Kallie & Chase | Everything’s Bigger in Texas
Kallie & Chase | Everything’s Bigger in Texas

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Kallie & Chase had an epic, Texas sized wedding at Pecan Springs Ranch in Austin.  If you like cake, or longhorns… you are in for a treat.

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I mean I get it.  It’s your day.  You are excited… but.. “Best Day Ever!”?  You may be setting expectations pretty high for your guests at the sign in table. ;)

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I love a quiet, super sweet First Look with a bit of tearing up.

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Me: “You guys just stand there and act natural.”

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We interrupt this blog post to talk about how much trust goes into hiring a wedding photographer.  I get it.  It’s a big day.  Some might say it’s the “Best Day Ever”.  So when a couple books me to shoot their wedding, there is a HUGE amount of trust involved in me being able to document and tell their story.  That’s why I love it even more when a family contacts me again for their second daughter’s wedding.  I photographed Kallie’s sister, Katie’s, wedding back in 2010.  I love seeing families throughout the years, and the fact that they trust me over and over again is one of the favorite parts of my job.

(In case you are wondering what the record is,  I have a few families tied with 3 weddings.)

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Let’s give it up for Katie & Chance and their super cute little girl.

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And let’s give it up for this little one.  She was a flower girl in Katie’s wedding, and now she is a Jr. Bridesmaid.  I expect to photograph her as a bridesmaid in 2035 and a bride in 2040.

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This is the part of “here comes the bride” where Kallie decided to stop and take off her shoes.

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The unity sand is a perfect depiction of marriage.  It symbolizes that no matter how much planning goes into something… the man can mess it up.

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Let’s all stop and stand to our feet and give a slow clap for The Cake Plate.

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This cake was close to 400lbs.  That’s a lot of cake.

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Kallie and Chase then spent the first 15 minutes of their marriage in the best way possible: handing out ginormous oversized pieces of cake to little children.

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Maybe it was the Best Day Ever.

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Belize 2015
Belize 2015

True story.

I love mission trips.

I love them for 2 simple reasons.

1. By going somewhere and serving, you can impact another life.

2. By going somewhere and serving, you can impact your life.

It’s really that simple. I’ve been on about 7 of these type of trips in the past 3 years and each one reminds me more and more that they are worth taking.

This was a special trip because it was the first time Danielle and Sara joined Jo & I. I knew it would make for a totally different experience and I can’t wait to share these little snippets with you.
(Also, if 100 photos and lots of reading is not your thing, that’s cool. You can skip to the bottom and watch a little movie.)
Let’s start with this photo.

FACT: The 4 of us went to Belize for a week and did not check one bag of luggage. BOOM! #WINNING

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I loved seeing Sara sign her first customs form. I loved filling out 4 of those super annoying bad boys with all types of information and serial numbers. I loved Danielle giving me the stink eye when the first sign through customs was an Ebola warning. I also loved Danielle settling her nerves by reading a little Pride & Prejudice.

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Rule #862 of these types of trips: sleep whenever you can.  (This is Jo’s third trip.  He is a pro.)

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We were serving in a little village called Guinea Grass.  Population 3,000.

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One of the things we were doing was striping a basketball court we helped build last year.

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These girls are college athletes. They tried to jump in the air on “3”. They kinda failed. Take heart all you jumping bridesmaids and groomsmen. It’s harder than it looks.

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It was so great to go back and see so many familiar faces.  It’s crazy that they remembered many of us by name.

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Breakfast/Lunch/Dinner all came from this stove.

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The kids loved all of the crafts, songs, and Bible stories that we would do in the afternoon.

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Sara could usually be found in a crowd of kids.

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This is Dakota.  I love him.  He is tall.  Really tall.  As in… he played college basketball tall.  The crazy great thing about Dakota is anytime there were kids around, you would find him way way down on the floor, connecting with kids.  It was so great to see.

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After VBS, we would do a little basketball camp for the kids.  The skill levels varied greatly.  That was part of the fun.

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The other part of the fun was when it rained, the court could be used as a slip and slide.

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(I told you he was tall.)

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I took these photos within like 20 minutes of each other.  I love them because they look so similar and yet are so different.  Sara would go and seek out a group of girls to play and hang out with.  Danielle would look for just one, and then little by little others would flock to her.

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Reason #462 of why I love these trips: They stretch you.
Ryder ended up leading one of our devotionals. It was his first time doing anything like that and he crushed it. He shared from his heart and his experiences, and it was super open and honest. I loved listening to him and I loved seeing one of his closest friends kinda just ignoring him and stuffing his face with breakfast.

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This is Norman our bus driver for the week.  When he was not driving us around, he was giving impromptu bus driving lessons to one of our team members who was about to come back to the states and have to take her bus driving exam.  Crazy right?

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Reason #5208 of why I love these trips: The unexpected.

Another group had been to this village before us and met this little boy with a medical condition that keeps him from walking. A member of their group was able to find and purchase a walker that would grow with him. They got in touch with our group and had us deliver it. Needless to say, when this little guy started taking his first steps, his face lit up with joy. It was hard to keep shooting because all of the water in my viewfinder.

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On a less emotional note… Remember that girl who learned to drive a bus?  She was going to be without her newfound boyfriend for TWO WHOLE WEEKS!!!!!  (Forever, I know.) Anyway… I thought it would be fun to bring a little cut out so she could share the trip with him. #WINNING

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We also were able to take a little detour to see a Mayan ruin. This lead to us climbing it and making a Mayan face.

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Our last day was spent playing on a nearby island.

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The boat ride we took to the island was not Danielle’s favorite.

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Sara & I tried to snorkel but soon decided to just swim back to the boat and wait for the good stuff.

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Sharks & Stingrays (AKA: The Good Stuff)

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Sara was crazy brave and touched a shark. Danielle was crazy brave and climbed into the water, and then proceeded to climb onto my back and crush my lungs with her death grip.

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We walked up and down the island looking at gift shops and souvenir stores. Jo finally decided on getting a used Sherlock Holmes book. (Of course he did.)

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Towards the end of the week, we got a little video  message from the two boys we left back in the States.

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You know what’s neat?  When people get baptized.

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You know what’s also neat?  When you have your first cappucino and coconut water on the same day.

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Again, I love the sharks, the basketball, the songs, and the boyfriend cut outs.  But the thing that really makes these trips stand out is the faces of these little kids.

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One of my most favorite moments ever happened on this trip. Kids would constantly run up to me and ask me to take their photo. I would, then I would show them, then they would go get more kids. Rinse. Wash. Repeat.

This little dude comes up to me one morning and says… “Can I trade you this mango for a picture?”

Seriously? Uh… yes. Absolutely.
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Like I said at the beginning, I love how these trips stretch you.

I love seeing my quiet homebody son be willing to interact with dozens of kids he’s never met and love on them.

I love seeing my bold, fearless daughter travel to a new country and fit right in like she’s grown up there her whole life.

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These trips help center us.
They help remind us that the world is bigger than our:

home remodel
photography business
iPhone 6
playstation
american girl dolls
10 year plan
5 year plan
1 year plan

They remind us that right now is the time to love others.

Right now is the time to serve and give.

You don’t have to leave the country. But you do have to serve.

Find a place to give back. Plug in. Pour yourself out.

And, in the pouring, and in the giving, you’ll find the strangest thing happens.

You are filled.

Thank you Belize for filling me up.

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Oh, one more thing, here’s the video I promised.

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sarah & caleb | 365 days of marriage!!!
sarah & caleb | 365 days of marriage!!!

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Sarah & Caleb were married 1 year ago on July 4th.  They were kind enough to drop some knowledge on what being a newly wed couple is like.  Read on if you want to make your first year of marriage a bit less bumpy.

What do you miss most about the single life?
Scheduling things on my own time. Having more options to do things I used to when I was single, work out, have a girls weekend, spend the weekend at my parents, or simply to go shopping for “wants” without feeling I have to consult with another’s schedule or consider our budget.

What’s your best cheapo/ fun date idea?
A campout. Could be after a long hike, or driving to a really cool location and setting up tent for the night or simply having a picnic with the tent set up for shade, we even set our tent up on the front porch in record low temperatures and spent the night out there – and just to live on the wild side it was a weeknight! Wherever you set up camp, make sure to stay long enough to star gaze and having a fire with s’mores is a MUST! This date can be done all year round, but my favorite time is during the fall.

What has been the best thing about your first year of marriage?
The best thing about the first year of marriage has been coming home to my best friend every night. Having that person to share frustrations with, get angry at, bounce ideas off of, share joys and encouraging each other through life’s ups and downs. Being married is just another example of God’s love for us.

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What’s been the hardest part about being married?
The hardest part of being married for me has been a lack of “me time”, so very similar to what I miss most about being single. I lived on my own for 5 years, independent and financially stable. I didn’t need anyone to do anything for me. I could pick up and have a weekend with girlfriends at a bed and breakfast in a fun town, or sleep in until 7:30am (yes, that’s late for me!) Being married, is a give and take, and for all the things my husband and daughter add to my life, I’m happy to give up some of my girls weekends and sleeping late occasionally.

What surprised you the most?
It wasn’t so much that I was surprised by it than it was a huge realization. After a particularly difficult discussion (one of our first since being married) we headed to bed and I recall thinking… “He’s not leaving… I need time to process this conversation…he’s not going home…this is his home… Oh my gosh!” When we’re dating we had the luxury of our own homes. When we had discussed something difficult, there was time and space in between the next time we saw each other… Now that we’re married, it’s a little different. Still learning.

What have you fought about most and why?
Expectations I had about being a wife and mother. I have a wonderful example of what that looks like in my mother. I failed to realize that before she became the awesome mother and wife I witnessed while I was growing up and that I know today, she had to go thorough the first few years of marriage as well- figuring out who she was as a Mrs. and as a mother. I fight with myself about not meeting preconceived expectations which I place upon myself, which in turn effects our communication.

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What was the biggest thing you were nervous about? How has it turned out?
A friend of mine just reminded me of one of the things I was nervous about before getting married: making lunches for my husband during the week and planning the week of meals for our family.  It seems so funny now to think about how worried I was, but I wanted to make sure I was taking care of my family and doing a good job of it by the way of cooking meals which I enjoy and keeping a warm, inviting and clean home. My husband and daughter help out so much and even without me asking them to do it. From doing the dishes, to making the beds, vacuuming, helping me cook, washing, drying and folding the clothes, they make being married and family life easy and enjoyable. I feel so blessed!

Do you have any advice for couples who are about to blend a family?
My husband always went on “Dad and daughter dates” before he and I got married. I encouraged them to continue these dates afterwards as well so that they can have one on one time and further their bond without me in the picture.

I am an educator and have seen many of my children from divorced households and the gambit of relationship dynamics pass through my classroom. Remaining positive and complimentary of the child’s parent(s) is essential. Nothing negative should ever be discussed in front of the child/ children.

I read many books about blended families and even books about the specific role in which you are about to take on. Read books about the your children/ stepchildren and the emotions they could experience. (The five Love Languages of Children is also a great book!)

Lastly, the biological parent needs to be sensitive to their spouce’s, the step-parent’s emotions. It is important for the husband and wife to continue to go on dates. The spouse/ stepparent needs to feel validated and a respected part of the family. This can be very tricky. Communication is key and it also requires the spouse (stepparent) to be sensitive and very understanding.

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Happy 1 year of marriage guys.  Thanks for opening up and giving us a little peek into your life.

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my favorite part of a wedding day: father/daughter dance
my favorite part of a wedding day: father/daughter dance

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So a little while ago, I started this series and I kinda put it on the back burner. But, I’m ready to relaunch it now.
(In case you missed the first one, “Family Photos”, here it is.)

One of the reasons I love shooting weddings so much is because of all the relationships involved. The longer you have known those people, the deeper the interactions with them will be on your wedding day. That’s part of why I am a sucker for the Father-Daughter dance. I know, I know. Typically, the bride and groom sharing their FIRST dance together as husband and wife is supposed to be the headliner. But let me tell you a little secret: that’s not the dance to watch.

A bride & groom’s first dance is just more of what you’ve already seen that day. It’s two people giddy, in love, and just smiling at each other because their happily ever after is just getting started. That’s great. Sunshine, rainbows, unicorns, everybody loves it. But, a good Father-Daughter dance is so much more. It’s 25 years of living and raising a human. There is so much going on just below the surface. I love seeing how they unfold. Sometimes they are full of laughter, and memories, and chatter. Sometimes they are planned out choreography and even though it’s a struggle, you know they had so much fun practicing. And every now and then, you get the full on melt down. Two people just laughing and crying for 3 minutes while they take in what the last quarter of a century was like.

Here are a few of my favorites:


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So next time you go to a wedding, don’t just walk over to the punch bowl when they call for the Bride & her Father to share a “special dance.”

Stop what you are doing.
Soak it in.
Be present.

It’s not just 3 minutes of swaying to “I Loved Her First.”

It’s softball practices, and dance recitals, and driving lessons, and prom dresses, and butterfly kisses, and coke dates, and science projects, and Disney movies, and painted toes, and boyfriend breakups, and fishing trips, and tea parties.
It’s knowing that it will never be like it was.

And starting to be OK with that.

But, it’s also knowing that it will never be like it was.

And getting excited about that.

Oh, one last thing about Father-Daughter dances… sometimes they don’t have to be a dance at all.  Because as dads, all we really want, is one last moment with our little girl.

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danielle, jo, sara & i are going to belize. wanna help?
danielle, jo, sara & i are going to belize. wanna help?

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A few years ago I was able to go on my first mission trip to Haiti, the very next year I brought Jo along.  He was 10 at the time.  I loved seeing him connect with kids from the other side of the world and I love how he came home understanding that there is a bit more to life than video games and new Lego sets.  He’s since been to Haiti and Belize and this year Danielle and Sara are joining us on our trip to Belize!   We will be helping build a basketball court in a village as well as teaching vacation bible school during the week.

(This is the part where you come in.)

We are funding the trip ourselves and are still a bit short of the full amount. (Plane tickets are expensive yo!) So I thought, why not see if anyone out there is interested in contributing?!? As a little thank you for your gift, I’ll shoot a mini-session of your choice. Family, baby, maternity, senior, kittens? You pick it and I’ll shoot it. (These will take place in the East Texas area on selected dates.) I’m only offering 10 of these so get em’ while they last.

10 mini-sessions, $150 bucks each. All proceeds go to getting Danielle, Jo, Sara & I to Belize.

Two more things…

1. If you don’t need photos, but still want to donate. That’s allowed. (Email me here: alexmphotography@gmail.com)

2. If you don’t need photos, and don’t want to donate. That’s also allowed, passing this post along to others would be a HUGE help.

Ready… Go!

(Email me here: alexmphotography@gmail.com if you want to book a session.)

Here is a little video I put together from our trip last year.

And… if you still want more Belize goodness, you can click here to read about our trip from last year.

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