Ana + Vivian + Eleanor. Mother and daughters and the house that has held their family as they've grown. These walls watched as each child was born, took their first breaths, first steps. They are moving on now. But this place has been their home, the place they first became mother and daughters, and so, we documented all the love it has held.
Dexter Nissim is truly a miracle baby. His parents, Lisa and Eric, weathered the darkest of storms before their rainbow baby came along. Lisa lost her first precious daughter, Celia Jane, due to complications during her birth. That loss was devastating, as any mother can imagine. And Celia's presence has been preserved in so many beautiful ways by her mother - tattooed across her skin are her baby's tiny footprints, and framed upon the walls of their home are photographs of Celia, Lisa kissing her brow in the tenderest, anguished mother-love.
It was a few years after the loss of Celia that Lisa and Eric fell in love. They have known each other all their lives, and their mothers were best friends before either of them were born. They grew up together, went to school dances together, dated each others' friends and were in each others' first weddings before the stars aligned for them to come together as more than just friends. They soon became pregnant, and welcomed the addition to their family with so much excitement and love. Devastatingly, their baby passed away in the womb halfway through their pregnancy due to Trisomy21 - another precious daughter. They named her Hazel Sarah.
After the death of Celia, Lisa had a special keepsake teddy bear made. This bear was designed especially for loss parents, and is weighted to the same birth weight of Celia. When Lisa and Eric lost Hazel, they had another bear, this one tiny and light, made to the weight of their second angel baby. Lisa says these bears were a comfort during the grief - something to hold, to feel, to carry and think of her babies she was missing so dearly.
When they first learned they were pregnant with Dexter, Lisa and Eric found out they were expecting twins. But a few weeks into the pregnancy they lost "Baby B", as they affectionately called their third little angel babe. This loss was again due to a trisomy21 disorder they believe. They held such hope throughout this pregnancy, longing for a healthy little one in their arms at last, waiting to learn whether their baby was a boy or a girl until the birth.
When Lisa reached out to me, just weeks before her due date, her story spoke deep to my mama heart and made me ache for her losses. I knew I wanted more than anything to give these parents a precious keepsake to commemorate their whole story - the joy of this pregnancy and the grief and hope leading up to it.
We met atop a grassy mesa, halfway to the mountains, just as the sun was beginning to rise and fill the sky with glorious purple clouds. Lisa was radiant, glowing amidst the tall grass. They brought so many symbols of the love they held for all of their babies. The keepsake bears, birth stone rings, a rainbow necklace and maternity gown. Celia Jane's handmade hospital blanket, which their Rabi had wrapped them in during their marriage ceremony to symbolize the uniting of their family. It was a most beautiful, most meaningful session.
It was a good thing we did Lisa's maternity photos the week that we did, because in the end Dexter decided to come two days later, a few weeks before he was expected!
Lisa emailed to say that their little one had arrived and was a healthy baby boy! Dexter Nissim. Their precious blessing. And exactly one week after we had photographed their baby inside the womb, we met again to document his first days outside.
Dexter is calm and mellow and has the sweetest baby face you ever did see. To watch his parents dote on him, knowing how they had waited and hoped and prayed for his safe arrival, it was so special.
Lisa nursed her precious babe, stroking his soft cheeks, his hair, commenting on how her very favorite part was when he would fall asleep at the breast and then snuggle up, small and milk-drunk. Eric held his son tenderly, marveling at his soft skin, his tiny ears. We all laughed at his funny baby grimaces and were in awe of how awake he managed to be for our photos.
As we finished our session, Lisa and Eric showed Dexter the wall filled with mementos of his big sister angel babies - their photos and name meanings, their birth-month flowers, their names carved into the sand. Lisa told him of their legacy, how they were loved, how their presence shaped their family. When I asked during our maternity session what Lisa and Eric wanted this baby to know about his big sisters, they said that most of all they just wanted him to know that they were here, they were loved, they are a part of their family.
What more beautiful legacy can you have for your family?
Lisa and Eric and little Dexter - so much love and blessings upon your sweet family! From your angel babies to your new little son, the love you share is abundant and beautiful. Thank you for allowing me in to document this season in your lives.
It was July and we were coming off a month of 120 degree temps. We were tired of the heat and tired of the desert and after a full week of Zack being out of town for school, a vacation seemed in order. True to form, my parents planned an exceedingly last-minute amazing getaway to Oceanside in California, and less than a day after Zack had returned from Idaho, we said farewell once again and the girls and I took off for California.
My brother Noah, sister Abby, Bea and I drove one car while my parents took Charlotte in the other. They got the better end of the deal, no doubt about it! Charlotte is a perfect angel of a traveler, and she fully enjoyed the ride, while Bea went back and forth between sleeping and crying and getting overly-tired and crying louder before falling asleep again. Several hours and many baby food pouches later, we arrived in balmy, beautiful Oceanside.
The beach was gorgeous, the weather was glorious, and though I got little sleep between Bea and Charlotte the coffee was plentiful and our spirits were up. We boogie-boarded and played in the waves, and went for lengthy beach walks each morning and at sunset. Bea hated the ocean but loved to eat the sand, and we couldn't keep Charlotte out of the water.
After their summers spent traveling (Alaska and the whole Pacific coast, respectively), Abby and Noah were both finally home and it was a fun all it's own just to spend some sibling time together. We sang, we laughed, we listened to podcasts, and they yelled at me for filming too much.
In all, it was perfect. More or less how any family vacation of ours has ever been - chaotic, unplanned, and wonderful.
After Beatrice was born we moved Charlotte into a big-girl bed and with that her room fell into perfect shambles. It had been teetering on the edge of mayhem for a while. Her play kitchen had no place; a random bookshelf I wished to keep but had no spot for was stuffed between her dresser and the wall, and a mishmash of toys from Christmas and birthdays began to accumulate thanks to my haphazard attempt at toy rotation. The new bed was the last straw. The room was a place I never wanted to be, and consequentially Charlotte spent little time there too. Poor girl! Does anyone else find themselves neglecting a room all together if it seems too disorderly and there isn't the time/money/desire to change it? Ugh.
Something had to be done, and something had to be done cheaply. One day I had enough and I pulled absolutely everything out of Charlotte's closet and purged and pruned and organized until things started to feel manageable again. I may have neglected the kids all morning, throwing food and movies at them intermittently, but in the end - success!
Then began a week of thrifting for baskets, discarding all manner of toys and clothing we didn't use or need anymore, and planning up the cheapest remodel I could. I bought a $12 gallon of white paint from Home Depot and painted one wall white, and then drew straight lines with a leveler and a pencil - you read that right, a good old pencil - to create a shiplap effect. Thank you, Pinterest. I heart you. The window throws a glare on the wall and makes it practically impossible to get a good photo of the shiplap lines, but I swear to you that they are quite visible in person!
The baskets in the closet cost me about $10 thanks to Goodwill 50% off days. Everything else came down to repurposing what we already had.
The mid-mod dresser we bought off Craigslist (total steal at $150!) while I was pregnant with Charlotte. The circle hanging basket and oil painting were Goodwill finds, and most everything else was here in Charlotte's nursery from when she was a baby. The granny square blanket I made during my pregnancy with her, and the America embroidered hoop was a thrifted find online.
Basically all other furniture and picture frames and lamps and curtains and, well, everything, is good old Ikea. The little doll cradle was handmade by Zack's grandfather for Charlotte and the garland is simply bits of eucalyptus and yarn. I put all of Charlotte's dresses in Bea's closet, which has made everything so much easier because I mostly go to one room to pick out their outfits for the day.
Everything has a place now in the closet. Kitchen toys and barbies and dress-up clothes. I picked up a couple of seriously inexpensive picnic and orchard baskets at thrift stores to keep everything in. Charlotte can clean up easily on her own and things don't go to disaster-town as often as they used to.
Clearly not everything is finished. There's a whole pile of leftover decor in the closet that didn't make the cut to Charlotte's new bedroom, and there's empty spots here and there on the walls, but overall the room feels fresh and clean and every single day my girls are begging to play in there together. Alone. And even five minutes of that is a win. #amirightoramiright?
I've known Jackie for many years now. She is the second oldest in the Ballam family of seven. Our families spent much of our childhood together - swimming and schooling and worshipping alongside each other, numerous trips to the Ballam cabin in Strawberry, learning to fish, playing charades, dancing to country music, and generally having the time of our kid lives.
As we all approached high school, the Ballams moved to their cabin in the mountains, and we saw a lot less of them over the years. Still, it was always an instant joy to see them when they came to town, and to hear more of what they were up to. Horses and western boots and a series of rabbits and instruments entered the picture. I'm fairly certain they could have had a family band. The Ballams were always the fun people - the family you knew really, truly loved each other, and genuinely enjoyed their time together.
We've all grown up now. Keeping in touch and seeing one another from time to time. It's amazing how those bonds of community and faith hold strong over the years. I watched Jackie + Austin's romance unfold from afar, over the mediums of social media and her sister's predictions of a wedding in the near future. They courted long distance - Austin going through schooling abroad and at West Point, Jackie going to school and continuing to love on her horse here at home in Phoenix, AZ. They had scattered time together here and there, and every moment was held precious because of the distance. They waited so very long for this day. It was truly such an honor to be asked to document these memories for them.
Jackie + Austin are the kind of couple that immediately seem complimentary. Her gracious and blithe charm, his quiet steadiness, the same face they share whenever they laugh - noses crinkled, smiling eyes. Their wedding day was sweet and simple in every good sense of the word. Beautiful sunflowers filling bouquets and gracing the pews of the church. Stained glass windows spilling puddles of light onto the ceremony below. Jackie and her bridal party wore cowgirl boots and line danced while they waited to walk down the aisle. Austin and his attendants watched calmly and cooly for their signal to start the show. The pews were full; soft piano music filled the air, and Jackie + Austin finally made their vows to a lifetime of love. Together.
Truly, there is very little I can put into words to sum up the beauty of Jackie + Austin and their wedding day. Their families and friends so full of joy, so glad to see this day finally come. The church and reception hall full to bursting with a tribe of people come to bless and support, whether their ties to the couple went back decades or mere months. Those vows that are so meaningful on the wedding day, but become ingrained deeper with each passing day and with every new trial and joy. The way a newly married man and woman hold each other beneath the wind and trees and dying day. The way love pervades distance and time and leaves only hope in its wake. Nothing can so fully capture an experience with honesty and emotion like a film. And so, why don't you just see for yourself?
Jackie + Austin, so many blessings upon your marriage! It was such a privilege to document your wedding for you. Thank you for allowing me to take part in this day, so long coming.
The in-between time, anticipating the end of our family of three and awaiting the beginning of something new.
Honest portraits. What real life, real love, truly looks like.
A love that skips stones and stays little hands that reach for too-big rocks.
A love that cradles a nursing babe and nestles tiny hands to lips.
Love that looks like lacing up small shoes and snatching kisses when you can and holding tight to one another beneath the moon while the kids go crazy because that's how life really is right now and that's just fine.
Honest family portraits. Matt and Ana and Vivian and Eleanor. Lakeside in the chill of a December desert, sun and moon both lending their light.
Documenting life as it is - with all its rugged difficulties, it's heartaches tempered by joy and upheld by love.
This is all I ever want to photograph.
Anastasia is a dear friend and fellow photographer. Her raw and meaningful work can be found here.