When Stephanie’s daughter lost her two front teeth, she knew it was a special fleeting time that she needed to have documented. During our session, she shared some of her thoughts with me around this milestone, and I asked if she would write them down so I could share them here. Stephanie and I had our daughters one month apart, and I’ve loved experiencing motherhood together with her from the first months of pregnancy. These words hit me hard as I know I will be looking at my own daughter’s toothless smile with bittersweetness sooner than I will be ready. Thanks so much for articulating this milestone so beautifully, Stephanie!
“It’s so beautiful. It’s just so beautiful!”
Those were the words that Mollie said over and over as we made our way through the Birmingham Botanical Gardens. Her joy was contagious and inspiring as she looked at every flower and tree with wonder. Mollie was diagnosed with cancer in the summer of 2016.
September is National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, so I thought it was an appropriate time to share this session I did with The Gold Hope Project, an organization that aims to aid research for rare pediatric brain cancer while raising awareness through photography.
Before I started volunteering with The Gold Hope Project, I did not realize that childhood cancer affects 40,000 kids in the US every year and that less than 4% of the National Cancer Institutes’ annual budget is accounted for childhood cancer research. Non profit organizations work to provide more funding, but more has got to be done for these children who have their entire lives ahead of them.
I really can not imagine what these children and their families experience as they fight through treatment and fight for a cure. Please go gold for the month of September and consider what you can do to help. Spread the word about The Gold Hope Project, donate a session, become a volunteer photographer, send a note of encouragement to a family affected by cancer. There are many ways to raise awareness. It matters.
From wake to sleep
I always like to start my year with an inspiring course that will challenge my growth as a photographer. For the final assignment of this year's course, The Documentary Approach, I had to do A Day in the Life of my own family. While I document my children every week as part of my Portrait of Play project, I had never photographed a day of our family life in its entirety. I went to bed with my camera beside me ready to wake up and capture the day as it happened all the way until bedtime. There was nothing special about the day. Nothing was scheduled, and we never even left the house. I took pictures like I would if I were photographing another family and also while nursing and vacuuming. It's safe to say that this is something I will continue to do every year as a way to record the things that stay the same and the things that change in our family life from year to year. The photos remind me of these things that I don't want to forget that define this time in our life:
-Winnie coming up to bed with us in the middle of the night every night. Waking up with her next to me.
-The furniture that James made for us that will be part of our life throughout the years.
-The exhaustion. Serious. Lack. Of. Sleep. Such is life when you have young children and you like to work until 2 am most nights.
-How much Roland loves James.
-The way my kids entertain themselves and me. My mom once said I should just record everything that happens here or stream it as a reality tv show. Their imaginations delight me.
-How Chuck sometimes wants to take showers by herself instead of baths with her sister.
-The little details that may go unnoticed to everyone else but are visually a part of our every day life: James' resistance band, the chalkboard wall, the rug, the coffee cups, the toys, the boxes from the car seats they will be in for the next several years, and the painting that is hanging in the girls' room. These are all things that make our house a home.
-The work that never ends, dishes, laundry, meals, pottying, nursing, changing, repeat, repeat, repeat.
-Atlas, the dog we had before we had kids, the dog who is not getting any younger.
This year has been rough. I mean, having three kids is crazy. In the same breath that I am already aching for the days I know I'll miss (that have not even passed yet), I am dreaming about 3 years from now when I will hopefully have more personal space, time to myself, and sleep. Because I know this day in our life will look different next year, I went ahead and printed these in a photo book so I could look at them without having to search through an old external hard drive to find them. My future self thanks me.
While I was able to include my presence in these photographs, I am very glad my dear friend Anda Marie will be taking photos of our family this month. My family through my lens is different than my family through the lens of another. Plus, I want to be able to see myself with my children, and I want them to see me with them. My future self thanks me for that too.
I'd love to spend some time in your home with your family. It doesn't have to be for a full day. You don't have to be at your prepregnancy weight. Your house doesn't have to be clean. Your kids don't have to behave. You just have to be you.