Capturing Your Own Future American President

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Photographer Matthew Jordan Smith showing us a preview of his work during our photo shoot with him in Washington DC in August 2013. Photo used with permission.

[dropcap style=”color: #9b9b9b;”]F[/dropcap]or the last two years, photographer Matthew Jordan Smith traveled to every state in America to photograph children from 100 families to create his book, Future American President: 50 States – 100 Families – Infinite Dreams.

The book is a visual story of the dreams of children across the United States, and a reminder that anyone can aspire to and ultimately achieve greatness. By featuring children from diverse backgrounds and every state, the hope is that children will see themselves in the hopes of their peers while informing them about individual state facts and past American Presidents.

Martin, the kids, and I are so honored to be a part of the book. While the Boys and Girls Club of America helped Matthew find a lot of his families, Matthew actually found us through this blog in the course of his research (when Parents Magazine readers named us “Best All-Around Mom Blog“, and of course, we agreed to participate. The book’s theme and intent are right in the step with the things Martin and I believe for our own kids.

And also? I couldn’t help, but be amazed by Matthew’s body of work and experience. Not only has he been featured on America’s Next Top Model, the View, and other television shows, he regularly photographs the likes of Oprah, Samuel L. Jackson, Halle Berry, Taye Diggs, Vanessa Williams, and countless images you’ve certainly seen in magazines, billboards, and publications. He’s also been recognized for using and sharing his talents to raise awareness for various social issues, such as his first book entitled Lost and Found, which focused on missing and exploited children and was endorsed by the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Was I initially nervous and slightly intimidated by his biography and the fact that he regularly works with the world’s most gorgeous and famous individuals?


But as soon as we connected, I was  immediately disarmed and won over by his gentle nature and down-to-earth personality. Once we worked out all the details, he flew here to Washington D.C. to photograph us in front of the Thomas Jefferson Memorial and beautiful Tidal Basin. Not only was it thrilling to be the subject of a legit photo shoot in such an iconic setting, but the children really enjoyed watching Matthew and his assistant as they worked. And as a father himself, he knew just what to say to engage the children, and took the time to patiently explain his cameras, how the lights worked, and even handed over his camera for Lola to use as she snapped some images herself. (I don’t think I took a single breath during those moments!)

We’ve seen some of the outtakes from that session, and we can’t wait to see the completed book when it publishes later this year, especially since Matthew is inviting others — including YOU — to put their own future President on the book cover itself.

It’s a limited-time opportunity that’s available now for those who would like to personalize their book.

He put together a short video explaining how to photograph your own Future American President and submit it to the publishers, which you can see below. You can also read about the submission process HERE.

Oh, and did I mention you can actually talk with Matthew and me about the book, the personalized cover, AND ask Matthew anything you want to know about photography and working in Hollywood?

Oh, yes.

That is happening.

On Monday, July 28, Matthew and I are going to hold a Twitter chat.

Beginning at 5:30 pm East Coast Time/2:30 pm Pacific Coast Time, we’re going to take to our Twitter handles and have a conversation using the hashtag #FPChat2014.

If you are on Twitter, you can follow me HERE. You can follow Matthew HERE.

Once you are logged into Twitter using your own Twitter name, you can tweet at us with any comments or questions you have. Be sure to use the hashtag #FPChat2014 so we can see what you have to say and include you in our responses!

We hope you join us!


Lola and Jaz napping in 2012

[dropcap style=”color: #9b9b9b;”]M[/dropcap]iss C found one of our older point-and-shoot cameras last night, and uploaded the images. Clearly, it hasn’t been used in more than a year, because the photos are from late 2012 and early 2013. Not only did the data tell us, but I recognized immediately that Jaz still had his wispy long hair in most of the images: he didn’t get his first haircut until Martin left for basic training in February 2013.

Also? All the photos  — to include those shown here — were taken by Miss C herself. They are moments she captured all on her own when the rest of us weren’t looking. There are photos of her toys, her bedroom. Most of the photos are of her brother and sister, and the pets. And more than a few feature Martin and me, just going about our business as parents and homemakers.

I’m glad to have these.

Flashback Friday: The Time I Ran Away to NYC


Remember that time when I ran away to New York City for my birthday?

It was only a few weeks ago, but honestly, it feels like several months ago. Martin’s abrupt orders to Delaware, and all the changes here at home that’s made to our routine, childcare, my work schedule, and our day-to-day household operations makes it all seem like so much time has passed.

So I don’t feel bad that I’m actually just now getting around to sharing the photos I took during that trip. Continue reading

Christmas with Family

Christmas Eve pajamas with a little Google sparkle in the mix.

We spent the Christmas holiday with my family in Ohio and Northern Kentucky. 

It was the first time in exactly 15 years that I did that, which seems ridiculous, but it’s true. The last time I spent the holidays in my hometown was in 1998 when I was a senior in high school.

In 1999, I celebrated Christmas in Germany with that handsome German guy I met earlier that summer, and then I was stationed there in June 2000, and spent our Christmases in Europe for a few years until we moved back to the United States in 2005.

At that time, Miss C was the only grandkid, and it made more sense to stay in Washington DC (or have family visit us) for Christmas and do our own thing without having to haul all our holiday stuff to Ohio and back for her.

But now there are four grandkids who are all old enough to be excited about the holiday, so my sister Jill and brother-in-law Greg opened up their home to us. We arrived shortly before Christmas, and spent the next few days visiting with friends and family.

And on Christmas morning, Miss C, Lola, and Jaz woke up with with their cousin — the fabulous Lil’ Jo — to discover a huge pile of gifts waiting for them from Santa Claus under the tree.

We had such a good time, and we hope your Christmas holiday was just as awesome.

Happy New Year, too!


We dressed up the kids to get their portraits taken. Weren’t they adorable?
Jaz loves hats. Good thing – he wears ’em well.
Lil’ Jo is a baby genius. Not even two, and she works a mobile phone like a champ.
Christmas Eve at our cousins’ house.
Gifts for the kids! I love Aunt Sue’s and Grandma Linda’s faces here.
This is what the kids found Christmas morning.


Finding their names in the loot.

This is the only photo I got with all four of the grandkids in the same picture.

Hey, Lil’ Jo?! Wanna sit down for a photo? No? Just wanna spin around in circles? Okay!

My Christmas crew!

Lola requested three things from Santa: Woody, Jessie, and Buzz Lightyear dolls. She got all of them!

Miss C reacts as Martin opens his gift.

A popcorn machine!

My sister Jill gave me a beautiful scarf and a Starbucks gift card. She knows me.

The Fabulous Lil’ Jo watching cartoons in Lola’s sled.
My sister Jill and me, looking super cute in our matching eyeglasses.
She loves it when I take her photo, can’t you tell? 🙂


And I’m just putting this out there … I’ve lived and traveled all over the world, and I can honestly say that the good people of Washington, PA are *the* worst drivers on the planet. Example: every single time we stop here, there are folks with an apparent death wish parked on the exit ramps, waiting to merge. Ugh.

Martin and I see it EVERY.SINGLE.TIME we drive past here. This evening, it was especially dangerous, because the parked cars (with local plates) trying to get on the highway were spaced out and parked right up to where it curves going onto Murtland, so it got really hairy there as cars were weaving, slamming on breaks, honking on horns. Ugh.

Yes, the card said it was for Martin, but ….

A Christmas tree full of memories.
My Good Life artwork suggests to be happy.
I admit, there are days when it’s easier to be exhausted, grumpy, and disagreeable. But I also admit to living a life that provides me plenty of opportunity to be happy nearly every day.
These are some of the things that’ve made me happy lately.

Watching my girl perform in her school’s holiday concert. (She’s in the front row!)

Watching my husband in action as an attentive and proud father.

Living in a neighborhood that has a neighbor like this.
There’s a box in front for soup kitchen donations which gets filled every night.

Watching my son figure out how to jump with both feet, following his sisters’ example.


Stopping to smell ALL the candles while out grocery shopping.

Being silly and fun on a daily basis.

Having too many photos and memories to choose from when making my annual photo collage.

One Handsome Dude

Martin mentioned yesterday that he hasn’t updated the profile picture on his Facebook account in awhile, and that was partly because there wasn’t a recent photo of himself to upload.

Of course, I took this personally. As the reigning official family photographer, I pride myself in the abundance of quality images captured of my family. But a quick review of my archives revealed that nearly all of the photos of Martin taken recently included either my cheerful mug, or one of the kids if not all of them.

Poor Martin. Never a moment’s peace in this circus.

So, I immediately ordered him to go throw on a jacket and meet me out on our front porch, where I sat him down and told him to look at me as I lifted up my camera and steadied my shot.

After more than 14 years being with me and my camera, he doesn’t even have to be reminded to “look here” or “tilt your chin that way” or “say cheese” or “show me laughter/joy/angst/your teeth” or anything else that I blurt out to those I’m photographing.

He’s a natural.

And this is what I got.

One handsome dude, right?

And best of all … he is kind.

I got the sweetest note about Martin last month — July 31, to be exact.

This morning, our friend Sarah drove into the city with Martin, me, and the kids during our morning commute because she had to pick up a rental car from the airport. I got dropped off first at my office, and as planned, they headed off to the airport on the way back to drop her off. But of course, the rental place was nowhere near where one would *expect* it to be, so apparently, they drove around a bit looking for it. And then once they found it, my friend wrote that instead of driving away, Martin and the kids hung around until she drove away in her rental, just in case.

As much as he drives me batty sometimes, I know my husband is awesome. And it’s nice when others notice and point it out, too. 🙂

Cutie Patootie

Forgot my headphones for my commute, so I’m going thru my photos instead. And I’ve deemed this share-worthy. Jaz and me from the weekend.

Alle Meine Menschen

I love this photo.

I took it on Saturday morning when I dragged Martin and the kids into the woods behind our neighborhood, along the trail that Civil War soldiers used to march into the nearby battlefields. Ever since I brought home those outfits from Germany, I wanted to take real portraits of my kids in them, and in a setting very similar to the woods of Bavaria.

For a whole year, I had the vision in my head. Just never got around to actually making it happen.

Fortunately, everything came together over the weekend: perfect overcast skies, mild-mannered children, a willing husband/assistant. I had him carry out the kids’ wooden rocking chair and our big book of fairy tales to use as props.

But I ended up not using them. County workers had cut down some trees along the trail, leaving behind some nice stumps, and there were large boulders, too, for the kids to sit on and smile pretty.

Moments before this shot was taken, I had all three kids sitting next to each other for a group shot, but Jaz was having none of it. He just got up and walked away. Martin was there to pick him up and set him down again, but nope. He didn’t stick.

So as he went off to explore, I said to the girls, “Fine. Let’s take a sisters photo!”

They immediately looked at each other, and that’s the photo I got.

I got other photos, of course. Jaz eventually sat down for a group photo, and all three of them got individual photos taken. All of them smiling pretty and/or content.

But this one is probably my favorite.

Those expressions are so genuine and sincere.

Even if they drive each other nuts and push buttons every single day, I don’t have to tell you how those girls feel about each other.

Just look at them.


I can’t talk about these photos without showing you a few more, right?

Future Presidents

Today, she’s President of her Fourth Grade class. But 30 years from now….

Martin and I accepted an invitation to be a part of a really awesome opportunity.

Matthew Jordan Smith, who discovered our blog while doing research, reached out to us to ask if we’d like to be a part of his upcoming book called Future Presidents. A photographer based out in Los Angeles, he’s worked with a lot of people you’ve probably heard about, and his images have been featured in a lot of places. He himself has appeared on a show you may have watched.

Yet, his work goes beyond fashion shoots. He created a book for the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, and has volunteered his talent and knowledge all over the country. His current project aims to inspire children of all races and backgrounds to embrace their dreams by expressing what they would do as President of the United States.

After becoming familiar with our family’s story, he wondered if Martin and I, and our three future presidents, would like to be featured in the book.

After doing much research of my own about Mr. Smith and his project, I knew our answer.

Of course we will participate.

I wrote back to Mr. Smith and told him if he hadn’t found us first, I would have chased him down to request participation. There are many things about the book and it’s message that really resonate with our family. Martin and I are doing our best to raise our kids to think big and take advantage of every opportunity available to them to have a positive impact on society and others. This book shares that aspiration.

I like that he’s getting the kids themselves to write about their hopes and dreams. I’m also so impressed by the beautiful images Mr. Smith has captured already. These glimpses of America and American children are just stunning. And so full of hope.

Despite what the headlines say, despite all the frustrating things happening in the world, I know the future is bright for my children and their generation.

My family looks forward to working with Mr. Smith!

And of course, I’ll post updates about this as they come. 🙂



Christmas 2012

It was a very sweet Christmas morning this year.
I woke up at about 7:30 a.m. with two little girls standing next to my bed, both of them giggling with excitement.
“Mom! You gotta see downstairs,” exclaimed Lola. “He came! He left toys!”
Miss C was standing behind her, a huge smile on her face. I wondered how long those two had been awake already, how long they spent in the living room investigating the goods. It made me smile, the thought of those two whispering and pointing out their names on the gifts, Miss C pointing out all the little things Santa left so they wouldn’t be overlooked.
Like footprints in front of the fireplace.

This year’s Christmas morning seemed less frenetic than years prior. The girls went and got their baby brother out of bed while Martin and I rubbed the sleep from our eyes and rounded up the camera equipment.

Then we made our way downstairs, where I took photos of the kids in front of the tree while Martin heated up the cinnamon buns our neighbor delivered the day before. (Bob and Marlene do that every year, which I adore so much!)
Miss C found the letter Santa left for the children and read it to everyone while the younger two played on the train table, which was given to Miss C many years ago, but has been packed away most of the time since we moved into this house.
The next hour or so was awesome. There were moments when I tried to be still and soak it all in, all the energy and excitement. So thankful that all of us are here together, that we’re all safe and healthy, and that we’re able to have time and holidays like this.
I hope my kids’ memories from these holidays are as sweet as mine.
The kids did well this year: clothes, dolls, books, toys. Martin and I did well, too. He got a lot of new clothes while I got a gift certificate for a massage to use while he’s gone. That will be much appreciated.
We hope all of our friends and family and readers had a great Christmas and holiday season, too!

What the kids saw when they walked into our family room.

Miss C reading Santa’s letter to us.

Watching one of the personalized video greetings sent by Santa. Each kid got one. And I got serious bedhead.


Yes! A doll that has blonde hair and brown eyes, just like Lola!

Lola and Miss C with their dolls. Lola named her doll Maria after The Sound of Music.
Miss C has had Heidi for years after it was made for her at Disney World years ago.

Stacking blocks for Jaz.

Miss C reacting to her gift, which will be experienced later this year. Inside the box was a Yo-Yo Ma (famed cellist) music CD, and a beautiful new dress and jewelry, plus a letter explaining she will wear the outfit when she and her Dad attend a concert performed by Yo-Yo Ma! The concert tickets were inside the box, too!

Jaz watches Martin open gifts while sitting on his new Radio Flyer tricycle.

A steel drum set, thanks to the grandparents!

Best cinnamon rolls ever.