September 1, 2014

Back-to-School for 13 years


What I’ve learned after 13 years

This year is Emmett’s Senior Year.  It’s big.  And I can’t believe it’s here.  I know it’s cliche but…the time goes way too fast.  Some days feel like time is creeping by but when it gets to this moment it feels like the years are a blur more than anything.

Why this one is different

Like every year, I’m torn with feelings of letting the lazy summer sleep-in mornings (even if it’s busy we rarely HAVE to be up by 6am) go to the wayside for the next 9 months and being grateful for schedules and life being back into some kind of order.  This year I was especially wishing for the summer to go slow and the school year to remain at bay.  This year marks the end of having Emmett at home all of the time and means next summer is the beginning of prepping for college and our family dynamic changing dramatically.

To celebrate 17 years of seeing Emmett start his last first day of school (let’s all agree that college first days of school are much different) here’s a list of things we’ve learned.

Over 17 years we’ve found:

No one sleeps well the night before school starts.  Miriam said it’s like the night before Christmas.  The anticipation makes it impossible to sleep.  The kids are wired, summer sleep hours still haven’t worn off and no one is tired at the school bedtime hour.  And to top it off Emma can’t stop bouncing around, saying stuff that makes no sense, and being completely happily funny…until 11pm when we just want her to go to sleep because 6:30 comes way to early.

Brand new clothes on the first day of school are unnecessary.  For many years we went back-to-school shopping.  Until we realized that the weather doesn’t suddenly change on the day school starts.  It’s still 1000 degrees!  So now, my kids just pick out their favorite summer time outfit to wear to school instead of dying of heat from the fall time outfit we purchased for the first day of school.

Back-to-school clothes shopping happens, for us, sometime in October/November when it’s time to wear the winter clothes that are in the stores.

Wearing a great outfit that gives you confidence is a must.  “It is better to look good than to feel good.”  Billy Crystal had it all wrong (for any of you who grew up in the 80s).  What kids really want is to feel great on the first day of school.  They want to feel confident…not sweaty.

I remember a few of my first days of school…getting a new outfit when I was a kid and not wanting to wait until the weather was cooler to wear it.  I couldn’t get home fast enough to peel off the sweater I had worn, that was now dripping in sweat, after walking home from the bus.  Choosing something to wear that looks great AND feels good for the first day of school is a key for day one of school.

The first day of school is a social event.  No school work actually gets accomplished.  There’s nothing to stress over.  You get to see all of your friends you missed over the summer that didn’t live in your neighborhood or that went away for them entire 3 month break…or most of it.

One full tree is harmed per kid that goes to school. The stack of papers that comes home from school is usually enough to make sure that one tree was used per child in order to make sure all said papers could be signed and brought back to school on the second day.

Thankfully, there were a lot less papers this year.  There were so few papers my kids didn’t even remember to get my signature stamp from my studio.

Cleaning the house 2-3 days before school starts is a great idea.  This is my favorite.  A lot of people have spring cleaning.  We have end of summer cleaning.  Everyone goes through their drawers and pulls out everything they out grew over the summer, we go through closets, and we clean all of the stuff that we ignored during our summer bliss.

It feels great to have the house clean a few days before school begins.  It feels fresh and in order.   And then we get to put all of our energy into having fun for the last 2-3 days of our summer break.

The story of back-to-school starts way  before the picture on the front step the morning school starts.  I see lots of creative ideas on how to take pictures of kids on the first day of school.  The thing is…the first day of school story starts long before the first day of school starts.

We shop for school supplies, we get the house clean, we play, we have a back to school dinner, etc.  I try to remember that our back to school story starts before the front steps at 7am on the day school starts.  I talk more about this one here and here.

Kids grow out of being followed into school getting their picture taken. I only have one child that lets me follow her into school.  So I’m savoring it.  I think I’ve only got one more first day of school to walk into her class with her.  When 6th grade ends so does the walking into school….even if your friends think it’s cool that your mom is photographer.

After 6th grade all bets are off and the first day of school is not the day your mom says hi to your teachers or sees your friends in their first day of school outfits.  These days are super close to being over (this link made me gasp at the years that have passed).

Everyone likes to talk when they get home from school the first day.  Good questions are key when they walk in the door or at the dinner table that evening. I love hearing the stories of seeing friends, what teachers said, who they predict to be their favorite teacher this year, and all of the conversations that are bursting to be had at the end of the day.

I always think the first day of school is going to be so awesome for ME!  I always think I’m going to get a boatload of work done that I’ve put off because I’ve been playing for the last 7 days before school starts or I’ve only been half doing because I’ve been trying to be half mom/half business woman.

It never happens.  I try to work.  I get some stuff done but I’m not nearly as productive as I imagine I’m going to be.  Part of it is because I am anxious to here first day of school stories.  And part of it is because I hope that I was a good mom over the summer.  The other part is realizing that another year is here and it doesn’t seem real.  Another part of it, this year, was because it’s Emmett’s senior year and I realized there’s still so much to squeeze in before next year at this time.

It seems like I should be hanging from the rafters in complete and utter joy now that I have the house to myself again.  Instead, out of nowhere, I cry at least once.

It doesn’t get easier as they get older.  It seems like the first day of school should get easier each year.  It doesn’t.

Summer is awesome but routines are a sigh of relief…for everyone. As much as the first day of school means the end of summer randomness I do love that it also means getting back to routines.  During the summer it’s much harder to stick with our nightly reading (which we all miss).  It’s so nice to get back to the things that keep us connected in the school year.

Leave the 2 days before school begins open for playing and making the best of the last bit of summer (with a clean house).  I love getting to play knowing that everything is in order for the first day of school!  As much as the kids don’t want to admit it, they do, too.

Back to school dinner is a great time to talk about what’s about to happen this year (eat out or eat at home).  We’ve done our Back to School Dinner at home where everyone helps to get dinner made and we sit on our back deck.  We’ve also gone out to dinner.  There’s no right way to do it but we love the chance to sit around the table and talk about what’s ahead and what the first day of school is going to be like.

Get your class schedule before school begins.  I have three kids that are no longer in elementary.  Emmett gets his schedule from the HS and the girls get theirs at back to school night.  Having everyone’s schedules opens up discussions about what to expect.  Our middle school lets everyone practice their schedule…they get to actually change classes together with their classmates.  It’s a great way to get ready for the first day of school.

Buy school supplies at least 7 days before school starts or you won’t be able to get them all.  Trust me on this one.  I may or may not be admitting to knowing how many school supplies are available at midnight the day before school starts.

You don’t need all of your school supplies for the first day of school.  This one we learned because of what we know from the previous thing we learned.  No one needs those supplies on the first day of school.  The most anyone needs (unless you’re in elementary school) is paper and pencil.

Notes in lunches are a great way to start the year.  They can be funny or encouraging.  Notes are a fantastic way to give my kids support and fun on the first day of school.   I like Nacho and Napoleon quotes and include a little of my own tip for the day.  A note I sent to school: “Be grateful, Juan Pablo, today is especially delicious.  TIP #327:  It’s best not to have beans come out of your nose on the first day of school.”

It’s wayyy harder to get up for the 2nd day of school than it was to get up for the 1st day of school!  It’s true.

I really can’t believe I’ve already done 13 first days of school.  Life is so full and so fast and so crazy.

What lessons have you learned about the first day of school?

davina_bio_photo_3_squareDavina Fear is a Familyness Photographer and Adventurer. She photographs Day in the Life sessions for families while she road trips around the country and has plastic sword fights at QuikTrip at 4am (see those adventures on her instagram feed @davinafear ).

She blogs at Click here to learn more about familyness or The Familyness Photo Workshop.


July 23, 2014

Road Trip Truths


Our road trip started more than 5 hours late.

But we did it!

We got out of town…eventually.

The last few hours before leaving

Everybody was in a mood by then and people were bugged that (whoever it was) took way too long getting packed and getting everything in line before we left.

I was tempted to get super bugged.  To start going off on people for their bad attitudes, to chastise someone for snapping at the person nearest to them.

Usually, getting out of the house is when I get the most stressed…those hours just before we are supposed to leave and then again when we haven’t left two hours after our target time.

What I did when I wanted to get mad…

This time though…I decided to laugh.  I laughed as I said, just as everyone is beginning to freak out at each other.  It’s ok!  Go ahead and freak out.  We are all bugged that we haven’t left yet.  We all wish we were gone.  It’s ok.

And then I laughed to myself.  I don’t know why.  It just felt better than getting mad.

Maybe it was for me.  Maybe it was for everybody.

Either way, it helped.  It lightened those moments enough to make leaving feel less tense and more hopeful.

Here are some road trip truths I’ve learned:

People are going to get mad.  It’s ok.

Kids are going to stay up way too late and wake up too early.  It’s ok.

You’re going to lose your cool at the free continental breakfast in the hotel lobby.  It’s ok.

You’re not going to get enough sleep.  It’s ok.

There will be lots of fun.  Some of it will feel fun.  Some of it won’t.  It’s ok.

You’ll be disappointed on some days.  It’s ok.

There will be days that will feel perfect and there will be days that don’t feel perfect.  It’s ok.


The thing is…no matter what happens on your trip…everything is going to be ok.

The more I say “It’s ok”……

The better this trip feels to me.  The more relaxed I feel.  The more I lean into the moment I’m in.  The more I forgive myself for the way the day has gone, the more I forgive myself for the way my kids are feeling, the more I forgive others for what they do, the more I have mercy for other people around me…whether they are road tripping or not.

It’s ok.

Follow our trip on instagram ( @davinafear ) or on Facebook:  Davina Fear or check our instagram hashtag:  #fearfamroadtrip2k14


davina_bio_photo_3_squareDavina Fear is a Familyness Adventurer. She is expert at building forts and is currently on her familyness road trip to Utah and having fun photographing the familyness of  many awesome families along the way!

She blogs at and believes in the non-cheesy smile.

June 24, 2014

Breakfast with the Crowells: A family life photo shoot



adventures in familyness

We all piled out of the car and walked the short distance through a little farmer’s market to the Pump Street Bakery in the tiny town of Orford in England.

Alisa had told me how much I would love this simple, little nook for breakfast but I had no idea it would be this fantastic.  And who cannot love that old pink building?

Breakfast is eaten around a huge, solid wood, community table with other diners pulling up a chair next to you and having a bit of tea or coffee while you order some divine pancakes with strawberries or french toast and bacon and bananas on top.


every familyness photo adventure is different

The Crowells lived in a little town in England and came to love so many villages and nooks and crannies of their life.  For them, photographing the locations and their experiences at their favorite family places were so important to them.

It’s so obvious how much they adore being together, laughing, sharing secrets, helping each other out, loving delicious food, and finding quaint and colorful places that felt like home. Each place we went their family would personally know so many of the other families.  They had friends everywhere we went.


Seriously….we need to go to Tesco for some more tissues!!!!!! Love, love, LOVE everything about every picture. All the facial expressions and moments you captured!  Oh my days!!! I think I am going to overflow with happiness! Stunning, absolutely stunning pictures, Davina. I’m bursting with happiness! ~Alisa, (mom in these photos)


See more of their sessions here and here.



Favorite things about ‘breakfast with the crowells’ session:

Pump Street Bakery is their family’s favorite breakfast-ing shop

The Crowells made a list of their own adventures they loved doing together

Alisa called ahead to this little shop and let them know they were coming (with a photographer)

They did what they always do and interacted with each other they way they always do

Alisa brought along things to keep her kids entertained, snacks to keep stomachs full, and a change of clothes for diaper blowouts…all the stuff she always does

Adventure was waiting and they were excited about it

The adventuring was kept simple and short with breaks in between



Thank you, sweet Crowells!

Photographing your dear family has been a huge highlight for me.  

The kindness you show one another and the way, even in disagreements, there is a desire to respect and understand one another is inspiring.  Every family has moments when kids are crazy (or bolt out the door any chance they get), you are so incredible at taking it all in stride, though!  You can tell that your relationshihps are more important than circumstances.

Thank you for letting me see your familyness…and for sharing your favorite breakfast with me…I’m still dreaming of that toast and strawberries!

xoxo, Davina



why book a session?

I would most definitely recommend Davina if you are looking for someone to capture you and your family in YOUR element–to note all the little details and characteristics unique to each family member and setting. Her intuitive approach enables her to step into your family culture enough to capture who you really are.  Thank you, Davina, our hearts are forever happy! ~Alisa, (mom in these photos)

ready to find out more about your own familyness adventure photo session?

*Familyness photo sessions are all about your family, your everyday life that you want to remember always or adventures that your family goes on that you know will be fleeting.

*We’ll dive into your familyness and discover the perfect familyness life photo session for you (with the Crowells we also photographed their life at home…waking up in the morning, getting dressed, and hanging laundry together—those photos coming soon).

*Adventures can be the simplest moments of everyday life that make your real life beautiful


Book your session now

Please call (704.964.5882) or email me (  I’d love to chat with you about what is making your heart yearn for this type of familyness photo session.

THIS weekend!

NOTE: photo shoot available this weekend in the DC/Virginia area (email or call 704-964-5882 for details)

I believe families seeing their own love and magic in photographs can change their world.  And when families see that their real life if beautiful…they can change the world. 


davina_selfie_squareDavina Fear is a Familyness Adventurer. She is expert at building forts and is excited about her familyness road trip to Utah and the awesome people she will be photographing along the way!

She blogs at and believes in the non-cheesy smile.


June 14, 2014

Familyness Pop Up Adventures!


Familyness Pop Up Adventures!

We would love to have you join us…

You know how they have those dinner pop up groups?

Have you heard of those dinner groups that get together in random places around the city?
There’s not a whole lot of notice beforehand when a pop up dinner group is going to happen. You get an email a little bit before the random dinner pop up. Everyone brings something (or they have a great chef, etc). They just set up a table with dishes/glasses/silverware (sometimes fancy/sometimes simple), bring out the delicious food, and meet friends at a field or a street. They eat, chat, hang out, and then they break it all down and meet up another time. It’s super cool!

I’m not sure how I get in on one of those groups but I thought it would be really fun to do something similar and have Familyness Pop Up Adventures!

How Familyness Pop Up Adventures Work:

1. Sign up. Sign up here to get notified. You’ll be on the list to get the Familyness Adventure Pop Up Invite details every time an adventure is about to happen!

2. Totally random. Familyness Pop UP Adventures will happen randomly. You may have a week’s notice or you may have a few hours notice. Most likely, it will be somewhere in between.
3. Adventure is everywhere! If you’re available come join the fun. If not, there will be a next time!
4. How long will it last? Show up, stay a couple of minutes and say Hi! or stay past the time we leave and keep having fun. It’s totally up to you!
5. Cookies (and other fun stuff). We will be there and (hopefully) handing out cookies or something other kind of fun…
6. Are you planning the adventures? We will be planning the adventure destinations. However, some activities will already be planned events by someone else. Other events will be planned by us.
7. It is free? Many adventures will be FREE! Occasionally, there will be adventures that involve an investment. (i.e.- the zoo: because there’s a fee to get in)
8. How often? You can come to whatever Familyness Pop Up Adventure you want to come to!
9. Not just for local people! We will be taking our road trip out to Utah next month and may plan some Familyness Pop Up Adventures along the way!
10. You don’t live in our city? Start your own Familyness Pop Up Adventures! Make sure to tell us about your group though. We’d love to help you get your Adventures set up and be sharing photos on Instagram.

First Familyness Pop Up Adventure is TOMORROW!!

Make sure and get on the list right away so you can be part of tomorrow’s Familyness Pop Up Adventure! We’ll be sending out the details asap! We can’t wait to see you there!

(Even if you know you can’t join us tomorrow, you’ll want to know about future Pop Up Adventures.)


June 6, 2014

Familyness Road Trip = Photo Shoots!


We are trekking to Utah.

Road tripping to be exact.

We will be hopping in our Awesome Adventure Wagon (aka mini van) and driving 2000 miles to Utah!

It’s the first time in 6 years (can you believe we’ve been living in SC for 6 years?! Me either!).  We are making the return trip!  I’ve gotten up my courage and there’s no turning back.  We are so excited!

I’m hoping to capture your familyness story along the way! (see below for the cities we will be stopping in!)

A few months ago, when I wrote this, I would not have guessed we would be making this trek to Utah.  It’s funny how facing fears and difficult moments, that have unknowingly held you back, open up all kinds of fantastic opportunities.

It’s true…

As many of you know I had stepped away from actively promoting photographing for clients.  I’ve still been shooting…just selectively (in fact, I got to do one of my favorite sessions ever in the past year).

And guess what?

Photographing these sweet families has reminded me of how much I love being in homes like yours, feeling the love there, and capturing what life (real life) looks like right now.

It’s made me want to photograph more families.  I’d love to spend some time photographing your family!

Here’s the surprise:

I’m offering photo shoot sessions for the first time ever while we road trip!

Along the way, as we road trip to Utah, we will be stopping in a few cities.  While in each city, I’m offering one or two photo shoots!

Did I mention I’m excited?

Are there Utah Photo Shoot sessions?

Yes!  I’m thrilled to be offering sessions in Utah!  See below.  I have multiple days available!

How do I grab a session?

If you’d like to book one of the session dates below:

* choose your dates below
* respond to this email and tell me the date and time you’d like to book
* if the date is still available, you’ll receive payment* information
* upon receipt of your payment the photo shoot session is officially yours! yay!

*payment plan available

What’s included in the session?

Each session is a one hour photo shoot for $500 with digital negatives included.

Cities and Dates!

Listed below are the cities and dates that I’ll be in each location.  I’d love to see you and photograph your family.  I’m so excited!

Knoxville, TN

July 12 : morning session

Kansas City, MO

July 13 : evening session
July 14th : morning session

Denver, CO

July 15th : morning session 


(One session available each day.)

July 21st :
July 22nd :
July 23rd :
July 24th :
July 25th :

Lexington, KY

July 31st : morning session


What might your session look like?

I’m so excited about these sessions! 

These sessions can be an opportunity to photograph a routine in your life…a moment that you will wish you had photographed years down the road: cuddling in bed first thing in the morning, breakfast time, snuggling on the couch reading together, your bedtime ritual, that summer activity you do almost every day: going to the local park, the ice cream truck…all the moments you’re part of but have a difficult time photographing and showing that you are part of the moment. I’ll photograph those for you and get a wonderful portrait of your sweet little family and the life you’re living right now. I can’t wait! 

Let’s chat!

I would love to talk with you about what you envision for your session.  If you’d like to set up a time to chat about what your session would look like email me: davina (at) davinafear (dot) com  I would love to see what it would look like for us to work together!

**PS  If you’re in the NC/SC area keep your eyes peeled!** 

I’ve been getting requests for sessions and will be opening up 10  (limited time offer) special photo shoots!  I’ve already sold three of the spots so you won’t want to miss it.  I’ll be making the announcement in the next 5-7 days.

davina_selfie_squareDavina Fear is a Familyness Adventurer. She is expert at building forts and is excited about her familyness road trip to Utah and the awesome people she will be photographing along the way!

She blogs at and believes in the non-cheesy smile.