2017 Year in Review for Emily Southerland Photography

Monday, January 22, 2018

2017 was a wonderful year for Emily Southerland Photography. Always just the right amount of clients to keep me busy, but not overwhelm the tentative balance of my family's rhythm (usually). Always a steady stream of newborns to coo over and snuggle, between the families, the babies, the kids,  and the handful of incredibly awesome seniors I see each year. And always one or two weddings (usually of people I love enough to break my "I don't do weddings" rule for!). 

I'm grateful for my clients. For the ones who trust me the first time, and most especially for the ones who come back, time and again, and still find my work has value for them. I love my work of trying to draw out authentic smiles and real interactions. I love being able to help my clients tell a piece of their story through photographs. 

I'm not yet hungry for more. More acclaim, more recognition, more referrals, more work. I'm not yet itchy to change my path... my prices, my style, my equipment. Hopefully that doesn't feel stagnant to any of you out there... because for me, it feels like if I continue to do exactly what I've been doing for a while now, I still have so much room to grow and to learn and to listen to. I think there is still a place for me to find fulfillment, right where I'm at. I hope that rings true in the images I share. I hope my photos of other people bring as much joy to them as my own photos of my family bring to me. 

It is good work to be doing, and I am forever grateful that I get to continue along this path. 

Happy 2018! Will I be seeing your family this year?

The Bunkroom: Three Kids Sharing One Bedroom

Friday, January 19, 2018

 I have this lofty dream-- a dream of one day having a big barn in my backyard, and in that barn, a long room decked out to be a bunkhouse for visiting cousins, or a gaggle of my girlfriends out for a crafty weekend. It's a long shot-- maybe it'll never come to pass. But somewhere along the years of my life, that long room and a vision of a row of beds has stayed with me, charming and cozy and social and inviting. 

So when Larkin joined our family, and I had the choice to ditch our guest room to use as a child's bedroom, or to put Larkin in the current "baby room" occupied by Quinn and just toss Quinn into the room already occupied by Noah and Lucy, that bunkroom concept suddenly became relevant in an immediate way. Maybe I'll never have my posh barn and allll sorts of lovely space for a row of guest beds. But when I stood at the doorway of this fairly long, sloped-ceiling bedroom that my two older kids shared, I could instantly see that if I planned it just right, I could fit Noah's extra-long twin bed and Lucy and Quinn's toddler-sized beds into the space just like a bunkroom. 

It would be a full room, but if I worked on unifying the three kids' areas with similar items (lamps, shelves, quilts, etc.) and maximized storage with some IKEA shelving on the opposite wall, I knew I could manage the space and the kids' toys/books/tchotchkes  without it feeling overwhelmingly crowded. Never mind managing the post-bedtime shenanigans of THREE in one room-- I knew we could at least try this out before resorting to giving up our guest room. 

 My goals, then, when getting all of this set up, were first to work on making matching patchwork quilts that would work for a girl and two boys. Second, to take advantage of my local IKEA to get shelving for the opposite wall to corral the many many books and stuffed animals in my kids' lives. And lastly to find a way to keep their nightstand/shelf areas small and manageable, with similar lamps and other items to keep things looking intentional and uniform, but still give them space for their personal treasures they like to keep close. 

I'm so pleased with their final room, and would love to take you on a tour of all the details. But please listen to me now: These photos are 100% planned and STAGED, with only their cutest toys out and the raggedy junk they won't let me throw away (you know what I'm talking about. Surely your kids have all sorts of junk "treasures" too. Surely.) hidden strategically from view. Please know this: their beds almost never get made, much to my quilt-loving dismay. They somehow manage to unearth 500% more junky treasures every single night between bedtime and morning, and these "treasures" end up in the aisles between the beds, and it's a never-ending battle to re-corral this capital-S Stuff.

Noah's books are usually stacked pell-mell (and with little regard for their covers) in the shelves next to his bed, waiting for his next bedtime perusal of them in random order. 

Lucy's nightstand usually has scraps of art and "maker's" odds and ends cluttering each shelf, as well as her current favorite Beanie Boos and other stuffed animals scattered about. Often there are a few costume pieces nearby as well. 

And Quinn likes to take out ALLL his trains and vehicles to play with and leave next to his bed, and has taken to also liking to have 10+ books surrounding him as he falls asleep. 

All of this has been tucked away for "photo shoot day." 

This bunkroom is my "ideal"-- the way I planned it, the way I envisioned it, and the way I know it will never actually be on a daily basis. But I decided that because I dreamed it, I get to stage it for pretty photos, even if it's a reality only in my mind. 

Anyway.... Here, a cleaned-up version of my kids' worlds, beginning with Noah's area:

 Noah still has Old Mai, and cherishes him as much as ever. He is usually not to be found upstairs during the day, in fact. Noah usually brings him down for breakfast, then tucks him somewhere to wait for him while he goes to school... a window, a chair somewhere... It's sweet. 

 Noah has endless books.... And as much as I'd love him to be a total fiction geek, he's still really in love with non-fiction books and comic strip books like Calvin and Hobbes. But he's reading more fiction as he grows older, and it's a lovely mix of everything on his shelves. He also loves to draw and write, so there are almost always notebooks and pens somewhere near his bed.

Next is Lucy's area. So yes--- she is still in a toddler bed. We actually do have another XL twin mattress out in the garage. The day will come when she is ready for something bigger like that. But for now, she sleeps curled up and loves to be cozy, and has never had a problem with her current bed. So for now, we maintain the status quo. And it DOES fit the room better for now. 

 Lucy also still cherishes her lovey, her Bunny Bunny. But Bunny Bunny usually stays in bed all day, ready for snuggles at the end of the day and not getting field trips to the downstairs much.
 Lucy enjoys stuffed animals and little tote bags and pieces of costumes and dressing her critters up in doll clothes. She looks at books, and now that she's officially a reader, she is bringing readable books to bed with her, which is so neat. She's also come to appreciate the value of a water bottle and some chapstick on her nightstand, so she usually has those items near as well. 

(Her gemstone book was one of her favorites last summer because of the cartoon Steven Universe, where many of the characters had gemstone names. I love when little things like that provide a gateway to more knowledge!)
Both Lucy and Quinn have these neat book holders from IKEA at the foot of their beds. They fit perfectly, and I try to remind them that they can put their books there when they're done with them... but they rarely remember to do so. Oh well.  

Onward to Quinn's space:
 Yeah... that's a poop emoji pillow. Over the last two years, I've frequently said of Quinn that his passions are trains, the color green, and potty words. Even as he's about to turn five, I can honestly say that still holds. This absurd pillow was a Christmas gift to him last year from his Aunt T and Uncle Steve, and it fits him perfectly. And yes, Quinn also still adores his lovey-- the polka-dotted taggie blanket he got from the hospital when he was born. 

 Quinn loves trains. And Wall-E. And many other vehicles. His nightstand basket(s) are full of random Hot Wheels and train cars and airplanes and diggers, as well as random robots and Happy Meal toys, etc. It's heaven. And he will often empty those baskets instead of going to sleep and I'll come in later to find him sleeping on a minefield of sharp metal parts that I then have to try to tidy up for him so he doesn't roll onto something really painful later and wake me up. 

Moving on the the opposite side of the room, you will see the long, low IKEA shelving that we got that fits the space incredibly well, while still leaving room for the dress-up  cabinet Joe and I prepared for them several Christmases ago. 

My goal over here is to try to keep the shelf tops as clutter-free as possible. In a crowded room like this, that kind of thing can add to the chaos really quickly. So I try to help the kids contain their stuff to the shelves below. 

Each kid gets 2-3 cubicles for their own treasures and stuffed animals, and then the remaining cubicles are for the shared book library. We have too many books, but that's a happy dilemma, so I try not to fuss too much about the extras that inevitably end up spilling out. Noah actually gets 5 full cubbies, but that's because for now, his books are his alone, until his siblings can catch up to that reading level. I imagine one day many of his books will integrate into the family library as he leaves them behind.

 And that's the bunkroom! Cleaner here than it ever will be again.... But even in its real life state, it's bright and light and warm and cozy and welcoming. The kids are happy here, and for the most part, they're not too terribly naughty and loud at bedtime. In fact, I think sharing the room together has helped Lucy and Quinn grow closer. They can often be busted "after hours" for playing and talking to each other when they should be settling down to sleep, and there is a delicious conspiratorial air between them when I poke my head in to give them the "mom face" and tell them to stop talking and go to bed. 

 I have visions of filling this doorway wall with metal and cardboard and other 3-D alphabet letters all over, a full A-to-Z display... and I have maybe 45% of the needed supplies... But we'll see if I gather fresh steam for a new project in here. Til then, the open walls help keep the open feeling needed in a crowded room, and it's all good. 

A close-up of the dress-up cabinet. As Lucy plays less and less in here, I cross my fingers tightly that Larkin will take up that mantle and use the heck out of this fun collection of costumes and accessories. And then, we'll probably keep a lot of it for "someday" visions of grandkids. Dress-up is marvelous. 
And last photo, for fun-- a real life reminder that three kids in one room is not great when it comes to storage--- that poor plastic dresser squeezed between two full-size dressers is where I have to cram Quinn's clothes.  And as he gets older, his clothes get bigger, and there will soon not be enough room in here for all three kids' clothing. But for now, it's (kind of) working. But the inside of the closet is hideous and that's real life. Also, shoutout to the #hesspukebowl. Haha.

Thanks for joining me on this fantasy tour of the bunkhouse I'll never have, in the form of a bunkroom created out of necessity and then faux-staged for perfection, just for 20 minutes, just for photos.  It's been fun to see what I WISH this room could be every day...  but then it's also fun to reflect on my kids' REAL choices and each of their individual treasures and favorites. it's a good space, and has been good for my three kiddos together. 


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