Another Hoopla Events Birthday Bash Like No Other - Pancakes & Pajamas!

Well, it's been a while and a full month of shooting, travel, the loss of our 14 year old black lab and the beginning of a new era (Wyatt will be coming in a future blog post). 

But tonight its all about Hoopla Events and Krista O'Byrne's insane ability to coordinate a party like no one else I know!

We connected a year or so ago (thanks Kate the amazing editor at Thurston Talks), and became fast friends. I love collaborating with her and documenting her most amazing parties! Well, and I adore her as a friend!

This past winter, Krista threw the most awesome Pancake & Pajama party to celebrate her sweet girl's 2nd birthday! As you will see, no detail went without her attention. 

The creative team on this one was equally amazing. Be sure to check out their sites and show them some love! There is just so much talent involved in Krista's parties. 

She is a true talent! Here is a little taste of what she puts together! 

Happy 2nd Birthday Kamryn!!

Creative Team.....check em' out!


10 years ago today I became a mom. 
It changed me forever and I cannot imagine what my life would be without Audrey.

She is kind
She is smart
She is confident 
She has strong opinions
She is giving
She is a loyal friend
She is hilarious
She is a planner
She is a reader
She is such a great baker
She's not afraid to show her spicy side
She is the most capable and self-sufficient person.
She is intuitive
She totally takes care of her brother (seriously, he's so lucky)
The girl can play cards
She is an observer and soaks everything in
She is sometimes so quiet and sometimes not
She is a realist
She is witty 
She loves math
She values family more than anything
She loves to sneak candy 
She loves Root Beer
I have no doubt she is learning what it means to live a happy life!

Audrey, being your mom is one of the best parts of my life! 
You brighten my days and I love watching you discover and make meaning of this world. 
I have no doubt that your "way" of being in this world will take you so far. 

So here are my thoughts for you this morning for your 10th birthday....

1. Always trust your instincts. They will guide you exactly where you need to be.
2. Always speak your mind even if you are nervous to (others will appreciate you for it).
3. Spend the next 10 years discovering what you love in life, and then find a way to make it your life's work. 
It will never feel like work if you truly love what you do. 
4. Choose to find happiness in every day. Even when you feel like the day is so hard. 
5. Be kind to others and giving of yourself! You never know how the smallest gesture of goodness can make a huge difference in someone's day. Trust me, filling someone's "bucket" will always fill your own as well! 
When you put out good in the world, good will always come back to you. 
6. Always surround yourself with people that make you feel good and push you to be your best. 
7. Remember that every day is new. A fresh start. 
8. Have fun in life. 
9. Cherish and take care of your relationships.
10. Make sure you say "i love you" every day. 

Dream big sweet girl. 
Anything is possible! 

Happy Happy Birthday!



Tim Mcgraw, Faith Hill and Audrey's Best Birthday Ever!!! Double Digit Awesomeness!

Well, I'm thinking I still might have a little bit of adrenaline pumping through my veins. As I re-tell this story to our dear friends and family, I get as excited as I was Saturday night.

This all started a while ago for me. And as many of you know, I can get a little enthusiastic and things literally burst out of me. But alas, I pulled off a memory maker for Audrey that I don't think she (or we) will every forget.

I will try to keep this simple and catch all the highlights.

1. Audrey turns 10 on Sunday.  Last month I got a crazy thought to plan something special for her 10th birthday. I mean, hello, double digits. It happens to be Todd's birthday in February, too, so I decide to whisk two of my favorite people in the world for a weekend away. Excuse my sidenotes, but honestly, having a weekend just the three of us was so awesome and highly recommended (thanks to the grandparents for watching Nate and showing him a fabulous weekend full of hot wheel play, Dollar Store fun and size large McDonald Mcflurrys).

It wasn't long ago my sweetie pie looked like this! Be still my heart. 

2. It is no secret that I love Tim and Faith. I sort of feel like we could be neighbors. Ha! My daughter has also found a love of these two and proclaimed Tim her favorite artist ever! Sidenote - I will say post-show her love of the both of them is equal. I think her quote was "Mama, Faith's voice is more beautiful in real life than I ever knew".

3. Cue my idea. Last year me and my fabulous friend Wendi saw Tim and Faith's Soul to Soul show at the Venetian, and it's literally the best I've ever seen. I knew they were back this year for a limited number of shows. And that's when I booked our trip.

Vegas, just the three of us, Tim and Faith's show. Best birthday ever! 

4. So then I got another crazy idea one day when I was getting ready. Audrey meandered into my room and out of the blue says, "Mama, do you think I'll ever to get to see Tim and Faith in concert before I'm a grown up?" ARE YOU KIDDING ME AUDREY?!?!?! DO YOU KNOW WHAT I JUST SECRETLY PLANNED FOR US?! I played it cool and told her that I first saw them when I was about 21. Deflated Audrey leaves my room hoping to see them before she's a grown up. 

Hmmmm.....could you imagine if there was a chance she could meet them in real life before the show? That day I went on to Tim and Faith's websites and grabbed every email address I could find. I also included a few local country radio stations. I used many exclamation points and a family photo and shared Audrey's birthday celebration story and love for these two amazing artists and people. I figured, why not just put it out there and see what comes of it. I knew regardless, this trip would be a highlight of her first decade!

5. So I eventually worked up a fun way to tell these two about our trip. They were SO excited. The countdown began. 

6. Then, a few weeks passed, and I checked my email. This wonderful woman from Tim's management group said they read the email and would love for us to meet Tim and Faith. Pause. Literally, I just about died. I couldn't thank her enough! This was beyond anything I could have imagined. I told Todd this amazing news, but not Audrey. This would be the best surprise ever! 

7. So off we go to Vegas. Audrey's top priorites.....Tim and Faith, M&M World and staying up til' midnight. 

The Secret Garden at the Mirage was SO fun. 
Thanks to Aunt Gayle who treated us to a very very fun afternoon!
And let's not forget the best milkshake ever...
The Mother Fluffer - imagine toasted marshmallow magic in a milkshake.  

This little girl had no clue what was about to happen. 

You know, that day you got to meet Tim and Faith!!!!!!!!!!
She didn't know until the very last minute after we got into the room. 
There were about 20-25 of us that got the VIP Meet and Greet access and I have nothing but gratitude that we were welcomed into this group. 
***Sidneote again - we LOVED the people we shared this experience with...nicest ever***
Talk about so gracious...
Faith was the sweetest to my very surprised (and very quiet) daughter, she complimented her boots and shared that her first name is actually Audrey too (her middle name is Faith)! 
I watched my Audrey's quiet smile and internal beaming!  
These two were so real and kind and engaging and friendly. 
I told you they could be all of our neighbors. 
I feel so grateful to have met them! 

8. So, off we go to the show after this completely out of this world experience meeting two of our favorites! We were all so excited.

9. The show was fantastic! And then, about half way through, Tim stops and says, "where is Audrey?". WHAT?!?!?!?!?!?!?! Are you kidding? Todd lifts her up and Tim heads our way chatting away about how he has an Audrey too (his youngest is an Audrey). He unplugs his guitar, pulls out his sharpie and writes "To Audrey, From Tim, Happy Birthday, 2014". He tells her she needs to learn to play it someday and gives her his guitar and a hug!


Many thanks to my new friend Mary Beth from San Antonio who snapped this moment! 
She was sitting in front of us and she and her friend were hilarious and awesome! 

10. I think I cried my way through the rest of the show. Afterwards, Tim's assistant found us and said Tim wanted Audrey to have the guitar picks he used during the show! I was so overwhelmed and I can only imagine how all that felt in an almost 10 year old!!!! Thank you Tim and Faith for the most out of control amazing night! And to the kindest members of their team and the fabulous staff at the Venetian who were so excited and supportive and helpful!  We Gendreaus could not be more grateful!

So that is the story! My girl kicked off her double digit birthday week in Vegas, meeting Tim and Faith, being gifted Tim's guitar, staying up til 12:30am twice and having total quality time with her mom and dad!

Audrey - you are so very loved. And you are one of the kindest souls I know.

I told her that night that when you are kind in life and think of others (which this little soul always has), good things always come back around! I know she will continue in her life with kindness, and thoughtfulness, and the spice that she always mixes with it! Always be you Audrey! It will take you farther than you can ever imagine!

And to Tim and Faith and their team and the awesome Venetian crew, THANK YOU! You made a most memorable weekend for us all!!!!!

With SO much gratitude,


United 2014 {Amazing Photography Workshop} {Hugfest} {Mom's Weekend Away} {Kindest People Around} {Loved It}

I tried to make my blog post title smaller, but I just couldn't cut anything out...seriously! Last week, I ventured down to super charming Santa Barbara, CA for United 2014.

Let's just start with these fine ladies.....Lisa, MelissaHeather, Tammy and Joanna. Old friends, new friends, forever friends. I loved sharing this trip with you!

And many thanks to Sarah for blessing all of us with your photo booth and your inviting personality!

It's hard, really, to find just the right words to describe my week. Inspiring, motivating, enlightening, confirming, educational, emotional, character building....these words just seem so blah for such a rich experience. It's kind of crazy when you connect with people online and then meet them in real life......sorta like, "hey, I know you - wait I don't - wait I sorta do cuz I know so many details of your life" (thanks social media). But then you realize they are just like you and everything else stops mattering.

There are so many directions I could run with to talk about this experience, but instead I think I'll just focus on a few.....the ideas that really just stood out to me and just took me back to my basic life values. It's no accident that I ended up with this group of peeps!

So here is what you will find if you come to United or hire a photographer out of this circle of radness (yes, I sometimes make up words when I feel they truly define what I'm trying to say).

****Sharing (of everything)****
****Unending support****
****Awesome photography****
****Friends for life****

Basically it comes down to this......when you do for others and and give of yourself, great things will always come back around - both personally and professionally.

I think I should just stop there and just say how grateful I am to be involved in a community of professionals that live life in that way. It's unbelievable and life enriching for sure! I'm also very blessed to be married to someone who walks through life this way so it's a perfect time to add a big thank you to my right hand (also knows as my awesome husband Todd) who rocked the home front while I was away! You never stop supporting - I don't know how you do it - but I'm so grateful!!!

All week, there were so many opportunities for practice. New and long time photographers stepped up to the plate and taught, led shoots and graciously shared their knowledge (thank you so much).


Ok...back to my focus.

I think by now everyone knows I have a love for families and kids. Getting to know them, building a relationship, and then really capturing their essence together. It's what makes me love photography so much....really seeing people and how they relate and grabbing that moment forever.

I met the loving soul that is Jessica Drogosz a few years back and we have happily stayed connected despite our multi state distance. She and her talented friend and fellow Chicago photographer, Eva, put together a fabulous opportunity to hone our craft with a child and family shoot on the gorgeous Santa Barbara beachfront. Thank you ladies for giving of yourselves on day three when we were all so whooped!! Your coordinating and graciousness and skill was much appreciated! I met some amazingly talented women on the beach that day.....and those friendships will continue to grow, I just feel it!!!!

To the families that came out for us during what I call "the witching hour" (all parents of small children know this hour) - BIG GIANT THANK YOU!!!! I felt unprepared without some form of candy in my pocket for bribery reward! But I know you are all going to get barraged with gorgeous images from the talented photographers on the beach that day!

So I'll end tonight with some of my favorites from our shoot that really just solidify what I love about families and kids - total joy!

It's the little moments that mean the most. 

Thank you to the entire team at Showit and PASS that sponsored this fantastic workshop. You guys know how to do it! 

With much gratitude, 


Counting Down To Baby With The Krewedls

I cannot believe it's March 1st! Where did the first quarter of 2014 run off to? Good thing I've been filling the days with things like this!!!!

This completely adorable family is due to have a baby this month! I'm slightly partial to the March babies (as my own little girl will turn 10 in a few weeks). The Krewedls came to me through a referral (thanks Ashley)! It's so crazy when you meet multiple members of a family and totally know you were all meant to meet! Brie and Mark are expecting their new bundle of love in a few weeks. Our morning together was, natural, great conversation, full of dog love, full of couple love, and FULL of impending baby love! 

I cannot wait to meet this little sugar and feel so grateful to have met this duo (about to be a trio). 

So sit back and enjoy the beauty that is the Krewedl family! 

I'm so happy we met, you guys!!! Enjoy this last month together (pre baby). Go out to eat, sleep as much as possible, go out to the movies, and just hold hands!

All things good are coming your way!



Love these Dotson Girls {Gig Harbor Family Photographer}

These three have such a special place in my heart. This day was all about a mom and her sweet girls! 
You might remember these Gig Harbor girls from last year when the rains came right in the middle of our shoot.... CLICK HERE
But on this day, the weather was perfect and these ladies were to die for adorable! 

There is no doubt that these girls love their mama and she loves them right back plus a million! 

Ladies - what a fun day! I love your family!!!



Loving this Phase.....

As we all know, raising kids is full of phases. Phases that we are sometimes happy to see go (you all know what I mean) and others that we are so happy to see arrive.

My kids are 9 and 7. They are FULL of energy and enthusiasm and are never ever boring. I realized a few months back that this groove we are in is SO awesome and I totally want it to last forever. 

Let me give you the highlights. 

1. We all recently went to see the Secret Life of Walter Mitty....I mean all 4 of us! It was still slightly a crap shoot with my son....I mean he is 7 and he doesn't sit still often and there was no signs of animation whatsoever. BUT, I sat there and looked at my little unit and soaked in the moment. We were at the theater about to watch a REAL movie. No Disney, no animation, no talking cars. We have arrived!

2. Games. We love to play games. And we are officially OVER the "little kid" games. We can all sit down and play Monopoly, cards, you name it!  Nate is known to wake up at 7, set up Monopoly, then creep in around 7:15 to see if we are ready to play (I'm not joking). Welcome back to the Gendreau family fun card games and board games! 

3. They love to play together. Let's be real - brothers and sisters argue and fight. But they also play and love with such zest!  I am certain these two were meant to be siblings. They bring more to each others lives than they will ever know. Watching this relationship grow is the best. ***Note - Nate's future wife can thank Audrey for a lot! 

4. Self Sufficient. I could go on all night long about this. I notice it and I totally appreciate their ability to take care of themselves (and each other). And they rock at it. 

5. Just general "bigness". You know what I mean. They are just getting big, but still little. I want to hug this phase for a looooong time. 

So today, I have two photos that pretty much describe my kids at this moment of their lives. 

You can basically find her flipping, leaping, doing back walkovers and doing handstands everywhere. Watch out for her flying legs! 

And Nate - well, as you know he can have fun doing just about anything. 

Love your family!! I sure love mine!!