August 6, 2017

Ignore it! 5 things to ignore when taking your family portraits

fathollahi20A dear friend of mine (Catherine Pearlman,The Family Coach) and I were walking the hills overlooking the pacific when she announced she was writing a book. She told me this like she was announcing that she was buying new shoes, or she was going to try out the new Vietnamese restaurant down the street. And now, a few years, and many hill-walks later, she is preparing to release the baby (Ignore It!) she has been laboring all this time. Besides the joy you get from watching a good friend work so hard towards a goal and getting to the end, this is a really good idea for a book. It is a parenting book that helps take the pressure off our supposed need to nag, correct and force our kids into good behavior.

In honor of her efforts, I am writing my top five things to ignore when you are taking your family portraits. For more than 10 years I’ve watched the struggles, fights and resistance that can happen on a family photo shoot. Under all the pressure to get a perfect shot, we often resort to tactics we would NEVER even use while we are at home. We feel the urgency of getting this done and getting out of there.

It has been my joy of joys to see the final result of a beautiful photo shoot. So to help you end up with the best results with the least amount of fussing consider these five things to ignore the next time you sit down for your family portrait.

1. Ignore the attitudes- Let it go! If you see a kid acting like a pill, often times they just want a bit of attention from you. Most photographers are ok with a little attitude, and they often have a trick or two up their sleeve that might help that. Remember this is most likely not their first child with an attitude, so it is ok to relax, let them do their job, and you can take all the pressure off yourself to put all your kids in the best mood.


2. Ignore matching outfits- The goal is to capture your kids being themselves. It may not be worth the fight to get everyone in white tops and khaki pants if it will cause a meltdown from one or more people. Try bringing extra clothes, and let them wear what you pick first. If they take a few pictures in your outfit then you can let them wear what they like. I always say, it isn’t hard to Photoshop a stain, but it is super hard to Photoshop a smile where there isn’t one.


3. Ignore your Pinterest Board- Don’t imitate another family doing what they do. Try doing something you love as a family. Do you all love the park? Fine! Do you love the ocean? Great! Do your kids love the swings or making cookies or the water slide? Just find a way to capture the joy in your family, and ignore the idea you have in your head on what the perfect background has to be. It’s better to have a happy family doing what they love than a grumpy one copying another family.

kids 21

4. Ignore Punishments- At the least, wait till you get to the car. It’s completely impossible to get a child to smile once you offer to take their phone away for an entire week. Instead, refer to tip one on letting the photographer step in. Let them come up with a few things that might help, and save all the discipline for the ride home.

5. Ignore your Insecurities- Ok, this one might just be for me. I have a ton of things I don’t like about myself, and when I look at a picture, that is all I see. So when I know someone is pointing a camera at me, my anxiety level rises, and I want to turn around or run away. Most of the time I just get all bunched up in the face from that anxiety and over think my smile. I look so unlike myself, and I can barely change a profile picture anywhere. My friends and I always say we had no idea how beautiful we were 10 years ago! So try and imagine yourself ten years down the line looking at how young and pretty you once were!




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March 23, 2017

Baseball Baby


T-ball is something this four-year-old has been looking forward to his ENTIRE life. Sound dramatic? Well that doesn’t even do it justice considering his passion for the sport. He has gravitated to watching, and playing baseball in a way that is so natural I feel as if I have been witnessing a love affair from afar. Since this is also his first year in preschool, he relishes in seeing his friends on teams he plays. Watching him start his journey in baseball is a huge gift to our whole family. So even though this may be the start to a long journey, it has a prequel, and this is it in a photo journal.

tball buddies

Climbing the fence to get in the gamebaby loves baseball

A drive and focus on the ball:tball toddler

His favorite family activity:
baseball at salt creekweb

Sippy cups and baseball fences:
sippy cup baseballbabybaseball2kellen and cjbaby loves tball

Brother and coach chasing him around between innings:
chasing kellen tballkellen slidingTball first gamefirst at battball duggout Outfield tball

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  1. Gretchen

    This is so precious! I love this so much!

June 4, 2016

Baby-in-the-sink Bath


The first day I was hired to come shoot for this family I stopped in my tracks once I saw the kitchen sink. How the light fell onto the big farmhouse sink had me drooling to shoot more there. It didn’t work out on the newborn shoot we had, and two shoots later we still couldn’t find a way to fit it into our sessions.

It turns out, if you have an idea in your head, it is healthiest to just get it out, good or bad results aside, just follow your gut. When the news came that they outgrew their charming first home, I knew we had to do something in that sink before they packed up and left, so I scheduled a “fun” shoot, and just invited myself over to play. A joy comes over you when you follow your creative soul, and shooting this was just that. Grateful for this precious baby, and her adaptable parents.

My next idea might be something you can help me with. I am currently looking for a good yard to do a slip and slide in! Email me for another passion shoot just in time for summer.

baby water poured over head mom giving baby a bath in the sink sink with a bright window for bath time baby crying in the bath baby taking a bath in a sink mother daughter sink bath baby bath in a sink

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  1. myleen

    Hi, gorgeous photo! Would you mind sharing which infant bath tub is the baby on?

  2. admin

    I would share for sure, but I don’t know. It was the customers bath.

March 23, 2016

Toddler Life



toddler in bath toddler  midday bath toddler face in bath toddler under water bath toddler in bath sunlight toddler spraying water in bath toddler joy bathIt is tempting to say that you wish you could live the life of a kid again.

No work, obligations, worries, or drama and that sounds like a great day to me. But as I raise a toddler and really analyze his life, I am beginning to think that he works harder than me! As for work, if it is true what the research implies, that play is work to children, I do not know one adult that “works” as hard as my kid. This kid needs two baths a day, on a slow one. Obligations? Well to him, eating becomes an obligation. As hard as we fight about going to the doctor or dentist, this kid fights each and every  meal. Worries you say? We we may worry about things that seem huge to us, like leadership for our country, paying off mortgages, or the threat of our kids safety, but this kid worries about his life in a dark room much the same way we worry. Drama, well, we all know how much drama can come with an unreasonable person, multiply that by ten and you remember what raising a toddler is like.

So in all honesty, I think being an adult is much easier, and less stressful and a lot less work then going through as a toddler. I think I will be a bit more gentle with him today.


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February 23, 2016

Family Traditions of Snow and Boarding


Adventure is at the heart of our family. Our family of four has decided that in the name of exploring and adventure, we shall try and fit as much of it in as our time and wallet allow. One tradition we began was to go away to the snow one week out of the year. This year we chose mammoth.

Our most memorable moment of this years trip was to venture off the groomed paths in search of a giant cave you can actually snowboard right through. Sounds fun right? Well the truth is this dream has been stirring in my husbands brain for almost five years when a friend of his showed him a youtube video of some riders going through the cave, and then across a frozen lake. No amazing place such as this exists on the map, or tour guide brochures, and the getting there is actually the whole point. Like when you read that inspirational poster that says its about the journey, not the destination. This geolocation can be the poster graphics, because all of that is true.

The first day we arrived we scouted out the cave, watching others go through. As the brave one, I interviewed each crew as they exited. Most were secretive and not helpful what soever to my interviews, but a few gave us hints on how to get to this location and from what chair, and what tree to turn at. It was all quite unhelpful. Five minutes into our journey to this spot, we were already lost. The three of us staring down the hill in uncharted territory, wondering what the heck we were thinking. My eleven year old began to panic slightly, not being assured whatsoever to our claims of power bars stashed in our pockets. Even the joke of spending the night on the mountain, lost, freaked him out. But then a group of skiers came from up high on the hill, and my desperation to find this spot forced me to ask if we could join their trek. After traversing across gathering a bruise or two along the way, we all three fell behind and seperated slightly. My husband and son had been there in the summer, so they were more equipped with finding it. I was forced to go slow and peek over each cliff like edge to find the hidden spot. And as luck would have it, we all three ended up at the entrance of the cave. It wasn’t a dream ride down that cave, my ride was slightly embarrassing and super novice looking, but we all three laughed so hard on the bus ride back at all the events along the way; the panicking, the yelling out of names, the cursing, and the exhaustion. We were bonded slightly by taking that small journey together, and I cannot help but smile when I think of the crazy paths to that spot. But the bottom line is we did it, and we did it together, and we will always remember that day with a chuckle!

then and nowburton board snowboardingboy on ski lift kid snowboarding cornice cornice at mammoth toddler snow ball fight boy indie grab brothers sledding boy snowbaording toddler snowboarding father son snowboarding three year old snowboarding family of snowboarders

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July 22, 2015

Capturing summer vacation using your phone camera

Processed with VSCOcam with p5 preset Processed with VSCOcam with g3 preset IMG_5426 IMG_5593 IMG_5743 IMG_5796 Processed with VSCOcam with t1 preset IMG_5962

It all starts with grand plans pinning away photos of warm water or gorgeous pools, and your mind starts imagining a wonderful week on vacation. You start to get excited, even when the day is just around the corner you can’t stop thinking about this wonderful break in your usual day where you get to enjoy a week filled with fun and games with your family. No obligations, no appointments, just spending time together hanging out frolicking in the sun. And then the thought hits you, you still have a toddler. That adorable yet stinky kid knows nothing of this so called break, and has not made a mental note in his attitude. As it turns out, on vacation, toddlers still throw major tantrums when they don’t get their way. They still think it is funny to run away mid diaper change and try to pee on something. This destination has not suddenly made going out to eat ANY easier. Pool time and beach time? Wonderful! Yet instead of chasing them around the park, you are now chasing them from the “cold pool” to the “hot pool” about every five minutes. Worse yet, nothing in this new so called home is toddler proof, and so a few basic minutes of checking instagram has become a monumental task so as to keep the toddler from jumping…off the balcony.

Years from now I know I will look back and be thankful we did go away and do things, and the memories will be good ones of spending time together. But the main reason I will be able to look back and even remember this trip is because of pictures I took with my iPhone. Toting out to the pool two diapers, sunscreen, snacks, floaties, towels, hats, drinks, AND a camera would have been way too much for me. There are moms out there who I am sure this would be no thing, but for me, the only way I was able to relax was to leave the camera back at the room. Heck! I even made sure the phone was in a water proof case every time. Do you know how long it takes a scheming two year old to toss a phone into a pool? I’ll save you the brain power, its about 10 seconds. Not long enough to get to him and catch him mid throw when you are waist deep in warm water overlooking the pacific.

So here are a few images I was able to get using my iPhone.

My underwater casing was from Optrix.

The rainbow ocean shot was taken at La Bufadora in Ensenada, Mexico.

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  1. Wendi

    Oh thank you! Seeing your beautiful pictures of the kids always playing and smiling leads me to think you live in a ‘perfectly adapted”, “aren’t they precious” dream land. I don’t wish difficult times or hard situations on anyone (usually) but I appreciate you taking time out to set the record strait. Parenting can be super hard and far from relaxing, so thanks so much for being real. Love you guys.

  2. admin

    haha! so nice to know that my pain eases yours! just kidding!!! we have tons of hard days, and I agree, super hard is a good way to put parenting, and relaxing on the opposite end of what i usually feel. i would love to see you guys!

May 10, 2015

A letter to my mother on Mother’s Day


Do you remember when you used to fight with me? I would say I love you more, and you would say, “that’s not possible” or something along the lines of that. It didn’t make sense to me, me so small in the world, depending on you for so much. In reality, you were the first one I learned to love, you were the one and only love in my life at the time.

One afternoon I hid behind the hallway doorway peeking into the kitchen while you cooked. I was crying. I told you I would hate you, and you told me it didn’t matter, you would love me right back. I imagine this hate was due to you limiting my access to something I wanted, but I thought if I tried hard enough, I could go at least three days hating you. So I watched. I watched you cook, I watched you unworried of my hate plans. It must have hit me hard right there. You not caring about my hate. You didn’t care, because it didn’t matter to you, you loved me right back. As I remember back, i think my so called hate must have lasted all of 10 minutes. It didn’t stick. I came in and hugged you and went back to my day. This day is how I learned to love the way I do today. This is how I felt true love for the first time, unconditional love. Thank you for teaching me that.

A few hours, plus a decade or so later, I snuck up on you once again. Different house, different hallway. It must have been 2am or so. You were in your sewing room. Do you remember? You had a full time job during the day, and it was a few weeks before school would start. With five kids you were determined to see that we were dressed well, in our desired style as the school year started. You were working on four picky girls outfits torn out of the recent Seventeen magazines. It must have been around 12-20 different pieces of clothing if I do the math. You were frustrated, you were tired, you were determined. There is a chance I didn’t even bother you. I just watched, then went back to bed. I hope I wasn’t thankless, but in case I was, thank you. Thank you not because of how cute I might have looked in my bubble skirt the next day, but thank you for teaching me about hard work. Thank you for teaching me how to finish a task no matter the effort.

Now that I am older, you are not my whole world. I now love friends, my husband, my own kids, my siblings. It feels sad that you got pushed to the side like you did, but I know that is how it was meant to go. I love you still, even if I don’t call you enough. I promise to call today.

Truth is, it isn’t that I am a better mom because of you. That goes without saying. The truth is, I am a better person because of you. I am a better everything because of you. So now that I have kids of my own, I wonder some days about that love fight. I hug my kids tight, and they are my heart. I devise plans to never let them grow up and leave me, and find others they love as much as they love me. I love them so so much, and I am their everything. I now know how it felt for you, and why you fought to hold the winning love. It is a strong deep love that I couldn’t understand as a child. And now I can say without a doubt “I love you more, mom” More than anything.



 baby blanketbaby at beach mom kissing baby at beach mom and toddler beach mom kissing baby seagul baby tickles

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  1. Carli

    Tears, Noel. So much beauty. Please write more. Don’t be afraid to write more– we need your words! Your heart!! Xo

    Thank you for sharing!!

  2. Gretchen

    Noel, This is the most beautiful, wonderful tribute a mom could have. Thank you for all you have become, all you do and for inspiring me to keep going. Some days I just want to give up but when i get words of encouragement from the Lord through others it makes it all worth while. Love, Mom

    PS I love these photos of you and Kellen!

May 5, 2015

10 Year old playtime at Laguna Beach Playground

Do you remember the feeling of a new playground? Asking yourself, will it have a monkey bars(my 9 year old self favorite) or will it have a merry-go-round?(the dangerous kind that they must of outlawed)

It is amazing how visiting parks has started to be something we “used to do” and not something we do on a regular basis. I will blame it on the sports, or the kids on our street, or the homework, anything but myself. right? But as it turns out, having the two year old come along in all his crazy antics that have us rolling around with laughter, he also brings back the habit of finding a good playground to romp around it. As a result, I find my forth grade boy losing himself in the act of play, something we all know is vital to the development of our children. It gives him the opportunity to be a child again, and make up games, and explore, and strengthen his upper body, and just well, be a kid a little bit longer. We all know how fast this life is passing us all by!

This park is found in Laguna Beach, and it is called bluebird park. It was a favorite of CJ’s and now will be a favorite of Kellen’s I am sure.

And it even has a merry-go-round of sorts.bludbird park brothers bludbird park play bludbird park slides bluebird turtle playground laguna beach rocket ship playground slide toddler at bluebird park toddler play turtle



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April 2, 2015

Personal Project: 2T to 12

One day this week, I turned around and looked at Kellen and realized the baby was gone. The talking in full sentences might have tipped me off a bit, but he just started to act and look like a little boy. He still has all his baby teeth, thank goodness, but the days are flying by. One personal project that I wanted to tackle before he gets too big is that concept of him and his brother navigating the sports world together. They both love sports, outdoors, and tons of activity. For my first project, I went with running. Usually Kellen sits in the jogger on our runs, but for this one they were having fun running the trails together. Oh the things this little one will learn from big!big little run big little runners brothers running trails brothers running little runner running shoes

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February 10, 2015

No More Homework, Please

It seems strange to put ourselves on imaginary Mom teams, but we do, I do. I do it all day. I see you out there wearing your “uniforms” of yoga pants, or work clothes. Off the bat I can think of a few other teams I see, Team Organic, Team Academic, Team Athletics and Team Low-tech. Usually joining a team gives you credentials to have opinions about those not on your team, and although you don’t wish harm on the other team, you definitely hope your team wins, in the end.

So I will tell you about a team I just recently joined. It is called Team NO-Homework.

I wasn’t always on this team.

There was a time when we tried to do all our homework after school, and it took us hours. Hours we will never get back in our lives. It makes me so sad when I think back to that kindergarten year when we fought over doing more than an hours worth of homework after a full day of school, Monday through Thursday. When I was on this team, there were tears, fights, hours sitting at the table, and a whole lot of mindless and mindful work done.  I never signed up for this team, but I guess I was forced to join, we attended a highly academic charter school, and it just was part of the deal. We did it so my son didn’t lose his recess or was not in trouble the next day. We felt like we didn’t have a choice.

Before I was a mom, I was an elementary school teacher, for 14 years. I remember the pressure there was to assign homework, from other parents, from standards, from what you thought it should be. But research shows again and again  the benefits from doing homework are just not there in the early grades. Why are we all stuck on this ritual of homework after school?

And it then happened, one day in second grade I decided we would do as little homework as we possibly could. Sometimes we skipped it altogether. So I decided to get permission from teachers to not do it all. Once I told them that it was too much for my active son, teachers were kind and understanding, and allowed modifications on our daily work. We changed schools, and now attend the local elementary, with considerably less homework, and we still don’t do it all. What do we do with all that time. Something that I find way more valuable. We explore. We go on trips outside, to the beach, to parks, and just play.

Last week we went to the beach, and explored the low tides, found caves, ran into a small seal, and collected trash off the rocks. We found sea glass, and a heat shaped rock, and peace of mind. We are coming away from that few hours enriched in nature, and full of memories of fun and friends, and I am pretty sure my ten year old learned more in that afternoon than he could have at any desk.

(The pictures of me are from Michelle Nicoloff and her amazing talent, the others are my iphone)

baby seal ergo baby exploring ergo IMG_4351 jump sunset

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  1. VV

    hi there! I was admiring your photos and came across your blog/article about no homework. I couldn’t agree with you more! You should check out if there is a Waldorf School near you, where grades and homework take a back seat to acquiring empathy, communication, and social skills. It’s not for everyone, but your post makes me think that you would at least appreciate it. Thanks!

  2. admin

    oh there is one around here. that is actually a great idea. Unfortunately my son is already in the forth grade, and you need to start at that type of school very young. I guess I can do that with my second! haha