Wednesday, June 18, 2014

We Moved!.... AGAIN!

Yes, you read correctly. We moved. Again. But this time, about two hours away from Oklahoma City to Tulsa. That's right! We're officially reppin' the 918.

I've had a lot of questions about why we've decided to move, and the honest truth is that we feel like that's where the Lord is leading our family. See, about a year ago, we left our church, and ever since then, we've felt a bit adrift. After moving into our current home last November, we began discussing the fact that we'd eventually like to head back to Tulsa. You know, maybe in the next couple of years. Well, the Lord went straight to work, and things began to fall into place a lot more quickly than we anticipated. Through a series of events, we felt the Lord leading us to begin our search for a job in the Tulsa area and three weeks from the day that Ryan began applying, he was offered a wonderful position!

Here are a few questions we've received:
1. Where will you live? We are living with my Grandmother ("Nana" as you may know her!) while we search for a house. (Another thing that fell into place during this process: my cousin had been living with my Nana for a couple of years, but he moved out about a month ago, leaving three bedrooms available for us and our two kiddos!) So you know what that means? That means we will be moving AGAAAAIIINNNN once we find a house. But at least we'll already be packed, right?

2. Where are you looking for a house? We haven't really ruled anything out yet as long as it's fairly close to our family and Ryan's job. If the Lord's past provision is any indication (and it always is), then we're just expecting to trust Him, and find the right house in the right area. I think we're secretly hoping for a nice older home that needs some love in a quiet town in one of the surrounding areas like Sapulpa.

3. Will you still be doing photography? Ohhh yes. In fact, I have some things coming up that I'm extremely excited about and I hope you'll LOVE them! I will just have fewer dates available in Oklahoma City, and more available in Tulsa.

If you are a Tulsa-area resident, check out my "Moving Sale" on Facebook!

4. What about my shoot that's scheduled in the Oklahoma City area? If you have a shoot scheduled with me in OKC, never fear. Your shoot will go on as planned!

5. Are you selling your house? Yes. It went on the market yesterday, in exactly the same condition we bought it in. Although we were disappointed that we didn't get to make our desired updates to that house, we know we're heading in the right direction.

6. Are you selling your first house? No. You might remember that we kept our first home as a rental property, and for now, we will continue to do that.

7. Don't you have a website launch coming up? What's that? Why yes, I do! Stay tuned THIS FRIDAY to see the reveal of the new Chelsea Ahlgrim Photography web page!

Thank you everyone for continued prayers and support during this big transition. We're so excited for our new adventure!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

10 Ways to Make Your Family Photographer LOVE You!

10. Be on time. Be on time. Be on time. Your session time has been very specifically selected to coordinate with the lighting in your location. Being late might mean you lose that perfect lighting. Plan to be at least ten minutes early, and you'll be all good!

9. Bring your A Game. Bring all those tricks that you KNOW will make your kids smile. A favorite toy? A silly game? The tickle monster? Bring 'em. Encourage them to sing or tell a story or talk about their fun weekend or trip to see Gramma- anything to get them talking and smiling!

Tickles always get the smiles! 

8. Let your child run the show. Now, there are certainly limits here, but stay with me. An hour is an extremely long time for a young child or toddler to sit and follow directions while her parents and some stranger with a camera act ridiculous in order to get her to smile. If she wants to get down out of your arms and pick flowers or dig for clams in the sand, or hunt for bugs, let her. Your photographer will follow her, and it could result in some beautiful images. This is where their imaginations come to life- when they're wild and free. I guarantee, after they've had a few minutes to pretend you're all on a pirate ship, they'll be more relaxed and willing to listen to follow posing direction from your photographer.

Let them be explore!

7. Let your child interact with your photographer. I know a lot of parents come to sessions feeling like they already know how their child is going to act. You're worried about tantrums and inattentiveness, but humor me here. Give the photographer a shot to get to know your child. Let him decide if he trusts her. Let them talk and play and be silly, even if it means taking a break from shooting, and you'll have a much better chance of getting smiles out of him.

 Let them make a new friend!

6. Take a break. Sessions usually last anywhere from an hour, to two hours depending on the lighting present, and how everyone is feeling. If you need to take a break to just sit and chill or let kiddos stretch their legs, or grab a drink of water, or let the baby nurse, you can. Most photographers plan for these types of breaks because it makes a world of difference! Plus, those breaks can sometimes turn into the sweetest moments...


Can you tell I love these candid moments?

5. Bring snacks and bribes! Shoots are often scheduled around dinner time or after, plus, these shoots can really take a lot of energy! So bring some healthy snacks and some water and everyone will stay satisfied. I also encourage bribes... I know, I know... but just for ONE hour, your kids will do anything for candy or the promise of ice cream or a toy at the end of the session. It works!

Special treats are always a winner!

4. Do. Not. Match. Please? Although it's easy to put everyone in white polos and khakis, please... help me help you! If everyone comes dressed in the same outfit, the resulting images will have very little visual interest. The intent is to coordinate rather than match exactly!

Coordination- not matching- is key!

3. Remember that it's just an hour. You can do anything for an hour. Give all the energy you can muster. Make the kids laugh. Be silly. Be completely ridiculous! And your family will follow suit! The smiles will be genuine and the fun will be too!

You can do anything for an hour!

2. Trust me. Your photographer wants you to look good. She wouldn't make you do anything or pose anywhere that is unflattering or looks silly. Let go of your preconceived notion of the "perfect" family photo- everyone posed, looking at the camera, and smiling. You'll probably get some of those, but those candid images will be the ones you look back on and swoon over! So don't worry if your photographer tells you not to look at the camera. Focus on what's right in front of you- your beautiful family- and your images will be perfect!
"I promise, it'll be great!"

1. If you love your session, let us know! We love hearing your feedback and certainly thrive on any sort of love you show! You could even do one better, and share with your friends how much you loved your session!


Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Hostetler Family | Oklahoma City Family and Children's Photographer

This is the Hostetler Family. Believe me when I say they're a pretty cool bunch. Brian is a fantastic graphic designer, Amy did a 5k at 30 weeks pregnant the same day as their shoot, and Kyrie is full of sass and super smarts. They also love the Lord and put all their faith in Him. Basically, I couldn't have asked for more awesome people to hang out with this past weekend!

They had warned me previously that Miss Kyrie (a GORGEOUS name, by the way. It was actually on my list of favorites when I was pregnant with Vesper!) could be a bit shy and was prone to the typical toddler antics- tantrums and the like.

But we didn't find that to be the case at this particular session (much to Amy and Brian's relief, I'm sure!) We talked and played in the grass, and ran away from mommy and daddy, and went hunting for rocks, and just had a good ol' time! And when she started getting sleepy, she just laid that sweet little head into Daddy...

She just turned the big 0-2- a major life event, as you know- and is getting ready to have another major life event: she's going to be a big sister!

Congratulations, Kyrie and the rest of the Hostetler clan! What a blessing! I can't wait to meet Baby H and watch your family grow!


Thursday, May 29, 2014

Our Love Story, Part 2

Our Love Story is a series chronicling how my husband and I met, fell in love, and married. I've written this for our children so that they can know the love that created them. See part one here.

 Working a party for my summer job- an outdoor summerstock theatre at which I performed Rodger's and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! six nights a week.

The weeks following the breakup were a strange mix of sadness, excitement, and chaos. I had begun rehearsals for my summer theatre job and was at the theatre for nearly twelve hours a day. I would drag my sore, exhausted body into my dark room at the end of the day and turn on my computer, just hoping that my handsome young soldier friend would be starting his day across the world.

Your dad's first deployment to Iraq and the first tire he blew out in Baghdad.

When we talked online, my heart became lodged in my throat. My cheeks flushed. As we corresponded more and more, it became apparent that his heart was being pulled in the same direction.

Then one day, he told me he was going to call me. I panicked and told him not to. But a few minutes later, my phone rang anyway. A strange combination of numbers flashed on the screen and my heart began to pound to intensely that I could hardly catch my breath. It was Ryan. He had taken a holiday leave to Qatar and had some time to talk... if I wanted... and I did.

We talked about everything. Our families. Our jobs. His deployment. Our favorite foods, movies, restaurants, music. I was more honest than I've ever been in my life. There was no sense of pretense there. All I wanted to do was be sure that he knew who I was. All of me. And I wanted to know the same of him, to the very core.

The conversation lasted a short four hours. I don't even recall if it was morning or night, I only know that the hours blurred together and all too soon, it was over. Luckily, it wouldn't be the last time he would call me.

As July Fourth approached, I was preparing for a big event at the theater when the doorbell rang. I know what you're thinking, and no. It wasn't Ryan. But it was a HUGE bouquet of roses and calla lilies. He knew that The 4th was one of my favorite holidays and wanted to make sure it was a special one for me. The card wasn't sappy. It simply said "I hope this makes you smile." And it did.

 The bouquet your daddy sent me for Fourth of July, 2006. He even remembered my favorite flowers!

I floated through most of the summer with that same goofy grin on my face- not really knowing what this was. Was this a relationship? Was he my boyfriend? Was I the only girl he was talking to? Part of me was still holding back worried that this person that I had been speaking with was not truly who he said he was. How could I really know for sure? I mean, I had never actually  met him. He could be anyone. I could see him interact with family and friends on social media so I knew that he was in fact in the Army and deployed to Iraq, but how could I know that all of the things he had been telling me about himself were true?

We hadn't really discussed what "this" was. There was no definition yet. I think we were both playing it safe. I mean, who really meets a complete stranger on a random blogging site and falls madly in love, anyway? We were both okay with just going with it for now. But it did leave me open to a few awkward conversations that summer.

For example, one of our technicians at the theatre was extremely quiet but always very sweet to me. When mutual friends approached me and spilled that he secretly wanted to ask me out on a date, I had to explain the whole thing.
"Well, I'm kind of seeing someone... that I've never met... I mean, I think we're together... but I guess we're not... So I can't. But thanks?"

To which they responded,
 "You *think* you're dating a guy... that you've never met? But you're not really sure?"

"Um. Yes."

I was completely aware of how crazy it all sounded. I was also completely aware of how out of character this was for me. I am not an impulsive person by nature- especially when it comes to matters of the heart. So I stayed pretty tight-lipped about my new "friend."

But as the Fall semester approached, along with the knowledge that Ryan would be returning home in August, I couldn't take my mind off of him. Would we still talk when he returned home? Or did he maybe have someone waiting for him already? Surely he would have mentioned that... but in truth, I held no claim to his heart at this point.

My fears were put to rest when he mentioned that he would be driving from New York- where he was stationed- to Texas to visit his best friend and would have to drive right through Oklahoma City, "so why not meet for coffee or something?"

The plan was for Ryan to stay one night in a hotel in my little college town and then continue on to Texas the next day. Of course, I wanted him to meet my roommates and my best friend while he was in town so they could scope him out and see if he had mild creeper tendencies to which I had previously been blinded. I was completely giddy. It was ridiculous.

The rest of my summer crept by at a slow crawl as I anticipated returning to school in the fall and meeting the young man to whom I had been devoting so much of my time. And when I knew he was finally stateside, my heart became permanently lodged in my throat. I knew that in a few short weeks, he would be standing on my doorstep. He would be right in front of me....

To Be Continued...

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Our Love Story, Part 1

Today marks seven years of marriage to my awesome husband! As our children grow, and the time between our meeting increases, I have felt the desire to write down our story. The one about how we met and fell madly in love. I want to get it all written down before time erases the small details- the best parts- so that our kids can read it some day. So here begins the first installment of a multi-part series...

Once upon a time, in a vast, magical place called the interwebs, a boy and a girl were destined to meet...

In the Spring of 2006, I was smack in the middle of college in my chosen major: Musical Theatre. I was also smack in the middle of a serious relationship that was quickly approaching the two year mark. But mostly I was just busy. Rehearsals, classes, boyfriend, events, social gatherings, and auditions. I barely gave myself time to sleep.

It should be noted, children, that there are very few "normal" pictures of me from college. Always in costume of some sort. This is a picture of me from the University of Central Oklahoma's 2005 spring musical, The Wild Party. I played a hooker. Be proud of your momma...

And like everyone else in the world at this point in history, I was active on a few social networking sites. These sites were still a relatively new concept, and seemingly safer. In my full-blown college girl angst, I had taken to Xanga and Myspace many a time to unleash my thoughts and feelings about various happenings in my life.

I posted poems and lyrics that I had written- ambiguously coded of course- and I explored and discovered new musical artists. I became a member of a few of these online circles for fans of various artists, and one day, by complete chance, I saw a comment that had been left by a handsome young soldier. I admit, my curiosity got the best of me, and I followed the link to his profile. I wondered what he wrote about- war? Music? Family? Where was he from? What did he do in the military? I didn't find much, honestly. A few updates with lots of time spaced in between and a couple of pictures peppered throughout. I have no idea what prompted me, but for some reason, I felt compelled to leave a comment on one of his posts. A strange show of support, perhaps? I don't know. But I left the comment and moved on with my day.

But by the next day, I had a new follower. It seemed the young soldier was as curious about me as I was him- perhaps even more so, because he had also found me on another social media site- Myspace. One might even say he was stalking me. Ahem. Okay, *I* might have said that. BUT, we struck up a friendship and his were the posts I most looked forward to because they always made me laugh. I found myself habitually waiting for his screen name to flash across my screen so that I could talk to him. I tried to ignore the fact that he was rather handsome, as I was still in my "serious" (although increasingly rocky) relationship.

As my Spring semester at college drew to a close and I prepared to move to Tulsa to work in an outdoor summerstock theatre, tensions grew between my boyfriend and I. There were very apparent issues from the beginning. Aside from our obvious differences regarding beliefs and passions, he had informed me not once, but twice, that he just didn't think he was supposed to marry me. Although I had never fancied myself the marrying type, he certainly was, and hearing that I wasn't "the one" wasn't any less painful. I suppose I had hoped that time could change things, as it sometimes does. Truth be told, he hoped the same thing. No one ever wants to think they've wasted valuable time and energy and love on something that was only meant to dissipate... But by the time I attended his college graduation ceremony and celebration at the end of that semester, it had become very apparent to me that that was exactly what needed to happen.

It's funny how you remember moments like these. I remember what I was wearing and what I ate and how I felt like an intruder attending this celebration for this young man with whom I had shared so much, knowing that in a matter of days, I would be explaining to him that we needed to be apart. I distinctly remember looking down at my white floral pants suit and pearls, not recognizing myself anymore.

A week later, as I made my way to Oklahoma City for my regular weekend visit, I knew I could no longer keep together what wasn't meant to hold. I don't remember the words, but I remember both of us expressing our hearts. A sorrow for the end, and a burden that had been lifted, all at once. I remember the red bag that I filled with things I had left there, and the small box of things from my car that I returned to him. I remember that it took less that thirty minutes before I was back in my car, on my way back to Tulsa. And I remember calling my best friend from the highway and sobbing through a mix of sadness and relief.

She talked me into turning around and drowning my sorrows in a fruit smoothie with her. Then she talked me into going to a party with her that night. It was thrilling to be free... a bonfire burned, and boys looked at me from across the flames and I felt noticed for the first time in a long time. We sang and laughed and talked until late in the evening (or was it early in the morning?) and somehow, for all those faces across the fire, I saw his face in my mind. My friend, the handsome soldier- Ryan was his name.  And my heart beat faster and something in me couldn't wait to speak to him again...

To be continued...

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Rylan | Oklahoma City Children's and Family Photographer

Once upon a time, when I was still learning my camera (and truthfully, still shooting portions of my sessions in Auto!), I did a maternity shoot for a coworker and her wife.

Fast forward to one night a couple of weeks ago, and THIS handsome little fella jumps out of the car.
And I just wanted to keep him! But he didn't want much to do with me. He was super shy, and so I decided we didn't need to take any pictures right away. Why not just go exploring! So that's what we did. I put my camera away and we just walked around town and talked, but to no avail. 
Finally, I hit on something. I asked him about his dogs. BINGO. Little man opened up and told me all about them. He was so sweet and charming! I asked him if he wanted to come live with me, but he said no on account of me only having one dog, and he in fact has three. I can understand that.
We had so much fun running around Deep Deuce, looking for dogs, airplanes, and places to run and play.

And near the end of the shoot, as we played in the dirt, he pointed to a large rock amongst the pebbles. Then he dug it out and get this: he gave it to me. Me! It meant a lot to me, considering the fact that he wouldn't even look at me an hour before!

Thanks, Snow Family for letting me be a small part of your story!

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

for the love of music.

I'm a musician. A vocalist. I have been ever since I can remember. So imagine my glee when my daughter started asking questions about the instruments she heard in the bluegrass music that we listen to in the mornings. She wanted to know the names of the instruments and then she wanted to know what they looked like. And then of course we had to pull out Daddy's guitar and play on it a little bit.
She can now properly identify a violin (or fiddle as we usually call it since we're listening to bluegrass right now), a banjo, and a guitar. Quite impressive considering all are string instruments. She also likes when the "girly" sings.
I love to see her eyes light up when a banjo opens up a song and she says, "Momma, s'at a banjo? S'at a banjo, Momma?" It makes me so happy to watch her pretend that her toy ladle and frying pan are a bow and fiddle. And my heart swells when I catch her singing "Iiiii'll fly awaaaaayyy!" as she plays with her Play-Doh. I am so grateful that I have passed on a love for music of all kinds.


Saturday, April 26, 2014


It hit me at the strangest moment. As I my hands were submerged in soapy dishwater and dinner over-cooked on the stove, I watched him sweep the walkway in our front yard. I turned to look out over crumb and clutter-covered kitchen counters and a dining room table with dried-on spaghetti sauce and the pink paint that remained after the Valentine's crafting months ago, into a messy sunroom where pillows were tossed haphazardly onto the floor amongst books and blocks and my two fair-haired babies watched a television show that certainly exceeded the recommended daily limit.
And somehow, I saw beauty. And I thought of how this was never the life I wanted for myself yet how blessed my life has become.
This life that is daily filled with tantrums thrown and meals refused and counters wiped and re-wiped and dogs shooed and laundry folded and refolded after the babies tossed it onto the floor.
Where windows are smudged and dishes are dirty and the sink smells and the shoes never make it to the basket.
Where the carpet is beyond salvage and the furniture is second-hand and the light bulb in the fridge has been burned out for a week and the bananas always brown before you can eat them.
Where time and patience and naps are often in short supply.
Where the back yard needs mowing and the toys litter the floor of my shower even though the children have their own bathroom and mending piles up in my closet.
Where everything needs painting and updating and plans are big but the time and budget is small.
Where my bed only stays made for about five seconds before that darling little blue-eyed creature crawls into it and begs, "Momma, snuggle!"
Where in the dark of the wee hours of the morning, I stare into the bright lights of that damned and blessed baby monitor checking and re-checking that those babies are still fast asleep, covered up, and peacefully dreaming of the adventures that were had.
Where a little boy plops himself into my lap and insists that I read book after book yanked from the shelf, and then discarded in the middle of the floor.
Where night after night, he lays his tired bones next to mine and grasps my hand as sleep comes fast and heavy, and then kisses my cheek when the morning comes too soon.
Where tears are numerous, and dedicated to moments of extremes- anger, hurt, fear, frustration, yet still and often, joy.

And all this... mess of a life- the marriage, the children, the house, the mortgage, the two cars, the dog...  it was never what I wanted. It was the makings of a dull and repetitious and empty life for which I refused to settle. Because when my body was younger and my mind was more na├»ve and my eyes were too wide and wild, I was sure that all I ever wanted was a life lived fast and free...

And God found me and rescued me from my own selfish destruction and placed in my path those amazing blessings that I never asked for and I certainly didn't earn. And even then, when days were long and hard and the babies refused to sleep and I- short-sighted and merely mortal- began to mourn the loss of my freedom and my body and my time and my rest and my youth, He continued to bless me. To give me more than I thought I could handle, and more than I deserved.

How great is His love for me. How many are His blessings. How vast His faith in me... that He would entrust such a rich life to one that did not at first appreciate the utter and absolute wonder of the simplicity set before her.  I am forever grateful that my God is greater than my self, and that His plans for me are far bigger and more exquisite than my inferior, inglorious dreams.

I haven't the holiness to see what He sees all the time. I haven't the strength to bear it in my withering mortal soul. So I just continue to trust that dirty dishes and mismatched socks and messy hair and piles of mail are all signs of a life lived fully and humbly and simply. I take my cues from small cherub faces, flush with laughter and arms held around my waist and words whispered quietly in the dark. I remind myself that this is holy work, and this life that I never wanted, is the life I could never ever replace or trade for all the world...


Thursday, April 17, 2014

The Farams | Oklahoma City Family and Children's Photographer

Photographing the Farams was an absolute joy! Mason was one of those dream babies that just grinned and made moony-eyes at his momma for the entire session.

And boy were those eyes big and blue! Can you even believe the peepers on this kid? Gorgeous.

But I guess you can't help but be gorgeous when your momma and Daddy look like this

I've known Lauren since college when we were both living the show business life and running around in wigs and stage make up in the Music Theatre Department. Really just babies! Since then we've both gotten married and had babies of our own. And yeah okay, maybe she was crowned Miss America somewhere in between there...  ;)

Thank you for being lovely, Faram family. It was great fun! Let's do it again soon!


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Marlin's Little Gentleman-Themed Baby Shower

Some of our closest friends are expecting their third baby- a BOY! They have two little girls and now it's finally time to welcome a little fella into the mix! Kayleigh wanted a "Little Gentleman" theme for the shower, so I got to work planning a shower that was tasteful and cute!

Truth: I am not a huge fan of baby showers. They tend to be overly cutesy and I just can't stomach all the baby blue diapered rubber duckies or pink pearls and bows, so I was glad that my friend chose a cute theme that could be done with a neutral color palette. I chose black and tan. Like a boss.

Again, we created a simple image and then uploaded it to a Facebook invite. It was fast and easy and worked like a charm!
I collaborated with my mom to come up with a unique idea for the centerpieces. I created the top hat center pieces by rolling up diapers, wrapping with felt, and setting on top of a circle of black poster board. I rolled the edges of the "brim" to make it look more like a hat, and then stuck in a shishkabob skewer with a cut-out of a bow tie (other variations included a mustache and a baby rattle!). It was super easy, and I've never seen one like it! We gave all the diapers to our friends at the end of the shower, and other guests took home the "skewers." Win-win!
A couple of things about the centerpieces: I initially rolled four individual diapers and wrapped with felt, but soon realized that it looked much more round if I rolled the diapers all together like so:

Either way, once they were on the table, they looked very cute!


We didn't play any party games, but I did have a few activities for the guests to do as they arrived and mingled.

There was a "Wish Tree" in lieu of a guestbook. The guests could write out their wishes for baby boy and then sign their names. I attached them to a key ring and gave to my friend to place in her baby book at the end of the shower.
And there was also a "Diaper Talk" station. The guests were encouraged to write a sentiment- sweet or funny- on a diaper and place in the basket. That way when my friend is up at 2 a.m. changing ANOTHER poopy diaper, she'll have a good laugh! I think people really had a good time with this one!

And of course, we had the usual diaper cake- made by the momma-to-be's mother!

And as favors, we gave the traditional cigars

There was also an adorable bow-tie garland with baby boy's name on it, but somehow I managed to forget to photograph it!

My friend had a really great time being showered by all of her friends and family, and I've already been recruited to help design the next baby shower for another friend! Don't drink the water, folks. I'm telling you it's contagious!

Congratulations, Marlin Family! I can't wait to meet little Malachi!