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May 26, 2020

When Henry was just a baby, I posted about some of our favorite children’s books. Perhaps obviously, at that time, we were solidly in board books, but we have always been a family who reads and our book collection has grown and grown and grown over the years. Currently, my kids are 2 and 5 so, while my 2 year old still enjoys some board books, she’s entering the full-on picture book phase. And my 5 year old, now a self-taught and avid reader, is moving into chapter books, but he still loves a good stack of picture books (doesn’t every kid?). So, while this list cannot possibly be complete, I have compiled it based on both of their shared interests at the present time. In other words, these are books that both kids love to read.

For parents and grandparents trying to grow their own home libraries, here are a few tips I’ve learned over the years of collecting:

  1. Hardcover books are more expensive, but they are worth the extra money! Hardcover books get read more because the spine is clearly visible on the bookshelf. Softcover books tend to get hidden in the shelves and most don’t even have a spine so the only way to find out what they are is to pull them out and look at the cover. We always read the hardcover ones first because the spine is what my kids see and read when they are picking out stories from the shelves. They also hold up better in overall use so factor in longevity, especially if you plan on having or have more than one child.
  2. Always check consignment shops for books. They are so cheap (!!) and are usually still in decent to good condition. I know our favorite authors so it’s easy to scan through quickly and see if there are any books that we’d like.
  3. I keep a list of books we love but we don’t own yet on Amazon where it’s super easy to keep tabs on any sales or price shifts.
  4. Books are a great reward/incentive instead of toys. We have plenty of toys, but if I have to choose between the two, I’ll any day spend money on books over toys.
  5. The best way to find your favorite books is to use your library! Books that we keep repeatedly checking out are books that we usually end up buying. We have checked out thousands of books at our local library and we keep finding new favorites every time!
  6. Lastly, pick and read stories to your kids that include a variety of ethnicities and cultures! The best way to start teaching inclusivity and anti-racism to really young kids is with books that show lead characters in a variety of skin colors, clothing and hair styles, and traditions.



May 13, 2020

May 9th was their original wedding date. Because of COVID-19, they were forced to reschedule so they sent out mailings for everyone to save their new date. Early last week, they were notified by their venue that they were going to be forced to cancel the second, rescheduled date. Now anyone who has planned a wedding in regular circumstances may remember how stressful that was. Imagine planning a wedding in the midst of the ever-shifting unknowns of a worldwide pandemic. When Olivia and Malachi were notified about the cancellation and thus having to reschedule to a third date and a new venue, they decided to go back to the beginning and get married on their original wedding date, May 9, 2020.

With the help of Brenda (Town or Country Event Design) and some other wonderful helpers behind the scenes, they were able to pull off a stunning spring wedding on the outdoor lawn at the very place they met and later got engaged, the University of Iowa College of Dentistry. They were in the same class (and just graduated last week!) and were randomly assigned to be partners. Being paired up meant they were each other’s first patient. Malachi says “the rest is history”, but I doubt it’s as easy as doing a dental cleaning and then falling in love. They started dating the summer following that first year of dental school and Malachi proposed last May.

“It was literally the most perfect, planned out day. I had no idea,” Olivia said. “A year ago, the College did a story on Malachi and he told me they were doing a follow up story. The school even emailed me asking to be his mock patient for the interview as a photographer would be there. They added that we could pick any unit, and so we, of course, picked the unit 10 where we first met. We met the photographer, had the unit all set up, and then after a few staged pictures, he sat me up in the chair and was holding the most beautiful engagement ring, telling me, ‘You know how I told that the first person I say “I love you” to, I am going to marry?’ And (that is when I knew) he looked at me and said, ‘Liv, I love you. Will you marry me?’”

Malachi had been planning the proposal for 4 months. No one knew and he designed the ring himself and wanted it to be a complete surprise. “I just kept telling her we would wait until May of our 4th year.” (Which is now when they actually got getting married!) Olivia laughed, “Honestly, I couldn’t pay Malachi any amount of money to use a planner, or even follow a weekly schedule, but he outdid himself planning the engagement.”


Due to COVID-19 restrictions, they had to scale back their guest list. They ended up with less than 10 people in attendance and kept it a complete surprise from the rest of their family and friends. They actually announced it later that night using a few of these photos, like, hey, you’ll never guess what we did today!

Being part of such an intimate wedding was, in short, magical. I love that my job is to preserve the moments for generations to come, but it’s an added level of magic when my job isn’t just to preserve memories, but to provide a way for the many, many friends and family who weren’t there to experience it with them.


April 27, 2020

This family was so fun to meet this past November. Lincoln had reached out to me on Instagram last fall to see if I would be available to photograph her family over Thanksgiving when they would be visiting from out of state. It ended up working out perfectly with my schedule and we were lucky to be able to use any of the space and buildings on the property that they are renting. It was a really dreary day and fairly chilly out, but everyone brought cheerful attitudes and followed the philosophy that I think every family should adopt: “There are only two days that your mother gets every year…Mother’s Day and photo day. You smile and do whatever she says on those days.”



April 16, 2020

I shot their wedding on an unusually cold day in October 5 years ago and I got to photograph their family a few years ago (first here and then here) when Jackson was much smaller and Beckham wasn’t born yet. So getting to hang out with this sweet family again was, simply put, a joy. Beckham was at the age of not being shy at all and had plenty of smiles to give and, oh, if I could’ve just held him for hours; he’s the squishiest baby I’ve ever held. Jackson was a little shy, but as long as he was close to his parents and his lion, Taggy, he did just fine.

I met up with this family at Wilson’s Apple Orchard in Iowa City on a beautiful fall afternoon. With little kids, I try to keep sessions fairly simply and really relaxed and I knew Emily and Shamus would appreciate that and love the realness of the interaction photos. As a bonus, we got to end the session with them picking a few apples and then grabbing hot apple turnovers.



April 14, 2020

The last time I photographed the Prieskorns, there was a lot more height difference. Funny how that works.

Melissa and I met years ago at the gym and we (normally, but not right now obviously) see each other several times a week. She brings lots of sarcasm and humor everywhere she is and, let me say, it was a delight to see her daughters also carry this trait. This was the only family I photographed this past fall with older kids and it was so much fun to see the camaraderie and sarcasm that the girls brought to the session. fossil_gorge_family_emilycrall_photo_1903.jpg


April 13, 2020

Of all the family sessions I did, this was the only first-time family. Mary Kate had found me on Instagram and reached out about family photos. Since meeting them, we’ve discovered that we work out at the same gym and our youngests are the same age, providing some fun play dates. This family has a heart of gold and are so generous with their love. When we couldn’t make it to a birthday party for Jesus right before Christmas because the stomach bug hit Henry, they dropped off leftover treats, crafts, and reindeer food for Christmas Eve. It has been such a treat getting to know the White family and I love that it can be traced back to social media, which, for all its failings, has brought some truly wonderful friendships into my life.



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