Ethiopia – operation cover shoot

    I’m working on a story for our December magazine about the deGuzman family of Paradise Valley, whose Ethiopia adoption journey I’ve been following ever since I met them in March 2009. This past July , I followed them all the way to Ethiopia, where I witnessed the first moments and days they spent with their two youngest children, Solomon and Tesfanesh. And at least every two weeks since then, I’ve stopped by to visit and marvel at the babies’ growth and progress.

    Jesmina mugs for my camera while Michelle checks Dan's set-up on the computer.

    Yesterday, I showed up at their house at 7:45am with staff photographer Daniel Friedman and Art Director Michelle-Renee Adams. Our mission: to get a cover photo for our December holiday issue with all six members of the family, four of whom are under the age of 4. Wisely, it was decided to leave out Romeo and Lily, the two family bulldogs.

    Michelle wanted to set the scene as though it were Christmas morning and all four kids had crawled into bed with Mom and Dad. When we arrived, Keri was ready. She’d purchased several sets of pajamas for each member of her family and had them all lined up on a divider wall in her living room so Michelle could choose colors and patterns she thought would work best together.

    Dan got busy setting up lighting in the master bedroom while Keri calmly applied makeup and put hot rollers in her hair. Brian fed pancakes to 2-year-old Musse while Michelle took on the challenge of styling 3-year-old Jesmina’s ultra-thick hair.

    Michelle took this picture of me with Tesfanesh and Solomon.

    I busied myself playing with the babies so everyone else could get ready.


    Brian good-naturedly donned baggy, navy blue pajamas for the shoot, showing no sign of stress or concern despite the fact that he had only a short amount of time to participate before he had to hightail it to Mercy Gilbert Medical Center, where he was to give a talk on women’s heart conditions. (He is a cardiac surgeon at St. Joseph’s Hospital & Medical Center, a sister facility.)

    Keri emerged from the master bath, looking radiant in blue-and-pink plaid flannel pajamas. “Yeah…like I always look this good when I get up in the morning!” she joked.

    When Dan said he was ready, Michelle positioned each member of the family on the bed and Dan starting shooting.

    Michelle talks to Jesmina (whose face is hidden) as she positions the kids on the bed.

    I always marvel at the grace under pressure that Dan and Michelle exhibit under such circumstances. It’s tough to get six people to look good and smile at the same time. Especially when two of them don’t really understand what all the fuss is about. I think all of us were silently praying for that one, magical moment when everyone looked happy at the same time.

    Tesfanesh was calm and observant all morning.

    Tesfanesh, who has a beautiful smile, was calmly observant and serious throughout the entire shoot. Solomon, who is typically gregarious and charming, was curious and subdued. Energetic Musse was squirmy and squiggling;  his facial expressions kept changing at the speed of light from giggly to glum. Jesmina alternated between smiling with beauty and ease — the perfect model — and clenching her jaw in a forced smile, determined to earn the reward her parents had promised after the morning’s work: a family lunch and ice cream at the Sugar Bowl in Scottsdale.

    We tried “cheese!” and even “Oreo cookies!” We squeezed squeaky toys and shook rattles. At one point I put a rattle on Dan’s head. That tactic worked for a few seconds; the two older kids, Jesmina and Musse, seemed to think it was pretty funny.

    I can’t wait to see Dan’s pictures.

    Musse gets a loving tickle from Mom.
    Jesmina plays with a doll the ever-thoughtful Michelle had brought to give her.
    After the photo shoot, a walk around the neighborhood with four kids, two dogs, a stroller, a tricycle and a bike.
    Jesmina on her bicycle, a gift from her grandparents.
    Solomon and Tesfanesh enjoy a snack in their double stroller.
    Musse and Jesmina encounter a minor obstacle while burning off post-photo shoot energy.
    After the walk, some playtime...and then naps all around.