Hi! I'm Kelly Manno, a photographer based out of St. Louis Missouri. I started this blog back in 2006 to document my weekly photography adventures and before I knew it...people were actually reading it. Check back often for a peek at recent sessions or a funny story about my kids. If you would like to learn more about my photography services, visit my Kelly Manno Photography website.
Thanks for stopping by.

May 17, 2015

~ There is a last time for everything ~

Remember, in parenting, there is a last time for everything. There will come a time when you will feed your baby for the very last time. They will fall asleep on you after a long day and it will be the last time you hold them sleeping. One day you will carry them on your hip, or over your shoulder, then set them down and never pick them up again. The thing is, you won't even know it's the last time until there are no more times, and even then, it will take you a while to realize. So while you are living in these times remember there are only so many of them ahead, and when they are gone you will yearn for just one more day of them.  For one last time.  - Author Unknown

It was our first year of marriage when I walked into our living room and found my new husband crying on the couch. I started to feel numb when I asked him what was wrong, just dreading whatever terrible news he was about to deliver. He pointed to the television where Entertainment Tonight was doing a reunion special on "The Golden Girls"...insert a few minutes of genuine confusion until I accepted that my new husband was indeed crying over a Goldens Girls reunion.  I think I threw a pillow at him for scaring the hell out of me and then instantly started making fun of him.  

In his defense, it was a special on the oldest Golden Girl who was battling dementia, so it was indeed sad, but still, who the hell cries over a Golden Girls reunion? Apparently my new husband.

From then on out we've always declared him the more emotional one in the marriage.  He wears it proudly, clearly outcrying me when all 3 babies were born, and when we buried our family dog. 

It's not like I have a heart of stone, I do cry once in a while, but my brain is wired wrong and I cry when I'm mad instead of sad. 

So imagine my suprise last week at Libby Lu's pre-school graduation when I lost my sh*t.  Like, really lost it.  And just like the beautiful words above said...I didn't even see it coming...  

"The thing is, you won't even know it's the last time until there are no more times, and even then, it will take you a while to realize"

My baby graduated from pre-school and it snuck up on me like a snake in the grass. Maybe because I've been so busy celebrating...gloating even, that I'm this close to having all 3 kids in school...all day.   

I've been invisioning my days ahead...lying on the couch, still in my pajamas, reading a book, watching Wendy Williams in peace and quiet while eating Cheetos that I don't have to share. My house is clean because there isn't anyone home to mess it up. Maybe I'll go to the grocery store by myself, paint my nails and actually let them dry, take a shower that lasts longer than 3 minutes, hopefully I remember how to shave my legs?
(Peace Sign & Duck face from the stage is the universal sign in our family for "I see you mom")

But when last Wednesday rolled around the only thing that was on my mind was getting her to the graduation ceremony on time, and not on "Manno time."  We were in a hurry, as always, put away the dogs, lock up the house...we had to take separate cars because we were going separate places afterwards, had to find Rocky a ride to baseball, and oh crap we need to make a pit stop to get her some flowers. 

We made it right on time- I rushed her into the back room of the church where her awesome teachers were waiting with her cap and gown.  I started getting her dressed, which wasn't an easy feat. The gown was white and not ours to keep, and she was wearing lipgloss and mascara so we had to be gentle, but her gigantic Manno-size head wouldn't fit in the freaking neck hole and the zipper was stuck.  It eventually gave way.  But then I had to squeeze her big melon into a cap that said "one size fits all," which might as well say "This will not fit a Manno-size head."  It was so tight it pushed her eyebrows down like Bert from sesame street.  But who cares! She was dressed! Success! Time to join my family in the sanctuary and enjoy the program.  

I stepped back to see her head-to-toe and admire my hard work.

It didn't really hit me until that moment what she would look like in her little cap and gown. Of course she struck a pose, tilting her head so those curls just billowed down her shoulder and a big smile crept across her face. She took my breath away. Literally. And with zero warnings, the floodgates opened. Like a tsunami from my stomach straight to stinging in the back of my eyes as I nearly bit a hole in my lip trying to stop the ugly cry from coming. 
I thought I composed myself enough to join my family in the sanctuary, but judging from the looks on their faces I didn't do it well. I tried to talk but only baby dinosaur noises came out. 

All I could think about was how ridiculous I looked to the other parents, they were emotional too but I was the only one nearly dry heaving in the pew. a

Even my mom was like, "Kelly pull yourself together!" and I vaguely remember Aunt Patti taking a picture of me crying with her phone-LOL

Luckily I remembered I had gotten a spray tan a few hours earlier and didn't want to streak it, so that helped me suck it up.  The kids started singing.  At some point in between songs I caught my husband's attention and mouthed the words "I want more babies," and he mouthed back, "No I just bought you a pig."
I don't really have a pretty bow to tie on the end of this post.  My babies are growing up, it's really hard, and I just wanted to say it out loud. Thanks for letting me share. 

But I'll end with a cute moment from her ceremony.  Enjoy the shaky cell phone video. Sure, it's cute that she answers "A bear," but I'm more proud of the Beavis and Butthead moment she has once she sits down with her friends... "Huh, huh...I said Bear!"

May 11, 2015

~ Luci's talent show ~

When the flyer came home for the school talent show, I knew she would want to do it.  I suggested a duet with her Dad and she agreed.  Somewhere along the way Rocky got added in too.  But then her ideas started to grow...and grow...and before I knew it I was asking a Vietnamese tailor - who spoke very little english - to cut a dress completley in half, and ordering confetti cannons on Amazon.
As I moused over "add to cart" and clicked, I was fairly certain I'd be the only parent bringing confetti cannons to the school talent show and I was okay with that.

A little much? Yes.  Over the top? Yes.  

But I make no apologies for my parenting, or encouraging her shenanigans. 

Look, truth be told, she asked for fireworks, people.  I talked her down to confetti.  And I only talked her down to confetti because pyrotechnics are a fire hazard.  If I thought the fire marshall would have allowed it I would have lit up that gym like the 4th of July...but I digress. 

Kids are born with wings to fly, just like the birds in the sky, and the last person who is going to clip her little wings will be me. 

You should have seen her eyes light up as she brainstormed the songs she wanted to use, practiced her choreography in the mirror, and kicked in her own money from the family garage sale to buy the dress.  Sometimes I have to remind myself she is only 7 years old, because she has more ambition than half the grown ups I know. 

This is the same kid that asked for her own rap video for her birthday last summer, and if I could make that happen with my white, non-rapping family members I was pretty sure I could help her pull this off. 

There are 2 things you should know before you watch the video. 

1. Her microphone stopped working halfway into her song...I know it's nature to want to squirm for her, but I promise she had it handled the whole time. Luci is a pro and it takes much more than microphone malfunction to throw her off. 

2. The video is terrible. You can't even see Rocky, who plays both the snare drum AND saxophone plus acted as her hype-man.  So you'll have to just listen for him because he is very talented. You can't see my husband do his outfit change alongside her, which I heard included a hairy belly flash to the audience. You also can't see the 12 other streamer cannons that went off at the end.  I tried to hire someone to film this for me and it didn't work out. The lenses I have for shooting weddings (primes) are not conducive to shooting stuff with my kids and I'm making changes to that as we speak.  I feel terrible that I didn't do a better job for her, but without further ado, here is my girl: 
She was absolutely adorable.  All the kids were adorable.  The courage those kiddos had up on stage was nothing short of amazing. I smiled and cheered through every act. Even the teachers got in on the action with a funny skit; it was probably my favorite night of the entire school year. 

She ended up winning 2nd place.  Her prize was $10 cash and a huge bag of M&M's, she also earned herself a pitstop at Dairy Queen on the way home to get a cookie dough blizzard with extra cookie dough.

Last year she signed with a talent agency.  She is learning so much, not just about the commercial and print world, but about life.  For every job she books there are at least 6 or 7 she was turned down for, but she never lets it get her down, she just keeps going. 
Beautiful headshots by Elizabeth Wiseman   
Part of me wants her to stay little forever, and part of me can't wait to see the fun things God has up His sleeve for her.  Sometimes I swear the sun gets a little brighter anywhere she is, or maybe that's just because she's mine. 

May 4, 2015

~ Kelly and David ~ Baby on the way...

To the rest of St. Louis he's the hunky captain of our hockey team. But to her, he's something different.  He's the boy who sat across the room from her in kindergarten, the guy who asked her to the high school prom, and the man who asked her to be his wife, and soon the father of their baby.  And yes, their love is just as adorable as it sounds. 
High school sweethearts doing this journey called life together.  She's a free spirit, earth loving, hippie-at-heart beauty, and he beats the crap out of people for a living. But they make it work in the most adorable fashion you've ever seen. 

Just when you thought you couldn't like them any more... you learn of their heart for animal welfare.  You may remember Kelly famously bringing home stray dogs from the Olympics in Sochi. They have 4 rescue dogs themselves and run an incredible organization Athletes for Animals.  You will be hearing more from me about their organization in the coming year. These two move mountains together for animal welfare and I want to be there to help them.  
They're waiting until the birth to find out if it's a boy or a girl, but they both have the same hunch.  If this baby is anything like it's parents I can promise you he/she will have 3 things.  Great height, beautiful blue eyes, and a heart of gold.  Thank you Kelly and David, not just for your business, but mainly for making me look so dang cool in front of my sons hockey buddies :)  Can't wait to meet the baby!

April 13, 2015

~ Spring Training with the St. Louis Cardinals ~

Earlier this year I had one of the coolest opportunities of my career.  I was invited to spring training to be on the production team shooting the new Homers for Health campaign commercials with the St. Louis Cardinals.
I was so excited and grateful to have this cool opportunity; I was on cloud 9.  I didn't think things could get much better until the next day.  I got a second phone call that said "Hey, can Rocky come too? We want him to be in one of the commercials with the Cardinals!"  
Most of you know Rocky was a very sick baby when he was born.  He was in intensive care at Cardinal Glennon hospital for 2 weeks.  He was given a 50% chance of survival and after having a stroke at 3 days old they were unsure if he would have lasting brain damage.

As you can tell by the photo above, Rocky grew to be a perfectly healthy 10 year old boy who loves hockey and baseball, and spends his spare time coming up with new ways to irritate his sisters.  
He is a great success story for Cardinal Glennon, and they've used him before in brochures, billboards, etc., so he is used to doing fun stuff...but when Rose said "We want him to throw out the first pitch at a game and be in a commercial with the Cardinals," I nearly fell over in the grocery store.  It seemed like I blinked and we were on a plane heading to Jupiter Florida.
On game day we were just hanging around waiting for them to announce his first pitch and some very nice man with credentials hanging around his neck walked up and said "Hey kid, come hang out in the dugout with us." I wish I could have seen the look on Jimmy's and my face.  As grown ups, we understand far more how cool of an experience that is than he does. 
Rocky smiled real big and trotted down the steps into the dugout like he was supposed to be there.  Truth be told, he knows some of the players pretty well.  I've been working for Homers for Health for 3 years, and aside from that I'm also the lead photographer for Mike Matheny's charity foundation.  So Rocky thinks it's pretty normal to hang out with the Cardinals,  but dude, hanging out in a dugout before a game goes far beyond any strings that Mom can pull.

Jayon Hayward is new to the team, so Rocky didn't know him.  As a matter of fact, Rocky walked right by him twice without asking for an autograph.  Jason Heyward is a stud, and has an opportunity to do really big things for us this year, so we really wanted Rocky to get his autograph.  My husband and I had to look like those crazy beauty pageant parents who jump around behind the judges' table making facial expressions at their daughters, because we were jumping and frantically waving at Rocky.  I started doing sign language for him, holding up two fingers, "22...22..." mouthing as clearly as I could, "Get....Number.....22's.....Autograph!" - And he finally understood what the heck we were saying.  Heyward is a big freaking dude...huge.  Rocky's face says it all. 

I've gotta be honest.  This whole day I was a bundle of nerves.  I didn't know if I was more nervous about the actual commercial work I had to do later that day, or if I was nervous for Rocky throwing out the first pitch, but the whole day was a blur.

So now it's time for the first pitch. It's not everyday your 10 year old throws a pitch in front of a bench of his heroes and a packed stadium.  I was just praying he didn't throw it in the dirt, or not make it to the plate; you know, something that would embarrass him.  But I never should have doubted him for a second.  He sailed a strike right down the middle...all the way from the regulation mound! 

Once that was over I could feel the relief for a moment but then it was time for the real work.  We had to shoot 5 commercials in 3 hours.  I was the assistant to the lead photographer/videographer, shooting a second camera for b-roll footage.  Since I was a lower man on the totem pole I didn't have any real pressure on me, but I still wanted to do a good job.

I'm sure I'm suppose to be listening in this photo, it looks like they are talking about something important, but when you see your husband taking your photo from the stands you gotta cheese out for minute.  LOL  Even though I've been working with these players for 3 years I will never for a second pretend like it's not a big deal, because it is to me.  I will always be geeked out and humbled to hang with these guys and I will always count my blessings that this is what I get to do for a living. 

I'm a natural born leader, being the boss is in my blood.  However on this shoot I was not the director, not the producer, and certainly no the boss.  My job was to be quiet, work hard, move production along and shoot video. Until it came time to cover a topic I'm and expert at...80's dance moves.

There was a line in the commercial for Trevor Rosenthal to say "Stop.  Hammer Time," and his instruction was to"do an 80's dance." - However, Trevor was born in 1990.  He delivered his line on cue and went into this awful hip swivel - it was like half Elvis and half swatting off a swarm of bees-either way it wasn't pretty... I knew I had to speak up so I just yelled  "CUT!" - 

"I can't let you do that on television," I said.  "Please let me teach you an 80's dance."  I literally handed my camera off to someone and taught Trevor the running man.  For the record, Adam Wainwright knew the running man as well, so he helped too.  Together we at least got him on the right track.   Later that night I called my mom to tell her about the shoot, what was your favorite part she asked? "I taught our closing pitcher the running man" I said, with a big smile on my face. 

Dance moves aside my real job was running the constant b-roll camera, so most of my footage got turned into the blooper real where you can see Trevor proudly showing off his new dance moves.  

And yes, working with these guys is just as fun as it looks. 

And finally, here is Rocky's commercial.  I am so proud of him.  It will be airing all Spring. 

Please take a moment to check out the Homers for Health website and consider making a donation.  Every bit helps. These players and this organization work their butts off for the kids. But they can't do it with out great donors like you. 

February 12, 2015

Watch this band nail the "Back to the Future" dance scene.

My husband picks up his ringing phone "Hello?" - "I'm gonna need a DeLorean!!!"  I blurt out as fast as a I can.   These kind of random conversations no longer surprise him, he just gets to work and find me a DeLorean. 

Let's back up.  My husband manages a band, Clockwork. Who are starting to get some serious national attention and radio play.  They've got really big things in their future and we love and support them 100%.   

So we were at one of their gigs in the fall when they debuted a new song they'd been working on.  It was called "Long Way Down" - now, I love all of Clockwork's music.  But this song was different, it sounded different. It had this cool throwback vibe and sounded like something The Beatles would have written.  It lit a creative fire in me I knew couldn't put out. 

As soon as they walked off stage and were loading gear into the van - I probably said 20 times "We have to do a video for that new song, We have to do a video for that new song!" I sounded like a broken record telling everyone who would listen. 

It was one of those nights where I literally couldn't sleep because I had so many ideas spinning in my head.  My husband and I brainstormed together over the next few days and came up with a concept that fit the song perfectly. 

We wanted to re-create the "Enchanment Under the Sea" dance from Back to the Future.

I mean, how kick ass would that be?  We knew the perfect venue in the city we could rent and started making the initial calls to see if we could pull it off.  Once we were confident we could, the next step was selling the boys. Not only would this be a big project, but 2 of these 3 are still teenagers and most of them hadn't even SEEN the movie. 
But one slumber party later they all watched the movie and came back with a giant YES!  And before I knew it, I was producing my very first music video!  I went to school for radio and television production and I was so excited to be on a set again.  We already had a great director on board so it was time for my husband and I get to work and make our storyboard a reality. 

Production is a long and tedious job, but we got to work immediately.  We started with costume shopping. 
Then on a cold day in November we turned the Casa Loma Ballroom into the 
Enchantment Under The Sea Dance!!!  
No detail was left untouched, it was gorgeous.  Seeing it in real life, I felt like I had given birth to a blue sparkly baby! All of the Clockwork family and friends jumped to help.  From the props, set design, to feeding the entire production crew.  It was a team effort from beginning to end, from a group of people who love these 3 boys to the end of the earth and back. 
The rest of that day is a blur now...but I think we shot for somewhere between 12-14 hours? These dancers were freaking champs. 

Our kids were with us nearly the whole time.  Let's just say they were a little late to school the next day :)  But how many times do you get to say your did your homework on the set of a music video???  
I took the girls home a little early, but Rocky stayed the whole time. I think they wrapped at 3am. He actually got to assist the director, who was giving him jobs so he felt like part of the crew, he was totally in his element.
 I feel like every cool experience we give them is like planting a little creative seed in their head to help them decide what they want to do with their life when they're grown ups. They know what doctors, mailmen, teachers, and other professionals do, but do they really know what film directors do?  They do now :)

First, here is a little behind the scenes peek of filming day. 

...and here it is!  The final product!  My very first produced music video!  I hope you love it, I hope you share it, and I hope you check their website (www.clockworkmusic.net), follow them on Facebook, and tell people about Clockwork, especially your teenagers. In a world of Nicki Minaj and Miley Cyrus the radio airwaves could use a little more Clockwork.  They write all their own songs and they have been doing this together since they were 13 and 14 years old.  No one works harder than these boys and their family, and they deserve every single bit of success that comes their way.  Support local music!  

Like the song?  Check them out on Spotify - "Clockwork - Not meant for the dark" - if you want to know my personal faves from the record check out these 5 first. 

1. All Right
2. Flaming June
3. We Stood Tall
4. Soul to Save
5. Long Way Down

Add them to your playlist today so you can love them as much as I do :)