Fall Family Sessions

How beautiful are these people? KerberFamily-8 Seriously?

Once in a while, friends will ask me to take some family photos. And I jump at the chance, because I get to document moments like these:Nguyen CollageAnd these:KerberFamily

KerberFamily-3That pregnant belly above is now a precious baby girl, born today! Happy birthday Little One! You are blessed with such an amazing family!

Speaking of families I love:KerberFamily-2-2Amanda and her crew are so, ridiculously photogenic! Kerber collageKerberFamily-5KerberFamily-7Anyone else in the area need some fall family shots? I am loving this beautiful fall sunshine. Not to mention the super cute subjects… KerberFamily-10 KerberFamily-11

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The Real Truth About Blogging and Vacations

2015-09-06_201446073_D1D18_iOSHere’s the funny thing about blogging:

You only see what I want you to see. And for the most part, those are good things. Sometimes they’re hard things, but usually what I reveal, and what I want to remember is the good and the beautiful.

But the danger in that is preserving a false memory, and a false perception of who we are. I’m often intimidated by other Mommy Bloggers who seemingly have their world in completely organized, beautiful control.

That is not my life.

That is far from my truth.

And just in case your life is messy chaos too, just in case you also take a million bad photos for every good one, and you’re looking for a glimpse of reality, let me explain how our Newport Vacation actually went (lest the pretty photos deceive you):

Reality Upon arrival, we decided a short (0.5 mile) hike into the beach would be a great idea. Afterwards we could hike out, check-in at our hotel and go to 5:30 Vigil Mass. Great theory.Reality-2 Reality: kids didn’t nap, barely ate lunch, stopped to look at every.single.thing along the trail resulting in a 45 minute hike to the beach, at which point everyone melted down due to lack of said nap and food.

2015-09-05_220517850_DC2E9_iOSSo, we had screaming, hungry kids, covered in sand (at least one absolutely afraid of the water), and Mass time was quickly approaching. Oh, and the car was a hike away. So, I (stupidly) hiked back through the now distinctly creepy woods ALONE to go get the van while Andy built sandcastles and calmed melt-downs.

Reality-3 Reality-4I wasn’t mugged. Andy got the kids to the road. They all screamed as we loaded them into the van. I shot nervous glances to onlookers that I hoped conveyed, “Don’t worry, these are actually my children, and I do know what I’m doing.”

We got to the hotel and quickly realized we were booked in the wrong room.

Suite? Yes!

Suite with a door so that we could technically have 2 rooms? No.

But it did have a giant jacuzzi tub in the middle, which might as well be labeled: Certain DROWNING Device to any Mother of a toddler.

2015-09-06_154844287_F9BF6_iOSThe room was changed, we peeled off sandy clothes, rinsed down sandy babies and booked it to Mass…

Where we were the ONLY family there, read: the only noisy people there. We didn’t get angry looks, and an older gentleman even stopped by afterwards to chat. I couldn’t really hear what he was saying over my screaming 17 month old, but I think it was something about our family being beautiful. Then I picked up a million crayons and cheerios off the floor before we finally headed to dinner.

Every time we went out to eat, my kids were those kids. The ones other patrons stare at with condescension and judging eyes. Yes, the kids were over tired. Yes, the kids were extra hungry. Yes, there were valid reasons for them to be screaming, and running around, and extra whiny. But it was still embarrassing. Andy and I chose to laugh, because if we had added to the crying, I think the check would have come even more quickly than it already did.

Anyone else get that sometimes? The not so subtle, I’m sure you don’t want dessert, so here’s your check. Feel free to leave whenever you like (aka now).

2015-09-06_035846848_DF38A_iOSSaturday night, the fire alarm went off in our hotel at 1am. There’s no better way to figure out what’s important to you than a potential life-threatening emergency.

Kids? Check.

Ok then, we’re out of here.

I left behind my purse, my clothes, even the fancy, full-frame, Nikon DSLR Andy rented for me to play with while vacationing. I barely remembered to put pants on. But, I had my baby in my arms and my 5 year old by the hand. My husband carried Lulu, and we fled down three flights of stairs as quickly as we could (he had the presence of mind to grab his keys and wallet… my always-prepared, Eagle Scout, Handy Andy comes through for his family again!).

My confused and tired children were so brave. Mo had one moment of tearful panic at the top of the stairs as she desperately tried to both cover her ears against the blaring alarm and sleepily navigate the steps. But one calm, collected, “It’s ok baby, trust me. We need to go as quickly as we can” from her Mama and we were on the move again.

Someone burnt popcorn in the lobby microwave.

Reality-7The next day, my well-rested kiddos and their well-rested parents (ha ha ha) headed to the Newport Aquarium for a day filled of wonder and amusement. Also, a day full of “Mo suddenly has laryngitis”, sea otter poop (see above), Reality-5 all the grumpy melt downs, and the constant battle between parents wanting to both see cool things and show their kids cool things.

It sounds like this:2015-09-06_200052423_31632_iOS

“Lulu, if you wait for just another 2 minutes, the zoo trainers will come out to feed the sea lions.”
“I want to see sharks!”
“I know baby, but I would really like to see the sea lions, can we wait here for a couple minutes?”
“The sharks are that way!”
“We’ll see the sharks later, Love. I promise. The sea lions are soooo neat! I bet they will do tricks!”
“Love, we’re here to see what Mommy wants to see too. So, you can either speak to me with respect or go to time out.”
Tears welling, “I just want to see the sharks, Mama…”

Gah! So much negotiation! About EVERYTHING. What to see, where to eat, what to eat, how to walk, what to buy, where to go and when to go… We try to let them make decisions. It’s a hard balance though, between us respecting their freedom and them respecting our authority…

Reality-9Rogue Brewery for dinner was mostly a success, barring the usual screaming from Dominic. And the drunk adults telling Mo to toss her frisbee into the river after dinner… Come on people. Really? (She didn’t. Smart girl)

Reality-10Lulu refused to wear a sweater on the pier where we went to watch the people crabbing (Crabbers?). Then she wore my sweater when she realized she was cold. Then demanded that the sweater be taken off when she realized she didn’t know what she wanted (aka was deliriously over tired).

Bath/bed time came with its usual amount of fussing and yelling and screaming. Although this time with the added pressure of knowing our neighbors could hear everything.

We’re never staying in another hotel again (that’s probably a lie).

Andy and I laid down on the bed, deciding to hold still for a couple minutes to make sure the kids were asleep before we started a movie or board game, or something uniquely grown-up-y. We were on vacation too, right?

We woke up 3 hours later in our clothes with the lights still on… Party animals right there!

Reality-6Lulu’s eye had started to water a bit at the aquarium, and we thought it was left over from the sandiness of Saturday.


Pink eye.

That became super clear when both she and Mo had crusted-shut eyeballs Monday morning.

2015-09-07_145816325_FA06E_iOSSo, breakfast in the room, everything the girls had touched into a specific suitcase labeled “CONTAMINATED with the WORST THING EVER!” and the kids stared at the TV, watching PBS till their eyes watered. Pink eye. Everywhere.

But at least they weren’t touching anything.

I happened to have an eye drop prescription in the car from the last time they caught this scourge. I made a, perhaps not completely medically sound, decision and started them on the ancient antibiotic drops right away.

Their eyeballs didn’t turn more red or swell shut, so I considered it a success.

Reality-12We had already bought a weekend pass to Yaquina Bay Lighthouse, and though the kids are too short to go on the tour, the natural area there is called “outstanding” (for realz, as in the Yaquina Head Outstanding Natural Area). So, we decided to at least drive up to the light house and let the kids run around in nature (not touching anything) before we headed home.

I read at the visitors center “Yellow jacket danger especially high this year,” but the writing was old and a little smudged so I assumed it didn’t apply. I mean, we were on vacation. It couldn’t possibly apply to us. Right?


When we exited the van Monday morning to see the lighthouse, the yellow jackets immediately descended. Several swarmed each kid, even flying between Dom and Andy, who was holding him. Things that sting are not Andy’s favorite, so I valiantly defended our family, smacking the little buggers left and right with my hat and being calm and collected, “RUN GIRLS! RUN FOR THE LIGHTHOUSE!”.

I can only imagine what that looked like from a distance.

“Why didn’t you just leave Caitlin?”

Good question, hypothetical reader.


Reality-13We were on vacation! Dang it! And we WERE going to see the lighthouse. And we WERE going to have a good time! Pink eye and yellow jackets be darned!

I was definitely thinking different words…

2015-09-07_172322392_80968_iOSThey didn’t follow us. And we did have a good time. And I did get to play with the fancy camera. Although there were a lot of bad photos.

Learning curve.

Reality-11And then we left.

2015-09-07_175720704_EF014_iOSAnd we drove, and we breathed, and I called in another antibiotic prescription to be waiting when we got home, and we tried to do anything besides rub our pyschosomatical-ly itching eyes.

We got home, burned everything, and moved away.2015-09-07_160727545_83388_iOS

Just kidding.

Kind of. We used bleach instead of fire, an by “we” I mean Andy. Because he is awesome like that.

And we didn’t move away.

Because we’re staying home. Forever.

Reality-8The End.

Seriously though, I didn’t write this to complain (although I’ll take sympathy if you’ve got it to give). And I know it could have been much worse (e.g. barf, the hotel burning down, ER visit, actually getting stung by a yellow jacket). This is just an effort to give you a real glimpse into our lives. A not-so-picture-perfect view.

The previous post, showing us having fun, is true. All those smiling moments actually happened. And, disease aside, I truly enjoyed vacationing with my family. I bet we even do more in the future.

But this post is truth too, written for you and written for me.

10 years from now, sleep deprivation will have erased all the hard memories (I hope) and I’ll be looking back through posts with great pictures of my adorable babies and I’ll wonder why I ever thought life with toddlers was difficult.

Exhibit A: The Newport Family Vacation of 2015

Just keepin it real, Future Caitlin.

Keeping it all real.

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Wordless (Newport Vacation) Weekend

Newport Newport-2 Newport-3 Newport-4 Newport-5 Newport-6 Newport-7 Newport-8 Newport-9 Newport-10 Newport-11 Newport-12 Newport-13 Newport-14

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Recently, there have been many, many babies born to our friends and family.

I’ve had the privilege of photographing some of those precious little ones, and it has been an absolute joy!

In order to keep you from suffering acute shock due to adorableness, I’ll split my favorites into a couple posts.

Baby Henry (Bonus Eleanor and David)Bestof-3-3 Bestof-5 Bestof-2-3

Baby Thomas Bestof-4 Bestof-2-2 Bestof-3-2

Baby Stella (Bonus Maya)Bestof-3 Bestof-2 Bestof

I try to take photos within the first 9 days, and it is truly an honor to be invited into that sacred, brand-new time.

I’m trying to distract myself from the fact that tomorrow is Mo’s second day of kindergartenBestof-6 Bestof-7

And Lulu’s first day of preschoolBestof-8 Bestof-9

Looking at other people’s babies is helping a little. Although it’s making me think maybe it’s time to have another one…?

I alternate crying over my current children, with ovary-leaping due to the potential for more…

I’m one serious mess…

Send chocolate.

Or a milkshake.

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Guardian of my Heart Pieces

2015-09-01_144215897_5BD36_iOSA funny thing happened today on the way to Kindergarten.

2015-09-01_144230540_0DA62_iOSMo became a Big Girl.

Yeah…weird. I know.

And not in like a, Wow! I can’t believe we’re driving to kindergarten. She’s five! She’s so big. Because she is, truly, still so little.

2015-09-01_165319796_58AB0_iOSIt’s just that there were two moments so poignant and grace-filled, I was completely caught off guard…

As we were driving, just she and I, to the very special, very first, half-day of school where parents stay with the kids (which I suspect is more for the grownups than the kiddos), Mo and I were playing eye-spy. She suddenly got a goofy look on her face.

“What’s up Mo?” I asked in the rearview mirror.

“Sometimes it’s so weird to think. I mean, sometimes I think about thinking! Also, it’s so weird that I am alive and I am a person. I mean, I see other people, but I am also a person! That makes my brain feel funny…”

Whoa… Daughter, that is deep. That’s like Philosophy 101 type stuff. How can my baby girl be thinking about thinking?

Because she’s not a baby any more.

Then, as we left school today, I said, “Love, let’s go take a picture in front of Mary’s grotto. Maybe we can bring flowers tomorrow for your first day at school alone.”

2015-09-01_164907334_3FF55_iOSShe reached out and touched Mary, said a prayer and then I asked for a picture.

“Smile with Mama Mary, my Love. Let’s get a picture of the two of you, because she is going to Love you and Take Care of you while you’re at school. When I can’t be there.”

I choked up a bit. Trying to put on a brave face.

“You too Mama! You take a picture too, because she is going to take care of you when I’m gone too!”

2015-09-01_165017126_63977_iOSThen I lost it.

Because I knew. I knew it was True, and that Truth was spoken from the mouth of my Baby.

No, my Big Girl.

2015-09-01_165102389_7F2AE_iOSMary knows. She knows how hard it is to say goodbye. Even the goodbyes that seem so little to the outside world. She knows how big they are, here in my heart-world.

And she will take care of my heart, guarding the big part here in my chest, and the little part, marching confidently through that classroom door.

2015-09-01_165059358_98AFC_iOSShe’ll take care of both of us.

2015-09-01_152128329_026F5_iOSThe other thing that made me cry today (I am a mess!): Andy surprised us at school!

2015-09-01_170005872_A7F4D_iOSThen he left flowers in the car.

2015-09-01_154708257_3E313_iOSAnother guardian of our hearts.

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On my toes…

Oh almost 17 month old son.

 That’s right where you’re keeping me.  On my toes. Laughing all the way.


Every time he walks past our new St. Joseph statue he says “baby!!”. And then animatedly explains that the baby also has a nose.

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On the Eve of 30

Elder30Man. I don’t think I’ve had a better birthday.

And it hasn’t even happened yet.

Today is the last day of my twenties. My Thirty Eve.  And I’m feeling a little introspective. Like, wow. I sure have learned a lot.

But at the same time, incredibly humbled. Because, seriously? I’m not even thirty.

I know nothing.

I know nothing of a career, of caring for aging parents. Nothing of marriage-years in the double digits. Nothing of selling a home, teenage children or the loss of a loved one.

But I do know something. I know love.

I’ve had 30 years of love given to me, poured on me, sister-hugged into me, forehead-kissed on me, sacrificed for me… Over and over and over again. Every day, in fact, every moment of the last 10,949 days someone(s) loved me (and I’m not even talking about The SomeOne, nor the fact that I was loved long before I was born).

To celebrate this year-turning, my parents offered me several nights stay at their home. By myself. It almost felt like I was only their daughter again.

family30-2 family30-3 family30-4 family30-5 family30-6 family30-7 family30-8 family30-9 family30-10 family30

The time was filled with eating, sleeping, swimming, nothing, crafting, eating some more, sister-ing, creating, nourishing, visiting, and a million other –ings. So much family-love.

This past Saturday, 11 beautiful women and 1 beautiful sister snatched me away for a night at the beach.

friends30friends30-2-2 friends30-2 friends30-4  friends30-5 friends30-6 friends30-7 friends30-8 friends30-9

A night of laughing, drinking, eating, beach-walking, beach-talking, more talking, more laughing and more loving. Ever more wonderful –ings. So much friend-love.

And tomorrow’s sunrise, the sunrise on my actual 30th birthday, will wake me up to the most important Loves: My Little Loves and My Life-Long-Love. The girls have already warned me that the gifts they purchased are hidden in Daddy’s sock drawer. Don’t look there Mama! They wiggle in joy, anticipating a day they get to love on me.

Andy holds my hand and squeezes. A gentle squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Our silent code for “I love you”. It’s the same motion we invented walking each other to class 10 year ago, but it’s hard to explain the depth it conveys now. He squeezed my hand like that dancing at our wedding, hiking in Brazil, after arguments, moving states, after our children were born, while praying in Mass… So many different kinds of love from one person. For one person.

Elder30-2 Elder30-3 Elder30-4 Elder30-5 Elder30-6 Elder30-7 Elder30-8 Elder30-9 Elder30-11 Elder30

The love in my life keeps growing. I see it digging deeper roots and sprouting new limbs, a deep stretch in both directions. And I wonder, what is to come… What will the next 30 years bring?

It’s hard to say.

But, love is there.

That, I know for sure.

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Told you there were MORE…

Beach photos!

Per Margaret’s request in comments on the last post, we’ll start (and end) with a group photo:Beach 2-8


We spent one afternoon at Lake Quinault. A beautiful place that may just convince me I’m more of a lake vacation person. I like the feel of fresh water on my skin over salt water and much prefer a walk in the woods to being sand blasted.Beach 2-12 Beach 2-11Beach 2-9Beach 2-10 Beach 2-5

Although, the beach is pretty awesome: kite flying, beach comets, sand forts and castles and pirate ships…Beach 2-22 Beach 2-21 Beach 2-20 Beach 2-18 Beach 2-17 Beach 2-16Beach 2-4Beach 2-2 Beach 2-3 Beach 2

Ultimately, any vacation is a good vacation. Right?

Especially with family like this: Beach 2-15 Beach 2-14 Beach 2-19

And friends like these:Beach 2-13Thank you friends, for loving us and sharing a weekend of your lives. Let’s do it again soon, k?

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Is this a good Activity?

Anyone else a Brian Regan fan? Love that guy.

ActivitiesOur beach time was filled with many, many activities. This is kind of a change of pace from our day to day life. I’m mostly a “go play independently in the playroom while I do something else” kind of parent, and our kids are usually fine with that.

A vacation, however, calls for something a bit different. And that something (aside from the beach!) usually involved paint. Because, who doesn’t like to paint?Activities-3 Activities-4 Activities-6 Activities-7It was one of my greatest joys from this past weekend to watch our friends step in and really engage with our kiddos. The inside (read: non-windy and non-sandy) activities really lent themselves well to getting to know the three most important people in our lives. Activities-5 Activities-8 Activities-2

And we got to know the Roppo kiddos even better. Which is something I’ve really missed since they moved away (Abbie, how can the twins possibly be 4?!)

Lest you think of me as some sort of super mom, not pictured is the disparity between the 30 minutes of prep time for each activity and the 3 minutes actually spent doing said activity. Note how there’s never all 3 of my children in one photo. Yeah, the other one or two were probably screaming or running around or being held by the other parent or ingesting the giant pile of sand by the back door. Additionally, all the meltdowns because “that paint is not pink enough!”. So, not pictured: reality.

Activities-12Meltdowns and some failures aside, Andy and I made a conscious effort to make this a vacation more for them, and less for us. I think an expectation to have all the time we wanted to sleep, drink, read, relax, walk on the beach etc would have resulted in resentful adults and bored (read: crazy and whiny) children.

Activities-9But, as usual when we prioritize correctly, God made time for us to also do those grown up vacation things.Activities-10 Activities-11 Activities-2-2Next up: more beach pictures!

Because I seriously took about a million.

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We’re at the Beach…

with friends,Beach Weekend1 Beach Weekend1-2 Beach Weekend1-3 Beach Weekend1-4 Beach Weekend1-5 Beach Weekend1-6 Beach Weekend1-7 Beach Weekend1-8 Beach Weekend1-9 Beach Weekend1-10 Beach Weekend1-11 Beach Weekend1-12And it is awesome.

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