Buda Texas Newborn Session: Welcome Baby Hannah

Buda Texas Lifestyle Newborn Photo Session by Monica Brown

Lifestyle Newborn sessions have my heart. There is just something about a new life that makes you forget all the ugly things swirling around and allows you to just focus on this one beautiful and hopeful life. These sessions are full of love and awe and I consider it an honor to be present for these moments in my clients’ lives.

Welcome Sweet Hannah. She’s perfect in every way and the perfect addition to this little family. Big sister is big sistering like this was the moment she was born for and big brother is working on being okay with losing that youngest child status.

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Monday Sucks

I’ll be honest, I’ve had an entire blog post written and waiting to be published explaining why we decided to buy a camper instead of real estate. It literally just needs pictures of us and our new camper except we are currently camperless and wondering what in the hell happened over the last week.

We had the camper picked out. We were supposed to go do the deal a week ago but then we accidentally found one that might work better and I found myself in Selma on a Tuesday morning by myself making sure it passed the initial stinky test. Turns our used campers smell so first things first we have to make sure it passes the stinky test.

Long story short, we provided Crestivew RV Superstore in Selma (NOT THE SAME AS THE ONE IN BUDA OR GEORGETOWN FOR THE RECORD) with a credit card number for a deposit on the trailer (it passed the stinky test) and then they sold it out from underneath us anyway. My guess is the now owners of the camper didn’t notice all the rust and paid more than they should have and Crestview decided they’d rather make a few extra dollars than stand by deal they already entered into. We’re bitter. Like really bitter and I’m like “Do they not know who I am?” Because really I’ve spent the last year of my life teaching CalAtlantic Homes a lesson they’ll never forget and Crestview is obviously up for learning the hard way as well.

But as bitter as we are, everything happens for a reason, right? The sucky part is that reason isn’t always immediately visible. It might take a week or a month or more for us to see the path we’ve been led down and appreciate it for what it is. In the meantime we sit in another cruel test of my patience. As if the last two years of home building / owner of a new cookie cutter home wasn’t proof enough I have incredible patience. And let’s not forget I’m the mother of a 2 and 5 year old. Seriously, what in the world do I have to prove? If you thought Jo was my middle name you were wrong because obviously it’s Patience. Seriously.

So what now? I guess I’ll just move on, clean up all the dead ants in my house because Monday obviously thought it would be fun to add insult to injury, and pray Tuesday doesn’t suck. Thanks Monday. I have nothing nice to say to you.

Bring it Tuesday.

The Unraveled Academy Review and Free Course

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THERE IS A FREE COURSE AT THE END OF THIS SO DON’T LEAVE.

Last year I signed up for the Unraveled Academy. I was on the fence about it, but I figured I’d just do a month to month membership and if I didn’t like it after a month or two the loss would be minimal. No harm done.

Basically I’ve decided they can just charge me via paypal forever. I’m currently a little behind on courses, but I need to get with it because currently there is an SEO course I’m dying to take. Oddly my favorite part of the whole thing is the Facebook group. It’s worth the price of membership alone. They regularly do Facebook Lives where you can ask pretty much anything you want to a group of experts plus the community has got to be one of the least judgemental and supportive group of photographers I have ever experienced. The founders actually care and feel like friends.

So what exactly is the Unraveled Academy? The Unraveled Academy is a school and community for photographers looking for a safe place to explore their art and business. When you log in to the wesbite you are presented with all of the courses that have ever been. Yes, you heard me correctly. They are all there. You get to go through them and learn at your own pace. You get to engage in the community on the website and/or the Facebook community and take advantage of additional videos there. There are behind the scenes videos and editing videos, some presets, and a monthly gift for all memebers. And then just that sense of belonging that I don’t quite get other places. I’m a fan, obviously.

If you’re no longer on the fence and you want to sign up, please use the button below so they know I sent you.

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If you want to check out the free Unposed Course before signing up, check it out here.

I’ve personally taken this course. It’s sooooo inspiring and will make you want to get out there and shoot. I definitely suggest at least checking out this course. It’s free so you can’t lose.

If you decide you want to join the Unraveled Academy after taking this course, please come back here and use the button above so they know I sent you. I am an affiliate because I love this school that much and want everyone else to love it too.

My Why for Photography

Something I hear a lot as a small creative business owner is that I’ve got to know or find my why. Why do I do what I do and when other stuff starts getting in the way, can I stop and remember my why? Y’all I didn’t really know my why for making photographs. There have been new whys added over the years that seemed a bit more obvious, but why did I start doing it in the first place? I’ve always had a need to create things I find visually pleasing (redecorating my room over and over as a kid, a tried scrapbooking for a bit, things like that), but it was more than that and I could never really put my finger on it.

So most family photographers’ why is their children or their family. They picked up a camera after becoming a mom. This isn’t how it worked for me. I picked up a camera long before becoming a mother. Yes my kids are now part of my why, but I got my first camera after graduating high school (it was a Sony point and shoot so nothing fancy, but I thought I was good).

I can analyze someone else’s life all day, but when it comes to mine I’m like “I don’t know. I just like taking pictures.” I have a hard time seeing why I do things. I’m getting better at recognizing these kinds of things in myself, but honestly it’s a slow process. As I figure them out though I’m embracing them the best I can.

My why hit me like a ton of bricks last week. The last few weeks I’ve hardly touched my camera. I’m obsessed with the future and the things we currently don’t have that I hope the future holds. Really dwelling on this made me realize not picking up my camera and trying to live in the future are not unrelated. They are very much related.

I use my camera to fully live in a moment. That’s my why. I pick it up and take pictures to better connect myself to whatever it is that is happening. It allows me to stop and appreciate a moment in a way that would otherwise pass me by without the full attention to it’s beauty it deserves. Sometimes it even allows me to see beauty in a place where most would overlook it. Holy Crap, how did it take me 15 years of taking photos to realize this.

I think this feeds into why I choose to do lifestyle photography. I don’t want to make fake Pinterest moments for my clients. If I’m going to do this for a job, I want to find the beauty in your real moments. I want to live in those moments for the short time we’re together and see the things others might miss; Those beautiful, yet underappreciated moments from your story that deserve our full attention. We can’t just set that up. It has to happen organically and it has to be true to you.

That is why I do things the way I do it and it feels good to be able to put it into words. I’ve been waiting for this moment. Now if I could just forget about the future for a hot minute and live in the right now, I’d be golden. Adulting is hard.

I’m sharing this photo because it’s one I took in 2005 (way before kids). This is from a camping trip with the future in-laws to Lost Maples Natural Area in Vanderpool, Texas. If you show up on the right weekend in the Fall, you actually get to see Fall leaves. They don’t just turn brown and fall off like everywhere else in Texas. The actually turn orange and yellow and red. I remember being blown away by the colors. I remember being in disbelief that this was Texas. I remember hiking down to this point and I remember exactly how I felt taking this picture with my little Sony point and shoot. I wasn’t that great of a photographer at this point, but my composition was good and that reflection in the water was killer.

I’m also sharing this photo because the thing I’m daydreaming about is taking our kids camping. There’s a gap between what we really really want for a camper and what we really feel like paying. So we sit and research and wait for the perfect deal on the perfect camper. I dying to live in that moment of watching my kids make memories in places like this. I think what I really need is my family, some cooler weather, and nature to inspire me to pick up my camera.

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Professional Wardrobe Styling For Your Photo Session

Monica Brown | Austin, Central Texas Family Lifestyle Photographer

Probably 9 out of 10 clients completely freak out when it comes to trying to coordinate session day clothes for the entire family.  It's literally the most time consuming part of booking and preparing for a session for so many.  If the idea freaks you out, it's totally normal.  I completely get it and obviously you're not alone.

But guess what!!!!!! I've got your back momma.  

Professional styling for the whole family from the comfort of your couch (complete with kids screaming in the background) is now included with your lifestyle session fee.  

I want to make this as stress free as possible.  I want you to show up to your session feeling confident and ready to just be with your family.  I want the experience to be enjoyable and not feel like work.  

I need to show you how easy this is.  You answer a few simple questions about who you're dressing, what your vibe is, and voila, you're presented with clothing options perfect for your lifestyle family photo session and you simply pick the ones that fit your style and budget.  You can view your outfits together and then once all is said and done, you can email your selections to yourself so you can purchase later.

The image below is looking at your outfits together post making some selections.

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The video to the right is all of your selections conveniently located in your inbox.  Do you have to buy these exact clothes?  No, you don't.  Likely the men in your life have something similar in their closets that they can use or maybe you found basically the exact same shirt somewhere else for a better price.  Work with those scenarios if you can or if you find it easier to just purchase the suggested items, go for it.  

Planning for your session shouldn't be a chore and who really has extra time to plan things like outfits out?  It's just not necessary to hit up every store and blindly try to coordinate some things and hope it works out and I'm not going to make you do it that way.  

Does the idea of a photo session sound a bit more appealing now?  

I still have some Fall sessions left and obviously you'll look like a million bucks.

Why I Don't Do Mini Sessions | Monica Brown Lifestyle Photographer

Central Texas Lifestyle Photographer | Monica Brown

Okay so I've done this blog post before, but I switched websites and it's gone now so I thought I do it again.  It was literally the most visited thing on my old website.

But first let's just get something super clear before we get this started...

Mini sessions aren't bad.  I'm not saying you should never sign up for mini sessions.  I actually envy the photographers that do them and do them well and there is absolutely a place for them in the market.

This blog post is about me, what I want out of each photo session, and how wanting that means I can't get to the part of the session that I consider my art in under 20 minutes (the typical length of a mini session).

So on to why I don't do mini sessions...

My goal 100% of the time when I'm photographing a family session is to get to the meat of the session.  That part where you can really start to see a clear picture of the family dynamics and genuine connections between family members.  

My most favorite compliment I get is when someone tells me I've captured their child's soul or when a family tells me the images we created together really tell the story of their family.  I can't tell the story of your family in 20 minutes.  I can't do the thing I consider my art in 20 minutes.  I've tried.  I'm just not capable.  I did mini sessions once and there was absolutely nothing mini about it and we didn't get to the part that makes my heart really sing until at least 20 minutes in.  Were the pictures from the first 20 minutes bad?  No.  We're they the stuff my dreams are made of?  Not really.

In the first 20 minutes were trying to settle in, I'm figuring out the family dynamic and the best way to incorporate it into the images I'm creating.  Everyone is getting used to the camera attached to my head and figuring out that they don't need to look at it.

And then once we get through all of that, the magic happens

So to really illustrate my point, I want to share with you some of my favorite images that were taken AFTER THE FIRST 20 MINUTES.  The images that would never be, the moments we'd never have created together, if I shut it down at 20 minutes.

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So let's just leave those family photography pinterest pins right where you left those pins for organizing your home closets..... on pinterest.  We don't need them because we're going to slow down, take our time, and create moments everyone else is going to wish they had, but they'll be yours.

{Almost} Wordless Wednesday | Monica Brown Lifestyle Photographer

Monica Brown | Buda Texas Lifestyle Photographer

We'll let the pictures speak for themselves, but let me just say Wednesday is rough so far.  I should have known immediately that day 3 of school was going to be a hard start because the reminders to eat breakfast were aplenty.  Day three came with tears at drop off and my sweet girl saying she just wanted to be where I was today.  Break my heart.  You better believe I wanted to say okay and take her back home.  Enough of all that.  Check out these photos I've posted to Instagram over the last week.

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Lifestyle Family Photo Session: The Zeiglers

Monica Brown | Central Texas Lifestyle Family Photographer

Sometimes the best part of my job is just getting out there and meeting some of the awesome people who live near me.  This is the most rewarding part about the work I've done with our local neighborhood magazine, Neighbors of West Buda.  The September issue showed up in my mailbox last week and I'm just can't not share this Family Lifestyle Session with the Zeiglers with you.  

My one word to describe this family is AWESOME.  Also if you love a good romantic suspense novel, Amey (mom of this family) wrote one worth reading called Baker's Dozen, which can be found on My Amazon Favorites page.  I've personally read it and can definitely recommend it to you.  Click the button below to buy it.

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First Day of Kindergarten

I only have to survive 40 more minutes before I get the oldest child back from her very first day of Kindergarten!!!

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Y'all I made it a whole day with her in the care of someone she isn't related to and I didn't even cry once.  I got close like two times, but it was because I was so proud of her and because her teacher added photos to the class Facebook page.  

I talked about this on Facebook and Instagram this morning.  I love watching my kids reach these milestones. I try not to rush things, but I genuinely love watching them them grow and learn and do the things kids are supposed to do.  I don't want my babies to be babies forever.  There are definitely some ages and stages I miss, but I also wouldn't trade them for the stages we're in now.  We've been there, we've done that and now we're going to do this other thing and it too is going to be awesome (and maybe awful all at the same time, idk).  

We tried to do the obligatory first day of school sign photos this morning.  I'm not sure we're cut out for this.  I could have spent more time forcing them into standing still and things, but somehow this one seems to fit the day and the attitudes of the day perfectly.  Plus also of course my kid is the one that managed to bust up her face two days before the first day of school.  I feel like we're being judged already.

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I'm so anxious to see if she's as excited this afternoon as she was this morning and I pretty sure I need a hug.  Time to go find my shoes and walk the couple blocks to school.

When Your Home Builder Doesn't Want to Do the Right Thing: Texas Residential Construction Liability Act

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Let me preface this entire thing by saying that I'm not a lawyer.  This blog post is not intended to be legal advice.  This blog post is intended to make you aware of the Texas Residential Construction Liability Act (even though your builder probably provided you with a hint of information about it in that packet you probably never looked at) and share my journey to getting reimbursed for failures in my wood floor due to poor installation after the builder denied our original requests to replace it.

I'm going to try to make a really long story short.  From the day we moved into our brand new home, we had issues with our upgraded engineered hardwood floors.  Boards were popping, delaminating, and chipping.  The builder kept sending the contractor out to repair more and more and more and more and finally my husband was just done.  We wanted it all replaced.  These issue were happening because of poor prep and installation and after some research we were convinced the actual product may have also been faulty.  Our builder want to keep polishing a turd and told us they would not be replacing the floor.  They said it was normal to replace 50+ boards in a 900 square ft. area.  

Guess what home builder, not buying it.  We called in a certified wood floor inspector at our expense.  He identified more issues than we originally knew about.  We still had a builder that didn't want to work with use to replace the floor and they made it very clear that they would not be reimbursing me for the cost of the inspector ($300). 

The Texas Residential Contruction Liability Act (RCLA)

I got out my home warranty manual and found this very small and limited section referring to the Texas Residential Construction Liability Act and decided I needed to google it.  It's confusing at first, but what I found out is that if I ever wanted to take them to court, I needed to first send them a certified letter referencing the RCLA.  This is how you say attorney without actually saying attorney.  When they get this letter from you they know you are getting your ducks in a row to take them to court or you're at least thinking about it.  

The RCLA outlines statutory deadlines for responding, inspecting the home, the builder making some sort of offer and you either accepting or denying the offer.  You have to go through this process before you can take them to court.  Hopefully you never make it that far.  The purpose of the RCLA is to resolve issues without a lawsuit.  

In our letter I mentioned the Texas RCLA, gave a quick run down of all of the issues with our floor, and attached the report from the certified wood floor inspector.  I also listed a few scenarios we would be willing to accept for resolution.  

Did we want to sue our builder?  Not really.  I'm not sure anyone wins when that happens, but we were at the point where we would do what we needed to do and we were tired of being taken advantage of.  I totally would have done it purely on principle. 

All of the sudden these folks who had been legit ignoring our phone calls and emails for at least a month, if not two, were quick to respond.  Or at least as quick as they can be because when you send one of these letters, it immediately goes to an attorney working for the builder.  

It still took us months of negotiation to get what we wanted, but we got it.  Referencing the Texas Residential Construction Liability Act was the key to getting our builder to stop pushing us off and actually work with us to come to a resolution that was fair.  They're still going to try to get away with giving as little as possible, but as long as you have a legitimate issue with your home (which we made damn sure of before sending this letter) you have the upper hand.  They don't want to go to court.  They're trying to get out as cheap as possible and writing me a check for the amount it would cost me to replace my floor (including removal and a $300 reimbursement for hiring that wood floor inspector) is still cheaper than going to court.  

I did all of this without hiring an attorney.  You could definitely hire one if you wanted to, but I just want to tell you it's possible to resolve your issues without one.  

Below are some of the resources I found that were helpful when researching the Texas Residential Construction Liability Act.

http://www.jtexconsumerlaw.com/V7N1pdf/V7N1construction.pdf

https://www.krcl.com/news/importance-notice-texas-residential-construction-liability-act/

If you are dealing with this issue, I'm so sorry.  I feel your pain.  I'm sending you all the positive vibes and wishing your the best of luck in getting your issue resolved.  Don't give up.

Galveston 2018

Just sitting here pushing refresh from time to time of the parent portal for your school district.  In just under 20 minutes we find out who Saida's Kindergarten teacher is.  Back to school night is tonight and I'm just hoping I'm not a hot mess of tears for the whole thing.  So to distract me from constantly checking the damn thing for the next 20 minutes or so, I thought I'd share some of my favorite photos from our Galveston beach trip because I still haven't done that.  

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10 Days of Editing with SMAL Presets

If you missed the announcement, I started a YouTube Channel last week called Monica the MomTog.  So far I've devoted the channel to photo editing and plan to throw in other photography related things as time goes on.  

Today marks the start of my first official series of videos on the channel, 10 Days of Editing with SMAL Presets (I am in no way affiliated with the creator of these presets nor have I been asked or paid to use them in these videos).  Each day I'll choose a preset from the pack and edit a photo with it.  At the end of 10 days you'll be able to see how I've used each preset within the pack.  This is great for beginner lightroom users, people on the fence about purchasing these presets, or newbies to the presets who haven't quite figured them out yet.  


Please join me over on the Monica the MomTog channel.



Check out the first video in the series below...


If you are interested in purchasing the presets for Lightroom or ACR, click below.

Monat Monday: What I Ordered During The Latest Flash Sale

You know it's going to be a good week when your Monat Flash Sale order shows up on a Monday.  Plus I'm having a good hair day thanks to Monat, my coffee was just like I like it this morning and nobody has peed on the floor yet today (that I know of) soooooo... life is good.  

So what was the last flash sale and what did I order?  The flash sale was buy a system (including the Junior line) and create your own travel size system for $10.  In addition to that you also got a sample of the color enhance duo FOR FREE.  

Oh and did I mention FREE SHIPPING?  Amazon Prime has made me a sucker for free shipping.

This came just in time because it's been 10 months ish since our first order of the Monat Junior line and we're just about out.  This means one of two things.  I either don't wash my kids' hair enough or this stuff lasts forever.  Maybe it's a combo of both.  

No matter what, I always get a little excited when one of these boxes shows up on my doorstep.



So everything you see below cost me $51 + tax with my Market Partner discount.  That discount is a huge part of why I signed up to be a Market Partner.  The Junior Line is regularly $59, VIP Price is $50, and as a Market Partner I pay $41.  

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What We Love About the Monat Junior Line

  • It's tear-free, sulfate-free, and paragon-free
  • a child's hair is more fragile and fine and the Junior Line was formulated with that in mind
  • It comes with conditioner!!!  My daughter has long hair that she almost never wants to wear up and she certainly doesn't want to cut it.  Trying to brush that out after shampooing with children's shampoo that was not Monat was total agony.  Having a children's conditioner is saving time, hair from being damaged, and maybe our relationship as mother and daughter.  Okay that's maybe a little dramatic, but you get the point.  The experience brushing her hair after a bath with Monat is night and day from what it used to be.

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This Stuff only Cost me $10

What is it about travel size stuff that gets me excited?  I don't even travel that much and when I do it's typically not on a plane.  Have you ever seen a dry shampoo so cute in all your life?  

I'm thinking that dry shampoo might just go in my purse.  I feel like you never know when you might need some dry shampoo.

I'm also just excited to try the Colour Enhance duo.  I'm a brunette, but I ordered the Brilliant Blonde because I have blonde-ish highlights.  I've heard other say it really makes them stand out and I wanted to give it a try.



Monat is really expanding their selection of hair products.  It can be a little overwhelming if you don't know where to start.  Take the Hair Quiz to find out which products are right for your hair needs.  Visit my website to make your purchase or learn more about the products.

Me on YouTube: Black and White Editing Videos

We've joked about starting a Family Vlog and posting to YouTube because I can't believe how much money those people are making just from daily videos of things their family does.  It's not that simple though and I'm not that mom that is going to follow her kids around all day with a video camera and then spend my evenings editing the video.  Plus our life is super, and I mean SUPERRRRR, boring.  Nobody wants to watch a video of me denying my kid a 5th squeezy for the day.  They just don't.  And the other thing is the moms in these vlogs never have wine.  Obviously wine would be necessary, but then it's maybe not kid appropriate and kids are the ones watching these things.  

You see, a family vlog just isn't going to work for me.

So what do I like doing and what am I at least sort of good at?  Editing pictures of my kids!!!!  When I take pictures of them, I have to load them up pretty much as soon as I'm done.  Just ask my husband.  I'm sure it drives him nuts.

Naturally any YouTube channel I start should be me editing pictures of my kids or talking about photography related things that I love.  Soooo that's what I did.  I'm only two videos in so far and I still get nervous when I hit the record button though and nobody is even listening to me yet at that point.  

So anyway if you want to watch me being all awkward while editing videos, here are my first two videos posted to YouTube.

If you like it go subscribe and give it a thumbs up.  Or even if you don't like it, do it anyway.  Help a girl out.

I Really Wanted to Be a Soccer Mom (Not a Dance Mom)

It's true, I didn't want to be a dance mom.  The only reason I went to dance as a kid was goof off with another friend of mine (as evidenced by the dance recital home video my parents have when that friend and I were both one step behind every other girl in our dance class).  Friend, you know who you are.

My husband and I both played soccer so last fall we put Saida in soccer.  The only way I could get her on the field was holding the coach's hand with a promise of the biggest handful of pom balls she could grab for her pom ball jar (our good behavior reinforcement system).  I wish I could say I had pictures of this, but at the time I was not amused.  She's done one other thing that was more frustrating and that was swim lessons last summer.  I still prefer not to talk about it.

If the girl could do one thing all day, it's dance.  She loves it.  I love watching her, but I didn't want to be a dance mom.  There was a whole show dedicated to those moms and if I remember correctly, it painted them crazy and we're like the least competitive people in the world.  

But what it comes down to for me is letting my kid follow her own path.  I could force her in to soccer all day, but who is that really for?  As long as the decisions she's making are healthy, I'm more inclined to just let her choose the things that make her happy.  I don't have to fight her to go to class and she actually cares enough about it to try.

So here's to being a dance mom.  If you're looking for me I'll be the one in the corner at dance class reading Rachel Hollis and feeling thankful for an hour of nobody asking me to do anything.

By the way, the last day of summer dance was yesterday.  Cutest thing ever.

Pinterest Fail: Detangling Barbie Hair

Bottom line, those moms who’ve tried this successfully must be full of magic or BS.

So if you have a daughter or daughters, chances are you've looked detangling barbie hair up on Pinterest before.  These things get totally out of control and our barbie loving selves from another era really want to make this barbie hair look amazing again.  

Saida asked if we could fix Rapunzel's hair today and I was like sure thing.  We can make a blog post about it.  Of course when this was going through my head I was thinking we'd have super amazing results and every girl mom out there would be visiting this post because hair is important and barbie deserves good hair too.  

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So anyway, here's how this really went down.

First of all I only looked through half the pinterst post initially so I was only prepared for the first half of the process.  

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Also Rapunzel has a mark on her head that I was super sure a magic eraser would take off.  Those things really are magic so I didn't thing for a second it wouldn't work.  Guess what.  I didn't work.

We dipped Rapunzel's hair in a mixture of half fabric softener and half water as suggested and make the hair was good an saturated.  From there we brushed her hair to get all the "tangles" out. and I brushed and I brushed and I brushed and I brushed and I brushed..... for like 20 minutes y'all.  Maybe longer actually.  So at this point I'm like this is a total pinterst fail, but I'm just going to keep going because I've been brushing barbie hair for 20 minutes and I'll be damned if I'm throwing in the towel at this point.  

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What if by some miracle this actually does end up working?  I'm not sure it matters because even though I'm committed at this point, I'm definitely not recommending this method to any other mom unless of course they've hurt one of my children at some point in life.

So this is where I thought we'd be done and then just let her hair dry and voila.  Nope.  Second half of the process required rinsing hair in a water/vinegar mixture to get the extra fabric softener out then combing the hair again using some sort of leave in conditioner.  Natural we chose our Monat Junior Detangler.  

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It's looking better, but I wouldn't say it's looking good.  Bottom line, those moms who've tried this successfully must be full of magic or BS.  On the up side, Rapunzel smells amazing now.  

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Just buy a new barbie y'all.  

P.S. The Monat Junior Line is a much bigger hit on my kids hair than their barbies.

 

Light Obsessed: Black and White Photo Editing Post

If there is one thing that has gotten completely out of control with my love of photography, it's that I'm light obsessed.  

It's true.  Just last week on our way to the beach we passed a field on the bayside of Galveston Island with a dirt driveway making it's way toward a beautiful canopy of palm trees with water on the other side.  I stopped whatever conversation we were having to tell Tyler exactly how I envisioned the light during golden hour.  

I've been known to just stare at this field across the street from Target in the evenings (especially in the Fall) because the way the light hits that field is amazing.  

I went hunting with my husband at an exotic game ranch and sat there looking at light and the way the grass moved in the wind while others looked at Fallow and Axis deer.

I can't unsee light. 

Yesterday evening Saida ran through a little pocket of light we only get in our living room when my office blinds are open.  She let me spend about 1 minute shooting and I had zero time to get proper settings, but I still had to get that light and the vision of it I saw in my head.

What I wanted to share is what I see when I see that light vs. what it looks like coming out of my camera.  So whether your into photo editing or not, you're getting the before and after image of this light.

For those who are curious, I started with my favorite black and white preset in Lightroom, tweaked it to my liking and used graduated filters and the adjustment brush to decrease shadows, exposure, highlights and whites where needed to really make this the dramatic image I envisioned.

This first photo is a completely untouched version of what I took.  Straight out of camera (SOOC).

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And this next photo is what I saw in my head when I saw her run through this little slice of light.

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Well to completely honest I was hoping she'd do something a little more worthy of a picture, but nope.  They never do what you want them to.  I'll take this for now though.

-Monica 

Post Vacation Monday

I have a few choice words for post vacation Monday.  Usually I'm all like Yay Monday! Lets make this week awesome, but today I'd like to take Monday out to the parking lot.

Problem #1:  We're out of milk.  I've let us run out of milk one other time since Saida became a milk monster and last night was the second time.  The problem is her milk was already poured and in her cup for this morning and she completely drained it before I made my coffee.  I'm not a fan of black coffee.

Problem #2:  Before I could even take one drink of my freshly brewed black coffee, Corbin informs me that the dog just peed on the carpet in my bedroom.  Seriously?  He had been outside for at least a couple hours before I let him in less than 5 minutes before this happened.  

So I'm currently surviving Monday morning on black coffee and Young Living's Stress Away Essential Oil Blend while looking at our freshly painted walls because for some reason we thought it would be fun to spend all of yesterday painting our main living space with kids in attendance.  

Problem #3: I'm tired as hell and my body is like No.

So here's to hoping Tuesday starts out with properly prepared coffee and dry carpet.

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The McKenna Children's Museum

So if you keep up with my blog you know that we were supposed to be in Galveston until today, but family issues resulted in us coming home early. This means we're home, Tyler has time off, and with Saida getting ready to start Kindergarten, we want make the most of this little bit of "vacation" time we have/had left.

We really didn't know what we wanted to do with this time though.  We just knew that we wanted to do it together.  After putting out an SOS to a local moms group on Facebook, we had a few suggestions to fill our time.  We chose to head down to New Braunfels (about 35 minutes away) to the McKenna Children's Museum.  We actually have a children's museum in Austin too that's technically closer, but we like to avoid the Austin traffic whenever possible.  


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Why we chose The McKenna Children's Museum for our Day Trip

  • 35 minutes is a cinch.  I hear the children's museum in San Antonio is great, but we left later than I would have liked and adding on an extra 30 minutes each way to the trip is just something we didn't have time for today.
  • It was cost effective.  We paid $7.50/person to get in.  The Thinkery in Austin would have been $12/person and The Doseum in San Antonio would have been $14/person.  I'm feeling like we definitely got our money's worth.
  • It's inside (mostly).  I thought about going to the Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, but it's hot.  Texas is sitting at a whopping 100 degress today and wasn't about to go spend nearly $60 to hang out in the sun.  Yes you get to drive your car around, but I still have to wonder if the animals would even be out moving.  We'll save that idea for cooler weather.
  • Our kids really just seem like the ideal ages for a children's museum.  Saida just turned 5 and Corbin is 2 and a half.  Children's museums are a safe place for them to run and play without limits and we love just watching them do it.
  • It gets rave reviews from just about every mom who has ever taken their kids there.

What we found at the McKenna Children's Museum

The Grocery Store Exhibit

I'm going to be honest, I haven't been to a children's museum since I was a kid and I don't really remember much about it.  Actually the only thing I sort of remember from that experience was the grocery store exhibit.  I remember thinking this is what it feels like to be a grown up when in that exhibit.  Oh to be that naive again.  But anyway, the grocery store exhibit didn't disappoint.  I especially loved seeing the things they picked out on their own shopping experience.  Corbin basically filled his cart with cheese.  If there was ever any doubt he was his mother's child, I think that doubt is gone now.  

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The Wonder Shop Exhibit

The Wonder Shop was something Saida was looking forward to.  I showed her Instagram photos of the museum before we went and she's just always down for a good painting session.  I imagined this exhibit a little more out in the open.  I was happy to find it in a room separate from the chaos of the main space of the children's museum.  

I'm not always that mom that's going to hand Corbin some paints and let him go at it.  He's a two and half year old boy which means things almost never go according to plan and I'm typically not in the mood to clean up after what went wrong.  I love that he got to paint next to his sister.  His sister is still upset that he added green to her paper where she didn't want it, but this moment made me happy.  

Helpful Tip: Do this early enough in your visit to allow more time for your paintings to dry.  We did it about half way through and as liberal as my kids are with paint, they were still wet when we put them in the car.  Fortunatley my cargo space was pretty clear and we had room to set them down flat on the way home.  

 


The Great Outdoors Exhibit

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The main attraction outside is the water.  It's basically the ultimate water table full of fishing (for toy fish), waterslide racing (for toys), and a bunch of other educational ways to interact with the water.  My kids loved this area and we sat there and watched them while silently thanking the McKenna folks for having this space under cover.  August in Texas is hot.  

Helpful Tip:  Bring a change of clothes just in case.  My kids can be pretty timid so they really didn't get wet, but I could see how it would be easy to leave this area a bit covered in water.  Chances are you know if your kid is one of those fun loving kids who may walk away wet.

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Also outside was a music area.  Honestly I felt like the music area could have been a little cooler, but my kids still thought it was pretty cool and I guess that is what matters most.  The xylophone was definitely thier favorite instrument to play.

There are also opportunities to climb and build outside so basically this area has a little bit of something for everyone (including benches for mom and dad).  

I knew this would be one of our favorite spots and I purposely saved it for last in our visit because... water.... and kids.  

 

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Hill Country Campground Exhibit

This was a suuuuuper cute area.  I'm kind of a sucker for a vintage inspired play camper and tent.  The photographer in me also loved it because it was close to a wall of windows and natural light is kind of like my very best friend.  Also we went and looked at campers after this so this is just where I am in life right now anyway.  This area also included a little cave with bat wings to put on the kiddos.  My kids probably would have taken those bat wings home.  I smell a diy project sometime in the future maybe.  

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Destination Space Exhibit

I hope my kids explore this one a little more next time.  Saida actually really loved walking through the outter space room which is basically a pitch black room with stars.  I couldn't even see the walkway it was so dark.  For a kid who insists on a night light, I was super shocked she loved it so much.  Corbin hated it.  There was so much more in that area though that they never touched so maybe next time.

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Other exhibits not mentioned that they also really enjoyed are the Amazing Airways Exhibit, The Town Square, and The Kids Clinic.

I mean really this whole place is super adorable and so inviting for play.  A steal for $7.50 per person.  The bottom line is that if we lived even 15 minutes closer, we'd have a family membership.  A family of 4 can buy a membership for only $125 a year.  It would pay for itself in about 5 visits.


So my recommendation is YES, DEFINITELY GO!!!  And if you live close, DEFINITELY PAY FOR A MEMBERSHIP!!!

For more information on the McKenna Children's Museum in New Braunfels, click the button below.


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This is just to add another level of cuteness to the post.  Also yes, he is wearing Tito's Vodka Sunglasses.  They're his favorite.

A Repeat of 7 Years Ago

What I had planned for this morning:

Waking up at the beach and watching the sun come up while drinking coffee.

What actually happned this morning:  

Woke up by my child at regular time in our home after vacation abruptly ended last night and we pulled into our driveway at 2 am this morning.  Still drinking coffee.  Getting ready to go grab my second cup because this day isn't going to happen without it.

Why it's the way it is:

We have a family tradition of taking this trip to the beach each year.  It started when I was young with a trip to South Padre Island and since then we've been all up and down the Texas coast from South Padre Island to Galveston Island.  Of course as our family grew, so did the number of people going.  I can think of two years where I didn't go.  One was when I was 8 months pregnant with Saida and the other was the year after the big family fight from seven years ago.  

I won't go into the details, but basically the result of what happened was that I had minimal contact with my mom for about a year and basically zero positive contact with my dad.  I survived off Tyler, Eli Young band's Life At Best album, and the stronger bond forming with my brother and his family.  I cried a lot of tears in this year and it taught me to remain calm (or appear calm) in the face of irrational anger.  I got really good at it actually.  

Very similar circumstances led to Tyler and I choosing to remove our family from this year's family vacation only mid way through.  The fight was not my fight, but my children as witnesses to hateful language is something I have control over.  As their mom my single option was to load them into the car at 10pm and remove them from the home we all stay in together.  

I'm not sure what our foreseeable furture looks like in terms of family relationships, but I'm sadened that my kids lose in this situation.  I can handle myself and I've done it before, but they're just kids caught in the crossfire.  

What's funny is the night before we left to go on this trip I came across all the photos I took from my parent's house after that fight 7 years ago.  I wanted at least a few photographs from my childhood because I didn't know if I would ever enter my parent's house again and I wanted them for my future children.  I wanted to remember that even though things were bad at that moment, we had good memories and moments worth hanging on to.  

I didn't have a bad childhood.  I dealt with things I don't want my children to deal with, but I was always safe and fed and not needing for anything material.  I can't change people.  I can't change what's happened in my life up until now.  All I can really do is keep doing my best and encouraging my kids to be good and kind people.   That's not always easy.  I'm not always the perfect example, but when things don't go exactly how I would like, I'm not throwing in the towel.  We're going to wake up tomorrow, put our big girl pants on, and try again.

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The plan for now is to just take it day by day.  That's all I've got.  Also I'm wondering what the soundtrack of this drama is going to be. Maybe more on that later.

-Monica