The original UNmanual was released three and a half years ago and has sold close to 1000 copies.  It was more wildly successful than I could have ever imagined and hearing that it has helped so many of you capture the memories of your family so easily and effortlessly makes me so happy.  Because that’s how it should be.

It’s been quiet here on the blog not because I have nothing to share with you, but because I have been pouring myself into creating the UNmanual2.


The UNmanual2 is something I’ve been dreaming up for quite some time.  I wanted Mom*togs to be able to see how I interact with my own kids when I shoot, what the environment I shoot in looks like, and how I use light.  My kids, my house.  Nothing special or fancy, but just how I photograph my kids living their lives and doing their thing.

The UNmanual2 consists of 13 video guides and reviews all of the basics from the original UNmanual, so if you did not purchase the original UNmanual don’t worry.  The UNmanual2′s lesson based structure will ensure that you too become a master of DSLR manual shooting.  If you did purchase the original UNmanual, the basics of DSLR manual shooting will be a nice review, but I’ve also added a lot of content for those of you who have mastered the basics and are looking to take your photography to the next level.

To compliment the UNmanual2 I will be releasing the UNmanual Editing Guide next week.  It will consist of video tutorials on how I use Photoshop to enhance my images and get them to look like a better version of everyday life.

For those of you who purchase the UNmanual2 on Black Friday you will receive the UNmanual Editing Guide (priced at $149) for free the second it’s released! No code needed.  It will be added to your course page automatically!  You can register for the UNmanual2 here.

Also, I released a course on how to improve your Phonetography.  It’s completely free.  Just my little gift to you.  You can register for that course here.  

I hope you enjoy the new UNmanual as much as I enjoyed creating it!

First Day of School

My kids FINALLY started school today.  Hallelujah!  I love my kids.  I really do.  But I also love freedom and having a few hours a day to get everything I need to get done done.  Those last couple of weeks about did me in.

I wasn’t going to do back to school pictures this year.  Things were hectic.  My husband and I scheduled a vacation the last few days of summer and we didn’t get home until late the night before school started.  At the last minute I decided I would regret not doing them so we threw the kids in their first day of school clothes and headed over to Brayden’s school when I should have been packing for our trip.

I have my camera out on the first day of school and get some pictures, but by getting the shots I really want out of the way before the big day I find there is less pressure.  I can be more present and my kids aren’t annoyed with me wanting pictures.  It takes pressure off of all of us.

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And here is one from today.  I hope to get a shot of them walking across this same crosswalk until they graduate… that is if they will cooperate with me :)


Our (Surprise) 10 Year Vow Renewal


Vow renewals for other people seem fun.  But, when I started thinking about our 10 year anniversary and possibly doing a vow renewal it just seemed… cheesy.  The thought of asking people to come watch us declare our love for one another (again) did not seem appealing.  We’d been there and done that.  I wanted our vow renewal to be intimate and personal.  I started planning in January and going into it, I knew there were a few things I wanted.

- I wanted it to be a surprise for Chuck.  Chuck is the most thoughtful, caring, and romantic husband a girl could ask for.  I wanted to do this for him to.  I wanted to marry him all over again and show him that I am still as committed to him as I was 10 years ago.  To show him I love him even more now than I did before.  I knew that doing this would mean a lot to him and make it even more special.

- I wanted to include my kids.  I really wanted this to just be about us.  Our little family.  I wanted our kids to see that we are a team and we are still committed to each other.  I wanted them to be able to experience that and for it to hopefully shape the way they see relationships and love in the future.

And while I wanted them to be a part of it, I didn’t want it to be about them.  I chose to opt out of doing any sort of commitment ceremony with the kids.  Every single day we are committed to our kids.  I wanted this day to be about Chuck and I and for them to see that and know that our relationship with each other is just as important as our relationship with them.

I told Brayden about it 2 weeks before.  I waited until the day of our anniversary to tell Kennedy.  Because that girl cannot keep a secret to save her life. I know Kennedy won’t remember it except through pictures, but my hope is that Brayden will.  I hope he will remember how special it was that he got to walk me down the aisle.

- I wanted to include as many of the same vendors as possible.  We held the ceremony at the same place we got married, Occasions at Laguna Village, and even had the same coordinator.  I can’t even tell you how instrumental she was to help pull this whole thing off.  I couldn’t have done it without Dayna.

I also found our same officiant.  I found our ceremony text (there’s a reason I keep all those thousands of emails!) and as I read through it again I realized, gosh, that was a great ceremony!  It was so true to us so I opted to keep the ceremony very much the same as it was 10 years before.  Brayden read the Irish Blessing that was originally read by one of my bridesmaids and that was really very special.  Got us both teary.  We also read our own vows.

Lastly, I hired the same steel drum player.  He played the song “I’m Yours” as Brayden and I walked down the aisle.  That was the song that was playing when Kennedy was born.  And he played “All You Need is Love” at the end of the ceremony which was our first dance song.

It was very cool because all of the vendors were so accommodating and really excited to be a part of it.  It made a special day even more special.

-  I wanted a dress that was romantic and beachy and totally different than the dress I wore on my wedding day.  I wanted to look bridal, but not like a bride necessarily.  And I didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on it.  After spending countless hours online and even going to David’s Bridal by myself (I felt like such a loser!), I finally found the dress in the sale section of Bhldn’s website!  The dress was $180 plus a $70 alteration since the only size they had was too big.  Score of the century.  It was even more special because it was a Jenny Yoo dress and that is the designer my bridesmaids wore on my wedding day.  I finished it off with a beautiful sash (which is actually a headband) from a local bridal boutique, Styled by TC. 

-  I wanted to keep it simple.  It’s so easy to get carried away with cute accessories and fun decor.  I’m so thankful I planned my wedding without the pressure of Pinterest and blogs.  I would have been so very overwhelmed.  I really wanted to keep the focus on us.  Instead I tried to incorporate small, meaningful details where I could.  Like having Kennedy where the first necklace Chuck ever gave me.  Using songs that had special meaning throughout our relationship.  And getting a cake that was the same flavor as the one we ate on our wedding night.

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So how did I get him there when it was a surprise?  Chuck knew we were doing something.  I had him cancel his last couple of patients for the day and pack an overnight bag.  Right before he thought I was picking him up from work, one of his coworkers gave him a bag with a card and a bag of clothes to change into.  I then had a car service pick him up and drive him down to the venue.  I also included some note cards so he could write some nice things about me :)  Thankfully, he’s very eloquent and had no problem coming up with some awesome last minute vows.

I was so thankful to have my friend Carina from Flawless Faces do my hair and makeup.  She’s the only one I trust with my makeup.  Not only does she make me look pretty, but she also makes me feel pretty.

And I was super thankful to have my friend Katie Beverly as our photographer.  When Katie first moved out here from Chicago she reached out to me to second shoot at weddings and she was, by far, the best second shooter I ever had.  So kind and fun to be with.  I knew I wanted her there not only because she’s a great wedding photographer, but also great with kids which was important in case Kennedy was in one of her “moods” :)  Katie was able to get a great shot of Kennedy and I which I am so thankful for because she hates taking pictures with me!

It was a great day.  I’m not going to say better than our wedding.  Just different.  I loved that it was all about us without any of the frills.  And I love even more that I was able to pull off this surprise for my guy.  He does so much for us and I’m glad I could do a little something to show him how much he is loved and appreciated.

*** All original wedding pictures by Hoffman Photography

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Kennedy is Four

Dear Kennedy,

Everyone said three was going to be harder than two.  And I couldn’t fathom that.  Two was hard.  Two hour tantrum everyday hard.  Me crying everyday hard.  So hard I didn’t even write you a birthday letter last year.  Because I was done.  Burnt out.

And then you turned three and it was like a light switch went on.  The tantrums got shorter.  I was able to reason with you more.  You took all that crazy energy and turned it into good energy.  Don’t get me wrong.  You are still crazy and still stubborn.  But, it’s a good crazy.  And all that strong will you have is going to take you far in life.

Kennedy, you are exactly what I imagined my daughter to be.  But better.  You are the perfect mix of girly girl and tomboy.  You love your princess dresses and for your hair to be perfect, but you are tough.  Really tough.  And you aren’t afraid to try new things.  You amaze me.  You love to perform and to entertain anyone who will watch you.  Your presence on stage as a 3 year old baffles me.  I don’t know how you can get up there and do what you do.  You love to make people laugh.  And if you do one thing that gets a laugh you will do it over and over and over again.  You are funny.  Hilariously funny.  The things you say and the way you say them constantly have us laughing.  You are kind and empathetic and truly care about other people.  Lately you have taken to hugging strangers that look like they need a cuddle.  You love Taylor Swift and know all the words to every song on KIIS FM.  We spend hours making Dub Smash videos.  You also spend hours playing with Kayla and Oakey your imaginary friends, which kind of freaks me out, but mostly makes me happy that you know how to entertain yourself.  Because your brother still has a hard time with that.  Speaking of your brother, you really love him.  And even though you two fight like crazy and you aren’t always super nice to him deep down you have an amazing connection.  I hope you always remember that he is your best friend and your biggest supporter.

You literally leave a little sparkle wherever you go, Kennedy.  Your smile is infectious.  Your laugh is contagious.  I can not imagine my life without my beautiful redhead.  I honestly believe you can do anything you put your mind to.  You have been counting down the days until you turn Four for the past 6 months.  I hope this year is everything you wished for and more.

Thank you for loving me and being mine, Kenny Annie.  How lucky am I?



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