VILLICANA FAMILY || Santa Barbara, CA || If only I could assign the name of this city to my sister and her family. If only I could get to stop imagining they live right here, that we casually met ten minutes from both our homes for their annual photo shoot the night before Thanksgiving. That it didn't involve them driving three hours, that we hadn't been apart nearly two months prior, and that they weren't just coming for a handful of days. This girl, 17 months my junior but my teacher in so many ways. She with her husband, who brings a good time anywhere he goes; to feisty, fiery Brooklyn, the consummate playmate of Francesca; to Sebastian, at once Isaac's twin and the spitting image of our father.

God, if I could take back time.

If there's one thing I can teach my children: Keep your siblings in your heart, yes, but keep them close at hand. The time I get to spend with Corey is some of the most precious of my life. And this night was no exception. Sure, my nephews made me work for these shots, as any children close to their photographer will. And as a result, maybe a few tensions ran high when we started out... but as we meandered along, as the minutes ticked on and the camera faded out of the center of attention, we fell into harmony with each other. And by harmony I'm not talking rainbows, hearts and moonbeams, but that free-and-easiness, that I-can-roll-out-of-bed-with-bad-hair-and-worse-breath and I know you'll love me just the same-ness that lies at the heart of immediate family.

If I can't have her at my side every day, at least we can have moments like this . . .