Home is where ever I am with you.

It's been four months since we settled back in the Pacific Northwest. They say it takes children about 3 months to settle into a new routine -- and I think the same can be said for adults. The first month is what I like to call the honeymoon period -- like a big wave of excitement with all the new adventures and things to explore and experience. You're not quite settled and still in vacation mode. Then those next eight weeks bring on the heavy feelings of missing the 'normal,' missing our friends and family. Feelings of insecurity (for me) of not quite feeling like an insider in our new community, and feeling that 'new girl' vibe. I know the kids feel that too. 

And then when we do start to feel at home, it's time for life to change pace again while daddy leaves for deployment. Bring on the rollercoaster. But in true Navy-family fashion the saying, 'Home is where ever I am with you" runs deep here.

Things that will light us up this summer, in the wake of missing J: 
-picking strawberries & blackberries
-making pie with said berries
-buying fresh Ranier cherries at the fruit stand on the side of the road
-hiking the forestlands by our house
-taking pictures over Deception Pass
-playing tick tack toe with daddy via mail
-continuing documentary photography with my family & others
-creating a learning routine at home in hopes to transition to homeschooling in the future
-sharing my passion of essential oils through The Essential Story
-sending colorings to daddy overseas
-s'mores at Washington Park
-fireworks at the 4th of July
-Saturday morning Farmer's Markets
-our bi-weekly "farmer deliveries" 
-getting pictures and videos from daddy
-trips to the beach
-picnics at the park
-afternoons at the castle park
-puzzles on rainy days
-popcorn & movie Friday nights

When we're together, we run on intention and fill those holes of what we're missing when we're not together. Adventuring outdoors here is our favorite thing to do, and there's not a more beautiful place to do so than in the PNW. So here is a compilation of what home looks like to us this past quarter. We've seen the seasons change from winter to spring in the most beautiful way --together. Our summer will look a bit different, as we won't have (in my opinion) the best part of our family here with us. 


Lyndsay's Family Session: Saturday Morning Vibes

Lyndsay Almeida is one of the first photographers whose work I started following when I first got my good 'ole Rebel back in 2009. I have always loved her vibrant colors and she's just got this really fun, genuine & faith-filled spirit about her that radiates off the pages of her blog and even more so in person.

When we moved back to Jacksonville, I knew I wanted her to do an in-home session for my family because I was so in love with that documentary approach. Her style was perfect for it! And especially with two 2 year-olds and a baby, ain't nobody gonna get me out at a pretty park and try to get everyone to smile at the dang camera. The pictures she took for us were PRICELESS. And Justin loved them because he literally wore his board shorts and a t-shirt -- just as he would on any given Saturday morning. Knowing the feeling of joy it brought me, the client, to have those photos ignited my heart even more to continue that approach with my business.

As you can imagine, I was just so honored when Lyndsay asked me to do some in-home family pictures of her family. She is always posting all the fun DIY's she does in her house and I couldn't wait to photograph them and see it in person. She's got THE BEST house, y'all. It literally made me giddy with joy with all of her fun decorations and creative spirit. Especially coming from a girl who has like, 2, maybe 3 colors in her house? I'm like, "girl, can I take you home to splash some color on my walls?!" 

For Lyndsay's family session, I arrived just in time for breakfast. Donuts were a special treat and they enjoyed them with some coffee (Kingston the most!), and did the normal 'mundane' things around the house. Although you see, this family is anything but mundane! You can see the FUN and joy beaming from the pictures and it's truly genuine. I loved getting to be the fly on the wall capturing these moments that will someday be a storybook they look back on together with fondness, pride and immense gratitude for one another. 

I've tried to publish this post for like 3 nights in a row. And I have CRASHED THE WEBSITE for THREE NIGHTS IN A ROW because I've tried to fit SO MANY PICTURES on this tiny little blog. It only took me till the 4th night to finally edit down my selections (a tiny bit), so here we go! 

I hope you enjoy this vibrant and fun session as much as I enjoyed capturing it! 

Baby Eve Turns 1

I'm a little late in posting, but I had to share this sweet lil' pink bundle of adorableness and her first birthday shoot. Things we don't get much of around this house: pink, softness, hair bows; white shirts. Cause. Boys. So as you can imagine, I was eating this up.

We beat the heat just by a few minutes at this August beach shoot. So ready for fall weather, y'all! And who is now salivating for that strawberry cake? Just me? 

Happiest 1 year to you, sweet baby girl! I just adore you and your parents. 


Saturday morning with the 'F' Family

Oh my. This shoot. This family -- Jaime's hair. Insert all the heart-eyes.

Jaime and I met years ago when I got my first job out of college. She ended up being my supervisor/mentor/friend/role-model-for-life in all the ways. Despite my beauty pageant answers to my interview questions and the oversized suit jacket and pants I sported (circa 1995), I got the job at the ad agency. Please note: my mom's first question after I finished the interview was, "Did you tell them how many words per minute you can type?!" I love you, Mom.

But really -- I can type real fast. Although I took that off my resume in 2001. 

Jaime showed me the ropes in the professional world and I'll never forget it. We kept in touch periodically over the years after job changes, marriages, moves and children. And here we are, both planted in the same city once again, telling her family's story over Saturday morning coffee.

We got some beautiful solo shots of her for her new podcast, photos of the whole family (because we know how often that doesn't happen), and everything in-between. This shoot gave me all the feelings of genuine love, devotion, fun, and backyard-envy (isn't it amazing?).

What are some of the words that come to mind when seeing these images? Would love to hear them! I hope you enjoy this family story as much as I absolutely enjoyed being a part of documenting it. Thank you so much, Jaime and family, for having me over for such a fun shoot! 

A Family Affair: Brunch with the Castillo's

Nicolle & I have been friends since the day we were both last in line at preschool orientation. Both running (just a tad) behind (if you count being 1 minute early as late) and more than excited to start our two year-olds in a part-time preschool. We became fast friends as our boys followed suit in their blossoming toddler friendship. There is never a dull moment when all the boys get together and we quite often get confused looks as to which boys are twins (?) or triplets (?)... or, quads?? Confusion. Everywhere. Yes, they're all our kids! 

When I talked to Nicolle about doing a storytelling session, she was immediately intrigued by just the idea. I told her to think about something her family enjoyed to do together; something that their legacy was built on and that just kind of defined their time together right now. She immediately knew the perfect setting for their shoot: Sunday brunch with all the family. In her close-knit Puerto Rican family, Sundays are always spent together, gathering with worship, food and family at her parents' house, where here grandparents also live. Four generations under one roof, every Sunday. 

This particular Sunday, Nicolle's extended family was all in town to gather together as they approached their sweet abuela's big surgery. Abuela was scheduled for her second mastectomy, to remove a stage three tumor, so rare for her age. It was a tender and sweet event to be a part of. Nicolle's family radiated love from the moment I walked in the door. The music was loud and the smiles and laughter were even louder. Turning the corner to the kitchen, the sign above the stove confidently stated, "We dance in this kitchen." Surrounding that sign was every family member's heart dancing with love while they all contributed to the meal; passing plates, toasting tostadas, slicing eggs, holding babies, entertaining toddlers and providing encouraging conversation. Knowing her family, I had no doubt the experience photographing them would be an absolute pleasure. But what I didn't know is just how touched I would leave there feeling.

Snapping pictures as a fly on the wall allowed me to truly take a step back and see God's work right in front of my eyes. The unconditional love that is shared between family is something we know that is there but often don't deeply understand it unless we turn the noise off and just embrace it. Turning the noise off and truly embracing what's right in front of us on the daily captures more beauty than anything we can imagine planning on our own. And to me, that is the root of being faithful. Nicolle's family showed me that on this Sunday afternoon. 

Aside from documenting their weekly event together, Nicolle thought to capture some pictures of her abuela and her daughter together -- first and forth generations -- as a tribute to her battle with breast cancer. Even then, in Nicolle's words, her modest grandmother happily removed her shirt, boldly revealing her scar from her first mastectomy -- for her great-granddaughter; for her granddaughter; for her daughters; for all the strong women in her family, from now and forward. As a tribute to defeating breast cancer not once, but twice, and living to tell the story. A tribute to holding strong. A tribute to advocating for your health and getting your annual screenings. A tribute to love and the bond that family holds for eternity. A tribute to anchoring fiercely in your faith in good times and bad. 

I will forever remember this shoot as one that gave me the utmost joy to capture, as it is a time capsule of loving memories for a family past, present and future, and a true definition of love and courage. Thank you, Nicolle, for such a remarkable gift this shoot was for me to capture! 

'C' Family Storytelling Session

When the photographer rings the doorbell at 7:30AM sharp, only 24 hours too early. This is the look Baby Eve gave me when I walked in the morning of of our storytelling shoot. I had been chatting back and forth with her mom, Erin, for a while about when we wanted to do her family photoshoot. She wanted pictures of Eve since she recently turned 6 months-old, and also wanted some photos of all three family members in the frame. It's hard to get everyone in the frame in those baby years, because Mom is always snapping photos of baby and most of the time doesn't step on the other side of the lens.  I convinced her to give the storytelling shoot a try and had her pick a couple of their favorite family activities to do together; some that they find as their 'special time.' I scribbled down the date in my life planner the date we decided on, and it changed a couple times. For whatever reason, my scatter-brain wrote the wrong date in for our last decision. I showed up at their home TWENTY FOUR HOURS early, you guys. Thank God Erin & Colin are super laid back and are already friends of mine, or I would have been even more mortified than I already was! Good Lord, get it together, woman! Blessings in disguise, though. As I've been transitioning my business to more casual, intimate shoots, this gave us no choice but to capture the real, raw moments. They were totally up for the challenge!

Erin & Colin have been friends of ours since we lived in Washington -- we've been lucky enough to be stationed in the same area as them back-to-back. We've gone from two married couples to married couples with multiple children in tow. Our weekend BBQ's with our group have changed quite a bit over the years, as you can imagine! 

Love the way this shoot turned out -- all the little moments they enjoy doing together as a family, and as you can see Baby Eve loves bath time with mom and dad! Thank you, Erin & Colin for being such amazing sports with this! 

All the Little Don'ts -- First Installment

Well, here it goes. I've been thinking and praying about starting up this blog for some time now. There are a million little reasons I've held back -- time, privacy, what to say, how to start, who will want to read it? I'm just doing it. That's a good enough reason, right?

I recently took a workshop with one of my favorite photographers/artists/mentors in the industry. She opened the course with us airing out all of our insecurities. One of my biggest insecurities in my photography business has been shooting what I feel others want, rather than what my eye and heart actually see and feel. After really recognizing my own voice and perspective as an artist, I decided to go with my gut and revise my photography sessions to documenting each client's story in a casual and intimate perspective, which is much more authentic of my personal style.

For anyone who knows me well in this season of my life, my reality is me sporting my LulaRoe leggings and an oversized sweater; my hair (washed) yet thrown up in a ponytail (let's be honest -- i'm not hip enough to call it a messy bun); my kids running around at home in a shirt and underwear in need of the snot being wiped off their noses (it's true -- there's always a runny nose in our house. and we wash our hands. constantly.); me topping off my coffee for the 4th time before 8am; the daily grind of having three pre-schoolers under 4; the roller coaster of fits and laughter; you get the picture. It's a crazy-town most days. Some days are just downright tiresome and tear-some, all around. But you know what? This is exactly where I'm supposed to be, as cliche as it may sound. That's why I try to make it a point to document our days, no matter how mundane they may be sometimes. Because they're so fleeting and they will soon be faded memories. These daily images will serve as a legacy for our family, giving us a glimpse back in time for years to come. If preserving our family days together is a gift I can give my children in the future, I'll feel pretty dang good about that. 

And that, folks, is the passion and the drive behind my photography business. I want to share this gift with my clients so that they too can reflect and SEE the joy they are experiencing each day. Because sometimes it's just not super apparent that the joy is there. But it's there, guys. It's always there. There's ALWAYS joy in our days, hiding out in the most nonchalant ways. We sometimes just have to look from a different perspective to see it. 

With this blog, I plan to share with you highlights from the client-side of family storytelling sessions that I've had the blessing of documenting, as well as some of my own personal photo projects that tie into the every-day joy forefront of this overall theme we've got going on here. ;) My first project is called "All the Little Don'ts." I plan to have an installment once monthly, whether that's 3 photos or 30. These are all images of my boys doing something that I've either said, "Eehh, don't do that!" or thought to myself the same thing. Sometimes as a mother I tend to hold the reigns tight and want to reign in the 'crazy,' per se. But when I look back at these images, they say something completely different to me. They say:
Go and do that; spread your wings and become that adventurous boy.
Go, and I will catch you if you fall.
Have faith, sweet boy.
Create and dream.
Go big, buddy -- you got this.
*Except for the last image. He can just stop that. Haha! 
They are a time capsule of their fleeting time as little boys. Because before I know it, they'll quickly become the strong men God is grooming them to become. And let's be honest -- these images are a great exercise for me to remind myself to JUST. CHILL. and bask in the JOY. 

And there you have it -- my first blog post. I hope this not only inspires you to document your days, but to look at them from a different perspective and see the joy, which is hidden everywhere. Lots of love to you all for a beautiful end of your week.