A long three weeks

Here’s the truth: it has been a long three weeks.

In my new role as stay-at-home-freelance-photographer-videographer-mom, I am blessed with keeping my kiddos during their 3-week intercession break from year round school.

That’s three kiddos for three weeks. That computes to
…let’s see here

But my tired is absolutely worth these kids’ smiles.

I choose to treat intercession break as “mommy camp.” I want my kids to have a memorable time away from school, and I also aim to wear them out every single day so that they can rest their little souls in the afternoon. 

Here’s a slideshow of our first intercession break, “mommy camp” style.

What are your favorite school break activities?

Pass the baton

Ages ago I was a runner. I ran track in middle school and probably high school too. I can’t even remember. It was not memorable, possibly because I was so mediocre.

One of my events was the 4 x 100 meter relay. In that event, you sprint with all your might for 100 meters before passing the baton off smoothly to the next sprinter. It was painful and nerve wracking. Again, I was not great at this running thing.

Moving on though…

Lately, the pangs and anxieties of that race have felt all too familiar.

My hubby Jed and I have entered a very exhausting phase of parenting/relationship that I’m going to call the “baton” phase. Daily, there are so many things to accomplish and so many voices talking – otherwise known as life – that Jed and I have to take turns at the helm. One of us flounders around as the parent while the other one recovers, and we pass the baton to one another as needed.

I can’t say that it’s this overt how it all happens, but surely enough, when one of us “can’t even,” the other one steps in. And we don’t necessarily transition the baton smoothly. It’s more like tapping out.

Last week I took “the baton” and traveled sans hubby with all three of my children out of town. I do realize that many moms might not struggle with such a trip at all. I am not one of those moms. Perhaps I am built differently, with different anxieties and capacities and weaknesses and strengths.

The trip included endless amazing experiences, and cherished time spent with my mom and dad. We went on hikes, we went rock hunting, we dined on fancy lunches and dinners, and we trekked through caverns. We had a blast!

Unfortunately, I was somewhat on edge the entire time, and left feeling a bit depleted. I wish that weren’t the case. These days in my kids’ lives are so short and I want to truly savor the moments, but I confess (is that even the right word?…confess) that I sometimes find it a challenge.

I took many pictures to capture the experiences, because I knew in hindsight it would all look pain free and magical, and I’d be better able to see the happiness of it all from a distance. That’s the way photos work. 

I’m not sharing these thoughts in order to gain sympathy. Jed and I chose to parent this many kids; we love having a big family. We are suckers for the pain, and a happy, beautiful, luxurious, blessed pain it is.

When the kids and I returned back home from our travels, I was eager to pass the baton to hubby. I may have even told my kids to not ask me for anything for an hour once we entered the house (and no, that didn’t work). I needed to tap out, to officially be “off the clock.” And hubby was there for me when I needed it. He grabbed the baton for the evening, bathed the kids and put them to bed. I escaped for a fun photo session the next morning, went to the gym and meandered around Target for an hour. It was the break I needed before picking back up the parenting baton.

“Baton parenting” is not perfect – or anything close to perfect, but it is where we are. At least at times.

One thing is certain – I don’t want to be a mediocre parent, like I was a runner. I want Jed and I to be the best parents that our family could have. I welcome insight from more seasoned parents, those long-distance runners out there. Because I recognize that we parents are in this race for the long haul.

Evie, maker of exquisite expressions

This is my third time photographing sweet Evelyn, aka Evie. She has been a little charmer since she was born.

Now, at 14 months old, Evie has perfected the art of exquisite expressions.

I don’t know many toddlers who are experienced in the closed-mouth smile. But Evie has nailed that skill as well.

Even here, when I asked Evie to sit nestled amongst tall, itchy autumn grasses, she obliged, and even applauded a little bit. 

She also has a really cool canine pal named Keno. Keno makes an appearance in most of our photo sessions together. 

Evie is a mover and a shaker now. She kept me on my toes the entire photo session.

I’m betting she keeps mom and dad on their toes as well :) Because, well, that’s what 14-month-old cuties do.

That’s a wrap on the adorable, exquisite Evie and company. 

Check back next time for more incredible families!

Happy shooting :)

Having some fun with Lensball

Look what finally arrived at the Busbee studio: my very own Lensball! It is this crazy little spherical lens made out of K9 crystal. I ordered the 80mm version that produces unique and breathtaking images. The company also sells a 60mm version that is lighter weight and a bit better for travel.

I just pulled it out of the box yesterday and am clearly a novice. Using this nifty gadget takes a bit of practice, and slightly better scenery than the woods behind my house where I tested it out. Consider it the widest possible lens on the planet. I am looking forward to bringing this little guy on my next trip!

The lensball itself is seriously high quality and I want to do it justice once I get more experience.

Also, I want to praise the company and its customer service. I originally ordered a Lensball a month or two ago and was unfortunately out of town when it arrived in my mailbox. While I was away, our mailbox was robbed (disgusting, right?) and all of its contents ripped and scattered around our neighborhood. A neighbor found my ripped and emptied Lensball package. The robbers had stolen my sweet little crystal ball. I am very curious how they might be using it, if they didn’t immediately take it to a pawn shop to cash in.

On a whim, and lacking hope, I emailed Lensball customer service and told them what happened. And though it wasn’t the company’s responsibility at all, they offered to replace my stolen Lensball free of charge. I could not believe they were willing to do that! 

Kudos to a company that works to make its customers happy and satisfied. Thank you, Lensball. I hope to create some beautiful images with this gift.

Happy shooting!


Welcome to marriage, Josh & Elaine

There is no comparison to the anticipation of photographing a wedding, especially a wedding like Josh & Elaine’s. This couple is beautiful, inside and out, and might be the most down-to-earth bride and groom I have ever worked with. (Though, I confess, I’ve been very blessed with amazing couples).

Josh and Elaine knew exactly what they wanted for their big day – to get married to one another in Carolina Tar Heel fashion. They managed to seamlessly weave together their team spirit and their faith. Folks, I was impressed. 

There were surprises around every corner. Genuine, personal touches from the couple that kept my eyes wide open in amazement the entire day. 

Elaine (bride) had the most gorgeous gown I’ve ever seen AND it had pockets. She had a spectacular playlist blasting as she and her ladies got prepped in the hours before the ceremony. They wore “Nasty Women” tank tops as they sipped mimosas and had their makeup and hair done. And it was clear that Elaine pulled those around her whom she loved the most. She was enjoying her day and had a tour de force behind her. 

Josh (groom) barely slept a wink the night before the wedding, which was coincidental because one of the quotes shared during their ceremony was this (credit: Dr. Seuss): “You know you’re in love when you can’t fall asleep because reality is finally better than your dreams.” 

Shooting weddings is no easy task, but it is the most extraordinary challenge of all photography, and I adore being a part of something so important. 

Below, I’ll share a few favorites from the day. Trust me when I say it’s tough to narrow these down. 

By clicking the below image, you can view the entire Sneak Peek album.

Portal to Pixieset Sneak Peek image gallery. Click to view all the images from Josh & Elaine's Sneak Peek album.

Herndon family strikes again!

And what I mean by that is, the Herndon family delivered incredible, glorious perfection once again during their family photo session this weekend. I’ve had the pleasure of photographing the Herndon’s since the birth of their first child. Each and every photo session is an absolute joy.

Madeline has blossomed into an adorably sweet, friendly little lady.

Avery is a mini-Madeline, but with slightly more toddler energy.

Both of these sisters are unbelievably charming and playful. They somehow remember me from photo session to photo session, even though I only see them annually. 

It’s impossible not to fall in love with this family. The parents are the coolest. They scuba dive, they enjoy good beer, they refurbish mountain cabins. They work hard and radiate in the presence of their children. 

But then again, who wouldn’t?!  LOOK AT THESE GIRLS. They are angels, I tell ya. They are sisters who probably never fight or whine.


Even Madeline, who developed a painful blister on the back of her heel for the sake of wearing pretty shoes during the photo session, barely uttered a complaint. 

Thank you, Herndon family, for always coming to life in front of the camera for me, and for trusting me with your sweet memories.

New toys | Part One

I treated myself to some new photography toys recently, though nothing debt inducing. My latest crush is this MagMod light modifier.

It’s this cozy, lightweight diffuser that snaps onto an external flash with the use of a magnetized attachment, or grip. The MagSphere and MagGrip combo are simple to use and produce beautiful, omnidirectional light.

See the below test shot (my first with the product).

I’m pumped to use these babies for my indoor photography shoots.

Happy shooting!



Entering a child’s world

My love for kids should not come as a shock – I have three of my own little blessings. My face often hurts from smiling so big around them.

In my role as a photographer, I get to meet new kids all the time, and it is honestly one of my favorite parts of the job.  I get to be the person with camera in hand, acting goofy, hoping a child will feel comfortable enough to share their precious smiles and giggles with me and my Nikon.

My most recent photography client was an early education nonprofit and our shoot location was none other than a child care center, where so much of the magic happens.

Take one look and you’ll know why these types of photo sessions make my heart grow.

These two sweethearts gravitated toward me from the moment I set foot on the playground. I didn’t deserve their attention, but they gave it to me.
Then there was this nugget. She followed me around for the morning and was amazed by the camera. And then she was amazed by some music. And then she was amazed by a puzzle. She was just bursting with amazement. And is there anything better for a child?
Freedom. Joy. Childhood. There is just so much to love about this crew. They were willing to climb aboard some tree stumps and soar off into the air for me.
As a parent who once upon a time dropped off my lil babies at a child care center, this scene gave me the feels. Early on in parenting it can be hard to believe that your child could love, let alone feel comfortable with another human. But when you go behind the scenes at a daycare, you see the love and the comfort and the learning and the interaction.
School had just started for the kiddos in this preschool classroom. They were dealing with new rooms, new friends, new teachers, new routines. And then there was this hug between a teacher and a child, greeting each other in the morning. This kind of trust and friendship is built in a great environment. It makes me smile knowing how well the professionals in our community take care of our children.


Visit a child care center and see if you don’t emerge with a grin and many new friends.

How time flies

Eight years ago today I became a mother. Caleb Heath Busbee came into the world uttering healthy cries and changed my being, every part of me, for eternity. He’s an amazing little dude, if you haven’t had the pleasure of meeting him. 

As a gift to my children (well, to myself really) on their birthdays, I create an annual video that encompasses their past year. These are such treasures to my family and I and we watch them over and over again. It’s amazing how time flies and how the smallest details of their little lives can be forgotten. I need these videos to help me remember! Enjoy.


Caleb Year 8 from Melanie Busbee on Vimeo.

All shapes and sizes

It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know that children come in all shapes and sizes. And even though I’ve had the good fortune to parent three sweet, healthy little babies, having a child who is a bit different from the rest of the world has its hard moments.

There are billions of ways for a child to be different…but this post is specifically about size – truly an insignificant thing on which to dwell, I realize.

Cameron, my baby #3, at 19 months old

When you are the sole person in charge of growing and nourishing your young ones, there’s a lot of pressure. What you feed them is keeping them alive and thriving, or not. I wanted my ample supply of breast milk to make each of my babies blossom. I wanted my home-pureed fruits and veggies to fuel them and create baby rolls. Okay, I’ll just say it. I wanted a fat baby. Every mama/dada just wants to provide for their baby.

Cameron still fits comfortably in her baby carrier.

If I’m being truly honest, I guess I would have been satisfied with an average-sized baby. But God absolutely BLESSED me with perfectly healthy tiny humans. My babies were born average, at 7 lbs, 7.5 lbs and just under 8 lbs. They grew each year; they just didn’t grow fast. And it seemed that everywhere I looked, all the other babies grew fast.

Cameron eating a chocolate bar after getting weighed at the pediatrician’s office during her 18-month checkup.

So many times I’ve taken my child (all three of them) to the pediatrician’s office for his/her regularly scheduled well visit. I have eagerly placed their adorable, soft bodies on the baby scale and awaited its results. In those earliest days of being a mom, I was so smitten with my children that I never recognized how very tiny they were. My eyes were focused on the number. What glorious number would it display?! Surely this baby or that baby has gained 2 whole pounds since our last visit, I thought. Anticipation got the best of me. Each and every time, my babies (all three of them) had barely gained weight. They were gaining, but their percentiles on the growth chart crept downward over time.

Within their first year of life, each baby would begin at 50th or 60th percentile on the weight spectrum and would end at 2nd percentile. That means that my children weigh more than only 2 out of 100 babies, and weighed less than 98 out of 100 babies.

When I type it out, it doesn’t actually seem like that big of a deal.

But as it played out in the real world (not just a statistic on a growth chart), bigger babies were everywhere. In fact, I never once met a baby smaller than one of my own babies (of similar age). I never sat my 8-month-old down next to another 8-month-old and they matched. My baby was always the runt. My fear was that other parents thought I wasn’t doing enough for my child.

Baby-sized shopping cart fits my tiny tot

My children were never “diagnosed” as failure to thrive. I recognize that the problem of being small isn’t an actual problem. My babies still showed adequate growth and development. I had so much to be grateful for in my smart, healthy, happy, good-sleeping babies.

But still that didn’t keep me from feeling a stab of guilt, or something, every time a stranger asked how old my baby was. Or jealousy every time friends and relatives shared photos of their little ones’ baby rolls.

The good news about being small is that Cameron should feel free to eat as much full-fat ice cream as she pleases.

My youngest child, Cameron, just celebrated 19 months this week. She still hasn’t reached 19 pounds. She still wears 12 months clothing. She’s just so durn itty bitty. Like, teensy tiny, light as a feather, could probably still be swaddled if I tried.

I’m absolutely certain that each of us parents wishes we did something better, whatever that something may be. So many times that something is just out of our control. Though I long for a chunky baby, I do try to focus on what makes my tiny baby unique and amazing. I pray that each and every parent can join me in celebrating what we have.