The Healing Birth of Makenna Elaine (aka moving on after the Camp Fire)

Thursday, November 8, 2018 started as a normal day for myself and so many others living in Paradise and Magalia, CA. I was supposed to be on a flight down to San Diego for work, and so had gotten myself and my kids dressed much earlier than usual, so I’d be able to drop them off at school as soon as it opened and get myself down to the airport in Sacramento in time to get through TSA before my flight. 

We were about to leave for school when I saw the smoke. At first, it was just a little. A small little plume, but obviously in the canyon near my home. I called my dad, who works for CAL Fire, to see if he knew anything. I texted a photo to my husband, who was already at work, to ask him to check Facebook to see if he knew anything. I saw my neighbor walk out to his car and I called at him to turn around and check out the smoke. He is a police officer and he told me that a fire in the canyon was too close for comfort, and that I ought to stay nearby. I FaceTimed my boss to show her the smoke, so she wouldn’t think I was just bailing on my work trip. I kind of half-heartedly walked around the house thinking about what I might need should we have to leave. I asked my 8 year old daughter to gather up some things she might want if we had to evacuate for a few days.

Within a very short time, it was apparent that this fire was different. It was big. It was fast. My husband heard on the scanner app he was listening to that our area was going to be evacuated. He raced up the hill from Chico in record time (he says 10 minutes, which is TRULY amazing!) I grabbed random armfuls of clothes from each kids room, for myself and my husband. I tore photos off our walls and threw them in the car. My oldest was already in Chico, where he attended high school. I texted him and asked what he’d want from the house. He only wanted his skateboard and photos of his dad, who passed away 3 years ago. I got my younger kids and our dog in the car. And I grabbed my camera bag. 

We drove to my parent’s house in the middle of town, still thinking this would be like previous evacuations. That we’d have to spend a night or two away from home, and then go back. Even though we were passing flames on our way there, at 8:30 in the morning, we still thought that it would be extinguished quickly. It only took minutes at my parent’s home before the sky was completely black and we could hear the fire roaring like a freight train. Kids went into my husbands car (he had the DVD player, we thought it might keep them calm), the dog went back into mine and we headed down the hill, not knowing that it would be the last time we’d ever see our town looking the way it did that morning, not knowing that it would be another month before we laid eyes on our house again. 

Our story is so much like so many others. Our home is still standing, but has extensive damage and will be completely gutted and rebuilt. Our belongings are likely not going to be salvageable due to the heavy smoke damage and long exposure to the elements following the fire. We are in the long game phase of this fire – it will likely take about a year to rebuild the house, and even at that point we do not know if there will be a town to support us living there, or if the air will even be safe for our children at that time. We will likely never live in the town that I grew up in, that we chose to raise our children in, again. 

Because of the housing shortage in Butte County, we have now relocated to Roseville, CA. Our kids began their new schools and daycares and are thriving. My husband and I are following their lead, and are hoping that if we act like we are ok, that soon we actually will be. 

We have seen kindness like I never even knew existed since the Camp Fire. Friends and family, people we barely even know, have flooded us with kindness. Gift cards, clothing, housing necessities. We are so blessed to have been shown these kindnesses. It helps make each day a bit easier as we transition into our new lives. 

In honor of the kindnesses that we’ve been shown, I wanted to think of ways that I could honor my own Paradise friends. Obviously, it comes very naturally to me to offer up my camera. Jesse and Tiffany are a sweet, young, hardworking couple who were raising their two boys in Magalia. They rented, and unfortunately did not have insurance. Their home burnt down and they lost everything. Jesse had been at work out of town during the fire, and Tiffany escaped with their toddler and animals. They were expecting their third child, a sweet little girl, due in December. 

Tiffany and I had been talking about me photographing her csection for MONTHS. And I mean months. But this was when it was going to be me popping two miles down the road to the local hospital. Now it was a matter of a few hours drive, and a prayer that I’d be let into the OR with them, since they were now delivering at an unfamiliar hospital. I KNEW that I had to be there for them, that I would be able to offer this gift of memories for them, when they have so little left. We kept in touch, and finally it was time for sweet Makenna to arrive. 



Our morning began in the pre-op section. Jesse so sweetly made sure that Tiffany was feeling ok. He told me after they wheeled her into the OR for her spinal that she was really nervous, and that made him nervous for her. You can easily tell how connected these two are. They are full of love for one another and the whole day was a testament to that. 

Jesse and I soon headed back to the OR and things were already getting started. Again, Jesse’s attention was immediately on Tiffany and he set to work making sure that she was alright. 

Everything about this csection was special, including the delivery doctor. He had been Tiffany’s OB in Paradise and had lost his home as well during the fire. He now has privileges in Chico as well, and Tiffany was able to continue the end of this journey with the OB that she loved and trusted. 

Makenna came out healthy and gorgeous. Her dad joined her at the warmer as the nurses counted her fingers and toes and declared her perfect. Jesse continued to check in with Tiffany for the entire time he and Makenna were away, shouting out the baby’s stats and that they would be quick, and that he loved her. 

Finally, Makenna and Tiffany were together again. Makenna stared at her mom, with eyes open and with such calm. She recognized her immediately and it was amazing to watch their bond, literally only minutes into her arrival earthside. 

I mean, she really is insanely beautiful. I know it’s not just me!

We even got to take a peek at the placenta. The nurse showed Tiffany and Jesse the “tree of life” pattern that most placentas have. 

After some rest, Makenna’s big brothers got to visit with her. It’s clear to see that everyone is in love with her!

Welcome to the world, sweet Makenna! Everyone is so happy that you are here. Thank you for being such a healing presence during such a difficult time for many. 

If you feel led, here is a link to Jesse and Tiffany’s GoFundMe. https://www.gofundme.com/avgfz-pacheco-family?fbclid=IwAR2Mg3-R6NVzjfh7_RYtpp4vXJIDo_em1m5kEBiAoofms9-cSgGKdnlmPPs

What Does Documentary Photography Look Like?

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Documentary photography is the art of capturing real life, as it unfolds. There are no posed moments, only the raw truth. And you know what? It’s absolutely beautiful!

 

A documentary photo session takes place in a location that is special to you or your family. Often times that’s in your own home. Sometimes it’s a place that you enjoy going to, like the library, ice cream shop, your local park, the river. Basically, any spot that makes your heart sing. The goal of this type of session is to capture memories in an artistic way – to translate these moments into something physical that you can look at, hold, laugh at, cry with.

 

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One of my favorite things about documentary photography is its ability to show a piece of childhood, something that your kids are sooooo into right now. The image below shows my youngest with his dinosaurs. He is OBSESSED. Like, straight out insane about dinosaurs. Everything about them. He plays with his dinos every day, talks about them all of the time, wears clothes with dinosaurs on them, and we plan special events for him that allow him to see dinosaurs. I love that documentary photography allows me to have photos that will recall this short time for me in the future. When I’m 70, and he’s in his 40’s, I can pull these photos out and say “oh, yes, that dinosaur phase. You were always our Sullysaurus!”

 

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Another thing that I love about documentary photography is that it lends itself so easily to capturing connection. Not just posed moments, but real, honest connection. A small touch between two people, siblings bonding over a shared interest, a quick look between parents. These small pieces are captured beautifully in this genre.

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But….what if our story isn’t interesting? It IS! I promise! The details that make up your life are the details that you will long for and remember years from now. Everyday life is more beautiful than you know, and your story is begging to be captured. I’d be honored to put your family’s story into photo form for you.

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Contact me today so we can begin to plan your documentary photography session in Northern California!

 

Birth Photography Model Call

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Birth. It is so many things! It is hard, it is (a bit!) scary, it is often a marathon! But it is also beautiful, and empowering, and courageous! There are only a small handful of times in life that a woman uses her entire being to do something as selfless as grow a human and then PUSH THAT HUMAN OUT OF HER BODY!

There are few other times that involve as much emotion, either. Catching those raw moments are what I live for!

Old Fashioned Dreamer Photography is looking for 5 expecting mothers who are due in August 2018 or later to participate in a model call. Models will receive 75% off of a birth session. Images from the session will be used for advertising and put on social media, but model will be able to approve images.

I am looking for all types of birth: Hospital birth, home birth, scheduled csection, underwater mermaid birth……(you get the idea!)

Applications will be accepted until May 15, so apply today!

Click Here to Apply!

 

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Why Your Family NEEDS a Lifestyle Session!

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Lifestyle photography is my JAM! I am constantly documenting my own family’s daily life. I want to provide an heirloom for my children, something tangible of their childhood, and for me – that’s gorgeous photographs that tell the story of their youth.

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I know that when I look back on my own childhood, the things that I remember most are the everyday, the little things that made up our life. I fondly recall our family traditions, and all of the silly things we did growing up. Dressing my little brother up as a girl? Check! Wearing my Walkman and dancing along to New Kids on the Block? Check! Swinging as high as I could on our backyard swingset? Check! Walking around the neighborhood to “explore” and making up stories for  the houses along our road? All of those little details help to make up my life. Those are all things that I vividly remember. Imagine if I had high quality photographs of those things to go along with the memories?

So, why would you hire someone to come into your home and photograph YOUR everyday life? Can’t you just take these photos on your phone? Well, yes, you could. But hiring me guarantees that you have a professional to capture these memories. Someone who is confident in finding the best light in your home, capable of using my camera in all lighting situations, someone who understands capturing a photograph in angles that are pleasing to the eye and that focus on the moment, not the background. Hiring me also provides you with high resolution, edited images that best reflect your family.

Hiring a professional for lifestyle family photos also guarantees that all family members are IN the photos! Too often, moms aren’t in the photos, because we are the ones taking them! I’m guilty of this, even in my own work capturing my family. Your kids will also want to know that mom and dad were there! Someday, they will pore over the photographs that you are in, remembering every detail of your face, your hands, your smile. These photographs may help them recall your laughter, or your voice telling them “I love you”.

 So what are some other benefits to choosing a lifestyle session for your family photos?

  1. You literally don’t have to do anything you don’t already do. Seriously. I will come to you, and take photos of you LIVING LIFE. And trust me – that’s not boring! There is so much beauty in a normal life.
  2. You don’t have to make the kids stand still and look at the camera. You know how when you schedule a photo shoot, and you’re stressed out because the kids won’t STAY STILL AND SMILE? That doesn’t happen in lifestyle sessions. Your kids are free to move around – I encourage it! They smile because they are doing things that they love, with people that they love.
  3. They’re perfect for the family member who hates getting photos done. No need to force someone into clothes they aren’t comfortable in and take them away from their happy place. I’ll come to you!
  4. You could stay in your PJs if you want! Seriously! If your family has a special tradition of waking up on Saturday morning and making pancakes together, I can come capture that! Stay in those PJs if that’s the real you! Stay comfy! Plus, you can’t argue that little kids in their pajamas aren’t some of the cutest things in the whole wide world!
  5. You get the chance to remember your kids the way that they really are. Typical family photos can be absolutely beautiful, but they don’t capture your kids true personalities quite the same way that a lifestyle session can.
  6. Its REAL life and REAL memories! When you look back at these photos, you will remember how you felt in these moments.

 

Sooo…..what should we do during our family lifestyle session? The possibilities are endless! Really, we should be doing something that’s meaningful to your family. Here are a few ideas:

Baking (cookies, pancakes, cake, etc)

Bedtime Routine

Playing in the yard

Trip to the park

Trip the Ice cream parlor

Trip to the Library

Out on the Boat

Playing board games

Morning/weekend routines

Doing arts and crafts

Playing in the sprinklers

Going shopping at Target (seriously!)

Decorating for the holidays

Swimming

 

The possibilities are endless! A lifestyle family photo session is truly a photo session that is designed to capture who your family is, and to provide you and your family priceless memories. I can’t wait to start photographing your family’s stories!

Why Choose a Fresh 48 session?

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Fresh 48 newborn sessions are still a relatively new thing in the photography world, let alone up here in the Chico, CA area! Many people may wonder….what is a Fresh 48 session? Why would I choose this over a posed newborn session, the kind of session that I am used to seeing?

Quite simply, a Fresh 48 newborn session is a photo session that takes place within the first 48 hours of your baby’s life, and at the place of their birth. Quite often, that would be in the hospital, although there are definitely a lot of precious home birth babies in our area of Northern California as well! These sessions are significantly less posed. In fact, I will rarely pose you, and try instead to capture the authentic interactions between you, your baby, and your family (although I may set up a shot or two as well!)

So, why would you want a session like this? Especially when you’ve seen all of the beautiful posed work all over Pinterest? Let me tell you! First, Fresh 48 sessions are just SO much easier on mama. You literally don’t have to go anywhere at all. Often I’m able to capture gorgeous, emotion filled images of mamas and their brand new babes while mama is still in bed!

Second, it’s easier on baby! Posed newborn sessions are a LOT of work for everyone involved. Not just the photographer and the parents, but for baby as well. Newborns aren’t huge fans of being cold, or of feeling “alone” (hence that multi-million dollar swaddling industry!), so the job of getting a handful of gorgeous posed images can often take several hours. There are many, many diaper changes, feeding breaks, and sometimes just good old fashioned cuddling sessions involved, as well as a very warm room that is perfect for baby, but can often be uncomfortable for a freshly postpartum mom. Fresh 48 sessions are easy on baby! Getting their diaper changed, taking feeding and cuddling breaks are all part of the session and documented, so there’s no need to stop for those. Baby is also typically swaddled or partially dressed, not naked, so the risk of baby getting too cold is very minimal.

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Third, Fresh 48 sessions are beautiful ways to document the first few hours that you and your family are meeting and getting to know your newest addition! New big siblings are always so proud and infatuated with the baby for the first few days, and are more than willing to show off their new baby! Grandparents are so proud, and as the parents, you are so full of awe and amazement at this little person. All of those emotions come through in Fresh 48 sessions.

Finally, some of the details of your baby will only be this way for a few short days. I’m sure you’ve heard it time and time again: to enjoy it, because it goes so fast! Well, that is incredibly true. A baby at 1 or 2 days old is already vastly different than a baby at 2 weeks old. When your little one is “fresh from the oven”, they often have gorgeous details such as long fingernails, wrinkly/pruny fingers and toes, crazy hair, and occasionally even big old bumps on their sweet little noggins from how they came out. It is amazing how quickly these details change, and how badly you will want to remember them once they’re gone. A Fresh 48 session is the perfect way to capture this part of your family’s story, and such a fun way to share the story of your child’s birth with them each year on their birthday. Not only will they get the story, they will have the photos as well!

The time immediately following the birth of your child is such a magical, wondrous time. It can speed by in a blur, as there are so many changes (and so little sleep!). It is  my pleasure to help you preserve these moments in time.