Making Mom and Dad proud

Posted: December 7th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Family, Parenting, Photography, Windowsill Photography | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Most times, when someone contacts me for a portrait session, they want to get some new pictures of their young kids, commemorate an upcoming birthday or, most recently, get some photos for their holiday cards. Elaine, on the other hand, had something different in mind. Her daughter is about to embark on her new career with the United States Air Force, and she wanted to get some family pictures done before Rachel headed off to basic training. Needless to say, I was honored and excited to be a part of such a memorable moment in this family’s life.

So I headed out to their house and had a great time with Elaine, her husband and two grown kids. This weather has been fantastic and led to some great shots around their property. It was a real treat to be able to watch them interact with each other, and you could tell they were all extremely proud of Rachel.

Good luck, Rachel! Hope you guys all enjoy this preview!

Forty years and counting

Posted: August 6th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Couples, Family, Little Ones, Parenting, Photography, Windowsill Photography | 1 Comment »

Forty years…wow. Ann and Stan celebrated their Ruby Anniversary in style this summer, surrounded by their children and grandchildren at their beautiful house on Lake Charlevoix in northern Michigan, and I was fortunate enough to spend an evening with this growing family a couple weeks ago. After raising Sarah, Jared and Julie, Ann and Stan now get to enjoy the company of their three incredible grandkids while their own children do all the parenting work. After 40 years, they’ve earned it!

We were blessed with a beautiful Saturday evening for the shoot, moving from their backyard down to the beach and then out onto their private dock. What a setting! The kids held up well through all my clicking, although we may have pushed toddler Brady to his limit by the end of the shoot. Thanks to the entire family for letting me take part in such a great milestone in your lives, and for your incredible hospitality. And, most of all, congrats to Ann and Stan!

A whole lot of family fun

Posted: June 20th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Family, Little Ones, Parenting, Photography, Windowsill Photography | No Comments »

I first met Evgenia last summer during a quick shoot at her Mom and Dad’s house in Columbus. Little Evya was just shy of her first birthday, and she definitely made me work for the few smiles she gave me, but we had a blast as she bounced around from Mom and Dad in her adorable sun dress. She wasn’t able to walk yet, but as you can tell from the photo I included at the bottom of this post, those first steps clearly were just around the corner.

Twelve months later, I had a chance to see just how much Evya has grown. I have three kids of my own but sometimes you forget how quickly they sprout up, and how much happens in a calendar year. She was motoring around her grandparents’ backyard a couple weeks ago with her little stuffed bunny, showing off her growing vocabulary while I did my best to keep up with my camera in hand. One thing hadn’t changed, though: Evya again made me work for those smiles. But the wait was well worth it each time she gave me one.

We had a great time with Evgenia, Mom and Dad, her grandparents and her aunt. I can only imagine how much she’ll have changed the next time I try to get her to smile. I just hope I can still keep up with her!

Give the birthday boy a winner

Posted: March 12th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Family, Features, Parenting, Photo essays, Photography, Sports, Writing | Tags: , | No Comments »

I’m convinced that Child Services will come charging into my house someday soon. They’ll pound on my door early one morning after a concerned neighbor tips them off, and they’ll rescue my children from the horror they’ve endured throughout their young lives.

I’m raising my kids as Cleveland sports fans, and as a lifelong fan myself, I’m certain that qualifies as child abuse. I’m just waiting for someone to haul my parents away for the torture I’ve endured while rooting for these teams my whole life.

The list of traumatic experiences I’ve witnessed during my time as a loyal Browns, Indians and Cavaliers fan is extensive and evolving, with the latest addition coming courtesy of a certain basketball player who took his gigantic ego to South Beach a couple years ago. So why would I knowingly expose my children to the same heartache and misery? Because I’m an optimist, and even after all these years, I have faith that the tide will turn in Cleveland. I’m just hoping it happens in time for my kids to experience the joy of rooting for a winner, and the excitement that comes with watching your team score a monumental touchdown, hit that memorable walk-off homer or win the biggest game of the season.

Unfortunately, I’m starting to fear that they may not get that chance. Not because our teams won’t ever be good again, but because they haven’t been good enough, long enough, to pull my kids in and earn their loyalty.

This guy needs a winner. So does his old man.

My youngest, Eliot, turned three today. He may be my last hope. My daughter is nine and, while she enjoys playing soccer and has a passing interest when the Browns are on TV, she already knows the drill. “The Browns always lose,” she told my wife and me last season. She had a point. My other son will be six this summer, and he’s about as interested in sports as he is in reading the dictionary. I learned early that you can’t force it.

Then there’s Eliot, who loves wearing his Browns and Indians hats, and who got excited yesterday when I told him baseball season would be starting soon. I think he shows an interest because my wife and I are both big sports fans, but I’m just thrilled we have a shot with him. If our teams don’t give him something to root for and someone to believe in, though, that chance may fizzle long before he’s truly hooked.

I know, there are so many things in life that are so much more important than sports. I didn’t used to think that, but it’s amazing how naturally and categorically your priorities change when you start paying bills and having kids. Still, fathers (and mothers) have been bonding with their children over sports for decades, and while it’s easy to become cynical in this age of me-first, multi-millionaire, multi-felonious athletes and billionaire owners who wring your wallet dry as soon as you walk into their luxurious new stadiums, these are still, fundamentally, the games we grew up loving.

I remember going to my first baseball games and being hypnotized by the rhythm of the game and the sights and sounds that you can only experience in the stadium. I remember freezing my little butt off watching the Browns go to battle with the Steelers in old Municipal Stadium, and I remember singing “Bernie, Bernie!” whenever the song parody came on WMMS during their ’80s heydays. Of course, I also remember watching Michael Jordan single-handedly devastate a city with “The Shot” over Craig Ehlo, and I remember how quiet a room full of rabid Browns fans suddenly got when John Elway ripped our hearts out in 1987 and when Earnest Byner fumbled away our Super Bowl dreams one year later.

Those were heartbreaking moments, no doubt, moments from which the city’s fans have arguably never fully recovered. But at least those teams were playing for something. Those teams captured my 10-year-old imagination and helped instill in me a belief that we are always “thisclose” to finally winning it all. If Jordan’s shot clangs off the back rim…if just one of those Elway passes falls incomplete…if Byner can hang on to the ball for one more second…if Charlie Nagy’s glove was an inch longer in the 1997 World Series….

I’d prefer my kids have happier memories of their childhood sports teams, but above all else, I just want them to care. I want them to be excited when Spring Training starts every year, and to count down the days until the next Browns game. I want to pass that kind of passion on to them, and have them tell their kids about all the games they watched with their old man when they were growing up.

Please don’t turn my son into a NASCAR fan!

So please — Mike Holmgren, Randy Lerner, Chris Antonetti, Larry Dolan, Chris Grant, Dan Gilbert, Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy — I don’t care who it is, but could one of you please get it right? Could one of you build something that my kids can latch on to? Could one of you prove to them that Cleveland sports teams are capable of winning big games, and sustaining that success for more than a year or three?

For his birthday, could one of you show Eliot just how much fun it is to be a true, loyal and eternally optimistic sports fan? His dad — and his mom, and his grandparents, and his great-grandparents, his aunts, uncles and cousins, and maybe even his older brother and sister — would forever be grateful.

Growing up with Emma

Posted: March 9th, 2012 | Author: | Filed under: Family, Features, Parenting, Photo essays, Photography, Writing | Tags: , | 3 Comments »

Growing up, adult friends and family members would tell me how my birthdays made them feel old. I never really understood that until my wife and I had kids of our own. My little girl turns nine today, and I’ve already told her that this is as far as I’m willing to go. No double digits, please, because once 10 hits, then 13, 16 and 18 aren’t far behind, and then there’s college, weddings, grandkids and adult diapers for grandpa. Wow, I feel old.

But this post isn’t about me; it’s about Emma, the girl who turned my world on its ear nine years ago. Actually, Emma changed my life before she was even born. From the moment we learned that Mandy was pregnant, I began examining my life with a much different eye than I ever had before. What kind of father was I going to be? What kind of example was I going to set for her? I lost 40 pounds in those nine months (the exact opposite of sympathy weight, to my wife’s chagrin) and stopped biting my nails. I started eating better and tried to improve my productivity at work. I figured kids naturally look up to their parents, but I wanted my kids to have a reason to do so.

That desire to be better for my children has grown over these nine years as Emma’s two younger brothers have joined our family, but it all started with the blue-eyed angel who introduced herself to Mandy and me on March 9, 2003. I secretly had been pulling for a son, as I think many first-time fathers do. Come on, we’re guys – we don’t know anything about little girls, and I was more than a little intimidated by the thought of trying to raise a daughter. I was bound to screw up anyway as a new dad, but by my thinking, the chance of colossal failure shot through the roof if we had a girl.

Then we had a girl. And suddenly, I was a different person. Of course, your children change you no matter their gender, but there’s something uniquely special about the father-daughter relationship, something you have no way of preparing yourself for, and something that you can only fully understand and appreciate when you have a daughter. I love all of my children, obviously, but I’ve grown to cherish my relationship with Emma as I’ve begun to recognize the differences between my connection with my sons and my connection with her. We are all very close, but in different ways. She’s Daddy’s Little Girl, and she always will be. Even when she’s bringing my grandkids over for a visit at the old folks’ home.

Emma amazes Mandy and me every day. She’s a wonderfully creative person who loves playing the piano and writing stories, and she’s intensely curious and inquisitive. She’s kind, considerate, thoughtful and respectful, but strong-willed and stubborn at the same time. She also has an amazingly big heart with an endless supply of love for everyone in her life, and she’s particularly devoted to her baby brother Eliot. She and I share a passion for music – the Beatles are her favorite band, which makes me smile – and she’s already caught the photography bug, which is only appropriate since she was my very first muse when I bought my first digital camera shortly after she was born. I’m so proud of the person she’s already become, and I can’t wait to see what all she accomplishes in life and where her creative spirit and passion will take her along the way.

Happy birthday to my little girl, even if you aren’t so little anymore.

Love, Dad


Below are a few of my favorite photos of Emma throughout the years. Press play to see all the photos, or click the thumbnails to see individual shots.