~ Baby Evy 9 months old...and Baby Cameron on his way ~

My sweet baby Evy is getting so big.  I've been taking her photos since she was a newborn.  Her Mom and Dad have faithfully hired me every 3 months of her first year being sure not to miss a moment.  She is so lovable, we have big plans to get her and Libby Lu together for a playdate sometime soon.

Next meet Kim, or as she is known in the Manno household "Mimmy" - Mimmy was Luci's gymnastics teacher and our whole family just fell in love with her.   She and Gene are going to welcome a baby boy in just a few weeks and we are thrilled for her!

~ Vendors I Love ~ SISTERS FLOWERS

I am starting a new feature on my blog where I spotlight other vendors in the wedding business to serve as a resource for my brides.   Being in this business nearly 7 years I have had the opportunity to work with some really phenomenal people.   

When it comes to floral arrangements on your wedding day Sisters Flowers is some of the best in the business.  Last week they whipped up this beautiful Spring Bouquet for a styled shoot I was working.   

Here we are one full week later and these flowers still sit on my kitchen table as if I just picked them up.    I have worked with Sisters Flowers several times over the past few years and their professionalism and gorgeous bouquets never disappoint.  

If you would like to learn more about Sisters Flowers and possible use them for your big day Click HERE to be directed to their website.

~ Engagement Fun ~

When I was in High School we had a Varsity baseball coach, "Coach Depew" - Wherever Coach Depew went,  his 2 little blonde head kids followed, one boy, one girl.   They were with him all the time.  The little girl was adorable, I remember playing with her in the hallways because I was a Pom-Pom girl and she loved to watch us practice.  She was the cutest little kid ever.  Her name was Sam, now she is all grown up and getting married to her high school sweetheart and I am thrilled to be her wedding photographer :)   ...and yes I realize that story makes me sound like a dinosaur

I also have the pleasure of shooting Dennis and Heathers wedding later this year!  Thankfully Dennis is a skilled boy scout because we were able to trek into the woods of Faust Park and avoid any poison ivy :)  They also happen to have some of the sweetest, well-behaved dogs ever.

~ Flashlights...check! Bananas...check! Helmets...check! ~

I've lived in the midwest long enough to see some pretty wicked weather.  I've seen homes flattened to a pile of wood, I've seen hail the size of tennis balls and I've seen the sky turn green...yes completely green.  

So tornado warnings are nothing new for us, we know the drill and we have a finished basement.  So when the sirens sound, we go down stairs and play for half an hour, keeping one eye on the TV until we get the "all clear" to head back up.  No big deal.

But something about Friday night was different. Even the tone of the voices coming from the weathermen were different- they meant business.  
Photo courtesy of my iphone in the pitch black

I am so humbly grateful for my life and the things I have- because I really do have it all.  I have a fantastic husband that I actually like...yes we all love our husbands, but I actually like mine as well.  I have younger, fairly healthy parents who devote every ounce of their time and energy to their grandbabies.  I have 3 dynamite kids who keep my world spinning.  I have a job that makes me want to do cartwheels, friends who let me cry and laugh with them, and a warm cozy house that always feels like home.

Sure, sometimes I wish I could lose 30 pounds, or had a bigger house.  I've always wished I could sing really well, and I would give anything to be just a few inches taller.  Sometimes I'm jealous of the earthy girl with smart glasses, drinking her frappe, wearing a cardigan, and engulfed in a novel at Starbucks...  because I will never be her.  I'm the girl in her husband's boxer shorts watching Jersey Shore and eating Cookie Dough straight from the package.  There are all sorts of things in life I will never be or never have, but let's face it...all of those things are trivial-  the major things in my life are in place.  Perfectly.  So perfectly that I find myself tip-toeing around just waiting for the rug to be pulled out from underneath me...for something horrible to blindside me on some random Tuesday and change my life forever.

Friday night, I thought for just a moment... this might be it...the moment the rug is pulled.

The tornado sirens blared, and we ushered the little ones into the basement where they started to play.  There were instant reports of a tornado on ground and headed our way.  I just assumed it would turn and go somewhere else, but as they continued to track this tornado we seemed smack dab in it's path.

The weatherman would mention our city name and countdown, "It's 10 minutes away, it's 7 minutes away, take shelter immediately." I wasn't panicking at all, but I felt the need to do "something," so I ran upstairs, grabbing whatever seemed logical at the time.  For me, that was: 3 helmets, 3 bananas, 2 bottles of water, a fire extinguisher, and all of our phones.  Oh, and then I sent my husband back up for my camera gear.   :)

We were still hanging out in the basement watching the news when they said "A large tornado has just ripped through Bridgeton, causing massive damage, and it's headed Northeast at 50 miles an hour.  My husband and I didn't have to say a word, we knew exactly what the other one was thinking.  We are 3 miles from Bridgeton and were right in the path of this SOB. 

At that exact moment, our power went out, the basement was jet black, and you could not see your hand in front of your face...which meant we no longer had information from the TV telling us where the tornado was.

There was nothing to do but wait in the darkness.  Wait for this monster to come destroy our sweet little house we've spent years making a home.

Trying to find 3 freaked out kids in the pitch black isn't easy...but we did.  I rushed them into the bathroom and started strapping on helmets like a mad woman.  So here we were, in the basement, in the bathroom, with helmets on our heads.  Overkill?  Probably.  But I don't do anything on a small scale, I have a flair for the dramatic.

I was trying to keep things light-hearted for the kids, they were scared...well, except for Libby Lu, who had no clue what was going on.  She just learned how to walk, so she still hobbles around high stepping like a 2 foot tall drunk.  Her helmet was too big and kept covering her eyes- she would walk straight into the wall and then fall on her back with her little feet straight in the air, while the other kids would laugh hysterically.  Once she knew she had an audience, she did it over and over.

No TV, no lights, no power, and last I heard there was a monster tornado 3 miles from my house and headed our way.  As I sit there looking at my kids, who look ridiculous in their helmets, and Luci, who was already eating our "Emergency Bananas," I couldn't help but think:  What if this is it?  The day the rug is pulled?  What if our house is completely destroyed, or worse, one of us are injured or killed?  What if this is the day my life is turned upside-down forever?

I was counting every minute that went by.  I knew if 8-10 minutes went by and we didn't get hit, it likely passed us. I kept thinking...any second...it's going to hit us...any second...any second...it's pitch black...how will anyone find us....they say it sounds like a train...was that a train....or was it thunder.....any second....any second...

But a good 10-15 minutes passed, and we were fine. We emerged upstairs to check out the damage to our house, and there was none.  Our entire neighborhood was unscathed, like nothing ever happened. But we didn't have to drive far to see the devastation, it barely missed us.

The St. Louis community has been rattled.  That sucker left a 22 mile path of destruction.  There is disaster and broken hearts everywhere you look, but by the Grace of God, not one single person was killed.

Being a mother can be painfully hard when it comes to worry.  We protect these babies with every fiber we have as if we are in control.  We strap on helmets in tornados, chop up grapes and hot-dogs, stay at the birthday swimming party even though moms are free to leave.

And these same babies that we protect with all our might may grow up one day and jump out of airplanes, or race their snowboard down a black diamond mountain.

I try to remind myself that I am not alone,  that other Mommies worry, right?  I may have been the only mother strapping helmets to her childrens heads during a tornado, but we're all crazy in our own way right?

We are all in this together.  The only thing we can do is enjoy every good day we have, don't worry so much about the rug beneath your feet, use it to catch your fall.  Stand firm on it and show it who's boss.

Oh...and Happy Easter, from the Manno kids....minus the helmets.

~ Thinking outside the Box ~

I love when families give me a chance to be creative.  Donna is a friend of mine, she is also my "brain sister,"  because we think so much alike it's scary. 

So when it was time for her family photos I thought "You know...there is no rule that family photos have to be in a park.  If anyone is going to let me try something different it's Donna!"  With her two hip little boys, I knew we could make an urban setting work.  She was totally game and showed up with her cute little family wearing matching Chuck Taylors... girlfriend knew just want I was thinking ;)

Look at little Roman, his big brown eyes are to die for and this photo makes me swoon....what a little stud.  He will be such a heartbreaker one day.  Definitely one of my favorite photos I've ever taken of him.

We did head over to a park for the last few minutes of the session because Milo is only 7 months, and and we needed a safe place for him to roll around and get on the floor for some photos.
So now...I present to you.... Mommy & Milo in the grass- WAY too many cute ones for me to pick so I am just going to post a bunch of them because I love them all.

The family that looks like they should come in the picture frames you buy at Target.

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