Last week I got to go visit my brother and his family in Boone for an early Thanksgiving. My nieces are 5 years old and 3 months old and they are just perfect in every way.
They live a mere minutes away from the Blue Ridge Parkway, so we took a brief excursion to get a few pictures. Oh, what I wouldn’t give to have that kind of photo location available to me on a daily basis.
I hope you all had a beautiful holiday.
Looking for a photographer in Spring Hill, Franklin, and Columbia in Middle Tennessee? I photograph families at all stages, from newborns to seniors. See my website for more information or book a session from my online calendar. I would love it if you considered following me on Facebook and/or Instagram.
We ALWAYS go to the Williamson County Fair on my birthday (or at least within a day or two). I love taking photos of all the beautiful lights and the atmosphere. It’s been a special tradition since Megan was a baby. Last year I still made them go through the little farming exhibit for photos.
As you can imagine, there is no county fair this year. I miss it but also decided that the absolute BEST thing about our trips to the fair is that no one complains. They let me take all the photos I want because it’s my birthday.
I often say that my toughest family portrait session all year is when I take family photos of my own family.
I think the best thing we can do to get through all of this crazy year is to modify traditions and make the best of what we can. For example, my family has chosen not to eat inside restaurants. But last weekend, my husband and I went on a date where we picked up food from Costa Vida and took it to a picnic shelter at Evans park to have a quiet meal together. Honestly, it was better than eating in a crowded restaurant.
So even though the fair was canceled, I didn’t let that opportunity pass me by to take advantage of my birthday to get family photos I wanted. They cooperated better than they usually do and I’m pleased with the results.
What kind of traditions have you altered for 2020?
Now that I’ve managed to get some family photos of my own family, I’m ready to book Fall family portrait sessions for everyone else!
You can book a session directly from my online booking calendar or contact me if you have any questions. Don’t wait to book because I can only fit in so many portrait sessions in the Fall. I always hate turning people away.
My birthday was so lovely, and my friends and family are amazing. I took lots of photos at the fair, and saw so many amazing people there. Thank you so much to everyone who took the time to say happy birthday. As always, I celebrated at the Williamson County Fair. I love the Fair and enjoy it every year, including this year.
Things that Aren’t Supposed to Change:
We had a good thing going year after year. I took my tiny, adorable children to the Williamson County Fair. They put on their little aprons and walked through the Little Farmer’s exhibit and got a photo of them picking a fake apple off of a fake apple tree.
Then we pet the real animals, look at the baby pigs, & head out to the midway to ride little kid rides, like the caterpillar and the bumble bee.
After that, since their daddy is a chicken, just us three girls would take a ride on the Ferris Wheel together. Then we’d get a funnel cake and go home.
Preferably the sky would be beautiful and the light would be coming through into the animal barn in just the right way. But I’ve come to terms with the fact that I can’t control light, or the sky. So that’s fine. #thingsicantcontrol
Things that changed at the Williamson county fair 2019:
First of all, who chopped down my tiny cardboard apple trees? Full disclosure…maybe my 13 and 11 year old daughters were not upset to have one less pretend farming exhibit to walk through. But I’m not ready to give up on the apple tree photo yet. I guess I should be thankful that the exhibit has remained so consistent for so many years, but the apple tree was my favorite because they caught the interest of one-year old toddler Megan and was one of my first lovely memories of the fair. Now it’s gone.
And let’s talk about that ugly double Ferris Wheel. All week long, people were messaging me and asking “Have you seen the Ferris Wheel?…. I don’t think you’re gonna like it.” Hats off to my people for looking out for me.
I’m trying to accept it. There are probably lots of people who disagree with me and think it’s cool. Honestly, it’s probably more efficient. Usually, I’d be all about something being more efficient. But not this time. At the fair, I’m all about the nostalgia. I want it to be the same, big, round, classic Ferris Wheel that it’s always been. Not this new fandangled thing. (Yes, I do sound twice my age.)
Side note: Open up your emoticons. Do you see a double ferris wheel?? I think not. 🎡
I was *almost* ready to forgive the Ferris Wheel for being different, when we got in line to ride it. Then I realized that the stupid thing only holds two people. What?????? But, the three of us ride together every single year. #fail
The one benefit to not being able to ride with them was I was able to get photos from a different angle. So there is the bright side. ☀️
Change can be good.
Admittedly, I might be a control freak. I want the fair to stay the way it’s always been, and for my kids to stay little. I’m trying to come to terms that I have no control over either of those things.
You’d think after 13 years she’d be better at it.
Exhibits change. Apparently, Ferris Wheels get weird and have smaller seats. Kids get older and want to hang out with friends at the fair. They stop fitting into the tiny farm aprons and lose interest in milking a fake cow. I am so very thankful they love me enough to wear the apron and milk the cow anyway just for me. Maybe in a year or two they will want to bring dates to the fair. These things are inevitable.
But that’s OK, because the new can be good too. It’s exciting to see the young women my girls are growing into. It’s fun to watch them have fun with their friends, and explore the things they are interested in. It’s fun to make new traditions.
I’m learning to accept all these things.
But I’m still not sure about that Ferris Wheel. 🤨🎡
If you haven’t been to the Williamson County Fair this year, there is still a little time left. Check here for the hours for this weekend! Really, despite all my teasing, they do a fantastic job of organizing such a huge event. I 💙🎡
I hope this blog post is an opportunity for you to learn from my mistakes. I’ve had 8 years of back to school photo experience now (even more if you include Preschool) and I’ve learned a lot. To be honest, I didn’t give it much thought when I first started taking the photos, and that was my biggest mistake. Just a little thought on my part back in 2011 when my oldest started Kindergarten would have made the next 7 years a lot easier.
I’m not saying that back to school photos need to be a big stressful ordeal. On the contrary, I’m saying if I’d put a little thought into it, then they would have been less stressful and more fun than they turned out being when I didn’t have a plan. 🚌
The GOAL for back to school photos:
First of all, you need to know what your goal is for these photos.
For me, back to school is the ideal time to document how my girls are growing and changing over the years. The best way to do this is consistency in the way you take these photos. More than any other pictures I take, I want these to be consistent from year to year, and that’s where I messed up in the lack of planning. I didn’t think enough about making my plan in the beginning, and then my desire for consistency led me to continue doing the wrong things year after year.
So here are my tips to help you come up with your own plan.
TIMING: Make sure you have plenty of time to take the photos without stressing. No one wants to be late on the first day of school. Think about what works best for your family. Will it be before breakfast or after? Can you incorporate a fun tradition, like maybe first we take the photos and then we go get donuts if we finish on time? I’m not above bribery, but most of all, I Iove incorporating traditions into our children’s lives. It makes for wonderful memories.
LOCATION: Choose your spot wisely! This part is where I was all over the place because I didn’t’ have a solid plan and I ended up with multiple spots where I routinely took photos for the sake of consistency. I wish I had chosen one thoughtful location. That would have cut down on stress and the time it took the photos and resulted in better and more consistent images from year to year. Make sure you choose a spot that you can get to easily each year and is in the shade so that you don’t have harsh light. For me, I wish I had specifically chosen in front of our front door. I started out taking photos out in the yard in the opposite direction and it was too bright some years. In front of our door is shaded always and would have provided a more consistent spot. I regret my idea to take photos in front of the Elementary school. Read more about that below. I think in general, in front of your front door is a great spot for back-to-school photos. I’m not saying you can’t also take pictures at school. I’m just saying that your “spot” that you are going to focus on getting consistently year after year should probably be at home.
PLAN OUT YOUR SHOTS: Make sure you get in close for a headshot, but also back away for a full-body view. After all, they put a lot of thought into what they are wearing and you want to document that. I do the same thing with my girls together…I always get in close for a cheek to cheek shot of them together, and also a few of them hugging or interacting in some way. Bonus TIp: Not all the shots have to be before school. Consider making it a tradition to have your camera ready and capture them getting off the bus in addition to your morning shot. Many times, they will be much more relaxed at this point.
CONSIDER PROPS CAREFULLY: You all know I’m not big into super staged proppy photos, but I do think there is a time and a place for a simple prop. The chalkboards listing your child’s grade, for example, can be really cute. Just make sure it’s something you can easily recreate each year without stress. CONSISTENCY IS KEY! Don’t make it so cutsie and complex that you can’t recreate it next year. Remember, your kids should be the focus. Do include details like backpacks & lunch boxes. These showcase their personality and you will be amazed at how that giant looking backpack on your Kindergartener suddenly looks so tiny on your teenager.
MAKE IT FUN: I’m not going to lie. There have been years I’ve royally failed at this one. I want the photos and everyone else just wants to go to school so it all ends in a stressful mess. This is where timing and planning would have gone a long way in simplifying my process and still getting the images I wanted. Above all, go for giggles over the perfect poses. Capture their personalities. Ask them to wiggle, tickle each other or do a little dance. I mean, you can even let them dab or floss if that’s what it takes to get the photo but still keep it fun. Remember, this is a stressful day for them, so try to get it off to a great start. When you are done, give them a hug and tell them to have an amazing day!
Now that that is all finished, pat yourself on the back, you’ve made it through another parenting milestone. You are raising amazing humans and should be proud of yourself. Go call a friend and get a pedicure. Or maybe even a Margarita. How ever it is that you treat yourself…go do that. Parenting is hard stuff and it’s important to celebrate the little wins. You deserve it. ❤️
I’m going to start this off by saying I can’t believe I’ve never been to Point Mallard Water Park before. I had some friends go last summer, but I couldn’t make it. After going there, I don’t understand why it hasn’t been a place that we go several times each summer. I’ve heard a few people talking about it, but in general, it feels like one of the best-kept secrets for a day trip from Spring Hill. Or possibly maybe I haven’t been paying attention and am the last one to figure this out. Either way, I am really glad my friend Christy decided we should go yesterday, despite the iffy chances of rain. (Note: Megan isn’t really into waterparks and had the option to spend the day with her daddy alone, so it was just Kayla and I and our friends.)
So where is it?
The water park is in Decatur, Alabama….which is sort of Huntsville. Our plan for if a downpour began and ruined our waterpark adventures was to go to the Space & Rocket Center instead. It takes about an hour and a half from Spring Hill. Christy picked Kayla and me up around 8 and we stopped for gas and for breakfast and still got there about 15 minutes before they opened at 10 am.
This is the really cool part. Admission is generally $20 for adults (12 and over) and $15 for kids. But Monday – Thursdays (excluding holidays) are half-price days. So it was only $10 per adult and $7.50 per child. (Please check their website before going to double-check prices and half-price days.) Just as a comparison, Nashville Shores is generally $36.99 for adults and $28.99 for kids, though you can sometimes get deals for tickets for $24.99. That’s a big difference. And spoiler alert, I liked Point Mallard better than Nashville Shores.
What we liked about point mallard:
The park was clean and updated. I was shocked when my husband said he used to go to Point Mallard as a kid. The place did not seem old to me at all.
It wasn’t super huge, but had pretty much everything you’d want in a waterpark…a wave pool, lazy river, kids play zone and multiple water slides.
The park is situated on a gorgeous lake. It’s a really beautiful spot, and they even have a little sandy beach on the lake.
It was not crowded at all. Since this was my first time there, I’m not sure if that’s what it’s always like on a weekday (we were there on a Monday) or if the threat of rain kept the crowd down. Either way, it was awesome. The girls never waited to get on a waterslide, and we never felt crowded.
There were several options for food. There was a pizza place, a barbecue place (which I’m not sure was open when we were there) and a place with all your standard park foods. I had a hamburger and fries and Kayla had chicken nuggets. It was nothing special but good enough. We also bought ice cream cones and I remember thinking that the $2 a scoop price was reasonably priced for a place like that.
You can bring your own floats. I didn’t actually know this before we went and I told Kayla she had to leave her banana float at home, but I had I known it was allowed, this would have been a bonus for her.
What we didn’t like about point mallard:
There are two sections to the park and they were kinda spread out pretty far. This is probably good when it’s crowded so it doesn’t seem so cramped, but the first time we walked between the two sections, we did so barefooted and I regretted it. The ground was really hot and there were also sections where the road was gravel and my tender feet did not appreciate it. Then we left out of the exit in the second section and had kind of a long awkward walk back to our car near the first section. Next time we would probably park closer to that second section near the wave pool.
You could only use goggles that didn’t cover your nose. This wasn’t a big deal and I’m sure there is some safety reason I don’t fully understand, but it annoyed Kayla slightly. It was also clearly stated on their website which I didn’t read before we went.
You have to rent wave pool floats. At waterparks I’ve been to in the past, the big innertube floats for the wave pool are just available for anyone to grab. At Point Mallard you have to rent them for $5. One of Kayla’s favorite things to do is to ride on the float in the wave pool so I rented her a float.
We all had a great time at Point Mallard. The ride didn’t seem that long and I thought it was a better park overall than Nashville Shores. We are definitely adding this day trip to our normal rotation.