Hutchinson Family on Lake Minnetonka

I met the Hutchinson family in the wee hours, before the rising of the sun, on the banks of Lake Minnetonka, Minnesota… the beautiful front yard of the place they call home. Coffee and the sunrise and back to their house for their favorite Saturday morning routine. Alicia, the mama, so graciously wrote out the breathings of her heart to accompany the images I created of her family. Her words are strung throughout the photographs below…


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Alicia’s words:


“Growing up, I was never the teenager you’d call to babysit or work in the church nursery. Motherhood was never on my radar. I didn’t play with dolls or pretend to be a mommy.

That life seemed too monotonous for me. I wanted bigger, better, more.

So when two pink lines on a plastic stick stared me in the face at age 19, one month after I graduated high school, I knew I had some mental adjustments to make.




The realization of what I was saying no to because of what I was saying yes to didn’t fully compute until February 26th, 2002 at 2:22pm.

The doctor handed me my brand new baby boy and everything I thought I always wanted silently tiptoed out the door, allowing all the space for my heart to swallow up this perfect human that I never knew I needed.




I realize now how lucky I was to, so early in my life, find out what I was created for.

This boy.


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Years and cross-country moves and so many joys and heartbreaks later, I’ve stretched my heart to fit three more beautiful babies.

I keep waiting for that original desire to creep back in—that yearning I had when I was so young to return and remind me of that other life I thought I wanted.


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It never has.

My life isn’t what I had envisioned, but isn’t that always the best? Like the best surprises are the ones you couldn’t have dreamed up yourself?


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We have Boy Scout meetings and baseball games. We take spelling tests around the dining room table and mend scraped knees in the bathroom. We make messes in the kitchen and clean it up together. We create models of battlefields and experiments out of vinegar. We go out on the town and we stay in and read on the couch.

We laugh and cry and argue together.


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It’s so simple, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t beauty. And I’ve learned in this walk of motherhood that some of the simplest things in this life are some of the most beautiful too.


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I look at my son, that same face that changed my life so long ago.

In an instant. In a push. Two new people in one hospital bed.

That same little boy that I kissed and sang to each night, now can shave and look me in the eye and buy songs on iTunes.


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That realization that our time with him here, in our home, is quickly dissipating, I question so many things.

Are we laughing enough?

Are we teaching enough?

Are we reading enough?


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Are we doing well enough?

Are we loving enough?


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The immensity of this parenting gig can swallow you whole if you let it.


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But I find that snapshots of the past are all-telling.

An honest look at your everyday can make such a difference in moving forward with expectation and intention.





I can find peace with my little life-changer leaving home because I know we’ve loved him hard and we’ve loved him well. And not just with him, but with all our children…

The way Jack finds his way to his favorite place near my side to cuddle with me. The action is the same, his body just gets bigger.



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The way Sophia can let everything go and sing and dance her heart out without fear of feeling silly or embarrassed because we’re all doing it with her.







The way Vera breathes deeper when I pick her up and her moon eyes shine in my direction when she does something well.




The way Noah, my oldest, still wants me to be the last to tell him goodnight and uses that time to tell me what’s on his mind.




The way we all laugh at inside jokes that are only funny to us.

That’s how I know.




That’s how I know that no matter how our parenting career began or how many things I feel I did poorly or how many times I’ve messed things up…I know.

I know that bond with my kids is thick and true.




And I know that even though these years are speeding by too quickly, these children find their home with me—with us.




The days at the lake finding treasures from nature and learning to skip rocks.

The hours by the fireplace reading thousands of pages of books.




The dozens of cookies we bake together.

These are the things we will treasure always. These are the memories we will have forever.




I want to bottle them up, tuck them away in my heart for those days twenty years from now when my house is clean, but holding less people.




I know that when that time comes, I can rest easy.

That no matter what happens, we loved our children well—

and I can hold that dear forever.”





(Alicia has inspired me toward a more rich and joyful homeschooling journey, as I know she has for mamas all over. You can find more of her teaching, words and beauty on her blog Investing Love at

Posted in * Family Sessions | 5 Comments

Five Marys Farm – Harvest Session

I recently spent a day in the breathtaking Siskiyou County in Northern California with the Heffernan family on their 1800 acre ranch, aptly named, Five Marys Farms (with Papa Brian, Mama Mary and their four little Marys in tow). I rose with the sun, roamed through their grassy prairies, ran through thick woods and admired the snow capped mountains surrounding the homestead that was first established in 1858.

The day was filled with caring for the animals as a family; Black Angus cattle, Navajo-Churro sheep, Glouchester Old Spot pigs, Red Bourbon turkeys and their 40+ varieties of laying hens as well as the heart filling laughter that poured through every wooden wall of that original grain barn-turned-tiny farmhouse.



This video. Well, the images too.

Can I humbly say that it is my favorite work I’ve done yet? I love it.

I hope you do too. And mamas, make the video full screen & call in the kiddos because I’m sure they would love to watch as well!





Mary, the mama of Five Marys Farms, so kindly wrote the story of how they recently came to be a farming family and it is pieced throughout the photographs below. This is surely a long, rich post so give yourself time so you can make it all the way to the bottom…


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Mary:  “Two and a half years ago we were living a busy life in the Bay Area, Brian was a lawyer and I owned a few family based small businesses, and together we owned and operated two restaurants. Brian was raised on a farm in California where his dad farmed trees and row crops and I am a sixth generation Californian with farming roots – so we both always were drawn to the idea of buying a farm to split time between the bustle of Silicon Valley and the wide open California spaces. It was a “someday” dream since we met.




We looked for rural property several times after we were married but nothing ever worked out at the time. The restaurants pushed us to look for really premium meat raised with idyllic small farm husbandry but we could never find the right volume, quality and consistency we needed year round – and so we decided to try and do it ourselves.




We found our ranch by chance – looking primarily for land and water to raise cattle, not really for a place to live (at least at this point in our lives). It all happened quickly and soon we were the owners of a beautiful ranch that needed lots of work, cows and infrastructure. We naively thought we could do both – live a busy life in the city and be weekend warrior ranchers.




We drove up and back to the ranch every weekend for 8 out of 9 weekends – a 6 hour trip each way with four carseated kids in tow. We had lots of “windshield time” together to consider and discuss what we really wanted for ourselves and for our kids. The 8th trip we decided we decided to pick up our life and plant our roots right here on our ranch for good.




We fell in love with this land, with our small town here, with the incredible community of people willing to help us new folks learn the ropes, the local schools, and with everything about working hard together as a family raising animals everyday – with the lifestyle of ranching. We knew this was where we wanted to raise our children and grow old together.




So we sold our businesses, sold our house and have never really looked back.Ranching is no joke – it’s work 24 hours a day 7 days a week with no time for vacations or days off. We are up with the sun and, since every animal gets fed before we do, usually eat dinner after dark.





There are livestock in my living room and kitchen half the time, my girls are always covered in dirt and my wardrobe consists of blue jeans and torn flannel shirts and boots every day.




The daily ranch to-do list is truly never-ending and there are obstacles and hardships at every turn – back breaking work, broken pipes, drought, flooding and animals that die no matter how hard you work to take care of them. It’s unpredictable and raw, with intense emotions in the highs and in the lows.





But when you ask either of us where we’d go if we had the chance for a vacation both of us would honestly answer there is no place we’d rather be than right here experiencing this life together as a family.




If we weren’t here everyday – we might miss the wonder of a new baby calf being born, or a newborn lamb learning to walk for the first time, or a squealing little litter of 9 piglets learning to nurse, climbing all over each other. We feel pretty lucky we get to call this life together our own and are very proud of the meat we get to put on other families’ tables.”







I was so impressed while visiting Five Marys Farms at how the children were never viewed as an imposition. It was the most beautiful thing to watch as parent and child just worked and played alongside one another joyfully.

I was so intrigued and asked Mary to share a bit about how they’ve instilled such a thoughtful nature and work ethic into their children and she wrote her heart out in the most beautiful post on her Five Marys Farms blog… mamas, I promise her words will encourage your weary hearts and inspire you to reach your children right where they are at rather than fitting into another family’s mold.

Find her most recent blogpost as well as info on how to order their farm raised products (to ship nationwide!) on their website here.




Posted in * Family Sessions, Favorite Sessions, Harvest Sessions | 14 Comments

wildflower. mother. wife. believer. artist. writer. dreamer.



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