This blog post will probably be one of the hardest to articulate and most likely one of my longest, because of its precious content...I'm sure tears will be shed while writing. And probably some laughter, too. Because these adorable, sweet little humans and their parents are deeply special to me. They are dear friends; friends defined as: FAMILY that you CHOOSE. Our paths crossed over 5 years ago, when we met at Church. Naomi and I would spend many an afternoon at the local Chick-Fil-A playplaces while our littles climbed around, making memories and becoming great friends, too. Soon, our husbands joined in the friendship as we all realized our great love of late-night games like Cribbage and Rook. AND laughing to tears. Okay, and lots of snacking, too!!
Two years ago, a new chapter in our friendship began, when Jeff took advantage of an incredible job opportunity in Alaska. And so began an adventure of a lifetime for the Roberts Family...our hearts were certainly sad, but how could we be upset when greatness was before them?! Having visited them in Alaska last year and again just recently (it's a tradition now!), I have witnessed Jeff and Naomi and their 5 girls overflowing with a perfect peace and contentment. I personally know how hard being away from family is, but Alaska truly is a perfect fit for them as they are working hard and building a wonderful, joyful life for their family. Despite the change in distance and miles and a even a time zone, our friendships have endured. Sure, we don't talk on the phone every day (or even weekly or monthly for that matter...I'm awful at keeping in touch, just ask my family!!) or get to hang out doing everyday things like chatting over fast food. We don't play card games every weekend or go get sushi just because or quote Brain Regan jokes incessantly. My heart hurts missing those good times. They are memories I will forever cherish. BUT, we are STILL making memories. When we do take the time in our busy lives to connect, and when we are blessed to visit each other (Naomi surprised me in April, when I came home from a shoot and she was at my house!!), we start back up right where we left off. I feel like no matter where we are, I *always* have a best friend <insert tears>...
Last year during our visit to Alaska, I was thrilled to offer outdoor mini-sessions to several families in the area. It helped off-set traveling costs and I was stoked to photograph on the breathtaking backdrop that is Alaska. Our trip this year wasn't finalized until last-minute so I wasn't able to do mini-sessions, but nevertheless, brought my gear to at least do a family session with Naomi & Jeff and their family! Naomi said she just wanted pictures of the girls, we didn't have a time scheduled, and sooo.....on my second morning there, as I witnessed the family's morning unfold, I felt inspired to start photographing these everyday moments. And so, my dream of capturing a "Day-in-the-Life" session began... These sweet girls are the epitome of everything wonderful, pure, and magical about childhood...below, Samantha is sitting at her desk, brainstorming deep in thought as she and her sisters work on a very special "play" to perform together. I loved listening to them talk endlessly about who was in charge of decorating, how Courtney would be the cat, what dresses they would wear, and much more!
Later, Courtney was oblivious to me taking pictures, as she played alone in her room contentedly, deep in imagination, with some of her toy friends. It is probably the most tangibly I've ever felt my own memories trying to resurface, as my mom has always told me she'd watch me just like this, playing and talking to my toys! I am grateful for the beautiful, carefree wonder we can see if we but only take the time and quietly observe through the eyes of a child... There is SO much to love and admire about Naomi, but one of my favorite things about her is the energetic, always teaching, hands-on mommy she is. She constantly reminds me of the quote: "Motherhood is not a hobby, it is a calling...It is not something you do if you can squeeze in the time, it is what God gave you time FOR." (Elder Neal L. Andersen) Meanwhile, as dinner was being prepared, I caught these two monkeys sliding down the handrail of the stairs!!
Helping out is something each of the Roberts girls knows is expected of them; I was impressed with how happily they all seemed to obey when asked to vacuum or sweep the floor or put things away.
The girls were SO proud of and excited to show me the raspberry bushes in their backyard. If it was quiet in the house, we knew the girls must be busy picking OR eating raspberries, YUM!
Maddy is an incredible BIG sister, she shines in the opportunity to be a leader and an example. She doesn't take this responsibility lightly either, as she completely adores and is even protective of her little sisters! As extraordinary of a mother Naomi is, Jeff certainly matches her in his role of father. Truly, they work together hand-in-hand, each giving not 50/50%, but EACH giving 100% to be an incredible team! Together they are adoring, teaching, loving, and raising the happiest of girls!! if it's possible to capture the JOY that motherhood brings, I hope I was able to, if even a fraction, in the image below: Can you believe this smile EVEN at bedtime?!! Ally is one of the happiest little girls I've ever known, I adore her smile. And THOSE CHEEKS. Kissable, squeezable cheeks!! (and YES, this really was bedtime even though it appears to be daytime by the window light...the sun wasn't setting until about 10:30/11PM while we were there, crazy!!) more childhood imagination...making "smoothies" outside!! CHEERS! and a FORT of course!!!
This was one of my FAVORITE fun moments- I am in awe and amazement of moms that do their girls' hair every day!; my TWO girls are lucky if they get a brush through their hair and maybe even a ponytail!! Not Naomi...she delights in taking the time to do a special hair style for each of her daughters. EVERY DAY. SO cute!! This hair-do party doubled as a dance-and-singing-party, too so it was a blast! I love Courtney jamming out with her comb-microphone hahaha!!! Look at all beauty in this image...Naomi is beautiful on the inside and out; proud of her sweet, determined, capable, tenacious young daughters. She is strong, enthusiastic, nurturing, dedicated to and mindful of, even *consecrated* to her calling as a busy, young momma. How I LOVE this crew!!
One of the last images I took. I wonder what Naomi is thinking. The word MOTHER has become even more sacred and meaningful to her in the last few months. In May, halfway through her 6th pregnancy, she and Jeff anxiously anticipated finding out the gender of their baby. They were shattered and heartbroken when the ultrasound technician could not find the baby's heartbeat. That night, Naomi, among a rollercoaster of unimaginable emotions, endured the physical labor and delivery of the baby boy she had hoped for and dreamed of for so long, but now, would never bring home. Despite having photographed many babies with Now I Lay Me Down To Sleep, babies who are born still or never go home from the hospital, I felt inadequate as Naomi and I talked on the phone during her labor. My heart ached to be there for her. To offer a long embrace in attempt to express the deepest sympathy that words cannot define. The distance between us made this an impossibility, so instead I simply listened and expressed my love for her and her family and my faith in her strength, which I know is rooted deeply in a Perfect and Eternal Plan. Naomi has since told me that "God doesn't give you more than you can handle, He helps you handle what He gives you." What a perfect reminder that even in our darkest, most excruciating and painful hour, we are NOT alone. In addition to Our Father in Heaven and Our Savior, I know that Jacob isn't far from you, my friend. Jacob's spirit is near and he certainly is in your heart and in the hearts of your family and friends. He lived within your womb and he is and always will be with you and a part of your family.
Thank you for allowing me to document this chapter in your life, my dear friend. We adore you and your family and love you all to the moon and back! In addition to being the hardest few months, your life has been crazy busy, with your most recent move into your new house and with being a momma of 5 busy, energetic (and sometimes dramatic!) little ones!! That is why it is my hope that these images can help time stand still, so that when you look at these images, at this chapter in your life, now and in years to come, you can remember vividly and fondly, those precious, fleeting, everyday memories and moments that have helped mold you and your family into who you are...much love and huge (((HUGS)))
XOXOXO ~ Amber