Why golden hour? This is why. {Chicago North Shore Family Photographer}

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I will admit, I am a mom who thrives on routine, and because of it, my kids do too.  I know I'm not the only one.  My kids are early birds, and by 7:30 pm, everyone is safely tucked into their beds, cozy in their cribs, and I am enjoying some much welcomed peace and quiet. I know that, generally speaking, when we stretch bedtime at our house, it usually means that the next day, everyone will wake up not just early, but often wellll before the sun. And let's not even talk about their moods and behavior. To be frank, it sucks. But I'll tell you what: the nights that we make that stretch, the fun evenings when we stretch for a special holiday event, for an exciting adventure, an impromptu dinner with friends that runs later than planned, for family photos in the last dripping beams of golden sun, for whatever the reason, 99.99% of the time, it's more than worth it.

Yes, the next morning may potentially be horrendous. The kids may be grumpy and...poorly behaved. Yes, I fear that throwing our regularly scheduled cart off the rails will mean that my babies will never, ever sleep past 6 a.m. again. But always, within a day or two, everyone is back to the regularly scheduled program. It never fails.  All is not lost.

And when I look back months and years later, I rarely think of the terrible day after, but of the memories made in the evenings of fun.  Plus in the case of family photos, not only will you have the memories of the fun times had goofing around in the setting sun with me, but you'll have the stunning images to prove it.

So what can you do to ensure a successful golden hour session with your small kids? Certainly there are no guarantees when it comes to the behavior of the "four and under" set - don't we all know it - but there are some tips I can offer to help:

1) Family photo day should be a mellow one. It's not the best day to be hustling to three different birthday parties, to be going apple picking in Wisconsin or Indiana, to be blowing off naps to have any kinds of daytime adventures. While of course, you don't have to stay home all day, I wouldn't overschedule the day either.

2) If your child still naps, try pushing nap a little later than usual (not dramatically, just a bit).

3) Make sure that your kids have an early dinner and a full tummy for their session.  Little ones will often get a second wind and have the energy to get through a session happily, but if they're HANGRY, all bets are off.

I promise, promise, promise - blowing off the regularly scheduled bedtime just this once will be worth it.