Photography!

So much is going on! New site in the works, a bunch of collabs, so many emails & texts about booking spring dates! AH! I am grateful for and love it all!

Head on over to www.eringalardi.com for now. My new photography site, www.rufflesandtrainsphotography.com, is in the works, along with some fantastic changes!

What’s up? Glad you asked. Well:
I’m using my Master’s in Education and photography skills to train all you busy mamas who want to document the everyday amazing of your own families and lives. This summer, I’m so excited to say that I’ll be offering photography training designed for you ladies on the go! Stay tuned.

A sentiment that I hear over and over from so many mothers is that they often don’t see themselves as beautiful! NOT true! That’s going to change with sunset sessions this spring and summer focusing on empowering women out there with confidence, highlighting the beauty and strength of motherhood. It’s your turn, mama!

The ladies in winter

Well, it’s been a long blogging hiatus. Understatement! Happy to say I’ve surfaced, + for the first time in a long time, the girls and I had one of our Mommy and me photo shoots. Let’s be clear – Gwen and I had a photo shoot in a gorgeous dress given to her by a wonderful friend. Teagan, after getting all dolled up and making me wish I had her hair, tormented me with crazy faces and hysterical laughter, followed by rapid cartwheels. Typical Tea! So glad she enjoyed it. Ha. Hope you enjoy too. Much more in the works! Expect lots more of Gwen in front of the lens! *Teaser!*

More and more, the girls who once insisted on dressing the same and having the same toys are SUCH individuals now with well defined likes and dislikes + opinions of their own. Tea’s logical with the ability to reason her way around anything; Gwen is charming and will compliment you till the sun goes down. Tea babies any baby she can get her hands on. Gwen builds elaborate mini architectural structures all over the place. I love watching them grow, shift, change, mature. These images are a testament to what every parent tells me – it goes so fast! It does. It really, really does. And I’m slowing down to take it all in.

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Gluten-free good for you spinach ice pops!

Why are they “good for you?” Because they have spinach in them. More raw spinach than I could convince my kids to eat if I promised a pony would walk up our driveway. Yes, my kids eat vegetables. They know “food from the earth” is healthy, but sometimes, they need a little convincing. This time, there was no gentle encouragement to finish-your-veggies. No. As they were moved into the freezer, all 3 of of my brood were begging for their fun green ice pops. Begging to eat their veggies. Pleading for spinach. Couldn’t wait. Oh, the sweet, sweet satisfaction! #winformom.

Here’s what you need:

  • 2 cups of baby spinach
  • 1 ripe banana
  • 1 cup of mango juice
  • 1.5 cups of gluten free almond milk
  • 1 thinly sliced kiwi

Here’s what to do:

Throw everything but the kiwi in a blender until it’s liquified. Place the kiwi slices in the bottom of the ice pop molds. Pour the mix into the ice pop molds. Freeze, eat, enjoy! Have left over mix? It’s a fantastic smoothie.

Here’s what the process looked like with my 3 little helpers:

The ingredients:

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The ingredients with one of my helpers, ready to go to the lake:

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Add it all minus the kiwi, and blend!

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Liquefied!

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Add the sliced kiwi…

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And voila!

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This is what love looks like

Before Gwen was even speaking in sentences, she decided that she was head over heels for the small, stuffed horse that her Aunt Colleen gave her. She took it everywhere with her, couldn’t sleep without it, and cuddled it day and night. One of Gwen’s gifts is an amazingly sharp visual memory. She always knows where her little horse is. I’ve gone looking for her companion at bedtime, always to find him just where she told me he was “hiding.” In the toy kitchen’s oven. Under the living room chair. In the car. “His” name is Cimmeron, after a horse in a movie that looks pretty similar. “Cim,” or “Cimmy” as she nicknamed him, has been a faithful companion for years. He’s been through a lot. He looks it too.

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His eyes are chipped. His once fluffy coat is this and spotty from so many dryer tumbles on a low, cool setting. His mane is patchy. His hooves – I can’t say how many nights I’ve sewn them back together in whatever color thread Gwen requested. Each time he breaks, Cimmeron looses a couple more of the beads that once made him fuller.

cimmeron-2cimmeron-3cimmeron-4cimmeron-8He’s been dragged all around her waddler, toddler and pre-k years, stuffed into small toy purses, pushed on park swings, attended countless tea and birthday parties, gone on family vacations & is held tight and close when thunder rumbles on a warm spring night. He has a voice too.

He’s beat up, no arguing. But I will argue that this is what love is – it’s worn, used, tested & full of stitches and imperfections that are ultimately perfect and make it stronger with each bump, scrape and scar. This is love. And this is what love looks like.

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‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

– Margery Williams, The Velveteen Rabbit

Harvest

I’m part of the Mommy Blogger Collective. Each month we’re given a one word prompt to riff with. This month’s prompt is *harvest.*

Summer is coming to a close, (or is it gone the first time I wear boots?) and I’m coming up for air! (Insert insanely exaggerated gasp for life.) August was a blur of sun, sand, parks, play dates and keeping the kiddos busy, happy and outside as much as possible. Mission accomplished. I have tan lines to prove it.

I didn’t see how big these kiddos were getting right under my nose, how every day their baby faces thinned out just a bit more than the day before. I’m no gardener, and definitely no farmer. I can’t even keep a cactus alive. I can, however, grow people. No small beans. So what do I know about a harvest? I imagine that aspects of farming and parenting are pretty similar. You’re bringing something into the world that didn’t exist before you decided to nurture it. You work hard – really hard to make sure it’s ok, more than ok  – that it thrives, even on days when it (he) is trying to repeatedly face plant into professionally decorated cupcakes at a birthday party.

You watch out for the elements. Sun, rain, wind – “bad” influences, people, mean kids on the playground. You nurture, you hope, pray…you wish for the best, you will break your back if something harmful gets in the way. You work, wait, and watch. Maybe bite your nails a bit, getting impatient. Then, even when your back aches and you’re dead tired, you stand up, step back and see what you grew and you’re proud – really proud of your harvest.

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“Harvest” is the September writing prompt of The Mommy Blogger Collective. In addition to a monthly writing prompt, the collective hosts a monthly blogger featurette. This month we are featuring Courteney of The Titled Blog. A few words from Courteney — Hello! I’m Courteney from “The Titled Blog” I live up in Canada (in Abbotsford, British Columbia – just East of Vancouver) with my husband, one year old daughter Lucy, a pug named Minnie and an angry flame point siamese cat named Bigsby. My blog has evolved over the last 7 years from random rants and social commentary to lifestyle and now most recently to being a mom. My daughter was born with a lot of health problems and I often write about the challenges that have come with having a baby that has spent a good chunk of her first year in and out of the hospital and how to deal with those challenges head on. When I’m not blogging, I work as a photographer with my own business (Courteney Rodda Photography) sing in my jazz band “Courteney Rodda and the Other Guys” and most recently I am sewing for an awesome local company making baby moccasins called “Minimoc
You can also find me on Instagram, where I post too many pictures of my daughter, dog and cat.

/// The Mommy Blogger Collective /// Christina, Courteney, Dena, Erica, Erin, Gillian, Katie, Misty, Nicole, and Renée. ///

Perspective and sunset swim

Let it go, let it go…sorry. Now it’s in your head, I know. I had to. It’s relevant, I promise. Not the song, but the sentiment. Bear with me. I’ve always been a bit…how shall I put it…uptight. Those who know me best would nod. My sister is probably laughing. (And you can stop now.) It’s been a life long struggle to go with the flow, to be carefree – well maybe not carefree, but more like bamboo  – bendable – and less like concrete. I’m a work hard, line-up-the-dominoes and watch them all go down my way type of girl. Motherhood (life itself) continues teaching me that I can’t control it all, or sometimes anything at all!

And that sometimes…sometimes it’s just plain fun to take my hands off the wheel, keep my mouth shut, shove that neurosis under wraps and sit back and watch life in front of me instead of meddle with it. Actually, it’s a lot of fun.

Recently, we spent an evening with our friends on their private beach in the lake community we live in and took some photos of their little one for her birthday at the “golden hour” (all photographers drool now.) The sun was setting, the light was perfect, the air was balmy and the water equally as inviting. In birth order, Gwen, Teagan then Hudson dipped in their little toes, feet, legs, and then the rest, fully clothed. Splash into the sunset. Who could resist?

My first inclination was to freak out…you don’t have your suits on…your clothes are going be soaked…the car seats will be soaked…blah blah…but you know what? What’s the harm? Who cares, really? REALLY? Sometimes I sit back and measure what matters and what doesn’t by remembering something my dad said a few months before he died. He was sick, and knew he wasn’t getting well. We all did, but moved through our days like that wasn’t real. I was bugging out about being late to some event for work, and called him for directions because mine were wrong. I was in full freak out mode. Screeching and all. He said, “THIS is not a problem. Cancer is a problem.” Yep.

Who was I to get in between the pumpkins and a perfect summer night? Get soaked, be happy, get dirty, giggle, swim, smile, watch the sun dip down over the treeline, get to know those warm summer nights that make the feeling between air and water invisible, twirl in the last rays of the day. Live. Know that your mother learned a lesson a while back that keeps things in perspective from a man you never met but who lives on in you.

Let it go…let it go. Sorry again. See? I promised it was relevant.

And enjoy the sunset. I did.

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Father’s Day and a Fisheye lens

What to do on Father’s Day? How about an impromptu visit to the city (“THE” city = NYC) + a borrowed fish eye lens (thanks Kathy and Justin!) + uber messy ice cream and a family BBQ? Yes!

So I’ve been itching to get my mits on a fish eye lens, and thanks to some friends, borrowed one. What ensued? Lots and lots (and lots) of photos. Hudson had a full wardrobe change after this outing. Enjoy the progression of sticky sprinkes, filth and fun!

We saw the Freedom Tower, which is quite awesome:

Freedom Tower

We watched boats, helicopters, planes, people, dogs, and you name it zoom, walk, run, sail or fly by.

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Then we got ice cream. Chocolate with sprinkles.

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“You talkin’ to me?!”

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And things got messy, toddler style.

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Teagan never likes my suggestions to lick all sides equally. See? ^ ^^ Has NOT mastered the art of ice cream eating in the summer yet. In time, young one. In time.

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Gwen’s approach is that of speed. That ice cream never had a chance.

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Sccccoooowwwwl. He wasn’t mad or anything here. He had ice cream in his eyelashes. Not kidding.

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Ah, those eyes! STILL not mastering the even licking pattern I suggested needed to beat the heat. Fine then. Carry on.

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Ah, yes. About 50 baby wipes went into cleaning this dude.

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Hi, Mom! I just ate all of my ice cream in warp speed, and now I’m taking your shake! Good thing anyway, because you’re off dairy, and had three sips! GASP! I’m helping you, see?

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Pretty sure he’s having an out of body experience here.

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All cleaned up, and FIRED up on chocolate.

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See that blurry toddler hand grabbing for the giant balloon? Yes, I’m balancing all 30 lbs of sugar-charged Hudson on my hip and still taking photos.

Hope everyone had a Happy Father’s Day! BBQ pics and Teagan’s new favorite toy (a quad – sigh) to come!

 

Shine

I’m part of the Mommy Blogger Collective. Each month we’re given a one word prompt to riff with. This month’s prompt is *shine.*

Gwenyth, my monkey, came into this world nearly 6 years ago. She has reminded me every day since last Wednesday that she wants a “purple” birthday party, because (this week), it’s her favorite color.

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I’m not sure what I expected from motherhood. Before I had Gwen, the last time I had changed a diaper was 1984 acting as a 3 year old fumbling “helper,” wrangling one on my sister. Gwen was born at 7:22 am. That night, after visitors were in and out, and a thousand pictures of my tiny baby with taken, the nurse assigned to me insisted that I “get some sleep” after my 19 hour drug free labor (!). She promised my bundle of joy would come back to me “in a few hours” to eat. NOT a few hours later…1.5 hours later…I can vividly re-play the creak of the hospital room door, the tiny squeak of the baby-cart and the hideous (don’t roll your eyes and lie, it is awful) shrill of an infant cry, MY infant, as she was pushed into my room by an apologetic nurse who let me know that she and her team “couldn’t console” this little baby like they could the others. Oh, holy crap. This was the soundtrack to insomnia, I was sure. I don’t know what I expected out of my first night as a mother, but I think I (foolishly) expected sleep. (Don’t all laugh at once.) I held Gwen on my chest, pet her tiny back, and she fell asleep in an instant. So it began, and so it went. She slept there all night long, only waking up to eat, for the first 8 weeks of her life, and it’s time gone by that I cherish.

About 3.5 years later, when she first began preschool, Gwen had an inconsolable crying fit (notice a theme?) over an art project. Her teacher couldn’t figure out what set her off. That night when I tucked Gwen in, I asked her why she was so sad, so upset by the project: dip hand in paint, stamp hand down, teacher makes sheep ears, tail, etc. Each sheep was white, identical. My 3 year old explained in a serious way I’ll never forget: “I don’t want to be a white sheep. I want to be pink or red.” My lesson as a mother? My kid, though a bit more difficult, knows who she wants to be. She digs her heels in and can pitch fit when someone tries to define her. Yes. I’m thankful.

Zoom to the present. Tonight I’m editing Gwen’s graduation photos. She’s my free-spirited millennial hippy, who makes fairy rings out of flowers alongside elaborate architectural structures out of found objects. She’s far more interesting than me already.

Jumps when it’s not time? You bet. Talks when it’s not her turn? Guarantee it. Marches to the beat of her own drum? Absolutely. She made the drum. Cried the loudest and longest in the nursery? Yep. Won’t be one of the white sheep hanging on the wall? No way, no how. I wouldn’t change a thing. My little girl shines.

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“Shine” is the June writing prompt of The Mommy Blogger Collective. In addition to a monthly writing prompt, the collective hosts a monthly blogger featurette. This month we are featuring Christina of Mouse in Your House. A few words from Christina — At Mouse In Your House, I’m bringing you stories about being a working mom, quirky family lifestyle trends, frugal living, DIY ideas and the talented people who make life something amazing. I hate getting bored and occasionally use Mouse In Your House to ask people very personal questions that I would, otherwise, never get away with. My goal is to find chicks and gents doing something cool and inspiring, which could lead to a feature about a family who took the year off to travel the world one day and the next day’s post could be all about how to dress a stylish toddler. To qualify for a feature, I need only go, holy moly that is frigging awesome….and you may even get a long set of questions for our next Q&A. That’s the way I roll. And P.S. I LOVE budgeting and it has taken over our lives in the past. We recently graduated from living in a 400 square-foot apartment to a 1,400 square foot house in my beloved small town of Knoxville, Tennessee. You can find me on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, and Google+.

/// The Mommy Blogger Collective /// Christina, Courteney, Dena, Erica, Erin, Gillian, Katie, Misty, Nicole, and Renée. ///

Make it Rain

I’m part of the Mommy Blogger Collective. Each month we’re given a one word prompt to roll with. This month’s prompt is rain.

Make it rain. I’m not talking about money. I’m talking about making intentions, passions and goals reality.

Looking back at my college days and early 20’s, I really had no idea what I wanted in life besides finishing my degrees and marrying my husband, who after returning from ARMY basic training a well-tanned combination of muscles and ambition, I knew I wouldn’t spend my days without. The rest of my early 20’s was a big swirl of decisions based on what I thought I had to do, what I needed to be, and how it all should look based on some blue print of suburban success. I was easily persuaded and influenced by the older adults in my life (read: family), but didn’t see it then. I thought I had it all together, was sure I had it all figured out. I followed the road map made for me: college, grad school, job, (a couple jobs)….fast forward to my late 20’s.

Enter motherhood.

Instantly, a 7 lb 6 oz little girl (followed by two more, significantly larger bundles of joy) carved out a new role me. Since becoming “Mommy,” I know who I am, what I want, what I don’t want, who to spend time with, and who to cut ties with and not look back. I have zero tolerance for negativity, pettiness, or anyone less than genuine. Time is more valuable than ever, and motherhood has given me a keen sense of how to cut through the garbage that gets in the way of the good stuff in life.

The last 5 ½ years have been a full immersion into mommy-hood, like the front seat of the roller coaster, hands up all the way. Three babies in under four years – and that’s how it goes. Bassinets, strollers, diapers, baby-wearing, crib bedding, countless lullabies, baby books, mushy food, decorating and redecorating nurseries, bubble baths, pictures, big kid beds, the first tooth fairy visit, the first day of school, birthday parties, play dates, endless park trips, sleigh rides, snowmen, bike rides and walks on sunny spring days.

Lately, there’s a subtle shift for me. The kiddos are getting big, fast. Really fast. Instead of holding their hands on the stairs at the park, hovering over to be sure of no spills off the slides, they’re ok on their own going down, even though I’m still waiting at the bottom, just in case. “I can do it Mommy. I’m big.” Truth. You are. (Though Hudson is still trying to eat mulch – *sigh.*) My pumpkins are becoming more independent, and in turn, so am I.

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Photo Credit: Katherine Hoos Photography

Photography is a growing career. I’m meeting more moms like me, trying their hand at growing their dreams. I’m watching them crop up like the flowers peeking out of the ground this early spring, and they’re blossoming. Florists, stylists, Etsy store owners, life coaches, small business owners, dedicated teachers earning advanced degrees, nutritionists, gourmet bakers, physical therapists branching out on their own, moms excelling in their chosen career, others as students pursuing a new field…you name it. There’s talent, passion and drive all around. It’s amazing, thrilling, inspiring. We’re making it rain.

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The rainmakers, clockwise, from top left: Alee Bonagura McCarthy – Bright Blooms, Jenine Kinesella – Rodan & Fields, Katherine Hoos – Katherine Hoos PhotographyLeah Bustos Mazzola – Snug Agency, Corinne McKeever Bluteau – Teacher/Grad student, supermom of 4, Kimberly Miller-Volin – Maison KMV. 

Photo Credit of Leah Bustos Mazzola – Brandon Trull.

“Rain” is the April writing prompt of The Mommy Blogger Collective. In addition to a monthly writing prompt, the collective hosts a monthly blogger featurette. This month we are featuring Katie of Hello, Little Bean. A few words from Katie — Hi! I’m Katie and I write a blog called ‘Hello, Little Bean.’ It’s about life as a new mom to my cute daughter, Lark Story. I’m California born and raised, but currently live in Michigan with my soon-to-be husband, James and my soon-to-be stepson, Brennan, as well as our little Lark and two kitties. I’m a full-time graphic designer who loves all things artistic and creative. I’m overly sensitive and sentimental, sarcastic and foul-mouthed at times, a foodie and a reality tv junkie who’s completely and utterly in love with motherhood. You can also find me on instagram, facebook, pinterest and our little online boutique, Bold Threads.

/// The Mommy Blogger Collective /// Christina, Courteney, Dena, Erica, Erin, Gillian, Katie, Misty, Nicole, and Renée. ///

Good morning, joy!

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I’m often taken aback by my kids’ infallible sense of anticipation and adventure. Adults wake up at 6:43 AM and know “It’s Thursday, it’s Friday…” Days equal weeks, and weeks equal months. We’re so linear. Kids? Not so much. Not at all, really. And I love that about them.

My kids wake up full of nothing but anticipation of the day. Some days our girls wake up, put on knitted cat hats, and meow all morning. Why not? Today, a zebra and a frog where dancing in our bathroom. More than once, Hudson has ripped open the fridge and wrangled the whipped cream for “breakfast” while I eat my bowl of organic oatmeal. Fun? Yep, I tried it! (Before anyone gasps, that’s followed up by his favorite, bananas, and other whole foods.) My point is, I just never know what they’ll surprise me with. It’s random bits of fun, imagination and magic combined. They are all emotion, no logic. Kids really do balance out the adult world.

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We make our lives as predicable as possible by necessity, and that fact tends to blot out that zest, that arms-wide-open “come at me day!” attitude that my pumpkins demonstrate every day. I revel in the wonder that I see in my babies’ eyes each morning as they peek out at the world when I pull up their shades, and eat it up when Gwenyth stands on her toes to see as far as she can and whispers, “What a beautiful day.”  I’m loving the questions and snippets of kid wisdom that Teagan, my “little poet,” comes up with: “Mommy, why’s the moon chasing us?” “Mommy, do dinosaurs have belly buttons?” “Do chickens lay bunnies?”

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Every day they wake up with open eyes, hearts and minds – and they are thrilled, really just so excited to be part of the world. That’s goodness. That’s really living. It’s the feeling of a permanent Saturday, the thrill of that first day of summer vacation or Christmas morning, it’s your birthday, it’s a trip to the beach, your first time on an airplane….at the core of things, it’s joy at the dawn of each day, just for the day’s sake.

Before you pull your shades up tomorrow, promise to keep your eyes open for chickens laying bunnies, down some whipped cream from the can, wonder why the moon is chasing you, and remember the things that make you grateful to be taking a trip around the sun. Let yourself be open to the wonder around you, and in that, I hope you’ll find joy!