Category Archives: Personal

LaQuisha at Icon Studios

My journey continues with Wednesday’s Child Georgia and I wanted to share the images I did for LaQuisha’s special day.  This whole process has definitely forced me out of my comfort zone, personally and professionally.  On the professional side, I never know what the situation will be for pictures (lighting, atmosphere, timing, etc) and this day was very challenging.  The video guy and I were laughing about the room for the choreography segment – no windows, bright orange walls AND two sides were all mirrors.  But as we got into the groove, it all worked out and I could feel the joy in the room as LaQuisha danced.  On a personal side, meeting these kids and hearing their stories has challenged so much of what I ‘believe’ about the life I live.  In a world where it feels like we can never have enough, these kids don’t even have a family to love them.  LaQuisha has been moved in the system 30 times.  THIRTY TIMES!!!  She misses her mom.  She misses having a family.  She had some ‘behavior problems’ as they said in her interview — but WHO WOULDN’T?  It’s called survival skills.  You can listen to her Interview Segment on Fox 5 Atlanta here. The girl I met is beautiful and sweet.  She was so nervous when we arrived at the studio.  They asked her if she wanted to sing in the sound room, and she did, but I could tell she was still nervous.  After that we went upstairs to a dance room, and I could see the light of her heart shine through in her smile.  She loves to dance.  Her face lit up and she couldn’t hide her pride and happiness.  Everyone was clapping and high-fiving her.  It was so freakin’ awesome. My heart was bursting for her. Here are a few pics from the afternoon.  A couple of hours where LaQuisha (hopefully) felt loved, celebrated, special, unique, valued, and total worth spending time with.  WORTH EVERY SECOND.

  If you want to see more pictures, you can watch this video:

And for more information about LaQuisha and many other children that need homes, visit Wednesdayschildga.com

I have to remind myself (constantly) that I may not be able to change the world, but I CAN do SOMETHING.

XOXO

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Children

Hugs can do great amounts of good, especially for children.”  Princess Diana

A personal project that I have been thinking about for a very long time started yesterday — and what a fantastic start it was!   As a young adult, I didn’t know if I would have children.  I wasn’t even sure if I ever wanted to have them. But meeting my husband and finding peace and security in our love, allowed me to embrace the thought (and path) of parenting.  My children changed me.  Forever.  Not just because I am forever worried (about everything), but also because I felt my heart break open with compassion for so many others in the world.  It was like I realized that everyone, EVERYONE, was a child at one time.  It connects us all.  It connects the world.  Love connects everything.

The thought of helping children has been on my mind for quite some time and I wasn’t sure what to do about it.  I researched fostering, adoption, children’s homes, children’s hospitals.  How could I make a difference?  After attending a very inspirational conference in the Fall (Plywood Presents) and hearing the founders of Krochet Kids, Good Spread, BeLoved Atlanta, and Plywood People talk about “doing what they can with what they have”, it all started to become clear to me.  What I have is the skill of Photography.  And what I can do is share that skill with others.  But how?

After doing some research, it became clear that the kids right here in Atlanta needed some better photography on the adoption listings.  So I made some phone calls and emails and volunteered my services.  My first venture was to photograph two sibling pairs during the filming of Wednesday’s Child.  This is a joint effort with Fox 5 Atlanta, The Dave Thomas Foundation, and DFCS to help get exposure for these kids and raise awareness to the need for good homes.

From the moment I arrived at Chick-fil-A for the event, I was absolutely blown away by the attention to detail, the gracious hospitality, and genuine kindness of every.single.person.  Hundreds of staff members volunteered their time to greet these five children and treat them like the special people that they are.  There was a red carpet arrival, a full cheering section, a full-service lunch with made-to-order milkshakes, a grand tour of the whole building (including Truett Cathy‘s office), and even a serenade from Bubba Cathy himself!  I watched these kids start out shy and quiet, but as they felt the love and energy they just blossomed into fun-loving, bright, enthusiastic kids.  Just your normal, everyday, awesome kids.

But these kids don’t have a home.  They don’t have FOREVER parents that will hug them and tell them everything is going to be okay.

The hardest part is accepting that I can’t save every child I meet during this journey.  But I CAN do something.  This was the first step.  And I’m sharing this because EVERYONE can do SOMETHING.  If we all “do what we can with what we have,” I know we can accomplish so much.  And help so many little hearts.

Just look at all these beautiful people.  Thank you Chick-fil-A for showing these kids how special they are.

The red carpet arrival:

And Cow.  Yes, they just call him “Cow” (not ‘the’ cow).  He has some serious personality, and stayed with us for most of the day.  The kids adored him.

The lemonade squeezing contest!

There is a person in the staff cafe that JUST makes milkshakes.  Yes, I know, I’m jealous too.

The “good” rule ruler.

I could just feel the love and enthusiasm in the room.  What an inspiration he must be to the employees.

The beautiful faces of a very real, and very close to home problem.  They need forever families.  They need love, support, guidance, fun……home.

These siblings don’t even get to live together in Foster Care.  They need forever families so they can be together.

Some of the fantastic team that made it all happen!!

The heart-wrenching, but so inspiring farewell.  Staff from the entire building lined the floors and waved, cheered, and clapped for these kids.  Beautiful.

He started out shy, but after just a few hours he had the confidence to look up, to wave, to accept all the love.  And this is only one wall of people cheering – the building has goes all around (three sides) with people cheering.  It was really, really cool!

 

My goal is to show these children how beautiful they are, inside and out.  Through photography, I hope to capture each child’s personality and show it to the world.  All it takes is one person to make a difference.

National Sibling day is April 10th.  These children will be featured on Fox 5 Atlanta’s Wednesday’s Child segment on April 9th.  I hope you’ll watch and see how wonderful these kids are.

Click here to view a listing of previous Wednesday’s Child Fox 5 Videos.

And HERE is the segment we did at CFA.

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by Crystal

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Back to school AGAIN

And today it’s official, my baby boy is no longer a baby.  Sigh.  I never thought it would happen to me!  :)  I’ve never seen him so excited!  The morning was a breeze, he posed for all my pictures, he smiled the whole time (he wouldn’t stop smiling).  It was awesome.

I love….. MOMMY!!!!   YAY!!!!  :)

Kylie was chomping at the bit to be involved in Jake’s morning pictures.  I had to force her to go back inside for a few minutes.  Notice how he’s leeeeeeeaning away from her….

It’s funny to look at last year’s back to school post and see them standing next to each other.  Jake looks so grown up now.

Love these two.

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Monday Love – Home

A quote:  “Be grateful for the home you have, knowing that at this moment, all you have is all you need.”  Sarah Ban Breathnach

Something personal: We moved.  Need I say more?  We left our first family home of 8+ years and we are now renting a townhouse temporarily while we decide where to go next.  People often ask me why we moved, and it’s a multi-layered answer.  We loved our neighborhood and friends, and the location, but the schools are a problem (as most people know).  Jeff and I have also changed quite a bit over the last (almost) nine years of marriage.  We place less value in the things that use to be important (cars, clothes, shoes, jewelry, home theater, motorcycles), and more value in having less “things” and more quality time together.  We choose to spend our money differently (clean food, family vacations, more couple time) and we are trying to stay focused on how to best incorporate all of this into our lives.  Don’t get me wrong, I still drool over the Anthropologie catalog and Jeff points out every nice car on the road, but we’ve earned an A for effort!  :)  I’ve learned a lot during this move.  Mostly that a house, without your family in it, is just walls and a roof.  I miss having a bit more space and fewer stairs, but that’s about it.  I have everything I need (and more), and I still see my friends on a regular basis.  Downsizing is hard, but also liberating.  We are excited about the next chapter of our lives.

Which brings me to a personal project I’ve been working on.  Photographs used to be more expensive, and harder to have at your fingertips (remember film, developing, etc).  We didn’t take 100 pictures, just to pick the 5 that we love.  And so, with old pictures there is often lots of “background stuff” that tells more of the story (and holds so many memories).  I talk about this in My Love Story, and I’ve wanted to find a way to incorporate the importance of these kinds of images into my work.  I’m not saying that beautiful images at the park or a studio or not important, but I wonder what the memory behind those images will be.  Hopefully not the argument that happened between Mom & Dad just before arriving at the session.  (Did I say that out loud?)

So, I took some pictures of our normal everyday life during our last few weeks in our home.  I didn’t do any editing (I’m trying to embrace the fluorescent lighting and grainy quality) and I left most of the background in the images (yes, that means random shoes and toys all over the floor and un-matching sheets on the bed).  The result?  I love them.  Truly.  I could tell you a story about each one – and all the other things I see that aren’t in the pictures (namely, ME).  Here is a look into my world over the course of a couple days.  It’s kind of like being a fly on the wall – although I’ve never really wanted to be a fly.  ;)

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The family room.  What can I say, the place where we spent the majority of our time.  The place where we always took a family Christmas picture.  And right outside the front door, the place where I always took a picture of my kids on the first day of school.

And morning play time.  We love our lazy mornings playing games, wrestling, dressing up.  Kylie has had that winter hat for over 2 years now, and no matter where I put it, she finds it and wears it.

The curtains.  THE CURTAINS!  They took me two years to find during the time in my life when I became a stay-at-home-mom and didn’t know what else to do, and I love them (now they are in a plastic bag in storage).

The Superman pajamas.  We have an annual tradition to get new pajamas at xmas each year.  The kids and I picked out the Superman pants on a whim at Target – because Daddy is our Superman.

The Football.  Do you see it under Jake?  He still sleeps with it every night.  Awe.

This picture needs no words.  ;)

The kids’ rooms.

The curtains that I loved so much (and Jake pulled out each and every plastic stick that makes them pull up straight).

His table (from IKEA) that Daddy and I designed and painted together.

The mess.  Because I’m just keeping it real.

The legos (that both kids love so much), and Kylie’s green knitting bag (no idea where it came from, but it works).

The picture of her first birthday.  You know the one, where you invite all your friends and make a big deal and your kid has no idea what’s going on.

AND, the tissue box.  My kids are never far from a tissue box (If you look through all the pictures, you’ll see a tissue box in most).  It’s a James family thing – long story.

Daddy and Kylie doing meditation and “Rainbow Breathing” while Jake does gymnastics.  This is a normal scene at our house.  Anytime the rest of us want to do something quiet, Jake has other plans.

Our table.  The place we eat.  The place we say our “Gratefuls and Thank Yous”, and watch the birds.  The site of so many family meals and birthday celebrations.

And, of course, Dasher.  Always trying to get in on the action.

We love family games.  Sequence for Kids – AWESOME!

Friends that come to visit and warm my heart.

Giant puzzles on the floor (when we had floor space for giant puzzles).

The formal dining room turned play room turned craft room.  It has been so many things over the years.  In the end we just had an inexpensive IKEA table where we could draw, paint, play, and make forts to hide from the tickle monster!  And Dasher can watch from his tower.  But when I see this room I see all the years raising my babies.  The ball tent, the endless tracks, cardboard houses, legos, push toys, music instruments, and so much more. *sigh*

And through it all, our kids have been so resilient.  Loving our new house and excited about the adventure of it all.  I’m glad I have pictures our home (including the mess), from when it was built, all the way through until we moved out.  The stories and memories will last a lifetime.

 

 

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by Crystal

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Just for fun

 

Because sometimes, you just need to have a little fun!  In the midst of all the coughs, fever, and runny noses, these pictures make me smile.  I had to go to the studio for a few things, so I took the kiddos with me and we played around a bit.  No special set, no special clothes (I didn’t even do their hair).  I think I love them even more this way.  :)

Then we went to the square for a little walking adventure and play time.  Had to show their true little smiles.

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by Crystal

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