindergarten this year (his birthday is at the end of August). However, it was also a welcome relief to talk to Missy about how they’ve been doing, catch her up on what Chase has been getting himself into, and lose myself for a couple of hours in photography…

Aren’t they a beautiful family? I miss seeing them so much, and am excited for my daughter to start preschool there in three weeks so that we’ll run into them more!

So back to Chase… during the second call with his teacher on Friday, we discussed some options for modifying behavior with a reward system, and Saturday morning, we started a sticker chart at home for “Good Decisions” to almost immediate results. He had some set-backs on Tuesday, but it was the day after Halloween so I’m hoping that’s an anomaly. Otherwise, he has been exceptionally and astonishingly well-behaved and even-tempered – at least here at home. His teacher said on Monday that he did much better that day, and yesterday, he brought home a completed reward sheet, so I’m looking forward to his Friday report, though still with some anxiety.

I’m so grateful that I have such wonderful friends to talk with about these things, who don’t think I’m a bad parent, and who are willing to brainstorm with me. I’m not going to fool myself that this is the last of it. I know it’s only been a few days, but I’m more and more of the belief that with with the help of so many people who believe in him and us, as parents, he’s going to be okay (at least until he’s a preteen???).