Souvenirs aren't just for kids


Souvenirs aren't just for kids...they're for us too.

I believe passionately in supporting small and local shops in every town we visit if possible and especially when we've been fortunate enough to enjoy our stay. When I think of souvenirs the first thing that comes to mind are key chains and magnets that I know I'll want to toss in the garbage in less than a week, so I've come up with my own strategy.

I offer to buy our kids a bag of 'local candy or ice cream' and I buy a souvenir that fulfills a need! That way my purchase will have longevity because who really has money to burn? I won't have buyers remorse and I'll be reminded of the fun we had from whatever town that souvenir originated. The last souvenir I bought for myself was this colorful dishtowel in a print I've not seen in any big stores at home. I love it, and every time I see it hanging there I think of the hours I spent running in the ocean with my kids, and the cute boutique it came from. 

This colorful dishtowel came from the town of Port Gamble, Washington and is handmade in the U.S.A.

"You don't have to be a badass, just get off your ass and get out there"


One of the best quotes I've read lately was from Heather, on her Instagram account @hdavis2220 who said:

"You don't have to be a badass, just get off your ass and get out there"

That is one of my favorite lines, and the motto we adhere to in our house. My husband and I don't always know what we're doing or how we're supposed to do it when it comes to family adventures, so we try to learn as we go by asking a lot of questions and reading as much as we can find before we take off.  REI has been our go-to for questions about gear, especially when we found an employee who was also a parent of small kids. We utilize the website a lot, using their hike finder as well as reading the most current trip reports especially in the winter. Instagram has also been a nice resource to actually SEE what the destinations look like.

Our pictures may have people fooled, but seriously, we're just trying to get out there and make memories. We cringe at some of the stupid mistakes we've made in the past as we tried to venture out beyond our comfort zones in nature, but over the course of time we continue to learn, and grow, and make amazing memories for our family.

No bathing suits, no problem.
(Mirror Lake, Washington)

Gear does not have to cost a fortune...clearance parkas from REI, $40 snowshoes from Costco, $10 sled from drug store, and a school backpack stuffed with essentials. Definitely not badass, but it got the job done.
(snow shoe/ski trail near Lake Kachess, Washington)

I suppose I would call this post, 'a call to action' in the hope that it motivates some other family, who isn't quite sure they're badass enough. Remember that quote above; "you don't have to be a badass, just get off your ass and get out there". You can do it.

Washington Trails Association website has a great hike finder so that you can set parameters to find the best hike or trail for you. It also is full of members who regularly login to share recent trips on each trail and the corresponding conditions of the trail as well as current photos. This is extremely helpful during the winter and spring months. Look in your state for sites like this.

REI offers a ton of free classes, July 30th - 31st. Look here to find some in your area:
>> REI Outdoor classes

Buy the gear you want when it's OFF SEASON

Costco is a great resource for affordable seasonal gear.

Online community resources:
Take a look at a few of my favorite Instagram accounts that focus on family getting outside and offer practical and fun tips on how to do it and where to go. Click through to where the featured photo comes from and that will connect you to even more people who are on this same outdoor journey!





P R I N T your images & write your child's story


I promise that it will give you more joy than you imagine to see your photos in print, like we all used to do "in the olden days".

I come from a long line of paper lovers and picture takers, so it feels natural for me to print our photos and even go a step further to document the memories we make. It's especially important to me to put these memories in my kids baby albums. I jot down a few details, I don't stress about times and dates, I just want them to be able to hear my voice and to reinforce their memories and how loved they are.

This is my youngest child's book and because he had by far the most fun on the day in these photos, I had to throw them into his book! Now, get  P R I N T I N G!!!

How to be present for your kids


If you're a parent, a human parent, then you know that sometimes its really hard to simply "be present". I don't plan to preach now or even pretend to have the answer or cure all to be consistently present for my children, or for you to be for yours. I do however want to share something that each of my kids have articulated to me in their own way this year.

One message came in written format, a mother's day card.
Another message came in a sleepy voice explaining their favorite part of this day as I was putting that child to bed, and the last message came from a small, innocent voice commanding me while holding my face in both of his hands...

"play with me"

The mother's day card read:
"I love it when __________" And written was: "my mom plays with me"

As I tucked one child in for bed I asked what their favorite part of the day was.
"I loved it when you played with me in the water and we were splashing each other"

And then there's my child who can't pretend or be coy, he just impulsively has to blurt out whatever thought he has in that moment. "Mom! Play with me"

Ugh. It tugged at my heart to hear them each say these words. They're not sophisticated enough to have somehow conspired to drive this point home to me, but in the end, they sure did. The reality is, I have tons of things to get done every day, and I don't particularly like playing "hot wheels" any more than I want to play "club penguin" or hear another, longggg story about Star Wars. Most days, what I really want to do is hide in the bathtub with a hot latte and cruise Pinterest for an hour, uniterrupted.

I know I'm not the only parent who feels this way. I don't have any answers to shout from the mountain tops, but I'm taking a moment today to humbly share some of the experience I have from raising my kids for the last 12 years. This message hit me hard when I heard it three times. I'm not a slow learner, usually, but I do need reminding. So today I am sharing this thought with you, and the photo that sparked the memory for me that I need to be present for my kids, in the way that they want me to be.

Be Present. 

Helpful Links:
If you want to read more articles that offer advice on ways to be more present, I've googled them already, because that's what a guilt ridden mom does. Let me save you the time, here are a few good write ups.

12 ways to be present for your child

Calm Mom

5 ways to be present with your kids this year

How to be present

Don't forget to // TURN // your polarizing filter


A polarizing filter for me, is like having a secret weapon when photographing in the hours of direct sun, especially when I'm near water. Since I don't have much time for retouching photos, I try to get my images as good as possible in the moment. 

I find that we are often in the direct sunlight and near water, so I've got to have my polarizing filter on to get images like the one above. But, there's one thing that I must remember...turn! 

Polarizing filters are threaded onto the end of the lens and are meant to be turned so that we can cut down on the glare - however - if its in the wrong position it can turn your photo into exactly what you don't want. So, the lesson is...don't forget to check the filter when you move to a different angle or position! Turn, turn, turn, until you see what you want.

Here's the difference:

(left) before I turned the filter     ||    (right) after I positioned it to maximize the true color
There's a misconception that a polarizing filter is for darkening images taken in the sun, but that's not exactly accurate. You may need to click up one or two on your exposure, but it's actually intended to sort out the sun's rays and is particularly magical at increasing saturation.

Cambridge In Colour  has an extensive explanation of polarizing filters as well as before and afters illustrating the work of this amazing filter.

Tip: you don't have to spend much and the reward will be well worth it.
Amazon listings for filters here >> Amazon
B & H listings for filters here >>  B & H

Good Luck!

Do you pose your kids for photos?


I get asked all the time whether or not I pose my kids for the photos I take.


Unless it's for our Christmas card (and even then...I try not to) I don't have the patience to attempt such a task, nor do I think it will ever give me the true emotions that I'm trying so hard to capture. What I've learned from taking pictures of my own kids over the years, is that its best if I'm behind the scenes, stalking them like a cougar on the prowl. If they sense my presence or even get a whiff of my intentions all I get is cheesy, toothy smiles, or worse...glares.

I was ready for that smile above. After pretending to be disinterested in the farm (to his dismay)...I had turned my camera on, light balanced and was ready for his reaction to feeding a goat for the first time. Jackpot. True excitement and genuine joy.

My advice to the parents who've humbled me with compliments and who are genuinely trying to take better photos of their kids, is this: use your instinct to predict what your child is about to do! You know them best. Nine times out of ten, I bet you know exactly when they'll give up that money shot.
And remember, a perfect photo does not necessarily mean crystal clear, all hairs in place - that's not going to make you as happy as capturing true emotion. Don't stress...have fun with the process and work on that stealthy mode.

these guys were taking an intentional new year's photo like we always do, a tradition, but the little guy wasn't having it and in their efforts to get him interested, the best picture of all came to life - I don't care if one of them is faceless, look at the fun!

Remember: Prep your camera ahead of time and be ready *before* the moment, rather than scrambling as its happening. Good luck!

by mlekoshi