Family Tree!

My children have an assignment for school — to build a family tree!  As they both have the same assignment, we have two trees to do. So we decided to build one for my side of the family and one for  my husbands. This has turned into quite the obsession for me.  I am back on Ancestry websites with a fierce focus and determination to build a picture of our family for the kids to share and to truly understand.  It’s been fun! Digging into old databases and family photos I like to picture the story of their lives.  My Mothers side of the family is very small now given that most of the people I grew up with have died.  That makes my focus even stronger so I can document this history before it fades away.

I’ve been all over, but if anyone has any leads on finding out about Black families in Florida (& Seminole families too) and Maryland in the 1800s and early 1900s please let me know!  There are portions of my family that are a mystery and I am still trying to figure out how to solve them.

Have you documented your own family history- it’s fun, interesting and a great activity to do with the kids!  After the last push we made as a family to cut, glue and decorate, my little ones were super happy with there trees!  They were even sad to take them to school because they wanted to keep them to talk about at home.  My ‘babies’ love photos and talking about our past, hopefully yours do too!


Project 365 Week 15

I love looking back at my photos from last years Project 365 and although I didn’t officially “finish,” the memories that come to mind as I look through the photos I did capture are wonderful.  I am making good progress this year too – not perfect, but pretty darn good, and as I tell my children, I am “being the best I can be!”  I will keep striving and enjoy as my craft and my story continue to develop.

This week was a big one – between a busy weekend, a big trip and nice family time, I love looking at how life is shaping up…

Arizona Trippin’

We spent our Spring Break in Arizona.   For me, it was a chance to enjoy a lovely place and to relive memories of home.  Although I grew up in Minnesota, my family spent the better part of 20 years in Phoenix and Sedona and I enjoyed  sharing experiences old and new with my little ones in the Valley of the Sun.

If you have time in Phoenix, our family would highly recommend:

  • The Children’s Museum of Phoenix!  It’s an amazing experiential museum for children with the most lovely people who play all day for a living.  From the guy who helped little mama build a castle out of huge soft blocks to the women in the art studio they were amazing.   The kids ran, climbed jumped and read their way through.
  • The Musical Instrument Museum! <full stop>!  The history of music contained in one building with a nod to current artists too (Maroon 5 and Taylor Swift have exhibits).  The halls are organized by culture and then country and they have the neatest self guided headphone tours that the kids followed along!
  • The Phoenix Art Museum. Lovely mix of historic and modern art.  We lucked up and found it on Wednesday afternoon (only donation for admission) and not too crowded.  It was great because they had a scavenger hunt for kids and that kept our little ones attention for almost 3 hours!

We also enjoyed:

  • Butterfly Wonderland — although little mama was disappointed that a butterfly didn’t land on her.  (I think it’s because it was too hard for the butterflies to catch her.)
  • The Rainforest Cafe– although kitschy–was a great way to use up some time and have dinner before our late night flight – consider my kids mind blown at the lightning and the moving animals!
  • Lots of time at the pool – making friends with business and leisure travelers  (whether they wanted to or not) and the hotel staff. My kids were making play dates to meet their friends at the pool (not one less than 45 yrs old).

And the last bit… we had some wonderful meals in Scottsdale and they were all super kid friendly:

  • The Breakfast Club for Brunch
  • The Mission for Lunch
  • The Sugar Bowl for Ice Cream
  • Soul Cafe (with a large selection of gluten free items too).

Project 365 Week 14

Another week and I am still hanging in there… hoping to continue and reach another big milestone.  Day 100 is in striking distance!  It’s great practice and I am enjoying finding the mundane moments and trying to tell an interesting story with them.  As my great grandfather would say, “Some days are diamonds and some days are stones!”



6 on the 6

I am excited to join the 6 on the 6 Blog Circle.  It’s made up of a fantastic global group of photographers who share the same camera and same love for Photography!!  Each month we will be posting some of our favorites and I hope you enjoy!  When you finish my post, don’t forget to follow the link to continue through the circle and see some amazing work from my fellow bloggers.

By way of introduction to those who don’t know me, I am Melani Wilson Smith.  I’ve made photos my whole life, but since getting my first DSLR in 2011, I’ve spent a lot of time and paid a great deal of attention to improving my craft.  I love candid storytelling through pictures and I love the feelings they evoke.

I try not to have the camera focused on my kids too much, but they certainly end up in most of my photos.  I am developing my style, but usually spend time documenting life with an occasional opportunity for glamour.

Please let me know what you think – comments are welcome and I’d love your feedback on my story.

Don’t forget to head on over to see the artistry of Elaina B from Bucks County, Pennsylvania — the next up in our blog circle for this month…

Elaina B Photography




My little ones had a grand adventure yesterday.  My daughter has been asking to take Karate, but we’ve not found a dojo we (I) like yet.  However on Saturday my husband and I met some friends who suggested Capoeira.  In our area (check), good recommendation (check), of cultural interest (double check)… why not!  We took our first class and can I just say, the kids had a blast!!  My girl came over halfway through and said, “Mommie, I like it!” and ran back to the class!

Capoeira is an art and martial art form that arrived in Brazil with African slaves and developed over generations.  It’s roots are in Africa and combines rhythm and dance with fighting.  While the full history is not known, it may be descended from ritual displays of strength and ritual dance.  Between 1890 and 1930, it was banned and only practiced in secret societies and by Malandros (criminals).  Today, it is a flourishing cultural form and hailed as the National Sport in Brazil.

Brazil Cap 2007
Capoeira on the beach in Bahia, Brazil (c 2007)

For me the cultural piece is fantastic – my children are learning history, language, music and dance at the same time they are building confidence in a martial art! Big score – I hope they keep it up!

Check out the video clip below – gives a flavor of the class and I have to say the patience of the instructor was fantastic!!  Keeping little and mid-sized ones focused for 75 min… kudos!

Project 365…Week 13

One of the primary things I want to share is my Project 365…hoping your interest will keep me accountable!  This week was an interesting one- lots of photos at the front of the week and they tapered off.  But I am still keeping it up (mostly) and hope to stay on track!

Easter Memories

It’s hard to believe Easter was almost a week ago!  We truly had a special time this year…

We started with a low stress ride to Maryland and then spent Saturday and Sunday with family and friends!  Then on Monday, we braved the White House and Capitol Hill lock down and went to the White House Easter Egg Roll with 35k of our closest friends!  Amazingly, we know several other families that were there, but didn’t see them during our time slot.  The kids hung in there and we enjoyed ourselves! We even managed to get dinner and drive home to get a decent night of sleep!