There’s nothing better than roaming around your backyard at dusk in the summer as kid. When you don’t have school the next day, every night is the weekend. And if you’re lucky, you have lightning bugs, s’mores, lemonade, two dogs, enormous trees, a giant river, and some friends who join you for a game of Ghost in the Graveyard. I could not have been happier to capture such an evening up in Roanoke Rapids with this beautiful family! It was the perfect night and I went home happily smelling of campfires and deet. I went up to photograph Sasha and Brandon, who have the most beautiful property overlooking a huge and beautiful river where Brandon likes to fish. Sometimes he’s joined by Cooper, who alternates between fishing and swinging in a hammock and goofing around with his younger sister Everly. Cooper and Everly are super great kids. They were a total joy to photograph – both camera hams, both friendly and fun, both SO sweet to me and welcoming. Everly loves doing cartwheels and running around. Both older kids love taking care of Isla, the youngest, who follows both of them like a hawk (well, maybe a little bit slower than a hawk because she likes to wear her older brother’s Crocs and then kind of carefully teeter through the yard). All three kids love hanging out at the river enjoying s’mores and time with their parents and dogs. While we didn’t catch any fish, we did catch some lightning bugs and some great memories on camera (okay that was kind of cheesy but it was a fun night).

These are a few of our very favorite people. Jeanna is Geoff’s cousin, and Desmond and Elise are Geoff’s first cousins once removed. Now you know the official term for your cousin’s kids! I’m not related to any of them, but still think that somehow Elise and I must have 90% of the same genes. She’s been obsessed with Halloween from the time she could talk, and no matter what time of year it is, she’s frequently discussing it. Her costumes are always impeccable, and she has a particular soft spot for The Nightmare Before Christmas, and, in particular, Oogie Boogie (I agree!). She spent most of this session literally SPRINTING across the park at 100% speed and wildly laughing. When she wasn’t doing those things, she was discussing her Halloween costume for this year (Michael Jackson via the Smooth Criminal era) and naming every plastic horse in the park Smooth Criminal. She is wild and loud and 100% all the time and can identify sidewalk chalk pumpkins from yards away and run to them like a Halloween beacon and she is my spirit animal.

Desmond is her older brother who is a fun-loving goofball who is way, way into climbing anything and everything. He’s into Star Wars, and is going as a stormtrooper this Halloween. If any of you have ever heard us refer to our light-up plastic pumpkin we keep in the living room this time of year as “Mr. Lights,” it’s because Desmond named his pumpkin that when he was a toddler. We adopted the name (which we think is brilliant) and we’ve been calling our pumpkin Mr. Lights ever since. Desmond is a smart, thoughtful, happy kid who is SO polite and sweet. They wanted to ride boats at the park, and a little girl he didn’t know wanted him to sit with her, so he did. We have the best little first cousins once removed. AND the best cousins. Jeanna has always been one of my favorite members of Geoff’s extended family and my friend in short-hair solidarity. We have the same hair type, and we’ll grow it out to a bob, only to realize our mistake, and cut it all off again in a cycle that’s repeated itself for years. She’s an incredible mom to these little kiddos and a great cousin to us. We love all these people!