Hey! I'm Emily... homebody, amateur philosopher, professional photographer, mama and wife. This is my little world-- a place for me to preserve the little snippets of my life that bring me joy, make me think, or show my creative leanings. I'm so happy you're here. If you get a minute, please introduce yourself in the comments. If you like what you see, you are invited to follow my blog through your RSS Reader. Just click the link at the bottom of the page to add me.
Thank you for being part of my little world... :)

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Monday, January 23

Lucy Princess and Her Frog | St. Louis Children's Photographer

 Once upon a time......

But no, really-- once upon a time I found this GIANT green prince frog at Target as I was walking around with Joe. I don't think Lucy was even more than a baby at the time. And the frog was deeply discounted and just so silly and HUGE, and I had a sudden vision of my girl as a princess with this frog. So I bought him with the sole intention of doing a "princess and the frog" photo shoot with Lucy someday. 

Fast forward more than a few years:  I'd finally happened across a perfect dress and a sweet headband and I decided it was time. I talked it up to Lucy and she was cool with the plan. I waited til my boys were at my folks' house for their turn at summer "Grandparent Camp" so Lucy and I would have the house to ourselves. It was all going to be so perfect-- FUN and girly and a fulfillment of a vision I'd had long before. I even had one of my friends over to braid her hair since I'm not super great at french braiding.The scene was SET.

Except then Lucy decided right as I was ready to go that she didn't love this idea anymore. The dress was scratchy. She felt put on the spot. She didn't want to kiss a stuffed frog. 

Oh gosh. 

I just..... I mean.... really? Are you SURE, Lucy? I can't fake-cheerfully try to tell you why this is gonna be AWESOME and cute and FUN? *insert undercurrent of stressy mom-tographer frustration*

I took the dress back off of her and put a shirt and leggings on under it. Scratchiness minimized. I offered a whole list of possible bribes. I got her to at least sit in front of my camera. I tried to breathe deeply. And I tried to find that undercurrent of stress in myself and blow it away... tried to tap into a sincere empathy and understanding of my girl. Tried to find what it might take to help her lighten up and just.... participate a little, because she wanted to, and not just because I was begging.

 I tried to just talk to her.... To show her that I didn't need this to be precisely what I'd envisioned... that we could just hang out-- Lucy, the frog and I-- and maybe it wouldn't be so bad. I went inward and made myself let go of what I thought this shoot should've "looked like." I just took it slower and took photos of whatever was actually happening with her as we talked. 

 And even then, we still had some moments of reluctance and even a few more tears (she REALLY didn't want to kiss the frog. Oh, Lucy- but it's SO CUTE! And not even slimy!)... But I found myself drawn into her wide eyes, and her softer expressions as a result of her mood being a little melancholy. She was still the loveliest little princess, and I still loved these moments. 

 A little more talking through it, and we got our kiss. And it wasn't even terrible, right, Lucy? 

And finally, a real smile... my happy Lucy, right at the end. 

So even though it wasn't exactly what I thought it would be, we had a sweet, tender, learning experience in the less than 15-minute session we did here. I got to take photos in spite of her mood, and she got to have a mama who worked at relaxing the control and stress, and we both ended with smiles. And then we promptly ditched that dress and got her back into play clothes and had a great rest of the day-- some art-making, some "Magic School Bus" watching, and even a trip to the swimming pool together in the afternoon, just being mermaids together. (I told you this was once upon a time... back in August, to be precise!!)

I hope as the years go by, my kids appreciate the photos... but also remember that sometimes I succeeded at turning off the "photographer bossy stress face" and remembered to just try to listen and talk and laugh a little as we did our photos together. 

Wednesday, January 18

Quinn Turns Four

This little stinker.... Quinn Atticus Southerland, is four years old today. 

On the one hand, I feel that bittersweet pang that my little toddler kid is officially not a toddler anymore... But. Today as I was thinking about this past year, I remembered that for so much of his third year, he was kind of a pill. I mean, the DAY he turned three last year, the Terrible Threes kicked in full force and we had a yell-y, defiant, emotional argumentative kiddo on our hands. It was a full 180 from his sweet two-year-old-ness. So yes--- I will miss his baby face and him being small and being my baby. But.... ya know? As he's grown out of that "terrible three" thing, I've seen more and more things I already love about him turning 4. He's more empathetic, he's getting more aware of facts and knowledge of the outside world... he is honing his inner world of imaginative play... He's pretty neat. 

Quinn today:
  1. Is still passionate about trains. He has a radar for all things "train" and we've all refined that radar in ourselves because of it. That boy can find trains just about anywhere. Even if you (yes you) swear you don't have any in your house, he'll find one for sure. If not a toy, then a photo in a book or on a mug or in a movie. It's uncanny. 
  2. His favorite color is green. 
  3. He loves to say potty and body words, and we are constantly trying to instill in him when such things are appropriate and when they are not. *eyeroll*
  4. He has been moved into the "bunk room" with Noah and Lucy and they're actually doing pretty great! Not as much bickering as I expected... and really the biggest instigator of "post-bedtime chatter" is Lucy. I think he loves being a "big kid."
  5. Has these deeeep dark brown eyes, no gold behind the brown at all. They're hypnotic! 
  6. Has a binkie overbite that makes his smile so big and so contagious. 
  7. Loves LOVES to laugh and make others laugh, and his laugh can get so uncontrollable that it makes all of us join in.
  8. Has caught the "screen time" bug and asks to "play games" (play on the iPad) ALL THE TIME. I have to be careful not to give in (because it's easy!) and to try to foster a variety of things for him to do.
  9. Is in preschool two days a week and is apathetic at best about it. He already has learned to plead "I too sick to go to school!" at his young age, and tries it on me EVERY day we have to go.
  10. Is great at lots of things (Minecraft, jumping on the bed, Legos, poop jokes) but is pretty weak at writing and drawing. He has wimpy fine motor abilities. I hope he gets it figured out soon. His wispy attempts kind of worry me sometimes. 
  11. This kid is a whiz at lyrics and loves to sing along to songs. 

I know there are more details... but it's been a long day already, and I am almost brain dead... But for now... Enjoy the photos, taken just a week ago, and if you need more Quinn for your Quinn fix, here are some fun links to past birthdays of my fella.... so you can see for yourself how quickly this all goes by, how big he already is, and just how sweet and handsome my little dude is. 

Monday, January 9


I'm not chained to the notion that I need to make yearly New Year's Resolutions. There are years I don't really think too much about it, and years I have all sorts of get-up-and-go and make lists and pretty journal pages and everything. And there are years that the overwhelming hunger for change and renewal happens mid-year-- a random hot July day or something. There is no pattern, really.

I think I've experienced enough disillusionment with my own passion for real change that when I get that bug-- that itch and hunger to start making lists of things I want to try, things I want to change, things I want to improve upon, things I want to fix and make and throw away.... I immediately feel cynical, and I try to shrug and say, "Well, resolutions don't really work anyway, so..."


There's something really cool about giving in to that itch and letting the lists come. Pouring out all those ideas that have suddenly come, freeflowing, to my mind and heart and soul. And maybe what I need to tell myself when the doubt and cynicism try to plug up that flow of thought is that there is a gift in just the wanting of change. That there is something happening within me that needs to be recognized and honored. And even if those lists and notes and impassioned paragraphs I write don't end up amounting to much in the long run... if I once again fail to remain disciplined or passionate about those things... If real life creeps back in and I fall back into old tired patterns... Well, there is still a gift in having those times where the excitement comes readily. And maybe, just maybe, each time I have that drive to TRY, there is some actual growth happening. And even when I fall back to old patterns, maybe I'm just a little better, a little further along than I was before.

All that to say, I've been pretty dormant in the "Lets Make Plans and Resolutions" department for a while now. But as 2016 has rolled over to 2017, I am feeling that old hunger awaken. I am feeling that tickle for NEW WAYS and new thoughts and new plans. I am feeling stiff and dusty and ready to stretch and try some new things. I've found myself trying to tamp it down--- that old cynicism whispering, "Why bother?" But the universe keeps sending more signals that maybe its time to have faith that there really are things I can work on and find satisfaction in trying to change. A class here, an online challenge there... a friend recommending an empowering discourse I should listen to. And it's time for me to just give in and let myself feel excited. Feel inspired. And start moving in the direction it all seems to be pushing me. 

Funnily enough, the things I want to work on aren't really tangible... nothing any of you would probably even notice. I want to get rid of the old-- old ideas and crutches... old STUFF in my garage... Old hangups. And I want to work on actively seeking inspiration. Being ACTIVE in my own life overall, really. Not just passively watching and waiting for these motherhood "trenches" to get easier. Ha! I hear they don't ever get easier. So I don't want to waste any more time making excuses and "waiting". I want to live with intention again. Oh, and I want to learn to cook good beef. Really, that's the only major external, tangible goal for 2017. Ha ha! 

In seasons past, I've wanted to MAKE ART and FINISH PHOTO BOOKS and SEW MORE and do COUCH25K and on and on... and those wishes haven't gone away... I still want all those things. But they're not what's "itching" right now. And maybe if I go back to the basics... tackle my foundations first, then maybe those more surface wishes will more readily find their way to my life. 

I feel good. Excited. Hopeful. Nervous. I haven't felt this raw and unsure in a long time. I thought I'd figured myself out for the most part. But it turns out you're always relearning. And I'm back at the beginning again, ready to be retaught. 

Maybe you're feeling it  too? What does the beginning of this new year feel like for you? Are you more on the side of "why bother?" or are you feeling like you're ready for radical change? What are you wanting to do about it?

Regardless of how our paths may differ or cross, here's to a new year and new adventures ahead. I feel hopeful, for all of us. 

(photo of Larkin and Fiona unrelated to today's topic. But we can always use more "cute" in our day, so there ya go. Taken October 2016.)

Saturday, January 7

Larkin at Four Months

 Larkin at Four Months:
  1. Well, first of all, I did NOT give this girl permission to turn four months old. I begged her and begged her to stay three months older just a little longer... It's been such a sweet, sweet age, and I am already worried I'm forgetting it all too quickly. Stay tiny a bit longer, Larkin Clementine. *sniff*
  2. But since December 30th came and went, I suppose I can give a list of my girl's current tricks and activities. 
  3. First, she is 11 lbs 13 oz and 23.5 inches long. She is maintaining her tiny growth curve of 7%, and thriving well, so no worries there! 
  4. Larkin has found both her hands, and her hands have found each other, so they grab at each other and make their way to her mouth all day long.
  5. She is getting really good at grabbing at toys and things. They make their way to her mouth, too. 
  6. She's on the edge between 4 oz bottles and 6 oz bottles... I think she's currently in a growth spurt, actually. 
  7. She really only nurses during our second-half-of-the-night co-sleeping, so while Id normally be ready to transition from that couch co-sleep thing to a crib full-time, this time I'm feeling reluctant to end our sweet second-half-of-the-night snuggles. I know it will be the end of nursing, and I'm not ready. She and I are both really content with the status quo. 
  8. Larkin loves the "baby in the mirror" and anyone holding her in that mirror, too. 
  9. She is so happy and engaged when she's on her playmat. She manages to scoot herself all over the place within that small area, even without rolling just yet. 
  10. Larkin smiles, coos, and half-laughs, especially at her siblings. The other kids are really finally interested in her and have merged her into their worldview at last. Like, she's passed muster and is one of them. ♥
  11. She is wearing 0-3mo clothing and some NB pants, still, but is creeping out of both of those things... still almost too small for 3-6mo, but the current set of clothes are getting snug. She is in size 2 diapers, though she does still fit size 1 if needed. 
  12. Larkin is still swaddled and still sleeps in her rock n play, and I know its time to transition her out of both of those things... But she's SO predictable and wonderful with both, and we don't have her crib set up yet, and I'm dreading the rocky transition we're probably in for, and so I kind of just push it all to the back burner. Ack. 
  13. Same with her binkie. She loves it... she does better with it... but she doesn't keep it in well still, so I still "scarf" it in. But once I take away the swaddle, I cannot scarf it in anymore-- too dangerous to have that loose fabric around her with her able to roll and pull it and such. So once the swaddle is gone, it's gonna be "binkie fall-out" drama every time, and.... ugh, I get knots in my stomach thinking about it. Back Burner'ed there, too. 
  14. (Ha! I just reviewed her month 3 post and these issues were mentioned then, too, so CLEARLY it's something I am stewing over. And not yet ready to do anything about. Sorry for the repeat!)

She's just such a good baby. As textbook and predictable as I could have hoped for... When she fusses, I know why. And when she is fed and rested, she is just happy and chill and sweet. If I could keep here RIGHT HERE, just for a few more months... No need for her to learn rolling or sitting up or how to sleep without a swaddle or binkie... No need for teeth or a high chair and baby food.... That can all wait a while longer. I want her just like this, for another few months. Let me really soak it in, so that none of it fades from me because new things keep happening to overwrite the current things. I want to memorize every single thing about her right now. I want the muscle memory of holding her, both when I rock her to sleep and when I play with her during her awake times. I want my littlest one, my youngest, my last to stay here, like this, until I know for certain I've soaked it all in. And then she can grow a bit. But then I want my 6-month old Larkin, then 9-month-old Larkin, and 1, and 2 and 3, and 4-year old Larkin to keep giving me more time than is humanly possible, for each age, each stage... She is my last, and I want to hold on and slow down and breathe it all in before it's completely different. 

But I know I don't get to make that call. And I know it's already changing so fast. Not just with her, but with my other babies. And so I continue to take photo after photo and little silly video clips and I hope its enough.... to help me remember when everything is yet again completely changed. Ah, the curse of being so deeply sentimental. A beautiful burden. ♥

Enough of that melancholy... Here are the rest of Larkin's 4-month images, with her many faces, her kicky legs, and her cute little fists that grab at each other and find her mouth again and again. Enjoy!

(Photos taken on Larkin's amazing bird quilt made by my friend Melanie Hess of Thoroughly Modern Minis, on Etsy. See her 1 month photos HERE, her 2 month photos HERE, and her 3 month photos HERE! )

Saturday, December 31

Emily Southerland Photography: 2016 In Review

I'm sitting by the glow of my Christmas tree, holding a sleeping baby in the ring sling and compiling one favorite image from every session I shot this year.... and it's been a quiet and warm-fuzzy way to spend some of my New Year's Eve. I shot a bit less this year because of Larkin's arrival, but not much less! I think this amounts to 52 separate shooting occasions... (Well, and while I only shared two of Larkin's posed newborn images, I did her photos over several days, so if we counted each of those separately, the number 52 would be higher.)

I feel incredibly lucky to get to do this as a way of helping support our family. It's not a full-time gig, and it's not a full-time salary, for sure... but it helps. And I feel so much joy and satisfaction in doing it, time after time, year after year. I am not ever going to be one of the best... But I still grow a little every year in my art and in my ability to see into the heart of the people I get to photograph. I love real emotion, I always love the vivid close-up above any other pose/setup, and I still tend towards safe, clean flat light as my default... though I am always trying to push myself to get uncomfortable and grow. I love every age and stage of the children I photograph, and I love the unique challenges and idiosyncrasies that go with those ages. And I'm still a fast-talker, fast-shooter, slow emailer. (*oof. So lame.)

So here's to another year of Emily Southerland Photography (my eighth, if we go by my business license start year!!). Thank you, clients and friends. I love you guys. I love getting to be a part of your family's story, sometimes more than once. 

Please enjoy my favorites from every session, January through just yesterday (an end-of-year wedding!) including any that I shot of my own kiddos this year. Do you see anyone you know? Do you have any favorites? I'd love to hear!

Sunday, December 25

Merry Christmas From Us!

First, here's our Christmas card this year....featuring photos from big cameras and phone cameras, and the talents of my friends Erin Duggin and Kate Benson. I love how in nine photos, it tells our year's story pretty well. 

Second, here are photos from earlier this month, with the help of Erin Duggin again. It was a happy day in early December, and we headed to go pick out our fresh fir tree right after this little minisession.

Third, I had time and a wild hair yesterday, so I wrangled my four (four?! Four!!) kids into some quick, "come as you are, except let's add a hat" Christmas snaps. I'm so delighted with what we got. They're cute, they're real, they're basic, and they are TOTALLY THEM right this moment. 

Merry Christmas, my beloveds. If you're reading this, trust me: I cherish you. Feel free to leave a comment even if you are a lurker coming out of the woodwork. I'd love to wish you a specific and personal happy new year. Here's to the year that grew Larkin and completed our family. Onward to new ideas and fresh plans for 2017. Much love from us!!