Fall is quickly becoming my favorite season. And Halloween is right up there with Christmas for my family. Since having Olivia, I’ve rediscovered my love of celebrating holidays and creating magical moments with my girls.

One thing that’s different this time around though is how I use social media to inspire me when it comes to decorating and gift giving. I’ve come across so many amazing shops on Instagram and I’d love to share them with you.

Here are 10 small shops to help get you ready for Halloween!

Ellie and Piper – If you’re having a Halloween party, Ellie and Piper is the place to go. How cute are those skull plates?

Hooray Everyday – Adorable banners, garlands and festive holiday goods.

Occasions by Shakira – I am so excited that I stumbed on this shop. Shakira creates these amazing holiday kits that she calls, ‘a playdate in a box.’ Each kit includes seasonal items from other small shops as well as activities you can do with your kids. I ordered this Spooky Occasion Kit and can’t wait for it to get here. The kit includes a Halloween Tradition Guide with spooky recipes, a Halloween bucket list, and more, a small Bag of Monster Popcorn, movie might mini popcorn box, a reusable “Boo” Silly Straw, custom halloween matching card game, and more!

Against the Grain – these hand-cut wood signs are so much fun! There’s going to be a re-stock on 9/19 so set an alarm!

Pearl and Jane – So many fun garlands for the holidays. I’ve got a few already and just ordered one more! These garlands are a simple way to decorate for the holidays. String them up in the kitchen, on shelving, or windows. The perfect holiday accent!

Frost Your Cookie – Another fun find! This ‘Boo Your Neighbor Box’ is adorable. Scroll through the rest of her site if you dare. There are just too many yummy treats to choose from. And I think decorating cookies a great activity to do with kids of any age.

Chalk Designs By Me – Just snagged one of these beautiful hand painted signs.

Sprinkle of Whimsy – these are digital downloads that are fun to use for decorating. Print them out, stick them in a frame and add them on a bookshelf, in a gallery wall, or in the kids rooms.

OMG and More – I ordered 3 of these for the girls to wear! I was so excited they have a range of sizes which is always the hardest part if I want the girls to wear matching shirts.

Olive and Eve – Another set of printables. These are so sweet and I love the softer colors.

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One of the most common questions I get as a family photographer is how to photograph a child that won’t sit still. I feel your pain mamas. And I’m in a unique position now to offer some advice. As a fellow mom to a can’t-sit-still-kid, I have a lot of pictures of the back of Olivia’s head. She’ll be 18 months old in a few short weeks and she’s a busy child. She loves to walk and explore. When we go to the park, she may sit in the swing or go down the slide, but those moments are short lived. She’d much rather wander off and do her own thing.

But, I still manage to capture her smile and personality in photos. So, my answer to how you photograph a child that won’t sit still is simple. You don’t. At least not in the way that you’re used to.

Follw Them

The best advice I can give you is to change your approach. Follow them instead of asking them to stand sit and smile at the camera. Eventually something magical will happen. You just have to have the patience to let it.

As they explore, be ready with your camera. Anticipate what they’ll do next.

For these pictures, we were playing in the backyard and I wanted to bring my camera out to take a few photos of Olivia’s cute ponytail. I knew that part would be easy (remember – I’m a pro at taking pictures of the back of her head!). I figured that anything else I was able to capture would be a bonus. She saw these little white flowers (weeds) in the grass and bent down to scoop one up. I knew what she was going to do next so I got my camera ready. Sure enough, she put the flower up to her nose and made the sweetest little face.

Introduce a prop

Sometimes a distraction from whatever activity they’re engaged in will give you enough time to snap a few pictures. Right after I took the photo above, I remembered that we had some sunflowers in the kitchen so I ran in and grabbed one. I didn’t make a big deal of it. I didn’t show her. I just stuck it in the grass and waited for her to see it. When she noticed it, she did exactly what I thought she was going to do. She put it up to her nose to smell. If she hadn’t, I would have asked her just to see if she was willing, but most of the time I try to let things happen organically. I ask once and then move on.

Put the camera down

This is so important if you want your kids to enjoy having their picture taken. That’s why I only ask once (maybe twice!) when I want Olivia to do something. If she’s not into it, I’m not going to force it for a photo. It can be disappointing when you have a vision in your head, but I’d much rather keep things light and playful than end up with her in tears and me upset about not getting the photo I wanted.

One other trick you can try, but only after you’ve exhausted all other efforts, is to play a game of back and forth. You take a picture, I take a picture. Include them in the picture taking process and they might hang around long anough to get a few good shots. This won’t work with Olivia right now because she’s too little to handle my big camera, but I would definitely try something similar with my smartphone. Show her how I’m taking a picture of something – a toy or a doll of hers – and then turn the camera toward her and see what she does. It might hold her interest, it might not, but remember not to force it.

Ok mamas, now tell me. Was any of this helpful? Do you have a busy toddler that won’t stop for a photo? Are there any tricks you use that I can add to this list? I’d love to hear from you! And if you’re interested, I’ve got a free guide to help you while you’re out on your next fall adventure.

Grab your Fall Photo Guide here!

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The first day of school is always filled with nervous excitement and jitters. For moms and kids! Usually by the time August rolls around, I’m ready to get back to the routine of a school day. Then I sit around and wait for them to get home and tell me about their day. Lol!

We still have a couple more weeks of summer here in NJ, but I know it’ll fly by. Here are a few photo tips for capturing your kiddos first day of school.

Have everything ready! Your kids will carefully choose the perfect outfit for the first day back-to-school and you need to do a little prep work too. Have your camera battery charged and an empty memory card ready to go. It’s also a good idea to know ahead of time the photos you want to capture. Don’t just wing it that morning because there will be too much going on.

Don’t forget the details. New shoes. New clothes. New backpacks. The pencil case they picked out themselves. Their lunch bag. What’s inside their lunch bag. All the fun stuff that comes along with the first day of school. If you’re allowed in the classroom with your child, take a quick snap of their desk too.

Don’t stop shooting. If your child walks to school, stay a few steps behind and snap some pictures. If they ride the bus, grab a shot of them piling on. Maybe even their cute little face in the school bus window.

Start a tradition. Choose something to do the same way every year so that you can document the big changes that happen over the course of a school year. We always took a picture on the same set of steps in the front of my house (until we moved!). You could do the same. Or, make a sign for the kids to hold that says the year and the grade they are entering. Caitlin from The Mama Notes has a great roundup of ideas for back to school traditions. Things like having pizza after the first day at the same spot every year (take a picture and watch them grow) or maybe ice cream is more your jam.

One year I drew little red hearts on each of our hands. If they got sad or lonely, they could look down at their hand, see that little red heart, and know that I was thinking about them.

The idea is to take pictures that tell a story from beginning to end. Kids love to look back at pictures and remember certain things about their childhood. While writing this blog post, my 12 year old was looking over my shoulder and said, “I remember that backpack!” And don’t worry if you don’t have a fancy DSLR to take pictures. Your cell phone will be fine. Just remember to print the pictures once you’ve taken them!

And don’t forget to grab your free fall photo checklist!

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Sometimes all you need is a plastic bin from Target for a little summer fun.

All I did was fill up a plastic bin that is normally used for under bed storage with warm water and brought out a basket of bath toys and she had a blast. No expensive water or sensory table. Just simple summer fun.

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August is finally here which means the Back to School push has already begun. I’ve even started thinking about holiday sessions for my photography business. Yes, you read that right. Christmas! Don’t act all surprised. I’m sure you’ve seen the pumpkins and fall decor in stores. Nevertheless we’ve still got 5 more week of summer sun to soak in.

Here are a few of my favorite finds in July.

Want to know how to get more done?

I loved this blog post from Allie Casazza about how you can motivate yourself to wake up early in the morning. It’s not the first time I’ve heard people attribute an early wake up call to being a happier and more productive mom. I set my alarm at 5:00 a.m. for 2 days this week to give it a try and turned right back over and fell asleep. Lol! I’m not giving up though. I’ll let you know how successful I am in a week or two.

Do your kids have a ton of toys?

I came across an instagram account called @literacyforlittles and there was a great post about toy rotation. If you’ve got a little one who has a room full of toys, but doesn’t play with them. Or is more interested in dumping baskets than playing with the toys inside (um, yes!) then toy rotation might be the answer. I’m going to give it a try! So the post claims that toy rotation encourages more independent play, increases attention and focus, simplifies and creates less clutter. What do you think?

Cute shop alert!

Construction is so close to being finished and I’m having so much fun decorating my bedroom and the baby’s. My favorite places to shop have been Target, Home Goods, and small shops online. I’ve been looking for the perfect piece of art to hang on the wall over Olivia’s crib and I’m counting the days until @huntandgathergoods opens their doors again. I also love @ohsweetskye.

And finally …

One thing I was really excited to get done in July was my 3rd tattoo. It’s my dad’s signature. I copied it from letters he used to write to my mom when he was stationed in Vietnam. I’ve been meaning to get it done for a while, but the timing was never right. An opportunity finally came up and I went for it. I LOVE looking down at my arm and seeing my dad’s handwriting.

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