BIG news!… finally

Over a year ago, when Michael and I began telling people we were moving to Kenya, I was extremely hesitant to tell people about our plans.  This is because we had NO IDEA what our plans were.  We knew we were moving to Kenya, and that was about it.  We were just faithful that God had a plan for us, that he was going to use us in this place, and that it was going to be an amazing experience.  But we had no concept of what that meant.  We didn’t know where we were going to go, how we were going to get there, or how long we’d stay.  But of course, people wanted to know details.  The thing is, we didn’t have any.  So all I said is “we’re moving to Kenya”.  And people took that to mean a lot of different things, because it was vague.  Purposefully, very vague.  Because we just didn’t know.  Even after we moved here.  We had no idea.  We just went where we were led, and tried not to make many plans (which is exceptionally hard for a planner like me to do).  And that has REALLY worked out for us.  Just learning to trust and go where we feel led.  It has been amazing.  And I will tell you A LOT more about that in future posts, but for know I can tell you our plans.

‘Cause now we know.  Now we can tell you what we’re doing in Kenya (’cause we’ve done it) and how long we’re staying (’cause we have our flight back to the US).

We are moving home in MAY!  Like 4 weeks from now.  And we are so excited to come home and so ridiculously sad to leave.

Honestly, I am confused how it is April already.  I feel like it was just last week I was moving out of my house, sorting through my clothes, and trying to decide what I needed to move to Africa.  But then again, this place is home now.

We have loved our time here and I’m so excited to write many, many blog posts to sum up our time in Kenya, but first, we want to make a HUGE announcement.  Michael and I (with the help of a few amazing people) have been working really hard for the last few months rebranding Michael & Laura Photography.  I am SO excited that after months of hard work we are finally able to share everything we’ve come up with!!!

Since we’ve been living in a very remote area, with absolutely no internet access, we will be putting on the final touches this month for our re-launch this MAY!  AH.. How is it April already???

We wanted to give you all a little sneak peek of what we’ve been working so hard on (our rebranding board).. We hope you LOVE it.. And can’t wait to share the finished product, along with a lot more surprises (including a WEEK full of GIVEAWAYS)!

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and of course.. some of our sweet, sweet babies!

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(check back for another video later this week – school supplies style!)

A Very Kenya Christmas Video

I know we have said it a million times, but we are SO insanely grateful for all our generous friends and followers.  We raised enough money to provide all 100 abandoned children at Happy Life a Christmas present this year.  AND had people go above and beyond to get some extra goodies for the house moms and teachers.  These kids were so excited, and it has been so much fun watching them play with all their new toys over the past week.

We put together some of our highlights from this Christmas.  And because it was such an awesome day, it is about 10 minutes long.. real sorry.  It’s so hard to cut video of these beautiful faces!  Enjoy.

Gearing up for a very Kenyan Christmas

I seriously can not believe we have just a week ’til Christmas!!!  To be honest, being in Kenya has lacked a lot of Christmas spirit.  There aren’t any decorations at the Children’s home.. No picking out a tree, hanging countless strings of lights, or driving to see all the decorations.  It’s not cold here.. So there is no bundling up and drinking hot chocolate, ice skating, or making snowmen.  We don’t have an oven, so there has been none of the normal Christmas treats, or decorating cookies.  We don’t have a radio, so there is no 24 hours of Christmas music, and without Netflix, no endless stream of holiday movies.  Yeah.. In a lot of ways it hasn’t felt much like Christmas here, which is a bummer because it is my favorite time of year!  But there has been one thing that has held us from being too upset we won’t be spending Christmas with our families under sparkly lights.  In fact, we are SO excited.  Maybe more excited than I have been since I was a little kid.  It’s because of the gifts.  No, Michael and I haven’t bought awesome gifts for each other, in fact, we aren’t exchanging gifts at all.   It’s the gifts for the kids.  A few weeks ago we thought how awesome it would be if these children could have a true, big Christmas celebration.  How much fun it would be to see them all be able to open a gift and see their faces light up.  To give them something that may let them know how very loved they are.  The problem is, Happy Life Nairobi has 45 children living here.  And another 52 at their location in Juja.  There was no way Michael and I would be able to get gifts for 97 children.  So we thought maybe we would narrow it down to just the children we spend every day with here at the Nairobi location.

But still 45 gifts would be way more than we would be able to pull together.  So we decided to reach out and ask for help getting a small gift for each child.  And we have been blown away.  The amount of generous donations we have receive has brought me to tears.  We have had so many sweet people share our registry, donate, or write us really encouraging notes.  So many generous hearts that our registry for the 45 children here was completely filled.  And then even more people who contacted us saying they wish they had been able to contribute.  So we added to it.  There are a couple things here that the house moms could use to help provide for all these children.  And then those things were filled.  So we added again.  We thought of a few things that could make their play areas so much more fun.  And then those things were filled.  And we were shocked. And overwhelmed. And overjoyed.  So we thought of the 52 beautiful faces at Juja and how exciting it would be for them to have a little something too.  That having a few recess and after school play things would be so exciting for them, or even a few things to have a school to make the day a little more fun.  So we added so that these faces may have a beautiful Christmas too.

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Even though we are missing out on some of the things that make this season so much fun, we couldn’t be more excited for Christmas to get here.   An old friend of ours, and one of our biggest contributors (who decided instead of giving gifts this season, she’d donate to kids here in people’s names) posted this video she helped create this Christmas season.  And we are really feeling it.  Watch, enjoy, and get excited for this time of giving.  And if you feel inspired, consider giving $5, $10, $20, or whatever feel like to those beautiful faces above.

Caitlin & Ray – Part I

Over 8 years ago (whoa I can’t BELIEVE it has been that long!) I was at freshman orientation at CNU.  A friend of mine and I went to a “dance party” in a residence hall lounge.. one of the many exciting things planned for that weekend.  Problem was, when we got there, though there was loud music, not a soul was dancing.  My friend and I decided to start dance anyways.. and the first person to join us, a total stranger then, is now my best friend in the world.  Caitlin has one of the most incredible hearts of anyone I know and I am so honored to call her a friend. Living this far away from her is killing me, and I am SO thankful her and her future hubby are planning to visit us here in Kenya.  Thankfully, I can call her and it’s like I’m sitting right next to her, or Facebook her my ridiculous thoughts from the day, just like normal.

ANYWAYS.. I love her, you get the point.. well a few months ago when she called me to ask about how someone goes about booking an engagement session with us, I started to freak.  All I could do was keep asking her “why do you need to know that?  Why, what’s happening? Why?!”.  She finally let me know that Ray had finally proposed!  And I of course, started hysterically crying.  I could not be more excited for these two.  I love Ray so much and I am so excited that my best friend, with a heart of gold, has found the man that deserves her.

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Such good model faces!

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GAH!

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Check back for part II.. just as soon as this Kenyan internet uploads it!

Happy Thanksgiving!

Michael and I are dreaming of turkey and cranberry sauce, but samosas and Fanta will have to do.  It’s days like these we get a little home sick thinking of things we are missing out on, but we are so thrilled for the opportunity to be in Kenya, that a few missed holidays are worth it.  So while we aren’t celebrating in the usual way with tons of family and good food, we are celebrating by thinking of the many, many blessing we have and giving thanks for the amazing things in our life.

Here are a few things we have realized we are SUPER thankful for in our normal lives..

Long, hot showers with good water pressure

2014-11-27_0008 An oven, a big fridge and ice machine, and a dish washer.

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A washing machine and dryer

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No mosquitos in our house and our big king sized super cozy bed (really thankful for our two pillows we brought with us though!)

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Our quiet little neighborhood

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Wonderful parents who love and support our crazy ideas

Things we are thankful for here in Kenya…

 Malaria free mosquitos

 Chapati and samosas

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Joyful children who have a home here at Happy Life

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Our fruit lady

Beautiful, warm weather

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 We hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving day.. Eat some extra turkey for us!

In Kenya

Michael and I are ecstatic to announce our big news.  Well, if you follow us on Facebook, Instagram, or know us at all, this won’t be much of news.  Regardless, we are excited and feel like we can’t pass up an opportunity to blog about it!.. Michael and I have moved to Kenya!  We are now in our third week Volunteering at Happy Life Children’s Home in Nairobi, Kenya.  We have had to make a lot of huge decisions to get here, for our business, for our life, for our finances, but we feel like this is where we are supposed to be, and we are HERE!  It has been so tough turning down weddings and portrait sessions as our little business is really starting to grow, but we know this is the time to do something a little crazy with our lives and follow a calling we have both had for a long time.  AND we are so excited that we have already started to accept bookings for the fall of 2015! We have quite a few little projects that we are working on while we are here, and I am SO excited to be able to share them with you all.   In the meantime, we have a few really fun sessions to post from before we left, some adorable baby faces to share, and updates from our little Kenyan adventure. We are so honored that you all continue to follow us..   Week1&2-04 Week1&2-05 Week1&2-08Week3&4-13

Audra & Michael

When Michael and I are photographing a wedding I get in a zone. I am ultra focused on finding a good shot and getting everything covered that I don’t really get caught up in the little moments. It’s after the fact, while sorting through all the images from the day where I reflect at what an amazing day it was. Well, that was NOT the case for this wedding. I was caught up in so many moments, the father-daughter first look, Audra coming down the aisle with her mom and dad who adore her, seeing Michael look at his gorgeous bride for the first time (his reaction was the best I’ve ever seen.. you could completely see how overwhelmed he was that he was marrying Audra), Audra Audra immediately hugging Michael because she just couldn’t help herself, their amazingly heartfelt vows and ceremony, the father-daughter first dance (yep, I was weeping.. so happy we got some good images even through the tears).. the whole day was filled with emotional moments, so incredibly filled with love. These two make such an amazing couple with such beautiful hearts. It didn’t matter that we had only met them the say before, we felt like old friends the whole day. They put so much trust in us and we were so honored to be a part of this perfect day.
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Their written vows were great! They threw in fun everyday commitments like finding each other’s phone!
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We absolutely love this shot! Chokes us up every time.
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They were gracious enough to let us take them away from their reception for a few minutes to the barn. Beautiful!
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Congratulations Audra & Michael! We know you will be so happy together!

Our Honeymoon – Part III

This is the last one, I promise. If you didn’t catch part I or part II of our amazing month long honeymoon, go check it out!
To finish our month abroad, my sister, Lindsay, who was backpacking Europe at the time met up with us for our quick visit to Barcelona.
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And Guell Park.. 2014-08-27_0072.jpg
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…and of course La Rambla for some sangria and tapas
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We ended our wonderful night at the magic fountain.. so much fun!
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We absolutely LOVED planning our honeymoon.. everything turned out remarkably well.. 3 rental cars (returned without a scratch), 2 ferries (get to those EARLY.. we missed one of ours and had to catch a later trip.. it was no trouble though), 1 overnight train, numerous taxi rides, hotels, airbnbs.. it took a lot of planning, but it was well worth it! Enjoy planning your honeymoon! Let me know if you have any questions!

Andrew & Olivia

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This summer one of Michael’s best friends growing up got married in the beautiful Yosemite National Park.  We were so thrilled when Andrew asked Michael to be a groomsmen.. it’s such an honor to be a part of someone’s wedding day!  Anddddd we figured it would be an awesome excuse to take a trip to California #calivaca.  We’ll have to post some pictures from our awesome lil PCH road trip, but for now we wanted to share some of Andrew & Olivia’s big day.

I have a nasty habit of not being able to put a camera down.. even when we aren’t actually working an event.. and while I’m definitely NOT a videographer, that is one thing Michael and I really wish we had at our wedding.. so I though I might throw something together for the happy (and amazingly beautiful) couple.  We love you both, and hope you enjoy being able to relieve a little of your pretty perfect day! Thanks for letting us be a part of it.

Andrew & Olivia from Laura Downing on Vimeo.