on readiness…

“Are you ready for the kids to go back to school?”

In a word, no.

That’s why, over the past week, I haven’t really felt like talking and I seem kind of “off”.  (Which could be linked to also trying to quit caffeine – again.)  It’s why I just looked outside at the Buzz Lightyear water hose and felt my eyes get watery.  It’s why watching my son lose his first tooth this morning actually took my breath away.

I’m not ready.

Not at all.

Don’t get me wrong, I bought all the school supplies and the necessary shoes and such.  I made my kids help me put together a LUNCH SCHEDULE.  (I felt so accomplished over this.  Seriously.  This ADD mom has A LUNCH SCHEDULE.)  And I have turned in all the forms, prayed all the prayers and done all the things.

But I’m not ready.

I’ve asked the ready question all summer.  I’ve made lists of how to be READY.  But I’m not.

And today I decided that was okay.

Because the truth is when they handed that little baby to me 8 years ago in the hospital – I certainly did NOT feel ready.  When I took her home and realized we were actually DOING this and she was ours forever – I did not feel ready.  When she took her first steps, I did not feel ready.  When my “just in case” pregnancy test had 2 lines, I most certainly was not ready.  When I was told at the 20 week ultrasound that the little one in my womb was a BOY and not a girl – I was not ready.  (And I may have nearly hyperventilated because I had SEEN boys at the playground and was worn out by merely observing them.)  When my body had walked through the worst stages of Lyme and I found out I was pregnant – without maternity coverage I was NOT ready.  I could keep going, but the truth is I have never once been “ready” in my entire time of parenthood.

But I have showed up.

Clumsy, not put together, imperfect me has shown up.

I’m thinking for me – that’s all I can do.  For always.  And maybe, just maybe it’s better than being ready.



kelly & joe: the wedding


Amidst stained glass windows aglow with light trickling through, family and friends glowing, and a couple holding hands dressed in a lace-covered white dress and handsome grey suit, the priest spoke our hearts: that this couple we were here to celebrate is telling a story of love.  He spoke of how these two amazing individuals have come together to write an even more beautiful story – hand in hand for the rest of their days.  To know them is to know that it couldn’t be truer.

Kelly and Joe, I have tears in my eyes as I write this…thank you.  Thank you for inviting us into your lives.  Thank you for sharing your love for each other and for your family and friends.  Thank you for all the laughter and joy and graciousness that pours out of you two.  I love you both SO very much.  I will never forget the overwhelming honor of all the “backstage” moments of your wedding.  Hugs with grandma, interrupting an amazing coffee shop and all the smiles of everyone there, watching you embrace as you saw each other for the first time, stolen moments with your precious dog, how you lit up as you greeted each friend and family member and all the joy written over the entire day.  You two are a treasure and I’m crazy honored to know you.  Pieces of my grateful heart are in every image…


Now…on to the images.  And to start, here’s one of my favorites of Kelly’s STUNNING dress.

Oh this sweet little girl.  We became friends and it was so precious to see her love for Kelly.  And to catch her checking herself in the mirror…

I LOVE that Kelly had her wedding date stitched into her TOMS as her something blue…

To go ahead and embrace some southern-ness – it blessed my heart to see how Kelly brought her sweet flower girl into all the moments of the day.

To the bridesmaid who kept this as a souvenir from their rehearsal dinner – you are AWESOME.  Don’t let anybody else tell you different.  You made my day.

I could gush about Kelly (and Joe) for DAYS.  (True confession: I  have to all my family and friends)  But I also need to gush about her sister.  It was so sacred and beautiful to watch her joy for her sister.  She was an incredible maid of honor, but it was moments like this – where her love and joy was so palpable, that I found tears in my eyes.  You two are incredible.  (And Mr. and Mrs. Gibbons – I’ll take every piece of advice you have on how to encourage this kind of bond with your kids)

Oh yes.  As little sisters these two dressed up as brides…with magic wands.

I work with my brides to help set up their timelines so that they can have the experiences and memories they truly want for a lifetime.  One of my favorites is when my brides choose to do a special reveal to their dads…

One of my other favorites?  When they do a special reveal to their bridesmaids.  It’s so precious to watch their reactions.

I talked with Joe and Kelly about first looks.  I don’t believe in tapping someone on the shoulder – I believe in an intimate, connected moment.  (Which can be a challenge in a big city.)  We worked together and chose a little park across the street from the church.  The look on Joe’s face and the images that follow are exactly why I LOVE first looks and the memories that accompany them.

Ted (my husband) took these images.  And they may be some of my absolute favorites from the day.

Kelly…I LOVE your excitement…

These two are beyond precious.  I’ll never forget watching this little man pull her down the aisle!

We made a quick stop at Kelly and Joe’s apartment for Joe to open his gift and to grab a picture with their precious dog.

YOU TWO ARE BEAUTIFUL.  (Inside and out.)  And I’m pretty sure that none of these people will forget this moment.  (PS: Heritage Coffee THE best iced coffee I’ve ever had in my entire life and I cannot thank the beautiful and talented videographer, Jessica Lewis, enough for treating me to some.  I cannot wait to see the video she puts together from their wedding day!)

I always take individual bridal party pictures with the bride and groom.  I start with a traditional pose and then for the last shot I just ask them to do something fun or something that is a part of their friendship.  This bridal party rocked and the moments were equal parts hilarious and amazing…

We then headed over to Diversey Harbor where Joe proposed to Kelly…

By the way – I need to say a HUGE thank you to the AMAZING ushers.  You ushed with utter awesomeness.  And thank you for literally holding back a tree so that these shots were possible.

Then we arrived for the reception at the Chicago Cultural Center.  This place has always stopped me and left me breathless.  It was perfect to celebrate their marriage here…

Meet the parents of the groom (on the left) and the parents of the bride (on right).  I am so grateful they would pause and let me capture a few moments with each of them.

Joe’s brother prepared an AMAZING slideshow of pictures presented before the dance floor was opened.  The precious little flower girl and ring bearer saw it as their stage.  Little ones, may you never be afraid to dance like you did this night.  May you always be so brave and filled with joy…

The truth?  Watching the parent dances is starting to leave me with tears in my eyes now.  I realize these moments come all too quickly.  As I document these moments, I realize they are filled with memories of dancing in the living room, teaching them how to ride bikes, helping with homework and  so many more “mundane” moments that currently comprise my days.  These moments remind me of how beautiful it all is…even when it doesn’t feel so beautiful…

The dance floor was rocked, my friends.

Kelly and Joe – we love you!!!


The fabulous vendors who made all of these beautiful moments come together:

Dress: Lazaro
Reception – Chicago Cultural Center
Church – Old St. Patrick’s Church
Band: The Connexion Band
Cake: Oakmill Bakery
Florist: Occasionally Yours
Make-up:  Nika Vaughan
Hair: Bridal Beauty Chicago
Trolley: Absolute Dream Limousines, Inc., driver Dan Baxter
Catering: Chef By Request


lindsey & rob: anniversary session

These two.

They’ve left me laughing harder than I thought possible.  They bless my heart every time I’m with them.  (Truth.)  And they are a gift to the world.  (You can fall in love with them HERE, HERE, HERE, and HERE.)

Lindsey and Rob, I love you both to pieces and you have my heart as you embark on your next adventure.  I’m also counting down the days until I can see you again…


Why?  Because we can.  And it was hilariously epic.

This series makes me laugh.  Every.time.

the mertes family

My heart simply cannot put words around the love I have for the people in these pictures.

Liesel, Luke and your precious Mertes children, we Paulsons LOVE you.  As in literally – we have not stopped talking about all of you.  You have our hearts.  Times infinity.  I just ache that I waited so long to email you, Liesel.  Thank you for the grace and love you’ve showered on us.  For sharing your pain.  Your hearts.  And your joy.  Honestly – you have already been a part of restoring my heart just by sharing yours.  Our time with you will forever be lodged in my memory as a day my heart grew bigger just from spending time with all of you.  I hope you love looking through all the love present in your family.  I’m overwhelmed by it…

And please, oh please, take the time to fall in love with them and their honesty and their pain-filled wisdom and honest journey on Liesel’s blog.  I plan on writing more later, but the oven timer is dinging, dinner must be served and I simply cannot wait another moment before I share the love found in these images.



the paulson family


I was convinced for the longest time that it was a feeling.  And it is.  Yet, it’s more.

It’s a choice.

It’s one more hug.  It’s choosing to come back and try again.  It’s pacing floors at 1 am with an infant who decided now was the time to party. (A party you wish you could kindly decline attending)  It’s seeing the best in your spouse when you’re so sleep deprived you mistake formula for creamer in your coffee.  It’s living a portion of your life in the bathroom because the sound of the shower is the only thing that seems to comfort your little one.  It’s football holds and one more story and trying to take care of yourself so you can care for others who need your help.

These parents keep showing up and choosing love.  The road has not been easy, but they keep choosing a story that tells LOVE.


Sweet Paulson Family,

Sometimes I fear it could come across as a sappy, too easily spoken phrase when I tell you how much I love you.  I try to find bigger, better words with more weight and grandiose-ness, but they never find their way into my mouth.  So here it is, plain, simple and yet so profoundly felt – I love you.

The way you two have loved your daughter through these months has inspired me and challenged me.  It’s beautiful, really. 

And sweet little baby girl, oh, I love you.  You are filled with so much LIFE inside a sweet, little body.  I imagine it’s been hard.  There is so much to discover, so much love to share, so much to do and I see that your little body cannot quite keep up with and allow you to do all that’s brewing in you.  You are a gift.  I cannot wait to see how you change this world – because you will.  You will melt hearts and bring joy and life to all the people you meet.  I’m hoping and praying though that you can be patient with yourself along the way.  It’s a hard thing to learn for those of us with so many dreams and so much brewing in us.  You’re ready to tackle the world and yet your body isn’t quite allowing you to do so just yet.  Hang in there, sweet girl.  Rest in the love your mommy and daddy (and extended family) are pouring over you.  It will come.  In the meantime, please, oh please, would you consider sleeping through the night?  And trying some deep yoga breaths for your mommy and daddy?  It helps.  I promise.

The good news though?  Your mommy and daddy love you no matter what.  They are already showing you that.  And that, my sweet little niece, is the most beautiful of gifts.  May your heart always know what they are showing you now – they will love you NO MATTER WHAT.  Because that kind of love?  That’s what changes the world…

Aunt Amy

PS: Yes they are way too many photos, but when you’re the proud aunt (and sister-in-law) – you get to post AS MANY AS YOU WANT!!!!

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