What Turning Four Looks Like

I love this part of the month.  I am so thankful to have been asked to join a very talented group of photographers to document "What _____ Looks Like" every month for a year.  It's made me more conscious of photographing my own kids as well. ///

Since we had to make a very last-minute trip to Kentucky earlier this month, it meant we would spend Lila's fourth birthday there as well.  I couldn't pack up birthday supplies, and that was of least importance to us when deciding to make the trip to see my grandma.  But I still wanted my girl's day to be special and remembered.  So we improvised at the last minute with simple decorations and things to make her afternoon special.

Luckily, the weather was absolutely beautiful.  Warm, but breezy... and best of all, no humidity!!  We spread out a quilt, hung balloons in the trees, and enjoyed watermelon and cupcakes on the lawn with the cousins. She couldn't have been happier.  And that's all that mattered.

This is What Turning Four Looks Like for my sweet Lila-bean.


She begged me for that pink princess guitar.  It's hideous!  But she loves it.  She carries it all around the house, strumming and grinning.  Maybe she'll be the next Jewel.

Charley brought over her La-La-Loopsies, and we put them to good use as decorations.  We called them "Lila-Loopsies".  (Those oh-so-messy cupcakes were delicious.)

Side note about the inherent differences in girls vs boys: Lila changes her clothes at least four times a day... she bases her decision on which dress is the twirliest, and which one has sleeves, and which shoes are the "clip-cloppiest".  If she spills a drop of milk on her shirt, she changes right away.  It's constant laundry with her.  And this kid?  Parker doesn't care what he wears.  All shirts go with all shorts, according to him.  Spilled milk?  Oh well, it'll dry eventually.  Stains?  Who cares, he's just going to get it dirtier playing outside anyway.  And if he were home, he'd just be wearing cargo shorts and no shirt.  And no shoes.  ;)

Aunt Trish making Charlotte giggle...  I loved this moment!

In the end, Lila told me it was the "betht birthday party ever!!"  Of course, she only has three other birthdays to compare it to, but that's not the point.  Sometimes simple can be the most memorable.

And there you have it.  This is What Turning Four Looks Like.

Has anyone else thrown together a birthday party at the last minute like this?  Did you find it stressful, or did you just relax and have fun with it?  I'd love for you to share your favorite party memories with me!


I hope you'll continue the round by visiting the very talented lifestyle photographer, Stephanie Moore | Tucson Family Photographer.  Her beautiful work always makes me swoon.  Coincidentally, her family is celebrating a fourth birthday this month as well!  Happy Birthday to her sweet boy!  ;)

Our Visit with Momaw

The kids and I have been on a little road trip.  We had intended on visiting Kentucky later on this month, but this sweet little lady here wasn't feeling very well... so we moved our mini-vacation forward at the last minute.  Literally, we decided to leave one night and left the next afternoon.  The trip was 930 miles one way, and it took us 15 hours to drive it, not counting stops and one overnight stay in Georgia.  And yes, it was just the kids and me.  Daddy had to work.  But it was truly better than I expected!  My kids were such great travelers, and were so helpful to each other and to me. When we arrived at the hospital, Momaw was still in ICU.  She was moved to a regular room later that afternoon, and last week she improved enough to go home!  She is on dialysis 3 times a week now, and once on the weekend when needed, to reduce the fluid buildup around her heart.  She has suffered from diabetes and congestive heart failure for years, among other health issues, but they seem to be double-teaming her as of late.  She's literally been in the hospital more days than she has been home, since February.  I hope that we are blessed enough to be able to visit her again.  She tells wonderful stories.  I have so many amazing childhood memories that were largely because of her and my Popaw.

She was so excited to see us!  Dad and Popaw think her rather quick recovery from this week's trouble was helped along by her knowledge that we were coming in.  Melts my heart to know that.

My sweet Popaw is her strength.  He does everything for her.  Brings her a toothbrush and a cup, helps get her dressed, organizes and distributes her many medications, monitors her weight, blood sugar, fluid levels, helps her into her wheelchair and down the ramp at their back porch... he even carries her purse while the nurses transfer her from one room to another.  He just completely takes wonderful care of her.  They are so blessed to have each other.

Watching them has always been so inspiring.  The way they never minded us dragging out all of their books and shoes to play library and shoe store when we were kids.... (and always said, "ahh, we'll clean it up later!")  The way they let us help plant wrinkled pink seeds of Silver Queen in the garden, then help the crop grow to harvest and then to prep and freezing -- and eating!  (As long as I live, I will never forget the taste of their fresh garden corn every year.)  I cherish the fact that Popaw always waited to cut his grass until after Easter, so we would have something to hide eggs in.  I like the sweet way he calls her Maw and tells little inside jokes and chuckles alongside her.  The way she depends on him and trusts him wholly.  It's been so encouraging to watch them and be shaped by their example through the years.


I'll come back to share more posts and photographs from our trip.  As timing would have it, we spent Father's Day and Lila's birthday there as well.  As much as I will cherish this particular visit, it sure is good to be home this morning.

What Eight Looks Like | Lifestyle Project May 2012

Our big boy turned eight last month.  It was bittersweet for me, as his mama.  Parker had so much influence on me when I was first learning photography.  As a very busy toddler, he pretty much dictated that my shooting style be unposed and loose, on the go, and very much what "lifestyle" feels like to me now.  He is why, to this day, I try not to pose my clients.  He is why I want to just let them be real, and document the way they interact with one another.  He was my first muse. These days, he is not quite so unfazed by my camera.  He's usually giving me bug-eyes or sticking his tongue out when I point my camera his way.  But that's alright with me.  Whatever he gives me, I will document.  And embarrass him someday at his wedding treasure this funny, clever time in his life, while it lasts.

The past few weeks, Parker has let me quietly photograph him, just the way I always do.  He even surrendered and let me photograph him for a class that Bree and I are teaching, to illustrate a technical point for our students.  I savored every moment.


Making funny faces, stifling laughs, catching frogs and lizards with the neighbor boys, running around shirtless, playing soccer, showing off, missing teeth, building with legos, and even being sweet to his baby sister... this is What Eight Looks Like.

You are a delight, my love.  I am so glad you made me a Mama.


I hope you'll continue the blog carousel and visit my sweet friend, Deb.  I always look forward to seeing what beautiful bits of life she's documented of her children.  Enjoy the journey, xo.  Deb Schwedhelm  |  Tampa Child Photographer


What Three Looks Like

I long to have what you have, dear clients.  Photographs of my family hugging and loving and laughing and being together.  ON MY WALLS.  Not just on my hard drive.  It's what spurred my interest in photography back in 2005, and what inspired me to create this business of mine.  Sadly, I don't have nearly as many of those sweet photographs on my walls as I ought to, being a professional photographer and all.  You know the story of the cobbler's children who had no shoes?  Well, this cobbler has made many shoes for her children, but they're all in boxes instead of on their feet.  Or rather, they are sitting on hard drives instead of in albums and gracing the walls of our home.  


photo courtesy of my fabulous midwife, Vikki Bennett at Breath of Life (thank you for grabbing my big "scary" camera and snapping this for me!!  xo)

I’ve been lucky to have met so many incredibly talented and wonderful photographers during this journey.  People who share the same desire to capture their own families in a real and beautiful way.  I’m teaming up with eleven of these women on a very personal and meaningful project called, “What ________ Looks Like.”

Our goal is to capture our own families in a real and beautiful way.  Some people call it “lifestyle”, some call it “real life”, "documentary", and some call it “unposed”.  No matter what you call it, our desire is to snatch the moments that represent the relationships, the dynamics, the reality, the beauty, the truth, and the life of our families and record them here on our blogs as well as in print at the end of the project.

Each month we will each choose to fill in the blank with our word of choice.  Some of us may choose to use the same word all year and some may choose to change it up each month.  We will each link to the next photographer until our circle of 12 is complete.

We hope this project inspires you to take more pictures of your own families so that those unique moments that make your family unique will never be lost or forgotten.



What THREE Looks Like...

Lila is home with me now, instead of in daycare, throughout the remainder of my maternity leave.  This is her, for most of the hours of the day.  She calls to Charlotte in her singsong voice, she cups her sister's tiny face with her chubby hands, and she says so sweetly... "Hellooo Sweet Honey!  Hi baby-guhl (girl).  How's my tiny baby?"  And other little nicknames she picks up from me from day to day.  She's so truly interested in this little one, and it blesses my heart to see her showing her love in this delicate way.  She kisses her head and cheeks no fewer than 50 times per day.  Every day.  Charlotte is so lucky.  So blessed.

My first little love, holding my last little love.  This is Parker's routine as soon as he comes home from school: put backpack away, wash hands, hold Charlotte.  He pats her little head when he gets off the bus and into the car, and always comments on how cute she looks.  He really adores her.  He's been interested in all things baby since I found out I was expecting again... which proves both rewarding and uncomfortable (on my part) due to some very curious questions during this time!  (Lord give me strength to explain these details in a way he can understand at his level!)  But he's the sweetest big brother, and has vowed to protect "both of his girls" from here on out.  Mean kids, you've been warned.


He's had quite the transition this week... he was supposed to begin second grade on the morning his littlest sister was born.  Sadly, we skipped the first day (we had yet to be released from the birthing center), so he started a day late.  New sister, new teacher, new classes, new friends.  All in the span of a day.  A bit scattered and unfocused this week, with a few naughty spells thrown in, but that is to be expected, I suppose, with all of these changes happening at once.

And this, why, this is my view at any given time.  Every two to three hours I look down and see this.  Charlotte's teeny outstretched legs on my lap as I nurse her.  Sweet, curled-up baby toes.  Little white t-shirts, bare bellies and the tiniest of newborn diapers.  The beginnings of chubby fat rolls on her thighs and knees.  My own legs outstretched on the ottoman to relieve the last bit of swelling in my ankles.  This is reality.

This is what THREE looks like.



I strongly encourage you to visit the next photographer's blog in our very talented circle of women.  I have the pleasure of introducing Gina Oh  |  Arroyo Grande, CA Photographer and her beautiful photos of her sweet children (one of whom is named Charlotte as well!).  I hope you enjoy her words and images as much as I do.  At the end of her blog post, you'll discover another link to a new photographer and her perspective on "What ____ Looks Like", and so the circle continues.  Visit them all, and soak up the beauty of this project and our pride in it.

Enjoy the journey, friends.  Be blessed,





Introducing... Charlotte Marin Woods

She's here.  And positively adored.

Welcome to the world,

~ Charlotte Marin ~ 

Our baby girl arrived into this world at 2:35am on Monday, August 22, 2011.  She weighed 7 pounds and 2 ounces, and is 19 inches long.  She surprised us by being almost two weeks early (my guess date was September 3, which has been a running joke throughout this pregnancy... since that's "Labor Day" weekend.)  ;)

newborn and sibling photographbig sister Lila, three years old //  baby Charlotte, one day old

Her name is very special because, to us, it represents where Chris and I began, and where we are now.  He and I met in Charlotte, North Carolina in 1998.  We fell in love and began our life together there.  Marin (pronounced "Mare uhn") literally means "from the sea", which represents our life here now.  One of our favorite things about living in Florida is how close we are to the Gulf, and how much our kids love the beach (especially Parker right now).  Chris and I also were married on the beach a little over twelve years ago, and it's just weaved itself into our lives.

I promise to post Charlotte's wonderful birth story soon (and lots more photos).  Her birth was absolutely amazing for us.  And true to her name, she was actually born in water.  For now, let me just say that the amazing ladies at Breath of Life Birth Center in Largo are the most caring, attentive and supportive midwives and birthing team I've ever seen and known.  They have been so sweet to our family, so welcoming of our other children, and so prayerful and supportive of our entire journey toward Charlotte's arrival.  I can't recommend them highly enough, Mamas.  And a less-than-five-hour labor?  What a blessing.

Thank you so much to everyone for the well wishes, emails, Facebook greetings and sweet phone calls we've received.  We are really enjoying our first week at home together with Charlotte, finding our routine and getting to know each other.  We're all completely smitten with this sweet darling girl, so everything else has been put on hold for a short while.  I know a few clients are waiting on a print here and there, and those will go out soon (thanks to my fabulous husband and his help with matting and packaging!).  I go back to shooting in late October, so if you'd like us to put you down for a fall/winter session, please just send an email to stacey {at} staceywoodsphoto {dot} com, and we'll contact you back at our earliest convenience.  We greatly appreciate your love and patience during this precious time for our family, and I promise to keep you updated during my maternity leave with lots of photographs of this little one and her big brother and big sister!



Our Lucky Number Seven

Seven years ago this morning, I gave birth to a baby boy.  That baby boy made me a mama.  He made Chris a daddy.  He changed our world.  He helped us learn how to give, how to love more deeply, how to laugh like we didn't even know was possible. stacey woods photographyHe charmed grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins.  He became the first boy born to any of the Holbrooks since my own father, 51 years prior. He ensured that Chris would be able to pass down the Woods name to the next generation.  He is a wonderful big brother to Lila, and already so caring and protective of his baby sister who is still within my belly.

He is beyond intelligent.  He loves games just like his Daddy did when he was his age.  He is always on the hunt for a good joke, loves his macaroni and cheese, and will wait for "his wave", board in hand, until it appears on the sand in front of him.  His heart is so tender, and he is kind to everyone he knows.

He has continued to change us on a daily basis, teaching us so many things that we never even knew that we didn't know.  He ignited my creative spark and shaped my photography style.  He will never understand how important he has been to all of our lives in the past seven years.

tampa child photographyDearest Parker, I love you so.  I wish you the happiest of birthdays today, sweet boy.  Thank you for making me a mama.

Finally Unwrapping My Blessings

I know.  I've been gone awhile.  I could offer you many reasons, because I actually do have many.  ;)  This December, I'm certain, was my most hectic month ever.  I promise to tell you about it all in time.  Another blog post. I will say.... my whole month felt like this picture:


Our infinite blessings, "unwrapped" and given to us, yet they're cluttered and stacked, strewn all over the place... almost too many for me to even grasp and appreciate all at one time.  Kind of like my kids and their Christmas presents.  And me (ahem, the drooping tree) standing exhausted in the middle of the whole scene.  ;)  Does that make sense?  Life.  Husband.  Kids.  Work.  Photography.  A new business.  Friends.  Christmas.  Blog.  Shopping.  Decorating.  Housework.  Sleep (or my lack of.)  Just everything in general.  All amazing blessings, for certain.  But so overwhelming when they all beg to be opened at one time.

I've come to realize over the years that while I'm definitely a constant multi-tasker (in that I always have at least 5 plates juggling at once), when I really need to crank out a project, I just have to shut down most things around me in order to focus on the one most important one.  That was the case with my December.  So sorry, dear blog.  You were left out in the cold.  Kind of like that stray red stocking up there, that somehow ended up on the door handle.  LOL!

In any case, I'm so thankful for the fresh start that January promises, and that I have actually made it through the other side of 2010.  As my sister said yesterday, "I'm claiming 2011 as my year!"  And I'm doing just that, right along with her.

Thank you to the sweetest clients in the world, who made it possible for me to make a living doing something I very much love, again this past year.  It's a real blessing to be able to wake up every day and know that I'm in the right place.  I'm where I'm supposed to be.  No matter how hectic the day turns out to be, it's absolutely positively worth it.

Happy New Year, friends.  I hope your 2011 is amazing for you.  It's certainly going to be amazing for me.


Only 33 More Days Until I Get To Do This...

sleep It's been a crazy season so far!  I have lots of client sessions to post here on the blog, and I'll be back soon with a few beautiful families to show off.  But this afternoon, I thought this photo was fitting to share with you... especially my fellow photographers who are likely desperate for a good solid nap these days... as am I.  I won't be napping anytime soon, but I count it a blessing that so many sweet families have continued to commission me again this year for their holiday portraits.  I'm grateful for the hectic schedule, despite the hectic schedule.  ;)

Now back to the photo... couldn't you just kiss those peachy, little baby toes??  This was taken one recent weekend morning in Mama and Daddy's bed, shot at f/2, 1/200 and ISO 3200.  Yep.  Love my Nikon.  And my sweet, sleepyhead girl.

Hmm, now I need another cup of coffee.

34 Things I've Learned

I'm turning 34 today.  And I cannot think of a better place to be in my life.  I've been so blessed, not with so much material things (although we have our fair share of "stuff", don't worry) but with things that money cannot buy.  For my Five on Friday today (and to make up for being so horribly slack on the past few Fridays where you've literally gotten Zero on Friday, lol) I'd like to submit my 34 Things today.  34 Things That I've Learned in 34 Years on this great green Earth.


So here goes...  Bless you if you're patient and read them all.  ;)  Bonus points if you nod your head in agreement with any of them.

1|  I did not need to look for love.  It found me.  Quite a surprise, actually, but that's how the best things happen, don't you think?  When you're not trying too hard?

2|  Never regret mistakes you've made.  All of the mistakes I've made (especially the embarrassing ones) have taught me a lesson, and my experiences in life have shaped me into the woman I am today.  I wouldn't want to be anyone else right now, even if I had the opportunity.

3|  Don't wait to tell that person you love them.  We are never guaranteed tomorrow.  Say it today, even if it takes a lot of effort on your part.  Do it anyway.

4|  Take pleasure in small things.  Really, the very smallest.  They can have the biggest impact on your attitude.

5|  Don't forget where you came from.  See, you can take the girl out of Kentucky.  And even if she chooses not to make her life there as an adult, it doesn't mean that she doesn't love the people who raised her from the bottom of her heart, or that she doesn't appreciate the lessons she learned as a girl, the values that were instilled in her, or that she doesn't close her eyes every once in a while and remember the way the cool bluegrass felt under her bare feet.  You can never, ever take the Kentucky out of the girl.  And really... why would you want to?  :)

6|  Giving someone something you made with your own hands feels wonderful.

7|  Giving someone something you bought with your own hard earned money feels wonderful too.

8|  If your children cannot get along with each other, take my mother's example.... make those kids share a room.  My two sisters and I can attest (multiple times) that this method works wonders.  The two that are arguing most will spend so much darn quality time together that they'll have no choice but to get along.  And possibly gang up on the other sister, resulting in then sharing a room with her instead.  I slept with a pillow behind my back for months after I moved from my parents' home.  That full-sized bed seemed so big after sharing it with a sister for years.  :)

9|  If you do have siblings, thank God for them every day.  (Even when you're sharing a room.)  Because one day, when you are pregnant with your first child, one of them will change her airline flight every day for two weeks to make sure she's at your side on the very day you give birth.  And on your 34th birthday, the other one will go and do something like this and make you sob like a baby.  Truly, I am the luckiest girl in the world for growing up with such sweetness in my life to this day.

10|  Enjoy what each season brings.  Snow.  Crisp leaves.  Warm sand.  Soft grass.  Someday you might move to Florida and beg for soft grass and crisp leaves, instead of crisp grass and soft leaves!  (New Florida transplants are raising their hands right about now, cringing at being barefoot on St. Augustine grass.)

11|  Be grateful for opportunities that come your way.  I believe that everything happens for a reason, and I know that one choice can alter a life completely.  So glad for the choices that have altered mine.

12|  As far as birthday gifts go, there isn't anything better than a homemade card from your babies, and for your husband to take you out to dinner so that there is no prep or cleanup involved.  I need nothing more to be happy than my sweet family.  No jewelry can outshine those handmade crafts and some quality time.

13|  Songs can bring back wonderful memories.  And sad ones.  And funny ones.  (And for the record, I really miss mixed-tapes.)  :)

14|  A venti peppermint mocha can brighten the cloudiest of days (y'all knew I'd sneak a Starbucks in there, didn't ya?).

15|  Cherish friendships like they are gold.  Platinum, even.  Nurture them and be thankful for those special people in your life.  True friends are rare these days.

16|  There is always enough time for one more kiss before bed.  Or two more.  Or ten more.  Be grateful they want that affection from you, and give it freely.

17|  Lying in the sun, on a warm beach, and being able to relax so deeply that you fall asleep.... is a glorious thing.  Unless you're a mother.  If your children are with you on that beach, you know that you can't take your eyes off them for a second.  But watching your children laugh when the surf laps their toes, or watching them chase seagulls until everyone on the beach is laughing too, is a glorious thing in and of itself.  And so much more amazing than any hour of slumber on the sand.

18|  Speaking of slumber, when you bring your baby home from the hospital, heed the advice of those wise mothers who say, "Sleep while the baby sleeps."  Seriously.  Those dishes can wait.

19|  The sound of a newborn baby's first cry is quite possibly the sweetest sound in the world.  Fall in love with it.  For when they are two years old, they begin to whine on a constant basis and it's not so sweet anymore.  (Not that I know anything about that, of course.)

20|  Never forget to say, "thank you".  And, "please".  And most importantly, "I'm sorry".  Even when it's not your fault.

21|  Have at least one go-to dinner menu with all those ingredients consistently in your pantry.  Learn how to bake a homemade birthday cake, from scratch.  Find out what his absolute favorite recipes are, and perfect them.  Memorize the number for your local pizzeria just in case none of the above turns out well.  ;)

22|  There is beauty in light, and in shadow.  And you cannot have one without the other.  Learn to love them both equally.

23|  Even when you have no makeup on, your hair is a mess, and you haven't had a shower all day, your children still think you're beautiful and they love you anyway.  This isn't a trick.  It's a gift that God gives us to make up for #17 above.

24|  If someone offers to help you, by all means, let them help.

25|  If you see someone who needs your help, and you're able to, then by all means, help them.

26|  Most men (ahem, husbands, to be specific) want you to tell them exactly what you want.  Subtlety is a complete waste of your time and energy.  Be very kind about it, but tell them exactly what you need from them.  Write it down if you have to.  (Trust me on this one.  Otherwise, you'll end up with a Lane Bryant gift card for Christmas when you are a size 2.  That was a fun return.)

27|  A Daddy will never forget if someone has broken the heart of his daughter.  Mamas don't forget either.

28|  You can never have too many books.  Always too many toys, but never enough books.

29|  Chocolate should be eaten often and without apology.

30|  The best thing you can spend on your children is TIME.

31|  When your kids are sick, just take it for granted that you're going to get sick too.  Take an extra dose of vitamins and then curl up with them on the couch.  Do not hold back attention and touch from them; snuggles are the best medicine and it will make you both feel better anyhow.

32|  God will not give you more than you can bear.  Rather, no more than He can help you bear.  You're truly not alone.

33|  Love what they love.  Learn their love language and speak it to them.  Spend time doing things that they think are important, not necessarily what you think is.  Everything is significant.

34|  Try something new.  Even if it is five states away and means you'll have to sacrifice something you love.  You never know what wonders await when you leap without knowing if the net is there.

Maybe next year I'll have 35 Things to share with you.  ;)