You really never know what you are going to get weather-wise in Alaska until the day of your portrait session. This summer was one of those that involved a forecast of rain on almost every session date, but we seemed to luck out on it not down pouring. The Rousculp family was no exception to that forecast. Rain clouds were moving in here in Eagle River, but I called Miklayn to check the weather in Wasilla. “It looks pretty clear for now!” I am so glad that we went ahead with the session. I never cancel sessions until the day of a shoot for this reason. Quite often a sprinkle is all we get. Sure enough, we encountered a few passing sprinkles, but cloudy skies gave us a beautiful evening for family portraits.
Joel and Mikalyn have a sweet little family of five. This outdoor portrait location was perfect for their two little boys who were pleased to run about in the drizzle. A little sprinkle doesn’t bother Alaskan kids. Keeping everyone mud free long enough to snap some family portraits was a challenge, but they managed and the result is perfect. I just love all the the personality that shines in their family portraits. It’s easy to see who is more serious, who is the silly guy, and who is still super attached to her momma. That’s what family portraits are supposed to showcase: personality, love, connection, and family.
It’s always an honor when a photographer books their family portraits with me. I know that as photographers, we have a critical eye for skill and quality in photography. Us mommas with the camera NEED to get in the frame too, and that can be tricky when were are busy behind the lens. It was an absolute pleasure to let Mikalyn relax and snuggle with her babies, while I captured sweet family portraits. Years from now, she will look at these photos and see how small these darlings were in her arms. Her children will see nothing but evidence of love. Yes, mommas, get in the photos too. Joel and Miklayn, your family is lovely. Thank you for allowing me to capture these precious moments.
Sarah Beth Chamberlain
Portrait Photographer | Wasilla, Alaska
Twins have a sweet something about them brings a little extra joy to a newborn photographer’s heart. However, these twins are more precious than I can put into words. Upon meeting them and holding them for the first time, my heart exploded with love and I couldn’t hold back tears. You see I’ve known their parents, Joseph and Constance, since they were expecting their first little king. They asked me to photograph the birth of their son, Brayden, who was born sleeping on July 7th, 2016. I watched as Joseph and Constance loved each other through the unimaginable, and have remained a friend since. When Constance called in December to tell me she was expecting again, I could not have been happier, and I prayed that these little loves would remain healthy and strong.
It was not an easy pregnancy for Constance, but she never lost her light. Through every complication she continued to think about her babies, rejoice over healthy ultrasound results, and share her news with loved ones who were fiercely rooting for the Cole twins. I was out of state visiting family when I got a text from Constance in April. She told me that her water had broken at 25 weeks. While I was immediately worried, she was overjoyed to be staying in Alaska for their birth. She said, “Oh! I’m excited that we get to have you and Jamie there!” About three weeks later they made their appearance. Jamie, who had been her doula the summer before, was able to attend the twins’ birth. After a few months of growing at the Providence NICU, I had the honor of being their newborn photographer. Here they are: sweet rainbow babies, Dayla and Joseph Jr.
It’s already clear that these two are going to be so much fun as they grow. Dayla had me cracking up with her faces throughout the newborn session, and both babies flashed me sweet smiles. Mind you, we captured their newborn photos before their estimated due date, so it was surprising to see such expression. They are special babies for sure, and I’m overjoyed to have spent the day snuggling with them. We made sure to include big brother in the photos, symbolized by a small felt giraffe. Joseph and Constance, the twins, and Brayden will have a piece of my heart forever. I cannot wait to hear all of their stories, as I’m sure there will be adventures and fun ahead. Joyous love and blessings to the Cole family and their double rainbow.
Sarah Beth Chamberlain
Newborn Photographer | Anchorage, Alaska
While I’ve known and worked with Lynalice for the last two years, I had the honor of meeting her sister and brand new nephew last winter. Like many new moms, breastfeeding was posing some challenges for Maggie and she’d come down with a bad case of mastitis right before Tyler’s newborn session. I had so much sympathy for her, as breastfeeding began similarly for me with my first child. As she lay napping and feverish on my studio couch, Auntie Lynalice just plopped down to feed a fussy, hungry baby and caught my eye. Of course I turned my attention from setting up a newborn prop to photographing a sweet aunt breastfeeding her nephew. It was just too endearing of a moment to miss. We then went on with our newborn session, as Tyler was happy to have a filled belly. With August being National Breastfeeding Month, I decided to follow up with them and see how their happy, breastfeeding family was doing.
Maggie, Tyler, and her God-daughter, Cassie, live with Lynalice and her family. She is going to school to become a certified medical assistant. Lynalice and Matt have four children; three boys and a little girl. Both sisters are breastfeeding their babies, but they also feed each other’s babies when they need to. I think most mommas can see the amazingness in this. Maggie is able to attend her classes and work toward her future career, and Lynalice is able to escape the house now and then baby-free. There is always a breastfeeding momma with the babies. They even get some baby-holding help from the oldest brother, Luke.
Cross nursing and wet nursing have been around for centuries, but aren’t often talked about publicly today. While some might have an initial taboo reaction, cross nursing and wet nursing are actually widely accepted. In cases of natural disaster and extreme flooding, the World Health Organization has recommended the use of donor milk or wet nursing for infants, as opposed to formula with potentially contaminated water. I think it’s a wonderful idea and seems to be the natural solution for these sisters to exclusively breastfeed babies while still getting some time away. Maggie says that some friends have shown concern that breastfeeding each other’s children would take away from the bond that she has with her baby boy, but says that’s not the case at all. From what I saw during my visit, she’s completely in love with Tyler and that bond is fierce. In fact, I’d say both Maggie and Lynalice have unique bonds with each of these sweet babies. There’s a whole lot of love and baby fever to be found in their home.
Sarah Beth Chamberlain
Lifestyle Family Photographer | Palmer, Alaska
The first week of August is celebrated around the world as World Breastfeeding Week, and the United States Breastfeeding Committee has declared the month of August National Breastfeeding Month. Over the course of the last week I have been approached one question about these campaigns. Why do we need a breastfeeding month or week anyway? Haven’t we made a lot of progress already? Good questions. At first look it may seam like everything is going well in the world of motherhood in regards to nursing. I can validate that the amount of support I received grew immensely between my first child and second child. However, I still hear so many stories of difficulty among mommy groups and the local La Leche League. It isn’t always easy to nurse a baby, and when the support isn’t there to help you it can be frustrating. When you’re struggling for a good latch and feel pressured to wear a cover at the park, it can make achieving that latch even more difficult. So we have a World Breastfeeding Week and a National Breastfeeding Month, because moms just need support.
I had the honor of celebrating Breastfeeding Week with a group of Alaskan moms, who are all at different stages of breastfeeding their babies. There were first time moms and veteran moms, moms of singletons and moms of twins, moms of infants and moms of toddlers, all feeding their babies and sharing support. Here are their stories:
Lilyana is 4.5 months old and was only 5 lbs 3oz at birth. Our breastfeeding journey has been difficult with many complications. Lilyana was very weak in the beginning and would fall asleep while nursing. We had to struggle to get her to eat enough as nursing is more work than a bottle. I’ve had mastitis twice from her being too tired to empty my breast. At 4 months Lilyana became dehydrated and we began supplementing with my pumped milk in the freezer. Lilyana refused to take it and we learned about high lipase. My friend, Amanda, has been amazing and given us 100’s of ounces of breast milk to supplement with. We are still trying to up my supply but am feeling like our breastfeeding journey is coming to an end. It has been heart breaking for me. My husband and friend have been so supportive and understanding. My favorite part about breastfeeding is the bond. Looking down and seeing myself in my daughter’s eyes. The picture you took brings me to tears as that is exactly what I will miss the most when this is all over. ~ Michaella
My twin boys are six weeks old. It has been very challenging being able to breastfeed both of them. My older twin, Lincoln, had a defect and was not able to latch or have a strong reflex when he was born. He was bottle fed until he had a procedure done to correct it and now is able to breastfeed. My pregnancy with them was very challenging, and their delivery left me with a fractured spine that I’m still waiting to have surgery for. Going to see a lactation consultant at the maternity center to help with feeding advice helped us a lot, even though I breastfed my older two boys as well. My favorite thing about still being able to breastfeed them is the bonding time we have together and watching each baby develop and grow in their own way. Having multiples has been an incredible experience we were definitely not prepared for. Being able to meet with groups of other moms has been the biggest blessing for us with all of their parenting experiences to learn from. ~ Anna
Emily is 9 months and not so much any challenges for the two of us. However, I have had 3 children in 4 years so I have been breastfeeding non stop. At one time I was breastfeeding 2 babies. I absolutely love nursing her because of how excited she gets when she knows it’s time!!! ~ Angela
I’ve had a very easy time Breastfeeding Reid the past 16+ months! We never had any medical issues and he learned to latch comfortably right from the start. I DESPISE pumping so I didn’t do it much and was never away from him long enough for him to need someone else to bottle feed him. I think he had formula 3-4 times, but other than that he’s been 100% boobie baby. I love the cuddle time and the quiet moments where I can sit and kiss and smell him. It’s especially meaningful now that he’s super mobile and into all his toddler shenanigans. I don’t want to stop! Reid didn’t get his first teeth until 10 months. He still only has 6 teeth and no molars so he doesn’t eat that much real food. I’m feeling guilty wanting to wean so we can have another crack at fertility treatments when he is getting a lot of his nutritional needs from me still. I’m also kinda lazy so it’s easier to nurse him than fight with him to eat something! I pull down my top and dinner is served! Anytime, anyplace! ~ Ashley
Kyla is 10 months old. She has always taken to the breast easily. Early on we did have some issues with her latch because my let down was really strong and she would drown herself while trying to eat. Luckily after a couple months my let down got a little lighter and things got easier. I have considered myself lucky in the fact that both of my kids were naturals at breast-feeding and they LOVE to eat. My favorite part of breastfeeding is that special quiet time with your little one that goes by way too fast! ~ Jillian
This shoot was so special to me. My own little one is weaning, and it hasn’t been easy to always say no to those gentle toddler cuddles. While I never expected to be nursing a toddler, my first child having self weaned at 11-months, it’s been a really great blessing in our hectic life with two kids. I wouldn’t change the path for anything. Getting together with these women showed me that it’s really okay to hold onto this stage. It’s okay to not let go until they’re ready. It’s also okay to not give up the midday feed just yet, so we don’t drop nap time too soon. Amen, amen, amen to quiet time! Thank you ladies, for celebrating World Breastfeeding Week with me and sharing this beautiful bond. No matter how long your baby nurses or how many hurdles you jump over for them, you are doing an amazing job as their mothers.
Sarah Beth Chamberlain
Baby Photographer | Eagle River, Alaska
Every family has it’s own pulse and rhythm, which cannot be told through stiff family photos. Think of the last time you captured family portraits. Were you comfortable, relaxed, and free to be yourself? Were your children able to be playful, silly, serious, or shy? Kids are kids, and they are going to feel their own emotions. We can’t fit them into a perfect box for the sake of family photos. What I hope to do as a family photographer is capture your family’s spirit.
Are my family sessions completely unposed? Heavens no! Mom, I know you do not want a sneaky double chin to appear in your family photos. No matter what size momma we are, we’ve all got it. Don’t worry, I have you covered. I am your professional photographer, and my job is to be sure you look your best. However, after getting everyone in a comfortable pose there is not much that I do to force a perfect camera centered face. That’s all you guys. I like you as you are. Feel free to be who you are. No need to force an uncomfortable cheesey smile for family photos. We will bring out the smiles through playful interaction.
Love, love, love! That’s what family is all about. For a long time I didn’t love taking on sessions for family photos. But one day I realized that the love was missing in those strictly posed portraits. My goal is to let that love shine in your family photos. When you hang these portraits on your wall they will serve as a daily reminder to your children, showing them how much they are LOVED. What is more valuable than that?
Oh, and let’s not forget mom and dad. Before there were kids, there were the two of you. You are the foundation, the rock that holds it all together… the sizzle amongst the chaos. You are super important too, and deserve some spotlight. I love these moments during family photo sessions. The kids are usually free to explore at this point, possibly doing something weird behind me, and I awkwardly throw you two together and tell you how adorable you are. “Wait what? Our turn? What do you mean?” You might feel a tad awkward being all romantic with the kids running about, but trust me, you’re on fire. You will love these photos so much!
Family photos should capture the essence of your family, and allow you to be your true selves. My hope is to do just that, and immortalize this phase of your life, whatever phase that may be.
Sarah Beth Chamberlain
I am very excited to announced that I’ve been accepted as a member of The Motherhood Society, an organization that lists only the most vetted photographers, doulas, sonogram imaging, lactation consultants, and other services for pregnancy and motherhood. It is really, truly a great honor to be a member of this community. The Motherhood Society is also connected with Beauty and Lifestyle Mommy Magazine, as the editors draw contributions from it’s members for publication. For real folks, I am SO excited to a part of this and completely humbled by the amazing talent and strong leadership in this society. Are you ready for the exciting news? Beauty & Lifestyle Mommy Magazine is hosting the Cutest Baby Contest.
The winning baby of The Cutest Baby Contest will be featured on the cover of Beauty & Lifestyle Magazine’s holiday issue. To participate in this contest, your baby must be less than 2-years-old during the voting period of August 20th through September 1st and able to return to my Eagle River studio for a holiday styled session in November 2017. You must also sign a model release before your child is able to participate. To enter your baby, all you need to do is sign up for a free 15-minute studio session, and I will take care of the rest. The free sessions, offered exclusively for this contest, are being held on July 26th or August 9th from 9:00AM to 3:30PM. Parents who enter their baby in the Cutest Baby Contest will receive one social media file with watermark for participation. I will then submit this file to Beauty and Lifestyle Magazine by August 15th, to enter your child in the contest. Voting will begin on August 20. Feel free to read more about voting details and contest rules on their website.
Some of you may be wondering, “What if I love the photos from my free Cutest Baby Contest session and want to have a print or high resolution digital file from my baby’s session?” Don’t worry, moms and dads. I got you. While I am required to offer free sessions for this event, leaving entry opportunity to all, I do have digital package upgrades available as well as printed heirloom products available for purchase. The high resolution digital upgrades will be as follows:
- 1 Digital File – $50
- 5 Digital Files – $200
- 10 Digital Files – $400
- 15 Digital Files – $600
Of course you may purchase rustic wood prints, framed canvas, or heirloom albums if you so desire. This is such a great way to come see what I’m all about and a wonderful opportunity to capture your baby’s current milestone. Ready to sign up for a time slot? Please use the sign up form below to select and commit to a time.
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Sarah Beth Chamberlain
Baby Photographer | Eagle River, Alaska
Cassidy and Robert are proud to announce that they have added a sweet baby boy to their family, and his name is Landon Eugene. He made choosing wall art a big challenge for mom and dad, with cheeky grins and goofy faces galore during his newborn session. Each time we squealed with delight at a smile, Landon would smile more and more. Oh my heart, I had so much fun capturing his newborn photos.
Cassidy says she just loved being pregnant. She was really excited to capture maternity photos, and is now glad that she did. “I loved being able to feel the movements of my growing little one,” says Cassidy. “Moms, soak up every moment of your pregnancy when your tired and not feeling well. You will miss it!” I know how Cassidy feels. There is so much sweetness and wonder in growing a little person. I miss it too!
Landon is an amazingly sweet little guy. His parents said that they first noticed his eyes and his length. He was so long! Cassidy said she was totally prepared to give her whole soul to her baby, but nothing prepared her for the amount of love she would feel when she met Landon. Love at first sight. Overwhelming, unstoppable love. Landon has Cassidy’s eyes and smile, and is tall like Robert. While at first glance, I thought “Wow he looks just like Cassidy,” we think he has Robert’s nose also. Landon is full of expression already, showing a range of emotions. That made for a really fun day of newborn photos.
Cassidy and Robert said that their favorite thing about being a new mom and dad is watching their son grow and discover his surroundings. They truly gasped and awed at Landon throughout his session and when they saw their photos that afternoon. They are so very much in love. Their message for other moms and dads is to cherish pregnancy. Nothing is as exciting and scary as becoming parents, but it’s wonderful. Babies are the biggest blessing so just soak them up. Don’t be afraid to just lay and snuggle. There is no such thing as too much love!
Sarah Beth Chamberlain
Hamza and Masha welcomed a sweet baby girl into their family in June. After discovering how beautiful their child was, they were eager to have her photographed. Luckily I was able to fit them in last minute and I’m so grateful for the chance to meet them. Their family is beautiful inside and out.
Masha says that she really enjoyed carrying Zaina and knowing that her child was growing each day. They prepared eagerly throughout the pregnancy, as they could not wait to meet her and celebrate their baby. She urges other expecting parents to enjoy every moment of pregnancy. She says, “Talk to your baby, comfort her, and appreciate the moments. These are the first bonding moments with your baby and are very blessed times.”
Hamza and Masha chose to keep their baby’s gender a surprise, and it was the greatest surprise of all. They wanted to enjoy the surprise when baby was ready to announce it herself. Little Zaina was born with a beautiful head of dark colored hair and a round little face. She has bright eyes, a silly crooked smile, squishy cheeks, rosy lips, and a button nose. She was a beautiful surprise and blessing for her parents.
Zaina’s parents say that they are learning something new everyday as new parents and they wouldn’t have it any other way. They are learning about life with their baby girl and she is learning about life with them. They’re enjoying it very much. When I asked what they had to share with other new parents, Masha and Hamza said, “There is no book, video, class, or advice that will make you feel 100% prepared. Learn the basics and let the rest come naturally. Don’t let the little things stress you out or materials put pressure on you. All the baby needs in the first few weeks is your love, milk, and diapers.” Overwhelmed with love for Zaina and cherishing the precious gift that she is, Masha and Hamza shared a religious quote with me, “We have indeed created man in the best of moulds.” There are no truer words.
Sarah Beth Chamberlain
Baby Photographer | Anchorage, Alaska
I have known the Bandy family since shortly after our family moved to Eagle River, Alaska in 2014. Lynalice and I travelled in similar circles, but finally one day crossed paths and I became their family photographer. I had ALWAYS known her to be a strong mother and advocate for her children. During the time that I’ve had the honor of working with this family, not one, but two of their children have been diagnosed with autism, and on top of that they’ve discovered several allergies among their kids. Peter seems to deal with the full package of challenges.
Peter’s allergies were present from an early age. Allergic to the proteins in milk, he struggled to gain weight as a newborn. He then suffered two anaphylactic reactions between 9-months and 16-months to eggs and peanuts. Dodging allergic reactions to ingredients in everyday foods is a great enough challenge alone. However, Peter’s autism puts him at a cognitive disadvantage when it comes to understanding what he can or can’t touch or eat. These two factors have put the Bandy family on edge, as they have to be on constant watch at parties, church functions, school events, and travel. They are hoping to add a trained furry member to their family, who can be Peter’s protective force.
A service dog could bring a world of change to Peter and his family. Dogs have keener senses than we do, and a trained service animal would be able to detect allergens and alert Peter and his caregivers of possible threats. Peter would also be able to count on a service dog to calm him down when he has a melt down and looses control of his emotions. Imagine your biggest emotions, greatest storm, and your saddest, most angry moments, and then running your fingers through the fur of your doggie companion. Animals have such a healing touch, and that therapy will change Peter’s world.
Peter’s parents have set up a Go Fund Me to raise funds for his service dog training, and they are hosting a Multi-Vendor Fundraiser on July 8th in their child’s honor. I’ll be setting up a table of fine art studio products and Young Living essential oils to help them raise funds, and would love for you to stop by. In addition to purchasing a table spot at the event, I’ll be donating a percentage of my proceeds from sessions or products purchased that day to Peter’s cause. I will also be doing a giveaway for a free family session, beginning at the fundraiser. Entry will be online, but all those who visit my table that day will earn an extra entry. This is a family who is actively involved in our community and they truly need our support now. Please offer your support by contributing to their fundraising page or shopping at the event!
Sarah Beth Chamberlain
Family Photographer | Palmer, Alaska
Flying with young children can be an exhausting and cumbersome experience, but having the right supplies packed in your carry-on can make it a smoother process. When I pack carry-on bags for my children, I try to think of things to make them comfortable and happy for when they are awake AND when they dose off. Let’s face it, we all fear the mid-flight meltdown of a truly uncomfortable kid. Sometimes it’s not avoidable. I know I’m not comfortable when flying, and little ones have limited means of communicating discomfort, but by keeping them busy, cozy, and fed, you might prolong the more enjoyable moments of flight.
For our family vacation this past Spring, each child travelled with a petite backpack. They each had coloring and drawing supplies of their own as I prefer to avoid the eminent fight over the blue crayon when in flight. Miniature notebooks and coloring books are a good dollar bin find, so pick those up when you find them. Our daughter colored lots of pictures in her mini-sesame street coloring book, while our son enjoyed writing messages with different colored felt tip pens. Both are sticker maniacs so I made sure their backpacks each had a set.
I created a matching game, puzzle, and word or letter game for each of the kids. I promise that these were nothing fancy. Mostly made up of note cards or paint swatches, I just made sets to suit each of their ages and abilities. These can be tucked into a 5×7 manilla envelope for easy packing.
One thing that is really convenient to have in flight is a set of headphones for each kid that fit comfortably. Of course, as we were packing the night before, we could not locate either of their headphones, so I grabbed an old set and some earbuds in hopes that we wouldn’t struggle too much. I still don’t know where they hid their adorable monkey and froggie headphones, but we were able to get inventive on the plane. I used the more kid-friendly set on our two-year-old and tried out the earbuds on our five-year-old with my headband to hold them in place. It REALLY would have gone more smoothly with child headphones, but this worked for a little while. They were both able to enjoy some in-flight tv.
We also brought our tablets and books for another activity to keep alert kids busy, and they were quite awake for most of this trip. I let them choose their own books to bring. Both kids got them out to either browse independently or have me read to them. Also note that our two-year-old is in her carseat. That is a whole other story, and you can read more about my experience with and without the carseat in Car Seat Safety for Vacation and Travel.
If you’re lucky, your kids will sleep for at least part of the flight. We have very long flights when traveling from Alaska to the lower-48 so they’ve got to crash sometime. I like to have a small blanket or pillow for each so that they can sleep a little more soundly. If your child has a special lovey, that might be a comfort to him as well.
Snacks! What do we do when were are about to break? We snack. One of us grownups carries a bag full of snacks. Snacking keeps my two pretty quiet and content. Small bags of chips, snack bars, raisins, jerkey sticks, and even applesauce make excellent plane snacks for kids. The little pouches of applesauce are within the 3oz. TSA guideline and have a refreshing taste, especially when you’re on a dry airplane.
I hope that this gives you a few ideas for keeping your little ones comfortable and busy when traveling this summer. Things really do tend to go more smoothly when you are well prepared!