There are so many things that make the holiday season magical, but sometimes the joy gets buried in shopping for the right presents, mile-long to-do lists, and crazy packed schedules.
How can we find joy during the holidays through all the chaos? How can I be present in the moment and be happy when I am being pulled in so many different directions?
As the holiday season approaches, I am challenging myself to embrace more of the goodness, instead of the chaos. The best way I can think to bring the joy back into the holiday season is to experience it through the eyes of my children.
I immediately think of that sparkle in my kids’ eyes when they wake up on Christmas morning. I hear their tiny feet barreling down the stairs to see what Santa left them waiting under the tree. I smell cinnamon rolls in the oven and a fresh pot of coffee for us bleary-eyed parents when we wake up before the sun, because no matter how late they go to bed the night before, little ones never sleep in on Christmas morning. I feel my heart swell with the joy of the season.
The unblemished wonder of seeing the holidays through the eyes of my kids gives me the warmth of nostalgia.
I remember when I was young, spending each Christmas Eve gathering in the kitchen with my family to make every kind of cookie imaginable. We would stay up until 2 in the morning making sure everything was set for our family gathering on Christmas Day.
Every year, my mother made all of her pie crusts from scratch and memory, but one Christmas she failed four times to have it come out right. It was beyond late and finally we all realized that she had been using powdered sugar instead of flour for the recipe. I distinctly remember us all laughing until we cried and our stomachs hurt in the best way.
Those moments were filled with joy and while I will always have those memories, I wish so badly that I had some of them documented. To be able to show images of these memories to my kids as we work to create our own. These little pieces of tradition add up to a whole lifetime of fond memories. It captures the parts that make up who we are as families. So why aren’t these the moments we work to capture in photographs, so they can be preserved permanently and remembered forever?
Often times we aim for the family photos with matching pjs or formal wear and wait in long lines at the local mall to sit on Santa’s lap for less than a few minutes. The magic gets lost in the aim for perfection and we forget the true magic comes from the memories tied to the moments we create. A photo should capture the essence of who we are and our traditions are part of that.
When we stop and see Christmas through the eyes of our kids, we can be reminded of what really matters and find some magic in that. This year I am offering two photo sessions to help you create and remember the magic of the holidays.
The first session is a Family Holiday Tradition Photo Session that focuses on your family’s holiday traditions, documentary style. The idea is to preserve your cherished traditions and capture your family doing what they do best: being themselves and making memories.
The second session involves a holly jolly guy named Santa.
My Santa Experience Photo Sessions invites Santa into your home for an hour to enjoy some of your favorite holiday traditions with Old Saint Nick. Your kids will be talking about it forever. I know mine are still over the moon from last Christmas!
This holiday season I invite us all to find joy in the moments that may seem chaotic. Take the time to recognize how our kids see that something special in all of it. Pause and reflect on the wonderful and valuable time together. Capture the beautiful memories in all of the glitter, joy, and spirit this season and know you’re playing a role in creating magic that will stay with your kids forever.
Recently, I saw this meme circulating social media:
I’m sure most laughed because it’s just so relatable, right? Anyone who has had traditional family photos done has literally done/experienced each of the things listed on that list (myself included). While I had a good chuckle over it, it got me thinking. Why is this part of family photos something we just accept?
I can honestly say the issues listed in that meme have not been my experience with any documentary session I have done (okay, some children *may* have lost their minds, but never due to the session, it was just a part of their normal, everyday. Kids tantrum amirite?). Most of the time, I have kids wondering where “their friend with a camera” went after I have left. The best part, families are free to be themselves: there is no dressing up or posing required. I just come in, hang out with your family and get beautiful photos in the process. No more stress than any other day trying to raise tiny humans.
There is a place for all sorts of photography and they all serve different purposes. However, I believe it’s important to know your options and if your family photo sessions go down similar to the way the meme above describes, then it might be time to consider a family documentary session.
Stop worrying about what to wear, if your children will behave, or how you appear to the world; be yourself and revel in the beauty that is your everyday. Your everyday is beautiful. The photos that come out of your everyday are beautiful, meaningful, and will be lasting images of what might otherwise be fleeting memories.
Today is Birth Photography Day!
If there is anything I know for sure, it’s that birth is amazing, empowering, downright magical, and photos of it should be shared with the world. Today is dedicated to just that.
I first met Janet through my best friend (who also happens to be an amazing doula with Team Doula). From the moment we met, we clicked and I was so excited to have the opportunity to photograph the birth of baby boy (who was *almost* my birthday buddy). While every birth I photograph is magical, Janet’s birth really was a birth-day celebration and i was so glad to be a part of it.
However, I don’t want her experience only told from my perspective, so I am honored that Janet, was willing to write share her birth story and her experience with birth photography with us. So enjoy <3
Almost 12 weeks ago, I had the privilege of welcoming our second baby into the world. Being that this was my second pregnancy, I felt that I was much more prepared to advocate for the birth I wanted—which is the very least every birthing person deserves. They deserve to be heard and for their desires to be validated. Delivery should not be something done to them, but instead should be a beautiful process through which they are empowered.
By some grace of God, we were able to conceive our second baby on my very first ovulation after having our first baby—when she was 15 months old. The stars were aligned, and the universe was on our side. Less than two weeks later, we got our positive pregnancy test. Excited, I snuck away from my desk at work to secretly phone my OB’s office to schedule our first prenatal appointment. I had romanticized in my head how the phone call would go, which included a cheery receptionist saying congratulations and getting me in to see my OB around the 8-12 week mark. Instead, the receptionist hurriedly asked “when was your last period?”
I replied, “well that was in August 2016, but I have positive ovulation tests indicating that I ovulated on October 16th, and I got several positive pregnancy tests on October 30th”.
“Well if you don’t know when your last period was, I am going to have to ask the nurse what to do.”
“No. I do know when it was, and I know when I ovulated. I haven’t had a period because I am still breastfeeding.”
“We are going to have to have the nurse call you back.”
Disheartened is putting it gently. Even more so when they had me go get blood drawn every 48 hours until they saw my HCG doubling to confirm my pregnancy, and then had me going for more. I had no time off left and was at one point berated at the blood lab for having my maiden name on my medical card. Fear was setting in. Was something wrong with my pregnancy? I couldn’t get in to see my doctor. I called and asked that they look at my HCG results and the nurse finally scheduled me for an appointment, for an ULTRASOUND at 6 WEEKS. Are you kidding me?? What are you even going to see that early? There must be something wrong.
I made an appointment with a home birth midwifery practice. After meeting with an amazingly experienced midwife who has attended over one thousand births, my feelings were validated. I was assured that these blood draw appointments were ridiculous, and unnecessary since they had already found my HCG to be doubling. There was nothing to be concerned about right now. It was likely that the OB practice didn’t believe that I knew my body enough to know when I was ovulating, and that I was pregnant. But the midwives believed me. I cancelled the ultrasound appointment. I decided to move forward with my longtime dream of having a home birth. I met with an amazing team of doulas who believed in my ability, too. They would support the birth I wanted. They helped me find my empowerment.
I was thrilled that my dream was going to become a reality. I wanted this glorious event captured so that I could remember it forever. I wanted someone with a unique creative vision to document my baby’s birthday as a story. I was introduced to the award-winning photographer Gabriella Hunt. I poured over her work after our meeting and was in awe. She had the unique vision I was looking for. She specialized in documentary and birth photography. I didn’t even know that was a thing, but it was exactly what I had in mind. Her birth photography wrote the stories of women transforming into mothers. I saw their strength, as their bodies reached the pinnacle of vulnerability—they were beautiful and fierce. I wanted to see myself in that position. I wanted to see my experience through the eyes of someone else. I needed this story to be recorded, so I could feel validation that my first birth should have and could have been as empowering as my second birth would be. Maybe other women could avoid my poor experience with my first birth, seeing the beauty of my second birth.
Eventually, nine days after my due date, I went into labor. Gabi arrived and she somehow blended into the background of the busy scene at my home. We had our parents and my sisters present, and she was able to capture the chaos of the day, as well as the quiet moments of waiting. She was a crucial member of my birth team. Through her work, I was able to see that my home became a birth-center of its own—complete with waiting room, nurse’s station, and delivery suite. While my head was buried in pillows during transition, she allowed me to see how I was quite literally embraced in my moments of uncertainty by my loved ones. I have photographs of my amazing doula Kara supporting my body to do the incredible. Of my husband Tim kissing me through contractions. Of my sister squeezing my hands to get me over the waves. Of my beautiful Llewyn coming earth-side into my mother’s hands. I am grateful for my amazing birth photographer. Her presence allowed me to see the beauty that I could not.
You can watch Janet’s birth story slideshow below 🙂
p.s. If you are wondering why they made today birth photography day, it is because of these particular numbers’ significance within the birthing process (10cm dilated and 9 months gestation).
I know it’s only September, but it is getting to be that time of year. You know … holiday card time. It’s the time of year where we reconnect and update family and friends on what has been going on with our lives over the past year–to share a piece of ourselves with those we care about most. The best part about this is that each card is as unique and special as the family giving it.
So why do we spend so much time planning out holiday cards? It’s simple: connection.
However, if the purpose of sending out holiday cards is connection and to share ourselves, then why try so hard to look like everyone else? Why send out cards that we’ve seen 100+ times on Pinterest, instead of images that best represent our families? Why try to look like everyone when it’s our unique qualities that make us who we are? If we are being honest, my favorite holiday cards aren’t the ones seen on Pinterest; my favorites have always been the ones telling some sort of story. I love the cards where I learn a little bit about the life of the family sending them to me.
So what if this year, you did something different? What if the photos featured on your cards were ones of your beautiful everyday life? Or of your family participating in your favorite activity or favorite holiday traditions?
What if we exchanged the stress of choosing outfits, wrangling kids up in hopes that they smile, or bribery with candy/presents (desperate times call for desperate measures) for photos of your family being unapologetically themselves.
Think about how freeing that could be.
This year I challenge you to do just that, I promise you won’t be disappointed.
Here are some great examples of holiday cards from people who decided to trade traditional, posed holiday card photos for those that had a story, reflected their family’s personalities, and are filled with meaning.
Photo by Gabriella Hunt | Gabriella Hunt, Photographer
Photo/card by Courtney Maltman | Momentologie Photography
Photo/card by Marie-Pierre Castonguay | Marie Pierre Photography
In a field of horses, be a unicorn. It’s a saying I am sure we have all heard at least once in our lives (especially if you live at home with a unicorn-obsessed 4-year-old). It’s strewn across shirts, mugs, etc.. Honestly, I can see why; the message is everything we want for ourselves and our children—to stand out from the crowd by embracing your true unique self.
Ultimately, it’s the result of a larger movement slowly taking hold and calling us to action—it takes an immense amount of courage and it is certainly not easy. It’s calling us to unapologetically embrace our true self. Our individuality is the core of who we are and if we can embrace it, the possibilities are endless. Instead of living for what we believe others want us to do or who they want us to be, we can begin to live our lives for ourselves—letting go of what is expected and embracing what ignites our soul.
Why is it so hard to embrace our uniqueness and become the magical unicorns we are meant to be? Simple: being true to ourselves and loving who we are means we also have to open ourselves up to vulnerability, and that is scary as hell. However, we all know anything worth doing doesn’t always come easily, especially when the world around us sends conflicting messages.
Your house has to look like the embodiment of perfection, but embrace the mess and make memories. You need to be a size 4 with flawless skin and on-point fashion, but you are perfect as you are.
It’s no wonder we struggle every day. If we as adults struggle with these conflicting messages, imagine the struggles our children will have. Not long ago, I read The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, and one phrase that keeps sticking out in my mind is, “You cannot give your children what you do not have.” If we don’t show our children that we ought to embrace our uniqueness instead of shy away from it, that self-love is essential, and that vulnerability is strength, how will they ever know ? It starts with us.
We see conflicting messages within family photography as well. We hear phrases such as, “Capture these memories now, your kids won’t care about what you look like. They find you beautiful just the way you are.” or “Your kids will just want pictures of mom and dad, when you are no longer around. It doesn’t matter if your makeup is perfect or your hair is slightly out of place.” However, it’s hard to believe the sincerity behind these messages when they are presented next to the same pictures we see day in and day out of “Pinterest Perfect” families with perfectly coordinating outfits and picture-perfect moments. Actions speak louder than words; if we want to embrace the “unique” in all of us, then we need to start showing uniqueness.
This is why I choose to photograph the way I do. I struggle every day with self-love and embracing my individuality. I live my life every day trying to be unapologetically me, embracing the beauty in real life, and telling myself “I am enough” in hopes my children will see and believe that as well. They are my greatest motivator. Ultimately, I want them to embrace their imperfections and know they have value no matter what they do. For them to see who they were and are slowly becoming, knowing that is enough. I want this for you as well.
I get it, it’s hard to embrace who you are, especially when everyone around you is desperately trying so hard to be like everyone else. I’m here to tell you to look beyond “picture perfect”. Photos do not have to look like the ones on Pinterest to be meaningful and beautiful. Photos of your family being themselves, as they are, is enough. We tell ourselves to be a “unicorn in a field of horses,” but why do we keep choosing to be a horse?
Family photos should be meaningful and unique to the story of our lives. They should be of some of our most cherished memories. Matching outfits and perfectly posed photos capture a very polished still of your life at that time. But life is rarely “polished”. They provide us with a glimpse of photography and fashion trends of the time (which may make for some good laughs in the future), but these photos will never provide us with the insight of who we were and what made us “unicorns”. When I think back to the photos of my mom growing up or images of my childhood self, it was the candid moments from our day-to-day that gave me a true sense of the people we were.
So I want you to join my movement. I want you to stop trying to be like everyone else and be “unapologetically you”. I want us to flood the internet with photos of REAL, AUTHENTIC family life—the moments that make up your life’s story. Let me help you do that with a documentary family photo session. Forget “Pinterest perfect”… real is perfect. Together we can show this to the world and change it for the better.
“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.” ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
P.S. When you post your photos online use the hashtag #RealLifeROCs. This way, we can all find and enjoy a glimpse of the beauty that is our everyday, together.