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.

Gwen and Tea-9Gwen and Tea-8Gwen and Tea-11Gwen and Tea-17Gwen and Tea-5 Gwen and Tea-16Mommy’s little hippie!Gwen and Tea-18Gwen and Tea-14Caught in a rare moment of not messing with Mommy. Oh, those eyes! Just like her Daddy’s – they’ll get her in and out of trouble.Gwen and Tea-12

In bloom

Just some pics of my little millennial hippy, taking in the sunset just before she went to her Girl Scout Daddy-daughter dance a few weeks ago. Super simple, nothing more. This is my “baby,” my first little one – and she’s not little anymore! Am I going to blink and be taking prom pictures? AH! For now, we’re here. Let’s freeze time a while. My little girl happy, bubbly, loved and loving. Flower crowns suit her. Enjoy spring, all! It’s my favorite, for sure.

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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

Florida –> dawn till dusk + some fireworks!

Can 3 kids under age 6 endure a 22 hour drive with the promise of unlimited sunshine, swimming, bike rides, time with family and a visit to Disney? They can, and they did.

These images aren’t all from the same day, but I chose them because they crystallize moments of our trip, and I’m arranging them dawn to dusk (and a lot in between) for the sake of narration.

Below is my grandma’s back yard around 6:45 am. I tiptoed out at sunrise one morning before anyone was up, including the fire ants. I haven’t seen the sunrise (without a baby in my arms who didn’t realize that only vampires like to be up all night) in I don’t know how long! This morning will stay with me for a long, long time:

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Behold the textbook toddler. This little man learned that he could escape outside into the warm air as soon as he opened his eyes, which he did in his pj’s around 7 am every day. He learned how to free dogs from their pen, drive his cousin’s Barbie jeep like a boss, pin the pedal on an electric golf cart, and how to commandeer his great-grandma’s Jazzy.

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This is the ONE and only Disney photo of the pumpkins and their cousins. We went the day after Christmas, undeniably the busiest day in the ENTIRE year to go. “The” camera was under wraps (meaning Phil had to lug it around in his lap top bag all day) since I could have zero distractions. No children were temporarily lost during this visit. Win! Oh, and if you visit, don’t take small children to the Haunted Mansion first. Parenting learning curve.

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Oh palm trees, how I love you.

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All hail the Punta Gorda splash park!

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The Peace River

 

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This little girl learned how to swim in the “deep deep” end of her great-grandma’s pool. She was very, very proud of her new skills, and we are too. She wanted “everyone” to know she can swim, so now you know!

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Green plants and flowers: northerners, do you remember what this looks like!?2014-132014-12

This kiddo told her Daddy to take off her training wheels without ever having them off before. He did, and she took off without looking back. (Insert tear emoticon!)

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Sanibel Island seashells

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Sanibel Island mermaids!

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These two little ladies are part of mom’s dachshund collection that made the NJ –> Florida trip. Ginger and Bella soaked up the rays.

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Oranges and grapefruit all picked from my grandma’s yard!

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Christmas lights sewn to a sunset.

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~ Clouds on fire ~

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New Year’s Eve sparkled on its way out.

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…And 2015 came in with a BANG! (Many bangs because Phil and my cousin put on QUITE a show.) Good thing the neighbors like my grandma.

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We filled our paper lanterns with wishes and sent them up, up and away into the night sky. Here’s to hoping all of yours come true too.

Gwenyth in Wonderland

So this happened. Aunt Melissa gave Gwen an Alice in Wonderland costume, and being as theatrical as she is, she became Alice for our photo shoot. With our yard lit up in fall’s perfect shade of gold, we had a lot of fun together. And a lot of imaginary tea. When we were finished, she told me, “Mommy, I’m always Alice in Wonderland.” That’s pretty point on, kiddo! Enjoy the 801 photos! “I’m late, I’m late I’m late!”

“Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.”
Alice a 700-27Alice a 700-4Alice a 700-5 Alice a 700-8Alice a 700-28Alice a 700-29 “Yes, that’s it!” said the Hatter with a sigh, “it’s always tea time.” 
“Alice:How long is forever?”
White Rabbit: “Sometimes, just one second.” Alice a 700-3Alice a 700-16 Alice a 700-18 Alice a 700-19 Alice a 700-33Alice a 700-20 Alice a 700-21 Alice a 700-22Alice a 700-32Alice a 700-25Alice a 700-10
 
“Take some more tea,” the March Hare said to Alice, very earnestly. 
“I’ve had nothing yet,” Alice replied in an offended tone, “so I can’t take more.” 
“You mean you can’t take less,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to take more than nothing.” 
“Nobody asked your opinion,” said Alice.” 
 

SPRING has sprung

What did we do this Saturday? We were outside. A lot. For those of you reading from below the Mason-Dixon line, you may not be thinking that’s a big deal, but it is! What a day! It was a “Disney” Day here in New Jersey on Saturday. Sun out, birds chirping, everything about to bloom and burst in full color. I thought Aurora (Sleeping Beauty for those of you without girls under the age of 7) was going to bust out from behind a tree and start singing with woodland creatures in the background. That didn’t happen, but we did see tadpoles and squirrels.

This is the highlight reel starring the kiddos, our good friends and mother nature! Our adventure included our dear friends and their sweet little boys in central NJ, land of rolling hills, towering trees and gorgeous old estates. We had a fantastic day as we caught up and had their photo session at Cross Estate Gardens over smoothies and bagels, (see Hudson’s face) and I’m not sure how their family can get any more adorable.

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The Davids

The Davids

The Davids

Yes, this family belongs in a frame!

Tulips, Tulip Tree

Bloom!

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Mr. “All boy,” reclining as if he’s just returned from a tough game of cricket. He was really throwing rocks all day.

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Post-smoothie “smoldering” face of a filthy, tired toddler. Work it.

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Teagan can fly!

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Smoothie time! Tea found me some hydrangea: “You’re favorite flower, Mommy.” <3

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No, really. She can fly.

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Somehow, in photos, Gwenyth always manages to look way older than she is! Scary? You bet!

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 We’re oh so close to leaves and shade!

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 “We were together. I forget the rest.” – Walt Whitman

 

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. ///

Defined

 As part of the Mommy Blogger Collective I’m delighted to be a part of, I’ll be writing a post in response to a single word each month. March’s assignment is to respond to the word “defined.” Here’s what I came up with:

These were my grandma’s hands, Isabella Rosalie Graziano’s hands. That was the name her Italian parents gave her, the name on her Baptism record from 1915. Everyone else called her Lisa Bella, Elizabeth, or Mrs. Marsh, but mostly Betty. To me, she was Grandma.

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Grandma was embarrassed by her hands, because in her 90’s they were riddled with arthritis, and “knotted up,” as she put it, as she rubbed them together, squeezing one, then the other. Still, they made meals when they could, often caressed the face of her grandchildren and great grandchildren, and waved to everyone, coupled with her effervescent smile. They were beautiful hands, despite what she thought.

Each curve and twist in her fingers spoke of a lifetime of love: turning pages whispering bedtime stories and pages in her choir books, sewing countless buttons back onto our coats and our over-loved toys back together, volunteering at the local hospital, hanging Christmas ornaments, bathing babies, grand-babies and great-babies, cracking a baseball far into the outfield as a child (she was so good at baseball), picking blackberries, spearmint and parsley in her garden for us, “I grew this for you, special.” These were the hands who made you believe you could do anything by just tilting your chin up to meet her eyes. These were the hands circling us all together the night my father, her son, died, and led a family in a chorus of “Hail Mary’s” during the darkest hour it had ever seen.

They were strong hands. Strong, but tender. These were the hands that defined her. In turn, they defined me.

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Grandma taught me how to appreciate a summer breeze, a patch of shade, crisp fall mornings, how to make killer meatballs, fantastic bread pudding, how to properly apply “rouge” and why attitude is everything. She taught me not just to squeeze lemons to make lemonade when life hands them to you, but to pulverize them with unfailing optimism, unwavering faith, patience, forgiveness, and why to encourage peace all around you. I’m still working on the last five. Understatement.

The day I brought my infant son home, cradled him on my shoulder, exhausted, covered head to toe in poison ivy (don’t ask how I manged to get that), my then three and one year old daughters were going ballistic with sibling envy. I felt like I couldn’t move back one moment or forward into the next. It was at that moment that thought of my grandma, or maybe she thought of me, and suddenly felt a window of serenity in the insanity. It was also at that moment that my oldest daughter asked out of nowhere, “Where is Nana?” Nana to her, Grandma to me, had been gone for 6 months by then. I’m convinced that on that day, in my moment of mental turmoil, Grandma came to check up on me and remind me of one of her favorite sayings: “Men tena ti forte,” which in her parents’ Italian dialect means, “keep yourself strong.”

PicMonkey Collage me and grandma

When I get past impatient after a day that I think my limits can’t be pushed farther, and then those limits are ran right over and erased like a line in the desert sand, I think about her, and it’s all good. She’s part of me, and I’m part of her. What a better way to be defined?


“Defined” is the March 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 Gillian of Comes in Colours. A few words from Gillian — Hey, I’m Gillian and I blog at Comes in Colours! I am passionate about motherhood and passionate about photography. I am married to my middle school sweetheart and we are now raising our two boys, Roman and Asher, in northern Colorado. My life is real and far from perfect but my blog is a place where I celebrate motherhood through pictures and words. Connect with Gillian on Instagram, Pinterest, Bloglovin and pop by her blog to say hello.

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

Gwen and Tea-Tea’s Valentine’s Day pics!

Thanks to Phil, my studio is ready! My ladies and I had a lots of fun in our Valentine’s Day photo shoot this weekend. Gwen’s middle name is Rose, and Teagan’s is Love, so our props were oh-so-fitting! And for the record, Gwen likes the taste of the green conversation heart candies, and Teagan likes the pink and purple ONLY. Hudson’s “studmuffin” pics are coming soon; hang on, toddler girls!

Gwen V Day collage 1

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Gwen V Day collage 2

Tea V day collage 1

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Tea V Day Collage 2