two thousand sixteen


I feel like 2016 just began, and yet here we are, celebrating the end of another amazing year and looking forward to the next one. One thing I’ve learned this year is how much more quickly time really does seem to fly once you have a child. I partly feel like time has been stolen from us, just moving so quickly on its way… but I am also grateful for each moment and day we have together. Thankfully, I’m no stranger to the camera, so this year’s adventures, both big and small, have been pretty well-documented.

We rung in the new year with 2 other families at a cabin in Helen, GA. Leighton hadn’t quite figured out the party blowers yet, but she had a great time celebrating with her friends Chase, Landry, and Drew!


The first few months of the year brought many baby milestones, including rolling over, sitting up, and eating her first foods. She is still obsessed with apples to this day, but she also has a host of other favorite foods.



Leighton’s 1/2 birthday was of course documented with not one, but two photo sessions. I did one at home with her tutu and festive party hat, and then we had one done at my favorite local photo spot, Whittier Mill Park. We hired Jenny Perry Photography to capture our little family in our first professional session since her newborn photos, and I couldn’t be more in love with how they turned out. They are truly images I will cherish forever.



Leighton’s first Easter was spent with Craig’s family in Nashville, and it was such a lovely weekend. Her bunny-smocked dress for church was a tad big, but she was so darn cute in it, especially when clutching onto her basket that was the same size as her.

In March, we started The Music Class, a local series of classes for infants and toddlers. We go to this class weekly and have such a fun time learning about rhythm/tone, various instruments, and playing with the kids in class. Leighton also enjoys rolling around the classroom floor on a regular basis.

In April, we traveled to Franklin to attend Craig’s 15 year high school reunion from BGA. I’m still wondering how in the world we are old enough to have been out of high school for 15 years…


Craig and I celebrated our first Mother’s Day and Father’s Day with our little lady. They were such fun days filled with good meals, pedicures with mom (on my day), some boat time on the lake (on Craig’s day), and family time.



We celebrated weddings of friends in Newnan, GA; Blowing Rock, NC; and Nashville. The wedding in NC brought our first time both being away from Leighton for a long weekend, and it went so well, thanks to L’s bff, Granny Ann. We also had wedding anniversary #7 (!!) and went out for a delicious dinner at The Mercury at PCM — I mainly wanted to go because of the firework cake!







Leighton went on not one, but two beach vacations this spring and summer. She liked the shell-filled sand at my grandmother’s beach house in St. Augustine, but she was not so thrilled by the sugar white sand in Rosemary Beach. She did, however, love being in the warm ocean of the Gulf, and she also enjoyed all the time she got to spend with her grandparents, uncle, and aunt!






In July, we traveled up to Chattanooga, TN for our first little family trip with just the three of us. It was a quick weekend — we rented a cute Airbnb house and spent a couple days wandering the town in the most sweltering heat, visiting the aquarium, riding a carousel, and eating at a few really yummy local spots. We finished up our trip by catching a couple of Craig’s sister Cassie’s softball games during a tournament they had in town.




Just a few days after turning 10 months, Leighton took her first steps! She’s been on the move ever since. She is a toddler tornado, to say the least, and I love the sound of the pitter patter of her little feet running all over our house — usually chasing Coco.

I turned 33 in August, and Craig treated me to an overnight staycation. We stayed at the Intercontinental (which spoiled me with a birthday cake at our door), we walked and ate lunch on the Beltline, played games at Skyline Park at PCM, and had dinner at Aria. The next day, we took a guided city tour via bikes and saw some really cool parts of town, including a history of the graffiti and mural art in Atlanta. Such a wonderful way to ring in another trip around the sun!





In September, we celebrated Leighton’s big milestone 1st birthday! We took her to the zoo for the first time, had a family cookout, and wrapped up her big weekend with a circus-themed birthday party, surrounded by about 60 of our closest friends and family members. I just can’t believe she’s already one! She loved the cake, by the way. She may not look like me, but she is definitely my child.



Craig turned 34 in October, and we ate our weight in goat cheese cake by his request. I took him on a surprise day date for lunch and shooting at a new gun range in Midtown, and we had a couple yummy dinners to honor our favorite guy.




Something I’ve always wanted to do finally came to fruition this year… family Halloween costumes! Because Leighton loves to dance (aka bobble her head around), we thought she would make the most perfect hula girl. We dressed as Hawaiian tourists, and the weather couldn’t have been more un-seasonally appropriate (read: WARM) for our costumes. She was a big hit everywhere we went!


Coco Bear turned 6 in November, and Leighton is more enamored with her than ever. She is the sweetest puppy sister, always tolerating L’s pets, pokes, and screams. It does help, though, that L loves to share her snacks and meals with her.


Our neighbors have a little girl who is just a few months older than Leighton, and they have become the best of friends over the past several months. They play together in our yards and run down the street to greet each other with a giant hug. They also adore their slightly older friend who also lives on our street, which is so cute. We’re so thankful to have ended up with such wonderful neighbor friends.



One of her best new tricks this year is her “mean face,” which she loves to give to us and pretty much every stranger she meets. She’s also learned to throw her hands over her mouth any time we say “OH NO!” — both are downright hilarious, and she knows it.



We’ve really enjoyed starting some new Christmas traditions with L this past month. Christmas light/blowup hunting around our part of town, cookie baking and decorating, visiting Santa, and riding the Pink Pig. The holidays truly do become infinitely more magical through the eyes of a child!



2016 was an absolute whirlwind, and it was perfect in pretty much every way. We’re so blessed to be surrounded by amazing family and friends who never fail to support and love on us. Melissa Hayes Photography continues to grow, and I’m so humbled and honored to have the opportunity to work with such amazing clients, many of whom have become friends. This was my first full year as a work-from-home mom, and it’s better than anything I hoped or prayed for.

I could not be more thankful for this little family we’ve got, the adventures we have, and the laughs we share on a daily basis. Each month is more fun than the last as Leighton keeps growing, learning, and finding new ways to make us lose it over her silly and sassy antics. Of course there are some tired days or frustrating moments peppered in here and there, but we are healthy and safe and happy, and that’s all that matters at the end of the day. My morning alarm clock goes off to the tune of “uh-oh!” and “da-da” on repeat, and I get to rock our baby to sleep almost every night. There is truly nothing better at this stage in my life.

We have so much to look forward to in the coming year, and I am excited to share our stories with y’all. Cheers to 2017!

Leighton @ 15 months


Height + weight: 30.25″ // 24 lbs

Milestones: Once she hit her 1st birthday, we completely weaned off nursing and bottles. She did both seamlessly and didn’t even miss a beat with moving onto whole milk and only drinking from sippy cups, which made the transition a lot easier for me, too!


Likes: Food! She’s pretty much up for trying anything we put in front of her, which is more than I can say for myself… 😉 Over the past few months, she’s tried chicken fingers, butternut squash soufflé, pb&j sandwich, chicken casserole, tomatoes, fried clam strips (such a weird thing, but totally one of my favorites!), pimiento cheese, cheese quesadillas, animal crackers, cheddar bunnies, veggie straws, french toast sticks, popcorn, and grits. Oh, and a grilled marshmallow and peanut butter sandwich… yum!


It’s clear that Leighton is already a big dog lover. She is obsessed with Coco. She likes to share her snacks with her, lick her fur, and give her aggressive pats on the head. Coco takes it all in stride and is so gentle and patient with her. I took L to PetsMart recently and she was enamored with the dogs staying in their pet hotel. They have a big window looking into the doggy play area, and I’m pretty sure I could have left her there all day if that were an acceptable thing to do. We go back by there weekly now.


Since the weather has been so nice, she loves going outside in the afternoons to play in the street and our yards with her bff neighbor, Emmy. (Not to worry — the street is within our small neighborhood and we stand next to them while they play.) They run down the street to each other and hug, which is just heart-meltingly cute. Emmy has quickly learned that if she hops in one of their cozy coupes, Leighton will push her. Smart girl.

Dislikes: Still not the biggest fan of diaper changes or having her face wiped off after a meal. 

Being told “NO!”… which poses a problem, because it happens fairly often. She has taken to throwing whatever is in her hands when we tell her to stop doing something, so we’re trying to curb that behavior.


Fun stuff + firsts: She has learned to play peek-a-boo; she started by covering her face with her bath towel while she was laying down on her changing table after bath time. Now she loves to play that game by hiding her face in her carseat when Grandma is in the car with us. She has also learned how to fake cough… she is quite the little drama queen and class clown.

We celebrated Leighton’s 2nd Halloween and Thanksgiving seasons, and I am quickly learning that holidays are so much more fun each year as she grows older. I can’t wait for Christmas!




Her favorite words right now are dada, uh-oh, dog (dod!), and uh-uh. She usually says uh-oh when she purposely drops something, and she says uh-uh to argue with me all the time. I’m also teaching her to say “Go Dawgs!”

She can roll her eyes on command, which is all sorts of hilarious – and we’ll probably be regretting it at some point. She also makes a great “mean face,” which involves lowering her chin and staring up at us with a very stern look. She knows it’s hilarious, and she has already done it several times to try to get out of trouble. I’m slightly worried that she already knows how to do that at one year old.


Now that she’s only napping once a day, we have a lot more free time. We go to music class weekly, and we’ve started trying out different parks around town. She has a new fondness of slides and will demand to ride them over and over and over again. On days that I’m feeling brave, we’ll run errands to Target, Old Navy, the grocery store, and anywhere else that I feel confident I can keep her entertained with snacks and a shopping cart ride. I’ll sometimes drop Leighton off to hang out with my mom at their house so I can go to the gym, and I know she loves running around in their yard, playing the piano, and scaring their cats.






Leighton is getting a bigger and bigger personality by the week, and we just can’t get enough of her antics. She’s becoming the best little hugger, and she gives amazing, slobbery kisses. We love her so very, very much!










Christmas Jammies: A Photo Tradition

Leighton isn’t quite as easy to photograph as she was this time last year since she’s constantly on the move! She is just shy of 15 months old, which is hard to believe. Last year, I photographed her in the cutest Christmas pjs, so I decided this will become a yearly tradition. I had to bribe her with blueberries to sit in the rocking chair, but whatever works, right? At least it was something healthy. It’s only fitting that she really smiled once she got hold of the remote control, which is her absolute favorite. She sure keeps our hands full, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. What an incredible year it’s been, and we’re so excited for our 2nd Christmas with our red-headed little elf!






Just for fun, here’s a comparison from last year to this year. She’s still got those big blue eyes and puckered lips (and still not a lot of hair), but it’s amazing how much she’s grown!


And before we decorated the tree, I couldn’t resist getting some sweet shots of her checking out Christmas lights for the first time. She was pretty enamored when we first plugged them in, but in true LL fashion, the only way to keep her still for photos was with snacks. 😉