Allie Siarto | Lansing, Michigan Wedding Photographer

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Hawaii: A Family Vacation Jan 15

For the past five years, I’ve spent pretty much every new year with my head down in work. I wanted this year to be different. A year ago, when I was freezing cold in Michigan holding a one month old baby in my arms and celebrating the new year, I texted my friend, Jess, and I told her that I wanted to spend the next new year somewhere warm. Jess had just celebrated the new year with a two week old baby, and we were both just crazy/sleep deprived/cold enough to decide that month that we would head off to Hawaii to celebrate the arrival of 2015 (although, admittedly, I almost chickened out, and I’m glad now that Jess talked me into it).

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Fast forward to December 29. After almost a year of planning, the six of us hopped on a plane in Chicago and headed west. We had a much needed stop in Phoenix, where we stretched our legs and grabbed some lunch before beginning the flight that I had been the most nervous about—six hours across the Pacific with two one year olds.

Zelda spent about half of the total airplane time sleeping (don’t be fooled by this peaceful photo—it just happens that it was easier to capture her when she was asleep than when she was bouncing around on Jeff and me).

I was counting down the final hours on the flight. I wasn’t feeling well, and our overtired baby did not seem interested in sleep, but we when touched down and I got a tiny little glimpse out the window at the water and the mountains in the distance, I knew we were in for something special in Kauai.

I woke up on the 30th feeling absolutely awful. I could hardly sit up, let alone hop around the island enjoying myself. Jeff drove me half an hour to urgent care, then half an hour back to wait the two hours for an opening, then back and forth again (I’m so grateful that Jess and Paul were there to watch Zelda). I had a fever of 103.2. They sent us to the pharmacy for Tamiflu, and after a good deal of sleep and a lost first day of vacation, I was back on my way to enjoying my vacation.

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We had planned a luau for New Years Eve at Smith’s Tropical Paradise. I wish we’d taken more time to take photos there, because it was an absolutely stunning garden with amazing views. We all had a great meal, then I got Zelda into her pajamas, thinking that I’d just put her in her stroller to sleep during the show after dark.

As it turned out, both girls were very much awake for the show, and they actually made the show 100% more entertaining. They were SO into it. Zelda pretty much danced from the beginning to the end, swaying back and forth to the music and jumping up and down on our laps while we rolled with laughter. At the end, both girls promptly passed out, and we headed back to the condo to take in our bonus hours of 2014.

Around 12:30 AM, power went out on the entire island, and around 12:35 AM, the loudest fire alarm I’ve ever heard went off in our condo. I grabbed Zelda and went outside, figuring that the power outage and the alarm were related, but it turned out someone had just thrown firecrackers in a trash can near a smoke detector.
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We spent the rest of the week in Kauai driving to different parts of the island to explore its beauty. We drove out to check out some of the gorgeous waterfalls, and just as we were hopping back in the car to decide whether it was worth it to drive to another waterfall on a different part of the island, we heard the lyrics, “Don’t go chasing waterfalls” play through the radio. I kind of loved that moment.
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This is what nap time looked like for a good part of the week in Kauai:
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Gracelyn loved playing in the sand. Zelda didn’t want a speck of sand to touch her.
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After Kauai, we flew out to Oahu for a nine hour layover (I left my camera in the rental car during this whirlwind layover, so all of these photos were on our phones). We headed straight to Pearl Harbor, then on to Diamond Head, where we backpacked the girls up the crater to see absolutely incredible views of Waikiki beach and downtown Honolulu below us. I’m so glad that we took the time to explore Oahu before heading on to spend the rest of the week on the big island.

Our experience on the big island felt completely different from Kauai. The terrain is different (Kauai is known as the garden island, while you can definitely tell that the big island has active volcanoes), and we stayed at a house with a big lanai (outdoor deck/living space) rather than a condo. The outdoor deck basically connected all of the major rooms, so we had to go outside to the deck to get from the bedrooms to the living room and kitchen area. But that view from the lanai—I could just sit and stare at it all day (and at times, I nearly did). There’s nothing like waking up and sipping coffee while watching whales and surfers from your outdoor living room.
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Hula girls, because…just because.
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The rest of the week was filled with an amazing boating experience to snorkel at an underwater state park (we took turn watching the girls while each couple took an excursion), walks to the water, surfing lessons, beach time, pool time and a little time for some family photos with each family down by the water.
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We made a point to drive out to see the volcano from a distance—we would have loved to hike in closer, but it’s not recommended that young children get close to it because of the gas that it puts off. I was a little skeptical at first, but it ended up being worth the two hour drive. And those stars! I’ve never seen so many stars.
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We used the whole wireless remote group photo trick with the MaxStone camera remote I got for Christmas from Jeff’s parents. This might be the first photo of all six of us together in history.
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I was grateful to be able to have my camera along with me to capture the special moments on vacation, although my iPhone definitely came in handy for the more action-packed moments where I didn’t have my full camera body and lens with me.

Hawaii gave us such a beautiful start to the new year—time to enjoy family and new experiences, and time to reflect from a peaceful place. I feel so energized heading into 2015, and I’m excited to share new plans for the business in the coming months. Stay tuned!
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Angela+Jason: MSU Campus Engagement Photos Dec 4

Fall is always such a beautiful time for photos—and I was so busy taking photos of other people this fall that I completely forgot to plan photos of my own family. Now that we have Zelda, I feel like I need to make a point to schedule family photos at least once a year so that all three of us are in them.

We’re renovating our entire first floor right now (we’re going on two months living with my parents while our house is filled with construction dust), and I’m so excited to have blank walls all over the place to fill with framed family photos and canvases. Maybe we’ll take some while we’re in Hawaii over the new year so that I can look at a nice tropical photo every time I go up and down the stairs (have I mentioned that we’ll be flying with a 13 month old all the way to Hawaii on December 30? Yes, this is happening).

Anyway, on to the featured engagement shoot of the day! Angela and Jason are both super sweet, and it was fun to explore a few different parts of campus that I don’t usually get to. Michigan State’s campus really never gets old for me.

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Happy Birthday, Zelda Dec 1

One year ago, I gave birth to a tiny human named Zelda. One year later, I can honestly say that all of the clichés of parenthood are entirely true. I’ve spent the year in awe of this little being, watching her grow and learn. It’s been the biggest roller coaster of my life—from sleepless nights in tears to hearty laughs and moments of absolute astonishment. I’ve made new friends along the way. I’ve laughed out loud daily. I’ve reinvigorated my interest in photographing families and newborns.

When I was seven months pregnant, I downloaded an iPhone app called “One Second Everyday.” I had seen the app creator speak at the World Domination Summit out in Portland, Oregon in 2013 (yes, I went to a conference called the World Domination Summit), and after watching a similar video project, I was determined to make this a family project for Zelda’s first year of life. It took a ton of dedication, but now that we can look back on her first year through this project, I’m so happy that we did it. Every second brings back the memories associated with it.

Before Zelda’s birthday party yesterday, I set up my camera for my dad so that we could get a few family photos. I spend way too much time behind the camera, and I wanted to make a point to get a few photos with all three of us to display in the house once our first floor renovation is done.

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An Ode to Summer Nov 26

Since we’ve officially bid adieu to warm weather for a good many months (besides a trip to Hawaii that’s been in the works to celebrate the new year—yippee!), I thought that I’d share some photos of how the Siartos spent our last moments of warm weather over Labor Day.

Growing up in Michigan, I’ve come across a few boaters here and there who were willing to share the fun of a day on the boat, but this year, our good friend, Jess, asked if we’d like to rent a place with her family on Torch Lake and rent a boat for the weekend. A bit about Jess—she’s a travel agent (she specializes in destination weddings if you’re considering a wedding abroad), and if she asks you to go on a trip that she’s planning, the answer is always yes (hence Hawaii this December/January).

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We ended up renting a “rustic” cabin by the lake so that we could budget more money toward the boat where we’d be spending most of out time. The cabin itself made for a few adventures (the plumping didn’t really work when it was raining outside, and the paper thin walls created a chorus of babies one night when the two nine month olds would cry back and forth), but we had such a great weekend playing board games, cruising our boat around like real live boaters, dressing the girls in the same bathing suits (how could we resist?), driving the boat up Clam River to Shorts Brewery, floating in the water on rafts and enjoying good company all around. This is the stuff that perfect Michigan long weekends up north are made of.
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Zelda generally despised her lifejacket, but when she had these little toy people in her hand, she could tolerate it.
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Notice my windblown boater hair?
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