A Year in Photos

My daughter turns two next month so I figured it was high time to finish her first year photo book. I hadn’t been putting it off exactly; it was just an enormous project. Mammoth. I started months ago and it quickly expanded to fill every second of my available time, not to mention a whole lot of my unavailable time. I haven’t pulled so many all-nighters since college.

My husband was deployed when our daughter was born and didn’t come home until she was nearly 10 months old. I hated that he was missing out on those early days so I sent him daily photos and email updates.

I didn’t set out to take a photo a day. It started with the flurry of photos in those first few days—in the hospital, leaving the hospital, in the car, arriving home, etc. I knew how much my husband enjoyed the photos and, after the first week or so, I hated to skip a day. The days grew into weeks, and the weeks into months, and at some point I felt like I couldn’t stop. I didn’t want to stop.

Well, sometimes I wanted to stop. Coming up with new and interesting ways to photograph my baby was always a challenge. On dark, dreary days it was a downright chore. I’ll admit, the day after my husband came home I promptly fell off the wagon. I sometimes went a week or more without breaking out my camera. Yet I found I couldn’t let go, and so, the wagon dragged me around for the last two months of the year.

When I sat down to start this project I had thousands of photos to sort through and 120-some pages of text, all emails to my husband about our daughter. Four hundred and twelve pages later, the book is finished.

I wanted to share a few of my favorite photos and a link to the completed book. I absolutely love it. It was delivered two days too late for my mom’s birthday, but just in time for father’s day.

first year photos
By Cynthia Roelle
Photo book

I used BookSmart by Blurb.com to create this book. Blurb offers free online book making tools that allow you to create your own photo books, as well as bookstore-quality printing and binding. The software is fairly user-friendly, though a little clunky, particularly when you insert and format text lengthier than a caption.

Blurb.com automatically lists a price for any book that is available to be viewed publicly. The pricing is quite reasonable, until you get up to hundreds of pages like I did.

Gaby - June 18, 2012 - 12:44 am

The photos are beautiful! GiGi is so pretty and she has the most expressive and beautiful eyes. Thanks for sharing!

Linda - June 23, 2012 - 6:23 pm

Loved the book! I looked through the whole thing and relived the year of e-mails and your visit to Asheville when we got to see GiGi in person. She is just precious!

Tricia - June 29, 2012 - 3:45 am

Cynthia, how fun to peruse your beautiful captures of GiGi! Though I haven’t yet met her, I now sort of feel as if I have. What a talented mother you are!

Kelly - July 9, 2012 - 6:49 pm

Thanks for sharing your blog with me, Cindy. You are a talented photographer! The book you made of Gigi’s first year is truly special and beautiful!

Stars & Stripes

I have a penchant for random holiday facts so I thought I’d take a moment to share a post in honor of Flag Day, June 14th, which also happens to be the Army’s birthday.

On June 14th, 1775, our Nation’s leaders established the Continental Army. If you’re counting, that was 237 years ago today. I was in the Army for three years, which was about two-and-a-half years too many, but I am proud to have served. (Proud of all we have done, Fighting till the battle’s won, And the Army goes rolling along!) Happy Birthday Army.

Flag Day commemorates the adoption of the Stars and Stripes as the Nation’s flag. It all happened by resolution of the Second Continental Congress on June 14, 1777. The next day, Betsy Ross, who is credited with sewing the first flag, married her second husband, one Joseph Ashburn. Poor Mr. Ross had died from a wound he received in the Revolutionary War.

I took the photo of this stunning flag at Hickam Air Force Base, Honolulu, Hawaii. As far as flags go, ours is kick-ass.


It has been a long time since I photographed a newborn. I had forgotten how little they are, how soft and delicate. How sweet they smell (which is somewhat surprising given all the vomiting) and how easy they are to photograph.

Newborns. Itty bitty. Pure and pliable. Pick them up and hold them, then put them down again. Move them and change their clothes, then move them again. They sleep a while then wake up, then fall asleep again. They follow you with wide eyes. Wiggle your fingers and they’ll shift their gaze. It’s effortless and fun, gratifying and uncomplicated.

Not to be forgotten are the booties knitted by Nanna, the heirloom teether. A dress from her big sister, a blanket from a close friend. Ten tiny fingers and ten tiny toes. Hands balled into fists. Little details too easily overlooked in a mother’s sleep-deprived fog. All things to cherish. All things to remember.

Kristyn Schrader-King - April 23, 2012 - 1:27 am

Dearest “Bingo,”
Thank you so much for capturing our sweet Elise in such an amazing manner. You create heirlooms with your talent.
Much love, “EA”

Linda - April 23, 2012 - 10:02 pm

Such beautiful photos – I love them! I wish I had known you when Claire was a baby…

Bunny Love

From the moment she spotted him across the crowded playground it was love at first sight. A great big bunny had hopped on the scene and my daughter was on him like pink on Pepto. I’m thankful that the sweet girl who brought him, a little older and more proficient with sharing than my 20-month-old, was willing to let her run off with him for a while.

For 40 minutes or so my daughter dragged that bunny all over the playground. And I do mean all over the playground. On the swings and up the jungle gym and down the slide and around again and again and again. It was adorable. One of the sweetest things I have ever seen. And all I can say is, thank God for my iPhone. Without it I wouldn’t have a single one of these priceless photos.

I will admit I am a bit of a camera snob. Until very recently I had never taken a picture with my phone. Truth be told, until very recently I had never had a phone with a camera. It seemed completely unnecessary. If something was photo worthy I wanted a real photo taken with my real camera. If I didn’t have the big guns with me I simply didn’t take the photo.

That all changed when my daughter learned to walk, and then run. I realized I would never be able to keep up with her lugging around a big heavy camera. Shoot, I’m already weighed down by a 50-pound diaper bag full of everything but what I happen to need.

And so, an epiphany. I must make the most of the awesome technology that is the camera phone. I love these photos and the ideas they’ve sparked. Namely, I’m starting a new iGallery devoted solely to my favorite iPhone photos. It’s brand new so there aren’t many photos yet but you can find them under the iGallery on the main Galleries menu. Also, when I find a cool new photography app I’m going to tell you what it is and how you can use it too.

Let me know what you think. And if you have a favorite photo app please leave a comment below so I can check it out and share the love. The bunny love.

Pam Steffen - April 10, 2012 - 10:53 pm

Absolutely adorable Cindy, love them all! And, I agree, it’s incredible what great quality photos you can get with your iphone. Brian and I use ours all the time and we’re pretty snobby about photos as well!

Cynthia Roelle - April 11, 2012 - 5:33 pm

I’m pretty slow to come around to new technology but thank goodness I did. So glad I caught these!

Egg Hunt Schmegg Hunt

Bright and early on Saturday morning a hundred or so 2- and 3-year-olds lined the edge of a field, eyeballing the colorful eggs scattered about and wondering what was afoot. Parents too lined the field, holding kids back until the hunt began.

As I stood among them I overheard egg-collecting strategies being discussed in hushed tones. My kid, however, was nowhere in sight. I craned my neck and could just make out my husband weaving his way through the crowd, our daughter in his arms. Just then the horn went off. Kids and parents alike went tearing onto the field and I was left standing alone on the sideline.

The moment my husband reached me our daughter squirmed out of his arms. Her feet hit the ground and she turned on her heel, teetering off as fast as her wobbly toddler legs would carry her. Egg hunt, schmegg hunt. She had places to go and people to meet. Or make that one giant white bunny to meet.

When we caught up with her she was standing amidst a throng of older kids waiting to have their picture taken with the Easter bunny. She watched as a few kids had their turn, giggling and shrieking “Eeeser bunny” at the top of her lungs. I don’t know how she did it but in no time she had jockeyed her way to the front of the circle. And then, in a brief lull between kids, our daughter made her move. She stepped forward and waved, then made kissy lips. Then more waves and more kissy lips. She held up her hands for double high fives, then stretched out her arms and hollered “hug” until the Easter bunny picked her up. When he did she poked him in the eye, then leaned in and planted a kiss on his furry cheek.

She alternated hugs and kisses and pokes for a minute or two until the Easter bunny set her down to move on to the next kid. Our daughter, however, was not done with the Easter bunny. She hugged his legs and circled him, then hugged his legs some more. Despite the lack of attention she wouldn’t leave his side.

It was a regular Kodak moment if ever there was one and darn if I didn’t miss it. I wasn’t planning on taking bunny photos and didn’t bring the right lens for it. Dumb, I know. It’s some consolation knowing she’ll show up in the photos of at least a few dozen other families. Ha.

At the end of it all my daughter completely missed the egg hunt and I, a lovely photo op. But oh, just to be there to behold her delight. It was extraordinary. And to top it off, her sweet little friend with a basketful of eggs graciously shared a few. Next year I will be ready. I will not be bested by an Easter bunny again.

Gaby - April 4, 2012 - 1:21 pm

The pictures are Beautiful and reading the blog made me want to be there to see G with the bunny. So adorable!