When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll
Whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say
It is well, it is well, with my soul
It's kind of a crazy story of how I met this family. I decided to head out with the family to the Norfolk Botanical Gardens one hot summer day. They have a fantastic play area with a splash pad and the gardens are so fun to explore. I was actually knee deep in the midst of our family's 365 Project (you can see some of those pics here- I took a picture of our daily life every day for 365 WHOLE DAYS!) so I had my camera with me.
As I'm watching the kids run around and splash and play, I see another mama with a 3 kids roll up in her big double stroller with a baby about the age of mine. Naturally, my big kids ran over to play and I sat back observing and watching my baby sleep. I noticed the mama carry her middle son to the fountains and helped him to sit down and enjoy the fountains. She was so tender with him as they played and explored the water. The scene pulled at my heart and I felt the urge to snap their picture. Mama's need to be in the pictures with their babies and so often it is us mama's that are behind the camera, tasked with documenting and preserving our family's memories.
But if you know me, I'm not one to just go up to people and ask to take their picture. It's incredibly nerve wracking for me. What if she yelled at me and thought I was some creep stalking her or her kids? Honestly, that had the potential to embarrass me to the point where I could never show my face in public again. But like I said, I felt an intense need to do this. I'm pretty sure God was tugging at my heart for this one. So, I did. I went up to her and nervously spit out that I was a photographer and that I'd love to take a quick picture of her and her son and that I would email it to her later. She smiled and said of course. And here we are, that was over a year ago and I've photographed their family THREE times since then.
When Steph sent me a message to ask if I could photograph their family for a fall lifestyle/documentary fusion session, I was thrilled. I am happy to be a part of this family's memories and I'm over the moon that they have chose me again and again to document their lives.
So, I'll just go ahead and explain the why behind this picture above; it is of the upmost importance. This shot is highly representative of this family and the storm they have weathered together. This picture is a symbol of healing. Physically, mentally, emotionally. This is progress. This is the journey out of the storm and into clearer skies.
You see, Everett is a Non Fatal Drowning survivor. To say his journey has been long and hard is an understatement. Most of us cannot even imagine the trauma and the terror this family has faced. Yet, here they are. Grateful for every day, every breath, and every second they get to spend together- praising God all along the way. I won't go too much into detail because that's their story to tell, not mine. I'll just show you the story I see- and that's one of healing, hope, love, and trust.
His picture above? He's wrapped in his mama's arms STANDING and his g-tube has been removed for GOOD. The site is healing over and they aren't looking back- ever.
We played in their back yard, enjoyed the last of the day's light and fun was had by all- especially the littlest guy. Their Daddy came home straight from work and jumped right in to play and have some pictures made with his family.
We were rewarded with a beautiful sunset.
Their joy and delight that they choose to find in everyday is nothing short of inspirational. And the way big sister loves on her brothers and includes them in her whimsical make believe world is just the most precious thing! I think big sisters have a way with that, don't you? Well, unless she gets a splinter in her finger. Then all bets are off.
If you'd like to see more of their story and read about The Miracle Boy Everett, search these hashtags on Facebook and Instagram:
When a baby is born, several things shift and change. Many people use the analogy of a new chapter in a book beginning. A new part of the story begins to unfold. The whole world seems new- sometimes it seems bigger and scarier than it used to be. Other times, it seems to be filled with new adventures and full of possibilities. I tend to think it's usually a healthy balance of both, don't you think?
I think that first car ride home from the hospital is the scariest thing I've ever done.
This little darling handled her first photo session like a champion. I don't even know if she even realized that I was even there. Most of the morning in her sweet Hampton home was spent nestled on her mama's chest and being cuddled close by her daddy. The family cat was quite suspicious of me and as I was told, baby Hazel too. I only got to peek at him once or twice. He was their first baby and they are excited to see how the pair bonds and grows together.
I always feel blessed to be able to capture this time for parents. I enjoy being able to come to their home and meet them where they are, into their comfort zone. I wish I could share all of the images from this session with you and you could see the sweet intimacy the trio shared, but I'll instead just leave you with this little bit. I'm happy they chose to have their session here and that sweet little Hazel will have pictures to remember her first home by. Long from now, maybe she will be able to look at these images and hear the words of love they whispered into her tiny ears. She will see how much they loved her and adored her.
When I was a kid, I always could mark the nearing of Christmas when we began to gather supplies to pack in shoe boxes to send across the world via Operation Christmas Child. Our whole family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, everyone!) planned their boxes seemingly all year round, always picking up things here and their for shoe boxes. School starts after Labor Day in our part of Virginia, so this year, we spent our last day of summer gathering and prepping our boxes for their journey to a special child. The kids were so excited to pack their boxes and were so happy and were filled with joy to know that they would be helping some child, some where out there, have a brighter day. It's a special memory for me, so I wanted to document the day with our own kids. I hope that they will continue to enjoy giving and find joy in serving others.
We packed the following in our boxes:
I saw the idea for the tic tac toe bags on Pinterest from a blog called Suburbia Unwrapped. She used paint markers for her muslin/canvas bags, but I chose to use acrylic paint that I already had at home. I simply cut a piece of craft foam to go inside of the bag so that the paint wouldn't bleed through. I painted the board on the bag and instead of doing X's and O's, I opted for 2 different colored stones. I could make 4 tic tac toe boards for $2 total. They are so cute and fun! If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen some behind the scenes of the game and packing our boxes!
The wooden peg dolls/Waldorf dolls I ordered unfinished from Amazon. I painted them here at home. I ordered a case of 50 dolls. I am separating them into groups of 10. I plan on giving each of my children a set under the Christmas tree as well. They have had lots of Waldorf inspired toys over the years (and are you surprised that they still play with them? I'm not!) and I think that they will love these to play with. I chose to paint them in a rainbow of colors because I think their little imaginations will be sparked by the simplicity of them and they can pretend that they are whoever they want them to be!
We had so much fun packing our boxes and I'm glad I busted out the camera for just a few seconds to document these little hands doing mighty work. If you are interested in packing boxes to send to children who may not receive presents otherwise during the Christmas season, check out Hobby Lobby. They usually have Operation Christmas Child boxes there you can pick up, also some local churches have them as well. Pinterest is filled with great resources on what to pack and how to pack to maximize space in the boxes. I'd love to hear what you put in yours or other fun ideas!
Jess is a photographer serving families located in the Hampton Roads area of Virginia. She specializes in documentary and storytelling photography.