The biggest, tiniest grins.
The sweetest, scrunchiest yawns.
And the most adoring, loving first-time parents.
If you'd like to schedule your lifestyle newborn session with me, I'd love to hear from you! Click here to get in touch.
Stacey Woods is a Professional Lifestyle Photographer specializing in Modern Maternity, Newborn, Baby, Children and Family Lifestyle Photography for the Tampa Area. Stacey is an on-location, in-home natural light child photographer with a documentary approach, serving the Greater Tampa Florida area including Clearwater, Clearwater Beach, Gulfport, Indian Rocks Beach, Belleair Beach, Madeira Beach, Oldsmar, Palm Harbor, Tarpon Springs, Odessa, Keystone, Tampa, Largo, Dunedin, Safety Harbor and St. Petersburg, Florida.
The biggest, tiniest grins.
The sweetest, scrunchiest yawns.
And the most adoring, loving first-time parents.
If you'd like to schedule your lifestyle newborn session with me, I'd love to hear from you! Click here to get in touch.
"I'm faw-uh now! Dat means I can go to pweschool and stay aww by mysewf!" ~Charlotte
Four years old. Oh my word. Friends, it seems like I just brought our last baby home in my arms. Now she's a big girl, so fiercely independent in all of her "lemme do it mysewf" business. She is fearless and sweet and compassionate and kind. She's spunky and friendly and makes us laugh constantly.
She loves to dress herself. Many times, actually, over the period of a day. Girlfriend creates more laundry than the other two kids combined. She is not afraid to scale the pantry shelves like rungs of a ladder and scare me half to death. She asks politely for "water ice" instead of ice water. She thinks poptarts are miraculous. She is so kind to animals, and Crookie and Ace (mostly) love her because she will fill their food bowls without prompting if she notices that they are empty. (Ace sticks close to her at lunchtime because he knows she will toss him her bread crusts.) She despises naps but loves storytime, and always asks for "two stories at nap, three stories at bedtime". She loves for me to paint her nails, and has ruined at least three pieces of furniture by opening bottles of my nail polish without permission. (Motherhood is sanctifying, amen?) She swears her baby teeth are getting loose because her sister's are. She can play Minecraft like a boss, if it involves spawning hundreds of animals all over the place and dropping lava on her siblings' houses. She is our butterfly, flitting and skipping as she runs. She is our tiniest girl, at just 26 itty bitty pounds.
But this "tiny girl" marched right into preschool this morning and hugged her teacher (we are so blessed to have Miss Cloutier again, for the third time!). She hung up her lunchbox inside her cubby, put away her naptime blanket, washed her tiny hands, and went to play with her new friends. She is a big girl, after all, and she is so ready.
As for me, well, I may or may not have cried all the way home. :)
Maybe you're sad or "just sentimental" today, or maybe you're doing handsprings over having a quiet house for the first time in years! Or maybe you're just looking ahead at future school days while you still hold your little ones in your laps.
No matter what stage of life we're in these days, we can be so thankful. Here's to being inspired by our kids. Let's all be brave, fearless, excited for what may come, ready to show the big world our gifts. Let us be compassionate and kind, open and willing, and ready with a smile for whatever life holds for us. Let's laugh and walk right in.
"She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future." -Proverbs 31:25
We have been in a season of sickness lately. For the past 4-5 months (just typing that out made me realize how insanely long it's been), someone in our family has been under the weather. On a constant rotation. Viruses, earaches, allergies, colds, achiness and stuffiness and weariness all around. And when one kiddo recovers, a few short days pass and we find that he/she has passed around those germs and now someone else is down for the count. Repeat, repeat, repeat.
My heart aches for a reset. A clean slate.
It seems to be running through my subconscious lately. I am seeking solace in precious quiet time in my home, puttering and straightening and moving things around. I am ever more strongly drawn to finishing projects around the house, wrapping up all print orders, purging the excess, clearing out the unnecessary, and scrubbing the house from top to bottom. I'm going through my home office and paring down what fills my shelves to only what I truly need to keep to bring me joy. I'm filling our home with succulents and houseplants to provide a fresh breath of air. We are starting a mini-garden of berries and tomatoes alongside the house. Terra cotta pots filled with basil and rosemary and mint are sunning in the kitchen window. Fresh. New. Life.
And speaking of fresh starts... Parker and my dad were baptized last week. Together, side by side, in the Gulf of Mexico. You can't get a cleaner slate than that one, can you? :) I have to tell you, I've choked up every single time I've looked at this photo. It's worth many more than a thousand words to me.
Have you had a fresh start yet this spring? What have you done to reset and recharge lately? I'd love to know what changes you've made to your routine, what books you've read that may have inspired you, and what things bring you a little joy this time of year. And if you are in a slump or if it feels like you and your babies have been sick nonstop like the Woodses ;) then what do you say... let's reset together!
The kids and I have been traveling this month, roadtripping to Kentucky to visit my family and then to North Carolina to visit Chris's. Thirty hours in the car with little ones? Yes, I am certifiably crazy. But we made memories. We saw my grandma who is very ill (it was hard leaving her house, knowing it's likely the last time I'll kiss her soft cheek this side of Heaven). Lila learned how to swim and Charlotte splashed and pretended she was a mermaid. Parker wanted to take home every dog he saw (bless his heart). We caught lots of bass and bluegill from the best little fishing hole ever, we sipped honeysuckle and picked blackberries and we ate yummy homemade country food. We visited my sisters and my kids' cousins and all three of my remaining grandparents. We met new friends and played with old ones, we fed bread to ducks and grilled hot dogs and paddled a boat on a pond in the twilight and touched lilypads. We watched a field of cows graze on grass and we climbed apple trees and ate fresh tomatoes and corn on the cob. We swung on porch swings and tire swings and rope swings. We caught "lightning bugs" and kept them in a jar, and we slept late and stayed up even later. We watched movies and played games and ate cake and celebrated two birthdays. We took lots and lots of photos, more than I can count. WE LIVED LIFE TO THE FULLEST. And it was beautiful.
So I thought I'd share some simple iPhone photos from our trip with you. I have a lot more from the "big camera" that I'll share soon too. I also had the honor of photographing some sweet folks from back home during my visit, so look for those to be featured on the blog in the next week or so.
“People, there's no such thing as, THE BEST CAMERA BRAND, but yes there will always be THE BEST CAMERA AT ANY GIVEN TIME. Technology will change, but not art.” ― Ashraf Saharudin
I post a lot on Instagram these days, because it's easier than blogging and lets me post short, one-image entries rather quickly. Sometimes I post client work, sometimes you'll see more personal reflections and my kids' memories-in-process, but whatever you see will always come with a lot of heart. If you'd like to get to know me a little better and catch up with me more often than simply here on the blog, then I'd love for you to FOLLOW ME @staceywoods on Instagram.
Have a wonderful Friday, my friends.
Earlier this week, Lila's kindergarten teacher brought Lila and I home after school, because my car key broke and fell off my ring somewhere between the parking lot and Lila's class line. Crazy accident, right? But that sweet woman generously offered to rescue us. The women in the front office were so kind and helpful, looking up phone numbers and offering their best advice, and a phone and phone book too. The assistant principal actually found my missing half of a key the next day and returned it to me.
THANK GOD FOR KIND PEOPLE. Kind people who hurt when you hurt, who offer to help when you are in a jam.
In this world of go-go-go, it's often so easy for us to just look past people who are having trouble in favor of our own busy schedule and to-do list. But these people didn't.
So on Friday, we brought flowers to the school staff and to Lila's teacher. Miss Anna in the front office was so surprised and overjoyed. They were just simple wildflowers from the grocery store, but I wrapped them in kraft paper and washi tape and added a pretty handwritten note. I didn't spend a lot of money, in fact it took me longer to rewrap them and add my personal touches than it did to purchase them. But they thanked us over and over. And my heart swelled. And Lila grinned and ran off to class to take her bundle of flowers to her teacher too. She wrote me back a sweet thank you note and she loved all over Lila at school.
You know, I was struck by how good it made me feel to make someone else happy. Even though they made me happy first. Isn't kindness a funny thing? I've read somewhere that kindness is actually a selfish thing to do, because it makes you feel amazing in the process. I'm not sure that I believe that. But I have to admit that even when I start out in a grumpy mood, I can feel my spirits lifted after I've done something kind for someone.
Love doesn't just talk about loving on people... love actually does.
This week, I want to challenge you to show kindness to someone. Do something extra special for someone who doesn't expect it. Do it "selfishly" if you must, but do it with a genuine smile and a sincere heart. I promise you will be so happy afterwards.
Kindness doesn't have to be big and showy to make a difference. Pay for someone's coffee in the Starbucks line behind you. Hold the door open for a mama with a stroller. Hold the door open for anyone. Buy flowers for a friend. Make a pan of Shauna's enchiladas for a new mom and take them to her. Take your kids to the park or to a movie. Read one more story at bedtime. Refrain from nagging your husband and instead ask him if there is anything you can do for him. Smile at and say hello to the stranger you pass on the sidewalk. Download a song your kids love and play it in the car.
And don't forget to come back and tell me how awesome you feel. :)
So I've been loving and hating my food lately. Refined sugar, gluten and dairy, and processed everything? You've got to go. I've been juicing (green juice, how I love thee), eating lots more fruits and vegetables, less meat, and have almost completely replaced my beloved sweet tea with.... water. Yes I did. And my body has not revolted yet. Actually, it is being pretty nice to me for a change.
The trouble is, my kids still love the junk. And every once in awhile, I need a cheat. So when my childhood best friend Laura posted this homemade granola bar recipe on her Instagram feed, I was all over it! They're gluten-free, dairy-free, and raw. And they are delicious. My kids were fooled, if that tells you anything. Here is her recipe, and then my lazy adaptation:
1 cup minute oats
1/3 cup peanut butter
3 tbsp honey
1 tsp vanilla
Mix together well and press into muffin tins; refrigerate.
My husband buys granola bars at our grocery store every week, and we can't keep them in the pantry. The kids nibble them for breakfast on weekends, I pack them in their lunches, I throw them in my purse for snacks in the car, etc. We go through boxes and boxes and boxes of them. Have you ever read the ingredients on a box of granola bars? I grabbed our favorite brand, and was shocked to count at least six different additions of sugars, four separate corn syrup / high-fructose corn syrup ingredients, plus multiple ingredients of partially-hydrogenated oils and other things that I couldn't pronounce. All together, there were thirty-nine ingredients. Thirty-nine!
So we made Laura's granola bars, and my kids gobbled them up within minutes. Told me they were the best granola bars they'd ever eaten.
Four ingredients, folks. Four.
I use raw honey, and I sub almond butter for peanut butter. By default, the basic recipe is gluten-free. You can also get creative and add whatever you like: shredded coconut, cranberries or raisins or other dried fruit, chocolate chips (or carob if you're eating dairy-free), a chopped-up dark chocolate bar, almonds, pecans, cashews... the possibilities are endless. But the basic recipe has just four ingredients to build upon. Brilliant, I say.
I will admit: I'm not much of a recipe follower. So here is what I do:
Dump in enough oats to probably fill the bottom of a brownie or loaf pan.
Add a few heaping spoonfuls of almond butter.
Squeeze a big glug of raw honey so it helps the oats stick to the peanut butter.
Stir until it all comes together.
Add a big handful of chocolate chips, if I have them. Stir a little more.
If it looks (or tastes) dry at that point, then I add more nut butter. If it is crumbly, I add another big glug of honey to make it stickier.
And I usually forget the vanilla.
Press into a loaf pan (or double the batch and press into an 8x8 brownie pan), cover and refrigerate, slice whenever the kids get hungry.
At night, I can whip up a batch in 5 minutes, stick them in the fridge overnight, and then slice them for breakfast or lunches the next morning. THEY LOVE ME.
Oh, my Lila. I love so many things about this daughter of mine. I've posted a lot of her pictures and stories lately on Facebook and Instagram, so I thought I'd devote the first 2013 edition of "What ______ Looks Like" to my sweet middle one. She blesses my heart every day, and it is a joy to share her with you today, with a combination of iPhone photos and "big camera" photos as well. I hope you enjoy. ////
What Being With Lila Looks Like
She is my free-spirit. My messy artist, my lover of crafting and painting and sticking and taping and drawing and sketching and writing. She is forever leaving us notes, writing on calendars, art paper, envelopes, and her favorite canvas: HERSELF. Marker-tattoos are her specialty.
She is an enthusiastic early reader (she's only four), and she always begs for "just one more story" at bedtime. It's hard to tell her no.
My helper, my little mama. She always knows where I've absentmindedly sat something down. She is delightfully observant. She can always tell me what Charlotte needs when she cries, which comes in super handy in the car! I find Lila's babydolls covered up with blankets all over the house. She often shushes me because "Bitty Baby is asleep." She will make an excellent mama someday.
Lila is our tomboy-princess. All of her "twuhly skiwts" (twirly skirts) have tiny holes in the hems, because she climbs trees (with her brother) while wearing them. Fancy clothes cannot hold her back.
She is a mirror, reflecting my mannerisms and habits back to me. It's not always sweet, which lets me keep a check on my own heart. For instance, when we're stuck in traffic, her sweet voice suddenly shocks you with, "GO, people. We don't have all day." I raise my guilty hand. Pretty embarrassed about it, too.
Her sweet lisp is endearing to me, and I will certainly mourn when she outgrows it. "We don't go to da gas station wif da gween sun because dey made our ocean diwty." (Referring to the historic Gulf oil spill and our resulting boycott of that particular gas station with the green sunburst logo.)
She's delightfully random. She pipes up with whatever is on her mind at any given moment: "I like butterflies!"
She has her own beautiful way of saying ordinary words. Taking off her shoes post-beach and shaking them out, she exclaims: "My shoes have sandy in dem." When the moonroof is open, and our car's interior is too bright for her liking, she begs... "Close it! It's too shiny!" This sweet girl has no idea that she is our sunshine.
She is funny without ever trying to be. When Skyping with my sister once, our computer screen froze and we complained about it. Always the literal one, Lila scrambled up and offered, "I'll go turn off the fan." Darling girl thought we were really "freezing".
She's forever carrying food around the house. One evening several months ago, as I nursed Charlotte in the bedroom chair, Lila brought an entire plate of food into the bedroom. I asked her to please take her food to the table. Of course, I meant the kitchen table, but she promptly sat her plate on the bedroom nightstand. (I did say a table, after all.) I don't think the kitchen table ever occurred to her; she just looked around the room for the nearest table, so that she could still be with us. How could I refuse her? Again, she's so literal that it makes me smile.
Lila Kate. Lilabean. Lilabug. Lila Cakes. Li. Lila Jane. Ya-ya (Charlotte's baby-talk name for her).
I asked her once, "Lila, what in the world would I do without you?" She smiled and quickly offered, "You'd cry... and cry and cry and cry."
And I would.
I'm honored to link up to Shannon Sewell this month. I had the pleasure of interviewing her in 2011 for The Creative Mama's Creative Photography Series. She is delightful, and I can't wait to see the gorgeous art she shares with us today.
Chris hasn't taken a day off in over three weeks, and I'm practically glued to my desk these days. Add in soccer practices, weekend games, homework and school projects, Christmas shopping and wrapping and decorating that has to be done at some point. This combination equals one VERY messy house! We've got more clothes in dirty hampers than in our closets, and if it weren't for takeout and delivery, we wouldn't have had dinner at our own table in two weeks. All day long, I grumble over fresh messes that are being made in the house. Charlotte pulls paper out of the printer and un-decorates our Christmas tree at every opportunity. Lila leaves her crayons and artwork scattered all over the living room. I find Parker's dirty socks and shoes all over the house, and even the backyard. They get things out and don't bother to put them back... they argue and cry over paper cuts and smashed fingertips... they tattle on each other and refuse to share.
I'll bet your children often act the same as mine, right?
My children, and yours, are at home. They are warm and safe and when it comes to what is really important... they are happy. They are in our arms, and in our messy homes, and they are healthy. They are alive. Parker's blond head bobbed as he stepped off the bus yesterday. Safe and sound. Lila ran to me when I picked her up early from preschool yesterday, and Charlotte's little face lit up as she toddled into my arms.
God bless and comfort those families who would give anything to clean up after their children today. Those parents who desperately want to kiss tiny boo-boos and wipe away tears and ask their children to please speak nicely to one another and pick up after themselves. Parents who would give their own last breath to be able to tuck in their kids one more night. To give one more kiss, one more hug, read one more story, and get "just one more" drink of water. Because of the acts of a cruel and selfish soul, there are many families today who do not have what you or I have. Their children won't be running downstairs in delight on Christmas morning this year, or next year, or the year after that. My heart deeply aches for those mamas and daddies.
So today, I want to say Thank You, God, for these messes, and for the dear children who have made them. Thank You for the beautiful evidence of having children in our homes. Thank You for their paper cuts and their boo-boos and their tears that You allow us to kiss away. May we never, ever take those blessings for granted, not for a single moment. Please hold us up when we do not understand the things that are allowed to happen here on Earth. Please comfort and give peace to the families who are hurting today. When those mommies and daddies experience unimaginable grief, longing and heartache for their babies, please allow them to know that their sweet children are spending Christmas sitting on Your lap in Heaven, surrounded by Your angels, and Your unending Light.
Hug your children today, I beg of you. Because you can. We never know if we will have tomorrow.
But in a moment of culminated frustration yesterday evening in the car, I fervently prayed (rather, shouted so that my children could hear), "Please, Lord! Give me patience with these children!!"
And behold, the Lord giveth.
This morning was our first test. Every one of my lovelies were late to school/preschool/daycare. Charlotte, because she is a toddler and isn't responsible for herself yet, was the only one not at fault. Including me. No one could find the socks that we just folded and put away on Sunday. Fibs were told concerning if, in fact, little teeth had or had not been brushed. We caught every red light from Clearwater to Largo to Safety Harbor to Dunedin and back to Clearwater again. We even sat at a stoplight for ten minutes, unable to turn left across three lanes of traffic, because the light was broken. That is, until a police officer came to the rescue and fixed the problem. Ten minutes, folks. During the morning commute, that roughly equals an hour.
I forgot my phone at home and had to keep a tally of messages and notes in my head, as opposed to dictating them for quick reminders later. Photoshop is acting up, and my Wacom pen suddenly has a mind of its own.
All this to say, I have had more opportunities to practice patience this morning than I've had all week long. I will choose to be thankful for these opportunities, and I will take my lumps and lessons as humbly and gratefully as possible.
But seriously, take my advice. DON'T EVER, EVER, PRAY FOR PATIENCE. Because God has a fine sense of humor.
Have a wonderful day!! :)
Last Sunday morning, the kids and I started a road trip to Kentucky for Thanksgiving. It was a down-to-the-last-minute decision, one that I put off because I was truly dreading that 16+ hour drive each way. However, the kids were off school all week and that meant that I wasn't going to get any work done at home anyway. Plus, we got some sad news just before Thanksgiving that my grandma's cancer has returned, after a 7-year remission. Hopefully we'll know more in a few days, but that bit of news made the trip all the more important, and urgent, to me. I have always known Momaw to be unstoppable. She could work as hard as any man, and her homemade biscuits would make your mouth water. Plus, my cousin and his family were making the trip from Hawaii this year. I figured that if he could fly his family across 6 time zones, then surely I could drive myself and the kids North for a few days.
We ended up staying a couple of days longer than planned, just so we could visit my grandmas a little longer. My other grandma is very ill also, and if you follow this blog, you'll know that she has been unwell for months. Every time I squeeze in a visit, I feel like it might be the last time I get to see her. We drove up this summer to see her in the hospital, and looking back at those photographs, she actually looked so healthy and lively back then. She couldn't remember my girls' names this time. And although that broke my heart, I know that it's just a stage of life that she's going through, and that she still loves us all no matter what.
I did have my computer with me, but between all the different visits and dinners and cooking and driving from one family member's house to another, and four of those days being spent on the road (yes I am crazy), time and internet connection weren't always on my side. We got home last night about 11:30pm, and I let the kids skip school and just sleep in this morning. After we get unpacked and settled, I will be able to dig in and get caught back up on some galleries and emails.
Thanks for your patience, friends. I will be back soon with photos from our trip, and stories to go along with them!