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    Thanks for visiting my blog!

    I'm a photographer located in the San Francisco Bay Area and I shoot weddings and relaxed lifestyle sessions of children and families. My husband Chris and I work together - and we're so glad you stopped by. This blog will feature our most recent professional work with current clients as well as plenty of personal updates.

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Modern Family Photographer | the Willoughby family

Those of you who know me well know that I am a sucker for “home”.  I just love the way that families move into a space, live in it & make it come alive.

Those of you who know me also know that I adore this family.  Brad and Merrilee are friends that we met in San Diego.  I met Merrilee while teaching 5th grade – she was a sub for a couple of days at the school site where I was teaching.  We met in the teachers lounge and became life long friends.  Instantly.  You know those people that you can’t imagine doing life without?  They are on that short list for us.

Before we moved up north (actually, before Lucy was born even!) Brad and Merrilee had a vision to build a modern home in San Diego.  They purchased a lot, sold their home, and began a nearly 7 year project of constructing this new piece of their heart.  It fits them so well. (And not to mention it’s GORGEOUS!  Please tell me you already noticed those Zebra Wood cabinets and the polished concrete floors, among every other beautiful detail!) Truly, this house was a labor of love that has paid off in incredible dividends. It’s easy to see that this space is a place where they simply know how to be together.

That’s my favorite part about home – it’s really just a place where you and the people you love simply know how to be together.

Check out these photos of their family in their home:

I don’t think I’ve mentioned that we are inextricable bonded to this family with a common thread of an intense love for all things Disney and Apple.  (You already guessed that, right?)  The line drawing of “Flower” in the image below has special significance to this family.  We had to incorporate it into the shoot.

Their oldest little guy LOVES to fly!!!!!  Poor Brad, the work out his arms received the morning of this shoot didn’t even challenge P90X…

 

Sweet mama and her boys…

Brad and Merrilee, we love you and your boys so much!  We wish you all the happiness in your new home!

October 11, 2012 - 10:43 am

Merrilee - Oh Sara! We adore you and your family too :) Everything you said…well, ditto! I will never, ever forget meeting you in that teacher’s lounge. What a blessing! Thank you so much for these incredibly special pictures. They mean the world to us and are such a celebration of this new and exciting chapter in our lives. We are so very grateful. Many, many hugs!!!

March 18, 2013 - 5:31 pm

Making a house a home » photography by merrilee - [...] to our faces. We have photos taken by friends, family, and some of our favorite photographers, Sara Goetz and Catie Stephens, among [...]

The Spaces We Live In | A Reflection on our Atrium Remodel

 

There are so many things I’d like to point out about the above photo.  First, let’s start with the obvious, can you believe those two little ones are Lucy and Luke?  I can’t.  I can hardly remember taking the photo let alone L/L ever being that small.  I told someone the other day that those years are literally a blurr.  And not necessarily a happy blurr.  More of a survival blurr.

I’m sure many of you know first hand what I am talking about.  You maybe already lived through it or are living through it right now.

Nearly 6 years ago we moved into this house when I was 6 months pregnant with Luke.  Leaving our life in San Diego, we ventured back to the city where both Chris and I grew up and where I family still lived.  We left a 900 square foot Art Deco style home that we had made ours.  It had our heart.

We knew we were blessed to purchase this Eichler – but that didn’t erase the incredible about of work it needed to (1) feel clean and (2) function for our young family.  There were other homes we could have purchased without those issues – but we knew that the other options would be better initionally but within a few years we would be frustrated.  This home would be the opposite.  So, we went for short term frustration for longterm pay off.

Which is really the subject of this post.

Of course, when I see this picture I am struck by how much the kids have grown.  Funny though, I am equally struck by how much our home has “grown.” The structural and aesthetic changes in our home have become almost a physical representation of the changes that we have made as a family, the way we have grown, matured and evolved during our last 6 years here.   This is seen in a dramatic fashion through the transformation our atrium.

For example, note the wall paper border to the right of the door, the wooden framed image of a random lake, the oversized lava rocks behind the stroller, do I need to mention the indoor/outdoor carpet???  Or the maroon painted trim around the sliders?  How about the twisted metal bars protecting the windows?  I mean…the list could go on and on….

When we moved in to this house the atrium was our most favorite feature.  But instead of creating it into an protected, outdoor oasis, we almost instantly made it into a play room.  Functional – for sure.   The right thing to do?  YES.  Beautiful?  Hardly.

Because the atrium is in the middle of the house, and surrounded by windows, it has a “Fish bowl” quality to it.  It can be seen from nearly every other room of the house.  It was the world’s greatest playroom!  But for this stay at home mama, it was anything but inspiring.

 

 

It was, by all accounts, the most used, functional & purposeful atrium ever!  But ugly. In some ways – as much of our house did – it became a metaphor for a season of life I couldn’t leave fast enough.  It began to represent everything I wanted and could envision but was just out of my reach.  I was home alone.  Most of the time.  Caring for two very small children.  With very little social network.  And tired.  Have I mentioned that?  I never slept, never felt anywhere close to organized and always felt so very much out of control.

Overtime, we made some changes.  We took down the wallpaper border.  The kids started sleeping more.  We painted the walls.  I made some great, life long friends.  Slowly but surely the toys began to disappear, we gave away the strollers.  I started to have a clearer vision for how to organize a life with 2 littles.  The McDonalds kitchen found it’s way to another home…and…

 

All that was left was the nasty carpet & and the make shift room.  And that carpet was NASTY.  The corrugated plastic roof was not waterproof so each winter the carpet became more waterlogged & stained than the last.  Not only was the carpet full of water, it was full of pee.  Potty training can be rough.  And indoor/outdoor carpet does not weather the potty training storm very well.

Worse yet – whenever it rained it made the house smell like pee. 

 

We had definitely improved on the atrium! But we still had work to do.  We wanted to remove the corrugated plastic cover, rip up the carpet and restore the concrete.

So a few weekends ago – that’s exactly what we did.

We rolled up the carpet…

We scraped as much mastic off as we could…

Removed the brick trim around the edges…

And Chris started grinding the floor.  Ava, our male hamster, really enjoyed being a part of things :).

 

Thanks to lots of exprience grinding concrete, the advise our neighbors Chris and Laura and some really hard work on the part of Chris – we have a new & improved atrium!

For me, it’s been a life changer.  I love looking through those big windows now.  I love the light.  I love that I can see the clouds from my kitchen (taken from my iPhone…)

I love that it houses the kids bikes and scooters and I just love looking through the windows and seeing them on the rocks knowing that they were dropped there by my two precious kids full of energy and laughter.  I love that we learn together in this room – a few weeks ago we built a model of the Great Wall of China – yesterday we built catapults!

I love that it is still an integral part of our family – but it feels more balanced now.  I don’t feel so lost when I look into it.  Now, I can see a little bit of myself.  I can see what Chris and I saw when we made that crazy and questionable decision to buy this house.  And when I need or want to connect with that “grown up” part of Sara, it’s not hard to pick it up, organize things and appreciate the architecture of this home that we bought on purpose.

 

I’m excited to think about new plants and foliage…but for now…I couldn’t be happier.  Here’s the atrium the first night it was done (taken from my iPhone):

The happiness I feel when I see what we’ve done is more than just a reflection of an improved aesthetic.  It’s the sweet realization that we did see something special in this place.  That we weren’t crazy.  We *thought* that this was a home that would grow up with our family.  We guessed that it could become a place – THE PLACE – that we could all grow, change, learn, live and love together, in different and increasing ways.  That not only could this place represent Lucy & Luke – but that it could and would represent me and Chris.  That it would be a place that the kids and the parents a like could grow up in.  It was a gamble, but we seem to be winning.

We’ve weathered a few storms together here – some of the most difficult storms of my life so far.  I think it’s fair to say that there probably will be more.  But now when those storms hit, at least the carpet won’t smell like pee.

October 30, 2012 - 10:36 am

Maggie - I am obsessed with this post. I thought it was obviously true that my wedding photos would be my favorite post on your blog, but I was wrong.

Stacy and Sol | East Bay Family Photographer

I just had to share this sweet, sweet family!  They came to the studio a couple of weeks back – together we created something really simple with beautiful, natural light & a plain white background.  I LOVE how the photos turned out!!

 

They recently had a new addition to their family – isn’t she the best?!

Her sister adores her!  Which is so special!!

And speaking of her sister, isn’t she a beauty???

 

I love this sequence-

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks Stacy & Sol – it was really great working with you and your beautiful family!

 

 

 

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