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santa special | madison, wi photographer

So it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas around these parts and I have, oh, perhaps 382 things still on my “Stuff to get done before the holidays so that I can enjoy them and sing fa la la la la la la la la all day long” list. Please tell me I’m not alone?

If you are one of those gifts already wrapped under the tree, holiday movie marathon every night, Christmas dinner already made/stored in the freezer, cookies made from scratch/distributed to the neighbors the day after Thanksgiving kind of folks…this may not interest you. Go drink some eggnog by the fire and bask in your awesomeness. 😉

But for those of you (like me) still searching for those amazing, unique gifts…read on! I’ve got the perfect one for your sister, your hubby, your BFF, your daughter, your grandparents, or even yourself. Sometimes we have to take matters into our own hands, am I right, ladies? If you need further proof as to the incredible magnificence of this gift, stay tuned later today when I post a link to a little TV piece I was featured in last week highlighting the benefits of “buying local”. See? Even the fabulous Carleen Wild says it’s a spectacular gift! So there.

Here’s the scoop:

For the first time ever in the history of the world, I will be offering a limited-time Holiday Gift Certificate Sale! What does this mean you ask, double rainbow friend? I shall tell you.

Each time you purchase a $200 Tara Kuhlow Photography gift certificate, I’ll throw in a $50 print/product credit to go along with it! The gift certificate can be used toward session fees, digital files, portraits, custom artwork or albums. Totally up to the lucky recipient how they want to use them. And the best news? These Holiday Sale gift certificates never expire!

This offer will only be valid from today, December 9th to Friday, December 16th so get on the stick, people! Email me asap and we’ll get you all set up. Then you’ll only have 381 things on your to-do list. You’re practically done! Doesn’t that feel good?

Have a beautiful and productive Friday, my sweets! Please enjoy my recycled-from-last-year bokeh tree. Like I said, busy girl here!

♥ t.




the gift

On my 32nd birthday, my mom gave me a gift. Inside the front cover of this book she inscribed a very sweet handwritten message, something she had done countless times before in other books. This is what she wrote (funny that I can still hear her voice in my head, clear as a bell):

Happy 32nd Birthday, Tara!

Enjoy these stories.They bring back memories of you growing up, you as a mom, and of my mom. I’m so thankful that we are close to each other and share so much of our lives with each other. I hope we will make many more wonderful memories.

I love you!


We made another year-and-a-half’s worth of incredible memories before I lost her. I am endlessly grateful to have been able to add those experiences to the others that live in my heart.

The best part of this particular birthday gift, however, only became clear after she had died. The two of us had cracked up in helpless giggles (we did this often…see the photo below for proof) when I leafed excitedly through my new book only to find many pages where sentences or even full paragraphs had been highlighted in bright yellow. I remember making some sarcastic comment like, “Hey, thanks for the used book. So generous, Mom.” Once we got over ourselves and dried our tears of laughter, she explained that she had highlighted passages in the book that meant something to her. Ones that made her heart squeeze or fill or thump. I loved that she had done this. It was exactly the kind of thing she always did. That was the magic of my incredible, joy-filled, thoughtful mom. Ask anyone who knew her.

It wasn’t until after she was gone, though, that I realized the significance of this gift. Losing her devastated me. I felt numb, lost, angry, desperate, shrunken. One day several months into this new life, I picked up the book. I really read the highlighted parts this time. And it became clear to me that even though my beautiful momma wasn’t in this world with me anymore, she was still offering what she could. She had left me with a guide for how to survive this nightmare. How she had done it when she lost her own mom. How to mother my children without her guidance. How to open myself to the world again and know that I would be ok, because she had raised me to be her daughter. How to choose life and love.

I am forever grateful to you, Mom. I miss you beyond all that I know. Thank you for holding my hand through the darkness. I hope I’m making you proud.

And happy birthday.

xxoo Tara Jo

A few of the passages she chose:

“My mother is physically gone, but she still sustains me. A glance at an old photograph, the sight of her handwriting on a recipe card or the remembrance of a moment long ago can evoke a memory so powerful and vivid, I swear sometimes I can hear her calling my name.”

“It seems so strange that someone who was such a part of my day-to-day life is just not here anymore. She hasn’t been here for a long time, so I should be used to it. But every once in a while, I actually think I see her on the street, on the train, at the grocery. At first, it’s not apparent to me who I think it is. I just think, I haven’t see her in a long time. Occasionally, I think I should call her up and tell her something or just find out what she’s been up to. Then I remember.”

“The truth is that when one woman gives birth to another, to someone who is like her, they are linked together for life in a very special way.”

“You can’t love too much.”

“I was so thrilled to have a baby girl-it was a dream come true! Through the years, you continue to be a delight to me-so sweet and thoughtful, and smart and talented. I am so grateful for our friendship, and I admire your courage and adventurous spirit. You are a warm and beautiful woman, and you are my best friend. I love you, xxoo Mom.”

“I see that becoming a mother has not only given me the gift of loving a child with an intensity that I never knew existed, but also the gift of my own mother-and the sudden realization that I am, and have been all my life, loved the same way.”


Debbie Anderson - Your mom was so very special, gentle, and kind. She left you with an amazing gift. Thank you for sharing.

John Silvernale - We may have only met on those special events as in funerals. Bruce and Kay were my brother & sister in law for a number of years. My mother passed away about 4+ years ago & feel that presence at times as well. Her last days were of pain and suffering & as much as I did not want her to leave–it was best for her. Both my parents are together & believe they are very happy and enjoying each others company. Time may take away the pain but the memories do still linger for many years & do try to keep them. Our parents are special people.

Sandy - Thank you for sharing such a treasured experience. Such an inspiring mother-daughter relationship and the real meaning of love!

Brynda (Cox)Raether - Your Mother was a wonderful and fun person. I enjoyed reading your comments about her which brought tears to my eyes. What a great tribute to your Mother!

Judy - Your beautiful mama is a gift! Those pics are a perfect example if who she was and the joy she radiated to those around her. Makes me giggle to see them again. Not sure why God called her home so soon but so very grateful to have known her. I think of both of you every time I catch myself uncontiously rubbing my finger tips together or tuck my thumb in my fist. Love you sweet cousin.

Diane Heinzel - Tara, I think of your mom often. She certainly was a very kind, giving woman. I think one of her best qualities was that she truly listened to people when they were talking to her. You are very blessed to have such wonderful memories! Thanks for sharing.

Sarah Dobbins - Tara, I was just thinking about you this morning, and about your mom, actually–I don’t know why, but you both just popped into my brain because I think about you often around holidays and marvel at your strength and wisdom. Thanks for the good cry. 🙂 Hope your sweet family has a wonderful, delicious Christmas.

Jennie - I remember you sharing this with me while sitting on the couch in your living room. The same tears that fell that night fell again as I read this beautiful tribute to your mom! What a gift she was to everyone whose life she touched and what a gift she left for you and in you!

Laura G. - Oh, Tara. My eyes are welled up right now. What a special lady your momma was! Hold on to those memories and she’ll always be with you. Love you!

Anina - Wow–thanks for sharing this amazing story. What an incredible bond and wonderful memories. It is amazing how our kids are who we are and I always thank God for giving you such a happy and loving mother which allows you to pass it on to your children. Happy Birthday Tara’s mom!

Laura - Well I am glad I didnt put on eye make-up this morning. I would have washed it all off in tears. ((sniffle))

jill tomalin - Tara…I am completely welled up and feel my heart squeeze reading your post. Such a beautiful tribute and memory. You have such a gift with words; such a talented artist. I am so certain you make her proud. Love knowing you … and knowing your mom through you. Thank you for sharing your stories and memories. xo

Bonnie Schimmel - With tear filled eyes I read your post. I always think of your mom on her birthday. We always exchanged gifts but she gave the very best … as you have indicated in your post. I miss her terribly … wanting to call her to share some new, good news, but then I too remember that I can’t. I wish you were closer to spend time with, just remember that I love you and your family very much.

Dad - Punkin …I was doing good today, until l read your blog. You helped me realize what a special friend and lady she was. Can’t express in words how much she reminds me of you and Trent. She was my best friend and I can’t tell you how proud to l am of you! !!! Miss her more… Love, Dad

Marti - What a wonderful post in so many ways. An amazing connection to your mom for you, a reminder for me never to take my mom for granted. And a hope that my girls feel this strongly about me as they grow up. Thanks for sharing.

Anne - Sweet Tara, what a difficult day this must be for you, yet such a wonderful day to remember your mother. This is such an incredible gift she gave you. The passages she chose to guide you bring tears as I read them, they are perfect. What a truly wonderful woman and mother. I imagine you are quite like her. Big bear hugs friend.

VANESSA LAM - Can’t tell you how many times I sighed reading this Tara (and teared). What an amazing gift to have. I love the photos of you and your Mom. Thank you for sharing it with us. XOXO

Jennifer Chaney - Oh Tara… this is so beautiful. I wish I had a book like that from my dad. What a wonderful gift she gave you. Thank you so much for sharing it. Brought tears to my eyes. XOXOXO to you!

Ellen - She is right where you are. While your heart knows that, the rest of you must just believe. Your mom’s selections speak of this faith – what an incredible gift.

carrie anciaux - through tear-filled I eyes I remember your momma, too. what a gift she has given you through her highlighted words, her giggles and her memory. a very well-written blog, tara jo. may god bless you!

the girl who could fly | madison, wi children’s photographer


The Swing

by Robert Louis Stevenson


How do you like to go up in a swing,

Up in the air so blue?

Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing

Ever a child can do!


Up in the air and over the wall,

Till I can see so wide,

River and trees and cattle and all

Over the countryside–


Till I look down on the garden green,

Down on the roof so brown–

Up in the air I go flying again,

Up in the air and down!




Ellen - Looks like so much fun!!!

worth the wait | madison wi newborn photographer

Love drunk.

This is the very appropriate way 8-day-old Peyton’s momma & daddy described their new family in those first amazing weeks. It’s also how I felt in their presence as I was photographing them. The air was thick with it.

Heartfelt thanks, Kate & Jarod, for inviting me to share in this glorious, beautiful time with you. I am the one who is eternally grateful.

And oh yes, indeed…that sweet boy of yours was definitely, absolutely worth the wait.

♥ t.

carrie anciaux - ooh, so precious, tara. love, love these!

Pam and Mike Brown - The saying- A picture’s worth a thousand words says it all!

Pam and Mike Brown - The saying- A picture worth a thousand words says it all!

malcolm schmitt - What a happy family. You caught the essence of their love.

Liz Mark - Thank you for sharing pictures of one of the most beautiful, inside and out, families that I know and love.

Rebecca Schmitt - What a beautiful baby! Your photos express the love these parents have for their baby

sunday snuggle bugs | madison, wi children’s photographer

This makes my heart do a big, loopy flip flop and I’m not even her momma! Oh, that sweet Lilly Goat.

Hope your Sunday is beautiful and packed full of snuggling! I’m off to capture Karin Swanson lovin’ up her sweet family and then will head home to love up my own.

Enjoy the sun, my friends!

♥ t.

carrie anciaux - darling!

Bonnie Schimmel - I LOVE it. Brings back so many wonderful memories…and now with my little Evan Joseph!

Anne - This makes me want to rush right home and get some more snuggles! 5 pm will be here in no time….right??

So lucky to have found you Mrs. Kuhlow!

Ellen - Oh, I love this too!!

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