~ Big kids need pictures too ~

It seems like when our kids are little we run ourselves ragged trying to capture milestones and have current family photos on our walls. But then they become teenagers, and you rarely see them. Or when you do cross their path they're some kind of hormonal monster with two heads and you never know which one you're gonna get.

Maybe I'm exaggerating, a little :) These kids don't seem so terrible.

The point is, I love when families reach out to me to capture family photos of their big kids. It's likely the last time you will capture their family in it's original form, before it starts expanding, with spouses and children.

This particular family is very special to me, the Momma-Bear, Kaysie, is a brilliant Kindergarten teacher who is about to be 3-for-3 teaching the Manno kids. Bless her heart.
Sending your first child to Kindergarten is scary as hell, it just is. I remember going to orientation feeling like I was white-knuckling the whole thing.

And then this adorable woman walked in the room.  She had a cute haircut, a sweet soft voice and a twinkle in her eye.  She looked like a Kindergarten teacher....she sounded like Kindergarten teacher... if I looked in the dictionary under "Kindergarten teacher" they should have her photo next to it. I thought to myself "This woman is perfect" - I've hit the Kindergarten teacher jackpot!!!!
And the kids love her too. You know in Disney movies when the princess walks out into the forest and starts singing and all the animals flock to her and land in her lap. Yeah, it's pretty much like that.

I think about 2 months into teaching Rocky, I think I actually threatened the poor woman. Something along the lines of "You are not allowed to retire, quit, or switch schools until all 3 of my kids have had you for Kindergarten, got it?"
She laughed and assured me she wasn't going anywhere. She will make good on that promise in August when Libby Lu starts kindergarten. 

She and her husband have some celebrating to do this year as they celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary. Jim is a police officer. Marriages in which one of the partners is in law enforcement  have an extremely high rate of divorce. You have to fight harder than anyone else. But these two make it look easy. We are so proud of you guys, congratulations Kaysie and Jim. 
I will be forever grateful that I've had this awesome woman in my life to take my babies under her wing for their first year of school. I'm also pretty fond of her adorable family who have become great friends with our family as well. The Manno's love you guys and we are so happy to have you in our lives.
This one needs to go above the fireplace. The End.

~ Katie and Bobby ~ Rah, Rah, Sis-boom-bah!

I really, really dislike meteorologists. I think most photographers secretly do, because we know how often they are wrong. Like when they say on the 5'clock news that the severe weather won't come our way until after 10 o'clock. Then suddenly at your 7pm engagement session the sky turns green, the tornado sirens go off, and it starts to pour....Good Times!

As a bonus, if your name is Kelly Manno you send your clients home to beat the storm...only to rush to your own car and realize your locked your keys inside. That's right, locked my keys, in the car, in a tornado warning, with a bag full of thousands of dollars of gear on my back. Luckily there was a nearby hospital who let me hang out in their hallway for 2 hours until roadside assistance would come. 
About a week later, and a $57 dollar roadside assitance fee later, we met up again to finish our shoot. A place where it all started for Katie and Bobby, McKendree College.

As if these weren't already a-freaking-dorable. Wait until your hear their love story. 
They were assigned as stunt partners on their college competitive cheerleading team.  Seriously, how cute is that? It's like the movie "The Cutting Edge" without the ice skates. When they told me about their love story I knew we had to incorporate some stunts in our shoot.  They nailed it.

Little do they know I expect them to bust out a full pyramid with their bridal party next year! LOL....kidding...maybe :)

~ The anatomy of a viral video~ The T.J. Oshie crying girl...

Well, here it is. 

You know I couldn't have my daughter in the middle of a viral video storm and not tell you guys about it, so here it goes.

I'll start with this. My daughter and husband were on ESPN last Sunday morning. She yawned 3 times and fell off the chair, it was pretty spectacular. Oh, and T.J. Oshie has a pool, with a diving board.

Libby Lu is our youngest child, she is 5 years old.  She is a beautiful little tornado of a child who never has a problem expressing how she feels.  If she is happy, everyone knows it.  If she is sad, everyone knows it, and if she is mad, everyone knows it. 

They say it happens fast, these viral videos.  That you upload something for your family to see, and before you know it half a million people have seen it...and until it happens, you don't realize that by "fast" they mean like, 60 minutes.  Crazy fast.

Using my phone to record a Libby Lu meltdown is nothing new in our house, especially if the meltdown is about something ridiculous.  I send the videos to my husband at work frequently- they break up the monotony of his day at the office and reminds him that I'm a freaking warrior at home dealing with these 3 little fartknockers. 

Friday afternoon was no different. I could hear a fight brewing in the other room between Libby Lu and her brother Rocky over the Xbox. Around that time my husband texted me the news that T.J. Oshie had been traded from the Blues. 

That's pretty big news in our house. We love sports, especially hockey and baseball. 

With 3 kids of different ages and interests under one roof, sports is the one thing we can all sit down and watch together.  

We love making sports memories with our kids. We don't take many vacations, instead opt to spend any extra money on things like the Cardinals home opener, or Blues playoff tickets. 

T.J. Oshie has been the beating heart of our St. Louis Blues for a long time, and a big favorite of our kids, so news that he had been traded was going to be rough.

I was actually walking in the room to deliver the Oshie news to our son, Rocky. He didn't take the Albert Pujols news very well a few years ago so I was trying to deliver it gracefully.  But Rocky didn't even have time to react because the moment I got out the sentence, "The Blues traded T.J. Oshie," his sister was already wailing behind me. 

She ran in her bedroom, slammed the door and locked it.  I went to the kitchen to grab a butterknife, and used it to pick the lock.  I found her in her closet, her place of choice when she is mad. I tried to calm her down for a minute, but she was just being ridiculous- she shut the closet door in my face and nothing I was saying was calming her down. So I started filming it for her Dad at work, and this is what that video looked like. 

Now, I'm a smart girl...I knew the video was funny.  I knew it would be popular on Facebook, and I know enough people in local media I thought maybe, if it was a slow news day, she'd make it in the sports portion of Fox 2 news.  

Nothing could have possibly prepared me for the next couple of hours. 

Around 4:30pm Friday I uploaded the video online, tagged my husband on Facebook and headed off to my son's 6pm baseball game.

By the time we were pulling in the parking lot of the fields, my friend Jodie called me to say some news outlets had it on their websites.  By the top of the 4th inning I had an email from ESPN asking me to call them right away. By the time the game was over, she was everywhere.

Her Aunt Patti was babysitting her at home and it was about time for the 9:00 news to come on... "Turn off all the TV's," I texted to Patti, but she was way ahead of me.

By the time I got home, her little crying face in the closet had become synonymous with 
the T.J. Oshie trade.  

When I got home I was so overwhelmed.  I looked at my phone and all of those emails and requests, turned off my ringer, took a melatonin and went to bed with Libby Lu in my arms.  The next morning was bonkers.

Sports Illustrated, NBC sports, The Daily Mail in London, Yahoo Sports, you name it...there she was. Normally this would be a homerun for the Manno's, we never shy away from the spotlight. We're both outgoing people, we think stuff like this is a lot of fun. But this wasn't us, it was our daughter and that was a completely different feeling.   

Along with any viral video or interesting story comes a lot of opinions.  In case you didn't already know before this experience, if you want to find the slimiest, lowest on the totem pole, scum of the earth, bottom of the barrel people, just read the comments under any news stories, especially if it involves a child. You will hit the dirtball jackpot. 

There were some mean comments about me, which were predictable and lame.  And I've been brushing off stuff like that in nearly every career I've had. But there were also some uncalled for comments about her.

The good and sweet comments heavily outweighed the bad and nasty.  But I have a big strong family that loves us a lot and some of the mean comments were starting to really bother them. I think my Aunt Linda was actually sharpening a shank in her living room but I talked her off the ledge. LOL 

We kept a low profile the rest of the weekend, but in the end, we decided to do one media interview and that was because the interview request came straight from Mr. Oshie himself.  I figured we were the ones who drug poor T.J. into this, and he has such a big heart. As a Dad himself, I knew he wanted to know that she was okay.  And if the Capitals want him to wrap it up with a pretty little bow in the media by giving her a phone call, the least we could do is grant the interview.

I knew immediately that I was not going on camera.  Professionally, I thought it would be a terrible move for me.  I work with a lot of professional athletes- several of the Blues players are clients of mine- and I work alongside the St. Louis Cardinals all the time.  Some of these athletes aren't just my clients but my friends, so I certainly wasn't going to ham it up on SportsCenter pimping out my 5 year old trophy child.  

But my husband sure as hell would.  Heck, what little boy doesn't dream of being on SportsCenter his whole life?  He was pretty pumped up, he's the biggest hockey fan in the house, at some point I think I actually asked him out loud NOT to hold her up like the Lion King baby on SportsCenter.

I explained beforehand to the nice folks at ESPN that Libby Lu is shy and doesn't talk on the phone well.  They assured me nothing was expected of her.  She could sit in silence, stare into space, or pick her nose- it didn't matter to them. 

In the end, the interview was equal parts of adorable, awkward, and awesome.  Libby Lu and T.J. Oshie won over the hearts of America and it was good to see some people out there still had nice things to say on the internet. 

She was trending on Twitter and Facebook all morning- people turned her name into a hashtag #LibbyLu - Speaking of her name, there were A LOT of comments about it, which kept me laughing for sure.

Her reward for doing the interview was a trip to Target and a Peppa Pig DVD. She spent all afternoon being a well deserved couch potato and watching it. 

She still has no idea that she was a viral video star.  She's been recognized in public twice, but people have been very kind and respectful and approached us not her. I don't even think she realizes the SportsCenter thing was actually on television, and everything is pretty much back to normal.

But she DOES know that she talked to T.J. Oshie on the phone and she is very proud of it. 

Here is a link the full interview.

As St. Louis continues to buzz about the T.J. Oshie trade I will put in my final 2 cents.  I'm far from a hockey expert but I know enough to have a conversation about it. 

We should have kept him. We just lost a very smart hockey player.  He was adored by his teammates, his town, and he put butts in the seats.  People who didn't know a thing about hockey would come to watch him play.  Sometimes a player's contribution to a team can't be measured on paper.  We should have kept him. Washington Capitals you got yourselves a class act. Your community will love him just as much as his teammates will. 

I'll leave you with my absolute favorite T.J. Oshie clip, the look on his face when they chant his name says it all, I feel like we watched him grow up. Good Luck OSH! We will miss you. 

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